Thankful

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So much has been given to me I have not time to ponder over that which has been denied.
~ Helen Keller ~
 
November is a time for giving thanks. I have had a busy, wonderful month filled with an awesome vacation, lots of family time, dinners and coffee and get-togethers with friends, and reflecting on the many blessings God has graced me with. I have been recording thanksgivings throughout the month and am sharing thirty of them, one for each day in November. Some silly. Some profound. All meaningful to me on specific days this month.
 
1. the brilliant blue of the fall sky on a crisp, clear day
2. my nephew’s laughter
3. junior mints
4. the way time melts away when I reunite with precious friends who live far away
5. bike rides
 
 
Image6. collecting seashells on the beach
7. safe travels
8. sushi!
9. ringing handbells
10. jigsaw puzzle time with my mom
 
 
 
 
11. slipper boots Image
12. having a glass of wine with a friend
13. arriving at work ahead of my coworkers and enjoying a quiet, peace-filled start to the workday
14. green lights when I’m running late
15. the rustle of fallen leaves on the sidewalk 
 
 
 
16. Christmas shopping in November
17. a friend sharing the term, ‘ThanksLIVING,’ with me and feeling challenged to live a life of thanksgiving every day of the year and to respond by serving others
18. the Deacon ministry at my church
Image19. fall foliage
20. coworkers who support and care for each other
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
21. professional learning team meetings with my brilliant colleagues
22. handmade greeting cards
23. wrapping presents
24. sitting in the pew with my family at church
25. short meetings
 
 
26. everyday blessings I forget to be thankful for, like heat to warm my house, gasoline in my car, food in my fridge, and friends and family who would help me in a heartbeat if I asked them to.
27. working, not traveling, on the day before Thanksgiving
28. Thanksgiving dinner with my grandma
29. the Black Friday shopping tradition with my mom and sister
30. my messy, energetic, and delicious kitchen while baking Christmas cookies with friends
 
 

Name

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I latch onto words. This has happened to me for most of my adult life. I grab hold of a word and either use it frequently in conversation or end up reflecting on it for awhile and relate it to my experiences. I think that’s why, when I started this blog last June, I decided that my blog entries would be single-word titles. I’m naming what I’m writing about. I’m getting to the heart of what my blessings and burdens are. Words like oak and stirring and joy and forward simmer inside of me. My writing helps me define my thoughts, own them, and name them. 
 
At times, my thoughts take on an intensity. I can easily dream and get lost in reflecting on situations, which keeps me from being in the present and often just ends up being speculation or building up expectations of what is to come. My writing has allowed an outlet for those thoughts. It’s a place to unleash them and leave them. It’s a way of working through those thoughts, naming what they are, and letting them go when I click the ‘post’ button.
 
My writing process starts with simply throwing thoughts, statements, sentences on the page. It’s a stream of consciousness. It’s all very disjointed. I end up moving phrases together to form sentences, then shift those thoughts around to form paragraphs. What I noticed is that I always begin by writing everything in the third person. I use the word ‘you’, but as I polish, re-read, and fine-tune those sentences, I replace each ‘you’ with ‘I’ and it changes my perspective completely. I take on this state of ownership and vulnerability. I’m feeling these things. I’m naming them. I’m sharing them with the world. Just the tweak of a simple pronoun completely changes my perspective. It’s empowering and brings me great clarity.
 
I was telling a friend that after every post I write, I feel I have nothing left to reflect on. All of my energy went into wrestling with the words for that post and I am done. And yet, soon enough, I catch a word or an idea or something is weighing on my heart and I open up a new page and start putting those blessings and burdens on the screen. If I’m to experience a drought in my writing, it hasn’t happened yet. I could never have imagined when I started this blog that I would be in the place where I’m at now. I started this blog during a crisis period in my personal life. It was an outlet for me to make sense of what I was feeling. A way to see thoughts and feelings I didn’t understand and had a difficult time putting into words. Over the past few months, I’ve found the words to help me through those struggles and have recorded some joys along the way as well. I have discovered more about who I am, what I want, and what I don’t want in my life. I have uncovered hidden parts of myself that I was ignoring or didn’t even know were there.  
 
My posts are my prayers on the page. I am communicating with God. He speaks to me through these words. I have felt more connected to Him, His plan, and His love for me than I have in a long time. I have grown tremendously in my faith and trust in His will for my life. I love the conversations my writing unlocks. If I didn’t share my journaling, if I didn’t risk and be vulnerable as I share my story with others, then I would miss out on those precious prayers and conversations. The most profound statements are often those that are the simplest. Epiphanies about frustrating situations manifest themselves into a concise word or phrase. Simplicity is power. Own it. Name it. Let it go. . .
 
 

Vulnerability

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Brene Brown is a brilliant storyteller. I encourage you to escape the noise of your life for twenty minutes to sit and be and experience this TED talk. 
 
 
Vulnerability. I hadn’t paid attention to or used this word much until recently. I love this word. It has such depth and power and freedom. It’s a beautiful description of how I want to live my life. It’s about being open. It’s about being real. It’s about allowing my authentic self to be seen, with no guarantees. It’s taking a leap bound by faith and trust. It’s me being 100% me. Being vulnerable means allowing myself to feel all of my emotions. Fear, sadness, joy, anxiety, contentment, want. The more I share who I am with people who are close to me, the more I want to share. I seek out others who want the same.
 
But, being vulnerable is scary. It leaves me exposed. Rejection, failure, regrets. Opening myself up to others can lead to negative consequences just as much as it can bring me clarity and joy. No matter how much I open up to another person, I can’t make someone else be vulnerable with me. No matter how much I encourage and show compassion and give of myself to another person, if they’re not ready to open up, it ain’t gonna happen. Finding that match, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship is healthiest and most fulfilling when both people are vulnerable and share their authentic selves with each other. This describes my closest and most meaningful friendships. To share our weaknesses as well as our strengths. To be vulnerable enough to see a range of emotions in each other. To trust each other with parts of our lives that we haven’t verbalized before. I am blessed to have shared in these experiences with several close female friends. These strong bonds have shown me the importance of emotional health and trust when venturing into romantic relationships, too. I can’t make a guy open up to me. I can’t be open and vulnerable with a guy I’m interested in and expect him to mirror that vulnerability. Just because I share my heart, doesn’t mean that he will. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. If I put my love out there and it’s not reciprocated, it hurts. But, the more I live and love and suffer loss and disappointment, the stronger sense of self I gain and the deeper and richer connection with my God I attain. Brene Brown claims that I am worthy of love and belonging. No one has to tell me that. I own that. I live into that truth. I trust that I am worthy.
 
I find that vulnerability comes easier in certain places in my life. Like walking into a new place for the first time. Of course I feel a bit of nervousness in hoping I don’t stand out as the obvious ‘newby,’ but for me, those feelings turn into positive excitement. I have this undeniable confidence when I enter into new situations in which I know I’m being directed to by God. When I first moved to the city where I currently live, I church shopped and visited several different congregations over the course of ten months. I didn’t just worship on Sunday mornings. If I attended service and felt led to continue exploring that place, then I jumped right into the life of the congregation. I got involved in the music ministry and reached out to Sunday School leaders. I looked for fellowship and study opportunities with others my age. To me, this felt natural and normal, but after telling my story to numerous friends, I’ve been told how courageous and bold I was. All by myself, reaching out to these congregations of strangers, and engaging with a sense of belonging right from the start. I broke down those barriers of vulnerability and joined right into the life of those churches. To me, it was liberating and exciting and completely natural to put myself into these types of experiences. I think it’s easiest sometimes to be ‘the new person.’ No expectations, just a sense of exploration and curiosity. I really enjoy it. I’m entering into these types of experiences again as I discern and explore and visit other congregations God is leading me to.
 
I am most certainly still a work in progress in the area of vulnerability. There are some areas of my life where vulnerability scares me. Places where my walk is more cautious and hesitant than vulnerable. Romantic relationships is the main one. It takes me a while to trust and open up to a guy, especially someone who initially shows more interest in me than I do in him. I feel this need to be the one in control. To control the pace of getting to know each other. To control how much I share and when. If I’m not the one doing the chasing, then I lose that sense of control. I’m cautious and shy and feel I’m portraying a different, much more reserved version of myself. Because of this, I’m convinced that some potential romantic relationships in my past never were because I was not vulnerable enough to open up early enough in the relationship. I think I unintentionally sabotaged those relationships because I was too scared to trust. Maybe my vulnerability now is simply naming that and identifying what I need to change. I am a work in progress… 
 
Through my wrestling with the right words for this post, I’ve discovered that vulnerability and trust walk hand-in-hand. I only allow myself to be vulnerable when I have a deep sense of trust. Being vulnerable enough to take risks, yet trusting that I am never alone. Opening up to others to show my authentic self and trusting that no matter what, God is with me every step of the way. It’s being confident in who I am and not letting insecurities get the better of me. It’s freedom from what others think of me. It’s allowing myself to be broken so that God can make me whole. It’s knowing that no matter what decisions I make, no matter what I share, no matter what experiences I encounter, my life will be richer, more authentic, and more joy-filled because I was vulnerable.

 

High5

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I’ve been on vacation for the past week. A good, old-fashioned family road trip with my mom, sister, and her little family. We had an awesome trip, so it was only fitting that I reflect on five of my greatest blessings from the past week. This is my High5 Vacation Edition.
 
1.
Sweet Wake-up Call
The whole crew of six of us stayed in a multi-room hotel suite the first few nights of our trip. My wake-up call each morning wasn’t the glaring sound of an alarm clock. It was the sweet little voice of my five-year-old nephew coming from the kitchen. He woke up chipper and ready for conversation with my mom, who was the first one up in the morning. Even though I wasn’t in the same room, I could see him smiling as I heard his cheerful conversation and it put a big smile on my face at the start of each day.
 
2.
College Reminiscing
ImageI spent last weekend revisiting my college town, friends, and went to a college football game. Being back in that space brought back a mixture of wonderful, nostalgic feelings. I was transported to another time and it almost felt like my time spent there over fifteen years ago had been a dream. The memories from being back in a place where I’ve lived but haven’t visited in awhile come back in waves. The recognition of a building where I had classes or seeing my old college apartment again led to memories of the people and moments and sites and smells that I had since forgotten. The funny thing about being in college is that, at the time, I felt like I was 100% adult, but didn’t realize how unlike real life that college experience really was until I entered the ‘real world.’ My college experiences were steps towards being fully independent, but I was still so sheltered and protected that those experiences only gave me a taste of life on my own as an adult. Last weekend was a bliss-filled, fairy tale experience to live into those memories and feelings again. 
 
3.
Unexpected Reunion
I love the new routine vacations provide. Waking up to a leisurely breakfast, walking the beach, showering up before heading out for lunch at an island cafe . . . rough life, I know. Such was our itinerary one day in the middle of our trip. After our morning beach activities, we headed to a sweet local cafe for lunch, were seated, and began looking over the menu. I glanced up and recognized a woman who had just walked in. Her mother was a tremendous positive influence on me as a teenager, so my smiles of recognition at her turned into sheer joy when her mother came in behind her. They were seated at the table right next to me and my mom. Laughs and hugs and a few happy tears were shared, along with the awe of God’s timing of this ‘chance’ reunion. This unexpected encounter will be close to my heart for a very long time.
 
4.
Toes in the Water ~ Toes in the Sand
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5.
Planning with Mom
We put nearly 2,000 miles on my car on this trip (1,993 to be exact), so there were hours and hours . . . . and hours of talk time in the car as we journeyed between destinations. My mom and I are really good at bouncing ideas off of each other and capturing plans and lists and brainstorms for projects back home. There’s something about distancing myself from my everyday life that brings forth clarity and bursts of creativity. I love this time with my mom to dream and reflect and prioritize and I always look forward to returning home with renewed vigor and energy. Vacations are amazing and necessary for my soul . . . but, there’s something about coming back home that brings me new life and renews my spirit.

Timing

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‘The trail of God at work rarely follows a straight line, which means our prayers may well produce different answers than we expect. For whatever reason – God’s sense of irony, antagonistic spiritual powers, the vicissitudes of a fallen planet – prayers get answered in ways we could neither predict nor imagine.’
Prayer: Does it make any difference? by Philip Yancey
 
God’s ways are mysterious. I’ve had the ‘bones’ of this blog post captured since mid-summer, but haven’t been prepared to flesh it out and complete it. I now know why. Since then, I’ve been discerning areas of my life that I didn’t give a second thought to even a few months ago. The ebb and flow of my life and timing of God’s plans for me are always perfect, but sometimes puzzle me.  
 
God’s timing has changed my life. I once met a stranger over lunch at a conference. We had such meaningful conversation that it led me to make connections and move to the current city in which I live. If I hadn’t stopped to eat lunch at that moment and sit at that table with that individual, my life would have taken a different turn. Or, a friend whose boyfriend lost his job precisely at the time he was needed to spend time with a family member who was in need. Or, my grandparents who met and dated, but went their separate ways to see other people. Then, were brought together again years later to date and fall in love and get married and . . . are the reason I’m here typing this today. 
 
Or, my favorite recent story of God’s timing. A former coworker stopped by to surprise me by getting my coffee order and heading to Starbucks. I was unavailable to see her when she stopped by, so she left. But, on her way back to the parking lot, she ran into one of my current coworkers. They had a discussion about a job opening where my former coworker now works and that my current coworker would be a perfect fit for. This chance encounter changed her life. She applied for that job, interviewed, was offered the position, and has been thrilled in her new role ever since. Think of the timing of it all. If I had been available after all; if the girls had parked away from each other in the parking lot; if either of them had been delayed in any way, none of this would have happened. You couldn’t have planned it if you tried. I love the way God works ‘His magic.’ It’s like He’s this puppeteer standing above us, guiding various folks into our path, with inspiring creativity that gives us wonderful stories to tell. I think God has a sense of humor. I love it. 
 
Sometimes God’s timing causes me to reflect and question and wonder. I’ve been struggling with making sense of this curiousity that’s inside of me. It’s a discernment centered around where God is leading me to worship and study. Over a year and a half ago, I accepted the call to serve in a three-year leadership position at my church. I truly believe I was called by God to serve at this time, and yet, even though I’m in this period of seeking what else is out there, I still have over a year and a half of that term remaining. Timing. God’s timing. He spoke to me before I even received the actual phone call to accept this leadership role. Without a doubt, I know I was called to serve at this time.
 
I met with one of my pastors last week to discuss some church business, but I also shared my struggles with him. He asked me to reflect on why I was called to be in church leadership at THIS time. A simple statement that I have since latched onto. I never assumed that being in this leadership role would be free from difficult decisions, differing opinions, and hard work. Maybe I was called at this time to strengthen my faith in our church’s system of government and order. To trust that the leadership and committees that are in place seek Godly council in their decision making. Or, maybe it’s my time to grow in confidence as a leader, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable to do so. Or, maybe it’s God’s mode of discernment for me . . . that through my work with committees and church leaders, I am reaching and stretching and growing in my faith. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s none of these. I’m still wrestling with this. But, I know God’s timing is perfect. I accepted the call with sincerity and I know He was looking three years into my future, knowing the personal struggles I would encounter, and still led me to accept the call at that time. But, why now? I’m still wondering what the answer to that question is.
 
I picture God leaning over me with strings like a puppeteer directing a great play. I picture Him with a chef’s hat and a kitchen full of ingredients as he adds a pinch of this and a dollop of that into His great recipe for my life. Sometimes he adds ‘mystery’ ingredients and surprises into His concoction. Sometimes the ingredients are sweet, sometimes bitter, but always the perfect ratio to make it delicious. I’m still in the preparation stage, with chopping and dicing and mixing and stirring. I don’t know how long it will take to finish this recipe, but I know it will be perfectly seasoned at just the right temperature for the exact amount of time needed. God’s timing is perfect. He has shown me before and I have no doubt He has me right where He wants me.
 
 

October

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“After the keen still days of September, the October sun filled the world with mellow warmth. Before Kit’s eyes a miracle took place, for which she was totally unprepared. She stood in the doorway of her uncle’s house and held her breath with wonder. The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a gigantic red torch. The oaks along the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. Everywhere she walked the color shouted and sang around her. The dried brown leaves crackled beneath her feet and gave off a delicious smoky fragrance. No one had ever told her about autumn in New England. The excitement of it beat in her blood. Every morning she woke with a new confidence and buoyancy she could not explain. In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible.”
 
I love this passage from the book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Her words paint such vivid imagery and even though I re-read this favorite from my childhood back in the midst of summer, I could easily smell and taste and feel the October day described here. Autumn makes me feel like a kid again. Half of my growing up years were spent surrounded by palm trees and sand and sunshine. We didn’t have big oaks and maples that turned brilliant shades of reds and yellows. We didn’t have chilly days and the smell of chimneys and falling leaves and fields of pumpkins. I missed out on those experiences at an impressionable time in my life and so now I marvel in all of it. 
 
October is a time of change. It’s in the air; you can feel it. The scratch, scratch, scratch of the fallen leaves tumbling across the sidewalk. The sun dips lower in the sky. The wind blows differently. The air has an expectancy to it, like it holds a secret of what’s yet to come. In my corner of the world, every day in October is different. Just last weekend, I was hauling out the summer wardrobe again – – flip flops, shorts, suntan lotion – – and wishing that the pool was open. Within 24 hours, I was sporting boots, a sweater, and a jacket.  I love that this time of year is always changing and takes unexpected turns. Such it is with my faith journey right now. My life mirrors the change of seasons. The dropping of old tired leaves – – baggage, obsessive thoughts, unhappiness – – and the transition into a new ‘season’ in my life, one filled with joy and expectancy and discernment and unparalleled trust in God.
 
I feel like I’m somehow new, different. Like I’ve shed off layers of brokenness and unhappiness over the past few months that I didn’t even know were there. I wasn’t truly in touch with who I am because I was so distracted and focused on what I wanted, not living into what God had already blessed me with. I made the distractions my priority and those barriers touched every aspect of my life. I am now in a season of change, living into the joy of who I am in this moment. I’m living into my authentic self, free from trying to make something work with a guy who isn’t interested in me. Free from societal pressures that I should be married with children by now. Free from living a life bound by comfort and routine and sameness. Free to explore new possibilities. Free to be me, to be filled with God’s unending joy and His awesome plans for me in this very moment. There’s an excitement in my life and an expectancy in my faith that is thrilling. I told a friend that I feel like a feather and that I’m floating and free and being carried about by the Holy Spirit. I don’t know where I’ll land. For now, I’m enjoying the freedom in the journey, of the unexpected experiences I’m entering into.
 
I feel the Holy Spirit moving in and through my life, especially in those areas where I have become the most comfortable. This stirring is a chance to reflect on who I am and where I am. Although I may or may not physically move somewhere new – – a new job or a different church or somewhere else to live – – the act of reflecting is, in and of itself, a mode for change, a period of growth, a time to move forward in perspective and grow in my faith. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on where I am now and discern my time in this place. As Ms. Speare so eloquently states, “In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible.
 
 

Discern

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I’ve been working through this post for over a week now and had it named before walking into the sanctuary for worship on Sunday morning. So, imagine my surprise when the sermon title included the word ‘discern.’ Since I started blogging last June, I’ve noticed such connections between what I’m writing about and the world around me. I think I’m more aware of my walk and am carefully listening. Sunday was just another example of God’s affirmation of what He’s already been laying on my heart.
 
I left a worship service last month in tears and when my mom asked me what was wrong, I simply said ‘I want more.’ It was all I could think of to put those sad feelings into words. More what? More out of life? More from my faith journey? More excitement, more of an understanding of what God wants for me, more risk-taking? Is there something about being in your mid-to-late 30s that makes you restless, yearn for change, and seek to understand who you are and what life is all about?  This is where I’m at and I have several close friends who are also seeking and wanting and discerning. For me, this awakening has occurred over recent months as my focus on the guy I’ve been interested in has shifted back to center. My attention is now on who I am, what I seek, and where God is leading me.
 
So this is the question I’ve been asking myself this week: Does my church meet all of my spiritual needs? Do I continue to stay there just because it’s familiar? When is it time to move on? I’ve heard it’s best to leave a place when times are still good, leaving you with fond memories, free from drama and angst. But, the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. Sometimes, it’s just different grass. Then again, I don’t know if I’m necessarily looking for the grass to be greener. I do know that I have a craving that’s not being satisfied. God wants me to stretch and grow and meet new people. To engage in new experiences where He speaks to me in new ways.
 
A part of me feels like I’m running. It’s like I’m giving up on a long-time relationship and instead of working through it and accepting that we’re all flawed, sin-filled human beings, I just feel like running away to newness. No organization is perfect, but for how long do I continue to stay put? What if I just want a change? It’s so easy for me to become stagnant and just go through the motions in a place that’s so familiar. I should always be looking to evolve and change and take risks. God doesn’t want me to fall into a rut.
 
I’m consistently growing in my faith alongside a community of believers. But, does that mean that I’m supposed to stay at the same church for 5, 10, 20 years? I used to think it did, but now I’m not so sure that’s God’s plan for me. I’m feeling led not to completely let go of my church, but to explore what else is out there. Nothing drastic at this moment, just an undeniable stirring that I can’t ignore. To look for those gaps in my spiritual life that I desperately need filled. Just the other evening, a friend shared that she and her husband stayed with their former congregation 21 years longer than they should have. 21 years! That’s a mighty long time. I feel challenged and excited to explore other options. Even if it leads me right back to my current church, the process of discerning and investigating is part of my faith journey and I will grow because of it.  
 
I’m a list-maker. So, I wrote down all of the things that fulfill me at my current church and what I’m still seeking. Do I try a worship service at a nondenominational church? Do I see what Sunday School classes are offered at a different church? Do I visit a community Bible study to see what it’s all about? For the moment, do I continue to stay active in my current congregation? The answer to all of these questions is yes.
 
These are the things that are on my heart this week. I hold many leadership positions in my church, so the decision to up and leave is not going to occur anytime soon. Circumstances change, people change, I change. I have not taken any actions towards moving on, but I am certainly open to God’s leading to try other worship services or explore Bible studies outside of my congregation. Please pray for me as I pray for you, dear friends. We all seek to be filled.
 
 

High5

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1.
Paying it forward
My sister and I love going to concerts and because we go to several every year, lawn seats fall right within our concert-going budget. We attended a concert last month and the opening act was not a group we recognized, nor cared for very much, so we relaxed on the lawn and gabbed through their set. In the wait time after the opening act and before the main event, a couple of girls came up to us with papers in hand. ImageThey asked if we wanted their seats on the 25th row, since they only came for the opening act and were leaving.  Um, yes please!  My sis and I quickly gathered up our blanket and bags and made our way to the front of the venue with tickets to rock-star seating in hand. So awesome to be the recipient of a pay it forward at such an unexpected time.
 
2.
Ridiculous Sushi Night (RSN)
A few close girlfriends and I schedule regular sushi nights. I cherish this time of sharing and laughing and just being with each other. Sushi for me is not just another dinner. It’s an experience….a calming, savoring experience akin to relaxing with a hot cup of tea or drinking a glass of wine. It is not to be rushed. I savor each and every bite. There’s something so special and intimate about sharing the same plate of sushi rolls with dear friends. I love it. One of these friends is moving out of state later this month, so our sushi night last week was our last RSN as a group. This makes it the saddest High5 I’ve posted, but the memories of these special moments make me smile.
 
3.
iTunes Radio
I updated my iPhone to iOS7 last week and quickly began exploring iTunes Radio. I didn’t have to look very far before discovering that the ENTIRE Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience was playing for free. Stop it with the awesomeness!  I’m still discovering new stations and adding them to the My Stations list. Last week, I enjoyed Hits of the 80s Radio and Christian Radio as I started my day. I love rediscovering songs from my past and finding some great new tunes to get hooked on. And, best of all . . . it’s free!
 
4.
Chobani bites
ImageI will eat ANYTHING that has the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘mint’ in the ingredient list. So, imagine my glee when I discovered this precious little find. It’s the perfect blend of health food and chocolate/mint obsession all in a petite package.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
5.
Walking unplugged
It was unseasonably warm here this weekend. Shorts and t-shirts were my weekend attire and I was almost wishing the pool was open again. Definitely a great couple of days to spend outside. So, I headed out for a walk Saturday morning and since I knew my afternoon and evening would include social settings with lots of noise and talking, I decided to walk sans earbuds . . . no music or podcasts. I knew a little peace and quiet would be a great way to start my busy day. I’m always plugged in while I walk, but it was so refreshing to listen to the lawn mowers, swings creaking back and forth, childrens’ laughter, and other neighborhood sounds on an active Saturday morning. 
 
 

Manna

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I’ve played piano since I was 10 years old and it was a huge part of my middle and high school years. After discerning that God’s college plans for me did not include majoring in music, I discovered that He gave me the gift of music as simply that . . . to be used as a gift to share with others; a gift HE gave me and will continue to use in me for the rest of my life. Piano in my adult life has almost exclusively consisted of playing during worship services at my church. When I play piano pieces, they become a part of me and I see my role as Christ’s messenger through music. I often look up the lyrics of the songs I’m playing and the background on each piece, as this knowledge adds to my expression in dynamics and presenting a piece in the way Christ would want me to. After all, it’s His message to others, not mine. He’s using me to reach others through song.
 
This past Sunday, I played an arrangement of Holy Manna. In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the word ‘manna’ and what the word means. I thought of all of the ways that God feeds us, that when I hunger for things of this world, He is the only one who truly nourishes me. It’s pretty amazing when I realize all of the spiritual food He supplies. It’s never-ending. 
 
Manna ~ food; bread; life
Holy manna ~ bread from heaven

 
When I’m physically hungry, it’s a yearning that nothing can satisfy except food. My body needs it to survive. I can’t continue to grow and thrive and live without it. But, God nourishes my soul in so many different ways with so many different types of foods. When I struggle and shake my fists and don’t understand and want what I want, God’s manna nourishes my soul so I can carry on. To be spiritually fed and full is an amazing feeing. To experience a profound message or read Bible passages that speaks right to me in the moment or hear a song that makes me cry or engage in meaningful conversations or have a mountaintop experience. These are spiritual food. This is God nourishing me. It’s manna . . . holy manna. God speaks to me through these experiences and they feed my faith in different ways. He has a world filled with His messengers. People share their gifts and talents, say what they feel led to share, and deliver messages to others and they’re all part of God’s plan to nourish His people.
 
God’s food, His manna, is life and energy and peace and grace and love. That hunger in me never goes away. It comes back time and again and I will need this holy food for my entire life, just as I’ll need food to nourish my body until my time on earth has passed.
 
So, I played Holy Manna at both worship services. As I recited prayers, sang hymns, and listened to the sermon during the service, the words ‘feed them’ kept coming into my head. Feed them with music. Feed their souls with song. This persistent phrase was from Him and I felt this joy-filled charge that as I played that piece, He would nourish those in the congregation with the notes and melody. How amazing that He uses me for something so life-giving. 

 

High5

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1.
Spontaneous latte
It really doesn’t take much to bring a great big smile to my face. I am not a ‘gifts’ girl. That is, I don’t like people to lavish me with gifts or give me stuff. The gift to me is spending time with the person; it’s their friendship, not another chotchke to put in my living room. But, a meaningful, spontaneous gift . . . one that is customized just for me, that the person knows I will love and appreciate, those gifts are awesome! They make my entire day. So, imagine my joy when someone at work arrived last week with a pumpkin spice latte just for me . . . just because. She must have known I was unable to stop for one, thought about it after getting to work, and longed to have that precious taste of fall to start my morning. It was an extra-special gift that tasted far better than if I had bought it for myself.
 
2.
Hello, My Name is . . . 
I agree with my sister that the heyday of Contemporary Christian music was over a decade ago. So today, even though I don’t latch on to as many songs in this genre as I used to, a song will come along every once in awhile and grab ahold of me. Right now, it’s this song by the brilliant Matthew West. Simplistic, relatable, and yet so profound.
 
WARNING: You WILL get the tune and lyrics stuck in your head ALL DAY LONG after listening to it.  Enjoy!
 
 
3.
Harvest
I am not a fragrance person. I don’t burn candles year-round or try out different perfumes or use air fresheners in my house or car. But, I do have two huge exceptions. My fall and Christmas candles MUST be from Yankee Candle and MUST each be a specific scent that screams the season for me when I smell them. ImageFor fall, I always burn Harvest from Yankee Candle. Now there are impostors . . . those with similar names or colors, but they are not the same. There is only one original. The arrival of fall in my house is not dictated by a date on the calendar. Fall has officially arrived when I’ve purchased my new 22oz Harvest jar for the season. Fall is here!
 
4.
Phone calls
I was blessed with several phone conversations over the last week. With friends; with my mom. I’m not much of a phone talker, but I counted each of these conversations as such a blessing. To catch up and share and laugh and listen. I don’t always make time for these precious conversations, but this week reminded me of the simple, joy-filled act of reaching out to dear ones, near and far.
 
5.
Honey crisps
I went to the mountains a couple of weekends ago. I thought we may have been too early for apple season, but to my surprise, the apples were plentiful in close to a dozen varieties. 

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There’s only one kind of apple I have my eye on each fall, and it’s the honey crisps. I eat an apple a day year-round, but there’s something about the sweet juiciness of honey crisps that makes this variety stand out among the rest. Some friends and I bought an entire bushel to split between us. I’ll be enjoying these for many weeks to come.