Are you recognizing answered prayers? 

Oh, believe me, I’m looking directly in the mirror as I ask this question.  The Lord has enlightened me recently.  My answered prayers came in the midst of trials, so I focused on the trials and missed the answers. 

I’ve been longing for years to move back to Pennsylvania, my home state.  Not that I didn’t love where I was living, whether it was Black Mountain, NC; Phoenix, AZ; or St. Charles, MO.  I loved the travel and the people, making amazing friends and living in new places.  It was just hard to be far away from my roots and only have once a year to squeeze in time with family and old high school and college friends.  In September 2020, that prayer was answered.  I could’ve never imagined the circumstances that surrounded the move, the testing and trials that came along with it. 

The Lord answered that prayer, but in the process He started refining me.  I’m talking like gold is refined in a fire.  He is still burning away parts of me and it hurts like crazy and I don’t understand and I cry out to Him regularly for His help.  He is such a good Father.  He listens to my tears and my laments.  He comforts me with His love.  He reminds me through His Word and through my meditation time with Him what His truth is and how He’s walking with me every step of the way.  He knows what my expectations were and His heart aches with me.     

Expectations.  What a dangerous word.  I once had a wise music therapy mentor in Phoenix, AZ tell me that “the majority of disappointment in our lives comes from our expectations”.  That’s one of those sticky phrases that I’ve never forgotten.   Does that mean I’ll stop planning, stop working, stop wanting to evolve and make my life better?  Never!  But I will realize that the God Who breathed out the stars is much more capable than I am of stitching the pieces of my life into a beautiful work of art, beyond anything I can dream. 

It’s difficult for me to express the quantum leap I’ve made in my relationship with my Father in the past 2 years.  I’ve begun to live the words I’ve read in the Bible and believed, but really didn’t absorb into my being.  I’ve heard so much through His Word, being back in relationship with His people, surrendering my gifts and talents to Him and allowing Him to use them as He will.  One of the ways I've done this is starting a production company with His name attached to it.  I'm writing custom songs, and simply following as He's leading.  My Father's Music Production 

I’ve come to actually enjoy sitting in the “beautiful pain” or the “painful beauty” that is life.  I’m still finding joy in the simple things, like I always have, and welling up with gratitude to wake up to a sunrise one more day.  I don’t take things for granted like I used to.  I don’t feel as entitled.  I am slower to anger and slower to take offense.  I have more of the Lord’s joy and sometimes have giggle fits out of nowhere.  

The Lord has brought me to a place of healing, restoration, and trust that is beyond words.  In one of my prayer journals recently I wrote “I know, Lord, that you’re giving me the blessings I NEED before you’re giving me the blessings I WANT”.  I am becoming more whole, more centered, more trusting, more giving, more surrendered.  I’m still a work in progress.  But I’m His work in progress, and I’m allowing Him to answer my prayers as only a good Father knows how. 

Are you recognizing your answered prayers?  Even in the midst of pain?  I am praying for you, that He open your tear-stained eyes to His love and His goodness.  His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over you!     


What are you doing with Easter this year? 

Did you trip over the preposition “WITH” and think that was a typo?  Did you expect to read “What are you doing ON Easter this year?” meaning “What are your plans for the day?” 

There are many beautiful Easter traditions some of us enjoy:  Time around the dinner table with family, Easter egg hunts, visiting the Easter bunny, filling Easter baskets, Good Friday and Easter Sunday church services.  When I was young I would wake up early and sift through my Easter basket.  Afterward, I’d climb in the car and nap while Dad drove Mom and me 50 miles to Cook Forest, PA, to attend an outdoor Easter sunrise service at a campground.  Something about being out in God’s creation watching the sunrise, shivering in the cold spring morning, made Easter even more special. 

Traditions are wonderful.  They connect us to our families and our past.  They can also be exhausting idols that we serve, numbing us to the reason we’re participating in them.  In Jesus’ day, He publicly opposed the Pharisees for putting man’s traditions above following God and loving Him with their whole heart.  They added numerous man-made laws to God’s commandments, overwhelming the people they were entrusted to serve.  Following God became more of a burden than a blessing. 

After graduating from the Easter bunny’s traditions, I was in a bit of limbo, not sure quite what to do with Easter.  The story of the cross was a bit brutal for a sensitive soul like me, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. 

I had an experience in college that I wrote about in my signature concert “Catch a Falling Dream”.  A friend of mine died in a tragic accident and I was there when it happened.  I attended his funeral at a Catholic church.  Having grown up Methodist, I remember feeling so out of place, not able to follow all the “stand up”, “sit down”, “kneel” traditions that went into the service.  My grief made me feel stupid and ashamed for being there at his death. I felt even more stupid and ashamed for feeling so out of place in church.  Do I blame the church?  Of course not.  It’s just an example of how traditions can alienate and confuse hurting people who simply need the love and comfort of God.  To process this time of confusion, I wrote this song:  Letter to My Father  

Going through the loss of a friend at such a young age changed me.  Easter became more than a holiday.  It became an event that I wrestled with, pondered, thought about deeply.  What did it truly mean?  I found out that my faith had historical and archaeological evidence behind it.  I wasn’t believing in a feel-good fairy tale.  I was believing in a man, God’s Son, who walked the earth, lived, died and was resurrected so I could have new life in Him.  One of the pivotal books I read was Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.  Lee was a journalist and an atheist who was disappointed and angry when his wife became a follower of Christ.  He started investigating to prove her wrong.  All the evidence he uncovered from interviews with scholars changed his mind.  God wanted me to use the brain He gave me to ask hard questions, to wrestle with doubt, to seek truth. 

What are you doing with Easter this year?  God welcomes your difficult questions.  He doesn’t want mindless followers going through the motions every year because that’s what they’ve always done.  He doesn’t want people so steeped in religion and so burdened by legalism that they don’t have time for a relationship with Him.  He wants your heart.  He made your heart and made it to love Him.    

I wish you a beautiful and joy-filled Easter and pray that you spend some time getting to know the Maker of your heart.

New Beginnings 

The last day of August with Labor Day weekend around the corner.  The end of summer and the start of a new school year.  The excitement of new possibilities. 

Do you have children going back to school?  Are you taking classes, yourself?  Are you a teacher? What new lessons are you looking forward to learning or teaching this year? 

My favorite subjects outside of music creation and production are Bible study and wellness.  Last year I found a way to blend the two and it came in the form of neuroscience.  I’ve been focusing on neuroplasticity, how the brain can form new synaptic connections at any age and even following injury.  In the process, I was reintroduced to a concept I’d read about for years, but never seriously put into practice:  daily meditation. 

Every time I tried to meditate it felt like a waste of time.  Although I knew in theory it was good for my immune system and for stress regulation, I could never develop the habit.  So many commitments and outside distractions, how could I make time to be still?  Over the years, I’ve completed numerous self improvement programs, to pivot from old habits that no longer served me and employ new ways of thinking and behaving.  For example, my decades-long habit of fear and anxiety was worsened by moving to my home state last year during the pandemic.  No matter how many times I tried to “think positively”, I felt myself reverting back to the same familiar programming:  thinking and feeling anxious.    

I’ve been reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”, by Dr. Joe Dispenza, and I learned something that was a total game changer.  My habits are operating out of the 95% of my mind that is subconscious.  I’ve been attempting to change that 95% with the 5% of my mind that is conscious.  That’s the equivalent of using a computer and watching unwanted windows pop up with no way to stop them.  No matter how many buttons you press, the computer isn't going to stop until you change something in its operating system.  It turns out that meditation is the way to access the brain’s subconscious "operating system."  A few verses come to mind:  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I find that when I roll out of bed and spend quiet time in the Lord’s presence, I have a palpable sense of “His mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) in my mind, my body, and my spirit.       

I certainly understand why meditation practice is called just that, a practice.  It takes commitment to do this every day, even when I don’t notice anything changing, or I’m getting impatient with the process.  Well, considering I’ve been alive for over half a century, it might take some focused work to unwire old brain circuits and rewire new ones. That’s when another verse strengthens me:  “But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:13 

Praise the Lord for new beginnings!!  

Christmas in July (Two new Christmas songs)  

So, how’s the weather in your neck of the woods?  It’s rainy and chilly here in Western PA as I'm writing this.  I don’t mind it at all.   Truth be told, summer isn’t my favorite season.  Winter is.  I was so happy this past year to be trudging through a couple feet of snow on my walks.  No bugs, no humidity, just me and the stillness of a winter morning. 

Another reason I love winter is Christmas.  I was fairly excited when I realized it’s less than 5 months away.  Ok, I heard you groan.  But I’m still just as excited!   :)     

Since I grew up in choirs and we started practicing as early as October, I can never get enough Christmas music.  Even when I’m practicing for Christmas performances, which unfortunately didn’t happen this past year, I usually have my Spotify playlists looping for hours. 

In the small town I grew up in, there were no contemporary services at church with a worship team.  I heard hymns sung by a choir and accompanied by a pipe organ.  When I graduated from college and moved to a big city in 1991, I made an interesting discovery.  I was in a music store and found a Christmas album by Steven Curtis Chapman.  That led me to other albums of his and on a wonderful listening journey into Christian contemporary music.  Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful traditional hymns.  But this music was so new and interesting.  Similar to the pop music I heard on the radio, but with a different twist:  all the lyrics reminded me of my Savior. 

It’s been such a blessing to be able to hear “Christmas” music all year round.  It’s been a huge part of my spiritual journey and continues to be incredibly important to my growth.  That fact was the inspiration behind the lyrics “Wise men are still following the baby in the hay.  Jesus now lives in their hearts; it’s Christmas every day!” from my song Our Savior Has Been Born.  Listen Here: Our Savior Has Been Born 

I’m in the process of recording both that song and The Way (in the Manger) and wanted to stop and share them with you.  Listen here: The Way (in a Manger)

I can’t get snow falling for me all year, but I can have the joy of the Christmas season in my heart 365 days.  Walking with Jesus, it truly is “Christmas every day!”  He even makes the summer heat and humidity a bit more bearable.  Whatever the season, whatever the weather, whatever circumstances in my life, I can “do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13)

Letter to My Father 

This is a weekend to celebrate fatherhood. My Dad, who passed away in 2019, was truly amazing.  My Father-in-Law is also fantastic.  I’m very fortunate.     

Many emotions are associated with the word “father”.  I’ve heard that people get their ideas of God from their experiences with their own father.  What words describe yours?  Loving?  Kind?  Generous?  Absent?  Abusive?  Manipulative?  Could he be trusted with your heart?  I realize this isn’t an easy question with a simple answer.  Even the most idyllic childhood with the most loving Dad is marred by memories of an exhausted and overworked man losing his temper.  It’s a tough job and Dads are human. 

My Dad and Mom took me to church growing up.  I was baptized, confirmed, and learned about Jesus.  Unfortunately, a tragedy in college left me questioning what I believed for many years.  Fourth of July weekend, 1989, some friends and I decided to shoot off fireworks from a train trestle.  It was around midnight, pitch black, and foggy.  A friend fell 200 feet to his death that night.  I didn’t get home until 6am after all of us were questioned at the local police station.  I had recently changed my major to music, but this night turned “following my dream” into a nightmare.  An 18-year-old friend’s funeral, fear of heights and driving over bridges, severe bouts with anxiety and depression, panic attacks, crying fits out of nowhere.  I plowed through it all the best I could to earn a music degree in my last two years of college.  One night, I locked myself in a practice room in front of a piano and started writing my first song since grade school.  I poured out my heart to a Father I’d heard about in church growing up, I’d talked to more than once, but now felt so distant, so cold, so heartless.  I was desperately clinging to my faith in anything good.  I wrote a Letter to My Father. listen here: Letter to My Father         

I still wanted to know and trust God so I kept sporadically reading my Bible through the years.  I loved reading the book of Psalms because it expresses such a wide range of emotions. I learned it’s okay to bring everything to God: my hardest questions, my deepest pain, even my ugliest anger.  He wants me to be real with Him.  He already knows what I’m going through, so not talking to Him about it is pointless.  It only buries the pain deeper, causing more emotional, mental, and physical turmoil.     

I spent a decade living in St. Louis, MO from 2010 to 2020.  One morning in 2011, as I was scrolling through my FB feed on my phone, I heard God whisper to my spirit to delete the app and start each morning with Him.  Alone.  In my Bible.  It was the beginning of an amazing faith journey for me.  I attended several different women’s Bible studies and met ladies of deep faith who have become close friends.  I went to numerous songwriting workshops that focused on writing about Jesus.  Now I can’t imagine waking up and not having quiet time with the Lord.  It’s no wonder I couldn’t hear my Heavenly Father when I allowed the noise of the media to permeate the first hours of my day. 

Recently, in one of my morning meditations, I heard God speak the most beautiful and healing words to me:  “I love you more than you will EVER need to be loved.”  Those words were so perfectly timed they left me crying tears of joy.  This knowledge took root deep in my soul and is growing into new emotional experiences in my life.  Rather than fear other people’s opinions, judgments or thoughts of me, I focus on my Father’s eternal love.  I am experiencing life-changing 1 John 4:18 and Ephesians 3:16-19 moments every day. 

I don’t know what emotions you’re carrying this Father’s Day.  I pray you take them all to God.  I pray you thank Him, cry out to Him, even shake your fist in anger and want answers from Him.  He’s your Heavenly Dad and He’ll always listen and love you.  More than you’ll EVER need to be loved.

Think God makes mistakes?  

I initially posted this to Facebook during Holy Week, 2019.  It seemed appropriate to share for my birthday as I meditated on His love for me and revisited Psalm 139.     

As I’ve taken time since Lent to quietly question and ponder God’s love for me, I’ve found wave after wave of His truth washing onto the shore of my soul. He knew me and loved me since before I was born.  I was conceived 13 years after my parents’ “first family”.  Although I was never told I was unplanned, I must have been a bit inconvenient to an established family of five.  Whether or not my mother and father planned me is irrelevant.  God planned me.  He planned me before I took my first breath.  He was the first One who truly knew me, who knit me together with excruciating detail as I grew in my mother’s womb. 

At week three my parents’ chromosomes came together to determine the color of my hair and my eyes, and even my adventurous and outgoing personality, very different from my mother’s. 

My heart started beating at week six.  God made my heart specific to His plan for me.  It beat strong but was created almost unbearably sensitive, because He knew I would grow up to empathize deeply with hurting people. 

At week ten, my facial features were being formed and I had a well-developed profile and eyes, mouth, and ears.  He gave me a McElhattan nose and cheekbones and a Greer mouth. He gave me ears that would hear the sound of the ocean, voices of the people I love, beautiful music, and the birds outside my window at dawn.  He knew I would sometimes look in the mirror at that face and judge it harshly, but He made everything perfect.  At week ten, He also started making the connections inside my brain that would help me to be really good at music and not so good at chemistry. 

At 13 weeks, since I was developing into a little girl, my ovaries were already filled with hundreds of thousands of eggs.  Ironically, God already knew that I wouldn’t be able to conceive my own children.  He was the first one to know and wasn’t surprised by my infertility.  He doesn’t make mistakes. 

At 18 weeks, I could hear the sound of my mother’s voice and listened to the music that she was listening to, preparing me to love big bands from the 1940s. 

God was the only One with me for 40 weeks in that womb, and He lovingly prepared me for the life He had planned for me.  It wasn’t a surprise to Him that my Mom would miss my brother John’s high school graduation to bring me into the world and nothing has surprised Him since.  He loved me before I was even born. 

As if all that wasn’t enough, He knew that my soul longed for the closeness with Him that I had in the womb.  Knowing that I could never do enough to reach Him, He reached down for me.  He sent His Son Jesus to be born into this world, to live a sinless life, and to die so that I could live with Him forever.  This unfathomable love ruins my sensitive beating heart in such an amazing way.  I will spend the rest of my life living to thank Him.   

Memorial Day Meditations 

It's June 2nd.  It's my birthday.  So I'm taking the liberty of bending the rules and posting this Memorial Day blog.  

During a recent detour from my planned agenda, God took me through a private Memorial Day ceremony with Him.  I was reminded of His past faithfulness.  The memories were every color of the emotional spectrum and I remembered how He guided me through them all.  My detour turned into a divine appointment.  

I hope you had a meaningful Memorial Day weekend, however you spent it.  I also hope that you take your own quiet time with the Lord, remembering His promises and His faithfulness.  You can borrow my own “birthday verse” to start that conversation if you'd like: Psalm 139.    

Memorial Day Meditations 

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been sensitive to the conflicting emotions surrounding Memorial Day weekend.  On one side, a celebration of the beginning of summer vacation, with my birthday soon to arrive.  On the other, the annual visits to our family cemetery to place flowers on relatives’ graves and Memorial Day ceremonies honoring our fallen soldiers.     

When I was in high school, I wanted to go straight into the military after graduation, so I invited an Army recruiter to visit the house.  Afterward, I was told by my ex-Marine, WWII-era father that he wouldn’t sign the papers to allow his only daughter to join the military.  He made me a deal:  If I attended college and decided I wanted to join after that, he would give me his blessing. 

In my freshman year, I took a course in military history, which also included being enrolled in Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) for that semester.  I met confident cadets and I was able to feed my love of adventure, including an exhilarating outing to rappel from an 80-foot high rock formation!  I signed up for a long weekend at Fort Indiantown Gap, an Army base in Pennsylvania.  I loved being outdoors and I envisioned a grown up version of Girl Scout Camp.  I was so naive. 

I was given a brand new set of BDUs (battle dress uniform) for the weekend.  Having never been washed, the collar on the uniform chafed both sides of my neck red and raw.  The times of hiking I envisioned on worn paths were actually land navigation drills, with a compass as my only guide through thorny brambles.  I lay prone on an M-16 firing range in humid 80-degree heat, in full BDUs and a Kevlar helmet, daydreaming about time in a pool.  Our nightly sleep was invaded by guard duty as we took turns being sentries, only to be roused by Reveille coming through the loudspeakers at dawn.  During a tactical field exercise, I ate MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) as one of the Senior cadets smeared my face with camouflage paint.  We waited in the woods as twilight turned to dark, hoping to ambush the Seniors with our M-16s filled with blanks.  I was terrified to hear a bear huffing in the darkness, only to realize it was one of my classmates, snoring because he fell asleep.  After that weekend I decided not to enlist.  To say I am immensely grateful for the sacrifices of military men and women is an understatement.    

In the last year of Dad’s life, I was able to spend time with him in the TV room at his nursing home.  He loved watching movies about WWII, especially since his Marine platoon wasn’t able to see combat before the war ended.  I didn’t usually enjoy them, but this particular movie caught my imagination and stirred my faith.  Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson and based on the true story of World War II American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist and conscientious objector who served during the Battle of Okinawa.  He refused to carry or use a weapon and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. 

Watching that movie, I was both aghast and inspired.  Aghast at the devastation of the natural landscape and the lives in it.  Inspired by this soldier’s bravery as he kept praying “Please, Lord, help me get one more”.  The juxtaposition of my weekend ROTC training came back to mind.  Being in the beauty of nature surrounded by the ugliness of training for war.  I thought of Romans 8:23 “all of creation is groaning. . . “ and then John 16:33  “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have trials, but take heart, I have overcome the world”. 

I will meditate on our fallen soldiers this weekend with gratitude for their lives and their sacrifices.  I will also meditate on Jesus, who in the midst of the brokenness of this life will bring me the peace and beauty of heaven, in this life and the one to come. 

Need some wellness tips? Then read on. . .  

I wanted to reach out and share some tips that might help you gain some traction in the new year.  Feel free to reach out if you’d like more information about a particular topic, or print out this list for future reference.  It's come from decades of experience and I pray something resonates with you.  

It’s amazing how many years I professed to be a disciple of Christ and went to church, yet rarely opened the Bible to read God’s Word for myself.  I was blessed to be led to the St. Louis area back in 2010.  Over the decade I lived there, I met many women who truly followed Christ.  I started to dig deeper into His Word and formed a deep and personal relationship with my Savior.  It’s so true that the Word of God is living and active and is different from any other book I’ve read.  The basis of all of my wellness is founded upon being connected to the One Who formed me and knows exactly what I need.  Through personal experience, my life verse is Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”    

Structure is really important for me and probably why last year didn’t completely derail me.  Even with all of my major life changes, my morning and evening routines stayed basically the same.  Adults aren’t much different than babies, who need a consistent feeding and sleep schedule to stay happy and playful, and get ornery when structure is missing.    

A typical morning for me includes some combination of meditation/journaling/bible study/bible-based thought work and exercise.  Most mornings I keep my phone on airplane mode and don’t allow the world in until after breakfast. 

A typical evening for me includes guitar practice and evening yoga.  Ideally, I’ll stop looking at the computer screen for an hour before bed, which helps calm my nervous system. 

Eating well is non negotiable for me, because certain foods cause pain.  I’m on a paleo diet, derived from The Wahls Protocol.  It’s anti-inflammatory, important since I’m a cancer survivor, and consists entirely of whole foods.  I mostly keep sugar intake to a minimum, although sometimes I enjoy honey in my tea or on my fruit.  Gut health and brain health are deeply intertwined and I want to stay mentally healthy in these challenging times.  The other benefit of eating a whole foods diet is boosting the immune system so I'm less prone to illness.  

In the past I used to “sleep shame” myself, staying up late and getting up early, ignoring my body’s signs that I needed extra rest.  I had a major paradigm shift after reading what James Clear, a mindset and productivity guru, had to say about that.  I realized that I was incredibly unproductive when I was sleep deprived, I was just too tired to notice.  It was worth getting the extra shut eye so I wouldn’t have to redo projects that I messed up while exhausted. 

Music, of course, is a huge source of wellness in my life.  Emotional meltdowns turn into new song lyrics and melodies.  I have Spotify playlists titled “grief support”, “relaxation”, “worship”, “dance party” “fear not” and many others that help me navigate through the messiness of life. Recently I’ve been listening to classical music through the WQED-FM app.  It’s a station based in Pittsburgh where I worked before I was married.  It’s fun to hear my former boss, Jim Cunningham, during the “morning drive”.  Classical music has so many health benefits. Vocalizing and playing musical instruments can also lower stress and boost the immune response.  Try googling “health benefits of music” if you’re not already convinced!    

I needed extra support after my move back to my home state and dealing with grief after losing some family members, so I also enlisted the help of a mental health coach.  She’s one of the administrators of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Facebook page and I knew she had the same beliefs about thoughts and mental health.  If you haven’t heard me talk about Dr. Leaf, her book Switch On Your Brain was another big paradigm shifter for me more than a year ago.  One of the things she said that I latched onto was “you’re not a victim of your biology”.  She has taught me how, in a very practical way, to capture my thoughts to Christ.  I use her online 21 day detox program which is very biblically focused.  She also has a “Switch” app and a podcast called “Cleaning up the Mental Mess”, which are geared toward a broader audience.    

Staying connected to my former support system and growing new relationships has been challenging, due to the PA winter weather and the social distancing.  I’ve been creative, though, and have learned to reach out and ask for support when I need it.  It’s comforting to know how many people are praying for me.  I realize I’m giving others that same comfort as I pray for them.  The power of prayer is truly amazing!  

Speaking of support systems, a book that has been priceless to me is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud.  I love his analogy of personal boundaries as a “fence” around our emotional, physical, and mental “property”.  We’re not supposed to be completely walled off, yet we must have the discipline to not allow others to sow their weeds into our backyards.  We can have a gate in our fence that allows people onto our property.  However, it’s our responsibility to be discerning about who we let in and under what circumstances.      

I have many other tools in my wellness toolkit, since I’ve been adding to it since 1991, but I didn’t want to make this a dissertation!  I’m happy to share them with you if you have particular needs, so feel free to reach out.  Do you have helpful wellness tips you’d like to share with me?  Let me know! 

Blessings to you, 


What do you hold onto in times of loss?    

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”  Job 1:21  

The other day I said that over and over with tears streaming down my face.  I said it because I believe it, not because I felt it.  I had finally hit a wall with the losses in my life.  Usually I’m able to “grit and gratitude” my way through life’s pain.  But the dam broke and the tears came.   

Good Friday, our 13 year old pup, Faith, passed away from cancer.  Last September, I lost my Dad.  April of 2018, my brother passed away.  June of 2016, we lost my mother in law.  Between 2016 and now, there have been other losses:  uncles, a cousin, some major traumas on both sides of our families.  This January, my husband and I decided to exit the financial services industry.  My part time job as Admin Assistant in his office disappeared at the end of February.  I was looking forward to focusing on my senior care performances.  Then COVID 19 hit and they all cancelled.  I was planning to visit my Mom for Mother’s Day, back in PA.  She’s 92, part of the most vulnerable population, so that’s not happening, either.      

When the tears came, I was staggering under the weight of attempting to hold myself together, telling myself I was trusting Jesus, not sure that I truly was.  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”.  As I said those words, it was with a mixture of accusation and surrender.  “How could you?” I thought, then immediately “Because you’re in control and I’m not.”  Wave after wave of grief has threatened to drown my faith these past few years.  I’m finding that the only faith I have left is in my Creator, my Redeemer, my Sovereign Lord and Savior.   

I have no faith in the news media, in politicians, in social media.  So many differing opinions, so many contradicting “facts”.  I don’t have the energy to sift and sort and process all this anymore.  I’m finding it difficult enough to focus on what needs to be done daily.  I’m trying to shift gears with my music career and get motivated.  Some days it works.  Some days it’s all I can do to get through the day without getting back under the covers.  Taking a shower and eating are sometimes major accomplishments.   

I thought back to years ago, when I was still a board-certified music therapist, required to take continuing education classes.  This particular class was led by a music therapist working in hospice.  She gave us a piece of paper and had us write down 4 people we love, 4 hobbies we enjoy, 4 of our favorite foods, 4 places we like to visit.  Then she told us we had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Step by step she took us through the disease process, at different points along the way telling us to cross off one of our “favorites” in a certain category.  I’ll spare you the details; it was a heart wrenching exercise in empathy, as piece by piece, I lost everything and everyone that I cared about.  We got to the end of the exercise and she noted that we had crossed everything off our papers.  But, had we?  

As I looked at my list, my heart began to soar.  I still had something left without my pencil line drawn through it.  When I wrote down the people I loved?  One of them was Jesus.  As I went through this exercise of losing everything I cared for, He was the One who walked with me every step.  He was weeping with me.  He was with me in my physical pain.  He mourned every loss with me.  And when the end of my life came after this imaginary terminal illness?  He would reach out His hand and usher me into eternity where I would spend my new life with Him.   

I have never forgotten that day, when I proved to myself that no matter what or who I lose in this life, I will never lose my Savior.  As I navigate my current losses and ponder what losses might be coming, I know He will give me the strength I need.  He knows my weaknesses.  He understands my current confusion and frustration.  Unlike my ego, He doesn’t need me to do something great for His Kingdom right now, He isn’t disappointed that I haven’t figured out something “spectacular” to do with my creativity.  Knowing that, I will continue to sit at His feet, learning how to truly rest in, trust in, and be loved by Him. So that I can say AND believe “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”        

What's Your Focus in Times of Fear?  

We live in unprecedented times.  The recent coronavirus pandemic is like nothing I’ve seen in my 50 years on the planet.  Thirty minutes scrolling through my Facebook feed today was enough to see plenty of frightening news.  Empty grocery store shelves.  Numbers of diagnosed cases rising in my state of Missouri and next door in Illinois.  Major public music and sporting events cancelled.  Schools shutting down.  People talking about the end of the world.  About the prudence of “social distancing” to avoid contracting or spreading the virus.  My own church cancelling in-person services and starting to live stream from YouTube.  I got up from my computer with a pit in my stomach.  Fear was getting the best of me.  

I had a choice to make.  What was I going to focus on for the remainder of the day?  

Of course, I want to be informed.  Sticking my head in the sand and pretending this isn’t happening won’t lead to wise decisions.  Other things that won’t lead to wise decisions?  Anxious, racing thoughts.  Expecting and worrying about worst possible outcomes.  Allowing myself to get so stressed that my body responds negatively.  Psychosomatically, even.  I could quite literally worry myself sick, with the exact symptoms I’m hearing about.  My thoughts are that powerful! 

So, I fought the fear.  I chose to capture all of my thoughts and give them to Christ.  To cry out to Him to help me focus on the right things.  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)  I chose to be present in the moment, to take a deep and cleansing breath, to center my thoughts and to be grateful.  Grateful for my health, for my husband, for my family and friends, for my puppy dog, for the birds and bunnies in the backyard, for my Savior and His amazing love for me.  On and on I poured out my grateful heart to the Lord and found myself feeling lighter, less burdened, able to think more clearly.  

This choice was a decade in the making.  In 2010 while we were still living in Phoenix, Clayton lost his job in the spring, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, completed treatment in August, he moved to St. Louis for a job in October, I followed in December.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was in physical pain.  Every morning I would wake up and check the Facebook app on my phone before anything else.  After months of that routine, I heard the Lord quietly speaking to my heart.  First, He asked me to delete the Facebook app from my phone.  Then, He invited me to spend time with Him first thing in the morning, reading His Word and journaling my prayers and thoughts.  

Ten years later, I can tell you that one of my life verses is “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33) The “things” that have been added to me are His presence, His wisdom, His counsel, His peace, His calm, His strength, His courage, and an intimate, heartfelt knowledge of my Savior that I never imagined I’d experience.  He even helped me chronicle my journey with Him in my Catch a Falling Dream program.  While I was writing and editing that program, I saw where His hand guided me my entire life.  It helped me to trust Him even more, knowing what He’d brought me through.    

Another choice I will make is to pray continuously, like never before.  I pray that the Lord stops this pandemic in its tracks.  I pray He gives the leaders of our nations wisdom and discernment; I can’t imagine the stress they are under.  I pray for the overburdened medical personnel.  I pray for the elderly in senior care homes, and the families who are currently unable to visit them.  I pray for the people around the world who are grieving their losses.  I pray for those who are fighting their own fears.  I pray that He heals those who are sick.  I pray that He draws people closer to Him through this.  I pray that He helps me to focus on the right things.  Because I can’t do everything that needs to be done.  The needs are too overwhelming.  But I can do something.  I will focus on my Savior and my Counselor and He will lead me.