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:
Proud to release this tender video about terminal illness, love and courage, life and death…and an eternal hope in what is on the other side. Cherish every moment you have in life, it is shorter than we think.
This music video reflects and is dedicated to the life of Christina (Ahmann) Nevill who bravely fought a Level 3 malignancy tumor in her brain. Throughout the process of 6 years from the time of diagnosis, she had 2 surgeries and treatments, was married and then she and her husband chose to have a baby even though knowing the tumor could return. The tumor did return. Baby Isaiah was delivered early, so that she could still have a chance to treat it a 3rd time. The tumors metastasized and under Hospice care in her home, at 31 years old, Christina left this earth to be with Jesus, leaving behind an amazing husband of 1-1/2 years and a beautiful, joyful baby boy that was only 8 months old.
Life is about cherishing every moment we have. Christina lived this fully through her strong faith, valiantly facing her fears head on to find her peace with Christ Jesus. You can read more about Christina’s story through her blog (ChristinaAhmann.com) and the rest of the story through her mom’s blog (JoDeeAhmann.blogspot.com). Both blog sites are listed at the end of the video as well.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
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”.
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!
Maybe some might think this is a little personal to share, but I am going to err on the side of sharing it in the hope that it might bring encouragement to someone else out there who is dealing with the unknowns of medical health issues. It’s my reality of “where I am” (yes, and a pun intended on the words with the new album title) and with an upcoming tour, something I have to deal with diligently.
10 years ago, when I was 36 I had my first TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). It caused blindness, like a vertical shade going across my right eye for about 10 seconds and then I experienced some droopiness on the left-side of my face and then left-sided weakness in my arm down to my hand the next day. My doctor put me on warfarin, an anti-coagulant, right away. We searched and found the answer to it via a TEE (Trans Esophageal Echocardiogram): a finger like blood clot attached along the inside wall of the left atrial appendage of my heart happily fluttering back and forth. Culprit.
About a year later my body finally broke down the clot and I had another episode. This time a small stroke. Again left-sided weakness. Apparently what was left of the clot dislodged. A follow-up TEE showed it was gone. After that first TIA my doctor sent me to specialists and we ruled out many things. The Hematologist could not figure out why I was clotting. All the tests he ran were negative. He said since there was no reason why I should be clotting, I could come off the warfarin. I didn’t feel comfortable with that and did not want to experience the effects of another stroke. So I stayed on the warfarin, and I am glad I did, in hindsight.
Fast forward through 10 years of all the hassles of bleeding, blood coagulation testing, and beautiful bruises…
I had just returned from my last trip to Nashville the beginning of May. I woke up one morning and had what seemed like another episode of a TIA. It didn’t quite feel the same, as I had swelling, redness and numbness on the left side of my face, but then I had the left-sided weakness and numbness in my arm and hand with some tingling in my fingers. That part was similar. I monitored the symptoms all day and when they weren’t resolving, I decided to go to the clinic, but they immediately sent me to the ER due to my stroke history.
I was mad. I didn’t want to go to the ER and make a big deal about this. More blood tests, an MRI and a CT scan with contrast revealed a left Cerebral Venous Sinus thrombosis in the back of my head, but the blood was still managing to flow through the clot. My INR had gotten low while I was traveling and had probably been non-therapeutic for two weeks. Maybe enough time to form and throw a clot, but it didn’t make sense because it would be traveling the other direction in my system. They also noted stenosis in a vertebral artery. Most likely unrelated? How could I still be clotting after 10 years of being on an anti-coagulant. I confess, I am scared.
A lot of other health signs and symptoms I have had over the past decade have made me wonder if it isn’t something more, or different, causing the clots. I have dealt with shingles, joint pain, fatigue, alopecea areata, asthma, allergies, swelling in my face and hands, Rosacia and strokes with this blood clotting issue. I personally think it’s something systemic with my auto-immune system. But I’m not a doctor. And they don’t seem to like it when I look up my symptoms and play doctor. But hey, I am an intelligent woman and a counselor. I love research and getting down to the bottom of things. I am also a “need to know” kind of person. If I know what I am dealing with, I can some how “control” it and figure out how to manage it better. Ha! God has reminded me, I am human and He is God.
But here’s the thing: as I go through all the questions “why” again, after so many years on the warfarin and start to see the specialists again: neurologist, hematologist, etc., I find myself being obsessed with chasing down the answers. I don’t have the answers. I want the answers. I am tired of dealing with this “unknown” in my life. I have music to share and my stories. I have been dealing with the unknowns fairly well with my music ministry and enjoying the great adventure of the unknown of where God is taking me with it, but it is very hard for me to consider this unknown, when my physical body and health are under attack. To call it a great adventure? I don’t know, maybe in time I will? Certainly, I am assured of where my adventure ends and that will be a glorious day. But until then? Quite possibly, this is another story I take with me to my concerts.
I’ve had to adjust my life to a chronic blood clotting disorder, most the time taking it for granted, because I’ve had it for so long and have just adapted to the daily routine. But now, once again I am very much aware of how vulnerable I am, and how fragile life is. I can get blood clots even while on my anti-coagulant. That is NOT a comforting thought to me. I am going to have to make more adjustments in my life that will be “inconvenient”.
I’ve always known that at any point God could require my life. Every breath I take has always been a gift from Him while on this earth. I’ve known this ever since I born pre-mature at 29 weeks gestation. I stopped breathing and was down to 2 lbs 12 oz and turning blue. My doctor resuscitated me and I know it was the breath of God that he breathed back into me. I am here for His purpose and His pleasure. So I know that at any moment, He could take that breath away. Or, I could live with a paralysis or be incapacitated somewhere in my body, stroke-related, and be unable to do the things I enjoy doing right now: singing, speaking, playing piano, hugging, walking, driving, feeding myself, putting clothes on, thinking clearly…the list could be unending. I think too much.
Testing continues. Next, rare blood tests, CT scan with contrast of my body from chest to pelvis. Looking for clots or something else. “Don’t freak that you are seeing a Hematologist that also carries the title of Oncologist”. Still chasing the answers. But today’s answer is “not yet”. I think, today, I will reflect on His goodness instead. Because it’s the one thing I do have control over, and putting one step in front of the other. I need Him, every hour, every day.
“Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22, ESV
So I think I will call this blog “Part I” and make it an ongoing series until I have the answers (or am content to leave things unanswered). Anyone relate or care to join me in this journey?
I wrote a song on my new album I just released that applies to this so well. I wrote it in regards to following the path of “unknowns” as a believer. Maybe this will resonate in your heart as it does in mine.
May God bless you, be with you, and comfort you in your “in-betweens”.
“You will meet me in the in-between
Where I’m not sure of many things
But your love and your grace
And how they carry me to this place.
You will meet me in the in-between
Where yesterday and tomorrow meet
Oh speak to me, speak to me, You speak to me
In the in-between.”
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?…
Be sure to read up on these though, because this will be a longer blog series that I want to share with you. This first part will reflect a portion of a testimony and story that I am writing in a book that I hope will be another important part of my ministry here at Jen Haugland Music.
As I went about a particular day in my week (last week), I think I may have experienced most of these different meanings of the word. I certainly yielded to my early morning schedule. I had to drop off my son with his sister early in Seattle, so I could get to the recording studio in time to lay down vocal tracks for my new EP starting at 10. That meant I had to leave the house by 5:15 to catch an early enough ferry (which I missed by the 4th car) and know my route to my daughter’s house (which I overshot by going a back way from downtown Seattle and ended up in a very wrong neighborhood of W. Seattle and consequently was late to my recording time).
But the morning had started off so good as I laid in bed, slowly waking up, reflecting in my mind these songs that I would be recording that day. They were worship songs and meditating on them, word by word, gave me solitude with my Heavenly Father. I prayed that He would be glorified in every song that I sang so that the listener on the receiving end of this upcoming EP project would hear whatever message God would have for them.
Then I turned over and looked at my husband of 25 years next to me still sleeping and remembered whom I yielded my life to in marriage, twice! I thought about my God of second, third, fourth (etc.) chances. This day was our 12th wedding anniversary of when Craig and I re-married each other after being divorced for 6 months (and married for 13 years previous to each other). On August 16, 2000, I chose to be brave that day, when I was so scared. I had thought about running away, even at that last moment before walking into that courtroom to go before the Justice of the Peace. My step-mom, whom I had just confessed my fears to, who was by my side said, “I am so proud of you honey, you are so brave” and she held my hand. I never forgot her words.
As I stood outside of that courtroom I thought about that word “brave”. I had no guarantee that life would be easier, or different from the previous 13 years that we struggled through, but then I heard a still small voice in my ear reminding me, that if I would yield, I had a guarantee that He would be with me every step of the way and carry me when I needed Him too. I yielded my life to Christ and remembered how much He yielded His life to me and also to my husband who very much needed the same forgiveness that I needed.
Apparently there is something to being brave…
Yes, I trusted my God that day, I chose to be brave and yield to Him and His will in my life (as did Craig), and our God has been faithful… these last 12 years have been the best ever and we count even the 13 before as a blessing as well. Yielding has produced much fruit in our lives. We stood against the forces of darkness that day that longed to destroy us and our little family. We stood against the societal norms of our times and the ‘lie of divorce’ as we stood inside that little room and we confessed to love one another forever with the love that Christ had shown us.
That day, we were surrounded by our small cloud of witnesses here on earth: our 3 beautiful children: Jessica, Rachel & Nathanael, Craig’s dad and mom and my dad and step-mom. I know our Heavenly Father, our Savior, the Spirit and a cloud of witnesses in the heavens were also rejoicing! It is a day we all highly treasure as a family. It changed our hearts, it strengthened our faith and it gave a solid foundation and future to our children who now understand a deeper meaning of what and who love is in their own lives. It has changed our lives forever in so many ways and we are so thankful for the cross!
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