Joy Comes

We planted a baby magnolia tree in our yard several years ago. My husband was gifted it by someone at his work, and we had been thinking of planting something in the center of our circular driveway for some time – so it was the perfect addition to our yard.

Well, knowing my lack of gardening skills, I followed the instructional pamphlet to the t. I watered it with exactly the amount it said, and as often as was instructed -and I couldn’t wait to watch it grow and bloom. After all, magnolia blooms have the most wonderful fragrance.

And it took forEVER to see a flower. At first, there was just one or two. Then the next year there were a few more. And again, at the beginning of the summer it didn’t look like we were going to have any blooms. But after all the rain we have had these past couple of weeks, I looked out and saw not one or two, but a bunch of little flower buds!

It’s amazing how God created all these beautiful trees and plants, and they grow and bloom and reproduce without anyone or anything telling it what to do! It really is a miracle when you think about it!

And as I was out there this morning enjoying the blooms, God reminded me of all the days I saw nothing. All the while that tree was growing and faithful to do what it needed to do to produce the “fruit”.

Be faithful

Keep waiting to see the blooms.

Joy comes in the morning.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning- Psalm 30:5

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!

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

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

Color

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a backdrop

of sky blue

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a picture- portrait

of You

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evidence

how profound

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I sense Your presence

all around

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I love walking and taking in all the beautiful things He has made.  The sky was cerulean blue, the air crisp and clean, and the color of the trees glowed against the autumn sky.  I woke up feeling especially thankful today-

-for the beginning of a new week

-that I have a car that I could drive to the trail

-that my hubby has the day off and that he could go with me 

-that I remembered to wear socks on our walk (so I wouldn’t get blisters!)¬†

-for changing seasons

-that I have a Heavenly Father who knows just what I need- at all times! 

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain

РPsalm 139 

 

less is more

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Less is more.

Even when it comes to the words we say.

My husband says I’m the queen of the 3 minute sermon. ¬†Having led worship at our church nearly every Sunday for the past 10 years, I’ve pretty much gotten the mini sermonette down to an art.

Less is more.

When I speak, what point am I trying to make?  How will my words point people to Jesus?  Will my words distract from or impact people for Jesus?

And if I’m honest with. myself-¬†shouldn’t I use this criteria to measure ALL of my words? Whether I’m leading worship, speaking to my husband or children, or out and about running errands… ALL of my words should honor Jesus.

Less is more.

Less complaining.  Less judging. Less criticism.  Less unsolicited opinions.

Less mindless chatter.

Sometimes when there’s an awkward silence, I want to fill it up with words.

But those silent moments are when I hear Him most clearly.

When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19