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A Little Bit Closer

“Be still.”  We used to hear those words frequently from Dad when we were little.  Three little wiggling, chattering bodies in the back seat of his Dodge Charger while we were at the bank drive-through would elicit a furrowed-brow, pursed-lip “be still” from Dad.  He needed to be able to concentrate, if just for a moment, and we were good at distracting him.  He wasn’t being mean, but he meant to cut to the chase and gain mental clarity quickly, and he couldn’t do that as long as he was hearing “stop touching me!” or “Mom, can I have some gum?” or “When are we gonna be done?” from the peanut gallery.  We didn’t have time to be still when we were children.  There was too much to do and see and chatter about. 

I don’t know what happened, but along through the years of getting from then to where I am now, I have developed a desperate need to get quiet.  It’s not that I’m so surrounded by actual noise, but the noise in my head is astounding.  Whether it’s hashing out a disagreement ad nauseum in my mind, or trying to reconstruct helpful answers for some auditor at work, or anticipating how much time I don’t have to complete all I want to get done, I just never seem to be still, physically or otherwise.

There seems to be an overarching theme in my thinking that there is some goal or objective, or some period of time that is yet to come, something greatly expected and anticipated… a time when there will be stillness and wholeness.  “If I can just get this done, or that done, if I can just figure out how to…” fill in the blank. There will be a time when our schedules won’t be too much and our bodies won’t remind us how broken we are, but I’m convinced it won’t be while I’m on this earth.  I think it’s called Heaven.  I am human and I know at the core of my being that I was not meant to be broken or confused.  We understand without even thinking it consciously that the perfection of the Garden of Eden was once possible and is now just outside our earthly grasp. When we don’t get the result we hope for, we resort to plan B, C, D, E… “Hmmm… plan B didn’t work.  Next work around, please.”

Back to the car for a minute.  When Dad said “be still!” he didn’t mean that he had to be completely restored, body and soul in that moment.  He just wanted a little peace so he could think.  While I am longing for complete restoration – physical, emotional, mental and last, but by no means least, spiritual – I understand that there are lesser ways I can be restored until the Lord returns and fulfills his promise of complete restoration which can lighten the burden of being a human, broken by sin and physical decay.

My prayer today is for God to help me see those things in my heart and in my life which are causing me not to hear his voice.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

World Peace

Lately, I’ve noticed that I think a lot about the future.  I started writing out short, mid and long range goals.  Landscaping, organizing closets, remodeling the pantry, overhauling the kitchen… I’ve done this at different points in my life to help me focus on the projects that are most achievable and goals that are most attainable, all in an effort to make me feel like I’m not wasting my time, not missing out on whatever sense of fulfillment I long for.  I see the needs of my family at my feet and I sometimes feel helpless to meet them.  Many days I spend my thought energy trying to comfort myself that I am not missing the most important things in life, even things that matter for eternity.  I find it increasingly difficult not to be distracted by the pressing matters in my life which scream my name, competing for my attention.  Should I stay in my job? Should I stay at home?  How much is my 9-5 work really worth?  What if I just quit my job and write/sing music for a living?  Would there even be a “living?” Is my daughter ADD?  Am I ADD?  Am I truly bringing honor to God’s Name?  My brain is overwhelmed.  There are so many things I could do, or do better, if I could just work part-time or be completely dedicated to working for my own household.  Honestly, a very large portion of my thinking is spent in frustration over having to work.  It feels so futile.  I do the same things over and over everyday and I know it benefits the people I work with, but I wonder sometimes if I’m not just spinning my wheels.  Many times over the past 16 years, I’ve said that the only reason I stayed in my job is because I love the people I work with and that that is one of the best benefits to have.  I still love them, but I’m just not sure that carries as much weight as it used to.  After all, there’s always Facebook (insert snarky grin).  After being with the same company for that long, I am still without the benefits I’d actually use (namely paid vacation time or PTO).  After so many well-intentioned encouragements that maybe someday, (if I’m incredibly lucky and the stars line up just right), I’d be hired on with the client, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe that’s ever going to happen.  Meanwhile, my daughter continues to grow up before my eyes and beg me to come on field trips I can’t go on because I don’t get paid time off.  I get up, I go to work, I get home at 6 o’clock each night after having to pick her up from aftercare, wrestle with her to get her to eat, bathe, get ready for bed on time without a major meltdown, only to get up again the next day to do it all again.  Don’t get me wrong, taking care of my family is not a burden, and that’s precisely the point of this entire entry.

So… if I cut through all of the surface questions and goals, what I really need to ask is, what are my core goals?  If it is to feel at peace, then I have to ask ‘can I be at peace and still work?’  If it is to have my house in better order, then I have to ask ‘is it possible to get my house in better order and still work?’  If it is to feel fulfilled and appreciated by my husband and daughter, having provided a more harmonious and organized home, I have to ask ‘would staying home rather than working outside the home accomplish that?’  Right now, I’m not the best homemaker because I’m rarely home and I have a lot of angst about that.  There are projects all over my house that are lying unfinished, and likely will never be finished because I rarely have time to get the dog groomed, let alone bring order to my entire house.  Part of me (and my husband) worries that if I stayed home, I would watch way too much TV and not get anything done, and maybe at first, I’d be tempted, but I think it wouldn’t take long for me to come to the point of motivation and drive to accomplish the goals I hope to attain by staying home. After 23 years of working outside the home, is it time to pre-retire?  Is it time for a shift of focus in my life?  Those are pretty big questions.  It’s not world peace, but it may just mean a little peace in my little world, so I’m praying.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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On Assignment

Not much surprises me about people anymore, but every once in awhile, someone comes along who helps me to remember that life isn’t all about getting what you want.  When I started working for a large company 15 years ago, I didn’t think I’d stay more than a couple of months.  I reasoned that I wasn’t the corporate type and this was just to get me by for awhile.  Then, as he often does, God changed my heart and introduced me to a godly woman who stole my heart and made me want to stay.  She used to call her job her “marketplace assignment.” I supported her as an admin for four or five years until she moved on and I supported many other great people as an admin in the years that followed. 

Then in my seventh year, I was assigned to support a VP who was a bit different than most senior executives I’d come across.  The first day I met him, he kissed me on the cheek, much like a father would his daughter.  I was surprised because it was so relational, not at all inappropriate really.  Most execs would shake your hand and say “hey, great to meet you!”  But this guy was different because he wanted to know about my family, and he wanted me to know about him and his family.  Turns out he LOVES opera… at that time, I was singing with local orchestras.  His family and he would come to hear me sing. 

While I was assigned to him, I learned a lot about writing and speaking and balance in life.  I was always amazed at how his attitude was so positive and forward looking.  I know he went through low times in his life and career, but I rarely recall any trace of despair on his face.  I know that look of hope… it’s Jesus.

I don’t work with him anymore in my current marketplace assignment, but I am still affected by his outlook on life.  Our households still keep in contact occasionally and I hope we never lose touch. 

That’s the kind of person I want to be… each day should have something meaningful in it.  It’s all part of the daily process of serving God.  I work as an admin, but my job is much more than that… I’m on “assignment.”

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Be careful what you pray for…

So this morning I was logging on to my www.reverbnation.com account to check stats.  I don’t live or die by statistics, but sometimes it’s a nice shot in the arm when you go up a point or two.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that I am now number ONE for the Anderson area in Christian/Gospel… WOW!!!  I was hoping for top 10, but number ONE!  Wow! 

Just yesterday, I was complaining to God that I didn’t know where my job was going and that I felt sometimes sort of aimless and unfocused.  Isn’t that just like God… to give me far abundantly beyond anything I asked or thought?  In my market place assignment, I deal with numbers all day long and usually, they’re just numbers, but today, the number “ONE” is not a lonely number. :) 

Thanks, God!

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Is it? Could it be?

Let’s face it, this world is not an easy place to live. We humans are sometimes cold-hearted. We say unkind words. We act selfishly and we have an enormous capacity to hold a monster grudge, and that’s all before we’ve had our morning coffee. It’s so easy to feel like revenge and bitterness is justified. Our flesh cries out not just to even the score, but to get one up on the world, even if the person we hurt isn’t the person to made the score uneven in the first place.  We’re very good at keeping track of how we’ve been wronged because we blindly trust our feelings.  However minute the gesture, we sacrifice the relationships we have just a little bit each time we level criticism, or exact bitter revenge, or even flash a cold facial expression. The playing field never really gets leveled because bitterness and revenge are never satisfied. Bitterness and revenge give birth to bitterness and revenge. The feeling of getting even, of getting ahead is addictive to our flesh and it gives us a false sense of power. We conveniently turn our eyes away from who we are in our sinful flesh and we focus instead on the shortcomings of others.  We feel better, but we’re not.

What if we released our “right” to bitterness and revenge?  Is it possible that healing and restoration can come from giving it up?  Could it be true that Jesus’s sacrifice was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices?  God could be the ultimate scorekeeper if he wanted to be, and if he chose to reign in that way, as Psalm 130:3 says, “who could stand?” The scripture doesn’t actually answer that question in words, but the understanding is that no one could stand because God is so righteous and we are so unrighteous. The interesting thing is, Psalm 130:4 goes on to say that God offers forgiveness, that we might learn to fear him. ERRRK!  Wait a minute — God offers ME forgiveness? But I thought it was me who was wronged.  Well, yes… but God is also wronged when we refuse to give up our “right” to revenge or feelings of bitterness in exchange for the freedom of His grace.  It’s like taking God’s free gift of grace and throwing it out with the garbage, like it’s all rubbish. God is not unfamiliar with the way the human heart works, with our desire to be ahead of the game. Afterall, he created us, and he knew we would need something… someONE to break the nasty cycle of bitterness and revenge that comes with the sin that overpowers people.

Enter stage right(eous)… Jesus.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Warts and All

I remember going to my college mentor one day when I was probably about a sophomore in college.  I sat in his office in tears and I remember saying to him, “Everyone has it all together, but I’m not like them.  I’m not strong.  I don’t have it all together.”  Everyone around me seemed to have promising music careers ahead of them and seemed very focused on what they wanted.  They didn’t sit in their mentors’ offices crying about this stuff.  I was not focused, I didn’t know who I was, and I was convinced that somehow, God had passed me over for those things.  I was probably 19 years old then.  My mentor looked at me with a great deal of compassion and said, “Oh sweetie, no one has it all together. No one is perfect except the Lord.”  Those words changed everything.  Just hearing them lifted a burden off of my young shoulders.

I knew the Lord growing up.  I gave my heart to him when I was 7 years old at church camp at Yellow Creek Lake Church of God in northern Indiana.  I was raised in church, but I think it was at this point, in my mentor’s office that I began a journey of knowing who God wanted me to be, warts and all.  It was OK to be imperfect, to not have it all together.

Funny how I still need to be reminded of that, not because I think I’m so fabulous, but to take the weight off my shoulders again, remind myself I don’t have to be perfect. 

I don’t have it all together.  There.  I said it.  :)  That’s the Lord’s job.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Simmer Simmer Simmer

Someone once asked me what my process was for writing songs. Up to that point, I hadn’t really given any conscious thought to what my process was, but growing is good, so I gave it some thought. There are several components to writing that I think are important… sort of foundational (but not necessarily in this order):

1. Concept
2. Lyrics
3. Tune
4. Notation
5. Feel

Sometimes good song ideas come quickly, and sometimes they take time to sort of “ferment.”  I keep a collection of thoughts that I want to write about, and sometimes I never visit them again, but it’s a resource to draw on if I need it.  They’re usually a mix of things including, but not limited to: “Ah-ha!” moments from sermons I hear, conversations with friends, references from scripture, or observations I’ve made about life.  If I am having trouble completing a phrase or a train of thought, I stop and pray, and ask God to clear my mind of whatever distractions I may have.  It usually frees up any writer’s block and it helps me remember why I’m writing in the first place, so it’s good.

Generally, lyrics or a thought concept come to me first, but I think the lyrics and the music are equally important.  I’ve heard some really terrific lyrics that were set to OK music, and I’ve heard some great music with so-so lyrics.  My feeling is that if I’m writing a song, I want the best of both worlds for the song that I’m writing.  I don’t get upset if I can’t put the two together right away, but I don’t release anything that I am not at peace about.  There have been times when I’ve written a chorus and couldn’t “hear” the verses, but six months later, I revisit it and the verses come.  When I’m writing, patience is a virtue.

Unfortunately, drama and conflict in a person’s life tend to be great fertilizer for new songs.  If I’m experiencing something particularly difficult or hurtful in my life, I pray about it and I make notes.  So I guess what I’m saying is, if you hurt me, you might end up immortallized in song, so look out!  lol  (without naming names, of course.)

Sometimes I write in guitar chords, sometimes I use a combination of Roman numeral notation and numbers to indicate the degrees of the scale for melody.  Both of those things I learned in college.  I like the latter combo better only because it’s like using “movable Do” (like as in Solfeggio).  It irritates non-theory people who try to read my notation sometimes, but I’m happy to translate it later.  I don’t usually use traditional notation (cleffs, notes, etc.) only because I don’t have my computer set up to write it all down.  That’s a goal I hope to achieve this year.

Lastly, I want to make sure that all of these things have a particular ‘flow’ to them.  If there’s a melody line or a train of thought that doesn’t lay well, it may be time to go back to the drawing board to correct it.  Once that is finished, it’s time to have others listen to it and get feedback. 

So there it is… my process.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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