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

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…”

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

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!

If only I’d known

As we sat down to dinner at the dining room table, I couldn’t wait to eat. Any meal I don’t have to cook is a good one, and I had picked up Chinese take out for all of us. I got one of my favorite meals- chicken with cashew nuts. Honestly, the only thing I love about it is the cashews- I LOVE roasted cashews! That is absolutely the best part of the meal.

As I ate, I dug around and picked out each cashew. It’s kind of like saving dessert for last- who’s got time for that?! I wanted to eat the good stuff first! And then the saddest moment happened. I searched and searched… and low and behold- I had already eaten the last cashew.

Well, if I had known it was my last one, I would have enjoyed it even more!

All day I’ve been thinking about those little things that “…if only I’d know were the last..” , I would have appreciated it so much more.

-Like the last time I ran a bath for the girls and helped them wash their hair. Oh, the splashing and giggling I would hear!

-or the last time I nursed them as babies

-Or the last time I read my girls a bedtime story and tucked them in

-or tied their shoes

-or kissed them on the cheek

-walked them to the bus stop

-held their hand

If I had known back then that those moments would be the last time I would “get to” do all those little things-

I certainly would have taken the time to remember and enjoy!

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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

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

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