Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How did I get HERE???

"My touring days are over.  I'm too old to jump on a tour bus and do the brutal travel that comes so often with artist gigs.  Plus, who wants to hire a 50 year old woman in their band?   Yeah, I'm done.  But I don't say that sadly.  It's actually ok.  I'm ready for God to open a new chapter for me and see what's next in this new season of my life." ---  Marcia Ramirez,  2012

I'm pretty sure when I made that statement to a friend 3 years ago, at that very moment somewhere up in heaven, God started giggling.  I mean, I had no idea the twists and turns my life was about to take, but He did.   Man, oh man.... I could never have predicted what He had planned for me.

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Three years ago, I was trying to get my youngest child through high school, taking care of my elderly parents, doing sessions in Nashville and writing a bit.  An amazing husband, 2 other grown children, a wonderful circle of friends, two beloved dogs and a marginally-loved cat (I'm kidding, I'm kidding!) all gave me a lovely and full life.   I was content to be home and easing into a different "season" of life.  My early days of running around the world as part of a touring band were behind me (or so I thought) and I was happily looking into other means of success.  Or maybe not "success" so much anymore as "significance".  Things change along with your perspective as you age... which is one of the things I adore about the aging process.   But that topic is for another day, another post.



Double-decker carosel... Nimes, France

Which leads me to NOW.  July 2015.  I just got back from a lovely morning walk through the streets of Nimes, France.


I'm on tour as a back-ground singer with one of my favorite singer-songwriters from my youth, the incredible Christopher Cross.







I found a matador...


CC's first record came out in 1980, the year I graduated from high school.  I have vivid memories of the first time I moved out of my parents home... everything I owned packed tightly in the back of my 1977 Chevette (it was red w/yellow racing stripes down the sides - yeah, I was cool like that.....HA)... and as I pulled out of their driveway to move far, far away (35 whole miles!) I was cranking up "Ride Like The Wind", "Sailing" "Say You'll be Mine", "Minstrel Gigolo".. and all those classics songs from the 5 time Grammy Award Winning Record that became the soundtrack of my "coming of age".


One of the many little sidewalk cafes....







Never, never, NEVER would I have EVER dreamed I would get the chance to not only meet him, but get asked to be a part of his touring band at the innocent young age of 51.  :-)    I could not have planned this.









 But God had plans I could not see.  

The last two years have been very hard.   I buried my mother, my father and my two beloved dogs, Django and Ellie May. I have cried... no, wailed through tears at God for taking so much from me so quickly.  "Why God?  I can't take any more loss.  This is more than my heart can take."  But through the pain, I have learned that the one constant I can always count on is that my sweet Lord never leaves my side and walks along with me.  Hurting with me.  Crying with me.  Comforting me as no one else can.   So I am grateful for the pain, as it only brings me into a more intense relationship with my God.

But today... I am grateful for the new joy that God has brought me.  And as I share pictures on social media of my trip through Europe this month, I don't do it to brag.  I'm not sharing with the intentions of showing how cool I am, or how amazing my life is.  No... I share it to show how cool God is.   I show it so that someone else out there who may be going through a very difficult season of loss can see that there IS life after deep pain.  There IS life after deep loss.

... and you are never "too old", or "too young" or, "too anything" for whatever God has planned for you.  He will equip you for what he has planned for you, no matter your age, gender, or ethnicity.  No matter your fears, your worries, your perceived limitations.

via Pete Wilson, Crosspoint Community Church, Nashville, TN

Remember when I said I was "too old to get in a tour bus".... so God said, "Ok, then I'll give you a gig where you only fly, no bus"... "But wait God!  I'm afraid of flying!!".... "Oh yeah, about that.  I'll remove that fear from you -- just step out in faith."   Sure enough... my fear of flying was completely lifted from me!   I mean, really... God just shows off sometimes.  Seriously!   :-)

So back to my original question... I literally asked myself today, "How did I get here?"  I couldn't have written this story.  I couldn't have predicted this.  I couldn't have imagined this in my wildest dreams.... but God could.  And God did.    

God brought me here.   It's the only explanation.  

....and I am grateful.    I am grateful for this break from two years of life's storms.   And I am grateful that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when the storms hit again.....

... God will walk with me and bring me to the other side.... once again.  

Now, I need to go figure out what I'm going to wear tonight... we are opening for TOTO tonight at The Arena of Nimes.. a Roman Amphitheatre that holds 16,000 people.   WHOA.

The Arena of Nimes

God is good... ALL THE TIME.

Love y'all.... M


Sunday, June 28, 2015

My apologies.... and a warning.

I posted an inflammatory status on Facebook yesterday (actually two, but who's counting? lol).  My husband sweetly and gently pointed out that I may not be helping matters... causing more divisiveness than unity.... then he gave me a kiss, a pat on the head and then headed off all by himself to deliver water to the homeless.  Have I mentioned that I married an angel??

Anyway.... as I gave thought to his words, I realized he was right.   I wasn't helping unify anyone or anything, and that was wrong of me.  So to my friends who ended up coming on my FB page and getting into conflict with others who didn't agree with them because I starting an inflammatory thread with my status..... I apologize.  TRULY.

Please don't misunderstand me.... I don't regret what I said.  I still stand by my words.  But in my frustration, I didn't think through how my words might come across and it back-fired.  I guess that is one of the dangers about social media.... many times the "tone" or intent of your words doesn't come across accurately.  Misunderstandings abound.  Nothing gets accomplished and no one walks away feeling satisfied.  That isn't healing or helpful.... so again.... I apologize.  

Now here is my warning:  I'm on a journey for truth.  I'll admit I'm questioning things I have been taught all my life.... and things I have believed for years.  So far in my journey, as I have looked for answers to my questions, some of my old beliefs have been reinforced... but many have been turned upside down and all around.   So, if any of you has a low tolerance for someone in search for a better connection with God, someone who is desperately trying to learn how to love people better, and even learning to love myself a bit better in the process, you might want to hit the "UNFRIEND" button now.  Or at least the "UNFOLLOW" option which one of my children already said they have done!  LoL

will try my best not to post inflammatory statuses.... and I BEG of you all, if you choose to comment on anything I post, please be respectful with everyone else's opinions, especially if they don't line up with yours.

A friend of mine, Randy Smith, posted something this morning that I thought NAILED what is going on in our society right now.  We have lost the ability to have EMPATHY for anyone who doesn't see things the way we see them.  They suddenly become "the enemy".  Everyone is on the defensive, feeling their "rights" are being trampled upon (see my earlier post on June 24th for my feelings on your "rights") and the conversations are getting louder and meaner with each passing day.    I'm going to try my very best not to add to the noise that gets us nowhere on social media... but I don't want to stand by and not say anything when I feel strongly about an issue.

So... I'm going to speak up more.  But I will try to use my voice as a tool for unity somehow instead of causing more division.  Matthew 5:9 says:  "Blessed are the peacemakers"... and The Message translation of that verse says this:

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family."

I truly DO want to be a peacemaker.... but I beg you all to offer me grace if I somehow cause any strife while I search for my own peace of mind, and peace with my God.  Thank you for your understanding... and for all your loving comments towards me, even the ones who don't agree with me, but are passionate about their TRUTH.  I don't have all the answers... and I know I never will.... but I'm seeking.... and searching.... come along if you dare.  :-)

Love you ALL....
M

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

N.B. Forrest and the Confederate Flag.....

So here are my thoughts on the NBF statues and the Confederate flag flyin'.....

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is addressing whether or not it's ok to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  He tells them that eating meat or not eating meat isn't going to make any difference towards their salvation.  BUT.... he says in vs. 9:

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

Paul is bascially saying this:  "You know, you have the freedom as a Christian to eat whatever you want, but if it's going to confuse someone else, or offend someone else, then maybe you should just choose to put their feelings over your 'rights'"

Again... Paul reinforces this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10:23:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others."

 I keep hearing about our "rights" being taken away, but Jesus didn't walk around claiming his "rights", did he?  On the contrary, it seems to me that Jesus was constantly and lovingly giving up any "rights" he had for the sake of others.

My belief is this:  If that flag is hurting our fellow Americans.... if it's offending people we claim to love as Christian brothers and sisters, then just do the loving thing and TAKE IT DOWN.  Just because we have the "right" to fly the flag, doesn't mean we should do it at the cost of hurting people with it.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  Why would we intentionally want to continue to cause pain to those that it offends???     Same goes for the NBF statues.  

Seems like a no-brainer to me.    Am I missing something here?   Feel free to enlighten me.  I know some of you are dying to.  :-)  

Love y'all.... M

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Perspective

I haven't blogged in a long time.  I guess I just haven't felt like I had much to say.  Sometimes, it just seems best to be quiet and listen for awhile, and that's what I've been trying to do more of lately... especially since Dad passed away.   I've been trying to listen to God's voice for guidance and perspective.

I was pretty exhausted after the funeral.  Since Dad took his last fall on Christmas Eve, our lives had been pretty centered around taking care of him.  After he passed, there was a huge void in my schedule, my life, my heart.  But it was hard to really slow down and grieve because there was much business to take care of.  Packing up and moving all his belongings.... going through his things, deciding what to throw away, what to GIVE away, and what to keep... all of that was physically AND emotionally exhausting.  Closing out all his bank accounts, credit cards, etc...ended up being mounds of paperwork, which took a lot of time.  I still haven't gotten to all my thank you notes yet.... (SORRY, they are COMING!) and I still have a garage full of things and papers to go through.  I have heard it takes a year to finish all the work it takes to close out a parents estate when the last one passes.  I believe it.

I was lucky to have an understanding employer, who let me sub out a few gigs and take some time before jumping right back on the road.  My first trip back out with CC was to Japan.  Some thought I was crazy to go, but I truly LOVE Japan and I had a feeling it would be a healing trip for me.  Little did I know what God had planned for my time in Japan.  MY plans were to be out exploring the Japanese cities I was visiting, but all that changed when I came down with a fever and bad respiratory virus.  No exploring for Moi.  I was stuck in my hotel room everyday, taking meds and staying on vocal rest so that I could get through the show each night.  But just like it always works when God's plans are different than mine, it turned out to be a wonderful thing.  I had a lot of solitude/quiet time which allowed me to cry a lot over losing Dad, pray a lot for God's guidance, and read a lot of inspiring books and blogs that I had been wanting to read but kept putting on the backburner.   It truly was healing in more ways than one.

I saw this quote the other day:



Man... that is SO TRUE.  Too often I dig my heals in and refuse to change my perspective on something that I am convinced I am right about.  But lately, I've been seeing a lot about "God's perspective" and I've been asking Him to help me see things through His eyes, not mine.  From His perspective, not mine.   It's not always easy, because I struggle with what I want to be truth.. what I have believed for so long.... and sometimes, when you have to admit that maybe you've been seeing things from your perspective, or a human-perspective that has been ingrained inside you by well-meaning but flawed people, or by cultural allegiances that you haven't ever questioned, it's very hard to let go of old beliefs and move into Jesus territory.

 I think the whole "WWJD" fad thing is old news in our society now (I mean, do they even SELL those bracelets anymore?), but I'm trying very hard these days to keep that in mind when approaching people, situations, and in conversations.   Even though Christianity as a religion is declining in numbers in the USA, people still seem to have relatively good feelings when questioned about JESUS... they just don't have good feelings about CHRISTIANS.  Hmmmmm....... that can only mean one thing....

..... and that is......????  

Anyone?   Anyone?   ..... Bueller?    :-)

Talk among yourselves.   I'll be back.....

Love y'all....... M













Upcoming shows... June 5th & 6th

I'm SO excited to be heading back down to Alpharetta, GA next week to play ITR with my friend James Casto and Tony Arata!   If you live in this Atlanta area, come see us!   The shows at Chukkar Farms are always memorable evenings... bring a picnic or a bottle of wine,  and enjoy stories and songs under the stars with us!    For more information:   www.HomeByDark.com




Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Dad....

He would have turned 92 today.





I got a card in the mail from his dentist yesterday that said, "Happy Birthday Manuel!  We hope it's the best birthday ever!".... obviously, they hadn't heard he had passed away before mailing it.  At first I was sad, until Mike said.. "He IS having the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!"  -- and just like in all things, my husband was right.  :-)

I wrote a few words about my Dad that I had Bro. Tom read at Dad's funeral.  Several have asked me for a copy of that letter.  After much thought, I decided to publish it today... on his birthday.  

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!  I hope you get lots of cake and ice cream.....with extra ice cream. :-)

My Dad…..

I was incredibly blessed to have been raised by Manuel Ramirez.  Being able to call him “My Dad” was such a gift.   I don’t remember him ever raising his voice to me or being cross with me.  Yes, he would correct me when I was doing wrong, but never in a harsh or demeaning way.  It was always in the gentlest of ways…. and his way with me always made me want to do the “right” thing, just so I could make him proud.  

He wasn’t a tall man, (5’ 7” on a good day) - but I always looked up to him.  He got up every day and dressed up and showed up with a smile on his face.  He was a teacher.  A great teacher.  I’ve had so many of his students reach out to me during the last few years and ask me about him.  They always said, “Dr. Ramirez was my favorite teacher… he didn’t just teach us Spanish.  He taught us about life.”   

Well, he certainly was teaching ME until his last breath.  Although his frail body was failing him and it must’ve been such an effort just to get out of bed every morning, his true spirit of kindness, consideration and dignity never waned.   One of his caregivers recently told me, “Dr. Ramirez is the sweetest man I’ve ever worked for.  He never fails to tell me “thank you” no matter how small a task i do for him.  And he always says, “please” when asking me to do something for him. I just adore him!”    Several days later, I heard the nurse at St. Thomas hospital as she instructed the ambulance drivers, “Be extra careful with him.  He is a gentle and sweet, sweet man!”   Then I heard those same ambulance drivers telling the nurses at hospice as they dropped him off, “He’s such a sweet little guy.”  Then I over heard the nurses arguing in the hall over who was going to “get” his room because they all loved him and wanted to take care of him.   Yes, right until the end, he continued to make me so proud to be his daughter.  

He was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather.  His first priority was always taking care of my Mom, me, and my boys.  And he did that until his last breath.  He was my rock.  My protector.  Oh, how I loved my Father!!   But the greatest thing that he did for me, was to teach me to love our Heavenly Father.   He taught me to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to find my identity as a daughter of The King, and not from anything this earth.  

My Father had many accomplishments during his career.  Many of which I never even knew about until the last few days, after he had passed.  We were finding newspaper clippings, letters, plaques, pins, ribbons etc…. all stored away in drawers.  One of the things my husband noticed was that every one of Dad’s achievements was service based.  He was never a competitive man.  He would never seek to “out-do” anyone else.  Instead, he chose to encourage others to shine their brightest.   

He never was a bragger.  He was a quiet man, yet when he spoke, people listened.   He was obviously a smart man, (getting his PhD couldn’t have been easy!)… but he was also wise.  Wise enough to know that all those accomplishments, although wonderful, were not what he found HIS identity in.  He found it in being a child of God.  A man of God.  A dedicated disciple of Jesus.  

So that is how I know, that when his soul flew back up to heaven, he was greeted with these words:

“Well done my good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of the Lord”

I will be forever grateful for the love, guidance and wisdom that my Father passed on to me.  “You look like your Father” was an observance that My Dad and I would both get a giggle out of through the years, since being an adopted child, there was no way I could possibly truly favor him genetically.  But if my actions can make me “look” like my Father… if my kindness towards others can make me “look” like my Father… if my faith can make me “look” like my Father… then that will be the biggest compliment I can ever have.

So Dad, thanks for being an amazing example to me about how to love people and love God.
I look forward to the day I see you and Mom again, but until then… I’ll do my best to “look” like you.

All my love,
Marcia