Still water

We came out early, McDonald’s in hand, to have breakfast on the beach. The water and sky are the same color. The Gulf is calm this morning. No waves to speak of, so the water is clear and smooth. As I wade out to my knees, I can see all sorts of life taking place right at my feet that I couldn’t yesterday because the surf was too high. Schools of fish skitter past, momma fish in the lead. Too many star fish to count. The sand in the shallow water perfectly formed into ripples that match the ones on the water’s surface. A dolphin meanders down the coast, relaxed and beautiful. Pelicans fly across the water’s surface, lazy and slow.

This is the kind of morning that can put your heart at peace, no matter what’s going on in your world. I love my quiet time in the morning anyway, so this is right up my alley. I wade knee-deep down the beach, coffee in hand, thinking how blessed I am to be here. Praying for whoever the Lord places on my heart. Listening to the water and the birds. Loving the feel of the breeze on my skin and the sand in my toes.

I think sometimes that the surf gets too high in my life. All the day-to-day stuff, the fires that have to be put out, the tyranny of the urgent, gets to be too much for me to see the life taking place right under my feet. My husband’s humming in the morning as he gets ready for work… A happy sound. Watering my flowers and appreciating their beauty. The smell of my coffee in the morning. Painting in my studio, no clock to watch. Practicing the piano. Cooking, reading a book… All these and more get set aside when the winds kick up and the surf gets high.

“Be still and know that I am God.” “Be still my soul. The Lord is on your side.” Both of these are running through my head. There’s a reason we are admonished to be still. To stop and listen to what God is saying to us, even if his voice sounds like my husband’s humming or the birds outside my studio window in the morning. Peace and contentment don’t come naturally in our world. We have to be still and look for it… Wait for it… Wade out into the water and see it underneath our feet. It was there all the time.  And if we are lucky enough to find a morning like this, hang on to it with every fiber of our being.

When MERCY Found Me

In one moment everything changed
Who I was got washed away
When mercy found me
My Savior’s arms were open wide
And I felt love for the very first time
When mercy found me

The Rhett Walker Band has been singing these words to their song, When Mercy Found Me, in my head… All morning long! Here are a few thoughts…

WHEN Mercy found me, not if.
When MERCY found me, God’s compassion and forgiveness, not what I deserve.
When Mercy FOUND me, searched me out, came to me unbidden in the form of Jesus’s love and grace.
When Mercy found ME. Not the other way around. Little old me, when I wasn’t looking.

My mind found peace.
My soul found hope.
My heart found a home.

Peace that passes understanding. The Hope of glory, Christ in us. And a home… That word that brings longing and nostalgia, comfort and rest… Home. A place for my heart to live, deep within the heart of Jesus.

Click here to listen to When Mercy Found Me.

Peace – Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Hope – Colossians 1:27 God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ is you, the hope of glory.

Home – John 14:23 Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching… (My Father and I) will come to him and make our home with him.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve is hard for me. I’m sad and melancholy, lonely for my kids. Times change and they grow up. They leave the house and suddenly Christmas Eve is no longer filled with giggles and anticipation, scurrying and hiding to wrap gifts, bedtimes full of sugar plum stories and the Grinch. I miss those things and so much more. That first inkling of understanding that maybe Santa is something different, something more. The sheer joy of dumping a stocking full of candy and toys and combing through to see what treasures are there.

Our Christmas Eve is quiet now, preparing food for tomorrow’s brunch and wrapping gifts to the sounds of Its A Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. The quiet is broken by worship services… mine and his. We are both church musicians, so Christmas Eve is a busy evening, but I can’t think of a better way to spend it than in worship of the infant King who’s birth we are celebrating tonight. Emmanuel. God with us.

And what a stocking full of treasures we find in that gift! Love. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Hope. Joy. Just to name a few. Gifts that we never have to take back. Gifts we can open again and again, if we open our hearts to the Messiah. Gifts that take my loneliness away. Gifts that bring peace to my spirit and joy to my heart.

My service is over. His is beginning. Both lovely, both churches full of music, full of scripture telling the nativity story, full of people seeking the King whom the angels heralded so long ago. Finding what only He can give, the Word made flesh.

And dwelling among us. Still.

To God be the glory!!!

The Loudest Voice

I’m not so sure it was a silent night. Anybody who has given birth knows that it is NOT a quiet process. When Jesus was born in that manger, was his newborn cry tiny and frail? Could Mary and Joseph hear it over the sounds of the animals in the nearby stalls? Or was His the loudest voice of all?

When my babies were born, I saw nothing in that delivery room except that baby. Did he have hair? “How small she looks!” I counted all the fingers and toes… 40 fingers and 40 toes altogether over the years. “She has so much hair and its sticking straight up!!” “Look at his back… It’s covered in fuzz and there are rolls of fat.” I was so grateful and thankful to finally get that baby here, my focus was only on him. On her. And when I heard that first cry, I laughed and cried at the same time. Every time. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world!!

I think that Jesus’ voice was all his mother, Mary, heard that night. I think the sound of cattle and sheep, chickens and donkeys, and anything else in that stable receded into the background so far that Jesus’ voice is all she heard. She was listening for it at His birth, waiting to hear that first cry. And she was grateful and thankful to God for that sweet beautiful sound!

Jesus’ love is still the loudest voice. It reaches us in the middle of all the chaos of our lives. If we listen for His voice, everything else recedes into the background and HIS will be the only voice we hear. The world would have us believe otherwise. So many other voices are thrown at us all day every day, and if we aren’t paying attention, we could miss the sweet precious voice of Jesus and His love… His love that washes us in peace at Christmas time and every other time.

Quietude

It’s the time of year when I start making lists and checking things off just to keep my head straight. I even add things to my list that I’ve already completed just so I can cross it off!! Anybody??? Life gets more complicated this time of year, and my complications seem to have multiplied for some reason. I’m a nurturer by nature, so it’s easy for me to find myself taking care of everybody else and forgetting to brush my teeth!

One thing on my list will stay on my list no matter how insane my life gets… My morning time with God. Somehow, the rest of my day just goes better if I start early, coffee in hand, Bible open, studying God’s word at my little desk in my studio. My Father meets me here. He waits for me. He knows I’ll be late some mornings, and He knows I’ll be distracted more often than I care to admit. It doesn’t matter. God has a lesson prepared for me each morning, even though I may not know what it is beforehand. I finish my study time feeling… quieted. It’s like while I am working through my Bible study or writing, God is making order out of the chaos in my heart and mind, putting all the thoughts and feelings back into their proper place and perspective so that I can move on with my day.

I will say it now, and as often as anybody will listen, IT IS INVALUABLE!!!! How did I not know this 20 or 30 years ago?? How did I ever raise four kids or work full time with a couple of part-time jobs, or be in a marriage relationship without this closeness with my Lord? Not to mention the sheer joy in having this time of perfect silence and quietude. I know I could have used the quiet and peace countless times over the years. They say God never gives us more than we can bear. I think God never gives us more than HE can bear!

In the stillness of my studio at 6:00 in the morning, God takes all my anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and condemnation, most all of which is self-imposed, and places it right at the feet of His Son. Like the words to the song in my head this morning.

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be

Unworthy. Undeserving. Humbled.

Click here to listen to Lauren Daigle sing her song, How Can It Be?

Click here to read a previous post about this song.

Quiet Reflections

I’m out of my routine. And I love having a routine. I’m in this vastly beautiful and different environment, yet I’ve developed a routine of a sort. My body isn’t exactly on Denmark time, and it’s not exactly on Home time either, which may make it easier to transition when I return next week. I’m staying up too late (reading) and sleeping later than I normally would at home. I have coffee with my newborn grandson while his mom and dad try to catch another hour of sleep. I cook breakfast for us all while he eats again. Try to beat the time difference (6 hours) and catch my husband at his breakfast time before he heads off to work at home. Text a few minutes. Take a walk. Plan dinner. Nothing earth shattering. But quiet… Peaceful… Restful.

Despite a newborn in the house, this is one of the quietest and most peaceful weeks I’ve ever had. I’m a quiet-loving person, and everyday life just… Isn’t. Quiet, that is. I’ve actually been able to turn off my brain a little, turn down the noise in my head, and just listen. Yes, there are birds and the breeze in the trees, soft rain falling, quiet house noises, clocks ticking and quiet new baby sounds. Let me just state categorically that there is NOTHING more precious in this world than the soft sound of a newborn sleeping in your arms.

Even the music in my head has quieted some. It’s always there, but for over a week now I’ve had just a couple of different lyrics running on a loop in the background. Soft and sure, but always there.

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me

It’s very comforting and reassuring to think that God sings over me no matter where I am in this wide world. His grace and mercy find me. I can hear it in the music he gives me. Sometimes I feel him with me when I’m painting, just… present. Sometimes, like this morning, I see God’s grace and mercy, his lovingkindness, in my new grandsons sweet face and chubby cheeks, fresh with Grandmomma kisses on them. And I am overcome with emotion that this great God would love me so very much. That His son, Jesus, would die for me… For this precious baby right here with me. And I am grateful.

Featured image: again, the fjord in Kisserup where we are staying for a few days. I love the way the sky is reflected in the water. A wonderful place to be still and quiet and reflect on the goodness of God.

Build Your Kingdom Here

I think I watched the news a little too long last night. Technically, I wasn’t watching. My husband was watching the news, and I was listening as I quilted. Another beheading by terrorists that nobody can seem to do anything about. Ebola virus at an all-time high and now within our own borders. Air strikes. Politics and more politics. And so much more!

Clear as a bell as my eyes opened this morning, I heard Rend Collective singing, “Come set our hearts ablaze with hope, like wildfire in our very souls. Holy Spirit come invade us now!” Lyrics from Build Your Kingdom Here. It feels as though there has never been a time in our history when we needed God to build His Kingdom here on earth more than we do right now. All over the world, people are desperate for what Jesus came to bring… LIFE in all its beauty, and all that gives life. Food, shelter, clothing, water, love, hope, and peace. And, above all, to know the Giver of Life.

Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” How will they get what we, as Christians, already have if we don’t take it to them? If we don’t bring the Kingdom of God TO them? I love the words to the chorus in this song.

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
We pray

Change the atmosphere! Right where we are, we can change the atmosphere in our homes, our offices, our schools, our gyms or wherever we spend time. Refuse to participate in the negative. Ask questions of others, and then listen to the answer. Overlook small offenses. Make it about others rather than ourselves.

I don’t think any of us can understand how different our worlds would be if God were to truly show his mighty hand. But don’t you want to try? Don’t you want to see the Darknesses of this life run and hide in fear of God’s mighty hand? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if terrorist organizations ceased to exist? Or if there were to be a cure and a vaccine for Ebola?

God, come set Your rule and reign in our lives. Set Your church on fire! Set our hearts ablaze with hope like wildfire in our very souls! Heal our streets and lands. Bring your Kingdom here, and show us how we can participate. Show us how to be Kingdom-Bringers.

Click here to listen to Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective. I love their tag line… “Homemade worship by handmade people.” Isn’t that great??

Featured Image: courtesy findingthelight-charlene.blogspot.com

Transitions

It’s finally happened. For the first time since spring, it’s too chilly to sit on my front porch without a jacket. The gray clouds match the chilly breeze stirring the trees and my wind chime. As I sit here in my WKU hoodie (go Toppers!) I hear music all around me. The breeze has my wind chime singing along with the song in my head and the crickets and birds.

I’m not ready for cold weather at all! Besides, it still looks like summer. Green grass, full trees, flowers blooming… I guess Fall is a time of transition. My magnolia trees are full of new buds, full blossoms and those past their time. The same for my knockout roses.IMG_0737.JPGMy crab apple trees are loaded, but the bird’s nest has been abandoned.

IMG_0735.JPGI can see it in my own life as well. Transition time. Letting go of the dying blossom of my old “working woman” life and the person I needed to be for that season. Embracing the full bloom of the woman I am to myself, my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my church and my Lord. Excited about the new buds in my life and where they will take me… Painting, music, travel, study, and so much more.

As I ponder the seasons and transitions, the lyrics in my head are from Help Me Find It by Sidewalk Prophets.

I will trust in You
You’ve never failed before
I will trust in You

If there’s a road I should walk
Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can You help me find it

Because, no matter the transitions in my life or the weather or the seasons, I want to follow God’s will for my life. Not my own will. His. And that may mean I have some cloudy days ahead… Maybe a chance of rain. But there will be sunny days, and new growth as well. My job, as I see it, is to focus on taking care of the woman I am and who God created me to be, to look ahead to the new buds growing in my life. To be a “good steward” of those gifts and not mess it up!! And, above all, thank Him for all he has provided… Past, present, and future.

All the photos were captured this morning in my yard.

Click here to listen to Help Me Find It by Sidewalk Prophets

Road Trip!

My husband is one of those people with a terrific long-term memory. Sometimes, I sit and stare while he recounts something from 30 years ago, because I am truly amazed at the detail. On the other hand, I am one of those people with an almost eidetic memory. If you want facts about something from way back when, forget it. But if you can’t find your keys or your phone, I’m your girl. If I have seen it in space, I can tell you where it is. At least most of the time.

The song in my head since I opened my eyes this morning is Help Me Find It from Sidewalk Prophets.

If there’s a road I should walk
Help me find it
If I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can You help me find it

While I may be great at finding your wallet or remembering where I saw that great dress on sale, I am not always good at finding God’s will for me. I’m getting better! But I have a long way to go, and it’s a long road.

I think it’s a step by step process. Like walking with a flashlight in the dark, we can only see so far in front of us. The path I can see is the one I must follow. Why in the world would I veer off that path without first shining my light to make sure it’s the right way, or at least passable? So why would I walk through this life without the light of God’s word and his will for me showing me the steps in front of me?

And yet… We do it every day. We make decisions and take off running in the dark, only to trip over fallen trees or to step into holes we didn’t know were there. Psalms 119:105 say God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. If there’s a road I should walk, God is the only one who can help me walk it. Because all roads lead someplace and, in this road trip of life, I want to be on the right one headed in the right direction.

Click here to listen to Sidewalk Prophets, Help Me Find It

I love this old car in the featured image. I took some shots of it while walking one afternoon thinking I might get some great sketches. How funny for this post that it happens to be in a cemetery!