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The soundtrack

Forgive me for this slightly nostalgic and self-indulgent post. But it is my birthday. And my blog.

Earlier this year I wrote about 2017 being The Year of Living 40 and included a list of 40 things I planned to accomplish or do this year in honor of turning 40. I’ve been trying to keep myself accountable…I’ve even got a spreadsheet! (thankfully ridding myself of my A-type personality was not on this year’s list)

One of the items on my list was to make a playlist of my favorite 40 songs and listen to it often. Seemed easy enough, right? Until I tried to narrow it down to just 40 songs. I actually started with 130-something. After a lot of editing, I finally got it down to 75 and that’s as far as I can go. Because it turns out that music is innately tied to memories and there are some songs that are so visual in my mind’s eye that I cannot leave them off the list. Yes, as it turns out, my life has a soundtrack.

So, as homage to my first 40 years, here is the soundtrack of my life…in a somewhat chronological order of the memory the song is tied to, not necessarily the order of when the songs themselves were released.

  1. Country Roads – John Denver (1977 – born in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, this song has obvious meaning and connection. I also remember hearing this song playing on the radio in my dad’s old red Datsun 280z.)
  2. Superstar – The Carpenters (1979 – OK so maybe I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard this song, but I grew up on the Carpenters and to this day I have to belt this song whenever it comes on)
  3. Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog (Because I grew up on the Muppets.)
  4. Longer – Dan Folgerberg
  5. Beautiful – Carol King (Another one I grew up on. Still one of my all-time favorite girl-anthems)
  6. Imagine – John Lennon
  7. Yesterday – The Beatles
  8. Let it Be – The Beatles (I’m lumping together my favorite Beatles songs here. I honestly can’t remember the first time I heard them. Being born in the late-70’s it felt like the Beatle’s music was just always there and always special)
  9. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
  10. Piano Man – Billy Joel
  11. Eternal Flame – The Bangles
  12. One Moment in Time – Whitney Houston (My first cassette tape every was Whitney)
  13. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
  14. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel (Because the movie “Say Anything” came out and every girl wanted John Cusack to stand outside her window with a giant boom-box playing this song)
    1988
  15. Angel Eyes – Jeff Healey Band (1989 – I was in the 6th grade and had my first slow dance with a boy at the middle school Valentine’s Day dance. His name was Jeff Brown and I’d had a crush on him since the 4th grade. His mom picked me up and drove us to the dance and he brought me a heart-shaped cake…because cake is way better than flowers! I can’t hear this song and not think of that.)
  16. Faith – George Michael
  17. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
  18. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – Righteous Brothers (1990 – The movie “Top Gun” had just come out and I had one of the best weeks of my childhood at my favorite summer camp and we sang this song all. week. long. As a result, the following year I went to my first concert with my BFF from summer camp – The Righteous Brothers at Wolf Trap.)
    1990
  19. Place in This World – Michael W. Smith (December 1990 – I received my first Michael W. Smith cassette tape, “Go West Young Man” and that was all she wrote.)
  20. Beautiful In My Eyes – Joshua Kadison (Must have played this CD 100 million times)
  21. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (1990’s – Even though I know I had heard their music earlier in life, it wasn’t until sometime in high school that I really discovered Simon & Garfunkel and I was completely changed forever)
  22. Hotel California – The Eagles (1994 – I was in the Color Guard all through highschool and for some reason every time we traveled to an away game somebody played this song on the bus.)
  23. Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
  24. You Got It – Bonnie Raitt
  25. We Shall Be Free – Garth Brooks
  26. Somebody to Love – Queen
  27. I Still Believe – Miss Saigon Soundtrack (1993 – My Aunt Peggy took me to see Miss Saigon at the Kennedy Center and I bawled my eyes out for most of the show. This started my love-affair with Broadway musicals)
  28. This is the Time – Billy Joel (1995 – This was the theme song for our senior prom)
  29. It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – Boyz 2 Men (1995 – High School graduation)
  30. Friends – Michael W. Smith (1995 – more High School graduation)
  31. Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks
  32. Change The World – Eric Clapton (Summer of 1996 – met this boy named David on my first summer home from college. We only got to date for about 6 weeks before I had to head back to North Carolina, but those 6 weeks were the start of something big)
  33. Head Over Feet – Alanis Morissette
  34. Power of Two – Indigo Girls
  35. Least Complicated – Indigo Girls (1996 – I was introduced to the Indigo Girls by my old friend and college roommate, Mary, coincidentally the same girl who introduced me to Michael W. Smith back in 1990. I owe her a lot! The first — and only — time I camped out overnight for concert tickets was when Indigo Girls came to Boone)
    1997
  36. Drift Off to Dream in My Arms – Travis Tritt
  37. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (Our go-to karaoke song when I was in college and went out with my girlfriends)
    1999-2
  38. Haven’t Seen For a While – Pat McGee Band (1997, I think. David and I accidentally discover Pat McGee Band when they open for John Secada (who remembers him?) This became one of “our songs” because long distance relationships are hard)
  39. Wonder – Natalie Merchant
  40. Come Some Rainy Day – Wynona
  41. Strawberry Wine – Deana Carter
  42. Straight To the Heart – Michael W. Smith
  43. Meet in the Middle – Diamond Rio (1998 – My friend Jamie and I got to co-host the country radio show, “Kickin’ Country”, on our college campus radio station Thursday nights. Most of the time it was an alternative rock station, so the only people that tuned in to hear the country show were our friends, but we had so much fun! This was one of the songs we played a lot)
    1998
  44. Pray for Me – Michael W. Smith (1999 – College graduation)
  45. Carolina on My Mind – Jame Taylor (1999 – long time fan of James Taylor, this song took on a whole new meaning after living in North Carolina for four years. Truly some of the best memories of my life)
    1999.jpg
  46. Open Arms – Journey
  47. Dog & Butterfly – Heart
  48. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
  49. Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen
  50. The Other Side of Me – Michael W. Smith
  51. Love of My Life – Michael W. Smith (May 20, 2000 – marry the love of my life)
    2000
  52. I Can Only Imagine – Mercy Me
  53. Seasons of Love – Rent Soundtrack
  54. Your Song – Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (from Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
  55. Danny’s Song – Kenny Loggins (August 2002 – find out I’m pregnant with Hannah)
  56. Life Is Beautiful – Keb Mo
  57. Angel From Montgomery – Susan Tedeschi
  58. In My Daughter’s Eyes – Martina McBride (March 26, 2003 – Hannah is born)
    2003
  59. I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders
  60. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
  61. Hope for Me Yet – Marc Broussard
  62. One Boy, One Girl – Colin Raye (October 20, 2005 – Daniel and Olivia are born)
    2005
  63. Real Live Woman – Trisha Yearwood
  64. Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw
  65. Stars Align – Jamie Prosser (My best friend writes this song and later records it on her first full-length CD)
  66. 100 Years – Five for Fighting
  67. Defying Gravity – Wicked Soundtrack
  68. For Good – Wicked Soundtrack (2010 – See “Wicked” on Broadway for the first time)
  69. Broken Together – Casting Crowns
  70. Blessings – Laura Story
  71. You Won’t Let Go – Michael W. Smith (2014 – Started my blog…and unbeknownst to me, the early seeds of ministry)
  72. Still the One – Orleans (May 2015 – David and I celebrate 15 years of marriage)
  73. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin
  74. Fight Song – Rachel Platten
  75. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
    family

 

Mom, are we still moving to Canada?

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:13-15

About 12 months ago I was in the car with my kids and, I don’t remember how the topic came up but, I recall uttering the words, “If Trump is elected President we’re moving to Canada!” Maybe not my finest parenting moment, but it was an honest reflection of how I felt at that moment and continued to feel over the coming months as I watched events that led up to the election in November.

During that time our kids asked a lot of questions of my husband and I about who we planned to vote for (spoiler: we did not agree on this) and why. In the past, I have mostly kept politics out of conversations with my kids, but 2016, as you know, was one big media frenzy and even 11 and 13 year olds without phones or social media knew what was going on. They heard talk at school, and caught bits of sound bites on the TV. So I tried to be honest with them about my views and reasoning in a manner that was both age-appropriate and processed through a lens of kindness and fairness, and not the fear or anger that had fueled the moving to Canada comment.

Still that comment stuck with my kids, and they have asked several times over the last two months if we were really going to move to Canada.

I have struggled to find a suitable response for my kids, not because I’m not sure if we’re moving (we are not) but because I don’t know how to express my thoughts and feelings in an honest way while also ensuring they will not be filled with fear or doubt about the security of their future.

To be perfectly honest, I have spent the last few months trying to process my feelings about what the next 4-8 years will hold. My Facebook news feed is pretty well split down the middle between people who are angry and scared, and people filled with hope and satisfaction. I’ve tried to take nothing personal. I haven’t unfriended anyone, or posted any scathing commentary on my wall or anyone else’s. I’ve read the articles and watched the videos and just tried to understand what is fueling each person’s feelings. People I truly love and respect on either side of the coin…and I’ve been trying to look for the common ground…the meet in the middle. And it’s been elusive.

I’ve read posts from those who are scared for their futures, and that of their children, called to protest and exercise their free speech. And I understand the why behind that fear and celebrate the passion and drive to exercise their Constitutional freedoms, but still struggled with whether it is a step toward solidarity and a better tomorrow or just fueling division.

I’ve read commentary from those with high hopes and expectations, waiting to see the change they expect and have hoped for. And I believe they truly want the best and right things for their children and for this country. But I have struggled with whether frustration with status quo hasn’t allowed too many to believe change at any cost is still needed change, or that the ends justify the means.

I’ve read heart-felt articles from others who felt there was no good option available and, feeling let down by their country they have decided the best thing to do is pray and leave it all in God’s hands. While I have agreed with the importance of praying and remembering who is ultimately in control, I have still struggled with whether that approach will lead to apathy and give people permission to withdraw and hide.

And so I haven’t been able to find where I fit, to which camp I align.  They all seem to be missing something. And call me naive, but I’ve felt, deep down, surely there must be a place where we can all come together and figure out how we take that next step toward tomorrow, a step toward good and right and fair, and a better tomorrow for our children, even if we disagree with one another on exactly what that step should look like.

Then today, I read this article from the Chicago Tribune citing President Obama’s final thoughts as President, thoughts on what tomorrow and the future will look like for his daughters. And this was it. This was what I had been feeling but didn’t know how to articulate. In particular, this quote is what stood out to me: “They need to be active citizens, and they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future coworkers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury.”

He was, of course talking about his daughters. But it could really be about all of us. About every American becoming an active citizen and doing something to elicit the change they desire. Every person being willing to talk openly and honestly in a way that is respectful and kind, instead of  belligerent, arrogant, or defensive. Every person wanting and striving to be a light of hope and unity instead of a cloud of anger and division.

So to all of my friends and family who are scared about the future and angry that our Presidential office is not being held to higher standards, I say: Call your congressman and senator, sign petitions, write letters, go march. Let your voice be heard (and not just on Facebook and Twitter). Exercise your right to be an American. But remember while you are doing it how it is a right, but also a privilege many don’t have and that makes us lucky to live here.

To my friends and family who are excited and optimistic about what tomorrow will bring and hoping for great change, I say: Keep being optimistic! We need hope and optimism right now. But just remember that while there might be drastic changes needed to our overall political system, change should not come at any price. And what’s more, change never happened at the hands of just one person, so we should never put all of our hope in one office.

And to my friends and family who feel they have no choice but to leave things in God’s hands, trusting Him as sovereign over all men, I say: Yes. Yes He is. So let’s keep praying. But also, let’s go serve at a soup kitchen, pick up a hammer and help build a house, sign up to be a big brother or sister, and buy a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you. Let’s trust God has this, but not use that as an excuse to hide in our homes waiting out the next four years or become complacent about the realities around us.

To my children, I say: No, we are not moving to Canada. Because there is a lot of work to be done to keep America great. In our home, at school, and in our community there are things we can do every day to show love, compassion, and acceptance. Because that is where the heart of our nation beats…not in a big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

galatians5
photo credit: Thomas Hawk Flag via photopin (license)

I love you more: A Good Friday message and giveaway

The scariest question I can think of is one that I ask myself all too often: What if I love them more than they love me?

For as long as I can remember it’s been my biggest fear and worry, that the people I love the most don’t love me back, with the same fervor. Or that at some point in time I will do or say something to cause them to stop loving me.

It’s a terrible thing to live with that kind of fear — fear that I am not worthy of unfailing love.

That I am not enough.

There have been relationships in my life where I saw my fears come true. When love turned away. When it left. When it turned out to have conditions.

Have you been there, too?

But when I was 19 years old I began to understand, for the first time in my life, that there is one love that’s different.

There is One who is love and whose love comes without condition. One who loves me more than I could ever love in return.

It was during my first year of college that I attended a retreat led by the campus Lutheran student group I was part of and students at nearby college Lenoir-Rhyne. On the second evening of the retreat we were taken into a small amphitheater in the woods. There was nothing on the stage except a cross with a light shining on it. We sat in silence for a few moments and then we heard the voices of the retreat leaders as they began to recite the Stations of the Cross.

I sat there in those dark woods, staring at that cross and listening to those voices act out the story of what Jesus went through in his final hours. The hair on the back of my neck stood as they described the insults hurled at Him from the crowd. I flinched when they depicted the nails being hammered into His wrists and feet as the sound of a hammer striking metal echoed through the woods. And I sobbed as they recounted the words He said before taking His last breath.

I had been a Christian most of my life and, intellectually I knew that Jesus had died for me. I grew up hearing about His death and resurrection, but until that night 20 years ago — sitting in the woods, staring at a cross and hearing the story come alive around me — I did not understand the love that was the impetus for His death.

 

As a child and teen I always wondered at the name Good Friday. What was so “good” about Jesus being beaten, tortured, and murdered, while his family and closest friends watched? To me it seemed all the “good” came on Easter when He rose from the grave. Now that was some good stuff! Reason to celebrate. But Friday – the day he died a brutal death?  It seemed to me a more fitting name would be “Somber Friday”.

And if you’ve ever been to a Good Friday church service then you know that “somber” is definitely the mood, too. The Good Friday services I’ve been to feel a bit like attending a funeral. Everyone whispers in hushed tones, feeling the weight of all that happened on this day nearly 2,000 years ago. There is rarely any music or singing  (at least in the churches I’ve been in), just a shroud of sadness and darkness that fills the air.

And yes, there is something appropriate about that somberness, about the solemn reverence. But there is also something beautiful, hopeful, and good about this day, too.

It is the day that God said: I love you more.

John3-16

I will admit that sometimes I forget this – not the act, but the love behind it. Sometimes I still ask myself that scary question and worry that I will never be loved enough.

Last year I attended a women’s conference and the team from Fashion & Compassion was there. As I perused their beautiful hand-made items, I found this necklace that simply said Loved, and I knew I was meant to have it and to wear it as a constant reminder that I am loved by my heavenly Father – without condition or limits.

A reminder that I am loved back; that I am loved more.

I’d like to “share the love”, if you will, by giving away one of these beautiful sterling silver Love necklaces from Fashion & Compassion, as well as a copper Love key chain (for those women who don’t like to wear necklaces, or for the few brave guys who read my blog).

Here’s how you can win one of these items.

  1. First, send this post to a friend who needs to be reminded that they are loved, or share via social media if you think all of your friends need to hear this message!
  2. Once you’ve shared this article, please comment on the post (either directly at the bottom of this page in the Comments section OR on the original Facebook post) with these words: I am loved. If you are commenting directly here on the blog, please be sure to enter your name and email. I have no way to contact you if you win without this information.
  3. On Friday, April 1st I will select two winners, at random, to receive the necklace or the key chain.

 

Happy GOOD Friday!

While I’ve been away…

Friends, sorry for the weeks of silence. I took a long-overdue vacation with my husband (read: kid-free!!) to South Africa, on the back of a work trip. I needed a break from the laptop, and some time to just spend in God’s creation with my love. We spent most of the week in the Mpumalanga region in South Africa, which is breathtakingly stunning. The irony of God’s creation is sometimes being in the vast expanses of His work is when you feel His presence the most. And that’s what I had, a week of moments that stole my breath, filled my heart, and fed my spirit.

Here are just a few pictures from our trip.

Bongoni Mountain Lodge
View of Mpumalanga from top of Bongoni Mountain Lodge
Sweet baby elephant following mama
Sweet baby elephant following mama
God was just showing off when we created these guys.
God was just showing off when we created these guys.
One of the rescued chimps at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden in Nelspruit
One of the rescued chimps at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden in Nelspruit
If the last picture was God's Window, this is certainly God's canvas. The most breathtaking view I've ever seen. Blyde River Canyon.
God’s canvas. The most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen. Blyde River Canyon.
This viewpoint on the Panorama Route is called God's Window. Fitting, isn't it?
This viewpoint on the Panorama Route is called God’s Window. Fitting, isn’t it?
David and I at Blyde River Canyon.
David and I at Blyde River Canyon.
Serenity and peace.
Serenity and peace.

A personal note…

Dear friends,

Happy new year! As we enter a new year, I want to take a moment to thank you for supporting this blog and ministry in 2014. I’ve been humbled and encouraged by all God has done through this site in its first six months and I’m very excited to see what He has in store for us in 2015!

I know things have been a bit quiet here at Neither Height Nor Depth in the last month; I decided to take a few weeks off to spend time with my family over the holidays. But I’m back and working on a couple of projects I’m excited to share with you in the coming days. I also have something big in the works that is new and different from anything I’ve done! So stay tuned…lots of exciting things to be announced in the next few weeks.

Blessings,

Jelise