Monday, October 26, 2009

Amarillo By Morning

Ok so here I go. I've known for a long time that I would write this blog. Just wondered if I'd be able to get up the nerve to sit down and do it. I thought that today, of course, would be the ideal time to do it. Today marks one day since my father's passing. This song was one of his favorites, which my siblings and I sang at his funeral. I have attached the video of us singing it together for the first time in my mom's kitchen, practicing for the ceremony. Thus the sense of awkwardness. Dad would have enjoyed it I'm sure, all of us singing together. He instilled the love of music into all four of us.

Losing a parent is one of those things that no one can really ever prepare you for. Especially when they are taken from you at such a young age. I thought my dad would be around to take Hannah (and any other future children) fishing. I thought she would grow up learning about his sarcasm and gag Christmas gifts. I thought he would be here for me to call whenever the Cincinnati Bengals score a touchdown "WhoDey!", or when the UK Wildcats win a big championship... I wanted him to be able to see me grow as a mom and be proud of me. I had hoped he would be here last week to sing me Happy Birthday again. Last year he somehow managed to sit up on the edge of the bed and sing the whole thing, in tune, not missing a word, even though it had been weeks since he had been able to complete a coherent sentence. Within a couple of days he was bedridden, within a couple more in a morphine induced coma, in a couple more, he was gone.

I've never had to deal with death. All my grandparents died either before I was born or when I was an infant. My closest relative to pass (an aunt) had moved away the year before and since she never had a burial site to go to it was like she just never came back from a trip. All my pets either mysteriously disappeared or ran away before I ever had to see them die or bury them. I've always had a small fear of death...of how I would respond when I had to look it in the face either myself or through someone else. I never could have imagined that the first funeral I attended would be my dad's.

So it's been a year. A busy one, adjusting to life as a mom, as a working mom...being away from my own mom has been so hard. Knowing how hard it has been for her to lose her lifemate at the young age of 57. How do people learn to move on without feeling fearful of forgetting something about the one they've lost? I get scared sometimes that I'll forget what his laugh sounded like, or how his clothes smelled when I hugged him goodnite every night. Or that I'll lose sight of some of the things he taught me about thinking for myself, never letting someone else tell me what to believe but instead to search out truth on my own.

Every time I hear "Amarillo By Morning" I obviously think of Dad. He grew up in Texas and had so many stories from all the places he'd been. I wish I had those memorized, too, so that I could recall every detail to tell Hannah someday. Dad was a simple man, simple but with a huge heart. "I ain't got a dime, but what I got is mine. I ain't rich, but Lord I'm free..." This was Dad. He worked hard to put food on the table and to provide us with all he could. He helped us appreciate what we did have, and taught us the value of work.

So tonight I sit and wonder about what Dad would say if he could hear my thoughts, see what I'm up to, the silly things I worry about, the struggles I face...what advice would he give me? Again, he was so simple...he'd probably say "Well, baby, whatever makes you happy." And then he'd follow it up by a comment like "but I still think Pete should take back that %#$ ring (my wedding ring) and buy him a bass boat!!!" LOL

I hope that somehow I will have learned from this great loss that we should never take our loved ones for granted. Even as I knew Dad was growing weak I never had the courage to really face it. I wanted to hope for the best, that God would heal him and make him whole again. Dad fought hard and we were so proud of how he never gave up. But I still feel like I should have said more, told him I loved him more, laughed and cried with him more. But would anything have ever been enough?

"The first man a little girl loves is her daddy." This is the quote I opened with when I spoke at his funeral. It is so very true. And I will always love him.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Still Here Waiting

I've not blogged since "What Do I Know of Holy?" because that song was so inspiring and impacting that I didn't know where to go next. Tonight I was scrolling through my ipod to find something new to listen to, something I hadn't heard in a while. I came across a song by Todd Agnew. I attended his church in Memphis while I lived there for one of my internships back in 2004 and I've been listening to his music every since. The lyrics below are to one of his songs...I attempted to link to the music video but had technical difficulties so if you want to hear the song look it up on YouTube.

Still Here Waiting -Todd Agnew

It's cold outside
Or is that just the chill I feel inside from standing here
Steeping in my shame
I can't deny I'm surrounded by the very thing You freed me from
That's why I can't come home

I don't know where I turned around
From chasing what I always found completed me
More than I could dream
I don't know why I can't remain
Safe here where I always came to meet with you
And You always met with me
And You're still here waiting

I fail to see
Why You'd still be waiting to forgive me
After all that I have done
But I cannot say
That one time I returned and You had turned away
Your love never fails


You say, "Come home" and You'll be there
I can run into Your arms

This is the story of true love. Of true, unselfish, forgiving love. The kind of love so many of us seek after in our relationship with our parents, our spouses, with our closest friends. We have all screwed up. We've all done things we've regretted. As children we dread having to tell our parents we did something that will upset them, that will make them ashamed of us...or so we think. As young adults many of us get into all sorts of trouble, saying hurtful things to the people we love the most, acting out in rebellious ways that looking back seem so childish and selfish. As adults we sometimes take it to the next level, making mistakes which will impact not only our future but the futures of others around us.

As a Christ follower we are held to such high standards by society. Many people see being a christian as being a "rule follower," and its all about what you cannot do. And we are supposed to be perfect, and not "sin" because then we would be hypocrites right? This view is so horribly wrong. Christianity is about the saving grace of Jesus. If we were perfect we wouldn't need Him. And if we didn't need Him then why would God have sacrificed Him in the way He did?

Yea, so maybe I'm getting a little too "churchy" here but in looking at these lyrics I think about my relationship with God. I think of how for years I watched from a distance until I finally decided for myself that yes I believed in Him, yes I saw what He had done for me...that was such an intense spiritual time in my life. I gave all of my worries, my fears, my insecurities, and my failures over to Him, and He took it all away. There was such peace, such joy, such direction and purpose in my life. And yet....I fell again. I sinned again. I walked away again. How could this happen?

Just as the lyrics say, God completes me more than anything or anyone in this world ever could. So why did I screw up? Did I commit one of the big "cardinal sins" that everyone talks about? No, actually I didn't, but the interesting thing that I find to be true is that when your sin is not one of the blatant, "oh my gosh i can't believe you did it" kind of sins, it is actually more challenging to get rid of. Hang with me a sec... Think about it. Someone who is cheating on her husband is obviously in need of some direction, and everyone is able to see it, and can try to help her, and there are typically support groups and books for that. But what if your sin is in the shadows, what if it is something that only you and God can even identify? No one sees it so no one holds you accountable. That's the kind of sin/problem/issue that can start eating away at you, and unless you choose to take it before God it is going to linger and grow. And when you choose not to take it to God then a wall is built. A wall between you and God.

So over the past few years I've been going through this process of figuring out "Who am I?" and "What is my Purpose?" and let me tell ya, if you aren't talking with God, listening to God, then you won't ever hear the answers to those questions. The lyrics to this song remind me that no matter how bad we've screwed up, no matter how many times we've tried to "get clean" and failed, that if we go to God with a true, willing spirit He will be there with open arms. Its an amazing love He has for us. I don't deserve for Him to take me back but He is there waiting. So many people know the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" but how many of us actually sit and ponder on the true meaning and power of those words? God is waiting for us. He is waiting for us to see that being in a relationship with Him and serving Him offers an abundant life...its not about what we can't do, its about all HE has already done and all that we will be able to do through Him who will give us the strength, peace, and JOY that this world will never be able to match. I'm running to the Mercy Seat...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What Do I Know of Holy?

Well I survived blog number one and found it to be quite refreshing. But it's funny because with blogging I think you have to make a conscious decision that you are either going to be completely transparent or you're not. What if my family members read this? What if my Christian friends read it and find offense at something? What if my non-Christian friends read it and think I'm a holy roller? What if an old friend reads it and thinks "Is she talking about me?!" In all actuality few people will probably read, few will judge, few will give what I write a second thought. Transparency can be so challenging, because it makes us vulnerable. This state of transparency and of vulnerability, of willingness to be open and authentic, is where God wants us to be. This is where He can come in and fill us up, because we are willing. Because we are not blinded by fear of what people will think or say... I think one struggle I've had since choosing to follow Jesus (in high school) is that I do worry too much about what others will say or think about me. This has impacted my walk with God is so many ways. I've put Him in a box at times, not allowing Him to show me all He can do and all He is because I was afraid of fully diving in and giving my all in order to become more like Him, more "holy."

This week I discovered a group called Addison Road. There is a song that when I first heard it goose bumps came and tears came to my eyes at the realization that they were words from my own heart. Below are the lyrics...I attached a link to YouTube for the audio but there are no pictures (intentionally) because I want the emphasis to stay on the lyrics...

What Do I Know of Holy? -Addison Road

I made promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made you too small
I never feared you at all No,
If you touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?


What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along your ocean?
Are you fire? Are you fury?
Are you sacred? Are you beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You are mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees


What do I know of holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life "its" name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your Name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?


Wow. Some songs have a way of knocking you on your butt, making you sit and think about where you are in life. This song did this to me. The technical structure of the song and vocals mixed with the lyrics is just beautiful, and moving, which is why I also added the link. I am excited to say that God has really been on the move in my little family in the last couple of months. And yet when I heard this song I realized how I still had not allowed myself to really dive in, be transparent and authentic with God, and to allow Him to show me who HE is. It has been all about me, and how I want to grow in my spiritual walk, how I want to serve more...this is all great, but how do I genuinely, fully do that? My "walk" is with a HOLY walking with Him means that I live with Him, talk with Him, LISTEN to Him, try to be like Him. The word "holy" can be so intimidating. And so can the image of God that so many people have. What is the image I have? What is my holy God really like? I know about all the amazing things He has done, and I've seen Him work in the lives of people...and yet how well do I really understand His level of Holiness? Is it even possible? Some things are just beyond comprehension, right? And yet when I see sunsets in the mountains, or watch the waves at the ocean, or see a newborn baby be born, I get this sense of could anyone not believe that there is a HOLY God out there... What is YOUR view of God? Is He fire? Is He fury? Is He sacred? Is He beautiful?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Born to Fly

OK so here I go, my first blog ever. Why am I blogging you may ask? I dunno, maybe just as a release of all these crazy thoughts that run through my head every day. Maybe by writing I can get some of the clutter out and allow what's left to function with a little better accuracy.

So when people think of me, what do they think of? People who have known me across my 29 years of life would probably say many things, but one thing in common would most definitely be "she sings all the time!!!" Yes, indeed, I love to sing. I don't like music theory, and please don't make me sing in Italian or Latin (Sorry Mrs Williams)...I just want to have fun with it. I'm no professional, just fair at best. But it's a passion. At the age of two I was given a microphone and I haven't turned back since. Music has a way of allowing us to express ourselves. Music, many genres, has influenced my life in so many amazing ways. So I figured if I was going to blog that I should incorporate music...Thus the title of my blog, "Living by the Lyrics..."

I've always been a fan of country music. How could I not, I lived amongst a bunch of rednecks, country folk, barefooted men and women in overalls....ok so maybe it wasn't that bad, but I can definitely relate to the song "Redneck Woman"-of course that's another blog. But this song, Born to Fly, is one that hits close to home, closer than I realized until recently. Here are the lyrics:

Born To Fly (Sara Evans)

I've been tellin' my dreams to the scarecrow
About the places that I'd like to see
I say "Friend, do you think I'll ever get there?"
Oh but he just stands there smiling back at me.
So I confessed my sins to the preacher about the love I'd been prayin' to find.
Is there a brown eyed boy in my future? And he says "Girl, you've got nothin' but time."

But how do you wait for heaven? And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet on the ground when you were born to fly?

My daddy he is grounded like the oak tree. My mama she is steady as the sun.
Oh you know I love my folks but I keep staring down the road,
just lookin' for my one chance to run.
Cause I will soar away like the blackbird. I will blow in the wind like a seed. I will plant my heart in the garden of my dreams and I will grow up where I wander wild and free.

But how do you wait for heaven? And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet on the ground when you know that you were born to fly.

I'm a dreamer. I always have been. I can remember as far back as the sixth grade dreaming about all the places I hoped to see someday, and how desperately I wanted out of KY, out of the familiar.
I had it good growing up. We didn't have a lot of money but we always had enough, and my parents raised me to believe that I was capable of anything I put my mind to. Sometimes I wonder if mom regrets feeding that motto to me, because mix that with my natural tendency to dream, and off I go...
So why do I feel guilty sometimes about "flying" away from home? I found an old journal entry yesterday dated early 2007 that said "I am enjoying life in Texas but if anything were to ever happen to mom or dad and I wasn't there, I don't know if I could ever forgive myself." Well, my dad was diagnosed with cancer within six months of that entry, and he passed away in Oct. of 2008. I've gone back and forth on "should I have moved back? should I have been there more?" It's amazing the mind games we play with ourselves. I'm not fully ready to delve into how I have or have not mourned the loss of my father, but I will say that it has made me question this whole "dreaming" business.
I believe that God wants us to experience the abundant life that He offers. As long as I am living for Him, serving and loving His people, then it doesn't matter where I live. Right? God puts desires in our hearts. He puts the passion for traveling and serving people in the hearts of missionaries. He puts the passion for athletics and youth in the hearts of men who start inner city youth programs for at risk teens. He puts the passion of music in the hearts of men and women who lead people in worship via singing, instruments, etc. All in all, it is safe to dream. It is fun to dream. It is imperative that we dream!
So where am I going with all of this? Maybe the lyrics hit on something when it said "how do you keep your feet on the ground when you know you were born to fly?" I think one way to translate that is to say that we are all living a story. We all have this one life to live. We can dream about what we want to put into those chapters or we can be proactive and write the chapters by living our dreams. So what is the title of your book? What chapter are you living in right now?