Dannah's new book, Get Lost, she traces God’s language of love through Scripture to help you pursue your heart’s deepest desires and seek love the way God designed it to be. Because once you identify your true longings and let God answer them, you’ll know just how to respond when romantic love comes along.
I exchanged a few questions with Dannah recently and wanted to share them with you.
What made you interested in being an author?
I have loved writing since I was very small. Entered a national poetry contest when I was in first grade and won. Haven't stopped since. The catch is that when I was a teenager I dreamed of being a fiction writer. If only! God calls me to write the truth of my life transparently so that others can learn from my hurt and heartache without taking the field trip themselves!
My mom! Her faith led me to Christ and she has been a prayer warrior for me through the years. I long to have her selflessness and purity of heart.
What does your family do to relax?
We live on a hobby farm with horses, peacocks, llamas, fainting goats, chickens, dogs and cats. Relax might not be the right word, but we like loving them. (Translation: We muck stalls, throw hay and herd them when they get loose).
Coffee or tea?
I'm a tea girl, but everyone on my tour team drinks coffee so they are slowly winning me over. I'm up to half a cup of coffee with half a cup of milk in it! Of course, they say I am a wimp.
"The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Proverbs11:25 (NLT)
I tried my best to smile for the camera in the grocery store. Tears welled up in my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks, dragging my mascara along for the ride. I had one toddler on my hip and a baby on the way, a pressing concern when our only income was from my husband who was paid straight commission. Some weeks he earned money; others brought no paycheck at all.
That day in the store, my budget was so tight my dollars squeaked! As a result, I had to remove a few items from the conveyer belt as I watched the total mount. As I paid for my order, the cashier handed me a scratch-off card from the store's current promotion. Customers could get money off of their order by matching dollar amounts revealed on the card.
I used a dime to rub away the shiny silver coating, revealing a $10 match! Smiling, I handed the clerk the card and asked for the "can't afford them" items back. "Sure!" she replied. "Now, do you want to use the remainder of your prize today or on another trip?"
My puzzled look must have clued her in. "What?" I questioned. She then showed me I'd actually won $100! A manager quickly snapped my picture to display alongside the other smiling winners on the store's wall. Only in my photo, my smile was saturated with grateful mascara-smudged tears.
During those lean days God always took care of us, often through generous people in our lives: groceries left anonymously on our porch, cash in an envelope tucked under our windshield after church, and hand-me-down clothes from an acquaintance who wanted to share her children's outgrown clothes.
We learned to live frugally during that time, and yet God also challenged us to give. As we did, we found ourselves blessed. Sometimes monetarily. Always spiritually.
Nowadays, although at times our family experiences layoffs due to the nature of my husband's employment, we are in a place where we can more consistently be the "bless-er" and not just the ones being blessed. What a thrill it is to treat, secretly pay, or stealthily provide as we ourselves become spiritually blessed and ultimately God—the giver of all things—is glorified. As Proverbs 11:25 states, "The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed" (NLT).
Will you willingly contribute to God's work and also to others, refreshing them as God also refreshes you? What we have—both our money and possessions—all belongs to God. When we give, we receive. The boomerang of blessing comes right back around.
How might you seek to display generosity toward someone today? You just might make their day. Or perhaps, even make their mascara run.
Dear Lord, teach me to treat all I have as Yours. May I give willingly and cheerfully as I seek to be a blessing to those in my life who might need a helping hand. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Name a time when you were blessed by someone's generosity, whether in person or anonymously. How did it make you feel to be the recipient of their kindness?
Do you know someone who is currently in financial need? Bless them this week with either money or needed items.
2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver." (HCSB)
Matthew 6:3-4, "But when you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (HCSB)
The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 1 Kings 3:2-3
High places haunt, hurt, and hinder your relationship with God because they are direct competitors with Jesus. They are altars of worship from your past that you never completely destroyed or removed from your life. You are deceived when you think they can coexist with Christ and not bring you harm. You tolerate them; even thinking your love for the Lord allows you to have this mistress, who in fact, derails you into not finishing well. The wisest man in the world, next to Jesus, learned this the hard way. Solomon thought he was smarter than God (not so wise), and went to the high place of degrading marriage. But it blew up in his face by debilitating his family. His high place of pride kept him from experiencing God’s best and from finishing well. No one is immune from sin’s insidious outcome.
Your high place may be the propensity to drink too much; indeed, alcohol has become your altar of escape. Or you may be secretly serving the god of sex. The Internet with its streaming video or publications with their glossy photos have captured your affections in direct opposition to your devotion to Christ. Your high place may be the residue of salty language, eating too much, or exercise—either the lack of it or the obsession with it. High places are indiscriminate; they bring down celebrity Christians and everyday followers of Jesus. God’s remedy is to rid them from your life and destroy them before they destroy you. Paul described your need for and the ability to discard your old habits and put on new spiritual disciplines in Christ:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Hunker down in your faith and ask heaven to help you obliterate the high places in your heart. Ask your spouse or a trusted friend to help you identify and define them. Then invite them to hold you accountable to a process of removing high places from your home and work. Your high place may be as obvious as anger or as discreet as undisciplined thinking. It may be necessary for you to add or uninstall software on your computer. The seriousness of its influence on your life may require a drastic step such as dumping your boyfriend or girlfriend or changing jobs. If it is the high place of money, ignore its allure by giving more away. Develop friendships that have nothing to do with finances, only an opportunity to grow a relationship without getting something in return.
Above all else, go to the low place of increasing your dependence on God and decreasing your dependence on yourself. He must increase and you must decrease (John 3:30 KJV). Your path to heaven, absent of high places, leads you into a life that finishes well.
Your worship is much higher than high places; it is Jesus and Jesus alone.
Post/Tweet: Go to the low place of increasing your dependence on God and decreasing your dependence on yourself. #lowplace
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37).
My words are a reflection of my heart. When Christ captures my heart, my words are measured and meaningful. A heart pregnant with the Lord’s purposes produces good fruit for its recipients. When my heart avoids the Almighty’s instruction, my words become careless. They wound and bring harm to hearers who receive my insensitivity.
We communicate better when we understand the gravity of undisciplined speech. There is an accountability from God that one day gauges what we have said. No idle word will miss the microscope of our Master’s judgment. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). The Holy Spirit bridles our tongues with words of great worth.
So does your speech represent your Savior well? Do your words incubate in a heart of intimacy with God and accountability with man? Like a thoughtful and creative artist, use your words to paint a picture that provides understanding and instruction. Prepare your heart in prayer before you speak in a meeting or prior to a performance review. At home resolve to be respectful in all matters of conversation, and others will reciprocate.
Careless words are best corralled by Christ’s calming presence. When He seasons our speech with grace, there is a gravitas that gains the attention of the most unsuspecting souls. It is when the Lord speaks through us that we experience the best communication. Indeed, a humble heart full of Christ’s courage carries the right words at the right time. Speak with bold clarity, and trust God with the results. Convert careless words to kind ones.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6 nkjv).
Prayer: Are my words measured in prayer? Do I speak with accountability to God in mind?
Related Readings: Psalm 139:4; Proverbs 18:21; Job 15:3; Ephesians 5:4
Post/Tweet: Careless words are best corralled by Christ’s calming presence. #Christcalms
“Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts.” Proverbs 19:6
Do you act differently when you are in the presence of power? Are you able to be yourself and not become pretentious because of someone’s position? Leaders need people around them who will tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. If you are intimidated or awestruck by wealth and stature, you will tend not to tell the truth for fear of rejection or punishment. Bold believers bow down to no one but the Lord God.
Fake followers of Jesus are in it for what others can do for them. Faith is replaced with favors. Receiving is valued over giving; self-service is sought over sacrifice. Casual Christianity is an affront to Almighty God, because it creates an inauthentic culture. If there is no confrontation or hard discussion, then life is being lived in a bubble of denial and disillusionment. Someone needs to speak up and be real.
Leaders can preclude pretense by deflecting any air of superiority. Your transparency over loss and disappointment gives the team permission to express their anxieties. Take time to confess your struggles and inability to trust Christ at times. People in positions of influence have an obligation to invite honest evaluation. When was the last time you asked your family or team how you can serve them? What disappoints them?
Lastly, are you willing to lose a friend for the sake of being real? Genuine grace-filled followers of God are like gold. They are valuable, and wise leaders seek to retain them for their honesty and no-nonsense counsel. Do I have secure people around me who will tell me the truth? Do I honor honesty and appreciate authenticity? Loyalty longs to be around a friend who only seeks favor from the Lord Jesus Christ.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Prayer: Heavenly Father help me to stay true to You and myself in the presence of power.
Related Readings: 1 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 3:10; Philippians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:7
Post/Tweet today: We need people around us who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. #accountability
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV 1984)
As we stood in the parking lot outside my daughter's dorm, waves of grief washed over me. Lauren hugged her daddy and then her brother. Finally, I held her for what seemed an eternity ... no words, just tears.
When we began the drive home, I prayed for her, just as I had every day for the last 18 years. I knew it was time for the next phase of God's plan for her life. But the ache in my heart was deep.
As time passed, I learned to accept, and even embrace, our new normal. I enjoyed the extra time I got to spend with my husband and son.
But I couldn't get used to not encouraging Lauren in her faith face-to-face. We sent her to college with a Bible and a devotional book. But when she lived at home, we did these activities together. In the mornings, we read a devotion and I prayed with her most every day, from the time she was born till the day she packed her bags to move out.
Questions filled my mind. Without me, who would do this for her? Would she do it on her own? What if she turned away from her faith we'd been building for so long?
My questions prompted me to pray very specifically. I prayed for Lauren to make her faith her own, as I'd been training her to do all these years. I asked the Lord to work in her life in very real and personal ways, just like the times I'd pointed out for her to notice in her childhood. I prayed for His Spirit to stir her heart to read her devotional book each day, and I pleaded with Him to meet her in the pages of His Word.
God answered my prayers in a way only He can do. Lauren had been studying for her economics exam for days. She was worried she would fail because she'd been struggling with some of the concepts. My daughter texted me and a few good friends to pray. I wrote her back my prayer and a verse the Lord laid on my heart, Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" (ESV). As it was sending, I prayed for Him to use this verse to encourage her and give her confidence as she walked into her exam.
I woke up the next morning to find this text from my girl:
"I opened my devotional and today's truth was Proverbs 3:5, exactly the verse you gave me!! ENCOURAGEMENT."
God taught me such a powerful lesson that morning. My role as a parent is to pray for and with my children and to model, to the best of my ability, what it means to be a godly woman. I was not perfect and often missed the mark. But when we do those two things, God fills in the rest. I only have them at home to teach, guide and train in God's Word for a short 18 years. But they are His for all their lives.
God showed me through a few minutes of texting that Lauren's faith was still building. On her own, she asked for prayer (which meant she too was praying), and she was reading her devotional book with no prompting from home.
If you have kids at home, pray for them, read God's Word with them and rest in knowing God is with them. You are building a firm foundation. You are paving a pathway that will lead them in the direction they should go.
Dear Lord, help me to train my children in the way they should go. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, lead me as I lead them. Draw each of us closer to You as we walk together in faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Read Lamentations 2:19. Prayerfully ask the Lord how you can pray for the children in your life.
If you are a parent or grandparent, pray specifically for one of your children. Ask God for wisdom to guide you on how to pray and share with that child you are praying for him or her.
Lamentations 2:19a, "Rise up during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children." (NLT)
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions [at least 60,000] of angels? Matthew 26:53
Angels are at our Heavenly Father’s beckoning. They are poised at His prompting to support, protect and care for His children. Jesus could have called on a company of heavenly help, but He resisted and remained in the crucible of the Cross. He had an out for His suffering, however His great love led Him to sacrifice His life, so He could save mankind from sin. God’s angel armies are His agents who minister to our needs, but they may not necessarily deliver us from evil.
Your Father in heaven has His angels assigned to your well being. They constantly experience the glory of God, so they can surround you with His glory. Since your angels see the face of the Lord, they are your support to face your difficulties. You have no need to fear, because the God of angel armies stands beside you, in front of you, behind you, above you and below you. You are covered by His host of angels. Thank the Lord of Hosts for His help in your time of need.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10
Also, beware of bad angels who have fallen from the presence of God. Their pride drove them to displace God, because they wanted to be God. Lucifer lost the Lord’s favor and was cast into hell. Therefore, seek discernment to expose these impostors of angelic light. Oppose those who are counterfeit leaders, who lead unscrupulously in Jesus' name. These angels of darkness have dark motives that seek to darken our minds with selfish desires. Beware of bad angels!
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
Above all, look for the angelic armies of Almighty God to defeat Satan’s forces on the spiritual battlefield. Like Job, your Heavenly Father’s strategy may be to use your faithfulness in the middle of suffering to disarm the devil’s plan to discredit your faith. Your obedience is oxygen to your spiritual lungs. Moreover, your angels adore the Lord with praise. Their example of genuine worship is worth emulating. Yes, your angels have God’s authority to support His will for you!
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. Revelation 18:1
Prayer: Heavenly Father I bow at your throne of truth and trust you as my King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
My two sisters and I always wanted brothers.
Prayed for brothers.
Begged our parents for brothers.
So when the decision was made to adopt two boys from Africa, my sisters and I were in awe the miracle was happening! Our mom and dad assured us it was real and God was behind it all—He had tugged at their hearts, He had prepared these boys and our family, and He had called us all to say "yes."
Our saying yes to God as a family to adopt our brothers made me want to say yes to Him in all areas of my life.
That's when I promised God my life would be His mission field and I'd be sold out to serving anywhere He sent me.
When I was 14 years old, I went on my first mission trip to Nicaragua. I fell in love with the whole experience. Even though I had happily said yes, the trip was difficult. I was totally outside my comfort zone. But any initial craziness and chaos gave way to great joy and peace.
The following summer I went to Ethiopia where I got to see a different way of life on the other side of the world. I experienced jitters being in a foreign land with a language, culture, and food I didn't understand, but the adjustment time was short and my passion grew great.
Since that trip I have taken several more to Nicaragua, including one where I helped run a foot-and-shoe clinic. We welcomed everyone who visited the clinic, washed their feet, prayed for them, and then helped them choose a pair of shoes. It was incredibly humbling to serve the people from these two countries.
They are grateful for their lives. Very few have anything of material value, yet their gratitude and joy flows without ceasing. They laugh, sing, dance, and give generously without holding back ... even to a stranger like me. I went to give. Yet, I was the one who received.
I've found that when I say yes to God, a joy fills me and motivates me to be close to Him and to walk in His will. It makes me want to keep asking Him how He can use my life as a mission field, any where from my home to my hometown to around the world.
We don't have to go overseas to do missions work. Opportunities are all around. Who has God placed in front of you that needs help? Who in your family needs support? Which friend has been struggling with a temptation or a broken heart?
When God works through us to meet the needs of others—that's missions.
Let's turn our everyday life into God's mission field. I think we'll be amazed at what He does as we step out of our comfort zone and partner with Him!
Dear Lord, I want You to use me to love and bless someone today. Show me exactly how I can serve Your people, even if it's in the smallest way. I'm trusting You to move in my heart and in the hearts of those around me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do you know a young woman who needs to be equipped and encouraged in her relationship with God? Read more about Hope TerKeurst's (Lysa TerKeurst's oldest daughter) journey of radical obedience as a teenager in What Happens When Young Women Say Yes to God, co-written together. Click here to purchase your copy!
Reflect and Respond:
How can you bless those around you? Turn your everyday life into a mission field!
Think about your job, your relationships, and your interactions with others as extraordinary opportunities to serve someone else.
Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV)
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. Luke 11:21-22
Every life is ruled by self, Satan or a Savior. The desire for control crowns self, the believer of lies crowns the devil, and faith in Jesus Christ crowns a Savior. Self and Satan are strong. They can sit on the throne of a man or woman’s heart, but the Lord is stronger. The only competent ruler of a life is God, because He is the originator and sustainer of life. He is all wisdom and understanding. Above all, the Lord deserves all worship and glory as ruler. He is King of Kings!
If I try to reason what to do without God’s perspective, I lose the ability to make the best decision. I can seem strong as my possessions increase and I become smarter from evaluated experience. However, there is One stronger...Almighty God. It is foolish for me to crown myself King of my life when I am not qualified to do either: crown myself or be King. The enemy whispers vain suggestions of self sufficiency, but this is his plan to pull the strings of my pride.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Therefore, we are wise when we surrender to the authority and power of Almighty God. We crown Him as King over our life when we submit to His rule over our attitudes and actions. Since Jesus suffered under a cruel crown of thorns for our sins, we can crown Him as our Savior and Lord. Oh, the gratitude and praise that flows from our hearts to think that our King would die for us. Indeed, King Jesus has no equal. He alone rules us with grace, truth, love and holiness.
Have you completely and totally capitulated to Christ? Is every ounce of your being, being transformed by the truth and grace of God? It is in death to self that you find true life. It is in surrender to God that you find freedom in faith. It is out of respect for your Lord that you respect yourself. It is out of love for God that you love yourself and others. Bow, even lie prostrate at the foot of your Heavenly Father’s throne and He will lift you up strong in Him. He is your King!
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:7
Prayer: Heavenly Father I bow at your throne of truth and trust you as my King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
There’s nothing like life experience to provide a deeper, richer emotional palette for a songwriter to draw from when crafting new music. For Amy Grant, it’s been 10 years since her last full studio album and it’s been a decade marked by soul-shaking milestones. As she’s always done, Grant has embraced both the triumphs and challenges, distilled them to their essence and poured the lessons learned into songs that ache with honesty and reverberate with gentle wisdom.
How Mercy Looks From Here is the soundtrack of a life well-lived. “A lot of major life changes happened during these past few years.” Grant says. “So on this record, there’s zero filler. Every song has a real story behind it.”
In chatting with Amy, I saw, again, that here is a woman of deep faith. Deep love. Love for family. Love for art. Love for food. Yes, food. And love for God.
John: Before we talk about the new record, do you want to talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing over the last 10 or so years since the last new record? Is that too big of a question?
Amy: I’ve been… Ten years is a lot of life!
John: That’s a lot of life.
Amy: It’s not that I haven’t made music in 10 years. I’ve toured and just from a work standpoint, I never stopped working. Just had a little less energy for being in the studio. In the last 10 years, we’ve gone from four kids under the roof to one. It’s a big change. I have two daughters living in New York now, a son who’s getting his engineering and applied mathematics degree and then a lot of personal changes that you just never know when those things are going to happen.
There was the death of some good friends and my mom. A fellow musician, Will Owsley, who I’ve made a lot of music with. A good friend of mine who’ve I’ve played music with, my gosh, for 15 years, passed away in 2009. Anyway, I think there are times that are just sort of more creative, and there are times to just hunker down and be in life.
John: When you go through the process of creating art, is that something you more or less feel compelled from your own heart, where it just kind of flows from you? Or is it more structured than that? Do you sit down, and take the time to say, “Okay, now I have to work here.”
Amy: As far as song ideas, those just appear because they’re triggered by something. I might hold onto a song idea for quite some time before I sit down to put it into a song. Probably what makes me focus on an actual project is a deadline. I don’t know how you are in your life, you’re clearly a writer, but I don't know much time you make to sit down and just write for art’s sake. Since this last year I knew I had a record due and sometimes the responsibility of a deadline makes you disciplined. I consider it a gift.
John: Do you know how many songs you have written?
Amy: I don’t write 100 songs a year or anything like that. I’ve written only a couple songs some years, but I’ve done this for a long time, so I don’t know. Maybe a couple hundred.
John: Amy, you are a singer, you’re obviously a songwriter, you’re a musician, you’re an actress and you’re an author. How do you encourage some of the people that are reading this now, who feel like they have too much on their plate and they don’t have time being a wife or a mom or a daughter or a co-worker? How do you manage all of life?
Amy: I have to go back and say that I would use the term actress very loosely. I can’t speak for a man, but for a woman it might feel like we’re juggling all things at all times. But I think in reality that different things take priority, kind of in a revolving pattern. If you’re a working mom, there are times that a deadline at work forces you to put that on the front burner and there’s no rest until it’s done. I think maybe it’s good to say occasionally what matters the most, either to write it down or to talk about it with a good trusted friend.
If how you’re spending your time never matches up to what your priorities are, then I think we need to be honest and say, “This is my priority.” If something is a priority and it never matches up with the time that you’re spending on it, there needs to be a change in how we’re spending our time. I have done all those things, but someone told me that one time. Everybody’s life is so different that it’s hard to say what’s going to give someone more time.
The list of things I’ve done doesn’t tell you how I spend my time on a daily basis. For instance, we don’t eat out very much. You might think I do. Maybe it’s because when I’m on the road, I’m never digging into my own refrigerator. But I think the kitchen is the hub of the home. And because I travel so much with work, when we’re home, I’m almost always cooking something. I’m not a great cook, but I’m decent, so I always make sure there are good things in the refrigerator.
When I get really overwhelmed with work or I feel very scattered, I will go into the kitchen and start cooking. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. For someone who has a 9 to 5 job, that might not work so well. But you can do it on the weekends. I find that when I start cooking, I have time to think. People walk through the kitchen because they smell something good, and they go, “Hey, what’s that smell?” So there’s the social side of it too. And if you don’t have an idea at first of what you’re going to cook, just cut up some onions and put them in a little olive oil in the skillet and then it starts to smell good. My family may ask, “What is it?” I go, “I don’t know. I’m just buying time.” That’s just for me.
Cooking’s a very centering process. Somebody is always hungry and I’m cooking in mass, and so I know one of my friends is not going to have had time to make dinner or somebody I know might be sick, but I will just go, “Oh, man. I am feeling so scattered and really sad. I feel like I’m untethered. I can’t figure out what’s wrong,” so I start cooking. We all have our trigger points. For me, if I can start cooking, it gives me time to think, and then people come into the kitchen. My daughter will come in, sit on the kitchen counter and we just start talking. Anyway, those are some of the reasons I like it.
Amy: He only really cooks one meal a year, Christmas breakfast for the whole family. He loves to eat and so it’s nice to cook when you’ve got someone in the house who loves to eat.
John: Does he make the same Christmas meal every year?
Amy: It just kind of anything breakfast-y that you can think of.
John: He goes beyond just, “Here’s bowl of cereal.”
Amy: Yes. It’s like sausage, bacon, sometimes waffles, eggs. He started doing that years ago. It’s so nice to just sit there with a cup of coffee and watch him work. I like that.
John: That’s a nice gift. Amy, let’s talk a little bit about the new record, How Mercy Looks From Here. What went into that title as a theme?
Amy: It’s the title of one of the songs. I had that phrase floating around in my head for quite some time. I was anxious to write a song. I think the great thing about living for a while is that the longer you live, the less quick you are to say, “This is a good thing, this is a bad thing.” I just say, “Well, this is what it is, and now we live with this.”
John: In one of the lyrics in that song, I think you sang, “I would have given up drowning in my tears if it wasn’t for your voice all these years.” What’s behind that?
Amy: That song originally came from a really difficult time. I think the idea for that song was born in the first week of May, 2010. A lot of really awful things happened that week, and some really beautiful things as well. But with each extreme, what I experienced alone and what I experienced with my family was that we encountered a kind of gentle grace and mercy.
Some within, with each other. I’ll tell you what happened that week. It started off on a Friday, Will Owsley, a good friend of mine, a musician, killed himself. It was awful and I went to his home that night. His mom and dad had come up from Anniston, Alabama and we were all just in shock. Then it started raining on Saturday, the next day. The biggest flood that’s ever been in recorded history hit Nashville. I guess it crested on Monday. Like a lot of people, we were not physically hurt, but we lost a lot of things.
A lot of guitars that were at a storage facility and a rehearsal hall called Sound Check; probably all of our road cases and guitars. Of course in the wake of Will’s death, that seemed like nothing, but it was actually very difficult to even get in the car to go to his funeral because the roads were still flooded. Then it was also beautiful being with his family. And it was beautiful watching the community of Nashville come together to help each other out with the flood.
Then, as a family, we were anticipating the wedding of our oldest daughter, Jenny, which was that Saturday. We were forging ahead with this outdoor wedding in our yard and making those plans, putting up tents. The woman who was the wedding planner, and handles all the decorations, said her home was completely destroyed. She was living out of a hotel and we said, “What can we do?” She said, “You know what? I can’t get home until the water recedes.” Her car was, I mean, the whole thing was under water. She said, “I’m living in a hotel and I just want to lose myself in this celebration. At the beginning of a married couple’s life and I’ll just deal with the mud later.” Watching that, we were going, “Oh, my goodness!” It was the most beautiful, joyful coming together. All week there were preparations and it was just so great. My mom and dad were over every day. Then on Thursday, a cousin of mine was killed in Afghanistan. Friday morning I’m at their home mourning again. Extremes.
We were just talking about what a blessing he was. And his four siblings had sat around and made this recording with a friend of ours for several hours, reminiscing about family history. Just the timing of it was so merciful. Everybody was thankful for Skype, and that it hadn’t been months or weeks since they’d seen Adam’s face. Just processing, but feeling this sense of love and the mercy in the middle of it.
Then that night, we had Jenny’s rehearsal dinner in our front yard because the location had been rained out for her rehearsal dinner. Our house is at the top of a little hill on the street. She got married in the front yard, I mean the rehearsal dinner’s in the front yard and the next day the wedding was in the side yard and the reception was in the backyard. I got to tell you, that was such an emotional rollercoaster week, the whole thing. I came away from that week saying, “I feel like from every angle I have seen how mercy looks. “ It took a couple of years to write the song, but I kept going, “I’ve got to write that song ‘How Mercy Looks From Here.’”
John: I don’t want to say that all of your other records are not spiritual, because they certainly are, all of them are, but there are songs on here that go really deep. The one you were just talking about, “How Mercy Looks From Here,” which is the title track, and the first single “Don’t Try so Hard,” are quite spiritual. Has there been a spiritual awakening or a deep rootedness you’ve felt? You obviously have been talking about the various things that have happened in your life in the last few years, has God done something amazing?
Amy: Well, I think He always does. Whether you’re writing about it or not. I think that on this record, in particular, I wanted every song to matter. That came directly from a conversation I had with my mom. My mother passed away in April of 2011. It’s February, I was home from a road trip, kind of an extensive tour with Michael W. Smith, from Fall 2010 to the Spring of 2011. Anyway, I had gone by to see my mom and dad, they both suffered with dementia.
My dad’s still living and he has full blown dementia, but my mom … If you’re going to have to vote for a kind of dementia to have, Lewy Bodies is a good kind to have because it doesn’t change your personality. It just changes your relationship with reality. Sometimes it comes and goes, sometimes it seemed almost like she was in time travel or something like that.
One time my niece was visiting her and my mom was so excited. She confided in my niece that she thought she was pregnant, which would have been a nightmare since she was 78. But she was so excited about … My aunt Gracie said, “Doe, you’re 78. There’s no way you’re pregnant.” My mother’s like, “I am? That’s awful.”
And there was the time I had gone to see her in February. It was nighttime and we had our visit and then I said, “Mom, I’ve got to go pack and get back on the bus.” And she said, “Oh, you’re getting a bus.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m going to do a show. I’m traveling with Michael W. and I’ve been singing so much this year.” She went, “Ah, you sing?” Okay here we go… I said, “I do.” I’m so used to that pattern of her being there and then not being there. I said, “I do, I sing.”
“What kind of songs do you sing?” she asked. I told her and she asked, “Will you sing something for me?” So I did and she was so adorable. Then she said, “Can I go with you?” I pictured my mother crawling into one of those bunks and I said, “Maybe not this time. We’ll talk about it when I’m back in town.” I kissed her on the cheek and I was heading out the door and she said, “Hey, will you do me a favor?” I turned back and I said, “Sure, what?”
She said, “When you get on that stage, sing something that matters.” I said, “I will do that.” That was not our last conversation, but it was in the last eight weeks of her life. I’m dedicating this record to her. Gloria Napier Grant. I believe that was probably a driving force in the song choices. They’re not all of the spiritual nature, but they all matter.
John: Amy, on the song, “Deep As It Is Wide,” you have some quest vocals.
Amy: Yes, but that’s the only song on the record that I was not a part writer on.
John: Who are the other singers?
Amy: Erik Paslay. He wrote that song six years ago and I have loved it. I’ve had a copy of it for four years. I’ve loved it.
John: It’s a great song.
Amy: I’ve listened to it incessantly in the last months of my mom’s life. He is the one that gave me the permission to sing it with him. He wanted to do a group thing. Erik and Sheryl Crow and myself. I’m just crazy about that song and they’re both dear friends of mine. Erik and I were both at the studio, because we were working simultaneously with the same producer, Marshall Altman. I said, “Erik, either say yes we can do the song or no we can’t.”
He was really dragging his feet because so many people had asked him to record that song. Little Big Town wanted to record it, Lady Antebellum wanted to record it and he kept saying, “No.” I said, “Just say no, it’s okay.” He said, “No. I think I want you to be singing on this song,” and I said, “Okay, well great. What else? Do you want it to be like a group of singers?” He said, “I guess so.” As a songwriter, what you write, those are your gems. That’s clearly a great song. Erik will, hopefully, have a great career in country music.
I have good audience in the Christian music community and so I said, “Why don’t we ask Cheryl, because she’s more of the rock-n-roll background. That way we’re really speaking to three different communities. He said, “I like that. I like that.” Because really it’s about the song, especially that song. We called her up and she said, “I’m getting ready to lie down for a nap. I’ll listen to it as soon as I get down, and I’ll call you back.” She called back and said, “How did I get lucky straw to get to sing on this song?”
John: That’s great. Amy, do you have a passage in the Bible that you’re particularly close to right now?
Amy: That’s a good question. I spend a lot of time memorizing Scripture. I would say the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is swirling around my head currently. Really the whole thing, I think, because it dove tails with this book that I’m reading right now called The Epic of Eden. Who’s the author of that? Let me see. Sandra Richter is the author. She’s a professor at some seminary.
The songs on How Mercy Looks From Here represent a season of growth, yet as personal as they are, they are also universal. Everyone can relate to love, loss and the passing of time. “At some point in life you realize that some things really matter and some things don’t,” Grants says. “Living matters. Celebrating life matters. Seeing the value in hard times matters. Relationships and people matter. Faith matters. I feel like that’s where my head has been while writing and recording his project. I feel this is a very positive record. I hope it is life affirming. Life prepares us for the journey. You don’t know what’s ahead and that is one of the great things about getting older in a framework of faith. Faith is the one thing that stands the test of time.”
Amy Three Caregiving Tips
In this video, Amy talks about caring for her father who has profound dementia and what families can do to make this time one of meaning and spiritual growth.