Monday, March 25, 2013

farther along

Yesterday afternoon I was cleaning the kitchen and this song, "Farther Along" by Josh Garrels, came on my iPod. Every time I hear the opening notes, I find myself stopping in my tracks just to take it in. I stood still in my kitchen and sang along. I tell you what- Nicole rapping (or however you describe the verses of this song) is probably a comical sight... probably why I only do it standing alone in my kitchen. :-) This song just... I can't even describe... it moves me and encourages me and just fills me with hope. It's one of my all time favorites.

It reminds me that perseverance builds character, character builds hope, and that hope will not disappoint.

And after I heard it yesterday afternoon, I wondered to myself whether there was a decent video for it on YouTube and then promptly forgot about it. Later last night, I was catching up on some blog reading in bed and what video did Ann Voskamp (author of One Thousand Gifts) just happen to post on her blog? Yep! That's the one...

For two more days only, you can download the entire Josh Garrels discography for FREE on All tips go to support the work of World Relief in the Congo. So, win-win situation here. Josh Garrels is probably one of the most intense, unique, challenging and beautiful artists I've come across in a long time, if not ever. His album Love & War & the Sea In Between is simply epic. It's included in the free download,  and I can't recommend it highly enough. You can check it out here:

And that's my commercial. :-) Here are a couple more videos that Matthew came across on Garrels' website awhile back. They both feature some cool animation and are definitely worth a look:

Sunday, March 17, 2013


This past week, I feel like God has just continued to shower so much love on me. Spring feels closer, we're looking forward to remembering the hope of Easter, and my friends and family just continue to love on me in ways I don't deserve.

My dear friend Ann went to a JJ Heller concert last fall, and soon after sent me a video of a performance of this song. In the email she told me to have my tissues ready. Ann told me that at that concert she played a lot of new songs that I really needed to hear when the time came... so when her new album, Loved, came available for pre-order, I was all over it. Well, the CD finally arrived in the mail earlier this week, and has been reinforcing truth in my heart ever since. The songs are full of promises of hope, of God's goodness when things feel hopeless, of redemption, and the simplicity and wonder of His love.

This song, "Who You Are", makes me cry, but the truth of the refrain is something I need to hear time and time again. It's beautiful.

Sometimes I don't know, I don't know what You're doing
But I know who You are

Sunday, March 10, 2013

nothing is wasted

One of my favorite Sara Groves songs is about a girl who spends all night in the backyard, staring up at the stars and the moon: Maybe this was made for me/for lying on my back in the middle of a field/maybe that's a selfish thought/or maybe there's a loving God.

Maybe it's a selfish thought for me to say that the concert I went to Friday night was orchestrated just for me, but the truth is, I believe that it was... that my loving God lined up the perfect evening of song and story, of hope and joy, just for my weary and broken heart.

First, some back story: As I've written in past posts, last year was hard for Matthew and me. We experienced two miscarriages and our hearts haven't quite recovered (I don't know that they ever fully will). It's been a tough journey of grief and fear, but also of a deepening faith and a stronger marriage, ultimately. Still, hope and joy have both been quite elusive to me, often taking back seats to anger, fear, and a very deep sadness.

But one of the things God has given me to help me keep up the fight for hope has been music. It's been amazing how He has loved on me in this way. A week or so after the first loss, Sara Groves was in town, and she sang all of my favorites, including "Open My Hands", which has been my theme song in all of this. Then, just days after I found out that we would be losing our second baby, Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn were in town. The timing for both concerts was perfect, and could be posts in and of themselves.

And God's perfect timing continued with the show we went to Friday night... The two albums that ministered to my heart the most last year were, hands down, Jason Gray's A Way to See in the Dark and Andrew Peterson's Light for the Lost Boy. So when I found out that both Jason and Andrew were going to be playing in town on this particular Friday night, the very anniversary of the first miscarriage, I just couldn't help but think that God had orchestrated the whole thing for me. It was perfect.

Maybe that's a selfish thought... or maybe there's a loving God...

Last week was awful. It was busy, stressful, emotionally draining, and even a bit traumatic (ask Stacy and I about that sometime). I woke up Friday morning feeling exhausted, shaken, drained and just miserable. And then my phone buzzed with a text message from my amazing sister-in-law Michelle. Among other things, she wrote "Today marks the start of something new!" and referenced Isaiah 43:18-21, which starts with this: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!"

And then how did Andrew start his set Friday night? With "All Things New":

Come broken and weary
Come battered and bruised
My Jesus makes all things new...

The world was good
The world is fallen
The world will be redeemed
O hold on to the promise

The stories are true
That Jesus makes all things new
The dawn is upon you

Then Jason did his set. Before he started "Nothing is Wasted" he kind of paused and looked out into the crowd and said something along the lines of "you know, I just really feel like somebody out there needs this tonight..." and it was me. I held Matthew's hand on one side and Charlotte's on the other and I just wept.

-please, please, please watch this video... and note the last image... :-)

In the second half of the show, Jason played "Fear is Easy, Love is Hard"... You can watch the video Matthew took on Friday night here. What I love so much about his whole album is how he continually stares fear straight in the face, and then challenges me to hope, even when it is hard.

My (also amazing!) sister-in-law Kristine bought me these wall placards for my birthday last year, and they pretty much sum up the themes of A Way to See in the Dark.

"Fear is Easy, Love is Hard" ends with this:

It comes down to a simple choice
Shouting devils or a still small voice
One is spreading fear and dread
Oh but love has always said
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

Then Andrew sang "Rest Easy":

Do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now

You don't have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don't have to prove yourself
You're already mine
You don't have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

Side note: Guess what passage our pastor Ben taught on at church last night? Mark 6:30-52, when Jesus walks on the water. And he says to his disciples "Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid." :-)

After the show on Friday night we had the opportunity to talk to both Jason and Andrew and tell them just how much their music has meant to us, especially in this past year. They signed our CDs. Jason wrote the reference Isaiah 49:16 under my name. This was special to me, too, because all of Isaiah 49 is a chapter that Michelle shared with me last summer and that I read a lot in the wake of the second miscarriage. And 49:16 says this: "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..." 

Earlier that same day, before the concert, Michelle sent me an email that ended with this: "May you feel His Presence in amazing ways today. He is so very near to you and loves you with an everlasting love. You are in the palm of his hand... like the robin's nest."

Maybe that's a selfish thought... or maybe there's a loving God...

In this place I've been, hope has seemed elusive, my strength has been failing, and I've been weary in the waiting... but I came out of that church on Friday night feeling a renewed sense of hope, of peace, and of joy. I walked out feeling so loved - by my husband, by my friends (so many great conversations this week - you know who you are!), and most of all by my God.

In Jesus... I have hope. I have joy. I am new.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

finding my voice

I was driving home from work the other night and heard this song for the first time (essentially) and it immediately resonated with me. Daniel is a local artist I first connected with via the arts council. He did a great opening set for Eric Peters at the show we were at last month, where I bought his new album, Speak (produced by Andrew Osenga!). Though I'd passively listened through pieces of it over the past few weeks, Thursday night was the first time I stopped to really listen. I listened through this opening track, let out a 'wow', and hit repeat.

I consider myself to be a person who's relatively good with words. I was an English major, after all. But for all of my efforts to communicate clearly, whether in work or in writing or wherever, words are not, as it turns out, always my strong suit, especially in person. I'm insecure. I'm not good at looking people in the eye. I care way too much about what people think about me. I strive to speak truth in love, to share my heart and my faith, to be bold... but most of the time I seem to come up empty.

We can be automatic, carefully diplomatic
I need courage to speak my choice
Now that it's been awhile since my courtyard denial
I am still trying to find my voice

That's part of what this blog is about. It's just me trying to find my voice as I muddle through my faith and my life by the grace of a God who loves me despite that muddling. And this song reflects my heart in this journey perfectly.