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 

all things are becoming NEW

Seasons come

and seasons go 

but they always cycle back 

you know?

An old skill resurrected- 

I’ll teach 

new lives

for my heart to reach! 

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I am super excited to do something old today… well, I mean NEW!

When I got out of college, I began teaching music in public school. I loved my job, but I knew it would only be for a “season”. Once I knew I was expecting our first daughter, I wanted to be at home with her. I started teaching voice and piano lessons in my home and it worked out perfectly for a season while my girls were little… and then as the girls got older and began going to school, the afternoon/evening schedule became harder for our family. What a blessing it was that once I decided to not take on any new students, gradually they moved on to other things. I was on staff part time at church, and as my responsibilities increased there- my students decreased until I had none.

It has been nearly 7 years since I have taught voice and piano lessons, and for some strange reason I have wanted to start to teach again. I love pouring my musical passion into others and helping to cultivate their skills. I love watching those “aha” moments when your students really grasp a new concept, reach a new level in their musical understanding… and I LOVE recitals! Watching students grow and bloom and become more confident is the most amazing thing! My goal in teaching is not to make the next musical prodigy- but to make them fall in love with the craft of making music!

I recently reached out to a local music studio and they happened to be in need of a voice teacher. It’s only 10 minutes from my house and I am going to teach one afternoon a week. The set up is perfect for me. The girls are in high school and are self sufficient now and another blessing- I don’t have to keep my whole house clean (like I did when I taught in my home!) Woohoo!! And while I am still on staff and work part time at church, I can easily add an afternoon of teaching to my schedule.

So today is my day 1-and all of my time slots are filled! I have 7 voice students and one piano student, and I can’t wait to meet them today 🙂

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are becoming new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Burning embers

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like burning embers 

 the daylight flickers and fades

calming the night sky

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This is where “church” is for me-

anywhere there is an open sky and and a grand view of nature…

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For many years, church was a place I went to spend time with God and to be filled up.  Church service was the only place I sang Christian songs, and the only time I earnestly prayed for much of my life.  I was a Sunday Christian.

Now I am overjoyed to be used by Him- to be serving Him and leading worship every week. It’s an awesome thing that now I “get to” serve and help lead others to worship and be “fed” after all those years of being a “consumer” of church…

but after a Sunday Service, I am often left feeling empty and completely drained.

So when I need to “recharge”, I spend time in nature… this is “going to church” for me now.

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Last Sunday evening I jumped into the car and found a perfect spot to worship.  I turned the radio up loud and sang as the colors glowed in the sky.  I felt a peace come over me, and every care I had faded away with the daylight.

And the intimate evening sunset “worship” service was spectacular 🙂

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  for our

“God is a consuming fire.”  

Hebrews 12:28-29

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His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.

I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.  

Jeremiah 20:9

 

Fretting

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Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Luke 12:25

For many years, I thought that worrying was equated with love- and that worrying was a good thing. After all, you don’t worry about something that isn’t important to you- or to someone you love.

It’s been a long, arduous process, but I am learning to drop those worries on His door step, one by one.  But some days I pick them back up.

And that’s what happened to me recently.

Nothing of great importance, but lots and lots of little things creeped into my thoughts and I found myself fretting over everything– and I mean EVERYTHING.

Doesn’t it seem like everything falls apart all at once?  That’s what happened in my home.  I tell my husband all the time that I am not good at being an “adult”.  As crazy as it sounds, even something as simple as calling a repair person to come fix an appliance gives me anxiety.

Philippians 4:6- be anxious for nothing

As the worship team and I were practicing and preparing for the service on Sunday, I found myself once again fretting and worrying about so many little things.  The song we were practicing was called “Cast My Cares”.  Tears started to flow down my cheeks as I played the piano and made mistake after mistake.  I stopped in the middle of the song and said we had to start again- and that it was all my fault.

 Instead of casting my cares on Him-  I had spent an entire week worrying. And it’s like a snowball… the worries start out small, but one leads to another and before you know it, it’s a GIANT out-of-control snowball rolling down a hill.  All week long I practiced and sang the words of that song, and yet I had not heeded it’s message.

In those few seconds before we played the song again, I surrendered ALL my worries to Him.  And just like that- I was able to freely worship!

The picture and quote at the top of the page is one that I saw this morning, and these words hit me like a ton of bricks-

we can’t worry and worship at the same time.

Worrying doesn’t help anything- and it doesn’t change our circumstances.  Worry leads to doubt… and when we worry, we’re not trusting God and His Word.

Instead of being a “worrier”- I want to be a warrior for Him!

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  Isaiah 41:10

 *image and quote found on http://bootcampbarre.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/worship763c42eee263343cdff439baa.jpg

He makes all things beautiful in His time

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A sunny, snow-covered field… taken by my youngest daughter

I have many bittersweet memories from my teaching days. Teaching is something I was drawn to- because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.  I wanted to inspire others to dream and to find joy in doing what they love to do.  For me- that “thing” has always been music.

I had one student in particular that I really connected with.  She was very shy.  She took both piano and voice lessons. She didn’t always practice- but who am I kidding?  Neither did I when I was her age.  I always told my students that my greatest desire was for them to have passion for music.  Not to be the next Beethoven or Mozart, but to really love music and to find joy in creating music. When this student sang, she lit up the room. I saw her passion and it inspired me to be a better teacher.

I will never forget the day her mom called me to tell me she would no longer be taking lessons from me.  I was devastated. I grieved the loss of this student I had poured my heart and soul into for several years.  She even babysat my children. Over the years, I learned that this was just a part of teaching.  We pour ourselves into students, and then we let them go. I later found out that she started taking lessons from someone who concentrated on opera and classical singing.

That made me feel even worse. Because when we have a pity party- it’s all about ME!  I thought I must not have been a good enough teacher.  For years this thought of not being “good enough” has plagued me.

I walked into the grocery store the other day, sort of feeling like I wanted to hide from the world.  I smiled and chit-chatted as I saw several people I knew that day.  I was getting into the check out line, and wouldn’t you know- the mom of my former student was pushing her cart by me. I smiled and asked her how she was doing.  Then I asked her how her daughter was.

She told me to hold on just a minute.  She took out her phone, and to be honest- it looked like she was texting or checking her email.  I stood there for what seemed like an unusually long period of time, and then she said “I wanted to show this to you.”

She handed me her phone and showed me a youtube video of her daughter- a beautiful grown woman now- sitting cross legged on the floor playing guitar, and singing her heart out.  I heard the joy in her voice as she sang, and I had to hold back my tears.

Her mom leaned in close to me and said, “You started that. She learned that from you, you know. I am so grateful to you, Julie.”

She looked right at me and pointed at me as she spoke. It was like God Himself had spoken those words to me.  I finally heard someone say I had made a difference.

I told her mom that hearing that from her, and hearing her daughter sing again meant the world to me. After all those years of feeling like I had done something wrong, or that I wasn’t a good enough teacher- I finally realized something…

I had planted a seed. Sometimes God uses us for only a short season. I was no longer sad about her moving on- but thankful to have been a part of her journey.

In that moment He took a bittersweet memory and made it beautiful- all in His perfect time!

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

I Need More Coffee!!! Thoughts and a song on Isaiah 55

 

Deutsch: Dunkin Donuts in Berlin

Is anyone thirsty?

 Come and drink—
  even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
  it’s all free!  

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?

 Why pay for food that does you no good?

Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
  You will enjoy the finest food.

Isaiah 55

I rue the day that Dunkin Donuts came to my neighborhood!  I literally pass it multiple times a day– every time I enter or exit my neighborhood.  It calls my name- “Julieeeeeeee- you need more coffee!!!!”  And if there is any truth to the saying “You are what you eat” – then I surely expect to turn into a pumpkin from all the pumpkin coffee I drink!!!

It’s not the donuts that I am drawn to- it is the rich, decadent, hot (or sometimes iced) coffee that “calls” me.  It is the irresistibly quick “pick-me-up” that allows me to be a little extra cheery for the girls when they come home from school- that quick burst of energy that enables me to do chores at super-human speed – that’s what I love most!

But then the inevitable happens- I crash… hard! I.can.not.hold.my.eyes.open.  And I’m grumpy.  Real grumpy.

So, one day I was sitting in the line at DD, patiently waiting for my afternoon cup of joe and it was taking a little longer than usual.  No worries.  I actually had my Bible sitting there in the seat beside me.  Not a bad driving companion, eh?  Well, I figured I might as well spend my time wisely.  I opened it up and out jumps Isaiah 55.

Is anyone thirsty, come and drink– well, sure I am…  I’m waiting for my coffee right now!!

Even if you have no money- it’s all free–  well, you got me there.  This is definitely not free and it adds up when I do it several times a week…

Why do you spend your money on the food that does not give you strength?- ok- you got me there too.  I know that I don’t really need this coffee. And yes, the energy is good, but it is only temporary.

Listen to me and you will see what is good–  Alright, Lord.  I hear you loud and clear today. I need to turn to You and Your strength- and indulge a little less.

I got my coffee and prayed about His Living Word that spoke to me in the drive-thru.  I made the long drive home (just kidding… it’s like a 30 second drive) and vowed to drink a little less joe and to feast a little more on His Word.  I sat down at my piano and I put the scripture to song….