Gratitude: Cheese and crackers

As 2013 wound to a close and 2014 began, I’m continuing to focus on gratitude. Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  1. A steady job with some amazing coworkers. I’ve been working lots of overtime in the past few months, and I can think of no one else I’d rather spend extra work hours with. Though the job can be stressful, I am so blessed to have the coworkers I have.
  2. A chance to make extra money. As much as I don’t like working more hours and coming home exhausted, my paychecks helped our budget a lot.
  3. Baking. I didn’t get to do a lot of baking in December, but I took one day to bake up a storm. There’s something comforting about flour and pastry blenders and the smell of cookies.
  4. Cheese and crackers. It’s a tradition in my family to have cheese and crackers on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning is fun with wrapping paper strewn all over, but I prefer the quiet of Christmas Eve, some wine, cheese and crackers, and a little Phase 10 with the family. We had a blast.
  5. My in-laws. I hear other women complain about their mother-in-laws and I just smile. I have some great in-laws. I was welcomed into my husband’s family with open arms. We had a great visit in North Carolina with them, and I loved meeting our new nephew, Jackson.

    Such a cutie
  6. My husband. I love dreaming alongside this man. We love coming up with crazy life adventures we can partake in together.
  7.  Christmas trees. My absolute favorite scent in the entire world. I love coming home and smelling the Christmas tree.
  8. Fireplaces. Though we don’t use it much in Florida, I love my fireplace. So cozy.
  9. Fuzzy boots. Again, not a lot of use in Florida, but when the temps dip into the 20s and 30s, I’m so glad I have them.
  10. Laughter. I found this box to gift wrap my nephew’s Christmas gifts in, and it was a bigger hit than the gift itself. 

What are you thankful for this month?

Merry Christmas

I pray that this Christmas brings you whatever your soul needs most.




Hugs and kisses from sweet little ones.

Laughter around a full dinner table.

Escape from hurtful words.

Release from painful pasts.

May the love and grace of our Lord Jesus shower over you this Christmas.

A face from my past

This weekend I sang in a seasonal concert, along with hundreds of other choir members. Always fills my heart to hear so many voices united together.

As I rushed to find my place with fellow choir members, I saw a beautiful smiling face from my past. She looked right at me, smiled big, and said, “Well, hello!”

It took only a moment to place her face in the right spot in my memory.

Mrs. Ford.

She was the ever patient voice teacher who took my feeble voice and shaped it into the most beautiful thing I never thought I was capable of producing. I entered her voice studio timid, a little scared, and lacking lots of confidence in my vocal ability. I also lacked a lot of knowledge about classical music and didn't particularly enjoy singing it.

I can't imagine I was easy to work with.

After a couple years of lessons, I performed a recital. Months after my recital, I received a recording. I put the disc in, not intending to listen to the whole thing. I hate hearing myself, and figured I'd listen to a few measures just to reminisce.

Then I heard myself sing. I couldn't believe what I heard. The tone was beautiful, the sound full, and the voice couldn't be mine.

That woman never gave up on me and the end product was pretty cool. I know she probably got frustrated with me along the way, but her beautiful smile rarely faltered. She pushed through every single lesson where I wanted to give up. She made me keep going. She not only taught me how to sing, she taught me to love beautiful music. After studying with her, I began to truly understand the beauty that is Bach and Beethoven.

I couldn't believe that over ten years later, she still remembered me. After all the students she has taught, she remembered my face.

Her husband jokingly asked her if I could sing. I replied, “Thanks to her, I can.”

Mrs. Ford just smiled big in response and said, “She has a lovely voice.”

That made my week.


Gratitude: Puppies and pumpkin pie

In the midst of a very busy month, I'm still thankful.

  1. Thanksgiving. Long weekend, family time, good food, and a reminder to be thankful.
  2. My sister. We've always been close, and I love the inside jokes we have. Nobody makes soupy mashed potatoes like we do.
  3. Mom and Dad. Thanksgiving has been at their house for the past few years. Even though it's not the house I grew up in, it still feels like home.
  4. My nephews. Love these guys.
  5. My husband. So thankful that he does all the driving on long road trips and never complains when I sleep half the time. I feel so safe with him.
  6. My African “kids.” A friend posted an updated photo on Facebook of some of our African Children's Choir kids. I was amazed at how they've grown. So proud of them and the way they're growing into amazing men and women. 
  7. This precious little thing (unfortunately not mine). Puppy cuddles undo loads of stress. 
  8. Cuban coffee. Yum.
  9. Singing some tough Dvorak and Haydn. Beautiful melodies make my soul happy.
  10. Pumpkin pie. Quite possibly my favorite dessert.

What are you thankful for?


Life happens

For the last few weeks, I have missed my Monday blogging deadline. Deadlines are good; even self imposed ones. That deadline kept me working, kept me writing.

But sometimes life happens.

Life has been full lately. Too busy somedays. I remain thankful for a better paying job and awesome coworkers. But working lots of overtime has sucked most of my time and energy. That Monday deadline approached, and I had nothing to offer.

I will continue to post, but it may not always be on Monday. I will continue to write. Some posts may be great, some not so much. I’m thankful for those of you that stick with me, even when the writing sucks.

I look forward to some rest this weekend, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The room where I fell in love with music

Walking through those halls felt really weird.

I returned to my high school this week. My choir conductor and favorite teacher had the school’s choir room named after him. There was a special dedication ceremony, and alumni were asked not only to attend, but to surprise “Doc” by singing. We joined current Lincoln High School choir members and formed a large choir. Autumn Farewell’s a cappella harmonies bounced off the auditorium walls and surrounded Doc with love. He even got to conduct us. It felt like Mr. Holland’s Opus.

It’s always weird to return to a piece of your past. I walked past familiar old buildings, having déjà vu again and again. Memories flooded back. I remembered the insecurity I grappled with for so long. I walked down the long corridor that led back to the math and foreign language rooms. I found the hallway where I used to sit with all my math nerd friends. It felt familiar and yet not at all like I remembered. Everything was so different.

And then I walked into that choir room, and it was just as I remembered. Things were different, for sure, but that room felt comfortably familiar. There might have been new pictures or paint colors or chairs, but that overwhelming feeling of “home” is ever present.

That room is where I fell in love with music.

Doc and his wife Miss Bobbie are very special people in my life. In that choir room I began to learn about quarter notes and key signatures. I learned how to form proper vowels and produce a beautiful tone. But I also learned how powerful music is. How a simple, beautiful melody can bring a tear to your eye. How a certain chord progression can weigh on your heart. How singing made me feel whole.

I walked into that room with a small, timid voice. By the time I walked out for the last time, I was singing in front of audiences by myself. Without the love and encouragement I found in that room, I would not be the person I am today.

I’m so incredibly thankful for that room, and the reminder that music still burns deeply inside me.

Soften my heart, thicken my skin

“Lord, soften my heart and thicken my skin.”

This is a prayer I pray often. Because I’m learning two things in this world:

  1. This world is filled with a lot of people who need grace
  2. This world is filled with a lot of people who are really mean

I have grown cynical in recent years. Movies/songs/everyday life that used to inspire and fill with warm fuzzies usually make my eyes roll now. I hate that. I want to be moved by things and filled with joy and inspiration. It’s just really hard to do that when there are a lot of jerks in the world. My guard is up.

And I don’t want to let my guard completely down. I don’t want to let the jerks all the way in. Some people shouldn’t be allowed too far into your life.

I want a soft heart toward the beautiful and the broken things in this world, but I don’t want to be so shaken by the mean and hurtful things.

How do you keep a soft heart along with thick skin?

Pumpkin and sweet pups: Gratitude

It’s time again for a gratitude list.

  1. Pumpkin flavored anything. I took a trip to Trader Joe’s and grabbed pumpkin croissants, pumpkin bread mix, and pumpkin spice. Yum.
  2. Amazing coworkers. I am incredibly blessed to work with the people I work with. I’ve never seen teamwork like at my current job.
  3. The chance to be creative in my job. I helped build a haunted house this month. Never done that before.
  4. The fact that I have to fill my bird feeder a couple times a week. I have a busy front yard, and I love that.
  5. This sweet pup. My sister’s dog was diagnosed with cancer and had to have a leg amputated. After only two weeks, Lacey is doing quite well on three legs. And still as lovable as ever.
  6. Trying new things in the kitchen. I’m trying to make fresh pumpkin puree. Can you tell I’m obsessed with pumpkin?
  7. The chance to dream with my husband. We like to dream crazy dreams. After watching a show about real estate in Alaska, we dreamed of moving there. I’d love it until the winter hit.
  8. The sound of heat running. It makes me happy to be warm and safe.
  9. Walks in the sunshine.
  10. Cool air on my face. So thankful the summer heat is finally over.

What are you thankful for this month? I’d love to hear.

Life is crazy, but life is good

Life has been a little crazy lately. Good crazy, but it’s still left me little time to write, process, think, and sometimes even breathe.

Which is why I’m thankful for Sundays. I’m thankful for lazy days spent watching movies and cuddling with my husband. Lazing out on the porch on a beautiful fall afternoon, watching the birds fight over the feeder. Snuggling up in a favorite sweatshirt that reminds me of travels from years ago. Leisurely strolls around Costco eating enough samples to call it a meal. Taking my first trip to an overly crowded Trader Joe’s and grabbing every possible pumpkin flavored object off the shelf. Spiked apple cider at the end of the day.

Life is crazy, but life is good. I love these little moments where I can stop and be content.

When worship is disturbing

This post originally appeared in September of 2012.

Years ago, when I first became a Christian, worship meant happy. I equated it with warm fuzzies and an emotional high tied to the music. If worship didn’t have those basic ingredients, something was wrong, and it obviously wasn’t worship.

It never occurred to me that worship might have the opposite effect.

My husband and I have been certified lay speakers in the Methodist Church. We sat through a weekend of classes that then qualified us to stand at the pulpit in our church and share a message. My husband preached more than I, and he is dang good at it. After one sermon, he expressed a frustration. Everyone came to him after, shook his hand with a warm smile and said, “That was a wonderful message.” And then they’d walk out happily into their Sunday afternoon, chattering about where to go to lunch that day.

My very wise husband said, “If I’m really doing my job right, then I should be making them uncomfortable.”

Sometimes worship disturbs me and sometimes it affirms me. I prefer affirming. The warm fuzzies emerge and all is well with the world. But if I want to progress in my faith, I need to be disturbed. Something needs to spur me onto something greater, rather than encouraging me to stay put and relish in the happy feelings and all the good in me.

I want to be a better Christian. I want to be able to love God more fully and offer grace to my neighbor. In order to do that, sometimes my boat needs to be rocked a bit. I need that slap in the face that all is not well with the world and I need to make some changes.

It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary if I want to become like Jesus.