Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow, Stuffed Ballerinas and Reflection

So it's snowed a few times in "The Big D" this past month. Somehow I seem to miss it most of the time because I'm out of town (be it OH or south TX)...but yesterday, I did observe some huge, beautiful snowflakes falling in this southern city. These native Texans (no offense if you are one) are HYSTERICAL with "winter weather advisorys"/warnings/"artic blast" (if it's below 50*!) and the de-icing of the planes at DFW. CRACKS ME UP. We are at war in a number of 'theaters', we had an underwear bomber try to do us in on Jesus' birthday and this is college football Bowl week--and the top story on all the news is that it will "plummet" to 48*!!! I LOVE IT!


A completely un-related but almost more funny incident occurred when I reviewed my receipt from Tom Thumb (a.k.a. Randall's or Safeway in other parts of the country) on Monday...I confess I don't usually check it, but there was a particular sale that I wanted to be sure rang up correctly. Much to my confusion, I saw "STUFFED BALLERINAS" for $3.99 as one of the items. Hmmm...I did not buy, nor do I know what, a stuffed ballerina is. It's certainly not what was in my (they're worthless for re-using because they're so thin) Tom Thumb bag. By process of elimination it was one of these:

Apparently, somewhere in the giant, invisible world of UPC codes, someone entered "stuffed ballerinas" as what should come up when the UPC code for a candle-lighter was scanned. I'm sorry to admit I've thought long and hard about this and I can't for the life of me think of a it just makes me smile and I hope you get a chuckle out of it as well!


Today is New Year's Eve. Another year has come to a close. Everyone says it in their Christmas cards/letters, but I promise it's more and more true every year--time does FLY! It seems not very long ago that my niece was born (she's 2 now). It seems like last night when my good friend B had baby E...and it's been nearly 2 weeks. If time passes more quickly the older you get, then pretty soon I'll be ancient (never mind the fact I feel ancient sometimes...that's another post for another day...)

As I'm sure lots of us do, I try to be reflective at either the end of the year or the very beginning of the next...renumerating all the myriads of blessings from my gracious Heavenly Father...the prayers answered in ways I liked and asking for peace and patience for the prayers that were answered by "no, not right now" and/or "no, never." I'm guilty of this too, but why do we say "praise the Lord for answered prayer"???? God answers ALL our prayers--some with "yes", some with "no" and some with "wait"...but we seem to only give Him glory when the answer is "yes"...I know I'm very bad about this.

The Bible says in Psalm 116 (these verses are from The Message translation):

1 -6 I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.

Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn't know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
"Please, God!" I cried out.
"Save my life!"

God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

7 -8 I said to myself, "Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you've been rescued from death;
Eye, you've been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."

So whether it's today, tomorrow, this weekend or in the next couple weeks, let's spend at least a few minutes remembering God's faithfulness to us this past year. Though things like jobs and friends and any number of situations may change, He never does. He is the same today, tomorrow and throughout the rest of our lives, all praise to Him!

I may not know what a "stuffed ballerina" is, but I know the one and only God, and after it's all said and done, I think that's really all that matters.

Happy 2010, everyone...may it be a year filled with God's best blessings on us and our families, and may we be ever watchful for those blessings ready to give Him the glory!

Friday, December 25, 2009

...A Child is Born!

Every Christmas morning since I can remember, my Dad has read THE Christmas story from Luke 2...always it was in this version, so that's what I'll share with you...Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours! We have so very many things to praise our Infant Savior King for!

Luke 2

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

For Unto Us...

Isaiah 9

6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

As songwriters and poets have testified over time, there’s something very special about a White Christmas. For us Christians, there are such eternal analogies within this beautiful wonder. Sitting inside the warmth of my parent’s house in northwestern Ohio one Christmas morning, I looked with amazement on the many inches of pure white snow. I couldn’t help praising our mighty God for the cleansing power of His saving blood over the blackness of my sin. May we never forget the miracle of salvation that began on earth with a tiny baby whose birth we celebrate during the Christmas season. May we be often reminded of this life-changing truth each time we delight in the pleasure of clean white snow!

“O Loving and kind God, have mercy. Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again…sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Ps. 51:1-2, 7 TLB

A Christmas Snow

The clean beauty of the snow

Silently covers all the earth

Much like my Lord did show

His love, which gives to me my worth

For as sparkling and pure

As untouched snow

Is the state of my heart,

Because to Calvary He did go

Unspeakable beauty,

Unfathomable grace

Unthinkable mercy

You died in my place.

This gorgeous reminder

Of your cleansing salvation

This snowy wonderland’s

Such a magnificent creation

Thanks, Lord, for the pleasure

Of a world so crystal white

But so much greater is the cleansing

That made my heart aright

This white Christmas gift

Outside and within

Praise floods my heart

Where can I begin?

May I ever praise you

For the cleansing of my soul

As I gaze at the beauty

Of this freshly fallen snow!

Because He Came

While all these things are wonderful parts of the Christmas season, there is so much more to this holiday! You see, if Jesus hadn’t come, we would have no Easter—no cross—and therefore no salvation! So while we’re celebrating the wonder of this season, let’s remember that the Greatest Gift ever is Jesus, and He desires to have first place in our hearts. He came so that we would be His—let’s live like we are and tell everyone we know how our lives are different all because He came!

“’And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’.”

Because He Came

Because He came that holy night

We can now know His awesome power and might

Though helpless as a baby on that night long ago

Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus never succumbs to His foes.

Because He came we have the greatest gift

Emmanuel, God with us—gives our spirits a lift

For this tiny baby grew up to be the Man

Who died to provide salvation to every woman, child and man.

Because He came we can have such hope

No matter how painful life may get, we can always cope

For in His grace and His mercy His love He imparts

We need only be willing and open our hearts.

Because He came there’s life after this

If I didn’t say this, I’d be so remiss:

What have YOU done with God’s greatest gift?

Have you openly received and partaken of it?

Or have you sealed up your heart as tight as a drum

Placing the Gift on the shelf so it’s touched by no one?

Oh surrender now to receive His grace

The forgiveness you need is found in His face

God’s greatest gift, Jesus, can be yours now—forever

No matter what you do, His love you can’t sever!

Because He came, the world’s never been the same

Nor our hearts, for His gift eternal changes have made

So now we can say “Merry Christmas” all because He came!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What a God!

"What a God! His road stretches straight and smooth. Every God direction is road-tested. Everyone who runs toward Him makes it."--Psalm 18:30, The Message

What a great promise this is: "Everyone who runs TOWARD Him makes it" (emphasis mine). We don't have to run all the way to our Heavenly Father; we just need to run in His general direction. And we will make it!

The last post spoke about how weak I was last week...I was having severe migraines and then in the middle of it all, needed to sight-read and play 2 different concerts' worth of music (after not playing for more than 20 minutes in the past 6 months!). Truly the Lord did prove strong in my weakness. I not only made it through all the rehearsals (4) and concerts (4), but I did it (for the most part) headache-free, and completely migraine-free. All praise to Him!

I know there is no way I could have made it through last week/end without the prayers of many brothers & sisters in Christ. I was keenly aware of my utter and total dependence on Christ for the ability and strength for each note and each measure. There is no doubt that any good in me, any delightful or pleasant sound that I made with the oboe, was ALL HIM and none of me. I'm just thrilled He chose to use me as a vessel! It was so fun to be back where my heart is, the music ministry of my church, if but for a short time...obviously I so much wished it wasn't due to the tragedy in the life of the other oboist.

Most of my life, I have been making music of one kind or another (singing, playing piano, playing flute, playing oboe) in the church. The first time I think I sang in church for "special music" was when I was 5 and my brother M was 3.5. We sang "Trust and Obey".

Indeed, when Fibromyalgia caused me to have to stop participating in my church's choir and orchestra, it took many months for me to become comfortable in my new role of "pew/congregational member". It was a very strange feeling - as if I didn't belong. I admit that I even stayed home and neglected attending church, choosing instead to listen to the service in the comfort of my home. I'm glad to say the Lord has gotten me over that "hump", though, and I enjoy my "bird's eye" view of the platform from the balcony during the 8:00 a.m. service each Sunday.

And even now, as I remember back at the wonder and sheer beauty of making music with such talented musicians last weekend, I have already begun to miss it. Yet I know, for whatever reason, for however long this season is in my life, the Lord wants me to "just" be part of the congregation. I do not pretend to understand that, and I certainly wasn't able to explain it to all those that asked me where I had been these several years (i.e., why hadn't I been to choir or orchestra). Some other time I will post more in detail about how Fibro impacts my life, but for now, the biggest and hardest thing I have had to relinquish is my participation in orchestra and choir at church.

I'm headed in another direction now, on another journey...a journey to who I am becoming--and that is no longer defined by what part I play and/or sing. I admit it's been difficult to find myself at times without music, since it's been such a huge part of my life - and form of worship - for as long as I can remember.

But I praise the Lord for the opportunity to worship and lead in worship last weekend, and for the fun that was had just being a part of that 'world' again. How sweet is very faithful He is!

WHAT A GOD! To Him be the glory - He has done, and will continue to do, great things!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

His Strength is Perfect

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

9And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

These verses have always been a precious promise of God’s provision of strength when we are at our weakest. These verses are also a great way to encapsulate my week thus far.

Due to a family emergency, the oboe player at my church is unable to play for the 4 special music services/concerts this Sunday (and the 3 rehearsals between Wednesday and Saturday for Sunday)…she asked me to play in her place and I am doing my best…but it’s going to happen only by God’s grace! I have not been playing much at all, so to sightread music this ‘late in the game’ is not easy, nor is it something I’m comfortable with when it’s broadcast on radio, TV and internet!

But, then, none of this is about me! God in His sovereignty knew the tragic circumstances for my friend that would cause her to need me to play the oboe/English Horn parts. I don’t understand, nor does she. But we know God has a reason, so we trust Him!

Please pray for the H family, as they bury the second (adult) sibling/child in 4 years on one side of the family…the extended family is scattered and will be traveling for the funeral and there is much bad weather in the way.

I praise the Lord that He is sufficient—His grace, His strength, His sovereign timing, and His peace!

To God be the glory!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretty as a Picture!

I am very excited to share the Etsy "store" of one of my fave college profs, Dr. Charles (Chuck) Clevenger. He's an amazing artist and has just released some of his most popular prints in the form of note cards. His work is amazing!

Dr. C (as we call him) is such an inspiration. He is a gifted pianist and watercolorist, but perhaps his greatest gift is that of being an amazing teacher. He was one of the most encouraging of all of my great profs at Cedarville. It was ONLY by God's grace and Dr. C's generosity that I passed Aural Skills (ear training)! That was by far my hardest series of courses in my music degree curriculum.

Thanks to the technology of Facebook, I have reconnected with Dr. C. and am eagerly awaiting my order of his beautiful note cards in the mail...just in time to write Christmas thank-you notes! :)

So check out Dr. C's store--enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Far

It’s that time of year when many of us write Christmas cards/letters and reflect on what has happened in our lives and the lives of our family over the past year. In the vein of feeling reflective, I wanted to share this poem that I wrote for my thirtieth birthday, an undisclosed number of years ago! Every word is still true, and I praise the Lord for putting up with me and for patiently teaching me that He hasn’t brought me this far just to leave me. I can trust Him, and for today, that is more than enough!

What You’ve Done So Far

What You’ve done so far, my Savior

Is to free my soul from sin

Your life was the price You paid

To cleanse me from within.

What You’ve done so far, my Father

Is to love me as Your own

A love unconditional and freely offered

It’s transformed me—given me hope.

What You’ve done so far as Provider

Is to bless me abundantly

Family, friends—so many loved ones

My heart overflows with thanksgiving.

What You’ve done so far as Rescuer

Is to save me from myself

You kept me safe within Your arms

Even when I denied needing Your help.

What You’ve done so far as Healer

Is to touch me powerfully

Though the pain still often surfaces

You’re right here—comforting me.

What You’ve done so far, my Dearest Friend

Is to teach me loyalty

Despite my fickle heart and changing moods

You’re always here—You never leave.

What You’ve done so far as Shepherd

Is to tend me with such care

Though I’m wayward and stubborn,

You lead me, lovingly keeping me near.

What You’ve done so far as teacher

Is to use the school of pain

The lessons learned have hurt, yet honed me

My suffering has brought me gain.

What You’ve done so far as Grace-Giver

Is to free my mind from guilt

You’re patiently teaching me a different way

And I know I’m learning still.

What You’ve done so far has changed me—

I’m not where I thought I’d be

Yet Your plan is better always

Make me content to follow Thee.

What You’ve done so far, my God Almighty

Words cannot adequately express

This verbose writer with ready pen

Is speechless in Your holiness.

What You’ve done these thirty years

My mind can scarcely comprehend

By Your grace You are my Savior,

Shepherd, Teacher, Rescuer, Friend.

Father, God Almighty, Healer, Provider—all You are

No matter what You’ve got in store for me

I’ll remain amazed at all of

What You’ve done so far.

“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Ps. 146: 1-2 NIV

“When my heart my grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by your righteous right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Ps. 73:21-26, 28 NIV

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10 NIV

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Praise

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Psalm 145 (The Message)

David's Praise

1 I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King! and I'll bless your name into eternity.

2 I'll bless you every day,
and keep it up from now to eternity.
3 God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to his greatness.
4 Generation after generation stands in awe of your work;
each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
5 Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
I compose songs on your wonders.
6 Your marvelous doings are headline news;
I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.
7 The fame of your goodness spreads across the country;
your righteousness is on everyone's lips.

8 God is all mercy and grace—
not quick to anger, is rich in love.

9 God is good to one and all;
everything he does is suffused with grace.

10 -11 Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
your holy people bless you.

They talk about the glories of your rule,
they exclaim over your splendor,

12 Letting the world know of your power for good,
the lavish splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
you never get voted out of office.

God always does what he says,
and is gracious in everything he does.

14 God gives a hand to those down on their luck,
gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

15 All eyes are on you, expectant;
you give them their meals on time.

16 Generous to a fault,
you lavish your favor on all creatures.

17 Everything God does is right—
the trademark on all his works is love.

18 God's there, listening for all who pray,
for all who pray and mean it.

19 He does what's best for those who fear him—
hears them call out, and saves them.

20 God sticks by all who love him,
but it's all over for those who don't.

21 My mouth is filled with God's praise.
Let everything living bless him,
bless his holy name from now to eternity!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What are you thankful for?

OK, so this is a test...this is only a test. This is a test of how many people read this blog as well as how many of those will comment. As far as I know, only 2 people "follow" me (whatever that might mean; I'm so not blog-savvy, even though I have one!) Not that it really matters how many people read this. While I would be dishonest to tell you that I don't have any hope of "being noticed" (whatever that might mean) via this blog, it ultimately is NOT ABOUT ME. One of the reasons I titled the blog "His Princess" is because I want to remember always that whatever good/interesting/encouraging is not me, but Christ in me.

So, back to the subject of this post: please comment on this post and let me know 1 thing you are thankful for (from this past year). I think I've fixed the settings so anyone can comment w/out signing in or whatever.

What am I thankful for? Well, the list is much longer than 1, of course, but I guess if I had to think of one thing, it would be God's provision.

  • God's provision financially for when my salary was cut by 7% in March. I have tightened up the budget (that only exists in my head...another New Year's resolution to carry over to next year!)
  • God's provision mentally/emotionally as I've walked through some extra stressful waters this year.
  • Most important of all is God's provision spiritually in the sacrifice of His Son that provides me with eternal life.

For His gracious salvation I can never be thankful enough.

It's your turn now; it doesn't have to be 'serious'--could be more light-hearted/non-spiritual if you like...but


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lessons From a Toddler

I spent most of yesterday with my dear friends B and A and their 2.5 yr old daughter who calls me Aunt Sarah. For a couple hours yesterday afternoon, I took Big Sister (baby will be here in a few weeks) to a park to play. As I spent time yesterday with this sweet, social, energetic toddler, several things she said and did caused me to think about the similarities between toddlers/their parents and Christians/the Lord.

1) "I do it" - sometimes when Big Sister wanted to do things by herself, I let her, as long as it would not harm her. Sometimes, though, despite her protests, I needed to either help her or do it for her, in order to keep her safe.

I am desperately independent, which is sometimes good. Many times in my life, though, that's gotten me into trouble. The Lord must oftentimes (even despite my protests) intervene and rescue me, for my protection and for His glory.

2) Independence/obedience - B said a couple times yesterday that Big Sister's world is about to change and she knows it (not only due to baby coming, but also they are moving in 6 weeks)...Big Sister is generally well-behaved and obedient. B and A do a great job with her, even on days like today when her behavior in the late afternoon/evening betrayed her need for the nap she missed earlier in the day. She tested her limits several times and sometimes did not obey Mommy and/or Daddy. There were consequences of her actions; her correction was always proportional to the offense and administered in love.

Isn't that just like God? Frequently I test my limits in the sense of trying to do things my way instead of seeking His will. Many times my sin gets in the way...His correction (much like B and A's of Big Sister) is made out of His love for me and His desire for me to become more like Christ.

3) Safe in Daddy/Mommy's arms - Big Sister loves to "dance" (this consists of running around the chair in the middle of the family room) to music...she was in heaven on earth when Daddy would swing her around and twirl her...the look on her face was one of utter delight and safety. Mommy would have done this same thing with Big Sister, had Mommy not been 8+ months pregnant!

I can't tell you how many times the picture of a baby/child perfectly content in their parent's arms reminds me of how the Lord longs for me to be content in His loving arms. There is truly no safer, more delightful place to be than in the center of His plan and purpose for my life...which I can only know and rest in by seeking Him and clinging to His strength.

As I mentioned in the "Empty Arms" posts (below), in my heart I know that God longs to cradle me even more than I desperately long to cradle my own child. One of the decisions I made earlier this week on the beach is that no matter how long it takes, I will wait for God to provide me the desires of my heart.

I have oftentimes heard and even quoted myself Psalm 37:4,“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." (NASB) What exactly does that mean? Some people believe (I don't) that this means whatever we want, God will give us. God is not a vending machine. He is sovereign and I am not; He is omniscient and I am not; He knows what's best for me and I do not. So, what does this verse have to say about the desires of MY heart (i.e., marriage/motherhood)?? I am not a theologian, but I know and have sat under the teaching of several during my life. I believe that Psalm 37:4 means in my life that God will either 1) give me a husband and a child or 2) change my desires.

Perhaps that's simplifying things too much (I am a simple person)--I don't mean to be flippant...I just know that God knows best. He knows my heart, and He knows also how my life can best bring Him that in singleness and childlessness or marriage and motherhood. I do not for one moment begin to understand how that works, so I won't even pretend I do. What I DO know is that God has never failed me yet, and His Word and the affirmation of the Holy Spirit within me tells me that I can trust Him. So I am doing the very best I can to trust Him, even in this hardest region of my life.

One of my favorite professors at Dallas Seminary (DTS), Dr. Tom Constable (see 'verse-by-verse' link on the sidebar) says this about Psalm 37:4:

“Those who take delight in the Lord will receive their hearts' desires. The righteous who delight in the Lord will want to see His will done, and that will happen eventually for them.”—Dr. Thomas Constable, Notes on Psalms

The subject of God's will is too immense for this post (or any other, probably!)...but as I said, I do know that the Lord will accomplish what He intends to in my life...and I am trying to NOT GET IN HIS WAY!

So that's why I think we Christians aren't much different than toddlers - we're just a little taller (usually!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Your Garden of Grace

Make me walk by Your side, soak in Your light

Let Your life-giving river quench my parched soul

To grow here in Your Garden, Your Garden of Grace

The seeds of Your truth planted in time

Watered by many through years that go by

Though I didn’t always seek Your Son-light

The light of Your grace was always shining on me

How You’ve been faithful, dear Lord to fertilize and grow

In my sin I allowed the weeds to cover Your truth

Yet Your mercy brought rain again to this dry soil

The soil of my heart has been always tended by You

True Vine, Master Gardner, Savior and Friend

How lovingly You’ve kept Your garden that’s my heart

As I reflect on all the seasons of my life, both storms and bright days

You’ve skillfully crafted this plot You’ve created

With Jesus as my sun and Your Word as my rain

My faith grows so slowly and yet just at Your perfect pace

Prevent me from hindering the tilling You must do

Make this clay moldable and ready for Your use

Make me walk by Your side, soak in Your light

Let Your life-giving river quench my parched soul

To grow here in Your Garden, Your Garden of Grace

The Lord has taught me much about this concept of His garden of grace in my heart. One interesting concept I’ve thought of is that fertilizer comes from waste…that waste is putrid and filthy, though it contains some of the best nutrients for rich soil, which yields a bigger and more beautiful harvest. The “fertilizer” of life will look different from time to time (heartache, financial pressures, ministry woes, strained relationships)—but in the hand of our Master Gardner, all will be used to make the soil of my heart that which produces more beautifully, and closer to His design. This won’t happen overnight, just like a garden doesn’t grow the day after the seeds are planted. Sometimes the soil lays dormant for a while—because maybe the soil of my heart needs to be burned so that it will be able to grow things again. Often I let weeds of impatience and jealously and worrying crop up in my garden—and this requires the Master Gardner to pull the weeds. Not fun, but oh so necessary for His long-term garden design. Though I have only a view of the soil and the earth, our God sees the whole garden, as perfect as He made it to be, because He sees His garden of grace in the soil of my heart through the light of His Son. May we be patient as the Gardner gently and graciously cares for the gardens of His grace growing in our hearts.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me…If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:1, 4, 7 NIV

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CA trip re-cap, Part 2

The 2nd part of my CA vacation was in San Diego (SD).

My Uncle J (Mom's bro) and his wife Aunt S have been asking me to come see them in SD for years and years. Due mainly to the cost, it's just never worked out. While I was out in their wonderful state, I wanted to be sure to visit them. Unfortunately, Uncle J was called away to China on business at the last minute. He felt badly about it and I was disappointed, but it couldn't be helped.

I had a very nice time with my Aunt S in their gorgeous home--it felt like I was staying at a resort! I got to pick my room and I chose the "Palm [Tree] Room" because it looked the least fragile and just very soothing and inviting. (I'm not very graceful--clumsy should be my middle name!!) Aunt S has a fascinating mini shoe collection that I'd been hearing about (from family that had seen it before), and it was so neat to see all of them (100's) up close...they were categorized by shoe style (flats, platforms, heels, misc.) I also liked Aunt S' "ladies"--they were old women in chairs with exquisite details like lipstick on the wine glasses and headlines from the Harper's mag one was reading. She got them in London on one of their trips there. Aunt S and I had a good time catching up, and Uncle J called from China and we got to talk to him. Then Aunt S treated me to a very lavish dinner and afterwards we went back to the house and watched movies. I'm very glad it worked out for me to visit.

The next morning I made my way to Pacific Beach in San Diego. Just the drive there alone (and all of the drives I made in CA, for that matter!) was beautiful. I never really got pics of the mountains on camera, because most of the ones I saw were from the car (when I was driving) or from the air (where the pic would have never turned out from 1000's of feet above).

I got to my hotel/the beach (100 ft apart!) about 11:00, but check-in wasn't until 3:00. So I just walked down to the beach and enjoyed the scenery, went to lunch and then my room was ready. While the hotel was just 2 stars, it got great reviews on, and they were valid. While it didn't look like much from the outside, the inside was very nice. There was even a big flat-screen TV, a kitchenette with microwave, 2-burner cook-top (since I cook so much at home, I'd want to do it on vacation...NOT!), fridge, etc. I was very pleased.

I saw something I'd never seen before (yes, besides the Pacific Ocean!) I think it's called kite-sailing? Very beautiful to look at.

One of the things I wanted to do was put my feet in the ocean. I was warned it would be cold, and it was FREEZING! See here my small wide feet in the frigid water:

While I was sitting on the bench (after drying and warming my feet up!), this guy came up to me...this close! I didn't have any food for him, so I guess he just wanted to watch me journal, think & pray.

One of the visual highlights of my trip was watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I'm a fan of sunsets. I have framed pics that my Grandpa took of sunsets in FL in the early 80' bro St has taken numerous (amazing!) pics of of which is also framed in my apartment. I was surprised how quickly the sun went from this:

to this:

to this:

I had a sweet time of reflection, prayer, meditation and relaxation while overlooking Pacific Beach. It was all I ever hoped it would be. After dark, I went up to Cold Stone Creamery for a (so not!) nutritious dinner of Oreo Overload ice cream (hey, I was on vacation!) and then settled in to watch my Monday shows and 'chill' in the hotel room.

The next day I had a leisurely morning, including (minus the whipped cream, in case you care!):

Yes, yes, I know...dull me. I was in Pacific Beach/SD, CA and I ate at IHOP...but it worked well. I had half (the stuff that wouldn't be good cold like eggs and hash browns) for breakfast and then took with me in my carry-on the scrumptious above pancakes and bacon for lunch...yummy!

I had a 3 hour flight from SD to Austin and then a 1 hour flight to Dallas. By the time I got my luggage and took a cab home, it was about 10:30 TX time, which is late for me...I arrived back to my apartment, safe and sound...tired, sore, but thankful for a great trip and wonderful memories.

I'm so glad I went ahead and went (I almost canceled last week in order to save the $$, but would have taken a large hit on one of the flights, so decided to go...not to mention I REALLY needed a break!)

I praise the Lord for safety in all my travels and for the opportunity to visit with friends and family. I'm thankful as well to have been able to enjoy some "me time" on the beach in His presence. I made a major decision there on the bench in front of the Pacific Ocean--an affirmation on a specific issue for me--that God's timing is perfect. Because He's always right on time, I will not go ahead of Him and try to provide what I'm looking for in my own way. I will wait on Him...forever, if that's how long it takes.

When I got home, I checked one of my fave blogs, Beth Moore's...and it was time to enter my Scripture to memorize for the first half of this month. One she had on there is one of my fave's, but I've never memorized it from The Message paraphrase. When I saw it on her blog, and after my decision on the beach, I knew this had to be my verse to commit to memory this time...I'll close with this, because, really, it says it all...thank you, Lord!

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."--Jeremiah 29:11 (The Message)

CA trip re-cap, Part 1

This is the first of 2 posts about my trip to CA. My first two days I spent in Monterey with my good friends the Yellow Hats and their 3 kids: Big Girl (almost 7), The Boy (nearly 4), and Baby Girl (18 mos.) They are in the Air Force and are finishing their assignment there in 3 weeks and are on their way to Germany. I had to take this time to see them before they got too far away. Mrs Yellow Hat and I are friends from Cedarville (then College, now University)--we were both music majors (she was trumpet major and I was oboe). VERY precious family--well behaved, sweet children and a loving, godly family. Very encouraging to be in their midst.

The second day I was in town, we went to visit Point Lobos, which is one of their favorite spots to go and is just breath-taking. The Sea Lion trail was closed so we couldn't go down to the water, but what we could see from afar was amazing enough for me!

After going back to the house and getting the kids fed and down for nap/rest/room time, Mrs Yellow Hat & I headed to Coast Guard Pier and saw lots of sea lions and birds and starfish. Wonderful scenery, even though it was cold by the water, we were blessed with a great day (although after almost a week there, I think pretty much every day in CA is great weather-wise!)

After Coast Guard Point, we went to Cannery Row, including:

and had scrumptious brownies and peppermint hot cocoa.

Then it was back to the house for more play time with the kids and a yummy dinner. Afterwards, Mrs Yellow Hat took me to a girls' game night and I was introduced to Bunco. I wasn't good at it at all, but it was a lot of fun.

My time with the Yellow Hats went by way too quickly and it was time for me to leave to visit my bro S and his wife M in San Jose. They just bought a very nice, brand new home and it is beautiful--I'm very happy for them. It was nice to meet my nephew & niece dogs, too. Sadie is an Australian Shepherd/Lab mix and Sammy is a Boxer.

Sadie doesn't like the camera, but Sammy is a very social fellow. He's 2 and still very much a puppy. St has to have 3 scheduled, purposeful play times with him on the weekend days to get him tired enough to sleep at night!

We went to eat at a Greek place for lunch, went back and watched Ohio State beat Iowa (GO BUCKS!). After a light dinner, we went out for dessert at a very nice place with very horrible service. At least they had a gift card and weren't paying for it!

I was sorry to have to leave them after only 1 day, but St has a new job and is working 6 days/week.

Monterey and San Jose were wonderful (best of all were the people I visited with while in those cities!) All too soon, it was time to be on my way to San Diego for the second half of my trip (to be posted later)...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vacation is Over :(

Well, I arrived back safely in Dallas last night about 9:30 p.m. Texas time. I have to say that I could have stayed on vacation a lot longer, but isn't that always the case?

I'm taking a "recovery" day from work today and then go back tomorrow for a glorious 2-day work week. :)

I'm wiped out and not up to posting pics of the trip...but I will. Suffice it to say, I'm so glad that the Lord made a way for me to go and that I'm so thankful I had safety in all the travel.

CA is beautiful, too be sure. Now I know why the lady I work with that lived there for a while hates TX so much and can't wait to get back to CA! :)

Happy "Hump Day", everyone! :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day and time for a break...

To all our veterans, past & present:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service to our country. Your sacrifice, and that of your families, is not in vain. I praise the Lord for the privilege of living in this country that is free because of you. Every day you should be remembered, not just 11/11.


Completely unrelated and no where near as important: As of 3:30 p.m. CST this afternoon, I am on vacation...will not return to work until Thursday 11/19. Going to be in CA with friends and family...and then, for the first time ever, because I've always wanted to, a day for ME on the beach. A time to think, pray, write, and reflect on God's beautiful creation and work in my life.

Hope to capture the sunset and/or sunrise over the ocean on camera--but even if I don't, it will be captured in my mind. Even though I am regretting (from a purely financial perspective) spending the $$ on this trip, I am really ready for a break, and since I would lose quite a bit if I canceled, I am going!!! Have the boarding pass printed. :)

"See you" in a week! :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Empty Arms: Hannah's Story

Hannah’s earnest plea for a child is one that my heart has cried (and will continue to, I expect) so many times. Yet the same God that so abundantly blessed this godly woman by granting her the desire of her heart will someday (and even today in the interim) fill this child-size void in my heart with His tender, gentle, comforting presence. Praise be to YAHWEH the God of Israel and the God of my life! Only He is worthy of praise, for only He gives the gift of life, the gift of gratitude, the gift of tears, and the all-encompassing, never-ending gift of grace!

Empty Arms

Hannah’s Prayer of Desperation

[I Samuel 1: 9-11]

Holy God my Father

I come before your throne

Though I love you will all my heart, Lord,

There’s times I feel so alone.

My empty arms are aching

For a precious little one

You know my heart, oh YAHWEH

So to you, my Lord, I come.

Each time I see a baby, Lord

There’s sorrow in my heart

When I let my emotions take over,

I’m nearly torn apart.

My empty arms are hurting

But in the midst of the pain, I see

That only you are able

To fill this void inside of me.

So though my heart is fragile

And my flesh is only weak

Help me God to trust you—

It’s solely your face I seek.

So though my arms are empty

I praise you for your grace

In your sovereign time you’ll fill them,

Until then, I seek your face.

I wish I knew how to post a song on here. I wish you could hear my dear friend Becky’s beautiful voice sing this as a lullaby. This is the first time that one of my poems has been set to music. It is a portion of the poem “Gaze Into My Eyes” that I posted last week.

Gaze into My Eyes

Hannah’s Lullaby from Yahweh

[Words by Rebecca Lynn Edumondson (now Campbell) and Sarah J. Moseley]

I’ve loved you right from the start

And have all the best for you

You are my child

I love you with all my heart

Gaze into My eyes, my child

In them You’ll find my peace

You’ll find no judgement here

Only my sweet release.

Seek me and you’ll find me

When you seek me with all your heart

Come. rest in my arms

I’ve loved you from the start.

Gaze into My eyes, my child

There you’ll find my rest

In the midst of all your cares

I’ll turn your good into My best.

This Child

Hannah’s Song of Dedication and Praise

This little child, used by you

Greater things no one could do!

You formed him perfectly in side of me

Now he’s yours Lord, I set him free.

What a gift you’ve give your servant

My whole life up till now

My heart beat for you, Lord,

I knew you could—somehow!

Is there any reason you blessed this simple servant

With love so rich, so free?

No, my Lord Almighty—

It’s all you, NONE of me!

My life now has such purpose

My head now raised, I see

That all along you’ve loved me, so I’m here on bended knee.

He’s yours Lord and yours only—I give him up, I give him up to Thee!