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

 

 

 

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

For All The Ways

For All The Ways

Christmas Single – A Still and Quiet Night

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.
 
Production Notes:

IMG_9983
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”.

A Still and Quiet Night

Jen Haugland & Eric Copeland ©2014 Jen Haugland Music (ASCAP) & From the Moment Music (BMI)

V1

All the moments that we sit around the tree

Hold our memories of everything that used to be

To see our little ones their eyes so opened wide

As they stared at all the pretty bulbs so bright

 

PC

Oh where did the years go, now that they’ve all moved on

And it’s just the two of us in this big house all alone

 

Ch

Turn down the lights

Pull me closer to your side

We can make new memories

In a still and quiet night

Don’t be surprised

As I stare into your eyes

We can find ourselves in love

In a still and quiet night

 

V2

As we find ourselves here sitting by the fire

And an ember sparks a warmth of new desire

While the snow falls silent outside on the ground

Not a creature stirs or makes another sound

 

PC2

So this is our moment, now that they’ve all moved on

And it’s just the two of us in this big house all alone

 

Ch

Turn down the lights

Pull me closer to your side

We can make new memories

In a still and quiet night

Don’t be surprised

As I stare into your eyes

We can find ourselves in love

In a still and quiet night

 

Instrumental Interlude – Silent Night, Holy Night

 

PC2

So this is our moment, now that they’ve all moved on

And it’s just the two of us in this big house all alone

 

Ch

Turn down the lights

Pull me closer to your side

We can make new memories

In a still and quiet night

Don’t be surprised

As I stare into your eyes

We can find ourselves in love

In a still and quiet night

We can find ourselves in love

In a still and quiet night

 

*Honorable Mention, Cindy Wilt Colville Excellence in Songwriting Award – CMS NW 2014

 

Session Players (and, by the way, the guys behind Player A):

John Hammond (drums/percussion)

Gary Lunn (bass)

Mark Baldwin (guitar)

Eric Copeland (keys)

Ronnie Brookshire (Engineering & Mixing)

 

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. 😉

Frequency-Banner Frequency.FM Amp’d Interview – Jen Haugland

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.

TodayNotecard1
Olympic National Park

“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.”

Continue on to Chasing Answers – Part II

9 more days til the release of Where I Am!

Track 2. The In-Between

I started working on this song in the Fall of 2012 with Cindy Wilt-Colville. I had hired her to work with me on writer development and I really had a desire to dig deeper into myself and pull out the thoughts and experiences of my heart in the hidden places. In the beginning of this early writing career and in developing this music ministry, I was beginning to get a grasp of the unknowns (if that makes any sense), and started to realize that it really was okay to not know what tomorrow brings, but that I could be sure of the here and now, the in-between, where yesterday and tomorrow meet. This is where I am sure that grace has found me and where God speaks to me.

Cindy and I reflected on how people have to make hard decisions in life of which road to go down when life throws us curve balls with such things as a terminal diagnosis, loss of job, divorce, uncertain futures, etc. Sometimes it seems so hard to hear God’s voice and we doubt, and then fear that He must have abandoned us. But then we are reminded of His Word, of a truth that He will never leave us or forsake us. He is very near to us and He knows what we need before we even ask. And so, in faith, we call out to Him and trust that He is here, even when we can’t hear His voice. He loves us so very much. Jesus is our evidence!

Today is where I am, and I’m forever in His hands.

The unknowns are now an adventure for me, even if they are unpleasant. Mainly because I realize I am not in control of what a day brings. But I am in control of how I respond to it. I know that my days are the days that He has planned for me and they are numbered. It’s so much easier to follow Him when I stay with today.

And which of us by being anxious, can add a single hour to our lifespan? He will take care of every need that we have… It is better to keep our focus on Him with a treasure in the Heavens that doesn’t fail. Where a thief doesn’t approach or a moth destroys. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (See Luke 12: 25-34)

I am learning to be comfortable with the “uncomfortableness” of the unknowns. Where yesterday and tomorrow meet is a good place to be!

The In-Between
©2013 Jen Haugland
Jen Haugland Music (ASCAP)

V1
So many roads that I could take
There are choices I must make
Which way will they lead
I wish I could see the forest ‘for the trees
But life’s just not that way
One step every day

Ch
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

V2
When I cry out Your name, and I can’t hear
I still sense that You are near
And you know what I need
I’m always amazed that You’ll never leave
Your love, it has no end
A faithful friend

Ch

Bridge
My past is gone I can’t return
The future I have yet to learn
But today is where I am
And I’m forever in Your hands

Ch

Session PlayersImage

Steve Baldwin (guitar)

Mark Hill (bass)

Jeff Roach (keys)

Steve Brewster (drums)

Steve Dady (engineer)

Sunset Blvd Studios, Brentwood, TN

Peace-2013You know those emails you get with the please forward to 10 people and email it back to the person that sent it to you? I don’t like forwarding or replying to them, but sometimes I read them and think, oh that’s nice, or… I don’t believe that… But this morning I read one and I really liked some thoughts in it, so I thought I would share it:

“If God brings you to it, He will bring you
through it.
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.”

I have been through every one of these moments this past year. No matter what happens in life, especially things you can’t change or understand why they are happening, I choose to believe God is at the center of my leaning into Him for my everything to get through these trials. It’s not the praise of man that I seek or worry about. It is the adoration of my Savior that I want to keep front and center. If my life does not reflect that example, then I have failed to show you the best reason of why I live and why He lives for you and me.

Sometimes change requires quietly and boldly moving in new directions. Our paths may intersect from time to time, run parallel or even go in opposite directions, but know that as a friend or family member, you are a gift from God and I love you! Just a little reflection time this morning and wanting to wish you the very best in 2013! Maranatha!

Love,
Jen

We just finished celebrating my son’s 15th birthday yesterday. I love celebrating him, because I can remind him especially on the day of his birth, how wonderful he was made (but I tell him this all the time anyway). Because of some of his awkwardness with his autism, kids that don’t understand him will bully him at school and then he struggles with his value of worth and identity in Christ.

I don’t like to think of self-esteem as an important goal for people to focus on, as I think it is a humanistic point of view that values self more than God. I do, however, think everyone should have a healthy view of who they are and how they are seen in God’s eyes. In fact on Day 6 of God’s creation, man was the only one of all of his creations that He said was “Very good.” Of course there are ramifications of sin after the Garden in which I can expound on later and I won’t get into all of that here in this post.

Ever think you’re not special? That you might be worthless?  That’s what the Enemy of God would have you think. You don’t have to go further than Psalm 139 to be proven wrong:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days written for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (13-16, NIV)

As I think of the intricacies of a tapestry being woven and well thought out by the designer, I can’t help but think how much joy it must have brought God to design and weave each one of us. And He has known us before we were formed… how awesome is that. Don’t we struggle on this earth to want people to understand and really know us? Our God does! And He is with us and mighty to save. He takes great delight in us, quiets us with his love and rejoices over us with singing! (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)