Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Reminder

Just a reminder that A New Song To Sing has moved to www.anewsongtosing.com.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

My Last Blog...Here

I write. I sing. It's what I do. It's what I love to do.

Before I began this blog a little over two years ago, I wrote sporadically and for my own enjoyment. I didn't write consistently or learn to develop my craft until A New Song To Sing was birthed. I had no idea the journey blogging would take me on.

Because of this little space in the online world, I have felt great joy and awful pain, and every emotion between. But I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had and continue to have because of it.

Last spring a friend discovered my blog and saw something in me I couldn't see in myself...potential. Because this friend is an encourager and patient teacher, I am learning the art of songwriting. I am humbled, yet thrilled to tell you that I co-wrote some of the songs on my EP, "Captured."

What I began as a place to share what God teaches me, He is using to grow and develop the dreams and passions He's placed within me. Part of that incudes a new website.

That being said, this is my last official post at this Blogger address. When you come here for a visit on Monday, you will be directed to my new blog home. I can't wait to share it with you! Within that new home, I'll be sharing blogs, vlogs, photos, and in late October, "Captured."

Please plan to join me as I transition on Monday...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Husband's Dream

Six years ago, my husband had a dream: to transition from employee to employer. He walked away from a safe sales job and dove headfirst into unfamiliar territory. After three years of managing Olympic Fence, he was able to buy the company.

Last spring, Olympic Fence was contracted to build the fence for our local dogpark, designed by Jason Cameron of DIY's "Desperate Landscapes." My husband and his employees were shown in a brief clip on last night's one-hour special episode of "Desperate Landscapes," and the fence was shown repeatedly.

My husband had a dream, but had no idea where that dream would take him. He simply has worked hard doing what he loves. And it's paying off.

When I asked him if he ever thought his dream would lead to his company being on national television, he humbly responded that he didn't know six years ago where his dream would take him.

Isn't that true for most of us?

In fact, I dare say that if we could see into the future...to see where our dreams will take us and what we have to go through to get there...we'd likely quit out of terror. But when God plants a dream in us, and we are willing to follow it, events we never could've imagined begin to unfold.

We simply must refuse to give up.

Congratulations, Mark and Olympic Fence! I'm proud of you for following your God-given dream.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Preparing To Move

Moving has a way of forcing one to clean out and throw away. With every move, my mother would tell me to throw away the clutter in my room as I packed my life into boxes.

Upon arriving in my new bedroom, I'd unpack clothes, shoes, photo albums, and memorabilia, arranging them ever so neatly. Once we'd been in the new house for a little while, I'd eventually settle in and the room would begin to feel like my own.

My blog transition will be much the same as all those moves I experienced. Some of the clutter you see here will be tossed aside in effort to have a cleaner site. What I pack up and take with me will be arranged in a neater fashion. It may take a little while to adjust, to settle in, to make it my own.

When you visit, please be aware that some pages will not be quite ready for guests...much like a room the owner hasn't had a chance to decorate in a new house. However, I'll be sure to update you once everything is in place.

I'm very excited about the look and the content of the new blog site! I can't wait to introduce you to it and welcome you in for a visit!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Birthday Letter To Myself

Today is my 37th birthday. Three years away from the big 4-0.

I've seen a lot of posts recently from bloggers who have written to their 20-year-old selves, and some to their teenage selves. They're using the wisdom and experience they have gained to write about what they would like to go back and tell their younger selves. I'm not going to do that.

Instead, I'm writing today to my 37-year-old self:

Dear Rebekah,

You were born 37 years ago by design. You were no accident. You were created to live in such a time as this.

God has given you a dream and passion that is intended to glorify Him. On the days you believe the lies, remember that His plans don't depend on what others think, nor do they depend on what you may think about yourself.

Fear has been your enemy, and yet your comfort, for too many years. Don't be afraid to learn and to try new things. After all, you're not getting any younger!

Finally, I'm proud of the work you've done over the past year to discover what needs changing in your life. I know how difficult change can be, and how easy it is to remain in what's comfortable. But comfort is not always safe or healthy. So...keep searching, keep discovering, keep changing...for your good and God's glory.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Me :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Moving

I've moved more than a few times in my life, from as early as I can remember up until my last move -- two years ago. I always had mixed emotions with moving. The excitement of a new place, a new house was usually thrilling. But the packing up and leaving what was familiar usually scared me.

The older I got, the more difficult the moves. One was particularly difficult. In my junior year of high school, I was told that we'd be moving, although the time table was unclear. Six weeks into my senior year, my family moved from one side of the state of Alabama to the other. I remember saying goodbye to friends, getting in the car and driving to our new home. For some reason I still can't explain, our new home never felt like home to me.

Another difficult move was my last one. Two years ago, my husband, three girls and I moved from our home of nine years (the longest I'd ever lived in one place) to a new home a few miles away. Even though we were still in the same town, even the same school district, the move was hard because we were leaving the home where our two youngest girls were born. The home that saw babies become toddlers, toddlers become independent preschoolers, husband and wife struggling, a new business. Although I was excited to move, the thought of leaving the familiar left me unsettled.

Back in January, I decided to move, not realizing the significance of the move, or how long it would take. Next week, I'll be moving again. I'm excited, yet nervous.

This address has been my blog home for two years. It's simple and familiar. I move around comfortably here, and don't mind inviting new guests in for a visit. Words usually come easy and free here. I have to admit I'm a little nervous about leaving this simple space.

But...

I'll be packing up all my words and moving them with me next Monday. I'm excited about having a new blog home. I've planned and prepared for it to represent my thoughts as best I know how. In addition to my blog, my songs from the music project will soon be accessible there.

I hope the words continue to come easy and free, but I'm also planning for more intensity...the stuff life is made of. The stuff we both love and hate to remember. The questions to which we could all use answers. The search that binds us at our cores.

I'll share more this week about my move. I hope you'll read this week and prepare to do the one thing that my friends were never able to do throughout my life: move with me!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Burning Bridges

My oldest daughter is a cheerleader for her middle school. {I still can't believe I'm old enough to have a 7th grader!} I attended the homecoming pep rally at her school yesterday, and the football game last night, and was met with a rush of emotions at both.

My daughter has friends that she will likely carry into her adult years. As I watched her with them, I remembered my school days in what seemed like snapshots...from elementary through high school. I changed schools quite a few times due to moves. I switched between Christian and public schools throughout the years. The common thread that ran through all those years and schools for me was that of burning bridges.

I realized early in my childhood that my classmates usually had histories together. I was often "the new girl." And since we mostly lived in small towns, new kids often weren't easily accepted. The bigger the school, the easier to find acceptance. The smaller the school, the more difficult to fit in. Either way, I learned to hold friendships loosely, assuming I'd leave them at some point.

I rarely treated relationships with importance, though I craved them desperately.

Those childhood memories of leaving friendships and moving on to others didn't end there. I carried that trait with me straight into adulthood. I was desperate for deep, meaningful relationships, but didn't know how to cultivate them.

You see, people-pleasing people like me tend to gravitate toward the idea that if we can't please others, we leave them. We look for someone we can please. Fortunately, I've come to realize nobody is going to be pleased 100 percent of the time, including myself. Learning that about myself and others is freeing me up to set boundaries for myself and expect others to respect them.

I'm also learning that some bridges were built in such poor fashion that they can't withstand weight. It's scary to say, but I'm finding it true, that it's okay to burn those bridges, as long as the intent is to allow God to rebuild them properly if He so desires...to withstand weight and pressure. Who's to say how long that rebuilding may take {if at all}? For sure, building a bridge is not an overnight process.

Don't think for a second that I've got this relationship thing figured out. I struggle greatly with them. A battle rages within me: please to be accepted, or burn and run. This setting boundaries, and this hanging close by to see what God will do is new to me. But I have several people in my life who have taught me what it means to stand on the bridge, and meet in the middle. In fact, there have been times when they've even crossed it to my side and chased me down! I'm thankful. And I'm learning.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Giving Up And Determination

I'm impatient. For sure, I'm extremely grateful to be running again, but I so badly want to be back at my pre-boot pace so I can move on to half-marathon training. But...I'm just not there due to several reasons:

I gained eight pounds while in the boot. And eight pounds slows a runner!

My leg still hurts. I didn't follow the doctor's orders exactly, so I'm still dealing with some pain.

Due to my lack of exercise for eight weeks, the hills in my neighborhood are now kicking my tail. My breathing becomes labored, my lungs feel like they're going to explode, and my legs burn, so I sometimes have to slow to a walk when moving uphill.

I have excuses to give up. However,

I refuse to quit!

I refuse to hide behind eight pounds. I refuse to let a little pain stop me {that's why we have Advil, right?}. I refuse to let a hill cause me to give up and sit on the curb.

While I won't time myself right now {because, really, I just don't want to be discouraged}, I continue at my slow pace with determination. I'm giving myself grace while I rebuild strength and endurance.

I just keep reminding myself that I have bigger and better things awaiting me: a half-marathon in February!

There have been hills mini-mountains in my journey lately. There's been baggage to weigh me down. Hurt has been a given in my life over the past year. But I am determined to keep moving forward.

No matter what others say, there's no time table for working through the process of healing and forgiveness. We simply must keep walking through it with determination when we find that we can no longer run.

And as difficult as it may be, sometimes we have to abandon whatever discourages us until we find strength...because discouragement doesn't just affect us physically as does running; it affects our hearts and souls.

In order for our hearts and souls to heal, it's necessary to give ourselves grace and allow ourselves to live in it. After all, we need to prepare ourselves for better days...


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Confirmation


I find it extremely intimate when God repeatedly confirms things to me through people who really have no idea what's going on in my life.

Several months ago, as I was preparing to begin work on the music project, questioning why He would even allow me such a gift, He said: This is bigger than you. It was such a clear statement, I haven't been able to forget it.

The closer the time comes to release the project, the more difficult life becomes. The battle is intense as I fight to find freedom from fear, people-pleasing, religious condemnation, and unhealthy relationships. It's a bit of an understatement to say I was feeling somewhat defeated this past week.

But God...in His intimate way...has reminded me of His plan.

My family and I were on the way to church Sunday morning when my ever-observant middle child exclaimed, Look! There's a huge rainbow! I thought immediately of God's promises. Just as quickly, I dismissed the rainbow.

Upon arriving at church, I sang with the choir words that sent tears streaming down my cheeks: My hope is in the Lord from this time on and evermore...those who hope in Him will find their hearts at rest.

Next, I went to our small group meeting where a discussion was underway about how God's promises and plans could not be thwarted. Our teacher, who knows almost nothing of the challenges I've faced lately, said, God's plans are bigger than us.

Finally, I went to my voice lesson yesterday, where my vocal coach and I spent most of the hour discussing what God is doing in my life. Honestly, the conversation had absolutely no reason to go in that direction. But God had words to inscribe upon my heart, and how better to do it than through someone who barely knows me? As my coach and I were discussing the music project and struggles that have taken place in my life, he said, I don't know where this is headed or what will take place, but it's big.

I am completely humbled and overwhelmed by my Father's intimacy. Thankful seems too small a word to describe how grateful I am that He chooses to use me and chooses to confirm His plans for me. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm trusting that He is working for my good and His glory in ways I can't even see.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Strep Throat And Paying Attention

My daughter was sick with strep throat last week. I thought she seemed a little overly tired and ill, but it didn't cross my mind that she was sick. Even when we were leaving for cheer, and she told me she felt dizzy, I dismissed it as her being hungry. She didn't say anything else to make me think she might be sick.

But a few minutes into the ballgame, I noticed she wasn't cheering with enthusiasm. Soon, she was no longer jumping, and she looked pale. I was quite certain she might be sick on the field. I went to her a couple of times, asking if she was okay. I eventually had to ask specific questions: Does your stomach hurt? Does your head hurt? She admitted that they did. After a little coaxing, she agreed to go home. Upon arriving at home, I took her temperature...a telling 101-degree fever.

Like my daughter, people don't often say when something is wrong. We might notice that our friends aren't acting quite right, but we dismiss their behavior. Even if they hint that something is wrong, we're usually so busy we dismiss any comments. It's usually when things go terribly wrong that we pay attention enough to realize something was amiss all along.

I want to be the friend {and the mother} who pays attention enough to know when something is wrong with the people in my life. I need to remember to ask them specific questions. While I may be able to do nothing more than offer a listening ear, fix a meal, or hold a sick child's hand, I want them to know they are important to me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cheerleaders

All three of my daughters are cheerleaders. They are learning to watch their teams play and cheer them on according to what is happening in the game. They're learning that the purpose of cheering is to encourage...whether their teams are winning or losing. Even when time is running out, and there's no hope of their team winning, cheerleaders continue to cheer. Win or lose, they keep coming back to cheer for the next game.

We all need cheerleaders, and we could all stand to be cheerleaders.

I have a few cheerleaders in my life...those who believe in me. When things are going great, they cheer me on and rejoice with me. When things are not so great, they encourage me and remind me that things will get better.

I hope I do the same for them.





Friday, September 7, 2012

Removing Safety

I'm tired of writing safely. The calculated and measured words written in effort to keep from offending family have been twisted. The writings of my life experiences gone unpublished have made no difference. Without being asked a single question as to why I write and believe the way I do, I am rejected in obvious ways.

It was almost a year ago that I sought counseling to unearth buried feelings due to childhood trauma. Instead of encouragement to walk through the fear, I was met with ridicule, then screaming silence.

Breaking the cycle of shame, manipulation and abuse is unwelcome. I don't deny there were good times in my family; I'm just having a difficult time remembering them lately. I'm told that's normal, and good memories will eventually return. I wonder when...because the memories that have most frequently filled my mind over the past year have left me in tears more often than not. And with each act of rejection, my heart aches, yet the separation becomes more bearable.

I long for peace. Yes, peace for the family; but more importantly, peace for myself if peace among the family never occurs. Peace in knowing I faced the fear and walked through it. Peace in knowing that I didn't quit searching or writing in an effort to appease anyone. Truth be told, the appeasement would've only lasted a short while anyway.

I'm removing the filter of safety. My writings will be what they should've been for a long time now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Conditioning

I remember learning in college about Ivan Pavlov's dogs. Pavlov conditioned the dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. He did so by sounding a bell when he presented food to them. Eventually, the dogs would salivate when the bell would ring, even though there was no food.

I watched as my kids, along with five others, stood at the bus stop. When the first bus came, the four older kids moved to one section of the sidewalk, while the younger four moved to another. When the bus stopped, and the driver opened the door, the four older kids immediately formed a line and entered the bus. The same thing happened when the second bus came for the younger kids.

They've learned when they see the first bus to separate themselves. They've also learned to line up and walk as soon as the doors open. When they arrive at school, they will change classes at the sound of a bell. They've been trained and conditioned. They only deviate if they're told to.

When I go to church, I follow the program. Stand to sing, sit during announcements, greet those around me at the appropriate time, sit and listen during the sermon, pass the offering plate, stand to sing again, then leave. Maybe I've been trained and conditioned. But this past Sunday, the conditioning weighed heavy. I felt as though Holy Spirit was not free to move in me, and I wondered if others felt the same.

The message was grace and redemption. The solo at the end of the service was Redeemed, a song by Big Daddy Weave. If you're familiar with that song, you know how powerful the message of grace is in it. The lyrics could be my own story. I wanted to stand and shout, Yes! This is grace! This is the freedom Jesus died to give us! Instead, I sat still with a single tear running down my cheek. I don't claim to know the hearts of anyone else there, but the mood in the building seemed almost apathetic.

Have we been so conditioned that we sit still and quiet as Grace is proclaimed? Are we so conditioned to our Sunday morning routine, to our daily schedules that we don't even consider allowing Holy Spirit to move and guide us? If Christians don't get excited about Grace, and don't allow Him to cause us to deviate from our conditioning, why would anyone else?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just As I Am

My friend and I were talking about how easily we distract ourselves. We're much alike, and neither of us particularly cares for silence. However, she mentioned that someone had recently suggested she quit distracting herself and be alone with God. I thought it was good advice, and acted on it.

I drove along the interstate alone, silenced the radio (blasphemy!), and began to talk with God. I asked Him to speak to me. Within moments, He whispered to my soul, I love you. I continued talking, asking for more. He repeatedly responded with I love you.

After several times, I became a little frustrated: God, I know you love me. I don't wonder about that. Don't you have anything else to say?

What He said next surprised me. I accept you. He knew the longing of my heart without me even having to say it. I long to be accepted just as I am...while I work out my salvation, while I question almost every belief I've ever held, while I dive deep into knowing grace. Most people don't like those murky waters, accepting those of us trudging through them only from an arm's length, if at all.

I was so suprised and taken aback by those three words that I didn't dare ask Him to say them again. So I kept talking to Him about all the reasons people reject me. Shouldn't He agree with them? As if to seal it in my heart, mind and soul, He repeated Himself, almost firmly, I accept you.

In the quiet moments alone with Him, God intimately made me aware that He loves and accepts me....just as I am.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning

I had quite an interesting experience this past weekend, and it's taken me this long to process it enough to write about it.

On Saturday night, I went to a bar to listen to a band play. As I listened and sang along from my seat, I did what I love to do: people watch. I watched real life unfold. I watched as couples danced {by the way, I was very jealous...I can't dance} and friends celebrated. I also watched as some tension grew. I paid attention to the way the music {along with the combination of alcohol} affected people. Thick emotions were on display. I can only describe it this way: the later the hour, the grittier the emotions.

In complete contrast, a few hours later on Sunday morning, I went to church. As I stood in the choir loft and sang, I looked out among the congregation. I people watched again. {I know...shame on me!} Some seemed to be in full worship mode, hands raised in the air. Some showed no emotion, blank stares on their faces. Overall, I think the mood waivered between contentment and apathy. Yet, the overwhelming feeling was that of pristine. Pretty building...pretty people.

I feel as though I'm failing miserably at describing the polar difference between the people in each setting. Yet, we're all very much the same. We're all searching for a love that never fails; for the fulfillment of dreams; for purpose. And as my friend so eloquently says, We all want to know and to be known. We just have different ways of searching...and different places of looking.

I still can't balance the two scenes in my mind. Why won't the church go into the smoke-filled, alcohol-flowing, emotionally-gritty bars? Why won't the world enter the pristine buildings full of people with painted smiles? I guess it's because there's no connection between the two. There's rarely gritty, real emotion displayed among the church. And there's no need to hide raw, real life behind a smile when in a bar.

I think I know which one Jesus would choose to enter. And I think He'd be the gritty salt the church is supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Walking Through Stress



I had my six-week evaluation with my doctor about my leg yesterday morning. I went in confident that I was coming out of the boot (so confident that I carried my right flip-flop in my purse). After reviewing my x-rays and examining my leg, the doctor gave me the all clear! Before I could even ask, he commented, I guess you want to know if you can run again. I responded, How long? Much to my delight, he said I could start running in limited increments on a treadmill because he didn't want me immediately pounding the pavement.

Now I'm not a treadmill kind of girl, so I just made the assumption that he meant I could start walking on pavement and build up to running soon. So I put on my running clothes and shoes yesterday afternoon and hit the track. I can't even tell you how excited I was to be back in that attire and moving! However, it was definitely a little frustrating to only walk. I wanted to run so badly, but knew better since my leg was tingling and weak from lack of use.

I was talking with my husband after my walk about how eager I was to run. He said, You've got to walk before you run. It's true. I've got to strengthen my leg by putting limited amounts of stress on it before I can take off running.

We often view stress as negative. But I'm learning it can be positive when we allow God to use it to make us stronger. If we never deal with stress, we never learn how to do things better. We'll remain weak and never realize the full potential God intends for us.

Little by little, we can walk through stress until we're strong enough to run.

Monday, August 27, 2012

One Word Update

When this year began, I had no idea what it would hold. The challenges have been harder than I ever imagined, and the joys have been more beautiful than I ever expected.

In January, I chose a word on which to focus this year: healthy.

As I re-read my One Word post, I realized my focus has wandered. But I can't say that's a bad thing because my focus has been primarily on fulfilling the dream and desire God placed inside me. I just wish I'd done a better job incorporating health into the busyness of the last five months.

With four months remaining in the year, I'm refocusing on getting healthy. I'm hoping my leg has healed enough to be able to run again soon. I'm still trying to figure out how to leave the past in the past {much easier said than done}. And I'm reminding myself that I was created to give God glory.

When December 31 arrives, I don't want to be full of regrets. That's not to say I won't have any, but I want to make decisions that will result in fewer than if I'd not been mindful of them.

The past eight months have been beautiful, messy, challenging and fulfilling. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next four hold!

 




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If You're Grieving...

Just yesterday, two different friends, during two separate conversations, told me I needed to let myself grieve over some circumstances that can never be changed. Then last night, I read a very timely post about grief from blogger Shelly Miller that left me in a puddle of tears. While her post is about physical death, she addresses grief in such a way that it's universal. I couldn't have said it any better, so I thought I'd share it here: For When You Feel Guilty About Your Feelings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shame, Grace And Acceptance

I've been writing quite a bit over the last few months about shame. I don't know that any of those writings will ever see the light of day. I don't know if they're meant for publication at a later date. What I do know is that writing them has been a form of therapy for me. Every time I write from a different angle or perspective, parts of me rise up that have been long buried...parts that I was unaware existed, but somehow knew needed healing.

Shame rooted itself deep within me at an early age...not because of anything I'd done, but because of who I believed I was. I wasn't aware that it was shame until about a year ago. When I realized that shame was the possible issue, I started reading about the effects of it. Almost every effect of shame had some grip on me.

The most consuming area of shame in my life has been that of spiritual/religious shame. I've never felt capable of measuring up to the holiness of God. Yet, that's what so many spiritual leaders teach: good behavior, pure thoughts = holiness. Well, if you haven't figured it out, I'm a mess who just finds it difficult to behave and have pure thoughts. {I assume that's true for most of us, even if we don't admit it.} With every act of misbehavior, and with every unpure thought, shame grew.

Over the last year, I've been working though the process of identifying the roots of shame so deeply buried in me. While I'm still working through that process, I'm beginning to look for the healing. I read something recently that may be the game-changer. In his book, Shame And Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, Lewis Smedes says:

The point is that the grace of God comes to us in our scrambled spiritual disorder, our mangled inner mass, and accepts us with all our unsorted clutter, accepts us with all our potential for doing real evil and all our fascinating flaws that make us such interesting people. He accepts us totally as the spiritual stew we are. 

We are accepted in our most fantastic contradictions and our boring corruptions. Accepted with our roaring vices and our purring virtues. We are damaged masterpieces, stunted saints; there are ogres and angels in our basements that we can hardy tell apart and that we have not dared to face up to. For the whole shadowed self each one of us is, grace has one loving phrase: you are accepted. Accepted. Accepted. Accepted.

Even as I read those words as I typed, accepted is a difficult word for me to buy...because acceptance has always been based on my behavior. I'll borrow a phrase from an old hymn: being accepted just as I am is a foreign concept to me. Although I've said it to others countless times, and have written it here on my blog many times, it's still difficult for me to sit down and live in the knowledge that God loves and accepts the whole of me.

I'd like to wrap up this post with a nice, neat bow and tell you that shame is no longer a part of me. But that's just not true. I'm finding that healing from shame may be radical and instantaneous for some, but for most, it's as much a process as the discovery of the roots of shame...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Unfinished Places

There's an area in my front yard where grass won't grow. It's the shape of a large triangle underneath three trees. My husband and I have been talking for quite some time about landscaping that area so it won't be such an eyesore.

A couple of months ago, we bought landscaping bricks and fabric to begin the process. We had a great idea in our minds of what the area would look like when completed: vibrant reds and greens atop rich, brown mulch. My husband cleaned the area, laid the fabric and the bricks...until we ran short. We never got any further. We became busy with summer plans, and our front yard remains unfinished.

God created us for a purpose...to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. He enabled us to fulfill that purpose by placing dreams and desires in each of us.

We are works in progress. God sees the finished product, while we can only imagine it. What we see clearly is the unfinished work of the present. It can be disheartening...this knowing that we are meant to be more, to be beautiful. Or it can be the catalyst that causes us to labor through the ugly to fulfill our God-given dreams and desires. It's a reminder that as long as we have breath, God is not finished with us. We are not meant to be stuck in our unfinished places.



Monday, August 13, 2012

My Daughter And My Goal

My middle child, a bit of a creative writer already, asked me last night: Mom, don't you write to help people? I replied, Yes, I hope to...that's my goal.

Then that same creative, inquisitive child asked me: What's the hardest thing about life? Oh my. I had to stop and carefully choose my words before I answered. After thinking for a moment, I answered: Being yourself.

My questioning child didn't stop there. She then asked, What's another hard thing about life? I immediately knew my answer, but had to bite my tongue until I could find the appropriate way to answer. I finally said, Being nice to those who aren't nice to you.

My goal when I write here is to be myself, to share what I often find hard to verbalize, and to do it in such a way that {hopefully} others will gain something from it. However, there are times when it's just hard. There are times when I agonize over phrasing so as not to offend anyone. There are times when I spend an hour writing only to chicken out of clicking the Publish button because I fear what others will think. Still, unfortunately, there are those who are just going to find issue with anything I write.

And therein is the hard part of life: continuing to be myself and do what I know I've been called to do in the face of opposition. Part of me wants to do what's easy: give up and return to people pleasing. The other part of me knows I'll be miserable if I do.

So when my daughter's final question was, Mom, can I write a blog too?, I was aware that I am setting an example to her. The question I ask myself is this: Do I want her to see me quit what I know God has called me to do in order to please a few people? The answer is a resounding No! My hope for her is that she learns to pursue her God-given talents in a way that fulfills her dreams and helps others despite opposition.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No Texting While Driving Law...And Grace

One week ago Alabama enacted the no-texting-while-driving law. For someone whose phone is practically connected to her hand, this law has been a hard one to follow. But each time I've grabbed my phone to text, my girls have been quick to remind me that it's against the law. They even threaten to tell my husband if I proceed! Tattlers!!

Before last week, I lived in text-while-driving freedom. It probably wasn't wise to do so, but there were no laws preventing me from it. Now every time I see my phone while I'm driving, I'm reminded of what I cannot do.

I use that ridiculous analogy to illustrate the freedom of grace and the bondage of the law. Because of Jesus, grace is available. Unfortunately, many Christians focus on the law, which leads to focusing on behavior...not only their own behavior, but everyone else's too. These are the same ones who run to God with I did my part, now make them do theirs! {Tattlers, anyone?}

Focusing on behavior is like trying to walk with chains on the feet. The constant focus is on not falling. In addition, it keeps you from walking, even running in freedom.

Jesus fulfilled the law...the entire law, not just the Ten Commandments. He fulfilled the Old Covenant, and in it's place, established the New: grace.

...then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Thy will." He takes away the first in order to establish the second. Heb. 10: 9, NASB

When we live in grace, we live in freedom...freedom to love Jesus passionately. We don't have to focus on our behavior {or anyone else's} because our focus is on Jesus. Yes, we will absolutely stumble...and sometimes fall...{and, no, I am not saying grace is a license to sin}, but Jesus is the provision for our mistakes. He made the way for us to get back up and continue walking {even running} in grace.

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. Rom. 6:14, NASB

Note: I've not even touched the tip of this law/grace iceberg. For an in-depth, easy-to-read, fabulous explanation, I recommend Grace, The Forbidden Gospel by Andre van der Merwe. You can download it for free here.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Costly Mistake

Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas needed a near-perfect score for her routine on the uneven bars to win her third gold. I was certain she could do it. Then, I watched as she made a small, but costly mistake in her routine. As she finished and scored in last place, the commentator said: When you try to be perfect..., you're living on a razor's edge.

In Gabby's interview immediately following her performance, she admitted to being physically drained. She also said, I made a little mistake and I paid for it. Still, she had the confidence to say that she planned to finish strong in her last event.

We know Jesus was the only perfect human. We know we can't be perfect, and that Grace covers us when we fail. Still, so many of us resort to attempting to measure up to others' standards and ideas of perfection instead of doing our personal bests. Eventually, we become so weary from trying to live a people-pleasing performance that we end up hurting ourselves. We limp away, trying to hide our bleeding hearts.

The important thing is this: recognize our mistakes, learn how to do things differently next time, get back up, and try again...but try only with our personal bests in mind. Others' standards {including their critical comments or praises} don't matter. What truly matters is recognizing and having confidence in God's steadfast love for us.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fatal Attraction

I don't like that I have this ridiculously strong attraction to all things Christian and church. I don't like that I feel drawn to read other people's opinions about said subjects. I honestly wish I could turn my head and walk away from it all. It annoys me that I can't resist the urge to open the Bible to find out what it says about the things I read and hear. I can't make my mind quit wondering what Jesus would really do in certain situations.

I've read a lot of people's opinions this week alone. I've shared several of them on Facebook and Twitter. Many others have made me sick...to the point that I've said, If they're a Christian, I don't want to be one. I don't want to be identified with them. The arrogance, name-calling and self-righteous attitudes of many Christians I know have been sad to read and hear this week.

Yet, I keep reading and listening. I think it's because I can so closely identify with those attitudes. Mine used to be the same...until Grace swept in and radically changed my life. I think I can't stop reading and listening because I'm hoping Grace will do the same for them.

And that is the paradox. I'm finding it hard to have grace on those who might need grace more than they realize. I want to shake them, wake them up, and scream at them for being so merciless and graceless. After all, we are the church. We're the very ones who should be showing the world who Mercy and Grace is.

So I sit here waivering between this strong attraction to read and study, wanting to walk away from all things Christian, and trying to figure out how to offer grace to those who act just as the Pharisees did. I won't pretend: it's a tough spot I find myself in. It seems this strong attraction will end up killing my spirit. I think the only answer for me is this: open hands in surrender. Surrender to Grace...over and over and over. Grace saved me before, and will continue to.

My One Thing

I went into the recording process knowing very little. I'm a singer, but have only had a total of four voice lessons. I'd never been in a recording studio until I began this project a couple of months ago. To say I was intimated is an understatement. Fear reared its ugly head a few times. Fearful thoughts occasionally pestered me:

I don't belong here.
I don't know what I'm doing.
Why in the world am I here?

In addition, I woke up with a scratchy throat on Monday that lasted well into Tuesday evening. There were a couple of times while I was singing that my chest felt like it was on fire. While I was excited to be fulfilling the desire God placed inside me, I was tired and weak.

A friend and her husband are preparing to move to Uganda as missionaries. At the end of their promo video {click on Wilbanks Family}, her husband talks about knowing the one thing God has called each of us to do, and doing it. As I watched, the tears flowed uncontrollably down my face...because I know my one thing is this music project.

While our "one thing" may be the deepest desires of our hearts, they're usually the most difficult to accomplish. They don't happen without the enemy trying to defeat us or destroy the task. But the power of Holy Spirit working within us is greater than the tactics the enemy uses.

All that to say...the fear, intimidation and sickness I felt were simply arrows meant to make me give up. But in my weakness, He gave me strength. And I'm thrilled with the outcome up to this point. There's more work to be done, but I'm looking forward to the day when I can share songs of grace and restoration with you all!


Taking a break...
Studio engineer, Eric Bates




Producer, George Vinson


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Final Day Of Recording












Thank you so much for the prayers, comments and messages concerning yesterday's studio session. You all are so kind!

Monday was a wonderfully exciting, yet somewhat stressful day. I'd been preparing for quite some time to record vocals. What I wasn't prepared for was waking up to a scratchy throat, a sinus headache and feeling like my chest was on fire...all of which continued throughout the day. In spite of my sudden yucky sinus issues, we recorded 3:33 {which turned out to be more amazing than I ever could've imagined}, as well as two other songs, Love Remains and Captured.

Today we're recording what I consider to be the two most vocally-challenging songs: All Things New and Morning. In my opinion, these two songs are the crux of the project. They're both lyrically strong songs with which people will be able to identify and apply their own stories. That being said, I know the enemy would like to use any means available to thwart these songs. So, once again, I'm asking for your prayers...for a healthy voice, for passionate emotion, for those involved in the recording process, and {most importantly} for God to be my stronghold.

Thank you in advance. I can't wait to see how today turns out and to share it with you all!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back In The Studio...3:33


Knees hit the floor as the world stops spinning while the minutes tick away
Today and tomorrow I'm back in the studio recording the vocals for my music project. The above line is from one of the pieces that will be included, 3:33.
3:33 is unusual: it's a monologue set to music. In fact, when my producer first mentioned the idea, I thought it was weird. The idea is fashioned after William Shatner's What Have You Done? 
But the more I thought about it, I knew I had to do it. I had to write and share about the day my world tipped on its axis.
However, repeatedly reliving that day through the writing process hasn't been easy. Today won't be an exception as I literally put my voice to the raw truth I've written.
I'm taking this opportunity to ask you, my readers, to take just a moment to pray that God would be honored today and tomorrow as I record. Please pray that the glory of God would be my stronghold...and that memories would not wreak havoc with my emotions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What I Learned From My Voice Lessons

Tuesday was my last voice lesson before recording next week. I left the lessons much more confident than I went into them.

I went into them worried about one song in particular because the style is a bit of a vocal stretch for me. It moves me out of my vocal comfort zone. I'd sing the song, then my vocal coach would ask me how I thought I sounded. Several times I replied that I felt like I was at my breaking point. He would encourage me by telling me that he couldn't hear what I felt, and no one else would either.

I've been thinking a lot about that comment. We are emotional beings created in God's image. Our feelings can range from anguish to joy. We usually have no problem expressing our feelings of joy and delight. But we're great at putting on bold and confident faces to hide our feelings of sadness and fear. We stuff and hide our feelings until we reach our breaking points. And so we go through life assuming that others don't struggle like we do. Often we're all left feeling a bit lonely because of our assumptions.

Just because we can't see or hear what someone else is feeling doesn't mean the feelings aren't there.

When we crack the door to vulnerability, people recognize that and begin to crack theirs. I know...I receive emails and messages from people expressing their feelings because they've identified with something I've said here. Some I know personally; some I've never met. Either way, it shows me that we so badly want to connect with someone who can identify with our feelings.

For years I thought feelings and emotions were to be stuffed inside...to the point that I often couldn't identify my own. I'm learning to identify them, and while I can often write about them, I still struggle to verbalize them. However, there's One who knows every feeling and emotion I experience, and He wants me to come to Him with them. After all, He created me. He can handle my anguish, my sadness, my frustrations, my anger, my disappointments, as well as my joy, my excitement, my delight!

Today I feel a little overwhelmed with life, but am thankful that God is faithful to provide new mercies every morning. What are you feeling today?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wounded and Abandoned Hearts


My photo shoot for the music project was a little over a week ago. We chose a location in downtown Birmingham that most people avoid...the homes of the homeless.

Amidst office buildings and loft apartments is a trench where the above bed stands. Graffiti brightens the dirty walls with a myriad of colors and words of hope. Broken glass and trash litters the ground beneath our feet.

And I wonder...

Why? What circumstances, what choices led them to this?

And I think, in answer to my own questions...

Wounded and abandoned hearts.

I don't know of a single child whose ambition in life is to end up homeless. So I wonder again what happened in the hearts of these people that cause them to exist in such dire situations.

The symptoms of wounded and abandoned hearts display themselves differently in different people. For the homeless, it's living in the shadows of what most of us call normal life. They've landed in desperation while most of us just live on the edge of it.

I silently hope for the courage to look beyond circumstances to hearts, and to share Love and Grace and Restoration...because no matter where we lay our heads each night, we all need healed hearts. We all need to be captured by Love that sets us free.

Photo by Synergy Photography

Friday, July 20, 2012

Perseverance



I started running several years ago and fell in love. I was never athletic in my younger years, so I didn't even consider running until a friend convinced me. Truth is, I just never liked to sweat. But something in me came to life when I started running...perseverance. And I couldn't leave well enough alone. I wanted to find out how much perseverance I had. So I kept running.

I ran my first half marathon in February, and was thrilled to know I had enough perseverance in me to finish. My goal for this year was to run at least one 5k every month, and had planned on an 8k and 10k.

But a few of months ago I started experiencing pain in my right leg as I ran. I'd run through the pain, take a pain reliever, and go again. I bought new shoes hoping to alleviate the problem. I gave myself a couple of weeks off, thinking I might just need to rest my leg. But as soon as I hit the pavement, I knew my leg was no better. In fact, it was worse. I tried to run through the pain again, but no such luck. I ended up walking. 

My husband suggested I go to the doctor, which I did. An x-ray didn't show anything, so he sent me for an MRI. It was about a three-week process from the first doctor's visit to the MRI results, during which time I didn't run at all due to the pain and a swollen ankle. Still I was holding out hope. So Tuesday when I went to the doctor to get the results, I didn't expect the news I received. I went in hoping he'd say the MRI was fine, that I probably just needed to change shoes, and I could get back to running.

Instead, he informed me that I have a stress fracture and have to wear a boot for 6-plus weeks. No running....for quite a while. To put it mildly, I was disheartened. But he was quick to remind me that it could be worse: I could have broken it and required surgery. So I left his office trying to see the silver lining. And I did okay until yesterday morning.

As I sat drinking my coffee, I looked out my front window to see a neighbor running down the street. Even in that moment, I held it together. But a little later, when I heard one of my favorite running songs, Good Morning by Mandisa, the tears came without warning. The realization that I wouldn't meet my goal for the year settled in. Sadness settled in with the idea that pain doesn't care about perseverance. So I had my pity party.

But perseverance is once again kicking in. I'm going to use this time to try something new {maybe I'll share later what it is}. I'm already finding that something different in me is coming to life in this new thing, and it's exciting!

While I'd prefer to avoid the pain and the healing process, and to just be able to run, I'm trusting that something great is going to come from it all. Something I might not have otherwise taken the time to pursue. I'm looking for some purpose in this painfully slow healing process.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Everybody Loves Love

Everybody loves love. You know, the fairytale kind...

My husband and I recently visited New York City for the first time. One of the first things we noticed upon our arrival was how everyone seemed to be in a hurry. We quickly learned to elbow our way through Times Square and to watch for crazy-fast taxi drivers before stepping off a curb. One thing we found funny was the constant horn blowing. Those drivers don't kid around! If someone got in their way, they were quick to blow the horn with impatience.

But something happened one night that took me by surprise. As we were pushing our way through the masses of people in Times Square, I noticed a bride and groom being photographed. We stopped to watch like so many other people had. They were a beautiful couple. Traffic had stopped at the nearby red light, and an antique car was in the midst. I saw the photographer lean into the window, apparently asking if he could photograph the newlyweds next to the car. The driver pulled out of traffic as much as possible, but was still blocking several cars. The photographer shot several photos, then waved the driver on his way. Much to my surprise, during that minute or two, I didn't hear a single horn blow. That's when it dawned on me...

Everybody loves love. We love storybook weddings and fairytale endings. We love the fruits of love. We imagine romance, intimacy and untainted love. We stand in awe to watch when we see it.

The truth is love is difficult. Anybody that's ever loved knows that. It's hard work. And while there may be storybook weddings and fairytale endings, the chapters between are often filled with grit and dirt...selfishness, betrayal, rejection. Those pages are where true love stories can be written...forgiveness, grace, mercy.

Still, there's an even greater love.

The ultimate Lover comes to us and beckons us with romance and intimacy. He knows our deepest desires and wants to talk with us about them. He forgave us before we ever even betrayed Him. He supplied grace and mercy before we ever knew we needed them. He takes our grit and dirt, and turns them into beauty. His love is immeasurable and unfailing.

Yet, somehow, we take His love for granted. We rarely stop to stand in awe, recognizing His is the greatest love of all, freely offered to us just as we are.

The thought occurs to me...maybe if we stand in awe of His love and allow it to transform us, we'd be the kind of true lovers we daydream about when we see a storybook wedding or a fairytale ending...

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Paradox


Rain falls hard as the sun shines bright
The perfect combination
A paradox resembling life

Dreams once forgotten now being met
Wonder meets the eyes
The heart finally rests

Years of fear and shame mock the grace
Too much or not enough
It's a never-ending chase

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Macy's: My Great {Unmet} Expectations

Expectations. I usually have very few. But I had great expectations for the Macy's in NYC. And I was sadly disappointed.

I was expecting some grand, pristine entrance beckoning me to spend every last penny I had. Instead, Mark and I almost missed the entrance from the sidewalk because there was nothing announcing, Macy's here! Come in...spend your money!!

Inside, a long, dirty hallway under construction guided the customers like cattle into the less-than-spectacular jewelry department. I was so disappointed with Macy's that Mark and I took the opportunity to use the restroom, then left. We didn't explore the store, nor did we spend one penny.

Macy's entrance
I've learned that expectations are often dangerous. I think it's why there are so many articles about surviving the holidays during November and December. We expect that somehow everything that's been wrong during the year will suddenly be made right over the holidays, when instead, stresses and tensions usually get worse.

In addition, we usually have expectations for every area of our lives:

marriage
parenting
finances
friendships
careers
health
dreams

We're left hurt and angry when our expectations go unmet. And I suppose some of you may be like me and look for the nearest exit when life doesn't turn out quite like you expected.

Had I moved past my unmet expectations and shopped in Macy's, I might've found something I just couldn't live without. But I didn't dare risk more disappointment. I gave up too easily and too quickly.

It's wise to sometimes set aside expectations and focus on having a positive attitude as life unfolds around us. It's wise to persevere when we do have expectations that go unmet. It's wise to trust that God is sovereign, and He is faithful.

Above all...in truth, there is only one in whom we should put our great expectations: Jesus...who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Onesiphorus

Part of the Scripture for the Sunday School lesson came from I Timothy 1, which I've read many times. But as a friend read the verses aloud, God emphasized verses 16 and 17 to me. I'd almost swear those verses have never been there before!

The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me... (NASB)

As I re-read those verses several times, my heart was crying a resounding Yes! I wish there were more people like Onesiphorus. Think of it: he searched for Paul, found him, wasn't ashamed of his chains, and often refreshed him. Isn't that being Jesus' hands and feet? Isn't that grace?

When I was in chains of my own making, there were two such people in my life. They called to check on me and encourage me, and they weren't ashamed to be my friends. Essentially, they helped sustain and refresh my life.

One of my deepest desires is to be like those friends...like Onesiphorus. I've felt the chains...and I've felt freedom from them. How could I possibly be ashamed of anyone else's?

May each of us seek and find those in chains and often refresh them with encouragement and prayer! May we never be ashamed of the chains, for without them, some of us never experience true freedom.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crows And Spiritual Bullies

My front yard has been a bit of a playground the past few mornings, and the bullies are in no short supply. Black crows have been littering the yard, strutting around with chests puffed out, pecking the ground. I don't like them to begin with, but on Tuesday morning, they particularly annoyed me. A squirrel was scampering around, minding his own business when one of the crows decided to pester him. The squirrel ran a few steps away, but the crow just wouldn't stop. In fact, a few of his buddies joined him, and they ganged up on the squirrel. Finally, the squirrel had had enough, and jumped in the air to defend himself. Eventually, the crows returned to strutting and pecking, leaving the squirrel alone.

The scene reminded me of one in which I've been on both sides: that of the spiritual bully.

I've been the one to spout off my beliefs with pious arrogance and sarcasm with little concern for the person on the receiving end. I remember someone once telling me that my Jesus was an a**hole. Of course, I was immediately offended and told the person so. Looking back, I can see his point. My concept of Jesus was limited and skewed. I didn't leave room for Jesus to be Jesus...to be gracious or merciful or loving or miraculous or good or...{steady yourself}...fun! I painted an ugly picture of Him for people to see based on my limited understanding of Him.

I've also been on the receving end of spiritual bullying, aka speaking the truth in love. I may be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure when namecalling begins, the truth is no longer being spoken in love. I tried to ignore the attacks, then I tried to defend myself. After much prayer, I eventually had to remove myself from the situation.

You see, Jesus is more powerful and works in more than ways than many Christians believe. We try to fit Him into the confines of our neat, little boxes and wrap Him up with our chosen theology, but sometimes He just blows all that away! To argue otherwise is pointless.

I don't know if there's ever been a time when spiritual bullying actually brought someone to Jesus, but I can think of many when grace and mercy did so. As a Christian who's been on both ends, I have to say that arguing {or debating} issues often does more harm than good. People are more receptive to the love of Jesus, His grace and His mercy than to holier-than-thou attitudes. Even Proverbs 16:24 says, Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Isn't that what this world needs? Healing from the Healer. Our words and attitudes can often lead them to Him or away from Him. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Simple Lesson

Whitewash won't hold up a fence. - Woodrow Kroll

My husband builds fences. All kinds. Wood, chain link, ornamental... They all have something in common: posts that are deeply, firmly concreted in the ground. A foundation of sorts. They're what hold up the fences. Without the posts, the fences won't stand, no matter how pretty they are.

On occasion, he repairs fences that are falling over because the builder didn't install posts deep enough in the ground.

It makes no difference if a fence is painted; whitewash, paint or stain (in essence, the appearance) has nothing to do with the structure and upholding of a fence.

What a simple truth, yet powerful lesson for the Christian to learn.




Monday, June 25, 2012

Except Jesus

Lately I'm struggling with being a Christian. Similar to past instances, I'm struggling again to find where I fit.

I love Jesus. He's my life. And I don't say that in a pious, holier-than-thou kind of way. I say it in a desperate, I-need-him-every-single-second-because-I-know-what-I'm-capable-of-without-him kind of way.

Yet Jesus doesn't seem to be enough for many Christians. Moralism is the added factor.

This weekend, as I witnessed another Christian's complete lack of grace while spewing pious, arrogant moralism, I commented: If they claim to be Christian, I don't want to be one. In another instance where someone was {understandably} completely disheartened by Christian moralism, I became frustrated and angry with the seemingly whitewashed tombs: Does the heart even matter?

I don't think I fit in the game of religion. Nor do I want to. Unfortunately, sometimes it's to the point that I want to forget it all. I want to throw my hands in the air, run away from the church, and pretend I never knew a thing about being a Christian.

Except Jesus.

He's the reason I don't completely lose faith. He's why I persevere. He's why I hope...why I write...why I sing...why I believe that maybe, just maybe, He's going to use all this struggling.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Are Part Of The Story

When I hear or read someone discounting story, I perk up to pay attention. While it's true that "God and His Word are enough," as I recently read, it's important to remember that God gave us story...His Story. We are part of The Story. And we have stories to tell. Stories He wants us to tell...and hear.

The Bible is full of stories. It is The Story...of loving redemption. I love reading about Abraham, Noah, David, Peter, Paul...their stories. I love reading the story of Jesus...healing the sick, hanging out with the outcasts, throwing a righteous fit in the temple, performing miracle after miracle, and most importantly, saving us. They're the most important stories ever told.

But the stories don't stop there! Jesus is still redeeming and performing miracles, and we have a responsibility to share those stories. We need to hear them...because if His Word is alive and active, stories are still taking place. Otherwise, His Word is a book of stories that once took place, but are no longer valid to us today.

We can point a lost world to the Bible; but most often, it's our stories...our telling of Jesus' redeeming work in our lives...that will point someone to His Word in the first place.

Call me crazy, but I believe God can speak whenever and however He wants to speak, not just through the Bible. Yes, His words will line up with The Word, but let's not discount when He speaks to us in a way other than through reading His Word.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank You And A Few Pics

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night... (Psalm 92:1-2 ESV)

Yesterday was thrilling and overwhelming. While I didn't know what to expect, the day was more than I could've imagined. It was amazing to watch and listen to the creative process of the team of talented musicians. I was more than humbled to even sit among them. The result so far is fabulous, and I am growing more and more excited about sharing the songs with you!

Thank you to all who prayed and offered encouraging words! I am beyond blessed to have you all in my life!

My producer, George Vinson

George is also an uber-talented guitarist!


My favorite photographer, Sherry Thomas
of Synergy Photography
Musicians Eugene Bates and Jim Pollard
 
Jim doing what he does...

I am soooo excited about this one!
 
An incredibly talented team


Monday, June 18, 2012

Today

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8, ESV)

Today I am excited, overwhelmed and nervous. It's taken ten years for today to arrive. I can't even begin to comprehend God's goodness in creating this day. His unconditional love washes over me anew today.

Ten years ago God placed a dream inside of me to write and sing. I've had glimpses of that dream. But mostly it's been distant, until last year, when I gave it up completely. I was content to write here on my blog.

But when God births a dream, He shapes and molds it, and fulfills it in His time. It may not look the way we imagine or plan. Today is proof.

Today begins the recording process for the music project He unexpectedly placed in my hands. I am almost speechless over how God is willing to use the mess of my life for my good and His glory.

It's a surreal feeling to know that later today I'll be sitting in a studio listening to the musicians record tracks to three songs. And not just any songs, but songs that speak my heart: to see people delivered...to be captured and freed by Love and set in a place where He makes all things new.

More than any other emotion I feel today, I am most grateful that God's steadfast love endures forever, and He has not forsaken the work of His hands in my life.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sarah's Laughter

The story of Abraham and Sarah has captivated me for several years. Honestly, I've been much more intrigued by him than her. But as I was thinking about Sarah today, God's grace once again was evident.

If you're familiar with the story at all, you know God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. After years and years of waiting, it appeared that God might not make good on His promise. After all, they were in their nineties. A little too old to be having children {quite the understatement, I know}. But as the Lord spoke to Abraham one day, Sarah was eavesdropping:

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

I love that Sarah laughed. And not a funny, ha-ha kind of laugh, but a how-ridiculous-is-that kind of laugh. A mocking laugh. To say Sarah was a little skeptical and cynical might be another understatement. Can you just picture her inside her tent, listening to the conversation going on outside? When she heard that she'd have a son within a year, I bet she rolled her eyes and shook her head! What I think is interesting is that Sarah laughed to herself. Apparently, she didn't laugh loudly or boisterously, but God being God heard her anyway and asked Abraham why she laughed.  

I love His next question: Is anything too hard for the Lord? Then He restated what He'd already promised. By that time Sarah had apparently stepped out of the tent and was denying her laughter. I imagine it more like this: Who? Me? I didn't laugh. I don't know what you're talking about. His reply was true, gentle and swift: No, but you did laugh. And with that, the awkward situation was over.

But the promise...oh, the glorious promise...was just beginning! You see, it didn't matter that Sarah was old, that her faith waivered, that she was cynical, or that she lied. God had a plan, and it didn't depend on Sarah. His plan was to use her to fulfill His covenant promise.

How many times have we thought our circumstances or our behavior could put a halt to God's plans and promises? How many times have we rolled our eyes, laughed, and said to ourselves, God surely doesn't mean me?

I'm so thankful God's grace and His promises don't depend on us!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Phone Calls And Calling To God

Photo by G. Vinson

I'm a bit addicted to my phone. Truth be told, I'm a bit addicted to communication with the outside world. Maybe it's because I've spent the last eleven years being a stay-at-home mom with little adult interaction. Whatever the reason, I spend a lot of time on social media sites and on the phone.

I'm quick to pick up the phone and call friends or family when I have news {good or bad}, when I just want to talk, when I have a question, when...

God has been repeatedly placing a verse in my face over the last several weeks:

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jer 33:3, ESV)

I'm slow to call to God. I think it's because I'm accustomed to receiving an immediate response to my communication with people. God is not always quick or audible. Sometimes He speaks in the quiet, in a whisper, and certainly, in His timing. However, the promise remains in the verse: Call to me and I will anwer you. And not just any old answer; great and hidden things which we didn't know.

I call others before calling to God who holds great and hidden answers!

Answers to my unresolved questions.
Answers to my whys and hows.
Answers for every problem and circumstance.
Answers no one else can provide.

Still...I'm slow to call to Him. And those times when I do call to Him, I am {for some reason} repeatedly amazed when I receive great and hidden answers!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Walking Among The Dead

I grew up walking among the dead...quite literally. As a child, my family lived near a cemetery. In addition, my daddy worked for several years at a funeral home. As if those two facts alone weren't enough, my grandmother lived in the apartment atop the funeral home for about ten years. Just across the hall from her apartment was the room filled with casket samples. Between playing hide-n-seek in the cemetery, riding to school in a hearse, roaming the halls of the funeral home, and making bouquets out of the left-over burial flowers, being among the dead was no big deal.

Most people cringe at the idea of being near a dead body. Certainly, cemeteries are no place for children to play. And riding in a hearse? Well, nobody wants to do that. But like anything else, when you're around something long enough, you become accustomed to it. Our senses dull to the strangeness of it all.

Maybe it's why we aren't shocked when the church gathers and sings "My chains are gone," yet everyone looks as if they've never lived a day of freedom. Maybe it's the reason we're okay with neglecting our God-given dreams. Maybe it's why we settle for endless, mindless chit-chat, never scratching beneath the surface.

We're walking among the dead. And we don't even recognize it.

But there are some who awaken to life. And when they do, they want to run for their lives! They want to find others who've awakened, who've emerged from walking among the dead. And they cling to Life as if their very existence depended on Him.

I don't want to walk among the dead with my senses dulled. I don't want to settle for mere existence. I want to be among the living. I want to experience life and freedom.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fifteen Years


Fifteen years ago today, I stood atop the church steps waiting to enter the double doors. I felt nothing short of a princess in my elegant white dress, elbow-length gloves and handmade veil. My prince and fairytale life were waiting for me at the altar. At 21, I was naieve enough to believe that marriage would be perfect. And it was...until we almost missed our flight to our honeymoon destination. It didn't take long for stress to become a factor in our marriage. I guess that's true for any marriage.

I look back over fifteen years and realize that fairytales are just that...fairytales. More importantly, I realize that love never fails. Our marriage has been marked by breathtaking mountaintops; deep, dark valleys; and everything between. When my husband would've been totally justified in washing his hands of me, he extended grace and mercy. He, more than any pastor or Bible teacher, has taught me of God's unconditional love.

Today I'm celebrating fifteen years of being married to a man who is rich in love, grace and mercy. He's my best friend and my biggest encourager.

Mark, thank you for fifteen years of growing in love together! Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

About Not Writing

I don't consider myself a writer. But I think I've recently had some form of writer's block. I stare at a blank screen for hours...literally. I spend all day thinking about what I'll write for the next day's post. Nothing much write-worthy comes to mind. And what might be worth writing about just gets stuck in my brain. I can't force the words to my fingertips in coherent sentences.

My friend reminds me of some Bono saying (and I'm probably terribly misquoting): When you can't seem to write, write about that.

So here I write...about not writing.

I looked back through my archives to last June, and realized I didn't write much then either. Maybe the issue is adjusting to having the girls home all day, every day for the summer. After all, I am apparently now their primary source of entertainment.

In addition, I'm working on a project that's requiring more brain cells than I think I have. It's stretching me mentally, spiritually and creatively. I've been consumed with everything from excitement to anxiety over this project, and mentally switching gears to write about something different hasn't been easy.

All that to say...

Writing is one of my passions, and I find it terribly frustrating when I can't express myself through written words. It reminds me of my life before I found outlets for my God-given passions. The one word that describes those years is trapped. So when words...good words...finally flow, I experience relief, elation and...joy!

So today I write about not being able to write...simply because I have to write.