As a pre-teen, I used to sit on my old piano bench and play away my thoughts on the keys. It was therapeutic to let melancholy chords ring while melodies ran through my head. Creating music made me feel alive!
I remember the first time I shared a piano piece I wrote with my piano teacher. I was nervous, but proud of the song I had created.
I played with hesitation- desperately wanting my teacher’s approval. When I finished, the first thing he said was that I should try this chord instead of that chord …and surely it would sound better if I did it this way instead. Lots of criticism followed.
I was crushed. I remember thinking surely if I had wanted it that way, I would have already written it that way!
That one moment had a huge impact on me.For many years, I felt like what I created didn’t have value, wasn’t good enough.
But here’s the thing-we all have a song to sing. How boring it would be if all songs had the same chords and melodies. How bland music would be if we all had the same voice.
Let Him create something NEW in you- and then pour it out as an offering for His glory!
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!
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”.
Keep waiting to see the blooms.
Joy comes in the morning.
Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes inthe morning- Psalm 30:5
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.
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 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. – Philippians 3:13-14
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
Isn’t it funny how some days don’t seem to start off on the right foot…and then by the end of the day, you look back and see how it was one of the very best days?
The gorgeous moon at the end of my day!
I woke up one day with a feeling of dread. There were several things I had to do, and some days “adulting” is hard work, lol! But there is an undeniable feeling like I’ve conquered the world when those tasks are accomplished! I set aside my “feelings” and got right to getting my business done.
Around lunchtime that day, I stopped in to see someone who was in the hospital. After the visit, I meandered through the lobby and heard the sounds of Christmas Carols being played on the grand piano. I decided to sit for a few minutes to take in the music. So often I am the one playing the piano- and it was so nice to be on the other end and to be able to appreciate this lady’s musical gift. After a few songs, the Lord prompted me to go into the cafe to get a cup of coffee. It was a little strange for me to do- since I had JUST had a cup, but I got up and got into the line. An older gentleman was ahead of me in the line, and he turned around to me and said this-
“I’ve been here a looooong time… and I want to warn you- this lady isn’t very fast.” He smiled as he said it- so I could tell he wasn’t in a big hurry.
I said to him- “What’s that saying- good things come to those who wait? Hopefully whatever we’re getting will be worth the wait!”
He asked me if I worked at the hospital, and I told him no- that I was visiting someone. I told him I was a pastor and shared with him the various things I do at my church. He then said he was here with his wife, who had lots of health issues. They used to go to church but recently stopped attending. We had the nicest conversation and like that- the line had dwindled and he made his purchase.
I paid for my cup of coffee and saw the gentleman sitting with his wife just outside of the coffee shop. I walked over to them and I introduced myself to his beautiful wife. You would have never known she was sick. She was stunning- I would even say she was glowing that day.
“Would you mind if I prayed for you?” I asked the lady.
“I would love that.”
I knelt down and put my arms around them both and prayed. I watched them reach for each others hands. They were holding their hands so tightly together that I could see them shaking.
It was such a beautiful moment.
The carols being played on the piano across the room… people passing by… couples sitting in the cafe…
and you know who else was present?
Good things will always come when we walk with Jesus.
He Himself IS GOOD and He is always up to something good around us-
if we will keep our eyes open!
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.- Zephaniah 3:17