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Sunday, July 6, 2014

The East Coast Experience, Part 1

This has been the week of vacation! Monday I went to Disney California for the first time and I had the greatest time! I told myself that no matter what, I was going to enjoy myself and just refuse to get caught up in negative attitudes, or unforeseen circumstances. I witnessed melt downs on the tram even before people got in the park and I started to think how people really takes their chances when they are traveling with kids. You also have to carry around a stroller packed with a crazy amount of snacks, water, diapers, a change of clothes etc. Do those people really have fun? Well, if they do they win the award for most patient and positive parent. Wednesday I tried to leave San Diego in a timely fashion to get to NYC. No such luck...my flight was delayed for four hours and I missed an opportunity to travel into the city at night. It seems that it is tropical storm/hurricane season on the East Coast. Its such a strange phenomenon when you think that it is summertime yet here are these flash floods, lightning strikes, and gusting winds. People here seem to take it all in stride. They whip out their umbrellas, they jump the puddles, and they run to their destinations with an eager determination. I have had the joy of walking in the rain and also getting drenched in less than 24 hours. Nothing is going to stop me from enjoying my vacation/conference. I came here to enjoy, learn, experience, rejuvenate, and walk away inspired for the rest of the year. Spending time with people, going places, reading books, listening to speakers, going to concerts, journaling, sipping tea and coffee, and eating wonderful food. This is what this experience is for me and for it all I am thankful to be alive and grateful that I can take this time in my life to just enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are you a good listener?

Today, I start my morning with a cup full of Intelligentsia coffee, various journals, a Bible, highlighters, a pen, and my heart. I have what some would say is a "weeping heart." If I see a stray animal on the street I will think for a few minutes about that animal and hope beyond all hope that it has a home. I will also worry that it might be hit by an oncoming car and then I start to think of it lying on the side of the road in pain. Then I start to weep inside. That is me when it comes to people. I care beyond what is probably healthy and I encourage beyond what any cheerleader could possibly cheer for. When I call you friend, I am your friend for life. Not just a temporary fix during a summer program, or a temporary friend till someone better or smarter comes along. I never received the memo for levels of friendship or friends on sale. I am there if you are poor, rich, famous, sick, healthy, or successful. I wish people would know that about me and really embrace that. I have always been a good listener,faithful, loyal, compassionate, sarcastic, and humorous friend. I am such a good listener that more often than not, I will spend time focusing on the other person so much, that I will leave with the feeling that I didn't really say much about my life and share the burdens of my heart. I will not have shared that I am partaking in three Bible studies and that each one is impacting my character in a major way. I will not have shared that I am wondering if I really have any close friends since I only talk to them once a year. I also will not have shared that I am praying to God each day for a family of my own and that I am depending on God alone to help shape me into the woman that would be a good wife and mother. I also will not have had the chance to share that sometimes I realize that I really am alone. God is here, and I'm grateful for His presence, but according to the world, I am a loner. Its not that I don't enjoy solitude, but I notice it more when I have spent time with someone and then as I walk away it hits me that, "wow, I don't do this very often." I love people. I enjoy hearing about their funny moments. I enjoy hearing their random revelations when they were shopping in Target. I love sharing laughter with them. I am just not so sure how they always feel about me. This has been my way of life for my entire life and some days, I really don't mind. Lately, I do mind. Mostly because I have more space and time that is free. I have time to really think and not be burdened with the day's obstacles. I have freedom that is unusual and with that freedom is a certain unrest. Yesterday, I was reading from a wonderful devotional entitled, "If We Could Have Coffee..." by Holley Gerth. Its a great way to start the morning because it feels as though you are having coffee and chatting with a person who is really invested in your life. One of the best quotes that I read that really penetrated my heart was "There's one thing no other person in the world can do better than you, and that's simply being you...You are made in the image of God, and there's a part of who he is that only shows up in this world through you." Wow! Those words define my entire life. I have always wanted to be special and made to feel that way by my family and friends. To know that God feels that way about me is certainly more than I could have asked for! I don't want to walk around with an empty cup hoping that people will throw some spare change my way. I want a quality investment. The time I spend with God each morning is making me realize that in order to have any lasting, meaningful relationships, I have to get right with Him first. My first relationship of great importance is with Jesus. How I pray, meditate, praise,listen and cry out to Him is more important than any best friend this world affords. Listening and waiting have been my greatest challenges these past few weeks. So, am I really a good friend? Am I being the type of friend to others that I want to be towards me? Am I really a good listener? What is God trying to teach me at this very moment? I believe I can live a Limitless Life. I believe that the labels that have defined me, are just that, labels. I can rip them off and replace them with others. Or, I can just be the unique masterpiece that God created me to be.#earstohear

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Let it Go

Today's sermon topic was "Let it Go" by Pastor Kevin Nguyen from Saddleback Irvine. (He preached at all of the services today instead of Pastor Rick)I volunteer each week to moderate the chat session as the sermon is being played via video feed. Today, I decided to watch during the 11 a.m. hour and lo and behold the moderator that is normally on the schedule needed a sub. I listened, typed up sermon notes, and answered questions for 2 1/2 hours. Its very enjoyable to interact with people all over the United States and also around the world. The Good News is available to people 24/7 via online sermons, videos, and social media. If you are connected to the internet, you can connect to a wealth of resources. That is why I am so thankful to Saddleback Online Campus for all of the great sermons I have listened to over the past year. I am instantly reminded that God loves me and loves you too! This weekend, I had two days filled with rehearsals, lessons, a wedding, and a performance. I thrive with that great amount of pressure, but I also run around with an anxious heart and racing thoughts as to how I will accomplish everything in a timely, orderly, and professional manner. I had my small group pray for me, I prayed for me, and then I just let it go. There comes a time when you have to trust and have faith that everything will get done and that a successful outcome will take place. Today, I am thinking of decisions I made and wondering if I made the right choice. In the sermon, Pastor Nguyen made 3 points: 1. We must let go of our comfort zones 2.Cultures and Traditions 3. Relationships We clear out space so that we can receive blessings. In return God blesses us with: A New Destination B. A New Family C. A New Legacy God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others. God blesses you so that you can bless others.#frompurposelesstopurposeful I have to trust that when God closes one door, another will open and that even though I must leave some good things behind, there will be a greater abundance on the other side of the next door. When I think that my words don't have much weight to them or that I am too damaged to be much good for God's purposes, I am reminded that I can let it go and take a step of faith that God will bless me when I run to Him with full belief that He is more than anything here on Earth. Nothing is more important than serving God!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

Last night before I went to bed, I decided to Google my father's name and see if I could find where he was located. I found a few similar names and then I found one in El Paso, TX. I wasn't sure if it was him or not, so I decided to reach out to one of my cousins through Facebook. She answered me today and gave me the phone number to my last living uncle in Canada. I called him today and found out the inevitable: my father passed away two years ago in Texas. As I talked to my 85 year old uncle and aunt, I realized that these people were the only ones who extended a Christian hand of help and fellowship to my father. They originally wanted to have him live with them in Canada but since he was ill, he was forced to go and live with my older half brother, Javier. For the past 15 years, my father lived in a nursing home. I never sent a letter, or called or visited him. Excuses...I could give them, but as an adult, is there really a good excuse for not getting in touch with your father? We are called to honor our father and mother and even if we have a past history of unresolved issues, they are still the parents that God chose for us. Today, I am grieving...mostly because I failed. I failed to have the courage to step up and make a simple phone call. I failed to answer a letter that was sent to me many, many years ago. Am I ashamed? Yes, I am. So, today when many are celebrating and rejoicing, I am crying real tears of sorrow for a person who gave me life. A man who was very simple to many but a man who did the best he could with the little resources that he had. I only have memories of him during my childhood and today and every day when I think of him, I will choose to remember him as a man who believed that music was important in the lives of his children. A man who just wanted to have people love and accept him.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Diamond in the rough

Today was a typical Saturday of teaching. People showed up, we talked, they played or sang, and then I bid them adieu. My friend Mark texted me to find out where I was located so that he could drop off money that he owed me. I went and waited for him in my car with the windows down, enjoying the breeze of the afternoon. He drives up and we start chatting and I realize during the conversation that I had him figured out all wrong. I've known him since my Chamber Singers days when I attended Southwestern College. He hung out with some people that were typical college kids and I really thought that he was similar to them. Boy, was I wrong. This guy is actually someone who cares about his family and spends time with his grandparents every chance he gets. He enjoys working with kids and relates to them in a manner that others could not. He has always had a goofy sense of humor although recently in talking with him, it turns out that he is not conceited and has always been a considerate, sentimental guy who loves people. When I played and sang at his wedding two months ago, I was moved to tears at the stories during the ceremony that were shared by his friends and relatives. Its amazing to me how much I learn about people during weddings and memorial services. When people share their stories, I think, "this is someone I would have liked to get to know and chat with." Mark shared a little about his faith and my jaw hit the pavement when he told me that he was a believer and had been baptized. He shared stories of his teaching and we laughed at the kids reactions of him. I haven't laughed so hard in such a long time and it was really good to be able to spend time catching up on each other's lives. I am grateful for this day in so many ways. I feel blessed that God opened my eyes to see the true colors of a person that is serving not only the children of City Heights, but is also serving the kingdom of God. Some of the greatest treasures are right in front of us and if we spend time and look past the obvious, we can find a diamond in the rough that is priceless!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The RC Friday night post

This has been the week of graduations. I didn't attend any, but I have looked at enough Facebook photos. Today I was engulfed by the Heritage Homeschool Network while I was at College Avenue. I was relocated to the CEC building which is always an adventure since I have to climb up and down the stairs trying to locate my students every half hour. I think its great if people have no other alternative but to homeschool their children and then throw them into a few planned activities with other homeschool families. No offense to my readers, but it sure feels like I am around people who are a part of a cult. I have never taught any homeschool children but I know of a lady who does and she seems to understand the demands that the parents put on the teachers. One person doesn't just take a lesson, the entire family sits in and learns as a community. Right off the bat, I know that wouldn't work for me since its hard enough to keep the focus of one child during the time I am teaching. It sure would be nice to have those connections and get referrals to teach a bunch of kids throughout the week. I know that they would practice and welcome the opportunity to perform in a recital at the end of the year. In other news...I have decided that I am going to restrict my sugar consumption as part of a fast for Saddleback Church. I know my body will be screaming every time I walk by baked goods in the store, but I really think this sugar addiction needs to be broken for my sanity and my health. Speaking of my health, I made a promise to my body that I would start exercising daily so that it can wake up from the 7 year hibernation I have placed it in. I have been to the gym off and on, but it has been nothing like the days of me working out for 2 hours and actually walking away feeling energized and revitalized. I suppose my popularity would start to increase the moment I drop 50 lbs and then I can go out and feel like I'm a human being again. I did this once before 10 years ago and my life changed dramatically. If I had one of those super magnetic force fields, it wouldn't matter if I was 2 feet tall or 400 lbs, I would be able to attract people. I have to work with what the Lord gave me. No problem, my character is being refined and I know that life doesn't always stay the same. The last 6 months are testament to what a whirlwind of activity I have been involved with. Speaking of exercise, its time to get up and move! So, this is the summer to lift those sails and start sailing North. This island is boring me and I'm ready for some new adventures!

Addiction to self

> I'll let you in on a secret, I love shopping online at amazon.com! I think I would rather shop there than go to a store and push around a cart from aisle to aisle only to pick up more than I had ever intended. As I was looking at my mountain of books today, it dawned on me that I might have a problem. Yes, for fear of admitting that I have a problem, I will confess...I have an addiction. The sad thing, is that I know this and I know why I have a problem. When I was a little kid, I was really poor. Poor as in having only 2 skirts to wear to school everyday. One was pink and the other was a darker pink. My clothes were shabby, my shoes were falling apart, and I'm sure my hair was a rat's nest since I didn't understand that you don't brush wavy,thick hair. I suppose I could go and seek professional help and fork over 150.00 an hour for someone to probe and ask questions, but I have gone down that road and know that the person who has the answers is sitting right here in front of this screen. Our minds are extremely powerful. We can either listen to positive uplifting thoughts, or we can dwell in the pit of negative thoughts. That is where Jesus comes in. Since I have filled my mind with scripture, Bible studies, inspirational books and messages, the negative thoughts are not overwhelming. In fact, they have grown tamer and are not such a nuisance throughout the day. I've lived life just doing my own thing and not having a care for how my actions affected others. That type of life is empty, lonely, and absolutely dismal. Living a selfish day to day existence, focuses your attention on how you compare to others around you. You try and measure your self-worth by how many friends you have on Facebook, how many texts you get during the hour, how many people want to "hang out" with you during the week. Its a life that is focused on well placed lipstick and fancy cars. A life that eventually leads to a major dead end. This summer means a great deal to me. Its the summer that I will finally overcome my addiction. I will focus on being a contributor to life and slowly shed the layers of dead skin that have suffocated the living, breathing cells of rebirth and growth. I will most likely fall a few dozen times, but I will get up and try again. Its in the getting back up where we learn the greatest lessons about our will. This time instead of doing it all by myself, I'll hang on to Jesus and let Him transform me from the inside out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Need of a New Nature

This morning I was reading a few pages in Derwin Gray's "Limitless Life" and came across the topic of consumerism. Our tendency as a society to excessively consume, is fed by a void we feel, a hole that we are trying desperately to fill up with stuff. We tend to fill up our self with food, entertainment, gadgets, clothes etc. The entire idea of having a "self crush" is narcissistic in which the self is obsessed by its own self interest and personal fulfillment. "People with the empty self are fixed on living their lives through the risks, challenges, and adventures of others." Consumers are empty selves. Contributors are maturing in their "full and true life in Christ." Consumers live limited lives. Contributors live without limits because they are participating in the "full and true life in Christ." The idea of "selfies" is a good example of people taking pictures of themselves so that they can post it on any number of social media sites. In some ways, this is a very sad reality in which a person feels that in order to gain attention, they must post a picture of themselves so that others will pay attention and give feedback. I admit, I have been caught up in the wave of consumerism as my income has increased and those gadgets that seemed beyond purchase are now as easy as a click on my Samsung Chromebook. I could give you the reasoning behind my consumerism...poor childhood, very little clothes, no summer vacations or weekend trips to Disneyland. But, they seem petty and infantile when in reality, I have been caught up with what appeared to be fulfilling. Once I have an item, the newness wears off and I am thinking about what I can purchase next. The same goes for food...the idea of eating a gourmet sandwich sipping on an overpriced cup of tea or coffee lasts for just a few hours and then I am thinking about what I will purchase or consume next. So, I have come to the conclusion that I need to change. When I go somewhere instead of looking at what a place,person,or thing can do for me, the question asked should be, "what can I contribute to this person, this place, this thing?" God has accepted me just as I am, flaws and all. His love isn't based upon my good works, my winning a major competition, or the fact that I had patience with the person who cut me off on the freeway. God can change me if I allow His word to penetrate my soul and mind. Its not a matter of just wanting to be a good person, its a matter of transformation through God's love.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I would like a house in Coronado

After rehearsal tonight, I drove around looking for a place to get something for dinner. Of course, Panera was closed and I ended up waiting at the traffic light staring at three girls that were obviously good friends. I have always admired the community of Coronado and the sense of safety and freedom to walk around late at night without a care in the world. People feel comfortable having their children bike, walk, skate, without adult supervision. The community is looking out for the welfare of one another and you truly get a sense of Americana when you spend any amount of time among the natives. I proceeded to drive over to the beach thinking that I would get out and walk around for a while. I ended up crying uncontrollably. I yelled out to God for various things, none of it would have made sense to the casual observer, but it was very obvious to me, that I was in a lot of pain. Pain that I have suppressed for the last few days that required a good soul cleansing cry. Lately, I have had many conversations with a variety of people. I wouldn't be surprised if what I had experienced was a delayed reaction to the concerns I have regarding those particular people and their circumstances. As much as I would like to help everyone who is in pain, I really have no power whatsoever. I pray for them and leave them in God's hands and that is such a helpless feeling to me. I have to let go and let God. Sounds cliche, but it is so true. After that dramatic display of waterworks, I proceeded to get out of my car and walk around the nearby neighborhoods. The houses are so surreal and have such an inviting quality about them. I could only imagine what it must be like to live in such nice places with neighbors that also live in nice places. Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of owning a home in Coronado. I would appreciate it so much more now since I realize that community is so important and talking to your neighbors could be a really wonderful thing. I could imagine having a music studio as an extension to the house and then people could wait on the lovely veranda while they waited their turn for a voice or piano lesson. The kids wouldn't have to have their parents drive them since the kids would like close enough to walk or bike themselves over. Wouldn't that be wonderful to not have to drive anywhere to teach? Everyone would come to me and I could have recitals and host studio parties during the summer. So, unless I marry a very wealthy man or become a very wealthy and famous singer, I most likely will never own a home in Coronado. It doesn't hurt to look and dream a little, as long as I'm not envious. I sure do hope God is working on my mansion in heaven!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

AT&T support...running through a maze

Last week, I was notified from a few of my contacts that they had received a strange email stating that I was in the Ukraine on tour and needed funds to come home.Really? Wow! How in the world did that happen? Well, I stupidly opened one of the fake AT&T emails asking for me to validate my account. Yes, I did say stupid, because it looked exactly like the login page that I use to open my email account.Sometimes in my stupor, I do things that require additional assistance. Upon further investigation I found out that all of my contacts had been deleted and that an additional email address was linked onto my account. Wow! These people have no moral obligations to society to just go in and wreak havoc on someone's life. Okay Lord, what is the lesson here? I am sorry if I check my email and messages before I pray. Is it safe to say that my techie devices have become an idol? Mmm..yes, I am truly sorry. I admit, I am a sinner. I repent. Prayer first, meditate on the word, then check my email. 10 days later and I still have no contacts. I just spent the early part of this morning being transferred from one support tech to another. In the end, it looks like I will have to call back on the weekday. Why even deal with people? Its as simple as looking in a library, finding the book, opening it, getting the information and then going out for a nice cup of coffee. Why must we jump through these hoops? Well, there it is. Another maze and a lot of dead ends.

I really wish I would have received a better explanation..

So as I journey about through daily life, I recognize that following God and being obedient is not a bunch of legalistic rules to follow. In 3rd grade, I recall reading the book of Revelation in the Bible and then having horrible nightmares. I was so worried that I wouldn't hear the trumpet of the Lord and be left behind with all the non-believers. In fact, one night I really thought I heard the trumpet and sat in bed waiting for my body to levitate to heaven. Here I am decades later and my relationship with God is actually growing and moving towards a closeness I have never experienced. I pray a lot, read my Bible every day, I meditate on scripture, and I do the best I can at being a representative of Jesus. I will always be a sinner no matter how hard I try to not sin. Yet, God still loves me unconditionally. Wow! With all of this new knowledge, I can sleep better and not worry if I will hear that trumpet call.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Truthbook

Last night I met an old friend for dinner. It was nothing fancy, just Pizza Nova. I forgot that its still prom season, so we were surrounded by kids that had to have their parents hover nearby to pay for the pizza and greasy butter rolls. As I sat there, I just felt like a huge blob of blah. My conversation topics revolve around my students, their musical issues, and my desire to solve them. I sprinkle in a bit about my personal life, which was about how I hated high school and I missed 30 days during my junior year. I have no problem asking 20 questions since I am a teacher and part of my job is getting the latest scoop. What is a good time anymore? Laughter? Gossiping? Discussing the latest news worthy items? I don't watch tv, I don't watch movies, I read books that no one else would be interested in and I have cats. So, I will not be nominated for most interesting or most popular. My overall rating for the evening's conversation was a hard core fail. Its no wonder my phone only rings for lessons or last minute gigs. I'm a failure at making and keeping friends....there I said it. I have a much better track record with talking with kids. We have entertaining conversations and we never discuss anything serious. So, where are the adults that fit this criteria? They are around, I just don't have a magnetic beam to lure them to my neighborhood. Is this a rant on my poor social skills? Yes, it is! I am not blaming anyone else, I seriously have a problem. No amount of positive Facebook messages, or pictures of my food that no one else would eat, or pictures of my cats, will erase the truth. You know, how about a Truthbook? Wouldn't that be nice if we could really post what we are doing or how we are feeling? Do you honestly believe that everyone is out and about spending money, eating out, engaging with friends, and having the time of their lives without any negative thoughts? I don't. Today, instead of having a pity party, I went out to lunch after my last lesson and stood in line at Subway. Lo and behold the violin teacher of Suzuki Strings spotted me and waved me over to cut in front of the 10 kids who just came from a soccer tournament. We shared our teacher stories and bought sandwiches then headed back to the church to eat lunch. Wow! Did I just score the award for spontaneous lunch date? Yes! The planned outings fall through, but the spontaneous adventures are a major win. Then I waved to the custodian and he came over and sat down for a while and chatted. As I walked back through the sanctuary, I noticed the lady who tends the garden was milling around and I stopped and talked to her until her cell rang. Wow! 3 for 3. Why not drive over to Mary M.'s house and deliver a belated orchid for her birthday gift. Again, major score. We chatted, she offered a cup of coffee, I chatted with her husband and then drove home. 5 for 5! Orchids, birds, and truth!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A good day of teaching!

I was feeling a bit blue earlier this week when I looked at my schedule and realized that I don't have as many students as I would like this time of year. I can't rely on myself, I have to trust in the Lord and offer my prayer requests up to Him and ask that He provide me with enough students to get through the summer months. This hasn't been easy since it requires me to let go and let God be in control. I am truly leaning on the everlasting arms right now and when I start to doubt, I stop and pray, "Lord help me." Today, as I was teaching, I noticed that each and every student had a special challenge that they presented during the lesson. I look at each person as a puzzle with a unique amount of pieces that fit in just a certain way. I was surprised at how easy it felt to just diagnose their problem, listen to them speak about their concerns, and then send them on their way with new insight. Shouldn't this be the way it is every week? Then I got to thinking that perhaps the change was in me today. I was looking at each person with a fresh perspective. I wasn't tired, or annoyed, or impatient. I really was focused and I enjoyed the process of unraveling the mystery behind each problem as it presented itself. I have had days like this before where it seemed that everything was working smoothly and that nothing seemed mechanical or planned out. These type of teaching days offer me encouragement for those rare moments when it seems that everyone is cancelling at the last minute, or they just seem to not understand anything I have to say. Thank-you Lord for showing yourself to me today and giving me hope!

Ephesians 2:10, God's Masterpiece

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 NLT

To think of myself as something that was uniquely formed and carefully planned overwhelms me. How could God breathe life into someone like me? To think that I was created in God's image is a huge concept for me. My mind can't wrap itself around the idea that God intricately wove every aspect of my being for the glory of His kingdom.    I am God's masterpiece....wow!
With all my flaws and mistakes, God loves me! The more I meditate and give into this, the more I realize that my life and everything involved within it all should be for the glory of God. When I sing, play the piano, teach, take care of my cats, drive, all these things should be a representation of God in my life. I should want to honor God with my time and talents because He chose to create me with this unique combination of personality, looks, likes and dislikes.
As much as I admire the beauty I see each day, I am slowly learning to see the beauty within myself. I am learning to appreciate myself through God's eyes. I am not as ugly as I once thought I was. Beneath the layers of the messiness, I can see the possibilities for love, kindness, gentleness, peace, and mercy. To recognize this and show my gratitude to my maker is a lifelong endeavor. I want to honor God with my life and I want to be bold and courageous when adversity is near. I am a new creation and I thank God for His constant renewing of my mind.God's Masterpiece

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Raccoons in my attic

It began like most evenings; quiet, contemplative, on the verge of sitting down and taking in my day's events. I was startled and annoyed by some loud clicking sounds coming from the outdoors. I looked out through the front door and saw a truck idling on the street. The clicking sounds continued and the truck drove away. Then lo and behold an adult raccoon and her babies walked by. I kept saying, " oh my gosh" over and over again. They went into my neighbor's yard and I proceeded to call out "Marilou!" She quickly came outside and I caught her up on what was transpiring. We both stood there and watched as the mama raccoon quickly climbed the wooden fence and picked up each baby by the scruff of its neck. It was amazing to watch yet unreal. I live a mile away from Downtown San Diego and yet here was this wild animal with her young ones. So, where have they moved to? In the attic above my bedroom! Oh Lord, this is not good!