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.

Candied Carrots, Ham and Jesus


As I was listening to the radio yesterday, the station was giving tips on how to get ready for Easter. The tips included a lady with a Southern-sweet-tea accent talking about cooking up the perfect ham and candied carrots and wearing those bright pastel colors on Easter Sunday whether it felt like Spring or not!

My heart ached for more.

Don't get me wrong: I am avidly scouring to try and figure out how to cook my very first ham and what the heck it means to candy a carrot. Annie has a cute, pastel-colored dress hanging in the closet and we will be decorating eggs and going on an epic egg hunt. Today I will conquer Target and every ever-lovin' aisle of spring time happiness.

But God forbid that's what it looks like for my family and I to get 'ready for Easter'.

Because that is not Easter at all. That is a celebration of spring time and American holiday traditions. Traditions which I will be the first to celebrate and uphold as magical childhood rites' of passage. Because honestly, you can hardly finish the school year and head into a summer of honeysuckle and forts, if you have not first scoured the earth for eggs and eaten your momma's ham!

Still- these are spring celebrations, not Easter celebrations.

Easter celebrations are harder. Most years I walk away sad. I know I have missed the point and not fully wrapped my heart around the journey to the cross. Many times I long for the person on the radio to tell me how to get ready for Easter because I simply don't know how to myself.

Maybe they don't either. Maybe we all don't. Maybe sometimes the best we have to offer is candied carrots.


So I decided to go to a Maundy Thursday service last night.

I was raised in a denomination that did not fully celebrate Lent or Holy Week. By "did not fully" I mean I had NO idea what Ash Wednesday or  Maundy Thursday was until I was deep into college! So attending a Maundy Thursday service- or- celebrating Easter for an entire season for that matter, is still slightly foreign to my novice, liturgical soul.

I picked the service I attended last night based on the sign I've driven by all week that said: Join us Maundy Thursday.

OK. I will.

I really had no idea what to expect, but this year more than any, I am searching for the fullness of Easter. So I walked into a church I've never stepped foot into, surrounded by strangers, looking for something bigger than ham and pastels.


If I could script out heaven, it would look like what I walked into last night. People of every race. YES!!! Lots of old white people, of which I will join the ranks one day, but they were just a tiny fragment. Every color. Every ethnicity. Every socio-economic level. Quite honestly- the weirdest, most strange collection of people I have ever encountered in a single room. Weird and strange namely because they all sat in one room together with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts for one another. They prayed, sang, clapped, hugged, wept, hoped, loved, washed one another's feet and offered each other communion.

The dynamic difference in these people so apparent, yet so palpably inconsequential, blew me away.

It felt like heaven.

We sang hymns. And songs I didn't know. The choir sounded like an army of angels. Robust and loud and soulful. I literally just listened as they led us into worship with over 10 different songs and I felt like perhaps Jesus himself was wooing me into Easter. And, in a moment of me scripting out my own little piece of heaven, we sang Whitney Houston's track 'I Love the Lord' from the Preacher's Wife soundtrack. What-what?!?! And to think, I had just texted Ryan when the choir (full of mostly middle-aged white people) came out in their green choir robes and simply said, "Uh-oh, green choir robes. Boo."

So many prejudices, dispositions, expectations and baggage- I label what I am so unqualified to label. Forgive me for my narrow-minded blindness Lord.

So there I was- with a diverse room in every sense of the word- and they were there for Holy Week. The service was over an hour and a half. And it wasn't yet done when I left. The priest sang. People prayed and offered words to the congregation. Momma Carter told us Jesus loved us. We sang the Lord's prayer and prayed the prayer of contrition and spoke the Nicene Creed and then- did a little Whitney Houston gospel- and I'm telling you- I've never heard music like that.

Often- I don't know exactly what it is I'm looking for- but I know what I'm not looking for. Cue candied carrots.

Every Easter I find myself looking for Jesus. Looking for my own journey to His cross that I might come away changed. Often I walk away sad. Too often I have walked away with only Easter eggs and a ham.

But last night I walked away with a glimpse of heaven. A resounding voice from Jesus. The unfolding of the Passover. The blood on my door that told the Lord he could move on to the next house. The act of eating. Remembering. Serving. Serving. Serving. The voice that said to Peter and says to me, "Jenny- I have to wash your feet for you to belong to me. I want to wash your feet. Sit still daughter. Remember my love for you."

As the moments ticked away for Jesus on earth- as He made his journey to the cross- He Himself taught us the way to get ready for Easter. 

Remember ME.

So whatever your weekend Spring traditions may hold- candied carrots or an Easter egg hunt at the zoo with 40,000 eggs (yes, we are attempting this)... enjoy the traditions of spring.

And then?

Celebrate Easter. The life- death- and resurrection of Jesus Christ-

Who washed our feet as He made His way to the cross and said

"remember me."