Dry bones

Worship music is one way that I deeply connect with God. Time spent worshipping in song brings me so close to His presence. And it can break out anywhere. There have been so many instances when I was driving to school and worshipping in my car and tears just stream down my face (I’m the sure the drivers around me thought I was a lunatic). Music has always been a huge part of my life. As a small child I can remember Friday night devotionals with my family when we would sing songs from the red hymnal. I have memories of my daddy strumming the guitar and singing “Take me home, country roads…” My mom would sit down at the piano and play beautiful hymns and songs. All of my siblings play one or more instruments. Music is a part of my being.

For several years, I was very much involved with worship teams at church. And led worship at street ministry events. Worship music consumed me. I felt so alive when leading others in worship. I truly thought that I had found my “gift” and I loved using it to worship and glorify God. It has been a long time since I have been a part of a worship team – and I miss it. Don’t get me wrong – I still worship in song each and every day…and during church. But I miss being a part of it in a more “formal” way. It’s been on my heart a lot lately, but I just don’t see it being a part of my life anymore.

This morning I read Ezekiel 37. As God led Ezekiel through the desolate valley of dry bones that were scattered everywhere, He asked Ezekiel “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (v 3). God asked him. God knew the answer…God knows all. I love how God works this way. He could have just told Ezekiel that those dry bones could become living things again, but he didn’t. He wanted Ezekiel to discover and speak it himself. He wanted Ezekiel to recognize God’s power to bring all things back to life – and speak it aloud. Then God told Ezekiel to speak the the dry bones – to speak life into them.

In my mind and heart, being part of a worship team – my music in general – those are my dry bones. It was a season in my life that has just passed, and while it was amazing and made me so happy, it is just gone. But God can make dry bones live again. Here’s the thing though…I think that God wants ME to speak over those dry bones if I truly believe that they can live. He is asking me to have enough faith in His power to speak over what I thought was dead. God is asking me “Can these bones live again?”

And He already knows the answer.

My heart’s desire

This house is still and quiet this morning as I sip coffee and reflect on the last two weeks that I have had at home. No schedule. No running. No emails or grading or lesson plans. Just time. Time to play six games of Yahtzee in a row. Time to spend entire days in my craft room creating. Time to try new recipes and to organize – well everything. Time to sit and be still and pray and listen. Shame on me for not taking enough time to do that when life is at full speed. I’m angry with myself for all of the wasted time that I could have spent with God, drawing closer to Him. I’m disappointed that I have been able to convince myself that there are just “not enough hours in the day.”

I am not one to make resolutions this time of year. Mostly because I rarely stick to them, and then I feel bad about myself for not being able to be consistent…so I just avoid it. That’s not to say that I don’t set goals for myself, but setting them at the beginning of the year feels like too much pressure for me. However, this year…it is much more than a goal or resolution that I am setting for myself. It is a prayer. My prayer is that drawing closer to God and spending time with in each quiet morning will become the desire of my heart. To pursue God whether through reading His word, or through worship, podcasts, sermons, prayer…all of these…daily. My prayer is for God to open my eyes to all that He has to teach me each day – each moment – of this new year.

And to enjoy every last moment of this last day of my break.

Wonder

I woke early yesterday morning, not my normal early, but Christmas break early. The sky was still for the most part dark, and the house was quiet. As I crossed the room heading toward the bathroom, I caught site of the outside and the beautiful blanket of snow that covered everything in the backyard. In that instant, my excitement was childlike. I was transported back to snowy mornings as a young girl and the wonder of a white-covered world. In that instant, my adult worries and responsibilities ceased to exist and I took in every bit of the morning’s beauty. In that instant, all of the struggles and disappointments of 2020 were blanketed by this white wonderland. It was as if God knew that I needed this little bit of peace on the last day of a troubling year…and I just had to take the time to appreciate it and soak it in.

As we head into a new year, may we all stop and look at the world in wonder from time to time. May we enjoy the small, still moments of the morning, before the world is awake. May we see God’s hand in each day and never take for granted how amazing life can truly be. And may we view the world with childlike excitement and awe.

Put on Love

Anybody else struggle each morning deciding what to wear? Standing in the closet and staring at the same clothes has become part of my morning ritual. Not sure if I think the choices will be different from one morning to the next….like some magical closet fairy will come in and replace my old boring choices with new, exciting ones overnight! Making a decision about what to put on in the morning is just one of thousands of choices we have to make in any given day. One of the most important ones, though, is the choice to love.

We have five children. Our oldest is engaged to be married in a few months – and while we still guide him and coach him through life, he is out living his life and making his own choices. Our oldest daughter will be 20 soon, and is pretty much in the same boat. She goes to school full time and works, and the way that we parent her has shifted to more of a guiding role. Our youngest three – all girls – are still very much in the need-to-be-parented stage. Two of the three are teenagers. And let me just say that they are very good at it. Some mornings, I get an eye roll before I have even spoken. We love all of our children unfailingly and unconditionally. But some days…well some days, they are hard to like. Some days their words can hurt. Some days their lack of words can hurt. These are the days that require us to put on love.

“Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” Colossians 3: 14. Paul doesn’t simply tell us to love. He knows that sometimes loving others must be an active, conscious choice that we make. And sometimes, that choice is hard. Sometimes that choice feels impossible. This is why he instructs us to put love on. To make the decision to love another – even when the alternative choice might be easier. God has been working on my heart in a big way when it comes to this kind of love. Specifically when it comes to raising our teenage girls. Putting on love means that I don’t always have to “win” the argument. I don’t always have to have the last word in a situation. For me it means that I humble myself and put on love – even when I am hurt. God is showing me how to love them through all of the spats and hormones and moods – to make the choice to love even when it feels so hard.

Here’s the thing, I cannot love like this on my own. This ability to put on love, in spite of what I might be feeling in the moment, comes from above. Jesus was the perfect example of this kind of love. He is my pattern and He is my strength when I just can’t do it on my own. The choice is mine, but the love comes from Him.

“He’s the artist and the potter…”

Last night, I let myself get super aggravated and frustrated about a situation. Nothing wrong with that – we all have feelings and emotions. How I attempted to handle my hurt and anger, however, is the problem. I ranted and cried and allowed my emotions to be hijacked by this one thing! And then I came down to my office and vomited it all into a blog post. To be published this morning. On Christmas Eve. Although I knew all the negativity of the post was coming from this situation, I convinced myself that I needed to post it. I justified it because I have always claimed I want my blog to be authentic and not just a highlight reel of my life. That’s how I rationalized the ugly spewing of hurt into a Christmas Eve blog post.

This morning, I woke to the kindness of a hot cup of coffee waiting for me on my nightstand! I proceeded to come down to my office and opened up my morning devotional. Yep – a devotional about kindness and how we treat others. Okay God, I’m listening. Through my study time and subsequent prayer time, God performed a serious heart check on me. The line in my devotional that I’m certain I needed to hear today was “...take those thoughts captive. You can turn down the grumbles and turn up the grace. Speak these words aloud – even a whisper will do – while you hold that person in your heart. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit'” Rather than moan and groan and grumble about the way in which I was hurt, I am to capture those thoughts and pray for the person who hurt me. Hold them in my heart even! And here’s the thing, there is not room in my heart for bitterness AND people for whom I am praying. Not to mention the fact that MY bitterness about the thing was not affecting this other person, it was only tainting me!

Thank you Jesus for opening my ears and my heart this morning and allowing me to hear from you. I am taking the negative thoughts captive, praying about the situation and saying a prayer of peace and grace for the other person. I am so thankful that God continues to work on me – every day. As the line from one of my favorite worship songs says…”He’s the artist and the potter, I’m the canvas and the clay.”

A new creation

One of my favorite things about Christmas break – having two weeks off of school, is the time to come down to my craft room and just spend time creating. This guilt free time spent doing what makes me happy is a rejuvenating force for my spirit.

This morning I grabbed some wood shims, a gift bag, some wax stain and some mod podge. I had a idea of what I was trying to do, but not being the most creative or artistic person, I wasn’t sure I could bring my idea to fruition. And while the end product is by no means perfect (but really, what is perfect anyway? perfect to whom?), it is mine, and I love it. And what I love the most about it is that it came from items that were nothing special. By themselves, they were just ordinary, every day items. But with a little spark of an idea, some time and some work, they came together as something new and beautiful.

Before

This really got me thinking about the work that God is doing in me. I don’t think I’m anything special. I’m pretty ordinary, without many gifts. BUT…God sees the end product. He is the artist and creator, and I am the raw materials. With some time and work (on my part), He can spark something completely new and beautiful in me. And while I may not be beautiful to others, I am in my creator’s eyes. He made me. He loves me. He sees so much in me that I can’t even see myself.

After

I wish…

I got a message from my mom this week that shook me. One of my many cousins had passed away in his sleep. He was just a few years older than me. I hadn’t seen him in way too many years, but when I received news of his death, that didn’t matter. Steve was that one relative that everyone was drawn to. He had an amazingly quick wit and was always laughing. He included everyone in the conversation and made those around him feel special. My most vivid memories of him were the times we all spent on Granny’s farm – mostly at family reunions. Those days – oh how do I long for those days again.

We would typically start to gather at the farm on Friday night. Often there would be a bonfire with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When Saturday would roll around, more and more family would arrive with food and hugs and hellos. After catching up – the day would really get started. One of my favorite memories of those days was the volleyball games we played in the field between Granny’s house and the old barn. I never tired of those games. We crowded as many as we could on to each side of the “court” and everybody got a turn. Laughing and joking were as prevalent as setting and spiking during those endless games. Near the volleyball game, was the horseshoe game – most often played between the “uncles” – who could be heard jeering and bragging about whose shoe was the closest.

The only thing that would stop us from playing was when the food was ready. Table after table cut through the middle of Granny’s front yard, covered in homemade dishes that seemed to never run out. We would find a spot in the shade of the tree and sit to eat. I remember listening to stories from Granny and all of my aunts and uncles about growing up in a house with 12 kids. What I wouldn’t give to sit and listen to those stories now. As a young kid, I liked hearing them, but truly didn’t understand how special the memories of those times would become. After eating (not that it really ever stopped, as we sort of grazed for the remainder of the day) there would most certainly be music. It seemed everyone had a guitar or banjo and they all came out for our afternoon entertainment. I can still feel that music in my soul. It is who I am – who my family is.

Sitting here typing, I wish I would have spent just ONE more summer day down on Granny’s farm. I wish I would have done a better job of keeping in touch with all of my cousins. I wish more than anything that I could remember every single minute of every single reunion – every taste, every laugh, every song. I am so sad that I did not know Steve as well as an adult as I did when we were kids. Life is so precious – and so fragile. And while I am so very sad for all the time that has gone by, I am more than grateful for the beautiful memories I have.

I have nothing to say…

Here I sit…staring at the blank screen so desperately wanting to have something creative to say. I love writing. I love creating with words. But for the last several months, I have had nothing to say. And that it so frustrating. It causes me to doubt myself and my ability to even have an original thought. Where has my passion gone? I feel lost and can’t even hear my own voice for all of the noise surrounding me. How do I find my center again and refuel my passion for creating. What will it take for me to lift my voice and be heard?

I refuse to give up on this outlet that has brought me so much joy over the years. I will spend time thinking and reflecting and listening to myself. Drown out the noise. Be still. Be quiet. Find my voice again.

A Cheerful Heart

For the past few weeks I have been battling my fibromyalgia pain in a BIG way. Most of the time I can manage the pain and it stays around a 2-3 (1-10 scale). Lately, I have let anxiety and worry really take me over and I know that my rising pain levels are a direct result of that. For the past few days my pain has been a consistent 8 or 9. Those levels make it so very hard to function day to day with all that is on my daily to do list. I have let it get me down. I have cried a lot of tears and felt pretty hopeless. This has been the worse bout of my fibro pain since I was initially diagnosed. As the pain persists, my mental and emotional state has begun to deteriorate.

But there are positives to be found in all of it. First, I have a tribe of ladies who show up daily to encourage me and pray for me and keep me positive. That is truly amazing. I am so thankful for their sweet voices and thoughts. I feel them standing next to me in my fight. Secondly, I am praying a lot and feel myself drawing closer to God through my morning devotionals and quiet time. I am spending more time in the word, really studying and leaning into what God is saying to me.

This morning, I woke and my first feeling was pain. I had a hard time just getting out of bed and instantly my mood deflated. (Not the way I like to start my day). I stumbled out of bed and poured myself my morning coffee (my cup of ambition – typed in my best Dolly Parton voice) and headed to my office for my quiet time. My morning devotional could NOT have been more fitting! (Don’t you just love when God does small things like that – just when we need them!?). “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” That first line…gave me chills. God was saying the best way for me to feel better was to start with my heart. How? What does a cheerful heart look like? It’s a heart filled with gratitude and thankfulness. It’s a heart that counts blessings! My devotional went on to explain that a cheerful heart can improve one’s health – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically! (Just what I need!). And then this…the line that hit me hard…the words that I’m carrying with me all day…”Let these divine nutrients soak into the depths of your being. Let them strengthen and enhance your health.”  My heart condition (cheerfulness) will affect my health. Does this mean that I don’t need to take my medicine…..NO. It means I need to work on my perspective and focus on what is in my heart. My cheerful heart is medicine for ALL of my being.

Probably not anything earth shattering…not a giant revelation…but rather, the gentle nudge, the small a-ha moment that God knew I needed today. How’s your heart? Would you describe it as cheerful? Make it your goal today to fill your heart with gratitude and thankfulness, and let that be your medicine. Soak in all of that goodness. Have a blessed day. Much love!