I would not describe myself as an important person. I would not even say I am a particularly influential person. But it would be dishonest to say that God did not have a call on my life. I would be dishonest to say I do not believe He has a plan for me, and that His plan is important. His plan is for the salvation of many and the glory of His Name.
I say all of this because it is important to establish a few things:
1) I believe God has a purpose for my life that is bigger than myself; but I do not think it is because of anything I could or would do outside of the Grace of God. Except that God has called me (as it is also important to note I believe He calls all of us), I am no one special.
2) I am a singer, I am a writer, I am a theologian; but above and beyond all of these I am a seeker. I seek a closer relationship with God, and I seek to have a more obedient heart when it comes to following Him. I seek to be a better wife to my husband, a better daughter to my parents and sister to my siblings, a better friend to those I hold dear, a better employee to my boss, a better coworker to those I work with. It is this context, all of these situations and relationships, that informs my singing, my writing, and my theology.
I can be a bit of an impulsive person. Excitable. In the past, when God has led me in a direction, I have found it very easy to try and run ahead and see where He's taking me - as though I would be awarded points for figuring it out ahead of time. That was not really passion, that was worry. "Where are you taking me, God? Will I know what to do when I get there? What if I screw up? What if I mess up? I better lift the lid off of the saucepan and have a look at what is cooking inside, just so I can develop a game plan. I want to know what my role is, here."
In recent years, exhausted from constantly jumping to the wrong conclusion and having messes to clean up and frustration at "not getting it right," I had swung to the other pole. "God, I am not going anywhere unless You pick me up and move me, because I want to be absolutely certain - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that this is coming from You, and not from my own vanity or my own silly ideas." I called that "resting," But it was also fearful. It was restless resting. Anxious, afraid, refusing to take a leap of faith.
This blog was born out of a recent realization that neither way was right. I was sitting and having coffee with my husband one day, and just realized out of the blue, "If God has given me a vision for a ministry, I need to be spending all the time until it gets here preparing my heart and being obedient. If God has given me a passion to write I need to be writing, spending as much time as I can in the Word and in prayer, and writing out of the overflow that comes from that. I need to be practicing guitar instead of just daydreaming about how one day I would like to be able to accompany myself when I sing. I need to be walking in the calling God has placed on my life, even if I have no idea how it will come about. Especially because I have no idea how it will come about."
Several months ago our church congregation experienced a sudden loss of a much loved member to our family. I began writing a song about "The Valley of Dry Bones" while I was praying for this woman's family. Grappling with God over things through prayer is where all of my songs have come from. And they all have come right away, in one complete package: music, lyrics, everything. I got stuck, though, after the first verse and chorus, which horrified me.
In the Valley of Dry Bones, I'll wait for You
In this place of darkness and death
In the Valley of Dry Bones, I'll wait for You
Till You fill me with Your breath
And they that look upon this body that they have called death
They will see only life
And they that look upon this body that they have called death
They will not know how to believe their eyes
In the valley, in the Valley of Dry Bones
When I was sure that all my hope was gone
And every chance I'd ever had lay dashed to pieces on the floor of the valley
Of the Valley of Dry Bones
I knew that, if I did not have an end to that song in sight, it was because God was still working the end. I did not want to deal with any death or any loss, even in a strictly spiritual sense. I was not looking forward to the pain that might have to come, in order for me to finish the song. I hastily forced together a horrid second verse and chorus and called that "done."
Summer came, then Fall, and my husband and I were trying to have a baby. We became pregnant right away, and just when I was finally beginning to believe I was really going to have a baby (It is hard in those first months when you are not showing yet, and I did not have much morning sickness), we had a miscarriage. On that same day, my dear husband got a notice of separation from his state job, stating that he had 30 days remaining in his time under their employ. I knew, deep in my spirit, that this place is where I would finish that song from. NOTE: I am not at all saying that I believe God caused this loss, but I do believe that God desires to work through our brokenness to create strength and beauty. I do believe that He will redeem even the most horrible of circumstances.
That day, my husband still had to go into work, and he worked late at night. My mother had advised me that under no circumstances should I allow myself to be alone in my house while all of the pain from this was still fresh. So, even though I had almost decided not to go to the ladies' fellowship that was already scheduled for that evening, I went. My thought was, if I should not be alone, and I cannot be with my husband, where else would I want to be but in a room full of sisters who all love me and could be of some comfort to me). And it was good: I had moments of "normal" followed by crying moments with one or two close friends who were completely there for me. At the end of the evening everyone prayed for me, and two things in particular struck me with particular significance. One woman prayed for me and had seen a picture while she was praying, and the picture was of a fire smoldering to ashes, and a bird rising from the ashes. She kept hearing, "It's a Phoenix," but she did not know what a phoenix was, so she texted her husband and asked him to look it up for her, and he sent her a description back. Though I already knew of this mythical creature, I was glad that she had no idea what she was seeing, because it was much easier to accept that this was from God and not from her. The idea rung very true with something I already believe, God redeems our present suffering in ways that are completely unfathomable.
It is significant to note that the cry of a phoenix is said to be a beautiful song. Some years ago, I was at a prayer meeting of sorts (at Justice House of Prayer in Cambridge, MA), and a man I did not know walked up to me. He said, "Excuse me, are you a writer?" I answered that I was, though somewhat tentatively because I had no idea who this man was. So he asked me again, "Are you a writer?" I told him that I was and he said to me, "God wanted me to tell you that He is going to give you a pen." The very next day I was at work, and some people my friend and I had just met at JHOP walked into the store we was working in. There was no one else in the store, so these teenagers who had come just asked if they could pray for my friend and I. They did, and one of them said to me, "God is going to give you an anointed song." The man who spoke to me the day before was from MA and had just arrived at that meeting that day, the teenagers were from South Carolina. They did not know each other (the girl who spoke about the song and the man who spoke about the pen), and I was certain these two were tied together. However, at the hearing of these things, I proceeded directly into the pattern I described above: trying to write everything and anything that came to mind, or not writing anything at all until God somehow downloaded whatever to my brain. Neither place was a faith-filled one, and no song had yet come. Which brings us to my friend Mandi seeing a picture of a Phoenix while she prayed for me.
And then another lady, our pastor's wife, came up to me after and said to me that, while she was praying for me God told her that I had a deep-seeded fear that I would never be able to have children. I told her that was true, but that there was more and she said, "Yes, actually. You are afraid that everything good in your life will be ripped from you." And that was exactly true, and echoed a conversation I had already had with my mother before I miscarried, where I told her that I felt like God was using this pregnancy to confront that fear (just for all of you skeptics out there, my mother and my pastor's wife have met before, but they do not have any contact with each other. My mother lives 1100 miles away in another state, and the two have only met once or twice briefly in church.). I was now convinced that, though God did not cause this heartbreaking circumstance, He was already planning to use it for His glory and our good, as He brings us through that healing process.
It was this set of circumstances that preceded my coffee shop epiphany mentioned above. This whole situation - including a car wreck in which we were rearended and our car totaled at no fault of our own - has been the catalyst for a season of expectant preparedness. I will read my Bible. I will press on in prayer. I will allow God to prepare my heart for whatever is to come, however we get there. I need to. And I need to write. Write everything He lays on my heart to write.
The following verse from Revelation speaks to more than just this one prophetic incident in John's life; it speaks to the prophetic life in general. We love the idea of knowing the truth, of spreading the truth. We feel, sometimes, that knowledge makes us important. The truth of the matter is, it is sweet to be God's instrument. But sometimes the words or pictures we are given, sometimes even just the circumstances we must be in for a time, will often turn your stomach sour. I know that at the end of all of this I will finally be able to say that I would not - had I the chance - rewrite our life story so it did not include the heartbreak of miscarriage, the insecurity of job loss, the fear and frustration of car accidents; because I will know even more fully then what I already know (as far as I presently can) now: God is in control, and He cares for us. His heart breaks right alongside ours in loss, and He longs to be our everything - not just when we are hurting - but when life is good and we are happy, too.
"So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, 'Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.' I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach tured sour. Then I was told, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.'"