Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Releasing the Songbird: How the Lord Restored My Voice in an Unexpected Fashion




“Emily won’t be singing at the Right to Life gala tonight. There is no way.”

 With only two hours before the girls were supposed to leave, my declaration of Emily’s decommissioned state of health catapulted Stephanie into a series of frustrated and panicked exclamations.

Emily is one of our lead singers. Not only does she play violin she sings the third part harmony, finding intricate melodies that add a beautiful touch to our songs; an amazing asset to our group.

My two younger sisters, MacKenzie and Corrie have had to step up and fill in while I have been out of commission. They sing beautifully. It's amazing to hear the four of them combining their voices. 

Although I am recovering well, I have not been able to sing. The way a singer breathes changes the pH levels in the body. If you aren't used to it then you would pass out. Unfortunately I am still in the stage where my body isn't used to it. I merely try to breathe the proper way and faint. No joke.

December has been a busy month for the Long Family Singers. With a recording session at a nearby radio station, and four more gigs lined up there wasn't really any room for someone to get sick.

God had other plans.

Saturday, the sixth of December, we had a five hour gig at a coffee shop. As a lover of coffee I was determined to not miss this one. Even though I couldn't sing I could still play the piano. 
We were getting paid in coffee, how much more of a slice of heaven can you give a coffee addict such as myself?

Even though I had been practicing my Christmas music until midnight the night before, I was pumped up and ready to go. Always a good sign. 

To everyone’s astonishment and surprise I made it through the entire gig.
 Emily however didn't. She started having a panic attack on the way home. She felt incredibly weak and tired; so unlike herself.

Things weren't looking good.

We figured with two days of rest before the Right to Life Gala on Tuesday she should be good to go. Not the case however.
This next gig was important. We were performing in a wealthy club in one of the ritziest cities in our state. An opportunity we had never been presented with before. The expectations were raised higher than ever before. 

Monday night, Emily wasn't showing signs of improving; Stephanie was still hoping. All of us were. 

As I prepared to sleep that night an astonishing thought (one might even consider it absurd) skittered across my heart.

What if I sing tomorrow? Nah, that’s not possible, Lord, really, it isn't, well, not unless You perform a miracle. In which case I will be prepared to do whatever You want.

With that I fell asleep not giving it another thought.

The next morning while Emily was finishing up sewing her caroling skirt she commented to me that she wasn't feeling any better. Remembering my thought from the night before, I tried singing a few snatches of notes under my breath. Useless, why did I even bother? I felt sick, as I usually do, and quit.

Well Lord, I’m not going then.

Two hours before they were scheduled to leave Emily experienced an episode, quite similar to the ones I have/had. I knew what to expect and combated the symptoms, calming her down and cocooning her in a number of blankets.
Stephanie came up the stairs and I released the crushing truth (OK, maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but it was to her) Emily would not be singing, or going anywhere for that matter.

After Stephanie had a little rant I tried calming her down by saying,
“What if I go?”

“Haley, you can’t sing.” The look on her face was pure desperation and despair.

“Look, I have a history with the Lord healing my voice. Remember that one fourth of July I lost my voice and He healed it?”

“This is too risky! I am not a risk taker. I am not comfortable with you going. There’s no guarantee that you’ll even make it just practicing.”

Realizing that I wouldn't be making any headway with her I grabbed up my bottles of essential oils and tromped down the stairs. Deep down in my heart I knew this was something the Lord wanted me to do. He wanted me to sing.
I needed to pray and in private. (there were a couple of friends over at the time) I disappeared into the boys’ back bedroom and sank to my knees.

“God, we need a solution to this problem. You know our situation and we need another singer. Either heal Emily right now or give me my voice. You know I can’t sing, it’s too much for me to handle, but if this is something You want me to do please infuse me with Your strength and energy. Whatever happens tonight Lord, let it be for Your glory, and Your glory alone.”

My prayer was much lengthier; I was practically banging on the gates of heaven. As I prayed I felt this change happen in my body. It was as though this burning yet ice cold something was flowing through my veins. No kidding. I continued praying and begging the Lord to show us the answer.

Sing.

I blinked, unsure if that’s really what the Lord wanted me to do. You can understand my hesitancy because up until this point I hadn't been able to sing without passing out.

Sing.

The command was repeated in my mind. With the trickle of a smile tugging at my lips (yes, I was curious and excited to see what would happen) I stood up and began singing under my breath. I stopped singing after a few lines of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I felt fine. Actually I felt rejuvenated. Well…keep going? So I opened my throat, lowered my jaw and sang with my full potential. I sang four Christmas songs in a row and felt great. I didn't even feel winded.

My face nearly burst with the strength of the smile, more like a grin, that refused to be wiped from my face. I let out a few ecstatic squeals and did a bouncy-like happy dance; wiggling with delight.

Thank You Lord!!!

I rushed out and found Stephanie telling her what had just happened. She gave me this tentative smile, not sure how to react. I could see the hope creeping in at the edges of her eyes.

“Steph, this is what the Lord wants me to do. I couldn't sing this morning, hours ago! I just prayed and I sang four songs all the way through. I feel great!”

She laughed and hugged me tight. After giving mom a brief rundown on what had occurred she says,

 “Well, go get ready.”

We were about twenty-thirty minutes down the road when I realized I had not taken my afternoon dose of supplements. One of them being a large dose of CoQ10 (I refer to them as my energy pills). Never mind that fact, I hadn't even brought along any of my medicines. No essential oils to prevent an episode, nothing. I didn't tell anyone because I wanted to limit the amount of spiking nerves as I possibly could.

Well Lord, I have no medicine. There is no room for me passing out or getting sick. Let’s defy the odds.

The evening was a smashing success. People were blessed, the Lord was glorified, and I survived; scratch that, I flourished. I felt like my old self, before all of the Lyme disease and such.
Every time I thought about what the Lord had done (we had a two hour drive home) I couldn't keep the smile from erupting across my face. The Lord had restored my voice to me.

Here are a couple of pictures taken that night.

Our fabulous caroling costumes which Emily concocted. You wouldn't believe it, but some of those capes are converted skirts. Ingenious, no?



Not a half bad looking bunch are we?



The next question I had was how long? I asked mom what she thought. She said, “It’s probably just temporary.”
Not what I wanted to hear, but maybe she was right. 

That night as I, once again prepared to sleep, I thanked the Lord profusely for letting me sing. It felt wonderful to be singing for Him again. Then I asked Him if He could make it permanent. Defy the odds and heal me completely. I surrendered it all to Him, it’s up to Him.

Thank You Lord for taking my faith to the next level.

I felt tired and sore for the next couple of days, but I can still sing. I can sing without feeling sick. He did restore my voice. Completely. Permanently. I feel like a restraint has been removed from my vocal chords. Not that I couldn't speak or anything. Singing is different. I love singing. When I sing it’s for the Lord. I worship Him with my voice.

Miracles still happen. I am one lifelong proof of that. (Though short as it has been thus far)

So whatever difficult situation you happen to find yourself in I encourage you to take it to the Lord. He may not always say yes or give what you ask, but He knows what’s best.

You can trust Him.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Content in Whatever State I'm In?!

“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11b

Content in whatsoever state I am in? Seriously? Paul, did you never stop to think that in a couple thousand years people would be living in circumstances that called for discontentment?



Sure he did. The circumstances those first century Christians lived under were terrible.

But isn’t that the point? God knows our situations. He knows our hearts and what’s ahead. He asks that we not complain, but be content; no matter how hard it is.

As I write this I’m once again couch ridden. (Second time this year)  I have Lyme disease, as I’ve mentioned before. My health issues have risen to such a climax I’m forced to put myself on ‘house arrest’. Ha. Ha.

I haven’t been to church in four months. Yes, you read that correctly: four months. I can’t tell you how much I miss my church family. I want to go fellowship with them, worship the Lord in one accord, but I’m physically not capable.

I had to stop teaching piano; that was a no-brainer. I can’t get upstairs to my room, don’t have the strength. My energy fluctuates, right now it is on the down. I can’t sing either. The last time I sang a song I passed out. That’s how bad it is.

I could continue giving you details of my current situation. The reactions I have gotten are responses full of pity, sympathy, sorrow, and pain filled eyes for me. I’m grateful for that, but I stopped bemoaning my situation a year ago. The Lord showed me, and helped me apply that verse to my life! It was a very vital lesson.

Yes, I would love nothing more than for all of this to go away. I so badly want to resume my normal life. I want to be my bubbly, energetic, vivacious self.  With the lack of energy it’s hard to be that way. Not to mention I’m in pain all the time; that doesn’t always help.

I’m content with my current state. I know this is where the Lord wants me. I have no doubt about that. He knew what was ahead and He prepared me for it the last time I was on the couch. That was only a practice run, so to speak.

Sure, having insomnia is not fun, but I am learning to make the most of it. I write better at night anyway, so why not use it to the fullest?
The Lord is teaching me to take the worst of situations and find the best in them and use it for His glory. Amazing things happen. That’s what I’m here for, to serve and glorify the Lord. He allowed this illness to happen, I’m not going to blame and curse Him. No! Never! Instead, I am choosing to love and serve Him. Give Him the glory for what is happening. The Lord has done wonders in my life before this, He can do it again. I believe He will.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Debuting My New Business: Of Stitches and Things






The turn of the season has brought about a necessary change of wardrobe. With Autumn finally here, and Winter peeping at us from around the corner, warm, yet stylish outfits and accessories have replaced the Summer fashions. 
Chilly weather is quickly turning into freezing temperatures and the need to stay warm is here. The season of bundling up has arrived.  

My new business, Of Stitches and Things is comprised of beautifully crocheted scarves made from loopy French Mohair.
 I will be adding other accessories such as hats, designed for children as well, and possibly other items. 









Pop over to my business page and check it out! I will be creating new items frequently so be sure to visit often! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Life Was an Idol



I can’t die.

The Lord needs me.

I’m not finished here.

I have Lyme disease; I can very well die from it. These are lies I have comforted myself with to keep my fear abated.
I don’t want to die! I rather like living. Life is beautiful no matter how much pain I’m in. But that’s where I've erred. I've derailed my spiritual train. It crashed and was burning.

I made an idol out of my life. My physical life. Not how I’m living it, or what I’m doing with it (and not doing)  I have held onto it with such a tight grasp that I wouldn't even let the Lord touch it. If I had it in my hands and I was in control of it then I felt secure. Nothing would happen to it without my permission.

I left my Lord. I stopped loving the Lord the way He commands (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. Matt. 22:37)
I loved my life more than the Life Giver.

My life had become an idol.

Throughout the entirety of my sickness (since last June) I knew the Lord wanted me to give Him my life. I managed to keep Him quiet in that matter by not listening. I opened up my heart to Him, except that one area.
That wasn't enough for Him. God desires to be Lord of everything, not just portions of our lives.

As time would have it, I distanced myself from the Lord. I didn't want to give Him my life. Didn't I have the right to keep anything? (the answer to that is no) I was afraid of what would happen, and in case you’re wondering, I wasn't exactly all that happy.

Half of my family stayed home from church this past Sunday. (due to my current state of health, I’m unable to attend church) We listened to a sermon on loving God.
Five minutes in and I’m convicted. Half-way through I knew what I needed to do. By the end of it I had resolved to return to my First Love.
Dad asked what I had gotten out of the sermon, and as I began telling them the tears started flowing. 

Tears of shame and repentance.

With the change of the season, the Lord brought a season of change to my heart. My life is not mine at all. The Lord died so that I could have life. I can show my love and give my life back to Him. 

I trust the Lord completely. Whatever happens, I am in His hands.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. Matthew 22:37


Is there an idol in your life? Have you left your First Love? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Boundaries

Are boundaries necessary in the area of emotional purity? Do we need boundaries when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex?

To that I raise my coffee cup and give a hearty, yes! There is a rampant plague of guys and girls who are friends with each other, yet, dangerously exceeding the boundaries of friendship.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s easy to do. If you don’t have boundaries then you can quickly let your emotions take control. This goes for both “real life” and online relationships.

You know how the story goes; you meet, find common ground, and quickly become friends. You begin spending more time together. You start sharing personal and intimate details about yourself. Your hearts get connected and before you know it you are emotionally attached to each other. You know it is wrong, but you are enjoying each other’s friendship so much you keep putting off the separation; big mistake. The sooner you stop things, the less damage you will have to deal with. But you know you will get hurt. And the other person will get hurt. And you don’t like hurting people. Least of all yourself.

Time passes and things grow stronger between you two. It is getting harder to rein in your desires. At this point physical contact is more than likely involved. Hugs, arms around each other’s waist and shoulders, pats on the back, holding hands, etc… We often use the excuse of, “Oh, he/she is my brother/sister in Christ.”
 
I don’t know about you, but how often do you see an actual brother and sister acting like this? Hardly ever. We abuse the phrase, “He’s just my brother.”, or “She’s just my sister” to excuse our actions. This is especially true of single Christians. Face it, we like the attention, the emotions that have us tied together, the physical contact, and the heart to heart talks we have. If, and when, one of you comes to your senses it is hard to part. Your hearts will be broken. Pieces of your hearts will be missing.

Pieces that were intended for your future spouse.
So how do we avoid this? Set boundaries.
People often view boundaries as tight restrictions that ruin their fun. On the contrary, boundaries are helpful when used properly; even more so when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex.
Boundaries play a huge role in emotional purity. Surprise!

Let me share with you some of my own personal boundaries. 

I limit physical contact with the opposite sex.

If a good friend offers a side hug I won’t push him away, but I generally don’t initiate physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Why is this so important? I am saving myself wholly and completely for my husband. Would he really appreciate me pressing my body up against a man that wasn't him? I believe he would be upset. Wouldn't you? I mean, imagine watching your future spouse give the opposite sex lots of hugs. How would you feel? Jealous? Unloved?

But it’s just a hug for heaven’s sake! Everyone gives hugs. Just because everyone else does it does not give you the excuse to do it as well. And it isn't just a hug, you are allowing yourself to be in another person’s arms, and pressed up against their body, that isn't your spouse. The more you do it, the more your emotions can get ignited. It happens. You know this to be true. Once that happens, emotional purity just got ten times harder.
 
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1 ‘It is good for a man not to touch a woman.’ (and vice versa)

I do not talk to guys online in private.

It’s not that I’m paranoid that the guy I’m talking to might be a stalker and secretly planning to kidnap me. Haha. No, it’s beyond that. This goes further into emotional purity.

When you talk to someone one on one for a lengthy period of time it becomes a habit. You look forward to it. A trust forms between the two of you and you share personal details that shouldn't have been shared. 

When this person happens to be a guy, it is easier to get attached; especially for girls. I have spoken with a few guys and they are confused how this happens. Girls are more prone to give into their emotions than guys are. It is even possible for us to get emotionally attached to guys whom we have never met. Even more so when they share an interest in our lives and our heart. That’s where the danger lies. I have heard, and personally witnessed a young lady friend of mine who got into this kind of relationship online and tried to run away to meet this guy. This can happen if we are not guarding our hearts. 

If it is necessary to converse with a guy in private, (very rare) then I will discuss the situation with my father and seek his permission.. This way I am held accountable.

I do not flirt.

Flirting is not as harmless as people would like to believe. The dictionary definition is, “To pay amorous attention to without serious intentions or emotional commitment; a frivolous or playful love affair.”

 It may seem innocent trying to get a guy’s attention, or getting a girl’s, but the danger starts right there. When a girl flirts with a guy she is in no way guarding her heart, or showing deference or respect for the young man. This would be considered defrauding, because she is stirring up desires which cannot be righteously fulfilled. Flirting is selfish. It’s harmful. It’s dangerous. When a girl flirts she wants attention.  But what she may not realize is that she is giving pieces of her heart away to these guys whose attention she is vying for. 

Then we must also consider our future spouses. Proverbs 31:12 says, “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” 

All the days of her life. Your life doesn't start when you get married. What you do now can have an effect on
your marriage.  So if you are not going to flirt after you get married, with anyone else than your husband, why flirt now? If he saw you flirting would he feel loved? I guarantee he would not.


Those are just three of the boundaries I have set for myself. I am protected, not restricted, by those boundaries. I am saving myself for my husband. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. He wants all of my heart. And by staying emotionally pure I am saving my heart. All of it.

Being emotionally pure is one of the hardest things because as emotional young women it is easy to want to follow our heart. But our hearts are wicked and deceitful. We must listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and obey. The Lord has provided us with rules and boundaries that we may live in spiritual freedom. 

Some might argue that boundaries are not necessary, do you still believe that? 

I encourage you to set some of your own and protect not only your heart and body, but the brothers in Christ around you. 

If you found this post encouraging or helpful you should visit The Arsenal, where my friend Reagan is writing a series on emotional purity.

This post is linked with:

Titus 2sDay

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Beautiful Scars: Book Review

"My name is Sarah.
I am abandoned.
I am rejected.
I am unlovable.
I am a statistic.
I am alone.
I am worthless.
I am unwanted.
I am broken.
…I am just like you…"



With the ever present reminder that her father has abandoned her, Sarah Carter is constantly searching for acceptance.
After the pain of her father’s desertion has sunk deep enough into her heart, Sarah turns to a devastating addiction: cutting.
With her cool glass shard she carves into her body how she views herself. She can control the pain and does when the emotional pain overwhelms her.

But as time passes, the pain gets to be too much. Not even her cool glass shard can help dull the pain that is stabbing her heart to pieces. In a freak accident the shard gets stabbed into the vein on the inside of her wrist. As her life flows onto the sidewalk, she thanks the stranger who accidentally caused her death.

But does it end there?

There are millions of Sarah Carters all across the world. Longing for acceptance from anyone, willing to do whatever it takes to obtain that treasured security. Turning to life threatening addictions to numb the pain when it gets to be too much.
‘Laine Colarossi, the authoress of Beautiful Scars, presents the truth about cutting through her main character, Sarah. Captured in the pages of this amazing book is Sarah’s journey of finding her true identity.

 For those who are enslaved by this addiction, this book is for you. Purchase your own copy and discover yourself in the fictitious life of Sarah Carter.






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In the Kitchen with the Master Chef


Life is a lot like being in a kitchen where God is the Master Chef. He has all these dishes being prepared, ingredients out that at first glance one wonders what in the world they will be used for. What is their
purpose? Who wants to put apple cider vinegar in their salsa anyway? How would that improve the flavor? It smells horrific.

I am the little child who comes in and wants to put my fingers in the pie and mess it all up. Here is what I think should happen. Never mind what the recipe says, we don’t need the baking soda or the salt in chocolate chip cookies, what is wrong with you? I want to put in more sugar, it will make it deliciously
sweet, right? How about some milk? And we don’t need the raw eggs. Gross. Hey! What are you doing? Why are you beating all of those ingredients together? You are putting in the chocolate chips, the best part of this weird mess, in last? Why not put those in first?
Without any guidance, I could make a huge mess of the Master Chef's work. A good cook can always fix a mistake.

That’s how it is with God in real life. He is the Master Chef and I am the little child. He has the recipe of my life and He knows what is on the ingredients list. He has the perfect idea of what He wants me to turn into. He knows how much salt, and raw eggs I need in order to make me stick together under harsh circumstances, and the salt that is for flavoring. Oftentimes I am lost as to what He is doing. I have no idea what is going on. I don’t know what this trial’s purpose is. Building faith and trust in Him, certainly, but what else? Why the waiting? Why the silence? Why the rough mixing up? What was that for? Did I do something wrong? I am your child, right? Why would You do this to me? No, I don’t want to learn patience. That process never seems to end!

I have to trust that the Master Chef knows what He is doing and doesn’t need my help with the order of things. I have to be willing to keep my hands out of things and not stick my fingers in the unmixed cookie dough and exclaim with a puzzled look on my face, “What in the world is this and what are You doing?!”
The Lord is in control of my life. I have found that when my life seems to be spinning out of control, the Lord has it all under His control. Just like the cookie dough enduring the hand mixer digging its blades in there, and mixing it all up and seemingly out of control. The Master Chef knows that this is necessary.
He knows that in order for His masterpiece to be beautiful and
delicious it has to undergo a harsh process; including at least eighteen minutes in three hundred degree heat. He understands that this is vital in baking chocolate chip cookies. And for them to come out looking luscious and soft


I have to trust my Lord and Savior with the recipe of my life. If I am not willing to undergo the sufferings and hardships of the Christian life I will never take the next step further into having a beautiful heart and soul.



Have you submitted your life to the hand of the Savior? Are you undergoing difficult circumstances and doubting the Lord?