Happy Heavenly Birthday

December 30th would’ve been my mother’s 82nd birthday.

After my mother’s passing, God used several older women to teach me about following Jesus, particularly in the areas of motherhood, family, and hospitality.

Dr. Lois Evans was one of them.

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Considering Homeschool?

A friend from college sent me a message asking about homeschooling. Her son is six, and was in a Montessori school in kindergarten, but that option was cost-prohibitive on an ongoing basis. She put him in the best public school available, but he was still not being challenged. She had some concerns about socialization if she opted for homeschooling (he is an only child). She asked for my insight into homeschooling, so I typed up this response (edited for privacy and clarity):

Some suggestions:

Look for some Facebook groups of parents in your area who are doing it. They can help with local activities, classes, co-ops, etc.

Public libraries often acquire museum memberships that you can check out for a few days at a time at no cost. They may have learning software on the computers in the kids’ section. They’ll also have DVDs, e-books, magazines, and maybe even packaged learning resources (e.g., a dinosaur kit, an exercise kit, etc.) to reinforce or introduce kids to various concepts. They may also have free/low-cost programs, classes, or interest groups you can attend with your son.

Where are you located? Check out the website for your state’s department of education to find out what the homeschool reporting requirements are, the state education standards, etc.

My friend Chrystal has been homeschooling for about 17-18 years. She did a YouTube/Facebook live video where she talked about her journey and shared specific resources she’s used/is using. Most (if not all) of the books I’d send you are from her video. Check your local library’s catalog to see if you can check them out.

I do an online co-op for online access to platforms like Adventure Academy, Splash Math, Math Seeds / Reading Eggs, piano lessons (which I bought but haven’t tried yet 🤦🏾‍♀️), cooking lessons (see last parenthetical comment 😂), foreign language exposure, etc. I also have purchased PDF downloads for curriculum resources through the online co-op. Those downloads were very helpful last year and for preschool. Print and go. She knew she was to go to her workboxes every day to pull out her worksheets, and if she had a question about what she could do, she knew to go to that day’s drawer. (Remind me and I’ll take a photo of her cart to give you an idea of the setup we’ve used in the past.)

Our local YMCA has a homeschool group that meets every Wednesday from 11am-2pm. They have pool time, eat lunch, do an art/science project/craft, and have playtime. A couple of times, they’ve done field trips. It’s drop-off, so I can maintain my sanity by being away from her for a couple of hours every week. 😏

I also have her in a swim class at the Y on Wednesday mornings before the group meets. My hope is that she will want to compete on the YMCA’s swim team. I plan to take her to some meets so she can catch the vision. 😉

I do a homeschool co-op on Friday mornings. Last fall I taught a jazz appreciation class—SO FUN! I’ve opted to do as little as possible this year so I can have that time for whatever I need it to be: reading, studying, resting, shopping, etc. So I’m on a rotating schedule where I show up once a month to be a floater. I fill in wherever‘s needed that morning: in the nursery, helping with gym class, setting up a classroom, filling in for a parent-teacher who’s home with a sick kid, etc. The more you do, the greater your tuition discount. Helpful for parents of multiple kids.

I took our daughter to the NMAAHC a year or two ago. It’s only 2-3 hours away, and we made a day of it. I packed lunch and snacks, and we might’ve hit Chick-Fil-A for dinner.

We have zoo and aquarium memberships. I had one to the Crayola Experience a couple of years ago, but let it lapse because it just wasn’t practical for us to go often, and I think she had outgrown it.

I’ve been keeping it pretty simple the past couple of years: I mostly use a first grade workbook I picked up from Aldi for about $4 for math and phonics. I check out loads of books from the library. I recently started using public school textbooks a friend with older kids in another state gave me. In my area, when you register your child as a homeschooler, the district gives you textbooks. (Our daughter doesn’t have to be officially registered until next year, so I don’t have the books from our area. This has been a trial-run year for me.) You may also have access to supplemental activities and classes (music, art, gym, sports teams, etc.). Check with your district.

I have a few friends from my church who are public school teachers. One sister in particular has been very encouraging to me in this journey. When I have considered going another way, either because of feeling inadequate or out of frustration with our little one, she affirms the choice to homeschool. She taught second grade last year and said she could have put our daughter in her class and she would’ve held her own (aside from the social and emotional maturing that needed to occur in her).

Many people who question homeschooling comment that homeschool kids aren’t going to be well-adjusted socially. NOT TRUE and SUPER ANNOYING to me when people say that. Just because they aren’t in a traditional environment doesn’t mean they aren’t socializing! I took our little one to story time, children’s church, child watch at the Y when I worked out, her Y homeschool group and swim class, her Friday co-op—all places where she’d see the same friends week in and week out. She goes with us when we do whatever we’re doing (rehearsals for example), so she’s got a tribe of “aunties” and “uncles” to cheer her on. It took her some time to come out of her shell, but we prayed, and God answered our prayers and honored our work towards that end.

This is stream of consciousness, but I hope it’s a helpful primer to get your juices flowing! Feel free to bounce things off me. I’ll be glad to help if I can!

Another note: Much of the curriculum is from a whitewashed, Eurocentric perspective. You can use your own book lists, resources, and creativity to teach the standards in ways that affirm his identity and personhood in culturally relevant ways, capture his imagination, etc. You’ll often have to decide if you want to spend time or if you’d rather spend money. You may choose to spend time in one area and money in another to give your son the educational experiences you want him to have.

I hope this helps!

My friend was grateful for my input, and encouraged me in my decision to homeschool our little girl. We moms need all the cheerleading we can get! I sent her this reply:

Thank YOU for the encouragement I have some days where I feel like giving up, where I question my effectiveness as a teacher, where I want to pull out my locs because she won’t listen, where I wonder if she’ll turn out okay…then I remember that I’m not doing this because it’s popular or sexy, but out of conviction that it’s God who’s calling me to this in this season, and that this is the best thing for her. I often wish I lived in an area where accessible public education was an option (even if I needed to supplement it at home), but that’s not the case for us. I’m always encouraged when I see parents who are ahead of me on this journey and their kids are flourishing…and the moms still have all their locs, so to speak. 😂

I’m so glad this was helpful! I’m grateful for the moms who have patiently answered my questions over the years. So glad I can do the same for you!

Another hint: Join your state’s homeschool association. You can get discounts at stores like Michael’s, Joann’s, and A.C. Moore, as well as access to info about state homeschooling laws, conventions, etc. Again, most of those spaces will be monocultural, but they may provide access to resources that you can tailor to suit your own needs.

Side note: I can’t tell you how many printouts I’ve colored in the kids, hands, dolls, etc., to be brown-hued to provide a sense of affirmation in the imagery I place in front of our daughter. She asked me at some point, “Are you coloring them AGAIN?” Yes, baby, I sure am.

If you’re considering the homeschool journey for your family, I hope this information was helpful to get your juices flowing about how it might work for you!


The current occupant of the presidential office has given the number 45 a pretty bad rap. I also tend to get more reflective and introspective near birthdays and anniversaries.  So, in light of my 45th birthday last year (and my 46th birthday coming faster than a speeding train), I thought I’d jot down some lessons I’ve learned over the past 45 years:

  1. I can’t do it all.
  2. I can’t do everything right.
  3. I can’t know it all.
  4. I need life-giving people in my inner circle.
  5. Listen faster.
  6. Conflict doesn’t have to end relationships.
  7. Smell the roses.
  8. Prevention > intervention.
  9. Representation matters.
  10. Nothing is truly wasted.
  11. Rest is critical to longevity.
  12. Get a mentor.
  13. Don’t procrastinate.
  14. Cherish old friendships.
  15. Seasons change.
  16. Insecurity is a life-sucker.
  17. Invest in others.
  18. Live by convictions, not whims.
  19. Be content.
  20. Teach the right things.
  21. Laughter really is good medicine.
  22. Learn from other people’s mistakes.
  23. Grow up.
  24. Season hard truth with love.
  25. Confess, repent, and move on.
  26. Grieve with hope.
  27. People-pleasing is a never-ending cycle.
  28. Be courageous.
  29. Speak up.
  30. If you want friends, be friendly.
  31. Obey quickly.
  32. Believe other people when they show you who they really are.
  33. Take better care of yourself.
  34. You cannot want more for someone else than they want for themselves.
  35. Love deeply and sincerely.
  36. Forgive people who have offended you–even if they never repent.
  37. Live a lifestyle of repentance.
  38. I cannot see clearly on my own–I need the perspectives of others.
  39. There’s always a reason to pray.
  40. Sing for joy.
  41. Leave a legacy your unborn grandchildren can be proud of.
  42. Wear a *good* shoe.
  43. Ask, seek, knock.
  44. Don’t orient your life around comfort.
  45. Live generously.
  46. Be thankful.

I didn’t aim to come up with 46 things when I started this list, but once I got started, that became my goal.  And while I didn’t flesh these things out in depth, many of them stand without explanation.

I’m still learning these things and so much more–growth is a lifelong process–but thought I’d take a moment to capture a snapshot on this leg of my journey with Jesus.  Thanks for sharing the view with me.

Our Homeschool Journey

A sister asked the following question in a local Facebook group:

Hey moms! I’m in search of affordable & free resources that will help me teach my nearly 4 year old character development and the major subjects. I am really interested in history (including people of color). Yes, he’s only 3 but I want to have stuff I can use as he grows.

I have a five-year-old daughter, Pooh Bear, and I just started doing a more formalized homeschool this past school year. Many people ask what I’ve used with her over the years. I’ve done a variety of things, which I’ll list below. Feel free to post other resources in the comments of this post!

Bible/Character: Before naptime/bedtime, we do reading time. I have some books, which she sometimes chooses (as long as they’re not too long!), and I make sure we include a Bible-based book or two. My husband and I have been doing this in some form since infancy. She no longer naps regularly (*GASP*), but we still incorporate this in her nighttime routine, and sometimes I will do it at breakfast.

Our first book purchase for her was from the Really Woolly series by Dayspring (before she was born!). We read it to her so much that she had the poems and scriptures memorized from cover to cover! Another resource I used early on was Baby’s Hug-A-Bible (a GREAT shower gift from a co-worker before I left the workforce).

I’m currently using My 1st Books, a combination of catechism, Christian values, theology, etc. (it’s a compilation of several smaller pamphlets that are sold separately), as a devotional book. We also have been through The Bible App for Kids several times. I typically stay with the same story until she’s memorized it, then move on to the next. It also has an app that she loves! Now, we are going through The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s more age appropriate (she’s now five, and reads very well) and more culturally sensitive.

Side note: There are VERY few culturally sensitive, inclusive, Christ-centered resources available from mainstream publishers, which reflects the lack of embracing of people of color on the whole in white evangelical circles (that is a whoooole ‘notha topic for a whoooole ‘notha post). Several of the resources I’ve mentioned are only minimally inclusive—and many do not have imaging that includes boys/men of color. We really need to write and illustrate theologically robust materials for our own contexts.

History: Much of the history I’ve seen in Christian circles is largely from a colonized, Eurocentric perspective—I wouldn’t dare teach it to my kid. And when you dig into some Afrocentric curricula, you may find that some materials veer in a direction that isn’t conducive to Christ-centeredness. So I try to pull resources together that tell the truth about God’s superintending of human history in age-appropriate ways, even if they aren’t the traditional ones.

I have used board books to begin telling the story of MLK, Coretta Scott King, and Rosa Parks. I’ve introduced her to basic geography to lay the foundation for discussing the triangle trade and America’s history of slavery and racism in the future. We did a field trip in the fall to the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and I plan to take her to the NMAAHC in DC several times in the future, should the Lord tarry.

– Reading/Math: Pooh Bear got the *best* gift from one of her “aunties” when she turned two: a set of 10 DVDs from Preschool Prep Company (look for a deal on Groupon/LivingSocial). The content included shapes, colors, letters, numbers (1-10), letter sounds, sight words (3 DVDs), blends, and diagraphs. She imbibed them! By two, she already knew her colors, letters, and numbers (at least up to 20, if I remember correctly). So those videos were good reinforcement. But they also gave her a really solid foundation with the building blocks for reading. I believe God used them to give her a great head start on her literacy journey. My goal was to focus first on literacy in hopes of helping her be more self-sufficient and self-directed.

We are also regulars at our local library! I typically read to her at breakfast, naptime, and dinner. I check out multiple books for her to choose from each day, and store them in her workboxes. (They go back in the drawers after reading time so we don’t get them mixed up with the ones we own.)

We try to attend weekly storytime as well (when it works for our schedule). Our children’s librarian is the BEST–she knows our daughter (and all the other kids!) by name and always has a great selection of diverse books on display for us to choose from.

– Pretend Play: When I started homeschooling, I had all these grand plans for how I was going to teach our daughter to master one million subjects by age 5 (*insert eye roll here*). But all she wanted to do was play–and that’s all she really needed! So I got a bunch of costume pieces from Dollar Tree for her to play dress-up: fairy wings & wand, plastic jewelry (a tiara is a MUST), cowgirl hat, chef’s hat & apron, and ladybug antennae & wings. I also kept her Wonder Woman costume from Halloween for her to defend our home from evil villains when the need arises. All those items serve to open her mind to new possibilities as she’s playing with her toys.

Curricula: I have not done an all-in-one curriculum buy–mostly because of the lack of cultural inclusivity and representation. So I participate in a curriculum co-op that does group buy-ins for PDF downloads, online access to software resources, and a few online class opportunities.

Without doing buy-ins, there are loads of other resources you can access:

  1. There are many workbooks available at Dollar Tree, Five and Below, and Aldi (which I love so much, I should own stock!) that cover the basics/supplemental practice for pre-K through second grade.
  2. I found a deal on Groupon/Living Social for a BrainQuest workbook/question book.
  3. We have a variety of flash cards, toys, lacing boards, coloring books, puzzles, and arts & crafts from Dollar Tree (another place I should own stock!).
  4. Library books can supplement the subjects you want your child to know. We’ve gotten African-American poetry, Black history, biographies, science, and geography books, plus level 1 & 2 fiction & nonfiction readers.
  5. Our library also has digital access to e-books (using sites/apps like Hoopla & Overdrive) and software like Mango Languages.
  6. Our library also has memberships to local museums that serve as great free field trip opportunities.
  7. Our library sells the books, movies, and audiobooks that they take out of circulation. Children’s books are $0.20/each–can’t beat that!

Can you tell how much of an advocate I am for local public libraries?! If the library had a stock purchase option, I might be tempted to buy in.

Co-op: We participate in a half-day weekly enrichment co-op for gym, art, music, and storytime. It’s close to home, and gives our only child an opportunity to be around kids her age. It’s also important to us that she’s influenced in a community with other parents and teachers who share our Christ-centered worldview. I served in the nursery this past year to (1) keep me from being a helicopter parent, and (2) get my fill of babies and toddlers who I get to send back to their parents. 😏😉

This is a basic list of things I’ve done with my daughter over the past year or so. I hope you find it helpful on your homeschool journey!


Eleven years ago today, I moved from Dallas to Philadelphia.

I got on a plane with a one-way ticket from beautiful friends who believed God enough to support me on my journey–even so far as to drive my car halfway across the country.

I embarked on an adventure of trusting God to do more than I could do on my own.

I left the familiar comforts of knowing when, where, and how to do things. Simple things, like how to get to the grocery store, how to get my car inspected, how to pay for tolls on the highway. I never expected to be so profoundly disoriented in my own country simply by moving to a new city and state.

On this journey, I’ve questioned God’s goodness and sovereignty. He has been so patient with my wrestling. More than I deserve.

I’ve experienced emotional pinnacles and waded through some of life’s nadirs.

I’ve done things I never knew I’d do: made disciples, led a ministry, been jobless, taught high school, attended graduate school, worked as an administrative assistant, helped people get married, gotten married myself, watched a child being born, birthed my own, recorded an album, taught workshops, lost my last surviving parent, lost friends, made new ones.

I wish I’d trusted God more, and more quickly.

I wish I’d rested in Him more.

I wish I’d been wiser with my tongue, saying the things that should have been said and keeping my mouth shut at the right times.

I wish I hadn’t been timid when a moment called for boldness.

Overall, I’m grateful for the journey and hopeful for the future. I hope I’ve learned from what my mother called the shoulda-woulda-couldas.

I hope my daughter learns from mine, too.

Thinking of Nanny

Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 112th birthday. Or so we think.

She was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. I was told that the county courthouse burned down, and that her birth records were lost. So they estimated that she was born in 1905.

I think often of the American history that parallels her life. The peak of lynchings in the Jim Crow South was in the late 19th & early 20th century. I wonder what it must’ve been like for her parents–my paternal great grandparents–to bring a child into the world, knowing that their daughter would be seen and treated as less than human in her own country.

I think of my parents, who brought me home from the hospital just six months after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court. My mother married my father after she’d gotten pregnant with me. I imagine the thought might’ve crossed her mind to get rid of me before she’d even met me face-to-face.

My Civil Rights generation parents lived through segregated restaurants, dressing rooms, water fountains, buses, schools, etc. Their first personal encounter with the Klu Klux Klan was seeing them–fully robed–outside our neighborhood grocery store in the early ’90’s. They were in their fifties. I was away at college.

My grandmother and parents are now deceased. I wonder what they thought their future family’s history in America might be. Were they jaded by what they saw?

And then I think of my own daughter, with whom I went into labor on Mother’s Day. I carried her in my womb through the Boston marathon bombing and manhunt, and through George Zimmerman’s trial for Trayvon Martin’s murder. She had just learned to walk when Tamir Rice was murdered. She learned sight words and phonics during the investigation of the deaths of Sandra Bland and too many others.

I will share with my daughter a hope-filled vision of God’s preferred future from the Scriptures. But I will also show her a truthful picture of history. And by God’s grace, I’ll teach her how to navigate the present and future: Bible hidden in her heart and mind, hands extended to others with mercy and grace, feet prepared to go wherever He leads her to advocate for a more just society.

Giving The Gift of Motherhood

I’ve spent more of my life as a single woman (38 years) than as a married one (almost 5 years). My only child is about to turn 3 in less than a week (*gasp*). And I have spent 20 Mother’s Day celebrations without my own mother. So I have a sensitivity to women who have not had children of their own (whether through singleness or infertility). I’ve felt the sting of being motherless most often around her birthday (early December) and the date of her passing (three days before Christmas). Any memory or milestone can trigger feelings of loss or emptiness, even two decades after my mother’s death.

I say all that to say…I understand the wound. I have felt the wound. I still feel it sometimes.

So if that’s you–if you’re feeling the wound this Mother’s Day–you’re not alone.

The enemy of your soul would love for you to feel like you are.

He’d love for you to isolate yourself, to sulk, to play patty cake at your own pity party.

He’d love to steal your joy and peace by trading in the truth for his lies.

So here’s the truth:

You can still be fully feminine (even if your womb is empty) and fully loved (even if you’ve never been a wife) and can be fully parented by God (even if you are still reeling from the ache of losing your mother).

Here’s one way I have learned to experience joy in the face of dreams deferred and tangible loss:

Give what you don’t have.

That sounds super crazy, doesn’t it? How do you give what you don’t have?

You have to have access to a bigger storehouse than yourself.

If I’m doing this well, I’m acknowledging my hope/loss, and looking to God Himself as my chief Comforter. He becomes my storehouse of joy. And I’m able to celebrate others rather than solely soaking in my own tears/regrets/griefs.

I could send a text to all my mom friends celebrating the fact that they’re doing the hard work of mothering.

I could give a hug to an empty nester who’s missing her kids who might be around my age.

I could mentor a younger single woman who’s having trouble finding her way.

I could tutor a child who might be struggling with a subject in which God has given me proficiency.

I could find ways within my circle of influence to affirm motherhood and participate in it: encouraging words, babysitting, disciple making, volunteering, etc.

There are a million and one ways to give the gift of motherhood–the very thing you may feel has been withheld from you. Just look around you! And as you’re giving it away, you’ll marvel to see how God fills you with joy and peace as He becomes your greatest joy.

Reflections on Our 4th Anniversary

This. Man. Here.

I woke up this morning to a phone call from my husband wishing me happy anniversary–from downstairs in the kitchen! I rushed down to find that he had gotten up extra early to cook breakfast for me. BEFORE HE LEFT FOR WORK AT 6AM.

Orange strawberry banana juice, banana waffles, sliced strawberries, veggie omelet, and a ribeye (grilled last night)!

This. Man. Right. Here.

But watch this…

The beautiful thing isn’t just how he surprises me on the special days. It’s his faithfulness on the not-so-special days. The regular ol’ plain vanilla ones.

When he wakes up extra early to worship the Lord and abide in His Word AND clean out the dishwasher.

When I’ve hit the proverbial wall and just can’t do any more housewifing or mothering or breathing and HE HANDLES IT.

Whatever IT is at that moment–often after working a full day/week of manual labor.

He hates when I brag on him. But I can’t help myself.

He reminds me of God’s love for me.

I never have to worry about my husband’s faithfulness. He takes his covenant with me seriously.

When he doesn’t feel like doing something, yet he knows it’s in the best interest of his family, he puts his own desires aside and does whatever needs to be done. He is always thinking of how to provide for, care for, and protect us.

God’s love in Christ is like that. Faithful. Sacrificial. Protective. Nurturing.

Too often I will see a woman with a man who hasn’t demonstrated faithfulness to God, hasn’t developed a sacrificial bone in his body, leaves her vulnerable to the wiles of the enemy, takes advantage of her rather than cultivating her–yet she somehow hopes that he will be faithful to her in marriage. That he will sacrifice his wants for her needs. That he will guard himself and her from physical & emotional danger. That he will cultivate her walk with Christ when he isn’t even cultivating his own.

I grieve. I have been in her shoes.

I’m on the other side of marriage, after the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony, beyond the honeymoon bliss. I’m in diaper-change mode. Constant discipline mode. The We-Hongry-Whatchu-Make-For-Dinner Zone.

Here’s what I know.

It takes a lot more than tight abs, chocolate skin, and a nice wardrobe to get it done on this side. It takes knees chafed from prayer and a big dose of humility for our stiff necks and backbones and dying to self and a singular unwavering commitment to the One who holds all things together by the word of His power and diligence in the dark and character when no one else is around and giving each other unmerited favor and not giving each other what we really deserve. Over and over again. Until we die.

So on our anniversary, I’m thanking God for the husband I have.

I’m grateful for the second chance He gave us at life and love.

I’m overwhelmed by God’s love for me. For us.

I’m forever indebted to God for turning me from my foolish ways of thinking and acting and giving me a new heart and mind to pursue what He wants.

And I’m as committed as ever to helping other women walk in the true beauty that God has for us in Christ.

Hello again

Why, hello there.  🙂

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything.  I’ve had tons of writing sessions and brainstorming sessions in my head and my dreams.  And absolutely none of them have managed to make their way to this blog. If someone could patent the technology to get the thoughts out of my head while I’m taking a nap…!

We’ve had a lot going on here at Johnsonville (that’s what we call our home) since early March.

…a basement renovation.  This took on a life of its own from spring through summer.  It was like having a houseguest who didn’t want to leave and ate everything in the fridge.  Now that it’s done, it’s like having a live-in BFF.  We’ve increased our living space by 1/3 and our sanity by 6 gazillion bajillion percent.  I’m not even kidding.  There’s still lots of purging and rearranging to be done, but that’s easy peasy compared to dumping the last 9 years of my life in our dining & living room and climbing over it for three or four months. We still have to finish the half bathroom in the basement–but I can’t even say the word “renovation” around my husband without his eyes rolling back in his head and foam escaping his mouth.  As our toddler says, “No more!”  Bless his heart (as we say in Texas).  He did all the electrical work and stayed on top of the project’s completion like a BOSS.  My hero, The Construction Man.

…celebrating our daughter’s birthday, Mother’s Day, my birthday, Father’s Day, and my husband’s birthday.  As you can see, spring and summer is birthday/parent appreciation season for us.  From mid-May through early August, it’s hot and poppin’ at Johnsonville.  And with our daughter turning two, it’s like that EVERY DAY!  Where does that child get all this energy?!  Definitely not from us, these days.  The older my husband and I get, it’s also feeling like geriatric season.  Pass the Dentucreme, honey.

…a trip to Louisville, KY, to serve at #WorshipGod15 just before that last birthday.  Between rehearsals with guest musicians, attending workshops with our team, and connecting with so many new and wonderful people at the conference, my poor husband wasn’t even thinking about celebrating himself by the time we got back home and his day came around!  Still, it was super nice to have some adult conversation time without our daughter.  Every once in a while I like to speak in sentences that don’t include lines from “The Wonder Pets,” the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Hot Dog Dance, or two-syllable repeated words like “eat-eat” or “nap-nap.”  I had plenty of opportunities for that on this trip!

We used as much of August as we could to connect, rest, and recalibrate in preparation for September, which kicks off a busy season of service for us.

On September 6, I celebrated nine years of ministry at Epiphany Fellowship.  I naturally tend towards introspection, but anniversaries and milestones make my thoughts turn inward even more.  My most recent musings? I gave up a lot to move halfway across the country…does it even matter that I’m here?  What difference did it even make?  I know.  My husband had to check me and give The Encourager some encouragement.  And then the Holy Spirit used my husband’s words to draw me to repentance:  How dare I call a work that God has done in and through me a menial thing!  Cue the waterworks and shut my mouth, Lord!  And that, He did.

The following week, our church celebrated our ninth anniversary.  What a great weekend!  Indoor/outdoor picnic (due to a few raindrops), then a great celebration on Sunday with Pastor Blake Wilson from Crossover Bible Fellowship in Houston, TX. And then my mother-in-law kept our daughter until Tuesday morning–and this tired momma rejoiced!  Never have I cleaned my house with such joy.  And I was glad to see my little when I picked her up!

So here we are, end-of-September, hunkered down for all the madness that will ensue as Pope Francis and the rest of the known world descends upon our fair city this weekend.  Somewhere in there, my husband and I will politely put up the church finger as we celebrate our wedding anniversary…without the security checkpoints and dramaration.

So…now that we’re all caught up…

On a future post, we can get back to business and finish our #SundaySong journey through the track listing of Centered!

And after we’ve finished that, maybe somebody can Bluetooth my brain and dump all my blog ideas onto the screen.  🙂

#SundaySong 3/8/2015 – Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

It’s #SundaySong time–even though my SundaySong post has crept into the wee hours of Monday morning!  LOL!

In today’s stroll through Centered, let’s take a look at “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”

(Shameless plug: Doxa‘s live debut album is available now via all digital outlets, including iTunesAmazon, and Google Play.)

This is a traditional English hymn that my husband Aaron Johnson reimagined for our context at Epiphany Fellowship.  The lyrics were written by Samuel Trevor Francis, a bivocational minister who once contemplated suicide on a bridge over the Thames River–but God met him there in his deepest despair.  That short historical note gives this song so much meaning.  Just imagine–what if the author thought back to that moment when he wrote this song?  Rather than focusing on his deep despair in that moment of contemplation, what if God gave him deep waters as a word picture to describe His vast love for him at the point of his deepest need?  Mercy!!

Introducing an English hymn to a varied urban context like ours means making artistic choices that include considering who’s attending our gatherings, as well as who we would like to attend.  While our context is not comprised solely of African-Americans, a large number of our attendees and residents of the surrounding neighborhood are.

I think the minor feel of this song speaks to the history of African-Americans.  Much (not all, but much) of Black history is steeped in injustice, tragedy, suffering, loss, grief, etc., and those stories simply can’t be fully communicated and experienced with major scales.  By the same token, African-Americans have experienced joy in the midst of pain, and we have tasted hope and victory in the midst of adversity.

We need both the black keys and the white keys as a robust musical palette to paint the spectrum of our human experience.  And in a song with hopeful, heavenward lyrics like this one, isn’t it good to experience the promise of the major chords in the midst of the minor ones?

I think Aaron’s arrangement captures a great perplexity and breadth of the human experience.  He kept the original melody and gives it a rich bed of harmonies to relax in.  The accompaniment includes piano (with jazz flavor by Brett Kinard) and organ (common in African-American church contexts, like the ones in which my husband learned to play), as well as guitar (with a rock edge by Harry Wilson).  And the horns?  Even more ear candy.

In our gatherings
As are most hymns, “Oh the Deep” has a simple, easy-to-learn melody that makes it a great fit for corporate worship at Epiphany Fellowship.  We might place this song in the middle of our opening set–it is mid-tempo, but has enough movement to keep the momentum from the first song going (always a mid-to-up-tempo selection).  And the mood set with the lyrics and arrangement are a great setup (both theologically and artistically) for wherever we land with the final song in the set list.

I am always thinking of ways to communicate the love of God through Jesus Christ to believers and unbelievers.  Depending on the flow of songs on a given day, I might introduce this song by pointing to our depravity to show the depth of our need for God’s love.  And I might end the song by exhorting us to consider the expression of love in Jesus’ death in our place on the cross, to bask in and celebrate God’s great love for us (in light of our depravity), and to share that love with others using both our lives and our words.

How it speaks to me
I am called to a life of love, yet all my attempts at loving are marred by my brokenness.  I need the love of God to dictate and direct my affections so that a Godward focus allows me to love people as He loves them–as He would if He were in my body.

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; and the life I now live, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me (Gal. 2:20, loosely quoted).

The essence of my loving well is completely wrapped up in my identifying with Jesus’ death for me, allowing the Holy Spirit to apply Jesus’ death and life to me, and sharing that love with everyone I encounter.

How it can speak to you

Let’s worship the Lord as we consider a few ideas from “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” and apply them to our lives:

  1. Do you think of Jesus’ love as big, broad, deep, vast?  Do you see His love as being for you?  for you?  Or do you feel like you aren’t a candidate for that love, maybe because something you’ve done (or are doing) that isn’t pleasing to God?  Confess. Repent. Embrace the love of God!
  2. How can you “spread his praise from shore to shore” in practical ways?  Is there someone in your sphere of influence with whom you can share the good news about Jesus?  How is God raising you up to be a goer and/or a sender in local, national, and international missions?  Pray for an open door  (Colossians 4:2-6) to share the gospel with someone this week.  And pray that God would clarify the role He’s calling you to participate in  for the spread of Christ’s fame in missions.
  3. Are there other loves in your life that is attempting to compete with Jesus for your nearest and dearest affection?  What are they, and what are you willing and able to do to put these lesser loves in their rightful place?

Centered was released on 1/30/2015, by God’s grace.  Thanks so much to everyone who has already supported the project and spread the word to others!

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the album or about today’s #SundaySong, how God is using it in your life, etc.