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…”

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

 

when the building gets in the way

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There once was a place where we’d go 

to take in a heavenly show 

but that marvelous sight 

has been blocked by the height 

of a building- causing me so much woe ;( 

For the last (almost) 16 years, my husband and I would drive into Charlottesville and park in a special spot to watch the sunset- A busy parking lot with a million dollar view. There are two park benches that overlook the city with a perfect view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This has been our “spot” for years, and I have lost count of how many times we have gone there together to worship God’s creation.

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In this spot, we have bonded over talks about our kids, reminisced about our past, dreamed about our future… and we have praised God for His many blessings. In this spot, we have gone over all the crazy “God” things that happened to cause us to move to Charlottesville all those years ago.  I remember the first time I drove down route 250 heading into Charlottesville- it was as if God told me I was home.

And now a rather large church building has changed the skyline where we used to sit to watch the sunset.  Kind of ironic that a building for people to worship God has physically gotten in the way of the view of what makes this city so beautiful.

But that has got me to thinking…

Has a building gotten in your way? 

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Now that the church building is closed due to the pandemic, I see how a building has gotten in the way of being the “church”.

So much of the church has been focused one one goal-  Sunday mornings!

But now that we are unable to use the building to gather, I see how narrow minded my view of  “church” at times had become.

Over these last 6 weeks, our world has drastically changed- but I can see how resilient the church has become- and it’s inspiring!

-I see pastors of all denominations and all ages putting themselves out there on social media- making videos, sharing devotionals, encouraging people, actually BEING the church- and reaching far more people!

-I see people donating food to food banks, making face masks for healthcare workers, delivering groceries, generously supporting small businesses and helping one another.

-I see people being more intentional in their relationships- writing and mailing cards, actually having phone conversations, texting, FaceTiming, and even Zoom-ing.

-I see countless churches offering online worship services- making worship accessible to everyone at anytime!

-I see people not waiting until Sunday morning to “have” church, but people BEING the church every day!

And I have hope.

Maybe this is what Church was supposed to look like all along.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

1 Corinthians 3:16

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? – he 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 😉

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

twenty five

take a step 

one at a time 

as your fingers

lace through mine 

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you go first 

I’m right behind 

other times 

I lead the line 

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give and take 

we step together 

twenty-five years 

closer than ever 

My hubby and I often talk about life and how blessed we have been.

“If you could see what your life would be like now when we were first married, would you even believe it?!” 

“We are so blessed.” 

That about sums up our conversations lately.

Thankful.

Grateful.

This past Monday we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date.  In some ways, that date is more special to me than when we actually said “I do.”   I remember everything about that evening.  He wore a bugs bunny baseball t-shirt and khakis.  I wore checked shorts and a t-shirt.  We went to the movies, and then we got ice cream and sat in McDonalds and talked for several hours- about life, our future kids… what we wanted to be when we “grew up”…

I was barely 17 years old, but by the time he dropped me off at my house that night, I knew he was the one!

And he still is.

So I met him at his office at the end of the day the past Monday, and we walked to a local restaurant.  We ate a fabulous meal, and then drove around and watched the sunset and took in the beautiful mountain views.

And we talked and dreamed of our future…

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—   1 Corinthians 2:9 

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Distractions

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I spend a lot of my time feeling distracted.

Being a creative person- there’s always some song I am compelled to play on the piano, or an amazing sunset I want to take a picture of… or I am inspired to read my Bible, or write.   All of these things require my undivided attention, but with two teenage daughters, a husband, two dogs, and a home to take care of- there is always something else that needs my attention when I’m at home.

And this has, at times, led me to being very frustrated.

But He is really opening my eyes to something…

In my quest to focus on my creative outlets, my ultimate desire in doing this is to have time with Him.  That is when I feel closest to Him- when I am quietly and focused, in my creative zone, with no other distractions around me.

But His presence never leaves me, and my fellowship with Him is continuous- no matter if I am alone or in a room full of people.  No matter if I am driving with my daughters to school, or cooking dinner with two dogs barking underfoot. He is helping me to live in the moment, and to recognize that He is using ALL things- even the things that distract me- to strengthen my walk with Him.  In fact, I will say that this is a huge “aha” moment for me- that I am able to see distractions as part of His will for each moment of my day.

One of my dogs will sit at my bedroom door in the morning, and he whines until I get up to let him out.  He is waking up earlier and earlier, and  I am not always a happy camper when I roll out of the bed at 5am to let him out.  But the other day, as I leashed my dogs up, I realized what a blessing it is to be up so early- and to have all that quiet time.

I sat down on the couch that morning,  and as I reveled in the peace and quiet-  I noticed an eerie glow coming through the dining room window and the kitchen.  Distracted from my “quiet time”, I got up and looked outside, and the clouds were absolutely stunning- it was like they were on fire.

It was such a beautiful moment for me, because I felt that little nudge from Him-

He is there in the quiet moments

and He’s right there in the distractions, too.

Fix your eyes on Jesus- Hebrews 12:2

this only do I seek

One thing I have asked from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple- Psalm 27:4

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living- Psalm 27:13

Then Moses requested, “Please, let me see the dazzling light of your presence.”
-Exodus 33:18

For over a week now, Psalm 27:3 has been playing on repeat in my mind and heart. That has been my greatest desire- to see Him.

Not at some time in the future– but NOW- to be aware of His presence and to see how He is at work all the time, all around me.

It might sound a little strange, but I think a lot about heaven and what it will be like. I can’t even wrap my mind around it, but I know the joy I experience when I spend time in His presence… and to experience joy like that for eternity- well, that’s going to be nothing short of AMAZING!!

But you know what else I’ve been thinking about? How desperately I want EVERYONE I know to experience that same joy.

So I need to keep an ear out for His voice,

and an eye out for whomever He puts in my path,

and I’ve gotta be prayed up when I see them-

so He will tell me what to say.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect- 1 Peter 3:15


these are the days

these are the days

of loud music blaring in cars

girls belting tunes

as if they were the stars

these are the days

of selfies and laughs

dabbling in makeup

and perfecting the craft

these are the days

when emotions run low… and high

these are the days

that too quickly will pass by


I can hardly believe that my oldest daughter just turned 16. How did that even happen?! I remember finding out I was pregnant with her and the overwhelming joy I experienced when I held her in my arms as a newborn. It seems like yesterday, and yet it was a lifetime ago.

Katie

I remember celebrating all their “firsts”… the first smile, laugh, their first bite of baby food, sitting up, crawling, walking… the list goes on and on. It seemed like those days of them being children would last forever!

My youngest just got braces last week and lost her last baby tooth (finally!!) the week before. And after only a week, I look at her and see the remnants of her sweet baby face fading away…

Sigh.

Sixteen is way way to close to eighteen…and way too close to technically being an adult. And I am so not ready for that.

Not at all.

But life keeps on marching whether I’m ready or not!

Sophie

So for today, I will savor every car ride with the girls and I’ll let them turn up the music. I’ll laugh along at their crazy stories and selfies. I’ll let them put makeup on me and style my hair, and I’ll let them invite their friends over often. And those moments when motherhood overwhelms and stresses me out- I will remind myself to soak up all the joy I can.

Because one day they will be out of the house and all will be quiet.

And that day is coming way, way too soon!

Train up a child in the way he should go,
[aAnd when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Me and my Soph
Me and my birthday girl- Katie

in sickness and in health

I woke up this past Sunday and I didn’t have much of a voice. But after leading worship for over 9 years now, I have learned to let go of any anxious thoughts about my own “performance”, and watch Him work! As I prayed that morning, I heard Him impress these thoughts on my heart-

It’s not about you. Worship is never about you… it’s about giving all you’ve got to Me. I don’t need your perfection- I just need your heart.

It might sound a little strange, but mornings like those make me love Him even more. Because I know that He is always always faithful. The weaker I feel, the more I press into Him… and the more I press into Him- the greater I sense His presence through worship.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Only Jesus

It has been bitterly cold lately.

How cold is it?

So cold, that my semi-damp hair freezes in chunks when I walk the dogs!

So cold, that I think I have gotten a little bitter myself.

I really despise that about me. I see how easy it is for me come up with excuses for why I am in a bad mood. After it snowed a couple of weeks ago, I slipped and fell down the front porch stairs while holding a dog leash in each hand. My tailbone hit every step on the way down and then smacked against the icy asphalt. I laid there on the ice and cried because the pain was so bad. And there was no one home to help. Thankfully I didn’t break anything, but it left me in a lot of physical discomfort.

Sitting, standing, walking…getting in and out of the car… all the normal daily things I did brought me constant discomfort. It took a solid two weeks for me to be able to walk around without being in constant pain. I was GRATEFUL to wake up yesterday and hop right out of bed like my usual self!

But this morning, I see how easy it has been for me to allow myself to wallow in my own misery, and to make excuses for it. How quick I have been to complain and become frustrated with little things. How I have been snappy with my family and have thought of every excuse to justify my attitude.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5

What would Jesus say about my bad mood? I think He would tell me no one owes me anything for falling down those steps that day. I think He would tell me to be grateful that I wasn’t more severely injured. I think He would tell me to lean into Him more and not expect anything from other people. I think He would tell me how incredibly blessed I am.

Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past- Isaiah 43:18

He would tell me to stop focusing on my circumstances, and start focusing on Him.

The moment I begin worship and focus on Jesus- I am free from my selfish ways.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:13-14

Keep your eyes on the prize!