Monday, October 24, 2016

Yesterday, Shawn's first album, Justified, was released! Cue the angel choir! This project has been a labor of love (and also a lot of fun), and we're elated to finally hold it in our hands.

Our church's pastoral team commissioned Shawn to write these songs and to create a project that would encourage our church body. He's done that and so much more, and I honestly think this is an album that anyone would enjoy. For me, it's been even more special because my dad served as producer, my mom as vocal producer, and I had the privilege of singing background vocals and being the photographer. But mostly, I've enjoyed having a front row seat to the writing of these songs, the wrestling through arrangements, and now enjoying the final product.

I wanted to give a little snapshot of each song from my perspective, in case you're interested...

1// You Call Me Justified - This is where it all started: a congregational song Shawn wrote that has become one of our church's favorites to sing on Sunday morning. Rich lyrics, singable melody. It'll be stuck in your head (in the best way).

2// Behold, Your King Is Come - Hands down, my kids' favorite song on the CD. Has an Irish jig kind of feel to it. We blast it in the living room and have a dance party. :)

3// The Fight - For most who have heard the album, this one is their favorite. My favorite line: "When mountains of failure are all that I see, remind me to think of the mountain you climbed for me."

4// One Hope For the World - Shawn wrote this for our church's missions conference a couple years ago, but it's an anthem that's more appropriate than ever in our very divided and divisive world. As believers, we can sing together, "There is one faith, one Savior, one Hope for the world."

5// Only You Know Why - This might be my personal favorite. I get to sing background vocals, and I love the sound of the guitars, the duet style, the truth behind it. Shawn wrote it as he struggled to grasp the sovereignty of God.

6// The Lord Is On My Side - "The Lord is on my side. He will not hold back or hide. I won't be moved, I will not be moved." Yes!

7// Shield About Me - The chorus is taken straight from Psalm 3. I love hearing Liam sing the lyrics to this one in the backseat: "You, oh Lord, are a shield about me. My glory and the lifter of my head. I need not fear for my enemies around me. I lay my head in peace upon my bed."

8// Your Spirit Moved - In last night's concert, this was a powerful moment: just Shawn, his guitar, and gospel-saturated lyrics. Yes.

9// Mysterious Wonder - A gorgeous Christmas song with the most exquisite strings arrangement (by my own dad!).

10// Jesus Is Coming Again - A celebration song because He's coming back! This will make you want to dance.

11// There Is A Fountain - Since Liam was born, this hymn has been on my lips as I've sung it to both babies many nights before bed. When we thought about incorporating a hymn onto the album, I was thrilled when Shawn decided for it to be this one. The words hold such a special place in my heart, and it has a very Appalachian feel. Delightful.

12// Faithful To Me - I tear up listening to this one and making it personal: He's been so faithful to me, to you, to us. This one focuses on several precious attributes of God.

I say this with complete honesty: I would love this album even if I wasn't married to the artist. I'd play it in my car, listen to it with my kids, put it in my ear buds as I walked into a busy day at work. But knowing the heart behind these songs makes it even sweeter, and I know you who have read my blog for years will find it so special as you "know" us in a way. We hope and pray these songs are a true blessing to your soul and that through them, you experience Christ in a fresh way.

You can purchase the album on iTunes!

He who watches over you will not slumber.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yesterday, on a gorgeous, autumn-lit afternoon, Liam and Lanie and I took a walk to the park at the end of our street. Liam has become adept at stopping at cross streets on his tricycle and waiting for me, so I let him ride a few dozen feet ahead. I can still see him and talk to him, but he isn't within reach.

Just before we turned into the park, Lanie slipped on a crack in the sidewalk and scraped her knees. I saw Liam zip into the park on his bike, then I scooped Lanie up and rounded the corner into the park, expecting to see Liam.

About 50 feet ahead of me, in the middle of the sidewalk, I saw a tricycle. An empty tricycle. I picked up my pace and looked around. No sign of Liam anywhere.

"Liam?" I called, hoping I'd hear an immediate, "Yes, Mommy?" Instead, I was met with silence.

"LIIIIAAAAMMMM!" I screamed, a primal cry from a mom who had to find her boy. A man with his headphones on was walking past, but no one else was in sight. No one who could help me find my son. My heart beat behind my eyes as the world grew silent. I could barely take a breath.

I yelled one more time - a sound he would have to hear if he was anywhere close - and suddenly I heard giggles from the bushes. "Come get me, Mommy!" More giggles. I pulled down one branch and saw his smiling eyes. "I was jus' hiding from you!" Not funny, buddy. Not funny at all. 

The episode stuck with me for the rest of the day (and hopefully with him, after some discipline). To have my heart walking outside my body, as someone has said of children, is one thing. To have my heart lost outside my body is another. The day could have turned out so differently. I took my eyes off of him for all of 10 seconds and suddenly he'd gone missing. Our neighborhood isn't exactly Pleasantville, so anything was possible.

Before bed last night, I opened my Bible to the Psalms. Liam and I have been memorizing Scripture together, and yesterday's verse was this one:

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. - Psalm 121: 2

I wanted to read that verse in context, so I kept going.

v. 3 - He will not let your foot slip -
he who watches over you will not slumber;
v. 4 - indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

I don't know about you, but sometimes when I read truths about God, they simply feel too good to be true. Too extravagant to actually believe. He never sleeps? Never turns his back from me, or from any of the goings-on of our broken world? My mind can't wrap itself around that one, but I take such solace in the piece of it I do grasp. I can try to hide in the bushes - and I have certainly tried - but I am never hidden from his ever-vigilant watch. My life - your life - is never forgotten, never turned away from.

I remember sitting in a summer class in college on the Psalms, and we were dissecting Psalm 37. Psalm 37:4 struck me because it was one of my favorite verses during my high school years:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

I'd heard a pastor once explain that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will create desires in our hearts that align with his will, and then he will fulfill those desires that he's placed in us. Makes sense, doesn't it? I spouted off that information to the class.

I'll never forget my professor's response. He said, "What if God, by his grace, gave us what we desired because he loves us? Sure, he always gives us desires that align with his will, but I don't believe that's the point of this verse. I think that view of God is too limited, too safe."

What I had believed of God had been true, but my view of him was too small. Too stingy. Too much like a business transaction: I delight myself in him, he places desires in me and then fulfills them. My view didn't account for the lavishness with which he loves me, as his child. The word "desires" can also be translated "petitions." Petitions have a deeper meaning than just a petty request. They are the deepest, prayerful yearnings of the heart.

As John Calvin wrote about this verse, "We must therefore constantly recall to our minds this truth, that it can never be well with us except in so far as God is gracious to us, so that the joy we derive from his paternal favor towards us may surpass all the pleasures of the world. To this injunction a promise is added, that, if we are satisfied in the enjoyment of God alone, he will liberally bestow upon us all that we shall desire: He will give thee the desires of thy heart. This does not imply that the godly immediately obtain whatever their fancy may suggest to them; nor would it be for their profit that God should grant them all their vain desires. The meaning simply is, that if we stay our minds wholly upon God, instead of allowing our imaginations like others to roam after idle and frivolous fancies, all other things will be bestowed upon us in due season." (John Calvin's Commentary on the Psalms)

In two days, I would have been due with the baby we lost in March. September 30th has been looming large in my mind for months, and I've hoped that I would be pregnant again by now to lessen the sting of this day. It's never taken long for us to get pregnant with any of our four pregnancies, but for whatever reason, this time it's taking longer. Perhaps another pregnancy isn't what he has for us. Maybe it's adoption. Maybe it's just waiting a while longer. But I have to tell you, I believe more than ever in a vigilant God who never slumbers nor sleeps. An omniscient God who is intimately aware of the comings and goings of my life. A gracious Father God who knows the desires of his daughter's heart and loves to lavishly bestow them. He knows we desire another baby, and we trust that in time, he may fulfill that desire. In the meantime, we pray for grace to trust him more.

Preschooling at home.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Homeschooling is one of the three things I said I'd never do. But here we are. The almost four-year-old in my house is a bona fide preschooler (how?!) and is itching to read. We've always read dozens of books each day together, but now, he's starting to sound out words on his own. It's incredible to watch his little mind stretch and grow.

He and Lanie spend two mornings a week at a Bible study that's structured like preschool. Between that, church activities, and play dates with friends, they have plenty of social interaction throughout the week. But I've found that on their days home, I crave a little more structure with Liam. Because each of our days is so different (my work schedule changes from week to week), it's been nice to be intentional about school time - which really just feels like quality time. 

Through a friend's recommendation, we landed on The Peaceful Preschool curriculum and it's been a perfect fit for us. Liam looks forward to the mix of literature, projects, art, and memorization. I highly recommend it. It's even giving me the itch to consider homeschooling Liam for kindergarten, depending on our school options when that time comes. But don't tell 12-year-old Whitney I told you so... she wouldn't exactly know what to do.

True comfort

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

During the long evening hours at work, this image often comes to mind: my littlest in the comforts of our home, helping prepare for a family birthday dinner. It's the culmination of some of my favorite bits of motherhood and of life: my tiny shadow trailing my every step, watching as I carefully place each plate and napkin and hopefully letting the memory seep into her heart like it does mine. It's in our home that we enjoy the good gifts of the Father, like beeswax candles and grilled corn and clean cotton sheets and laughter. The most mundane and most important moments of our lives happen inside these walls.

There are nights at the hospital when I wish this - my home - could be the backdrop of all my hours, a place I never had to drive away from. Many days, I justify working by remembering that I'm earning much needed money for our family and I'm serving the weakest of the weak, and thereby serving Jesus. 

The other day, I had a young patient who was severely autistic, but you could tell that his mind processed much more than he could communicate. I'm sure he felt trapped inside his own body. He passed away a few nights ago and my very first thought was, "Freedom! What freedom!" He's walking and talking and moving his limbs on command and glorifying God with every step. It made me wonder if Heaven is even sweeter for those who have endured the confines of a body riddled with disease on earth. 

In a much smaller way, you know how a hot shower feels even more luxurious if your toes are bone cold? How you just melt under the comfort? In a similar way, when I walk into the doors of my home after peeling off layers of hospital grime and into the embraces of my family, into the lavish gift of a full fridge, a cup of hot tea, the sound of worship music... it's even richer than if I'd been here all along. The contrast makes me even more grateful. 

Comfort is my drug of choice. I'm always seeking it, and I'm always left wanting. Aren't we all? But the truth is, we will never find lasting comfort apart from Jesus. We will always be searching for it in our stuff, our people, our paychecks. And we will always come up short. The stuff breaks. The people fail us. The paycheck is spent on car repairs and water bills. 

But in Christ, he promises to give us living water so we will never thirst again. There is nothing outside him that we need. He is our perfect righteousness, our perfect peace, our only hope for true rest. The Savior endured the most unimaginable discomfort - separation from his Father - in order to spare us from eternal separation from God and to bring us into his perfect comfort. He surely didn't have to do this. But in his mercy and his grace, he chose us to share with him the eternal inheritance we never deserved. This is what I hope my children can someday grasp in the temporary comforts surrounding them in our home: I pray they see Jesus. 

Weekend at Washington

Sunday, September 4, 2016

For weeks, we'd planned to spend a sunny Labor Day weekend with our dear friends in their hometown of Washington, NC. And then Hurricane Hermine decided to blow through. So instead of taking the boat out onto the river or spending the day in the hammock, we resorted to other things. Simpler joys. Walking out onto the pier as it drizzled rain. Slow lunches on the screened-in porch. Chocolate ice cream in downtown Washington. 

Our friends, the Watsons, have been true friends since the moment we landed in Raleigh. They have loved us lavishly with their time, their incredible cooking, their wisdom. So to be in their hometown, staying with their family, was a privilege in and of itself. We certainly hope to be back one day soon, maybe when the sun decides to shine.
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