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Yesterday was a special anniversary for us-18 years ago on July 10th, we moved to Charlottesville.

If you had asked me even a month before we made the decision to move, I would have told you there was NO WAY we would EVER leave our hometown. Our entire family was there- and so was everyone and everything we had ever known…but my husband was looking for a job and there were literally no companies that were hiring at that time. I remember him saying we might need to move somewhere for me to find a job. And my first thoughts are always selfish ones. NO WAY am I moving.

And the Lord brought back a memory I had of my grandfather picking up our family one Saturday morning. Granddaddy was notorious for taking spur-of-the-moment road trips. He drove us to Carter’s Mountain Orchard. I remember ooh’ing and ahh’ing with my parents over the mountains in the distance, and as we finally began the climb up to Carter’s Mountain Orchard, it seemed as if our car was going to fall off the side of the mountain! It was a happy memory- so happy that I could see us moving there. So one day I told David it would be ok for him to look for a job in Charlottesville.

Two CPA firms were hiring. He send off his resumes on a Thursday, had two interviews set up on the following Monday, and we spent the weekend driving around looking for a potential house. It was scary to think of moving away from my family. My oldest daughter was only a year old. We knew no one there, but it seemed like the Lord was lighting up the path for us to GO. David received a job offer, we listed our home for sale by owner, and we had a contract for over our asking price within just a couple of days. It was a complete whirlwind.

So much has happened in 18 years, but it all began with being willing to go wherever He would lead. And that road led me straight to Him! About 5 years later, I felt the Lord calling me into ministry and these have been the BEST years of my life. I have had the joy of serving the Lord in my church through leading worship every Sunday, and even leading small groups, teaching, and preaching… all wonderful.

And then this past January I took a full time position working for a non-profit ministry that I love. I still minister at church and serve as the worship pastor in my free time, so I now have the best of both worlds.

My “babies” aren’t little anymore- 19 and *almost* 17! I am so grateful for His many blessings. I often feel like King David when he says this verse from 2 Samuel 7:18- ‚ÄúWho am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?

I am grateful and thankful that He has brought my family here-

and I can whole heartedly say that this is “home” ūüôā

Create

Genesis 1:1- In the beginning, God created…

As a pre-teen, I used to sit on my old piano bench and play away my thoughts on the keys. It was therapeutic to let melancholy chords ring while melodies ran through my head. Creating music made me feel alive!

I remember the first time I shared a piano piece I wrote with my piano teacher. I was nervous, but proud of the song I had created. 

I played with hesitation- desperately wanting my teacher‚Äôs approval. When I finished, the first thing he said was that I should try this chord instead of that chord ‚Ķand surely it would sound better if I did it this way instead. Lots of criticism followed. 

I was crushed. I remember thinking surely if I had wanted it that way, I would have already written it that way!

That one moment had a huge impact on me.For many years, I felt like what I created didn‚Äôt have value, wasn‚Äôt good enough. 

But here’s the thing-we all have a song to sing. How boring it would be if all songs had the same chords and melodies. How bland music would be if we all had the same voice. 

Let Him create something NEW in you- and then pour it out as an offering for His glory! 

manifest

manifest= clear or obvious to the mind

My hubby and I began watching a series on Netflix recently called Manifest. We were hooked from the beginning, as the storyline is very intriguing and the series offers lots of twists and turns.

One of the main themes of the series is Romans 8:28- And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. This is a verse I quote often, because it’s an encouragement that we are called to follow and seek Him in all things, and a reminder that we can trust He has a greater purpose at work than what we are able to see with our own eyes. We can completely trust that even when we are in a BAD situation, that somehow He is going to use it for His good.

In the show, the survivors of the 5 year plane disappearance hear voices, later referred to “callings”. These callings will at times bring survivors together to solve a puzzle… always leading them to help someone in need and miraculously these callings connect to each other in deeply personal ways with the characters. This is one of the best ways I have seen my walk with Jesus displayed on a screen… and probably one of the easiest ways to describe what it feels like for me to hear that “small whisper” of the Holy Spirit, and to walk with Jesus each day.

Just the other day, I went to a local senior living community to do a worship service in the middle of the week. Honestly, it’s one of the highlights of the week for me. I play and sing a few hymns with the residents, we pray, and I share a short devotional and then close with another song and prayer. It fills my heart with great joy to see the residents clapping, singing, and experiencing the blessing that is corporate worship. When I leave, I always feel like I have made a difference in their lives for Jesus.

And this past week- it was the walk to my car where I heard the “small whisper”.

There are outdoor patio areas for the residents to sit outside of their rooms on the ground floor. It happened to be raining that day as I was heading out to my car. I spotted a lady who was all done up- she looked like Elizabeth Taylor and was strikingly beautiful. She held a book in her hand and was gazing out over the parking lot watching the rain fall.

As clear as day, I felt the Lord telling me to go and speak to her.

I said hi as I approached her and she greeted me.

“Isn’t it just heavenly listening to the rain?” she said to me.

Listening to the rain is one of my favorite things to do. We chatted for just a moment, and then I invited her to join me next week for our time of worship.

“Oh, I’m a life-long atheist,” she replied.

And what struck me was her tone- she was not timid or shy about what she believed, but was confident and proud of her declaration.

I smiled and told her I loved her and would welcome her to join us.

I thought about her statement that the sound of the rain was heavenly.

I think about heaven a lot.

Even our greatest, most pleasurable moments here on earth will pale in comparison to the place He has prepared for us, and I want this special lady to see that place one day.

Romans 8:28… ALL THINGS work together for good. Who knows- maybe I will never see her again. Maybe the Lord simply used me to plant a tiny mustard seed in her heart.

But just maybe I will see her next week for worship!

Romans 8:28

Joy Comes

We planted a baby magnolia tree in our yard several years ago. My husband was gifted it by someone at his work, and we had been thinking of planting something in the center of our circular driveway for some time – so it was the perfect addition to our yard.

Well, knowing my lack of gardening skills, I followed the instructional pamphlet to the t. I watered it with exactly the amount it said, and as often as was instructed -and I couldn’t wait to watch it grow and bloom. After all, magnolia blooms have the most wonderful fragrance.

And it took forEVER to see a flower. At first, there was just one or two. Then the next year there were a few more. And again, at the beginning of the summer it didn’t look like we were going to have any blooms. But after all the rain we have had these past couple of weeks, I looked out and saw not one or two, but a bunch of little flower buds!

It’s amazing how God created all these beautiful trees and plants, and they grow and bloom and reproduce without anyone or anything telling it what to do! It really is a miracle when you think about it!

And as I was out there this morning enjoying the blooms, God reminded me of all the days I saw nothing. All the while that tree was growing and faithful to do what it needed to do to produce the “fruit”.

Be faithful

Keep waiting to see the blooms.

Joy comes in the morning.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning- Psalm 30:5

In Tune

I had an “aha” moment recently.

Owning two pianos, tuning them regularly can be quite costly. I have a pretty good ear and can tell when a note begins to sound “off”, so I decided to look up tuning kits to see how affordable they were. Much to my surprise, they were pretty inexpensive, so I purchased a piano tuning kit and couldn’t wait for my package to arrive. I mean- how hard could it be to tune a piano?!

My baby grand piano is nearly 100 years old, and has a couple of notes that are notoriously wonky. I love the quirks of owning an antique piano, but I have begun avoiding playing certain notes because they have become so incredibly out of tune- even an untrained ear could hear the somber sound.

The kit arrived on a Sunday afternoon (thanks, Amazon!) and it was like Christmas morning all over again! I watched a couple of videos on piano tuning ahead of time, so I knew a little bit about what I was in for.

I went right to the worst offender- my bass C note- notably the most played key on my piano. I opened the top of the piano and found the bolt that needed adjusting. I loaded a tuning app onto my phone and then placed the tuning wrench on the bolt and pulled it ever so slightly. It didn’t take much turning to change the pitch, but boy did I have to pull to get that bolt to move! A little to the left, a little to the right, and that C sang like a songbird!

But something peculiar happened.

As I played, I noticed that other notes were ever so slightly under pitch compared to the C… so I began tweaking a few more, then even more… until I began at the lowest note and started to work up.

Let me just say that this process was more difficult than I thought! My hands ached from gripping and pulling the tuning wrench, my back was sore from bending over the piano, and it took me hours. But it was totally worth it! And I have a completely new understanding and appreciation for piano technicians and the amount of skill it takes to do this for a living!

I kept thinking about how tuning a piano is so much like being “in tune” with the Holy Spirit. The more you begin to listen and adjust things in your life that are out of tune to Him, the more things you see that need adjusting. I’ll be honest- it is hard for me not to pull out that tuning fork every day to double check the pitches on the piano… but once I start tuning, it will reveal others that also need to be adjusted.

But that’s what our walk with Jesus is about… being in a constant state of tuning to Him.

Tuning our thoughts to His thoughts… our words to His Word… our heart to His.

Abide in me, and I in you- John 15:4

Julievision

I have been listening to a great online course on overthinking by Jon Acuff. In one of the sessions he talked about having empathy for others- as well as for yourself. He describes empathy as “caring about the things that the people you care about care about”.

This really resonates with me. My husband and my daughters all enjoy the Marvel Movies and like to “geek out” over the characters and story lines. I admit that this is something that I have had to work at caring about. It just wasn’t something I was exposed to or watched growing up. But because I love my family, I have learned to find joy in watching these movies with them, too.

We recently watched the Wandavision series on Disney Plus. At first, my hubby told me I wouldn’t enjoy it- so I didn’t need to watch it with him. And then I snuck downstairs one evening, sat on the couch, and was mesmerized by Wanda’s perfectly crafted sitcom world. Who doesn’t dream of having the perfect family like you see on tv?

I asked lots of questions -because although I have watched most of the Marvel movies, I can’t remember anything these days… and the more questions I asked, the more dots were connected.

Wanda had experienced so much personal loss that she created this entire fictional “bubble” for her make-believe family. She controlled every aspect of this world, down to everything that was said. Eventually she began to lose control, and by the end she realized that she couldn’t stay in that perfect bubble- and she said goodbye to her self-made life, causing her to deal with the personal grief and loss she has experienced.

But the biggest dot that was connected for me was that I am so much like Wanda-

I overthink.

I desperately want to protect myself (and my loved ones) from being hurt.

And to do this, I try to control my own environment.

Self-realization is HUGE! Just recognizing our own tendencies opens doors to change.

What’s the remedy?

Moment by moment surrender. Allowing Him full control of my life and of everything around me. Not worrying about what others do or think- but simply resting in Him and trusting in Him in ALL things.

Isn’t it so cool how God uses something like a Marvel TV series as a mirror to reveal something inside of you?

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. РPhilippians 3:13-14

Happy Anniversary to us- 24 years today!

Open my eyes

One evening last week, my voice student became MY teacher.

It had been a busy day-but a good one!

I began to play the song we were working on, and I noticed my student had fixed her gaze on the wall above the door.

“What are you staring at?” I asked her, curiously.

“The clock! When I watch the clock, the time goes by slowly.”

I looked at her a little funny.

Then she added “My voice lessons go by so quickly and I don’t want it to end!”

She flashed me her joyous smile, and I had to fight back the tears.

Because the good Lord convicted me of all the times I have hoped for the time to pass quickly-

so I can go on to the next thing.

He reminded me of all the times I am thinking of what needs to be done when I get home,

my “to-do” list for the next day- instead of being fully present in the moment.

When we walk with the Lord, in each and every moment there is JOY to be found.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.- Psalm 16:11

My daughter made me this musical mask ūüôā

seeds

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This past Sunday, as I sat down at the keyboard on the stage at church, I noticed something on the keys.  There was some kind of seed resting on middle C.  A sunflower seed perhaps?

The strange thing is- I NEVER eat on the stage at church, and don’t recall seeing anyone else eat either. ¬†I usually play the piano, but for the past 3 weeks or so, I have been using the keyboard to lead worship.

So where this seed came from is a complete mystery!

But it was a great reminder that morning to keep the faith.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‚ÄėMove from here to there,‚Äô and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:20¬†

We have to continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, moment by moment, and believe that things WILL get better!

And any obstacles you are facing today-

He may not REMOVE them,

but He WILL see you THROUGH them!

‚ÄúI have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.‚ÄĚ – John 16:33

 

the missed list

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I miss seeing the random smiles 

of strangers 

striking up conversations of 

commonalities and enjoying a 

moment of connection 

I miss the warm embrace of 

a friendly hug- the one that makes me 

instantly feel like you’re a part of

my  family 

I miss the naiveté of going about 

our daily lives without

thinking that we may infect someone 

by simply breathing 

I miss coffee shops

thrift stores

restaurants

lunch dates with friends 

having the house to myself 

but most of all- 

I miss worshipping together on Sundays

and being with my church family-

the fellowship, greeting one another, 

the buzz of joyful energy and

conversations in the cafe

singing, praying, 

and praising the Lord 

in one accord 

…but JOY comes in the morning- Psalm 30:5¬†

leaning

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we’re in a time¬†

of “leaning”-¬†

all our excess 

stripped away 

we’re in a time¬†

of leaning 

on our Savior 

 day by day

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This is a strange season we are in.

Just a few short weeks ago I was excitedly planning Easter festivities at church, my girls were anticipating their spring concerts and trips with band, and my hubby was gearing up for another busy tax season.

And then came Corona…¬†

It seems like life as we know it has come to a screeching halt.

Alone with my thoughts, I have come to realize how many things I have taken for granted.

Like my trips to Starbucks for egg bites and flat whites…those weekly galavants to the thrift store to socialize with strangers and to get lost in my thoughts sifting through junk…meeting friends for lunch and coffee…having the house to myself throughout the week to clean and organize…. but of everything, having “church”- this is the biggest for me. ¬†I miss being able to hug my church family every week. ¬†I miss seeing all the smiling faces and being together in person to praise the Lord on Sundays.

And yet here we are- all going through this strange season together.

We’ve been stripped of everything that isn’t necessary for our survival.

And yet, even in the midst of uncertainty, I have peace.

In these “lean” times- may we lean into Him!¬†

“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms. 

-E.A. Hoffman (1894)