Posted in Inspired by Music, NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano, Uncategorized

A New Way to Cope

Today is the first day of what is known around the interwebs as NaBloPoMo, or in layman terms, National Blog Posting Month.  The goal is to post on your blog everyday in the month of November.  Since I’ve been jonesing to get back to writing, I thought this would be a great time to jump in head first. Oh, and I’m dragging my husband along with me.  Well, okay,he’s joining of his own free will and I’m so grateful for that.  I have attempted some of these month long challenges before and have not stuck with them on my own, so I’m hoping having him on this journey with me will encourage me to stay the course.  It’s worked really well for both of us before so I’m hopeful it will again.  

One of the ways NaBloPoMo helps those taking part in the challenge is to provide daily prompts. I’m not sure we’ll always write to the prompt, but our goal for now is  to try.  So, without further ado, here is today’s prompt and my thoughts on said prompt.

When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?

When I’m having a bad day, you can be certain there will be music somewhere near me.  Many years ago the playlist would have consisted of 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Staind, or Audioslave.  Mostly, I looked to music not to soothe the savage beast inside of me, but to give it permission to rise up.  If you happened to witness me during those periods of my life, you would have no question about where the term ‘head banging’ music came from.  Whatever emotion I was feeling would be amplified and would therefore be in no way healing for me.  If anything, my choice in dealing with a bad mood often led to an even more bad mood.

A few years ago something began to change inside of me.  It all began after attending Winter Jam.  The headliner was a band called Skillet.  This band, this worship band, rocked my face off. I turned to my husband while watching fire cannons and elevated rotating stage sets and said, “Do you have any idea how different my life would have been if I’d had this music as a teenager?!?”  

In almost an instant, I went from using songs with lyrics like “Shut up when I’m talking to you, Shut up, shut up, shut up” to calm my bad moods (what was I thinking!?!), to songs with lyrics like “Lift up your voice, Let love cut through the american noise.”  It was a shift that I so desperately needed.  I’m not saying that secular music isn’t still a part of my life, but I find that when I’m experiencing some adverse emotion, I crave something that will lift me up rather than entice a monster inside of me to rise up.  This subtle shift in what I allow to influence my thoughts (positive, Christ focused music) really does make all the difference.  Instead of enhancing the already negative emotions I may be feeling, this change in choice of music now brings light into the crevices of my thoughts where darkness was threatening to overcome.

A few years ago my husband and I did a small group study on the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel. One of the statements in this book has really become a mantra for me.  Groeschel says we should ask ourselves one simple question in the decisions we make, specifically when consuming current culture.  “Is what I’m doing, is what I’m looking at, is what I’m thinking honoring God?” Now, in all honesty, the answer to this question is often a resounding and shameful no.  But, I can testify now for you that since applying this question to the music I listen to, I’m happy to report I believe the answer is a big fat yes.  I firmly believe that God used something that I loved dearly and allowed it to open multiple doors (my church band, NEEDTOBREATHE, Winter Jam) that in turn opened my eyes to new ways to cope and pull myself out of a bad mental health day.  

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Thank you for reading!  Please take a moment and check out my husband’s post on the same topic.

Posted in Uncategorized, Write 31 Days

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

If the title of this post seems confusing, I apologize. I’m just practicing my next mission.  Let me explain.

I’ve taken a few days off from writing in order to spend time with very dear friends and attend the Women of Faith Conference in Orlando. It was the second year I’ve attended and once again it did not disappoint. For three hours on Friday night and 8 hours on Saturday, we laughed, we cried, we worshiped, we prayed, we questioned, and we praised. There were special moments that shook my soul to the core and lifted my heart toward God.  I loved being there and I loved listening to these beautiful women (and Matthew West) bring their personal stories to life so that we could all find ways to relate to them on what felt like an intimate setting surrounded by thousands of other women. My heart and my reading list were very full when we left there.

I would highly recommend checking out every one of this year’s speaker and artists. Here’s a quick run-down for you. There was some wonderful content and messages that came from each of these and I hope to incorporate something from each speaker into this month of missions I’m on.

There was one message that really stood out for me during the weekend.  Lysa TerKeurst spoke about how we should say yes to God’s assignment each morning.  One of her quotes really jolted my heart because I will be the first to admit that prayer time and conversations with God are not first on my mind when I wake up. Lysa says we should “exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.”  WHOA!  Talk about a Godsmack statement! b36cbaec6e103d0ba2fcba3c9f67be6a

Patsy Clairmont says that saying yes to God daily keeps you open and supple to things like gratitude and mercy. Mercy is an area in which I struggle daily. Between my commute and what can only be described as an extremely frustrating work environment, I completely ignore God’s opportunities to extend mercy. I have to more consciously acknowledge these moments and say yes to Him, yes to his assignment to invest mercy in other people.

I’m now on a mission to begin each day with “Yes, God, I’ll do whatever you want me to do”. Whatever the assignment He has for me, I will say yes to it.  I know in my heart the words in this image are true and I hope that by succeeding in this mission, I will experience joy in more areas of my life.

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Feet on the Ground

There is no way I could improve on what Gil has written here, so I’m just sharing it as is. We hope that you will help us and donate to the cost of this trip. And if you can’t donate, please help us spread the word.

Gil Gonzalez

There are so many things that come to mind when I think about the word Mission. I think of an elite group of soldiers making their way through a South American jungle, en route to a specific location. I think of wordy statements corporations place on their websites, most of which go ignored by the companies’ employees. I think of a style of architecture popular in the Southwest.

…and yes, I think of Ethan Hunt precariously dangling from a cable in a sound and temperature sensitive computer room.

You've got the theme song stuck in your head now, don't you? You’ve got the theme song stuck in your head now, don’t you?

But for the purpose of this particular post, my mission is to set you on a mission to help us take part in a mission trip.

In January, my wife and I will be joining other members of our church family in the Dominican Republic as part of a faith…

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Posted in Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

Crossroads

A week ago Gil and I headed down to St. Petersburg to see one of our favorite bands perform at The Hideaway Café. It’s such a great venue and the perfect spot to catch Sarah Mac Band when they’re in town. Of course, with any favorite band there must be favorite songs. Here are my Top 5 SMB songs, in no particular order:

Baptised
Crossroads
Gloryland
Satisfied
I’m Not Scared

In looking at these 5 songs, I realize there are very distinct reason why each one is special to me. Satisfied, because…well, just because. I’ll leave it at that for now. Gloryland is precious to me because of the memories surrounding the first time we heard it live, and it is now at the top of my list of funeral songs.  And of course I can’t hear it without crying, although it’s not the only one in the list above that leaves me in tears. Crossroads is a song that wrecks me every.single.time. I can’t help it. It’s spontaneous crying, kind of like when I’m in church during worship and my soul starts overflowing out of my tear ducts.

When I hear Crossroads I find myself transported back to certain moments and events in my life. I think it’s human nature to think about all the crossroads you’ve faced and what your life would be like if you went left instead of right, north instead of south, straight ahead instead of taking the detour.

“It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

Memories of the choices I made as a child often slip up out of nowhere to haunt me. If I had run faster for help, could my grandfather have been saved?  If I had not wrestled the gun away, would we have survived in the wake of suicide? If I hadn’t gotten into the truck with my crush, would my innocence have lasted a few years more?

“Spent so much time thinking about how it might have been
How my life could’ve turned out
It’s long gone and part of history now
No turning back and no regrets
No room for doubt, no holding debt
‘Cause from here on out, I’m gonna just forge ahead
It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

As my teenager years drew to a close, my wrong turns were numerous and with abundant  regrets.  I was a strong willed teenager who had a weakness for the boys. I didn’t go to art school because of a boy. I did start junior college because of a boy. I left a boy and embarked on a solitary journey that led me toward too much alcohol, sexual promiscuity, irresponsibility, bankruptcy, and one of the deepest depressions I had ever faced.

“In the dark, all alone, I tripped on a dead seal washed up on the shore
The smell was on my hands when I handed in my visa at the border the next morning
Left behind, something died, washed to Asia by the pull of the Pacific that night
But it made room for something new and it brought me to you”

When I hear these lyrics, I can’t help but think of where I am today. I have a job, a home, a car, and a healthy family. I have a husband who takes care of me and loves me without reservation. I am blessed. My life is blessed. Had I taken the straight path instead of staying on the winding one, any one of these blessings might not have happened.

“…But it made room for something new and it brought me to You”

Even though I could easily apply these words to my relationship with Gil, it’s often not him that I think about when hearing this song.  I think mostly about how my bad decisions, stupid mistakes, careless behavior, and sinful transgressions have all allowed me to experience God’s grace and love. God was at every crossroad I’ve encountered, and He allowed me to choose my own direction. While I wandered aimlessly, He held on and He loved me.  When I took the path that led me away from Him, he would just wait at the next crossroad, ready to show me which direction to take. For so long, I just turned away from Him seeking acceptance and love from other sources.

There was a point several years ago that I realized how tired I was from all the years of running down roads that never seemed to go anywhere. And sure enough, when I stood at that crossroad, my God was faithfully waiting for me, just as he had been my whole life.

I hope one day I don’t look back at my journey through a lifetime of crossroads and feel regret and shame. I hope that I will someday cherish my wrong turns and know they were not wrong at all. Each of them was preparing me for the greater God has planned for me as I serve His kingdom here on earth. I try to look at my trials and tribulations as blessings, because with each one I have come to know grace and forgiveness in ways I never thought possible.

Posted in Uncategorized

RSVP Required

Do you ever feel like God is working really hard on you some days?

Today I was reminded of a great deficiency in my life. Well, actually, one deficiency begets another begets another and so on.  There’s a pity party inside my head with a very exclusive guest list. It’s just Satan and me, but doubt and insecurity just arrived, and fear is expected any minute now.

I think it’s time for this party to end, though. I’m going to take Steven Furtick’s message to heart and look at this as yet another sign that it’s time to move on, time to make a change, and time to finally accept God’s invitation to accept the something greater I know He has planned for me.

And you can rest assured Satan, doubt, insecurity, and fear did not receive this invitation.

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days, Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

First Love and Transformation

I took a vacation day today so I could go spend some time with my first love. Now, don’t go thinking I was stepping out on Gil today. It was nothing like that. The first love I’m referring to is the first BAND I fell in love with – The Oak Ridge Boys. I think they were the first band, or artist, that made me feel what one is supposed to feel when music touches your soul. You know, that feeling deep down, the one where you know a spark has been lit. And then every single time you hear their music or see them live, the spark just grows brighter. Well, I can tell you that today I’m absolutely beaming.

Even though my first concert was not The Oak Ridge Boys, I do think it was my second and third concert (my first was Marty Robbins and I was very young and have almost no memories of that). I have such fond memories of TORB on Hee Haw, or some music awards show. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, we were lucky to catch our favorite artists on one of the three channels maybe 2 or 3 times a year. But when we did, it was a family affair. For me, The Oak Ridge Boys represent a time of innocence. It was before I discovered boys and rock and roll,  and my dad was the only man in my life.  He loved this group of musicians, and because of his and my mom’s love for them, I loved them too.

As I developed into a teenager, my childhood innocence faded. It was replaced by boys, and booze and even a few drugs along the way. The Oak Ridge Boys were replaced by Iron Maiden, Ozzie Osborne, and Judas Priest. Family time was no longer spent watching silly variety shows. Actually, family time became much less important as time with my friends took priority. What was a simple child who loved God, family, and country music, became a teenager who wanted none of that.

I drifted far away from the things that were important to me, not the least of which was God. It seems that overnight, I went from a child with a dream to become a missionary to a young woman who wanted nothing to do with God or His churches. I’m not even sure what happened, or even when it happened. All I know is that for many years, God was nothing more than an afterthought, much like the music of The Oak Ridge Boys during that time.

IMG_8736Now, fast forward 30-35 years. As much as I love TORB’s county and crossover music, their incredible harmonies when singing the Lord’s praises is what melts me now. During the show today, they all came together on stage and sang Life’s Railway to Heaven, a capella. And it was truly Heaven inspired.  As the Boys beautifully sang these lyrics, my heart opened up and was filled with the knowledge that no matter what path leads us to God, the important thing is that it LEADS us to Him.

Life is like a mountain railroad
With an engineer that’s brave
We must make the run successful
From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels
Never falter, never fail
Keep your hand upon the throttle
And your eyes upon the rail

Blessed Savior, Thou will guide us
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In that great forevermore

As you roll across the trestle,
Spanning Jordon’s swelling tide.
You’ll behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide.
There you’ll meet the superintendent,
God the Father, God the Son.
With a hearty joyous greetings:
“Weary Pilgrims Welcome Home”

The beautiful thing about God is that he extends His grace to the lost and fallen. God loves me as much today as He did when I was a young girl living for Him. What I didn’t know during those dark years was that God was faithfully pursuing me. I was running and turning my back, but He never did. Every sin then and every sin now is forgiven. He is waiting for me with His arms wide open, ready to welcome me home.

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Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Today’s 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge was another small success, but a success nonetheless. Because I took the day off work, I was able to get in several hours of quality computer time this morning. I caught up on several blogs and even cleaned out several hundred emails. These are two items on my declutter list that I hope to work on each day, little by little. Even though these non-stuff items don’t get a bag sticker today, I did check two items off my list.  I headed off the the bathroom with the intent to only clean out my medicine cabinet, as task that should have taken me only a few minutes. Because so few items needed to be tossed, I decided to go ahead and tackle my other cabinet of miscellaneous items and my makeup. The result was another stuffed grocery bag in the trash.

Sadly, though, I failed to start YouVersion at the beginning of my task and missed out on about 15 minutes of more bible time. I wasn’t going to let that discourage me though. I came back to the computer and pulled up an unread email from Joyce Meyer’s 3030 Challenge. I read her devotional and several bible passages.  I love the verse above. It speaks to my blog post today, as well as this project I’m working on. I’m changing my mind, my habits, and my life.  God is transforming me and I’m loving it!

Posted in Uncategorized

From Reeling to Reborn

2013; It’s been quite a year. A year filled with heartbreak and disappointment. A year filled with love, family and friends. 2013 was a year that brought me to my knees in desperation, and in gratitude.

As I reflected on 2013 for this blog post, I thought about skipping over the bad stuff. However, the single most important thing I want to do with this blog is to be authentic in who I am and who I want to be. And skipping the bad wouldn’t be true to that. However, upon further reflection, I could think of only one bad thing worthy enough to even write about. It was a single heartbreak, although it’s probably not the kind of heartbreak you would think. It wasn’t a person, per sé, that broke my heart. No, it was a company. Specifically, my employer.

In order to protect myself just a little bit, I’ll forego the down and dirty details, but I can assure you that my heart was metaphorically ripped out, put in a blender, and turned into mincemeat. I had bounced back from the previous year’s disappointment, and even began to thrive and enjoy my role in the company. Then, in late January, some news came down that changed everything. I was given a new role, a new boss, new employees, and new responsibilities.  Ironically, I was given almost everything I wanted the year before, but in the worst possible way it could have been done. I know we all experience professional disappointments from time to time, but this was the kind of ongoing mental beat down that makes you want stay down. It’s the kind that breaks most people.

But, you know what? It has not broken me. I’m hurt and disappointed by what’s been done to me, but I know in my heart that what I’m going through is all part of God’s perfect plan for me. If there is one thing that’s come from this experience, it’s that I find myself growing closer to God. In 2013, my soul exploded with His love. I’ve read more books, listened to more music, and received more messages of God’s Word than ever before. I’ve found that in my very darkest times, God continues to fan the flame in my heart. That flame was bigger and brighter than ever on August 4 when I was baptized for a second time. There’s something about making that decision and commitment as an adult that means so much more than my childhood decision thirty-five years ago. It was the #1 moment of the year, made even more special when Gil surprised me by taking my hand and joining me in a commitment to live out this faith journey together, side by side.

2013 could also be summarized by the “F” word. Well, three little “F” words actually: faith, family, friends. I know it is cliché, but this was the year that those three words began to morph into the same entity. I cannot speak about one without talking about the others. My faith brought so many incredible friends into my life, friends that are now as important as any family member could be. And speaking of family, the most important person in my life, my husband, is also my best friend and a guiding source of God inspired love and service. I’ve seen Gil’s faith really grow this year, and I am so proud of him and so blessed to be his wife.

If I had to pick one word to describe 2013, it would be metamorphosis. This was my, “Year of the Butterfly”. I found my happy place right in my own back yard during the late summer months. Over and over again I watched something ugly become something beautiful. Sometimes it was in the birth of a pinhead sized caterpillar, or a bee sucking nectar from an alien looking passionflower bloom.  Sometimes it was in the sparkling sunlight reflecting off drops of rain on a vibrant, orange flower. Mostly, it was in the moments glorious new life emerged from an ugly, hardened chrysalis. These were the moments that took my breath away. These were the moments in which I remembered God’s grace. While the voices in my head wreaked havoc on my thoughts, I found moments of beauty and stillness in those fluttering, beautiful insects. The beauty would take my breath away and silence the demons in my mind. In those moments, I was reminded that God will make beautiful things out of all of us. I felt a kind of rebirth, very much like the moment of my baptism.

Metamorphosis is defined as a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something. My metamorphosis is happening. I can feel it from the inside, in very much the same way that the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly inside a chrysalis. You can’t see it happening, but you watch, and you wait with giddy anticipation. With hope. With faith that something beautiful is coming. I believe God gave me those experiences last year to remind me that He’s not finished with me. I believe I needed to see that the ugly doesn’t last. I needed to feel that special kind of hope.

So, it’s with giddy anticipation I enter 2014 filled with hope that God’s hand and His grace will continue to transform me into the person He wants me to be.