Circles of Faith

circles of faith

I’ve been a part of an online community based out of NJ called Circles of Faith.  It connects life, faith, and community and features articles from women about each of the topics.  I’m the Music Editor for them, and write lots of album reviews, which is something I really enjoy.  I get to listen to CDs before they are released, write a review about them, and then share with others what I love about them!

This month, I reviewed All Sons & Daughters’ newest, self-titled album, released just last month.  You can read that review and enter to win a copy at Circles of Faith!

Be sure to check out the other reviews I’ve written too, if you’re in the market for new music this summer, including the new Passion albumHillsong UNITED’s Zion, Bring Your Nothing from Shane & ShaneMandisa’s Overcomer, and many more!  I write a review every month, so be on the look out for more reviews in the future!

Just Receive

*Warning at the end of this post is a semi-graphic photo of stitches.  If you are queasy, I apologize!*

IMG_7065

“I think we need to go to the hospital,” I heard as I looked up into the concern faces of my college-age students, who had just analyzed the damage I had done to my hand. “It looks deep.”

Those words shot through my gut like a sucker punch. “I’m the leader,” I thought. “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

I’m a teacher, mentor, and small group leader at Oceans Edge School of Worship.  I had my small group over to my home one Friday night to enjoy a meal together, hang out, and make fun memories. I had no idea that that night would create probably the most memorable experience of this school year.

Over dinner I felt led in my spirit to do what I call an “edification circle.”  As we ate, I asked the students to declare what they love about the person sitting to their right and their left.  It was amazing to hear what they had to say about one another, but as it drew nearer to my turn, I felt anxiety rise in my heart, not because of what I had to say about my students, but what they had to say about me.

I don’t like receiving compliments. I have a difficult time receiving feedback. I feel uncomfortable receiving gifts.  I’m not good at asking for help.

I’m a giver.

It was then that I felt God say to my heart, “Just receive.”  My eyes filled with burning tears, my cheeks blushed with embarrassment and my throat began to tighten as I listened to the students to my right and left edify me. Their hearts were genuine and their sentiments were true.  I heard their words, but was I really receiving from them?

Twenty minutes later, after we had finished eating, I was at the sink, washing the dirty dishes that indicated full bellies and full hearts.  Suddenly, the plate I was scrubbing slipped from my soapy grasp and crashed into the side of the sink.  My instincts told me to reach out and catch it, but I was too late.  The broken dish sliced my hand.

I’m not good with blood, especially my own.  All of my students rushed around me and the sink as I proceeded to squat down for fear of passing out or letting them see the tears that threatened to drop from my eyes.

“I think we need to go to the hospital,” I heard… “It looks deep.”

“I’m the leader,” I thought. “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

Again, I also heard, “Just receive.”

I had no choice but to acquiesce. That night, I was escorted to the ER by two of my students who prayed over me and kept me calm amidst all of my panic.  The rest of my small group stayed behind and cleaned up my house, my broken plate, my blood.  My roommate met us in triage and relieved my heroes.  She stood by my side while we waited for hours, making me laugh despite the tears that rebelliously rolled down my cheeks and filling in as a nurse while the nighttime ER doc put six stitches into the web and ring finger of my left hand.IMG_6812

“You’ll have to clean the wound and change the dressing every 24 hours,” he counseled. “And then after a few days, put some Neosporin on it leave it open to heal.”

“Doctor, I’m a musician. Will this affect my ability to play?” I questioned.

He told me I wouldn’t be playing for a few weeks, and I began to panic.  I’m a worship leader.  My church and my team need me to play for them.  What was I going to do?

There was no way I could do it myself. I needed help.  And I would continue to need help as long as my wound needed time to heal.

Again I felt the familiar sting of tears forming in my eyes and the squeeze of the tourniquet around my throat. A million thoughts rushed through my head.  “How am I going to do my job if I can’t play music?  Just thinking about blood is enough to drain it from my face.  How am I going to take care of this hand?  My car is a stick shift.  How am I going to drive to work?  Or get food?  Or take a shower? Or… Or…?”

“Just receive.”

God was reminding me that I can’t do it alone.

I have a tendency to need to prove that I’m strong, independent and capable.  I don’t need anyone.  I’m a big girl now, living on my own away from home. My stony heart can take care of itself, thank you very much. 

But that’s not the truth.

We were very much designed for community.  Admitting we need help doesn’t make us weak or incompetent.  Receiving from others teaches us how to freely receive from Father God.  And while we are receiving, we are allowing others to practice giving.  My small group bonded in ways I never thought possible.  My roommate gently took care of my wound, drove me around, and cooked for me.  My worship team stepped up and some substitutes stepped in and filled the gaps that my 6 stitches had left.

The care, love and support I received from my small group and my roommate/chauffeur/nurse/chef and my worship team helped solidify this crucial lesson in my life.  It was a lesson I thought I had learned before, but must have forgotten.

The Father looks down on us and says “I love you. You don’t have to do anything.  You need me. Receive My love.

When I look down at the scars on my hand, I will forever be reminded of the lesson He gently chiseled into my heart of stone.  As I watched the wound on my hand heal, gradually, day by day, and unassisted by any conscious effort of my own, I also felt my heart soften by Love, engraved with a scar of its own:

“Just receive.”

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

Year In Review

I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what God has brought me through this year. Remembering in retrospect is a valuable way to see how He has planned every step, and gives me confidence that He will continue to do so with my future.

In 2012,

I nannied for two wonderful families, bonding with their three children and learning valuable life skills for my own children one day.

I celebrated (and cried about!) the engagement of my sister.

I was offered and accepted a new job as a full time Music Minister.

I planned a surprise bridal shower in 2 months for my sister, with the help of amazing bridesmaids and my mother.

I thoroughly enjoyed our annual family vacation in Wildwood NJ.

I watched my sister walk down the aisle to the man who is the answer to countless prayers and celebrated the beginning of their lives together.

I also mourned the end of our four years together living in Ocean Grove.

I packed my entire life, minus my winter clothes, and moved to South Florida with the help of my brother.

I wept when he left.

I began mentoring and discipling young women who are students at Oceans’s Edge.

I studied Pastor Counseling from Liberty University Online and completed my Master’s Degree in December.

I’ve kept the airline companies in business by visiting my family or researching the cheapest flights for them to visit me.

I’ve met and bonded with new people, adjusted to a new life, and embraced new challenges in my career.

These are major life changes and it is wondrous to watch them unfold! I am thankful for 2012 and hopeful for 2013. What about you?

20130101-092916.jpg

no, i live here.

Image

tomorrow it will be three weeks since i’ve left my home in ocean grove.  hard to believe it’s been that long yet it seems like i’ve been away for such a long time.  i’m riding waves of excitement, anticipation, loneliness, and fear.  so much has happened in the past month:

my sister’s married.

moving.

starting my career.

leaving my family and home.

dreaming about the future.

yet i know, in all of the confusion right here, right now, is where i’m supposed to be.  i am thankful for the opportunities that were practically dropped into my lap.  i’ve learned from past experiences that i need to appreciate the now.  i was reminded last week that i need to enjoy life.  so, on days when i get to relax by the pool and read the final installment of the hunger games, i take it for all it’s worth.

i have felt the prayers from so many people and have been welcomed with open arms by new family and friends here.  for that, i am truly thankful.

i live here

20120720-200738.jpg

I was waiting in line for ice cream at Day’s in my town the other day with my brother. As I was contemplating the all-important decision of which of the four soy ice cream flavors would be mine, the two ladies in front of me kept remarking about my dog. Cody has a habit of sniffing ankles, because that’s all he can reach. It’s a great conversation starter. We got to chatting and one of the ladies asked me, “Are you staying here?”

Little did she know what she was asking. No, in fact I’m not staying here. I’m leaving. But I didn’t tell her that.

Instead, I replied, “Oh, no. I live here.” Her face lit up and she remarked that it was a wonderful place. I wholeheartedly agreed. But there is only one week left until I don’t live here anymore. Wow! Definition of bittersweet.

I went for a run yesterday around town and down the boardwalk and was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I got to spend four years of my life with my sister here. I will surely miss everything about this town! If you’re ever in NJ, you need to visit God’s Square Mile at the Jersey Shore.

words of life

“you’re so cool.”

“you look like a million bucks.”

“you are a gift.”

“you’re just great.”

over the past few weeks, people who are not particularly close to me have spoken these short phrases into my life.  my first reaction to each person was, “why? what did i do?” (performance oriented!).  but then, my heart softened and i accepted the words as truth.  and let me tell you, they have given me life.  i’ve remembered these words during moments when i suddenly felt discouraged and they have lifted my spirits.  i’ve thought about them for many nights afterwards and let their truth sink into my spirit.  i’ve appreciated the people who are candid enough to share their thoughts and speak life into my soul.  i realized then that we have such a powerful tool and rarely use it to its full potential.

proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death…”

have you ever been cut down by people’s flippant words?  those toxic words stick with you, even if you receive a million words of affirmation after them.  eventually, you may even believe those lies.  i’m sure i’ve even uttered some harsh remarks to people or even behind their backs, and i’m convicted.  i’ve asked for forgiveness. and i’m going to make a conscious effort to speak life.

think about it.  you have a tongue.  you speak words and phrases all day.  how many of them give others life?  how many bring death?  

choose to speak words of life into people.  i doesn’t have to be long or eloquent.  but speak life.  you’ll make more of a difference than you’ll ever know.

that’s my new year’s resolution.