True confession: I ADORE music in all forms. Jazz, classical, even movie soundtracks have earned their way into my eclectic listening collection over the years.
When asked to describe my love of music, the closest pictures I come up with are lit fireworks spilling from my spirit as instruments pour out their harmony, or the vastness of the open ocean at sunset as beautiful voices swell together in an a cappella performance. The ability to give our deepest, raw emotions “life” through song is such a great mystery (and joy) to me! As a musician and writer, I created songs for my children as I carried them in my womb and soothed them with lullabies as fussy infants. When they grew older I taught them their names by singing the letters and clapping their hands to the rhythm. What a great testimony that they’ve ALL picked up instruments and sing as well. Here’s #4 at a local talent show…
After returning to my faith as an adult, and fully accepting God’s gift of salvation, I clearly remember promising for the rest of my days to give my song only to Him. Why do that, you ask? I choose to praise and worship God for His amazing grace towards me, and for His everlasting love which covers all my imperfections. Where would I be Father, if not for Your grace?
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord. Psalm 104:33 (NIV)
Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts. Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.
Heavenly Father thank You for every, single wonderful day. In particular, the ones like today where things tend to play out opposite of my desires. I lift my eyes and praise You all the more! I obediently defer my plans to the ones You have laid out for me before my very creation in my mother’s womb.
You are Jehovah Nissi, my miracle and refuge, and lovingly reveal Yourself to me through holy scripture. Today I receive Your timely instruction, and pray it brings hope and encouragement as I continue this journey under Your banner of salvation.
Your will be done, and declaring victory in all areas of my life, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
It’s a little late in the day, and we’re preparing for yet another, late evening snow shower extravaganza. Just about this time last month we experienced 38 inches of the igloo building, stick-to-your-face, horizontal blowing, flaky stuff. It was truly a winter wonderland! My little one’s still pretty excited about seeing her first real accumulation, building life-sized snowmen with her neighbors, and eating S’mores.
Blizzards tend to cause major cities to cease all normal operations, with its citizens making the customary mad dash to the gas station, grocery and grown-up beverage store in that order to stock up on supplies. Our sleepy town is no different, and the local news station does nothing to quell the sense of mad hysteria that seems to grip the sanest of my neighbors.
I’m going to sit this storm out, and not act like the zombie apocalypse is happening tonight. Partly due to my recovery from a major health crisis. Mostly due to the irony that I now see that everything I really need is already here. Yes, we’ll have to get creative with a few pantry and cupboard items, but oh well… I’m humbled and grateful for all I have, and will never take any of it for granted again.
*On that note, are Rice Krispy Treats considered breakfast food?
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …
Thank You Heavenly Father for my life. You are El Elyon, The Most High God, and the only Name that is holy and exalted forever!
I confess to not always understanding the path my life should take, and in haste and frustration make plans opposite the wonderful ones You have for me. Forgive me for allowing fear and anxiety to take root in my heart, and restore a spirit of freedom in me to fully live out my days according to Your promise of peace, joy and prosperity.
With hands upraised and declaring victory in all areas of my life, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
2016 has raced to an adventurous start by throwing the most unwelcome curve ball into my happy, drama-free, planned out life. An earlier post, The Invisible Introvert, explains my primal need for mental, physical and spiritual order. After experiencing quite a bit of discomfort during the holidays, Yours truly dutifully went to the doctor for an explanation. “Just the creaks of middle age,” I soothed my children. One visit quickly ruled out continuing my pain control regimen. After explaining the ongoing symptoms, I only heard snippets of my doctor’s diagnosis as we reviewed my test results.
Health crisis. Operation. As soon as possible. Her words snaked through my brain and into my ears, but it took every bit of concentration to hold onto my husband’s hand. I left the hospital shaken, with a surgery date, paperwork listing an encyclopedia’s amount of procedures to undergo, and very little time to emotionally prepare my children, immediate family and most importantly MYSELF! Ensuing days became so chaotic I’d turn off my cell phone and email for quiet time, and to gather my thoughts. Most days when fear threatened and tears escaped, I’d remind myself again and again that God was in control. Deep breaths Crystal, I said to myself each day until surgery. Extended family, friends and co-workers became puzzled by my distance. Some gently inquired while others weren’t so gentle, and oddly enough a few just created their own explanation for my absence. When pressed for news, I simply asked for prayer for me and my family.
While being prepped for general anesthesia, my husband kissed me, smiled, and told me how much he loved me. It was the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery. Two weeks later I’m up and walking around on wobbly legs, and happy to report that surgery was a success! Thank You Jehovah Rapha (the Lord that Heals) for answering prayer, and for healing my physical and emotional needs. Your Word says:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:13-16 ESV.
::Un/Faithful Today’s prompt is pretty interesting: tell about the role faith plays in my life – or doesn’t.
I created The Exceptional Life blog less than a year ago as a medium to share posts on my faith, personal growth and happiness journey.
Concerning faith, for years I sat in church in confusion as our Pastor talked about faith. I quasi-understood it: you just need a little bit to start, don’t doubt and above all never fear, because fear and faith can’t co-exist in the mind. Yes, okay and really? The last part was a gotcha because deep down inside I did doubt at times. ALOT. I doubted my abilities as a contributor at work, and if I could complete my studies at the university without drowning in debt. As a wife and working mom I was afraid of being absent too much, and juggling so many other tasks outside the home. So I sat stoically in church, alone in my thoughts as the message once again centered on faith. The challenge to your faith is not as important as the response, Pastor ended, your response is key.
My husband and I would talk about this message throughout the year, but nothing prepared us for what was to come…
Later that summer, we decided to leave earlier than expected from our annual vacation, and head home to surprise the kids. School was starting on Monday, and my Mother-in-law graciously offered to stay with teens who felt they no longer needed a sitter since their brother was officially a college freshman. The attitude of three teenagers permeated the home, a la skunk spray, as we left for the airport one week earlier. Only our little one cried and hugged our legs, begging us not to leave. Sigh, it felt good to get home early and make things right with the children again.
As we powered up our cell phones during a connecting flight, both our phones began ringing at the same time from our kids and neighbors. It was total chaos! Our middle child finally got through and screamed in terror that our son was in a car accident, and she didn’t know where emergency services had taken him. Further complicating matters my Mother-in-law was having chest pains after hearing the news, leaving our 16 year old as the decision maker to search for her brother and care for her two younger siblings.
When I close my eyes, I can still hear the uncertainty and her fear as she cried on the phone that day, and fervently pray that eventually the Lord will remove that memory. I don’t know how we did it, but right in the airport her father and I calmed down enough to pray with her. We asked aloud for God to take control of the situation. We prayed for a miracle for our son, and thanked the Lord for our faith that we would be always be together, on earth and in heaven. As friends and family searched for our son, we began our flight home not knowing whether he survived, and totally relying on the mercy and grace of our heavenly Father.
I wept the entire flight home, leaving my husband to mumble an explanation to the flight attendants, and worried passengers offering tissue after tissue. After landing, we were off the plane and finally heard good news, our son was airlifted to a trauma center two towns away! The bad news was it was really bad news: he had a skull fracture, brain bleeding, and was in an induced coma…I stopped listening, and hung up as we raced to him. Where is he, I demanded once at the ICU? There were too many people talking to me, and all I wanted was to see my son and hold my other children. At his bedside a chaplain and nurse were intent on explaining the visitor limit to me. I looked into the nurse’s soul, and replied,
“No one will keep me from my son EVER AGAIN. It took too much to get to him, and I’m never leaving him alone in this place.”
I don’t know what I looked like when I said it (probably insane) but no one challenged me or mentioned visiting hours again. The main concern was that he wouldn’t survive the first night, and so I prayed a simple prayer of promise:
I love you son. Continue to rest, and know it is written: For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. Jer 29:11 (AMP)
For nine days we kept vigil, prayed and stayed at my son’s side. Our church held a special time of prayer during mid-week service, while friends, family and other churches prayed all over the country. One week after being admitted unresponsive and unstable he opened his eyes and began breathing on his own. Another three days later he was discharged to continue what would be an extended, one year recovery at home.
His father and I were given a devastating diagnosis, a long rehabilitation period, and lists of things he’d be unable to do, but with time his recovery has been remarkable. I stretch my faith, and call this period of our lives a divine miracle from God. Even doctors on his medical team can’t explain his rapid healing in certain areas. One excitedly shook our son’s hand during a later visit, while another kept staring at him as if he were an alien. The second doctor kept repeating, “but I admitted you in the ER,” and, “I ordered your transfer to the ICU when you began to crash!”
Six years later and we’ve grown and changed! The teens are now adults and living on their own. Instead of many feet running around the home, there’s one little set left, and we’re just as happy. Whenever I run into an old friend or neighbor, and they ask about my son’s well-being and abilities I thank them for their prayers and kindness, and patiently answer any questions. Is he driving? Yes. Did he return to college? Absolutely. Is he working? Yes! While our lives haven’t been an overnight success, the profound change and increase in my faith since that terrible time is my testimony.
In my life faith is the “God thread” that sews up all my imperfections and pieces me back together so that I’m whole again. When I’ve been given little hope, my faith in God allows me peace to see beyond my circumstances. Finally, in my darkest hour and greatest time of need when it was just me calling out to God, He gave me assurance in two verses. The one above which I still pray over my son, and the following one encompassing every area of my life:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Php 4:6-7 (NIV)
“I’ve got it!” My adorable husband yells with enthusiasm. Mind you he does EVERYTHING with great joy and at full speed, whether it’s waking me from my coma like sleep with a morning song (what…no coffee?), or serenading me to dreamland with his trumpet version of America the Beautiful. My beloved is a human spark plug with an insatiable urge to fix any proverbial broken pieces of me. Deep sigh.
Then there was me, crumpled and frustrated, methodically listing each point of profound dissatisfaction I derived from work. Not just any work mind you, oh no! I was a first-year high school teacher, and we all know teaching is the honorable and most noble of professions. It’s one that molds young minds, and I wanted out, FAST! My practical mind battled with my broken heart. “Getting this far took so much planning,” I cried. Night courses to save on tuition, and many other sacrifices with the dream of one day teaching the sciences to eager young minds instead of being the one sitting behind the desk. Somehow my detailed plan had gone terribly, horribly wrong, and I was no longer in control. So there we were, Mr. Sunshine and Mrs. Raincloud, praying for answers and seeking God’s wisdom.
“Take a personality test,” he suggested, and told me there were ones that matched your personality to compatible careers. I was willing to try anything, even follow the advice of my groom, aka the ankle breaker. Mr. Charismatic had also convinced me that skiing wasn’t hard, and I was still having headaches from my concussion, but I digress. So I took the test and the results were strangely revealing. I don’t care that I’m introverted and intuitive, but am drawn to the sum of the answers which classify my personality as the Architect. Awed, I read on and discover that it’s one of the rarest personality types, with INTJs making up about 2% (and women just 0.8%) of the population. Hah! Deep sighs turn into calm, steady breaths.
With dancing and the trumpet, my handsome husband supports me as I adjust the plan to one that actually makes sense, a life of research as a scientist in environmental/public health. No longer living as Mrs. Miserable, or on the outside of events looking in at others, but enjoying life’s journey with the world’s greatest husband, our amazing children and the most fulfilling, satisfying career imaginable. This is truly an exceptional life!