Thursday, December 20, 2012

Perfect Last Day



So, tomorrow the world is supposed to end.  At least according to the Mayans and Nostradamus, and whomever else.  I was standing outside earlier, watching the snow flurries fly all around me.  I was waiting for my kids to get home from school.  I had sent my dad to go after them, since he has 4 wheel drive, and my car could never make it in the current snow storm.  There was almost a complete whiteout in the sky, and I couldn't see very far ahead.  I began to worry for their safety.  I said a quick prayer, to which I felt God give me a quick reply, "They're okay.  I've got them."  Suddenly, the intense white and crazy flurries seemed so peaceful to me.  It was a beautiful blizzard of sparkles... a cozy blanket that covered as far as I could see.  I know we are going to be okay.  He's got us.

That got me thinking a little... let's just suppose the world does actually end tomorrow, which, for the record, I don't believe; I would truly die a content soul.  Is my "bucket list" complete?  No.  Have all of my dreams come true?  No.  But, the things that are most important in life, in the universe, in the grand scheme of it all, I have.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to be mother to the three coolest, most wonderful kids.  I cannot even find words to describe the depth of my love for my babies.  They are my purpose.  And I have been blessed with their love, as well.  I have been blessed with such a great, loving family.  I have what truly matters.  I had to thank God in that moment.  I lifted my face to the sky and let the swirling, tiny, ice crystals land on my face.  I am content.

Content.  And how could I not be?  How could I ever wish for more?  I got to cuddle and kiss on my kiddos and let them know how much I love them today.  I got to hear it from them as well.  I got to tell my folks I love them, and give them hugs.  This afternoon, my boys played for hours in the snow, building their first ever igloo.  In fact, they are still out there perfecting it, taking an occassional break to come inside for hot chocolate. Also today, my daughter and I played Rock Band together... that's always fun.  A little bit ago, my dad invited us over to eat dinner with them, so we did that, and had a nice family time.  My kids and I plan to do a little baking this evening, and play some board games.  You know, I honestly could not ask for a more perfect last day on earth.  ;-)

Nate, getting a good start on the igloo.












Caleb and Nate... I love it when they work well together!
Pilin' on the snow.



Monday, December 10, 2012

I Will Not Move


This is a song I am working on.  My keyboard is at the church, so I couldn't lay out the music, but the lyrics just needed to come out, so here they are, in rough draft form.  I'll work on the music part later.  I have at least the basic melody in mind.

~~~


“I Will Not Move”
mg ~ 12/10/12

When I hear no sound, save my beating heart
I will not move.
When I look ahead and see just dark
I will wait for you.
When I think I know the way to go,
But I’m unsure what to do,
I will not move.

When I’m tempted to take a leap and trust,
I will not move.
When the options are so numerous
I will not choose.
Unless You speak straight to my soul,
And make the muddled unconfused,
I will not move.

I will not believe,
Unless you tell me it’s so.
I will not proceed
Unless You tell me to go.
I will not retreat.
I’ll stay planted and grow.
I will not move,
Until I know.

Years ago on this road I wandered off coarse
And I got lost.
Here and now I am found, though I seek higher ground,
But at what cost?
So unless things are clear, I will stand unmoved.
I will stand and wait this through.
I will not move.

I will not believe,
Unless you tell me it’s so.
I will not proceed
Unless You tell me to go.
I will not retreat.
I’ll stay planted and grow.
I will not move,
Until I know.


~~~



God has made it very clear to my heart that I am not to make any decisions based on emotion or whimsy.  I am keenly focused on not moving in any direction at all until God clearly leads me.  I have gotten myself in trouble so many times in my life when I did not have that focus.  When I am faced with scenarios and what-if's and am confused about the options that lie before me, I will stop and be still until answers become very obvious and clear.  When I am unsure, I will wait patiently until He reveals His path.    

"But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope."  Galatians 5:5

"He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved."  Psalm 62:6

"Wait on the LORD. Be courageous, and he will strengthen your heart. Wait on the LORD!"  Psalm 27:14

Sometimes God speaks while the rest of the world sleeps...

I woke up at just after 3:00am this morning and could not for the life of me get myself back to sleep. There is so much on my mind.  I wouldn't say that I am worried or afraid, because I have reached a place where I have simply given up on giving any power to those negative emotions.  Admittedly, it is a work in progress, and a continual concerted effort.  I've realized I cannot change what has happened, and I have little power over what will happen.  I am focused on living in the now, accepting life as it is and things as they are, and allowing myself to feel a supernatural peace in the face of the unknown.  God has me in the palm of His hand, and I know He will not let me fall.  There is such a sense of tranquility in that sort of blind surrender.  So, I wouldn't say that worry was really what kept my mind awake, even while my body wanted rest. I guess it was more of just trying to process things and wondering about what my tomorrows will hold... wondering... wondering... how I am going to make it... thinking about my kids... so many other things... feeling a little overwhelmed, but asking God to cover us all... feeling a lot alone in this world... wondering how and when this dense fog that is clouding my life will dissipate.  Praying... praying... praying.

 I tossed and turned and prayed and tried to shut my brain off and laid there and laid there and finally decided to get up to make myself some tea at about 4:30.  I decided to do my devotions from "Jesus Calling", so I sat down on the couch with my green tea with lemon, and opened the book to December 10th's read.  The very first sentence took the breath out of me: "Make Me [God] the focal point of your search for security." ...well, hello!  Maybe if I'd have been doing that last night, I'd have gotten more sleep!  So I read on, and here is what it said: "In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe.  Not only is this an impossible goal, but it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth.  When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me.... Instead of yearning for a problem-free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence.  In the darkness of adversity, you are able to see more clearly the radiance of My Face.  Accept the value of problems in this life, considering them pure joy.  Remember that you have an eternity of trouble-free living awaiting you in heaven."  Wow.... so good!  So just what I needed.

I love how when I open up to hearing from God, He speaks.  There were a few things He spoke to my heart in those very early morning hours.  Things I needed to hear, but didn't know it.  I also felt He was reminding me to relax and rely on Him for strength in the now, and continue to consciously let go of my worries and cares.  And after my read, I definitely felt He was reminding that if HE is the focal point of my search for security, then those bothersome thoughts will just fade.  I will rest in the knowing that He; the great, mighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, compassionate, protective, strong and gentle God holds my future.  No matter what lies ahead, the battle is already won because the battle belongs to the Lord.  And I will rejoice in the problems in my life, and even thank God for them, for they are an opportunity to see His mighty hand at work, and an opportunity for me to grow in faith.

A song I heard in church a while ago when I was living in Redding came to my heart just after my devotional read/prayer/epiphany time.  I just wanted to belt it out and sing it to God, but I couldn't because it was about 4:45am at that point, and my kids were still sleeping.  I searched it up on YouTube, and found it.  I've listened to it about 3 or 4 times now, and I feel much more at peace.  I'm going to be tired today, but that's okay.  I guess sometimes God needs to wake us up in order to communicate things to us that we need to "get".  Things we probably wouldn't get when the busy-ness of our hustlely-bustlely lives gets in the way.  Maybe that is why He often waits until the stillness of night to speak.

Here is the link to the song: "Hungry".  Enjoy, and be blessed today.  Make nothing but God your focal point.

~m~

http://youtu.be/Az9kMZyNNCM
(you may need to copy and paste this link into your browser if you can't click on it)

Monday, December 03, 2012

Musical Collaboration w/ my Bro

My brother, Ben, and I have been working together on a few musical projects.  We are just starting out on this creative endeavor.  He's producing, and I am singing and playing on my keyboard a couple of the songs I wrote many years ago.  You can see by the pic in the attached link that we are working from his small, in-home studio in his living room.  We've only had 2 short recording sessions so far, and we were very limited on time, so I did not get to re-record until I got the piano and especially my vocals where I wanted them.  I wish we would have had time for Ben to lay down some guitar tracks to insert into the songs, because I think that would add a lot to them, and also maybe some background vocals, harmonies, etc.  In listening to the finished product, I am mostly pleased, and am happy about the collaboration and my brother's amazing productive talent, but I am a bit frustrated by my pitchiness and by other details I know could have been a bit better.  Ben says imperfection is beautiful, so I am trying not to pick apart these amateur projects.  I do appreciate things that are "organic", so to speak, so I am gonna just let these be what they are.

Because these are older songs of mine that we are working on, they reflect emotions that are just not where I am at at this point in my life.  With a few exceptions, I've had song-writers block for a long, long time now.  There was a time in my past when I couldn't stop writing if I tried!  I miss the days when songs would just flow out me, although I do not miss some of the emotions that drove me to that creative deluge.  That time in my life was a like a melodic waterfall.  It has been surprisingly therapeutic for me to get the old stuff out. I am hoping that in doing so, it will free up creative space and that working with Ben will inspire some new musical productivity.

It's especially been fun for me to lay down my very vanilla tracks, and let my brother use his creative talent from a production aspect and just jack them up in a cool way and make the songs more colorful by adding in all sorts of melodical, rhythmical, and varying sound elements.  This is an adventurous segment of my musical journey.  I have to say, working with my brother is awesome, challenging and new.  I hope there will be much more of it to come.  After I was kinda beating myself up during our most recent recording session about not sounding like I wanted to on these tracks, he said this to me (I'm totally paraphrasing, but this is what I took from it): In creating music, the focus shouldn't be on the sound, nor how it makes you feel, but rather on the emotion and passion behind it, how it is perceived by others and how it makes them feel.  Hmmm.... something to think about.  I just love his philosophical nature!  It must run in the family. ;-)

Aaaaaaanyway, that was a long disclaimer, and a lot of words about nuthin', huh?  Ha!  ...Here is one of the projects we worked on recently.


My Mom's Christmas Letter 2012...


         Thanksgiving 2012 Family Picture


"Glitter, Sparkle and Glow"
                by Julie Grossman Christmas 2012

Christmas traditions abound like glitter
They are memories that sparkle and glow.
The relationships cherished are held in our hearts.
The love on each precious face takes the show.

We make ginger bread houses with candy and grahams.
They are glued with sugar and egg white
We craft gifts and then wrap them with paper and ribbon
Under the family Christmas tree they’re a sight!

Julie bakes goodies and plans Christmas Eve.
But first come the d├ęcor and cleaning.
Andy preps for his sermon with Power Point
And the kids in the Pageant are beaming.

The sparkle of snow on the earth and the trees
Bring shouts of joy and excitement.
Our hillside driveway is perfect for sledding
We make snowmen with twig arms that are bent.

Of course there are snow fights through laughter and tears.
There are trips to the lighted Christmas lane.
There are candles aglow in the paper bags lining the walk
And wreaths hung on the front door window pane.

We sing “Noel” and “Joy to the World”,
And all the songs we have learned through the years.
We carol to loved ones wearing mittens and hats.
We’re cold so hot chocolate with marshmallows get cheers!

We look forward to the sparkle of closeness and chatter
Over the winter puzzle and games on each table.
We are thankful for bounty at the dinner feast
Then we listen to Christmas movies on CD or Cable.

There’s warmth from the fire and warmth in our heart
As we listen to laughter and glee.
The kids still delight in the simplest things
Like a sandwich at afternoon tea.

We gather the grandkids to put on a show.
They act out the First Christmas story.
Come Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and kings
To behold the Christ Child in his glory.

There’s a handmade ornament we give to each guest.
We share finger food and good cheer.
Our hearts are full with happy cherished moments
Of family, church, students and friends dear.

We continue to improve our property, “Juland”,
Which is Julie and Andy’s land too.
Julie’s Dad is a gardener and has an active heart.
His pace maker makes him feel all brand new.
                   
TuscInn, our rental, is home for Monica and her kids.
The closeness it brings us is wonderful.
They have their own space and we do too.
With Caleb and Nate it’s never dull!
            
Breauna & the boys love their Mt. Shasta school.
Breauna’s active in sports and her studies.
Nate gets to do clay pottery in his class
And Caleb did track and field with his buddies.

Ben got a new house, a beauty in the North State.
Cheyenne has grown by leaps and bounds.
Cass has her horses and so does Chey
And they both have their cousins around.

This year may you notice Glitter, Sparkle and Glow.
It shines forth in your eyes and mine.
Let Jesus’ genuine love be your glitz
And center us in what’s good and what’s fine.

The warmth of family, the sparkle of friends,
The glow of Christ’s story we share.
We love the glitter and sparkle and glow,
Of a season with love and with care.

May you and your Christmas be “Merry”.
May you abound with the gift of glee.
May you glow with glitter and sparkle,
Because of love and hope from God and family.

Contact info: Andy Grossman 530.261.2639
Home 530.938-1567 – 780 S.Weed Blvd. Weed, CA 96094
Julie: mjulianne@snowcrest.net 530.261.5854
juliannesofcalifornia.com (Juliart School)
juliannesofcalifornia.artfire.com (art creations)



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Someday Doesn't Have to Be Tomorrow


I've been thinking about writing a song or poem called "Someday Doesn't Have to be Tomorrow" for a while now.  I've even talked about the concept and idea with my family and close friends.  But once again, when I sat down to write today, something unexpected came out.  I wasn't going to post this, because it is a prayer between me and God, and it's rather personal.  But I decided to go ahead and post it.  Here's why.  I have a very close friend who can relate to this poem/prayer.  She and I benefit from our longs talks, though they are much too infrequent due to the busy-ness of life, because it is so refreshing and helpful to know that there is someone else out there in the world who feels like we do, or has been through some of the same things we have been through, or simply empathizes with us.  I am posting this very raw prayer in regards to my future relationship because I am hoping that if you are going through similar feelings, maybe this will help you feel not so alone on your journey.

My motivation to finally sit down and write this came from a movie I watched today.  For those of you whom God has blessed with true, committed love lives, hold onto them and cherish them.  Protect them.  Do not take them for granted.  Not everyone is as blessed as you are to have what you have. Hold on to your love even tighter through the hard times, and you will be stronger because of it.  The movie I watched today was "Fireproof" - a Christian movie about broken and restored relationships.  It made me cry.  That is the kind of godly love I want to give and to feel... someday.

Someday Doesn’t Have to be Tomorrow: a Prayer
~mg~

God, You know
My deepest desires,
Fears, needs, scars;
The good and bad,
All I have thought and done,
Battles I’ve won,
And universes I’ve wrecked.
Burdens I’ve born,
Injuries I’ve sustained,
My close calls with the grave.
God, You were there
In my darkest of nights.
I know Your hand
Was what kept me
From being crushed completely,
And irreparably destroyed.
I know I haven’t always
Lived the way I should have
In this bewildering,
tangled, dense forest
That is life.
I haven’t always followed
Your path.
But I am now, and have been
For many miles.
Please, God, send me
An Angel to come and hold me
and walk with me,
And learn, grow, be, breathe
With me.
This journey is very hard
Alone.
Is it too late, God,
For love?
I am working diligently every day
To be a godly woman,
A good mother,
A woman
Deserving of true love.
In this cold, confused world,
Is there anyone else out there, God,
Who wants what is right and good?
Is there a man,
Who will be steadfast and true?
Strong and kind?
Who will not seek to break me,
But only to protect me
And lift me up?
Is there a man out there
Who would love my children
As his own?
Who would love You
Most?
Who would capture my
Selective, careful, hidden heart?
For years now I have known
That someday
That man would come into
My life, and boldly turn
His life and my life into
“our life”.
God, You know
I have settled along the way,
On my quest to find
That kind of love.
I have been hurt.
I have been hindered.
I have been halted.
But each wrong turn-
Each unforseen pitfall-
Each devastating blow
Has been an opportunity
To learn and to grow.
Each scar I have been given
Serves as a reminder
That You can make all things
New.
That wounds can heal.
The memory of the pain may remain,
But the hope of a better future
Sings louder.
I can only hope that the dark desolation
I have known
Is but the threshold into something
Bright and beautiful.
I will wait out the night,
And lean into You for my strength,
My God.  My Comfort.
You know my commitment to You.
I could never make it
Without You, Lord.
I would have died
Without Your merciful hand
And saving Grace.
Your gentle, strong Love...
Has brought me back
From the throws of death.
Now it’s all I want to be.
You know, God, my commitment
To Him,
And how I have kept my
Renewed promise
To wait,
Because I know that
Someday
Doesn’t have to be tomorrow.
If he has scars,
I will kiss them,
And thank You that they did not
Destroy Him.
I will see them through gentle,
Sympathetic eyes,
Just the way that You
See mine.
Until someday arrives,
I will keep my gaze
Fixed on the heavens,
And my heart
Set upon only You.
I won’t allow the
Ensnaring vines and
branches in this dark place
To wrap me up
And distract me on this journey.
Protect me, Lord.
Protect him too.
My desire is Your will only.
My goal is whatever You would have
For me.
My purpose is love,
And to teach love.
Your Love.
Your way.
Please,
Send me a strong Angel,
To walk with me
Hand in hand
On the journey,
That we may strengthen each other’s steps,
And unified, love and live.
Until Someday arrives,
I will pray for him.
I will make good choices.
I will save my heart.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Silent and Still" ... mp3

I wrote a song many years ago - it might even be on this blog somewhere, maybe in the earlier years - about how I sometimes feel I am not hearing from God.  It talks about why I (we) are sometimes unable to hear Him when we are pleading to hear from Him the most.  It's a song that I feel God gave to me... one of those instances when He was the author, I was the pen, and music was the ink.  Anyway, it's called "Silent and Still".  I sang and played it in church a few weeks ago, and my friends Tina and Leon recorded it on their phone.  I didn't know they were doing that, or I would have tried to sing and play it a little bit better.  I am going to attempt to post it here regardless of any imperfections, and I hope what you will hear are the lyrics, most of all, because I think we all need to be reminded that hearing from God involves more than just His speaking.  Sometimes, a little action on our part is needed as well.

"Silent and Still"
~mg~

I haven't heard from You in a while.
I just realized why.
I haven't stopped and listened, and really tried to hear.
I haven't really been silent and still.

I can't count the times I've felt sorry for myself
For the answers I didn't hear.
I pray for solutions.  I pray for Your will.  But I haven't really listened,
I haven't really been silent and still.

I will not hear Your sweet voice if I'm doing all the talking.
I will not see Your will unless I close my eyes to mine.
I will not know the peace that comes from the power one can feel,
Unless I'll close my eyes, open my heart and be
Silent and still.


I will not hear Your sweet voice if I'm doing all the talking.
I will not see Your will unless I close my eyes to mine.
I will not know the peace that comes from the power one can feel,
Unless I'll close my eyes, open my heart and be
Silent and still.





Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Dead Weight


This was originally going to be a song, but I had far too many lyrics on my heart, so it turned into a poem/rhymey gush fest.  I even deleted a few stanzas to keep it from being redundant and too wordy.  Anyway, it's about my decision to quit smoking cigarettes (again) and it also addresses some of the hardships and heartaches I have endured in my lifetime, especially over the past few years, and how I didn't deal with them in a healthy way.  I am opening up to God every single dark corner of my heart and life, and I am asking Him to come in and bring something beautiful out of some pretty painful things.  I know He can and will work this miracle in me, and I can already feel it has begun.

~m~

-------------------
"Dead Weight"


I was sinking... sinking slowly,
As the anchor bound me tight.
I was running out of time and air,
And falling farther from the light.
The travesty of my tragedy
Is the irony of my life:
The weight that pulled me downward
I clung to with all my might.

Now the time has come (I have been here)
For me realize again
That the things that brought me comfort
Are the things that caved me in;
And all things I ran to were
The things that stole my life.
I am done embracing villains.
I am ready now to fight.

I realized that Sadness was
Like family to me.
And it seemed my closest friends
Were Failure, Shame, Blame and Defeat.
I’ve laid my burdens down before,
Only to reclaim the load.
I’ve pushed my fears outside the door,
Then followed them out into the cold.

I’m tired of putting my heart to things
That do not love me back.
I’m tired of denial (lies will never
Make me forget all I lack),
And keeping secrets and painting my face
And pretending I am whole and fine,
And praying and hoping, yet running,evading,
Ignoring the glaring warning signs.

I haven’t fully faced the demons I
Have met along this road.
I have locked them in a closet,
Thus, giving them a home.
I didn’t realize that by
Ignoring all the agony,
And going on as if all was fine
I was adding to catastrophe.

I have to boldly face the ache,
With blood and sweat and tears.
I must look truth in it’s ugly eye,
Despite all dread and fear.
I have to first put in the work
Before healing can come.
I have to cut dead weight so I
Can finally rise above.

Jesus only knows my wounds
And what was ripped away.
Heaven only sees the tears
Invisible on my face.
But somewhere deep beneath these scars,
A brand new hope’s in bloom.
Beauty will rise up from ashes.
Glory will rise up from gloom.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From Tragedy to Hope


11 years ago today, a terrible tragedy struck our nation.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I had just the night before made a very foolish, life-changing decision.  That day, my whole world changed, and was completely turned upside down.  I feel sick when I look back on the devastation that was going on in my country and also in my own personal life.  Many heroes arose that day, and our nation pulled together with broken hearts, yet a united strength and determination to not let the horrific injustice of 9/11/01 pull us down.  I've wished many times that we could all just have a do over on that day... that I could have the chance to rethink, undo... that I wouldn't have made the horrible choices I was making in my life at that point... that we could as a Nation have somehow forseen the attacks on the World Trade Center, and prevented the horrific and devastating loss of so many lives.  The tragedy of that day still echoes within my heart like a silent scream of helplessness and mourning.

We cannot change the past.  We cannot allow ourselves to become stuck there either.  We must not live every day with loss, tragedy and defeat as our captors.  We must move forward.  Press on.  Allow hope to fill us with the promise of a new day.  I am guilty of subconsciously allowing myself to get stuck in the past, wallowing in depression and self-accusation.  In doing so, I was inadvertently stunting my own growth.  Yes, it is important to remember.  That is how we learn what not to do in the future.  While it is important to realize we are powerless to change the past, it so much more important to give all the brokenness to Jesus and trust that He will work ALL things together for our good.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  2 Corinthians 9:8

With all the past personal failures and all the unwanted tragedies I have known in this life.... With all the changes going on in our world and all the ups and downs and possibilities and fears, I/we need to remember there is only one thing that will never, ever fail....  God's Love.  Things change.  Circumstances change.  People change.  God does not.  He stays the same, as does His love for us.  There is comfort and rest in that knowledge.

"But You [God] remain the same, and Your years will never end." - Psalm 102:27

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His Love endures forever." - Psalm 136:1

"Love never fails." - I Corinthians 13:8

"I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever." - Psalm 52:8

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness." - Jeremiah 31:3

A song I know came to my heart yesterday, and I have been listening to it non-stop.  I am going to learn it on the keyboard today so I can teach it to my worship team, and we can sing it in church on Sunday.  It's called "Your Love Never Fails", and I just love it.  It's so true!  I am so thankful today, that even in my solemn moments of reflection, I can cling to the hope and peace which comes from knowing God's Love is unfailing.  He is the Comforter; the Great Healer.  And He has promised he will make ALL things work together for my/our good.  I believe that with my whole heart.  That belief transforms the anguish into hope.

~

Here is the link to "Your Love Never Fails" - performed here by Jesus Culture:

http://youtu.be/PXsWAAhnGhc

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Gift is Acceptable


God blows my mind.  His unconditional Love and his ever abundant Grace are gifts that no price tag can ever be placed upon.  He has been working in me and through me in ways that are just so mind-boggling and surprising.  I have trouble understanding how God can take someone who is broken, and use them to spread a message of healing and love.  I am humbled by it, and so blessed.

The music practice with my worship team today started out rough.  We were short a few members, and instruments.  We were tired.  We were all kinda going through our own inner struggles.  The music just wasn't jiving or flowing, initially, and I began to really begin to sweat the concert we are putting on tomorrow.  I woke up feeling totally unworthy of this position God has called me to on the worship team, and I kept hearing this voice inside my head, "You're not a strong enough musician.  You're not a good enough singer.  You're not a whole enough person.  You shouldn't be up on that stage."  I opened up to my team about the thoughts and feelings of inadequacy I was struggling with, and we all decided we needed to pray.  The prayer time really helped.  And after that, the fogginess of the music kinda lifted, and things began to flow much better.  Instruments began to mesh, voices began to find harmony, and we could feel the Holy Spirit's presence with us.  It was so powerful, that after practice was finished and everyone left, I could not stop singing and playing for about another hour.  It was just me and God up there.  I was worshiping Him through song, and it was a really special time.  I heard his voice speak louder than the ones in my head.  He was saying to me, "I love you.  Do not be afraid.  I am with You.  I will use you to bless others and build My Kingdom, because you are willing."

God is showing me that no matter how unworthy we "feel" (and in actuality, we are), He will use us right where we are and bless others through the gifts that He has given us.  We don't have to feel good enough or well enough or perfect enough or ready... we just need to be obedient to His leading, and give of what we have been given.  

"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." - 2 Corinthians 8:12

I pray that God speaks through us tomorrow as we sing and play for Him, and I pray that lives and hearts are touched through the lyrics and the music.  May HIS voice be heard.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Discrimination and Love


I wrote a sermon last night.  LOL.... no clue why I wrote it, but it came to me, and I had to get it out.  Crazy.   Not even sure what to do with it!  I'm not a pastor or a saint or anything remotely close, so why a "sermon" came to me is beyond me.  I was thinking, "What the heck am I gonna do with all this stuff I just wrote... Oh, wait... I have a blog!  Maybe I'll just post it on there."  Soooo, here it is.  Hope you don't stone me for writing it!

~~~

Discrimination.  It’s BIG no-no in our society.  We are supposed to be loving, as Jesus was loving.  Love is, after all, the whole point.  And yet, discrimination exists, even among (and sometimes most prominently evident in) Christian communities.  Discrimination because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age or disability.... those are things that are unacceptable in today’s culture.  I’d like to make a bold statement and say that I agree that MOST discrimination is wrong.  But not all.  Discrimination means: “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit... the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating  judgment... something that serves to differentiate”, according to the Dictionary.  So in reading the definition of the word, I would say there is actually a time and place for it.”

“Discrimination because of race, creed, color,
religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age or disability...”

I want to dissect this... It is biblically wrong to discriminate against the above, with exception.  Discrimination against someone’s God-given being (like race, sex, disability, age, ancestry, etc...) is wrong.  But biblically, there is discrimination that is justified, but must be tempered with love and wisdom rather than judgmentalism and condemnation... and that is one that a person is not born with, but chooses... such as: religion.  I believe that religion is the one thing about which we SHOULD be discriminatory.  Backing up off of that hot topic for a moment, let me say that God loves all races, colors, sexes the same.  None is better in His eyes than another.  Here’s how we know God is not partial to these things:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” 1 John 2:9

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”  Romans 10:12

 “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  James 2:9

“For God shows no partiality.”  Romans 2:11

“And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  Colossians 3: 10 - 11

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:27

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”  Acts 17:26

And a lot more references regarding race, color, sex, etc. exist... HOWEVER, here’s what the Bible has to say about religion...

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”  Colossians 2:8

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: ...”  1 John 2...

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ...”  I Peter 2

“Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”  2 Timothy 3:5

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..”  I Peter 3:15

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”  I john 4:9

“For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, ...”  I Timothy 2...

There are SO many more scriptures on that topic.  Race, color, sex.... those are all equal in the eyes of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit..... however, “religion” is not.  He is the one, true, only God.  And Jesus is the only “way” into the Heaven that we all want (or should want) to be a part of...

JESUS speaking: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the father, but by me.”  John 14:6

So this is where I have a slight problem with being “open” to all beliefs.  Because, clearly, God isn’t either...

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  Ephesians 4: 4-6

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.  Isaiah 43:10

“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”  I Corinthians 8:6

“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord.“ Jeremiah 6...

Pretty clear.  Black, white, rich, poor, any and all walk of life... He LOVES you, and wants you to live in glory with Him in Heaven.  The only exception is... those who deny Him... Jesus... His diety... they make their own path.  And it is a dark one.  There are scriptures about that too.  But I’d rather focus on the positives, and hope and pray that those who deny Jesus Christ as the Way/Truth/Life will somehow awaken and see that He is calling them into Life.  And He wants all of mankind to accept that Love, and be a part of that eternal bliss.  Yes, there are boundaries, without which we would not be able to attempt to define and/or understand Love.  God’s Love.  Regardless of race, creed, color, religion, etc, etc, etc... God’s Love is the only thing that can save any one of us.  None of us are beneath God's ability to love and save.  Not one of us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16





Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ambiguous Quest



Tiny fragments
Like shards of sanity
Surround my bleeding feet,
And cut me as I trudge forward
Through the thickest of dark
Towards the opaque window.
If only I can catch a glimpse,
Maybe I’ll know how to prepare.
But as always,
The unknown taunts me.
From beyond the space I cannot see,
It shrieks it’s familiar, high-pitched
Song of mockery.
I hum along.  I bleed.  I wander,
Searching for an exit sign.
Wishing for a guide, or a light
Or even just some shoes.
I stop for a moment.
I reach down and pull out a shiny sliver...
Oh look, it’s so sparkily...
So pretty.
I hold it up to my eyes and realize
It is a mirror.
The image I see in the broken piece
Is not my own.
It couldn’t possibly be.
The girl in the reflection is
Much too young...
Much too vibrant...
Too confident...
Too whole.
So I shake my head,
And set it down.
I step on it,
And bleed again.
I wonder a lot as I wander about.
My mind is brimming with
Ambiguous questions,
Like:
What’s on the other side of that window?
Why won’t the wretched singing stop?
How much can one person actually bleed?
What did the shiny mirror look like
Before it broke?
Who broke it?
Why is no one coming
To save me?
Ugh!
All these nagging questions...
I don’t have time for them.
I must hurry.
After all, I’m on a quest
To find out
What my quest is.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cooking w/ a Challenge


My mom has been stuggling w/ health issues, the most recent of which is an ulcer, which has had her in agony for the past month, before being diagnosed with it yesterday (please keep her in your prayers).  One of the ways she is being treated is by a very strict diet.  There's a long list of things she cannot eat, which really limits her ability to, well, eat.  That has got to be so frustrating.  So, I have decided that since I live so close to her now, I am going to use my love for cooking to create very healthy, savory meals which omit any ingredients she cannot have, and include those ingredients which are healthy and good for her.

I made dinner again tonight, to show her she can love food, even with so many restrictions.  I googled some recipes on allrecipes.com, and subbed out the bad ingredients, replacing them with healthy ones.  The following is what my mom, grandpa, son & I ate for dinner.  This meal fed all 4 of us, with leftovers.  ...Shrimp Dijonnaise, Vegan Yellow Squash Casserole & Raisin and Spice Brown Rice.  I have to admit, it was all pretty yum.  Even my 9 year old loved the whole meal.  He told me over and over.  Score!


Shrimp Dijonnaise

1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP Worcestershire
1 TBSP Herbes de Province
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp crack black pepper
3/4 lb cooked shrimp, peeled & deveined

In a large resealable bag, combine the apple juice, coconut oil, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and herbs and seasoning. Add shrimp; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 4 hours, turning occasionally. Drain.  Do not discard marinade. Broil shrimp 4 in. from the heat for 2 minutes or until pink.  Pour mixture into pan and add 2 Tbsp corn starch.  Bring just barely to a boil.  Let cool to thicken into a gravy.  Serve shrimp w/ the dijon gravy poured over the top.

~


Vegan Yellow Squash Casserole

4 cups sliced yellow squash
1/2 cup chopped onion (sub 1 chopped apple if you don’t like onion)
35 rice crackers, crushed
1 cup diced vegan Cheddar cheese substitute
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut butter/oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Place squash and apple in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour in a small amount of water. Cover, and cook until squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and place in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix together cracker crumbs and cheese. Stir half of the cracker mixture into the cooked squash and apples. In a small bowl, mix together water and rice milk, then add to squash mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup coconut oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cracker mixture, and dot with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

~


Raisin and Spice Brown Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/3 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring brown rice, chicken broth, butter, and bay leaf to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes; discard bay leaf.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in onion and ginger; cook and stir until the bell pepper begins to brown on the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cumin and coriander, then stir in the celery and raisins. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until the celery becomes tender, about 5 minutes. Once ready, stir the bell pepper mixture into the cooked rice along with the soy sauce; season to taste with pepper.

~

The above recipes contain NO gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, beef, or acidic fruits or vegetables (like garlic, onion or citrus), and are very low in fat and calories as well.  See... who says you have to eat bland, boring food when you eat healthy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Relationship Advice from a Single Woman....


We as women are funny, funny creatures.  We strive for independence and thrive on being individuals.  And yet, for some inexplicable reason, almost all of us almost always sacrifice every bit of that, or at least most of that, for the man we love.  This may seem like a good thing to do, and it certainly comes naturally and usually completely inadvertently for us, however, it’s actually one of our weaknesses.  When we sacrifice our individual interests and desires simply because they differ from the man’s whom we have chosen to completely wrap ourselves around, it eventually breeds resentment within us, and in the long run, can often become the very cause of the “breakup”.

As an example, I have a friend who’s musical taste changes based upon the musical genre preferences of the man she happens to be dating at that time.  I have another friend who absolutely loves chic flicks, but never watches them because she knows her man doesn’t like them, so they only watch what he wants to watch.  Some women love to exercise, but wind up with guys who prefer to play video games all day, so they give up that interest in order to be near to and spend more time with their man.  In my past, I’ve found myself not going to church, which is something I really want to do for me and my children, because the man I am dating at the time does not like going.  I've also known women who were single moms, and started dating a man who was not fond of children, consequently, neglecting the kids for their man.  Not good!  Just a few examples, but there are many, many more that come to mind.

I know the guys we love appreciate the fact that we want to do what they want to do and take an interest in their interests, but I don’t think that they really desire us to give up every single thing we love, just because it does not fit their lifestyle, or past experience.  If they do, then hello red flag!  Run, he’s a control-freak.  No, the guys worth keeping, I believe, want us to have our own individuality and even respect us for it.  Just as we respect them for theirs.  A girl worth keeping is not a passive pushover with no opinions.  A girl worth keeping is not a doormat.  Same goes for the guys worth keeping.  Both sexes should mutually respect the other, and not try to control the other.  Both sexes should encourage each other in their separate hobbies and likes.

I do feel it is extremely important to have at least some, even if only just a few, mutual interests and activities.  This builds the bond between you both, and creates opportunities to spend time together.  If there is not one single thing in common, then that is also problem.  If you find yourself in a relationship in which you feel you have no compatibility, before giving up, try to create compatibility by creating common interests.  Come up with ideas that you both enjoy, whether it be playing pool, gardening, hiking, traveling, cooking, playing musical instruments, etc, etc, etc.  There are so many things you can do, even new things you have not previously tried apart from each other, that just might bring you closer together.

Ladies, please don’t hear me wrong.  I’m not saying it’s bad for us to adopt new interests, based on our partners.  That’s one of the ways we show them we love them.  And you never know, the new interest he has introduced you to can sometimes become one your favorite things as well.  When we take an interest in the things they enjoy, it shows them we genuinely care about them.   Please don't be confused... what I’m saying is, you CAN go too far with that.  Find the happy medium between doing the things HE loves, and doing the things YOU love.  Don’t ever sacrifice 100% of your desires, passions and dreams for a man , or mark my words, you will wind up blaming him for it.  If you don’t consciously NOT do that, you will lose both yourself AND your man.

So, I guess I’m saying (in all my wisdom about relationships... HA!), Girls:  it’s ultra important to maintain your sense of self, who you are, and what you love.  Yes, love your man and do things he loves with him, but don’t sacrifice every thing that you love.  It neither has to be all his way, nor all yours.  I can be a pleasant mixture of both.  Happy medium. This will help build a healthy respect, a balanced relationship, and well-rounded conversation.   Guys:  Be aware when your girl seems to only want to do the stuff you’ve made it very clear that you want to do.  She just may be subconsciously losing herself, and in time, it could be detrimental to your relationship.  Encourage her to express her feelings about her separate interests (actively seeking to learn about what she loves is a huge way to make her feel loved), and then don’t complain when she wants to do those things sometimes.  Again, happy medium.  Encourage each other to be individuals... this will cause you to be stronger as a couple.  These things are not the key to a healthy relationship, but they will definitely help to promote one.  Commitment, strong communication, mutual respect, affection, truly listening, kindness, generosity, recognizing when to compromise, refraining from insulting, looking for opportunities to love and spoil each other, etc. are also a few of the imperative things in creating an atmosphere of love.

Just a few of my thoughts on relationships.  Lord knows I’m quite the expert.  ...learning the hard way is still learning!  ;-)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Hideaway Dreams



...So much to feel.
Too much to say.
Maybe I’ll pray for a hideaway,

Where the hurt can heal,
And all the pesky wishes can fade.
And I can finally learn how to meditate.

There, no one will see
The fractured life
That clutters up my cluttered mind;

Preventing the welcome breeze
From blowing nigh,
To wisp away these whispering lies.

Where tranquility and Zen
Exist only, and diffuse all the flame.
Where chaos has no name.

Where it’s just Him...
My guest only. No harbored blame;
No intruding, shadows of shame.

And sweet slumber comes.
Oh, how I yearn to dream
A happy, mesmeric string of dreams...

Not the dark ones
That flood my screen.
And cause me to awaken to the sound of my own scream.

I’ll steal a moment
From my surging day,
And take that time to look up and pray,

I’ll ask and own it,
(I guess they call it faith)
That I’ll seek and find my hideaway.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Courageous

I have had the fog removed from my eyes. It was not a gradual fade; it completely vanished instantaneously. I have been living lately underneath a dark cloud of depression. I have felt defeated, and have entertained thoughts of giving up. I saw no hope, and no way out. I feared that I was being overcome completely by sorrow & failure. But the fog has lifted, and I can now see things more clearly.

I've been going through some very hard times. My life has not been easy, and it's recently come to a screeching halt. I've been praying to God for answers and guidance, and have been doing a lot of soul searching. As I was folding laundry this morning, I popped in the movie "Courageous", which my sons urged me to rent (they saw it this past weekend while at a church camp out with my dad). This movie was like a light switch. It completely illuminated my mind and heart, and I began to realize & own some very important things...
1) There is nothing I can do to change the mistakes and/or unwise choices I have made in my past.
2) Giving into a defeatist attitude & wallowing in feelings of failure will in no way help me to make better choices for my future, and the future of my children.
3) There is no better time than the present to make a change, and to begin living with honor and courage, and to make a commitment to being the best mother and human being I can be... even if that means making some tough decisions.
4) I can't do anything about the choices other people have made that have negatively affected my kid's lives & my own. My children have not had courageous fathers. But from now on, they will be able to say they have a courageous mother. I will commit to them and to God (and to myself) that I will continue to remain single until the Lord brings into our lives a courageous man - a man of honor - a man who possesses the values and integrity I want my children to be exposed to. And God will need to reveal all of that to me.
5) God WILL provide blessing and favor upon my children and myself. Our home will be blessed because I choose and will continue to choose to place Him first. I will courageously let go of false securities and crutches I have held onto for too long just to get by. It's time to understand the true meaning of Faith, and live it, walking blindly into the unknown following only Jesus.

After the movie, I drove to the gas station around the corner to put gas in my empty gas tank so that I will be able to pick up my kids from school today. I had only $5 left, and that bought me just over one gallon of gas. I have no money, no job, am receiving no child support; and this weekend, my kids and I are left with no option but to move up North to live in the apartment my parents own beneath their house. I've struggled for years to provide financially for my three amazing kids, but am finally being forced to humble myself and admit that we're just not making it. I am exhausted in every single way, and I am weak. I've had to admit that I really need the help of my family right now, which has been SO hard to do as an independent woman, and one with a little too much pride. I need God to show me what's next - where to go from here.

In this time of new beginnings, I know I am blessed. I have a supportive family, and three incredible human beings I have the honor to call my children. Right now is the perfect opportunity to hit "reset" on my life. It is the perfect time to embrace hope, commit to faith and accept God's peace, which truly does surpass my own human understanding. I will be courageous and seek wisdom. I will be a strong, nurturing and loving Mother, and raise my children in a godly home. That is the greatest opportunity I could ever hope for. God, give me the strength to do it well.

If you haven't seen the movie Courageous, I implore you (whether you are a parent, married, single, young, old)... watch it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Heart of Love

My daughter has such a heart for people. In the midst of moving, the last few weeks of school, homework, peer issues, and trying to make sense of life, she has such a sweet and genuine heart of love. She's facing some tough choices and adversities at this point in her life. But instead of putting all her focus on herself, which would be typical at her age (twelve), she's incredibly in tune to others.

She called me into her room to open up to me a bit tonight before bed. She's concerned about a friend she knows. Her room is in disarray (not normal for her) because we're in the middle of a move. But as she sits on her bed in tears amongst the chaos, she tells me about how God has laid this friend on her heart. She listened to a couple of Christian songs by Skillet, and felt the need to reach out to someone who is hurting. It moved me to tears right along with her. She was even so bold in the Spirit, just before she called me in to talk about it, that she called her friend and bore her heart on the matter. We talked about it, then prayed together about it. I can't help but be thankful to God for giving her a heart after His own. She loves, and gives & feels so deeply for others. I can very much relate to this. It's can be a burden sometimes, but is ultimately such a blessing. Giving your time, energy, love, support and most importantly prayer to others makes life so full of purpose. I'm proud of my daughter. I'm thankful that at her young age, she "gets it".

Life's purpose is love. Seeds planted do grow. Thank you, Lord, for what you are doing in my daughter's life, and in others lives she touches.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Autumn Came in May

When Autumn shed its leaves again,
I thought the ache would finally end,
And memories would fade into mulch.
Then winter came with biting cold,
I'd hoped these thoughts would melt like snow,
But icy winds reminded me of your touch.

Then springtime came around & I
Saw my hopes like flowers rise...
I couldn't see the garden for the dirt.
And as the birds chirped freedoms song,
I fell back into the arms of one
Who wouldn't let me get past the hurt.

Familiar heartache plays
A song I've sung for days...
This year Autumn comes in May.

I am determined mindfully
To set my loathsome sorrow free,
And ready myself for sweet release.
Maybe this year by summertime,
I'll willingly let the sun shine,
And forget all that caused my heart to freeze.

These clouds will blow away.
Hope will outshine the rain,
But this year Autumn comes in May.

In May, the magic tulips bloom,
And butterflies soar past the gloom.
I have no time for muted shades of gray.
It's color that my darkness seeks,
And love to rise, not fall like leaves.
I'm longing for a bright, sunny day.
Yes, this year Autumn came in May,
...But this year isn't over.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Anchors... and a song

I’m restructuring so many things in my life lately. Or, working at it, rather. I’ve always yearned to be the best person I could possibly be in all areas. I’ve always failed miserably at perfection. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be perfect, and am becoming much more realistic in my expectations of myself as the years pass. That is not to say that I have become lackadaisical in my pursuit of wholeness, it just means I have learned the art of acceptance. Of myself. Not of what I’ve done, nor where I’ve been, but acceptance of ME. Who I am at my core. The journey towards comprehension of God’s complete and unconditional love of me is still an ongoing one, but my path is getting a little smoother, thankfully. I will always strive to be better, but I think I’m done kicking myself so hard when I fall down. When I do that, it makes the getting up that much more difficult. The word “accept" means: to believe the goodness or realness of something. Am I perfect? Uh.... no. But I am learning to accept myself for who I am WHILE continuing to strive to become better. Does that sound like a crazy paradox?

In my current life restructuring phase, I am finding myself a little sad. There are things that I have allowed to be a part of my life that are really holding me down. Certain people, certain emotions, specific character traits, habits and excuses.... a whole gamut of things that I need to find a way to let go of. This feels like loss to me, and it makes me a little sad and afraid. But what I need to remember is that if I let go of those distracting, defeating “things” that are occupying my heart and head and life space; I will have a lot more room for all the positive, reinforcing things to enter in and become a part of my life. It’s not a loss, it’s a gain... That is the mantra that I need to repeat to myself.

In my somber state this morning, I was praying a little, wallowing in worry about how I am going to be able to do all of this restructuring, and feeling a little bit like crawling back into bed and going to sleep so I don’t have to deal with it. But ignoring certain things in my life that have really brought me down emotionally is exactly what I should not be continuing to do. Because ignoring is exactly the reason my life is not where I want it to be. I need to be strong, face the truth, and cut the ropes to the many anchors which are stalling my voyage to joy. Joy is, after all, my ultimate destination. So back to my somber state... I was sitting alone in my quiet house, wondering where to start. Once again, I felt God telling me to go to my keyboard and start to sing and play. The song that came to me is one I wrote many years ago, when I was going through a tough time in life. As I began to play and sing it, it all came rushing back to me, and the words were so much what I needed. It was almost like God was speaking directly into my heart through the lyrics I had written so long ago. He is so mysterious and amazing. I am so thankful that He reaches out to me right where I am in the unexpected ways that He does.

I had a friend ask me the other day when we were on a walk on the beautiful Sacramento River Trail near the Sundial Bridge, “Do you feel like you are ready to fall in love with ‘the one’?” We were talking about relationships, and being single. I did not even hesitate with my answer. I replied, “No!!!” And this got me thinking, why would I feel unready for something that I truly yearn for and am designed for... love? It is because I want to be the very best that I can be for the man I choose to spend the rest of my life with. I don’t want him to meet me in this restructuring phase. I want him to see the finished result, so I can be really, really, really good at loving him. With no anchors getting in the way.

Here is the song that helped me this morning. I may have posted this on my blog years ago, but I felt it was post-worthy again, for the following reason..... If you are feeling down today, or if you have some anchors you need to drop, or some restructuring that you need to do, my hope is that these lyrics will uplift you. I wish I could sing and play it for you, because you never get the full emotion behind the song with just the lyrics. Regardless, here it is:

"I Will Not Let You Down"

Vs 1:
When you feel afraid,
When your dreams start to fade,
When your worries are on a roll.
When you feel alone,
When you can’t find your way home,
Just remember, I’m in control.

Chorus:
I will not let you down.
I will not let you down .
I’ll carry you,
And not let you down.

Verse 2:
When times are a bit tough,
When your road is way too rough,
When heartache’s all you can feel;
Those are the times I’m there.
Those are the times I care the most.
I’ll protect you; I’ll be your shield!

Chorus:
I will not let you down.
I will not let you down.
I’ll carry you,
And not let you down.

Bridge:
People will say
You can make it on your own,
But you know I’m the Way,
And my arms will carry you home!

Chorus:
I will not let you down.
I will not let you down .
...Nothing can take away My love.
...I’m watching you from above.
I’ll carry you,
And not let you down.

I’m so glad we have a God who carries us through the rough spots.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Healthier Me...

I have decided that a lifestyle change is in order for me. The motivation hit me just after my youngest son patted my tummy, then told me I had a belly because I was going to have another baby. What??!!! Do I seriously look pregnant? I know he was saying it to be silly and funny, but it did kinda resonate. Getting fit is something I have been wanting to do for a while now. Nate will be glad to know, later in life, that my final motivation for completely restructuring my physical lifestyle came from him.

I rarely exercise, though I do take my kids on walks and bike rides about once a week. I eat horribly, with no thought of calories, fat or health consciousness whatsoever. It’s hard to diet when you really, really, really enjoy food! But I have decided that the feeling of sluggishness and exhaustion that always seems to stay with me probably have a lot to do with both the lack of exercise and lack of good diet. It’s time for a change!

I laid out a diet and exercise plan this morning, and I am really excited to be starting this new endeavor. I’m no expert in this field, but I do have a few friends who know quite a bit about it, so I ran this by them, and they said it looks pretty good. It’s a good starting place, anyway. I don’t want to go too extreme with it, initially, for fear of setting myself up for failure, which is what I have always seemed to do in the past. Crash diets and starving myself just do not work. Taking out all carbs or all fat or all wheat, etc... those types of diets never work for me either, not in the long run. What I need is a well-balanced, healthful way to eat, and also incorporate into my daily routine some moderate exercise to begin burning fat. I’m hoping this will also lower my blood pressure, and give me a better metabolism. I’m not going to take any diet pills or drink any shakes or buy any pre-packaged diet foods. I’m going to do this the all-natural way. In the end, my goal is just a healthier, more energetic and confident me. I’ll never be super-model perfect, but I can at least be healthy and happy with who I am.

I was told by a good friend who knows a lot about healthy living, that in order to succeed at a lifestyle change, you have to love it. You have to want it, otherwise you won’t be committed to it. So the exercises I plan to do will be ones that I actually enjoy, and the meals that I eat, while healthy, will be made to taste savory and delicious. He also told me that I should not think of this in terms of quitting something, as that creates a feeling of loss; but rather think of it in terms of gaining something positive in my life, i.e.: health, better body image, strength, energy, etc. I need to come to a place where I would rather have those good additions to my life, than have the bad habits that draw me down.

So for starters, drinking wine as often as I do definitely is not good for a person. It’s high in sugars, and alcohol has been proven to be very detrimental to a person’s body. I don’t plan to cut it out completely, but certainly take it down to a much lower level of frequency. I do love my wine, but I love the feeling of being healthy, more.

Additionally, I am going to need to quit smoking. That’s going to be very challenging, as I have smoked for 16 years. The only time I have ever been able to successfully quit is when I became pregnant all three times. I quit cold-turkey those times, because the health of the life within me was more important than my craving. Unfortunately, nothing has ever proven to be motivation enough for me to quit, since those times. And because I am not planning on getting pregnant any time soon (contrary to my son’s jesting conclusion as to the reason for my squishy tummy), I am going to have to find the will-power to quit for different reasons. I’d say my health is a pretty good place to start.

I wrote up a what I call “Monica’s Lifestyle Change Plan” this morning, that includes diet and exercise planning. I also plan to take some pictures and weigh myself, so I can better be able to track my progress. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-sabotage, so I am hoping and praying that this time, I have the determination and self-control it’s going to take to become a healthier me. I’m posting all this on my blog, as a way to publicly hold myself accountable. Wish me luck!

As always, I will continue to work on growing and improving my emotional and spiritual health, but I am so excited to now be putting equal amounts of effort into my physical health as well. I’m not sure why I have been neglecting that side of me for so long - I probably need to analyze that - but I am excited and ready for change!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Out-Wait the Gale

During the "cold-seasons" in life, poetry is my release. I'm hoping to share some happier poems once the sun shines in my world again. And it will.


“Out-wait the Gale”
3/16/12

Windy times.
No end in sight.
The gales do blow
All day. All night.

I cannot rest.
I can’t recall
A time without
These winds at all.

I wish this storm
Would pass me by,
I wish for spring,
And warm sunshine,

And though I know
For everything
There is a time,
And seasons bring

Both serene warmth
And bitter cold;
It’s just these gusts
Are growing old.

I wish that I
Could hibernate
Until the storm
At last does break,

And beams of light
Pierce through the clouds,
And teardrops dry,
And sun rains down.

But in this season
I will grow,
Like flower buds
Beneath deep snow.

I will not fret
Nor hide, nor wail.
I’ll bide my time:
Out-wait the gale.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sing, Pray, Smile.

Busy, busy morning. Woke up late. Accidentally shut off my alarm when I meant to hit snooze. I had a half hour to get the kids ready for school, feed them a healthy breakfast, and make 3 lunches to go. As I'm preparing breakfast in the kitchen, I burst into a song I have not heard in many years. It's a hymn I used to hear in church as a child. I rarely sing in the morning, 'cuz I'm not a morning person, and I'm typically too groggy to think, much less hold a tune. But this song just would not leave my heart and lips this morning. Who on earth wakes up out of a deep sleep having their first thought be a random song, much less a song from the 1800's??? Yeah, that'd be me.... Anyway, I kept singing, "Are you weak and heavy laden? Are there worries everywhere? Please, don't ever be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer." Such an old school song, but such comforting lyrics. I changed up the meter and dynamics to give it a more modern feel. My kids liked it. What an awesome feeling to be working in the kitchen, singing an uplifting song while my kids are quietly eating their breakfast and listening. Kinda set a really positive tone for the day.

When I got home from dropping them at school, I knew I needed to begin getting ready for my job interview today, but before doing that, I couldn't help but spend a little time in prayer, then go to my keyboard and start chording and singing the song. I googled and printed up the lyrics so I could sing the right ones... apparently I didn't remember them very well, but I was on the right track. Such a happy, easy song, and in the key of C. It doesn't get much easier than that! I now have a smile on my face and a peace in my soul, knowing I have taken everything on my heart - good, bad and ugly - to the Lord in prayer. Today is going to be a good one. I feel it. I hope yours is a good Friday too. If you remember this song from way, way, way back in the day, hum or sing it a little. It'll make your heart smile.


"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"

Text: Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886
Music: Charles C. Converse, 1832-1918


1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

2. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thankful for the answers I do not yet have....

I was talking to my Mom a few days ago about all the emotional healing I have done over the past 11 months. I was attempting to explain to her how odd it is for me to at last feel such a deep peace and sense of knowing that God is at work in my life, even when I may not actually see His active hand in the now. It's perplexing to me that I can feel such a welling of hope about the future, and yet have so many adversities in my immediate path. One of these adversities has been not having employment for a few months now. I presently have no income - embarassing to admit, after all those years of being a "productive member of society"... God must have known I needed the humbling - and I haven't received any child support in a very long time. It has been quite stressful for me in the past, but for some reason, I'm not as stressed out anymore, even though my circumstances have not changed. I was telling her that God knows I need a job in order to support my children and provide a good life for them (although my hearts desire is to be a stay-at-home mom/writer), but that for some reason, the doors just haven't been opening for the past 5 months that I have been out. Nonetheless, I still feel such an unexpected positivity, in the midst of my dwindling bank account. She asked me if I had read my devotional that morning, from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I told her I hadn't. She said the devotional was about thanking God in the midst of adversity. Not just trusting Him for what is to come, but actually THANKING Him for what I do not yet have. I loved that, so I've been trying to remember to do that the past 2 days.

Yesterday morning, I woke up very motivated to become once again gainfully employed. I applied for every job I could find online, but was discouraged to discover that pretty much the only job openings out there in my area are ones that would pay no where near what I need to support a family of four on my own. But I applied anyway. Didn't hear back from any of them. I've been to a few interviews in the past few months, and they all either have crappy hours or crappy pay or tell me I am over-qualified. It's been disheartening. I felt a bit defeated, so I contemplated taking a nap, but poured myself a cup of coffee instead and went and sat in my backyard, just trying to soak up the sunshine and refocus my thoughts and perspective. I felt sorry for myself for only a moment, when I realized, **Monica! Look around you at the beautiful world you live in. The sun. The trees. The breeze. The singing birds. The fact that you've had the opportunity, finally, to be able to be a Mom with all the time in the world to spend with your amazing kids for the past 5 months. You need to be thanking God for the answers you don't have right now. Because you KNOW that He has never let you down. And He never will. His timing is perfect.** So I began to pray, and thank God for the answers I do not have. I thanked Him for all the blessings I do have. I told Him that my faith would not waiver, even though I don't have clear direction or lighted paths right now. I felt chills, and peace and hope wash over me so much, and I was instantly inspired to write a song. Haven't written one for a few months, so I was excited.

I ran inside to go sit down at my keyboard and see what melody came to me. I knew the theme of the song would be "thanking God for the answers I don't have", but that was as far as I got with it, because as I was heading down my hall to my room to begin playing, my phone rang from the living room. I almost let it go to voice mail, but decided I should check it, in case it was a job application response. ...It was a friend of mine, who I used to work with. She was calling to tell me about a job opening with her company, that is right up my field of expertise. She said she had already spoken to management about me in depth, explaining to them my strong work ethic, self-motivated personality, drive to succeed and past work achievements. She said she was told to tell me to apply right away. She said she felt like God was telling her to go to bat for me, and that she would do everything she could to try and help me get that job. So, considering the timing of that phone call, I decided there was no way that God's hand could not be in this. I applied for the job, and heard from the Manager (who was a former business acquaintence of mine when I was an Escrow Officer) a few hours later. He said he knew I was highly capable, because he remembered my work. He said he was giving the green light, and that I should be receiving a call to schedule an interview in the next few days. Yay!

So, I just now got off the phone with one of the managers, who scheduled a job interview with me. If it goes well, my financial worries will ease up quite a bit. I'm excited! The only down-side will be the hours. I will lose out on some very valuable time with my children. This has been something I have been struggling to avoid, because I know how important it is for kids to have a mom who is present as much as possible. But I also know I need to provide for them, and keep a warm roof over their heads. And beggars cannot be choosers. I am praying that if this job opportunity is truly from God, that He will allow me to get the position. I'm actually looking forward to it. Is it my ultimate dream job? No. If I had my way, I'd be a professional songwriter, poet and author. But life does not always end up quite the way we dreamed it would. The important thing is to recognize God's hand at work in our lives, thanking Him every step of the way... even if it is for answers we do not yet have. And even when it is for the life that was not our original desire, but is Plan B or C. Because God can make plan B or C a very blessed and beautiful life. The future is filled with hope and promise, I just know it.

If you think of it, would you say a prayer for me regarding the job interview and this potential new endeavor? I would greatly appreciate it! Love to all. ~m~