Monday, November 25, 2013

The lost get found

I never thought of myself as a crazy cat lady, but this October, I saw myself possibly becoming one. Over a year ago, my family adopted two beautiful kittens. We originally intended to adopt just one, but discovered our desired little kitty had a twin brother and they had been together since birth. Not wanting to separate them, we decided to adopt them both. Evan and Everett quickly became part of our family as we all loved on them and learned to take care of pets again (aside from fish, we were out of practice). Our son, the youngest, endured several scratches when he played too rough despite our warnings to play softer. Thankfully, both cats tolerated his torture playing pretty well.
Brotherly love
A year went by and the kitties grew into adult cats with large appetites. They settled into a nice routine of cuddling and playing with our kids, playing together, and sleeping a lot. Having matured some, they were less active than when we first got them. The only time they made much ruckus was at feeding time or when our son played too rough.

Our school routine got underway this fall, as well as all of the after school activities which seemed to increase tenfold this year. I thought we were doing fine, but by October, I was starting to feel overwhelmed with the new busy schedule.

It was a Wednesday night which was our craziest weekday evening. The kids got home from school at different times and we only had about 45 minutes to do homework, after-school chores, make dinner and then eat before heading out to church. I remember it being like a three-ring circus in the house and thinking it would be a miracle if we got everything done in time. I’m not for certain, but I believe it must have been around or during this hectic time that Everett made his escape. The saddest thing is that none of us realized he was gone until the next morning when he didn’t run to his bowl for breakfast.
The cat-hunt began.
In the days immediately following, I spent any time I had during the day and quite a few sleepless nights - sometimes in the rain, searching my neighbors’ yards and storm sewers. I made flyers and posted them all over. So much so that it was kind of obnoxious and embarrassing to my family. I didn’t care. I needed to find my poor lost kitty. I blamed myself for his escape and for not realizing he was gone sooner.

A funny thing happened during my searching. I felt God was sharing an important lesson with me. The story of the prodigal son kept coming to my mind. (…Yes, I know we’re talking about a lost cat here, but I believe God can and does use any circumstance to get His point across).
I kept thinking how much I would rejoice if we found Everett and how I would lavish him with love and attention if he would just come back to us. Then, I’d feel guilty that here I still had his brother Evan with us and I was neglecting him while searching for his brother. After my daily hunt, I'd finally go home and made sure to love on Evan and continued to pray for Everett's safe return.

So what was I learning? Here's the lesson: No matter how far we run or how much we try to hide, God loves us and relentlessly searches after us. He wants us to return home to Him so He can celebrate and pour out His love on us. For those who remain faithful to Him, we are never lost if we see that all that He has to offer is already ours. We are always able to receive God’s love if we accept His offer (His forgiveness and payment for our sins) and participate in a relationship with Him today.

I’m thankful for this life lesson even though it has come with much sadness and chaos, including driving my husband crazy by temporarily taking in two stray cats - one feral and one infected with fleas and ticks. We still have not found Everett, but I trust that God knows where he is and that ultimately He is in control. I'm sure I don’t have correct theology on animals and heaven so I won't even go there, but I know that God created our beloved kitty and in some way, He cares for him.

My heart still aches for our missing feline friend and I keep praying he's safe and will return to us someday. I'm not sure I’ll ever give up searching for Everett and will try to keep hope alive, even if it means my husband thinks I am a crazy cat lady.

I leave you with a few songs of encouragement and comfort.
I recently discovered this wonderful artist. Audrey creates such simple,
powerful, prayerful music. Check out her latest album Fortunate Fall!
Audrey Assad singing "I Shall Not Want"

I heard this next song on the radio last month and couldn't
get the catchy chorus out of my head. Great message!
(the lead singer reminds me of Michael Bublé)

Unspoken - Who You Are

Okay, you're probably done with reading and listening, but I can't resist sharing. Here's another great song from the Fortunate Fall album. (And in case you're wondering, I don't get anything from promoting Audrey's album other than the satisfaction of sharing her inspiring music with the world.)

Audrey Assad - "Lead Me On"

Friday, September 6, 2013


For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  
2 Timothy 1:7

God does not give me a spirit of fear and timidity. His Spirit is full of power, love and self-control. (my paraphrase)

I am often reminded of this truth from God's Word when I come face to face with my fears. In my last post, I talked about facing my fears with music and performing. That's one of the big ones. The above verse has come into play for all of my fears - the big and the small.

I keep learning an important lesson when it comes to "conquering" fear in my life. Whenever I am tempted to act based on my fears, it is important that I call into question my focus. You see, when it is all about me - how I will appear, what others might think, what is in it for me - then my focus is misplaced. I need to change my thinking and attention. Make it less about me and more about God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-3

It is in these fearful moments, I need to remember that God has gifted me with specific talents and abilities to serve Him and to serve others. It's not about making comparisons, or over-, or under-inflating my ego. I just need to be who the Lord calls me to be, be brave and strong in Him, and let Him work through my strengths and my weaknesses.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11

To conquer fear, I need to trust in God and trust in how He created me to be. It's simple, but certainly not always easy.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6  

I continue to find the strength to fight my fears (and you name it, I think I have been fearful about almost everything at some point in my life) through God's Word and through prayer. I have also found these inspirational songs help lift me up in moments of weakness (see videos below). I pray you will look to God for strength to fight your battles, and will be brave and bold through Him and for Him.

                                              Brave                          by Nichole Nordeman

Read All About It                     by Emeli Sande

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In the band of brothers

Hey there! I'm back after a long hiatus. I have changed the name of my blog and found a new direction. I started blogging a few years ago with the title "Qualify at 35". It was my motivation as I trained to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2011. I've kept those posts on here if you're interested in reading about that time. After I ran Boston, I lost the motivation to blog and couldn't find a good area of focus. I thought I might write about trying to become a better triathlete - again, looking for motivation as I attempted training for a Half Ironman. It didn't work. I haven't quite given up on that dream, but that's for the future - maybe when I turn 40. So for now, I've decided to share the moments of clarity I get from time to time (many times while running or often in the random, mundane moments of my day). These insights are often answers to prayer and simply God's way of using the silence to speak truth to my heart.

Today, a moment came while watching my 8 year old daughter attempt a back bend without a spotter. She's been reading and watching the American Girl story of McKenna - the 2012 doll who is all about gymnastics. My daughter has found inspiration to become a better gymnast through her story. Who would've thought a toy could have such impact?! Today was my daughter's first day in a Level 3 class. She was nervous about being the only one not able to do a back bend. Before class this morning, she practiced with great determination. After numerous attempts, she finally did it! I was so happy and proud of her. I was filled with this great mom pride and joy as I watched her participate in class. It was then that I realized she has found a true passion, not by my interest or persuasion. She really has come to this sport on her own. I love that!

It then dawned on me why I enjoy playing with my band so much. Bear with me as I take you through the back story...

For as long as I can remember, I've loved music. My mom says I started singing as soon as I could talk. By my prodding, my mom let me start piano lessons at 5 years old. By 8, I had decided I was going to play the cello (or "chello" - as I misspelled it in my 3rd grade diary) when I got into 5th grade. I fell in love with the rich, deep tone of the instrument and thought nothing of the size and future expense. In almost all others area of my life, I was timid and shy. But not when it came to music. It was a pure passion, a pure love and enjoyment where I felt no fear or hesitation.

Things started changing in high school when all of the sudden I was getting judged for my performances. It wasn't enough to just love to play or sing, I now had to reach some seemingly unattainable goal of perfection. I think there's nothing wrong in striving for excellence, but the fear of missing the mark and getting harshly judged was ruining music making for me. This fear continued to grow as I studied music in college and became rampant after graduation. I still loved playing and singing, but now had developed full-fledged stage fright. I tried to fight back by forcing myself to perform anyway and that backfired miserably. My heart would pound so hard I thought was going to faint and the butterflies were so nauseating I felt sick. Finally, I backed out of all public solo playing and singing. If it didn't involve a group where I could blend and hide, I wanted nothing to do with it. Sadly, music had lost it's fire and joy. Ya know, making music is like that "if a tree falls in a forest" thing. I could pour out my heart and soul in my music as long as no one else was listening, but then where was the joy and what was the point?

So I lived and struggled with this internal battle of feeling like I needed perfection to be considered a real musician. I kept hiding in large groups and was deathly afraid of doing anything solo. However, little by little, God began helping me through my fears. I started getting involved in the children's music ministry at my church. OK, I thought, I can do this. Kids don't judge as harshly as adults. While I really enjoyed working with the kids, eventually my repertoire felt limited. I wanted to sing and play songs with mature messages and not always have to do signs and move around the stage.

After several years and countless prayers, I started getting involved with my worship team at church. This felt pretty safe; it's a group of people after all. By the grace of God, I was asked to play in a wedding with a few guys from my church. They were already part of a group and I was added mainly for my cello, but I got to sing some too. Well...we had so much fun playing together, we decided to form a band. I had never been in a real band before. As a cellist, I've only been in large and small ensembles, mostly classical in nature. Now I could say I was in a BAND that plays contemporary music. How cool was that?!

We've been together a little over a year now. In that time, we've decided on a name - Up Past 9 - and have played at church, a coffeehouse, and a bookstore. I don't know what the future holds for us, but I do know I feel incredibly blessed to be able to play with this group. 
Because of our band, I have rediscovered my pure love of music and finally have the confidence to sing and play in front of others, as I have in private all of my life. With the constant encouragement and support of my band mates, I feel free from the fear of judgement and can trust myself to explore and enjoy music again. It's a blessing to be a part of a group without inflated egos, without harsh judgement or criticism, and with others who simply enjoy playing and singing together to glorify God. Thank You, Jesus! And thank you to my sweet and fun band of brothers - Cliff, Craig and Tim - from the bottom of my heart, for giving me wings to soar and helping me find the true love of music again!