So excited to share with you my new release, Near. Near is a slow, but upbeat and positive, contemporary Christian, acoustic-pop song, co-written by myself & and prolific Nashville songwriter, Joe Beck.
The song is about how God is near to the brokenhearted, even when we face things out of left field in which we have no control over. It doesn’t matter how far away you feel or go from God, He is always guiding you…forever holding you. His love gives you enough strength to pull yourself together and go one breath farther, because He is always near.
Get the digital download of the single now through:
One of the biggest (and I think), most difficult places to show the love of Christ is to our spouse: in which we have many opportunities to practice grace, allowing iron to sharpen iron to mature and prepare us for future glory.
In marriage, many couples face an unintentional drift as they prepare for the Empty Nest. For many years the focus of the union has been on the children and as they prepare to leave, and once the children are out the door husbands and wives have to rediscover each other once more. There may have been preconceived ideas of what the latter years were going to look like and once we are there, we find it is nothing like we had dreamed out. We may question, who is this person I live with? And sadly, over 50% become divorced. They even have a term for this kind of divorce in these latter years: Gray Divorce.
But there are ways to be intentional to try and close the gap as you transition into the next phase of your marriage relationship and to inoculate it against the “D word”. It is an intentional turning into one another, finding things in common, appreciating new direction for one another, etc. A Still and Quiet Night is not only a song of memories of the way things were when the children were little and growing up at home, but also an acknowledgement of the loss of our grown babies. Christmas seems to be the time, as it comes at the end of a calendar year, where we take more account of our lives. Where are we in life? What happened? Where did the years go? We miss our kids! Now it’s just us and we aren’t sure we like each other right now!
Questions like these, can take us on a journey at Christmas to learn how to create new memories of what love is about. Times change, children leave, traditions change, we are older, it’s quieter in the house, we are more gray, balding or wrinkled, finding ourselves more lonely…but love always remains if we invite it in.
What greater time than at Christmas to reflect on the love that God has for us by sending Himself to us in the form of a baby, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, reconciling us to Himself. Christ reminds us of what love is and He brings His peace into our hearts through His Holy Spirit, giving us the ministry of reconciliation. It is the interpretation of this love, lived out in real life that finds us rediscovering each other in a new light; and therefore, making new memories for our future.
My producer Eric Copeland (Creative Soul Records) and I worked on this song as a co-write this last Summer of July 2014, as I was touring across the country with my new album project, Where I Am. We met up at Word Entertainment in one of the writing rooms and I shared my ideas of the first verse with him. He started to town on a melody idea for the arrangement and came up with a beautiful interlude of Silent Night, Holy Night in the middle of the song.
Eric didn’t know it, but Silent Night was one of the very first songs that my brother and I learned to sing in German for our German grandparents. We recorded it on a little tape recorder for our Oma and Opa when we were very young (possibly around 6 and 4) and when they received the cassette tape, they were overjoyed to hear their American grandchildren singing in their native tongue. So that is a very special part in the song for me, that holds wonderful memories of my own childhood and heritage.
We started the lyrics on the 2nd verse trying to be mindful of what it might look like to revive a marriage by bringing a little romance back into it at Christmastime. We finished up the second verse long distance and then sent it off for production. I love the creativity that all the players brought to this project and one of my most favorite parts in the song, is a bass part in “not a creature stirs or makes another sound”.
Last week I had an enjoyable Skype interview with Joe Brookhouse of Frequency.FM to talk about my new Christmas single, A Still and Quiet Night. I like to think of the meaning of Christmas as being an outpouring of God’s heart and love to us by sending us His Son, Jesus, God incarnate: to reconcile us to Himself and to one another by showing us what it means to love one another well, while we are here on this earth.
Here is the link to the podcast, article and additional links. Please share it with as many people as you can! You just never know when someone really needs to hear something that will really touch them. We also thought we were just a little funny in the interview…you might chuckle once or twice. Maybe. 😉
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).
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)
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.
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:
My local newspaper did such a nice job today with a write up on me and my new album Where I Am, Creative Soul Records and the upcoming release concert. Thank you Staff Writer, Matthew Nash and Editor, Mike Dashiell!
If you live locally, I am personally inviting you to the concert THIS Friday night @7 p.m. Sequim Community Church, 950 N. Sequim Ave, Sequim, WA. I will be backed by an awesome band from my local community (Jonathan Simonson, Dillan Witherow, Jason Taylor, Steven Mangiemeli, Kirk Thomas & Mike Madison) and we are featuring another fellow singer-songwriter, Tom Taylor as our opening act. Jeremy Cays of Jeremy Cays Productions has been organizing and producing the release concert for me.
For All The Ways is a song I wrote in memory of Christina Nevill and her battle with brain tumors, and in dedication to her husband Doug & baby Isaiah. I will be performing it on Friday night.
Can’t think of a better way to welcome in a release of a new album than to end Behind The Songs with Loved You Well! Releasing here on the West Coast on CD Baby in less than 15 minutes! Already released on iTunes!!! Woo hoo!
Track 10. Loved You Well
This was both a painful song to write and a liberating, healing song to write. Let me expound…
After 13 years of marriage (married August 1, 1987) and 3 children: 12, 9 & 3, we were divorced. A few months later saw us far away in the high desert of Colorado Springs, CO trying to see if we could put the pieces back together again. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose, since we had already lost everything. Let me say, that God’s grace is sufficient. He is a VERY BIG God and can do anything, including reconciling broken marriages, first by reconciling the two to Himself, and then to each other. Which is what God did for my husband and me.
It was the hardest thing we have ever done to allow Him to work in our hearts and to learn how to die to ourselves, removing any sense of entitlement of “it’s not fair”. Likewise, the cross wasn’t fair. But He (Christ Jesus), willingly laid down His life for us and then gloriously raised it back up again. It really is the hardest thing to lay down your life for another human being when you have been treated in a way that is poor. But in our instance it was mutual. We both were horrible at loving each other unconditionally. We had so much to learn about what Christ did at the cross for us. What true love meant. I learned in our counseling (it was quite the epiphany, although seems like a “no-brainer”), that the same God that died for me, also died for my husband and all his sins and failures.
A cloud of witnesses rejoiced along with our children and parents. We were re-married on August 16, 2000, making every wrong right, and our lives became sold out to Christ as a result. Our children made strong commitments to Christ and to purity, including our daughters who made vows to remain pure until marriage; they saved their first kiss for the altar with their husbands and greatly honored their father and me (their brother is following in their footsteps).
I realize that not every relationship can turn around and find a place of reconciliation like ours did. That is the reality of a fallen world. But God takes us where we are at, even when we fail and the other person gives up or we give up. Sometimes the damage is too great. It takes both partners to be willing to work through their pain and come back together again. This is what we chose, and our lives were never the same again, nor our children’s lives and we have no regrets when we have seen the outcomes.
On August 16, 2000 we re-married each other and it’s been another 13 and 1/2 years. It will be 27 years this August (we still count all the years), but the kids like to celebrate the first anniversary because then it means that they count. Craig and I like to celebrate the second one because it was the one we worked the hardest for. To simplify things, we celebrate from August 1 – August 16! 🙂
Here we are now, still plugging along. I’d like to say it get’s easier, sometimes it does, but other times, it gets just as challenging as we face milestones such as job changes, retirement, marrying off adult children and becoming empty nesters. Even stepping out in faith with this music ministry has been a great challenge to us. I know that the Enemy of God does not want to see us be successful for the Kingdom. So we dig our heels in a little deeper, cling on to our faith a bit tighter and try to trust Him through all the unknowns. He doesn’t guarantee that there will be no pain (in fact, He assures it) but He guarantees that He will never leave us and that He will carry us through the hard times…if we let Him.
What might it look like if we learned to love each other well? Not just our spouses, but even our family members, friends and then our enemies (those who are set against us). Will people that watch us, know that we are Christians because we choose to love each other well to the finish, or do we end up like those who have no hope? Where is our hope? Is our God big enough for us?
Well, then I got out of bed… It really was a blessing of a day to get to record the vocals on my first EP. Matt was really gracious with me. But it also happened to be one of the hottest days for the Puget Sound area and even hotter in Matt’s Garaffice! It was upper 90’s in there. Between songs, Matt would turn on the air-conditioning to pump cool air into the studio, but then that dried out my voice more. I was definitely feeling like a fish downing the water!
My husband wanted me to take our “Mr. Burban” (fondly nicknamed by our son when he was a toddler because he couldn’t say Suburban… we joke about it and people wonder why we talk about hard liquor when we are going places). The Honda had been recently having some problems and Craig was pretty sure it would not make the trip. The suburban was much more reliable for what I needed this day, so I lugged the beast down there with the back of it loaded up with a case of water (little did I know that the case of water was going to be for more than drinking).
As I was leaving Matt’s house after finishing the recording, I stopped to fuel up at a local gas station. A gentleman who had just finished fueling stopped me and asked me how much I wanted for my suburban…point blank! I was dumbfounded…”uhh, uhhhh… I don’t know if it’s for sale…you’d have to talk to my husband.” He said okay and asked for my husband’s number. It was quite comical to watch this stranger call my husband and ask Craig to name his price for Mr. Burban as this guy knew it was hard to find this model of suburban in such great condition with no problems. Ha! Little did any of us know (are you curious yet?)! Well, needless to say, Craig wasn’t sure he was ready to sell it yet… shoot, it was still a baby at 15 years old (I’m joking)! So the guy left his contact info with us in case we changed our minds.
I started the long drive home through rush hour traffic and then as I got on to our Olympic Peninsula for the last 45 minute stretch…Mr. Burban wasn’t quite so peppy or happy anymore (dang, should have sold it while I had the chance). That red engine light came on after I got up the first hill and then that farenheit thingy on the dashboard went way over into the red…hmmm… I thought this might be a good idea to pull over. Fortunately, I was right at the turn-off to Port Townsend by a park and ride and was able to pull in to the side of the parking lot and look inconspicuous, while I figured out what on earth was going on with the Suburban. Surely, God, you knew it was a long day for me and that I was trying to get home in time for Craig and I to celebrate our anniversary…right? Inconspicuous? Nope… could this possibly have anything to do with yielding?…
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