I Sing Because I'm Free

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At the Cross

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 In the softly falling snow

to the wondrous cross we go

blanketed in pure snow white

Glowing with His heavenly light

These crosses sit on top of the hill behind our church. It’s easy to miss them if you don’t know they’re there. They blend perfectly into the background of the trees. I have taken pictures of them before, but the pictures never compare to the real thing.  On this day, as I sat in the foyer of the church and watched the snow falling, I couldn’t get these crosses off my mind.  Without a coat, and wearing shoes with no socks- I felt compelled to go out in the snow to see them.

I think about all the times I felt Him calling me to the cross and I didn’t go.  Before I answered His ministry call, before I fully gave my life to Christ- I can remember sitting in church and desperately wanting to go to Him.  Wanting to go to the altar to pray.  But I was afraid.  Afraid of what others might think- and of what might happen if I went!

We come to the cross just as we are.  We don’t need our coats… or fancy clothes…or our lives to be in order.  We come just as we are-  and by His grace, He changes us.

I felt like a kid again that afternoon- feeling the snow falling on my face as I gazed up at the crosses on the hill.   Whenever He calls me to come- I will go.  Even if that means listening to His whispers to go out in the snow- without my coat- to meet Him at the cross.  And as beautiful as this cross picture is- nothing compares to the beauty of knowing Him and allowing yourself to be clay in His hands. I am forever changed by His amazing grace.

Just As I Am/I Come Broken by Travis Cottrell

Chorus
I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

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Surrender the morning

I often take my family for granted.

I admit- when I am chatting with an acquaintance, or out with a friend, it is a delight to be with them.  They have my undivided attention and I am interested in what they are saying…I genuinely care about them, their needs, and what is going on in their lives.

And then when I am home, I’m in my “safe zone”.  I’m not quite as intentional at putting others before myself.

One morning I woke up and was exceptionally tired.  I know, I’m always tired.  True.  But this particular morning, I began the process of getting the girls out of the bed, I made a cup of love (coffee), and all I wanted to do was sit down for 5 minutes.  5 minutes of peace- to drink my coffee and breathe.  In complete silence.

And don’t you know- this was the one morning that the girls got right up, and even the dog came pitter pattering into the living room.  Grumpy ole me was not a happy camper.  The girls began to bicker back and forth, and didn’t like what I had made them to eat.  Then my husband asked me for something.  I felt a bubbling cauldron  brewing inside.  Why can’t I just sit for 5 MINUTES?!

I said a few things I shouldn’t have said.  Because I was tired and grumpy.  I was focused on “me”.  And the truth is, with everyone going in different directions- we are all thinking about ourselves in the mornings… But as “momma”- my primary roll is to help everyone else get their day started right.  Then I can focus on me.

After my husband went off to work, and my girls had gotten on the bus, I began to think about the things I said. Sometimes I feel like I share the not-so good parts of myself with my family, and I save the best for everyone else.  Would I ever snap at a friend?  No.  Or say something unkind to a stranger because they were in my way? Nope.  Or chew out a cashier because my groceries were not bagged just right?  No- these would be prime examples of times I would tend to be very gracious.  But at home- it is often a different scenario.

God was really working on me that morning- telling me to put Him first…to be Christ-like in my own home to my own family…to give my husband and my girls my undivided attention in the wee hours of the morning.  And so I prayed that He would  help me focus on my family in the morning- and that He would help me show grace to the ones I love the most.

That morning I wrote this song.  It’s called “I Give It All To You”. We can’t take back the things we say in the heat of the moment.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

I Give It All To You

Time to get up and begin a new day

we’re all getting ready to go separate ways

it’s never as easy as we think it will be

fixing eyes on ourselves, we focus on “me”

and we go through the motions

we don’t mean what we say

and we let our emotions get in the way

and I give it all to You

I give it all to You

everything I feel

everything that I say

help me to live for You today

I give it all to You

Lord, help me shine

like a star in the night

help me release what I’m feeling inside

help me to keep my emotions in check

and to not say a word that I will regret

When I’m losing control

when I feel justified

help me turn to You

and swallow my pride

Help me have self-control

when I want to scream and shout

because getting my way

is not what life’s all about

 

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Seeking Him

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a moving tapestry of clouds

floating through the sky

if I don’t take the time to look

they’ll quickly pass me by

I was running late on this particular morning.  I stopped into the grocery store to pick up a few things and then quickly dashed to my car. All of a sudden I looked up- and the sky took my breath away. The clouds were swirling and moving so quickly- just like I had been doing moments before.  I was fascinated by the speed and beauty of the clouds that day. Like a kaleidoscope- the lighting and colors were changing continuously. How did I go all this morning without seeing this spectacular sight?

I had wasted so much energy on rushing around when all I really needed to do was look up and spend a few moments with Him… to ask for His help-to calm me, guide me, and help to make the best use of my time.  God knows exactly what we need and how to get our attention- if only we are looking for Him.

I took out my phone to take this photo, and thanked Him for slowing me down again…a few precious moments spent with Him makes all the difference.

Lord, help me to not only see you- but to intentionally seek You today. 

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. Psalm 119:18

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Seasons Change

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Heavy 
Like a snow-drenched
tree branch-
I feel the weight 
of my thoughts.
Holding on to You 
with all my strength 
 I sing
Your praises

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:25

I am patiently waiting. Though seasons are only temporary, it seems like this winter is never-ending.  And just the exact moment we can’t take anymore, He will bring the warmth of spring.  I love seeing the snow-covered trees, but this morning I was thinking about how hard it is on them to carry the extra weight of the snow on their branches.  A spectacular display- but a heavy load, nonetheless.  There are times I feel like those snow-drenched trees…putting on a happy face for others, but feeling the weight of the world inside. I am thankful for a Savior that knows my every thought- and I am thankful that He can carry the burdens for me.

So I’ll find joy in one last snowfall…

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and I’ll play tree-branch limbo with my girl…

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  And I’ll enjoy walking Mr Santa Paws…IMG_0654

 and I will cast my cares upon Him

 and be thankful!

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.

2 Thessalonians 3:16

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We’re still dancing…

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branches reaching out
dancing in the evening sky
holding on to light

My husband and I were like those branches the other night, wanting to reach out and hold on to every last moment of the day. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this past Saturday.  While we waited outside a restaurant, we watched the evening sky quickly fade away.  It was gorgeous outside- much like the day we got married…bright, sunny, and mild.  I wish evenings like these would never end!

A while back, my husband told me to listen to a song he heard on the way home from work.  He said it reminded him of us.  It was called “Dancing in the Minefields”.  I connected to the song from the first time I heard it.  It beautifully sums up what marriage is all about… dancing together through the storms of life- as we hold on to each other and cling to God’s promises.

I love the analogy of marriage to dancing- it is something you learn to do…you learn to move together, helping each other stay in time with the music.  And no matter where we move, how high we leap or how low we dip, He is our steady beat- helping us to stay in perfect timing with His life song.

As the evening of our anniversary faded, I thought of our many date nights… long talks over dinner, coffee at Barnes and Noble, sunset watching… laughing and being silly together.  We have repeated this night so many times and it never gets old… Like dancing partners- it gets better and better.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8


 
Dancing in the Minefields
by Andrew Peterson
 
I was nineteen, you were twenty-one
The year we got engaged
Everyone said we were much too young
But we did it anyway

We bought our rings for forty each
From a pawn shop down the road
We made our vows and took the leap
Now fifteen years ago

We went dancing in the minefields
We went sailing in the storm
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

“I do” are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end
But to lose your life for another I’ve heard
Is a good place to begin

‘Cause the only way to find your life

Is to lay your own life down
And I believe it’s an easy price
For the life that we have found

And we’re dancing in the minefields
We’re sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for

So when I lose my way, find me
When I loose love’s chains, bind me
At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days
When I forget my name, remind me

‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadowlands
Till the shadows disappear

‘Cause he promised not to leave us
And his promises are true

So in the face of all this chaos, baby,
I can dance with you
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look where you’re going

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losing my focus

forgetting to look ahead

the tree branch attacks

One recent morning I was taking a walk.  I’ve been down this particular street a hundred times. I was walking my dog and trying to get him to hurry up with his important business.  “Come on!!”  I muttered under my breath.  “Go potty!!” I said through gritted teeth- as if he was going to actually hurry his own business for my benefit.

I was so focused on staring at him, and thinking of all the things I needed to get home to do, that I nearly jumped out of my skin when I walked straight into a tree branch!  I have done this so many times- and always when I am in a hurry.  This time I literally laughed out loud at myself and how it startled me.  This branch protrudes in an unusual way and juts out into the road right at eye-level.  And yet, I have walked directly into it more times than I care to admit.  I hit it so hard that it took my hair out of it’s barrette.  I laughed thinking about how this altercation with the branch must have looked.

He is constantly reminding me to keep my focus on Him… to look up and not hurry His business.  He is always at work- but His timing is not defined by a clock, like mine tends to be.

And you know what amazes me the most?  When my gaze gets off the sky- when I forget to look where I’m going and something trips me up- God doesn’t laugh at me or say I told you so!  He shows me His endless grace, extends His hands of mercy and helps me get back on track.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith  Hebrews 12

Thank You for reminding me to look where I’m going and to focus on You.  Thank You for tree branches that help me get my attention where it needs to be, and for Your endless mercy and grace.  May I remember to extend the same to others as You have so graciously extended to me.  

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Calm after the storm

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When the Lord hears the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them from all their troubles.  Psalm 34:17

I have been in a battle all day.  It may sound a little crazy to anyone who does not deal with some sort of addiction, but I am a “foodie”.  That’s just a cute way of saying I’m addicted to food.  My daughter’s birthday was this past Saturday… which means we had all sorts of snacks…ice cream… cake… and it has been calling me.  I love birthday cake.  I am ashamed at how much I love it and also to say that at times, thoughts of it consume me.

Due to the snow, the girls were home from school today. I woke up and I kid you not- I already had that stupid cake on my mind. I swore I would not have any today- not even a sliver.  As soon as I made this grande pronouncement, it overtook my mind in a super-human way.

It was about 9am and I see my daughter holding in her hand a large slice of cake.  And that was all it took… I began thinking about it again.  I am already a failure.  

If I eat it, then I have given into the temptation.  If I don’t eat it- well, I’m still a failure because I have denied myself all day and it has still consumed my thoughts.  

Deliver me

I have dealt with this since childhood.  I was always overweight.  I wanted children- and I was desperate for them to not have the struggles with food and self-esteem that I had.  By God’s grace and lots of hard work, I lost 100 lbs the summer before I had my first daughter.  It was the best thing I ever did for myself- and for the family.  Although I am not nearly as small as I was, I am healthy.  I make good choices most of the time, and I work out at least 5 times a week.

And I won’t lie- I hate it. I got on the treadmill one day last week and I cried.  I was tired and didn’t feel like working out.  I was mad.  Mad that I have to work so hard at being a normal size.  Not even thin.  Just average.  And even though I continue to make the right choices, it has not gotten any easier over these past 12 years.  It is still a daily battle.  As I cried, I began to think about heaven and what it would feel like to be completely free from the feelings of inadequacies, lack of self-worth, and unhealthy relationship with food.  That’s what kept me running that day- knowing eventually I will cross the finish line and He will be there waiting for me.

But I know He uses these things for His good… because it keeps me coming back to Him. It is when I am in my weakest moments that I feel closest to Him.  Even though He does not take the struggle away from me- He is with me, and His presence is sweeter by the day.

Deliver Me

I shared my battle with my husband today.  His reply was “Well, go get me a piece of cake!”  I sighed… and I got us both a piece.  Just like that- the battle for the day was finished.  I did not let it consume my thoughts the rest of the day.  I had a piece, and did not let it consume me.

He has delivered me.  He is delivering me… day by day and moment by moment.  Every day I cry out to Him and not allow food to consume me, He has won.  Today, after the storm came the calm.  The evening sunset lit up the sky, and my soul found peace and rest in Him tonight.   I rest knowing that I don’t have to have the strength- He will do it for me if I will only surrender and give it to Him- moment by moment.

Lord, deliver me.  Help me to not be consumed with thoughts about what I am eating.  Help me to not think of food as a punishment, nor a reward.  Help me to live for you, to eat to live, and not live to eat! May I continue to draw ever closer to you through my daily struggles.  I thank You for Your infinite love and grace.  

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