Tuesday, March 24, 2020

It's Been a While

I haven't used this blog for quite some time, but as the quarantine days stretch on during COVID-19, I wanted to use this space to document the beauty of the quiet moments. These are unusual times. The last time a global pandemic swept into the lives of thousands of people...millions of people...was a hundred years ago. While this has happened in history before, nothing prepares you for the possibility of it coming again. Yet, here we are. In our homes.

What day of quarantine is it now? I haven't even been keeping track. I know it has been over a week now, but with the flurry of information each day, meaningful conversations over Zoom and FaceTime, and the creativity of working from home, the days have felt oddly short. That's one thing I didn't expect from this time of quarantine.

I have also been incredibly grateful to be "in this together" with my family, who all live nearby right now. We've opted to be each other's company and to visit one another in our respective "quarantine zones", which I feel relieved by, since otherwise I'd be in my apartment alone! The government has not prohibited walks outside, nor visiting family, so we gather at my parents' house and wash our hands often.

Still, even the quiet days in my apartment have been filled with sunshine, plants and crisp morning air. I will note that when it rains and when the clouds rolls in like a blanket over this valley, the days at home feel dimmer. I'm finding it remarkable what a difference the sun makes.

I don't know what all lies ahead of us in the coming days and weeks. The news changes by the day, by the hour. Yet, in the midst of all of this, I see the Lord bringing his people together in new ways, and I pray that we have "ears to hear" the words he speaks to us as we wait on him, surrendering our plans, our future, and our hopes to his safe hands.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Scripture Music Collection (for kids and adults!)

Growing up, one of the best nights of the week was "family night". We gathered once a week to enjoy play, learning, worship, Bible stories or prayer together, trading off between those various things and sometimes doing them all at once. No matter what we did, I loved it.

Some of my memorable "play" evenings included the time we created unusual animals and landscapes out of vegetables and toothpicks, or when we pulled all the mattresses off of our beds and into the living room to make a giant jumping and gymnastics playground. I also loved when we had big cardboard boxes leftover from a trip to the States, because we could create costumes and mazes out of those amazing boxes.

But other nights, I would climb on top of the piano and dangle my legs off the side while my mom played and we all worshiped the Lord in song. We belted out familiar tunes like "Oh God, You Are My God" (my personal favorite as a five-year-old!), and happily sang along with my parents to Steve Green's Scripture song lyrics. All of us kids knew them by heart after listening to them constantly on our cassette tape players.

Here is a little snippet of some of that singing. My mom used to record over old sermon tapes, so you'll hear a blip in this recording that shows it's authentic from the 90's! The giggle at the beginning of this is me. It still makes me laugh every single time! Caleb sings the first song, and Tyler nails the second one with amazing pitch, seriously. 

As a kid I didn't realize the impact this music had on me, but as I grew older, I clung to the truths that had settled into my heart through familiar melodies. I remember few specific Bible lessons from my elementary school days, but I remember almost all of the songs I learned during that time.

Now that I am an adult, I am realizing that Scripture still has a way of resonating within me when it's put to song. It hums along in the background of life and then comes clearer to view as the Spirit reminds me of specific passages at opportune times. I need those songs filled with the Word now just as much as when I loved boxes of imported Sunmaid raisins and pink turtlenecks.

When it comes to memorization, I often make up songs to passages I'm studying (more on that another day...it's kind of embarrassing and funny and useful at the same time). But I also love finding talented musicians who do a much better job at this than I do! Since these artists have been instrumental (no pun intended!) in my own walk with the Lord, I want to share some of my favorites with you. I will include a list for all ages and one for families with kids too.

May these songs, the Word, dwell in your heart deeply and bring truth to your everyday life.


Scripture Lullabies

These lullabies are great for kids, but they are a treasure for anyone! These songs soothe anxious hearts and proclaim who God is.

David Baloche

I often enjoy this mellow music while working or studying.

The Corner Room

A recent discovery! This group quotes the Psalms directly from the ESV translation in their songs, and their style is more acoustic, with beautiful harmonies.

Shane and Shane: Psalms

Shane and Shane brought Scripture songs into "popular" Christian music, and I still love this album!

Verses Project

You can download countless songs from the Verses Project website. They partner with various artists and even create artwork to go along with their music.

The Psalms Project 

This project is pretty cool, because their goal is to set all of the Psalms to music. I don't love all of their songs, but some of them are wonderful.


Seeds Family Worship

Seeds continues to update their music and be a great resource to families.

Songs for Saplings

Did you ever memorize the "ABC's of Bible Verses" when you were a kid? I didn't, but maybe it's not too late with this album available on Spotify! This group also offers great theology songs for kids too.

Mark Altrogge 

I especially enjoy the albums Ends of the Earth and Walk Humbly. 

Steve Green: Hide Em in Your Heart 

Last, but not least, my all-time childhood favorite! These songs will always have a special place in my heart. These are classics.


UPDATE: Other music that has been recommended to me recently is:

GT and the Halo Express

Slugs and Bugs

Do you have any others you would add to this list? Leave a comment below! I'd love to listen to your favorites too! 

Thursday, June 7, 2018


I woke up on Saturday morning with the knowledge that I had to be out of my apartment by 8am, unless I wanted to chit chat with the tilers who were coming to redo our balcony. Since chit-chatting alone with strangers early in the morning is not my favorite thing, I scooted out before I could "get caught", and set out for a destination.

Where to?

The Lord had a good gift in store, one that I didn't even realize I needed until he met me there.

I hopped in my car and turned right towards the mountains, instead of left towards town, then drove across the winding country roads towards one of my favorite places these days - Hukvaldy.

Hukvaldy is a village in Czech that is known for its fortress ruins and also for being the birthplace of the famous composer Leoš Janáček. The castle was first built in 1270 and has transformed from its original gothic design into a more baroque style fortress. The whole place fell into ruins in the 20th century, but it still stands as a monument to a certain era of Czech history.

It's quite a steep, but pleasant, hike up the hill to get to the fortress. I saw lots of kids along the way, and that in and of itself was a gift from the Lord, reminding me of his love in the midst of working through things with him on this Saturday. He spoke truth by his Word and reassured me of his presence and constancy that day.

Something about entering a place with 700 year history makes me feel grounded and comforted. Just think, the Lord has been at work for muuuuuuuch longer than that, yet we get to be part of his Gospel story today too! Wow.

"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." - Psalm 90:2

I spent the morning talking with the Lord, soaking in his Word, repenting (yep, there was lots to reorient my heart to the Lord in, and I'm ever grateful for his forgiveness and grace!), enjoying his creation and creating some art (a little sketch!) in his honor too.

One of my favorite lessons that my dad taught us JV staff recently was this: 

Withdraw to the Father's presence to return on the Father's agenda. 

This is what Jesus did when he withdrew to quiet places, to the wilderness, to the mountaintops. And it's time that I desperately need and crave too, but sometimes the Lord has to "kick me out of my apartment" to go and meet with him with no other distractions. When you feel your heart being pulled in different directions and fears and lies point at you like arrows, turn to Christ in faith.  He is expectant and draws near. May we be too and draw near in return. 

Oh, how desperately I long to be on the Father's agenda and know Christ more and more! 

The Lord draws you in by taking you to a place where he meets you (like Hukvaldy!), and other times he can also speak while you scrub dishes (this literally happened not long ago). He is faithful. He continually pursues his people, and I am constantly amazed by that. What a good master we serve. 

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." 
- Galatians 2:20

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Traps and Wonder

I intended to leave this post as a standalone set of warm and fuzzy photos, but the Lord didn't let these words disappear from my screen too easily after I first let them slip from my fingers, so here I am with the all too familiar abc's lettering the page of a story that goes along with these snapshots of a lovely sunset in May. 

Two weeks ago my car was broken into while parked in front of a majestic church in downtown Ostrava. My camera and gear were stolen, and my whole back window completely shattered. My roommate and my brother Tyler, quite literally, helped me pick up the broken pieces and sweep them neatly into a plastic bag. 

My camera  and the glass of my car were not the only things that were broken and stolen recently though, and not all things can be swept up and thrown into the trash. Without going into too much detail, I will say that the enemy loves to steal and deceive. It's not pretty. What's worse is when I walked into that trap and believed him that he had the power to steal truth. 

"Cast all your anxiety on him because [God] cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:7-9

Last week I needed my dad's help to stand firm in faith and to walk with me as I cast my anxiety on the Lord. My dad stood with bold faith in prayer for me when I fell weakly before the threats of the enemy. The Lord picked up the pieces, and, rather than sweeping them up and throwing them away, he carefully put them back together. He brought protection by the righteousness of his Son, Jesus, and comfort by his love -- love that I can never deserve, yet gratefully receive. 

I had already planned a photoshoot with a family from my church before I found out my camera was stolen. Thankfully, my parents own the same camera I had used, so they lent it to me this past Monday. Glowing light poured forth through the trees and brought to life the inescapable joys of childhood wonder. 

I am waking up. My car window has been repaired, and my camera has yet to be recovered. The nightmares have passed. The Lord has found me yet again and restores his goodness to places of sin and fear. 

I still stand in wonder, along with this sweet girl, at how God creates beauty. He invites us into that with him. He has given us not only freedom by the name and goodness of Jesus Christ, but also a joy and gifts to partake in building his Kingdom right along with him. By this good news I praise him yet again.  

Thank you, dear Lobels, for inviting me to take your family photos, which I have not actually shared here. :) I can't wait to send you the photos soon! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Things Mountains and Kids Teach

What do the mountains teach? 

Today, as I walked the country roads of this little Czech village with my roommate, we both marveled at the ways God takes care of us. He's the one who brought us to this very place -- a place that is not only a safe home, but also a place of beauty that awakens worship in our hearts. 

My roommate and I have lots of burdens on our hearts these days, things we carry with us, which don't go away with a magic wand or a brisk walk through the countryside. Yet, our conversation quieted at the point when we began realizing how much God keeps under his control. He knows what our hearts need too. 

What do kids teach?

Anna and I painted cats today after she finished with school, because they're Anna's favorite animal (side note: my favorite animal is a black bear, in case you were ever curious). There's also a verse written on our cat pictures, because of the conversation we had together. The story unfolded in this way...

"Anna, do you have a favorite Bible verse?"
"No, not really."
"Well, what's something you really like about God? Why are you glad to know God?"
"Because he's nice."
"You're right. He is nice, he really is kind. You're so right."

"Nice" may not be a word I often think of using to describe God. I usually think of words like powerful, merciful, faithful, when describing God in my prayers or in conversation. But I think Anna is right. The Lord truly is "nice", among all his other attributes.

When I think of someone who is nice, I picture someone I'm drawn to, someone who is consistently self-giving and generous. Is not God this way too? It may be a simple word, but it's personal. I need more of those words that remind me that God is not only lofty and mighty, but near and real.

After this, I remembered a snippet of a verse about God's lovingkindness, so I googled it, and that's the one we chose to put on our paintings.

"But— When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:4-5

Whew, I sure needed to hear that truth again this week.

The mountains taught me of God's care, and Anna taught me of his kindness, which brought us both right back to the Gospel. 

Titus 3 continues this way...

"He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life." 

Take comfort in those words of Good News today. They still count. God still pursues his people in his lovingkindness, and he still cares.