For those who are not in the education profession, the amount of vacation time educators are afforded is incomprehensible. However, for those of us in the classrooms 180 days a year, we know that the breaks are a necessity for the sake of students and our sanity. Many people do different things with the eight weeks or so of summer break. For my first six summers, I always had something work or work-adjacent to do, like summer job, cheer camp, summer teaching training. As this summer approached though, I realized that I had nothing to do.
I had already participated in One Spark and gone to Nashville. I have spent wisely enough during the school year to not need to get an extra job to fill in the gap this summer. The program that I worked the last two years was canceled due to budget cuts. I had eight weeks with absolutely nothing to do. Well, I take that back, the first week was a family vacation/trip to take my oldest nephew to college, but other than that, I was staring down the barrel of weeks and weeks with no planned agenda.
The main thing the summer gives me is the opportunity to sleep in later in the morning than I can during the school year. And, the extra few hours of morning sleep was really the only thing about which I was excited. Spending seven or more weeks at home, with just my cat, my television, my guitar and my thoughts to keep me company was a really scary proposition. Furthermore, I just found it to be outright lazy to sit around all summer and not do anything.
I have come a long way from the young woman who could not be alone. Still, I have managed to be sure that my life is filled with activity and people I love, so that the times when I feel lonely are few and far between. So, I challenged myself to do little to nothing this summer. I challenged myself to relax, get rest, be free and, well, be lazy. Not lazy in the sense of slothfulness, but lazy in the sense of not tying myself to a bunch of commitments just for the sake of having something to do.
For the first couple of weeks, I started to sense that I would become one with my couch and be imprisoned by my thoughts (a very scary place to be at times). Then, I started dedicating more time to stillness and quietness. I started communing more with God instead of running to everyone else in my life with my every thought or idea. And, slowly, but surely, I started to feel comfortable with me. I am not a hermit (though, I thought that might be where this was going). I do leave the house. I go to church. I hang out with my family. Nonetheless, a beautiful thing has happened.
I became okay with just God and me. I did not feel as alone as I once feared I would in quietness and solitude. It is still a work in progress, but no longer do I feel obligated to stay busy to avoid the fact that I do not have the life I envisioned. Instead, I can rest in my Father and allow Him to show me His vision for my life. Make no mistake, there are some rough days, but I have survived being by myself with nothing to do. I have more than survived; I have thrived. I have learned to enjoy this place of solace. Now, it might make it hard to go back to work in a few weeks, or maybe, I just will not feel so pressured to stay busy for the sake of being busy. Time will tell, but for now, I am enjoying the time that God has given me. Ms. EV
I love this country! As a the daughter of two Navy veterans and a government teacher, though I know we have out flaws, I cannot think of a better place to live on this side of Heaven than the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am grateful for everyone who has ever fought for the freedom that we have here in America. However, on this day when we celebrate independence, freedom and liberty, I am reminded that true freedom comes from knowing and loving God. The Bible says, that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!” So, enjoy this Independence Day! I pray that you are surrounded by family, friends and love, but don’t forget from whence true freedom comes. Ms. EV
I loved the movie Despicable Me; I especially love the Minions! I am so excited for the second one. I hope it is as good as the first, but this is not a movie review. This is a letter of thanks to the one and only God, my Savior. You see, I was in Sunday school a few weeks ago and we were talking about our favorite hymns. Some said, "Blessed Assurance." I said, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Our teacher said, "Amazing Grace." I have a lot of favorite hymns, but when the teacher broke down Amazing Grace, I thought, "How can that not be every Christians battle cry?"
You need only look at the first line to be in awe of God, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!" Grace is unmerited favor and many people can recognize that we do not and did not deserve the sacrifice of God's only Son, Jesus Christ as our substitute. There is nothing we did or ever will do that can repay such an awesome, and well, AMAZING sacrifice. The part I think I, and possibly others gloss over is the "wretch like me" part.
I have sung this verse countless times in my life and I never stopped to think what wretch even means. But, our teacher broke it down, and the meaning that stuck out to me was "despicable." We don't like to look in the mirror and see the parts of our lives that are despicable to God. We love to compare ourselves to other people because they make us look fantastic! We pray more than they do. We give more than they do. We serve more than they do. But, what happens when we actually hold ourselves up to God's standard of human living; the way Christ lived on Earth? Then, we look pretty despicable.
And yet, in spite of our messy, mistake-ridden lives, God offers His amazing grace. What makes it so amazing? The fact that someone as despicable as me (and you) has the ability to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and made whole and live forever, and not because of who we are or what we have done, but because of the love of God through Christ Jesus. I cannot speak for anyone else's life, but knowing what I know about me, I cannot understand why He loves me; I am just forever grateful that He does! Ms. EV
I recorded another song yesterday. This song is part of my testimony. Each day, I have to remind myself that nothing in this life or on this earth will be more satisfying than my relationship with Christ. This song is called, Soul Satisfaction and it uses a play on words in the chorus, "sole," as in the only and "soul," as in your entire being. I pray that this song blesses you and honors God. I would love to hear your feedback. For more of my lyrics and music, check out Toni LaShaun Music
. Enjoy! Ms. EV
So, in my last blog, How Do you Like Your Eggs
, I discussed how sometimes God gives us something and we think that because He gave it to us, there is no room for growth or improvement. One of the comment for that post said that what I was describing was "flexibility."
On December 31, 2011, I was wallowing in self-pity on my living room floor. I was lamenting my loneliness and loathing my life's failures. I had one foot in the ppol of depression and I was ready to dive into it. But, thank God for God. As I cried and prayed and prayed a cried. He said, "Okay, that's enough. Now that you got that out of your system, what are you going to do about it?" I really wanted to keep crying and praying, but instead, I started writing down what was hurting and how I, with God's help could fix it.
Pretty soon, I got on a roll, and at that point I wrote down everything in life that God have given me the talent to do and I wanted to share them all with the world! But, I needed a name that fit as an umbrella covering everything. And, that is how Elevated Values Consulting and Coordinating was born! My law degree gives me just enough knowledge to be dangerous, so I got my website, Facebook, Twitter, fictitious name, and I was off an running. I thought this could be a great outlet. It could maybe even grow into a side business, so i could make a little money. It was exciting. I felt like I had found a purpose.I was told several times that I was offereing too much under one umbrella. At first, I did not listen. I felt this is what God gave me and this is how I am going to do it. Eventually, I separted the music, but kept everything else intact. I was eating the whole egg, shell and all. Now, after realizing what truly brings me joy and what God really wanted me to do, Elevated Values Consulting and Coordinating, is just Elevated Values. No more consulting (with the exception of the articles, blog, and devotions, if you want to consider them consulting) and no more coordinating or catering. I used to love baking as therapy, but when it became a business, it became a chore; there was no more joy in it.
In Joanna Weaver's book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha world, she describes a story about a woman whom God told to pull a wagon up a hill. This is a paraphrase of the story. On the way, people kept asking her to carry their rocks in her wagon. Soon, the wagon was too heavy to pull and she felt weighed down. She cried out to God, "Why would you give me a task I cannot complete?" God answered, "I told you to pull the wagon. I did NOT tell you to put all these extra rocks in it." That is how I have felt lately. I have felt burdened down, but not because God told me to do something because I decided that my life was meaningless unless I was doing all of these things and creating multiple streams of income. That is not how my eggs were meant to be cooked.
I am a Christian woman with heavenly-high standards, I love to write and share my experiences in articles, blogs, devotions. I like to bake or plan for my family and when I feel like it. So, there you have it. That is why the name has changed. I will continue to blog as God gives me what to write. There are three remaining weeks in the PWYP Devotion Series. My articles and any new articles will stay posted and you can always find music at www.tonilashaunmusic.com. I hope that these changes do not disappoint anyone because I believe I am acting in obedience to God. If you are feeling burdened down, ask yourself if you are working for the Lord or for validation. The former may be rough, but will be worth it. The latter will always leave you feeling empty. I pray you still find helpful insight on this website. Be blessed! Ms. EV
First, let me explain why the blogs have been so sporadic as of late. A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of a very busy time, and when I write, I like to write from the heart. Even when I repost a past blog, I want it to be relevant versus random. So, I took a break to prepare for the IMMERSE conference and get in the right frame of mind to receive what God had for me there. There were a couple of days during the conference when I felt led to share some thoughts, so I did.
It was my intention to get the blog back to its daily distribution this week; however, my oldest nephew graduated yesterday from the school where I teach, so no blog. My conclusion through all of this is that I want those who read this blog to have fresh perspectives, so I am only going to post when God lays something on my heart to share. That means posts will be more sporadic, but I pray that you will continue to read because I intend to write high quality content.
All of this leads to today's blog. While I was in a class at IMMERSE about songwriting and rewriting music, one of the panelists said something that really hit home with me. I cannot remember her name and, unfortunately, I did not write it down, but I will never for get her words. She said (paraphrased), "A lot of artists are reluctant to change their songs because they say, 'This is how God gave it to me and I cannot change it,' but God also gave us whole eggs and that's not how we eat them. Now, I am not the biggest fan of eggs, so the thought of just biting into an eggs, shell and all, and having all of the yolk and everything spill into or on the sides of my mouth nearly made me gag. But, the point was that we should not be so rigid in receiving gifts from God that we are reluctant to make them the best they can be.
I started thinking about all of the ways people eat eggs. Some people do eat whole raw eggs, but not with the shell on them. I prefer mine in an omelet or mixed in with a bunch of other breakfast foods after being scrambled hard. Some people prefer sunny-side-up, runny, or fried eggs. Still others like hard-boiled eggs. But, this is not a blog about eggs. This is a message about taking God's gifts seriously enough that you are willing to change when He gives you wisdom to change the shape of the gift, whether it is directly or through someone else.
Because I started this blog as a daily blog, I thought, I would always post something everything, but instead, Now that it has been nearly a year and a half, I think it's time to listen to God and write when He gives me something new. I would be doing a disservice to anyone who read Ms. EV's blog if I did anything more of less. Thanks for hanging in there on this journey with me. I pray that you find ways to apply these lessons to your life. Ms. EV
I came to Nashville with the hope that someone would recognize my talent and sign me to a publishing deal or a recording deal. That is not what happened. But, what happened was so much more miraculous.After being rejected when my voice betrayed me, I felt lost. I did not understand why I was at the conference. I was wandering around wondering what I was supposed to learn or do. In my state of brokenness and confusion, I realized what the phrase "die to self" means. I have read it over and over, and heard it repeatedly, but these last few days, I realized what that truly means.I had to come to the end of me, so I could fall at Jesus' feet and surrender. If things had gone my way, I would have been happy, but I would not have been fulfilled for long. I had to become weak, so that He could be strong for me. I had to die to self, so that He could live in me.Once I got to the end of what I wanted, I was open to what God desires for me. And, what He has for me is so much better than anything I could do for myself. My desire is to follow God's plan for my life for the uplifting of His Kingdom. He will help me find true joy, peace and fulfillment, at the end of me. Ms. EV
The other day, I was driving home from a football game with my second oldest nephew. He was upset because he felt like things had gone wrong from the first play of the game. He had some great plays and even a touchdown, but he couldn't get over the mistakes that were made. And, he realized that there would be three months before he could play again.I tried my best to stay positive and comfort him. But, the best advice I could come up with was a line from Hakuna Matata and Accentuate the Positive. If nothing else, I wanted him to laugh. He is a phenomenal athlete with a lot of potential, but he beats up on himself when things don't go how he envisions.Fast forward to yesterday, I am in Nashville at the GMA IMMERSE Conference and I was advanced into the semi-pro auditions for Female Vocalist. As a writer, I was disappointed with not making it into the auditions for the songwriting categories, but I wanted to make the most of the vocalist competition. I was almost last to go. I tried to hide the shaking, but people saw right through me. I had practiced and practiced. I stayed hydrated. I opened my mouth and I knew that I started too high, even though, I had practiced over and over again. I made it through the song, but I knew it was not the best it could have been. Like my nephew, I wanted that first phrase back, maybe even the first breath. But, it was over.I got some great feedback about the power of my voice and my ability to worship, but, I got cut. It hurt. And, suddenly, I knew how my nephew felt. I tried to listen to others' advice and encouragement, but I just felt like a failure. So many people believe in me and I have no idea what to do next.The good news is that I don't have to know. God knows what His call on my life is and I believe that He is true to His Word. I have two more days at this conference to learn and to network and who knows what will happen next. But, as of this moment, I will accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative because the enemy is obviously threatened by whatever God is doing in my life and I will not allow him to overtake my mind with doubt, fear and anxiety. All I can do is be obedient to tbe leading of the Holy Spirit and WATCH GOD WORK! Ms. EV
Please accept my sincerest apologies, but I will be taking a break from Ms. EV's blog for the next few weeks. I am preparing for a major conference for my music. Rather than continue to repost old posts, or to try to throw something together, I have found that it is best to take a break. My plan is to blog about my experiences while traveling to and experiencing this conference and the clarity and blessings that I know God has planned for me in this season. So, until I am back, please LIKE Elevated Values and/or Toni LaShaun Music on Facebook OR Follow @ElevatedValues and/or @TLaShaunMusic on Twitter
for updates. I will miss you, but I am no good to anyone when I am spread too thin. Ms. EV
Today's featured song from Toni LaShaun Music
is, "Dear God Just Be You." This song was inspired by the post below from last year. I have not recorded it yet, but just meditate on the words...Dear God, Just Be You...
11/29/2012Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had a problem, but you knew the solution was unlikely to happen? I have. In fact, I struggled with something just this week that fit into that category. I say all the time that God wants to hear all of our problems, big or small. Even if others might not think it an issue, if you are His and it is an issue to you, it is an issue to Him. So, I started praying about this problem. Stop being nosey; I am not going to say what the problem was (I keep SOME things to myself...LOL).
I knew what a great solution to the problem would be. I knew it was highly unlikely to get the outcome I envisioned, but God is able to do the impossible. So, I kept praying...the same prayer...over and over and over again. "Lord, let this happen so that my problem can go away. And, please let it happen soon." Days went by and I thought my head would explode because the problem persisted and I was pretty sure that God was saying "no" to my request for assistance.
Then, in the middle of praying the same prayer, "Lord, I just need You...," I paused. And, then I thought about it. That was the perfect place to stop. Instead of telling God how to fix my problem, I just needed to say, "Lord, I need You!" After praying that prayer, I started to feel some relief from the situation, but it still lingered. I knew that God was on it, so I added to the prayer, "Dear God, just be You for me."
I thought I knew the solution to the problem; an improbable solution, but one that would change the circumstances surrounding me. God is showing me that my circumstances don't need to change. I just need to trust Him to change me and how I view the circumstance and how I view what He is capable of doing. He knows everything. And, He knows everything we need. So, I continue to pray and I invite you to pray, "Lord, I just need You. Dear God, just be You." Ms. EV
Dear God Just Be You
Copyright © 2012 Toni Wortherly
Lord, I need You
Dear God, just be You
‘Cause I don’t know what to do
But I know You have it all in control
Lord, I need You
Dear God, just be You
Even when the storm is raging
You can still bring such peace to my soul
You are the only One
Who knows just what I need
So, dear God, just be You for me