We Wait: a song for Advent

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We Wait: a song for Advent

I love Thanksgiving, and I love Christmas. But for me, the most exciting part happens between the two, the four-week period of Advent. The celebration in the waiting, the personal soul-searching within the expectation, and the lament-like longing for Messiah to come. In the same way that Easter isn't as powerful until we attempt to come to grips with the suffering, betrayal, and death of Good Friday, I believe Christmas morning isn't as powerful until we enter into the aching of Advent.

A year ago as I began the process of writing this song, I wanted to try and express this longing and the waiting through the music. To our contemporary and western musical ears, we are used to a certain formula when it comes to 96% of every song you hear: verse one, chorus, verse two, chorus, bridge, two choruses, outro, song over, sigh. I thought it would be fun to attempt a musical interpretation of Advent, and convey the waiting through the song. Unlike any other song I've written, this one asks you to wait, and then wait again. Verse one is followed by verse two, which is followed by a hint of the chorus, followed by verse three, followed by verse four, and finally, finally, finally, the angels' sigh gives way to the familiar chorus of The First Noel. Enjoy!

We Wait

Christmastime is finally here, we're singing Silent Night and spreading cheer with our parties and our scarves, our gifts, and overspending. Silver sleigh bells ring, but are we forgetting that we wait for you? My children smile, so full of wonder. I wanna see this time through their eyes and hold them closer as we try to teach them the meaning of this fun is so You could reach them by sending Your Son. They wait for You, we ache for You. Crowns and kingdoms searching in vain, bringing newfound freedoms, yet we're still in chains. Until that holy night when Your throne became a manger. No pageantry in sight, a tiny babe, our Savior. Years of silence finally broken, bringing peace to violence, You have spoken through a tiny newborn cry. The wait is over, the angels sigh...
Noel, noel, noel, noel. Born is the King of Israel.

 

To download and enjoy the song, feel free to click on the blog title! :)

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Story behind the song: Follow You

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Story behind the song: Follow You

I fell in love with the idea of road trips back in the summer of 1989, way before a Tom Tom, GPS, or Siri could tell you where to go. I was 12, and my family took a month-long road trip from California to Washington, D.C. Along the way we passed through 20 different states, logged almost 130 hours in the car, and traveled thousands of miles. It was the adventure of a lifetime that I won't soon forget. I never once worried about where we were going or how we'd get there. I didn't need to, because my Dad knew exactly where we were headed. He had his massive Atlas, a great sense of direction, and a thirst for adventure, so we were set. No need to worry, Dad was in complete control. I'm sure my brothers and I drove my parents crazy after the 87th time we asked, "Are we there yet?", or as my brother Jeremy used to say when he was just a toddler, "how 'bout many more miles?!?" But we just kept going, playing hours of Uno, reading books, sleeping across the van seats, and learning to hold it until the next available rest stop. Just enjoying the epic adventure of the ride...

Years later my husband and I took a similar adventure for four straight summers, driving from Houston, TX to Watsonville, CA. We lovingly tossed our three kids into the back seats of the van, armed ourselves with Scott Maham's salsa (for us) and plenty of Goldfish and sippy cups (for the offspring), and we took off. We drove 30 hours to CA, and only stopped for food and gas. Hotels? No way! We were on the ride of our lives, and we were going to experience the whole thing together on the road! By then, some genius had invented a DVD player for the van, so we were really set.

So it is when we choose to follow Jesus in this fast adventure we call life. If you think of life like it's a highway, then I'm definitely the clueless kid in the back seat asking, "are we there yet?", and Jesus not only has the massive Atlas with Him at the wheel, He wrote it! My job is to jump in, hold on tight, enjoy the ride, and trust in Him to get me where I'm going. Life seems to throw plenty of twists and turns at us, especially when we expect the road to be straight, easy, and containing no dead-end signs or unnecessary traffic. But that's where trust comes in. Easier said than done, but someday, when we see the miles of life behind us, we realize He has NEVER left our side. 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Amen.

Follow You
Let's jump in! Hold on tight, let's hit the road!
There's no tellin' what we'll see or where we'll go
We're on this journey, this fast adventure we call life
and there's no hurry, cuz I've made up my mind...

I could drive all day and all through the night
'cuz I know You're by my side
Every twist and turn, I will listen and learn to follow You

Are we there yet? Where are we going? What's up ahead?
So many questions on my mind.
I see behind me all the miles and miles of life
and You remind me, You have never left my side

So why do I worry, when You have got the wheel?
Why be afraid, and trust in what I feel?

I'm on the ride of my life, I won't always get it right
I'm on the ride of my life, and You know when I'll arrive...

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Missing Mom K today

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Missing Mom K today

Two years ago today, Mom Kuykendall stepped into the arms of Jesus, healed and whole. I miss her often, especially when Ben makes her famous pancakes or biscuits and gravy, or when we recount a fun story about her with the kids. Today I found the eulogy that I struggled to get through at her service, and along with today's tears came an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her life and for the 16 wonderful years I had the privelege of calling her Mom.

"We all know that you get to choose your spouse, but you don't get to choose the family that accompanies them. We've all heard the jokes about mothers-in-law, the negative comments, the snide remarks.  Well, our mother-in-law defied them all. The first half of the poem I'm going to read was hanging on the wall at my Grandma's house, given to her by my Aunt Sherri. As a little girl I memorized that poem and thought to myself, one day I want to get married and give this poem to my husband's mom, just like my Aunt Sherri did. Well, years went by and I chose my husband. And thank you Jesus, he chose me, too! And I know that Vicki, Joseph, and Colleen would agree that along with our choice of a spouse came an amazing family attached to them. Last Monday morning as I processed the news of Mom's passing, the rest of the poem came to me like a flood and along with a flood of tears...

For Mom

original author unknown, italics mine

You are the mother I received the day I wed your son,

and I just want to thank you, Mom, for things that you have done.

You gave to me this gracious man with whom I share my life

You are his lovely mother, and I his lucky wife

You used to pat his little head, and now I hold his hand

You raised in love a little boy, then gave to me a man

But now you're walking streets of gold, you're healed and whole again

thank you for your life, your love, and thank you most for Ben

I've never known a better man than your sweet little boy

He made you proud, he is my Love, he's brought us both such joy

I will love him faithfully until I see your face

when once again, on that sweet day, together we'll embrace"

I love you, Mom!
 

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Seven impossible miles

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Seven impossible miles

For some reason today, seven miles felt impossible. I'm in week 13 of a 24-week marathon training schedule, and Tuesday is one of my light running days.  This particular Tuesday called for what has now become an easy seven miles, in preparation for my long run on Saturday which, for this week, will be 11 miles.  But twice today, I had to convince myself to not turn around toward home and quit, but to keep going.  And that was only during the second mile. My ankles felt like they had 20-lb weights wrapped around them, my music selection was mediocre, and I just wasn't into it. 

As I plodded on I decided to call my Mom and get my mind off the severity of my lack-of-desire-to-run.  God bless her, she put up with my panting-while-conversing, and helped me get through a couple big hills. I ended the call with my Mom and kept going, much to my legs' chagrin. I eventually made it to the local high school track and circled brainlessly for what seemed like forever, but was really only three miles, then turned up the trail toward home for the final stretch.

At one point during my final mile, I stopped and looked down at my shoes, and reminded myself of what I've scribbled in Sharpie there.  Phil 4:13 and Heb 12:2. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Let us keep on running with perseverance the race marked out for us. I reminded myself to JUST KEEP GOING. Each and every step gets me closer to home. Even when it feels impossible, just keep running, Jenna. It's in these moments that I imagine myself finally crossing the finish line of what will be my first marathon on Feb 22, 2015. I picture myself in pain, barely running, but with arms held high, tears of joy and agony streaming down my face.  But what really keeps me going is also imagining Ben, my kids, and my parents waiting and cheering for me at the finish line.  My Dad has finished two marathons, and will no doubt be crying tears of joy with me, remembering well the agony his own legs felt upon finishing the 26.2 those years ago. Imagining myself crossing that finish line is the ONLY thing that kept me going today.  Visualizing the finish and the cheering crowd helped me push through.

And so it is with life. It's amazing what I've already learned about myself and about life in these 13 weeks of training. I've learned that there are many days when I wake up excited to run, almost giddy to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement.  Most days I'm eager to push myself to a faster time and better pace. But some days, like today, I just don't feel the drive or excitement to do what I'm supposed to.  Those are the "I Need Thee Every Hour" days, the ones when I feel like a bad wife, a lame parent, or a horrible friend. But it's in those days that I imagine the finish line and, most importantly, the waiting and cheering crowd.  The great cloud of witnesses.  Those who have gone before, the ones who have already crossed the finish line. Many of whom I believe crossed the finish line way too soon, like my amazing mother-in-law, my college friend Sean Lomax, a beautiful 9-yr-old named Carrie Young, and my dear Texas sister-friend Shannon Gleditsch. But I'm not the race director, and I don't see the whole course, I'm just supposed to run it.  So run it I will, step by step by arduous step. On the good days and the bad, I'll keep the finish line in mind, and JUST KEEP GOING.

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A fun look back at five great weeks!

The suitcase has finally been unpacked and put away. The capes, masks, and wigs have been placed in their shelf-in-the-closet waiting spot. One week later, my body is still exhausted, but my heart still explodes with joy when I reflect back on a crazy-busy, yet rewarding and beautiful summer on the road. For just a taste of some of the fun, here's a pictorial review:

The Kryptonites in Superhero City, Grace Presbyterian. Oh how I love these amazing young men and women. I've had the privilege of leading worship with some of them for the last five summers, and I can't wait to see how God is going to continue to use them for His kingdom.

Such a joy to travel with my family. I'm grateful that our kids are learning first-hand that ministry is so exhausting yet so rewarding. They experienced in their own way this summer the joy of being used for the Kingdom.

Such a joy to travel with my family. I'm grateful that our kids are learning first-hand that ministry is so exhausting yet so rewarding. They experienced in their own way this summer the joy of being used for the Kingdom.

The Earthquakes in Shake it Up, Mountaintop Community Church.  These girls brought the meaning of fun and joyful enthusiasm to their dancing and worship leadership! Sorry we missed Kelli and Kelly in the pic.

The Earthquakes in Shake it Up, Mountaintop Community Church.  These girls brought the meaning of fun and joyful enthusiasm to their dancing and worship leadership! Sorry we missed Kelli and Kelly in the pic.

Shake it Up, Mountaintop Community Church. Kelli Johnson bringin it, like always!

Shake it Up, Mountaintop Community Church. Kelli Johnson bringin it, like always!

Shake it Up set construction at Mtop. Clockwise from top left: Kim and Melissa feel called to painting ministry, Jamie and CJ are planning the wedding, Philip trying the new foil diet, Philip and Ben watching the painting ministry, the best pastors are also set designers and Clemson grads, every VBS set needs a disco ball.

Shake it Up set construction at Mtop. Clockwise from top left: Kim and Melissa feel called to painting ministry, Jamie and CJ are planning the wedding, Philip trying the new foil diet, Philip and Ben watching the painting ministry, the best pastors are also set designers and Clemson grads, every VBS set needs a disco ball.

The Goofy Gumballs in How Sweet it Is, Victory Life Church.  What an extra-special and super-sweet joy to lead worship for the first time with my niece Emma, and nephew Elijah. The GGs were quick learners and joyful leaders with big hearts for Jesus!

The Goofy Gumballs in How Sweet it Is, Victory Life Church.  What an extra-special and super-sweet joy to lead worship for the first time with my niece Emma, and nephew Elijah. The GGs were quick learners and joyful leaders with big hearts for Jesus!

How Sweet It Is, VLC. The goofball gene in our family runs strong, and I was so thrilled to finally lead a VBS with my dad and brother.  Josh was the best Willy Wonka ever and helped me lead worship, and my Dad proved that the best Senior pastors are the ones who dance with the kids and rock the rainbow wigs on Crazy Hair Day! Janice Brunswick's creative brilliance and leadership, coupled with her husband Jim's set design are a beautiful force to be reckoned with!

How Sweet It Is, VLC. The goofball gene in our family runs strong, and I was so thrilled to finally lead a VBS with my dad and brother.  Josh was the best Willy Wonka ever and helped me lead worship, and my Dad proved that the best Senior pastors are the ones who dance with the kids and rock the rainbow wigs on Crazy Hair Day! Janice Brunswick's creative brilliance and leadership, coupled with her husband Jim's set design are a beautiful force to be reckoned with!

The mini-Kryptonites in Superhero City, 2nd Presbyterian, Knoxville, TN.  My proud Mama's heart bursts when I see this picture, representing the unplanned and unexpected honor of leading worship with my own 9YO Ryan and 6YO Rachel. We three were small but mighty in Knoxville, and we immediately fell in love with one of the sweetest group of kids and leaders that I've ever worked with.

The mini-Kryptonites in Superhero City, 2nd Presbyterian, Knoxville, TN.  My proud Mama's heart bursts when I see this picture, representing the unplanned and unexpected honor of leading worship with my own 9YO Ryan and 6YO Rachel. We three were small but mighty in Knoxville, and we immediately fell in love with one of the sweetest group of kids and leaders that I've ever worked with.

Superhero City in Knoxville. Group hug on the last day. Glad I only live four hours away from these precious ones!

Superhero City in Knoxville. Group hug on the last day. Glad I only live four hours away from these precious ones!

The Sidekicks in Superhero City, Church of St. John the Divine. These guys were incredible! Couldn't believe how fast they picked up the new choreography, and they constantly made me laugh.  I flew home to be with my kids on their first day of school, so these fearless Sidekicks, led by the amazing Gianna Tiedemann, covered it beautifully without me. Another proud "Mama" moment.

The Sidekicks in Superhero City, Church of St. John the Divine. These guys were incredible! Couldn't believe how fast they picked up the new choreography, and they constantly made me laugh.  I flew home to be with my kids on their first day of school, so these fearless Sidekicks, led by the amazing Gianna Tiedemann, covered it beautifully without me. Another proud "Mama" moment.

Superhero City, SJD. Clockwise from the left: Better Place, Ivy and Gianna with the soft smiles, even Ironman flew in for the fun, Deanna Lawson is beautiful, brilliant, and an absolute joy to work with.

Superhero City, SJD. Clockwise from the left: Better Place, Ivy and Gianna with the soft smiles, even Ironman flew in for the fun, Deanna Lawson is beautiful, brilliant, and an absolute joy to work with.

A trip to Houston isn't complete without a trip to hug some of my favorite people in the whole world at Grace Pres. So grateful for the 7 1/2 years God gave us there with so many wonderful friends. The 2nd floor was not quiet for at least three hours that day. #goodtimes

A trip to Houston isn't complete without a trip to hug some of my favorite people in the whole world at Grace Pres. So grateful for the 7 1/2 years God gave us there with so many wonderful friends. The 2nd floor was not quiet for at least three hours that day. #goodtimes

I wouldn't be where I am today without the partnership, friendship, and encouragement of the beautiful Angela Wade Simpson. Her creative brilliance, vision for excellence, and can-do attitude provided the fuel and passion behind every week this summer. I'm so grateful for her belief in me, and for her huge contribution to my growth as a songwriter and worship leader. Here's to many more years of crazy, AWS! I'm so grateful that geography doesn't define or hinder our partnership.

I wouldn't be where I am today without the partnership, friendship, and encouragement of the beautiful Angela Wade Simpson. Her creative brilliance, vision for excellence, and can-do attitude provided the fuel and passion behind every week this summer. I'm so grateful for her belief in me, and for her huge contribution to my growth as a songwriter and worship leader. Here's to many more years of crazy, AWS! I'm so grateful that geography doesn't define or hinder our partnership.

So that a wrap, folks. Until next summer. If you're interested in a Yellow Fence VBS coming to your church, I'll hook you up with my manager's digits! Check out the STORE tab for the exciting CDs and dance rehearsal videos we have for sale. Now, back to reality...

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Five weeks of Pigtails

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Five weeks of Pigtails

I've been looking forward to this summer since last October when my schedule was finalized. Months of preparation, songwriting, sanity runs, choreography creating, FaceTime planning meetings, trips to Party City for costumes, with plenty of tweets to document it all, is finally becoming a reality today! Today begins a journey I affectionately call "Five weeks of Pigtails."  For five weeks this summer, I have the incredible and amazing privilege of leading kids in worship at five different churches, in four different states, assisted by 75 amazing youth worship leaders and dancers. And for five weeks, this 36-yr-old will dance around like a crazy lady with whacky hair, silly choreography, and even more silly costumes, all for the purpose of inviting and encouraging children to passionately praise the name of Jesus. It's my biggest passion in life, to see kids enter into worship.  A close second would be training and encouraging the leadership of youth and adults as they learn what it means to lead kids in worship. I'm so grateful for the opportunities I have this summer, and I'm also grateful that my family will be with me for three of these five insane weeks!

My family has been looking forward to this first trip for months.  We can hardly wait to hug our Houston friends and catch up as much as possible with the fine folks who run Oasis and Chacho's, but we're most excited about leading worship for Project Home and VBS. Ben and I will be leading worship in the evenings for Project Home, an awesome youth missions-at-home week at Grace Presbyterian. My hunk-of-a-husband is presently sitting next to me on the couch making sure the iPad is loaded with the correct tracks, loops, and other guitar shenanigans.  His beautiful voice melts me, but his worship leadership is even more awe-inspiring.  What a joy it will be to lead with him each evening next week with some of the most talented musicians I've ever met. Then during the day, I'll join an incredible VBS production team led by the all-star Angela Wade Simpson, and my team and I will rock it like David did in 2 Samuel 6, dancing before the Lord with all of our might. But thankfully we'll be rockin some awesome costumes instead of just an outer tunic.  And the most exciting thing about leading for VBS this year? All three of my kids will be there, now that Sam is old enough to be in the Sanctuary with the big kids!

Someday my kids will be super embarrassed to be seen around me looking and acting like this, but for now they don't mind, and they actually want to be up there with me.  Ryan helped me lead worship at his school last Fall, and I saw a new and fresh joy in him that morning, a moment I won't soon forget. A few weeks ago, I shared the stage with my daughter Rachel and watched with tears of joy out of the corner of my eye as she joyfully danced and sang with a confidence I wish I had had at age six. Someday soon she'll probably push me off the stage and take over, and I will so so gladly hand her the mic. Then I'll film it and annoy all of you with the twitter videos of said cute daughter.

At the end of the summer, we'll evaluate and hope our family comes out sane and healthy, so please pray for us.  It's going to be an amazing journey, y'all.  Grace, Mountaintop, Victory Life, 2nd Presbyterian, and St John's, we'll be seeing you soon! I'm already praying for your kids, for my teams at your churches, and for your leaders. I'm praying especially for the kids in your churches who will hear, some of them for the very first time, just how much Jesus loves them. I know we'll have an awesome time praising Jesus together. I'll be the crazy lady up front dancing and singing, and I'll be wearing pigtails...

 

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The story behind the song: Better Place

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The story behind the song: Better Place

I'm blessed to be part of an amazing writing team and for the last five years, we've co-written some super-fun, non-cheesy, Jesus-centered, Bible-based, rock-your-socks-off VBS programs, with the prayerful purpose of moving beyond the four walls of the church for which they were originally written.  Why write something and then stick it back on the shelf?  Why not write for a greater Kingdom purpose? Let's do it! Most exciting part is, five churches this summer will be using these super-fun programs, how cool is that?!?

The day after we finished How Sweet It Is, we were exhausted.  Happy, cross-eyed, but gratefully exhausted.  The writing team got a group text from Angela Simpson, one of the most creative and brilliant people I know. Her text said, "I've got it. I've already got next year's theme." We proceeded to try and guess and after a few incorrect tries, she told us. Within minutes, we were blowing up the group text with ideas on bottom lines and theme verses for the next year's VBS; Superhero City: real kids powered by God to change the world. We were so pumped. We couldn't wait to start talking about it, planning it, and writing it! Oh wait, but we had to sit on the secret and couldn't publicize it until January. Holy lack of patience, Batman, this was going to be tough!

Fast forward to early February when the writing team sat down together, via Facetime, and finalized the curriculum.  Now I had a springboard from which to write the theme song.  Fast forward again to March and we were two days from heading to Black Cat studios to record the Superhero City CD, and I was drawing a blank on the theme song.  I had about three different ideas but, like trying to put together a puzzle with pieces that just don't fit, I couldn't get anywhere. Ugh, so frustrating. That's when my brilliant producer and friend Jason Hoard emailed me an idea for a song bed.  I instantly loved it, put on my headphones, and took off running.  I listened to the track on repeat for an hour, and wrote while I ran.  The words of the verses, chorus, and the bridge flowed freely and I finally had it. Holy high fives to my co-writer, Batman!

Here's the idea and the bottom line that we want kids and parents to walk away with after spending a week in Superhero City: the heroes of the Bible like David, Moses, Peter, etc...they were plain and simple folks just like us.  Humans who messed up and made mistakes.  But humans who were powered by God and made a huge difference in their world.  They made their worlds a better place because God's power was working in them to do something they couldn't do themselves. God saw beyond the impossibility of their situation, moved in them, and made a difference for His glory.  How awesome is our God?! And He invites us into that same journey; even with our flaws and brokenness, He moves in us and brings about His purpose. He brings us to a better place and helps us make our world a better place. Amen.

 

Better Place

You are strong, I'm unique, without You I'm weak
The only good in me comes from Your own heart
All of history makes it plain to see,
Even from my failures You can make a brand new start

I can make a difference standing in Your strength
I don't have a fancy mask, I can't fly, or wear a cape
But I can change the world when I'm powered by Your grace
So use me to make this world a better place

All the bright lights in this big, tall city
Can't compare to Your power livin' in me
I wanna see my city on its knees
So shine Your glory through my life, Lord, please

You see beyond impossibility, I can't wait to see You move in me!

 

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The story behind the song: Wait for You

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The story behind the song: Wait for You

Reconciliation. It’s tough to do, much less spell correctly. In the past few months, the journey of reconciliation has been on my heart quite a bit. I’ve been surrounded by relationships that are on this arduous journey; some of these relationships are mine, and some I’ve just been an outside observer to: a friendship torn to shreds by an ill-timed word, a marriage on the brink of disaster from too many unheard and unmet expectations, a family bond severed from years of pent-up anger, a mother's dysfunctional choices that estrange her from her son and his wife. The list goes on and on, as does our brokenness.  

We’ve all been on both the giving and the receiving end of words that wound. We’ve known the pain of betrayal, of being misunderstood or taken advantage of. And we’ve all made the mistake of saying something that we knew we shouldn’t have, and sometimes it takes years to get back what took only seconds to destroy. Reconciliation is difficult, but even through the pain of the journey, God’s purpose prevails.  His beauty shines from our ashes.  He redeems, restores, and makes all things new. The prodigal Father so beautifully models a patient heart. Waiting with grace and forgiveness, ready to embrace and heal.

I wrote this song from an outsider’s perspective, observing a relationship that was experiencing tension, and I was not even sure how best to pray for it. I was in the car by myself, driving to meet my daughter’s class on a field trip.  I asked Jesus to help me pray, and to help me be an agent of reconciliation in whatever way possible. The tears and words began to flow simultaneously, and I couldn’t wait to park the car so I could hurry and sing the song into my phone, so as not to forget the new melody. I got home from the field trip and attempted, through tears, to play the song for Ben. We giggled at how awful I sound when I try to sing while crying. :) We recorded it a few weeks later with our dear friend and producer Jason Hoard, and released it at the Mac Powell and Friends concert on April 10th.  

My prayer has always been that the Lord would use my songs well beyond the original experience or purpose for which they were written.  And that prayer has already been answered with Wait for You; dear friends whose marriage has survived an affair have taken the song to marriage retreats they speak for, a friend who is estranged from her mother has found comfort in the song as it describes exactly how she feels in her relational struggle, and another friend has sent it to a family member in the hopes of someday reconciling. Thank you Jesus for bringing Your purpose from our pain.  Thank you for showing us how to forgive, and for healing what we, in our sin, mess up. Help us to be agents of reconciliation, and show us where we need to forgive. To You alone be the glory.

Wait for You
My words have wounded you deeply, my actions burned a bridge
Here I am trying to say I’m sorry, I don’t know how to made amends
I wish I could turn back time, and un-say what I said
I wish I could just rewind to the time you called me friend

If peace flows like a river, and forgiveness is the shore
Then how I’d like to anchor there with you
And if time heals all wounds, then you take all you need
I will sit and pray and watch and wait for you

His beauty from our ashes, His purpose from our pain
His mercy, love, and goodness. His grace, greater than our sin
He holds the hands of time, and all things will restore
I know in Him we’ll find the bond we’re looking for

It’s not easy to wait, my tears are many
But I’ll hold on with faith through this journey
It’s not easy to wait, my tears are many
But I’ll hold on with faith through this journey
Until step by step by step He’ll see us through
I believe, I believe He’ll see us through, me and you

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One year without reading the Bible

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One year without reading the Bible

Last year I tried something new and different. For an entire year, I purposely chose to NOT read the Bible.  Now, before you go all Duck Dynasty on me, keep reading. :)

Every year in late December I find myself wanting to try something new as far as Bible-consumption goes.  Sometimes I’ll start a new reading plan or pick up the latest and prettiest devotional book that promises to bring me closer to Jesus. But for reasons I don’t particularly remember, I was ready for something totally different. So for 2013, instead of reading the Bible as part of my daily (or my attempt at daily) routine, I chose instead to listen to it. I guess I was curious to learn and digest scripture the way Jesus and other Jewish boys of His earthly days would have done.  They would sit in the synagogue and listen.  They’d hear the stories over and over and over again, until it became second-nature to them. Oral tradition was the only way stories of God’s people were passed down.  So I thought I’d give it a try for a year, knowing it would be a challenge and take a lot of discipline.

While at home or on my runs, I pressed play on my Bible app and listened to the day’s selected readings from both the Old and New testaments. At church, when the pastor began his/her sermon and asked the congregation to open their Bibles for the reading of the Word, I rebelled and instead chose to close my eyes and open my ears. Here are a few things I learned from the year:

  1. First of all, props to the dude narrating this app.  Some of those names are straight crazy, and I’m dying to know how many takes it took him to finally say some of them correctly.
     

  2. Listening forced me to take it all in, and made me realize how easy it is to simply skim when I’m reading, especially laborious books like Numbers, Leviticus, and admittedly, Matthew’s begats.  I remember specifically listening to Leviticus on a run one day, and had to stop running because the tears and snot were flowing so freely.  I suddenly had a new realization of how bloody and gross some of that book is, but at the same time, a new and profound appreciation for Jesus as my spotless Lamb.  Before I had only skimmed over the bloody parts, and on my run that particular day, I was held captive as I listened to the demanding instructions given to the priests as they made preparations, once again, to make atonement for the sins of the people.  I had read these instructions many times before, but in skimming, had I really taken it in? I’ve always heard, sung, or referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God, but that day on the trail listening to Leviticus changed it for me.
     

  3. The Psalms, specifically Psalm 100, 136, 139, and 150, came alive to me in a new way, especially as a songwriter.  It was as if I could hear the people chanting and/or singing responsively, “His love endures forever” as the psalmist recounted God’s actions with praise. Listening to the Psalms makes me wish I could see the instant replay of David as he wrote many of these. What did his instruments and voice sound like?  And would he have needed Auto Tune? Doubtful...
     

  4. 4.It was fun to hear my kids’ comments if they would stumble upon me listening, either while folding laundry, putting on make-up, or loading the dishwasher.  It opened up great conversations between us about the Bible.  It was especially fun if they recognized the story I was listening to, and they’d usually stay to keep listening.
     

  5. As I listened to the end of Revelation, I couldn’t help but throw my hands in the air in joyful celebration, with tears flowing down my cheeks. It is done! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. This beautiful and captivating love letter from Almighty God, written thousands of years ago, complete with agony, sorrow, and the promise that Love ultimately wins. Justice reigns. Hope assured.  Sin redeemed. People forgiven. Humanity restored through Jesus. This living, breathing Word, relevant to my everyday joys and sorrows, is complete yet ready to be consumed again and again and again and again for as long as I live and breathe.
     

I’m grateful for what I learned about myself through this 12-month auditory adventure: I’m easily distracted, and not as disciplined as I’d like to be. I might try this again in another year or two, but for now, I’ll rinse out my contacts and get back to reading...

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I was THAT mom...

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I was THAT mom...

Did you see her today?  That mom who took a few extra deep breaths as she drank her first cup of coffee.  That mom who pulled out her camera and made her kids take the obligatory “first day” pic by the back door.  That mom who gripped her kids’ hands like a vice as they walked across the parking lot and into the new school to find the new friends for whom they’ve already prayed.  That mom whose tears streamed down her face after hugging and kissing her kids goodbye. 

I was THAT mom today.

But I’ll be fine.  I got home and hugged my husband, then turned on Sesame Street for my 4 yr old so I could cry once more in the shower. I’ll be fine, maybe after a trip to Target. Most importantly, though, my kids will be fine.  For many reasons...

  1. My kids are resilient and flexible

  2. My kids are extremely adaptable, and first-day-at-a-new-school experiences are actually really good for them.

  3. My kids get sick of their siblings at the end of summer, and need to find new playmates.

  4. My kids (especially my daughter) get excited about new clothes, and want to show them to other kids.

But most, most, most importantly,

  1. My kids are held in the strong right hand of a God who “is my refuge and my fortress.  My God in whom I trust...He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.  His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91) He is THAT God who loves my kids more than I ever could.  And He is THAT God who sustains them and upholds them and who goes before them.  He is THAT God who prepares the way and provides for us in ways that we may never even know. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

My dear friend and pastor, Doug Ferguson, closes every worship service with a beautiful benediction that I’m holding close to my heart today and praying over my kids: May our living Lord Jesus Christ go with you.  May He go above you to watch over you, behind you to encourage you, beside you to befriend you, within you to give you His peace, and before you to show you His way. Amen. Amen. Amen.

I may have been THAT mom , but I’m so grateful that today and every day my kids are held in the righteous, faithful, loving, constant, and good, good hand of THAT God. Amen. Off to Target...

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The next chapter

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The next chapter

“I am weary with the pain of Jacob’s wrestling,

In the darkness with the fear, in the darkness with the fear,

But he met the morning wounded, with a blessing

So in the night, my hope lives on...”

-from In the Night by Andrew Peterson

 

I’ve always loved this song, and AP is one of my all-time favorite songwriters.  Never before has this particular song had such meaning and given such painful depth to my feelings than in the last six months.  Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, I remember well the agony on my parents’ faces when they told us we were moving to a new church.  The agony, coupled with a faithful resolve to follow God’s call, was due to the impending pain they knew my brothers and I would feel as we pulled away with a moving van to a new adventure, a new ministry at a new church, and new friends at a new school. I now understand their agony completely, and I now know what it means to truly wrestle with a decision. Most importantly, my parents modeled faithfulness and blind obedience in the midst of what can sometimes be the toughest job on the planet, and Ben and I want our marriage and ministry to reflect the same.

 

One of the last things Ben’s Mom said to him was, “God’s timing is perfect.” Even at death’s door, her discernment across the miles made a huge impact. She knew we were sensing the beginning of the next chapter in our lives, and she also knew how talented her son is; that his gifts extend far beyond his leadership behind a guitar, and that his wisdom exceeds his years. Her assurance prompted us to step out boldly. We began to pray specifically that if God was indeed closing the door on our time at our beloved Grace Presbyterian Church, that He would begin to make it clear.  Such a scary prayer to pray.

 

Within days of that prayer, we received calls from multiple churches, all asking Ben to consider an Associate Pastor role. We were terrified and thrilled at the same time. We waited and prayed, and wrestled and prayed and waited some more. We knew it was time to step into the next chapter, but now we had to decide where to go. Enter the sleepless nights and seemingly impossible decision.  We found ourselves already grieving the impending goodbyes, while deciding with as much wisdom as possible which direction to move our family. I told my Mom that at one point it felt like someone was asking me, “would you like me to cut off your right arm or your left arm?  Either way, it’s gonna hurt! But you have to choose.” Ugh. Ouch.

 

Right smack dab in the middle of this, I received an email with the specs for the next First Look monthly curriculum song for me to write.  The verse for that month was “God’s way is perfect”, Psalm 18:30.  The theme of the song was about doing what God says even when it’s hard.  The title of the song was to be “This or That.”  I laughed hysterically after reading all this in the email.  God was giving me the opportunity to write a song about choosing “This or That” while trusting that His way is perfect.  Couldn’t have planned that one, ever. This also confirmed that we sensed our next chapter would allow me the margin and time to pursue my passion for training children’s worship leaders and children’s ministry staffs nationwide, as I’ve started to do on the weekends and in the summer.

 

We ultimately and prayerfully decided that we would go where we can pursue our next steps, both individually and as a family. In August, Ben will be joining the staff of Mountaintop Community Church in Birmingham, AL as the Associate Pastor for Creative Arts. I’m excited to be closer to my friends and ministry network in Atlanta, and will continue to travel to other churches as needed. I’ll have some much-needed margin and space to focus on being a wife, a mom, a worship leader, and a songwriter. And I might learn how to play the violin.  We are sad to leave our amazing community and ministry partners in Houston, but are so excited for what lies ahead in the next chapter. Roll Tide. War Eagle.  Most importantly, Go Texans!

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The sound of silence

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The sound of silence

This past week I’ve felt about as useful as a surgeon with broken fingers.  Or Peyton Manning wearing a shoulder sling.  Totally useless, and unable to do what I do.  For two days last week I was in bed with a yucky viral infection that morphed into horrible congestion that took away my ability to speak.  Vocal production, gone.  Singing ability, awful. Enter note-pad communication and plenty of snapping to get my kids’ attention.  My sweet husband has been so patient and awesome throughout this whole ordeal, but this week has shown quite an interesting change of dynamics in our household.  During this forced period of silence, I’ve been unable to do pretty much everything that I call my job:

 

  1. -Leading worship: I had to back out of leading with Ben, and then for our preschoolers in TreeHouse I had no choice but to channel Milli Vanilli like it was hot.

  2. -Studio fun: I had to cancel my BGV session with my buddy Sam.  Such a bummer because being in the studio is like being a kid on Christmas for me.  Every time.

  3. -Piano lessons: granted, I could’ve gone the note-pad route but when people are paying me in time increments, I’m not going to waste it by writing out instructions for them to have to decipher.

  4. -Choir rehearsals: now this one actually worked well, thanks to the sound system that our awesome tech guys set-up for me.  I squeaked into the mic, and the kids were fabulous.  Said methodology might remain.

 

All that said, this sound of silence has been wonderful and really, just what I’ve needed.  It has forced me to listen more, to sit quietly, to wait on my kids or husband better, and mostly to be attentive to the horrible reality that I could handle a lot more silence in my life. The un-welcomed solitude of five nights in the guest room has gotten me reacquainted with my prayer journal and those books I’ve been meaning to finish.  I took the opportunity to sit at the piano and just play it.  Didn’t sing along.  Just played, prayed, and listened.

 

I’m grateful for my voice, and for the opportunities God has given me to use it.  But this past week has also made me grateful for its absence.  The sound of silence; unexpected but so welcomed.

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