From Here to Eternity

My sweet grandmother passed away this week. We knew it was coming soon. Two and a half months ago, she fell and broke her hip. (I mentioned it in my previous post.) She went downhill fast from there and after what seemed like an agonizing two months, it was over. Just like that. It was all over.

I’ve been reminiscing a lot the last few days. I keep looking at the picture of her (above) and thinking about her life. After 88 years, she must have seen a lot. She lived through the Depression and World War II. She worried while her brand new husband fought over Japan during the war. She wondered if he would come home. Thankfully, he did. She lived through the death of her only son. She saw her family grow and grow with five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. She lived through the ups and downs of life, deaths, births, tears, and laughter. And through it all, she remained one of the most beautiful ladies both inside and out that I’ll ever know.

I miss her already. But I keep thanking God over and over again that I had the opportunity I had to be with her just a few hours before she died. I was with her by her bed – just the two of us. I had my hand on her forehead, stroking her beautiful white curls, telling her how glad I am that she was my grandmother. How much she taught me. And how we would carry on her legacy. I told her she did a good job and that it was okay to go. When I said goodbye to go home, somehow I knew it was the last time I would see her breathe.

Death is never easy, but if we understand the afterlife, we understand that it’s not over for those we love who had Jesus. It’s only just beginning. And I cannot tell you how happy I am that my sweet Mimi is now reunited with the love of her life, my Pop. Theirs was a timeless love. A love that will carry them through eternity.

What a legacy they left us with. I am blessed.

Heaven Is a Little Closer Now

My husband and I have been trying for another baby. We are so madly in love with our first (Virgil) and it only seems fitting to add another little angel like him to the mix. He will make an awesome big brother. So when I found out last month that I was pregnant, I was stoked. I had a sense that I was pregnant a week and a half before I finally tested positive. Starving, nauseous, tired, cranky, crampy – all the regular symptoms. I took a pregnancy test the day I was supposed to have gotten my cycle, but it came back negative. I was a little bummed, but when my symptoms wouldn’t go away, I kept up hope that I was pregnant despite the negative test result. After all, they say you can have a false negative, just not a false positive.

Three days passed and I decided to test again. By this time, I still thought I was pregnant, but my symptoms seemed erratic. They say every pregnancy is different, so I just chalked up the erratic behavior of my symptoms to that fact. I took a test again. This time, it took a little bit of time, but finally the faintest little line appeared. The package says no matter how faint the line, if it’s there, you’re pregnant. I was stoked! I knew it! I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. But somewhere in the back of my mind, something didn’t seem right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I assumed it was just the trepidation of getting too excited too early. I decided to brush off my doubts and celebrate anyway. Two days after I tested positive was my thirtieth birthday. It was on Good Friday and my band had a gig that night. I remember feeling a little worried at my gig that I didn’t feel nauseous anymore and that I wasn’t too exhausted to stay up late for the show as I had anticipated I would be. I was still hungry though, so that seemed to give me a bit of consolation.

The next day, my family surprised me with a party for my birthday in downtown Fort Worth. We had a great time and postulated on whether the baby was a boy or a girl. It bothered me that I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. But I powered through and celebrated with my family anyway.

That evening we all went back to my parents’ house to spend the night, and as we typically do, we all gathered around the kitchen table to swap the same stories we always swap. My grandmother sat at the table with us and laughed right along until she was too tired to do so anymore. She excused herself from the table and said it was past her bed time. We all told her goodnight and that we loved her.

That was the last pleasant memory of the evening.

After a while, the rest of the family retired to the living room to proceed with asking Siri stupid questions like “will you marry me?” and “how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?” We were laughing hysterically when I noticed my husband froze as if he was listening for something. Finally everyone quieted down long enough to hear someone yelling for help. It was my grandmother.

We jumped and ran to her room to find her laying on the floor in agony, her hip very obviously out of place. We called 911 and within minutes the emergency techs were there wheeling her out of the room into the ambulance. A wave of adrenaline came over me and I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt so sick. Sicker than I had felt from the pregnancy. I thought to myself, “You better calm down or you are going to lose this baby.”

My sister and I accompanied my mother and father to the ER to be with my grandmother. We were there until 3am just waiting. Sure enough, she had a broken hip. When we finally got home, I went to bed, so keyed up and still feeling sick that I couldn’t sleep a wink. My parents got home about 4am. I greeted them and asked if anything had changed regarding my grandmother’s condition. She was sleeping now, waiting to be scheduled for surgery. We all decided to retire to bed and get what little sleep we could. Once again, I couldn’t sleep, but sleep must have come over me finally because I woke up to the sound of my family gathered in the kitchen in the morning light. I looked at the clock. It was 8am. As exhausted as I was, I didn’t want to sleep anymore so I decided to get up.

I went to the bathroom. When I was finished, I turned to flush the toilet and froze right where I stood. A wave of shock and “I told you so” came over me all at once. Those little fears I had deep down all along had come true. I had miscarried.

I just stood there in silence. I don’t know how long I was there before I started crying. My mother and sisters heard me and rushed to the bathroom. They didn’t have to ask – they knew by where I was and what I was doing exactly what had happened.

That was Easter Sunday morning. I will never, ever forget that weekend as long as I live.

When my husband, son and I got home that evening, I felt empty and weak. I decided to take a bath. It was in the bath that I just started crying and asking God what I did wrong. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my little baby down, that this was all my fault. I cried and cried and as I wept, I heard a voice say to me, “She’s okay. She’s with Me now. And she loves you.”

That was it. A wave of calm came over me and while I was still heartbroken, I knew it was going to be okay. In that moment I remembered the little boy’s experience in the book Heaven Is For Real. While he was in heaven, he met the two siblings his mother had miscarried. The siblings she had never told him about. They came up to him and told him they were his brother and sister and to tell their mother they love her. I knew my baby was up there now too. In the arms of Jesus. And she was okay.

In the days and weeks that followed, I felt the pain of the loss weaken, while the love of my baby grew. I had moments of sadness when I walked by the baby clothes in stores, but in those moments I was immediately reminded that God was still in control.

I will not say to you that knowing that God is in control of all of this made it easier for me, pain free, or without sadness. But it did give me wave after wave of peace and assuredness that it would be okay in the end.

As I write this, it has been a month since I lost the baby. I named her Baby Easter. I wrote a song for her. And while I’m sad I didn’t get to meet her on this side of Heaven, I can say that I am all the more excited to get to meet her someday in Heaven. Losing her made Heaven seem so much closer. It’s no longer just some place I’ll get to go when I die. Now it’s some place I feel somehow closer to. Like because my baby is there, a piece of me is already there too.

I am blessed beyond measure. All of this has made me realize even more how precious my son is and how I should never take him for granted. We got pregnant with him so easily. He’s been such an easy baby, and now as a toddler, he’s such an obedient, sweet, kind-hearted little boy. Thanks to all of this, I will never EVER take that for granted again.

Christianity is Rebellious

I am a goodie-two-shoes, ok? There, I admitted it. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always strived to please my parents, do what’s right, not lie, be home on time, dot my i’s and cross my t’s. Seriously. It’s kind of sickening. Now, as I write this, I’m thirty years old and I can honestly say that I’ve never really strayed from my perfectionism. That’s not to say that I’ve been perfect. It’s not to say that I’ve never made any mistakes. It’s only to say that I’ve truly always wanted to be pleasing to both my parents and to Christ.

My sisters have always poked a little fun at me for this (as sisters always do). I’ve always felt like the “odd girl out” when I’m with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that my sisters are a bunch of Jezebels (girls, if you’re reading this, seriously, that’s not what I’m saying). 🙂 All I mean to say is that they were the fun sisters. The free-spirited ones. The “sure, let’s try that” sisters. They weren’t afraid to get their hands a little dirty. And I always felt like they looked down on me for not joining them. But for some reason I stuck to my guns and remained a goodie-two-shoes throughout my formative years and into my adulthood.

My husband, on the other hand, was the opposite. He did everything the opposite of what he was told. His ambition was to try everything once, and that included drugs, alcohol, religions, and on and on. If someone told him something wasn’t a good idea, he wanted to try it all the more. He was the ultimate “rebel.” The “black sheep.” The free-spirited, no-consequences, only live once kind of guy. We could not be more opposite in that respect.

So when he told me that I’m the rebellious one, I was a bit shocked.

You see, my husband came to know Christ in a real way after living his crazy lifestyle and finding out that it was a lie. Ask him today and he’ll tell you that all those things the world tells you will make you happier are Satan’s way of messing you up, throwing you off-course and attempting to ruin you, permanently. Now, as a devoted Christian, husband, and father, he will say with all sincerity that to rebel in the eyes of the world – to drink, to smoke, to do drugs, to have illicit sex with multiple partners, to be “religion-free” – is not actually rebellious at all. Actually, it’s exactly what society expects of you. It’s what everyone does. It’s the status quo. Tattoos were once considered the ultimate sign of a rebel. Now even Christians have them. Sex used to be an expression of freedom. Now, I challenge you to find ten people you know over the age of 16 that are still honest-to-goodness virgins. Drinking used to be something you did to show your parents you’re an “adult”. Today, most parents offer drinks to their kids and join them in the revelry. And on and on and on.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that I am the rebel because I DIDN’T do what everyone else was doing. I DIDN’T care what society thought. I DIDN’T stray from what I was taught.

No, that doesn’t make me better than those that did. It just makes the me the one that went against the status quo – the ultimate form of rebellion.

So I ask you – if you’re really looking to be a rebel, really looking to be on the “fringe” of society – would drinking, smoking, sex, lying, stealing, drugs or anything else we call “bad” really make you such a rebel? Or wouldn’t you just be doing what everyone else is?

On the other hand, if you were a sold-out Christian, living for Christ everyday with honesty and integrity, helping others, giving of your time and money, being kind even when people suck, extending grace to the neighbor who keeps throwing cigarette butts in your yard, letting people cut you off on the road and not cussing them out in the privacy of your car – wouldn’t YOU be the one on the fringe of societal norm???

Matthew 5:3-12
3
 Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.7  Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.9  Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

, At Its Purest

I’ve spent the last few months pondering what worship really means. I’ve been leading worship now for almost 15 years (I started when I was 5…) 😉 and I have definitely made my share of mistakes along the way. I’ve admittedly led worship from the wrong place, focusing on my career more than the anointing. There was a time I didn’t even understand what anointing was. But as I embark on a new chapter of worship leading with Lately, I’ve been in prayer daily about what that looks like and the fruit it will produce.

I cannot say that I have all the answers today. I cannot say that I will have all the answers tomorrow or even next year. But my pastor spoke about prayer recently, explaining that prayer is about long-term faithfulness. He said that most of us have more faith that the faucet will give out hot water than we have faith that our prayers will be answered. It’s so true. And I think it’s also true for how we learn. I think we often set out to learn spiritual principles with the same mindset we had in school – memorize what we need for the test and move on. But I think spiritual lessons are really more like spiritual discipline. It’s something we learn over long periods of time – often our lifetimes. Not something we learn overnight for one big test.

My point in all of this is that my journey in worship is something I expect to continue my whole life. And my goal, when you boil it down, is to worship in the purest form possible. Not to be cliche, but “more of Him, less of me.” Really, I want “all of Him, none of me.” I want to lead worship in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, letting none of my filth taint the oil as it pours off of me and onto the audience God will place before me each time.

That’s it. Pure worship. That’s what I’m after. And as I travel down this road further, I’ll share with you what I learn along the way. It’s a journey of a lifetime and I am privileged to be on it.

, Pickin’ and Grinnin’: A Follow-up

I would like to follow up to a previous post I made about worship. I was reading over it tonight and I felt it merited a little more insight. In my previous post (Pickin’ and Grinnin’) I mentioned how God had used some of my experiences to teach me what worship is supposed to be about and what it’s not supposed to be about. So this past summer I started leading worship again for the first time in years.

I have to say that it has been such a blessing to lead worship again separate from self. It has taken worship which was once, for me, a show, and made it into what I now know it was supposed to be all along: an outward expression of my deep love for this man we call Jesus. An exciting outward expression. A fleeting moment that represents what I believe to be the tiniest taste of what’s to come in the hereafter. A chance to show some who might be curious just how awesome we think God is. A chance to share with others who already believe in our deep love for the Lord. And most importantly, one of many ways to live out what is supposed to be a life of worship.

I knew this but I hadn’t lived it until now. Worship is not the 15 minutes of music before the sermon on Sunday morning. Or the album we play on our iPhone on the way to work in the morning. Worship is our life lived for God. The music we sing is just one way of expressing how much we love Him. But it should NEVER be the only way. And if it is, we’re missing out on the incredible relationship we can only have with the Divine.

It would be like knowing you love your husband or wife, but only telling them on your anniversary, the designated day you’re supposed to celebrate your love. It means so much more when you hear it on a Tuesday than it does when you hear it on your anniversary.

And it’s the same way with God. So when I’m on that stage singing worship songs now, I’m not thinking about anything but making sure he knows how much I love him, how much I want to be with him, how much I want to show others how much he means to me. And more importantly, when I’m off the stage, I’m thinking the same thing.

And it has changed everything…

You Should Know That I Am Indeed a Christian Nerd

We either are or we aren’t. It’s not both.

Admittedly, in the recent years of my Christian walk I have been under the impression that it’s not effective to be overtly Christian in the eyes of an unbeliever. I thought that the best way to make an impact was to be relevant with a perfect amount of “worldly” peppered in. Not too Christian. Not too secular. Of course, the problem then becomes defining what that means because it can get pretty convoluted pretty quickly. But I digress.

In my honest and earnest attempt to be as “real” as possible, I even compromised the wording of my message, using the adjective “spiritual” as my hipster definition of faith. Don’t get me wrong, my faith has everything to do with my spiritual life, but I am not spiritual first, faithful second. And this is something I had to realize when I put myself in an unbeliever’s shoes.

See, I used to work in marketing for a Christian company. I came in thinking I knew everything about how to effectively market to the lost. Don’t be too “Christian,” it turns people away. That was my mantra and I stuck to it pretty religiously (if you will pardon the pun) until I was asked to really start analyzing how the world views us. When I started to try to think outside my own box, something hit me.

No one wants to be conned into faith. Geez. Does that mean I’ve been a Christian con-artist all this time?

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but my point is simply that if I’m so preoccupied with what the message looks like that I compromise the message itself, I’ve gone from being a real, honest person who just wants to share what’s on their heart, to someone who is trying to sell you something. And that’s EXACTLY what I was trying to do, with the best of intentions, let me assure you.

So to all of you out there who have wondered for a while about Lately, let me make it clear. We are not “Christians in a band that sings about spiritual stuff that could possibly be interpreted as having something to do with Jesus.” We are believers in the saving power of the blood of the Lamb of God. This is not something we want to shove down your throat or force upon you in any way. And moreso, it’s not something we hope you stumble upon when you happen to listen to our lyrics more closely. This is what we believe, and we thought you might like to know about it.

If you’re not interested at this time, there will be no hard feelings or judgment on our parts. But feel free to come back anytime with questions, concerns, or if you decide you do indeed want to know more about this Jesus fellow. He is intriguing, rebellious, and completely awesome, I can assure you. But yet again, I digress.

If at any point during the life of this band you have felt duped, misled, or conned, I offer you my sincerest apologies. I, as are we all, am on my own journey in this life, and I fully admit that I made a mistake in my youth, replacing the message of Jesus with relativism – worldy crust on an otherwise Christian pie. It was deceiving and I am sorry if you ever felt used or duped by it. I promise that was not my intention, but I see now that it was most likely the result.

I hereby promise that from this point forward, you will know full well that I am indeed a Jesus Freak, and if I may rip off the apt phrasing from my best friend, I’ve “grown some god-balls.” I’m not afraid to tell you that I love him and I’m doing all of this for him.

And for those of you who already believe in Jesus, I would like to encourage you to shed the garments of this world and don your nerdiest christian garb, so to speak. Wear your faith with
pride. Now, more than ever, you and I have nothing to hide. In fact, if we don’t share it, who will?

That is my spiritual (oh dang, there’s that word again) insight for today. May it serve us all well.

And may the force be with you.
The Captain
(confessed Jesus Freak)