Remain in My Love

FRC Stained Glass

I was finishing up my album late last summer. We were almost there, but we had encountered a few challenges along the way. I was overwhelmed with the details, and when the mastering didn’t come together as we had planned, I nearly crumbled under the pressure. I was afraid we wouldn’t meet the deadline, and I had a horrible feeling that all of our work would be for nothing.

Who is this “we” I speak of? Well, I certainly didn’t release my album all by myself. I had an incredible team behind me: producer, engineer, bass player, percussionists, violinist, back-up vocalists, cover artist, and many others I’m sure I’m forgetting. In particular, my producer and engineer had been with me every step of the way. He wouldn’t let me settle for second-best. He told me I was paying too much money to get mediocre results. When I was too tired and stressed to call the distributor one more time, he got online and chatted with customer service until everything was resolved. He told me he “had my back,” and that made me smile. I needed the assurance that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Nate wouldn’t let me down, and he had proven his trustworthiness over the year we had spent in recording and post-production. We were a team; there were two of us, and if we needed help, we had many others we could count on to come to our aid.

A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon based on John 15. Before I go into detail about the message, I thought I would share the pastor’s opening illustration. He told about a woman who had worked for her employer for over a decade. She was dedicated and never seemed to tire of whatever tasks she was given. When everyone else went home for the day, exhausted and tired, this woman seemed like she could work for several more hours. When the woman submitted her resignation because she was ready to retire, her boss sadly accepted the reality and planned a party to celebrate this woman’s contribution to the company. On the day of the party, everyone in the office was surprised to see two women, identical twins, enter the room. It quickly became obvious that the twins had been sharing the job and paycheck for over a decade. There had been two of them, doing the work of one.

In his message on the vine and branches in John 15, the pastor spoke about the branches (us as believers) remaining in the Vine. The Vine is Christ, and God the Father is the Gardener. God prunes and cuts away the parts of our branch that will not bear fruit in order that we may begin to make a difference in the Kingdom. If we remain in the Vine and submit to His loving pruning, others will begin to see the evidence of His love within us based on the fruit from our branches. But if a person does not remain in the Vine, he or she will be cut off and the fruit will wither and die.

This passage is one I can relate to quite well. I have one plant in my house that I have managed to keep alive for three years. It is usually green and leafy, and occasionally it will flower. It hasn’t flowered in nearly six months now, and I am getting discouraged. Surely, I must be doing something wrong. So recently, my household assistant cut off some of the dying and yellowed branches, and I am hopeful now that this will start a process of growth.

I am also hoping and praying for growth in another area of my life. I have been praying for a dear friend for a long time, and the days and months have blended into years. My friend is kind, generous, dynamic, and gifted— incredible qualities that drew me in from the day we met, but there is something missing. That missing element is connection to the Savior. My friend has been supportive of my faith and ministry, but yet, has not entered into relationship with the Lord despite everything I have shared and conveyed over the years.

I am not a charismatic evangelist; I don’t often witness by preaching and sharing outright. I am more of a friendship evangelist. I would feel much more comfortable talking over a cup of coffee without the pressure to share the Gospel. If a friend can see by the way I communicate that I love the Lord and one day asks about the hope that is in my heart, I would be overjoyed to tell my story of faith.

Typically, I have been satisfied with this approach. Throughout my life thus far, I have been placed in many situations where I was able to share my faith. Often, I wasn’t able to share my testimony or directly speak of my salvation, but I made many life-long friends, many of whom are still not professing believers. I pray for these friends frequently, hoping that God has been able to use me as an instrument to communicate His love. I know I cannot save someone in my own power; I might just be the one to plant or water the seed. Perhaps someone will come along later to harvest what has been planted as the Holy Spirit convicts a friend to accept the gift of eternal life.

But when it comes to the dear friend I mentioned earlier, I feel a strange sense of urgency. As I explained, I have known this person for many years, and we have had several deep and intentional conversations, but matters of faith have always created a roadblock. Recently, I have felt a renewed stirring to pray for this person because I am sensing something is changing. I am restless and unsettled, my thoughts constantly wandering to this one person. The burden is great and it is heavy. In my own strength, I have carried it alone for all of these years. Yes, I’ve prayed; I’ve tried to leave it in God’s hands, but it’s been difficult to relinquish control.

Recently, I shared an evening with a sister in the Lord, and I talked about what was on my heart. That opened the door to two more sisters in Christ coming alongside of me to offer support and encouragement. I know they are praying for me, and even more importantly, for my friend too. I realized that like the twin sisters in the story I recounted above, I am not alone in this journey. I have a team surrounding me, similar to the dedicated souls who supported my album production.

But greater than my sisters in Christ, I also have Christ, my Vine, to cling to as I wait and pray— as I intercede for my dear friend. I don’t have to save this person in my own strength. For some reason I have been planted here in this time and place to play a part in this life-saving endeavor. But it remains to be seen the impact I will have in the end result. I only pray I don’t have to wait much longer. There are two of us— Christ and me— and my sisters who will carry me and pray with me.

I was surrounded by some of my sisters in Christ at a recent cardio/drumstick class at church when something incredible happened. I was dancing in the back row when we began a routine to Blanca’s “What if.” Just then, the sun came blazing through the stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary. The image depicted on the glass is of Jesus, knocking on a door, and even though I couldn’t see the details from the back of the room, I knew what the sun had illuminated just then. Call it coincidence. Call it a God-wink. Maybe I was just hyper-sensitive to the need in my heart. But I got the distinct assurance then that God had everything under control. Even then, perhaps, he was knocking on the door of my friend’s heart with the invitation to eternal life. He was working, even as I fumbled forward, trying to do the saving on my own. Oh, how I longed for God to use me, to be an instrument in this work, but I didn’t need to carry the burden alone.

As I danced, I basked in the glow of the setting sun, knowing He was front and center, leading and guiding me forward. I let the words from Blanca’s song wash over me, and I marveled at the peace that came over me. I was probably grinning like a fool but I didn’t care who was looking; I had my eyes glued to my Savior.

“I know You’re holding me up
I know Your love is enough
I know the power in Your name
Can do anything
And I know You’re making me strong
I know You were here all along
I know I’m right where You want me.”

There are two of us: me and God— and together, we are going to pursue the one who needs His love. As God does His work, I will do my best to reflect Him and bear the fruit he has brought to life in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I will remain in the Vine and remain in His love.

Chasing Rainbows

 

Rainbow

It was early last summer when my father and I stood in the garage and watched the rain come down. He had been grilling our dinner when it started pouring, but he managed to get the grill just inside the door to avoid the deluge. I had just joined him in the garage to check on his progress. My mother and I had been getting everything else ready in the kitchen, and we figured our main course would be ready soon.

Neither of us said anything as we took in the brief rain storm. A rumble of thunder overhead took me by surprise because it had seemed like the rain was letting up. In fact, it looked like the sun was about to peek out.

So that day, just outside the garage, I kept searching for the rainbow, even though I knew it was possible that there wasn’t enough sunlight to cast upon the fading raindrops. But then as I continued to squint, I saw a faint line of color. “Is that…?”

I had barely spoken when my dad replied: “Yeah, there’s something there. It’s a rainbow, getting brighter.”

I stepped further out of the garage, not caring that I was getting dripped on by the drizzling rain. My mom came out of the house then and asked what we were doing. I don’t know if my dad answered her, because I was focused on that rainbow, drinking in the beauty and thanking God that I could see it.

Eventually, we all went inside to eat, but it wasn’t before I watched the rainbow fade from the sky. I waited until the sun was warm on my dark hair and the dark clouds were barely visible on the eastern horizon.

I thought about this moment last week when it rained for the first time this year. The abundance of snow that we had on the ground rapidly began to melt as a result of the added moisture and the warm temperatures. It made me think of Noah in the Bible and how God had shown His promise of faithfulness after the flood had receded from the earth. As water ponded and flowed in a small stream around my house, I longed for the beauty of a rainbow. But instead, the sky was dreary with no hint of sunlight, and the snow banks were gray and muddy. I couldn’t help but compare the scenery to my recent circumstances.

The day before, my sister had called and we talked for awhile. She asked how I was doing, and when I said “fine,” she pressed a little deeper. “I’ve been reading your Facebook posts,” she said. “Your loneliness, your ankle, all those challenges— you’re okay now?”

“Well, yeah, I guess,” I said. “It’s still rough. I can’t really go anywhere on my own yet. The ice is finally melting, but now there’s water everywhere. And my ankle is still not healed. I’m just taking it a day at a time.”

Immediately, I found wisdom in my own words. Yes, it had been rough, but it was totally okay to take things day-by-day. It reminded me of the early days after my retina detachment. The depression had been significant during that time, but there had also been some sweet moments too. I was able to spend time with my parents, my sisters, and my nieces and nephews. My mom and I cooked and baked together. We made the best of our trips to Mayo Clinic by stopping at Trader Joe’s and finding tea we both enjoyed. We would spend our evenings, sipping tea by the fireplace and simply being together. When I think of the fall of 2017, fear and depression are definitely a part of that season but there was also a calm and security too. It was a time for healing and growth.

I knew if I examined my current season with fresh eyes, I could find the blessings in the difficulty. It wasn’t long before I began to formulate a mental list of positives that had come from the recent winter months: the fitness class, learning to do my hair, embracing new technology, making music with my OneVoice girls, and watching Hallmark movies. Friends helped me get groceries, drove me to work, and made sure I got to my appointments when I couldn’t leave my house due to the weather. Other friends were just a call away if I needed a distraction or words of encouragement. Even though there were moments I felt limited and closed up inside my house, I was never left lacking; God was faithful and took care of me, even as the smoke alarms malfunctioned, a hoped-for opportunity was cancelled, and my ankle still radiated pain.

I knew I could find beauty in the challenges if I was willing to look on the bright side. It made me think of the little sun-catcher prisms my grandma had hanging in her windows when I was young. I would sit on the floor and purposefully follow the little rainbows of light as they moved across the floor and walls of the living room. Maybe this is why I’ve always liked rainbows and searching for the sunlight because it has been a part of my life since the beginning. It made me smile when I went to visit my grandma in the care facility recently, and I saw the little rainbows moving across her bed. Someone had found her prisms and had put them in the window. I had thought that maybe the sun-catchers had been put into storage or lost somehow when she had moved out of her house. But they were there in the window, and it was like everything was right in the world. I never knew how much I had missed those little sun-made rainbows until I glimpsed them again after their absence.

Rainbows don’t always last for long… they are fleeting, and sometimes they appear and then fade moments after the rain. But if it weren’t for the rain (the tough stuff in life), we wouldn’t be actively looking for blessings along the way. Even though life has its challenges, grief, and heartache, God is still faithful. Sometimes we need the darkness of our circumstances to find the blessings in the sunlight. The rainbow is the bridge between the pain and beauty. But sometimes you have to be looking intentionally to see the promises up ahead. You might be tempted to escape the rain just as soon as possible; I know I have that perspective for sure! It’s no fun to stand in the drizzle, nor is it enjoyable to endure life’s challenges. But if you can find perspective in the midst of the storm, perhaps you can catch a glimpse of color and light. Don’t hold back; go chase that rainbow.

Stumbling Forward

Early in January, I made the bold proclamation that I would be running free in 2019. Even with tendonitis in my ankle, I was motivated to leave behind my complacency and venture out into productivity. Well, I can definitely say it has not been an easy journey. We have encountered some bumps along the way, not to mention a fair share of anxiety.
Early in February, I was faced with some unwelcome obstacles at home. As a result, I was very anxious and didn’t sleep very well. In addition, the weather made it nearly impossible to leave the house. One week, the temperature didn’t climb above zero for several days. Local schools were cancelled due to the dangerously low wind chills. Then came the snow; inch after inch piled up. We would barely dig out from a storm only to be slammed with more snow two days later.
I was feeling boxed-in at home. A friend drove me to the store before the arctic blast so I could stock up on food and other necessities, but it didn’t take long before my meals lacked appeal. I was able to work from home, but I missed walking back and forth from the office. My only diversion was my daily shuffle to the mailbox. It was remarkable I could even find the mailbox in the drifted snowbanks at the end of the driveway.
One day, when my anxiety was at its peak, I was granted an opportunity to leave the house. It wasn’t good timing, because although I was eager to venture outside, I wasn’t in a good headspace. I tried to hide it, but I’m sure others were able to tell I was struggling. I am one of those people who wears their heart on their sleeve, and it’s impossible to hide behind emotion. A good friend and team member sought me out in the crowd that day and we started talking. I failed miserably as I pretended everything was okay. It wasn’t long before tears were streaming down my face, and I confessed that I had been battling through loneliness and anxiety.
Almost immediately, I realized I had found a compassionate confidant— someone who had witnessed anxiety in her own family and could relate to my struggle. As our conversation concluded, my friend extended an invitation. “You should come to class,” she said.
The class she referred to was a fitness and exercise session, held every Monday evening at the church. Attendees would dance and move to routines, many of which included the use of drumsticks. I had always been intrigued by my friend’s class but had never attended; I had assumed that I would not be able to keep up in such an environment. I was not in the best shape, and visually, I knew I would not be able to follow the instructor. But my friend encouraged me to attend class the next day and just give it a try. She said I didn’t have to return if it was beyond my ability.
Surprisingly, I was excited for the next day. I had my doubts that I would be able to keep up with the class, but I was willing to try anything. I think I would have agreed to anything at that point just to get me out of the house. But guess what? Monday morning dawned with the promise of accumulating ice and snow. Schools were cancelled, and my friend had to make the decision to cancel class as well. I had been so excited to try, and then snow once again derailed my plans.
Nearly a week later, friends from out of town informed me they were coming for a visit. Again, I was excited. We planned to order pizza and watch movies Saturday evening and then my friends would join me at church on Sunday. One friend made it to my house safely, but the other met with some difficulty. After a three-and-a-half-hour drive, he checked in to his hotel room only to come down with the stomach flu. Sadly, we spent the evening without him, but we still had an enjoyable time together, just the two of us. We ordered pizza, made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and watched movies.
At one point, I complained about my long hair and how difficult it was getting to manage it. That’s when my friend found a hair tie and told me I should pull it back. “I don’t know how,” I admitted somewhat sheepishly. Yeah, I know; what woman makes it to her mid-thirties without knowing how to make a ponytail? Well, apparently, I am that woman.
My friend was incredibly patient with me— talking through the steps and even occasionally pulling or tugging to get my hair in place. My first attempts were pretty pathetic. My arms hurt from being curled behind my head for such a long time. But finally, I made a passable ponytail, and we settled in to enjoy the rest of the evening.
The next morning, I awoke early so my friend could French braid my hair. You wouldn’t believe how many people came up to me at church that day and remarked about the new look. “Trust me,” I said often that morning. “My hair will never look like this again. There is no way I can replicate it.”
The next day, the house was quiet after the busy weekend. But I was determined to not get sucked back into the loneliness. It was Monday, and I was finally going to the fitness class! But the last thing I wanted was to battle my long hair. So I stood in my bathroom, a hair tie curled around my fingers, and twisted my hair into a pony tail. It took six attempts before I was satisfied, but I finally had a ponytail!
I went to class feeling confidant and ready, but I had no idea what to expect. It took me awhile to catch on; I found it was easier to follow the routines with drumsticks. The sticks were neon green and stood out as the other women moved their arms and tapped their sticks together. It was harder to figure out how to use my feet, but I managed to sway from side to side and click my drumsticks to the beat. I’m sure I didn’t get the same cardio workout as the other women, but it was certainly challenging. The more I thought about it, I realized it was both a physical and mental exercise for me. I was constantly moving my head so I could look at the others around me. Then I would look down to make sure my feet were in the right position. It took a great deal of concentration as I worked to follow along with only my left eye to compensate for all of the action. By the time the other women were stretching out on the floor at the end of class, I felt completely and wonderfully spent.
My friend, the instructor, played the song “I am not Alone” as performed by Kari Jobe, and tears spilled from my eyes as I sat on the floor. This song has been an emotional trigger for me over the past seventeen months or so in my recovery after my retinal detachment. In that moment, all of the anxiety and loneliness rose to the surface, and I felt God’s presence beside me as I cried. I was certainly not alone. I was surrounded by women who had welcomed me into their midst without questioning my level of physical strength and ability. I felt included and motivated— encouraged to be myself and to just try.
As I rose to my feet and moved to put my drumsticks away, my fingers rubbed against each other, and I looked down to find a blister. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the drumsticks or the workout, so I ignored it and went home. But the next day as I was attempting another ponytail before rehearsal, I came to a realization. Over the past few days as I had fumbled through multiple ponytail attempts, I had been gripping the hair tie between my fingers so tightly that I felt pain there. Then the blister made sense.
hair memeI had been trying so hard that the physical evidence on my finger was a nagging reminder of my accomplishments. It would have been easy for me in that moment to get discouraged— to tell myself that a ponytail shouldn’t be that difficult to make and I was failing miserably— but I recognized the negativity immediately. I couldn’t control the fact that my visual impairment had impacted my ability to learn the skill of doing my hair or following an exercise routine. I could only do my best and maintain a positive outlook on my circumstances, because truly, that was all I could control in the midst of my circumstances.
After my second week in class, I came home to a painful twinge in my ankle and a hair tie that had been stretched to its limits, thanks to my many attempts to do my hair. I was tired, but once again, I felt connected, included, and motivated. I think it’s going to be a long journey to recovery. I need to stay off of my ankle long enough to let it heal. I will need to keep doing my hair so that eventually it will become second nature. I will keep dancing and moving, even if my routine doesn’t match that of the other women. I will work through the coming days of winter loneliness, because Spring and Daylight Saving time is just around the corner. Longer, brighter, and warmer days are on the horizon, and I will keep stumbling forward one step at a time.

Running Free

To say that the beginning of 2019 has taken me by surprise would be an understatement. I am in completely new territory.

Let me explain.

Typically, I dread January’s arrival. I bask in everything December represents. I thrive in the busyness of rehearsals. I give my attention to every last detail. I sit in the glow of the Christmas lights in the evenings, but even thought it might look like I am relaxing, it is quite the opposite. I am listening to music, memorizing new material, and arranging set-lists in my head. Christmas music is beautiful, but it is difficult to play for a play-by-ear pianist. When it is December, I am running around like crazy— literally— and the wheels in my mind are turning too. I hardly ever shut down.

I’m sure other musicians, pastors, and church employees can relate to this. December is arguably the busiest time on the church calendar, with a close second maybe going to the time of Lent and Easter. When a busy season like Advent concludes, there is an immediate let-down for me. All of the songs I learned and memorized in December don’t really lend themselves to being utilized in January. I can’t just carry over into the new year with my musical momentum. Everything kind of comes to a halt.

I confess to experiencing a bit of situational depression in January. Yes, I’m working and I have a job to do, but the workload is a bit lighter and less challenging. It provides me ample time to focus on things that I let slide during December, but quite often, I’m not in a good headspace to focus on anything too important. I am usually distracted, lonely, and a bit off-track because I’ve lost some of December’s determination.

Last year, I cried when I packed away the Christmas decorations. I had embraced every beautiful moment of Christmas, 2017. I loved looking at the lights and singing songs of joy. My heart was full because my vision was healing after retina surgery, and I was excited for my upcoming album release in 2018. I had studio time scheduled for January, so I thought I would transition pretty easily from the busyness of December to an equally busy January, but the tears still came…

But as you might expect, my situational depression couldn’t last long when I had so much on the horizon. Before I knew it, I was recording, spending lots of money, and getting very little sleep. My body doesn’t respond well to stress and anxiety, but even so, I reveled in being productive. I only had two significant moments of panic and anxiety, but I was proud of myself for seeking out help when I needed it throughout the course of the year.

2018 was crazy, and life was lived at a chaotic and frenetic pace. I didn’t spend much time on Facebook, nor did I watch very much TV. A team member’s young child recommended that I watch his new favorite movie, and I promised I would— when I found the time. I am happy that I have since watched that movie— twice— and he’s right; it’s good! But for most of the year, I didn’t see much of my family and friends. It kind of reminded me of the six years I directed Camp when I was constantly working and never sleeping.

After I released The Dawn in late September, I hit the road that same week to attend a conference for work. While in Michigan, I was able to share the album with new listeners and perform/ lead worship at various events. I wasn’t embracing the same hectic pace from earlier in the year, but I was still busy and very much fulfilled.

As October moved into November, I began to look toward Christmas. But it was weird; I wasn’t as excited or motivated as I typically would be at that time of year. I even delayed putting up my Christmas tree. News of a church member’s sudden death rocked our congregation, and as I sat in the glow of the Christmas tree, I cried. I also felt saddened and burdened for the family of a missing teen just an hour’s drive from my home. Would this child return home safely? Would a grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins spend Christmas without their sweet Jayme? And what about Jayme herself? Was she okay? Was she alive?

But December wasn’t a complete loss. Before long, I became immersed in the memorization, rehearsals, and preparations. By Christmas Eve, I was my typical self— jittery, nervous, and hyper-focused. It was hard to shut down after our Christmas Eve service. For the first time in a long while, I would be traveling to visit my family in Minnesota. My typically quiet, uneventful Christmas Eve in front of the Christmas tree and blazing fireplace would be replaced by a two-and-a-half-hour drive. But even in the car, I couldn’t relax.

December 25 dawned with the reality that it was Christmas (yay!), but I was exhausted with a pounding headache. I guess that’s what happens when you’re speeding along at 100 miles-an-hour and you suddenly come to a stop. There was something about being in Minnesota for Christmas that also helped put the breaks on my productivity. I was away from my normal routine, and I wouldn’t be returning to work until the 30th. I also would not be leading worship the Sunday after Christmas, which was also atypical for me.

When I returned home and settled in after church on the 30th, I fully expected the first inklings of January depression to arise. But surprisingly, I found I was okay. What wasn’t okay, however, was my ankle. I began to experience excruciating pain each morning when I stepped out of bed. I had been dealing with moderate ankle discomfort for a few months already, but I had been trying to ignore it. I had worked through an ankle injury last fall, and I figured I had just exacerbated it with my walking, biking, and tapping the piano pedal.

As I packed away the Christmas decorations on January 2nd, I kept myself further occupied by doing three loads of laundry and recording practice videos for my worship team. I didn’t cry; I was too busy running around the house, somehow knowing my ankle would probably pay later for the added stress. Once everything was packed away, I settled in my recliner to watch a TV show while sipping some nonalcoholic sparkling cider. I couldn’t believe it! I was actually relaxing without the nagging January heartache. Granted, nothing had changed. There still wasn’t much to do, my ankle was very much in pain, and sweet Jayme was still missing. My prayer in the coming days was that God would help me work through the quieter days of January and that I would find purpose.

I spent nearly a week immersed in peaceful, quiet rest. I wasn’t depressed, but I was now facing a completely different reality; I was complacent. My typical day consisted of reading, listening to music, watching some TV, and limited exercise on my stationary bike. I didn’t go anywhere other than the office. In fact, I was home for such a long stretch that my smart thermostat in my living room altered me that it hadn’t heard from my phone’s location in awhile. Yeah, it hadn’t heard from my phone because my phone never moved!

The only thing that wasn’t complacent was my ankle. It made its presence known in the morning and at various points throughout the day. I tried to ignore it, convincing myself that the pain would pass, just like the dark days of January. But then I read a post on Facebook that asked those who commented to share about their new year’s resolutions. I don’t typically set new year’s goals, but I felt the nudge to find some accountability, so I posted that I wanted to be better at working on things that I could change and have a better attitude about the challenges that came my way. I realized in that moment that I had the ability to change something and the pain radiating from my ankle was the catalyst.

Thanks to the connection from one of my team members, I soon had a chiropractor appointment booked for a few days later. After two treatments and some athletic tape, I can happily report that I am feeling better, but it got me thinking— good grief; what took me so long? I had the ability to seek out help and I held off for so long. I was unnecessarily miserable, and it was all because I was too complacent to make a move and do something about it.

I recognized there is a huge difference between my 100-mile-per-hour 2018 and my seemingly stalled 2019. I went from hyper-speed to practically no movement in a matter of weeks and it drastically altered my motivation. Instead of situational depression, I had become numb to everything around me… that is until severe pain broke me out of my complacency. I chose to do something about my discomfort, and I’m hoping that this will be a good starting place for the rest of 2019. I may not be recording an album this year, but I’m sure there’s plenty ahead to keep me busy. I need to get to it, but in order to get there, I need to be mobile. So here’s to quick healing, effective treatments, and no further injury.

When my friend dropped me off at home after my most recent treatment, I made the comment that I sometimes wished I could just take off running. Realistically, I amended this by pointing out that running was hardly possible since I would probably stumble over potholes on the road and have trouble breathing thanks to my asthma, but a girl could dream about running, right? My friend laughed and said, “No, you don’t want to run. Running is bad for your knees. How about you just stick to walking and your tricycle?”

Sure, okay… but in my mind, I’ll be running free!

P.S. Jayme Closs escaped her captor and was found alive on January 10. Praise God for His faithfulness. I celebrate her safe return and I pray that she will find healing and restoration as she moves forward.

Top Songs of 2018

At the close of 2017, I offered up a list of the songs that had impacted me throughout the year. I would like to do the same at the close of this year. The following songs have played a significant role in my life over the course of the past year. Some were used for corporate worship, while others ministered to me on a personal level. Where they are available, I have included YouTube links for the songs so you might be able to listen to them. Please consider supporting these artists by purchasing their albums or downloading their songs.

“Awakening” by Chris Tomlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljr6lqu2-ec

“Daylight” by Remedy Drive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzyYii4ZXRw

“Faithful” by Chris Tomlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJFlY0mwFks

“Hope has a Name” by River Valley Worship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZrdtaevu0Y

“Known” by Tauren Wells https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xckDgX8xNfg

“Satisfied in You (Psalm 42)” by The Sing Team https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7O7LQpQaoc

“Titanium” cover by Madilyn Bailey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7c9kRDgck8

“While I Wait” by Lincoln Brewster https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb9M5vzUyZ0

Before we Say Goodbye: “The Lord’s Prayer” Song Story

The Summer of 2016 brought a great deal of unknown as I faced my first season without directing Camp. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the change, but God knew what I needed. He had been preparing my heart even as I had resigned from my position the previous September. I hadn’t wanted to go, but my mental and physical health demanded I take a step back and regain perspective. I also needed to refocus my attention on my work as a worship leader. My pastor was preparing to take a three-month sabbatical and I wanted to be present for my congregation and concentrate on my leadership role.
I wasn’t prepared for the leadership role that came upon me early that Summer, almost before my pastor’s sabbatical truly began. A good friend called me one day and proceeded to tell me about her aging mother-in-law. She was a resident of the local care facility, and my friend wondered if I might be willing to visit her now and then. She told me that her mother-in-law didn’t have a connection with a church, and she was hoping for a pastoral call of sorts. I quickly reminded my friend I was a worship leader and not a pastor, but my words didn’t seem to register. My friend was convinced I would be the perfect person to call on her mother-in-law and she was quick to set up the first visit.
To say I felt largely unqualified would be an understatement. I was overwhelmed at the reality that I would be this woman’s pastoral contact. Sure, I could handle some friendly conversation and a visit now and then, but I had never filled the shoes of a calling pastor. I had taken a training course to serve as a hospice volunteer, but that had been nearly ten years in the past. I brushed up on the curriculum even as I reminded myself that God would carry me through this. I was comforted that for the first few visits, my friend and her family would be present, and I wouldn’t be on my own completely. The family also didn’t set any core expectations. As long as I visited their loved one on occasion, they would be okay with the arrangement.
I learned a great deal from my interaction with this sweet, elderly woman. We had a lot in common and our interaction was fairly effortless. At the end of each visit, I would say goodbye and tell her I would return soon. Before I could make my exit, she would say to me, “Before we say goodbye, could we say the Lord’s Prayer?” I readily agreed, quickly being reminded of the difference between our denominational backgrounds; I would say “debts” and debtors” and she would say “trespasses.” Our first few attempts were fumbling, but we soon made it a regular occurrence to say the Lord’s Prayer before I would leave her room.
I envisioned myself calling on my elderly friend throughout the Summer and even into the Fall. But little did I know, much more would be required of me and far sooner than any of us expected. It was early August when I got the call that made my mouth go dry and my hands tremble. My friend called to say that her mother-in-law was unresponsive and asked if I would go see her as soon as possible. I didn’t delay— hurrying over to the Care Center on my tricycle. I was relieved to learn that my elderly friend had awakened and was talking again, but she was certainly weakened. I sat and talked with her, occasionally reading Scripture and praying.
Eventually, I sensed that it was time to go. I stood to my feet, told the woman I loved her, and backed away from the bed.
“Wait… before you go…” came her weak voice.
I knew what was coming and I choked on unexpected tears. “Yes,” I said. “Let’s say the Lord’s Prayer.” And so we prayed together one more time.
When I left the care facility a few moments later, my heart was heavy. I had evening plans and I needed to run through the music for the service the next day. I went through the motions of rehearsal and I went forward with my evening plans, but I was distracted. I was constantly praying for my friend and her family. I had told only a few others of my pastoral calling, so I carried the burden of my worries and fears alone.
I returned home late in the evening, knowing that I needed to sleep but unable to find a peaceful state of rest. I went into my home office to retrieve my hymnbook. I didn’t know what I was looking for until I stumbled upon the musical arrangement of “The Lord’s Prayer.” Immediately, I was swarmed with memories. I had sung the piece at several funerals over the years, often with piano accompaniment. The song had always been too intricate for me to replicate on the piano, so I had always enlisted the help of another accompanist. Over the past few years, I had managed to craft an acapella arrangement of the song so I could eliminate needing to ask for help on the piano.
With hymnbook and cell phone in hand, I knew what I needed to do. I turned off all of the lights in the house and made my way to the garage. I closed myself inside the empty space (my parents’ vehicle was not parked there). I placed my phone in the basket of my tricycle and hit record. Then without rehearsal or any prior run-through, I sang “The Lord’s Prayer.” It was raw, emotional, and a worshipful moment I will never forget.
I could have edited the recording; in fact, some editing was probably in order because the air conditioning was running in the background and it created a high-pitched hiss. But I knew I couldn’t sing it any better or differently, and I saved the track to my phone.
Over the next few days, I returned to the care facility. My friend was unresponsive once again, and as I sat by her bedside lost for words, I thought of something. I placed my cell phone on the bed next to her pillow and played my sung version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” It was all I could offer her as she slowly slipped away to meet her Savior.
When my friend left this life to join the Lord in eternity, her family asked me to officiate at her funeral service. I was honored to fulfill the request but terrified as well. I had never fulfilled such duties before, and I was overwhelmed with the reality. But the family was kind and considerate; they allowed me to journey with them in their time of loss, and I gave their loved one the best memorial I could as I relied on the strength of the Lord.
Never before had the words of the Lord’s Prayer resonated so clearly in my mind and heart. A co-worker had always said to me: “If ever you can’t sleep or don’t have the words to pray, just say the Lord’s Prayer.” The Lord taught us how to pray, after all, and what better example than to speak the words He provides for us in the Scriptures.
When it came time to record The Dawn, there was no question how the album would end. But there was a great deal to consider if we were going to record this anthem acapella. The producer told me that it might mean several takes in the studio without a clear, usable version. We both knew how challenging it would be to punch in and out to perfect the vocals when pitch and phrasing would have to be on point. There was no margin for error, and we needed the right settings in place on the microphone if we were going to make it happen.
On vocal day, I powered through the first ten songs. Some required multiple takes; some were a bit more straightforward. By the time we got to track eleven, I knew my voice was fatigued. For a moment, I debated scrapping the whole idea for “The Lord’s Prayer.” Only the producer and I would really know the difference— whether it was on the album or not. But then I thought of my sweet, elderly friend and her parting words: “Before we say goodbye…”
It was then I knew that I had to try. So I took a deep breath and gave it my best effort, just as I had done when I officiated at the funeral. Three takes later, we had a promising recording and vocal day was complete. It seemed fitting to conclude the recording process with the timeless message of “The Lord’s Prayer.” I truly believe it was the best way to commemorate a project rooted in God’s promises and His faithfulness through suffering. As the “Amen” is uttered at its conclusion, it brings closure to the entire album. From the first track of high praise to the final “Amen,” The Dawn is a prayer— a longing for hope and peace.
“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

 

It will not Let me Go: “Let the Music Linger” Song Story

February, 2017 began uneventfully. The middle of winter has never been my favorite time of year, and so as you might expect, I was longing for Spring. I was planning out The Dawn, but there was nothing pressing on the horizon. I was scheduled to play at a few funerals, so I was kept busy with music memorization and piecing together routine Sunday morning services. Everything was typical… pretty ordinary.
Until February 15…
I returned home from providing music at a funeral and went through the motions of practicing for the upcoming Sunday service. Then I made my way into the kitchen to prepare dinner. It was while I was waiting for my meal to finish cooking that I checked Facebook. And that’s when the world came to a devastating stand-still.
I was scrolling through friends’ posts when I saw something that stole my breath. There were several posts regarding my friend, John. I scrolled down his timeline, reading things like: “RIP,” “You will be missed,” “I love you…” The posts went on and on, and I began to shake. This couldn’t be real. But the more I read, the more I began to comprehend that it must be real. All of these people were mourning the loss of my dear friend, and I didn’t know anything.
What had happened? Had he been ill? Where was he when he died? These may not seem like questions a close friend would be asking, but the truth was, I didn’t know a lot about John’s activities. He was a concert organist, and quite often, he was traveling. Although we stayed connected through Facebook, email, texts, and phone calls, we didn’t see each other in person very frequently. He lived in New York, and I was in Wisconsin. Throughout our seven-year friendship, we had only been together in person on two occasions.
We may not have connected often, but when we interacted, it was meaningful and memorable. John was one of those people who made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. Music brought us together, and he was my cheerleader of sorts. When he learned I was a songwriter, he made it his mission to ask about my creative process.
“Have you written any songs lately?” he would ask early on in many of our conversations.
“No,” I would often respond. “I’ve been really busy.”
Sometimes, I would make other excuses: I hadn’t been inspired, it was too difficult, I didn’t have any ideas, etc. But John didn’t accept those excuses. “You’re a songwriter,” he would tell me. “Songwriters write songs. So go write something.”
I’ve said it before. Songwriting doesn’t come easily to me. I really have to be intentional to make it happen. In the seven years that I knew John, I only wrote a handful of songs, and you’ve probably guessed it by now, but the excuses continued. When I started leading worship at FRC, crafting arrangements and memorizing songs took priority, and songwriting was shoved to the back burner.
When I learned that John had passed away, I trembled at the reality. I had never made any contact with John’s family, so I had to rely on the posts from friends to piece everything together. It was weeks before I saw an obituary, and it wasn’t until I read the words “funeral” and “in memory,” that it began to sink in. It was hard to imagine that my songwriting cheerleader would no longer call me again and encourage me to create. The loss was staggering.
It was a week after reading those initial Facebook posts when I woke up in the middle of the night to a striking, haunting melody. The lyrics “Please, will you stay with me” were a constant refrain in my consciousness as well, and I found I couldn’t sleep any longer. Frustrated, I rolled over and willed my mind to calm so I could get some rest. I think I dozed off, but it wasn’t long before the melody and lyrics returned again. I recognized that this was probably a song that needed to be written, but I was tired and I longed to sleep. I told myself that there was no way I could forget a lyric that practically begged to be remembered: “Please, will you stay with me.” I rolled over again and tried to sleep.
At 7:00 a.m., I could no longer fight it. Sleep had eluded me, and the melody had etched itself so deeply into my heart that I didn’t need to record it to retain it. I stumbled into my home office and forced myself to put pen to paper. It was the typical songwriting process for me— messy and meticulous, but I stuck with it. Somehow, I knew this song was a gift, and John wasn’t far from my thoughts as I crafted the lyrics.
“Let the Music Linger” was unlike anything I had ever composed before. It was a song of longing— missing and loving someone deeply. It wasn’t a worship song, nor was it rooted in my typical lyrical style. In a way, it served to give me the encouragement to carry on, to write again, and sing— even as tears streamed down my face. It was startling to think that even in death, John had cheered me on to compose something so special that I longed for him to hear it.
In the coming months, I worked on the album at a feverish pace. “Let the Music Linger” was the fourth song we tackled in the studio, and it was set aside pretty early on so we could focus on the songs that needed more immediate attention. It wasn’t until August, 2018 that we started working on final mixes, and I heard “Let the Music Linger” in its completed state for the first time in months.
I was alone in my living room, multi-tasking because the Packers were playing pre-season football and I had an album to finalize. The TV was muted and my noise-cancelling headphones were in place. The song began to play, and I was transfixed. I was concentrating on the details: balance, volume, reverb, etc… But when I heard the organ enter as the final chorus began, I was reduced to tears. I sobbed for a long time. You see, I hadn’t grieved John’s passing in a healthy way for months. I had been so busy, so focused on the album, that I had forgotten how to embrace the music and the gift that this song had given me.
“Let the Music Linger” was a song that needed to be written. It wouldn’t let me go that first night in my bedroom, and as we finalized the album it still had a grip on me. As I dried my tears, I played the song again on repeat. I found myself smiling, and suddenly, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I had hope that the songs contained on the album would have an impact— that somehow my lyrics and lines could offer comfort and share God’s love from the depths of my own loss.
“Make the melody a memory. Let it never fade away. Let the music linger. Let it live. Let it stay.”

Sent: “Send me” Song Story

The late Summer and early Fall of 2017 was like a whirlwind for me. I started recording at Bailey Park in late August, and then headed off to the state fair with friends to catch a concert. Then I spent the week surrounding Labor Day with my family in Minnesota. I watched the Packers play, went shopping with my sister, cuddled my little nieces and nephews, and began considering music for my pastor’s upcoming sermon series. All the while, creativity flowed through me like I had rarely experienced before. I composed the lyrics to “Hope is Waking” and made changes to “We will Sing.” I also crafted arrangements for some of our worship songs, and it seemed like I couldn’t get enough of arranging and composing at that time. Then came “Send me.”
I returned home after my week-long vacation to hear the first sermon in my pastor’s new series called “Sent,” based on John 20:21: “…As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
We were given bracelets that day in a variety of colors, bearing the name of the series and Scripture reference. I wasn’t leading worship that day, so I sat in the sanctuary among the congregation. One of my team members invited me to sit with her and her family and I accepted. To this day, I can’t recall exactly what was said as Pastor shared his message. I latched onto a catch phrase of sorts that Pastor used when he introduced the series: “Sent every day, everywhere, everyone.” The key question was “What does it mean to be a sent people and followers of Christ?”
My team member apologized to me after the service, marveling that I could even pay attention when her grandkids were noisily playing beside us in the pew. I quickly assured her that the children hadn’t bothered me; in fact, I had managed to tune them out completely. I was focused on one thing only— the chorus for what would eventually be called “Send me.”
I longed to hurry home and finish the song, but I had commitments. I had agreed to attend a housewarming party at noon, and then I would be back to church to offer special music at a funeral service. There was also the Packer game later that afternoon, but that would have to wait until my commitments were fulfilled.
When church ended a little bit earlier than usual, I took off for home without a moment to lose. Maybe I could carve out a few moments before heading to the housewarming. Thankfully, I managed to write the verse in about 15 minutes, just as a melody began to come together. I hummed the tune into my cell phone voice recorder even as I ran out the door.
Once the housewarming and funeral were complete, I hurried home again. I was ready for some football! But I found that I couldn’t concentrate on the game. The lyrics and melody to “Send me” were swirling around in my head and they wouldn’t let go of my heart. During commercial breaks, my focus was glued to my composition book, and as soon as the game was over, I was at the piano crafting the arrangement.
As the song came together in a sudden flurry of lyrics and lines, I couldn’t help but correlate it to the nature of its message. To be sent is certainly an urgent calling— to share the hope and salvation that exists in Christ is the most time-sensitive task there will ever be, and I felt that drive to finish as if I were sharing the Gospel with a dear loved one.
I had no idea what the next few weeks would hold for me. I never imagined my songwriting and worship leading would be on hold as I recovered from emergency eye surgery. I didn’t know the road ahead would cost me my creativity and independence. But as I removed my watch and “Sent” bracelet before surgery, I said a quick prayer that no matter what happened, He would still use me to spread His message.
My prayer was quickly answered. As an OR nurse administered eye drops before I was wheeled into surgery, she remarked on my upbeat attitude and joking remarks. “You’re a breath of fresh air,” she said. “I would think you would be nervous and scared right now, so good for you. What’s your secret?”
“Oh, I’m definitely scared,” I told her quickly, even as I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I willed them away and took a deep breath. “But there’s a lot of people praying for me, and I know I’ll be okay.”
“Praying, huh?” she said as she gave me another drop. “That’s good, I guess.”
I couldn’t tell from her response if she shared my faith or if she was simply being polite. But just in case she had little exposure to Christian faith, I figured the least I could do was plant a seed. I didn’t have time to share anything deeper because moments later they were wheeling me into surgery. But I think of that OR nurse even still today a year later. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if we had been given more time to talk. Had God sent me to her at just that time to give her even a glimpse into eternal salvation?
I could beat myself up with words like: “You didn’t say enough. You could have told your story. You could have asked her if she believed.” But today, I’m going to choose to believe that God is faithful, and he can use my fumbling witness to make a difference. I may not know the future for that OR nurse, but I can pray for her and leave her salvation to the One who loves her with an everlasting love.
“Every day that I awake, everywhere— each step I take, to everyone this vow I make to listen, follow, and to go.”

Hope Renewed: “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song)” Song Story

I have always been a storyteller, and although most of my stories have been contained in fictional novels, there has been an element of storytelling in my songs as well. From depicting the aching loneliness in “Jesus is Your Friend” to the pain of separation depicted in “Waiting here,” my songs have walked the listener through real-life circumstances in relation to a person’s faith journey. Most often, I am telling my story or what I have observed in the world around me. But sometimes, someone else’s story touches my heart, and I have to find a way to share it with the world.

This is true of my song “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song).” As we were working on mastering the album, someone asked me if I had written any songs specifically for The Dawn, and I answered immediately that yes, I did. I think I had always wanted to tell Peter’s story through song, but the lyrics had never come together until I spent intentional time in the Scriptures. I studied the connection between Jesus and His disciples in the Gospels; I sought to immerse myself in their words and actions, particularly focusing on Peter and his perspective. I had always identified with Peter. He has always seemed “real” to me— quick to act and speak (sometimes seemingly without thinking it through), loyal to a fault, and a disappointing display of denial (wow, that’s some alliteration there).

I was on vacation at my parents’ house in early September, 2017 when some mild boredom overtook me. I’m not very good at vacationing; I always need to be doing something— reading a book, listening to or making music, writing, getting things done around the house. So that day when my tablet was dead, my phone had very little reception, and my mom’s daycare kids were sleeping (so I couldn’t play the piano), I was bored. I have never liked the messy process of writing a song, but I figured I had nothing to lose that afternoon, so I gathered up my composition book and Bible and settled in the basement family room to compose my masterpiece.

The storyline of the song was easy to piece together, but crafting the lyrics was definitely a challenge. How do you condense someone’s lifelong faith journey into just a few verses and a chorus that encapsulates it all? To make matters even more challenging was the fact that someone had left the baby monitor turned on, and it wasn’t long before I heard a fussing baby from the room upstairs. But I pressed onward, and nearly two hours later, I had a satisfactory lyric. At that point, I didn’t have a melody, but I was happy with my progress. I went upstairs to investigate what had the baby so upset, and I ended up cuddling the little one until his mother came to pick him up.

I finished the song almost a month later, once I had regained enough eyesight to see my lyric sheet again! Even though I had written the song, it didn’t mean I could recall the lyrics without a boost to my memory. As the song came together, I realized two things; first, this song would be hard to sing and second, it wasn’t going to be brief. My first rough recording of the song stretched past seven minutes in length, and I struggled to find the right range for my vocals. One key was too low, but when I transposed even a step higher, it was too high. Finally, I settled on the original key I had used while composing the song.

Of all of the songs on the album, “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song)” proved to be the most challenging to record in the studio. I literally played and sang everything on the track: lead vocals, back-up vocals, synthesized orchestration, acoustic bass (through the synthesizer), and basic percussion. Eventually, Alex came in and re-worked the percussion (which was a good thing because my version was pretty much a train wreck). But I essentially saw the song through from start to finish. It was rewarding and draining all at the same time.

I thought about Peter as we crafted the arrangement. I have always wanted to meet this faithful follower of Jesus face-to-face; maybe I will some day in eternity. I wondered if my experience in recording this song was anything like Peter’s life. I imagine him striving in service to Christ— serving whole-heartedly, loving hard, and giving his all to the Master. He had to be exhausted but yet experiencing fulfillment like nothing I could ever comprehend. Yes, he often fumbled— taking His eyes off Jesus while walking on the water and denying His Lord that terrible Good Friday— and those moments had to be excruciatingly traumatic for Peter and draining too. Oh, the highs and lows that Peter experienced as He walked with Jesus!

Peter’s story is more than just a story. I think in some ways we can all relate to his struggle. I can’t even comprehend what it must have been like to hear that rooster crow that Good Friday morning; dawn was breaking, but Peter’s heart had to be breaking too— shattering into a million pieces as he recognized his denial as Jesus had predicted. Oh, the despair that must have torn at his heart when he witnessed the brutal crucifixion of his teacher and friend. I’m thinking of the fear that must have been a living, breathing thing among the disciples as they huddled together in that house, thinking that the soldiers would come and drag them all away too. I’m sure they were all fatigued, sleeping little and barely functioning in their grief.

Then on Sunday morning, three days later, Mary comes running with news that is simply unreal! I wonder if Peter thought he was dreaming when he heard Mary’s tale. What do you mean the tomb is empty? It doesn’t make any sense. I love how Mark 16:7 specifically mentions Peter when the angel instructs the women at the tomb to tell the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection: “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter…” {emphasis mine}. I almost want to jump up and dance for joy when Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself. What a gift that the angel specifically mentions Peter as he sends the women out with the joyous news! Peter, who denied Jesus and experienced immense grief and regret was not forgotten! He was forgiven and remembered by name!

What a Savior! What love and redemption! What faith and hope must have sprung anew in Peter’s heart! That’s why I called my song “Hope is Waking.” Throughout the course of Peter’s story, the dawn seemed to play a role in his journey. Jesus called him to be a fisher of men one early morning when the nets were empty; but then Jesus came and the nets overflowed. It was also early morning when Peter came walking toward Jesus on the lake. His crushing denial also came at dawn as the rooster crowed. But it was the dawning of that first Sabbath, Easter morning that paints the most beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness. Peter’s hope was renewed that day in a breathtaking, awe-inspiring display— arguably the best sunrise this world has ever seen!

“Dawn is breaking; hope is waking. The Light of the World with His glory unfurled has come to save. The sun is rising; I’m realizing Messiah is here! I have no cause for fear for He gave… so I might believe.”

Beauty from Pain: “It is Well with my Soul” Song Story

“I’m making Christmas gifts,” one of my sisters told me a few years ago. “I just need to know your favorite hymn or worship song.”

“How can you even ask that of me?” I remember saying. “I’m a worship leader! I like too many songs to count!”

But if I was honest with myself, there was one song that had always resonated with me. It had been a favorite because of its rich harmonies and equally rich lyrics. In fact, I can remember raving about its depth while having lunch with a co-worker one day.

“I love “It is Well,” I said when asked about the hymn. “I mean the poetry of the lyrics: ‘When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll…’ Nobody writes like that anymore…”

My co-worker agreed. There was just something about the beauty of the lyrics and melody that melded into a song that had touched both of our hearts. And once I learned of the circumstances that inspired its writing, I was even more drawn to its message of hope.

I included “It is Well with my Soul” on The Dawn because I couldn’t imagine the project without it. Since the song is Public Domain, I knew I could record it without worrying about copyright infringement, and I would be free to put my own spin on this classic favorite. When Jenny agreed to play violin for the project, I knew this song had to be arranged to showcase her skill. There is something about piano and violin that grips at my emotions, and it was a combination that lent itself well to the track.

Most of the songs on The Dawn detail my journey to finding hope in the midst of sorrow. Although I didn’t write “It is Well,” I take ownership of the lyrics because I feel as if I have lived them and believe them beyond a shadow of a doubt. I may not have walked through the trials that Horatio Spafford experienced prior to writing “It is Well,” but I have found that I can identify with his sentiments. Yes, life can be filled with suffering and unimaginable grief, but no matter what, God is good, and we can say with full confidence that it is well.

Let me share with you the story of “It is Well with my Soul” and its writer, Horatio Gates Spafford.

Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna lived in the Chicago area in the 1860s. Spafford was a successful lawyer, prosperous businessman, and an investor in real-estate along Lake Michigan. He and his wife were blessed with five children, and he was a devout Christian.

In 1871, Spafford’s investments and business dealings were ruined as a result of the great Chicago fire. In light of these significant losses, Spafford and his wife agreed to travel to Europe. But just as the family was about to depart, Spafford was delayed by some business transactions. He sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him, promising to meet them in England later.
While onboard the SS Ville du Havre, Spafford’s wife and daughters encountered great tragedy. The ship was struck by another vessel and quickly sank, resulting in the worst naval disaster to take place until the sinking of the Titanic almost forty years later. Spafford received a telegram from his wife Anna, conveying these simple words: “Saved alone.”

Soon after, Spafford boarded a ship to Europe in order that he might be with his grieving wife. It was as the ship passed over the place where the SS Ville du Havre had gone down that Spafford was inspired to pen the lyrics to “It is Well with my Soul.”

The Spafford family was later blessed with three more children, although they were not free from sorrow. Their only son contracted scarlet fever and later died. Life was certainly not perfect for Horatio Spafford and his family. In fact, one could easily say that they faced their fair share of unimaginable grief and pain. But from deep sorrow came a beautiful song that would later resonate with generation after generation. I am grateful for this timeless reminder that “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”