I Sing Because I'm Free

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counting the cost

fullsizeoutput_1f39In search of solitude

I walk fullsizeoutput_1f3b

and to myself I softly

I talk

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the talking soon becomes

a song

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and then I hum it

all

day

long!

I was compelled the other day to stop and walk on the trail.  There was a green glow about the trees, and the birds serenaded me as I began to walk.

As I walked, I realized another victory He has given me!  For years, I have been in bondage… a “slave” to numbers- numbers on the scale, the number of calories I consume at each meal, or the number of calories I burn while exercising.  I would track them on my cute little phone app all day long.  I was a slave to that app.  And then there were days when I would take a break from tracking the numbers- and yet I would STILL keep a running tally in my brain.

But since Dec 31, I have stopped “counting”.  Cold turkey.  This was one of the things I had prayed to be free from, and praise the Lord I am finally FREE!

So as I walked, I realized that I wasn’t clutching my phone…and  I wasn’t trying to beat my best walking time…and I hadn’t set a goal for distance or calories burned. I was just walking to walk, and it was wonderful!

I no longer need the validation of a magical number to find my self-worth.

I have Him and He is all that I need.

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

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holding on

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My girls aren’t little anymore.

Overnight, it seems like the playroom has become a museum- frozen back in a time when the girls pretend played for hours on end with their Barbie dolls.  Doll clothing and toy pieces still litter the floor.

There’s a part of me that wants the playroom to stay that way forever so I can remember it all… their excited giggles, the singing, and the not-so-quiet sound of toys being tossed around.

I feel like my “mom life” is in a bit of a transition.  I don’t write about it as much as I used to, because those cute moments don’t come as often.  And as I watch my coming-of-age daughters try to navigate life, I’m still finding my own way as a mom.   It is WAY harder than I ever thought it would be.

I told the girls recently that they needed to clean the playroom and get rid of some of their dolls and toys.  We don’t need all that stuff down there anymore- I tried to reason with them.

But my oldest looked at me in utter disbelief…

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Mom!!  You are NOT giving away my whole childhood!  You just can’t do that! 

How long has it been since you actually played with those Barbies??  I tried to reason with her.

Umm… just a few weeks ago- she sheepishly admitted to me.   

And then I smiled. I might have even teared up a little bit.

Just when I thought I was having a hard time letting go of my girls being little girls– I see they’re not ready to let go either.

We’re all holding on.

Hold on to what is good-

1 Thessalonians 5:21

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“Sometimes you will never know the value of something,

until it becomes a memory.” – Dr Seuss 

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trust me

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It was an unusual evening.

I happened to be all alone, and usually I relish those quiet times, but on this particular day, I needed to get out of the house.  I was in a dog fight, wrestling with my own thoughts…

So I decided to make it a “date”- me and God.

I got into my car, and it just happened to be twilight- my favorite time of day!  I drove aimlessly around in search of God’s beauty.  Funny enough, my husband texted me earlier that day with this message- “Wow! Spring has sprung this morning!”, so I made a point to look for the visible changes as I drove around.  I finally settled on a spot and parked the car.

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I prayed a lot.  I asked Him lots of questions… why questions, what if questions… and I very much felt like a little girl asking my parents lots of worrisome things that don’t  need answering.

I remember how I used to try to get out of practicing piano as a kid.  I hated playing those boring songs over and over and over.  Why do I have to keep doing this? It seemed so pointless.  And yet, every time I wanted to quit- my parents said no.  Honestly, I didn’t want to quit- I just wanted to pass over all the practice to get to the good part… I wanted to play something real, something that moved me!

Oh, if I had known then what He would be using all those hours of practice for- well it might have scared me out of playing at all!   The fact that He chooses to use me to lead worship every week is very humbling.  It’s nothing short of a miracle, actually.  I am forgetful, clumsy, not a technically great piano player…. but I am willing… and I praise the Lord EVERY DAY for all He has done in my life!

Sometimes waiting is hard.  Waiting for an answer, for a door to open, for a door to close… to win the lottery (just kidding!!!!)… but in the waiting is where He is fine-tuning our skills, and that’s where our faith in Him grows stronger. 

As I sat in the van that night, an overwhelming peace came over me. I pictured myself sitting in His giant lap with His arms wrapped around me tight.

And suddenly all those thoughts I had wrestled with instantly melted into His one big, beautiful answer-

just trust me! 

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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Built for a King

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He is working-

moving and shaping

changing and growing

cultivating, crafting

He’s transforming

You 

into something magnificent

a beautiful building-

something He sees

worthy

of Living

in…

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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take the leap

This is Jack…

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He’s our newest rescue dog, and it has been a joy watching him come out of his “shell”.

Here’s his older brother, Remy-

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They had a little bit of a love/hate relationship in the beginning, but thankfully they are good buds now!

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It’s amazing how God uses these little furry guys to teach me about life.  We don’t know anything about Jack, other than he’s about 4 years old.  When we adopted him a couple of months ago,  he was scruffy and super skinny and looked like he had a rough start to life.

We’ve had the joy of watching him grow into a beautiful, healthy, loving boy in the last couple of months. One of the things I love most about Jack is his perseverance.

Ain’t no sofa high enough 

Ain’t no bed tall enough 

Ain’t no recliner wide enough 

to keep him away from you, baby! 

When Jack wants something, he is relentless.  He will stop at nothing to get a bite of whatever awesome snack we are eating.  When he want to jump up and give you his famous 10 second snuggle, it’s like he’s competing in the Olympics.  Those little legs leap as high as they possibly can, and sometimes he hits the mark.  Other times he falls short and misses…but he doesn’t let it stop him!

He keeps his eyes fixed on what he wants and he perseveres until he succeeds.

I have heard the song  “Crazy Faith” on the radio numerous times over the last few days…

“Lord, this scares me, yeah

But it’s gonna take crazy faith

So what if it costs me everything

I’m stepping out I’m taking the leap

of crazy faith”- John Waller 

I want to have faith like that.  I want to be able to take that “leap”  like Jack does- without any fear or doubt, knowing that it’s His strength that will get me through.  When we’re continually seeking Him and His will- He is always calling us to do something…asking us to go deeper- to depend on Him more.

So what are you waiting for?

Take the leap of faith and trust Him.

 God, help me to have crazy faith

 

 

 

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Lean in ’17

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I’m gettin’ lean in ’17

a lean that’s all encompassing 

I wanna be all I can be 

and represent my Lord and King 

through ALL things, help me to SING

It’s on Him I’m gonna LEAN! 

I have just recently begun watching the show “This is Us” on NBC.  I’m a little bit behind the ball, but I’ve binge-watched almost the whole first season online, and it’s so, so good!  It’s the kind of show that you either love or hate.

This show wrecks me. Even the music makes me tear up.  But the character that I really connect with is Kate.  As a child, she is “chunky” and much of the storyline revolves around her becoming more self-conscious of her size.  Then as an adult, it shows her measuring every meal, obsessing over every calorie of everything she eats…exercising and doing all the right things- only to lose 1 lb.  Kate is charming and lovely, and yet all she can see is her size.

When I watch the show, it’s like seeing myself on the screen.  I religiously count all my calories, and then feel like a failure when I haven’t lost a pound.  Then I over-indulge during the holidays and feel like a failure when I’ve gained a pound (err…or two, lol)…the cycle never ends.

And now that my girls are entering the teen years, I try so hard to say and do the right things…

I say things like– Eat healthy so you can be HEALTHY, not THIN.  Exercise so you will feel good and feel good about yourself.  Wear clothes that fit you and flatter your curves.  Recognize that people come in all shapes and sizes, and embrace the body God gave you! You are beautiful!

But deep down, I fight those negative thoughts every single day.  I recently admitted this to someone close to me and told them that maybe this is my “cross”.  You know how Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him?  Well this love/hate relationship with food and my weight is just that- something that can either get me down every single day- or it’s something that He can use to keep me close to Him. Every moment I go to Him instead of turn to my own thoughts, well that’s another victory!

So I’m committing to getting LEAN in ’17!

I’m going to LEAN on HIM and NOT myself! 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

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You, Lord, are my lamp

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The greatest present given to me 

was not found beneath a tree 

a much more precious gift, you see- 

one that brought back memories 

In Granny’s garage, to my delight

nestled atop a fridge that night

I found an old, old antique light 

and it was precious to my sight! 

This was our first Christmas without Granny.  My aunt lives in Granny’s house, but it will forever be “Granny’s house” to me.  Even though she isn’t there, memories of her are everywhere.

We had Christmas dinner at “Granny’s house”, and I couldn’t help but wonder- were we going to talk about Granny at all?  I figured everyone else was thinking about her and missing her, too.  One of my aunts gave my mom a beautifully framed picture of Granny.  When I saw it, it was as if Granny was sitting in that same recliner in the next room.

One of my aunts asked my sister and I if we wanted to go into the garage to look through some of Granny’s things that they were getting rid of.  We walked out into the garage, and sifted through a few boxes of odds and ends.  I saw a couple of oil lamps in one box, which reminded me of my favorite lamp that used to rest on the dresser in the back bedroom.  This is where my sister and I slept when we spent the nights at Granny and Papa’s house.

As a kid, I was afraid of the dark. One of my earliest memories is of me being in a crib.  I can picture myself looking through the crib slats, watching the lights go out and then watching the door to my room close.  I would cry because I was afraid of the dark.  I can remember always being afraid of the dark- especially when I slept in a different place.

But not at Granny’s house! 

On those special overnight trips to Granny’s, I couldn’t wait to see that special lamp light up the room when I went to sleep!  It had a beautiful gold hued glass globe around the top, and the black base had cut-outs of stars, which glowed when it was turned on.

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That lamp made me look forward to sleeping over at Granny’s house.  It shined light in the darkness and somehow made my Granny’s house seem magical!

As I remembered that old lamp, I looked across the garage to where the old fridge sat. There it was, clear as day- resting right on top. I didn’t even know that lamp still existed!  I asked my aunt if I could have it, and after she checked to see if it was ok- she said it was fine for me to have it.

I couldn’t wait to get the lamp home and clean it up!  I washed the hurricane glass and the globe, and then found a bulb to put inside.  The off/on switch was broken, but as soon as I plugged it in, it came right on!

And just like flipping that “on” switch, then came back all the memories of being a kid at Granny’s house.  Granny may be gone, but her light shines on…

You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.  2 Samuel 22:29

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it’s the little things

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it’s the little things 

reminding me- 

Emmanuel

He’s here with me 

The girls are maturing by the day, and I can hardly keep up with their changing likes and dislikes.  In fact, just yesterday I lamented that this is the first year neither of them asked for a single American Girl doll accessory  or”toy” for Christmas.

  Gone are those special moments when they would crawl into Santa’s lap and take sweet pictures.  And much to my chagrin- gone are the days of fighting those crowded toy store lines trying to get them the hottest toys of the season.  (that I DON’T miss!!)

As I got into my van yesterday morning I was feeling a little melancholy thinking of how much they have grown, and a part of me longed to hear their giddy little girl giggles.

But then I looked up, and I saw my windows were covered in frost from the previous chilly night. The frost glistened in the sunlight and I saw a cross- clear as day- a “frosty” cross, I’ll call it 🙂

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And He reminded me again what the real meaning of CHRISTmas is all about.

There is no giggle, no toy, no present under the tree that could ever compare to the joy He has already given me.  And the longing in my heart will only ever be satisfied by more of Him.  

In the simplest of ways He shows me that He is here.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”  Matthew 1:23

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Deep in December it’s nice to remember…

Back in my college days, we sang a beautiful song called “Try to Remember” from the musical The Fantasticks. It’s such a lovely song, with a melancholy melody and lyrics that sing all on their own.  I woke up thinking of this song and remembering what happened to me this past Sunday…

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After I finished leading the music for the worship service, I sat down in between my husband and my daughters.  There’s something so special about sitting with my family in church- it felt like heaven!

I admit that I was more focused on the presence of the Lord than I was on the sermon that morning. But the most wonderful thing happened- I started to remember last December and how absolutely miserable I was.  For the last 12 years I have been dealing with allergies.  My symptoms started off pretty minor, and I would lose my voice for a few weeks in the first few years.  And then each year my symptoms increased- as did the amount of time I was plagued with a cough and laryngitis.  And unfortunately, these symptoms have always been the worst during the Christmas and Easter seasons- which are the BUSIEST times of the year for anyone involved in music ministry!

Last year around this time,  I remember feeling so defeated.  I even questioned if He really wanted me to keep singing for Him.  I am embarrassed to admit that there were many Sundays after church when I cried- feeling like I had let Him down, feeling like I embarrassed myself (by something I said, or by my voice cracking…).  I am embarrassed to say this because it made worship all about ME and not Him!

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After lots of prayer and encouragement from my Christian friends, I resolved to worship and praise Him- even if!  Even if my voice was gone, even if my cracking, coughing, weak voice would embarrass me- I would STILL sing His praises and be obedient to sing!

Well, after the Christmas season last year, I decided to finally visit an allergy doctor.  After going through the testing, he determined that I was having reactions to nearly all of the 60 environmental things I was tested for.  After trying other medications to help alleviate my cough and other symptoms, I decided to try immunotherapy- allergy shots.

I have been doing them since May, and I have FINALLY reached the “maintenance” phase.  It has been a long process, and it’s been quite time consuming- 2 visits each week, 3 shots each time.  I have prayed and prayed that this would help and that I was not wasting all this time!

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But Sunday, as I sat there with my family in the service- He reminded me of all that He has done for me over this last year.  He has taught me so much about worship… how my skills and talents are useless without His power. How being an “instrument” is not for other people to pat me on the back, but to glorify Him!  And usually by September, the coughing begins…but praise the Lord- the cough is almost non-existent!  I am so grateful and thankful!  I wanted to stand up and shout on Sunday when He reminded me of what I felt like last year compared to now!

So whatever trial you are going through- no matter how big or small it is- try to remember all the things He has brought you through, and keep on praising Him!

 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

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rejected

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While I was out running errands today, I had a conversation with a stranger who told me she had just quit smoking.  I asked her how long it had been since she had her last smoke.  Just yesterday.  I told her every single moment was a small victory for her to celebrate.  I encouraged her and let her talk about her smoking addiction.  After talking with her for quite some time, I felt the Lord nudging me to invite her to a special service we’re having at our church next week.  It’s something I am really excited about- 9 churches coming together to worship and give thanks… 9 churches in our community uniting as one in Christ Jesus!  With all the division in the world right now, this is the perfect time for this!

I waited until I knew it was the right moment to ask her… Do you go to church? I asked her, nonchalantly.

No- I don’t do that kind of thing.

Well this would be the perfect service to come to then!  I explained how a bunch of churches in our community were coming together…

No, I’m not interested in that.  

And immediately I felt that door slam shut.  She changed the subject quickly, clearly ready to end the conversation at that point. It was awkward, to say the least!

As she continued to make small talk, I started feeling a little sorry for myself.  I’d been rejected.  She didn’t ask me the usual “what church do you go to?” or even say the polite “I’ll think about it”… just a flat out NO. I hate rejection. It’s hard to put yourself out there…to be obedient to invite strangers to church.  Who am I kidding?  It’s hard to just flat have conversations and LOVE people.

I said goodbye and told her that I’d be praying for her as she continued to break the nicotine habit.  “You can DO it!” I told her. Then I then went to my car, feeling like a complete DORK and a REJECT.

And He brought to my mind this verse-

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
1so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.- Isaiah 55

All He asks us to do is be obedient. We throw out the seeds… HE does the watering.

As I drove home, I started to replay the words of our conversation in my mind…and then I looked ahead of me and the license plate in front of me said it all.

On the license plate was this-

GD LOVS U

And in that instant, those feelings of being a complete nerd and a rejected vanished.  He loves you.  And He loves me.  And He loves that stranger I spoke to today.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

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