Monday, October 29, 2012

and i know he watches me

October...a time of seasons...falling leaves and changing colors...a time to reflect...and give thanks...countdowns to a new much counting. I haven't done very much counting in the last two years. And, honestly, it has been nice. Because for so many years there we were...counting hours, days, long nights, weeks, months, even much time could I spend at home before inevitably landing back in the hospital....and how long would they keep me there? It was a never ending cycle and we were always counting...counting...counting. So, in the last two years, where I haven't had need to even think about heading to an ER...I have relished the gift of NOT counting...not being so bound by time...not holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop. All those days of counting have slowly faded into endless days and nights with my family...moving forward...reclaiming moments...reclaiming relationships. And we have been able to just counting...just BE.

Except for one October. One gaping hole so wide that it sometimes takes my breath away.


October 29, 2009. The last day I saw my sweet father's face on this side of Heaven. There are days when that feels like yesterday and there are days when it feels like it has been so long that, if I take one more breath, I will forget everything. I try to meditate on moments...memorize every last bit...and hold them close. There are days when I can breathe easier...and there are days when I suddenly feel a lightness and then a heaviness all at once...because for a moment I forgot...and then remembered. Grief is strange that way.

I have been thinking so much lately about how much my Dad would have loved watching my boys in the stage they are in right now. He adored all 6 of his grandsons...and I have no doubt that he is still watching them. I am more sad for my nephews...for future cousins to come...and for my sweet babies...who were only 5 and 2 when they lost their Pappy...some days it breaks me apart to think that they may not remember him. By God's grace my boys were so very deeply imprinted upon by the short time they have with their Pappy. And we talk about him all the time. But still...oh how I would love to hear Jack telling him his jokes and reading him the books he hear them laughing together over the silly movies he makes...Jack Franklin has big dreams...and no one would have been a bigger champion of those dreams than his Pappy, Roy Franklin. And no one would have laughed harder or beamed brighter watching Samuel as he lives in his 24 hour a day never ending fantasy world of sports.

I think about my mom and what it must be like to live this new normal...the day to day...without her partner. I can only imagine what I would feel like losing Matt and just imagining it feels like not breathing. My mom does not grieve as one without hope...but still...there is still grief. I think about my sister, who was always our father's princess, and who longed to have her father there to walk her down the aisle and watch as she started her own family. I think about my brothers and what it must be like to become a man when the most important man in your life isn't there. But oh, how intensely proud I know my Dad is of all of them.

God has been so faithful...He never leaves us fatherless...and I know that...but I miss my Daddy...a girl is just never too old to miss her Daddy. One of my favorite quotes from St. Francis de Sales says, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength”. That was my Dad. We were alike in many ways and I miss hearing his voice speaking into my life. Sometimes I call his cell phone just to hear that voice. I have pictures that I study intensely, soaking up every last shred of connection. There is one in particular, from when I was little, that is a favorite  of mine...I love it for so many reasons...but especially because I love to study his hands holding me in it...because we have the exact same hands. Strange the things that can bring comfort so simply. Even in the midst of this election season I have thought often how I would love to sit and talk to my Dad. I am my father's daughter when it comes to that arena and I miss our talks...and his wisdom...not just for politics or social issues...but for life. He was a man of few words...but the words he spoke he chose so carefully. And he spoke with unwavering passion. Oh to have one more moment to attune my ear to those words. And yet...he is all around me.

There was a night when I was in a hospital bed in 2010 when I woke to see him standing at my door. And you can call it medication...or dehydration...or hallucination...I call it GRACE...the gift of a loving Heavenly Father who gave me the tangible presence of my earthly father for one more moment in the quiet of night.

I sang in church yesterday morning..."His Eye is on the Sparrow"...a song that was dear to my father's heart. He had first come to really love it when a friend of mine in high school sang it especially for him shortly after his first heart surgery. So when our worship minister called last week and said, "Hey, I have something a little special I'd like you to sing this weekend" my heart jumped into my throat as I thought about singing a song...this song...on October 28th.

But I sang it. I sang it for my Heavenly Father. I sang it for my sweet Daddy. And it was flawed. It was an emotional song to sing and there were notes that were not at all executed as well as a trained singer like myself would usually seek to sing them. My voice was a bit broke in a few places...the pitch suffered in a few places. But I sang. Because I know that my Daddy loves it when I sing...I know that both of my fathers do.

You see, the very last thing that my Dad asked of me before he went into surgery...the very last thing he said before he went to meet his King was...will you sing for me? He had always been my biggest fan and greatest encourager...and he LOVED to sing...though he could not match one note if he tried...but he had spoken before of looking forward to being in Heaven one day and being able to sing perfectly. And so I sang for him. I sang a song that he requested...a song that means a great deal to our that has become an anthem of sorts for us in times of great joy and in times of great sorrow. I sang the song "My Jesus I Love Thee"...the song that I sang a cappella from the back of a church right before my Daddy walked me down the aisle to marry the man I love...the song that I have sung at weddings and funerals of many we love since. Something about the words of that song just echo my heart so the highs and in the lows.

As I married Matt...
"if ever I loved Jesus 'tis now"

As I said goodbye to my father for what I did not know would be the very last time...
"if ever I loved Jesus 'tis now"

And as we laid him to rest and memorialized his quiet, gentle, rich in all the ways that mattered life...
"if ever I loved Jesus 'tis now"

Those words don't always come easy on my lips...but they are always true. So that brings me back to church yesterday. I have been struggling lately with my voice...with my tendency to be extremely self-critical and with my lack of confidence as far as singing...and Satan has been having a field day with this...using it to put me in my own way in an effort to distract me and silence my pure worship. This may seem a strange struggle from someone who has sung all of their someone who earned a degree that required hours and hours of intensive vocal training...from someone who does feel called by God to be a vessel of worship but sometimes lets Satan creep in through that vulnerable place and tell the lies that have me focusing on the technical...the execution...forgetting sometimes what I'm doing. As someone who is musically trained, yes, it is frustrating when things don't go as smoothly as is frustrating when you have spent four consecutive years hospitalized with illnesses that include tubes down your throat and not much time for vocal warm-ups. So I am in a season of retraining my voice...of rebuilding that muscle memory...but I am also so very grateful for the in-between place I am in right now. Because there is a freedom in being being broken...and He can bring beauty out of our broken offerings. And He does not look at the things that man does...He does not dwell on a note that went astray like I might have a tendency to do...He looks at my heart. I will not bring before my King that which costs me nothing...especially if what it costs me is my pride. And I know without a doubt that I would much rather sing a song that is flawed...but genuine before my Savior...than to sing something perfectly and it all have been for naught...only for selfish gain. I sing for Him and Him alone.

I thought about my dad so much in church we sang the song of course...and even throughout Jonathan's sermon. He spoke about the rich young ruler and about what it means to be rich toward God...and that was my Dad. He didn't have much in the way of material possessions...he didn't desire them...most all that he had and was...he gave away...but he was SO.VERY.RICH.

I thought of him as we sang these words of another hymn..."life shall not end the song". And I pictured my sweet, tone-deaf Daddy...healed and a place where there is no death, no separation, no counting, no night, no end...singing perfectly before our Heavenly Father right alongside me.

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

Thursday, October 18, 2012

i will be your someone

This video has not left my mind since I first saw it and read all of the news articles about this young woman who tragically took her life last week at the age of 15, about a month after uploading this video. I have been trying to process my emotions and collect my thoughts enough to adequately express what this story, and the many others like it, has stirred within me.

It is incredible to me what people will say...carefully shrouded in anonymity; their cowardice protected behind a computer screen. And, believe me...I have plenty to say to those people. But my first instinct is to want to reach through that computer screen and talk to Amanda. Especially when she holds up that second to the last card that reads...

"I have nobody...I need someone."

Here is what I would like to say to Amanda...Oh, how I wish I could have said it earlier...that anyone could have said it. Because I truly believe that, in the midst of a chorus of cowardly hate, one heart being brave with love can move mountains. Here is what I wish I would have seen as a response to that video instead of the "she deserved it" and "she was weak"...words that continued to be posted even after her death. Here are the words I wish she could have heard:

YOU HAVE SOMEONE. I will be your someone. You are not alone.

This is just one story and there are countless others like it. Our words are powerful...they can be a wellspring of life or they can literally take life away. I'm not really concerned with people's arguments that she was somehow responsible for the kind of harassment that she received. This was a 15 year old girl. She was a dearly loved daughter of our Heavenly Father and no one deserves this kind of treatment. These are our children...both the bullied and the bullies. They have weapons at their fingertips and can chip away at someone's spirit with the click of a mouse. And what is incredible in these situations is that, even when it seems there are masses of people against you, sometimes all it takes is for one person to be FOR you to make all the difference.

There are so many things I want to much more I wish that I could do. But one thing that I know I can do is instill in my children the immense power and weight that their words can carry...power to build up and to tear down. God help me to model this for them. Because I know all too often I let the ugliness in myself be reflected in my own words. And I can see it in my own children's eyes when I let frustrations get the best of me and when I know I've chipped away a little piece of them. How thankful I am that I know the grace of a loving Heavenly Father who, amidst all my brokenness, pursues me and will not ever let me go. I long to live a life that sees the broken, hurting and lonely and tells them YOU HAVE SOMEONE. I WILL BE YOUR SOMEONE.
In the words of one of my favorite prayers, from Saint Francis of Assisi...

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I can remember back when Matt and I were dating...those days of butterflies in the stomach, not being able to keep our hands off of each other and many, many late nights of talking. We talked about our hopes and our dreams...we imagined what it would look like for those hopes and dreams to converge. We talked about jobs and cities and baby names. We kissed...alot. We talked about fears and insecurities and doubts. And we kissed some more. There are so many things that made me fall in love with Matt. And in the 10 years we've been together I have fallen in love with him for many more reasons. He's one makes me laugh like he does. He's creative. He has such a passion for things that really matter. He protects me and honors me and values me. And he has the most tender heart of anyone I've ever known. Long before there was a ring on my finger I knew that Matt Pinson was going to make a wonderful father. And I was right. There is no one that I would rather have walking this journey of parenthood alongside of me. There are still so many days that we look at each other and wonder how it is that we have been entrusted with these two little lives. We don't know what we're all. There are nights that we fall asleep wondering if we've handled things the right way...hoping that we aren't screwing these two little boys up beyond what they will be able to forgive one day. But there is never a moment that I feel alone in it all. I always know that I have a partner and a confidant and an ally in him.

Back in those early days when we would sit up and talk for hours on end we spent alot of time on one subject...orphans. Yep, you heard me right. Two 20 year old kids...with the world at their feet...with a deep burden for orphans. I had gone on several trips throughout high school and college and had been so moved and changed and convicted by what I had seen. We dreamed of what it would look like to one day start a non-profit that would build orphanages and advocate on behalf of orphans around the world so that, one day, maybe there wouldn't be a need to build more orphanages. A seed planted...rooted deep in our hearts...lying there for years...being turned over in the soil of love and loss and sickness and health and richer and poorer and better and worse. I never imagined what God might be doing all those years ago when I was just sitting up talking to the boy I the boy I knew would make a wonderful father someday. To the man that is now the father of the two sweet boys sleeping down the hall. To the man who is still just as burdened as I am for the heart of the orphan. To the man who feels the urging, just as I do, to embark on a new dream...adoption.

There is still much to talk about...much to pray about...much to listen to God's voice about. But there is not a doubt in our minds that this is right. That those seeds planted long ago are now coming to bear fruit. That there is a harvest happening in our hearts and in our family...drawing us closer to the very heart of our Heavenly Father. So I lay my head down tonight thankful for a Father in Heaven who has adopted me and called me His own; who is father to the fatherless, who places the lonely in families...and with a heart that is open to His leading for our family. I lie down as a daughter of the King who longs to reflect His heart...and as a mother who knows in the deepest part of me that we have a child we have not yet met. I lie down tonight so grateful for the man that is lying beside me. He still gives me butterflies.

Friday, October 05, 2012

turn, turn, turn absolute favorite time of year. Living in Texas you really have to enjoy the moments of true autumn that you get in between summer and winter. And I do. I love the cool, crisp refreshing air...the radiant colors of the changing leaves falling gently to earth and crunching beneath my feet...the comfort of a hot cup of tea and a warm blanket...the chance to reflect on the blessings of the past year and to look forward to a new one. I love these words from John Keats' poem "To Autumn":
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too

Most people look to spring as the time for renewal, but I have always favored autumn. Perhaps because I tend to lean towards cooler weather and darker skies (What can I say? I'm an introvert)
. And who says there can only be one season a year for renewal? I am so thankful that God created not only the patterns of our weather, but our lives, to ebb and flow and change seasons. My little family has certainly seen many seasons change. We have been through long winters and harsh summers...we have felt the autumn winds of change and we have seen the promise of spring.

I've been spending alot of time writing lately. Trying to get back into the groove of blogging regularly, and blogging in general. But mostly I have been working on my songs. It is hard for me to even type out the words "my songs". It feels so vain and pompous. I don't know why that is. I have been writing songs for as long as I have been singing them...for as long as I can remember. I can remember, even as a young girl, bounding out of bed in the middle of the night because I had a melody or a lyric in my mind that I just had to write down for fear of not remembering it if I let myself fall asleep. I can remember filling up books with poems and stories and songs. Writing has always been cathartic for me and music has always been part of my soul. I love this quote from the book When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor:

"Jesus came among us as word. I believe God remains among us as music (and the Holy Spirit as the breath that brings both word and music to life)."

I love that. Because I rarely feel closer to my Heavenly Father than when I am writing, singing or listening to music. I have encountered the very spirit of God through music. I know I'm not alone in this. And you don't have to be a trained musician to understand and be moved by its power. I have been so fortunate to have many outlets to express myself through and cultivate my love of music. I have sung on stage in front of hundreds of people without really even giving it a second thought. Because I feel safe there, wrapped in the warm embrace of lyric and melody.

Within our church community we are in the midst of a season of prayer as we seek to partner with God in the restoration of all things. I love our church. At its heart is a group of people who truly want to see things on Earth as it is in Heaven. The leadership is bold and firmly committed to truly living out the gospel. I love that. Because I truly believe that what we do in this life matters in the next one. And I believe that if we look closely enough, we can get glimpses of that new life breaking through in this one. Our minister just began a series that is called...well, "CALLED"...and I have been thinking alot about that word lately. Probably partly because my husband is the director of communications/graphic designer at the church and he has been preparing lots of materials with that word on it. What does it mean to be called? And what does it look like to answer the call that God has placed on your life? Yeah...for right now, those questions are going to be left open-ended, because I am still working through the answers. I read this blog post by Rachel Held Evans the other day and found it fascinating. I related to it in many ways. Let me qualify that by saying that I am quite fortunate to have grown up in a family that never did anything but encourage and support my dreams and ambitions. And I am fortunate to be a part of a church body that values women and what we have to contribute to ministry. But I did relate to this post because I have certainly wrestled with my own ambitions and, at times, felt that to pursue them would be selfish and vain. Mix that with my deep sense of self-consciousness, some good old-fashioned guilt and a tendency towards being overly critical of myself and you have some very stifled potential.

I changed my major upwards of 4 times in college. Nope, not 4 different majors...I just kept ping-ponging back and forth between a few. I went on a music scholarship and quickly changed to theatre when I found that I could have a more well-rounded education in music there...then, it went something like this: (and a minor in bible). 
Throughout all of that time, I knew that I could probably be happy going forward in any of those fields of study. But nothing pulled me back like theatre. Like studying music and writing and performance and art. And when I say "pulled" I mean like a gravitational pull. A power over me that was consuming and had to be obeyed...or, to put it differently...a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence...a CALLING. 

And when I laid in a hospital bed, for months at a time, aching for my family and my home...the only other thing that I truly longed for was to lead worship again. I spent much time in solitude over those months and years. I spent much time letting music wash over me, melt me into a puddle of brokenness and then fill me back up. I spent much time writing out the cries of my heart and soul. And I shared it with no one. Partly because it was all so fresh and consuming...and partly because I felt fear and I felt selfish and self-conscious. To this day, I have only shared snippets of my songs with Matt...and he has to pry them out of me. Like I said before...singing on a stage in front of hundreds...not really a big deal. Singing in a room with one person...TERRIFYING. It is much easier when you can play a character on a stage, or camouflage yourself within a group of other singers. But to be stripped down...and be that's scary. 

Matt has been begging me for years to record a cd. I have always balked at the idea because honestly I just have never really believed that anyone would want to listen to an entire cd of just me singing. And to share alot of what I've written is to let someone in to some of the deepest parts of be laid bare...and I'm afraid it won't all be so pretty. And, at the same time, I have general anxiety over my writing being judged by others, and it not measuring up. But, then again, my writing has been more prolific than ever in the last several years and months and I find myself with the urge to write more and the urge to share it. Could that be...a calling?

Oh, I don't think I'm an expert on...well, anything. And I don't think that I have anything necessarily profound to say. But I do have a voice...and I have words...and I have music...and, I believe...I have a calling. A calling to share...nothing simply put it out there...expecting nothing but some relief when I realize it wasn't that scary after all to just be me...and let others see me. And maybe, just maybe, something I say will resonate with someone else. Maybe the music that God has placed in my soul will envelop someone else at just the time they need it to. Or maybe it will simply remain a love letter between me and my Savior with gratitude for all He has done for me. And that...that will be plenty good enough.

So...I'm stepping WAY out of my comfort zone here. I'm going to attempt to get these, the songs of my heart, recorded...and share them with you. I'll be blogging through the process, so feel free to remind me that it will all be okay and it won't be like that horrible recurring dream of going to school with no pants where everyone points and laughs as you try to run and hide. I figure if I set the bar just slightly above the "going to school with no pants dream" then, surely, I can't be disappointed...right?

I've had these two quotes that I love echoing in my mind as I've been writing this week:

"Art is never about's about an altar" ~ Ann Voskamp

"I will not bring before my King that which costs me nothing." ~2 Samuel 24:24

Jonathan (our minister) is actually preaching this week, in his CALLED series, on altars.  So it seems fitting that these words have been on my heart as I seek to obey a calling that I feel the Lord has placed on my life. One of my favorite bands, All Sons & Daughters, just came out with a new ep called The Longing. One of my favorite songs is "Called me Higher". These words have convicted me deeply in the last week:

I could be safe
I could be safe here in your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down
But you have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord

I have felt this stirring in me from the time I was young. And I am just now finding the courage to be obedient and to step out in hopes that I can bring some glory and honor to the name of the God I love.
So...if you feel like tagging along on the journey of a 32 year old stay-at-home-mom recording an album while attempting to not lose all self-confidence and also not become a self-absorbed jerk...come on then. Time to shake things up a bit. It's a new season.