Happy Valentines Day friends!!
Thinking about Valentines Day, and subsequently love, brings to mind three very important people in my life whom I love and am loved by: my dad, my husband, and God -my Heavenly Father.
Tomorrow marks one year since my sweet dad went to be with Jesus. I’ve wanted to write about him for a while now, and actually I have been writing about him –just not in a blog. Many of the songs I’ve written in the past twelve months have either directly or indirectly been about my father….hopefully you’ll hear those in the near future (more about that in another blog…see what I did there… ;) ). I could write a whole series of novels about all God did and every specific, secret, whispered prayer He faithfully and lovingly answered in the months before He called my dad home, but for now I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. You know….blog style. :)
I’d been scared of when “the time” would come for my dad for a long while –anxious and fearful of not being able to control the circumstances around it. I’ve always leaned toward being a worrier (and maybe a teeeeensy bit of a control freak), and since we’d known about my dad’s illness for a few years, it had long been a fear in the back of my mind: what if I didn’t get to say goodbye? My Nana had passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night when I was in college, and I was terrified of getting a similar phone call about my dad. Countless drives to work and showers and evening jogs were spent praying and sobbing and begging God that I would be able to be with my dad during his last few days on earth and get to really truly say goodbye. I knew God could say no, and have a good reason for doing that –even a loving reason. I knew I needed to brace myself for whatever came, and that I would choose to believe that God knows best and works everything together for good should He answer my prayer in a different way than I was asking Him to. Again and again, I’d muster up all the faith I had and tell God I would trust Him no matter what, but was still bringing my request before Him.
Spring of 2012 was blocked off for me to open up for my dear friends Casting Crowns on their “Come To The Well” tour, which ran from February right through May. The only two full weeks I had completely wide open were right before that tour started….which is when my mom called saying she had a feeling I should come home to Florida to see my dad. We’d had a few scares throughout the past several years, but somehow I knew this time…something in her voice was different. I was actually already in Florida for a few shows with Matt Maher, and the day after my mom called, my friend Diane was able to drive me straight from that last show to the hospital my dad was in. My husband and a few more family members came down within the next few days, and we were all in the room when the doctor gently told my dad he only had a few days left….that this was the end.
I’ve learned so many things from my dad. He taught me about financial responsibility while trusting God to faithfully provide. He taught me that milk chocolate chip cookies are way better than the semi-sweet kind. He showed me loyalty, forgiveness, and taught his five daughters to be brave and stand up for what we believed in. He was a master storyteller, and even at 78 he never forgot a name. My dad LOVED to sing and thanks to countless hours driving to and from church with him and his BFF’s the Gaithers, I learned to harmonize and the power of great lyrics. But the biggest thing my dad left me with is something we talked about during the last few days I spent with him before he went home. I asked him what he was thinking –looking back on 78 years lived on earth, knowing he was nearing the very end of his journey this side of heaven. Sitting on the edge of his hospital bed together, he said something I’ll never forget: “Well…everyone knows they’re dying, but nobody thinks they’re dying.” He went on to remind me of the importance of focusing on the day we’re living in –this day. Right here & now…the only day we’re guaranteed. Oh, we all think we have tomorrow. We make plans like we have it –and I’m not excluding myself here, believe me. I’m the Queen of GoogleCal. But no-one except God knows the specific number of days you or I have left on earth, and at the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, every second is a precious, priceless gift that we are entrusted with. God promises that each new morning His mercies are new, and that His grace is sufficient for us…today. Time and time again He tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but to live courageously today, trusting Him with past, present and future. He's given us the moment we're living in to shine like a city on a hill (wherever we are, whatever circumstances may surround us), taking each opportunity He puts in front of us to show the eternal hope of Jesus to a hurting world that mistakenly believes this earthly life is all we can count on.
I am more grateful than I will ever be able to express that I was able to hug my dad and tell him I love him and am proud to be his daughter. I’m so thankful that my new husband (at the time we’d only been married for five months) got to reassure my dad he’d take care of his girls. The time we shared and the memories we made those two weeks are absolutely priceless gifts….God has been immeasurably kind to me, and I will never forget the awesome answer to prayer He didn’t have to give. In the end, my dad was thankful that his disease helped him “number his days” and appreciate every last moment. He kept his accounts short, reached out to loved ones near and far, and finished his days here peaceful and cherishing the gift of life he’d been given.
Wherever you are and whatever season you’re in, I hope my reminiscing and recounting God’s goodness brings you hope; reminds you that God does indeed answer prayer; and encourages you to reach out to those around you that you count dear. I’ll leave you with my favorite “Valentines” verse from Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” True, unwavering love. Happy, happy Valentines Day, friends.
News & Blog
Happy Valentines Day friends!!
Hello friends! Man, I’m still having a hard time believing it’s 2013. Then I went and blinked my eyes, and it's February already!! The longer I live, the faster the time seems to fly by. SPEAKING of time flying by –I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve given you an update on what’s going on! I feel like I need to write a belated “Christmas card update” of what’s happened so we can get all caught up.
This past year since my album, “If It Leads Me Back” came out (January 17, 2012) has been absolutely non-stop. God has led me through valleys deep and dark where I experienced His faithful presence in such a tangible way, and over mountaintops to fulfill dreams that only He knew were hidden in my heart. Soon after my album released, my beloved father went to be with Jesus on February 15, 2012 after a long battle with a terminal illness. I’ll tell you more about that in another blog next week, but God answered so many prayers in allowing my husband, Mark, and me to be able to spend the last few weeks of my dad’s life with him. I’m forever grateful.
In February 2012 I was so blessed to get to go out on tour with Casting Crowns again, on the second leg of their “Come To The Well” tour. Talk about dreams coming true –I’ve been such a huge fan of their music for SO long, and believe me when I tell you their awesome music is an accurate reflection of their incredible servants hearts. Along on that tour was another one of my musical heroes: Matthew West, and the lovable Royal Tailor guys. We managed to visit 40 cities and saw countless lives changed by of the love of Jesus and the truth of the Gospel.
After the Come To The Well tour ended in May, Mark and I moved down to Franklin, TN. We LOVE living here, and are especially enjoying this mild southern winter (I guess compared to Chicago pretty much anywhere is mild)! In June, we traveled to Washington DC for my Dad’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery (needless to say, the burial admittance/paperwork process at Arlington takes quite a while), which was so special. My father was a retired Colonel in the USAF and considered it an honor to serve and protect his country, so it was awesome to get to witness the military honoring a veteran soldier.
Through the summer I was so excited to get to sing at several amazing festivals, at which I was forced (ok….maybe not forced) to eat corn dogs and funnel cakes. Festivals are rough, folks. I also hopped on a mini-tour through the southwest with my dear friends in MIKESCHAIR, and got to experience van life with five guys. Let’s just say I think I now deserve honorary membership in the band. ;) Then, on a few later dates I opened up for two more of my absolute favorite artists: Steven Curtis Chapman and Brandon Heath –both of whose music has impacted my own writing more than I could ever say. God has been unbelievably good to me. It’s blown my mind to realize that God puts dreams in our hearts so that He can then fulfill them -in His time and perfect way- and grow our faith and trust in Him. Why in the world would He do that?! Because He loves us. Simple as that.
Come fall I had the immense privilege of being a part of Matthew West’s “Into The Light” tour with MIKESCHAIR and Everfound. I loved our tour family, and especially loved getting to meet the people that inspired Matthew’s songs from his last album, “The Story of Your Life” and his new album “Into The Light”. Amazing songs about some seriously amazing people!! We visited 35 cities and had a blast traveling the country together and meeting YOU! After that tour ended at the beginning of December, Mark and I got to visit some dear friends in Colorado, and then spent time with my family in Florida and Mark’s family in Texas for Christmas.
Sheeeesh! I’m getting tired just typing about all that traveling. Seriously though, we were so blessed to see God sustain us and grow us through 2012 and all it held, and count it such a huge privilege to have gotten to meet and get to know so many of you as we bussed across the country.
Wow…so I guess that brings me up to present tense! February (as planned – I’m slowly learning that God likes to lovingly rearrange my schedule for His MUCH better plans) has a lot on the books so far: I’ve really been focusing on writing new songs recently (more on that soon ;) ), and I’ll be leading worship at Girls of Grace in Nashville on the 23rd. After Girls of Grace, the NEXT DAY I’ll be running a half-marathon at Disney World with Team FREEDOM, Natalie Grant and Carmen Brown from the JoyFM in Tampa, Florida. To find out more about why an extremely non-sporty girl like myself would sign up to run 13.1 miles on someone else’s behalf, check out this link: http://florida.thejoyfm.com/page/run!
Well friends, I hope your 2013 has been awesome so far, and that this coming week would find you sensing God’s nearness and love in a fresh way. Please forgive my terrible blog-per-year track record and check back in soon…I promise I'm already working on my next post. :)