We Showed Up

To be quite honest I was terrified of Thanksgiving this year. Holidays are typically stressful- in the best of ways- for most families. Schedules, road trips, different beds, tired kids, unusual routines, faces you love-but-haven't-lived with since high school and about five, ten, fifteen extra people squeezed into houses built for, well, not fifteen. We walk into the holidays silently praying that no one turns on the wrong news channel or brings up politics, hoping that we don't get caught giving the stink eye to another siblings' kid (though we love our nieces and nephews- we do-it's just...) and praying that everyone eats the food with as much enthusiastic joy as the hostess is hoping for. 

Most people spend the holidays waiting for earthquakes, praying for tremors, grateful for fault lines buried deep beneath the earth's surface. Even the irreligious know to start the holidays off with a little holy help prayer on their lips.

So this year was no different than any others. There would be two sisters, four nieces, three husbands, one tiny house, two excited grandparents, and more food than we could stomach. There would be the normal aforementioned family issues that people face whilst heading into the holidays. Joy and stress co-mingling. Fault lines shifting. Families colliding. But this time there would be holes. Missing spots at the table. Grief, raw and unvarnished.

This year there would be no Grandpa. No Mamaw. No Maggie. No Ellen.

I was terrified that our family had weathered the most immediate moments of our deep losses but would come together, thrust into the familial chaos of holidays, and finally implode. I knew we had made it through the center of the storm. The part where you are thrashed about until your bones hurts and your soul cries mercy. But sometimes, when it's all said and done, that's the easy part. The storm. The decimation. In those moments you get these magical things called endorphins. They kick in and kick butt.  Leading up to the storm, and at the storms very height, you are surrounded by the prayers of people, generous doses of God's peace that passes understanding, super-human grace and an overall blurry, fuzzy feeling that keeps you from actually feeling the full weight of it all. But after all that passes and you are mangled up like driftwood, in a river three counties over, in a place you have never known...well, that's when the hard work and spaghetti aisle meltdowns begin.

And I was afraid that moment would happen for all of us, simultaneously, around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The spaghetti aisle meltdown. As if all our grief--- raw, unvarnished, different in nature and beast- would rub to together like sand paper until the fault lines had no choice but to find fault and finally falter.

What happened instead was quite unexpected.
We had our best Thanksgiving ever.

I think it's because we all came with our limps, battle scars and sadness and we were kind to one another. Empathetic. Gracious. And honest.

I think it's because my 83 year-old-grandma who had to take her husband of fifty-five years off of unexpected life support in August... was brave enough to get on a plane by herself and show up for the day of giving thanks.

I think it's because my dad loved on the granddaughters he did have, but when it came time to pray around the Thanksgiving table he gave thanks for Maggie and Ellen too. And then he openly wept, and in so doing, gave us permission to finally do the same. 

I think it's because we played football. And wore turkey hats. And drank more Starbucks coffee than can possibly be good for us. And played dominoes. And let our girls run free. And let our tears run free. And dwelt in the beauty of the moment while also being able to say to one another, "Hey, remember that one year FROM HELL?!?!? Yeah... it's almost over now." And I mostly think it's because we all showed up when we didn't want to.  When we didn't think we could and didn't know how or what the outcome might be. We showed up anyways. And we all knew we were walking on fault lines that might give at any moment- but still- we walked.

And you know what? The fault lines seemed to re-align. To pull in tight. To grow stronger under the earth beneath us. There were no stress fractures, no earthquakes, no tremors. There was strength in showing up with what little we had, but showing up all the while. And this year I am thankful for Thanksgiving. The actual day, the actual meal around the table, the actual chaotic holiday of it all. Because this year we are still walking... and we all walked to the table together.

In loving memory of Maggie Jane and Ellen Olivia Miller, my beautiful nieces. Merlin Hehn, my amazing grandpa. Merle Chisolm, my beautiful mamaw. Jimmy Mac McNamara, my friend and manna. All celebrating Thanksgiving in heaven this year.

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.


The Soundtrack of My Life

I sing to her in bed, the same words sung over me when I was a little girl.Tomorrow morning if you wake up and the sun does not appear- I will be here. If in the dark we lost sight of love, hold my hand and have no fear- I will be here.

And when she is restless in the night, I sing the one song that has calmed my fears and brought peace in the midst of every numbing storm I have ever lived through. Be still and know that He is God Be still and know that He is holy Be still, O restless soul of mine Bow before the Prince of peace Let the noise and clamor cease Be still

And when we dance around the living room? I will dance with Cinderella While she is here in my arms 'Cause I know something the prince never knew Oh I will dance with Cinderella I don't want to miss even one song 'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight And she'll be gone.

And when we are just pretending to be wild animals? K-I-N-G of the J-U-N-G-L-E

...Followed by an insanely dramatic cow-girl version of Saddle up yeeeeer horses! We've got a trail to blaze! Through the wild blue yoooooonder of God's amazing grace!

These are our songs. These are my songs. The soundtrack of my life.

The Soundtrack of My Life The summer after second grade my family moved from a tiny town in Mississippi to a rough, low income neighborhood in Ft. Worth, Texas so my parents could go to seminary. I was terrified and heart broken at leaving all our family behind and starting over in a foreign world. As we drove from Magnolias in Mississippi, over boggy rivers in Louisiana into wide open fields in East Texas, my dad put a cassette tape in to cover the tears of my sister and I.

You're my hiding place, safe in Your embrace I'm protected from the storm that rages When the waters rise, and I run to hide Lord, in You I find my hiding place

I am 33 years old and I still sing this song- often.

When I am afraid, the words of this song flow out of my soul; well-worn and true. Thousands of miles have been traveled since I was that 8-year-old little girl crying in the back seat of my parent's green minivan, clinging to the words of this song as if they were the only hope I had left. And 25 years later, this is still the soundtrack of my life.

So let your people seek You While You may be found 'Cause You're our only refuge When the rain comes pouring down

And so goes my life. So much road traveled. Thousands of miles. Hills. Valleys. Flat tires. Bus fires. Broken. Beautiful. Becoming.

And his songs play out like a God-orchestrated soundtrack telling the story of my faith- speaking the very words that shaped, formed, and breathed life into me.  I knew the words to these songs backwards and forwards. They were prayed, sung, danced to, clung to. In closets, cars, church and in my heart- they were the whisper of the deepest things I knew to be true in the world.

Even as a little girl, I knew these songs were the heartbeat of life set to lyric and melody.

It was never about fame or being a fan. Barring my parent's presence in my life, these songs had the single biggest influence on my soul running to Jesus and never turning back. They represent the seasons of my life; spiritual markers for a girl who just keeps falling more in love with the mystery of Christ.

I sing these songs instinctively. Often. They are forever woven into my story. A part of who I am.

How do you thank someone who has penned the soundtrack to your faith?

How do you thank a man and a woman who have been there your entire life (without knowing) and shown you what marriage, honesty, beauty, severe loss, transparency, authenticity and well-worn faith looks like? How do you tell someone that they have shown you Jesus in such a way that everything in you changed? Forever changed. And that anyone who has ever heard my music-was just a by-product of me hearing his music. Of me watching his honesty? Of me watching their honesty on display for all the world to wrestle with?

Steven and Mary Beth Chapman don't know me, but my life is different because of their faithfulness.

They have been with me since I was a little girl. My earliest memories have songs attached to them. His songs. My earliest moments sensing God's presence in my heart and in my tiny bedroom came as I put in my cassette tapes and let the words carry me to a place I knew somewhere deep inside of me but didn't yet have words for.

Words to my faith. Melody to my prayers. Lyrics to my heart.

Long before I could memorize a scripture verse or understand the Bible for myself, I knew Jesus well- because Steven Curtis Chapman painted a picture of a Savior who loved me- and I just knew- from a song- that I belonged to God. And everything changed.

These are the words. The soundtrack of growing from a little girl, scared to move away from my small town Mississippi home- to a grown girl, trying to be honest and brave.

Life-Long Friends 8-years-old Sometimes His voice comes calling Like rolling thunder, like driving rain And sometimes His voice is quiet And we start to wonder, if He knows our pain But He who spoke peace to the water Cares more for our hearts than the waves And the voice that once said, "You're forgiven" Still says, "You're forgiven" today

9-years-old The world's an ocean waiting at my door Before I set out for the open sea I'll take the word my father's given me And I'll go sailing out to treasure island *** He died to bring us more to this life living than dying More than just trying to make it through the day More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see

10-years-old For the Sake of the Call... Don't get me started. I'm already a weepy mess. I remember the first time I heard this song. I sat and listened to the entire cassette, entranced, tears dripping off my chin. Me, a 10-year-old girl, felt more compelled to live life than I knew what to do with. With each song, my heart soared. It rang so true. Something in me ached as I listened to every word and listened to Jesus tell me that this is what He wanted from me. This album was my anthem. It still is. Sometimes- when I want to quit ministry- I literally go to a closet and sing this at the top of my lungs. And then remember. All over again, I remember.

Nobody stood and applauded them So they knew from the start This road would not lead to fame All they really knew for sure was Jesus had called to them He said "Come follow me" and they came With reckless abandon they came- We will abandon it all For the sake of the call No other reason at all but the sake of the call Wholly devoted to live and to die For the sake of the call

12-years-old Who, who's gonna love Maria Who, who's gonna touch her With the tenderness she longs for Like a desert longs for rain *** Started out this morning In the usual way Chasing thoughts inside my head Of all I had to do today Another time around the circle Try to make it better than the last...

...and you are all kinds of lying if you grew up in Christian sub-culture and don't confess to not only singing this song out loud at the top of your lungs, but also acting it out. We all saddled up our horses. Don't lie. It was the greatest thing to happen in 6th grade. And admit it, the advent of the Toby Mac rap song sent us into Christian music ecstasy.

14-years-old God our Father once again I bow my head to pray You are my Father and my Friend, and You hear every word I say A prayer for forgiveness, a desperate cry for help Or praise flowing from a thankful heart Like each time before, I come knowing You're still listening

15-years-old And with love that conquers loneliness, and hope that fills all emptiness He came to earth to show our worth. Our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel And we will never face life alone Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel Our God is with us, Emmanuel

Has a more beautiful Christmas song ever been written? The answer, of course, is no. This song is as close as you get to Heaven in the Real World.

16-years-old I'm free, oh I have been forgiven God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings And I'm free yeah and the freedom I've been given Is something that not even death can take away from me Because I'm free, Jesus set me free *** I am the heart, You are the heartbeat I am the eyes, You are the sight And I see clearly, I am just a body You are the life I move my feet, I go through the motions But You give purpose to chance I am the dancer You are the Lord of the dance

19-years-old Words fall like drops of rain My lips are like clouds I say so many things Trying to figure you out But as mercy opens my eyes My words are stolen away With this breathtaking view of your grace I am speechless I'm astonished and amazed

21-years-old Just when you think 'he must be running dry'- 'he cannot possibly write another song that so deeply resonates with the rumblings of my faith-' A haunting, vulnerable melody comes along with a lyric so powerful that I cannot listen to it without the deepest longing for heaven aching inside of my soul.

And the pain falls like a curtain On the things I once called certain And I have to say the words I fear the most I just don't know And the questions without answers Come and paralyze the dancer So I stand here on the stage afraid to move Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust God is God and I am not I can only see a part Of the picture He's painting God is God and I am man So, I'll never understand it all For only God is God

When Loves Takes You In, Magnificent Obsession, Carry You to Jesus... the soundtrack of my early 20's.

Thank You I could go on for another decade. Just when you think there can't be more- it flows forth.

A beautiful gift to the world.

A guide to the traveler searching for the words and melodies that offer up Jesus as beautiful, holy, faithful, inviting- constant.

And that, of course, is the best gift that Steven and Mary Beth have given the Christian community. A beautiful picture of faithfulness. What it looks like to be in it for the long haul. They have given the world a rare gift. The gift of a journey. Their journey. The journey of faith. The journey to the cross. The journey through unbearable loss-grief-suffering and healing. The journey that says- no matter what- we are constant because HE is constant. They have invited us to watch. To join. To dream. To live. To abandon it all for the sake of the call.

So tonight as my little girl tossed and turned in her bed, she said, "Mommy, sing me the song about being still and knowing that He is God. And being quiet and stuff."

And I did.

I sing this song over her every night. "Be still and know that He is God. Be still and know he is your Father. Come rest your head upon his chest- listen to the rhythm of, His unfailing heart of love. Beating for His little ones. Calling each of us to come. Be still. Be speechless."

Not too long ago, as I sang while she nodded to sleep with her tiny eyes closed, she said-

"Mommy- I want to be best friends with God forever because this songs make me love him sooo much."

I kissed her forehead.

"I know baby. This song makes me love Him so much too."

Steven and Mary Beth- you have given us a legacy. And tonight as I laid with my little girl, I decided that I have waited long enough to say thank-you. Your words and your witness have been the most beautiful soundtrack a generation could be privileged to grow up with.

So though it falls short...

Thank you.

You have given us the heartbeat of Jesus this side of heaven. A soundtrack of faith.

What I Should Have Said to Amy Grant

Dear Amy-

I've listened to your music since I was in my momma's belly. I don't say that to make you feel old; only to let you know that you have been a part of my story since my story was written.

Yes, I loved everything you did in the 90's. What sixth grade girl didn't sing and dance their heart out to the tracks on Heart in Motion? But I am talking about before then. Songs like Old Man's Rubble, on your first album, songs penned and performed before I was even born. These were the words sung over me as a little tiny baby.

Some babies don't get songs sung over them. How lucky I was to have parents who whispered "she's got her father's eyes" over me as they rocked me to sleep.

How lucky I was that a young girl named Amy Grant was singing songs of beauty and truth to the world.

On my hardest days, when I wage the most intense battles for my soul, my marriage, my daughter, my career, my ministry... your voice and your lyrics guide me gently and fearlessly to Jesus. These are the lines that come without fail, to my heart each time

I will not forget, your love for me and yet, my heart forever is wandering. Jesus be my guide, and hold me to Your side, and I will love you to the end.

Carry on through the night, when the road is hard to find. 

I'm raining on the inside; my heart wells up with tears that start to pour. I'm raining on the inside, but then Your cries of love break through, And I fall in love with You once more.

Voices like thunder in a mighty roar. Cry to the Lord. 

Lead me on, lead me on. To a place where the river runs into your keeping. Lead me on, lead me on. The awaited deliverance comforts the seeking.

In a little while we'll be with the Father, can't you see Him smile?

Songs like Giggle and Fat Baby still make me smile.

And my favorite songs ever- of all time- are still Arms of Love and Doubly Good to You.

How many countless times have I played Doubly Good to You in the midst of absolute hell and cried and sang out to Jesus who has reminded me of the things He's yet to do...


And we're still in the 1980's. I haven't even worked my way up to the profound impact the music you wrote and performed in the 1990's had on me. Or your newest albums over the past decade.

'Love has made me unafraid' are the words I now whisper and sing over my own little girl. Ok, and sometimes I cave and tell her she has her Father's eyes. And when she's afraid? El Shaddai.

Should I tell you that I was heartbroken when, in the 5th grade, I saw a girl on the Mickey Mouse Club go to your farm and studio on career day? She had written about wanting to be a singer and her dream day was working with you. I sat on my living room floor and cried, "Why wasn't I smart enough to think of this???" I spent the next three years trying to get on the Mickey Mouse Club Career Day so I could come to your farm.

Or should I tell you that my publisher- and dear friend- knows how much my writing partner (Ali Rogers) and I love your music and how he sent us to the Amy-Smitty Reunion tour at the Ryman and we sat on the second row and sang at the top of our lungs all night, while simultaneously tearing up every time you would play our really-really-really favorite song. Two mom's singing our hearts out like giddy little girls.

It's not that we are star-struck. But let's be honest, we are star-struck. It's that music has the profound ability to speak life or death into someone's soul. And for as long as I can remember, literally my entire journey on this earth, your voice has been tucked away in the corners of my soul speaking life; your voice etched in my memory like a binkie, a worn-blanket that feels so familiar and so dear and so permanent.

I recently finished recording my first solo project after five albums with my band Addison Road. As I drove away from Nashville, headed back home to Dallas- back home to my little girl and my husband and all things familiar- I was struck by an overwhelming voice that seemed to whisper "Everything is changing."

I don't like change. And in the dark stretch of lonely highway, I felt so lost and so scared.

I pulled over and opened up my computer, searched through my music, knowing exactly what I needed to hear. And for the next two hours you and I sang-cried-laughed-smiled and drove through lonely stretches of highway, completely un-alone.

So when I was standing in the line for Thunder Mountain at Disney World this weekend and I turned my head and saw you one tiny foot behind me- imagine the whirlwind of thoughts. Giddy? Yes. But there was my friend. My confidant. There were the lyrics that walked me through hell and back. And the words whispered over me since I was a baby. And the songs that helped me dance, sing and love my way through the terribly awkward years of junior high. And the person that goes down lonely- terrifying highway roads with me when everything is changing.

You were right there.

And I wanted to smile and scream and hug you and thank you and a million other things and I blabbed my way through,

"I- I- oh my gosh- I'm like a kid in a candy store- I have loved your music my whole life- I'm like a huge fan- all the way back to Fat Baby!"

Really- who the heck says that Jenny? Fat Baby? It's like the cheesiest song you ever did. And not only did I reference your cheesiest song, I picked one that made you feel old! Blah.

I wish I could have told you everything I said in this letter. But sometimes our words just don't come out. And that's tragic, because you should know-

When you walked through your own seasons of hell- you did so with dignity. You didn't quit and that taught me how to do this thing called the Christian Music Industry. It taught me how to do ministry. It taught me how to do this thing called life.

When you penned songs with Kathy Troccoli, Michael, Brown, Rich, Wayne- they changed my life. They became my anthems. My prayers. My friends.

When you grew as an artist- always changing- always re-inventing and following the voice inside of you that led you this way and that, you set the road-map for longevity and commitment to your craft. You showed us what was possible.

If there is a soundtrack to my life- and there is- it can be pieced together from the dozen or so albums that have your name- your voice- your honesty- your simplicity and authenticity attached to them.

I should have said thank-you.

I wish I could have conveyed gratitude instead of crazed fan. I wish you could fully know what your music has meant to me. I look forward to the day when God allows you to fully see the profound impact you have left on this world, Amy.

Until then just know there are girls like me- full of questions, doubts, fears, anticipations, joys-

who pull over on dark highways when life doesn't make sense and pull out the one voice we have always known-

and we sing out alongside of you-

Somewhere down the road There'll be answers to the questions Somewhere down the road Though we cannot see it now Somewhere down the road You will find mighty arms reaching for you And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

thank you amy-