Music is always playing in my home, car, head…anywhere I can hear it. I’m not a music aficionado. I don’t listen to new, unheard of bands so I can impress my friends. I usually learn to like an artist way after everyone else does. I stick to my favorites, and play them over and over and over…and over.
Lately, I’ve had The David Crowder band on constant play. That is, when I’m not listening to the Les Miserables soundtrack or the Showtunes Pandora station. Not long ago, I didn’t care for Crowder, for no particular reason. I just didn’t dig him. That changed for me last year, when Michael and I watched the Passion conference online and we saw the band perform together for the last time at Passion. It was mesmerizing, because it was so obvious that the men on the stage LOVED making music. Yes, they loved worshipping, that was obvious, but they seemed to really have fun playing instruments and singing and the way the notes and the words came together to glorify God. It was inspiring to me to watch them. I began to think about whether I was really enjoying the process of making music when I sang, or if I was just singing. I don’t play an instrument. I mean, I know how to read music, and I can pick out a tune on the piano, but practice really does make perfect and that was my downfall. So I just use my voice, such that it is, and while I’m just a church singer at best, I want to make sure that I’m truly loving the process of singing and conveying the message through the song.
Of course, David Crowder’s best known song is “How He Loves”. If you’ve listened to Christian radio at all in the last several years you’ve heard it. The chorus says, “He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. Oh, how He loves.” I didn’t want to like that. It was too repetitive. But then you listen to the verse and the bridge and they’re filled with beautiful language that form a love poem about how much we are adored by our Father. The simple chorus is a great contrast to phrases like, “We are His portion, and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” Those words give me chills.
Now I know I’m late to the party on writing praise for this song. I know it’s been out for several years. I know everyone is kind of over it by now. But here’s the thing: although I’ve known it for years, it has recently become new to me. Our choir is learning an arrangement of it, and I’ve been asked to sing the solo. When I was asked to sing it, I wanted to jump up and down and fist pump the air, but I didn’t. I stayed cool and said, “Oh yeah, I know that song.” I was excited because in January, when Crowder sang it at Passion 2013, I heard sixty thousand voices singing those beginning lyrics, “He is jealous for me…” and it shook me. Everybody knew it, and everybody was so completely aware in that very moment how much we are loved by God. It was a moment I’ll never get over.
So fast forward to this week: Wednesday night, we were singing it in choir practice and I was cruising along through the first verse and I sang these words, “All of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory”. Just typing that right now makes me stop. ALL OF A SUDDEN. When I think of that phrase, I think of someone jumping out at me. Boo! All of a sudden. Or if my hand slips and I drop something. All of a sudden. The phrase evokes an instant reaction. It makes me think about being startled, or even scared. Maybe shock is a good word. You get the idea. So when I think of things that happen all of a sudden, they’re actions. But this says that all of a sudden, I’m no longer aware of the things that are wrong with me, or the circumstances that I don’t like, or the things in my life that I let bring me down. My AFFLICTIONS.
I think sometimes we love our afflictions. We don’t LIKE them, but we secretly love them, because if we didn’t have them, we’d have nothing to talk about to our friends and family. I know I’m guilty of this. I have heard myself say, “Well I….” and then share about how hard things are for me right then. I always leave those conversations disgusted with myself for doing that, because I don’t like it when others do that to me. Yes, I know this is really honest, but I know you all know what I mean. I think we identify ourselves with our afflictions and we get so distracted from knowing who we are in Christ and forget that our identity is in Him, because wearing our afflictions means that we can have conversations and get attention. (I might as well just show you my journal, because I’m writing to myself here.)
Wednesday night, when I was singing those words about being instantly so aware of God’s glory that I was completely unaware of my own problems and pain, I found myself filled with a huge longing for that very thing. My heart was screaming out, “YES! That’s what I want! I don’t want to wear my afflictions anymore like an ugly dress. I want to see nothing but His glory!”
Then the next part brings me great comfort and dazzles me at the same time: “And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.”
When I’m stunned by His glory, and made completely ignorant of my own issues, I can see how beautiful He is. When I’m focused on my junk, I see parts of Him when He allows me to see. I miss the whole picture of how beautiful He truly is. And then how GREAT HIS AFFECTIONS are for me. Affections, with an S! He has multiple affections for me! I’d be thrilled with just one! I love the word affection. I feel affectionate toward my children. I show affection to my husband. It’s a sweet, loving, giddy feeling sort of word, that we use when we are just over the moon about someone. To know that God not only loves me, but feels loving toward me, takes my breath away.
I don’t deserve it. I know I don’t. But if I dwell on all the reasons why, I begin to focus on those afflictions again. So I choose to focus on His beauty. I read somewhere that yes, we are sinners, but God sees us as saints. So, if we continue to refer to ourselves as sinners (although we are), if we associate ourselves with that title, we will continue to sin. If we change how we think of ourselves, if we associate ourselves with saints, then our focus in on how He sees us, which changes our thought life, which changes our behavior. I know that’s kind of chasing a rabbit, but I’ve always liked that reasoning.
He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.
I’m changed by that very thought today. I pray it will continue to change me, comfort me, and become my identity. I want to wear His love like a beautiful garment. I want my praise to be what I put on every day because I am living and breathing worship to Him. I want everything to be eclipsed by His glory.
I pray you know how much He loves you too.
My family spent this entire day having fun. We went ice skating, ate a great lunch, did a little shopping, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. We needed it, because this month has been busier than I ever intended it to be. We can officially begin our Christmas holidays with a smile, because today was a great day.
I am a people watcher. I observe those around me, and I’m fascinated by the differences and similarities in people. Today, while Paisley and I were taking our skates off, I overheard a man talking to his wife on the phone. He was loud enough for all of us to hear, and his young daughter (six years old) was sitting beside him. He was telling his wife, “This was a terrible idea. She is no fun. She’s scared of the ice, she won’t let go of the wall and skate. There’s a slide here, and she’s scared of that, too!” All of the other adults in the shoe changing area just sat still, because it was obvious he was berating his little girl right in front of her. Other mothers made eye contact with me and shook their heads in sadness, because the little girl just sat there, head down. The man gave the phone to the child and said, “Here, talk to your mother.”
Later, I saw them out on the ice, and the child was afraid. She held onto the wall, while her daddy skated around, looking impatient. He never spoke to her. He just skated by her and shook his head. Finally, he took her hand and tried to lead her out onto the ice, but criticized her the whole time. I saw them heading to the slide and when she was brave enough to go alone, he criticized her for not letting him carry her tube instead of praising her bravery. He never said a nice word to his child, not once.
After lunch, I had to run in a grocery store. Behind me in line was a daddy and a little girl who was six years old. I know because she told me. She was friendly and funny. Her daddy was buying two bottled root beers, (the last Frosties in the store, according to her) and some chocolate for them to share. They were laughing and being silly. She told me her Elf on the Shelf’s name was Blinky Blingersomething or other, I can’t remember. But the dad knew all about it, and told her to tell me that the Elf rolled the tree with toilet paper last night. They were having the best time.
These two men made an impact on me. Now, I have a great dad. My dad could win a prize for creativity and fun and attentiveness. I’ve never questioned his love or interest in me or my brother. I’m also married to a fantastic father who adores his kids. Michael enjoys them and participates in every area of their lives. So I don’t have negative experience in the area of fathers, and I thank God for that. However, I know enough about parenting to recognize when a dad is not fully engaged in being a father to his child.
The first dad broke my heart, and made me angry. I’ve prayed and prayed for that little girl, that God will send someone into her life to be an encourager because it doesn’t seem like she’s getting it at home. The second dad made me smile, because that little girl was safe and secure in knowing she was loved.
Parents: we have to step it up. I know you’ve heard it before, but it has to be said: Pay attention to your kids. Encourage them. Love them for who they are, because they’re yours and you have one chance to raise them and know them and earn their respect and love before they’re gone. If your child is afraid to ice skate, criticism will not get them out on the ice. Encouragement, laughter, understanding and hugs might be a better tactic. So many parents find it so easy to spend their money, but don’t want to spend any of their emotional energy or their personal time on their kids. Kids know they are loved by the time we spend with them! I recently went to Disney on Ice at our Coliseum, and the dad sitting next to me played on his Iphone the whole show. His daughters would turn and say, “Did you SEE that?!” and he would grunt in response. I understand if Aladdin and Jasmine aren’t your thing, but if it’s your daughter’s thing, then you make that sacrifice for her. By showing interest, you’re letting your kids know they’re important.
Kids have a lot to offer. My kids contribute greatly to the spirit and humor of our home. I’d miss it if I wasn’t looking and listening, and I’d regret that. This Christmas, don’t miss them. Find out why they like what they got. Ask them about what they’re listening to, watching, making, building, playing, etc. Dads, you’re more than a provider. You’re a leader. God put you there to lead, and the best leaders know the people they’re leading. Your team can’t win if you don’t know the best way to coach them.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and may this next year be the best one for your family.
“Is what bwings us togehvah today.”
This is one of my favorite lines from The Princess Bride in case you just came out of your cave. The poor little priest who can barely speak makes me laugh every time.
I’ve decided to start another blog. I hesitate to post this, because what if I bomb on my commitment to this new venture? Well then, I bomb. But I’m going to try.
I have had a hard time finding my words here. There is so much I want to say, but I am very, very cautious about things that are sensitive or thoughtful issues because I don’t want to ever point a finger at anyone. So I end up “dumbing down” what I want to say because I can’t just come out and say it. Then I realize that I’ve written several posts and said nothing.
So I started looking for a niche. Something that I can write about that matters to me. Something that I can explore and learn from myself.
I’m going to write about marriage.
I’ve already posted twice, and hopefully have lots more to come. Michael and I spend a lot of time working on our own marriage, but we’ve also invested a lot in the marriages of others by doing pre-marital counseling. He and my dad have counseled people through marriage issues for years, so it’s a big part of who I am and what I know.
He has agreed to let me talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. He will even guest post sometimes! I’m excited about it, and I hope you’ll join me on my new page…
I’ll still post here from time to time, when there is something non-marriage related I have to say. But for now, I really hope to focus on this blog and become a better writer AND a better wife!
Summer cannot get here fast enough.
I’ve always liked summer, but I’ve never felt a desperation for it to get here quickly.
I’m desperate, y’all.
Every day, I load Paisley in the van and drive half an hour to my kids’ school and then wait twenty minutes for school to get out, then drive half an hour back. The entire drive, we listen to the Fresh Beat Band, or The Muppets, or Phineas and Ferb. I like them all, but an hour and a half a day in a closed van is making me crazy.
Every morning, my job is to get uniforms ready and pack lunches. I don’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I have never really liked them, but now I know I’ll never eat one as long as I live, because I’m so sick of making them every single day.
See? I’m getting on my own nerves just talking about the things that get on my nerves!
I’m ready for summer. This year, all the kids will be swimming well, and I can breathe easier. We plan on swimming as much as humanly possible. When you live in Mississippi, sometimes the only way you can combat the heat is by soaking yourself. I’m not a sit on the side of the pool mom, either. I have spent the last several summers trying to make my front flip off the diving board work, and I can feel it. This is the year.
I’m ready to have an excuse just to eat fruit for supper. I’m ready to sleep until I wake up and not wear makeup for three days in a row.
I’m ready for evenings on my parents’ deck with kids running everywhere, laughing and hollering.
I’m ready for Vacation Bible School.
I’m ready for our mission trip.
I’m ready for the Olympics.
I’m ready for that day when I look at the kids and say, “We haven’t been anywhere in a week. What should we do today?” Then we go get snow-cones.
Come on, summer.
I wrote a long, rather depressing post at the end of 2011.
In case you’re wondering (all 6 of you that might read this), 2012 has been a banner year so far. I’m talking, really great.
We’re not any richer. As a matter of fact, we’re living on less.
We’re not any healthier. We’re working on that.
We’re still in the same house, doing the same work, with the same basic lifestyle we had before.
But for some reason, it’s just been better. I don’t know if a new year was what I needed for my perspective to change, but it has. I’ve seen the power of God in so many things. I have enjoyed my family more, enjoyed my friends more, enjoyed LIFE more.
I think the fog of grief that covered most of 2010-11 is slowly clearing. My heart doesn’t feel heavy all the time. I don’t feel like I’m on the verge of tears most days.
So if anyone reads this and has wondered: Time really does heal. It’s a slow process, and I don’t understand it, but it does heal.
We’ve already made some great memories this year. I have to show you a few…
By the goodness of God (and I really, truly mean that), we were able to go to Disney World for four days in February. I am still amazed that we went. It was our first vacation in three years with just us, and it was incredible. I am beyond grateful for those days of no responsibility and just magical fun.
While we were at Disney, my husband coerced me into doing the American Idol experience. It was really fun, and taught me a lot about myself and my dreams. And this is not what I thought I’d be wearing on American Idol, EVER.
And we met Phineas and Ferb. One of my life goals has been met.
And in March, my husband had the privilege of baptizing our two oldest children, Aidan and Molly.
This day could not have been more special for our family. Molly prayed to receive Christ on February 15, and Aidan on February 27. We had a picnic with family and friends after church to celebrate the new life we have in Jesus. It was a wonderful, precious day.
I have two beautiful, smart, godly, amazing cousins. My cousin Courtney is on my dad’s side. She was married early in March, and I got to sing with my brother at her wedding. I don’t have picture from that day, but we had the best time, and it was such a sweet, wonderful ceremony. My other cousin, Lucy, was married at the end of March. This is a picture of her and my aunt Lisa. They were both gorgeous. I am so proud to have two young women in my life that love the Lord and serve Him and prayed for godly men to marry…and God answered their prayers in big ways! Being there to experience them beginning a new life was such an encouragement to me.
Molly won an art award at her school! I was so proud of my girl and her farm, made with oil pastels.
So it’s been a banner year so far. I’ve been directing our children’s choir at church, and LOVE it. I had no idea it would be so much fun. I have a new job that I start in August, and it’s perfect for me. We’re working on a new school situation for our kids. Michael and I are going back to England in July. I had the awesome privilege of singing in church on Easter Sunday, and I have never been so afraid…or aware of God’s presence in my pitiful human effort. He was (and is) so faithful.
Life is good. Even when it isn’t.
We are able to breathe in and out. We are forgiven for being complete idiots. We are called children of God.
I love this life, and I’m thankful for it.
So, how are ya? I’m absolutely, positively sure I am the most inconsistent blogger on the planet. It’s not a trait I’m proud of.
I haven’t counted how many days we have until summer break, but I can tell you that there are too many. I’m sick of school. I took the kids this morning, and we live thirty minutes from their school. With traffic and rain, it took forty-five minutes to get there. Then thirty minutes to get home. If I’m going to drive for an hour and fifteen minutes, I want to be moving toward somewhere fun. But alas, I ended up back at home, where the laundry and unmade beds await.
I’m discovering that I have a struggle, and I’m betting I’m not alone. I struggle with knowing too much about everyone I know because of Facebook and Twitter. I’m not hating, I love the connections I have, especially with those I never see. But if I overexpose myself to other people’s lives, I have a tendency to compare, to judge, to get frustrated and to basically waste time that could be spent doing good. And by “good”, I mean ANYTHING good, like playing with my kids, reading, making something, exercise, housework…things that actually improve my life and relationships.
So I have to call on the power of the One who lives in me to give me the discipline I need to take a break. I am not strong enough to do it by myself. I like people too much, and I don’t like feeling isolated with my laundry. But if my mind is going to be healthy and focused, and if I want to be able to hear Him clearly, I have to shut down the chatter. And I don’t know what that will look like. Maybe limit myself to one Facebook visit a day, rather than checking it every time I use the computer. Or maybe a fast. Or maybe once a week. I’m not sure.
This is going to be hard. Discipline is rarely fun.
But this is going to be rewarding. Discipline usually is.
So this is it…Anne: Unplugged.
May God be glorified.