Flag Duty and Other Responsibilities

Usually, around the sixth grade, kids start honing in on their talents. They have had a few years of dance lessons or been a part of soccer teams. Graduated from the recorder to the oboe or created at least one piece of artwork their parents deem to be revolutionary and have been upgraded to real sketch pencils.

I was not that kid.

Sixth grade rolled around and the only team sport I had ever been a part of was Bible drill. Yes- that is a real thing.

I sang along to Michael W Smith’s Go West Young Man cassette tape on my Karaoke machine at home and wrote my own family newspaper, but I was convinced those things were far less “real” than the extra-curricular activities the other kids my age were a part of.

But then one day I found a team and a talent. It all started when my sixth grade teacher at Daniel Elementary School, Mrs. Isaacs, nominated me to be in the prestigious flag corp.

Nope. Not the kind of flag corp where you dress up in cute spandex leotards and prance around with a all your dance-class-knowledge waving a flag. I was completely unqualified for that. No, she nominated me for something much better. Mrs. Isaacs nominated me to be on the team that put up the American flag each morning before school started on the towering flag pole that greeted people as they drove in to the school driveway. FLAG CORP.

I was elated.

As with all jobs in my life (And I have had taxes withheld since I was 16 years-old, so there have been many.) I took flag corp duty with every ounce of seriousness and dedication I had in my wiry-90-pound-twelve-year-old body. Some might say I was hell-bent on being the best flag corp-er that ever walked the halls of that intermediate school.

Backtrack: If you’ve been around my life stories for any length of time, you know I come from a military family. Collectively, my extended family and I are that family who will give you the God-forsaken-stink-eye if you even THINK about cracking jokes during Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American at the end of the State Fair laser light show. We will glare at you, mouths slightly aghast, if your hand is not over your heart and body facing the flag during the singing of the National Anthem and we will insist on your deportation if you don’t start Memorial Day off at a freaking MEMORIAL DAY service. Your humanity will be seriously questioned by family if you don’t get a wee bit misty-eyed when the old men come along at the end of the 4th of July parade wearing their WWII Veterans hats. Mmmmmmkay? We’re that family.

Now you can imagine the seriousness of the sheer American-patriotic duty coursing through my blood as I showed up at school one hour early to properly, perfectly adhere the flag to the flag poll.

I vigorously studied the flag code book and could beat most Eagle Scouts in my comprehension of it. Under my watch, that flag would NEVER touch the ground. It would always be briskly raised and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. It would be folded properly and perfectly. Every. Single. Time. No cutting corners. And in our hearts, everyone on my flag duty team would be asked to truly understand the importance and significance of the raising and lowering of our nations most beloved insignia. I may have been slightly made fun of for my due diligence in honoring the American flag. But whatever.

I felt a huge responsibility, honor and duty.


Today, for the first time in a really long time, I feel that same weight of responsibility, honor and duty as I set out to properly invest the $52,995 given to me by my friends, family and fans for the purpose of creating my debut book and a independent EP.

It is not lost on me, not for one second, what a truly amazing gift it is to be the receiver of such an enormous amount of funding. Ryan and I are excited and joyful, but we are also moving into the next few weeks of budget meetings knowing that we carry a tremendous responsibility to wisely steward the money we have been gifted for these projects.

I feel like that wirey-90-pound-twelve-year-old little girl who would very solemnly and seriously show up to an empty school while the lights were still dim and the hallways smelled of chlorine washed floors, in order to take the American flag out and raise it in such a way that it honored the people who gifted it to me in the first place.

With great gifts comes great responsibility.

So to those 464  people, and the bigger picture of families, friends and finances you each represent, thank you for a great gift. Please know that with every ounce of seriousness, dedication and responsibility I possess- I will honor your gifts and use them to craft words that remind people of the beauty, life, joy, HOPE, redemption and love that God has put on display for the whole world to see.


To the Creatives

as we create- we take the stage- pick up the paint brush- write the story- sing the song- design the graphics -capture the photo -write the poetry- we do so with a gentle reminder that if our aim is to share our craft, then our job is to not only create, but to continually earn the privilege to paint the strokes and write the melodies of another human being's story.

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Broken Hallelujah's

Bistrita River

Bistrita River, Bistrita, Romania

freedom comes when we find the place where mercy starts


I could follow the winding lull and twisting rapids of a river for days. Wild and cocky, shy and modest, wise and agile, I am drawn to their banks and captivated by their steady mystery.

If you ask me about a place that I have visited, I will answer first by telling you of their rivers.

About the summers spent at my Mamaw and Papaw's house in Mississippi, I will tell you about playing on the banks of the Chickasawhay River; swollen, deep and murky.

About my trip through Slovakia, nestled beyond the roads leading out of the capitol city of Bratislava, I will tell you of the Danube. Dug impossibly deep into the earth, the rocky ledges that make the banks are dotted by cottages and smokestacks billowing out their warmth high into the mountains that tower over them like a fortress.

Of my trips to Budapest, Hungary- I will tell you of the majestic bridges and cobblestone walkways over the Danube, the mighty river that stretches 1,785 miles across ten countries and tells a story as far back as the Romans.

And of my time living in a graciously-slow, by-gone world nestled at the foot of the Bargau Mountains, not far from the legendary Transylvania Mountains, I would tell you first of the sweet orphans I got to love on. Then, I would tell you of the Bistrita River which cuts through the heart of the city and has provided for the people since the early 1200’s. From the Slavic word bystrica, which means ‘serene water,’ the town Bistrita was named. A living, breathing, moving work of divine craftsmanship. When I think of the Romanian people- strong, resilient, peaceful and artistic, I think of their rivers. When I think of the 20 year-old-girl who went to live among them, I think of the Bistrita River and how it forever calmed something deep in my soul.

Of Santa Fe I will give you The Pecos River. Yes, I will give you my river. Every year I take a pilgrimage to the Santa Fe National Forest. I sit on the same rock- at the same bend in the river- and I learn how to be human again. For hours I sit in complete silence in a wilderness so far removed from civilization that I feel utterly unknown to any one in the world.  And there on my rock, in my river, I am whole.

I believe God meets people time and time again in certain places. He certainly did in scripture.

On mountains. In our sleep. At the alter. On long runs. Within the church. And for me, at rivers.

God meets me at rivers and shows me something about myself and something about the Trinity that I do not seem to hear- or learn- or know any other way.

In the new song, Broken Hallelujah’s, I wanted to invite people into the most intimate, well-worn place where God shows up and meets me; a broken and quite flawed girl.

The most beautiful part of my spiritual journey has been realizing that God does not tolerate our state of brokenness with disengaged disdain, but embraces us, lovingly,  in the midst of it.

I’m not good at faking it and pretending to be something I’m not. I’m not willing to make a bunch of empty promises that I know good and well I cannot keep. What I have learned about the Christian God is, those things are not what is required of me anyways. Instead it is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God. I’ve got the “walk humbly” part down. It is at the river- both physical and symbolic- that I come before the Lord and lay down my weaknesses, sin, shame, and shortcomings. And there are many.

And it is there that the Lord smiles over me. Rejoices over me. And takes sheer joy in who I am. And once again I am unashamed to be me. I am free. I am known. I am accepted. I am loved. I am cared for. I am, like a lost sheep, picked up by the Shepherd and brought to life-giving water and safety. And I find rest with the others who have also been carried back to the banks of the streams and rivers on the shoulders of a strong- gracious-relentless Shepherd intent on finding even one lost lamb.

Unmerited grace and mercy are most manifest when we find ourselves in the place where we finally understand  that we need grace and mercy.

In the forward to one of my favorite books, Embracing the Love of God by James B. Smith, author Richard Foster summarizes his friend’s work by saying, “Under the overarching love of God we receive God’s acceptance of us so we can accept ourselves and others; we welcome God’s forgiveness of us so we can forgive ourselves and others; we embrace God’s care for us so we can care for ourselves and others... Nothing can touch us more profoundly than the experience of God’s loving heart.”

It is because of this type of love from God that I do not merely sing songs of brokenness, but songs of broken praise.

I have found that an offering of broken hallelujahs is the sweetest kind.

So if you ask me about a place that I have visited, I will answer first by telling you of their rivers...

where the Lord has showed up time and time again.


Heaven Waits for Me: The Lyric

My feet are deep down in the sandThe waves are pouring life into my soul It’s clear to me from where I stand There’s nothing else I want in this old world

I’m not afraid of letting go If today’s my last day, you should know

That I’ve loved so many people I’ve traveled this great world I’ve spent time with Jesus and I’ve held my little girl I’m not holding back for next year I’m living for today When I take my final breath I know I’m ready Heaven waits for me

My husband is the strongest man All our family and our friends make me smile Yeah I’ve had my share of broken dreams Sleepless nights and suffering But all the while That don’t matter in the end

Cause I’ve loved so many people And I’ve traveled this great world I’ve spent time with Jesus And I’ve held my little girl I’m not holding back for next year I’m living for today So when I take my final breath I know I’m ready Heaven waits for me

Maybe I’ll go quietly in my sleep with you next to me Maybe it’s a slow good-bye or I’m out of here in the blink of an eye No matter how I leave this place I know I’ll see my Savior’s face With the ones I love right next to me It’s a beautiful thing, life’s a beautiful thing

I’ve loved so many people And I’ve traveled this great world Yeah, I’ve spent time with Jesus And I’ve held my little girl I’m not holding back for next year I’m living for today So when I take my final breath I’m not leaving with regrets I know I’m ready Heaven Waits for Me

written by: Jenny Simmons & Steven Miller publishing: Simpleville available on iTunes October 2nd