March 9, 2013 -- Waiting

Waiting.

That is the theme of life these days. Waiting. For a baby to arrive. For the first pains of labor to begin. To see the face of this little one we've been watching grow in my womb over the last 9 months. Waiting anxiously, nervously, excitedly, with eyes of wonder, with eyes of tears, with impatience. Just waiting. Wondering. Trying to stay busy and keep my mind off the agony that accompanies the wait.

We wait a lot in life. For news, for results, for babies, for accomplishments, for Jesus. Always waiting on something.

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me that a song I had worked on almost four years ago was now going to CD. I remember the song, remember working through the harmonies, adding some piano to it, tinkering. Who knew what would come of this little song? And today, this song is ministering right back to my heart in this period of waiting. "When I can't see past today...through it all, I will see your glory."

Congrats to Mark and the Tree Hill Collective on another great CD.

Listen below: "Shelter in the Wind" by Mark Snyder, arr. Leah Carolan.
Sung by Mia Koehne.

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February 12, 2013 -- Sowing

Am I sowing to the Spirit or sowing to the flesh. I'm doing one or the other all the time.

These are lyrics from a song by Justin Rizzo that have been running through my head for about a month now. We'd been in the middle of a holiness series at church, and along with that I've been reading in Romans 8, which is pretty much about life that is sown in the Spirit and life that is sown in the flesh. If I'm not living for God, I'm living against God. I can't do both. At any given point, I'm doing one or the other.

In Romans 8, Paul goes through the benefits of living for God and the downfalls of living for myself and indulging the flesh.

Benefits of sowing to the Spirit:
1. No condemnation.
2. Freedom from the law of sin
3. Freedom from death.
4. Righteous requirement of the law is met through Jesus
5. Mind consumed by what God desires.
6. The mind is destined to life and peace.
7. Pleasing to God.
8. Life.
9. Child of God.
10. Heirs of all the riches of God.

Downfalls of sowing to the flesh:
1. Powerlessness to the law.
2. Condemnation
3. Righteous requirement of the law not met.
4. The mind is consumed by worldly desires.
5. The mind is destined to death.
6. Enemy of God.
7. Inability to please God.
8. Death.
9. Slave to the world.
10. Live in fear.

So when I'm singing, "Am I sowing to the Spirit or sowing to the flesh. I'm doing one or the other all the time", I have this list running through my head. There is a better way. God has shown me so through His Word. Life outside the Spirit of God is a pathway of death. I've lived long enough to know and see where the world will gladly take someone. Personal goodness and charity only go so far before it is obvious that one cannot save themselves. Without the Spirit of God within them, the mind is always doomed to be consumed by the pursuits of the world.

Here is the song, compliments of Spotify. (Not sure you can listen if you don't have a Spotify account...)

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January 9, 2013 -- Babies

Finally a working computer!

It's been a busy season of everything babies. Baby clothes. Baby classes. Baby books. Baby showers. Baby bedrooms. Rearranging anything and everything to make room for baby. All of that mixed in with a chaotic but pleasant Christmas Eve season at work. It's been busy.

In the midst of all of that, I'm reminded of God's calling on my heart to be a Mary, not a Martha. These were words spoken over me in a prophetic room about five years ago. I am called to be one who sits before the feet of Jesus, and not the one who is frantically running around to and fro to make sure all the details of the upcoming event are in place. I think I've been acting more like a Martha these days, just trying to stay afloat. But the nagging call remains: I am not to be a Martha.

I know there are many busy weekends ahead, but it's now that I'm deciding to align myself with my calling - one who sits at Jesus' feet. Somehow, somehow this must fit with all the preparations that need to be done. Somehow, somehow everything will come together without craziness of planning. I believe the promise!

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November 6, 2012 -- Slacker

I voted.

Have I really not blogged since September? Eek! It's been a busy couple of months nesting, caring for a post-surgery husband, and trying to ward-off all this pregnancy sickness (still...).

I'm walking the Turkey Trot this weekend. It's a short 4K. My dad is coming up to walk it with both Rick and I, so it will be nice little stroll for the three of us. I'm excited. I wish I could have handled the Des Moines half-marathon, but in my current state, my energy level just isn't up for it. Bummer. But I can handle a measly 4K. And they feed you pancakes afterwards. Yum! So any calories I burn I can put right back on.

I started the search for an intern to work with me this coming year, January 2013-June 2013. It's kind of exciting thinking about raising up the next generation of worship leaders. I hope I have a lot of wisdom to impart. It's a paid internship, part-time. If you know of anyone interested, lead them here: Worship Internship. They don't have to be college-aged. They can be any aged. Just need a little bit of worship leading experience. The rest I can teach them.

I've had a song stuck in my head the last couple of weeks. The lyrics are this:
Cover me Lord, with your presence.
Cover me, Lord, with your righteousness.
Cover me, Lord, with your holiness.
Lord Jesus, cover me.

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September 19, 2012 -- Awake

After almost four months of not being able to function, this week I am almost feeling like myself. Being pregnant is hard work!

Yup, Pregnant.

My days have been filled with sleeping and trying to accomplish the most minute of tasks that it takes to get by in life. I have been sleeping 12-14 hours a night, and then usually manage to sneak in a nap somewhere in the day, too. I'm just happy if I can manage to keep clean laundry around. That's a task in itself. It's funny looking at the pictures below and realizing, "Hey, I was pregnant in those and didn't know it yet!"

But today I am awake at 7am, doing laundry, and getting ready to make some No-Bake cookies I found one a blog of another pregnant lady I'm following. It's funny how most of my free time I'm researching pregnancy in general. There is a ton of information to sift through and find out about all the weird things taking place in my body. I would have never guessed all the stuff that comes along with it. So here's the recipe I'm going to try today. No healthy. Not sugar free. Definitely not Prism-friendly. But man, they sound really good. Four months in I've managed to not gain any weight yet (well, except gaining back the weight I lost from being so sick all the time). So I have some room for a treat:

UPDATE
I went to make the cookies and just couldn't bare to use white sugar. White sugar is bad bad bad. Especially since I have everything I need on hand to make a slightly healthier alternative. So here is the altered recipe:

No-Bake Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup sucanat (or 2 cup white sugar)
3 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural sugar-free)
1 tsp of vanilla
4 cups old fashioned oatmeal (not the instant kind)
wax paper

1. Combine butter, sugars, cocoa and milk into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla.

3. Add oatmeal and stir with spoon.

4. Scoop out by the spoonful and place on wax paper. Let sit until hardened (20+min.) (I reshaped the balls with my fingers to make them prettier).

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August 14, 2012 -- Sleep and Piano

I've been sleeping a lot lately. That pretty much sums up my life. I am constantly tired. I will get up for a quick breakfast and then it's back to bed for a few more hours sleep. Evening hits, and I'm back in my PJs by 8:30pm. And sometimes I'll even manage a late afternoon nap. Sleep sleep sleep.

I rediscovered my love for playing Disney songs. I have an old book that's a collection of Disney's greatest hits. I've had the book since I was in sixth grade, so it's pretty beat up. For years I flipped through and just played my personal favorites but in the last few days I've discovered a number of songs I don't know and have always skipped over. So I've been working on my music site-reading and doing decently getting through the book. Though I must admit, I still love to turn the page and find an old favorite where I can sing along.

It wasn't until after I quit piano lessons that I learned a love for the piano. My sister bought me the Disney book. To this day, I have know idea what would cause a high school aged sister to buy a music book for her elementary aged sister. But she did. And suddenly I could sing along to the songs I was playing. It changed everything. Suddenly piano was fun and not a burden. I was no longer "practicing", just playing for shear enjoyment. It is then that my piano skills became refined, my ability to 'make it up' as I go was developed that would later steer me into my current job of worship leading. I could play how I feel rather than what was written on the page. Because it didn't matter what I played, as long as the sound I made interpreted what I was singing on top of it. And there was no one to tell me whether what I played was right or wrong, but I was left to my ear.

Still, even now I'm trying to hit most of the notes, at least the first couple times through. But as soon as I start singing, it's improv all the way.

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July 5, 2012 -- Bluh.

A great encouragement to me this morning.

"Yesterday's over. Don't give up. Don't give in. If you don't quit, you win."

"I knew what I was getting into - and I still want you. I knew what I was getting into - and I still called you."

"I forgive you - forgive yourself."

"You're already acquainted with your weakness. Now come get acquainted with my strength."

"Love wins."

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June 21, 2012 -- Bike Ride Pics





Only in the country would you find a tractor crossing sign along a bike trail.

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June 19, 2012 -- Bike Ride

Tomorrow I'm going for a bike ride. I'm so excited!

Growing up, bike rides were a favorite family past time. We often took rides on local trails following small rivers and streams. It was always a treat to be on a trail that was black-topped, but many were just gravel.

For me, it was always the beauty of being outside on some little secluded trail among the trees. I loved racing to see how far ahead of my family group I could get and then waiting and watching to see how long before they would catch up.

When I first moved to Cedar Rapids, I rode my bike quite a bit, using my sabbath day to explore the trails of Cedar Rapids, my favorite being the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. Here's the description from traillink.com:

"The Cedar Valley Nature Trail follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way of the old Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern, an interurban railroad system established in the early 1900s. The 52-mile trail is a linear park that courses through the Cedar River bottomlands among forested riverbanks, rolling farmlands and open vistas. The northern 16 miles of the trail and the southernmost 4 miles are asphalt; the rest of the trail has a limestone-chip surface."

Doesn't it sound wonderful?

I connect with God greatly in the outdoors. My favorite retreats are always to places that leave me alone in the woods with God. Or staring over the water of a small pond. It's like a can't really hear anything until the hustle and bustle are completely removed from the scenario, and I place myself in the tranquility of nature sounds. After a few hours/days of purging everything else, it is then that my mind can finally slow down and my heart able to listen from God. Maybe it's the farm girl in me, maybe it's just how I'm wired. Either way, I find there is an innate instinct within me to get away about 3 times a year and just retreat myself in the silence of nature. It's hard to find these times and rare that I can work it out to follow through. So a bike ride seems like a simple but much anticipated pleasure.

Rick asked me what I wanted for my birthday tomorrow. I was torn between a bike ride or a trip on the city buses. (My love for public transit will have to be saved for another day...) Bike rides it is. We called around and found a couple of bikes to borrow. And soon, weather permitting, we'll be biking down the trail.

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June 17, 2012 -- Father's day

We had a chance to sneak off to the farm after worship services Sunday and spend time with my pappa. What a great Father's day treat. A trip home is never just a trip to visit. It's always filled with exploration and dirt and food. This trip would be no different.

We never pack clothes to go to the farm. Once arriving, you just grab one of Pappa's old t-shirts, roll up the jeans, pull up the hair, and away you go. This trip I found myself cutting lettuce from the garden, harvesting a little cilantro, running through the garden barefoot eating any raspberries that had turned red, and chewing on broccoli. There is endless possibility playing in the garden. I always start with my shoes on but inevitably find myself barefoot.

While I was picking fresh veggies, Rick and Dad worked together on assembling the last parts of a high pressure water sprayer. Then of course we had to try it out on everything in site. Understandably so, you should not use it to clean the dirt off your feet. It hurts.

Next to some BBQ'd chicken and pork ribs. Yum.

At some point you clean up and switch back into your city-people clothes to head home.

I have to admit, life is easier in a dirty old t-shirt that you're not afraid to wipe your garden dirty hands on.

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May 17, 2012 -- Bathroom Love

Girl brings coffee into bathroom.
Girl disrobes.
Girl knocks over coffee.
Coffee runs over the counter top
into the sink
and into the toilet
and onto the light green rugs.
Girl cries out, "Uh oh!"
Coffee runs further on the other side.
Girl cries out, "Help!"
Hero comes to the rescue!
Hero rescues light green rugs.
Hero brings old towels to clean up.
Coffee is gone,
sink is dry,
and Hero gets kiss
from naked coffee drinker
in the bathroom.

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April 27, 2012 -- Recordings Online

I finally had a chance to stop and get some songs I've been working on recorded. They're not that great quality-wise, but at least they're done! *Whew* I don't have the time to tinker like I used to.

To Your Name

Flourish into Freedom

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April 24, 2012 -- Reflecting

I had a reflective trip to and from Pella, Iowa yesterday. The trip itself is about 4 hours round trip, plenty of time to reflect and process while on the road.

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April 6, 2012 -- Good Friday

Today is the day we recognize the death of Jesus. Why is Good Friday called, "Good". Because in Old English and Dutch circles "good" meant "holy". So today is "Holy Friday".

Hmmm. Interesting.

Lent/Easter is one of my craziest seasons where I start to lose my mind, but as soon as it's over, my mind comes back.

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March 17, 2012 -- Happy St. Patty's

I got my steak. Twice. We celebrated our 2 year anniversary on Tuesday! It truly has been two years of wedded bliss. I did not know how good a life companion could be. And what a great companion he is! As one who has married into the Irish clan, I can say, "Happy St. Patty's!"

There is a lot going on in my heart this week. I could ponder all the details over and over and over again but have found this to not be the most fruitful of exercise. Instead, here is the musical playlist of my heart:

Lead Me On

Your Will Be Done

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Declaration Song

A Day for Thanks-Giving

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March 7, 2012 -- Home with the Flu

I've been on the couch for four days. Everything hurts. My head, my sinuses, my back, muscles, and one knee. The knee is a bizarre one. Not sure what's going on there. I'm not sure I've slept more than 3 hours at any given time for the last four days. I'm tossing and turning because of my body hurting, and just can't get any hint of quality sleep. It's the flu.

I wish it were the puking kind, cause at least then I'd come out of it a few pounds lighter. ha.

Instead, I sit with my Kleenex box on the couch with a growing pile of used tissues beside me, a bottle of water, cup of coffee, slippers, bathrobe, a few hair ties, every remote control known to man, a pile of pillows and blankets, the laptop, and a stack of binders and music to work on work. I get a few emails out, decide I'm too tired and take a 5-minute Dr. Phil break before giving it another try.

All this to say, I just really want a piece of steak. Nice yummy sirloin. I think if I had some steak right now, I'd be all better. Steak cooked on the flaming grill. Not my oven. With just the right touch of seasoning. Like Texas Roadhouse 6oz sirloin with a sweet potato, butter only and chili on the side. That sounds really really good.

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March 1, 2012 -- Homemade Condensed Cream of _____ Soup

I found the coolest recipe a few weeks back. Its great for the healthy-all-natural-eater-types or those like myself that are forced to eat that way out of allergies and what not. Condensed Soup. You can make it at home. No more eating out of the aluminum can or paying super big bucks to get MSG-free condensed soup. It's so easy.

I've found and tweaked two recipes now - one for mushroom and one for chicken.

1 'can' Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 tsp onion powder (or dried onions)
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp oil (I used EVOO)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 cup evaporated milk (2/3c dry milk, 3/4c water)
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms (the lighter, the better)

Put all except mushrooms into blender and mix thoroughly. Add Mushrooms and pulse a few times just to cut up the mushrooms.

Pour into a 2 qt. pyrex bowl and microwave on high 3 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds.

I double recipe every time and freeze in snack-sized ziplocks. They hold just about the same amount as one regular can of soup.

1 'can' Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

1 tsp onion powder (or dried onions)
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp oil (I used EVOO)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
2/3 cup non-fat dry milk
3/4 cup chicken broth

Put all into blender and mix thoroughly.

Pour into a 2 qt. pyrex bowl and microwave on high 3 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds.

I double recipe every time and freeze in snack-sized ziplocks. They hold just about the same amount as one regular can of soup.


It's so easy! And has allowed me to cook so many more recipes that call for cream-of-something-soup. So far I've used it in Chicken Enchiladas, Pork enchiladas, and Tuna and Noodles. Chemical free and fresh. Yum.

On a side note... you can always add water to it and eat it as regular soup, too, like you would any condensed soup. On another side note - did you know you can make evaporated milk at home? It's just milk with 60% of its liquid. So take some dry milk, and add back 60% of the liquid. (for "1 cup evaporated milk, it's 2/3c dry milk, 3/4c water).

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February 23, 2012 -- Just Breathe

Ever have those moments where life is flying by you so quickly, that the act of breathing seems to even take effort?

Perhaps there's too much on my plate. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep. Perhaps it's too many nights of tossing and turning for no particular reason at all, but today I find myself thinking the thought, "Just breathe."

Just breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. That's all there is to it. Inhale, exhale.

I feel like I'm running a million miles an hour, both professionally and personally. I have so many goals. So many things I'd love to accomplish and get done. So many ideas. So many hobbies and things needing attention. Taxes, music, wedding album, blogging, cooking, planning, scheduling, writing, mentoring, checking in on my volunteers, caring for all those around me, putting on a happy face.

I'm really tired. I feel like I'm walking around in a fog, just barely getting by with the minimum requirements to keep a working system rolling. I've got so many things running through my head at any given moment, I wander aimlessly from task to task, each distracting the others from completion. "Just breathe."

I'm not convinced God calls us to this kind of pressure, but I'm not convinced he doesn't either. What is He trying to show me? What is it He's trying to say? What is it He wants to teach me from this load I carry? Which part does He carry for me, and which is my burden to bare?

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Today I am breathing.

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February 9, 2012 -- Happy Birthday, Mom

Happy Birthday to my mom!

I'm in the middle of a book a friend lent me called, "Possessing the Gates of the Enemy" by Cindy Jacobs. It's a practical training manual for intercessory prayer. It's quite enlightening, covering some of the stuff I knew, confirming other weird and silly practices as 'weird and silly practices' and also opening my eyes up to next steps in intercession. We are all called to intercession, but some people have a unique gifting for intercessory prayer. I've had times in my life where I've felt prone to the 'unique gifting' and then other times not so much. But again, it's not something I've specifically practiced at, so maybe it's just waiting to be awakened in me. We'll see. Reading the book seems to be a good step towards awakening any intercessory giftings within me.

Sometimes, you just get the feeling to pray for somebody, something, somewhere and you don't know why. Sometimes the feeling comes in the middle of the night and you can't sleep until you follow through with praying for the thing on your heart. I've found in my experience when this happens, I'm often crying with tears over somebody or something without any knowledge or reason why. Sometimes later I'll find out specifics about the scenario and what was happening at that particular moment, but usually not. Its a quite strange feeling if you don't understand what is happening, but luckily I had great mentors alongside me to say, "Oh, that's God calling you to intercede for someone." I know enough now to usually recognize it for what it is, to pray, and to move on.

At the core of intercession is this: God wants our participation. He chooses not to move without the participation of his people. So he calls his intercessors to agree with him for his will, and then he acts.

But why? Why doesn't He just do what he wants?

I read another book a few months back that framed it this way: We are all pray-ers-in-training. God wants us to participate, because later after His Kingdom is established again on earth, that intimacy with God we'll know then will stem from our ability to know His voice now. So it's not that He couldn't move, its that He's training us to move with Him. Huh.

Long story short, I have a lot to learn, but Cindy Jacobs is up there with best-of-the-best in the world of intercessory prayer. That book is from the 90's, but as with any truth in God, it's timeless.

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January 26, 2012 -- Kombucha

I don't recall how much I've talked about Kombucha on here, but if you know me personally at all, you know I've not stopped talking about it for months. I'm really excited about this random and bizarre hobby I've picked up. A hobby for health. That's what Kombucha brewing is. And it's a hobby I've been able to share with many others, and my list keeps growing.

I got a continuous brew system for Christmas, which allows me to keep one large ceramic container of kombucha going 24/7. It has a spout that allows you to drain off what you want to drink, and just add new fluids back to the top without disturbing the scoby. It rocks. But it also has left me with many other scobys in hibernation. So I started playing with new flavored teas with my spare scobys. CHAI about rocks my world. By far the best tasting Kombucha I've made to date. I also made a few batches of Ginsing Chrysanthemum, which wasn't as enjoyable as the Chai, but took on it's own distinct flavor that reminds me of a Moscato wine (minus the alcohol) or a sweet champagne, because of the bubbliness to the drink. (Spell checker is telling me bubbliness is not a word, but I'm thinking now, it should be.)

All this so say, I've been bringing samples to work and showing off my hobby. If I could hold and audience, I would speak about it non-stop, because I'm just that excited about. Last night I started a new brew using Green Tea Mango tea bags. After the success of the chai, I'm thinking this new flavor will also top the charts for yumminess. (Again, spell checker doesn't like 'yumminess' either). So funny.

All that being said, my kombucha operation has begun to take over our little apartment. I've already claimed the dishwasher space for my many flavored brews, the microwave cart for my continuous brew system, and one wall of the dining area for my jugs of distilled water. It's a small investment for the payout. Rick and I are both enjoying my new creations. Though I'm limited by the number of glass bottles to bottle my kombucha in for it's secondary fermentation. So my goal today is find a case of glass bottles suitable for fermentation online that I can give away to friends and family without asking for them back. Who knows... maybe I'll soon be in the kombucha business! :)

Wondering what I'm talking about? All About Kombucha

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January 9, 2012 -- Rewards

I heard an intriguing speaker last night on eternal rewards. My favorite quote, "Heaven is not a communism." It is not an even playing field where all the saints are gathered and made equal. We often picture all the saints in glory having the exact same roles doing the exact same things and wearing the exact same white robes. But the Bible gives a different picture. Any good deed done with a sincere heart, God sees. And even if it is no acknowledged here, God has seen it and rewards it in His Kingdom. The Bible talks about saints appointed as rulers of different territories by their love for Him.

Every good deed, every act of love with a pure heart, even if those you love betray, God sees and it is recorded to your name. It does not go unnoticed. Sometimes my sight is set too much on earthly rewards that add up to nothing in the end. But the rewards yet to come when I decide to love those that are mean, who snide me, who tarnish my name - those rewards are eternal.

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January 2, 2012 -- 2012

Happy New Year!

Did you know the correct way to say the year is "Twenty-Twelve"? It rolls off the tongue easier past '10, but most of us went through the early 2000's saying 'two-thousand-nine' instead of 'twenty-0-nine'. Funny. I would never think of saying 'nineteen-hundred and seven'. I say 'nineteen-o-seven' but we didn't quite catch on when the 2000 switch happened. We are funny people.

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December 30, 2011 -- One Day Til Christmas

The holiday season has come and gone for most, but we're still anticipating a family gathering tomorrow. Since my brother and I both plan Christmas Eve services for our respective churches, there's no celebrating for us until long after the holiday is over. What has taken over my life and work for the last two months finally comes to an end abruptly following Christmas day. As usual, I had my post-holiday-madness depressing-slump. It took me about 3 days to actually be able to relax and act like I was on vacation instead of tying up a myriad of loose ends at work. To be honest, I never really left work and have spent many moments still following through on the details needed to actually walk away for a week. But they have been few and in between.

I tried hard to love the season this year. I really did. And there were moments of grace when God would intervene and redeem my character. But I did lose my patience. I did become frustrated as people's family schedules began to trump serving God and previous commitments to worship and leading and participating in other ways. I did think about quitting a handful of times. But all of these things are the normal for holiday seasons. The best, the brightest, the most committed, suddenly become as silly as the pagans. The entourage of Christmas nonsense takes on even the best and we all become fallible. I have a hard time believing this is of God. It seems like the best scheme of the enemy, ever.

I was quoted this year of not liking Christmas. It's true. I don't. I love Jesus and His birth, but this holiday season tradition stuff is ridiculous. I look around and see thousands of pagan symbols everywhere, happily embraced. I see madness and strange arrays of emotions and people doing what they would never do outside of the holiday season. I see commercials pushing love yourself, buy gifts for yourself, spend extravagantly and fill your life with crap that you don't need that will only pull you away from God. Sure, there are some kindhearted moments of extra giving and warm fuzzies, agitated mostly by local news stories, but these are not the spirit of the season. These are us trying to pretend what's happening is really good. When it is...not.

I am harsh, I know. But my perspective of Christmas is from the inside. The working class. The serving-class professions. Those who must serve the populous on holidays, like gas station attendants and waitresses and the people behind the returns-counter at the nearest discount store. Ask us what we see, and it's a whole new perspective.

I may be a bit under the weather. I have a nasty cold today.

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December 15, 2011 -- Slow-Cooked Oatmeal

Somehow the idea got into my head that oatmeal and rice are cooked the same way. And so I woke up one morning, put on some water until it was boiling, added the oatmeal, stirred once, and turned down the burner to low to let it simmer. If you are an oatmeal expert, this isn't how you make oatmeal. But let me tell you, this is how I will make oatmeal from here on out! It holds its original texture without becoming slimy. You don't have to stir it. You don't have to watch it. It just cooks and when it starts to sizzle a little it's done. It doesn't even stick to the pan. 5 minutes and it's done.

I'm thinking there are a lot of things in life that come with instructions or manufacturer-recommended-way-of-doing, but which are just waiting for a better way to come along, or maybe a little inspiration.

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December 9, 2011 -- What do you want for Christmas?

When I started my very first song in 2003, I had no idea that I would ever be called a song writer, much less musician by trade. It's been an interesting journey that got me to my little corner of the world today. I had no idea when I started that first song that many more would follow, and that things that came from my little apartment would actually bless others and have real meaning in their lives. I did not know I would gather a small group of people who are genuinely interested in what I'm writing and would regularly follow updates. It's been fun, and I've always enjoyed your comments and feedback. It's quite encouraging. With Christmas around the corner, people are starting to ask, "How can I bless you this Christmas?"

It seems an odd thing to be asked that at my age, but that's been the question of the week. It's fun to bless others with gifts, especially if you have a better idea of what they like. And so I promised I would put up something. So...

*sigh*

Okay, here are a few things I'm in to:
Starbucks.
Target. There are two pairs of boots I've been eyeing and saving up for.
Good Will. My local ones are "Good Will of the Heartland" as far as gift certificates go.
Warm fuzzy socks

And if I had to dream:
An electric guitar
Effects pedals for my acoustic/electric

I want so badly to learn the electric guitar!!!

What do you want for Christmas?

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November 30, 2011 -- Ponder the Motions

Someone lent me a Christmas CD this week for me to listen to the song, "The Holly and Ivy". Have you ever listened to the words of that song? I can sort-of-sing-them when I hear it on the radio, but this rendition was slower, and made me listen to what they were actually singing. It's a profound song. I have to admit, until about the third or fourth listen, I still didn't 'get it'. I had to look the words up and do a little research to figure it out. The symbolism to Jesus' life is grand. Historically, the Holly and Ivy are in lots of songs together, always at odds with one another. The Holly is Jesus, the Ivy is the enemy, always trying to win over the Holly, but as we know how the story ends, the Holly wins. (In pagan songs, the paint Ivy as the winner. Fascinating! It's like spiritual warfare in early song lyrics.)Here are the lyrics of this one:


The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.

The Ivy doesn't get the crown. If you know the story of Jesus, the rest of the song makes sense.

We've 'done' Christmas so many times, it seems the carols we sing each year are so dull on our ears that we can't hear them anymore. How many times have I heard this song playing in the background at stores, in elevators, on the radio station - and yet I had no idea what the song was even about. I would just hear it and think, "Ah! Christmas!" without any pondering. So this year, rather than going through the motions of Christmas, I want to ponder the motions. I'm hoping to have lots of the same "Ah hah!" type moments as I had with this song. It truly will be a deeply moving Christmas.

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November 4, 2011 -- Entertaining Angels

This week we'd been gearing up for a concert by the group Dynamic, a Swedish acapella group on a short tour of the Midwest with Global Action. Though the week was a bit of a blur with preparations, the phrase I kept hearing was "Entertaining Angels". It's a phrase taken from the book of Hebrews 13:1-2. It says, "Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." And indeed, in the Old Testament both Abraham and Lot both welcomed strangers there were angels of God.

So this has been on my mind this week - that I wanted to welcome our Swedish visitors to such a degree as the same effort I would put forth to welcome angels into our midst. I do not know the lasting effects of our efforts, but the concept of entertaining angels has been wrestling within me.

How many people have I encountered that were actually Christ in a form I chose not to accept?

On another note, I'm reminded of a dream I had a year or so ago. I was in my office at the church and an Asian couple came to me because they had heard that I had the baptism of the Holy Spirit and they wanted to receive it as well. And I remember looking at them with tears, because though I had been crying out for many years for this, I did not have the gift to pass on to them. There are other details to the dream that I don't remember, but Rick gave me some insight into the meaning along the lines of ministering to the nations. This dream came back to light as we entertained our international guests these past few days.

You can tell the light of Christ in a brother or sister, no matter the nationality. It is fascinating. Even in brief conversation, there was a oneness-in-Christ in my spirit. It was lovely.

The concert rocked. If you ever have a chance to hear this group, you will not be disappointed. I'd been listening to a demo CD of them for months, but it pales in comparison to hearing them live. I was in the tech booth running lights for the concert, and so it was as if I had my own little corner of the world to connect with God, away from the crowd below. My favorite song from the demo CD is called, "For Your Glory" and has been in my head for weeks. Hearing it live almost brought me to tears. The chorus is simple and beautiful:

For Your glory, for Your glory, let me live for Your glory.

Entertaining angels, welcoming the stranger in the name of Jesus - I had no idea the impact it would have on my heart. Romans 15:7 says, "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." I did not know God is glorified in our attempts at hospitality and that in doing so my heart would be so softened to His heart today.

Today, I am motivated to write music. Being around artistic-musician types has stirred my own creative juices. Today, I will write.

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October 28, 2011 -- Eggplant Pizza

My dad gave me a bunch of eggplant from his garden. I've not cooked with eggplant before, except for ratatouille, so I googled some recipes to see what I could make.

I found eggplant pizza.

Skeptical? Until you try it, it will be hard to convince you, BUT it is so good! It's my new favorite meal. I've made it four times now, even buying more eggplant at the store after I ran out. Here's the recipe:

Eggplant Pizza
1/4" slices of eggplant (do not peel)
pizza sauce
your favorite pizza toppings
mozz. cheese, or any pizza cheese
salt
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat your favorite pan with some olive oil. I use my cast iron skillet, but you could use any pan. Sprinkle on some salt. This will help any bitterness the eggplant might have. Put your slices of eggplant on your pan and again sprinkle lightly with salt. Spread a little bit of pizza sauce on each cut of eggplant. Next, put on your favorite pizza topping. Mine is pepperoni and peppers. Cover each with a little bit of cheese. Bake uncovered in the oven for 20min. After 20 min, take them out and let them cool for 5 min. Serve and enjoy!

A couple of things I've learned - You can taste-test the eggplant raw before you make it to see if it is bitter or not. I also found this interesting site on removing bitterness from your eggplant. And did you know there are male and female eggplants? The females have more seeds and more likely to be bitter. Send feedback


October 18, 2011 -- Marathon Results!

I clocked in at 2hrs 49mins on the half-marathon. 13.1 miles. That's a new record! I managed to shave almost 1min30sec off each mile of my old record and ran the whole thing this year. Still a little sore, but definitely was in better shape this time around. I felt great at the end!

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October 16, 2011 -- Des Moines Marathon

I'm running the Des Moines Half Marathon today - 13.1 miles. Fun times!

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October 6, 2011 -- Zucchini Smoothies

I've been tinkering all summer with different smoothie recipes, and the best and biggest discovery I've made is.... Zucchini.

Yup, Zucchini.

But the secret isn't making smoothies that taste like zucchini, the secret is using frozen chopped zucchini instead of ice and making the smoothie any flavor I want it to be. This works fabulously for a few good reasons:
1. Zucchini is softer than ice, so if you have a wimpy blender like mine, it chops right through it and becomes very smooth very fast even on low blender settings.
2. Zucchini never melts. You start with it frozen, but even as the zucchini unfreezes, your smoothie never gets watery. It's essentially zucchini pulp at the core instead of water.
3. Zucchini is good for you! It's packed full of vitamins that you wouldn't normally get from your smoothie using ice. The health benefits of zucchini Plus, it's low calorie and a good 'filler'.
4. Zucchini is abundant. It's one of those vegetables you plant that at harvest time makes you wonder, "What am I going to go with all this zucchini?" If you have zucchini coming your ears, cut it up and freeze it for smoothies year-round.

Hopefully I've convinced you to at least try it. So if you're ready, here's what I do. First, I cut up my zucchini into tiny squares to the blender can cut through it even easier. I do this by peeling the zucchini first (you don't have to, but I freeze it for other recipes, too). Cut the zucchini in half full-length-wise. Dig out all the seeds and inside pulp. It's softer than the zucchini itself, so dig it out until it resists anymore digging. I then slice my zucchini in long little strips along the length of the zucchini half. I do this using a large serrated bread knife. I've also used a steak knife. After you've cut it into long skinny strips, line them back up and cut the short-ways across the zucchini so that it makes little squares. I then freeze them two cups at a time into quart bags.

Once the zucchini is frozen, break up the little chunks to keep the zucchini nicer in the long run. If it sticks together, it's harder to chop up in your blender.

Okay, now for the good part - making the smoothies. Here are a couple of tips:

I use about 3/4 cup zucchini per smoothie. I've never really measured it out. I just know to add more liquid if it's too thick and more zucchini if it's too thin.

Fruit Smoothie
~3/4 cup zucchini
~3/4 cup strawberries or raspberries or apples, or any other fruit you have on hand! (I usually use frozen, but fresh works, too. Apple is sooo good!)
~3/4 orange juice (this is for the sweetness. Not required, but seems to be better with it)
~3/4 cup almond milk (I went dairy-free a year ago, and with the orange juice in this, I don't recommend using milk, but if you skip the OJ, you can use any milk/creamer you want)
Sweetener (I went white sugar and artificial sweetener free 2 years ago, so I use stevia in mine. Two tiny scoops of the pure powder form of stevia is what you would use in a 16oz cup of coffee. So if you're thinking sweetener, add what you normally would for your morning coffee.) Just use sugar if you don't have any trouble with it!

Throw this all in the blender "by guess and by golly" and blend away. I'm just guessing on all the measurements, so if it's too thick, add more OJ or milk. Too thin, add more frozen zucchini. My favorites are by far strawberry smoothies and apple smoothies. Raspberries have a lot of seeds but are still good. I've even used cantaloupe and raisins. You really can't mess it up.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie
This one is my favorite! Wahoo!

~3/4 cup frozen zucchini
2 heaping spoons baking cocoa
~1 cup almond milk (or real milk...)
~1 scoops stevia
~1 tbsp honey
~2 spoons of peanut butter (I use Smuckers all-natural which doesn't have any sugar, so if you use regular sweetened peanut butter, you'll probably need less stevia or honey)
~couple spoonfuls of coconut milk (this is AWESOME if you have it, but you can make it without. I'll often add some coconut milk if I have leftover in the fridge from making Thai food. Great way to use it up. I also use it in my coffee.... but, I digress...)

Throw all in the blender and blend until creamy. Enjoy! I've also heard that using peanuts or walnuts instead of peanut butter itself is just as good. I've often added flaxseed and/or flaxseed oil to hide in some other health stuff.

If you try it, let me know below!

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September 30, 2011 -- Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Yesterday was the beginning of the Jewish calendar New Year. Happy Rosh Hashanah! Here are some Rosh Hashanah greetings I found at About.com:

1. L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu
Literal Hebrew to English Translation: "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year." This traditional Rosh HaShanah greeting wishes others a good year and is often shorted to "Shanah Tovah" (Good Year).
2. Gemar Chatimah Tovah
Literal Hebrew to English Translation: "May your final sealing (in the Book of Life) be good." This greeting is traditionally used between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It wishes others well in the new year.
3. Yom Tov
Literal Hebrew to English Translation: "Good Day." This phrase is often used in place of the English word "holiday" during the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Somes Jews will also use the Yiddish Phrase "Gut Yuntiff," which means "Good Yom Tov" or "Good Holiday."

Why the celebration of this holiday? Israel is important. In God's economy, Israel is still His beloved and chosen people. So if God is paying attention to Israel, than I am as well.

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September 22, 2011 -- Ella Grace

Paul and Courtney gave birth to their third daughter, Ella Grace, early this morning. I'm now an aunt x25 with one more on the way in April. Wow!

I've been playing with making hummus these past few weeks. There is a brand in the store I've grown to love, but one little container is $3+ and I'd heard it was super easy to make.

It is.

Without further ado, here is my greatest hummus invention yet:

Leah's Spicy Hummus

8 oz. garbanzo beans/chick peas (half the bag)
~1 cup liquid the beans are cooked in
1/8 c. lemon juice
2 Tbsp Tahini (this is just ground sesame seeds)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (use half for less spicy)
1/2 tsp Chili Pepper (use half for less spicy)
1/2 tsp Cumin (use half for less spicy)
1/2 tsp Black pepper (use half for less spicy)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Soak the beans overnight. Rinse, then boil until soft. (I just eat one and decide if it's edible or not yet). Drain, but save the water you boiled the beans in. Throw everything in a blender and blend until creamy. Add more liquid if needed for consistency. You want it to have the consistency of chip dip.

When hot, it tastes like queso and is great with tortilla chips. Refrigerate for use in pitas and as a veggie dip.

If you're desperate, you can buy the canned beans. But aim for making it from scratch if you can!

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September 20, 2011

It's been almost two weeks since Grandpa died. I'm still kind of bumming around in the mornings, though am doing much better. I've been reflecting a lot on memories of Grandpa and favorite times spent with him. It's been good. The funeral was amazing, including a procession of firemen as the pallbearers and a large group of Lion's Club members. Even the line of cars from the church to the cemetery was led by the firemen with flashing lights on the fire truck and a loop to pass all the old time fire trucks in town. Very moving.

I did do the song live at the funeral. It was one of the hardest songs I've ever had to sing, but managed to get through it with no tears. The outpouring of positive feedback I've received from the song has been awesome and caused me to quickly file it with the US Copyright office. Next steps will be to arrange it for an SSATB quartet and get a high quality recording made.

Life is good.

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September 9, 2011 -- Song for Grandpa Part.2

After all that work on the song for Grandpa over the past few months, I threw it out and decided it didn't fit Grandpa at all. So I set to work on something more fitting to his musical tastes and interests. As a man who sang barbershop quartets most of his life, this seemed like a better fit. God is good! I'm always amazed how quickly inspiration can hit:

Listen to One More Voice in Glory

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September 8, 2011 -- Goodbye, Grandpa

My grandpa died yesterday after a long and painful battle with cancer. He knew the Lord and loved him greatly, so I am both sad that he's gone but so jealous and excited that he got to meet Jesus yesterday. I know he's in a wonderful pain-free, care-free place, but most of all he's in the presence of the Living God, which is the one place that is better than our wildest dreams.

Claris Eugene Van Genderen
1929-2011

I could always remember how old Grandpa aka "Popper" was because I just add 50 on to my age. So there was never any guessing. And when Rick and I got married, my grandparents were celebrating 60 years that same weekend. So even their anniversary became easy to remember. One day after ours, +60 years. We got to celebrate with them the weekend of our wedding, with their 60th anniversary cake side-by-side to our wedding cake. It was a good day. Had I been skinny enough, I might have worn my grandma's wedding dress! :)

Popper always smelled like Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum, medicated chapstick and pork fat. He always kept a pack of gum in the kitchen cupboard, next to a roll of chapstick he'd use on his nose to keep it soft. And he worked in a meat locker for as long as I knew him. Though his hands were often cut up from slicing meat, they were always incredibly soft from playing with the meatfat day in and day out. Bandaids didn't work for a man who played in meat all day. The oils and fats of the meat never kept the bandaids on, so you'd often see Popper with ductape on his fingers.

I sat next to Popper at our weekly family meal at Grandma and Popper's house after church. Sitting next to Popper, you're plate was always cleaned off. The smallest crumbs he'd pick up by dotting his finger along your plate. He'd clean the meat off the ends of the chicken bones you thought for sure you'd cleaned off already. When Grandma would make sausage or ham, Popper would clean out the juices and fat in the pan after the meat was gone. Nothing went to waste.

If his nose was running, he'd ask for a napkin, but we all knew he meant a kleenex.

Sometimes we'd get to go visit Popper at the meat locker. He'd always show us the skinned animals hanging from the ceiling in the back cooler. And then they'd break for coffee time and we'd hang out in the back drinking coffee and eating goodies.

We spent many overnights at Popper and Grandma's house. At some point, someone forgot their PJs, and got to wear one of Grandpa's white T-shirts to bed. After that, it became part of the fun of staying at their house - wearing grandpa's shirts for PJs.

Many years Popper drove a motorcycle. Often times on Sundays he'd take each on of us kids on a ride to New Sharon or just around Sully. Everyone got the same amount of time on the motorcycle with Popper. Even if it meant 4 trips to the New Sharon Dairy Creme in the same day. Riding with Popper meant you got to wear helmets with a really cool speaker system that you could talk back and forth with popper during the trip.

Popper was also part of the Volunteer Fire Department for many years, which meant he had a police radio next to his chair. We'd often listen when someone would call in with an emergency to see if Grandpa needed to respond. I have many memories of him rushing out the door in the middle of Sunday lunch to respond to a fire nearby. When he retired, they honored him greatly for his many years of service.

Grandma and Popper came up to see me when I was living in Saskatchewan, Canada. I took them on a tour of Moose Jaw, a former hideout for Al Capone. At one point of our trip, we toured the underground caves where Capone had hidden out. It was a dramatic reenactment of how Al Capone and his men might have used the caves. Our tour guide nick-named Popper "DoorStop" for holding a door open by resting on it. Poor grandpa got teased the rest of that trip.

On another trip, Popper and Grandma my brother, Joel and I to Michigan to visit my aunt. They took their cats along for the trip. One of the kitties decided it need to relieve itself, and did so on Popper's knee. I'll never forget Grandpa exclaiming, "That cat... that cat's peeing on me. That cat's PEEING on me!" while he was driving. And Grandma's response was to pet the kitty and say, "You poor kitty, you really had to go!" rather than console grandpa. Joel and I giggled from the back seat the entire rest of the trip.

Grandpa could sing. He was in a men's quartet for years, and was the guy who could sing the really high notes like the beach boys. We'd often go to hear him sing at the July 4th Celebration downtown Sully or in church. I remember when his group recorded an album. I thought my popper was a movie star or something to have his own tape of music.

Grandpa and Grandma never missed a school event, concert, football game, or show. Even in my college years, they'd drive to Indianola to hear my band and choir concerts at Simpson, proudly wearing their matching Simpson College sweatshirts. Years after I graduated, Grandpa still wore his Simpson shirt, with "Grandpa" proudly printed on the back.

I'll never forget Rick's first impression of Popper. He was amazed at how solid he was. He wasn't a frail old man. He was built - muscle and tough. He was a strong man. Rick grew to love him instantly and enjoyed having a grandpa figure for the short time he got to know him.

A few months back we knew Popper's time on earth was drawing to an end. Rick and I had a chance to say a true goodbye and spent some time praying and crying with grandpa, and expressing how much we were going to miss him. I didn't have a chance to see him since then, but I knew I was content with my goodbye and it didn't seem like more words needed to be spoken. It was good to express to him how much I loved him and that I was going to miss him greatly. He used the time to give us marriage advice. "There will always be squabbles. These are just a part of marriage. But you'll learn through them." He told me I had married a good man, and that he was so happy for us. He wished he had gotten to know Rick better.

He died yesterday morning in his favorite chair while he was asleep, much at peace.

I'm going to miss you Popper!

I thought I might try to write a song. I started it few months ago but never got around to finishing it. Here are the lyrics I have so far. Perhaps if I finish it, I can post a final version later:

Past the gates of pearl,
no longer of this world,
your spirit has been freed,
your eyes made to see
Past the gates of pearl,
no longer of this world,
you stood to fight the fight,
and run the race with might,
seeing now with unveiled eyes
the glory of the Lord.

There'll be no more tears for you,
there'll be no more fear for you.
You'll be joining in the angels' song
singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah!."

Past the gates of pearl,
no longer of this world,
your fears erased to peace,
all sickness is released,
your lips untied to sing again.

Past the gates of pearl,
no longer of this world,
a light forever shines,
and you're compelled to dine
at the banquet of a King

There'll be no more tears for you,
there'll be no more fear for you.
You'll be joining in the angels' song
singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah!."

Though we'll miss you here,
a time is drawing near,
when we'll all be together again.

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August 29, 2011 -- Strange Dreams

I'm still having the most bizarre dreams. I dreamed a lot last night but have mostly forgotten the dream except for a small snippet. In the dream I was suffering from depression or something and decided I needed to check out from real life for a bit so I joined this traveling hippie group. They traveled by RV and had no set agenda from day to day. They just traveled from place to place and stopped the RV wherever they decided each night. I joined the group but rarely talked. They all knew I was "Sad" so just let me be. We rarely took showers. Rarely cleaned anything. I remember at one point in the dream Rick coming to visit me and my hair was so greasy and frizzy because it had been a long time since I'd either showered or brushed my hair.

At another point in the dream, I wandered out of the RV looking for a bathroom and found a row of port-a-johns near our parking site for the night. Only the port-a-johns were on private property. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember the agony of deciding whether or not I could use those port-a-johns. Strange dream.

We've been going through a series at church called "NUDGE" and have been actively praying for people that we have been 'nudging' towards Christ. I'm amazed how whatever books I'm studying or reading will somehow apply towards other areas of my life. So I've been praying for people to come to Christ, but also studying about my role in evangelism. The gist of the book is this: God can do whatever He wants. But He chooses to use us in the process. For someone to come to the point of faith in Jesus, He calls us to ask him first to bring them in before he begins the process. Our participation is crucial. He could act alone, but he chooses not too. Another book I read talked about earth being our "prayer-training-ground". Again, God calling us to participate. Lots of different thoughts going on here, but it's all good stuff.

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August 14, 2011

Iowa Political Process

We managed to take in the Iowa State Fair and the Iowa Straw Poll all in one weekend. Wow! It was busy, but great to get away and disconnected from the norm for a bit.

The fair is always fun, but the straw poll was a brand new experience for both of us that might have topped the fair! It's only of the earliest events in the Presidential race and takes place right here in Iowa. It was awesome. First you cast your $30/ticket vote (which we managed to get for free), and then you wander area to each candidate's tents and eat all their free food and get free t-shirts and all the giveaways, and hear them speak at the same time. Oh, plus all the free musical entertainment. Sonic Flood was a one tent, not sure if I could name the others, but good music nonetheless. It compared to the state fair, one the food was FREE. Unbelievable. I could highly recommend it to anyone.

After wandering, you have a chance to hear each candidate give an official speech inside Hilton Coliseum. This was informative! I feel more educated as a voter than ever before. How often do you get to hear all the candidates in one place? And you don't have to go by media reports or 30 second commercials to make an informed decision. It was great. And you get to see how many of the news stations set up and do their interviews. Crammed in here and there was CNN, CSPAN, Fox News, and local media outlets, all with their little setups. It was amazing.

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July 27, 2011

Power in Praise

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and the common theme seems to be the power in praise. The first book I read that hit on this the hardest was "Prison to Praise" by Merlin Carothers.

(Check it on Amazon)

Fascinating story! I read it in two days, and finished it while working out on the elliptical. It literally was so good I didn't want to put it down, and ended up burning 700 calories on the elliptical that day. It's a short book and an easy read. But the big question it asked was, "Will you praise God for your worst circumstance?" Not praise God in the midst of your worst circumstance, but actually praise him for it? It seems odd until you look to Scripture:

Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

If I believe in God, then I have to believe this as well - God has ordained each moment, including each struggle, because is using it to do something within me that conforms me more and more into the image of His Son. I can't be conformed by just the good stuff. The bad stuff causes real development of my character, and so I must praise him for the bad as well as the good, because He knows what He's doing.

In the book, Carothers gives example after example of God unlocking something in the hearts of those who choose to praise him for their circumstances and not just in the midst of them. This isn't to say I'd stop praying for God to remove the circumstances, but I can choose to praise him for it, trusting that he knows exactly what he's doing and is working this out for my good.

So I've been trying it in the small stuff. This week I've been waking up with headaches due to the severely high grass pollen in the air. I find myself saying, "God, I praise you for this headache, because I know you are using it to work out the best plan possible for me." Then later my knee will be hurting and I say, "God, I praise you for this hurting knee, because I trust you know what you are doing and will work this out according to your purpose for me. Teach me do depend on you."

And when things shook me up at work this past week, I made my mind switch gears from hurt to praise, "God, I praise you that this is so messy right now, because I believe in your goodness, and I know you're working this out to conform me more and more into the image of Your Son, and you know what you're doing." But right after that I still prayed, "But help me fix this. I don't know what to do next. I need Your wisdom." So it's not that you leave pain hanging or not ask him to remove it, but you start with praising him for it and acknowledge the bigger work in motion.

Next I read "Destined for the Throne" by Paul Billheimer. The main topic of the book was how the Bride (the church) is in training mode right now while we wait for Jesus to come back. She is learning to use her power that God has given her, and that our circumstances on earth now are 'training exercises' to how we will work in our heavenly destiny. One of the techniques to practice was the power of praise! There was a whole chapter on it in this book. And struck me right away and got my attention, because it seems to be a recurring theme that I'm learning. Some highlights from the book:

"As one worships and praises, he is continually transformed step by step, from glory to glory, into the image of the infinitely happy God... Therefore, praise is the most useful occupation and activity in enabling God to realize the supreme goal of the universe, that of 'bringing many sons unto glory.'" (p. 117)

One of the biggest lessons - take seriously the scripture that God "inhibits the praises" of his people. So where there is darkness present, praising ushers in the presence of God and darkness cannot stand against it.

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July 11, 2011

Tornados

I'm tired of dreaming about tornados. We actually had the tornado sirens go off about 4:30 this morning. The power was also out, so we had no choice but to take shelter, not able to check the news to see what was going on. I think we might have startled our elderly lady neighbors by hanging out in the laundry room this morning. We laughed a bit at the chaoticness of the whole thing, trying to navigate the apartment with the light of our cell phones in a half-asleep state of hysteria. But within 30 seconds we were decently dressed and down the stairs to the laundry room. We met two of our neighbors along the way, also trying to figure out if it was serious or not.

All that beside, going back to bed, I dreamt that I was running from tornadoes. Normally I'd say it was because we were just in high-alert-tornado-mode, but tornadoes have been a constant recurrance of my dream life lately. In the dreams, I am the one sounding the alarm, trying to get people to take cover, trying to compel them to take it seriously, pointing out the seriousness of the situation and their faulty thinking in the type of shelter they take. I wrote about a few of these dreams (see my blog from May 5). But last night the stage for the dreams was my apartment building. My family was visiting. When the sirens would go off, first I'd run to the windows to see if we could see the tornado and if I spotted one, would try to get everyone to come down the stairs to take shelter. The first time it happened they grudgingly abliged, but with each progressive siren, they took it less and less seriously. Sometimes they'd grumble about having to take the stairs again, or not wanting to have to get out of the PJs again. And even though they'd take shelter, they didn't want to stay there. They would want to leave just as quick as they'd gotten there, even though the potential for more tornadoes was obvious. Though the first tornado might be gone, there would be another right behind it in the sky that they'd ignore. Sometimes they'd just walk out on the balcony and watch.

In the last scene, I saw the tornado right outside the building and knew that this one was going to hit. But they ignored me and would not take shelter. Instead I ran down by myself, and brought in two visitors from the building instead. They had just arrived and were unaware of the threat. They quickly joined me in the shelter and we covered ourselves with mattresses as the others got sucked out of the building by the huge pressure of the tornado.

While in shelter, I started saying the name of Jesus quietly and pondering whether I should take control over this storm (and whether the visitors next to me would think I was a religious nut.) The dream ended with my dad saying, "Don't you think it's time you rebuked all these tornadoes?"

Profound. My dream life is stressing me out! When I awake, I'm worn out from dodging tornadoes all night in my sleep.

So, I just happened to go to a mini-conference on dream interpretation this weekend. She stressed that if you have recurring themes in your dreams (or the same dream over and over) God is trying to say something to you. Pay attention. Now I'm paying attention more than ever and seeking out God on this one.

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June 20, 2011

Music Review - Weekend Warrior Worship

I've been asked to write a review for a new worship CD by Weekend Warrior Worship called, "Your Word." It is available on the Weekend Warrior Worship website and iTunes.

My favorite song on the album is "Death Could Not Hold You, Lord" by Mark Snyder and Jeff McCullough. You can take a listen on the Weekend Warrior Worship website. The song is easy to play and the lyrics are packed with a great testimony of Christ's triumph over the grave. It begins with the last events of Christ's life played out from his death sentence to his rising from the grave, all cradled with the repeated declaration, "Death could not hold you, Lord." As a worship leader in the church, this is a song I would definitely use, especially for Easter services. It has a tribal feel to it, one my bass and drummers will love. There is definitely a progression of hope throughout the song. With my band, I most likely build the entire song to the final verse, "But morning came--the stone was rolled away" into a great celebration time on the chorus.

Kudos to Mark and Jeff on this new venture!

On another note, it's my birthday today. Wahoo!

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June 9, 2011

India

Rick and I have been invited to present a conference in India on Harp and Bowl style of worship. WOW! It would be a 3-4 day training conference at a 3,000 member church in Northeast India sometime most likely in February 2012. We are prayerfully considering it. I'm half excited, have apprehensive. It would be an awesome opportunity, that's for sure. Rick has been to this region of India before, but it would be my first time there.

We are a great team, Rick and I.

So while we're figuring out how to make it work around his school schedule (We'd be gone 7-9 days), we're also thinking about finances. Part of the trip might be covered by the hosting church itself, but we'll be fundraising the rest. Ha, maybe I should start baking pies or something. :)

Teaching in India! We lead in Harp and Bowl on Sunday nights occasionally for a ministry here in town. It's good practice and a good way to keep our skills fresh. Perhaps its time to take the next step and teach others how to do it, too.

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May 31, 2011

Psalm 16 (In the Night)

I spent some time over the last month working on a few new songs. This is one I'm finally content with enough to finally post. It started with me tinkering on Rick's guitar and a short little melody came to mind, so I started humming on it, and finally decided it was worthwhile writing down. That original melody morphed over time into a new melody with new chords, from a major key to a minor key, and finally with a haunting theme on top of it all. So the final product is far from the original. I love how songs happen that way sometimes. I don't remember how that original little song I hummed went, but I'm happy with how this turned out.

I turned to Psalm 16 when I was first humming the original melody, and the structure of the words of that Psalm fit the rhythm of what I was humming, so the text stuck.

I am most moved by the idea of sorrows connected with the man who pours out his blood before other idols. We have been going through a series at church on finances. It's about the least favorite topic anyone could ever talk about at church. People love church, until you mention money, and then its as if ice takes over the room and glosses hearts. Its a hard topic.

God broke through my ice while in seminary. It was a hard lesson to learn, but He made it clear that I could not love him and not let him control my finances. If I held on to them so tightly as to never be a generous giver, there was a place in my heart that was not open to him. And he wanted that place. Even Jesus warned multiple times of the danger of loving money. It's one of America's biggest idols. We love our wealth, and we love the stuff that our wealth helps us accumulate. All of this isn't bad, unless we love it more than God.

God tells us that sorrow is the way of the man who pours out his blood to idols, or sorrow is the way of the man who loves something more than God.

Enjoy the song.

Psalm 16 (In the Night), April 28, 2011-May 19, 2011
Words and Music by Leah Carolan



Chords and music available on my music page.


Preserve me, O Lord,
a refuge for my heart.
What good have I apart from your presence?
For sorrows multiply
in the man who makes his way
pouring out his life to an idol.

You are the portion of my choosing.
I drink your cup in full delight.

By quiet waters you have drawn my dwelling,
a beautiful inheritance as beloved of a King.
I seek the one who beckons in sweet counsel,
and my heart finds rest in the night.

As I make my way,
the Lord before me moves.
Though the earth despairs, I am not shaken.
Gladness overwhelms,
for in you I dwell secure.
I am not abandoned to the grave.

There is a fullness found in your presence,
pleasures that reach from glory to glory.

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May 24, 2011

Grieving

I'm grieving today. My grandfather is not doing well. He's battled cancer for years, and always stayed ahead of it. But it has spread now beyond treatment and he's taken a quick turn downhill. I am happy that he'll get to meet Jesus very soon. His love for the Lord is evident and there is no doubt where he'll be after he passes away. But I am so sad how much I'm going to miss him. I wish I'd been closer to home these last few years so I could have spent more time there. I love you, grandpa.

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May 12, 2011

Graduation

I graduate tomorrow from Concordia University of Wisconsin with my masters in church music. It took me 8 years to finish the degree. So long, that I actually finished my seminary degree in the middle. Ha.

So I'll be proudly sporting my cap and gown, and a light pink master's hood. Apparently light pink and blue are the colors of the music master's area. Pretty! Won't match my sparkly red toenails. O what's a girl to do? :)

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May 5, 2011

Tornado Dreams

I've been dreaming recently about tornados. Or maybe I could word it, "Recently the Lord has been using tornados in my dreams." It seems to be a recurring theme.

On a random, yet related note, did you know tornadoes are spelled like tomatoes, ending with an 'oes'? I have been spelling them wrong, but just googled it, and now I will forever associate tornadoes and tomatoes.

In my dream last night, there was bad weather on the horizon, and the whole dream revolved around where to take shelter. At one point I was in a big fancy building with a lot of other people. My group was quickly ushered into a room lavishly decorated in stained wooden trim and filled with men in suits. In the dream, I recognized these men as senator and congressmen types. Only this room had decorative panes of glass as the ceiling and a large look-out window to the west. Though each window was tiny, it was a wall and ceiling of these little windows, separated only by the decorative woodwork. The congressmen all felt safe in this room, because they could watch the storm approaching. They associated their powerful roles with the power of being safe in this room. I began to panic as I looked around the room and saw all the glass panels everywhere. In pointing out to them the error of choosing this room, it was as if my words came out jumbled to their ears and they quickly ignored me. I forced my way out of the room, failing to say anything convincing enough for many to follow. My family did, however, and we got out of there.

The next room I was in was in my parent's house (which in the dream, was just the next room over.) I wanted to get everyone down to the basement to take shelter in the furnace room. On the way down the stairs, we passed the front entryway, only to see another group of people seeking shelter by "flowing with the wind." The storm had approached much closer, and they were hanging on to branches and parts of the house and letting their bodies wave up and down with the gusts of wind. This group wanted to both see the storm and be a part of it, thinking if they just held on and let themselves be a part of the wind, they would be okay. All I could think about was the debris floating through the air. Surely they would get hit. I tried to convince them to come inside and follow us to the basement, but again, I was not convincing enough and had to keep going for my own safety. A few followed, but must remained outside in the wind. In my mind I was going mad. I couldn't believe how foolish they were, and how lightly they took the danger of the storm.

Finally, I arrived down in the basement furnace room and went into survival mode. I knew we needed something to cover ourselves with to protect us from debris. I wanted a mattress, and in the least, a thick blanket. I discovered the the foundation of the house was brick, and I was formulating ideas of how to get as close to the brick as possible, and what I could possibly attach myself too that the tornado would never pick up. Kind of like the ending of the movie "Twister" when they use a leather belt to attach themselves to piping that goes deep into the ground. That was what my mind was revolving around. Securing myself to something that could not be moved, and being surrounded by the best foundation possible. At the same time I was giving orders about finding a mattress and what-not, I found myself so aggravated that so many people did not know the basic tornado skills, like shelter away from glass, near brick, inside wall, all of that.

I don't know how the dream ended. I don't know if the tornado ever came. The last thing I remember is focusing on the brick foundation.

Last week I had another dream revolving tornadoes, war, and Osama bin Laden (pre-death!). In this dream, the sky was filled with both tornadoes and planes dropping bombs. The focus of this dream was running/hiding from the bombs, which were sometimes also tornadoes. It's like they could drop in either the form of an explosion, or a twister that would suck everything up into a cloud of debris.

While trying to escape/hide from the bomb/tornadoes, I was also being pressured to join the army. We were at war. Again, the scene took place at my parent's house. I would not join the army, because the idea of taking the life of another person weighed too heavily on my conscience. I just could not handle the idea of it.

In the last scene, I was running/dodging the tornadoes/bombs, and trying to find shelter from them. The enemy was also running around trying to catch me. I found myself in hand-to-hand combat with Osama bin Laden. He wanted me dead. We fought and fought, until finally I got ahold of his knife and had it held up to his chest. I could have killed him, but I was grieved by the fact that he did not know Jesus, and it was not yet time for him to die because of this. So I told him, "I cannot kill you because you do not know the saving power of Jesus." Instead, I just the knife to slice lightly on his chest, just enough to cause him pain and get him off me, but not enough to kill him. I was so moved that it wasn't his time yet to die because he could still come to know Jesus.

After pondering this dream, I wondered if I was supposed to pray for bin Laden's salvation, because two days later the news announced he had been killed. And this grieved me, only because though he was evil and a tyrant, God still had a place in his heart for bin Laden. It's God's desire that none would perish, even the most evil of evil ones.

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April 25, 2011

Post-Easter blues

The adrenaline rush is over. The people have come and gone. There is little trace of what took place yesterday, minus a few unclaimed Easter lilies and a handful of bulletins scattered on the floor and in the chairs here and there. There are piles of music to file, binders to empty, choir folders to clean out. There are banners and rolls of fabric to take down and put away.

It's funny to watch your life fly by you in terms of deadlines and overtime and lack of sleep because of the running list of things that needs to be completed. And then in 3 hours time, all the efforts have come to their climax, and it's over. Just like that. And life outside goes on like normal.

It's these type of moments where I ask myself, "It is really worth it?" It is really worth it to sacrifice myself and family and time for this? Is it a worthy cause? Was the amount of effort in good proportion to the output of what took place? Or was it just a show?

Is the cost of the stress on me and my family worth it? The sleepless nights, the late hours, the days of work in a row with no break? The stress in my marriage?

I don't know, but I find myself asking these same questions after every holiday. "Is it worth it?" "Is it right?"

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April 18, 2011

Holy Week

It's a busy week. Holy week always is. Lots of special musics, rehearsals, extra rehearsals, details details.

This morning I just got out my guitar and worshipped. I don't want to think about work yet. Every now and then I'll find a song I've chorded out and ask myself, "Why did I put it in that key?" Today it was "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan (made popular by Kim Walker Smith and most recently David Crowder. I love Kim's version! Crowder changed the lyrics on my favorite line of the song:

Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and Crowder changed it to
Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss

The best part of the imagery is lost! I'm so bummed!

Anyhoo, for some reason I chorded out this song in C, and it's so stinkin' low. Far better in E. Silly Leah.

When two different artists release a song (and sing it so differently), it's always hard to choose how to teach it to the church. I usually default to the most congregation-friendly version. In this case, it's the Kim Walker Smith version.

In other news, I could use some prayer. Just ask God how he'd like you to pray.

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April 6, 2011

I PASSED!!

After two days of final exams in Milwaukee, I can officially say I've successfully completed and passed all requirements to finish my masters degree in church music, choral conducting. It's been a long time in the making... eight years to be exact. I stretched it out so long, I actually finished my other master's in the middle of this one! Ha! But I'm officially done and will graduate in May. Wahoo! I feel grrrrrreat.

It's a day for celebrating.

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March 29, 2011

Refreshed

I'm amazed how much just a little bit of time before the Lord can refresh so quickly. Rick and I attended a conference on the Kingdom of God this weekend, and I left feeling so renewed, refreshed, recharged, and on fire for the things of God. I just needed to be reminded what it's all about, why I do what I do, who I am, and my role in ushering in the Kingdom of God. It was great. The speaker was Brian Fenimore of Plumbline Ministries. He was funny, direct, and to the point. In each encounter with people during my day, I have the opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God to them, because I carry the Kingdom within me. I am an ambassador from the Kingdom of Light and my assignment is in the Kingdom of darkness. I bring light. I bring the will of the King of Kings into the darkness. Fascinating stuff.

And I had the chance to apply it right away. Last night I had to drive to Central College to speak at a night class there. The whole trip down I found myself worshiping and asking God what I needed to say, and to use me in my role as an ambassador. So I spoke and sang for this class. And God was there. I could sense it. There was a presence over the room about an hour in, and I could feel an annointing on me. The top of my head has burning. I don't know what I said or who was impacted, but something good was happening in that room.

It also reminded me of how much I miss working with college-aged people and the whole atmosphere of the academic world. How great it is to speak into the life of young people. At some point in my journey, I'd love to be back on a college campus and teaching again.

Funny, I type that, and I'm reminded of a night in Saskatchewan. I was lying in my bed tossing and turning till all hours of the morning. I couldn't sleep because I had ideas for a worship training class running through my head. Literally idea after idea after idea. After hours of frustration at my lack of sleep, I said aloud in anger, "Okay! I'll write it down!" and got up, wrote down every idea I had (practically a syllabus) and as soon as I was done, I quickly drifted off to sleep.

I don't know where those ideas ended up, but surely they are stashed away in a folder somewhere in my files. I don't know what God was doing at the time, but I know it was Him pressing on me. And when I finally yelled out loud, I knew I was yelling at God. Some day... some day... I know I will be teaching something in worship. I don't know if it will be in a formal setting or in a church somewhere, similar to what I'm doing now. I only know I will be teaching and the subject will be worship and everything lesson I'm having to learn right now in my work will be applied to this class. Every lesson. The good and the bad.

The Kingdom of God has been awakened within me.

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March 24, 2011

Tough Week

It's been a rough couple of weeks. I'm madly studying to finish my masters degree in church music. I've got my final comprehensive exams in two weeks. It entails an overnight trip to Milwaukee to take the written part one day and the second day, and an oral part the next day. It's an exam over all the classes I've taken for the degree.

It wouldn't be so bad, except that a few years ago I'd come to the conclusion that I would never finish this degree, so I sold all my books. I did save class notes, which is becoming invaluable in reviewing everything I'd learned. And yesterday I had a small break through, as I found more missing notes stuff in a file at work with my seminary binders. It was a great "Wahoo!" moment!

But I've been not feeling well, so studying has been hard. I come home at the end of the day and I'm just wiped. I hit a wall around 7pm and I'm done.

Tuesday I stepped down from leading my PRISM group. It's been almost two years since I started PRISM. About 36 weeks in I began to lead my own group and lead others into the same freedom I'd experienced. I'm 70 lbs down but still want to loose about 20 more. It will be harder on my own, but I know I can do it. I will miss my group though. It became too many nights away from home, and with the possibility of my adding on another part-time job, it was going to be too much.

Yesterday I started playing my piano again. The pedal doesn't work well, which has been driving me insane, but I started playing classical music again. I really enjoy it. It engages my brain in a whole different way than just chord charts. It's been a long time. I decided to rehearse a few pieces. I'm working on Chopin's Prelude in B minor, Op. 28, No.6 Youtube and Song of India from The Legend "SADKO" by Rimsky-Korsakoff Youtube. Neither are difficult. If you listen to the Chopin one, take note of how the right hand is played soooo much quieter than the left. That's the hard part! My right hand is used to playing melody and playing loud. So it makes the muscles flip flop. Much harder than it sounds! And the Song of India does the exact opposite. The right hand melody takes prominance. Easier, but still difficult for me.

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March 8, 2011

Broken

I'm reading a great book by Watchman Nee called The Release of the Spirit. I picked it out of a stack of books my husband brought home. I just finished a book by Robert Heidler called, Encountering the Spirit so this one seemed like a great next step in Holy Spirit studies.

The whole premise of the book is that unless the outward man is broken, the power of the Holy Spirit within him cannot be released. Until this happens, God cannot use a Christian in any effectual way. I like that word 'effectual', because it's not that God won't use someone, but the great way they could be used isn't released after one is broken.

The idea of brokenness usually scares us off. Being broken hurts. Its not a fun or pleasant process. And so we're usually hardened to the idea, spending most of our Christian lives living in a way that is not effectual. I don't want to be this type of Christian anymore.

Nee describes the man whose outerman has been broken, and whose spirit can freely commune with the Holy Spirit; his will, mind, and emotions have all come under the control of God. He is not distracted by the things of the world. He can have great peace even in the midst of great turmoil or pain or noise. Because it is the outerman that gets effected by these things. But a broken outerman knows the fullness of the Spirit.

It's thought-provoking stuff. I'm only two chapters in. It's hard reading. It's slow reading. It's not a narrative, and he doesn't tell happy little stories to illustrate his points. Each sentence is packed with deep ideas, so it's taking me a little while to get through it and absorb it at the same time.

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February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines day (part deux)

So after I got done with breakfast, I figured I'd write Rick a song for Valentine's day. I'd been meaning to, and started one yesterday, but it really wasn't going anywhere. Far too serious. But today inspiration hit while I was cleaning up dishes. It's a comedy. Enjoy!

Happily Ever After, February 14, 2011
Words and Music by Leah Carolan




As a little girl I'd always dreamed myself a princess
wearing little princess dresses and a little princess crown.
I'd be in my castle staring out the window
looking for my prince to come a'riding up the hill.
You would enter on a white horse, decorated golden sparkles,
holding up your shiny princely sword.
I would give you just one smile and you would climb up to my tower,
and that's how the story would end.

Some fairy tales come true, when it comes to you and me, Baby.
Though we're far from royalty, it's not hard to see
happily ever after, this one's going to be.

Funny how the fairy tales never mentioned grocery bills,
or the tasks of day to day life.
This little place that we call home doesn't have a castle dome,
only thing to climb here are the stairs.
All the pretty princess dresses, tucked away within our messes,
and your white horse drives more like a beat-up car.
And our little kingdom feels more like a cardboard box with shingles,
and our bridge just a parking lot.

Some fairy tales come true, when it comes to you and me, Baby.
Though we're far from royalty, it's not hard to see
happily ever after, this one's going to be.

We still get to fight the dragons,
You still get to kiss the maiden.
And the sappy love songs are still in the air
In this castle you are the king,
by your side, your dazzling queen
A fortune more than golden coins

Some fairy tales come true, when it comes to you and me, Baby.
Though we're far from royalty, it's not hard to see
That some fairy tales come true, when it comes to you and me, Baby.
Though we're far from royalty, it's not hard to see
happily ever after, this one's going to be.
Happily ever after, this one's going to be,
Happily ever after, Baby, you and me.

We still get to fight the dragons,
You still get to kiss the maiden.
And the sappy love songs are still in the air.

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February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines day

It's been a fun weekend. Yesterday we celebrated our 11 month anniversary combo'ed with Valentines Day. Rick bought me a big fluffy heart pillow that I'd had my eyes on for weeks. No one's ever bought me a big fluffy anything before. I think every girl should have a boy buy her a big fluffy something at least one in her life time. Either a big stuffed animal from an amusement park, or some fluffy pink and red thing for Valentine's Day. That's just how it should work.

My big fluffy thing is a ginormous red heart pillow that's got little hearts on it and the word "Love". It's ridiculously silly. But I love it. And it's soft like the soft things people say, "Oh that's so soft" and want to pass around and touch at baby showers. It's that soft.

Perhaps its the hopeless romantic in me, but I'm happy and giggly about my new pillow. I don't have a clue where I'm going to keep it. It breaks every decorating rule in the book, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep it on the bed. Probably for the next 50 years. I hugged it tight last night (after I let go of my husband of course). I was kind of covered in little red fuzzies this morning, but those will wear off in time.

Rick started writing a love song for me and recorded part of the chorus in one of those 'record your own voice' cards. It was sweet. Okay, maybe we're both hopeless romantics.

I made lasagna from scratch - a 2 hour ordeal. It was delish.

Started off the morning with breakfast together, listening to an "All Love Song" radio station from http://www.internet-radio.org.uk I love internet radio. Here's the station I'm listening too (Should open up in your Windows Media Player The Heart (All Love Songs) and eating oatmeal.

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January 26, 2011

Cave Woman

This morning I woke up and knew I wanted to be all home-maker for a few hours. There's something innately satisfying about cooking for my husband. I can imagine this same satisfaction going back to caveman days. I was day dreaming this scenario as I was cutting up apples this morning. I think it went something like this:

Cave woman says to cave man after cooking all day,
"*Grunt*, me make food." and Cave man responds,
"*Grunt* me like. Me eat food. *grunt*.
Cave woman smiles and beats chest in happiness.

I'm pretty sure it's the same feeling.

I had my heart set on making some apple crisp last night but fell asleep, so after throwing a load of laundry in this morning, I set to the task. Quickly discovered I didn't have nearly as many apples as I thought I did, and started digging through my deep freeze looking for a substitute. The best I could come up with was zucchini. Not bad...at least I know from my zucchini-bread-baking-days that it goes well with cinnamon.

So after a few tweaks to a recipe (1. to accommodate a few goof ups along the way, and to accommodate my new dairy-free adventure), here is my new recipe:

Leah's Apple-Zucchini Crunch
2 c. apples, peeled and chopped
1-2 c. zucchini (shredded or really small chunks)
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. sucanat
2 ladles stevia
----------
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. virgin coconut oil

Mix apples, cinnamon, salt, water, sucanat, and stevia. Press into baking pan. (Not 9x13, but the next size down). Mix rest of ingredients and arrange on top of the apple-zucchini mixture. Bake 30 min at 350 degrees.

Mine just finished. At first taste - not bad! The zucchini will bring down the calorie content of normal apple crisp. Mine came out to be 3264 calories, so about 270/serving if I divide it 12 ways. Arrrgg. I wish it were less!

I've been reading a new book lately called "Experiencing the Spirit" by Robert Heidler. I'm not sure where I got the book, but most likely at the Half Price Bookstore back in the day when I was on a reading kick. After discovering a bookmark about 2 chapters in, I knew I must have started the book once before but never finished. This time it's speaking to me on a new and grand level, and I hate putting it down. It describes a desire of mine lately that I haven't been able to put into words, but it's sort of a frustration in the lack of power in my spiritual life. I know there is more to following Jesus than the regular going through the motions bit of church and weekly meetings. Jesus himself said there was more. I want what Jesus said I could have. I've tasted bits of this 'more-ness' here and there in different spiritual encounters and powerful moments with God, but I'm still not satisfied and long for something deeper. Even as I type, I recognize that's the point, and so I am taking a look at next steps. That's how the book opens up. I immediately could relate.

This is far from a new idea or a new discovery on my part. I know the next steps in my spiritual journey are to grow in the things of the Spirit, but now it seems more pressing than ever. The timing feels good. I can relate now in a way I couldn't relate to the idea before.

The book opens with the history of views of the Holy Spirit in different denominations. Many mainstream evangelicals either 1)Are content with the idea of the 'still small voice' side of the Spirit, 2)Speak out boldly against it, or 3)Just don't know enough about it except a few weirdos or stories they have heard or seen on TV and it weirded them out enough to remove if from their radar. I've been in circles of all of these. But I know better, and I know the Holy Spirit is someone to desire and He cannot be controlled. I'd fool myself to think any thing else. So while it may not fit well into my current circle, it's time to press in regardless of the views around me. If people are dying for lack of Jesus and God wants to do something to win them to himself through me through some display of the miraculous through the power of the Spirit, then I'm game. If Jesus said "I'm sending my Spirit and he'll empower you to do the work you are called to on this earth" then I'm ready to be empowered. If Jesus said this is the way it works, then I want that way! Right now I feel un-empowered. Or maybe pre-empowered. Come, Holy Spirit! Wahoo!

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January 15, 2011

Cold

I'm soooo cold. I just can't warm up. It doesn't help I've been running a low-grade temperature for three days now. Though tonight I finally feel 'better'. I bet my temp has gone down. I'm going to check.

Nope, still a 99.4. Strange.

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December 29, 2010

Survival Mode

I'm officially out of Christmas Eve survival mode and it feels great. I am happy today.

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December 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I've been working hard on coming up with recipes that are PRISM(r) friendly and taste good for my various holiday gatherings. This Pumpkin Pie recipe has been a big hit. First I made it as a regular pie, and then I started using it to make little pumpkin tarts in a muffin tin. They come out as little individual pumpkin pies, and helps keep the calories and desire to overeat down. I'm pretty proud of these. I've made this recipe four times now, and I tweak it every time to get just the right texture, etc. I made my pumpkin from scratch, and even used a winter squash once. Here it is:

Leah's Whole Wheat Sucanat Pumpkin Pie from Scratch (or Squash Imitator)
Pumpkin/Squash PureeCut pumpkin or squash in half. Remove seeds and stringy things. (Save seeds for roasting...yum yum). Cook halves face down in a large pan, covered, for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. When done, spoon all the pumpkin out of its shell into a big bowl. Measure out 2 cups. Freeze the rest!

Pumpkin Seeds
Rinse and squish seeds in a strainer under running water until all the string things are rinsed off. Dry thoroughly (I used the hair dryer). Create a mixture of olive oil and seasonings, and lightly brush over the seeds. I did olive oil, sea salt, pepper, chili powder, and thyme. Cook 10-20 minutes at 275 degrees. (Any hotter and they will pop/explode like popcorn... I learned the hard way). If still greasy, plot with paper towels.

1 Pie Filling
2 cups pumpkin or squash
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cup sucanat (a whole sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 eggs

Combine thoroughly in a blender (so that the pumpkin is pureed)

Pre-heat over to 325 degrees.

3 Pie Crusts
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup melted butter
1 cup plain unsweetened yogurt

Stir ingredients together until mixed. This dough is much easier to work with if you play with it like playdough in your hands for a bit before you roll it out. Roll out as thinly as possible. I always roll on parchment paper (thanks, Jeanne!). This helps transfer the dough to the pan, too. No need to grease the pan. It will come out very easily.

For a regular sized pie, this dough makes 3 pie crusts. For the tarts, cut the dough into 3 1/2"-4" circles. I then press these into muffin tins and kind of squish them in to reshape to the tin.

I pour the pie filling from the blender directly into my shells. For the tarts, fill them as full as possible, and almost overflowing, as the filling will settle and go down. If you don't fill them enough, they will separate from the sides of the dough and look funky, kind of like dirt in a drout. Taste good, but look funky.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour for the full-size pie or 40 minutes for the muffin tarts. (or until pumpkin mixture is set or knife inserted in center comes out clean)

I made 30 tarts, which is 150 Calories per tart. For a pie (1/3 of the dough) sliced in 6 slices it's 390 calories per slice. For 8 slices, 300 calories per slice. The tarts are a greater offering... nice little treat without eating all the calories.

I've also used this dough with strawberry pie, and apple pie, all in the little muffin tarts. Very easy... Here's the recipe for the apple filling (all from Heavenly Homemakers)

Apple Filling
3 lbs (I don't know how many that is... I just cut up a bunch)
1/2 cup sucanat
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2-4 tbsp sucanat
3 tbsp melted butter

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December 16, 2010

Fatigue

I'm tired. Like, not sleepy tired, but just tired of running the pace I'm running at. While I'm writing, I have my music player open. I makes me reflect on my own songs. It's not bad for background noise.

The holidays kill me. It's the time of year when attendance is up, participation is down. It's a strange dillema. (Or is it dilemma? or maybe dillemma?)

My husband made me this last night:

He is so funny. Reminds me of myself.

I'm sitting in the cold today, because I'm so conscious of the heating bill, I don't dare turn up the heat. It's cold.

I was thinking yesterday that I don't think I'm really a part of the social class I might think I'm in. I hang out with middle to upper middle class people most the time, but I think I might be a lower-class-faking-middle-class person. Some factors involved in my thinking:
1. I live in the hood.
2. Its freezing in here.
3. I have to choose between which bills to pay.
4. I don't wear new clothes. I only buy used clothes.
5. I prefer quarter day at goodwill. Sometimeds $3.38+ is just too much to pay.
6. The tires are rubbed bare on my truck, but there's nothing we can do about it at the moment.
7. Rick's passenger side mirror is ductaped on.
8. I live in the hood.
9. I've got the police non-emergency phone # memorized. (Directly related to #8 and #1)

I do think you can fake class. For instance, I only buy name brands at Goodwill. I've gotten great deals on some sweet jeans for Rick lately. It helps me blend in. I can maintain my love for style and creative fashion without spending hardly anything. And I rubbed shoulders with lots of upper class people throughout my school days. (According to the stats, upper class people hang out with each other in grad school.) So in that case, I've hung out with lots of 'em. The only problem with being surrounded by affluence, is that it messes with my head. I think I have to fit in. I think that I have to live like everyone else. I think I need to conceal our need because it's not okay to be in need. I never pictured myself as a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of girl. But today I decided I am exactly that. I am low class. And that's okay. So is 20% of America.

I don't mean this as a pity party. I'm laughing at the whole thing. Because I still have walls around me, which is more than the homeless guys sleeping at the neighborhood laundromat. And though it is tight, we live within our means and are very happy. I have everything I need.

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December 9, 2010

Worship

This morning I was trying to work from home, but found myself so distracted by the need to spend some time in worship, that I just gave up, finally went back to my piano and began to play. I'd been avoiding my piano lately because the pedals are going out on it. They phase in and out, sometimes sustain, sometimes don't. For a clavinova I've only had for three years, I'm not very happy. But today I crawled underneath the clav and checked out the wiring. I found the pedal cord, unplugged it, blew some dust off of it, and plugged it back in. It seemed to help. I'm crossing my fingers that the problem was just a little dust.

Back to the worship part... There were a few songs on the piano already, so I just started singing through them. "O Taste and See", "I Lift My Eyes Up", "Breathe". The first two I paired since they were both in the key of C. But it really got fun when I got to "Breathe". I found myself in a spontaneous flow and it was really good. It's been a long time since I was able to just worship freely and sing in a flow of music and words that were beyond cheesey on something contrived. By the end of the hour, I had a counter melody to go on top of the chorus of Breathe. I guess it would be like a Bridge section, but the chords match up with the Breathe chorus, so they can be sung at the same time. It's really pretty. I'm excited to teach it to one of my worship teams. Here's the pairing:

And I, I'm desperate for You.
Your love is all I have to live for. Come touch my heart, come touch my heart.
And I, I'm lost without You.
My soul cries out for more of You, Lord. Come back to me, come back to me.

Of course then I had to test it out to make sure they REALLY could be sung on top of one another. So I recorded one melody line into the clav and sang the other on top of it. Just to be sure, I flip flopped and recording the other melody line and sang on top of it. It works. It's pretty. It's moving. My heart is stirred.

I'm still fighting numbness from my wisdom teeth surgery. It's one of the freak things that can happen that they have you sign away your life for before the surgery itself. It's been three weeks and my lower lip and chin are still numb. It causes me to slur my speech a little. But more than anything, it's painful. I don't want anything touching my lips. Just the right amount of pressure sends a weird nerve shock through my mouth. So while the skin is numb, I can feel pain. And it just tingles and aches all day. I go back for a check-up on the numbness progress at the end of December. I think it's improving, but the progress is so slow that from day to day, I can't really tell a different. It feels like an attack on me as a worship leader. My lips are my income. And now I don't want to use them. So I have people all over the city praying for me. It's kind of scary. I have days where I'm all teary over it, and others where I'm really strong and just ignore it. But if you're reading, you can pray for me, too.

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December 1, 2010

Feeling Out of Sorts

After being out of my routine all last week, I feel out of sorts. Having a little trouble jumping back into ordinary life of work and duty and responsibility. It was a vacation, but not really, since I spent most of it drugged up and in pain, laying around watching Redbox movies with my husband. We had a great week as a couple, and it was good to have uninterrupted time together, even if my face was swollen up like a chipmunk.

I had to get my wisdom teeth out.

I see the great list of things ahead of me that need to get done, and it's so daunting that I just stare at the list and get lost in the vastness of the list rather than the smallness of each particular task.

I'm reading through the book of Acts. A couple of verses struck me yesterday that I've been pondering ever since. Acts 17:24-28a -

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.

I'm struck by the thought that God has created my very situation, all the boundaries of my dwelling, the allotted period of my life, my responsibilities, my job, everything that I might seek him, feel my way toward him, and find him. That just about blows me away. There is something unique to what I am called to that is just for me, tailored to my personality, my wants, my needs, that I might be able to seek God and find him. He has determined the boundaries of my dwelling place.

There is something about where I am right now that God is using to say, "Hey, seek me! Hey, look to me! Hey, I've over here! Hey, follow me!" and to where my inner self should be able to respond, "Hey, I see you! Hey, I can follow you! Hey, I hear you!"

In him I live and move and have my being.

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November 18, 2010

Writer's Block

Every day this week I've tried to sit down and write music and it's like I've got writer's block. I play the same old chord progressions over and over again. It's like my ears can't hear anything different. I need some new chords or something. I've used up all the others. (as if that could ever happen).

But today I tried my hardest and the output sounds like a children's song. Nothing deep, pretty shallow, fun, silly, easy, etc.

coffee break

But I'm celebrating nonetheless of a great Saturday night service that went AWESOME. I couldn't have been more pleased of how the entire night came together. As soon as I pair the audio with the video, I'll put some postings on YouTube of the wonderful choir. They worked hard, and all their hard work paid off. The positive feedback of the entire evening has been overwhelming, not only from those attending, but from the musicians up front as well.

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November 13, 2010

Big Day Today

There are two major events today. First, it's out eight month anniversary. Second, I will present the final worship service for my master's degree in Church Music from Concordia University of Wisconsin. It is a big day!

So I started the day off with important things, like my favorite bowl of cereal and making sure my toe nails were painted pretty. And then my beloved cup of coffee (or 2 or 3) and then maybe some fruit. Fruit seems like a good energy thing for the day.

The truth is, most of the day I will be running around doing errands, picking up last minute things, and setting up equipment that I didn't get set up before I left work yesterday.

I just checked the world clock online, and in some places it is now Sunday, Nov. 14 (even though it's still the 13th here). That means the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church has begun. They estimated over 100,000 churches will be joining in this year, including my church as part of the service tonight.

coffee break

I couldn't find any fruit so I had dates. They are very sweet.

It will be good to be done.

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Oct 30, 2010

Smoke

I learned two things yesterday. One, I discovered a really great recipe for naturally sweetened whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. Actually, I guess I learned three things. The cookies were a success. But the recipe said to cook them on parchment paper. Isn't wax paper and parchment paper the same thing? Here's where the story gets good. I had just lit a candle on my kitchen table "Brazilian Nectar". Very pleasant smelling. And then I put the cookies in the oven. About 10 minutes later the apartment smelled like... wax. Like I lit a candle and it was burning to death. I checked my candle, and it seemed to be fine. I opened the oven and a huge cloud of smoke eminated. This quickly put me into "prevent-the-smoke-from-hitting-the-smoke-detector" mode, which involves me furiously running around, opening windows, turning on fans, and waving large towels in the air to keep smoke from going down the hallway. But I didn't solve the problem, because silly me, I left those cookies in the oven. So just as it seemed to get cleared up, I opened the oven door again and poof, another cloud of smoke. I quickly took the cookies out an inspected them. They seemed perfectly okay. And it wasn't like the wax paper was burning. It wasn't. It looked okay, too. Strange. I put them back in again. Repeat scenario. I finally resolved to remove the cookies from the wax paper for the rest of their duration in the oven. They were very good cookies.

I still have no idea why the wax paper got so smokey. It didn't burn. It didn't melt. It just made a cloud of smoke that smelled like burning candles. Strange.

Since I was being all home-maker like, I decided to do some intensive cleaning of the apartment, and thought it was probably time to wash the rugs and shower curtain in the bathroom. I threw everything into the washer, including the plastic shower liner. (You can probably guess where this is going...) The liner came out all nice and clean. I should have stopped there. Especially since at this point I was having flashbacks to my time living in Pella where I once ironed a vinyl tablecloth. It did not go well for the tablecloth, or the iron. But I relented to dry that shower liner, and much as to be expected, it did not go well for the liner. About 15 minutes after I put it in the dryer I had a change of heart and decided to pull it out. It was too late. It had already begun to melt and stick to itself. Hoping to save it, I tried pulling the stuck-together parts apart. This only created nice holes. So, the liner and I had a nice talk on our way out to the dumpster.

The cookies, however, were perfectly fine AND delicious. No plastic fats, refined flours or sugars. All natural and perfected delicious, and husband-approved. Here is the recipe:

Leah's Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup Sucanat
3/4 cup butter
3 T. hot water
1/2 unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or carob)

Mix sucanat, butter, water, applesauce and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, soda, and salt. Combine the two bowls. Stir in chocolate chips last. Bake 10 min at 375 degrees. Flatten with a spoon halfway through. Makes 30 cookies at 150 calories per cookie.

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Oct 28, 2010

Clock is Ticking

Two more rehearsals until "Songs of the Martyrs" is finally here. My big paper was due Saturday and was turned in. Now I'm writing up the readings for the service itself. This is the creative stuff that I love. And some of the different persecuted church organizations have been sending me materials, including some great video clips that go well with the songs. So the night will be filled with song, video, story, and worship.

The biggest change I've noticed since starting this project is my time I used to spend writing music has been all sucked up. I'm anxious to get back into it. I started a few months back rewriting the words to "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" to make them a little more common English. And then as it usually goes, I came up with a new melody, too. It's been stuck in my head for weeks. I can't wait to finish it. I might try it out at my church, too. As I was researching for the Martyrs' project, I researched the Lord's Prayer quite a bit for a song we're doing called, "Thy Will Be Done". I had always kind of wondered where the end of the prayer came from, because in the Bible, the "For thine is the Kingdom, power, glory..." isn't in scripture. Turns out, that part of the Lord's Prayer was added in an early Christian document called the Didache. I'd studied the Didache before in worship classes, but must have missed that part. It was common in Jewish tradition to add a doxology to the end of the a prayer, so common, that to NOT add a doxology would seem odd. So the early Christian guys were just doing what they'd always known to do - take a prayer and add a doxology. To the Lord's Prayer, they added, "For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and glory forever (and ever), Amen." To my remake of A Mighty Fortress, I also added that same doxology, even before I knew what a doxology was. I love when that kind of thing happens.

And did you know there are 12 verses to A Mighty Fortress? Yeah, I printed them all off to try and decide which ones I wanted to rewrite. But the weirdest thing I discovered was that good portions of the song weren't praising Jesus, but instead telling us how bad Satan is. After I sorted my way through the old English, I came across that realization. So then I scrapped most of the lyrics and rewrote it about Jesus. You can't really blame that old reformers for what they did, because back in their day, no one had Bibles so they tried to teach theology through hymns. So the hymns weren't as much praise songs as good theology put to music. Here's an example from the first verse:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.
Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate.
On earth is not his equal.

Did you get that the last three lines are about Satan? I was getting so lost in the old English, that I didn't even realize what I was singing about. Sometimes that classic hymns are such classics that they seem untouchable to be rewritten, but man this one really bugs me. Luckily the verses in most hymnals avoid the 5 verses that describe how bad Satan is. I know he's bad, but I really don't want to sing about him. I'd rather sing to Jesus.

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Oct 19, 2010

Grieving

I can't sleep. My heart hurts for my best friend, Suzi. They found out yesterday that their baby has no heartbeat and will go in sometime today to be induced for delivery. My heart hurts for her. There is no way for me to understand the depths of grief she is feeling today. I find myself going between prayer and grief and back to prayer all over again.

I'm reminded of a song I wrote when I was living with my brother's family and my niece, Olivia was born. At the same time, my friend's family was grieving the loss of a baby. It's a song pondering the tears of these two mothers. Here is the song:



Two Mothers


Two mothers cry today
How precious a life that is swept away
Blue eyes that peer on a world so bright
One set grayed by life's chances
The other in awe of all life's granted

Two mothers cry today
A mix of joy and fear and sorrow
One minute gone, another one borrowed
Breath of life and lungs expand
and the stillness of a cold, dark hand

Two mothers weep today
As life passes through their veins
As life is questioned in its pain
How a miracle, so tender, so small
Could e'er exist amidst it all

Two mothers love today
One of hopes of what is to be
One of love in memory

Two mothers cry today

I love you Suzi.

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Oct 11, 2010

Famous People Are Writing Me

It's amazing how prayer works. I've been praying for instrumentalists on my teams and they've been coming in abundance. I prayed about my laptop and God led a friend to fix it for me. Prayer works. There is so much stuff that I could stress out about, but instead I'm learning to turn to God and just say, "You take care it." And He DOES. It's very cool.

I've been researching madly to finish my paper for my master's degree. I'm into the part where I analyze each piece we're doing in the concert and also research the composers. I'm amazed at the wonderful information I'm discovering on my composers. They are great men of faith whose lives reflected it. Some like to push the barrel a little further. I was researching a guy last night named Martin Shaw who lived in the late 1800s into the 1950s. He was constantly advocating for the small English church and for composers to write high-quality music that was accessible and singable by the non-musician. It was in a time when church music was getting fancier and fancier and only accessible to the highly trained professional musicians. But he was adament that church music should always be for the church-goer, and this type of person was not a professional. So he would write editorials to these fancy music journals and state his case over and over again. You can almost detect a hint of sarcasm or fecisciousness in his tone. It's hilarious.

So obviously Martin Shaw couldn't write me, but some of the composers still living have contacted me after I made inquiries about their pieces. Last week I heard from the very esteemed and retired Eugene Butler. He wrote me a nice letter responding to all the questions I had mailed him a few weeks ago. I had googled him and just happened to find him living near Kansas City, Missouri. Other composers have contacted me by email after I wrote their managers and asked for my information to be sent along. My favorite story is about a little unknown composer named Rene Frank. He was a Jewish man turned Christian during the World War II era. He and his Christian wife had to flee Nazi Germany. At some point their house burned down (most likely due to his Jewish roots, but that was never proven). But I received a copy of his testimony from a school in Indiana thats just now archiving all his works. His story is both fascinating and awesome. I got leads on his life from one paper document his publisher sent me that led me to a church in Indiana, that led me to a parishoner who knew him when she was a child that led me to a Bible school turned seminary turned university that led me to a man archiving Dr. Franks works. It's been great.

So I'm madly plucking away at this paper, amazed at how things are falling in place. One month until the concert.

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Sept. 17, 2010

A Sad Day

Today I finished work on a song I've been writing for awhile. I really like the chorus, and am convinced the song itself has potential, but probably not in the form I finished it today. Oh well. Give it a listen -- it's not THAT bad. Holy Holy Holy (Marvelous Light)

In other news, while I was recording, I got the power cord of my laptop jammed in the lid of my piano, and it got spliced. A little electrical tape and it should be all right, right? Wrong. The power cord no longer works. In fact, it's just getting really hot and not supplying power to the laptop, and making a funny clicking noise all at the same time. I'm sad to say... this might be the end of my laptop. And then end of all my recordings stored on it. It's almost 10 years old. I can't imagine a replacement power cord is anywhere in the near future. I hope I'm wrong, because I'm really sad to lose all of my stuff. AND this kind of hampens my ability to work on my master's degree paper. It's not a good day in the Carolan household. I might cry. Okay, I might have already cried. I already miss my laptop. I'm afraid to turn it on, because I want to save what little battery power I have to retrieve my documents.

I'm sad. This could make for an interesting Fall trying to do research and finish my master's degree. I am O-so-dependent on that laptop. It's got all the recordings for my concert on there, plus I use it constantly at work, too. I'm sad. Burdened.

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Sept. 3, 2010

Prayer

I'm excited to again be eating oatmeal. With peanut butter, raisins, and flax seed oil. It's so yummy.

This weekend Rick and I have a chance to get away and head for the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. While soaking myself in prayer in an atmosphere of worship, I'm planning to work hard on my final master's project. Oh, that reminds me of a cool God moment yesterday.

I was researching for my songs of the persecuted church service that I'm presenting, and discovered that my service falls on the weekend of the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. I was overwhelmed with this 'coincidence'. The one weekend of the year that I just happened to pick for my final project dealing with the persecuted church just happens to be the weekend when people world-wide are praying for the persecuted church? It definitely gave me goosebumps and served as a great affirmation from the Lord that He is in this with me. As Rick said, "Isn't it amazing when you discover you're part of something much bigger?" Yup, it IS.

So I've got six weeks to pump out 70 pages of writing on this concert. And the thought of it does not fill me with dread, but with great EXCITEMENT because I love what I'm learning and that God has already caused me to learn something about myself in the whole process. We're two rehearsals in, and it's good.

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August 31, 2010

Weepy

It has been a weepy month. I wish I could blame it on hormones or something, but I can't. It's just something God is doing in me. My heart is connected with Him at the moment, and when we're connected like this, I'm just plain weepy. I could cry at a moment's notice. And it's not over the typical weepy things like sappy commercials, or nice emails, but for no apparent reason I could just weep. There's a constant internal struggle within me that can only find relief in...weeping.

I had oatmeal for breakfast, with peanut butter, raisins, and honey.

I sang through a binder of my songs all catalogged in chronological order. My early songs are pretty sappy. The melodies aren't as in sync, the words are awfully wordy, and sometimes just flat out theologically wrong. I didn't know nearly enough about God back in the day to be writing songs about Him. Some of my best songs were just me asking questions. These were probably more in tune with what I was learning at the time, rather than me thinking I knew anything and trying to write a song about it.

My oatmeal was good.

I need to write a song. I have about 30 projects that I've started and not finished. It's like I just can't sit still long enough to finish anything. Or my mind is so distracted that I can't get it to focus on writing at the moment. And I'm just tired. My enery lately has been zapped. And I just don't feel good in general. Not depressed or down or anything like that. Just not feeling well. Like I've caught a bug but it's not bad enough to keep me from doing life as normal, just a little slower and with a little less enthusiasm.

I put flax oil on my oatmeal to get in my daily omega 3's. Did you know you need a 1 tbsp of omega 3/6/9 oils per 50lbs of body weight a day just to get in the daily recommended amount? And did you know it takes FOURTEEN capsuls of oil to get a tbsp? The best and most efficient source of omega 3,6, and 9's are the liquid oils themselves. I use flax (omega 3) on my oatmeal, walnut and olive oil on my salads, and eat enough protein to get my omega 9's. If you've ever had dry skin, it's because you're deficient in your essentail fatty acids and need to add them to your diet. Just a tid-bit of advice I've learned from the Prism program. I've never had as great of skin as I have now and even in the winter months, I don't need lotion anymore.

It's time to study! I'm finishing my 2nd master's degree this fall. One big paper and a choir concert and final comps and oral exams, and I'll be all done.

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August 11, 2010

Light

I've decided change is hard, not because it is hard, but because the people whom it effects don't like that idea. It usually upsets them or causes them to rethink their own identities, ideas, patterns, habits, and generally evaluate who they are in the midst of the change.

But I think change can be good, when we realize in the midst of it who we really are. I am a daughter of the Most High God. I am loved by God. He calls me His beloved. My identity is not found in my role as a worship leader, a wife, working at a church, or my latest and greatest hobbies. Because all of those things can change at any moment. But my identity in Christ is ceaseless. It will never change. It cannot change. It is who I am. It is the truth.

I think one of the most exciting lightbulb moments of watching someone come to faith in Jesus is their realization of their new identity in God. Without God, they are hopelessly wandering through life with all the changing identities that life throws their way. Actually, life doesn't throw them. The kingdom of this world imposes them relentlessly on anyone and anything it can get its hands on. It is a dark place.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He must have known the world would need a light or that it's a really dark place. And the Bible says we pretty much love our darkness. But when we come to love God more than our darkness, light breaks in.

It's kind of an amazing concept. Except if you're in the darkness, because you don't know it. You're blind and wandering and don't realize there is a light out there. Except somewhere deep inside your heart, you have an aching you can't describe and you can't get away from. It nags at you in the nighttime. A great discontent that no amount of food or entertainment can satisfy. It always returns, always calls at you, and you can't escape from it. It's the light, wanting to free you from the darkness.

The very presence of God on his throne is a miraculous scene. The book of Revelation talks about it in great detail. But one of the greatest aspects of the throne-room of God is the brilliant light.

Jesus is the light of the World. His very being is light at His core. You can't ignore that discontent inside. Step into the light. You'll never regret it. It will change you. You yourself will become a child of the light.

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July 9, 2010

In Your Presence I Am Changed

One year ago today Rick and I went on our first date. It was a kayaking date. Very exciting! In fact, as we reflected on the day he asked me, he reminded me that my first response was, "Let me check my calendar" which I guess to a guy is not the best phrase to say. As I checked my calendar, my mind went to the size of the kayak (and the size of my butt) and I asked, "Will I fit?" to which he replied, "....I think so?"

It's good thing first impressions don't determine the outcome of a relationship. We set a date and decided to go on a Thursday afternoon, July 9, 2009. As soon as I left, I went to google to find out exactly how big kayaks really were and whether or not I would find myself in great embarrassment on our date and NOT fit. Luckily, I fit just fine. Silly girl!

God set a romantic scene before us on this first date. A beautiful sunset, and even jumping trout around our kayaks. After we were done Kayaking, he invited me to steak at his brother's house. One of my favorite text-msg-poems from Rick goes like this: "Mr. Rick Carolan asked Leah Van Maaren to visit the Palo Lake. The kayaks were a bumpin' when the fish were a jumpin'. A bit later on they had steak."

Today I wrote a song. Well, I guess I kind of wrote part of it yesterday and finished it today. It started out as an alternate text to sing to the tune of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", which I then paired to the tune of "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" and if that wasn't enough, then I changed it to a minor key and added a short two-line chorus. It went over well with my traditional service worship team. After all of that, I went back to my office yesterday afternoon and decided this text needed it's own tune so that I could call it all my own. So I sat down at the piano in my office and worked on the chord structure. 24 hours later, it became what it is today and I got it posted online. I like when songs come together that quickly. It's alled, "In Your Presence I Am Changed". It's hymn like. And pretty much just builds the entire song to the great song, "Holy, holy is the Lord!" Enjoy.

I've also been working on keeping my music player up to date. It plays all my favorite songs without having to switch from page to page. Granted, you don't get any of the lyrics, but at least you can keep it playing in the background while you're doing other stuff. The music player is here. Bookmark it for future reference.

I'm also trying to figure out how to make my music pages mobile phone friendly. Hopefully this latest song will include a link so mobile phone people can also listen to the music.

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July 2, 2010

Wedding Song is Online

It's been many months, but I finally had enough time on my hands to make a decent recording of the song I wrote for our wedding. It's officially on the music page for your listening enjoyment. My recording doesn't do the live performance justice, but you get the idea. The song was performed by my brother singing and playing with guitar with my sister-in-law playing a flute accompaniment. It was sweet. The original had a key change in it, too. But my voice was cooperating with the higher notes, so I took it out for this recording. That's okay. It still sounds okay.

I also put up another song today that I'm working on for a concert I'm conducting this Fall to finish another Master's degree. It will be a night of songs from the early church, of texts that they would have access too that strengthened and encouraged their faith in the midst of great persecution. The concert will be mixed with readings and stories of the martyrs, and has a twist conclusion that I'm keeping as a surprise. Most of my inspiration came from reading the book The Heavenly Man. Look it up on Amazon. It will strengthen your faith for sure (and probably convict you as well). Anyhoo, the song is written for choir, which I could quite capture with my single voice, but imagine all three parts overlapping, and the third part being filled with a magnitude of drums. It should be sweet.

I've been reading a book by AJ Tozer called The Pursuit of God. Also challenging my faith. It's for those who recognize run-of-the-mill Christianity just isn't cutting it, and that there is so much more to the faith journey and living in real-deal power. I want more.

Life is hard. It seems anything I put my hands to these days ends up breaking. I'm really good at breaking things. Relationships, teams, structures, even my favorite pair of jeans. I'm running at a slower pace than normal, and yet have little time for deep reflection. The summer months are hard at church. Vacations and summer schedules make it more difficult to fill a worship schedule. It's one of the great sacrifices of a job in ministry. When everyone else is off enjoying life and family and holidays, you're left to fill the void for the sake of the greater good. Summers, holidays, long-weekends: all of these fall on you. It's one of those things I wish someone had warned me about back in seminary. I don't mean to say this sounding like I'm spiteful, just deep in thought. But after three years in, it weighs heavy on me.

Do you ever have those days/weeks/month where you ask questions like, "Why am I doing what I'm doing?" or "What's the point?" to the all the energy you extend on a daily basis? That's kind of where I'm at, in deep wondering mode, thinking about my true calling in life and trying to discover if I'm still in line with what God would have me do. It's deep.

Life is hard, but it's also good!

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June 14, 2010

Turning Thirty

This Sunday I get to turn the big 'three-O' on the day that the rest of North America is honouring their fathers. (Actually, according to wikipedia, "It is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in 55 of the world's countries and on other days elsewhere" and this year is the 100th anniversary of Father's day! It's a rare occurance that my birthday falls on Father's day, and from my calculations, it's happened 4 times in the last 30 years (1982, 1993, 1999, 2004). This is one of those years, but strangely enough, it won't happen again until 2021!

Our plans are still up in the air for that day, but I do know I have the day off from work, which was no easy task! It could possibly be the one Sunday out of the year when every single worship leader, and instrumentalist was out of town at my church. Our worshipping compliment for this Sunday consists of four singers and a bass player. And it turns out, the sound is funky-cool. I like it. It will definitely be different.

Married life is good and hard and good. It takes a lot to bring two lives together. It's more than combining households and things and lives, but scheduling and money and time. It's not easy! We're working through a book together by John and Stasi Eldredge called, "Love and War". There's a description they use in there about two sharp rocks constantly rubbing against each other until all the sharp edges are smoothed away to nice rounded ones. That is marriage. It is hard, but it is good. We all have sharp edges that we don't discover until someone else is rubbing their sharp edges up against ours. It's the perfect picture of community.

We talk a lot about community in church, and what 'true' community looks like. I imagine now it has lots to do with living lives that are intertwined to a degree that sharp rocks becoming smooth, rounded stones. If I want to love someone, I have to let their sharp edges chip away my own sharp edges. Ouch.

I am excited this week to get back to work on my music, and finally (hopefully) get the wedding song recorded and put online.

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April 19, 2010

Spiritual Armor

This morning I was directed to Ephesians 6 in my reading where it talks about the Armor of God.

The Armor of God 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

I don't think I'd ever read this before in a way that took it seriously, or in a way that impacted my life. But this morning I found myself pouring over these words, taking them to heart, and putting on my armor for the day so that I can "stand against the devil's schemes". As I see it, if I don't have this stuff on, I'm falling captive to his schemes!

If I had to describe my first month of marriage, I would describe Rick as wonderful, and myself as one who has been attacked my schemes of the enemy. Like my mind's been playing tricks on me, and a Spirit of Fear came in and tried to destroy me. I've never felt it quite so strongly ever in my life. Like a mask was pulled over my face and my lungs unable to give me air for about 2 weeks. But I have a man who prays for me, who called my name out and went to battle over whatever it was that was messing with my head. And the burden lifted has been great. I feel light and happy and like a could bounce along carefree like a man on the moon no longer held down by gravity.

Today, I put on my Armor of God and I am not susceptible to the fear.

This is worthy of a song. I should get to work!

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March 30, 2010

Light

I was reflecting this morning on Psalm 139 after being pointed there by my daily Prism readings (Prism is a nutrition program I'm a part of that teaches one to eat in a way that is different from the ways of the world and focuses on feeding your body only things that of nutritional value and considering non-nutritional items as non-foods. Meaning, if it weren't in the form of food, you wouldn't imagine putting it in your mouth. All that, combined with looking at food as another opportunity to be in the world, but not of it even in terms of what we eat. I am still impressed by this, as we rarely talk about food in the Christian walk. If we want Christ is every other aspect of our lives, why would we exclude food? Anyhoo, I digress...)

All that said, this morning's reading really caught my attention. Especially the verse, "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."

The dark is not dark to God. No matter how dark or dreary or impossible things might seem at the moment, my view of darkness is still as light to God. This truth struck me hard this morning to the point of tears.

This is a great hope.

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March 20, 2010

Honeymoon

We're officially home from the week-long honeymoon in Chicago and had a blast! We ended up purchasing what they call the "CityPass" which is one low cost to get you into the greatest Chicago attractions. And then you get to skip any ticket lines at the attractions as well. We visited the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears tower... did you know it got renamed?), Shedds Aquariam, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum. By far the highlight was Willis tower and the Aquariam. And also caught a The Chicago Institute of Art's free Thursday night public tours. We just happened to wander up to the museum on the one night a week they are open to the public, and got to see some of my favorite artists like Renoir and Van Gogh. Got some great pictures.

We navigated Chicago by public transit (one of my loves). There's just something unique and exciting about finding your way around a large city by bus, train, and subway. And with the aid of my handy dandy blackberry, we had all the transit schedules in our hand. I was totally amazed by a free app download for the blackberry which is Google Maps. I'd used it here and there to find directions, but it includes transit schedules as well when you need to get to one place to another. Awesome.

Today I'm sitting at the laundromat, trying to get our stuff organized and officially put away. We're still lacking in some basic necessities like bedroom furniture, places to put clothes, etc. Having a closet to myself, I never realized how much stuff I just threw up on the shelves that probably belonged in a dresser.

It's good to be home.

Our last night in Chicago we were recommended a restaurant called, "The Grand Lux Cafe". Awesome. Huge, elegant, vibrant atmosphere, nestled downtown Chicago, extensive menu selection (including half-sizes if you're not very hungry) yet extremely affordable. We agreed at least once a year we need to come back and visit this restaurant. We shared a Thai Chicken Pizza, great red wine, and some dessert. Very nice.

On the day we were to leave, we had a little car trouble and ended up spending the afternoon and early evening in our Chicago Suburb, navigating between the Firestone auto repair place, and the classyist McDonalds I've ever been in, especially since we were in the 'hood'. So we were bit delayed, but hanging out with our laptops at the local McDonald's was fun nonetheless.

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March 4, 2010

Butterflies

Today I have butterflies. They are happy ones. Not nervous ones. Just happy, excited, anxious, giddy butterflies. We're still watching details come together. Friday we have our final meeting with our pastor to go over ceremony details. I spent the early part of this week finishing the arrangements for all the wedding music to accommodate a guitar and flute.

I haven't been sleeping for awhile now. I've been waking up at 3am-5am for a good number of days now with all the details running through my head and the things I'm worried I'll forget to do if I don't write them down. Then after a couple of hours I'll fall back asleep again. It's strange. Or sometimes I'll find myself in deep intercession mode and weeping and wailing for no reason except I know God is using me to weep or wail for something. (Romans 8:26-27 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.")

It's crazy at work. I'm having to plan for four worship services that I'll miss during my time away. My head is somewhat spinning. And I come back right in the midst of last-minute Easter planning details: special music rehearsals, choir pieces, etc. I can't but help feeling I'm behind in every aspect of life. And little luxuries that you overlook like clean laundry and having time to vacuum are very distant at the moment. But I'm happy, and have happy butterflies to keep me entertained.

I love my man. He is a true man. And over and over again I am surprised by his strength. Not just physical, but by the ways he fulfills the role of future husband and takes care of details I over look or am clueless about. Like right now he is off making sure we have our nice big bed in place by the time we get married. Me? I'm worried about things like pretty sheets. He? He's off bed shopping, with a recruited-strong-bed-moving friend. I love it. And he does things like starts my truck when it's cold out, and moves it to point in the direction I want to go. And when he comes over to eat lunch between classes, he does his dishes.

Opening the door in the morning is like Christmas. These last couple of days there have been packages there, waiting for me. It's crazy fun.

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February 20, 2010

Good-bye Ring

Today I had to say goodbye to my engagement ring. It's being shipped off to be soldered to the wedding band. I feel naked.

The wedding is planned. Invites are out, reception postcards mailed, cakes ordered, decorations planned, dresses sized. Today we went and picked out the official bed the 'bed fund' is going towards. It's the "Heritage Plush" from Lebeda (a local chain). Luckily, we have similar tastes in the arena of firmness/plushness type stuff, so the decision was relatively quick and painless (though, really, how painful can picking out a bed be?) So after spending the morning laying on 20-some different mattresses and learning the ins-and-outs of the bed industry, we decided on the Heritage Plush bed. It's major perk being the anti-microbial natural latex layer that will keep both of our dust and other allergies at bay. I'm quite excited. Want to donate to the bed fund? Paypal makes it easy.

Did I mention this wonderful man I'm marrying in 2 weeks and 6 days had a large arrangement of a dozen red roses delivered to me at church last Sunday? He caused quite a nice little buzz around the office as people waited for me to pop into my office and see what had arrived. I love him.

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February 19, 2010

I love Jesus.

I wrote a song this morning. Actually, I finished a song this morning. It's the collaboration of an ongoing thought process revolving around the Christian life. I was reflecting on Scripture and how God is glorified and His power revealed when His name is praised. It finally dawned on me, that I really wanted to see the power of God and bring glory to His name, I should be proclaiming constantly His victory in my life. And that my life should like different than that of non-Christian. I need to give God credit for His victory. I need to give him credit as the only one who can save. There is no other way to God except through Jesus. Any romantic notions of heaven are worthless without Jesus. There is no other way to God, to heaven, to everlasting life. There is no way to tiptoe around this news. One is either following Jesus, or they aren't.

It sounds extreme, because it is.

The reality of the Kingdom of God is that you're either devoted to Jesus, or you're fighting for the other side, which isn't the side you want to be on in the end. They lose. We know the end of the story. Without Jesus, it's gloomy.

The cool part of the story, being with Jesus is far better than we could ever ask or imagine. A life lived in Christ and for him and with him is better than I could have dreamed. To be feel the goodness of His love, his presence, his glory, his provision... it's amazing. I'm amazed at the good gifts God bestows on me. Even a wedding dress. Yup... that's what I said! $0.38 for the dress of my dreams, coupled with a great revelation from God 10 min before I found the dress that He would provide for me. That this marriage has his blessing, and He would surprise me with the ways He would provide for us. All this 10 minutes before I felt led by the Spirit to go buy a wedding dress in the middle of a snow storm. I followed... and $0.38 cents later I was on my way home with a dress I can probably sell after the wedding to pay off the entire thing. It's price online USED is worth more than my truck.

So, I was reflecting on life under the victory of Christ and wrote a song. "I sing now and cannot be silent. I sing now in victory. I sing now because Jesus has set me free."

Life lived for God doesn't just pay off in the end. It's the way it was supposed to be. And I WILL proclaim it.

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February 9, 2010

A song.

This past week I realized that were there no romantic connection between Rick and I, we would be great friends. I love him, but I realized that I also really really like him. It just dawned on me suddenly while we were sitting over dinner one night that I love spending time with him and talking, and that perhaps I've told him more deeps things about myself than any other person in my life. How cool is that?

Though I had no intentions of writing any wonderful music for this wedding, inspiration hit me one day last week and I just couldn't help myself. We had talked about possibly having communion at the wedding, and one day as I was worshiping from my keyboard, and a chorus came to mind that I couldn't resist writing down. And as the story goes... a whole song came out of it. I quickly phoned my brother and made sure he'd be open to singing the song and playing on his guitar. And his wife has a flute part as well (they're already doing music for the rest of the wedding.) It's a nice little song. And... I don't think I'll post it until after the wedding, just to keep it a surprise.

I was listening to the radio last week and heard the hit, "God is watching Us" which goes, "God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us... from a distance." and I was struck with the thought, "THAT'S NOT TRUE!" He's so close. There is a song we sing at the prayer center sometimes that goes, "He is closer than my skin, and more intimate than any other lover." I was just amazed how my ears have been opened to hear untruths in a way that never have before.

Today is our 7 month anniversary. 4 1/2 weeks until the wedding. Did I mention we officially graduated from pre-marriage counseling?

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January 31, 2010

41 Days

The days are ticking down to this wedding. 41 to be exact. Earlier today Rick sent me this text, "Roses are red, violets are blue. Less than 41 days until I say, "I do" (give or take a minute or two). Love you."

That is the kind of man I am marrying.

We've been having a good time in our marriage counseling and I'm loving the pastor who is going to marry us. He is a friend of Rick's and has a great sense of humor.

This weekend we traveled home to my folks. It was a whirlwind of a weekend to pick out our cake, meet with the caterer, tour the church and the cabin, model my dress for my folks, and pick up my veil. I'm amazed at how quickly and easily all the details are falling into place. God is blessing this marriage. I can feel it in His hand in all the events transpiring to make this day happen. My goal this week is to create the invitations for the family ceremony and get them in the mail, and create the postcards for the open house. The clock is ticking!

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January 13, 2010

Wedding Site

This weekend I've been working on a wedding page to post more details about the wedding online for our friends and family. What I have so far is pretty remedial, but one of my best designs so far! Check it out: Wedding.radiantventure.com Enjoy!

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January 13, 2010

Season of Life

Every time I start a new journal I ask God what the next season of my life might hold. I'm a big journaler. I've got journals dating back to when I was 16 years old. The early journals spoke mostly of teenage girlish-ness, but over the years have slowly molded into a conversation between God and I.

And so, I begin each journal with a question: "Lord, what does this season hold for me?" I asked this question back in June of 2009. I had just completed a journal where the answer to the question was "the principles of my Kingdom" and I spent a season learning how the Kingdom of God runs upside down, counter-culture, counter-everything to the Kingdom of this world. The basic principles of the Kingdom of God are the beattitudes. God spent months opening my eyes to the ways His kingdom operates and opening my heart to allegiance to His Kingdom. It was a deep and profound season.

Imagine my surprise when I asked the question this past June and all I heard was, "Love." So I asked again, and again got the answer of, "Love." I remember mockingly writing in my journal, "God, I guess this season will be about love," thinking the concept was too little and too undefined to have heard correctly.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

In fact, I couldn't have imagined the wondrous things I would learn, first and foremost about God's love, but also the love of God as experienced through fellow man, and even a man who would steal my heart and teach me more about the love of God than I thought possible.

I mentioned in my last blog about a 3-week stint where Rick and I broke up in the summer of 2009. But this break-up turned out to be not an accident at all, but the working of God upon my heart to break through and show me the extent of His love. I had journaled a few years back that I didn't believe God's plan in Jesus would still go as planned were I the only thing He had to come and redeem. It seems worth it when you take into account all of creation, every individual human being in all of time and history, but were all of that to cease to exist, and I the only thing needed redemption, then the plan would have changed. It seems like a waste for God to send himself into the world to redeem one miserable little girl.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

In these three weeks apart God reminded me of this statement in my journal and broke through with the most intense message of love I could imagine, "The plan would not have changed." So impacted was I by this revelation, I remember weeping in my living out of joy and shock. His love over me was so grand, He would still have chosen to carry out the exact same plan of redemption. WOW.

I wrote a song to describe this revelation:

The whole song is available here.

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January 7, 2010

How did we meet?

We've known each other since the beginning of 2008. I came on staff at the Midwest Prayer Center where Rick was the worship leader for the Night Watch - a worship set that ran 10pm-12am on Fridays and Saturdays. It wasn't long before I found myself playing keyboard on his team and learning the basics of harp&bowl style of worship. This went on for the most of the year. And then we saw each other off and on just through different activities at the prayer center, as well as a class we both took on Freedom Prayer through The Field Spiritual Equiping Center. And then we were both a part of the beginnings of daily 10pm prayer at the prayer center called "Fire By Night"...

Until one day in early July while at the prayer center, I was sitting on a nice comfy couch journaling, and Rick wandered over and randomly asked, "Would you like to go kayaking sometime?" to which I responded, "Sure." And then quickly asked, "Will I fit?" (worried about the size of my behind...) to which he replied, "... I think so...". So we agreed on a meeting for that Thursday.

I spent most of the week wondering... is this a date? Asked many good friends, and they all agreed it sounded like a date. But I wasn't for sure.

We went Kayaking at the Palo lake. It was a nice summer day, clear sky, no breeze, low humidity. We had a great conversation as we moved our kayaks over the water. We saw the most incredible sunset, and even stopped to take in the site of hundreds of little trout, jumping to the surface around our kayaks for feeding time. I don't think anyone could have planned a more romantic moment. After kayaking he asked, "So... do you want to come over for dinner?" And the rest is history.

We've had our moments, and grown a lot since this first date. Even a small 3-week break from each other, for which I wrote the song, "Romance" and won him over. Since then I've come to find we're compatible on many fronts, but most importantly, he loves and follows Jesus as much as I do, and for this I'm so thankful and in love!

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January 7, 2010

Pics of the ring:

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January 4, 2010

It was requested that for my first blog on here that I would tell the story of my recent engagement to Mr. Richard Carolan. And so, here's how the story goes...

A few weeks ago we went and looked at rings together so that I could give him an idea of what I liked, disliked, and to size my finger. I learned I wear a size 6 3/4 and that I preferred white gold, and the sparlier the better. With that, Rick returned later to order the ring.

A few days before Christmas, while at my apartment Rick received a phone call from the jewelers that the ring was delayed and would not be here in time for Christmas. I could tell he was pretty bummed, but I wasn't expecting him to ask until much later, so I wasn't too upset that the ring was delayed. Shortly after that, we left for a trip to the OneThing conference in Kansas City and spent a week together with 18,000 fellow Christians who are hungry for the Lord as we filled the Kansas City Convention Center for a week, ending on New Years about 12:30 AM. Then we headed back to Iowa to join my family for Christmas. While in Kansas City, Rick got another call that the ring was in, but since we weren't traveling back to Cedar Rapids before my family Christmas, so again I knew the engagement was still a week or more away.

We arrived at my folks, and Rick had packed nice warm clothes to wander out around my parents property in the snow, and to spend time down at the family pond. We had taken walks out there together before, and the location holds a special place in my heart.

This is where it gets really sappy... It was about -3 degrees outside, and we were making snow angels in the snow by the pond, and just goofing off, staring at the sky together, when he started reciting a list of reasons why he wanted to marry me (I had joked earlier that I wanted a list!) When he finished, he got on one knee and took off his gloves. I still hadn't caught on to what he was going until he pulled the ring case out of this pocket and asked the question, to which I resounded, "Absolutely!"

I was shocked that he even had the ring because I thought it was still in Cedar Rapids, but the whole 'the ring is delayed' story was a fake! And he had it the entire time we were away, just waiting to get to my parent's pond and ask the question. By this point, I think we might have lost all feeling in our toes and fingers, and possibly our backsides from laying in the snow. But we hurried back to the house to make the grand announcement to my family who waited inside.

And so there is the story of our engagement and the beginning of the New Year for us.

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