Empty Spaces

“You love when I’m empty…”

I heard this line recently when I was listening to a new worship song, and it slapped me in the face.

How can God love it when I am empty?

I thought about the idea of emptiness and what that means to me. When something is empty, we immediately want to fill it up. I know when the paper towel roll is empty, I want to run downstairs to get a new roll to fill the dispenser. When we are almost out of dog treats and the jar begins to look empty- I know I’m going to be in trouble the next day when I bring my dogs inside from a walk unless I fill up the jar again.

And yet, there are some things we keep “full” that don’t necessarily need to be filled. Like my stomach, lol.

The idea of emptiness gives me a sense of longing… that something is not complete.

But that line struck me. Does God love it when I’m empty?

I thought about Jesus feeding the 5000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. I bet that basket looked pretty empty to the disciples that day.

And yet, that emptiness gave God room to do a miracle.

When we are empty, we long for more.

When we are empty, we have nothing left.

When we are empty, we are completely dependent on what He has to give us.

Where can you make an empty space in your life for God?

You love when I’m empty…”

Spilled Out

This year has been a challenge for everyone for so many different reasons. Covid, quarantine, masks, virtual school, changed routines... the list goes on and on… but I am super proud of our daughters and how they have not just “survived” this school year- they have THRIVED! My oldest is a senior and my youngest is a sophomore in high school. All my “senior” wanted to do this year was to go to Orlando Florida to Universal Studios to celebrate her graduation.

When we looked into packages, we realized it was way cheaper for us to go in the spring instead of the heat of summer, so we spent the last week in Florida- and it was AMAZING!

Our family, along with one of the girls’ closest friends, spent a full 7 days together. The schedule was not for the faint of heart- my senior had a list of must-do things at Universal- one of which was riding a new Harry Potter themed roller coaster- “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Ride”. I found out that on the opening day of this ride, people actually waited in line for 10 HOURS to ride it! Did I say 10 HOURS?!?!? When I found that out, I wasn’t sure if we would actually make it on this ride or not! But all things worked out, and after only a couple of hours waiting, we were able to ride it 2 times! (and it was TOTALLY worth the wait!!!)

We walked over 8 miles a day when we were at Universal… and basically stood in line for hours every day. But something amazing happened- we actually ENJOYED being together! We were tired, but we had the best time!

One of the gift shops had this quirky “Thing 1 and Thing 2” Dr Seuss coffee cup that we fell in love with. The girls said that it was definitely a “need” for me, since I love coffee so much. It was my last purchase while we were at the park.

This morning, I pulled out that new mug and watched the Keurig fill it up with coffee to the tippy top. The funny thing is that the top is actually tilted- it looks like two coffee cups stacked on top of one another, so it’s quirky for sure! And wouldn’t you know it- as soon as I picked it up, the coffee spilled out. I guess it’s hard to hold an uneven topped coffee cup straight ūüôā

I am so thankful for the amazing week with my family- and their special friend who is very much like a part of our family. There wasn’t a single moment that entire week that I wished I was home, or that I could be alone, or go off by myself to “recharge”. That week reminded me of how much I love my family, how much I enjoy their company, and how blessed I am. I didn’t know how badly I needed that week with them! Isn’t it funny how this gift to our “senior” turned out being a gift for all of us ūüôā Who would have known that to “recharge”, I needed to spend MORE time with my family?!

As my coffee spilled out this morning, I felt joy spilling out of me.

It’s good to be home…but I will never forget the amazing week we had together.

Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup- Psalm 16:5

The best coffee cup EVER
me and my bff
Hogwarts Castle
My hubby and his favorite ride- Spiderman!
The dragon in Dragon Alley
All in the family
my “senior”
The sunset on the ride home

Available

One morning I woke up and I knew that the Lord was asking me to do something. When this happens, I am on a mission… obsessed with completing whatever the “thing” is the Lord wants me to do.

This “thing” was getting the Covid vaccine. I will admit to you that I was on the fence for a while about it. I am healthy, not high risk at all, but I knew that if the Lord wanted me to do it that I would know. And one morning my hubby called me while I was working and asked me about getting it. As soon as we finished our conversation, I knew that the Lord wanted me to do it.

So I checked numerous websites, and finally ended up waiting in an online list. I knew it might be a while, because it kept saying “wait time over one hour”. Now, this was just the site to sign up for a time for the vaccine. And so I kept waiting… and waiting… and waiting…

And nearly 5 HOURS LATER, I was sent to the home screen to sign up for a time. I entered my zip code, and it said no appointments available.

I really really wanted to throw the laptop across the room.

I had waited 5 hours…5 HOURS… only to end up right back at square one.

I knew if the Lord really did want me to do it, that He would make a way for it to happen, so I resigned myself to not thinking about it anymore this week.

And then something really cool happened.

I was supposed to teach some make-up music lessons this week, and then ended up not needing to do it. Guess how many hours these lessons equalled? Yep- 5 hours! Those hours I spent waiting for a non-existent appointment were given back to me in the form of rest.

And then another really cool thing happened.

My husband received an email this morning from a coworker asking if he wanted to receive a vaccine today, and that one of the clinics had vaccine appointments available and spouses were also welcome to receive one, too. I told him that was totally a God thing- and that we should definitely do it. We went, received our vaccines, and it could not have been easier.

I used to be fearful of stepping out of the “boat” to do the things I felt God telling me to do.

Not anymore.

These days, I fear NOT doing the thing the Lord asks me to do- because He is ALWAYS faithful. His ways and thoughts are so much higher and wiser than mine, so when I hear that still, small voice- I answer “yes” every time!

I want to always be available for Him. When I do whatever the “thing” is that God asks me to do, I am immediately filled with peace.

So my 5 hours didn’t end up in an appointment- but God made another way.

After all, He is the WAYMAKER ūüôā

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

Presents

the greatest gift

is your

presence

Last week was my husband’s birthday. I admit that I am not a good “gift giver”. It’s not that I don’t enjoy giving gifts, or purchasing things for others- it’s the pressure of looking for that perfect thing- the one that will make someone feel like the king (or queen) of the world, as Leonardo DiCaprio says in the movie Titanic. And let’s face it- as adults, most of us have what we need– and if we don’t, then we just buy it!

The girls and I got him a few things that we knew he would like, but we knew the best present to give him was the gift of being with friends. He is an extroverted “people person” and loves being social- and he also enjoys playing games. So the girls and I planned a small murder mystery game party with a few of our closest friends (who are like our family).

And I think I was the one who received the greatest gift that night…

As an introvert, I love watching people and taking in the scene. I watched the joy and excitement on my hubby’s face that evening and it was such a blessing to me. It was a blessing to be with our close friends, and to see the girls’ and my “gift” played out (pun intended ūüôā all evening long!

The greatest gift YOU can ever give is yourself

your time, your talents, your attention…

your PRESENCE.

In YOUR presence there is fullness of JOY- Psalm 16:11

My house


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It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since my husband and I packed up and moved to Charlottesville with our 1 year old daughter. I never imagined we would move away from our hometown, but literally everything fell into place and it just felt like that was where God wanted us to be.

I had been thinking about that date for a while- July 10th. For the last few months, I have noticed how not only have my girls have grown up, but so has everything around my house! The trees in front of our dining room window tower over the house now. I sat on our front porch steps recently and saw all the little markings in the wood- remembering the days when the girls were little and I would sit outside with a watchful eye on them.

And it all seems to have happened overnight.

The funny thing was- that date came and went and I completely forgot! But the next day, the four of us were driving into town to get Chick-fil-A, and one of my daughters remembered and mentioned it.

“Hey- wasn’t yesterday the day y’all moved here? It’s been the best 16 years of your life, hasn’t it?” one of my daughters said to me with a cheshire grin.

Yes it has.

Want to know why?

I could go on and on about how wonderful my daughters are and how super proud I am of them for so many things. Or I could say it’s because of my husband and what a great dad he is and how thankful I am for all he does for us. Or all my sweet fur-babies… two dogs and two bunnies (which belong to my oldest daughter)…

But of all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for, there is only one that is worthy of all my praise and that is Jesus.

These have absolutely been the best years of my life and it’s all because I surrendered all of my desires and plans to His. He has been so faithful and I have seen Him work not only in my life, but in the lives of so many others, including my family.

Do you know how awesome it is that my 17 and 15 year old daughters WANT to come to church early with me on Sundays?

I am blessed.

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

 

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

 

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)

this much

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How much does God love you?

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my dad asking me and my sister if we knew how much he loved us.

This much? Рhe would say as he open his arms a little bit.

Thiiis much?  He would open his arms a little bit wider.

Thiiiiiiiiiis  much!  And then he would stretch his arms out as wide as they could reach.

It is hard to quantify love and our capacity to love in tangible ways, but yesterday I saw a glimpse of how much God loves me.

I tweaked my back yesterday morning- simply bending over to give my dogs a treat of all things.  The pain was so severe- I felt sick to my stomach all day from it.

And since both my oldest daughter and my hubby are working all day, ¬†my youngest daughter and I were supposed to spend the day together doing whatever she wanted to do. ¬†Shopping- of course ūüėČ

If you have a teen, you know that shopping days aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. ¬†Shopping with her brings back a flood of emotions from my own childhood. ¬†Nothing ever fit me- and anything that I liked, or that actually fit- was waaaay out of my price range. ¬†Shopping always sounded like a better idea than it actually was.

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So after trying on lots of clothes and not finding anything, my daughter picked out a pair of earrings.  Earrings ALWAYS fit-  and she really needed another pair.

We went to another store and after trying several things on, we left empty handed.  Again.  

As we sat in the car, I began to tear up remembering what it felt like to go clothes shopping at her age.  The earrings she was wearing were hurting her ears, so she took out the new pair to put them on.  As soon as she got the first one out of the box, it slipped out of her hand and lodged itself in between the car seat and the middle console.

 Now we were both crying!

My back was hurting so bad, but not as badly as I wanted to find that earring for her!

I hobbled around to the back seat and could see the earring laying on the floorboard- but it was on the crease of two pieces of carpet.  As soon as I reached for it, it slipped between the crease and then it was out of reach.  I tried everything I could to get it and then out of the blue a man and his daughter came over to the car.

Is everything ok?  He asked me.

Yeah- my daughter just lost her new earring….

Let me see if I can get it.  

And like that- he was on his knees, pulling the carpet back, pushing the car seat to and fro. At one point, he was trying so hard to reach it, he cut his hand on something under the seat.

It’s ok- we will look for it later-¬†I said, knowing this earring was probably not going to be found.

Let me keep trying- I might be able to get it! 

He looked for at least 15 minutes for that earring. ¬†He could feel it, but was unable to grab it. ¬†It meant so much that this stranger and his daughter cared enough to try to help us. ¬†Even though he wasn’t able to get the earring for us- it was like he felt my momma heart breaking.

He asked me how much the earrings cost.

I said several times that they were cheap, it wasn’t a big deal. ¬†And then without a second thought, he pulled out his wallet and handed me money.

I can’t take this, I told him. ¬†The earrings didn’t even cost that much. ¬†Really- it’s ok! I’m just thankful you tried to help us!¬†

And then he said something I won’t forget-

“I love making people happy. ¬†I don’t want your daughter to be sad. ¬†It makes me happy to make others happy. ¬†I want her to be happy today.”

I began to cry tears of joy.

My daughter and I both hugged this man and his daughter. ¬†I told him he was an angel and that he had really blessed me today. ¬†Not only did he go through all that to try to get the earring- but then he actually gave her money to replace it?! ¬†It didn’t make sense! I tried to give the money back to him but he wouldn’t take it.

He and his daughter disappeared into the store and as I got into the car with my daughter, I was overwhelmed by God’s love. ¬†That random act of kindness came at the exact moment we needed it.

Do you know how much God loves you?

Thiiissss much- 

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Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 63:7

good things come…

Isn’t it funny how some days don’t seem to start off on the right foot…and then by the end of the day, you look back and see how it was one of the very best days?

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The gorgeous moon at the end of my day! 

I woke up one day with a feeling of dread. ¬†There were several things I had to do, and some days “adulting” is hard work, lol! ¬†But there is an undeniable feeling like I’ve conquered the world when those tasks are accomplished! ¬†I set aside my “feelings” and got right to getting my business done.

Around lunchtime that day, I stopped in to see someone who was in the hospital. ¬†After the visit, I meandered through the lobby and heard the sounds of Christmas Carols being played on the grand piano. ¬†I decided to sit for a few minutes to take in the music. ¬†So often I am the one playing the piano- and it was so nice to be on the other end and to be able to appreciate this lady’s musical gift. ¬†After a few songs, ¬†the Lord prompted me to go into the cafe to get a cup of coffee. ¬†It was a little strange for me to do- since I had JUST had a cup, but I got up and got into the line. ¬†An older gentleman was ahead of me in the line, and he turned around to me and said this-

“I’ve been here a looooong time… and I want to warn you- this lady isn’t very fast.” ¬†He smiled as he said it- so I could tell he wasn’t in a big hurry.

I said to him- “What’s that saying- good things come to those who wait? ¬†Hopefully whatever we’re getting will be worth the wait!”

He asked me if I worked at the hospital, and I told him no- that I was visiting someone.  I told him I was a pastor and shared with him the various things I do at my church.  He then said he was here with his wife, who had lots of health issues. They used to go to church but recently stopped attending.  We had the nicest conversation and like that- the line had dwindled and he made his purchase.

I paid for my cup of coffee and saw the gentleman sitting with his wife just outside of the coffee shop.  I walked over to them and I introduced myself to his beautiful wife.  You would have never known she was sick.  She was stunning- I would even say she was glowing that day.

“Would you mind if I prayed for you?” ¬†I asked the lady.

“I would love that.”

I knelt down and put my arms around them both and prayed.  I watched them reach for each others hands.  They were holding their hands so tightly together that I could see them shaking.

It was such a beautiful moment.

The carols being played on the piano across the room… people passing by… couples sitting in the cafe…

and you know who else was present?

Jesus.

Good things will always come when we walk with Jesus.

He Himself IS GOOD and He is always up to something good around us-

if we will keep our eyes open!

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.- Zephaniah 3:17 

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