I Sing Because I'm Free!

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no turning back

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I have always loved hymns, and in particular, learning the stories behind how they were written.  The story behind I Have Decided to Follow Jesus is one that I found particularly moving…

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a Christian hymn originating from India.

The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in north-east India, who along with his family, was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary.

Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” In response to threats to his family, he continued, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. The melody is also Indian, and entitled “Assam” after the region where the text originated.The fierce opposition is possible as various tribes in that area were formerly renowned for head-hunting.  

An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook.

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_Decided_to_Follow_Jesus

Often when we sing these words, we think of leaving behind frivolous things- like selfishness, a life of partying, or other things like gossiping or gambling.  When I think of this missionary and the courage he had to sing these words as he watched his own family be taken from him- and then knowing that his own life would be taken, too- it takes on a whole new meaning.  Are you willing to give up everything for the sake of following Christ?  

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:33

“No Turning Back”

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

The world behind me, the cross before me

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

Though none go with me, still I will follow

No turning back, no turning back

Hallelujah, hallelujah!

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He holds the sky

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He formed the clouds within His hand 

He holds the sky

and sea 

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The very hand that holds the world-

it cradles

you and me 

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And when the distant storm clouds bring 

the threat of thunder

and rain

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In the shelter of His mighty wings

we can find peace 

once again 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty-

Psalm 91:1

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I have always loved a good storm!  I watch the sky in absolute amazement… the clouds swirling, the wind howling…it is truly a marvelous site.  Weather patterns can be so unpredictable, and yet even when a storm comes- our daily routines still goes on.

He reminded me this morning that sometimes life is like that, too.  Many times we experience circumstances and storms that seem completely out of our control.  And yet, He is Lord of ALL creation, and He will be faithful to lead us through.

For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.  Job 12:10 

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He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Psalm 107:29

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.        Deuteronomy 31:6

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The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7

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One thing remains

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I think back on the days when the girls were little and I lament over how little sleep I had, and how very much I felt pulled between working part time while I stayed at home with them.   I remember the momma guilt I had when I hurried them to “get in the car because Mommy was going to be late again”… I remember how I rushed from here to there trying to fit everything in…I also remember thinking I wasn’t doing a good enough job at everything I was trying to do.

Sometimes I wonder what they remember about their “little girl” days…

Yesterday I was blessed beyond measure.  The girls found an old camera and showed me the memory card.  They wanted me to upload all the pictures onto my computer and look at them together.

Most of them were when the girls were around 2 and 5- right in the thick of my “running around” days when I taught aerobic classes at the gym and I was also teaching music lessons.

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And the smiles I saw on the girls’ faces brought tears to my eyes.  Pictures- lots of them that they took themselves- perfectly documented giggly faces covered in juice, their favorite toys scattered all around the house….there were even short videos of them watching their favorite tv shows and singing the theme songs.

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As we scrolled through the pictures, I started to delete the blurry ones- and my oldest kept saying NO!  Every single one made her remember something special.  I couldn’t believe all the little details she remembered about those years.  Every toy and dollhouse, every outfit and accessory she wore.

And all I could see was the joy in their eyes.

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Maybe I was a little too hard on myself all those years ago- because yesterday, as we looked back on those pictures, I didn’t think about anything other than how precious my girls are and how very much I loved my babies!  Looking at those pictures made me really missed those days.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

1 Corinthians 13:13

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take the picture

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 blink too fast 

and before you know it 

the moment is gone 

with nothing to show for it 

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tick tock ticking- 

time’s passing me by 

so I’ll keep my camera 

close to my eye 

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I had the joy of spending the entire day with my oldest daughter this past weekend.  It was a perfect day.  I have spent a lot of time with both girls recently as they have had multiple snow days off of school, added onto the 2+ weeks off for Christmas break… let’s just say the girls were getting a little tired of one another!  They are as different as night and day, and being with the both of them can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.  And honestly, we were all ready to get back into a routine!

So back to my day… we took a road trip, and my normally quiet, tired teen was bubbly, giggly, and chatty the entire day!  We talked about everything from school to politics to her friends- all the things I wish she would talk about with me ALL of the time!

Having her all to myself allowed me to appreciate her so much more…how she likes peace and quiet,  how she, too,  loves coffee (just like me!), and her desire to have as many dogs as she can possibly take care of when she’s on her own.

As we were heading home that evening, I noticed the sky was brewing up a beautiful sunset.  I wanted to enjoy every second of that evening.

“Living in the moment is so overrated, ” my daughter told me.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Like how everyone says not to take pictures- to just enjoy the moments… that’s silly. Take the picture. Then you’ll always have something to look back on to remember the moments.”

Wise words from my (almost) 15 year old-

and I even have a few pictures to remember it 🙂

You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. 

Ecclesiastes 11:9

 

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I almost missed it

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lost in wonder

we sat under 

a tree- pensively waiting

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thoughtfully gazing 

we were both praising 

the Lord- and anticipating

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the silent display 

a heavenly array 

we beheld a glorious sight 

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while the world kept on spinning 

the two of us grinning-  

we watched Him turn day into night 

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One evening last week, I got a phone call from my husband.  He had worked late most evenings that week, and he had called to let me know he was on his way home.  About five minutes later, the phone rang again- Babe- grab your shoes and your camera and meet me outside, he says to me.  So I did.  The moment I stepped outside, I saw the cotton candy pink striped clouds through the trees.  Quick! Get in the car!  We drove the short distance to our closest sunset spot, and with each turn we saw the colors fading away.  We parked and the once magnificent display had settled into a dull gray sky.  Oh well. Even though we missed it, it meant the world to me that my husband tried to get me there in time to see the sunset.

Then this past weekend, hubby and I had an evening to ourselves, and to be quite honest- I wanted to sit at home and do absolutely nothing.  But my loving hubby suggested otherwise.  You know how much you love watching the sunset- let’s go find a spot and have dinner.

I was tired.  And I hadn’t seen a good sunset in a while- mostly because I have gotten out of the habit of looking for it.  But how could I resist an evening out with my hubby, with the promise of a sunset view?  So we drove up to one of our favorite spots in town, at the edge of a shopping center.  We parked and sat on the grassy hill, overlooking the valley and it was a magnificent evening.

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On that hill, we sat together and took in all the beauty around us. I was so grateful for the quiet time together.  It made me infinitely thankful for my husband- who loves me enough to get me out of the house- and he always knows just what I need.  Cars were passing by, people were going in and out of the stores… the busy world kept on turning- all while He was painting a masterpiece in the sky.

And if the evening had gone as I had initially wanted it to-

I would have missed out, too.

He went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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being “present”

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The moment I seek

and desire His presence-

I find He is near

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Isaiah 55:6

Twilight is my favorite time of day.  It is a time of two-fold expectation for me- expecting to see something beautiful in the sky, and it’s also a time to have a momentary heart-to-heart chat with my Heavenly Father.

Speaking of heart-to-heart chats,  I have been lamenting over how those chats with my daughters are fewer and farther between now that they are getting older.

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The girls woke me up early the other day with one request- to watch a movie with them.  Honestly, it wasn’t a movie that I had any desire to watch, but I thought about how seldom they ask me to do things with them now.

“Momma- NO laptop and NO phone!  You have to sit and pay attention!”

I smiled and secretly loved the fact that they wanted my undivided attention. So I obliged- I put away every electronic device and set aside every thought that was not pertinent to the task as hand.

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Surprisingly, I enjoyed watching the movie.  Mostly it was because I knew how much my girls wanted me to sit with them and experience the very same joy that they have when they put themselves into the movie’s fantasy world. But the greatest joy for me was watching their smiles, the way they looked back at me to see if I laughed when they did…and knowing that they wanted to feel connected to me through this shared experience.

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The verse above reminds me that when we seek to be in His presence, we know He is already with us.  As my girls are getting more independent, I find them asking to spend time with me less…and only coming to me when they need something.

But it made me think about all the times I do that very same thing with the Lord…only going to Him in prayer when I have a need- when my greatest need is to continually be in His presence.

He desires my constant fellowship with Him- reminding me that when my girls are truly seeking to spend time with me- all I need to do is to be present.

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

1 Chronicles 16:11

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adulting

My girls went back to school yesterday.

It brings me JOY.. and it also makes me a little bit sad.  I remember all those years I dreamed of having a baby, and in my own naiveté, I thought those toddler years would last forever.  But I blinked, and my girls have grown up overnight.

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We celebrated so many firsts when they were little… their first giggle, their first bite of real food, their first steps… then came their first days of school… losing their first teeth…

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And now those “firsts” are becoming fewer and farther between. With one in 7th grade, and the other in 9th grade, I had to literally beg them for a first-day-of-school picture.  Gone are the days of them running to give me hugs when they get off the school bus, or them wanting to tell me all about their day.  I feel them trying to pull away from me and it is hard.

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But this time at our back-to-school night, I witnessed another first… 

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My oldest, who normally hides behind me- afraid to speak to anyone;  she actually introduced herself to all of her teachers-  on her own! And then she even asked them important questions- like about testing and whether they accepted late work.  And for the first time, I watched her beam with confidence as she walked down the hallways, waving and smiling at her friends.

My oldest was adulting… and it was one of my proudest “mom” moments yet!  Those little girl days may be a fading memory, but growing up is a good thing!IMG_4676

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11 

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remember the “green lights”

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I began dating my husband when I was 17 years old.  We worked together at a movie rental place inside of a grocery store for about a year before he asked me out on our first date.

My parents had recently separated and I was a little bit jaded about the whole idea of  marriage, and what a happy family should looked like.  I met my husband’s parents early on in our relationship and I remember wondering why they were so happy all the time!

I spent lots of time at my husband’s family’s house that first year we dated.  So much time, that it was pretty much assumed that I was going to be there for dinner every night.  My  (future) in-laws frequently brought home a Wendy’s frosty for me- knowing how much I loved ice cream.

One afternoon I was riding with my (future) mother-in-law to get ice cream.  I clearly remember the light turning green and hearing her say Thank you, Lord.

In my mind I remember thinking that was a little bit over-the-top.  Really?!  Who thanks the Lord for the light changing to green?  But in reality, I wasn’t thankful for much of anything  during that time in my life.  I felt sorry for myself for lots of reasons and I was completely oblivious to all of the many blessings I had to be thankful for.

But praise the Lord- years later, somewhere in my misery, God’s grace found me.  He opened my eyes and He came into my heart.  I am so thankful for how my husband’s parents have selflessly loved me with a Christ-like love all these years.  And over the years, I realized the source for their happiness- it’s simply the JOY of the Lord!

I once was lost, but now I’m found

was blind but now I see 

Whenever I feel myself begin to slip into that bottomless pit of self-pity, I think of my mother-in-law and how she praised the Lord for something as simple as the green light that day.

When we begin to thanking Him for the little things- we realize just how much we have to be thankful for! 

And just as my wise father-in-law says- “give God all the glory- even when you think He doesn’t deserve it…  because He does!” 

Be thankful in all circumstances-  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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What I’ve learned at 40…

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I’ve learned that 40 really isn’t that old

and not to believe everything I’ve been told

the older I get, the faster time goes

and the wiser I get, the more I know I don’t know

I’m a mom, and a singer- but those aren’t the things

that define me because I’m a child of the King!

I’ve learned it is better to give than receive

and when I focus on others, the blessing’s on me

I’ve learned that it’s better to wait on the Lord

than to simply do things on my own accord

As a mom, I’m still learning to love and be stern

and I’m learning I’ve still got a lot more to learn!

I’ve learned that money doesn’t measure success

and no earthly treasure will make me feel blessed

As a wife, I’ve learned marriage is a marvelous ride

and it’s been a great joy having him by my side

I’m learning that life is too short to hold grudges

and each day I get better at heeding His nudges

As a kid I could not wait to be on my own

but now that’s the opposite of what I’ve been shown

I’m learning to trust and to always depend

on Jesus for everything– He’s my best friend 🙂

Every day that goes by is a blessing to me

and yes- I’m STILL singing because I am free!

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I am turning 40 on June 9th.  After dreading this number all year, it has turned out to be the most awesome birthday EVER!  I haven’t even officially turned 40, and it has already been so great!  We took an awesome vacation to Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had an amazing surprise (early) birthday party at my church, I traded in my mommy-mobile (my minivan) for a newer car, we voted in a new lead pastor at our church after an entire year of waiting, and my hubby is taking me away this weekend for a belated anniversary/ birthday celebration! Oh, and I also reached my goal weight today 🙂

God is good!!  I am thankful and so very BLESSED!!

 

 

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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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