The Monster Just Outside

I released my new single, The Monster Just Outside in support of Mental Health Awareness during the month of May 2016. This is not your every day song, but rather a song to promote reaching out, finding hope and healing, from sexual abuse and other “hidden shames”.

As a Licensed Mental Health Professional, it is my desire to see this song reach everywhere it can, so it can touch the one soul that really needs it. I have offered it FREE here (the whole song), as an audio file, so that you can share it, forward it, tweet it, post it…

The song was written for someone dear to me who has struggled with sexual abuse, so it is even more important of a message that I want to see reach, anyone who may be desperate and seeking help.  It is a co-write with my Producer Eric Copeland (Creative Soul Records), with additional support by friend Steve Siler, Music for the Soul, who I will be partnering with here out of Nashville this year.

Here are some of the most recent statistics I could find, website and hotlines if you or someone you know needs help:

In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Fear, shame and anxiety are main reasons why sexual abuse is not reported, but for men, there are additional reasons as they struggle with the shame of being male, and the loss of power and control over their body. Men do not usually report until at least 5 years later, if at all.

There is hope to help you on your journey of healing from sexual abuse. You are NOT alone. Tell someone. Speak out!

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger!
1-800-656-Hope (National Sexual Assault Hotline)
1-888-373-7888 (National Human Trafficking Resource Center)
1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Hotline)
rainn.org Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

The song is currently available on cdbaby, iTunes, Amazon, and other digital distribution sites.

We are also working on a music video for the song. If you would be willing to support the video project, we would greatly appreciate your financial support through my Patreon site.

Jen Haugland & Eric Copeland ©2016/Jen Haugland Music (ASCAP), From the Moment Music (BMI).

Additional Resources:

Trafficking in America – Real Life Stories: Human Trafficking – The Most Undetected Human Rights Violation of our Time

 

 

One Life – demo (official lyric video)

Friends, we are in desperate times as a church right now to be authentic, genuine followers of Christ. As a believer in America where we have so much free access to the Bible and so many opportunities to share Christ, we can easily grow complacent, while other members of the Body around the world have been driven underground and risk their lives to live out the Gospel.

I recently attended the screening of The Insanity of God, a new documentary coming out, to call us to consider the cost of following Jesus. It was humbling to say the least. Whether we are persecuted or not, we are all one Church, the Body of Christ.

The Gospel has always been free and sometimes we can think we should be silenced, because we don’t want to offend others, or we could risk losing friendships, family, or jobs. The Enemy of God rejoices in our silence and political correctness in regards to privatizing our faith. Complacency leads to apathy, which is not good for us as believers. It is time for us to wake-up and jump off our fence. It’s time to count the cost.

We are a privileged country and whether our rights remain or are taken away from us, the Gospel of Jesus is still free. The Church is thriving in China, North Korea, Russia and other Muslim countries. Persecution, as horrendous as it is, still will never separate us from Christ. In fact, it will make us stronger believers, refining us, making us bold witnesses for Jesus.

One Life is a song idea I had when I felt like I was growing complacent in my own life. I had let disappointment in the politics of church, sideline me at times. But somehow, I think none of that would matter if my focus truly remained in the right place: on Jesus.

I want to live every moment like it counts. I want to spread His love, because I know it is the only kind of love that breaks down all barriers. I want to sacrifice all that I have, because of the example that was shown to me: giving is what life is all about. Christ gave His life for me, so that I might live. What am I willing to give for Him?

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:15a

This song I am sharing with you is a co-write with my buddy, Scott Liebenow, from Chicago. We believe in this song so much that we wanted to make a demo of it and get it out there by way of a lyric video, so that the Church could be encouraged everywhere…right now. And we give it freely to you. We are honored to have another songwriting friend and demo vocalist here in Nashville, Amanda Kinner, sing on this…and her voice is just so heavenly.

Please help us out, by spreading this song to the farthest corners of the earth. We only have one life to live, one life to give and we need to offer it up to Him, so that the world will know how wonderful He is!

May God bless you wherever you are right now, and awaken your Spirit for His glory!

Love, Jen

The Gift of Life

I always loved Christmas, and we enjoyed each one every year when I was growing up by going to my grandparents and having a wonderful dinner cooked by my grandma (MeMe), listening to my grandfather (PaPa) recite poetry, stories and bad jokes…Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha,

“On the shores of Gitche Gumi, of the shining big sea water…”

football on the t.v. in the den, listening to the Christmas music in the background,

“Come, they told me, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum…a newborn King to see…pa-rum-pum-pum-pum”

and opening presents under the tree with dessert and coffee afterwards. My grandparent’s home was the typical “Leave it to Beaver” home, and my MeMe was June Cleaver. Things were always consistent, predictable and orderly. I thrived in this setting.

I loved listening to the banter at the dining room table, staring and listening to my PaPa who was larger than life. The hutch behind him that held my MeMe’s beautiful china, wrapping paper, and the decks of cards that would get pulled out later by us grandkids. MeMe would always get after PaPa when he would start picking at the food in the main dishes and eating just a little more, instead of adding it to his plate first.

I also loved walking around in the den, looking at the magical nativity scene in the darkness with the Christmas lights highlighting it. It sat above the t.v. I loved the story of Baby Jesus.

What if there was a drummer boy? I mean…maybe there was a poor shepherd boy that used to get bored out in the field as he helped his daddy, and for fun he would tap out rhythms and sing to God while watching the sheep? What boy doesn’t like tapping out beats? The Shepherds didn’t have a gift for the newborn Jesus…would make sense that the drummer boy didn’t have one either. But they brought their hearts. They adored and worshiped the newborn King. Their future Savior.

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 12.45.07 PM

Listen to a memory of my childhood – click on the photo

I have always loved the the little drummer boy and that song. I identified with him. I felt bankrupt emotionally in my heart as a little girl. My parents divorced when I was almost 4.

My sweet, sensitive spirit just ached so much and longed for an intact family. That’s why I always adored being at my grandparents and experiencing those memories. The abuse I later grew up with made those memories even bigger and more cherished.

But that drummer boy…it was just him before Jesus. He was alone. He felt like he had nothing to give, but what was in his heart (through his drum). That’s how I felt. I had nothing to give Jesus. But I was present, before him. I could offer him my heart and that was all. Yet, that was all that He wanted. It was more than enough. And his grace was sufficient to carry the rest of the brokenness.

2 years ago, this January I lost my PaPa on this side of heaven. And 2 weeks ago, my MeMe went to join him. I rejoice that there is now no more pain for my MeMe. Even though we lived so far apart in our latter years, I always made a point to go spend time with her (and my grandpa) and help be respite care with my older aunt as my youngest aunt and her husband would go on vacation. As my grandmother went into a care facility this last year, my last 2 visits were the hardest ever, as I watched her decline quickly. I have some very sad memories of those visits. But I also have happy moments in them, too.

MeMeChristmasVeteran2I couldn’t understand why God would let her suffer and remain, when she was so depressed and wanted to be with my PaPa. I believe it was because of one more thing she had to do. It was to write a Christmas greeting to a veteran somewhere in the world who needed a message of hope. On December 12, my grandmother breathed her last breath with loved ones around her and then took her first breath and opened her eyes in Heaven with Jesus and her loving husband, my PaPa. She is free of her pain and suffering. She is free of her Alzheimer’s. She can see and think clearly and rejoice! She is humming in heaven and I can hear her now.

MeMeChristmasVeteran1

We are eternal beings. We have a choice. God sent Himself in the form of man, a lowly babe…Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us), so that we might have life…and have it abundantly. Will you come before him, this Christmas, with nothing but yourself? You and Jesus, alone…and give Him your heart? Sing a song, rejoice. Your suffering and pain here on this earth is only temporary in light of the eternal joy and happiness you will experience in eternity as a result of this Gift of Life.

I will miss my grandparents here on earth this Christmas as a chapter of MeMeChristmasTableNativitythe greatest generation has come to a close in our family. But I will rejoice in knowing I will get to see them again one day soon. The same dining room table and huMeMeChristmasOrnamentstch now sits in my Great Room. The same nativity scene is now sitting above the hutch each Christmas. And now we have just added the last of MeMe’s Christmas ornaments (which us grandchildren selected one by one the day of the funeral), to our Christmas tree. MeMeCousinsChristmasOrnamentsLife is but a vapor on earth: a mist. But where it goes…is someplace incredible and yet to behold. I can’t wait…

Maybe Christmas is a hard time for you? I know this is a hard Christmas for me and my family as we all wrestle with our loss PaPaMeMeKisshere on earth. Yet I also know, that if I can keep an eternal perspective of what is yet to come,  I will rejoice in God’s goodness all my life, regardless of my circumstances.

Thank you God for your gift of life this Christmas to me, to my grandma and all my family and friends. Thank you Jesus for coming.

Receive the gift of life.

 

A Still and Quiet Night - Cover

God’s peace to you this Christmas 2015!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

   “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

-Luke 2:8-20, ESV

Love, Jen

 

 

 

A Place for You

I was listening to an interview between Michael Hyatt and Jen Hatmaker​ today on the online Influence & Impact Summit  (some great things to learn about this week for FREE).

One of the things she said about how her platform of influence has grown (or “Secret Sauce”) is by putting “a much lower priority on self-preservation”. She wasn’t referring to NOT being a self-preservationist, but just making it a lower priority. It reminds me of this scripture:

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Romans 12:3, ESV

Is this not humility? Especially when considering others?

It made me think of things we have to put aside to do that as believers in Christ. If we are concerned with the care of others, it means we have to go beyond ourselves. It means we have to risk transparency, risk failure, risk being rejected. We have legitimate fears that can cause us to keep ourselves closed up from influencing others around us. Or even being willing to share our lives more publicly. But what is going to be our greater priority? In my life it means I have to risk to love and be transparent with my failures, while going after the thing I know God has planted in my heart to be a blessing for others.HumilityCSLewis

Are there places (or a voice you have) that you hold back in your life and heart, that you wish you could let go of, letting God be your strength, to risk and reach out with?

“‘There is always room at the table for another’ (writer, speaker, leader, etc.)…yes, everything has most likely been said…but ‘there is room for you to say it the way you are going to say it.'” – Jen Hatmaker, Influence & Impact Summit, Online Interview, October 7, 2015

There is room for me to be another singer-songwriter out there…and I have a unique way to share my message through a mental health, spiritual, life lesson and musical perspective.

Does knowing this encourage you? If it does, what is the next step you will take to move you into taking a risk for something God has gifted you so that you can share it with others?

Find out more about Jen Hatmaker here.

Find out more about me and my music ministry: Jen Haugland Music

Reflection on Being a Mom

I just want to share with you from today’s sermon at church.  It was very inspiring and I was filled with gratitude and joy about my future generations to come. To me, there is no greater joy and as well, no greater heartache, than when it comes to being a mom. And I love being a mom. It’s the highest calling in this life besides our purpose in it.

We ALL have the same purpose in life – The Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As a mom, we are called into partnership with God for this purpose. We can choose this partnership or not. Same thing with our spouses. We can choose to be in partnership with them or not. Sometimes that is beyond our control. But it is much harder without.

Then, we have been given a position of influence. When we utilize the position(s) of influence we are in, we are effective in our partnership with God. As a mom, this means accepting the position of motherhood (whether working at home with our kids or working outside the home): loving, teaching, equipping and disciplining our children in the way they should go, so that they will grow to love and know Jesus and then pro-create future generations of little disciples to do the same. Some mothers have chosen to accept their position of motherhood, some have chosen not to.

As a mom in partnership with our spouses and God, if we do these things, we will one day, successfully launch out these young “arrows” into the world and be blessed by the promises we have in God for our roles as godly moms. And I love what the pastor’s wife said about these arrows…they are our weapons we launch out into the world that make the Enemy of God very nervous, because they (our children) will continue to grow God’s kingdom here on earth.
 I have always believed that my most important job as a mother was to make sure that the children God blessed me with, grew up to know, love and serve Jesus with all their heart, soul and mind. They could be in whatever profession or position God called them to, but if they didn’t accept Christ, then I didn’t do my job well, while they were entrusted to my care.

Even if a child chooses to be wise in their own eyes and become a prodigal to all that they know to be true, if I have done my part in loving and training them well (without exasperating them), then I believe God’s word will not return void in their heart, no matter how long it takes.

Today as a mom I feel so blessed to know that all 3 of my adult children love Jesus, follow Him, and share Him in practical ways with everyone they come in contact with. I am even blessed by the inheritance of two more sons through their marriage to my daughters, and their love of Jesus as well!

I know that it is a very hard job to be a mom.  I believe it’s the hardest job in the whole world, because it is a job of sacrifice, of laying down your life and selfish desires, for that short period of time that they are on loan to you from God.

Be encouraged by grace that if you mess up, God can help you, all you need to do is ask. Also be willing to be a partner to your children’s dad. You were not meant to parent alone. But if you are alone, be sure to find support from others. Be a praying mom above all and seek God’s wisdom in how to be the best mom you can. There is room for failure. Be transparent and admit those failures at appropriate times, but never give up. Keep your wits about you and remain calm and in control of yourself as much as possible!

If you didn’t feel loved by the mom God gave you, be sure to be the mom that your children need. You can stop generations of abuse, neglect, or abandonment and the pain that it causes within one generation, with strength from God, perseverance and help from others.

If you always wanted to be a mom, but can’t be, find someone to be a “mom” to. There is someone out there who needs the love that you have to offer. Happy Mother’s Day dear friend and woman of God!

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭26-29‬ ESV)

Remain Broken

I’ve blogged on this before, yet I know it is not near enough.

I have been on a quest to find something rare during my time and stay in Franklin, TN this time: brokenness. Why search for it, you ask? You know how people say “Don’t pray for patience” or “Watch what you pray for”? Well, I really don’t care what other people say. I pray for brokenness in the same way as patience. It really ought to be something that exists on a daily basis. I need to keep it front and center.

Brokenness has been underrated since the beginning of the fall of mankind. My pride in doing things on my own stinks and humility is always where God wants me.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17

“Broken” Hebrew shabar (Strong’s: H7665) appears 793 times in the Old Testament and in this particular scripture verse, the verb is considered a passive tense verb, although I believe it is in a simple form that remains active in the English. It can be a past, present and future form of being (someone please correct me if I am wrong).

In it’s Nephal tense it means:

1. to be broken, be maimed, be crippled, be wrecked

2. to be broken, to be crushed (figuratively)

My mind instantly goes to Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32); to the place where he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord (a Christophony). Jacob wouldn’t stop wrestling with God until He knew he had His blessing. The manifestation of God pulls Jacob’s hip out of socket and gives him a new name, Israel, so that he would remember that He saw God face to face, and that his life was delivered by Him. And then He blessed him.

Remain Broken BlogOh, how many times I know I wrestle with God and ask Him to bless my life at the same time. I too, have seen His goodness, “face to face”, in His word and in observing His active deliverance in my own life. I bear the scars of my rebellion and wrestling with Him. Yet, in His mercy and grace He has allowed me to persevere. And it is His hope that I have, evidenced by His Holy Spirit in me, that His love is poured out in my heart (Romans 5:3-5). It is His finished work at the cross that I have accepted in my life. This is my blessing: that Jesus has delivered me and I will live forever with Him. I am sealed for the day of redemption. He has not left or forsaken me, even though I feel alone many times. Brokenness hurts, but it doesn’t mean I am without hope. Brokenness is a sign of strength and humility. It is a sign that God is at work in me.

I want to remain broken, so I remain in Him. And one day, like Jacob, I will joyfully receive a new name and see the promise of His blessing.

Yes, it is very good to be broken; to have my life utterly wrecked, so that I do not rely on my own strength to do things. He will be the One that delivers me every time (past, present and future) from my self…so that I will remember what He has done for me. So that I will remember what I have overcome.

He builds my character. Refines me. And He is making me ready to see Him one day, when I am welcomed home.

Reference:

Hebrew Tenses – Help :: Help Tutorials :: Hebrew Verb Tenses.

http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H7665&t=ESV

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=51&t=KJV&p=0#s=t_conc_529017

Nashville Rescue Mission

Here it is, Feb 17, 2015, and while I am experiencing an ice storm and frigid temps in Nashville, TN, my son is back home mowing the lawn in 60 degree weather in the Pacific Northwest and my husband says the trees are starting to bud out. Such timing. Actually, I really do think it was excellent timing, because God’s timing is always perfect. He is always on time with His answers.

Tonight I was booked for the Nashville Rescue Mission at the Women’s Campus. My sister came down by bus from Indiana to help me with the ministry event. I thought it would be a great opportunity to “break her in” to helping me with setup and seeing what I do, as she will be assisting me more often during events that I need to travel to. We have the same dad (we joke, my sister from another mother) but we never grew up together, so it was also a test of living together for a short week to see how well we could work with each other for the sake of my music ministry when I need to tour. It’s a great fit and we got to know each other more, growing closer than we ever have before. It brings tears to my eyes even as I write this, as to how intentional God has been to bring things around full circle in my life, including bringing us two girls together for such a time as this in our lives. Okay, back to my night…

The contact person I was to have for tonight, and who was to help me with the sound check, didn’t show up to work today, due to the bad weather. In fact, the mission didn’t even think I would come, since the roads have been so bad. But we surprised them! I told Amber (my sister) earlier in the day, “you know, all those women are there. It’s not like they have anywhere else they can go. They have to be there and they need to be encouraged. So we need to be there.” Earlier in the news that morning, the Rescue Mission was interviewed and they said they were trying to make sure not a single homeless person would be turned away, even if it meant they had to sleep in a chair or on the floor. So if the city of Nashville could go around attempting to bring in any homeless person they could find, I could surely trek in to the Rescue Mission to give the women a warm night of fellowship. It’s quite a small sacrifice for me compared to the sacrifices they have lived through.

Since I didn’t know how to run the sound system at the center and no one was there who could operate it, I made a quick run back to the apartment, leaving Amber at the Rescue Mission to continue with setup. I got back just in time to set up my system and we started 5 minutes behind schedule (lesson learned: always have my sound system with me regardless). Not bad considering that the employees thought that they were on their own that night. They were so relieved to know that I came despite the weather. I was just overjoyed that I could be there to serve. My vehicle was so dependable and handled so well on the roads, that it just wasn’t a concern of mine at all to drive in the weather.

I can’t begin to tell you (although I’ll try) how amazing and humbling it is to reach out in love and minister to the broken and homeless women and children who are so hungry (literally, emotionally and spiritually). I always pray that I can be a blessing to the hearts I am ministering to, but they too, bless mine. As I looked around the room while singing my songs, sharing my stories and scriptures of truth, I tried to be intentional to look at each and every woman and child in that room. Every single one of them mattered to God, and so they needed to matter to me. I wanted to convey that deeply to them. They were so present listening, soaking up the words, message and music. Some with heads bowed, some weeping quietly, some looking very hard and worn down by life, and some holding their children, cuddling them in their laps. I couldn’t imagine all that they had been through to be at this point of “in-between” in their lives. I thought how easily a circumstance could change in my own life, and I could be right there alongside them. This was their home. And I was invited to come into it and bring them a message of hope and healing with my music ministry. I don’t think there could be a greater honor anywhere on this earth than to have been with these women tonight. We talked, we laughed, we related. We sang, we clapped, we praised and prayed.

With all of the little glitches that came up for that night, we ended up having a packed house, thanks to the cold and icy weather. We had to rely on God for the details with getting me back and forth safely, with the additional equipment. I needed my sister there desperately to help get everything set up, so I could even go back and get the PA system (and she did great). Yes, God was in this place tonight. He knew who needed to be there and He somehow counted someone like me, worthy enough to reach out and touch the hearts of these women with my music ministry. He is so very good!

It’s times like these, where I wish I was independently wealthy, or had a huge financial backer so I could dedicate more of my life to going around to places like this, playing and ministering to these brave and broken women. My music, personal testimonies and experience as a mental health counselor fit the perfect niche for this need and I love it! I loved being able to love on these women and children tonight. They are not insignificant or too small in God’s eyes. They are not alone. They are found in Christ. They are cherished and blessed, and so are we!

Here is my latest lyric video that speaks to this exact message, So Hard To Find. We are all in this together. We are all equal in God’s eyes and dearly loved.

So Hard To Find

Reality Check for Worship Leaders

Blue FrenzySearch me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24

As I went through my Instagram feed this morning, I made note of the worship leaders in a church setting. Quite a few of the pictures reflected the famed big lights, the admiring worshipers, the band, and the worship leader on stage who seemed to have an air of coolness in some kind of way. And it was all archived by one image. I am not against big worship teams, great bands, lights, fantastic sound systems, highly skilled and trained musicians, etc.

But I sometimes wonder and feel that maybe I am missing out if I am a worship leader that doesn’t have a similar following, budget, equipment, band, clothing, hair, glasses, etc. And then I see the heart of a broken servant bowing in worship before the Lord and I think, no, none of that is needed to bring one heart closer to God. God can use whatever and whomever He wants to draw a worshiper to Himself.

Which goes to my main point in sharing this. Any of us in leadership are going to be held accountable for how well we took care of God’s sheep as we attempted to direct them (or didn’t direct them) to His throne of grace. How well do we get out of God’s way though, so we can allow His Spirit to actually do the work in drawing the worshiper? Or did we secretly admire some of His worship and hold onto it for ourselves thinking we are the ones who deserve it? Just a little?

I don’t think any of us are immune from wanting to feel important and accepted within the church and amongst other believers in our circles that we move in (myself included). We want to know that we make a difference in the lives of others. But is this the praise of man that we seek or are we willing to defer it until the end when we hear “well done, good and faithful servant?” If we seek the praise now here on earth, that’s it. It’s not waiting for us anywhere else. We’ve already received it. But if we store it up, we allow God His moment to glorify us in due time and pass up the temptation to take it for ourselves in the here and now.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

-Matthew 6:1

I am sure this is nothing new and it has been asked before in previous generations, but are we getting away from where our focus needs to be with the way we do music in our relatively small time of corporate worship? How does this impact the believers that are in desperate need to meet God in a real way? How are we setting examples for smaller churches with very little budgets, players, etc. Are we becoming a stumbling block? Is this the picture of the church God wants? I wonder sometimes if the poorest church and music ministry program is one of the richest in joy and heart.

Yes, it’s great to see so many people worshiping with “cool songs” that have been written out there. Even “cool people” that sing and play the songs. But who really gets the praise? Even in small churches it’s not so different. I hear people build up their worship leader and the ground that they walk on. And it is very tempting as a leader to bask in that for just a brief moment, that we almost come to expect it every time we play. And if we don’t hear the accolades, we wonder if there is something wrong we did.

I am sure that there are many mindful churches that try to keep this in check. It’s such a fine line to walk. What are we willing to do as worship leaders to also be a part of keeping this in check? Has pride and self-glory subtly found their way in? Is it time for us to check in with our Savior and allow Him free access to examine our hearts? And if He finds anything out of place are we willing to be led in the way of everlasting by Him? Would a picture of your music ministry and worship time look different as a result?

If we want to see change in the heart of our churches, then the heart of a lead worshiper and servant of Christ needs to be found here.

bowing

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

-Psalm 95:6

“Turning in” an Answer to Gray Divorce

Well, I sat down to write a simple FB post and share an article a friend had posted and found myself getting pulled in. So, here is a second blog this week, because I am on a roll.

So, as I mentioned, a friend of mine just posted this article and it is another great example on how to safeguard your marriage and is a follow-up to my blog on Gray Divorce this last week. In this article, research was done on observing newly married couples to see if there was a way they related that made their marriages more effective and if so what were those ways. They discovered it reflected the concept of being intentional to “turn in” towards your spouse vs. “turning away”. This is done through acts of kindness, respect, thinking from a positive perspective towards your spouse’s intention, and constructive responding.

While this article and research focused on the younger newlyweds up to several years into the marriage, this was also what the research at Bowling Green University (What is this Gray Divorce?) in Ohio had found for couples in their latter years of marriage; there needed to be that intentional “turning in” towards one another to counteract the drifting (even if it is unintentional) that can occur before couples hit the Empty Nest Stage, due to the focus they have placed on their children for so many years. This neglect of nurturing the marriage can lead to what the researchers call “Gray Divorce”.

It should come as no surprise that love and choice fit right into this as we consider our walk as Christians. And we have access to the greatest love of all found in God’s display of love for us in choosing to send His only Son, Jesus, to die for us and our sins so that we could become reconciled to Him. Jesus intentionally submitted His will for the will of the Father’s. It did not come easy to Him – He sweat blood over it as He asked that the cup might pass. But then He said, “Your will be done” and He submitted to the Father by choice. We have to be intentional to choose this kind of love in our lives as well; to die to ourselves for God’s will in our own lives that we might reflect this true and sacrificial love to our spouse. It’s painful to do. I know. My husband and I have practiced it in a very real and hard way coming back from divorcing one another. And we have had to be intentional to also do it in the silly little every day things or whenever something crucial comes up. Our Empty Nest is fast approaching. Marriage is hard, but rewarding when you can break through the pain and hurt and see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s harder to make something work than to give up. We are all running a race and we need to keep focused and stay the course, focusing on what is ahead, not looking back.

They will know we are Christians by our love. When we love our spouses well, God will be able to do His work in our spouse’s life and as well, He accomplishes His work through us. Marriage is a refinement of iron sharpening iron. When we remove ourselves and our agendas from the equation of trying to tell our spouse what they should do differently or how they have wronged us, we open the vertical communication between our spouse and God. Quite possibly it could cause your spouse and you to be reconciled to one another as your hearts grow in understanding of the reconciliation you have with God through your Savior. It really boils down to how big you believe your God is in your life (and of course both partners have to be willing to be open to see that).

Here is the link to the article about turning in (a very good read): Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits.

In minutes (it’s almost midnight), my song, A Still and Quiet Night, will be released and it supports this turning in to one another. Reflections at Christmastime can find us missing the past when our children were little. But we can build new memories in the “here and now” moments with what remains…”faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

A Still and Quiet Night - Cover

What is this Gray Divorce?

In 1990, 1 in 10 marriages in the over 50 year old Empty Nester category ended in divorce. In 2009 the numbers more than doubled to 1 in 4 (Statistics U.S. Census Bureau). This alarming trend has been steadily increasing during the past two decades that sociologists have been tracking it and they have now termed it “Gray Divorce” (see the March 2012 white paper, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” and current stats collected by researchers at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio). Surprisingly, infidelity was not the main reason why these older generations divorce, but rather a growing apart from one another, because the earlier years have been so focused around the children. And, as the culture of the individualist, self-seeking, Baby Boomers come to the forefront in their retirement years after launching their families, they continue to be the trend setters for future generations.

This gray divorce “revolution” is coming down the pike to us as younger married generations. How, as married Christians, do we safeguard against this growing trend while we still have our children in the home, before they launch? We can’t say this won’t happen to us. We live in this culture and we should be in the world but not of it. It would be ignorant to bury our heads in the sand. We need to be intentional. Current studies show that in order to support marriage in these latter years, prevention is the best intervention and an intentional “turning towards” your spouse in support of him or her as being pivotal. To keep this current upward trend of gray divorce in the Baby Boomer generation from happening, some Boomers have come up with new definitions of how to stay together and make it work, even unconventional ways of making it work. Can we say this is right or wrong?

While the Bible gives us many passages in how to love one another well, as a husband and wife, it doesn’t really paint a picture of how that looks in “real-life practice”. Hold on a second, I know some of your alarm bells might be going of, but don’t worry. I want to be careful in how I say that, because yes, there are ways we can objectively observe how a couple loves one another, but how that gets lived out logistically is another factor. Like the example of one couple in the article which I have included at the end of this blog, they actually bought another home for the wife to live in 5 miles down the road from their main home in order to stay married. They still spend time together on dates and such, but they have also given each other space and somehow they have found a way to make it work.

This seems very unconventional to me (call me old-fashioned). And yes, I believe there is selfishness involved, but I also see sacrifice in the big picture. The spouse, or husband in this example, showed grace and was willing to keep the marriage together by allowing for his wife to have the space she needed which actually encouraged more emotional closeness. The wife sacrificed by staying committed to her husband and the marriage by not seeking out another relationship and continues to come to the main home to spend time together.

But should we condemn them for finding an alternative solution to divorce? We want them to stay married, right? We know Christ is the answer. Can we look deeper at the big picture? Maybe in another 10-20 years they will be back under the same roof again as a result? Who can know? Certainly God knows. This couple will define the answer for us in time. But one thing is for sure, they are doing what it takes to survive. We don’t know all that they have been through with each other. They are keeping their marriage alive instead of giving up on one another. Its not how we think of traditional marriage. This is a marriage that either didn’t prepare ahead of time as the Empty Nest stage approached or were taken aback by the emotional toll the Empty Nest brought them (or most likely both).

Now, how will you keep your marriage alive? Other suggestions to support marriage in the latter years besides the turning towards your spouse include: allow the grieving of the children leaving the nest; discuss together how much you miss your children. Find new things to come together on such as a hobby or interest. Support one another in your dreams now that it is just the two of you. Most importantly, keep your faith in Christ alive. There are many more options to explore and I haven’t included them all here. But by blogging this, I wanted to raise the level of awareness, because, for me, hitting the Empty Nest is at my front door. We already have the signs and symptoms and ramifications of not being as intentional as we could have been. In all the years that we have been married and had our good times and bad, seeing through the lens more clearly now, these upcoming years are the hardest we have ever faced. As believers, though, my husband and I hold on to the hope that lives within us and cling to our faith in God that we can find new memories to keep our marriage alive: to allow an ember to spark a flame of new desire for one another. This is our moment to turn towards one another, again, like we have done so many times before.

This Christmas, I want to share with you a song that I wrote for the Empty Nesters, the Baby Boomers, and future marriages that have yet to hit the Empty Nest Syndrome. This phase of life and this generation, I think, get left out of real life Christmas songs. Yes, the coming of Christ is the reason for why we celebrate Christmas. Without Him we would not know love. He is Love. And God came to earth to show us what love looked like with skin on. We are real people with real hurts. We grieve one another in relationship. We grow apart unless we are intentional to turn towards each other and be selfless. We need a song to encourage us to stay together, to find a way to keep marriage alive.  What better time than at Christmastime as we reflect on how much God loves us by sending His one and only Son; especially during the holidays, when life can be hardest and we miss our kids so much that we start to wonder what else there is to life. Consider the courage it takes to stay together…to find a way back to loving one another this Christmas. Even if it looks unconventional, for the sake of our future generations.

The Loneliness of the Empty Nest (Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal. July 1, 2013)

A Still and Quiet Night, Single co-written by Jen Haugland & Eric Copeland and Produced by Creative Soul Records, Nashville, TN. Releasing November 11, 2014. You are going to love it! Stay Tuned…until then, here is a teaser promo:

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