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

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

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

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:

still2

It is tempting at the least to want to live your life for yourself, but the truth is the exact opposite. The praise of man is not where it is at. Please God and not yourself. Live a life that will glorify Him and then one day He will lift you up and you will be glorified as well when you see Him face to face. Praise God…do good things…lay up your treasures in Heaven.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 ESV)

Love Lifted Me

I have been there. I know this truth in my life. Every one who as experienced it in some way or form must know that each one was never created to have this happen to us. It is the sin of mankind that has allowed this kind of evil to grow inside human hearts and be expressed upon the innocence of others created in God’s image. You are never too far away from God, there is nowhere that you can go and be out of a His presence. You CAN and WILL be found.

Abuse – when it doesn’t kill you (or when you are hanging on to that last breath), if it doesn’t drive you down to the depths of depression, addiction or destruction, compels you to find a way to live. Be a survivor. Even if you have been driven to those depths, it is evidence you are a survivor. You have found the best way you know how to cope in order to live. But there is more for you, Survivor…

Sing. Sing your song so loud and clear so the whole world will hear. You have conquered more than anyone will know or comprehend; except for those who have had similar plights. You speak the same language with them. You will be an encouragement to others so they will want to survive too. Sing your song. Be brave. Never let someone else tell you who you are except be it encouragement that matches up with who God says you are in Psalm 139: Fearfully and wonderfully made; purposefully knitted in a unique pattern in your mother’s womb. He knows your anxious thoughts before you think them. He knows your wayward ways and He will lead you in the way of everlasting. You are so loved.

Sing and tell the whole world about it. Even when the world turns it’s cold heart on you. Greater is the One who is in you, than the one who is in the world. You are more than what anyone says about you that is destructive. Sing. Because He quiets you with His love and sings over you. Fight to live. It’s okay if only some see. God sees and He hears. He is mighty to save.

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…(This is a continuation of Chasing Answers Part I).

In the intensity of the “not knowing” waiting for test results on your health to come back can be so stressful. Even when you try to turn the anxious thoughts over every day, every moment. Like I mentioned in the previous post, Part I, worrying about it doesn’t add a single hour to your life, in fact it does just the opposite, robs you of enjoying the moment, being in the present, is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting, and weighs you down.

I didn’t realize how much my worry over what was going on in my body was weighing me down, until I received the phone call from the Hematologist/Oncologist to reassure me right after my CT scans on a Tuesday afternoon, that no other blood clots or major concerns showed up in them. The things that did show up were “unremarkable”. I was so relieved. I like being unremarkable in this instance. So grateful to the doctor for calling me. He wanted to reassure me so I wouldn’t worry until my follow-up appointment that Friday. Is that not the grace of God in a moment of need?

I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. As much as I thought I had been turning things over and letting go and trusting God, the worries were still heavy enough that I felt the release of them after the phone call. The tension in my body left and I breathed a big sigh of thankfulness.

On Friday the answers were vague. All the blood tests were with in normal ranges and negative for the things I was concerned about. Another huge relief, but yet no answers to why I clot except that I have a genetic predisposition for it. This in a sense is an answer. Ok, that’s it. I need to live with it. I was born with it. Accept it. Be diligent with my medication and my testing. Take my testing equipment with me whenever I travel. Doctor’s orders while on long road trips, especially as I was leaving for my tour, to get out of the car every two hours and move around for a few minutes. Inconvenient, since I like to get in the car and just drive, drive, drive…but I have to do it.

I am grateful to know that there are no more major concerns. I am content to know that I just clot and that is the worst of it (although I wish I didn’t). I am blessed with good doctors and medical care so that I can manage this medical condition and still do most the things I like to do, except play with sharp objects and do dangerous, adventurous activities (sometimes I still do, I’m just a little more cautious). 🙂

I honestly don’t think we will ever be immune to worry or anxieties in this world. But God has given us a remedy for it, to manage it well:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:4-7, NIV)

1. He is near. That is reassuring.

2. Bring your worry to Him – pray and petition Him with it.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for what you need. He longs to hear from you.

4. Rejoice that no matter what, He holds all your answers, hears your prayers, wants you to trust Him with whatever He thinks you can go through, because He is near and He will be with you.

5. Be thankful. You have a place to go to for everything you need, because of your salvation in Christ Jesus.

6. He will give you His perfect peace when nothing makes sense. His peace will keep you and help you to stay focused when the storms swirl around you.

7. Not knowing keeps you trusting in Him and challenges you to let go of your control issues of wanting to know and to accept His control and will for your life.

8. When you are anxious, you can be irritable with life and with others. If you practice continual turning over of your worry to Him, His peace that He gives to you will allow you to have more grace and to be gentle with others.

And don’t forget…you are here for a purpose, even to be a testimony through your trials. Don’t let them take you off course when you are anxious and afraid. He has conquered death. He holds you in the palm of His hand. He will never leave or forsake you!

I am not chasing my answers right now. I am accepting the unknown. I’ll journey with you in your unknowns as we keep plugging along! Don’t give up!

 

I can’t believe I’m doing this! I must be crazy!? I am just a semi-retired counselor and a mom and a worship leader and older and … who am I? My family says, “Just a little bit crazy!” (pun intended, but it’s true, that’s what they are saying). Why am I so compelled to go out there and do this? To take these songs I have written out on the road and share them? In one sense it’s frightening. In another sense, exhilarating. I liken it to when I did my first triathalon. Once I finished it, the sense of accomplishment was so overwhelming in a good way. At that moment I felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, if I put my mind to it and God’s will is in it. I am a child of God and I love Him. I want to BE His will in my life. I find my salvation in Christ alone. This is what my blog ministry stands for: “No Longer Opposed”.

Paul said these words to Timothy as he started his ministry and it is this scripture that I will cling to as I am now embarking on this journey with my official Where I Am Tour. I am compelled to follow God’s will in my life for everything He has done for me, including creating me for His good pleasure. I would rather fear Him due to His awesomeness and greatness than to ever look around me and fear what others may think of me. I am on earth for God’s purposes, not my own. Please pray for me to keep this front and center and pray for me while I am on the road ’til I return home.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:6-14 ESV)

God has entrusted a calling to my heart. I don’t know why He has chosen me to go forward with this, in my fear of facing the giant world out there I say, “Lord, I am too small!” but I know he has equipped me. Therefore I say, “here I am God, send me!” I somehow find His favor by His grace… “Thank you, Jesus, for this opportunity to serve you and your kingdom. I know you go with me…before me, behind me and beside me. The battle is Yours and I will stand. I will be strong and courageous because Your Spirit lives in me and makes me strong and courageous. I will share the hope that is within me with others. May Your love abound more and more in my heart, so that I will learn to love your people the way You love them.” Amen

The Great Adventure has begun! I am so excited to see what God will have in store for me. I will be traveling for nearly 6 weeks without my family, but will be seeing many friends and extended family along the journey! Please, if you think of me, pray for my safety and for God to do His will through me at every stop I make! See you on the the road! And if I don’t see you, be sure to pick up the new CD “Where I Am” through my store here on the website and be refreshed and inspired!

Love and blessings!

~Jen