The Pure In Heart Blog

My Testimony 

Hi friends! I can’t believe that 2022 is already upon us. If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering where on earth the time has gone and what on earth you did in 2021. This year has been a wild one for me and for so many others, but through it all I have seen the goodness, grace, and faithfulness of God. I opened my prayer journal to my entry on this day last year and was so overwhelmed by how God had answered my prayers for this year. My prayers were not answered in the way that I thought they would be, but I can see now how much better God’s way is than the way I would’ve chosen for this year to go. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you all the ups and downs of this past year, and how God has moved in power in my life. I’ve been pretty silent for the past several months, and I’m so excited to finally share with you what Jesus and I have been up to. Not to show you how “spiritual” I am, but to encourage you that what God has done for me, he can and will do for you! 

This blog post will probably be a longer one, but I pray that if God wants you to hear this message you will read it to the end, the Holy Spirit will touch your heart, and you will experience the power of God in your life! As most of you know, in 2020 I auditioned for the 19th season of The Voice. Although that was one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had in my career, it also led to one of the most spiritually dark seasons of my life. Coming home from LA I got so many opportunities to work with people in the industry. I was writing more than ever, working on an EP, recording, and even marking off a bucket list item of helping produce my own music. I was doing everything I should to make progress and achieve the dreams I had since I was a little girl, and yet I had never felt so discontent in my life. I began to push my friends and loved ones away, and was plagued with shame and guilt over addictions and sin patterns I had dealt with for years that I couldn’t seem to find true freedom from. I had no ambition and no joy. My attitude was, just add me to the list of young adults who battle with some form of mental illness. I distinctly remember crying out to God one day, “Would you just deliver me from it all? I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I remember the joy and fire I had for you when I was a little girl, learning about you, falling in love with you, and telling all my friends about you. Would you give that to me again?” Sometimes we don’t know exactly what we’re asking for, but when we ask God to do something in our lives, we can expect him to do it! 

When I came home from LA, I jumped right back into church and leading worship. I noticed a drastic change in one of my friends, Collin, who had opened up to us about his struggle with severe anxiety. I didn’t even have to have a conversation with him to see the change in his life. I decided to talk to him and another friend, Tajee, at church about the health issues I was dealing with that I felt were contributing to my mental health, and for the first time in my life, they laid hands on me and prayed for my healing. It was one of the sweetest moments I’ve experienced with other believers, and Tajee even prophesied that Collin’s healing would be my healing. Being the Southern Baptist girl that I am, I just nodded and smiled and walked away saying, “Well that was different!” I know we’re really in the weeds here, and I hope this isn’t hard to follow, but little did I know how significant that word from God would be. 

Flash forward several months, and although my friends prayed for my healing, I didn’t feel any different. So often we have experiences like this where we get a glimpse of God’s promises to us, but instead of pressing into them and believing that they’ll happen in God’s timing, we fall back into the same old patterns. One Sunday I was talking to my friend, Collin, and he began to tell me that God had been doing so much in his life; that he was truly experiencing God’s goodness. He peaked my curiosity and I just wanted to experience that for myself. I asked him if we could go get coffee and talk about what God had been doing in his life. I feel like this has been a common theme in my life over the last several months, but sometimes we really don’t know what we’ve asked for, and I was SO clueless as to all that God had planned for me. 

Thursday, August 5th is a date I will hold close to my heart forever. God has never been so evident to me, nor has the reality of demons and spiritual warfare. August 5th was a busy day, but not much different from any other day of the week. I had lunch planned with my friends Leah and Jaylen and Mrs. Donna, our mentor since middle school, coffee with my friend from church, and then I was going back to a friend’s house to watch the Netflix series Outer Banks and spend the night at her house. Per usual, lunch with Mrs. Donna was a time of prayer and encouragement. She’s always excited to hear what God is doing in our lives and how she can encourage us to serve him. But here’s where the good part really starts. Remember Collin from earlier? Well, I went to coffee with Collin, previously riddled with anxiety, and he began to tell me how God had delivered him and healed him. This is someone who had tried everything the medical field had to offer. Therapy, counseling, traditional medicine, functional medicine, you name it he had tried it. Now, what I’m about to tell you is difficult for so many of us to hear, but I want you to stop up your religious ears, and read this from the perspective that Jesus is still doing today what he did 2,000 years ago when he walked this earth. Jesus had delivered my friend from demons; A born-again believer, set free from anxiety, depression, severe allergies, etc. because of demonic attack upon his life and calling. Although I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was being said to me or what I was witnessing from his deliverance video, I knew in my spirit that there was truth to this. In that moment, I began to feel the shame I had carried with me since I was a little girl dissolve. The habitual sins that I had struggled with for so long, that I didn’t even want to participate in anymore losing their grip on me. The cloud of depression that I had lived under for the past year begin to lift, and the joy of the Lord begin to flood my soul. We talked that day for four hours about the goodness of God, the love he has for his children, and that he wants to see them live out the calling he has placed on their lives. 

That night at my friend’s house we were watching Outer Banks, and I couldn’t help but feel like we didn’t need to be watching it. I had watched the first season and didn’t have a problem with it, but something in my spirit just said, turn this off. Around midnight we laid down and I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. I laid there for an hour praying, “God just give me rest, just let me sleep, I’m so tired.” Around that time Leah got up and turned the bathroom light on so it would shine into the bedroom. I asked Leah, “Have you fallen asleep?” She replied, “No, I can’t sleep I just feel this…” “Heaviness?” I responded. Then, as if in one mind she and I just began to pray. Whispered prayers as to not wake our other friend up. We began to proclaim the name of Jesus over ourselves, our families, the house and to demand that the spiritual forces of darkness at work in that moment to leave. I distinctly remember Leah saying in a whisper scream, “Satan, you lose! You’re a loser!” And isn’t that the truth? We know how the story ends, and Satan is already a loser when he comes against believers. After what felt like maybe 10 minutes of prayer, we finally felt this oppressive spirit lift. When I picked up my phone to look at the time, we had actually been praying for an hour! This is an experience Leah and I will hold dear for the rest of our lives, because not only did we experience the reality of spiritual attack, but also the reality of the power that’s found in the presence of God. 

Now, as miraculous as all this is, there’s more, and I hope you stick with me because the story gets even better. That Sunday afternoon, August 8th, I went to a church in Nashville with my friend and his family that practices deliverance ministry. Again, I want to remind you that this Southern Baptist girl almost chickened out because I expected to see people running down the aisles, shouting in tongues, falling out; but I was pleasantly surprised by a sweet, spirit-filled time of worship, a fiery message from 1 Kings about the need for revival in the church, and a time of response and prayer for healing. Then Mark walked on the scene. Just to paint the picture, Mark is not your average looking, bible belt church goer. He’s at least 6’3”, has long, black hair, and was wearing a black suit jacket with fringe on the back, and black snake skin boots. Immediately, the conversation in my mind was, “I thought I was going to get out of here without anything weird happening. Should I leave, or should I stick around to see what happens? I’ll just stick around for a few minutes to see. It won’t hurt anything right?” Well, it certainly didn’t hurt anything, but it did change my world forever. Mark began to actually rebuke the demons attacking my friend and cast them out. Now, this went on for quite a while and all the while I’m trying to decide if I should go or stay when Mark turns to me, looks me in the eyes and says, “Can I pray for you?” Of course, I don’t turn down prayer, but at this point I’m not really sure what to expect. He began by just praying over me, but then looked at me and to my surprise said, “Why have you stopped writing? Satan sent someone to try and steal your song, but you are going to prophesy to many, not only through song, but also through spoken word.” How did this guy know that just a few weeks earlier I had told my mom I didn’t think I’d ever write songs again; that I just didn’t feel like I had anything worth writing about? He spoke directly to a diagnosis I received when I was 15 and said, God is healing reproductive organs and the diagnosis you received is false. He has healed you! He even spoke to the shame I have walked with for so long and told me I don’t walk in that anymore, but I am a daughter of the king, treasured and loved by him. This man, I had never met or even heard of before this moment, was speaking directly to my situation the light and life of God’s word. For weeks after this I wrestled with this question, “God, do I need deliverance?” And almost as if the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me he said, “I have already delivered you.” I saw and felt the change in my life, but in trying to understand how this works in my flesh, I wasn’t sure if I had been delivered or not. God gave me the assurance I needed and the eyes to see that the depression, lack of motivation, lack of purpose, were all an attack on the calling God has on my life and that he had delivered me! 

If you’ve made it this far, you’re a real trooper, and you probably think I’m either a psycho, maybe there’s something to this deliverance thing, or you were already on board with this and its old news to you. I have so many more stories of the miraculous things God has done in my life over this past year, but these are the most pivotal experiences God has used to change my life, perspective, and priorities. So, what is God doing in my life right now? Well, I’m still leading worship, I’m currently working on writing Christian music to release this coming year, and I strongly feel that God has called me into ministry. That was always something in the back of my mind, but I was never sure that he had actually called me into ministry. Now I know and I’m seeking the opportunities he wants me to have in his timing! Also, remember my friend who prophesied that Collin’s healing would be my healing? Well, God certainly fulfilled that and has used his story greatly for my own healing and deliverance. I shared this story with you because I want you to know that if God can pull me out of the darkness I was in, he WANTS to do the same for you! I’m not here to debate theology, although I can point out in scripture that deliverance is for believers as well as non-believers and would be happy to have a conversation with you about it. My desire is for every believer to experience the full power of God through the Holy Spirit, and if God can use my story to do that, then I’m willing to share with whoever needs to hear it. If you want to talk more about everything I’ve shared and how you can experience God’s power in your life, please don’t be afraid to reach out! Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” God doesn’t want you to be afraid to approach other believers and ask for help, or to approach his throne and seek his deliverance. I hope my testimony will encourage and draw you closer to the God of love! 

Love, 

Emma

Soccer Camp, Carrie Underwood, and God's Plan 

When I was a little girl I did everything with exuberance and expression. I felt a vast range of emotions, sometimes in the matter of a few seconds. If you know anything about the enneagram, I am a 4 through and through. Around the age of 5 I remember my parents sent me to a soccer day camp. My dad being a soccer coach, he was so thrilled that his creative, artistic, expressive daughter was showing an interest in any form of physical activity outside of dancing around the living room in a princess dress singing "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood (I know, not the most typical favorite song of a five year old.) I remember that Monday morning my mom got me ready for the first day of what would be a five day camp. She put my hair in two little space buns, which I insistently called pearls, slathered me with sunscreen and loaded me in the car, cleats, shin guards, and all. The day went as expected and my parents picked me up that afternoon. When we got in the car they asked me how my day was, and I began to cry. I'm sure that wasn't the response they expected, but it also wasn't too uncalled for at this stage in my life. I began to tell them about my day, that we played games, ate a snack, and when we finally started our soccer game... someone TOOK THE BALL FROM ME!!! I was completely outraged, and I'm sure you can imagine how frustrated I was that my parents were not mirroring the same level of anger and concern. In fact, it was the exact opposite, they were hysterical! Of course this only caused my frustration to grow.

Despite sitting on the sidelines of many soccer games and watching my dad coach and drill at practices I had completely forgotten the point of the game. All I knew in that moment was that I had the ball and I was going to do with it what I wanted to, until it was taken away. Isn't that how so many of us live our lives? We pray and seek God for His will, for guidance, for clarity, and once we have what we've asked for we take the ball and we run with it. Many of us have sat in church pews and heard God's word preached, we pray, we open our Bibles daily and seek His truth, and yet we fail to apply it to our lives when it's go time. I know I'm guilty of all these things! Proverbs 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." We can and should make plans, but the issue is when we ask God for His will and then try to make it into our own. If we don't play by His rules we're most likely going to end up crying in the back seat because we didn't get it our way. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." We can trust that His plans are always exceedingly better than any plans we could make on our own. He loves us and wants the very best for us. So, next time I try to take the ball and run with it, I'm going to try and save myself some tears and play the game His way.

From Shepherd Boy to King 

Hi! I know it's been a few months since I've posted here, but I'm so excited to share what's happening in my world and what's been on my heart. It's been an exciting season for me, recording and releasing music, but it's also been a while since I've shared what God is doing in my life.

Lately, while reading my Bible, I've been focused on King David. As a child I was taught the story of the great David who defeated Goliath with just a sling and a stone. A miraculous story of what God can do with just one person's faith. I was taught about a great leader and king who was so distracted from the responsibilities God had given him he was caught up in an affair which led to the murder of Bathsheba's husband and the death of their child. Praise the Lord David saw the mistakes he had made and sought God for forgiveness. Although they both experienced tremendous grief because of their actions, God blessed them with a child, Solomon, and Jesus was born from that line. This goes to show God can redeem and use anything for His glory! But, as I was reading the story of David and Goliath, God brought my attention to one specific thing that I had never really noticed about David.

Long before he was considered a great warrior or named king, David was a simple servant. The youngest of his brothers, a musician and a shepherd boy. When he was not helping his father in the fields, he was using his gift of music to play for and comfort King Saul who was haunted by his past mistakes and regrets. Even after David was named king of Israel, he immediately returned to the fields. His life and his walk were marked by true humility and servanthood.

As I began to realize how much of a servant heart David had, I began to ask some difficult questions. When was the last time I intentionally chose to be a servant. It's so easy for me to get into the habit of making lists, marking off goals, taking each step to get closer to what I want to accomplish. These aren't bad things, but when they distract from loving and putting other people first it's time to reevaluate. I don't know if this is striking a nerve for you, but it certainly did for me! I'm reminded of Jesus' teaching of the greatest commandment. In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus is quoted as saying, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater that these." 

Setting goals and making checklists are never bad, and I know my ADD brain needs a good checklist! But when the end goal becomes more important than the God we serve and the people we reach, we have some major readjusting to do. I'm thankful for a God who lovingly and gently brings my attention back to him and his goals for me. So, here's the game plan: love God and love people! That's what he's called me to do and that's what he's called you to do. All the rest is going to work out in his timing and according to his plan, and I'm just going to try to focus on the task he's given me. If we're faithful to serve God and others, we might just find ourselves in a situation like young David. If God can turn a humble shepherd boy into a king, he can do just as much in and through us! 

Pages 

Writing Pages

If you're here reading this blog, then you probably already know my single "Pages" was just released! This is the first song off of my EP, Gravity, and a project that has been on my heart for over a year now. I'm so excited to finally share it with you, and if you haven't already listened to it, go ahead and click this link to stream it. Now that I've gotten my little promo out of the way, let's talk about what inspired Pages!

As many of you know 2020 was a crazy year. For me that entailed a lot of ups and downs, as it did for so many. I auditioned for Season 19 of The Voice in January of 2020 and that began a very long process of what would finally air in early November. The process of filming for The Voice is something that's really difficult for me to put into words. I grew a lot as a person and musician while I was in LA, but growth doesn't come without it's share of difficulties. Filming in the midst of Covid-19 meant isolation like I've never experienced before. I was away from my family and friends for several months, interaction with other contestants was very limited, and I spent most of my time alone in a hotel room. It was like my whole world stopped, but everything back home was getting back to normal. So, of course I put my imagination to use almost immediately. 

I had a lot of time to think, so I began thinking about all the things I would be doing if I weren't trapped in this hotel room in California. Anyone who knows me will agree that I'm a romantic to my very core. I dove deep into my most ideal world, revisiting carefree memories from past summers. Painting cotton candy skies, driving on an empty tank without a care, every picture taken at golden hour, dancing through empty movie theater rows while "Dancing Queen" is blasting, moments that pictures can't quite capture, but are so vivid in our minds. These are seemingly insignificant things to the world around us, but all of those moments are exactly what make up a lifetime.

I spend most of my days writing songs, singing, and planning what comes next. I can get so caught up in the hustle I forget the life that's happening around me. The truth is, even if all my dreams came true, if I spent a lifetime striving and seeking after success to finally achieve my goals, I don't think I'd be any happier than I am right now. Setting goals, growing, and moving forward are all good things, but if those are what consume our lives we will find ourselves ultimately empty. It's not our achievements that make life worthwhile. It's the people who are there beside us, the moments we share with them, and being thankful for what we have right now. Prioritizing those things is a daily choice and one I lose sight of more often than not, but I know they're important to hold on to and cherish.

When I flip back through my journal pages, I don't want to just read that I recorded another demo, wrote another song, signed a deal, or played a bigger show. I want to read that I went on a long walk with my grandparents while they told me stories of their families, I want to read that I had a good cry with my best friend, that we laughed until we couldn't breathe, that my family and I listened to records and talked after a long week of work, that we prayed together and saw the evidence in our lives. I want all these things and more. I want to fill the pages of my life with more than accolades and accomplishments and that's what this song is all about. 

Thank you for giving this a read and if you've made it this far, let me know in the comments what you want to fill pages with. I think your stories are just as worthy of sharing as mine are.

Divine Interruption 

Hi guys!! It's been a while since I put out a new blog post. Just to give you a quick update on what's been going on in my life, I've basically just been writing and recording as much as I can through this quarantine. If you came to my house and watched me every day (in a not creepy way...), you'd probably find my life to be pretty mundane! 

But, getting back to the whole, "It's been a while" thing! One thing that I've struggled with during this crazy season is consistency. Maybe that's you, or maybe you thrive on structure and couldn't have it any other way. I find myself putting off my daily responsibilities to get out of the house or try something new or go for a long drive because I'm just trying to avoid the work that needs to get done lol! I guess that's the enneagram 4 in me, that just wants to feel anything but the ordinary. I sometimes find myself so fixated on the big things I want to see happen in my future, that I try to pass up the small opportunities that are part of growth. But God is teaching me during this time to not just sit around and wait to be obedient in the big stuff. He wants me to be obedient every day, and in everything. 

I think 1 Corinthians 10:31 sums it up best, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This is such a convicting statement!! Do EVERYTHING to the glory of God. That's a pretty high standard, and I'm so glad I don't have to strive to live up to that because Jesus already did on the cross!! So, what does daily obedience look like then? I think a great example is found in the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah. I just started reading through Luke, and I can't get this story out of my head. 

This is really a story of divine interruption. Zechariah had received a high honor and would be performing his duties in the temple for two weeks, burning incense and proclaiming the familiar blessing over the people from Numbers 6:24-26. In the midst of his duty, he was interrupted by God's divine plan. Although I'd like to think he accepted this good news that he and Elizabeth were going to have a child with eagerness and joy, he actually faced it with skepticism. Because of this, he was met with a mild and somewhat comical punishment. He would lose all ability to speak until Elizabeth had given birth to their son, John. You know, just the John who baptized Jesus, and paved the way for His ministry. Nothing big! 

As I was reading through this story, the Spirit laid this idea on my heart. Would I be willing to be interrupted for the purpose of God's plan, or would I rather Him pass me by at the moment to not be inconvenienced? Nothing about what Zechariah was doing when the angel came to him was wrong. He was fulfilling his duty in the temple, and serving God's people! But God had something less conventional in mind, and He wanted Zechariah's trust at that moment. His wife was going to give birth to the man who's name literally meant "Prophet of the Highest", but he was so focused on his duty, his life's work, that he felt inconvenienced by God's interruption. 

Why is this such a convicting thought to me? Well, I've always been a dreamer. Since I was a little girl of only 5 or 6 I wanted to be a singer and songwriter. I can remember sitting in the sandpit on the playground at school making up songs in my head and singing them to express how I was feeling. I've had this dream for so long, it's almost like it's a part of me, and it takes daily surrender for it to not become my identity. So, if Jesus showed up at my back door and directed my path elsewhere, would I be excited and ready to go? Or would I feel like it was an interruption to MY plans? Let's face it! Jesus doesn't often just show up at our back doors. I've personally never had that happen! It's more often the small voice of the Holy Spirit convicting, guiding, and giving just enough insight for us to trust. So, the question is, are you willing to be interrupted in your duty to follow God's greater plan?

Hands 

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, Pop, who is one of my biggest inspirations.

Hands - for Pop

You were just a little baby and the first thing your hands grasped, were your mother’s warm strong fingers as she held you to her chest. 

You grew and they became stronger as you’d pull yourself to your feet, and would bound across the room in what seemed a flying leap. 

You’d run and you’d play outside, picking up sticks, bugs, and rocks. Your hands had met so many things in just your short life. 

The burden of labor would show in those hands, so calloused and scarred. Day in and day out they picked and plowed ‘til they felt they’d work no more. 

Those same hands would hold God’s precious Word as the seeds were planted in your heart. They’d fold to pray when by yourself and for those held close to your heart. 

Your hands would later hold the hands to the love of your life. And you’d hold your children in those hands and you’d been held before. 

To your wife, those hands were comfort and strength. To your girls, they meant playtime and a safe place. 

Your hands were direct and pointed when you’d preach the Word of God. Then were lifted in surrender as you would praise Him for what He’s done. 

Your hands gave away in marriage your three girls to the ones they loved. And embraced each grandbaby into a world so dark and cold. 

And as I study your hands now so weathered and old, I think of all these things and what these hands have been to me. 

They’ve been playtime when I was little; guidance as I grew up. Strength through the many seasons, and guidance when I needed it most. 

I’ve seen them raised in worship; seen them brought low in defeat, but in each and every moment, those hands have always been there for me.

They Called Him Jesus 

"For to us a child is born, 
    to us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 
    and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 

    Each of us celebrates Christmas differently. We all have different traditions, different family dynamics; some of us don't celebrate Christmas at all. I want to share with you how I celebrate Christmas, what it means to me, and why I wrote the song, "They Called Him Jesus". So, let's jump right in! 

    Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday. Not only because of the great food, seeing all my family, and giving and receiving presents, but because it is the celebration of the birth of my Savior, Jesus. I added a Bible verse at the top of this blog, and I want to talk a little bit about why I included it. This passage encapsulates so much joy. When I read it, I think about the people that were anxiously waiting for the Messiah, yet He was nothing like what they had expected. Have you ever received a present from someone that you didn't expect to get? You're surprised this person even thought about you, much less gave you a present! You open it, and you have a choice to make, receive it with joy and thanksgiving, or disregard the giver's kindness and thoughtfulness in giving you such a present. Many people saw and see Christ in this light. Some judged based upon His outward appearance and decided He was not the king they were awaiting, while others listened to His humble instruction and saw the miracles He performed. They truly believed He was and is the Son of God! The truth in this passage and the decision we have to make is just as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.  

    So, what does this all have to do with the writing of "They Called Him Jesus"? I'm so glad you asked! ;) Some songs can be a long and agonizing process to write, while others come easily and just want to be written. This was one of those songs that came naturally because it came from such a genuine place in my heart. The thought of writing a Christmas song has always been daunting to me. What could I possibly have to say that hasn't already been said? I finally decided I'd just try and began thinking about what Christmas means to me. I love the traditions - the tree, presents, the food, decorations, family, shopping, the FOOD - but, when you take all that away, what remains? Jesus! He's why the holiday exists. He's why we come together. He's why we give gifts! Christ should always be at the center of CHRISTmas. So, why don't I make Him the center? I get caught up in selfishly wanting every item on my list handed to me Christmas morning; I want the food that I want and I don't want to have to share it with anyone; I don't want to give up my comfortable bed when my large family is packed into a tiny house. Just like that, I lose sight of why we celebrate. There's nothing wrong with the traditions, the presents, or the food, but what has priority in my life when Christmas day rolls around?  

    So, this year, I'm deciding to keep Jesus in the center of my Christmas. Every time I feel a selfish thought coming on, I want to crucify that in Jesus' name! If Jesus sacrificed His life for me, I think I can give Christmas, and I hope much more, to Him. Christmas was the beginning of salvation 2,000 years ago and continues to be so every day for those who find the forgiveness, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ!  If you have any questions about my faith, songwriting, or just a random question, please feel free to head over to my contact page and ask away. Merry Christmas! 

You can stream "They Called Him Jesus" now everywhere you listen to music!! 

Love, 
Emmalee

F E A R L E S S 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18a. If perfect love casts out all fear, then couldn’t so many of our walls be broken down by love? How often have I made decisions out of fear instead of reason? I believe that the biggest thing holding back so many of us is fear. Almost all my life my reasoning has been, if I don’t take this job (that I’m not very passionate about) then I won’t have a steady income, but if I do, then I’ll end up discontented with what I’m doing. But at least I have a paycheck, right? I decide not to get too close to people because it's better to not get hurt. I may be lonely, but at least I'm safe, right? Wrong! So much of my decision making is based on the level of certainty that comes with making that decision. But what if I finally decided to believe what I’ve read and been taught for so long? That God has a plan and a purpose for my life, and I need not worry about the future. It sounds a little radical, but isn’t being fearless a radical decision as well? How can I truly be fearless if I can’t place those fears somewhere? Praise God I have somewhere to place those fears. God loves me perfectly; no conditions. So, if perfect love casts out all fear, then God’s love, which is perfect, is big enough to cast out the fears that once held me so tightly. There is freedom and there is fearlessness in being able to put my trust in a God who is so much bigger than my problems.

When Moe Loughran, Josh Bronleewe, and I wrote Fearless, we weren't necessarily writing it for me to release. We decided we'd pitch it and see if it landed somewhere, but the second we walked out of that writer's room, I knew it was my song. There was no doubt about it. This song resonates with me so much and has helped me face so many struggles and I hope it will help you do the same! You can stream or download Fearless everywhere you listen to music now!! So, let's start living out the life we've been designed to live, a FEARLESS life!

The Power of a Song 

    Recently I had the opportunity to sing for the residents at Jubilee House Memory Care. I've always loved singing oldies and hymns, so I never shy away from getting the opportunity to sing those songs to the generation that grew up with them. I have very fond memories from when I was little of singing and dancing in the kitchen with my Mom and Mimi. We would turn on Elvis', "Hound Dog" or "Copacabana" by Barry Manilow. I never realized as a little girl how sad that song is... Anyways, I've learned to appreciate all generations and genres of music because of my Mom and Mimi. 

    It's always a blessing for me to share those good, old songs with the people who've enjoyed them the most. It's amazing to me that people suffering from the awful disease of Alzheimer's can still remember every word of their favorite songs and be brought to tears by the memories connected to them. I can remember my great grandmother, Grams, despite not being able to remember what she ate for breakfast that morning, would listen to her favorite Elvis songs and remember every word to them. And something similar happened as I sang for these sweet people. 

    One particular instance filled my heart with joy as I sang for the residents at Jubilee House. Ms. Willie, who has been a soprano singer throughout her life, was lost in the music. She could recall every lyric of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" and was harmonizing perfectly. She continued to do this with every hymn that we sang and became more and more confident as the music went on. Music truly does have power! 

    When I feel discouraged, or wonder why I do what I do, it's moments like these that encourage me. I know that music is a gift and the benefits of sharing are worth it! "When words fail, music speaks," Shakespeare.

Serbia 

    As most of you know, I took two amazing weeks this summer and went on a trip to Serbia. I have always loved to travel, experience new cultures, and most importantly, share Christ's love with those around me; so, when this opportunity came my way I couldn't refuse it. Some may say I'm crazy for getting on a plane with people I've never met before and flying across the globe to a country I've never heard of, but it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I wouldn't take it back for anything. While we were in Serbia, we helped lead a week-long English camp with Josiah Venture. While there, we help students improve their conversational English skills, encourage them, and teach them stories from the Bible. So, I want to jump right into what made my two weeks in Serbia so amazing! 

    I want to start by giving you some insight into Serbian culture. Even though I understand very little of the culture, this is what I learned in the two weeks I was there. To set the climate, we have to keep in mind that Serbia is a shame and honor culture. This means if I were to do something that put me to shame, there would be a large threat of ostracism and my past mistakes being emphasized over victories. The level of encouragement students hear over the week at camp is not the norm. It was incredible to see them open up as we encouraged them in their strengths as opposed to pointing out their flaws. I had several students tell me they weren't looking forward to going back to school because the environment is so negative and discouraging. For many of these students, camp is a break from the negativity.  

    I want to share one story that is so special to me and continues to touch my heart as I think back to it. The second night of camp we were in our discussion groups. Galé had shared a touching story from the Bible of how Jesus loves us like the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one. I was hopeful that this would touch my student's hearts and we would have a meaningful conversation. To make them more comfortable, the discussion groups were in Serbian. Even though I didn't know what was being said, I could tell it was good. Afterward, I pulled one of the students aside and asked him what happened. He shared with me that last year he came to camp with a heavy burden. He felt empty. Like something was missing. That something was Jesus. When he realized this, he decided he wanted Jesus to take that burden and emptiness he was feeling. He asked Him to be the Lord of his life, and immediately he felt joy. He felt like that burden was lifted and that void was filled! He had shared this with the group and I was so proud of him. He told me he was so excited for the upcoming week at camp because he wanted to know how to become closer to God and continue to feel that excitement and joy He gives.  

    What this amazing young man shared is something every Christian experiences. You accept the gift Christ has given to you and you're excited to share it with others, but that excitement begins to fade. I'm asking God in prayer that He would bless this young man for sharing and renew his joy. I'm praying the same for myself. I'm praying I would never forget how exciting it is to be a child of God!