I Sing Because I'm Free

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Gifts from my Grandmother

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Hands dance across keys 

where music breathes 

life

into my soul

Like a movie screen

my history is seen

upon these ivories

where memories are made

how I reminisce

and make believe

that she is sitting

here with me

oh the conversations I’ve played

loud and soft

slow and sweet

she and I-

that’s where we meet

on this weathered

piano seat

I was given the piano in the photo above by my grandmother as my wedding gift, almost 18 years ago. It was my great-grandmother’s, and she passed it down to my grandmother.  We lived nearly 5 hours away from her, so I really treasured our visits to her home.  One of the things that I couldn’t wait to do when we arrived was play her piano.  It had the warmest, richest tone and even my measly “hot-cross-buns” sounded like a symphony on it.  I didn’t get to see her very often, but she always held a special place in my heart.

Over the last 18 years, it has traveled up and down several flights of stairs, been played by hundreds of piano students, and has moved many times.  I purchased an antique baby grand piano about 5 years ago and thought about getting rid of my grandmother’s piano-

But I couldn’t.

Too many memories. It is the only thing that connects me to her.  She passed away nearly 15 years ago, and this was her gift to me. It was more than just a piece of furniture- it was part of my grandmother’s history.

And as strange as it may sound, when I sit at that piano, I feel close to her.  Sometimes in those moments, I go back into time and I am that little girl- wishing to play something to make Grandmother proud.

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Peace on earth…and goodwill at Goodwill

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The thrift store and I go back a long ways.

I began going to thrift stores when I was 16.  I love the interesting people I meet shopping there, and all the treasures I find are just an added bonus!

This past year, I had gotten several bags of clothes ready to donate to the local Goodwill.  I was going into town to run errands and dropping off my donations was first on my list.  As I was in the shower that morning, I began to pray about these clothes… that God would use them or use me at the Goodwill.  It was odd, because I don’t recall ever praying specifically for this before…

I finished getting ready and put all the things in my van.  It was a cold, sunny day and I pulled straight into a parking spot near the back of the store.  I got out of the van, and there was a middle-aged lady leaning on the trunk of her car.  She was just standing there- it was like she was waiting for me.  It was the craziest thing!

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“Hi, how are you doing?”  I asked her, casually.

“I’m good.”

I immediately thought of the things in my van, and as I opened my van to take out the items, I asked her if she needed any of the things I was giving away.  I had lots of clothing and shoes, and even a bicycle I was donating.

“Do you need a bike?  Or maybe you know someone else who needs it?”  I asked her, sure that somehow God wanted me to help this woman with something. I was a little surprised that she didn’t take anything I was giving away.

Then she said, “No… well, what I really need is a coat.”

I sifted through several bags, and unfortunately I didn’t have one to offer her.

“How about I go inside and look for one for you?”

She said she had already been inside, and that there were none that fit her.  Immediately I knew I had to find her a coat, and was even prepared to go to another store to find one, if I needed to. She smiled and said she’d be inside in a few minutes.

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I went to the rack of coats, and as I was looking, the workers put out several more on the rack.  I picked up a beautiful cranberry colored coat and just as I held it up, she walked into the store.

“I think I found you one!”  I smiled and held it out for her. She slipped her arms through the coat and smiled.

“It’s a perfect fit!” I said to her.

“I think this one is 5$,  and I wasn’t expecting to pay quite that much for a coat today.” I could hear the embarrassment in her voice.

I had planned on purchasing it all along for her.  “It’s my treat,” I smiled as I took the coat from her arms.

She followed me up to the register without saying a word.  I handed the cashier the money for the coat, and the lady asked the casher for a piece of paper and a pen. I wondered what she was going to do with it.

“Will you write down your name for me?” the lady said to me with tears in her eyes.

I smiled.  I have a feeling she just wanted to prove to someone that this had actually happened to her. So I signed it-

God bless you!

With love,

Julie

How different all our excursions would be if we prayed to be used. How different life is when we see ourselves as “messengers” on a mission for Him.  I don’t know that lady’s name… but all I know is that God used me to help someone else- and that lady, who seemed to be waiting for me-

was actually an answer to my prayer!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14

Lord, help me to focus on You and the little missions You want to use me for- not matter how small, no matter how insignificant they might seem. Help me to give generously, love unconditionally, and to do all things for You!  

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Trust You More

when I’m feeling overwhelmed

and my walls are closing in

that’s when I clearly see

what I’ve done again,

I’m trying too hard to do it on my own

forgetting all my strength 

comes from you alone

Help me not to try so hard-but to trust You more

Help me have the faith to see without my eyes

and to trust in You with all my heart

help me not to try so hard-but to trust you more

trust you more

letting go of everything

everything but You

all that matters in my life

is following Your truth

Your ways are higher than my own 

I put You on the throne 

all the days of my life

I seek Your will alone 

I was recently inspired to write this song- Trust You More. This past summer, our youth pastor preached a message that really touched my heart. He said “help me not to try so hard, but to trust You more.”  This line really hit home for me because I am a people pleaser, a peacemaker, and I always want things fixed RIGHT NOW!

But the more I seek Him, the more I see His hands at work in the little details of life… always working for His greater purpose and His glory. It is so hard to wait on His perfect timing for circumstances and situations to change, but His way is best- and He is always right on time.  God has used this line to minister to me MANY times over the last few months, and He has saved me from my own hands many times.

Help me not to try so hard, but to trust You more!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

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Evening Swan Song

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overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset

Blackened branches dance away

into the dimming light of day

they sing their joyful serenade

of an evening swan song.

soon the visibility

of the glowing light we see

will blend into the shadowed trees

and fade into oblivion.

 And each morning and evening they stood before the LORD to sing songs of thanks and praise to him.            1 Chronicles 23:30

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Signs and wonders

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Cross in the sky

Signs and wonders in the sky

cross of hope displayed on high 

Your cross of glory, true and clear

The sound of silence in my ear

Peaceful beauty, Presence close

In You, and only You I boast

Signs and wonders in the sky

Your splendor captivates my eye

The ladies from our church went on a retreat this weekend.  There were so many wonderful moments, but this one was pretty awesome!  Several of us went up on a hill to watch the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was exceptionally chilly, but gorgeous!  When you reach the top of the hill, there is a 365 degree view of the mountains.

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music…”  I couldn’t help myself.  Each time I climbed up there, I had to burst into the song from the Sound of Music.  After all, it is my phone’s ringtone!   And the opening scene from the movie is exactly what it felt like being up there.

“Listen!” I said to my dear friend.

It was completely silent.  The atmosphere was so still, I could hear myself breathing.

  Overwhelming peace, and the presence of my Savior flooded my soul.

We quietly took pictures and my friend showed me her camera.  The camera showed a crystal-clear cross in the sky… but the strange thing was that looking in the sky, you could not see the horizontal line of the cross, only the vertical line.  And to the left of the cross, the wispy cloud resembled a dove.

There were signs of Him- of His presence with us all weekend.

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There are signs of His great love for us everywhere when we are looking for Him

a word of encouragement from a friend

an unwarranted hug from my girls

“I love you” texts from my hubby

smiles from strangers

His steadfast love abounds!

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  Psalm 86:15

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I am weak…He is strong

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of the sun’s transparency

I’m weak- but He’s strong

Boy, am I thankful for God’s grace!  I have been a mess today.  I should have walked around with a *warning* label around my neck…In fact, I just confessed to my husband that I needed a “do-over” today.  I need to phone every single person I had any interaction with to say “I’m sorry”.  Sorry for any distress my emotional self has caused anyone.

All day I prayed for Him to take this feeling from me.  Late this afternoon, as I took my dog out for a walk, I stopped and saw the sun filtering through these gorgeous orange trees.

And in that brief moment, I felt Him say to me- see how much better this walk is when you stop focusing on yourself… and how you are feeling?  How much better your day is when you stop dwelling on the negative, or on every little thing that discourages you?  

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Proverbs 4:25

When my gaze turns inward it is not pretty. Days like today make me so thankful for my Father who is abundantly gracious and patient with me- when I clearly don’t deserve it.  And He doesn’t hit me over the head- He tenderly points me towards Him.  As my eyes turned away from my circumstance and towards the Son, I could feel His warm, gentle hands wrap tight around me. The sun literally dried my tear stained face. I gazed up, and I immediately realized that my lens had been out of focus all day long.  Looking here, there, and everywhere except up.  And in that moment, I saw just how weak I am without Him.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 Corinthians 12:9

I am weak but He is strong…

yes, Jesus loves me, 

yes, Jesus loves me,

yes, Jesus loves me-

for the Bible tells me so! 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

Thank you for rescuing me from myself- each and every time.  Thank you for being my Rock, for loving me in spite of myself. Thank you for letting me to be Your child…and for allowing me to make mistakes.  Thank you for Your gentle reminder to re-focus my lens- so that Your Son is in perfect view!

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Perfect Church

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I longed to find the perfect church,

but flaws were all I found

looking for the perfect fit

I searched for Holy ground

nothing more than walls and doors

each church was much the same

until the day I heard His voice-

 I heard Him call my name

and praise the Lord, I knew right then

I’d never be the same

The heart is where the home is

And Jesus lives in mine

I know his light is with me

And I’m gonna let it shine

His Holy Spirit, His perfect love,  

 lives and dwells in me

And in Jesus Christ, we all become

one big “church” family!

 After years of driving by this lovely little church, I got my youngest daughter to take a drive-by photo of it.  Every time I pass by it, I am reminded of the little school house “church” in Little House on the Prairie. As a child, I longed for a little school house church to go to every Sunday.  From a very early age, this is exactly what I thought a perfect church should look like.  I longed to find a church family, but after years of searching, I had given up.

“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

we will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!”

This is one of the many hymns I remember being sung on Little House, in that little church.  A place where people gathered and praised God for their harvests, for their simple lives. People came together time and again to help each other and to meet each other’s needs.  After all the churches I had visited over the years, I doubted I’d ever find my church “home”.  Then one day I realized –

I wasn’t searching for a place– I was searching for Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

I was never going to find Him in a place…He was right there with me- in my heart all along.  

And once I found Him, that picture of a perfect church vanished.  No longer was it a place to meet my needs- it was a place to give, to love, and to serve.  There is no perfect church- but there is a perfect God who perfectly places us where He wants us to bloom.  I am forever grateful for all He has done for me- and I am humbled and honored that I “get to” serve Him and lead our church in worship each week.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony-  Colossians 3:14

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Beauty Fades

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High definition vibrancy

a technicolor tapestry

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autumn leaves of  fantasy

one last hurrah, then dormancy

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 beauty’s only temporary

in the near future, we will see 

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nature’s true transparency

the truth beneath flamboyancy 

 The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

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Moments in between

 

 

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the setting sun from Carter’s Mountain

There’s beauty in the going up

And in the coming down

There’s beauty in the looking up

and in the looking  ’round

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There’s beauty in the

stepping back

and taking in the scene

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There’s beauty in the 

details-

in the moments 

in between

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On a whim, I decided to take a trip up to the apple orchard with the girls.  It was getting late, but we had just enough time to make it up the mountain to get a few apples and to see the view. I love the drive up the mountain because it reminds me of my childhood.  Growing up, we took several trips to the mountains to look at the fall foliage, and a visit to the apple orchard was always on the list.  My family would drive all that way, years ago, to drive up this same mountain…and now I am blessed to live down the street from it!

I can still remember my mom, my sister, and I letting out oohs and ahhhs as we climbed higher and higher… I can see the cheshire grin on my grandfather’s face as he drove up the windy path…and my dad’s belly laugh as we all pretended to be frightened at falling off the mountain.

How things have changed…my grandfather passed away last year, and my parents divorced long ago… but as I climb the mountain, I smile at my girls taking turns oohing and ahhing- just like my sister and I used to do.  And on the way back down the mountain, they grab my phone to take pictures-

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The view up top is spectacular, but the girls’ photos reminded me that there is just as much beauty to be found on the way down- and in making new memories.  They kept telling me to look– but I couldn’t because I was driving.  So they snapped pictures of the scenery while I drove down the mountain.

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Sometimes I have to focus so hard on “driving” that I miss the details.  How badly I want God to be my chauffeur so I can take in the scenery!   He is always at work- in all those in-between moments and even those times we have to keep our eyes on the road.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes:3-11

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