I wanted this blog to be short and sweet, but I can't make that happen. I have too much to say....
I hope this time of year finds you with mercy. We need mercy. We rely on mercy. And others need mercy... With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away and Christmas around the corner, here we are facing so many personal issues, national issues and world issues. We've got people struggling to live, whether they lost their home, their friend, their baby, their spouse, a sister, a brother... the despair of the Philippines is undeniable right now.
There are persecutions happening in this moment. People are being executed because a man who runs a communist country will not allow any other belief, especially the Christian faith.
Just yesterday, 70+ tornadoes ripped through several states, destroying homes and taking lives.
Let's not forget that it's the time of year where bone-chilling weather has begun and there are men and women suffering through it on the streets. There are children sitting in an orphanage who won't get to gather around a table full of the typical holiday spread with a family, let alone open a gift that was picked out just for them.
But here we go, getting caught up in our needs, our kids' needs, what toys they want, lists full of junk that we think we want... rushing out to fill our carts with pointless presents, stressing over a menu and pointing the finger at who's not pulling their weight and stepping up to the plate to help out enough. I think our hearts are too hardened and our train of thought involves too much bitterness. Why is it that we always get worse this time of year?
NONE OF THAT MATTERS.
And I, for one, need brokenness.
I'll be the first to say what a self-centered person I've become. But it took someone else's example to show me that. When I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago, I was having a blast getting to spend time with my husband, wondering around the city and making memories. It was a blessing. But little did I know that God would use it as an opportunity to break my heart. I'm sure you all know by now that Hunter is a guitar tech. He techs for a band called NEEDTOBREATHE, and they recently played at the House of Blues in New Orleans. I was so thrilled to be there.
When I get to attend a show, sometimes I choose to stand out in the audience, but sometimes I stand side-stage with Hunter. For this show, I stood side-stage. If I would have been out in the crowd, I would have never witnessed the God-ordained moment that I know He intended me to see.
The days leading up to my flight were incredibly stressful. This part of the tour took Hunter away from me and Noah for 25 days, and I was cracking at a speedy rate. The night before my 5:00 a.m. flight, Noah was awake at 1:00 a.m. He was still awake by 3:00 a.m. and I was furious. When things like this happen, I instantly and selfishly and ridiculously conclude that God doesn't care about me- that He doesn't care about my sanity. Sometimes, ok a lot of times, I tell myself out loud that I'm either going to have a stress-induced heart attack by the time I'm in my 30's or that I will have to be admitted to "the looney bin" in the next few years. I often think about how terrified I am to have another child because raising Noah the first year by myself so much of the time has left somewhat of a scar. It breaks my heart because I want a big family, but I'm absolutely terrified to have more children in this life-style.
Pretty pathetic, right? To let MY circumstances get the best of me, to magnify my anger and conclude that God shrugs His shoulders toward me. Poor me, I have to deal with a traveling husband, which leaves me by myself often and because life gets stressful, I get bitter. Believe me, I KNOW that this is petty compared to the rest of the world's heartache.
I need brokenness.
So God intervened. There I was, side-stage with Hunter. I was being moved emotionally already because I was watching the crowd. There was a husband and wife within my view who were around my parents' age. They sang every word to every song together, and they looked like little kids who were having the best night of their life. Then, in between a song, a woman up on the balcony held a handwritten poster over the side of the rail. It said "I have terminal cancer. You're on my bucket list." Then the band went into the next song. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She had this big beautiful smile and was dancing and singing every lyric. After each song, she would cheer and clap like they were playing just for her. I kept thinking "But.... she's dying."
The more I watched her, the more I got that feeling.
"Don't do it, Heather. Hold it together. YOU'RE FINE."
But alas, her joy got the best of me. I ran upstairs to the green room and locked myself in the bathroom. The second that door shut, I cried. No, I boo hoo'd. Like a baby. And I could not pull myself back together. Finally, needing mercy, I said "God, why did you show me that? What do you want me to learn?"
As soon as I asked Him, He answered. I looked up. Among all the writing and autographs in permanent marker all over the walls and ceiling, the first words my eyes were drawn to were "Thank you, Jesus."
Well come on, now. More tears. But this time, I felt Him comforting me and talking me through it. I felt Him telling me "See? You think you have so much to complain about. You think your life is so hard. Heather, I have BLESSED you, and I love you. Please stop resenting your life so much and realize all that I've done for you. Be thankful."
There was a girl out in the crowd dying, yet there she was, full of joy and beating death. I'm so thankful for that moment.
Hunter has some friends in a band called Colony House, formerly called Caleb. They just put together a new album, and I can't wait for it to be available for everyone to hear. I really hope you will all give them a listen because they're incredibly talented, not to mention, it will be some of the most meaningful music you'll ever experience.
Anyways, this morning in the car, Hunter wanted to show me one of the songs off the new album. It's a song that Caleb (the lead singer) wrote about his little sister. Hunter prefaced it with how much he loved the song because of the honesty and passion in it, and how he pours his emotion into a song dealing with the day his little sister went to be with Jesus in 2008.
Since it's been several years, I didn't think twice about "Oh, this song is probably going to make me cry...." Caleb has written a song about Maria before, which I found so heartfelt and healing, but it didn't push me to tears. This new song, however...... wow.
Somehow, listening to it made me relive that day. I had just sent a text to Caleb's older sister about putting together a double-date that had been in the works for a few weeks. As soon as I sent it, I was surprised to be getting a phone call from her. I was just doing some shopping at the grocery store, so I answered. She was so calm and sweet as she told me that our double-date probably wouldn't happen for a while because her little sister had just gone to be with Jesus- she was at the hospital. I hung up the phone in shock. I stood there in the aisle and stared at boxes on a shelf for what was probably only 5 minutes, but felt like hours. The pain was so intense that I literally felt blind. I didn't know what to do, I couldn't move, so I called my dad. Heartbroken, he told me to abandon my grocery cart and just run to the car, but I felt like if I even moved an inch, I would crumble to the ground and sob. Somehow, I made it through check-out and to my car. I picked up the phone and called Hunter (bad move- he was on tour in the middle of a show). But since I couldn't have his comfort physically, I at least needed to hear his voice. However, he had a really hard time understanding what I was saying because I was scream-crying, which, to this day, is the only time I've ever done that.
I drove down the road to my apartment. Five minutes later, my sister and brother-in-law knocked on my door. They barged in and I remember that we all just stood there, holding each other and sobbing. You've never heard 3 voices together cry so loud.
Caleb wrote a song that couldn't have been any more perfect. I wasn't just moved to tears, my heart broke and once again, there I was, boo hooing.
I really wanted to post the lyrics to his song "Won't Give Up," but I'm afraid it's a little too soon since the album hasn't been released yet. I will definitely be posting another blog, though, once the album comes out!
And stay tuned for this album- I promise, you'll love it!
My prayer is that you allow God to break your heart this season for the things that break His. While it is painful, it's beautiful in the end because it opens us to give and receive mercy. It melts away selfishness and bitterness and moves us in the direction of fulfilling Jesus's purpose.
I caught a flight to New Orleans a little last minute this past Monday and returned home today. I hadn't been to New Orleans in 15 years and was so happy to get back and be there reliving memories, especially to share that with my husband.
The beautiful Jackson Square/ St. Louis Cathedral
Cafe au laits & beignets at Cafe Du Monde
The character of the architecture in New Orleans is my favorite. Some of these buildings are still standing from the 18th & 19th century. What entertains me even more is that these are people's homes. I was able to get lost for a few hours on Tuesday & wondered into a residential area.
I loved every minute of it!
The most popular homes that were built by the settlers were the creole cottages & shotgun houses. I thought this little shotgun house was incredible because it's basically the same size as this Yaris.
With New Orleans already being so eclectic, there is still restoration being done from hurricane Katrina. These remaining homes are still so unique & beautiful to me.
This particular house was being painted that day... the man painting asked me if I wanted to join him, haha!
I told him that he's done a beautiful job.
A typical creole cottage. Such southern charm!
Almost every home had cast iron gates on the balconies and gated allies. It felt so secret, that's what I loved about it!
To me, this building represents the epitome of New Orleans.
I found my way to this hole in the wall neighborhood grocery store. In the very back was a deli, so I bought my very first muffaletta. Being such an olive lover, I was in heaven.
This tavern was so old and amazing. Looking in, it looked like an old cellar tavern from Beauty and the Beast. I was told that it's the oldest standing bar in New Orleans.
This man was actually a very talented saxophone player!
He played right outside Cafe du Monde. So perfect.
The best guitar tech there ever was ;)
The band that Hunter works for played at the House of Blues in the French Quarter. It was an incredible show from beginning to end!