Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"It Is Well" Christmas Stress Song

On Sunday I sang a song in church for special music. It was supposed to be a surprise for Gary. I was going to have our daughters Erin and Allison sing with me in beautiful harmony.

Well, sometimes things don't go quite the way you've planned. Erin couldn't make it home because of the weather and Allison wasn't feeling well so she couldn't practice with me. I couldn't figure out how to get my guitar over to church and put it somewhere without Gary seeing it, so I finally told him that I was doing special music early Sunday morning. 

He was surprised by the song, however. "It Is Well With My Soul" is his favorite hymn and I wrote some new words to it and "Good Christian Men, Rejoice." It turned out pretty well so I want to share it with you here:

“It Is Well” Christmas Stress Song (by Robyn Mulder)

When peace like a river attendeth my way  
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(to the tune of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice)
Christmas is almost here
We tremble with great fear
Cards aren’t mailed and gifts aren’t wrapped
I think I’ll have a heart attack
Have to make that great big meal
And stress and strain are all I feel
I can hardly say…   I can hardly say…      

It is well, it is well with my soul.

I have to change my attitude
Change it to one of gratitude
Set aside the things undone
And focus on the only one
Jesus Christ the newborn king
Is more than all these other things
I can almost say…   I can almost say…      

It is well, it is well with my soul.

I think my Christmas joy will start
I feel a peace within my heart
Gifts and food are good to give
But this is how we really live
Giving thanks for everything
Now my heart can truly sing   
Christ is born today…   Christ is born today…

(to the tune of “It is Well with my Soul”)
When Christmas is coming and my stress level climbs
Let this be the thought that controls
The babe in the manger was born for these times
And his life was lived here for our souls

It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Gary liked the song, but what made it even more worthwhile was the reaction I got from a friend right after the worship service. She rushed up as I was putting my guitar away and gave me a great big hug and told me how much the song meant to her. She was feeling bad about not getting as much done for the holidays this year but the song helped her put things back in perspective. 

I wrote the song, but I need to keep reminding myself to keep my focus on the right things and not get all stressed about everything I'd like to get done during this season. I pray that all of you enjoy this season, too, and keep your focus on Jesus - today and every day of the year!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Time to...Breathe

It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors, a chill is in the air, and I've made my yearly October trip out to Michigan to see some of my family and attend a great writers conference: Breathe.
This year's conference was held October 18 & 19

At around 100 attendees, this intimate conference has done so much to encourage me on my journey as a writer. This was my fourth year attending Breathe. I've never been to a huge writers conference, but so far I don't feel like I've missed much. Breathe provides the opportunity to hear from great keynote speakers as well as offering a good selection of workshops on various topics. It's hard to choose when all of the workshop descriptions sound so interesting.

This year some of my favorites were Susie Finkbeiner's workshop on "How to Train Your Dog...er...Blog." It was full of great ideas which I hope to implement here. Tracy Groot's enthusiasm was contagious in her workshop about "Coming Strong to Every Scene." Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez inspired us, as usual, in their workshop: "Prodigals, Prisons, & Perps: Writing Real about the Tough Stuff in Life."

As I choose to highlight a few of my favorites, I feel bad that I can't share what I learned from all of the other wonderful workshop speakers and the authors who spoke to our whole group. Twila Belk and Latayne Scott both did a phenomenal job as they shared their wisdom with us. Sharon Brown's devotions on Saturday morning keep coming back to mind as I think about whether I'm really awake and paying attention to what God is doing around me and in me.

I didn't take many pictures this year, but now that I'm home I wish that I had. It was so good to see friends from past conferences and hear about the projects they're working on. I thank God for the chance to get to know such amazing people over the last few years and I pray that those relationships will continue far into the future.
This picture was actually taken with Shelly Beach
and Wanda Sanchez at a conference in June, but they
were at Breathe, so it still counts, right?

If you like to write, I highly encourage you to consider attending Breathe in Grand Rapids, Michigan next year. The dates will be October 10-11, 2014 and the keynote speaker will be Julie Cantrell, bestselling author of the wonderful novel Into the Free. You can find out more at Breathe's website: http://breatheconference.com

I'll be there! I hope you will be, too.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Last month I launched this blog with a "corny" little post about gifts that take work. This month, I thought I'd back up a bit and explain why I decided to call this blog "Perfectly Me." Now, let's get one thing straight as we begin. I am not perfect. I am far from it. As the years go by, it seems I am getting even farther from it as my eyesight, memory, and various body parts begin to fail.

Over the course of the last 47 years, I'm afraid I have chased that idea of perfection and I've put myself through all kinds of misery when I just couldn't measure up. I've made mistakes, hurt people's feelings without meaning to, let people down, and just plain sinned many, many times. Each failure reminds me that I'm not perfect and for way too long I just didn't want to admit that.

When I went through old photos to find some for our daughters' high school graduations a couple of years ago, I burst into tears because it seemed like every picture I found of myself had a terrible hairdo. In case you don't believe me, I'll show you a couple of them:
 Here I am with my sisters at a friend's wedding in 1992.

Gary's 30th birthday party in 1997.

I could have posted many more examples, but we'll leave it at that. Picture after picture seemed to scream, "You look like a fool!" and I believed them. In some of them I even chose to look like a fool:

Holy Hawaiian Luau, Batman! (Chandler, MN 2006) 

That one was actually very fun. Gary and I had a blast doing one of the skits for our youth group supper. But many of the photos just reminded me that I don't look like I want to look, I don't act like I want to act, I'm not as perfect as I'd like to be. 

That's not a healthy way to think. Not at all. That kind of thinking stunts your emotional and spiritual growth. That kind of thinking keeps you stuck in safe little ruts that don't expose the imperfections you see in yourself. That kind of thinking turns your focus back on yourself instead of looking out to see where God wants you to help and be an influence in the world around you.

All of this worrying about how I looked over the years is just one of the symptoms of a deep seated problem: insecurity. My focus too often has been on myself. How am I coming across? Does everyone in the room notice me and, more importantly, like me? If any attention were directed toward me, I often became embarrassed and wanted to shrink into the floor, but inside I was constantly thinking about myself and how I was seen by others. If I thought someone didn't like me or was ignoring me, I became very hurt and sometimes even inwardly angry with someone.

At almost fifty years old, I'm finally seeing some growth and maturity in my life. I'm learning to look around and notice how others are feeling. I'm content to be myself and not expect everyone else in the room to notice me, let alone like me.

When I went to my photo boxes today to dig out some of those awful photos, I realized that not all of them were bad. I found quite a few nice pictures of myself, and even in the ones where my hair was sticking out in every direction I had a smile on my face and it looked like I was enjoying time with my family or friends. I don't look that bad most of the time:
 Here I am at my parents' house in Michigan in 1993.

Enjoying fresh flowers in 1996.

I even found some that I really liked of myself, like this one:
 Tan and relaxed with my sister (Jill) and cousins (Tim and Brian) in about 1985.

I've gone through lots of changes over the years as I've matured physically, and I've also gone through lots of changes emotionally and spiritually as I've slowly matured in those areas.

I'm finally mature enough to realize that everyone else is busy living their own life and they don't spend nearly as much time thinking about me as I used to assume. I'm blessed when someone takes the time to send me a card or letter, write me a message on facebook, or call me on the phone, but I don't have to collapse in despair when those things don't happen. 

I'm learning that I don't have to retreat and go lie in the fetal position when someone criticizes me or points out something I've done wrong. I can learn from my mistakes, ask forgiveness if necessary, and move on as the woman God has created me to be. I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be perfectly me!

Not perfect...but that's okay!

So, as you visit this blog once in a while in the months ahead, I hope you'll gain insights to help you in many different ways. The ideas you'll find here won't be perfect, but together I pray that we can all grow into the perfect person God has made us to be.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12 NIV)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gifts That Take Work?

We received a gift this week. It was a wonderful gift, but it took some work. A friend called and offered us some sweet corn. She asked if we wanted to freeze some, and to be honest, I didn't really want to. I thought about the work it would take, the sticky mess to clean up afterward. But I also thought of having sweet corn this winter, so I said "Yes, we'll take it. Thanks!"

She gave us about 50 ears of delicious sweet corn and the boys grudgingly helped me shuck most of it. We ate some for supper that night, put 8 ears in the fridge for the next day, and then I got to work boiling the rest of it so I could freeze it.

 As I worked, my sanctified imagination began to churn and I found myself pondering other gifts that we get in life. God gives us many gifts and talents, but sometimes we resist them because of the work they'll take.

God gives some people musical talent, but they still usually need to put in hours of practice to hone that gift and make their voice or instrument sound the best that it can.

God gives others an artistic gift, but they need to practice and refine their skills so they can produce something beautiful for the world to enjoy.

God may give others a way with words, but they need to sit down at the keyboard and actually put some work into writing or they won't ever be able to share it with those who need to hear.

God may bless someone with children, but they can't just sit back and watch each child grow up. Hard work is involved as each child is cared for and trained.

Very few gifts can actually be used without at least some work involved.

As I sliced the juicy golden kernels of corn from the warm cob, I marveled at the simple beauty in front of me. The straight rows of kernels, the variations in color from one kernel to the next...I realized I was actually enjoying the process.

We can enjoy the process of using our talents and gifts, too, even though there may be a great deal of work to do.

But what about the mess?

When I finished my work, I had a huge pile of green corn husks and lots of empty corn cobs that needed to be hauled outside and thrown away.

During the process, I had a counter full of sticky corn juice and little kernels of corn everywhere. Since it was hot outside, we shucked the corn in the kitchen and bits of husk and corn hair littered the sink and the kitchen floor. At one point while I worked, I started to take apart the electric knife and put it away, only to realize a minute later that I still had about 6 ears of corn waiting to be cut up. A sigh, a frustrated chuckle, and a little more work to get the knife going again, but soon the work was done.

We can get frustrated while we work on the gifts God has given us as well. Music can sound bad while we work out the wrong notes and practice the hard parts. Painting can make a mess until the project is finished.  Writing can be frustrating as you search for just the right words and face rejection. Parenting can be messy as we learn to love and discipline each child in their own special way.

These gifts take work! Any gift worth having takes work, but hopefully we can find joy in the process. We can thank God for each of His good gifts and keep putting in the time and energy needed to use those gifts to the fullest.

And when we're done? When we've finished a project? We can thank God for what He's given us and move on to the next task.We can sing or play a beautiful song for a group and then move on to learn something new to share. We can hang our painting somewhere for the world to enjoy and go on to produce another artistic piece. We can write that article or book and go on to write about the next thing we have on our hearts. We can pour our love and work into our young children and then go on to influence and enjoy them as adults.

We can enjoy each gift as we work at it and use it. I'll try to remember that every time I reach into the freezer this winter and pull out a bag of delicious sweet corn!