What is Love?

It’s so strange to me , how books have been talking to me in whispered voices.

First it was Heavenly Places by Kim Cash Tate.

Then, Faithful by the some author.

And now, “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits” by Ayelet Waldman.

Unlike the first two books I listed; this is not a Christian fiction novel.

This book is so messy. The tale of a young woman who has lusted after, fallen in love with, and had an affair with a married man. The tangled web of divorce, losing a child, step-parenting, and marriage; this book is so filled with emotion and complexity that I couldn’t put it down.

Ironically, in the 2 weeks that it took me to read this book (I’m the mom of 2 children 5 & under…so that’s pretty good reading if you ask me) I was dealing with my own ins & outs. My husband has been somewhat stressed at work, and we’ve had very little time together. The time we have spent together has been somewhat strained and tense, and at times my tears have rocked me to sleep and awakened me in the morning.

Thankfully, our marriage is built on an everlasting covenant with our Father God, and I’m confident that through continued prayer and understanding; this too shall pass.

But it got me thinking.

As I read this book and evaluated my own motives and emotions, I was constrained by the reality of how fragile marriage and commitment really are. We are selfish people. Our wants and needs tend to outweigh our desire for another’s happiness when we ourselves are feeling worn, misunderstood, or unappreciated. Marriage takes great work and dedication. Those are not easy qualities to come by in this society that tells us “Be happy”, and anything less is unacceptable.

I found it interesting that some of the most profound statements I’ve heard about love and marriage….I read in this novel.

“Love and marriage are about work and compromise. They’re both about seeing someone for what he is, being disappointed, and deciding to stick around anyway. They’re about commitment and comfort, not some kind of sudden, hysterical recognition.”
*p.295 Emilia’s father

“We love each other like a man and woman are supposed to love each other. With hard work and fear. With effort and misunderstanding. With moments of ease. And finally, necessarily, with trust.”
*p. 332 Emilia’s thoughts on her marriage to Jack

“The love was so hard to recognize, but I have finally been able to see it for what it is —grace. Grace is when something is more beautiful than we deserve, more elegant and lovely than it should be. ”
*p. 339 Emilia’s thoughts on her culminated love for her know it all, precocious stepson William

Beautiful, isn’t it?

In all our human shortcomings, and tainted perspectives, God gives us the chance to experience love for what it is.

Tell me, in your opinion/research/experience….What is love?

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LIVE : Through the eyes of a child

Yesterday was my son’s 5th birthday.

I had the day all planned out.

sprinkled donuts to start the day.

a trip to the library to pick out fun books & dvd’s.

a mommy son trip to the movies.

and dinner at Red Robin w/ friends like family.

To say the day went perfectly would be an understatement.

I watched my son’s eyes light up as he opened his presents :

remote controlled cars, motorcycles, hot wheels, a robot, and a Leapster explorer.

I watched his eyes twinkle when he opened the box of sprinkled donuts and I told him he could have TWO.

His little feet were dangling from the seat in the theater ; and Im not sure if it was the movie or the popcorn and fruit punch all to himself that enchanted him the most.

He stuffed his face with pizza and a sundae at dinner, then played happily on a racing game with his daddy.

He laughed a lot.

His happiness made me happy.

I took in every moment and I was filled with gratitude that the Lord blessed us to have such a beautiful, creative child, and provided the means to be able to celebrate him in away to remind him how special he is to us.

LIVE is my word for 2011.

and yesterday I realized that being a mommy is a huge component to the way I LIVE every day.

Sometimes I take that for granted.

The diaper changes. The story reading. The disciplining. The crying and whining. The giggling at the silliest of things.

I often take it for granted……

that Im afforded the pleasure of watching my children LIVE right before my eyes.

Every time they discover something new…

every time they meet a new friend….

every time my husband and I tell them about Jesus, the bible, and about our ancestry…

we are ALIVE.

Despite the circumstances we are treading through…we LIVE a good life….and for that Im so thankful.

Happy Birthday Bubby!

The Trouble with Sundays

Hi.

I’m a Christian.

I’m a born again believer.

I’m a worship leader and minister….

and I don’t go to church on Sundays.

*gasp*

After our abrupt return from California, I had a difficult time returning to church. So many people had cried rivers of tears when we’d left a year prior, and so many people were convinced we would thrive and be successful in ministry in California.

Yet, there I was walking through the church doors….

the welcome friendly, but distant.

I was a stranger to these people. Life had moved on, and I wasn’t a part of it anymore.

The stage lit up and the praise team began to sing energetically. I looked beside my dear friend; remembering the place I stood in for almost 3 years; singing God’s praises. The worship continued and many congregants began to lift their hands and sing out to God. Salty, burning tears began to run down my face. The very sound of “the house” stabbed my wound, and reminded me time and time again, that I had failed, and I was back at square one.

After service some people recognized me and asked the questions I was still unready to answer.

“How are things in California?” started the conversation rolling.

“Are you guys moving back?” pain pierced my stomach, and the insides of my mouth began to swell with saliva.

“Where are you living?” BOOM!!!! There it was. The boulder had tumbled violently down the hill; now shattered in the road in millions of pieces…..

For you see….we’d given up , sold, and lost almost everything to move to California.

And now…we had almost NOTHING.

…….

That was 5 months ago.

I thought the feeling would’ve have lessened by now, but it hasn’t.

My husband plays many instruments, and on Sundays he drives 45 minutes to another church to play. They pay him a weekly stipend that helps with gas since he also has to drive 45 minutes every weekday to his normal job. The church he plays for holds service for 3.5 hours; with no children’s activities. Which means I’d be the one in the pews; wrestling with my children, feeding them snacks and entertaining them, feeling worn and stretched all the while….not able to enjoy the service anyways.

Every Sunday morning I wake with a feeling that can only be described as the weight of an elephant sitting on my chest.

Heaviness. Constraint. Burdened. Anxiety.

I sit here with a voice to sing , the passion for souls, a heart for ministry, the understanding and anointing to lead others in worship, the gift to discern and intercede…..I sit here…at “home” ….in tears….wishing that things were different.

Wishing a minister from the church would reach out to our family.

Wishing my husband didn’t have to play at another church.

Wishing we were somewhere working TOGETHER in ministry in a church where worship, the gospel, outreach and community were a way of life.

Wishing we had a HOME….a community…and not just broken pieces.

I wish I could go to church.

Country Strong

Anticipation was mounting as I grabbed my coat and punched out on the time clock at my job. I practically sprinted from the employee lounge to the family locker room to change from my itchy, meshed material uniform into my comfy jeans, warm sweater, and favorite red scarf.

It was a Thursday and my in-laws had requested to keep my two kiddos overnight which left me with an afternoon of free time instead of hours of reading Thomas the Train storybooks, creating playdoh people, and watching the Fresh Beat Band on Nick Jr.

My afternoon belonged to me, and only me.

*insert the hallelujah chorus*

I’m certain the smile on my face was reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s plastered grin in the original Batman, (the only one that matters if you ask me) as I approached the ticket counter. “One for COUNTRY STRONG please !” And with snacks & soda in hand I found a seat in the large theater about 13 rows up, smack dab in the middle.

It was about 10 minutes in when I realized I was completely in love with this movie.

I’m not sure if it was Gwenyth Paltrow’s sweet and tender voice, the string of diamonds dangling from her neck, or the incredible rice crispy treats I snuck into the movie that made everything just SEEM incredible. But I found myself enthralled within minutes.

Without giving away the entire plot, Paltrow plays a Country super star (Kelly Canter) who exits rehab to return to the world of music; traveling and touring. Her husband (Tim McGraw) is confident this is the perfect time for her to prove to her fans and critics that she is completely recovered and well able to handle the pressures of life on the road. She confronts her many demons and past mistakes within the film, all the while looking for someone who will love her unconditionally ; despite her flaws and issues. To the world she is defined by her incredible voice, All-american girl looks, and the mask of fame and riches. But inside….this woman is broken and even when controlled by her sinful habits….deserving of love.

I can’t reveal too many details of the movie without telling the whole story, so I’ll simply speak from my own perspective. Although I’m in no way famous ; I am often defined by the voice God has given me. Many times people have snubbed me while walking past me, but after hearing my voice and finding out I’ve toured with some gospel greats, I’m suddenly worth of their time.

I’ve sometimes been scared to allow people to get close to me for fear that once they realize I am not as “awesome” as my gift may be, they will abandon me.

I’ve gotten comfortable being a “back up” singer, because at least then I’m only standing in the shadow of someone else, and not in the direct spotlight.

Less pressure.

Less heartache.

Less abuse.

Or so I tell myself.

The trouble with having a GIFT is that although you appreciate the respect, appreciation, that comes along with it, there is also a massive amount of scrutiny.

Criticism.

Judgement.

Rumors.

Overall, I’d recommend this movie to anyone who can relate to 8 hour trips in a bus, fast food overload, countless hotel rooms, and the uncertainty of touring that naturally comes with the life of a musician/singer. Although somewhat subdued at parts, I thought Gwenyth Paltrow was perfectly cast as Kelly Canter. She told the story of many female artists throughout this movie, and I imagine some would even cower to see the hidden truth that many of them are personally struggling with.

One of my favorite lines of the movie was when an up and coming artist said to one of the musicians “She’s crazy”. This was the resolve she came to after watching Gwenyth Paltrow’s character have a meltdown before a show. He became agitated…looked her in the eyes and said, “She’s not crazy. She’s the only honest one here.”

authentic. transparent. Insightful. Great Music.

I don’t own any country music albums. But after seeing this movie I’m pretty sure I too amd COUNTRY STRONG.

They That Wait

5 years ago today, I was due to have my first child; a son.

Mr. B. and I were nowhere near financially ready for a child. I had stopped traveling as a background vocalist at 7 months pregnant, and Mr. B.’s part time retail store wage was our only steady income.
Despite the financial strain, we were greatly anticipating the birth of our son.
So many women who’d given birth before warned me that it was highly unlikely that I would actually deliver my son on or before his due date. Still, I spent every day hoping for strong enough contractions to send me into labor.

I walked.

I ate spicy foods.

I ate chocolate.

I enjoyed “marital pleasures” with Mr. B.

Nothing worked.

On January 9, 2006…I was STILL pregnant.

And I was NOT happy….for 3 reasons.

1. I knew that if my son didn’t come on his own during the next 7 days, my dr would insist on an induction. Being induced meant they’d use medicine to speed up my labor and cause the contractions to come steadily and harder than usual hoping the result would be the delivery of my baby boy. I was already apprehensive about labor. The thought of induction made my entire body tense.

2. I was so tired. I was so fat. I couldn’t see , let alone touch my toes. And as hungry as I always was, it seemed I was full within 2 bites from the fact that there just wasn’t enough room for a baby and food in my stomach any longer. Did I mention I was tired?

3. That due date had been branded in my mind, and I’d convinced myself that as long as I got to that due date; I’d have a healthy baby boy in my arms. January 9th was the finish line.

I learned a few things during that time.

I’m not a good waiter. I get impatient when I have to wait on something I’m already expecting to have or experience at a certain period in time.

I also learned that waiting promoted the fears I already had. The fact that my Bubs didn’t come when he was “supposed to “, made me fearful. Had I done something wrong? Was my baby healthy and developing correctly? Would this make delivering him more difficult? Fear overtook me, and I found myself unable to sleep during that last week of pregnancy with my firstborn.

But most importantly, waiting aided in our preparation. Suddenly, we realized there was more time to put the crib together. There was more time to put together a list of things we still needed. There was more time to read the pregnancy books that would assist in helping us care for our soon coming newborn. There was more time to lay in bed at night holding one another, praying together, sleeping 8 hours, and guessing who’s eyes and nose he’d have. There was more time to prepare…in the wait.

I am waiting…..again. Waiting on a different sort of delivery. I’m waiting on a deliveRANCE. An open door. A promise fulfilled.

Last January, we lost a lot, and I thought/hoped/assumed, we’d be in a season of total restoration by now.

But still we wait…..we pray…and wait.

Recently, the waiting consumed me. Emotionally, I was worn down. My body was reacting to the weariness in my spirit and it seemed I never had any rest.

But this morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the comfort and peace He sent to me 5 years ago …..when I was waiting….waiting….and waiting. Tired…and waiting.

I found this passage to be so encouraging….

“THE LORD IS GOOD TO THOSE THAT WAIT FOR HIM, TO THE SOUL THAT SEEKS HIM. IT IS GOOD THAT ONE SHOULD WAIT QUIETLY FOR THE SALVATION OF THE LORD.
FOR THE LORD WILL NOT CAST OFF FOREVER, BUT, THOUGH HE CAUSE GRIEF, HE WILL HAVE COMPASSION ACCORDING TO THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS STEADFAST LOVE;
Lamentations 3: 25, 26, 31, 32

Today, I have a creative, intelligent absolutely beautiful , blue-eyed 5 year old boy.
He’s healthy and more than I could have ever hoped for.
He’s my reminder that there is hope in the wait.

Hold on friend, hold on in the waiting.

It will all be worth it soon.

Books…a Million

I have fond memories of the bookstore and buying books.

My mom got paid every other Friday, and it was our ritual to leave daddy behind watching a basketball game or playing solitaire while we ventured to the mall for new books.

Back then it was Waldens bookstore.

The store at our local mall was about the size of a master bedroom…not very big.  I was thrilled to go there nonetheless.

You see, I’ve loved books since I can remember. I love the feeling I get when my mind is transferred into the storyline, connecting with the characters, imagining the scenery, the smell of each crisp page; it could quite possibly be my favorite past time.  Although I’m a singer and a lover of all sorts of music, nothing relaxes and soothes me like a good book. In fact, it is my dream to one day live in a home filled with built in bookshelves for all the books I’ve purchased and read over the years.

In the past year, books have been a saving grace for me. When I have quiet time, and the kiddos are nestled in bed, I find my favorite pillow, a stack of chips ahoy and I read. The cares of the day just seem to slip away.

In the last 4 months I have read 2 books by the same author, and I MUST tell you all about these books.

“Heavenly Places” and” Faithful” by Kimberly Cash Tate.

Faith meets fiction.

Crisis meets resilience.

Prayer meets a prayer answering God.

Friends find solace.

Marriages find restoration.

Hope is renewed.

Quite simply, these books are like a b12 shot for your faith!!!!

YOU MUST READ THESE BOOKS!!!!

So, tell me book lovers….what books should I put on my MUST READ list for the year?

In the meantime, follow Kim on twitter @kimcashtate ,  for encouraging words and updates on her up and coming novels.

One Word, One Year.

LIVE.

Seeing that word typed out on this blank canvas stirs up great anticipation in my soul, but also produces a feeling of responsibility and focus.

2010 can only be described in one word.

LONG.

Probably the longest, most exhausting, emotional, and topsy-turvy year of my family’s (my husband & I) life. It’s a story I’ve touched on a few times on my other blog, but in reality there are no true words to tell our story. The weight of it is still somewhat overbearing as we attempt to gain what we’ve lost.

Quite simply; we gave up everything to move across the country and work in a ministry that glittered like gold on the outside, but inside boiled over with manipulation & abuse. When we questioned this sort of dictator/brainwashing/inconsistent type leadership, we were fired and left in a place thousands of miles away from our family with no job, no community, and a new baby.

Every day of 2010, I carried the hurt, the embarrassment, and the lies of what happened to us. It was the pillow I laid my head down on at night. I stirred disappointment into my coffee every morning. I went through my day feeling like everyone that passed me could only look down on me because of the failure of not succeeding at what we set out to do.

On New Year’s Eve we headed to a concert at a local church. The pastor and his wife have been pastoring for just 2 years and happen to also be gospel music artists. Before the kiddos came along, I traveled with them extensively as a background vocalist. I feel safe with them. I trust the God in them.

When the pastor begin to decree that this wasn’t just the beginning of a great year for us…but an era…the beginnings of greatness in general…I felt these words. I felt them grabbing a hold to my heart and pumping LIFE where death had tried to dominate.

On January 1st we didn’t become millionaires. The house, the car, the furniture, and the family heirloom we sold to move to California last year….none of those things magically reappeared. We weren’t offered new positions working in another church. We didn’t even have the day off from our jobs on the 1st. But there was a newness that permeated our day when we talked, when we laughed, when we held hands, when we kissed goodnight. We were alive.

LIVE.

That’s what God wants my family to do this year.
Enjoy the moment. Let the tears fall. Laugh louder. Dance in the rain. Believe for His best. Pray for His will.

LIVE.

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