Do you know that old Rod Stewart song, “Every Picture Tells A Story (Don’t It)”? I’m understanding more and more that every person has a story, and they’ll tell it to you, and it will blow you away. All you have to do is ask.
I recently experienced an amazing event in Nashville called STORY. The experience was filled with presenters sharing their stories and inspiring attendees to explore and share theirs. Abigail Washburn the Mandarin speaking, banjo playing woman from Illinois, who just returned from a tour along the Great Wall of China with Yo Yo Ma was a stand in for a sick presenter. What? This was the sub?
And Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer who has taken photos of everyone from the Pope to the Kardashians to Sting, yet uses his celebrity to launch amazing humanitarian projects such as Help-Portrait, which offers free portraits to people who have never had their picture taken, and campaigns in Haiti, Rwanda, and Uganda to raise awareness of the devastation these people have endured and funding to help them rebuild. This guy was the guy who struggled through high school. This was the guy whose mantra growing up was, “I can’t”. But his parents repeated to him, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). A reminder of truth that WE CAN, despite what the world tells us, despite what our achievement tests score us. Look what he’s become! Think what you can become.
Jon Guerra appeared on stage plucking his acoustic guitar and breaking into a soulful melody “We are stained it’s true, but when Your light shines through, we all look like stained glass windows to You.” And there was the lady who played the bassoon and the woman I bumped into at an after party in a warehouse who made a cotton candy tree full of wishes. And James Rhodes, world renowned classical pianist and composer, who played Chopin so beautifully it made me weep, then proceeded to share openly his story of being sexually abused as a child and how music saved him.
Not to mention the fact my sweet friend who I attended Story with and I, stayed up late in an artsy Nashville hotel wearing our pj’s watching Taylor Swift videos. We all have stories.
I could go on and on. But you get the idea. Stories. We all have them. Each and every human being was knitted together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:14) by God, our Creator, with skills and fears, hopes and hiccups, weaknesses and joys, leaps and bounds, whispers and screams. And God takes all of those marvelous little details and writes our stories. It’s like an Encyclopedia Brown mystery, in that God gives us the opportunity to choose if the hero (you or me) will pick A or B, will they give up or keep going, will they try harder or stop trying, will she dream bigger, smile broader, take a different path when the first one is blocked? Will he or she trust in the Author of their story for a happy ending even when the villain seems menacing and the tornado is twisting and they’re locked in a closet? Will they tap into the courage and peace their God has to offer? Will you?
What’s your story? What’s the story of the person next to you, the one you’ve never talked to, the kid who sits in the back of class, or the woman on the far side of church, or the person who always shows up late and leaves a minute early at boot camp? Are you willing to ask them? Are you willing to share yours? Because when we hear other people’s stories, we see their true reflections, often for the first time. And when we share ours, we let other people see ours. And they are all beautiful.
I need a new pair of rain boots. We need to have a mesh bag for our class trip. We need more bottled waters. I need to find my keys. I need to get to practice early. I need sleep!
We “need” so much. These are just some of the things I heard my family needing, yesterday. Maybe you need something more substantial—enough money to cover your bills, a surgery, a miracle. What do you need today?
Sometimes we throw the word “need” around loosely, when we should substitute want. But there is one thing we do need every minute of every day, Jesus.
My precious friend, Holly Starr’s, latest CD releases today, aptly named, Everything I Need. Starr once again turns the focus of her incredible music to realizing we can’t do anything without Jesus, but with Him, well, we have everything we need.
The title track is one I heard Starr sing at a show a year and a half ago. Since then our whole family has been singing the refrain. It’s something to meditate on, something to remember, something to sing in your head when you’re stuck in traffic or arguing with someone you care about or at your wits end. For all those times we’re thinking we need something, but are so overwhelmed to even know what that something is, it’s Jesus. He is our air, our light, and our daily bread. As Starr describes Him in another song on the CD, “God Is,”
He is mighty, more than able. He's a Refuge and a Savior.
Holly’s voice is beautifully pure and her faith incredibly inspiring. The beauty of her songs will make you sigh in appreciation, make you hum along, but the message of her music is what will draw you closer to God. The word God put in her heart while working on this album was “worship.” Her goal with this project is to help others worship our amazing God and all that He is. Although difficult to choose, my favorite song on the CD is, “Through Me.” In it, Starr sings,
Turn down the noise in all I do, let it be about you, Jesus
Because when we do turn down the noise of our lives, we don’t seem to need those other things so much, it helps us focus on the one thing we do need, Jesus, and how readily available He is to us, no matter where we are, or what we’re going through.
Today, I pray for peace as our family has a jam-packed weekend ahead. I pray for a friend who has experienced a tragic loss. I pray for my daughter to play her best at her soccer game, and my son to garner deeper glimpses of Christ’s love on the retreat he’s attending. I pray for another friend who’s self worth has been marginalized. I pray for time as I connect with old friends, that we can do what old friends do--learn from one another, make each other laugh, share. As I look at these petitions, I see that through them all, everything I need is Jesus, because He provides me with peace, helps us all to shine our brightest, has brought these friends into my life, always wants me to know Him better. Jesus wants me to show love to His children, and He cares so deeply He will comfort those who are suffering. Therefore, He is the answer to all my prayers and to yours. I plan on listening to Holly Starr’s new CD on continuous play this weekend to keep me focused on this truth--Jesus is everything I need.
MY GRACE IS ALL YOU NEED 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT
How about you? What are you praying for this weekend? How will you remind yourself of Jesus’s provision in all things?
I have always loved music. Always.
Growing up, every cupboard, shelf and rack in our home was filled with the records my dad collected. I’d memorized the Wizard of Oz soundtrack before I could ride a bike and learned most of the lyrics to the entire Beatles catalogue before entering junior high. I still listen to music when I’m freaked out, chilling, excited, tired, pumped up, worked up, working out, baking, driving, you name it. And, I always sing along. Always.
Unfortunately, for those around me, I’m not that strong a singer. That fact hasn’t dampened my love of music, not one little bit.
A couple of years ago I attended a Chris Tomlin concert. In the middle of the show, Chris Tomlin took a break and Louie Giglio came on stage and spoke. It was a-mazing, and at the time, I’d never experienced anything like it. The mixed media of an inspirational singer with an inspirational speaker, well, it spoke to me.
Being a speaker myself, a thought, like a single brightly colored thread, wove itself through my brain. "What a cool way to speak," I thought, “as part of a concert, you know a ‘we interrupt this fantastic concert for a word about how much God loves you,’ and then ‘back to our regularly scheduled program’.” But the thread was thin, and my brain was packed.
A few months later Holly Starr, a Christian recording artist I’d gotten to know via Twitter was cruising through Ohio. We connected while she was in town, and I instantly felt like God sent her into my life for a reason. Her songs were beautiful and powerful, but even more incredible than her music was her faith. She shared with me how she became inspired to become a worship leader after seeing a Chris Tomlin show! WOW! Another thread, a thicker one, more coarse and tactile, wove its way through my mind and intertwined with the first, what if Holly sang and I spoke?
I’m blown away by how God prepares us, how intricate and well thought out and executed His plans are. Because, in just two weeks, Holly and I will be doing just that. We are thrilled to be sharing the message that our true identity is in in Christ – not from how much money we make, or what we drive, or how many followers or likes we have, not from what brand of shoes we wear, or how fast or strong we are, or what size we wear. The reality is, we were made in God’s image, meaning we are exactly as we are supposed to be, and we are perfect in His eyes.
Our sponsor, Sisterhood Magazine, helps us present the Through My Father’s Eyes Tour. Those two idea strands, the two seemingly random ideas, God has woven them into beautiful fabric.
We’d love to have you join us in this celebration. If you live near Bismarck, ND, we’ll be at Calvary Chapel at 7:00 PM on September 13. If you live near Ames, Iowa, we’ll be at First United Methodist Church at 6:30 PM on September 20. We’ll also be on the Finding Balance webinar together October 7 from 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM . Holly and I still have a few openings mid-September if your church or organization would like to partner with us in sharing this important message of true beauty.
After all of these years of singing to myself I can actually say, “I’m going on tour.” I promise you I won’t sing. Cool how God works. Always.
What’s your first memory of music?
It’s Addicting, my latest novel, the third in the Status Updates series releases July 14! That’s only FOUR days away! HOORAY! Claire, Kat, Palmer, Hannah, and I have been itching to tell you what music they're listening to in their sophomore year of college, and now, we can’t wait any longer.
Because I’m so excited about the release, I’m going to give away an autographed copy of It’s Complicated, an autographed copy of It’s Over and an autographed copy of the brand new,It’s Addicting.
This is how it’s going to work. We’re going to do a countdown. Today’s day four. So today, we’re counting down our favorite music addictions.
We say it all the time right? But the only thing I'm truly addicted to is Christ!
For the contest: All you have to do to enter is comment and tell me one of your addictions AND share the link on one of your social media sites. You can comment on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and share any of those ways as well. You can enter once each day of the countdown (limited to five total entries per person), and at the end of the five days, on release day, July 14, I’ll pick three winners – one for each title—via Randomizer.
Today is music addiction day, so tell me one of your music addictions.
Me? I’m currently addicted to the letter F on my iTunes feed. I was listening to "Fix My Eyes" by For King and Country, on a run the other day, and just let the music play from there. I had a blast of a run listening to everything from "Faster" by Matt Nathanson to "Fez" by U2 to "Flake" by Jack Johnson to "Friday I'm in Love" by the Cure to "Focus" by Holly Starr. Even Beethoven's "Fur Elise" was in my F stream. Now I'm stuck on the letter F and letting the melodies entertain and inspire me. How about you? What's your music addiction?
You've got to get yourself together. You're stuck in a rut. And you can't get out of it.
Ever feel that itch, that urge, that tug inside to change something? It could be your scenery, your haircut, maybe you crave a new identity, even a new phone cover would help at this point. Ever been bored, or exhausted or numb, from your current set of circumstances?
Maybe you just finished up your school year and you’re not sure what summer has in store for you. Or the school year seems to be dragging out thanks to all the snow days this past winter.
Well, you don’t need to be Jason Bourne and grab a different passport from your safety deposit box to jazz things up. But it is up to you to get out of your rut. Sitting around wishing things would change won’t do the trick.
Now some of you change your address or hair color as often as others of us change our socks. To you, there’s no need to make drastic changes, you already do that, daily. But for the rest of us there’s something refreshing, maybe even daring about trying something new. Summer can be a lazy time to fall into old routines, OR a chance to change your perspective and relight your inner spark. It’s up to you. Which one is it going to be?
Here are a few ideas to get jump-started:
What about you? Any other ideas on how to spice things up?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
I love this question. It's loaded, isn't it? Who do you see? And why? And why not?
God sees His beautiful creation, but we let the world and its views and its expectations and comparisons and labels fog up our mirrors. Want to wipe off that fog and see yourself for the miracle God sees?
There's an awesome upcoming event to help us REFOCUS. The incredible, amazing, gorgeous, talented Holly Starr will be performing. Women of all ages will give their personal testimonies. I'll be speaking. Not convinced yet? There will be yummy snacks and coffee and prizes.
You owe it to yourself to discover your true beauty. Bring a friend or daughter or mother or sister or roommate, so after the event you can remind each other of who God created you to be.
Join me on March 1 from 9:00-12:00 at Oxford Bible Fellowship in Oxford, Ohio.
525, 600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?
“Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT by Jonathon Larson
I first saw RENT in New York City in 2005. I honestly didn’t know anything more about the plot than it was about artists squatting in an empty New York warehouse, and that it was a modern version of the opera, La Boheme, set in Paris. Hello. You had me at Paris. I wasn’t prepared for it to pierce my heart and affect my soul.
I bought the CD and played it nonstop for months. The following year the movie came out. Watched it. Even learned how to play “Seasons of Love” on the piano.
I saw RENT again over the weekend. This time instead of at the Nederlander Theatre seating 1200 people on Broadway, I was on Miami University’s campus at a theatre seating less than 100. Instead of Drew Lachey and Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) in the leads, college students performed the roles of Mark, Mimi, Roger, Maureen, Joanne, Tom Collins and Angel.
And these students with their raw talent and intense passion pierced my heart and affected my soul all over again, probably even more so than when I saw it on Broadway. (If you count crying four times during the performance “affecting”.)
For those of you who haven’t seen RENT. Go do so. Now, preferably. But if that’s not an option, know it is the story of one year in the lives of a group of friends. They face poverty, rejection, love, glory, success, denial, death, joy, fear, comfort and loss. But mainly, they learn how to appreciate the moments.
It’s impossible for me to see RENT and not reflect on the past year of my life. This is something I usually reserve for New Year’s or birthdays, but today it is fresh on my mind, tugging at my heart. In my last 525,600 minutes I lost a father in law, visited the beach, had my oldest child start high school, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, joined a Bible study, published a new series with a new publisher, looked at the sun through a giant telescope, rode a tiny rollercoaster. But my favorite parts of my year haven’t been the big events, they’ve been the moments, the snapshots in time where I’ve discovered something new, felt loved, was inspired. When listing highlights of my year I wouldn’t write ‘going to Paris’, but instead I’d say, my husband recorded the bells ringing from the infamous bell tower of Notre Dame on a sunny afternoon on his phone for me, so I could listen to them over and over. I don’t measure my year in the 500 soccer games I’ve attended. I might be exaggerating. A little. But the magnificent save my son made as goalie on a Penalty Kick against his team is a moment of pure joy I’ll cherish as I reflect on the year.
And in each moment, I know God was with me. Is with me. Is with you. As the song “Seasons of Love,” says “in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee.” He is there. Every hour of every day. Every step of the way. Every conversation. Every breeze, every flavor (I think especially the salty caramel mocha flavors) and handshake and hug.
What are the highlights of your last 525,600 minutes?
I don't know everything
and I don't have all the answers.
But God knows just what I need,
and He keeps on showing me.
“Don’t Have Love” by Holly Starr
Holly Starr is an up and coming star in the Christian music industry with a God-given voice, soulful songs and a passion for music and Christ that are contagious. To hear her sing is a chance to focus on the Lord’s love. To watch her perform is an opportunity to escape the busyness of daily life and take time to focus on Christ. While on her current tour, I had the blessing to meet and interview Holly.
Laura: You write most of your own songs, what inspires you?
Holly: God is always the reason I write and the purpose I do what I’m doing. But my focus changes all the time. My first CD was based on my relationships. My second CD was more about my relationship with God. My new CD, Focus, has been about my desire to focus on Christ in the midst of every day life. How do I balance family, friendship, ministry, studying and praying and still find focus in Christ?
Laura: So have you found a way to find focus?
Holly: Life on the road is crazy. But, I need to trust God and beat down negative thoughts with the truth, remembering God created me. And since He created me, He knows everything about me. Focusing on that allows me to rest, knowing He’s in control.
Laura: What part of the process is your favorite; the writing, rehearsing, recording, performing?
Holly: As far as the music goes, my favorite part is when the initial idea for a song comes. That moment of, “Oh my gosh I think I’ve found something! I can’t wait to see what it turns into!” But even more than music, I love telling people about Jesus. I’m fulfilled because my concerts are my vehicle to direct people towards God. I love the fact that I get to write these songs, so when I’m on stage, I worship Him to show others how awesome He is.
Laura: Thanks for the tour of your RV. Describe life on the tour bus?
Holly: Smelly at times (laughing). Although challenging, living on the bus with the rest of the band is the best part of my life right now. It’s very small and simple. You can’t take a lot with you. There isn’t room for it. You can’t buy a lot. It makes us live on just enough all the time. The small space is hard sometimes, but it helps the band communicate and work through issues – it’s hard and rewarding. Everything comes from His hand.
Laura: What keeps you energized and sane on the road?
Holly: I need to recognize that I need down time, alone time, and that’s okay. I need personal space to regroup and stay in The Word – to focus. That keeps me sane.
Laura: Your new CD releases October 2. Explain how it came about.
Holly: As soon as Tapestry released in October 2010, I started writing for this new CD. My heart is to write whatever’s going on in my life, then look over the songs and find a theme. All of the forty or so songs I wrote in this time period were about me needing to stop and Focus, the theme rises out of the songs. We picked the ten that worked best together to record.
Laura: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever recorded?
Holly: There are two. Psalm 23 – Obviously I didn’t have anything to do with the lyrics, but my senior year of high school, God was showing me how real the book of God is - that He is literally in those words, that reading the Bible is spending time with The Creator of the Universe. So I knew I wanted to write a song to just scripture, and I opened the Bible to Psalm 23. I started recording different melodies on the computer. Days later, the Hallelujah chorus just popped in my head. God just gave me this song.
You can download Holly's song, “Psalm 23” FREE here: https://www.facebook.com/hollystarrmusiconline/app_190322544333196
I Love You Anyway is the third song I ever wrote. It’s not correctly written according to song writing guidelines. I was just a fourteen year-old farmer’s daughter when I wrote it, but that song has had more ministry than any song I’ve ever written.
Laura: What’s on your iPod?
Holly: I love Shawn McDonald. He’s super real. I love it when people are transparent. I also love Bethany Dillon, Matt Hammitt (lead singer of Sanctus Real), One Republic, Brooke Fraser (part of Hillsong), Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot), and Chris Tomlin inspires me.
Laura: Do you have any advice for a young musician?
Holly: Serve the best you can and invest yourself where you are. Take the opportunities you have, don’t wish for more. God will open the doors to what He wants you to do. You don’t have to worry about it. He’ll open them. Stay focused on Him.
I’m a planner, an organizer, and a calendar maker extraordinaire. I have four kids, which means a fun-filled crazy, busy life. If I don’t stay on top of all the practices, assignments, to-dos and errands they crawl on top of me, and smother me.
However, despite all of my color-coding and lists, I have to remember that I am not the one in control.
On a family trip to Italy we needed to check out of our apartment in Florence prior to the proprietor’s arrival to make our train to Venice on time. We dutifully took out our trash, stripped our sheets and dropped our keys in the drop box.
We rolled our suitcases thumpety-thump down the cobblestone streets to the metro, took the metro to the train station and boarded our train, surprised to see an entire class of Italian school children filling our car and our seats. I spoke with a lovely teacher whose English was even worse than my Italian. We exchanged tickets, but couldn’t figure out how we all had the same seat assignments. Together we searched for a conductor, who just as the train began its departure told us to sit tight. We’d sort it all out en route.
We situated ourselves in corners and nooks, plugged in our ear buds and flipped through books until about an hour into the ride when the conductor came to punch the tickets I’d ordered months ago on the Eurorail website.
“Ecco.” Here you go. I presented ours to him, proud of my Italian expression.
He shook his head with a sneer. “These are for tomorrow.”
“Today is Wednesday. These are for Thursday.” He said briskly, not feeling my panic, my pain, and my well-executed plans in a tangle.
“How- how could that be?” The words tumbled from my mouth. My brain churned. He pointed to the date on the tickets, which were indeed for the next day. I grabbed my travel file and frantically flipped through the itineraries. I turned to my hubby and gasped in a stressed whisper, “How did this happen? I don’t understand? Where will we stay in Venice tonight? We’ll be a day early.”
“You cannot continue to Venice.” The conductor’s voice was freakishly flat for an Italian.
Silently he pulled out his calculator and typed in seemingly hundreds of numbers. Eventually he turned the display to me. “This is your fine for riding the train without a proper ticket. You must depart at the next stop - Bologna. You may use your ticket tomorrow to get you from Bologna to Venice.”
A lengthy list of questions from me to the train worker didn’t clear up any of my concerns. The fine was enormous. We knew no one in Bologna and had no hotel booked for our four children, my mom and ourselves. We’d forfeited a prepaid night in Florence. Not to mention the blow to my ego that I’d majorly botched our travel plans and let my family down!
My stomach was like a pulverized pizza. My face hotter than the Tuscan sun. My hands shook like our train car on rickety tracks.
We paid our fine, gathered our group and got off the train in Bologna, the beautiful city of Bologna, home of robust spaghetti alla Bolognese, one of the oldest Universities in Europe, an active political community and ancient basilicas.
In Bologna we stayed in the nicest hotel of our trip, complete with luxury air conditioning and an all you could eat breakfast buffet piled high with Italian pastries and made to order cappuccino. We witnessed a heated protest by impassioned university students, noshed on zesty pizza margarita (for a fraction of a price of what we paid for it in Florence) strolled through the historic university and visited the crowning jewel, San Luca.
San Luca, named for Saint Luke, as in the gospel writer, sits at the top of approximately 300 steps covered by romantic porticoes supported by 666 arches and overlooks the lush city of Bologna from its hilltop perch.
On a 70 degree, sunny day breathing in the architecture, gazing at the sapphire blue sky, marveling at history dating back to the gospels, intoxicated by a strong spiritual presence and surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier. Then, two young boys pulled out their violins and played an impromptu hauntingly beautiful concert in the grassy area outside the church, providing the soundtrack for my moment.
My planner said I should be in Florence that day. I thought I was supposed to be in Venice that day. But God knew, there was no place on earth better for me on that day than in Bologna.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Tell me below - where are you planning to go this week? Where will you let God take you if only you let Him?
The population of my town just split in half. One U-Haul at a time, residents abandoned Oxford, like the Onceler’s family after the last Truffula tree fell to the ground. But there hasn’t been a shortage of trees or a tragedy to drive out the inhabitants. This exodus isn’t alarming. Here, in Oxford it is expected.
Each May 12,000 students roll out of town leaving 12,000 residents to hold down the fort until their return. Each August the co-eds come charging back, doubling our population with energy, excitement and youth.
Without the 18-22 year olds Oxford, Ohio would have little reason to exist. Our commerce revolves around the University. And with no students, the University is obsolete. The restaurants and shops wouldn’t have enough customers, and the landlords have no one to rent their apartments and houses to. The students provide us with opportunities to hear speakers like the Dali Lama, jam to bands ranging from Wynton Marsalis to The Fray and cheer in a state of the art hockey arena for a championship team. What other town of 24,000 people offers Lily Pulitzer, Vera Bradley, an Aveda salon, an indoor track, an Olympic size pool and a climbing wall?
So, is the town half empty when the students leave?
Of course not.
Summers in Oxford mean free concerts at the Uptown parks every Thursday night, a deliciously fresh farmer’s market every Saturday morning, fountains to splash in, a 4th of July celebration that rivals Mayberry’s and long, lazy, hazy days to relax and recharge.
In the summer I can always find a parking spot, there is never a line at Starbucks and my drive time to anywhere in town is less than five minutes.
But in August, I’ll be thrilled to see the return of the students. They add vibrancy and excitement to my town. From them I learn about the latest fashions, the newest music and how to live with expectancy and a sense of adventure.
In Oxford, the town may become half full in the summertime, but it is never half empty. What joys does your town offer this summer? How do you plan on making the most of your summer days?
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