Wonderfully and fearfully made

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I have four tattoos.
I have a nose ring.
I have very darkly colored hair.
I like to wear dark eyeliner.

What do these things tell you about who I am.  Not a single thing.  Those attributes do not tell you what is in my heart.  They merely tell you how I choose to make myself feel pretty.

We all have things about our appearance that somebody else will disapprove of.  What makes you a beautiful person is not how you look.  Beauty is all of the individual pieces of your heart and soul.  When we look in the mirror we see our face, but when God looks at us He sees our heart, He sees the wonderfully and fearfully created man or woman that He made us to be.

You are beautiful!  You are wonderfully and fearfully made by the one who knew exactly what He was doing when He made you.  Everything that you are on the outside is beautiful.  Everything that you are on the inside . . . Breathtaking.

God knew what he was doing when he made us.  Celebrate His artistry in every person you meet.

Until next time . . .

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Overuse “I love you”

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Who you are today could change the world for someone tomorrow.  You have a positive effect on the world.  Don’t hold back the gifts that God gave you.  He gave them to you for a reason.  Share them with the world.

Until next time . . .

A question for you

If you can do one thing today to change eternity, what would it be?

Until next time . . .

Toilet paper trivia

Have you ever used toilet paper to get to know a person?
No, I am not kidding.  No, I don’t mean, “you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of toilet paper they buy.”  I think the fact that they are buying toilet paper tells us more than enough about some people.  They are regular.  They do some pooping that necessitates the purchase of bum-cleansing paper products.  Let’s all be honest and admit that aside from that fact that we all know everybody poops, there are just some people that we do not want to know anymore about.
Last night at my bible study group we used toilet paper to get to know more about each other.  I know what you’re thinking . . . “Gross,” but stick with me here.  Each Sunday evening I go to a bible study group.  We eat.  We talk.  We delve further into the sermon from that morning.  Last night after we finished eating but before we got into the discussion my pastor lead the group of us, about 10 people, in an icebreaker.  It’s a different question every week, and it serves a couple of purposes.  It helps the group get to know each other a bit better, and it helps everyone loosen up and get into chatty mode.  Nobody noticed the two rolls of toilet paper that appeared in the room until our pastor started passing them around with instructions to take off as many squares as we thought we would need.  What he didn’t tell us was what we would need them for.  We are all giggling like little kids as the rolls make their way around the room.  Some people only took a few squares.  Some people took many, many, many squares.  Nobody noticed that our pastor and his wife each only took one square each.  That is until . . .
“For our icebreaker tonight you have to tell the group something about yourself for each square you have,” says my pastor.  That is when everybody noticed that he and his wife each had only one square.  The people who had many, many, many squares groaned.  The others giggled.
“Who’s going to start us off,” he asked.  I raised my hand.
Six squares.  Six things about me.  I realized then just how difficult it is to come up with things about yourself on the spot.  I resorted to the standby facts.
1.  My favorite color is purple.
2.  My husband and I got engaged on our 2nd date.
3.  I knew when I was 14 that I wanted to be in radio.
4.  My husband and I got married in Elvis’ birthday.
5.  My favorite artist is Elvis.
6.  My favorite band is Aerosmith.
As we made our way around the room I thought of other things I could have said, but in the moment it was much like writing the “about me” page for this blog.  “What do I say?  What would people like to hear about me that makes me sound fun and interesting and not like the geek that I am?”  Then much later you think of ten-thousand other things you could have said.  It never fails.
In honor of all the great things I could have said, (picking up where my toilet paper left off) here goes . . .
7.  My husband and I got married twice.  Legally on October 29th, and before friends and family on Elvis’ birthday.
8.  My second favorite color is silver.
9.  I was a band geek in school.  I played the B-Flat Clarinet from the time I was 9 until I was 22, and E-Flat Clarinet and Alto Saxophone my Sophomore and Senior years.  I tried playing the Flute and Oboe, but I had a hard time making that transition.
10.  I adore The Who as much as Aerosmith.
11.  I was the product of an abusive, alcoholic stepfather.
12.  I own, and sometimes wear in public for no reason other than every girl should do it, a tiara.  It’s amazing how much confidence a cheap, plastic tiara with shiny, plastic rhinestones can give you.  No woman is too old to want to feel like a princess.
13.  At 37 years old I can still do a crazy good little girl voice.  I use it for commercials at the station.  That voice even has a name. She is a 5 year old named Tiffany who loves chicken mcnugget happy meals with orange drink, and gets pissed because her mom won’t let her have the happy meal toy until her food is gone.
14.  John Cusack is one of my all-time favorite actors.
15.  I adore classic black-and-white movies.  Movies these days are crap.
16.  When I was 20 years old an ex boyfriend tried raped me.  Later he and his mother guilted me into not saying or doing anything.  I kept it a secret for years.  By doing that the only one who suffered was me.  Never keep something like that a secret.  Never let somebody else steal your voice.
17.  My first (and still favorite to this day) vehicle was a 1986 Toyota pickup truck.  She was blue with silver stripes and her name was Baby.
18.  I am a Dr. Pepper junkie.  Must. Have. Caffeine!
19.  I think everything is better with more color and sparkle.
20.  I believe there is something good inside everybody, even the people that everyone else has given up on.
21.  I can’t use utensils that are bent or have textured handles.
22.  I published a 250-plus-page book on Amazon.
23.  I handwrote the entire rough draft in purple, 3-subject, spiral notebooks.
24.  I love kitties.
25.  I believe in ghosts.
26.  I was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
27.  I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.  Go Cards!
28.  The biggest thing holding me back from doing anything is myself.
29.  I rarely cut my hair (like once ever two years, maybe) because I am afraid the stylist will cut too much off and make me look like Mrs. Potatohead.
30.  I am TERRIFIED of spiders.
31.  I am a child of God.
32.  I don’t have grey hair.  I have naturally grown hair glitter.
33.  I always get the best writing ideas when I am in the shower or just about to fell asleep.

I know there is a lot more, but well save that for another roll of toilet paper.  What I want to know is what would your toilet paper say about you?

Until next time . . .

Music in the shadows (short story)

The sidewalk was cold and unyielding.  She was supposed to be at the grocery store, not sitting on the sidewalk outside of a downtown bar.  The sound of music filled the air and her head.  She could hear it from where she had parked her car two blocks away.  It drew her forward to the outdoor bar like a pied piper.

She had no urge to see him, or for him to see her.  She just wanted to hear the music.  She missed sitting in the audience and listening to him play.  That was the only thing she still missed about him.  She had spent months getting him out of her system, untangling him from her heart, but that one thing still remained . . . her love of watching him get lost in his music.  So she sat on the sidewalk just listening.

The street was dimly lit and shadows filled all the corners.  She had found a shadow to hide in so that he wouldn’t see her.  The street still teamed with late-night, weekend revelers enjoying the fading moments of their Saturday night.  Usually anxiety made her unable to be around crowds of people, but on that night she was thankful for them.  The constant flow of sharply dressed men and women acted as a curtain obscuring any view he might of had of her.

She lit a cigarette, inhaled, and let it out slowly as the notes floated through the air to her ears.  They surrounded her like a comforting blanket.  Her eyes closed as she let the music hypnotize her.  The air was cool and damp and the first hints of fog were starting to roll in off the river, but in that moment for her there was nothing else but the music.  The keyboard was light and joyous as the guitar played improvised riffs that drove people from their chairs to dance.  The bass was deep and subtle, like a whisper in her ear.  Driving it all forward was the him, the drummer.  His sticks flew over the cymbals and drum heads with lightning speed in a pattern that was simple but elegant.

Behind her closed eyes she replayed all the times she followed him from show to show.  Bars, restaurants, parks . . . anywhere he could set up and play.  For months she was faithfully in the audience until the night that she realized that he had become more important to her than anything else.  She had spent months spinning endless lies to her family, friends, and coworkers just so she could sneak away to watch him play.  He welcomed her in the audience and over time came to expect her to be in a chair clapping and cheering for him.  She let herself believe that he needed her there more than he wanted her there, but deep down she always knew that she was only lying to herself.  One night after a show she knew she had to unravel the web of lies she had woven around herself and she had to leave that life behind for good.  The music was the last vestige of that former life.  It was the one string she hadn’t gotten strong enough to cut.

So she sat on the sidewalk, her cigarette burning down to the filter, as the music wove around her like a spell.  Minutes passed unnoticed as the song continued on.  The voices of people in the street went unheard.  All she could hear was the music as it carried on and on through the night air carrying her with it.  The speeding notes became a frenzy tightening around her body like a vise that she welcomed.  Her heart and her memories raced with the speed of the song.  She didn’t need to see him to know that he was as carried away with the music as she was.  She knew that his body was no longer moving under it own accord, that it was the music that was moving him, just as it moved her.  That is what she missed.  She welcomed it the way a drug addict welcomes that first taste after a glimpse of withdraw.  She could feel the music taking her higher and higher.  She needed it.  Her body longed for it, and she let it carry her away oblivious to everything else around her.

Then it was done.

A blur of sticks flying over drum heads and a final crash of cymbals brought it to an end.

She sat for a few more moments on the sidewalk, reluctant to open her eyes and break the spell.  She didn’t want to give up the shadows and the anonymity that they provided as she allowed herself to get as lost in his music as he did.  But the music was over.  The spell was broken.  The chill in the air replaced the warmth of the music.  The voices of weekend revelers filled in the emptiness left behind by the music.  The forbidden high had already begun to wear off, lasting only as long the music carried through the air.  It was over.

She flicked her burned-down cigarette into the street, slowly stood up from the sidewalk, and walked away.  She had briefly glimpsed him, but he never saw her.  He never knew she was there that night.  It would be a secret that would remain forever between her and the shadows of that cool, hypnotic, downtown Saturday night.

Failing in Science leads to an answered prayer

In the beginning there was a catchy opening sentence to grab your attention and suck you in to continue reading.  This was followed by several thought-provoking paragraphs that left you educated, fulfilled and ponderous.  You carried the weight of those words throughout the rest of your day and maybe even shared them with a friend because they had such an impact on you.

This is not one of those posts.

I will admit that I really have nothing at the moment that needs to be said.  Sometimes I just get itchy fingers that need to write, yet there are no specific thoughts behind them.  Somebody needs to tell my brain and my fingers that they need to better coordinate their writing urges.  So well just embark on this together and see where it goes.  Maybe there will be a thought-provoking sentence hidden in there somewhere.

For lack of anything else to write about let’s talk about my kid.  Last week he brought home his first 100% of the school year on a spelling test.  This is huge news for him actually.  Ever since he started Headstart when he was four years old he has struggled (to put it mildly) in reading, writing, and spelling.  So anytime that he brings home anything that has a non-failing grade then it is a huge victory.

He doesn’t learn like other kids in his class.  The teacher can go through a lesson and most other children will understand it with little to no problem.  My son needs everything broken down into small pieces and then those pieces have to be repeated over and over and over and over and over again.  After all of that repetition the info might start to sink in.  Needless to say he gets frustrated because he sees the other kids learning to easily and he wants to be like them.  He is a super confident little boy.  He will talk your ear off about anything that pops into his head.  He has never met a stranger.  But the minute he walks into school his confidence in himself completely goes out the window.  Homework reduces him to tears on most nights.  On the worst nights you can watch his face crumple as he calls himself stupid.  It breaks my heart.  That is why the 100% on the spelling test last week was such a huge deal.

Last week also saw a prayer answered almost as quickly as I got it out of my mouth.  I had gotten upset with my sons teacher over the current state of his science grade.  Science has always been one of his best subjects.  The neat orderliness of science works well with his learning issues, I believe.  With science (especially in elementary school) there is a specific order to science.  “You dig a hole.  You plant a seed.  You water the seed.  It sprouts.  It grows.  It develops a flower.  It dies.”  It has very tangible steps that my son can see and remember because one step can not happen before another, as opposed to the many confusing rules of reading and spelling . . . i before e, silent consonants like in pterodactyl or gnome, and the “e” at the end of words that makes vowels long.  Science leaves little room for question for him.  He loves it.

So when he brought home his mid-quarter progress report imagine my surprise at seeing that he is failing science, and not just by a little bit.  At mid-quarter he had a 10% for his quarter grade thus far.  I was shocked!  I emailed his teacher and asked what was going on.  I didn’t know if he was out of the classroom with his resource teacher at the same time that the science lesson was taught, or if he just wasn’t doing the work.  I never did get my questions answered by the teacher.  Her reply to me was vague and frustrating.  I was at work as I read her reply and got so angry that I had to make myself go outside away from my computer because I was ready to fire off an email that I knew I would have regretted.  I stood outside smoking a cigarette and prayed.  My son just needs someone who sees in him what I see in him, someone who sees him not just as a child with learning difficulties but who sees the smart little boy behind the learning difficulties, a little boy who wants to learn.

That evening I was at a friend’s house and she brought up my son.  After discussing the state of his grades and his lack of confidence with school she said something that left me speechless and crying on her couch.  She offered to work with him after school a day or two a week.  She had helped him with his homework a few days earlier and saw where his weaknesses were and how to help him.  She told me that she had prayed about my little boy and God had put it on her heart to help him.  She didn’t want anything in return for working with him.  She just wants to see him succeed.

We’ve all had those moments that just seemed a little too coincidental, moments where everything worked out just right.  Then there are those rare and wonderful moments where all you can do is look up and say, “Yes, God, I know that was your work.  Thank you.”

In the course of the same conversation with my friend I learned a little bit more about her.  I found out that she is a Christian, completely devoted to her faith, and currently without a church home.  We talked about the current teaching series that my church is doing right now and invited her to come to church with me.

Nothing is accidental.  God puts us all right where he needs us to be so that we can carry out his plan for the world.  Too see that in action . . . breath-taking and awe-inspiring.  Praise God!

So it seems that I had something to say after all.  Thanks for your patience as I unloaded some thoughts from my head and relieved itchy writers fingers.

Until next time . . .

Bad fruit in the garden

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First I can across the above picture as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning.  Then I came across this verse . . . Do not be misled:  “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV) . . . as I was reading one of my devotionals for today.  I think God might be trying to tell me something.
I’ve had my share of toxic people, bad seeds, negative influences . . . whatever you want to call them.  The worst, and most prevalent, that I’ve written about was the drummer.  It was a struggle to untangle myself from him.  I met him last October and we became friends, though i wanted more.  I thought I was in love with him.  I am married and have been for almost ten years.  In June I walked away from the drummer.
In the worst part of those eight months I was ready and willing to give up everything in my life to be with him.  I was willing to throw away my marriage, family, friends, everything.  I was deep under the negative influence.  I had tried walking away many times over those eight months because I could see what was happening, but I was weak and let myself get pulled back in.  Until June.  The Lord put me in a simple and harmless situation with the drummer that opened my eyes as if for the first time and I knew I had to finally be done with him.
I knew during those eight months that everything about the drummer in my life was wrong.  I couldn’t walk away though.  He made me happy.  He made me laugh.  We were friends.  He made me feel good the way a friend does.  I was unable to see the negative truth behind the facade of Satan’s lies.  Was the drummer Satan?  No. But Satan knew that the drummer would become my weakness and so brought him into my life to try to draw me away from God.  But God fought harder for me than Satan ever could.  It was by the grace of God that I was finally able to turn around and walk away from the drummer that night in June.
The bad fruit in our lives doesn’t always come wrapped in a rotten, ugly exterior.  Sometimes it’s even more shiny and pretty than the things that are good for us.  We see that appealing exterior and we are drawn in.  We are like Eve to the apple.  We just have to trust God to blind us to the negative influences in our life, and to help us turn away from those that have already started to take root.
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13)
Are there aspects of your life that need to be walked away from?
Until next time . . .

Talking to God

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And that’s what it feels like to some people to pray.
And that’s what it feels like for me to pray.
Does that stop me from praying?  No.
Do my fumbling words make my prayer any less meaningful?  No.
All you have to do is speak from your heart.  God knows what you want to say even before you say it.  No matter what you say to Him, how child-like you feel your prayer is, how stumbling your words, the Lord is overjoyed that you have come to him to talk.
Until next time . . .

Insecurity attack

So, even as I type this I am laying in bed.  I am replaying my evening in my head.  More specifically I am replaying the meeting at church this evening about our upcoming Halloween party.  In attendance was me, 2 gentleman, the pastor and his wife.  My pastor took the opportunity this evening to share with the others that I am now the new outreach leader for the church.
Just between you and me, I’m still really freaked out by that idea.  Not in a bad way.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am just a very introverted person.  I am socially awkward and in social settings I tend to just stick to myself.  So last Sunday when my pastor said he wanted me to be the new outreach leader for the church I immediately wondered if he was talking to the right girl.  Surely a wallflower can’t lead the church into the community.  There is no way that me, miss-insecure-raging-stage-fright can inspire others to be the hands and feet of Jesus when I can barely ask someone how they are doing on a Sunday morning before service.  I am a follower, not a leader.  You tell me where to go and when to be there and I am there working my butt off.
So tonight during our party planning meeting I was prepared with a list of ideas for games and activities.  I had a list of business that I would like to call on to ask for donated door prizes.  I could see the whole entire event planned in my head.  The event that I saw was a raging success.  I was so exited to make a splash and impress everyone with my party-planning skills.  Tonight I discovered though that all of my ideas were wrong and that I have so much to learn.
Now this Halloween party is to be my training in to how to be the outreach leader for the church.  My pastor wants me to step way out of my comfort zone and be able to recruit people from the church to help organize and carry out the event so that I will be able to do the same without his help for future events.  In other words, he wants me to jump out of my comfort zone and leap blindly into another zone in a foreign country on another planet.
I am second-guessing my decision to accept the role within the church.  I am doing so because I am insecure and already feel the fringes of my comfort to be threatened.  I am doing so because I feel like I am just going to botch the whole event and nobody will show up.  I am doing so because I am terrified that my pastor will come to me and say, “You know what, Carrie, it turns out I was wrong about you.  You are a good follower, but not what we need in a leader.”  I’m afraid I’ll let him down, the church down, and myself down.
I have a servant’s heart.  I know that.  I’ve always known that.  Nothing makes me happier than to do for others, to bring a bit of joy into someone’s life.  But if I fail at this what will that say about my ability to serve?  If I can’t serve the church then how can I serve God?
Can you hear me psyching myself out right now?
I want to make a success of this.  I want to prove to the church that I can be a good leader.  I want to prove to my pastor that he was right about me.  I want to prove to myself that I can inspire others with my heart and that I’m not just a wallflower.
But I am so scared.
I keep trying to remind myself of what my pastor said to me on Sunday . . . “God doesn’t call the qualified.  He qualifies the called.”
And so begins the new chapter in my service to the Lord.  Keep me (and my insecurity) in your prayers.
Until next time . . .

To dream (poem)

The stars shine down
We close our eyes
Our day comes to an end
The moon a sliver
As dreams become real
And, for a few hours, reality bend
But what becomes
While we sleep
As we lay in our repose
Do we wait to start a new day
Or do we really live
With our eyes closed
Take a deep breath
Relax and drift off
A new adventure shall begin
In your imagination
Behind closed eyes
As our days come to its end

By:  Carrie Leigh
09.19.14