Friday, November 17, 2017

An Unconventional, Unique Fall Tour!

Tomorrow night I'll be finishing my fall "tour" in Virginia Beach. I put tour in quotes because as an independent artist focused on ministry, I don't go on typical tours 😉 My husband has a normal job during the week and we have an 11 month awesome, little, wild man at home- being a mom is my full-time 24/7 job. We don't have a tour bus or a record company sponsoring events or marketing for us. We have a sweet 2005 Honda Odyssey  that perfectly fits all our baby gear, music gear, and the overwhelming amount of things I like to pack. We are blessed. We drive when concerts and events are within a few hours, but often times God unexpectedly leads us to different parts of the country with opportunities to share music and share our testimony.

This fall has been filled with adventures near and far. We have met incredible people. We have been blessed to see God at work in different cities and different states, and we especially love championing the work of pregnancy centers and right to life groups (what greater time than during fall 40 Days for Life?)  After my brain surgery, I questioned whether I would be able to sing again. I just didn't know...I didn't know what the future would look like. My recovery was long and hard. And in the middle of that, Jamie got cancer and had his own recovery. Little did I know where God would take us and what He would do.

The first song I sang after surgery was in church- "Holy, Holy, Holy." How incredible that now I am preparing to record a hymns album in 2018. I was amazed, as well, in the recording studio when my Grammy award-winning producer, Glenn Barratt, looked at me with this profound look as I did the vocals for "Beautiful Mess" and said, "Caitlin, I don't know what happened during surgery, but your voice is stronger than it ever was before." I do know what happened, God miraculously spared and blessed those vocal chords, because the tumor was only millimeters away from destroying the nerve that controls the vocal chords, and God guided the hand of my surgeon, Dr. Shahinian, to not only protect my life but also preserve my voice miraculously.

I cannot keep from giving God the glory. This voice He's given me is His alone. I will praise Him until my dying day, and I will sing of His great name above all names, Jesus. My Savior, Redeemer, Giver of Life, Lord.

So we wrap up our unconventional, unique fall "tour" in Virginia Beach tomorrow...and then we spend a week with family giving thanks. Soon we will enter into advent season, where we take time to be still and reflect on the coming of Emmanuel- past (in a stable in Bethlehem), present (in our hearts) and future (when He comes to reign in glory). I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to sing Christmas carols and speak to groups at concerts, women's events, Bible studies, and churches next month. I want to treasure this season of the holidays before rushing into 2018. I know God has big plans for next year- He has big plans for each of us every year- but it is so important to treasure today and seek Him in what He is doing at this very moment. 

May you seek Him and find Him in the details of your everyday adventures.  May you find countless reasons to give thanks and give praise.  May your heart be captured anew by the wonder of Advent around the corner.  

p.s.  Below are the lyrics to the worship song by Hillsong Young & Free- "End of Days".  This song is one of my favorites!

You came to earth that You created
You walked beneath the stars You named
You came from heaven holding freedom
Jesus Christ the Lord our God

You authored life and wrote Yourself in
You dwelt in time that You designed
Creator lived in His creation
Completely man completely God

I'm gonna sing until my voice won't let me
As thunders roar I'll shout Your praise
You're the God of everlasting wonder
Your love outlasts the end of days

I'll lift Your Name higher and higher
I'll sing Your praise louder and louder
Your love goes deeper and deeper

You reign forever and ever

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Beautiful Tie that Binds

How sweet to be out of cell phone service for a couple of days, out in the beautiful country. We went to Garrett County, Maryland over the weekend, where I had my first-ever BARN CONCERT!!! That's right, cows and roosters and cats and dogs right there in the mix! God works in such providential ways...back in 2015, when Jamie was doing chemo at Johns Hopkins, I met a sweet sister-in-Christ, named Edith, in the oncology wing lobby. She was there that day for an ophthalmology checkup and her friend, Irene, was receiving cancer treatment in the same chemo room as Jamie. Dear Irene went to be home with Jesus this past year. Edith and I have remained close friends and we continually encourage each other in our journeys of vision challenges- pressing into faith and praying for one another. Edith is one of the most joy-filled, graceful, strong women I have ever known.   She is one of those people, that after being around, your spirit just feels lifted to a new level of faith and thirst for Christ.  And what a pleasant surprise it was this past weekend to find out that many of her friends and family have that same type of contagious joy and faith! 

Edith invited me to come sing and share my testimony in her community in Oakland, Maryland, where the majority of the population is Amish, with Mennonite and Brethren congregations thriving there as well.  Jamie, Joey and I had one of the most memorable weekends of our lives- we soaked in the beauty of open land and rural farms, we got a taste of simple living, we ate the most incredible bread and baked goods in the world, we made new friends with whom we laughed and talked until we could laugh and talk no more, we sang Christmas Carols in September just because we could, we shared our story- pointing to God's glory and power, and we realized that we have much more in common with these people than we had imagined, who before, may have seemed quite different from ourselves...yes, our common humanity and our love for Jesus.  I look forward to visiting this beautiful part of the country again- the serenity and vast open space is a small taste of Heaven.  I do hope, as well, to sing in a barn on a stack of hay bales one of these days again...there's nothing quite like it! 

"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.

We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again."

-John Fawcett (1782)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Interview with MARKINC Ministries Released!

Hello friends...It has been a while since I have written a blog!  So much has been happening.  Motherhood and daily life as a wife have captured my full attention, as well as concerts and speaking engagements on the side.  I'm working on a few projects that I am so excited about.  One is preparation to record a hymns album in the near future.  The other is something different, something very personal, and I covet your prayers-  I am writing a book, in which I will be sharing the full scope of my story.  Thank you for being patient with me as I blog less, so I can put my focus into writing this memoir, as well as creating new music.  In the meantime, I want to share with you this interview that I had with MARKINC Ministries.  My prayer is that it will be a source of encouragement and hope for those who are going through difficult times.  Please use this resource to share with those you know who need to reminded that God is still with them and that He cares deeply about their lives. 

 Photo Credit: Angela Newton Roy Photography

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Do You Believe in Miracles?

I looked at my calendar the other day and it dawned on me that Sunday, March 19th marked two years since since my hearing miraculously returned- I went from zero hearing in my left ear to 100% (I scored perfect hearing when I got it tested after this miracle). Then April 28th last year is when we found out about our miracle baby. Doctors said it would be unlikely that we could ever have biological children, and definitely not for the first two years following Jamie's chemo.  However, God had a different plan and totally surprised us with our own beautiful "unplanned" pregnancy only 6 months after he finished chemo! These are just two incidences of miracles in my own life, but there are many others... Recently we have had close friends experience unexplained miracles, healings, and events that can only point to the wonder and power of God.  I believe God makes miracles every day. That's right, I'm not just saying that. I believe it. Every single day. And many times these miracles happen right under our noses, right before our eyes, without us even noticing! Or worse yet, we try to explain them away instead of just receiving the gifts as grace.  Believing in miracles doesn't mean that we always get what we want or ask for, but it does mean that we can be captured by surprise by our magnificent God when we truly open up our hearts to the mighty things He does!  What defines a miracle? It is something unexpected, unexplained, beyond our understanding. It is out of the ordinary. It is spiritual.  It is a touch of grace. It is ignited often by faith. It is real. It is when the impossible becomes a reality. 

I ask you, do you believe in miracles? What miracle are you waiting for in your life right now? I encourage you to take heart, to believe, and to place that belief not in the outcome which you expect, but in the Person of your faith- your good Heavenly Father. Take a moment to think back...what unexplained events have happened that are too amazing beyond coincidence in your life? I promise you, if you think long enough, not just one, but several will come to mind. What the world calls "luck", God calls grace. What the world calls "coincidence" God calls Providence. It is easy for each of us to complain, to fear, to focus on the challenges that surround us and the roadblocks on our journey...but a new kind of joy appears when we truly open our eyes to see the miracles that surround us every day. When we see the people God puts along our path and the details of our lives that happen, which only God could orchestrate, we begin to be in awe of the many miracles on display. 

As I was rocking my baby boy yesterday, I looked at his bookshelf and toys in his sweet nursery and I prayed a simple prayer, "Dear Lord, I pray that he has a happy childhood. This world is so hard and life will have it's ups and downs, but I just pray that he has a childhood of joy. Every child deserves joy. So many little ones sadly experience very little joy because of circumstances out of their control. Dear Lord, let his heart be filled with continual wonder as he explores this world..." I began to think of my own life and I asked God to fill my heart with that same wonder- the wonder of a child. I want to look at the world around me and be amazed.  That type of wonder is living with an expectant heart, believing in miracles. Often times at Christmas we tend to have that magical feeling in our spirits. St. Nick, reindeer, snow, home for the holidays, hallmark movies and Christmas classics all seem to sprinkle the air with a miraculous joy. Of course, let us not forget the Christ Child and the wondrous, miraculous virgin birth in a little stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago!

We are coming up on Easter now- a different time of year. Pastels and rabbits and chicks and flowers abound. Ham and casseroles and egg hunts and candy are bursting at the seams. But Easter is something so much more- it is the celebration of the greatest miracle the world has ever known- the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the grave He rose to life, and in doing so, conquered death for us all, offering eternal life. Please don't let that sentence just roll by. Please, soak in the wonder of it all. Breathe it in and let the miracle stir your heart to marvel.  Jesus Christ was unlike any other religious teacher in the history of the world. There have been many good men...but He was not a mere good man. He was the Son of God, the true incarnation of Holy, Perfect, Love. He took upon His shoulders the weight of every sin, every disappointment, every pain, every sickness and disease and fear and abuse and war and crime and mistake and transgression and iniquity that has ever plagued you and me in this broken world. He was tortured and died on a cross- the most excruciating death imaginable. But, dear friends, that is not the end of the story! Do not stop there! Yes, Jesus died. Every other good teacher or religious man has also died. But Jesus rose again! HE IS ALIVE!  This is the miracle that has carried the gospel message to hearts all over the globe for over two thousand years.  Over 500 witnesses saw the resurrected Christ before He ascended into heaven.  The miracle of the resurrection is the basis on which we believe in all other miracles. It is the cornerstone of our faith.  Hold onto that miracle with all of your heart, mind, soul, and very being.  I promise you, when you truly believe in the resurrection, you will begin to see and believe in the miracles around you each and every day...

Psalm 118:16-24

"The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!...
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the LORD has done...
Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for You answered me;
You have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The LORD has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad."


Monday, February 13, 2017

A Season for Everything and A Heart for All Seasons

February is here, and with it cold days and surprisingly some warm days that feel like spring is bursting at the seams (although Punxsutawney Phil would have us believe otherwise).  Every January I write down goals, dreams, decisions, plans...A list of to do's that I would like to check off in the year ahead. I've always been a dreamer, a planner, a list-maker. Recently I found a folder filled with some of these from years past (and I made these lists not just in January, but throughout the months of each year). I had a good smile with Jamie, looking back on the dreams of my youth, as it was amazing to see how the Lord had so specifically fulfilled many of these dreams and goals, and how He had redirected others...and then still some we just wait and see. 

This January I did jot down a few items of which I want to accomplish in 2017, but didn't have too much time on my hands to think about it as I was focusing on our newborn baby, not yet one month old when the new year rolled in!

Yes, our Joseph Zion was born on December 7th, and his little life has blessed and changed ours forever. Life is a gift, a miracle, and his especially is a miracle to us as we were told by countless doctors to never expect biological children due to Jamie's cancer treatment. We have learned to never say never with the Lord. We've also learned to not make definite plans- well that isn't to say that making plans is all bad (I still make lists every day of what to do, and our calendar is still filled with appointments), but we have come to realize that we just need to be ready when the Lord changes those plans! His plan is perfect and His timing divine beyond comprehension. 

So yes, for the first time in my life I am a "stay-at-home mom" and this season has been a beautiful (and exhausting) adjustment as all moms out there know!  As far as human happiness goes, I don't believe my heart has ever been more full. My Jamie and my Joey bring me so much joy each day. And yet I've had to re-shift my focus from "me" to "we" to "us three". 

Lately I've had conversations and emails with friends that have reminded me of the very real gift of the seasons in life. I've been thinking a lot about life's purpose and eternity. I've been thinking about the incredible miracle of birth and the journey of life and the process of death. I've been thinking about earth and heaven and all God's promises in between! I've been thinking about how one cannot "do it all" in a lifetime, let alone in one year or one month or one day! I've been allowing the pressures I put on myself to be released, and to focus more on living today fully than on accomplishing everything I feel I need to in order to "prove myself" to the world, to God, or to me personally. God doesn't need us to prove ourselves- He's proven His plan for us through His perfect grace. 

Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1-12 run through my mind frequently and I'd like to share Solomon's wisdom here with you:

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. 

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live."

I could go on and on about life's seasons, letting go of demands and expectations we place upon ourselves, and surrendering to God's perfect plan for our lives. But for the sake of brevity (which I've already failed in this blog), I'll leave you with a list that God placed on my heart just a few days ago- a list of actions and attitudes I believe He spoke to me to challenge me this year. This is a season where I want these things to be of utmost importance. I feel that if I get these right, then all else will fall into place. And when I don't get these right today, then I will fall upon His grace and wake up to a new day where His mercies are ever abundant and refreshing! So here goes my list for 2017:

Joyful joyful! Always always!
Glorify God
Love deeply
Live on purpose
Share the Gospel with passion
Live generously
Live with contentment
Be in the moment
Be kind
Do not be afraid, look to Jesus
Take time for people
Find the blessing in every circumstance
Laugh every day
Listen intentionally
Smile on purpose
Intercede on behalf of others
Entrench myself in God's Word
Make melodies
Don't forget our story

(Photo by Christy Hassell)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Salty and Bright!

This blog has been on my heart for some weeks now, but I've been all wrapped up in preparing for the birth of my baby boy, that I haven't taken a moment to sit down and actually write it.  Well, the little man is past his due date, and Mommy and Daddy have everything in place for his arrival...Nursery prepped- check!  Baby books read- check!  Thanksgiving pies baked and eaten- check!  Christmas tree decorated and stockings hung- check! Gingerbread cookies frosted- check!  So I think today I shall take a breather and just write! December 1st marks for many the beginning of what we call the Advent season.  Advent is a word we often toss around during this time of year, but not many of us truly comprehend it's full meaning, which is historically fascinating and spiritually rich.  I encourage you to read Justin Holcomb's article in Christianity Today, "What is Advent?" to grasp a greater understanding of this beautiful season.  To preface my own reflections and create a framework for where I am going with this blog, let me share a few quotes from Holcomb's article:

"Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these "last days"...as God's people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate His eternal Kingdom.  The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah...Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right- to put death's dark shadows to flight.  Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness and need for grace leads us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew His work in conforming us into the image of Christ...It is only in the shadow of Advent that the miracle of Christmas can be fully understood and appreciated; and it is only in the light of Christmas that the Christian life makes any sense...The promise for Israel and the promise for the church is Jesus Christ; He has come, and He will come again.  This is the essence of Advent."

Indeed, our world is filled with violence and it seems everywhere that evil abounds.  Not to mention, our own dark sin is more than we would like to admit.  We truly need a Savior.  And that Savior is not a politician, our next president, a pastor, Santa Claus in the latest Hallmark movie, or anyone in-between.  We cannot save ourselves, and as much as we try to do good, as much as we try to change the world for the better, we always fall short and it's not enough.  Nothing is new under the sun, as the wise King Solomon once wrote, "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course...All things are wearisome, more than one can say...What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again..." (Ecclesiastes 1:4-9)

We turn on the news and we see riots, racial divides, political protests, terror attacks, and so much more.  Some days it might feel like the world is "falling apart," yet none of this is new.  When we look back through the course of history, we see the story told over and over again. Brokenness, sin, pain, hatred...all culminating in our hearts to a desperate need for a Savior.  He came once, over 2,000 years ago, making His grand appearance in a messy stable in Bethlehem- God Incarnate, Emmanuel, Love Personified.  It's the story of Christmas that captures us, wide-eyed and filled with wonder, year after year.  What is the most wonderful part of the story?  That the story is not over!  We can be assured that He is coming again!  In that promise alone, our hope lies.

"Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise.  Both are promise and in fact the same promise.  If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation.  But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting.  It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise."  - Karl Barth

I remember the week of the election, a dear friend texting this Scripture passage to me as a reminder from our Lord Jesus Christ of our place in this world, when everyone seems so divided:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.  So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophet.  I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled..." 
- Matthew 5:13-18

Immediately my heart leapt with a flutter of joy.  This passage put all into perspective, and I was called back to the sacred eternal truth of Who my Savior is and who I am in Christ.  It suddenly dawned on me- tis the season to be salty and bright!  Yes, we are encouraged this time of year to be merry and bright, to be festive and cheerful.  All the holiday music which hit the stores it seems before even Halloween.  All the red and green and tinsel and lights.  The parties and cookies and family gatherings and decorations.

But it isn't always easy- putting on our "merry face," especially when our hearts hide burdens.  Loved ones lost in the past year, pending perilous diagnosis, job uncertainty, strained family relationships, fear, doubt, feeling let down or just downright down!  I had a friend just yesterday who was in bed all day because her heart felt so depressed by various situations going on around her.  We can only feign happiness for so long until it catches up with us.  We can only post so many pictures on instagram that make our lives look like holiday perfection until we realize that it's not the whole, true story.  There is real pain in this world.  I reiterate Justin Holcomb's statement, "Reflection on the violence and evil in the world cause us to cry out to God to make things right- to put death's dark shadows to flight."  Amen and amen.

So how do we carry the light and spread the salt?  Well, first, we must remember that we, in and of ourselves are not the light nor the salt.  Rather, we abide in the Light of the World, and we dive into the deep Ocean of His love that soaks us in His salt.  Then we choose to not hide it.  We choose to allow our Savior and His grace to work through us, shining that ever-present, everlasting light into the souls of men.  We say yes to allowing Christ to be the savory blessing of our lives, and as we soak that blessing in more and more, it overflows toward others around us.

The apostle Paul gave wonderful tips for starters in Colossians 4:2-6:

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

It seems that being salty and bright begins with prayer.  It begins with a thankful heart, keeping watch for all the good blessings God has given.  It begins with interceding on behalf of others- praying for them during their trials and pain, and praising God for their victories.  It begins with asking God to open the door.  It begins with waking every day and looking for those opportunities to share the light, to share the salt!  During advent, that could be the simple act of baking cookies for the neighbor you hardly know.  It could be forgiving your loved one who hurt you so badly.  It could be caroling and spreading good old-fashioned Christmas joy to strangers.  It could be thinking twice before speaking, and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you gentle, loving words when you respond to another person's hostility.  It could be rejoicing in another's gain, when you have felt the deep sadness of a loss.  It could be reaching out to someone who is mourning or suffering, even when you are in a season of ease.  It could be letting the elderly lady behind you in line at the store go ahead of you during the holiday hustle and bustle.

Remember, we cannot be salty and bright if we do not get our own fill of salt and light.  It is imperative, especially at this time of year, to soak our hearts and minds in the light of Christ's promise, and fill our souls with the salt of salvation's message.  I encourage you to take time each day to reflect on Advent, to think upon the true meaning of Christmas.  Dig into the Word of God, which will always fill you with promise and perfect peace.  Some of my favorite books for Advent reflection are 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins and Phyllis Tickle's Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany From The Divine Hours.  There are so many books and songs and ways to fill our hearts with truth and joy, that we might begin filling up with abounding light and salt in order touch our little corner of the world with Christ's hope.

I want to finish by sharing one of the most incredible passages of Scripture written by Paul, Philippians 2:1-16, where He quotes one one of the earliest church creed-hymns.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  

...Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life."

Tis the Season to be Salty and Bright!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Beautiful Mess

Have you ever woken up, and when reality hit you, it felt more like a dream than real life?  A dream you wish you weren't living, because everything is just too unknown, too over-your-head, too much of a mess...There comes a time in each of our lives when life just happens, and it seems to be way beyond what we can handle.  It's called brokenness.  We live in an imperfect, fallen world, which is being redeemed and reconciled through Christ (He's already won the victory, but He has yet to return for that final completion of the battle).  Yes, He paid it all on the cross and He is daily making all things new, but we're not promised always an easy road in this lifetime, without blood, sweat, and tears.  Rather, we are promised trial and testing, time and again through Scripture.  Trials to refine our faith in the fire, to mold our souls closer to the image and likeness of our Savior Jesus.  

One day I was sitting with a friend and sweet sister in Christ in a cafe, just sharing with one another about life, opening up our hearts, and talking about the Lord.  She was referencing this idea of life being a mess, yet a beautiful one.  It made me pause for a moment and think about how we need to intentionally seek out beauty in the midst of the chaos this life so often becomes.  I shortly thereafter sat down at my piano and innocently wrote a song called "Beautiful Mess".  Little did I know on that day that very soon after, my world would turn upside-down, and my life would become a mess that was completely out of my hands.  As I faced the shock of it all, I would need to surrender everything, all of me, to the Lord.  Little did I know that I would be facing a diagnosis that was so unknown...that my future was completely held in the hands of God.  Little did I know that on this journey, I would meet a man who would capture my heart, and yet in the middle of my health battle and journey, he would face his own medical diagnosis that was more than daunting.  Yes, it seemed like our lives had turned into a mess.  And yet, in the midst of it all, Christ was doing something beyond beautiful, and we became witnesses of miracle after miracle.  

That journey began over two years ago, and life has never been, and never will be, the same.  I would not have chosen the messy road, but that road of mud and mountains and valleys and thickets and thorns has done a beautiful work in my heart, showing me the glory of our Lord and the reconciliation and redemption of His creation in such a powerful way.  This month, on October 11, we released the song "Beautiful Mess" to you all for the first time, and even that day will forever be one we remember, as my husband's Grandmother went home to be with Jesus.  It was a day filled with mourning and with rejoicing.  The losses of this life are so very real, and yet the victory of the life we await is an even greater reality for those whose hope in the Lord.

"Beautiful Mess" has been the anthem of my heart during my journey over the past two years.  As a songwriter, only a few of my songs stand out that are so incredibly personal to my story and my life.  I've seen firsthand how the Sovereign Lord can take the mess and chaos of life, and bring beauty and miracles out of it all.  I am truly in awe of the grace and power of God.  I pray that this song speaks deeply to those who hear it, as a reminder of hope, which anchors the soul- hope rooted in Jesus Christ alone.  At times, our personal lives are a mess.  It could be a health hurdle, or it could be a relational struggle.  It could be financial.  It could be emotional or physical.  It's hard enough to handle our own lives day in and day out, but then add to that the mess of our nation during these times, and the mess of our world today.  It's not uncommon for hearts to despair.  I challenge you to read the following passages and take heart.  I challenge you to look at the mess you may be walking in today through a new perspective- may your eyes see beauty and your soul see miracles, for both beauty and miracles are very present and both are the greater than the physical reality around us.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."  - Lamentations 3: 19-24

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."  - Colossians 1:15-20

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:18-21


Beautiful Mess Available on
CDBabyiTunes, and Amazon.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Number our Days

This has been a year of milestones and markers...In February, we celebrated one year since my surgery.  In March, we found out we are expecting a miracle baby.  In April, we celebrated one year since Jamie's surgery.  In May, we celebrated one year since our engagement.  It just seems like every month there is something to pause and remember, something very specific and meaningful for which to praise God.  September is an extra-special month for Jamie and me...two years ago on September 20, we met!  Neither of us had any idea how that day would change the course of our future forever.  One year ago, yesterday (September 7), Jamie finished his very last day of chemo and said a firm goodbye to cancer.  Then on September 12 last year, we pledged our wedding vows and committed our lives to one another.  So much has happened in one year, and even more has happened in two!

I'm incredibly grateful, because this month I have several opportunities to speak and share our story for women's groups, concerts, and podcast recordings.  My deepest desire is to encourage others as they travel the road of their own journey, and walk in the midst of the storms and celebrations of their own story.  Last night, before I went to bed, this verse just came to mind and I've been meditating over it:

Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

I pray that God would help me number my days, seeing that each and every day counts for not just here, but for eternity.  I pray that God would help me see my story in the light of His heavenly and everlasting perspective and to be mindful of the very temporary mist that this life is, of which the book of James speaks.

James 4:13-15 "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

I have to ask myself honestly, even after all I've been through and the many truths I've come to so personally realize about life and God and His story...do I approach each day this way with humble heart?  Or do I forget what I've learned and just plunge forward in the chaotic race that this life becomes?

I feel that in remembering, we honor the sacredness of our stories.  The Lord commanded the Israelites over and over in the book of Deuteronomy with the simple phrase "Do not forget". (4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11; 25:19)

Do not forget that the Lord brought you out of Egypt.  Do not forget the Lord's commands.  Do not forget His covenant.  Do not forget His promises.  Do not forget His miracles and wonders.

I think of a beautiful hymn written by Fanny Crosby in the late 1800s, which takes pause to remember the Sovereign Hand of God throughout our journey.

All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, Divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know, what e'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me, cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread;
Though my weary steps may falter, and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me, Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me; O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father's house above;
When my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages, Jesus led me all the way.

I can testify that indeed, all the way, every single day, the Savior has led me.  This doesn't mean I always follow Him or obey or take the right step, but this does mean that He is faithful and never has left me alone on the journey.  I trust that He will continue, by His goodness and grace, to lead me all the way home.  Every winding path.  Every trial.  Every faltering step.  Every circumstance and surprise.  He is the fulfillment of every thirst of my soul and every hunger of my heart.  He is the prize and victory of life.  Sometimes I do lose sight of His constant presence and sometimes I do forget what He has done.  I have to be intentional each day to remember.  That's why I'm asking the Lord to teach me to number my days, so that I may gain a heart of wisdom.  Will you join me in that prayer for your life as well?

I'd like to close with a song that I wrote several years ago, Deeper Still.  It is taken from the promises of Psalm 90, and declares the truth of time eternal.  Remember how fleeting a day is.  Remember that time to the Lord is quite different than time is to us.  Remember all He has done in our lives.  Remember His covenant and Word.  

2 Peter 3:8 "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

Psalm 90:1-4 "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God...A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night."