I Sing Because I'm Free

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Deactivate my what??

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Flowers- the last item on our shopping list!

In search of the perfect shrug to compliment our Easter Sunday outfits, the girls and I headed out to the mall yesterday. Shopping with my daughters is always an adventure- one that I often have to give myself a “pep talk” to do. Gotta have a planned route, set clear expectations, and we buy absolutely NOTHING that is not on our list…okay, I mean the imaginary list that is in my brain because even if I did write one, it would be lost within seconds of finishing it…

Anyway, we arrived at our first destination, and much to my delight, the return I had to make first went off without a hitch!  I quickly found the perfect shrug for myself and made the purchase.  It was almost too good to be true- no lines, no hassle, girls were as good as gold…. and then we proceeded to exit the store.

As soon as I passed by the tag sensors, the alarm went off.  Boy is that thing loud!  I think it’s even louder when you are the one setting it off.  My face turned beet red, and the girls were mortified. I stepped back, and at that same time an elderly lady was walking towards the sensors with her bag in hand.  We stepped through at the same time, and sure enough- it went off again.  The elderly lady shot me a disapproving look, and I quickly went back to the check-out counter and they checked my bag.  Nope- no sensor tag. I tried to exit the store a third time, and once again, the alarm went off.  The sales associate waived me on, and the girls and I journeyed onto store #2.

They walked far enough behind me that I could tell they didn’t want the horror of being stared at if we set off another store alarm.  I approached the sensor of the next store, and turned to smile at my girls. Surely it wouldn’t go off again!

Much to my horror, it did- this one seemed even louder.  I noticed people were staring at me and my face started getting red again.  I walked through the entryway and someone asked me if they could help me.  I said I needed to find a shrug for my girls to wear, and oh, by the way– I keep setting these darned sensors off!  She was baffled, too, and said not to worry about it.  Another sales associate approached me and asked me if I was wearing Ann Taylor Loft jeans.  What a strange question…why yes, I was wearing Loft jeans…

“Sometimes there is a sensor in the jeans that set off our alarm system.”

“Well, that’s crazy!  I’ve had these jeans for ever and they have never set off any alarms!”

“How about you follow me- I can deactivate it for you.”

“You mean deactivate my butt?” I asked her, trying to stifle my giggles.  The girls were completely mortified at this entire situation.  I followed her to the register and began feeling up and down the seams of my jeans.  She waved her magic wand up and down my sides and backside, with no luck.  So, I did the only thing I could think to do- I reached down into my pant legs and much to my relief- I found the culprit.  I turned my jeans down and she cut the tag out with her scissors.

There were way too many people staring at my backside at this point, and all I could do was laugh. Even the girls were hysterically giggling and hiding behind clothing racks.

So the next time you set an alarm off in a store- be sure to check your backside… you might just need your butt deactivated!

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Memories…like the corners of my mind

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my oldest playing her flute as I play piano…

I think of all

the things I thought

and how I used to feel

Remembering all my

childhood angst

the moments

 become real

connecting through our stories

sharing thoughts

and spending time

I’m reliving my own childhood

as I watch these

girls of mine!

I did something out of the ordinary the other day- I gave my daughters my undivided attention.  It would be fair to say that most days my attention is split in a thousand different directions- but the rare afternoons I give them ALL of me are ones I never regret.

My older daughter was under the weather and stayed home from school, and much to my delight- she is so loving and pleasant when she is sick.  She spent most of the day laying in my bed as I cleaned and did laundry.  We talked about life and school and all sorts of pre-teen things.

When my youngest one came home from school, I devoted all of my time to her.  We began with a piano lesson where she confessed that one day she wanted to play just like me.

“Can I play piano for church someday?” she asked me during our lesson.

Be still my beating heart!  There is nothing that would make me prouder than seeing my children give their gifts to the Lord- whatever those gifts may be! And she continued to ask me all sorts of questions about my childhood…

“Momma?  Do you remember who your kindergarten teacher was?”

“I sure do! She even had a dress that looked like one Caroline Ingalls would have worn from Little House on the Prairie!” My older daughter, in the next room, couldn’t resist joining our conversation.

“What about your first grade teacher?”

“Yep- I remember being so sad that I cried for the entire first week of school.  I wanted to stay home with my mom and was sad to leave my sister.  I cried so much that my teacher put an entire box of tissues on my desk!”

We had a good laugh about that one.  As I recalled each of my elementary teachers, I also remembered little stories that connected me with my girls, allowing me to remember just how big those “little” things seemed to me at the time.

I remembered being asked to create a still-life drawing by my art teacher in the 5th grade.  She wanted to submit my artwork for a chance for me to attend a special art program in our city. With utmost care, I sketched the encyclopedia bookcase in my dining room- carefully drawing the many potted plants my mom had surrounding it. I thought it was the best thing I had ever created.  I was so proud of that drawing!  I remember handing it into my teacher, sure that I would be picked to be in this elite group of artists… but my dream was crushed.  I wasn’t chosen.  I didn’t think I would ever draw again after that day.

My youngest daughter loves to draw, and she was especially touched by that story.

“Why don’t you draw anymore?” my daughter asked me inquisitively.

“Well, I really loved music, so I spent most of my free time playing piano instead of drawing.”

I remember the day I found out I didn’t make it into the art program.  I was devastated, and felt like I would never be good enough at anything.  That feeling was as real to me as I shared the story with my girls as it was 25 years ago.  Something I was so proud of was just not good enough.

I thought about how different my life could have been if I been accepted into that art program…it was later that year that I began taking piano lessons…

But perhaps He knew I’d have no time to sing

and no time to play piano

Perhaps I would have never written any poems

or any songs 

And in that moment of sharing my memories, He opened my eyes to this- it has taken me 25 years to see the blessing in being a “rejected” art student… because just maybe He knew He had something far better in store for that 10 year old girl!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

 

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Where two or three are gathered…

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Our Remy- flashing his best smile for the camera

Tip tap tip tap

little paws go pitter patter

slowly moving, speed increasing

growing louder is the clatter 

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finding me, he snuggles up

and settles down so sweet

As I sit on my piano bench

he rests upon my feet 

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with the steady beat 

my feet, they pedal up and down

lulling my sweet boy to sleep

 he rests upon the ground

There is nothing more that I love to do than to sit at the piano and worship.  Hours could pass by, and yet it feels like time stands still when I am there. One of my favorite things is that my dog also likes to sit with me, too, when I play.  As soon as I sit on my bench, within a couple of minutes I start to hear his paws tip-tapping on our hardwood floors.  He speeds up when he gets closer to the sound of the piano, and then he sits- right on top of my right foot- the one I use to pedal as I play.  He will lay there the entire time, resting and sometimes wagging his tail as I sing and play the day away.  He does this every single time.

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If he could talk, I think he would tell me he likes music, too.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.  Psalm 150:6

Oh, to rest at His feet the same way my sweet Remy does mine…

Lord, help me to be still before You and hear Your sweet voice today! 

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Breath of Life

O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,

Revive Your church with life and power;

O Breath of life, come cleanse, renew us,

And fit Your church to meet this hour.

O breath of life, come sweeping through us

O breath of life, come cleanse, renew us

O love of Christ, afresh to win us

fill us with Your holiness

O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,

Till humbly we confess our need;

Then in Thy tenderness remake us,

Revive, restore, for this we plead.

O Breath of love, come breathe within us,

Renewing thought and will and heart;

Come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,

Revive Your church in every part.

(words by Bessie Head)

These beautiful words resonated with me years ago when I first heard them.  The Lord put a “new song” on my heart and I set these lovely words to a new melody and new piano accompaniment.  My heart longs for revival- for His Spirit to revive, restore, and renew us.  May His breath of life fill us with passion and equip us for His service!

*If you would like chord charts for this song, email me and I will be happy to send them to you

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You Have Redeemed My Soul

You have redeemed my soul

from the pit of emptiness

You have redeemed my soul

from death

You have redeemed my soul

from the pit of emptiness

You have redeemed my soul

from death

I was a hungry child

in a dried up river

I was a burnt out forest

and no one could do anything

for me

but You brought food to my body

and water in my dry bed

and to my blackened branches

You brought the springtime green

of new life

and nothing is impossible

for You

(by Waterdeep)

I didn’t write this beautiful song- but it might as well have been written for me.

I heard this song one Sunday when a college student led worship at our church many years ago. God began to stir within my heart a desire to draw closer to Him as I heard it.  Months went by, and all I could remember was the word green, and I knew I had to find this song again. I called my husband at work and asked him if he remembered what song I was talking about.  He did-  but he, too, couldn’t remember the name.

It wasn’t but about an hour later- my hubby remembered it (he has a fantastic memory, praise the Lord!!) and he sent me the words of the song. I sat at my piano, with nothing but these words and I played and sang it. I did this every single day.  For weeks.

It was the first worship song I ever played on my piano. Honestly, it wasn’t worship at all when I first started playing it. But I believe God had been planting seeds and that He was teaching me how to worship. I was hungry for Him and desperate to change my life.  I played and played…and the more I played, the less I had to think about what I was doing.

One morning, I sat on my old piano bench, and  I remember my youngest daughter was crawling around on the floor in the next room.  I began to play this song that I had been compelled to play for weeks on end… and for the first time, I tried to sing and nothing came out.  Tears flowed down my face as I realized all this time I had spent searching for the words of this song- I had been searching for Him.  And these words I was compelled to sing- He was doing that for me all the time, and had already done this for me… He was simply waiting for me to see it.  You know that saying “fake it ’till you make it”?  After all that time of singing praises- finally in that instant, empty words were brought to life in my heart, and His presence was so real.

He was already with me…I had been blind, but praise God- that was the day that for the first time-

I could see!

One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”  John 9:25

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Pi Day

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How could I ever deny 

a day that’s devoted to pi?

I partake without care

blissfully unaware

that it finds a new home on my thigh! 

My oldest daughter celebrated “pi” day at school yesterday. She asked me to come for a special activity her class was doing to celebrate- including eating pie, of course!  Anytime my 12 year old asks me to be a part of her day- I am there with bells on!  Due to the busy-ness of our week, I had not purchased any pies ahead of time. I decided to go to the store first thing in the morning, and much to my surprise- there were no pre-baked pies.  I guess people really do plan ahead, lol!  The entire bakery shelf was bare. I am thankful I minded His “nudge” to get out early to buy the frozen ones that I had to bake.  

On a side note- my daughter added before she left to get on the bus- 

“Momma- don’t forget to wear your “skinny jeans!”  

False advertising at it’s finest!

I smiled…just maybe one day those jeans will do what they say! 

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ebb and flow

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this morning’s sunrise…

Though days and nights may ebb and flow

up and down, around they go

our circumstances- much the same

but steadfast always is Your Name

My Solid Rock- Emmanuel!

When I choose to worship- all is well! 

I lift my hands, my voice I raise

To You, I sing my songs of praise!

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

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One day that’ll be me

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one day

we’ll look at our 

wrinkled skin 

our weathered lines

and wonder where 

the time has gone

One day 

we’ll remember 

the dreams of our past

and see the gift of our

present-

unwrapping 

and sharing

our memories-

one by 

one

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  It was a beautiful day- much like the day we got married. As we got out of our car for our lunch date, I noticed an elderly couple making their way up to the restaurant door.  He leaned on his walker and pushed it forward inch by inch. She followed closely behind him- watching to make sure he didn’t stumble.  Any other day, I might have sped up my walk to get to the door ahead of them.  Not that day.

“One day, that will be us,” I smiled as I told my husband.

Then just yesterday, I was with a friend in a coffee shop, and an elderly man came up to us. He was dressed nicely and had a pleasant way about him.  He was looking for a flier, and then began to talk to us. He told us he had been married for 61 years.  61 years!!

I couldn’t believe it-  because he didn’t look old enough to have been married that long.

“But, you couldn’t be more than 70,”  I said to him in protest. “There’s no way you could have been married that long!”

“Oh yes, I am 90 years old!”  He smiled, proud of the years he has experienced in this world.

“You want to know the hardest thing about being 90?”  His eyes were glistening as he spoke, and I leaned in close as he talked.

He clenched his fist and brought it up to his ear- as if he was holding a phone receiver.

“There’s no one for me to call anymore.  They’re all gone.”

My friend and I listened as he shared his random memories…of the passing of his wife, of friends who have experienced loss and hardship, and all I could think about was how important it is to be connected, to be present, and to take time out of our busy lives to listen.

Life, our memories, and our relationships are precious gifts- and our days here are numbered.

One day, that will be me.

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when I dream

20150302_182412when I dream

of what will be-

all I see

is you and me

sitting high

above the trees

as we watch

the setting sun

’till all that’s left

are twinkling lights

of a starry, starry

moonlit night

we dream of what

tomorrow brings-

when we’ll watch

the rising sun

I peeked through my curtains the other evening and all I saw was a cloudless, monochromatic sky.  No color to be seen. Imagine my surprise when I got an email a few minutes later from my hubby (who was at work) with this magnificent sunset picture!  Isn’t it so peculiar that I would see nothing… and yet my husband got this spectacular show of color? On the same night, only a few miles away?

But the beauty was that he knew how much I would appreciate it, and so he took the picture for me.

A picture worth thousand “I love you’s”!

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

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He makes all things beautiful in His time

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A sunny, snow-covered field… taken by my youngest daughter

I have many bittersweet memories from my teaching days. Teaching is something I was drawn to- because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.  I wanted to inspire others to dream and to find joy in doing what they love to do.  For me- that “thing” has always been music.

I had one student in particular that I really connected with.  She was very shy.  She took both piano and voice lessons. She didn’t always practice- but who am I kidding?  Neither did I when I was her age.  I always told my students that my greatest desire was for them to have passion for music.  Not to be the next Beethoven or Mozart, but to really love music and to find joy in creating music. When this student sang, she lit up the room. I saw her passion and it inspired me to be a better teacher.

I will never forget the day her mom called me to tell me she would no longer be taking lessons from me.  I was devastated. I grieved the loss of this student I had poured my heart and soul into for several years.  She even babysat my children. Over the years, I learned that this was just a part of teaching.  We pour ourselves into students, and then we let them go. I later found out that she started taking lessons from someone who concentrated on opera and classical singing.

That made me feel even worse. Because when we have a pity party- it’s all about ME!  I thought I must not have been a good enough teacher.  For years this thought of not being “good enough” has plagued me.

I walked into the grocery store the other day, sort of feeling like I wanted to hide from the world.  I smiled and chit-chatted as I saw several people I knew that day.  I was getting into the check out line, and wouldn’t you know- the mom of my former student was pushing her cart by me. I smiled and asked her how she was doing.  Then I asked her how her daughter was.

She told me to hold on just a minute.  She took out her phone, and to be honest- it looked like she was texting or checking her email.  I stood there for what seemed like an unusually long period of time, and then she said “I wanted to show this to you.”

She handed me her phone and showed me a youtube video of her daughter- a beautiful grown woman now- sitting cross legged on the floor playing guitar, and singing her heart out.  I heard the joy in her voice as she sang, and I had to hold back my tears.

Her mom leaned in close to me and said, “You started that. She learned that from you, you know. I am so grateful to you, Julie.”

She looked right at me and pointed at me as she spoke. It was like God Himself had spoken those words to me.  I finally heard someone say I had made a difference.

I told her mom that hearing that from her, and hearing her daughter sing again meant the world to me. After all those years of feeling like I had done something wrong, or that I wasn’t a good enough teacher- I finally realized something…

I had planted a seed. Sometimes God uses us for only a short season. I was no longer sad about her moving on- but thankful to have been a part of her journey.

In that moment He took a bittersweet memory and made it beautiful- all in His perfect time!

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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