Besides a complete and total belief, which I held in the sixth grade, that I was going to become a world famous whistler who would bring people into a weepy wave of wonder with my haunting melodies- my parents have supported every dream I have ever had.
Even when they have made no logical sense.
I graduated with a bachelors degree from a private university. My career plans weren’t set in stone, but I always assumed I would go straight into graduate work, like both of my parents did. Social work, speech pathology, political science and seminary topped my list. Serving people, seeking justice, fighting for beauty and redemption in another person’s life was my ultimate goal. Making music was not.
But I fell in love. With a man and with music. And the day after my college graduation we packed our bags and moved into a 900 square foot duplex in the heart of ghetto, thug-riddled Dallas, Texas. For the next two years my husband and I lived in that duplex across the street from Joe the Pimp (yes, a real live pimp), with the entire band. It was just how every woman hopes to spend the first two years of marriage! No health insurance, life insurance, 401K plan, personal privacy or financial security blanket. Four college graduates still driving our cars from high school while our peers bought houses, invested in stocks and experimented in keeping small puppies and babies alive.
By the looks of it, my life did not measure up to the kind of success that our culture aspires to.
And yet I can’t remember a single conversation with my dad where he didn’t say, “I’m proud of you Jenny- don’t give up- it won’t always be this hard- it’s worth it- you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Keep doing what you feel like God has made you to do.”
And to the 32 year-old-girl, 10 years later, now turned mother who has lived through a fire that destroyed most of what I owned, a few break-ins, car-wrecks, near bankruptcy, still living in a small apartment, with no 401 K and, yes, still driving my car from high school- all in my pursuit of listening to and following God’s voice in my life…
my dad still says the same thing.
Don’t lose heart. Keep believing in the things that God has called you to.
You see my parents are both deeply spiritual people and have served on church staffs my entire life. Many times my sisters and I have watched as members of different congregations have lied about my parents, hurt them and given them good cause to never ever walk back through the doors of a church again. And yet, my parents have always walked back in the doors.
Dad often quoted Psalm 27:13 as he walked around the house listening to my sisters and I gripe about the injustice of it all. He simply said, “I am still confident of this: we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And he and mom believed it enough that they didn’t quit, even when quitting was the most obvious answer.
I can’t count how many times I have tried to throw away the gifts and calling that the Lord has given me. I have tried to convince myself that I heard God’s voice wrong. That serving in ministry was too hard on my spirit. That the sacrifice was not worth it. That I was being financially irresponsible to live off of little- when I could make much else-where. That my family deserves better. Or perhaps, someone else is more qualified.
I am the queen of excuses and rationalizing. I’ve written the book on fear, anxiety and distrust in the face of the unknown. I have tried to quit God, quit His call on my life, quit that still, small voice who whispers over and over again to me, “Feed my sheep,” more times than I can count.
And yet I am still here. Still writing music and telling God’s story of redemption. Still driving that same old car. Still allowing God to use me in people’s journeys. Still listening to my daddy tell me that following the call is absolutely worth it- even when it makes no logical sense. Even when it hurts. Even if it leaves you broken sometimes.
The song, Don’t Lose Heart, is the most personal song for me on my new album, The Becoming. It’s not just a pithy sentiment spoken over someone in a tiny battle. It is a monumental cry to those serving in ministry- fighting the most important battle ever: whether to give up or not.
Following the great unknown has cost you everything
But listen to the voice inside who first called out your name…
To those following the Great Unknown, to those chasing a dream that only makes sense in light of the Holy Spirit that has given birth to that dream, to those barely hanging on as they try and survive ministry in a tough church, for those making art, parenting orphans, feeding homeless, teaching immigrants, sheltering battered women, loving pregnant teenagers, heck, loving any teenager through puberty, going to the uttermost corners of the earth to deliver water- and living water- this song is for you.
For anyone in the middle of a “What the heck am I doing here?” moment- the one where you fear you have gone the wrong way or the call was meant for someone else-
this is for you.
Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith. Keep believing in the things that He’s called to you. When you’re tired. When you’re faint. Look deep into the eyes of your Savior’s face. And you will find your resting place.
And to mom and dad- who never gave up on Jesus and his calling- you are the most beautiful people I know. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes following Jesus is more important than safety, security or comfort. Thank you for caring more about how Jesus wants to use me, than any thing else. I am here because of you.