Lost and Found

I was at the Renaissance festival with a good friend one hot and humid day in September when I found a treasure. It was a Chain Maille necklace with beads in pink, gray, and silver. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Chain Maille, I would explain the jewelry to be very beautiful but also very convenient. You see, the beads are magnetic and adhere together wherever they are placed. So if I wanted to, I could make it a bracelet or necklace depending on how many times I wanted to wrap the beads in layers. I have always struggled with lining up traditional necklace claps, so I was delighted at how easily I could wear this necklace. I do admit not even flinching at the pretty expensive price. To me, it was one-of-a-kind, and I was excited to purchase it.
For the next few years, I wore the necklace quite often, particularly with the dress I often wore on Easter Sunday. I received many compliments on it, and every time I wore it, I also thought of my friend Kate who was with me the day I purchased it. This necklace was special to me, and it quickly became my favorite piece of jewelry.
In the summer of 2014, I did a lot of moving around. I basically kept my large suitcase accessible and ready in my closet. I started the summer by traveling to my sister’s wedding, followed by moving to my new residence, followed by a week at camp, followed by attending my nephew’s baptism, and finally leading worship at the Joni and Friends Retreat. As the summer drew to a close, I was excited to simply get back into the regular routine. One Saturday evening in early September, I went into my closet to pick out my outfit for the upcoming worship service I would be participating in the next day. I wanted to hold onto summer a little longer, so I decided to wear my Easter dress. But there was a problem; I couldn’t find my Chain Maille necklace!
I looked everywhere— taking each necklace down from the hooks on my bathroom wall and separating each necklace from the one next to it, emptying out my childhood jewelry box just in case it had been misplaced there, moving the shoes and boxes aside in my closet to make sure it hadn’t been dropped… I began to panic a little. What if I had unknowingly dropped it somewhere and it had been vacuumed up or mistaken for garbage. I remembered the weekend we had moved and my mother and I had sorted through all of my old jewelry and had gotten rid of many old and tarnished pieces. What if I had thrown away my Chain Maille necklace by mistake?
For the next few weeks, the missing necklace was never far from my mind. It bothered me that I had misplaced it, and even though it was just a trivial possession, I was saddened to realize that it was probably gone. I thought about all of the places I had traveled to throughout the summer. I realized that the last time I had worn the necklace had been when I visited my family for my sister’s wedding in June. At that rate, the necklace could have fallen out of my suitcase and be somewhere in the guest bedroom. Or maybe it had stayed in my suitcase and traveled to camp with me. Perhaps the necklace was in Madison. Considering the possibilities was exhausting.
I thought of this scenario recently as I was reading through Scripture. The parables of the woman and the lost coin along with the lost sheep caught my attention, and I thought about the parallels that existed in my own experience. Like the woman who searched for her lost coin, turning the house upside down and involving others in the search, I found I had done something quite similar with my missing necklace. I called my mother to ask if she recalled seeing it. I asked a friend to come over and help me look as well. But we still could not find it. I was ready to give up, but something kept me pursuing.
I wondered if this is what God must feel like when His children go astray. I know I have not always been the most faithful to Him. Often, my independent spirit drives me to succeed on my own, and I forget to seek Him along life’s journey. I know He is always there, but I don’t reach out to Him. But I think of how God pursues those whom He loves, and I almost tremble at the realization. It seems I have always been in relationship with Him; I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ into my life at a very early age. But what about those who are still far from that reality? Many of us within the church structure would call these people lost— those without salvation and the hope of eternity. These are the people I truly believe God seeks with a passion and tenacity that is unmatched. Although these individuals do not call out to Him, He is whole-heartedly invested in their lives, longing for that soul to embrace Him.
I have been a follower all my life; I should know Him in a deep and personal way. But sometimes, I feel lost… maybe even as lost as someone who isn’t yet a believer. I tend to push Him away when things are good and only seek Him when I need something. As I searched for that necklace, I think I even called out to God about it, asking Him to help me find it. I knew it was just a silly necklace, but suddenly I had a reason to seek Him.
In that moment, I’m almost sure God smiled at me, maybe even making some comment about my silly, lost necklace being so unimportant. But more than anything, I think His heart leaped to realize that I was calling out to Him even for something as trivial as lost jewelry. After all, it doesn’t matter how or when we talk to Him as long as we keep the communication open. After all, that’s how a relationship flourishes.
I wrote a song a few years ago that talks about this relational process— how even when we push Him away, He is waiting to restore us and bring us into life in Him. If you have the chance, read Jeremiah 29:11-13, and you’ll understand more fully this passionate pursuit of our creator. If we seek Him, we will find Him if we search with all our heart.
Guess what? I found my necklace! About a month after I noticed it had gone missing, I pulled my large suitcase out of the back of the closet. I had never thought to actually look through the bag. At first, I didn’t find anything. I zipped the bag closed and sighed with frustration. But then I saw the top pocket was gaping open, so I made a move to zip it closed as well. But that’s when I felt the urge to reach my hand inside the open pocket. And that’s when I found it; the necklace was wedged under a tiny fold of fabric that had almost created its own protective cove. The necklace had been safe there all along.
And found in Him, I am safe and sound as well. I am never lost when He is just a prayer away.


I was preparing for my annual Christmas concert as December drew near. I made sure I had someone to run sound, a hairdresser, someone to do my make-up, refreshments, etc. Then of course, there were hours of practice and putting together the set-list. I needed to keep my back-up vocalist updated as well so she would know what to sing.
But there was one detail I didn’t consider right away and that was my attire for the evening. Typically, I make it my mission to get a new Christmas dress or something holiday-themed to wear for each concert. I never want to wear the same outfit more than once from year-to-year. But this year, I had not purchased anything new, so I began to scramble to fashion some semblance of a new look. It was then that I found a little black dress toward the back of my closet. I remembered purchasing it at the local thrift store for a dollar. I paired it with a three-quarter-sleeved jacket patterned in black and cranberry tones. It seemed perfect! But there was something missing.
I shared my dilemma with a friend, and she immediately showed interest. She and her sister share a business in designing necklaces and other accessories, and her initial response was that I needed a long, chunky necklace to liven up the simple black dress. She told me that they could design something for me if I would give them ideas on the color of beads and how large they should be. I was excited about the possibility, but I was unable to give her any ideas. My visual impairment doesn’t help me conceptualize creative things like this, so I told her the only thing that came to mind. I wanted something in black, white, or silver tones— not too chunky but glittery to some degree.
She took my meager specifications, and I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks. But about a week before the concert, I received a text message from her with a picture attachment. It was a picture of the almost-completed necklace with just one bead missing. She promised me that they would have that last bead before my concert, and she wondered what I thought of their creation. I had to tell her that although I could see the picture, I really couldn’t say for sure if it met my expectations. I needed to see it… feel it in my hands.
So I decided to trust her judgment, and two days before the concert, I finally had possession of the necklace. It was perfect! My friend had completed something that met every expectation I didn’t even realize I had possessed. She had taken my limited ideas and made something that far exceeded anything I could have come up with on my own.
I wore the necklace the night of the concert, and its beauty was a constant reminder of trust and the incredible knowledge that my friend knew me so well as to create an accessory that mirrored my unique style. It was interesting that in the weeks that followed, the custom-made necklace would serve as a different kind of reminder, and it would go far beyond physical, glittery beauty.
The week after the concert, I came down with what I thought was the flu. It later turned to pneumonia. The coughing was endless, and as a result, I lost my voice— just in time for Christmas Eve. I cried when I realized I wouldn’t be able to sing “O Holy Night” or any Christmas song for that matter. I could barely squeak out a lower-pitched harmony— something that resembled tenor or maybe even bass. I couldn’t understand why God would allow my voice to be taken at such an inconvenient time.
I wasn’t sure if it was an attack from the Enemy or if God had some other plan for the Christmas service at church. As I offered up my weak harmony, I listened as the other girls sang with such beauty. Vanessa had not planned on a solo, but I gave her my song to sing, and she sang it as if she had been singing it for years. I was disappointed that I couldn’t participate in the service like I had wanted to, but I had to count my blessings.
You see, I’m pretty stubborn. The only reason I went into the doctor three days before Christmas Eve was because I had lost my voice, and I wanted it back so I could sing at the service. But there was nothing the nurse could do to bring my voice back; she could only give me antibiotics and hope that the pneumonia would respond to the medication.
I thought about how easy it would have been just to stay home and let the pneumonia run its course. I didn’t need the doctor to tell me I was sick. But my grandma made sure I realized that if I hadn’t gone to the doctor that Saturday, the pneumonia may have progressed to such a degree that I could have landed in the hospital. Imagine what a crummy Christmas that could have been!
It brought me back to that custom-made necklace. Like my friend as she strung together the beads, God knew just what circumstances needed to align to make sure I got the help I needed. I had prayed that I would know what to do in regards to going to the doctor, and on that Saturday morning, I felt that He was leading me to go to the clinic. I did not get my voice back in time for Christmas, but perhaps God had a bigger plan than I could have imagined. Perhaps He needed me to take a back seat at the Christmas service and let someone else’s gifts shine for a change. It didn’t always have to be me in the limelight at special services. Maybe it was a lesson in trust or endurance. It didn’t make sense to be sick at Christmas, but perhaps God was showing His faithfulness in the healing process.
Like that final bead that completed my necklace, God came through when I needed Him. Spending Christmas sick was not what I wanted, but perhaps it was what I needed to come to a place of deeper trust and faith. He had custom-made my circumstances to bring me to a place of inner peace and joy. I wasn’t at peace in the moment, but now on the other side of Christmas and the new year, I see the greater purpose in the inconvenience of sickness. Maybe I’ll never truly understand why it had to happen, but perhaps I need to understand that He has custom-made me and my circumstances to line up with His purposes.


I was watching what could arguably be referred to as the game of the year with my parents last week. The Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions were playing each other with the divisional title on the line. Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was already playing with a calf injury, and as a result, he wasn’t able to move around as easily as he made plays. It was about midway through the game when he took a hit and went down. Instantly, I knew this couldn’t be good. The backup quarterback would have to come in because there was no way he was going to finish that game, especially since he was carted off the field.
The next quarter began, and Matt Flynn came in as quarterback, but all the while my thoughts were stuck on Aaron Rodgers. I wondered about his level of frustration. Sure, he was in pain, but part of me figured he was more upset about not being able to play than anything else.
I certainly could relate. You see, I had just faced a difficult Christmas season. Ten days before Christmas, I came down with what I assumed to be the flu: mild fever, aches, and a cough. Within three days, I was feeling more like myself, but the cough was still there. I wasn’t surprised; I have asthma and with any cold, a cough seems to linger after I’ve been sick. But something about this cough was different. I found I just couldn’t stop the irritation in my throat, and the more I coughed, the worse my voice became. Before long, my voice was down to a whisper. It didn’t hurt to speak; I just couldn’t get anything out.
In frustration, I went into urgent care to get it checked out. I was hoping that they could give me something for the cough so I could get my voice back. After all, it was three days before Christmas Eve and I needed to sing at the service. The nurse practitioner examined me and determined that I would need a chest X-ray to rule out anything serious, and reluctantly, I agreed. I told her that they probably wouldn’t find anything because I felt fine; I just had this pesky cough and no voice.
The nurse came back to the exam room after my X-ray to deliver the disheartening news. She said it was good that they had done an X-ray because they had found pneumonia. She prescribed a five-day antibiotic and an albuterol inhaler. She said I might not feel 100% by Christmas Eve but that I should be on the mend soon.
The next few days were rough, and the antibiotics slowly made their presence known. I was alone a lot and frustrated that I couldn’t go to the many Christmas parties I had been looking forward to. Friends dropped off food and goodies, and everyone was so kind, but I still felt like life had been put on hold. I watched everyone else hustle and bustle about, going to this party and that party, while I was sidelined at home.
But gradually, I began to feel better. My coughing was suppressed and I was just tired. I didn’t want to over-do it, but I found myself itching to go out. By the time Christmas Eve had come around, I was all set to at least play the piano even though I couldn’t sing. But well-meaning friends on the worship team had already come up with plan B. They had someone willing to play for me so that I could stay home and get some rest. They didn’t think I would have the energy to play for the Christmas Eve service.
When I got that disappointing message, I broke into tears. My secretary saw my reaction and proceeded to reach over and give me a hug. She wasn’t afraid of getting sick, she told me, and as she held on tight, I felt a peace come over me. I could do this, and my secretary agreed with me. No, I wouldn’t be able to sing, but I could at least play for the team and be a part of this special service.
So I contacted the worship team and told them that I was feeling well enough to play for them and that I would not miss this service for anything. So when Christmas Eve came around, I sat at the piano and accompanied the team. But my heart longed to sing, so toward the end of the service as we sang “Silent Night,” I found my voice. It was raspy and low-pitched, but I found the tenor harmony and lifted my voice with the others. It wasn’t ideal, but at least I was able to contribute to the final moments of the service.
So as I watched Aaron Rodgers being carted off the field in the divisional game, I could relate. Just like Aaron, I had been sidelined; he was forced to leave one of the most important games of the season and my voice had been compromised at the time of the year when my voice was most needed. But in the end, I learned something from the experience. True, it was frustrating; I felt as if my Christmas had been ruined for a time and that perhaps I would never feel better. Even the week after Christmas, my voice was still quite rough and I could barely sing “Joy to the World” the Sunday following the holiday, but I had to look at the bright side.
If I hadn’t gone into the clinic and been diagnosed with pneumonia when I did, my condition may have gotten worse and I may have been forced to be in the hospital over Christmas. Talk about how disappointing that would be— to spend Christmas in the hospital! But instead, I had been able to at least play the piano for the service. It wasn’t ideal, but in the midst of the plan B that we had to put into action, I was able to hear the beautiful voice of our team member, Vanessa, as she took lead on a song that was typically mine. It was her moment to shine, and since there was nothing else I could do about it, I allowed myself to take joy in that experience instead of wallow in what could have been.
In the end, Aaron came back into the game. He was limping and probably in a great deal of pain, but I could tell he was determined to finish that game. He pushed through this difficult situation to help his team achieve a victory. And in my case, I hope I was able to do the same with my team on Christmas Eve. I felt I could still be a leader and help my team be successful even though I wasn’t at the top of my game, health-wise. Like Aaron, I wasn’t sidelined for very long, but even so, I learned valuable lessons that will carry me into the weeks and months to come.

Someone Else’s Shoes: Top Post of 2014

Below is the top, most-viewed post on “Cassie Contemplates” this past year. Enjoy!

This past summer, I bought these awesome shoes at the thrift store. Half boot, half open-toed sandal, they were cooler than any shoes I had seen in a long time. I just had to have them, and the store owner was more than happy that they fit me and that I enjoyed them that much. But for how awesome the shoes were, it took me almost two months to get up the courage to even think about wearing them.
The heels were terribly high and the fit was quite snug. Once I crammed my feet into those shoes, they were not coming off! Every time I picked out an outfit for church or a night out with friends, I’d pick up the shoes, glance at them, and then pass them up. It never seemed like the right time or place to wear them.
Finally, the night before my birthday, I stood in the closet, faced with the dilemma of the century— okay, the deciding-what-shoes-to-wear dilemma of the century. But anyway, I was bound and determined to look the best on my birthday. I had friends coming from out of town and I would be leading worship. I already knew I wanted to wear my pink, black and white dress, but what shoes would complement the dress best? That’s when I gasped and reached down to retrieve the perfect shoes. It was time to wear them! This was the day I’d been waiting for!
But I chickened out almost as quickly as the decision was made. There was no way I could play piano and press the pedals in those shoes, not to mention coming up and down the stage without risking considerable injury! No, I decided, I couldn’t wear the shoes. I was disappointed because I so wanted to put on a confident and polished picture of myself for my birthday Sunday. I wanted to make a good impression. As if shoes could make all that happen, right…? Not hardly.
Although incredible, those shoes were not me, and I knew it. They were pretty, but very clearly they were someone else’s shoes and I wasn’t meant to walk in them. Sure, I could try to find a way to scrunch my toes in them, but I would never be truly comfortable.
It’s exactly the same thing when we as people try to pretend we’re someone else or put on a fake façade in order to impress someone. My pastor has been preaching recently about how we as people have been created on purpose for a purpose. It has become clear to me that I have been created for something specific, something that fits a unique niche that someone else could never fill completely.
I think of the people that I work with on a daily basis too. I would never dream of being able to do the things that our secretary accomplishes in the office or face the challenges that come with pastoral ministry. I marvel at our guitarist’s skill on the worship team and the sweet and hospitable spirit of the woman I affectionately call my “mama.” Each person in my life has their unique calling and purpose. I can’t fathom even trying to fill their shoes, let alone walk around in them.
As I played that morning in my standard, pump-style heels (they were at least fun and pink), I thought about how much easier it was to just fill my task for the day. It was my birthday, and I felt I was born to share my gift of music to lead His people in worship. Later that day, as I sat among friends to watch the Green Bay Packer game, we talked briefly about my calling and it remained crystal clear. I was a worship leader, but more importantly, a child of the King. I will proudly choose to wear the proverbial shoes He has set out for me and try not to don someone else’s shoes, no matter how cool they may be.
Maybe someday, I’ll gather up the courage to reach into the closet and pull out those shoes from the thrift store. But it will be after much thought and deliberation. I have to be sensible if I’m going to take a leap into unchartered territory! I’ll seek to do the same if God should call me into a new venture. I want to be ready, through prayer and petition, to take off running whenever He calls me out.