Friday, July 29, 2011

Still

Still

~Linking up with The Gypsy Mama

I've never been a still one.

On the move,
dancing around the house,
playing sports,
bobbing my head and my body around to the beat of the worship music at church.

But, dealing with a pain in my neck (literally!) and the rest of my spine for so many years, I had to get used to moving around for a different reason. Moving was what helped me a lot of the time. Sitting still too long made things worse.

I didn't want to be different in this way. It catches attention. Who wants to have trouble with road trips and difficulty sitting for long periods of time? Even though movement was in my makeup, it was hard getting used to this.

It helps to remind myself that there are many types of stillness, and many kinds of movement, and why I need both at different times. Movement and the gift it gives my body is a blessing from God. Stillness comes when I realize God is bigger than anything I am going through, and that the seemingly "different" parts of me, instead of breaking me apart like I once thought, have actually helped make me more of a whole person today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Flashback in Time....Whoa

All I can say is God is pretty amazing in how He works things out in our lives sometimes. I'm very thankful for my strange system of writing and how it's definitely a surprise at what I'll come to find when I attempt to clean out the documents stored on my computer from 4 years ago. The result of a timeless operating system and my right brain often taking control is is coming across a beauty amidst a pile of ashes, or nonsensical items that could very well have gone into the trash bin years ago:). It was neat to see how God used my desires and my questions, the stirrings in my heart to work with people from different backgrounds, and how He took my passions and was able to collide my dreams with His. Thanks in advance for sharing in my piece entitled A Flashback in Time to 2007.


***After reading an article this morning on the problem of human hunger, I was alarmed at how much God was moving in my heart for groups of people in the world that I’ve never really felt connected to. I’ve always felt something for people who are poor, hungry, homeless, etc. but I feel I’ve been used to reacting to this disparity in a few different ways: not knowing how anything I do can help such global and overwhelming problems, thinking that because the world is so broken there’s always going to be these problems, thinking that it’s just because of their circumstances or a perpetual cycle which has brought them to the point where they are.

Then I had two thoughts. One, what would I desire most for people, in my low expectations that wide-spread change would be great but isn’t really realistic? And two, where has my heart gravitated toward in the past, as I know I’m much more soft-hearted than it sounds from my above comments?

The answer to number one is that I do have a desire for people to really know God. As I’ve begun learning and growing more in what that means for my life, I've seen how others who are in pain, hurting, feeling lost might be able to think differently about their lives if they saw them in relation to God as well. Hopefully, they could also have different resources to tap into at that time, too.

But, along these lines, I was moved today as I read about chronically hungry people, and Christians who were seeking to “bring the good news” to places of the world. The article said that before any of these people can understand or even “hear” the good news, they have to stop starving. For them, at the beginning, food is their source of “good news.” They can’t operate any other way unless their basic needs are met. This is scary and also liberating, because I think it can relate to people who are hungry for a lot of things, not just food. But it definitely speaks to me when I think about how much I take for granted.

Sure, it’s not to say we shouldn’t enjoy and experience life, but I realize there is a danger in never leaving that and experiencing what others feel on a day-to-day basis. This led me to the second question.

I do feel I have a desire to help hungry people, in all different forms, but we all have to work our way up slowly. I’m not yet fully equipped to help people more than I know how (aside from donating canned items and backpacks to send overseas, but I know I want to find more personal ways to connect).

However, not speaking of food, am I tangibly helping people who are hungry right now? I guess in my job, if I look at it in a new light; that children who are hungry for love are being served by engaging in positive interactions with adults in the community. I think it’s very meaningful for them to be around people who care, who want to do something to stop the cycle while they are young, by letting them know that someone is invested in them.

We go through life knowing what we’ve been exposed to in the past. I’ve seen that our world is troubled and broken, however, there's also light in it, if we look for it or bring it there.



I wonder how we all can find out what it is we are equipped to do at this moment, and go for it, and not even stop there. I’m don't want to stop just the job I have, which does allow me to help people in small ways now. I’m not sure what that means if I follow my passions, but I think it will be more natural. Maybe this is the kind of movement we and God have been dreaming of. ***

Tuesday Tunes: Francesca Battistelli..Motion of Music?

I pray over this blog often and what direction God pulls me in to write, especially in regard to Tuesday Tunes. Music speaks to my soul in so many different ways and is an important part of me.

Until recently, I didn't recognize that a lot of the themes of my life, which showed up in my journals, had to do with lyrics in music. They were another way to have stories enfold themselves into my life. It helps to share what is on my mind and heart to the Lord in that way.

Francesca Battistelli
is one artist who helps me do this. She writes and sings from the heart and her faith and desire to breach gaps and communicate between so many different people is evident in her openness and style of music.

When I hear her music, I'm reminded of messages from long ago that I need to hear once more. I believe this is because the Lord shows us that where we've once been "empty," we can again be drawn to serve Him, drawn to "give something for nothing", as Francesca's words speak of in her new hit, "Motion of Mercy."

The songs on her album Hundred More Years speak of love, both in life and through God, as Francesca's work is to some extent autobiographical in nature. Her songs are relatable, especially, "This is the Stuff," which is a popular radio success. To me, even with its lighthearted tone, I think it has a lot of truth and speaks into my life a ton. Not only can I directly relate to a lot of her blunders, but she asks for blessing and joy to trump the trials and setbacks. That is my desire as well.


(picture via http://breathecast.christianpost.com)

In lieu of her album title, here's to hoping Francesca will be around the music scene for quite some time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Only Thing Wrapping is the Present

So, right now I am working on a few things that have been heavy on the thinking-mind. When this happens, it's not uncommon to hear me say, "I'm just wrapping my head around that right now." A wise person in my life said, "Julie, if you wrap your head around anything else your head is going to be 6 feet long!"

Translation: I need to take it day-by-day. And remember grace for each day.
What often aids me in this process? Some regular, old fashioned, comic relief. Anyone know any good jokes?

Or have I killed them all with my puns?:)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Full

Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday. Topic:

When I try to measure out fullness, it doesn't work...how full do I feel today? Half-full, a little bit full, not quite full? I'm there, almost there, maybe soon?

In everything we do, we use proportions...we ask people if they are feeling well, if their bodies are full, if their tanks are empty. These are good questions. Mostly, I'm glad we use them. We can track things that way; systems and processes are good in part.

And, then, I'm also glad that the Lord has His own way of keeping track of us. That He measures out His fullness again and again in outpourings of his love and His presence upon all of us. He doesn't have to measure it out in doses and make sure there's just enough and that we are "just full enough but not too full" of Him as I sometimes think we respond to others in this life. Being with Him is an ever-present reality we can never get enough of.

The fullness of God, even if it seems a mystery at times, is such a gift. Not something scattered in so many different areas, like my efforts on my most full days. He's available in such abundance to all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Strangers in Real Life


Ok, confession of the inner workings of my childhood brain:

I think I've always enjoyed talking to strangers...

Hmm...I should probably rephrase that because if my parents read this, they will no doubt think, "Now we know why we never let you ride rides by yourself at Disneyworld!"

I think I've had a bent in me as long as I can remember to get to know people. All sorts of people. To find out about them. To be interested in things about them. I think God planted that seed in me long ago, and has started that journey throughout the past several years to show me what He's doing with that, but I'm hopeful with expectation that He's not done...

When I was very young, though, and didn't quite know how things worked, my imaginative mind would go off on rides of their own. I can remember driving in the car with my family and stopping at red lights and seeing people, pleasant looking kids and families, thinking, these are people I'm probably never going to meet. My small, pea sized brain didn't really think much past this, at the possibility that maybe I would meet those people someday, or that it didn't even matter much either way, because the world is so big that I would meet plenty of folks in my lifetime.

What I took from that experience as I got older was that I knew I wanted to get to know people well. I didn't like the drive-by experience. I guess the reason I like interactions with strangers so much is because people don't have to be strangers for long (most of the time). When you're little, this is a different story. You do have to be cautious about some things. The same goes for using wisdom with people you meet randomly when you're older, but generally speaking, there is something nice about being open to people who don't usually share a space in your life.

This is how I've met a couple of my closest friends in recent years...actually, beginning when they reached out to me, a stranger. It goes both ways in life, sometimes you're the one finding them, sometimes they meet you. We can share pieces of who we are, and a lot of the times, those pieces are the weavings of yet another stranger's patterns sown into us from time's before. When people reach out and give unto us, we are changed.

Have any of you had experiences like this?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: William Hayden: Timeseven


William Hayden, Songwriter & Musician : Timeseven, "This Road"

(picture via http://timeseven.bandcamp.com/)

It's time for a little Indie/pop rock/folk/alternative Tuesday Tunes.

I like that William Hayden is different. There's a lot of people doing the same kinds of faith music these days. I like that he was influenced by both his faith and living a full life through the years: growing a family, encountering loss along the way, taking some time off of music through it all, and yet, never fully departing from his love of guitars and making music which started young.

His musical influences were as wide as his personal ones, and so he brings in some home ties, emotion and a cross between generations and types of musical styles.

I didn't come across Hayden's music right away. I first found it by discovering a local artist, Mark Williams, who actually produced Hayden's work, among others, like Dove award winning artist, Christa Wells.

Hayden's lyrics are clear and his style is easy to listen to and soft. He takes you down the road with him, often down paths most of us have been down, or will likely go down one day. Also, all of the songs on the track This Road have a different instrumental sound. I especially like "This Road", "Ordinary Man," and "Since You've Been Gone."

I also love the title of his group. Timeseven. How awesome is that? While listeners can't pretend to feel what songwriters do, a lot of his words to me have to do with love, loss, and that need to cling to God and forgive, as in Mathew:18:22..forgiving the sins of another "No, not seven times," Jesus replied, "but seventy times seven."

Give the tracks on Hayden's site a listen and see what you think. I like featuring newer and/or local artists from time to time; I think it keeps things real. If you have a suggestion for a Tuesday Tune spotlight, feel free to comment or contact me directly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bedside Love


(image via mypillowpets.com)

I heard K Love's "encouraging word" today and it just so happened that it was 2Corinthians 4:17-18... "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

This was definitely encouraging, and where I was today, it was what I needed to hear.

Yesterday, however, in the midst of an incoming migraine, I needed to reflect upon more.

This might seem a little backwards. You have that promise of enternity, what more do you need?

I am the first to say that I am excited for Heaven- it breaks through anything I go through in this life and spurs me onward..but sometimes, in the present, I need something to carry me from day-to-day.. I think that is why the Bible is a complete book, and not just something to pick apart. The verse right before helps me do this.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Outwardly things are happening to us, our bodies might be aging, sickness or malady could be upon us...that's the truth of the world we are living in, and something that has to be acknowledged, not just skipped over.

But, we do not lose heart.

Day by day, we are being renewed, inwardly, by the Spirit. We keep going. Keep pressing on.

I've learned that suffering and dealing with pain or sickness is not a competitive sport. When it's something that becomes semi-commonplace in your life or a barrier to overcome, you become more in tune to this in other people's lives and look stories of how others work through it in their own unique ways.

I've come across a young boy who the media took hold of because of what he has done while dealing with cancer. He has an amazing, inspiring story.... This is worth a quick glance! He decided that hospitals can be difficult places and his peers could use something fun to help them feel better, especially at nighttime. I've given a lot of thought to hospitals and am continuously encouraged by the small ways people go the extra mile to show love to others there.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mercy Note # 1


Friends,

Do you ever just have one of those seasons in your life when you need to rewind and refresh, and remember why you started something in the first place?

Here are some things I've been thinking about lately as it relates to this site.

1. I have been meditating on the reason behind Mercy Notes in the first place. Like a lot of things in life, they seem to happen out of the ordinary, but come to be a long awaited answer to prayer, in a way I wouldn't have guessed. The idea and theme behind God's mercy and all of His faithfulness surrounding us has really manifested itself in the workings of my life and in the lives I've seen impart all around me. I'm thankful for how He's shown me His mercy at work in big and even small ways, when I think hope is lost. His mercy creates beauty in places of darkness.

2. Mercy Notes has helped jump start my ignition, so to speak, for similar writing ventures and ministries related to my vision on here.

3. I am encouraged by others as I connect on here. I'm also humbled as to where I need to fall into the arms of the Father, and rest there...where I might need to take time off from all the "extras" I could do on here, and practice what is preached, by me and others...because I believe that is the whole point anyway. Check out this article if you want to know what I mean. There is a time to work and a time to play. A time to write and a time to praise and pray. A time to be present with people and a time to think about blogging and jobs and all the doing.

4. I have been thinking about the importance of youth, more and more. Why we need to talk about what matters to God in relation to them, and how to be equipped to guide them into leading purposeful, joyful lives, filled with truth and love.

Psalm 100:5: "For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations."

I love how God considers all generations and how His truth is for all. His mercy, His promises, His love, who He is stays the same and is available in the same way for all generations. I think this encourages me and reinforces why it has been important for me and for others I know to work with and to spend time focusing on the younger generation at hand.

There is a book about emotional hurts called "Hurt People Hurt People." Despite the title and the fact that all of our brokenness bleeds onto one and other, one thing I've carried with me in reading that book is that hurt children often become hurt adults. I think it is important not to skip over the generation of youth because they may have more challenges or some may find them "difficult" to work with in many respects.

This is all for now... Thanks for reading.

Julie

Friday, July 15, 2011

Loss and Grief Camps

Linking up for (more than) Five Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama:

Loss:

Lisa Jo's post really struck me today, and I got to thinking that I think one of the reasons I went into counseling was to help those in situations related to loss. I think it is one of the biggest connectors and relating points between people who might otherwise not have much in common, as strange as that sounds, is when we have lost. I think it's also one of the places you can really share God's love the most, when people are hurting. And I would say most of us have not gone through our lives without having been there in some way or another, whether it has been through the loss of a loved one, through death, a relationship ending, through a prolonged illness or other condition, etc. Loss hurts.

This got me thinking on the grieving process and resources to help others, other than some of the awesome things Lisa Jo mentioned...being able to grieve one's own way, having other family around to keep the memory alive, being able to experience different emotions, utilizing counseling if/when needed...and I remembered somewhere in my "research brain file" something about grieving camps. I have never experienced them firsthand, but they seem interesting and worth looking into for children who do well in this type of setting and in need of something extra. A fun environment and one that allows children the chance to be around others who are grieving.

Camp Erin:The largest network of free bereavement camps in 25 states for week-long experiences with camp activities, emotional support and grief professionals on staff.

Keep in mind, it has a traditional camp setting; doesn't emphasize Christian faith.

Camp Agape

Example of a free Christian camp I found in the Texas area. Only for ages 7-12, those experiencing new loss. There may be more of these...I will look into this later:).


Here is the article I found in my personal file on Camp Erin...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Authentically Reaching Out: Interview Style

***This space is intended not to be just about my life and my words.

In the back of my mind is always the journalist in me, and I'm continually on the look-out to find places where God-tracks about in life and through others' lives. I find, there is much I can learn and share from those places of encouragement, experience, and wisdom.

Below is an interview I conducted with Traci Rowe on the topic of Authentically Reaching Out. ***

Preface: Traci Rowe is a close friend of mine, but even if she wasn’t, I would want to get to know her! I’m excited because the topic of this interview actually relates to how Traci and I met as well. Like so many in her life, she has connected to a lot of people through divine intervention and through others who have directed her to certain people. Traci is thoughtful and thorough with relationships, and has a lot of insight to pass on about this area of thought. Traci is a unique individual with a true gift to further the kingdom of God, meeting people where they are and spurring them onward.

Traci Rowe

Traci talks about how she reaches out to people and who helps her do this...

“Spiritually, one of my gifts is evangelism, so I feel like it has nothing to do with me really. It’s not necessarily my idea in the first place. God tells me to talk to people and leads me into that. It was hard figuring out how to handle that, especially in college. I was part of a lot of ministries where I felt more pressure to push the salvation issue up front.

“I learned overtime that authentic relationships with people foster a greater desire for people to hear the Lord for themselves. If I started with my agenda, it was going to fall apart. I didn’t want to start there; I wanted to start with the people themselves, getting to know them. I have wrestled with that because I have always had a desire for people to know the Lord, but also had a desire to connect with them regardless of the ‘results’ of our relationship.... learning relationship for the sake of relationship and allowing God to have the control.”

She talks about her motivations behind being a relational person to those she meets...

“I also believe that a lot of people settle for less than the Lord would have for their lives. I think a lot of my relationships end up being about helping others see that they don’t have to settle for less than God might have for them. That involves believers as well, as I’ve worked in a church, and spent time getting to know people in and out of that environment. Sometimes, what is important in the journey is having a friend be there and display God’s love.”

She talks about some people who have become friends in the process...


“I think about people in the community that I’ve spent time with, and now they are my friends. There’s a family with six kids and a single mom who my husband and I have known for the past several years. We got to know them through a church outreach, and we have stayed connected, and now are very involved in their lives. We do a lot with the kids as well. Now, it’s not just about the mom having a need, but the fact that I care about the need. Something changes overtime as you get to know people.”

Some stand-bys for her in reaching out to others:

1. Consistency:
Being open to the people God puts in her life in a consistent manner has enabled her to grow her relationships.

2. She is accessible: She has been through a lot; like most of us, her past isn’t spotless and she relates well to those who know what it feels like to endure struggles.

3. Her prayer journal:
“You should see my prayer journal- lists and lists!” Traci says. She writes down people’s names who are on her mind and heart, those she knows she is going to see that day. “We have to be willing to hear from God. If we have the spirit of God living in us, then we can activate this in our conversations, our relationships, and they can be less manufactured.”

-That last one is definitely the most convicting and an awesome reminder to me. I’m blessed to know Traci and to have walked alongside her for many years, and to have been able to see and learn how she relates to others. How even more awe-inspiring is that her hope and prayers, even in relationships, are given to God before she may even crosses paths with people. I pray He will continue to use her to exercise her gifts with others and share her encouragement and raw wisdom with many more!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Tunes~ Kristian Stanfill - "Always" and Unlikely Foes



photo credit

For some reason, when I read Kristian Stanfill's bio, and the words of his song "Always" more intently (I've listened to it many times and had different reactions each time), I imagine a person, maybe me, maybe Kristian himself, driving through the mountains. I know, I have a vivid imagination, but just go with me here...

Then, I take it a step further. Living in the mountains. I've never actually spent time "in" the mountains. That sounds silly because nearly the whole country of Switzerland is surrounded by mountains and I lived there for a bit. But, I didn't actually live there permanently, up up and away in the mountains. I was talking to someone a couple of weeks ago about mountain living around here in North Carolina, and having not been around to that part of the state yet, she said living there was pretty much as I anticipated. It's just different than being accostomed to driving .5 miles and having a corner Harris Teeter and being able to fill up with gas because you roll through town just above E :). For sure, people who do live there make adjustments for mountain life, but she mentioned all the curvy roads, and having difficulty driving just to get to the store, cold, brittle winters, small town living, etc.

I know this isn't really what the song is talking about; it's more about having foes (like Psalm 3) and metaphorical "mountains" to wrestle with, but I think there's something about life changes and just letting go of presumptions that kind of intruiged me with this song and with hearing what Kristian had to say about his own journey. I think what I gather is that staying focused more on what God could do in his life with the mountains, and not with the mountains themselves, that's what made the difference.

What if you were transplanted to a completely different lifestyle that you knew nothing about?

Have any of you gone to a completely different kind of environment- what were your stories like?

There's shows about city girl gone mountaineer:). Learning to drive on those curvy roads might be my foe for awhile if I ever did this.


Some time ago, I would have written about harsher realities when posting on a song like this, but I am taking some time to digest life and recognize that the point is that God is with us through it all, each storm..no matter the size. It all matters to Him. He is showing me more of Himself through is and how to react with more rest in Him through each one that crops up in my life. It's not always easy to say "My God will come through, always" for the little things, because, what happens if He doesn't? I used to think. Now, I'm starting to think that coming through means that He is showing me more of Himself and that He is taking care of the situation even when I'm not able to figure it out for myself, which is a lot of the time. I like how the song continues to show how deliverance and help comes from the Lord. In much of my life, I think I have all the answers, but I know, if I wait on the Lord, He will show me the good way.

Thanks, Kristian for all the great tunes on the album "Mountains Move."

Monday, July 11, 2011

JOY Basket



As cliche as it may sound, there's something to the fact that over the loud intercom everyday in high school, we heard the boisterous words of "Make it a great day!" voiced over us students as we traipsed over another seemingly repetitious day. I remember thinking instead of "Have a great day!," they intentionally inserted the word "make." The faculty knew our track record and how easy it was day in and day out to get restless inside those walls, so we needed that nudge, not to let all the days go by without actually doing something to make it good. It was our choice really.

Do you ever feel like you just have a day? This is not meant to be a psychological insider or self-help mental pick-me-up, but really, it's just a question.

I remember when I was going through a rough time about a year ago, it was tough getting from one day to the next. I kind of felt like I was shuffling along. What guided me along was in a state of absolute need and dependence on God, sometimes you see Him closer than you ever have before...and even when it's not easy getting from one day to the next, reliance on Him provides.

In that, I wonder, in the not so extreme times, if learning to our shuffle feet along the day-to-day has become a habit? I know, at times, I have to catch myself, and think, NO, this is the day the Lord has made, and you will be glad!! I am not the poster child for happiness all the time, but I have started to recognize that joy is different: it comes from the inside out, not the outside circumstances in, and can be a sort of constant. And, despite that, it's okay for joy to come in the small things too, things that just strike you and make you laugh and fill up your joy basket and maybe no one else gets it and it just helps you "MAKE it a great day." Laughter is such a gift from God.

What's in your joy basket? Here's a few in mine...

To swim or not to swim? The answer is always to swim:).



My favorite restaurant...



Friends (pictured below, ones who share my love of the beach:) )



My grandma, and all my family.



Flowers.



My happy spot where I'm from. I love this place:).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let Go and Let In: Being Others-Minded

I find that in this space, I don't write very often about living with chronic pain, mostly because I have found myself with a surge to write about other things, and because God has been gracious to me in placing interests and passions that revolve around other things in my life in the past couple years. I would say before that, a lot of my missional work and writing was focused around trying to help others who were in similar situations, not always out of "rescue mode" but because I did understand their plight, even if it wasn't completely the same as mine. Sometimes, though, I think I was helping out of a place of pain, and not out of my whole self.

With that, I do think there is a ton to be offered in helping others through the pain you've experienced. I still do think there's a lot of work I can do and a lot of good God is probably going to continue to do through what I've experienced. Every situation is different, too. I think the change happened when I stopped trying so hard to make things happen. I let God be in the driver's seat instead of me all the time, and when it came to being others-minded, God showed up and showed me people that I would probably never had reached out to before, people who were not like me at all, and that's how I knew it had to come from Him.

Does that mean we can never help people who are like us? I don't think so. I think God wants us first to realize that we can let go of some of our preconceived ideas that we have to help the people who automatically have gone through the same things we have, and maybe open us up to much more, maybe even what we were meant for in the first place: how we were meant to serve and love others in an even bigger way.

It's neat because Romans 8:28 has been a sort of theme charting my path for a long time...I definitely don't expect to have all the answers for how it is shaping my experiences for His plan; in fact, if you want to know a secret- sometimes I picture myself with blinders on, seeing things fuzzy, and every so often I get to take them off and see a little bit clearly what's going on. I feel like God didn't want me to just stop with my hopes of helping people with health problems. But, when I let go of how trying to do that through the ways I've learned all I know just trying to be what people need, it ends up so much better. Also, sensing where God leads in other areas, for me in particular as I'm diving into the counseling field has been important to me. That might be rising up for the fatherless, the homeless, teens in need of encouragement about their self-worth, adoption care, and so on..I can't do it all, but being in tune to different areas where there are needs beyond the scope I used to focus on..this has been a little bit of the reason I haven't talked about pain much, and why I have worked in some of these other areas in recent years.

I will probably talk about it on here from time to time. I also want to be a tool for resources and encouragement and to hear from others on their experiences. It's important because it matters for those going through tough times and their families. Please share what you have found!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Things You Might Care To Know

Have you ever had friends where you share some commonalities and so you talk a lot about those things, and maybe share your heart or deep matters, but then, don't get to the smaller stuff, or even back track to the basics...going beyond the present day?

Hmm...just me then?

This doesn't happen all the time, but I have a sweet friend, whom God has brought into my life and we share some things in common, but we realized the last time we got together, that we talk about so many things, but we hadn't ever touched on things like,

1. “What kind of town did you grow up in?"

2. “What’s something unusual you have done?”

3. "Tell me about your college days." (not really a question).

4. “You lived where?”

This got me thinking as to how many other relationships, ones that God has brought into my life for specific reasons maybe, have I not stopped and thought about that person as a whole? Or, how many people do not know some of the basics about me? I don't necessarily think we need to know everything about everyone, but it can be helpful to look at people's backgrounds at times.

Today I’m sharing some things people might not know about me. I'll use the above questions, since I remember them from a real life story. Even though I recall my friend's answers being a tad more fascinating (she lived overseas for much of her life:) ), I hope you'll enjoy my rendition.

What kind of town did you grow up in?

-I grew up in a town I didn't enjoy living in much. It was hard on me because in my experience small town life is what you hear small town life to be and there's no excaping it. I know many books have been written on the subject, but as I've been looking for a muse lately, I wonder if...

What's something unusual you have done?

-Any and all of my experiences with high school journalism. I wouldn't necessarily call them unusual, well, okay, yes they were. :) It was one of those before-your-time-times. I think we all thought we were doing something beyond running a high school newspaper, or at least I did at the time. It was something very professional, and albeit demanding, but it really set a tone for my writing that I believe is still with me today.

Tell me about college.
-College was my first experience with coming to terms with who I was, and trusting in Christ in a new and real way.

Also, despite any difficulties, I think I remember the loveliness of being with my friends ten times more. I am so thankful for having such true friends and spending so much of my life with them. There are a couple girls from my youth I can't leave out, but, honestly, the girls from college both healed and brought me hope when it came to the true idea of friendship.

You lived where?
-So, I can't talk about Switzerland, here because almost everyone who knows me knows I spent some time at the end of college there. I did move around a bit the summer after college with my parents. It's a little scattered in my brain, because we were trying to sell the house we lived in growing up so they could settle back in their hometown, but I just remembered there were about 4 or 5 different houses I lived in over a five month period. It was fun! A little bizarre and random, but memorable to do that before I came down south.
Other random facts:
*I was a baton twirler when I was young. From this, I think, I can juggle.
The first I was serious about. The second, I did for fun.
*I really liked to entertain my family and put on magic shows when I was young.
*I'm from Ohio, but my sports team there is the Cleveland Indians, not Ohio State. I have never been able to get into football. I can't explain it.
*I do love basketball as well, and played through my freshman year in high school. I loved dribbling.
*Other than being a writer, when I was young, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I have always felt so alive by the water; all my senses are better there...how the sand feels, the sound of the waves, the sight of the sky against the water.
*Deep down, I wonder how it would be to escape technology and live an old fashioned life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grateful

Linking up with The Gypsy Mama!

Grateful.
This may sound odd, but I'm so grateful Jesus weeps with them.

God has been showed me a lot in the past year as I have come up close to other people's pain and heartache. I know He has worked this out to bring to fruition Romans 8:28 to be completed in me beyond my pain and struggles.

For many years, I have been drawn to the story of Lazarus in John 11, where we clearly see Jesus being moved to sorrow and compassion at the pain and sorrow of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, who has died. We know that it is not out of character for Jesus to have compassion for others. What is so surprising here is that Jesus knows how this story is going to end, that He is about to make things right again and raise Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating His power over death, and yet He still takes time to mourn with His friends. There may be other reasons for His weeping here, but we do know that He loves his friends and hurts with them here.

Whether it be physical pain or emotional pain or grief or sadness, this is one of the many stories and passages in the Bible I lean on, knowing that Jesus does identify with me. Sometimes I picture this day when He was with that family in Bethany. There is going to be a day (and many of us have already experienced this)
when we all have to lose the "Lazarus'" of our lives here. Even if we know how it is going to turn out in the end, there is still a deep sadness that occurs because we are not going with them yet, and they are not staying here with us right now. We know what is better; Jesus knew what He was making things right, but yet He still knew what the hurt and sadness meant for those waiting. It makes me want cherish those in my life now because I'm so grateful I do have many "Lazarus'" and it makes me have hope and excitement for the someday when all things are made right.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Scribbles and Swirls

Some friends laugh at me because when I want to remember things, I scribble them down everywhere so later I can try and jolt my memory. I wrote a post about this- my very first one on here actually..

It's been joked that I have a style of writing that is it's own code. Maybe so, but I like to think of it more as an alternative form of writing:). I'm usually writing quickly so I don't lose my thoughts. I think inspiration comes to me at odd times. Such as last night while I was trying to fall asleep.

I think it would be neat to have one of those upside down pens or astronaut space pens people talk about.

So, as I was laying there, reflecting on some consistent themes God has set on my heart lately...I got to thinking about my scribbles and maybe what what was more important than those at the time: listening in on Him and seeking His face. I can forget to do this sometimes because life swirling around me can often be noisy and distracting. I know for me, often one of the biggest distractions can be my own self. It's funny, because even when I am focused on good things that I believe are God- led, I can get forget that HE is the one setting the tone and orchestrating the events, and I'm one of the guests at His party...not the other way around.

"When You said, "Seek My face," my heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD, I shall seek." - Psalm 27:8.


I know beyond the deeds the Lord has called me to is His calling on my heart to seek Him first. Seeking His face doesn't have to be a luxury, but a way to listen in on His voice and not so much everything else swirling around me.

He is the prize. The extras that He blesses me with in my work and everyday life; my joy in writing, the grace that He has set before in my life now to want to bless others with counseling and the helping fields, more energy and excitement for life through a renewal of body, mind, and spirit...these are all counterparts, pieces of my story, but He is the centerpiece, and still has to be the focal point leading the way, or it all breaks down.

I don't want to write these things down in code. This is what matters to me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday (Wednesday) Tunes ~ 6 for 6th

So, this might sound a little provocative, but I have long heard claims inside and outside the Church about some Christian music not really being "real" music or good music in the same way that people talk about Christian fiction or other art forms not really being the same as other mainstream writing. Now, it's interesting, because on one hand, Christians say they would rather be around or exposed to material and art that are uplifting and full of the message of Christ, but on the other, I also hear that one should be happy worshipping or listening to whatever Christian music happens to be around at the time...even if there is not a variety and a quality to reach people in different ways.

I understand not getting sucked up in it, and leaning us away from the centerpiece of God in the firstplace, but I do think that art forms are important and having quality artists who care enough to spend their livelihoods in this realm feeding us messages of strength and wisdom and encouragement are valuable.

I'm always excited to feature artists on here, some old (er), some newer, because I love the fact that Christian music is taking on a new wave. It may seem a bit contemporary, hip, or not strike everyone's fancy, but I think there is something for everyone because there are SO many artists now taking it upon themselves to join in and do just what I talked about above: add to the spectrum of value and color that is Christ's Kingdom, beating along, sometimes with heavy drums and sometimes with violins and soft voices, but still worshipping together.

Here are 6 artists (in no particular order) that I have enjoyed and I thought might like to check out, too! Even if you know a bit about these, they are worth checking out more in depth!

Phil Wickham
Phil has long been a favorite of mine. I can listen to his songs on repeat, and he has such a distinctive voice. I know he is going to grow deeper as a beloved Christian artist. I love the video of his tour above, though, because it shows the childlike spirit of some of his fans...when one of the interviewers said, "It's Phil Wickham!" they replied, "I don't know that that means!"

Meredith Andrews She went to the same University as me! I love her voice and her lyrics...I think she will be around for awhile.

Matt Maher All of his songs have such meaning and depth. I love his instrumentals.

Audrey Assad : Newcomer with amazing, original sound.

Robbie Seay Band
: From my dad: "They should be on the radio." Me: They are. "Like on a regular station. Dad: Everyone should listen to them!!" I agree. I sing and dance to their songs.

J J Heller
I love JJ Heller. She is so real and paints stories with her songs. I would love to meet her someday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Stars and the Stripes...

I have always loved July 4th. Anything in the summer makes me happy...but combining it with fireworks, gathering with family and friends, and grilling out...it makes for one of my most favorite holidays and times of year of all, behind Christmas and Easter, of course:).

So, when I was younger, July 4th was really fun for me - I was one of the few people in my family really into cooking and baking - and so I became in charge of making a dessert ... the flag cake. You know the one with strawberries and blueberries, and cool whip. The red, white and blue one that starts off looking all pretty but by the end kind of gets smushed because it's just a big mound of cool whip and fruit that's supposed to resemble the American flag?



Oh, right...all my cakes looked like that:).

No, the above is a picture credited by foodnetwork.com, but it is the closest to picturing what I made all those years.

Even though it wasn't too big of a gesture, it was fun for me to make my yearly cake, for my family, for my neighbors, for others who didn't have anyone to celebrate the day with, and we could all join together somehow, to have a fun 'ole time, and try to connect with what the day was about!

But, still, other than sharing this with you, and getting back to the tradition of the holiday, I love to share other great finds, especially when it comes to people talking about true freedom. This was a special read today for me, and if you check it out, let me know what you thought of it, too! Who Sets You Free?...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome

Linking up for Five Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama.

Today's topic :

WELCOME

What comes to mind with this word?

You are welcome here.


Lately, I have been writing, reflecting, and trying to equip myself to help with orphan care/adoption in different capacities.

It is amazing to me to recognize how God adopts us into His family, and how much this correlates to adoption as a whole (Romans 8:14-17). I can't say, but because I like to ask difficult questions, I wonder if it is a challenge for others affected so much by the orphan struggle to consider that we too see ourselves as having not the same physical, but the same condition- as those who were once spiritual orphans in need of adoption?

Despite these possible challenges, I do believe that what God says about our adoption as His children means something powerful...

And, it means Welcome to me. To me it means Him saying "It doesn't matter where you've been, what you look like, how your past has strained you...you belong to Me."

May each one of them know that they belong, too.