Songs for Life

Songs for LifeIt’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write, to truly type out words of the heart. I’m aching for it, but pregnancy exhaustion and the depths there are to delve hold me back. Soon, I think. I hope.

There are words waiting.

When words are absent and slow, let the poets, the songwriters, the Truth proclaimers speak for us. For me, that happens in song.

I have playlists for everything—seasons, birthdays, getting dressed, parties, moods. This one I originally named Mother Artist, which makes sense to me in my life, but…they really apply to everyone.

I’m not a fan of most mainstream Christian music (including worship music), on the whole I don’t feel it gives an honest portrayal of life, especially when you consider how wide the spectrum of a life of faith is. Here you’ll find some of my favorite songs for life, for when life is a struggle, depression and sorrow loom, for love, for all those bits and pieces of life that don’t always fit into a neat category. 

And, of course, I had to include some of my favorite lyrics.

You’ll find a lot of repeats from Sara Groves, Christa Wells, Andrew Peterson, and JJ Heller. These are artists I love who write and sing the struggles and joys of life, loss, apathy, depression, thanks, love, redemption, and identity in a beautifully truthful way. I’ve said it before, but Sara Groves has done more for my theology than probably any one author or theologian.

You can find the playlist on Spotify: Songs for Life.

Just click shuffle and you’ll be set.

Songs for Life

10553633_10152188421137190_2649990657033543279_nFor When the Darkness Will Not Lift & It’s Difficult to Breathe

  • Maybe There’s a Loving God, Sara Groves, “Maybe this was made for me, For lying on my back in the middle of a field, Maybe that’s a selfish thought, Or maybe there’s a loving God”
  • It’s Going To Be Alright, Sara Groves
  • It Might Be Hope, Sara Groves
  • Peace, Peace, Sara Groves, “Peace, peace, it’s hard to find, Trouble comes like a wrecking ball to your peace of mind”
  • This Thing Is Not Going to Break You, Christa Wells
  • Who You Are, JJ Heller, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who You are. You have a Father’s heart and a love that’s wild and You know what it’s like to lose, yeah, you know what it’s like to lose a child” 
  • A Thousand Things, Christa Wells, But in the midst of the most exquisite pain  you’re drawn into a peace that you cannot explain and the praises you sing of a sovereign God reach the girl whose last hope is gone she never thought there was purpose in anything here now the seed has been planted and it’s taking root there”
     (This song’s not on Spotify, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.)
  • How Emptiness Sings, Christa Wells, “Sister carries her loneliness,In a hidden hollow inside her chest, And sometimes all that she wants is an end, To the long, long night, But ooh her bow is on the strings, And the tune resonates in the open space to show us how emptiness sings, Glory to God, Glory to God! In fullness of wisdom, He writes my story into his song, My life for the glory of God.” (Also, not on Spotify. But so, so good.)
  • Even Though, More Than Rubies (Christa Wells/Nicole Witt), “Even though we lose it all, we’ll not be lost, Behold this love of God has ransomed us, He’s ransomed us”
  • You’ll Find Your Way, Andrew Peterson, “And I know you’ll be scared when you take up that cross, And I know it’ll hurt, ’cause I know what it cost, And I love you so much and it’s so hard to watch, But you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna get lost, Just go back, go back, Go back to the ancient paths, Lash your heart to the ancient mast, And hold on boy, whatever you do, to the hope that’s taken ahold of you”  This is my prayer for my children.

1422462_10152212924402190_6924853881215478006_nFor When You’re Ready to Wake Up & Fight…for Life, for Joy, for Purpose

  • Wake Me Up, Aloe Blacc, “Feeling my way through the darkness, Guided by a beating heart, I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start”
  • Just Showed Up for My Own Life, Sara Groves, “I was in love with an idea, Preoccupied with how a life should appear, Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in the shiny veneer, There are so many ways to hide, There are so many ways not to feel, There are so many ways to deny what is real”
  • Eyes on the Prize, Sara Groves
  • Painting Pictures of Egypt, Sara Groves
  • Redemption, JJ Heller, “Someday we will remember how to fly and we will rise like embers burning bright, everything broken will be whole again” (this is what I wear on my wrist)
  • Set Free, More Than Rubies (Christa Wells/Nicole Witt)
  • Keep Breathing, Ingrid Michaelson
  • Run, Delta Rae
  • Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine
  • Learning to Love Again, Mat Kearney, “‘Cause that was the real you running through the fields of gold wide open, Standing in places no picture contains,That was the real you, windows down, we could smell the mint fields crying”

10570505_10152212925102190_4366846145370972846_nFor When You Need to be Reminded You Actually Like that Guy You Married

  • Dancing in the Minefields, Andrew Peterson, “We bear the light of the Son of Man, so there’s nothing left to fear, So I’ll walk with you through the Shadowlands until the shadows disappear”
  • Home, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
  • Different Kinds of Happy, Sara Groves
  • Boat Song, JJ Heller
  • Wherever Is Your Heart, Brandi Carlile, “Wherever is your heart, I call home” 

For When You Need Grace for Yourself

  • Thy Mercy, My God, Sandra McCracken, “Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own, And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son; All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine, Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.”
  • Control, JJ Heller
  • The Broken Beautiful, Ellie Holcomb

10268662_10152607539867190_3343918001854171576_nFor When You Need to Be Reminded of Truth & Beauty

  • Something Beautiful, NeedtoBreathe
  • Don’t You Want to Thank Someone, Andrew Peterson, “Don’t you ever wonder why, In spite of all that’s wrong here, There’s still so much that goes so right, Beauty Abounds”
  • Add to the Beauty, Sara Groves, “And I want to add to the beauty, To tell a better story, Shine with the light, That’s burning up inside”
  • When the Saints, Sara Groves, “And when I’m weary and overwrought, With so many battles left unfought, I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard, I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars, And when the Saints go marching in, I want to be one of them”
  • Feed Your Soul, Christa Wells
  • Shine Your Light On Me, Andrew Peterson
  • Sparrow, Audrey Assad

10437560_10152596173737190_1415132247035116072_nFor When You Need to Come Into Your Own

  • I’m Gonna Fly, Amy Grant
  • Shine, Christa Wells, “He shines his light through a prism, We give back what we’re given to color this world”
  • Brave, Sara Bareilles
  • Sooner or Later, Michael Tolcher
  • Loved, JJ Heller, “Do you keep your thoughts inside your head? Will you regret the things you never said? You have a voice, You have to use it, You have a choice”
  • Fool With a Fancy Guitar, Andrew Peterson

For When You Need to Raise Your Eyes to a Higher Purpose

  • Kingdom Comes, Sara Groves
  • Love Is Still a Worthy Cause, Sara Groves
  • Planting Trees, Andrew Peterson, “So many years from now, long after we are gone, these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn”
  • You are the Sun, Sara Groves
  • Visible Invisible, More Than Rubies, “The broken wait for healing, the orphans long for home, the slaves all cry for freedom, There is hope, There is hope. We are the visible invisible, We are the flesh and bone of Your redeeming love”
  • We Will All Be Changed, Seryn

For When You Need to Know This is Not the End

  • Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson
  • Kingdom Come, JJ Heller, “Life is but a dream at best, Morning’s coming soon, Kingdom come will bring us rest, All will be made new”
  • The Reckoning (How Long), Andrew Peterson, “And I know you hear the cries of every soul tonight, You see the teardrops as they roll tonight, Down the faces of saints, Who grow weary and faint in your fields […] I believe You will come
    Your justice be done, but how long?”
  • After the Last Tear Falls, Andrew Peterson, “We’ll see how the tears that have fallen, Were caught in the palms Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all, And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales”

For When You Need to Know You’re Loved

  • You Cannot Lose My Love, Sara Groves
  • Everybody, Ingrid Michaelson
  • The Pretty & The Plain, JJ Heller, “I know you came for the pretty and the plain, I hear you calling out my name. I know you came for the sinner and the saint, and I will never be the same”
  • Being Loved, Christa Wells, ” ‘Cause being loved is a hard thing to take, We are born unclothed, As we came, we will go, From the first we are known”

For When You Just Need to Get Up & Dance

  • Shut Up & Dance, Walk the Moon
  • Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
  • Hey, Soul Sister, Train
  • Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars
  • Hey Mama, Mat Kearney
  • She Got the Honey, Mat Kearney

My current favorite playlist is Midsummer Night, just be warned it’s full of bluegrass, folk, and indie goodness. If you’re in a season of sorrow, Songs for the Brokenhearted is a playlist I put together last summer after our third miscarriage. I wanted music that would allow me to grieve, but still point me to Jesus.

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Why Go to IF: Gathering?

IF Gathering header

When I’ve talked to women about IF and encouraged them to come, many shrug their shoulders and say, “Why? What’s it for? What’s the purpose?”

Why should you even come? Is it just another women’s event? Another feel good opportunity, but life doesn’t really change? A chance for Christian authors and speakers to build their brand and add to their sales?

Honestly, any of these are possible. It’s a matter of our own hearts.

But, why? Why do I say you should come to IF: Gathering? Is it because I’m on our local planning team and want to see it succeed? It’d be nice to have big numbers and max out our seating, but no, I don’t want you to come just to fill a chair. {Success in the Kingdom of God is only measured by faithfulness, never numbers.}

Why should you come to IF: Gathering?

It’s an opportunity.

A chance to stop and pause in our busy lives and intentionally seek the face of God together as His daughters. To let down our false walls of age, music preferences, and denominational differences to seek the One who made us with his own hands, the One who saved us from the pit of despair and calls us to be one.

It’s an opportunity to breathe and reflect, to worship the Lord unrushed.

Sure, we’ll hear from popular speaks, but honestly, what I’m most excited about is the chance to sit around the table with you—sisters in my own community and share what God is doing in our lives and to seek how He wants us to live and work together to build His kingdom. 

I know it can be weird, perhaps even off-putting to hear someone say, “God is moving! Won’t you join us?” There is nothing inherently special about IF: Gathering. You can not come and still seek His face and see God moving. He moves everyday.

But this? This is an opportunity for you, for us to move together. To let Him transform our lives, not just in our homes or our churches, but to grasp hands across our cities and say, “Let’s do this together.” We are not individual units, but one whole.

Maybe you’re nervous, scared, think you’re too messed up. Come. We’re nervous too…all carrying a bit of our own baggage.

You haven’t been to church in years, don’t even know if you like God anymore. Come. There’s no gimmicks, no member rolls. Come and listen.

Your heart is broken and weeping loss. Come. So many of us have been there too. We’ll hold your hand and weep with you.

You’re busy, life is hectic, you barely stop these days. Come. Rest, breathe, be poured into by the Bearer of Burdens.

The harvest is ready, the broken and lost are many, God is ready and we are the hands and feet of Christ. 

We won’t do this thing perfectly, I assure you. But with God among us we will be blessed.

10885533_10152436878141568_8791353344812636549_nIf you’re local we’d love to have you join us at our local IF: Gathering. You can find more information here and join our Facebook group to stay in touch.

You can find a IF: Gathering in your area here.

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Perfect {scattered & pixelated} Peace

There are blocks and puzzle pieces scattered across the bare floor. A ball and a few cheerios keep them company. It’s so easy to see the pieces of our lives scattered, messy, waiting for someone to come along and pull us back together.

I string up the blinds and light welcomes itself into the room. The window screen reminds me how often my pictures look pixelated, grainy. When I edit I use the Tranquil effect, blurring pixels into an ethereal glow. It doesn’t pass me that I use Tranquil to quiet the fuzziness of my everyday life.

I’m learning to stop calling it mundane.

In the process, in the living of the picture, it feels broken, smudged, scattered—not as it should be. It lacks the feel of hope…of life, I desire. The image of peace and tranquility I strain for isn’t crushed cheerios and fallen wooden towers.

But then—the pixelated grain blurs to shine in time and there, in that moment of raising blinds, peering through meshed screen, this is peace.

There is no perfect life, no perfect home, no idealized reality.

But there is perfect peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,  because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:8

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Restless

An Invitation to Get RestlessI got an advanced copy of Jennie Allen’s new book Restless: Because You Were Made for More at Allume in the fall. It looked interesting, but not interesting to start reading.

In January I began flipping through it. I’d open to a random page in the book and begin reading, then I began underlining. I’d put it down and a few days later I’d pick it up again and find myself nodding through another passage. Finally, I just started from the beginning.

“There are no such things as spiritual and secular jobs—we just made that up. God calls people to himself, and then to display him in every way, wherever we are. So are you called to teach or write or mother or build homes or fly planes? Beautiful. Do it as unto the Lord.”

I don’t think I’ve underlined a book this much since Grace for the Good Girl. There’s so much truth and awakening and just practical steps to life that I’m texting my friend pictures of passages of the book telling her to read it. (She bought it and is underlining like me too.)

"We were made to work in the mundane, but we aren't defined by the mundane." Jennie Allen

One thing I really enjoy about Jennie’s approach is that you’re working through these questions and taking time to examine your life—seeing what lies you’ve believed, what you need to throw off, and the pieces of your life God’s been weaving together for his greater purposes, mainly his glory.

You need to read this book.

“This isn’t a book about you all the sudden finding a secret way to matter; it’s about realizing you already matter, and therefore can deeply desire to make your few days here count in light of all that is ahead for us as children of such a God.”

Restless: An Invitation to Journey

Allen continues,

“The Spirit of God has dreams for you.

And he has given you an abundance of gifts, resources, people, and vision to accomplish his dreams for you. If you do not feel that way yet, you will.

What if?

What if the things you love to do collided with the plans God has laid out for you from before the foundations of the earth?

What if the random relationships and activities in your life all of the sudden had a focus and felt intentional and meaningful?

What if the things that have caused the most hurt in your life became the birthplace of your deepest passions?

What if you could get past your fears and insecurities and spend the rest of your life running your guts out after his purposes for you?”

 

What do you think? What’s stirring restless in you?

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When You’ve Forgotten How to Fight

It seems to happen that whenever I think I’ve figured something out either God or the devil challenges me on it.

The last few days it’s been the latter.

I’ve begun to see some of the threads God’s been weaving for his purposes in my life experiences in the last few weeks. It’s been encouraging, like a light flickering in my head…a knowing, a joy in His fruition. And more than that, I’ve been sensing a deeper contentment with my season of life—finding, not quite a balance, but a sense of peace in the many parts of my multi-faceted life and desires.

I’d even told a few friends about the shift.

But yesterday, perhaps even a little bit the day before, I took the bait and fell.

Swirling into a mire of self-loatheing, bitterness, frustration. I heaped failing upon failing on myself and convinced myself I had more in common with the dripping wife than the one who was praised in the gates.

I surveyed my life and measured how short I’d come in being the mother my children need, the mother I want to be for them. I saw all my passions, all the stories and books and plans and dreams circling in my head as selfish, competing with my family, and never. going. to. happen.

I saw the peace I felt as a lie. Not that the peace God gives was a lie, but somehow in the midst of it all I was all the hypocrite. I went through my day barely containing my stomping feet. Children disobeying, an answer I didn’t like, the clock raging against me, the tasks that require no skill…all of it came hurling against me. I responded like Solomon murmuring, “Meaningless! It’s all meaningless!”

Worthless. I’m worthless, the lie echoed. I saw myself failing in every area of my life and it heaped on more frustration.

I had spiraled into despair. Even now I’m just beginning to see strays of light in the fog. The weight of my sin, the contriving of hell’s lies makes my chest feel like it’s going to implode.

***

I’ve been looking through my old journals a lot lately. I use to journal quite proficiently, pages a day. What strikes me about the Jess of 6-7 years ago was I was quite the fighter…something of a woman warrior. I didn’t just recognize my sin, confess, and move on.

I went deeper. I asked, “Why?” Then I asked the why of “why?” I identified strongholds and what fueled them. I repented, again and again. I invited other people to intercede on my behalf—to fight for and with me. I asked God a lot of questions…and I listened, I waited for an answer. I heard him. And I ate his truth.

I saw Satan as an active enemy and if I let myself look at my actions and reactions long enough, I’d notice his lies and go after them. Nothing was too small.

And I journaled my way through.

***

Whenever I think back on these years, I don’t remember the pain and struggle I read in those prayers, introspection, and confession. I’ve forgotten all the times my sin was pointed out to me. I’ve forgotten all the tears I cried, though I recorded them all.

When I think back on those years, I remember them fondly. Those years were the birth of my freedom. Those were the years of my greatest growth spiritually. Those were the years I felt closest to God.

It’s funny that I remember the pleasure, but not the pain.

***

I’m sensing God calling me into a similar season. Perhaps it was never meant to stop. But it did…and the reasons it trailed off are still present. Motherhood, amid other life circumstances, exhausted and emptied me to the point I didn’t feel I could press into freedom, into Jesus, with the same fervor as before.

This recent spiral reminded me of the suffocating I felt in my soul prior to this season. It felt out of control, hopeless. I was a ship in a storm spiraling into a vortex of despair. Oh, that Satan…he knows where to hit me.

***

It’s hard to accept grace as truth, see good when you’re convinced life is hopeless. When you’ve bit just a tiny slice of the devil’s slanderous pie, Truth feels like the cure just out of reach. But by the grace of God—the waves have stilled and, though the light is dim, hope flickers.

Nothing has changed, and yet, perhaps, everything has.

It’s time to dust off the armor.

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