// the kind of music that follows you. //


One of my most vivid memories of my time in our Arlington house (think kindergarten to midway through third grade) is when Dad let me have his CD player, and when I got my very own music for the first time. My music, not just listening to TobyMac and DC Talk and Skillet with my parents (much as I loved those bands too), but CDs that I could cherish and listen to whenever I wanted, where I could choose the song my heart wanted in that moment.

I still remember my first three CDs, too– Another Journal Entry by BarlowGirl, Dying For A Heart by Krystal Meyers, and With All Of My Heart by ZOEgirl. Christian girl bands defined my music taste in my growing-up years, and it was amazing. I loved those CDs, and those artists, and their songs. I downloaded them onto both the iPods I circulated through after the CD stage, too– and discovered even more songs by them, which was thrilling. (Thank you, iTunes and parents who were willing to pay for my music.) And I could still instantly recognize any of those songs today, even sing along with all my heart (though the lyrics may be off, as my seven-year-old interpretation of them left much to be desired).

Eleven or so years later, and my music taste has expanded and changed considerably, and it’s a rare occasion that I’ll find myself going back to BarlowGirl or Krystal Meyers– I’ll have to be looking for a specific song, perhaps for story inspiration or simply for nostalgia. But I can never listen to either of them for very long before wanting to move on to other music, to my current favorites.

A little bit more often than that, probably once every couple of months, I’ll find myself scrolling through Spotify and pausing at ZOEgirl, then smiling to myself as I hit shuffle just to see what song comes up.

Because ZOEgirl is a band that has stayed with me through the years, more constant than even BarlowGirl, whom I legitimately thought were my favorites during middle school. ZOEgirl’s musical abilities are alright– upbeat, nice, good enough for me to still be listening to now, at least (they do have lovely voices)– but it’s the lyrics of their songs that keep bringing me back to them. They’re wonderfully written, and looking back I realize that I’ve associated different songs of theirs with different stages of my growing-up. Every season has a musical anthem (anthems, more accurately) in my life, and there have been quite a few seasons where ZOEgirl’s lyrics have been exactly what my heart needs to hear.

When I was little, my favorite songs by them were “Feel Alright”, “Dead Serious”, and “Anything Is Possible”. It’s actually quite amusing to look back and recall why they were my favorites; they’re shallow reasons compared to the depth I seek in music now.

“Anything Is Possible” was upbeat and sounded like the Cheetah Girls, and I liked dancing (“dancing” is a relative term here, ha) along to it. “Feel Alright” began with lyrics like “the sun is shining, there’s no need to sleep no more / the day is bright and your heart has it’s wings to soar / time will be flying, and freedom is at the door / you feel alright yeah, so what are you waiting for?“, and that was just the kind of sunshine my little self loved. (It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated the other lyrics, the “tell me to give up and I will fight much harder / tell me to be quiet and I’ll shout it even louder“, the boldness in sharing Truth.) And “Dead Serious”? I adored that one. It was so sassy and confident and brave. Remember how I mentioned how my little-self tended to completely misinterpret song lyrics? Yep. This one was one of them. The lyrics that I did understand, I loved– “who’s that girl with the Bible in her hands / the smile on her face, she doesn’t get it, I don’t understand / the way she walks with her head in the clouds / she doesn’t care who laughs, walks right through the crowd / that’s right, that’s me, I don’t care what you think / people talk all day, I don’t care what they say“. That was the girl I thought I was when I was little. But I think subconsciously, that was the girl I wanted to be. I just didn’t become her for years, until I finally saw the Lord in the right way, until my eyes were opened to just how small I am, until I learned that grace was for everyone. I guess you could say that “Dead Serious” has always been one of my anthems, but I have a deeper appreciation for it now, even though I don’t love it as much as I love so many other heart-anthem songs of mine. I’ll always smile whenever I hear it though.

In middle school, my favorite ZOEgirl songs were “I Believe”, “About You”, “Plain”, “Different Kind Of Free”, and “Give Me One Reason”. The latter two didn’t actually have anything to do with my life; “Different Kind of Free” is about a suicidal girl who finds hope  and freedom in Christ (I think; I could be wrong though), and “Give Me One Reason” is about a girl who walks away from the nonbeliever she loves because she loves her God that much more. But the lyrics of both are beautiful. And “Give Me One Reason” was rather mind-blowing to a preteen; walking away from love to follow Christ was a strength of character I prayed I’d have, but wasn’t sure I ever would. And the bridge gave me chills every single time I listened to it. It still does, on occasion. The other three were relevant to the seasons of life I was going through. “Plain” made me cry and smile all in one, because I was so insecure and I needed someone to tell me that “you are a jewel, you’re a treasure / you are one of a kind / and you shine just as bright as the stars in the sky / you’re a rare kind of wonder, created just right / so keep your head up no matter the pain / there’s nothing about you that’s plain“. “I Believe” and “About You” were songs I sang before I lived them, if that makes sense. I enjoyed listening to them in elementary school too (“I Believe” was another fun Cheetah Girls-ish song in my mind), but it wasn’t until I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life (June 20th, 2010 ^_^) that those songs actually meant something to me. Every time I’d be tempted back to my old selfishness– which was all the time— I’d sing the chorus of “About You” to myself. “It’s not about me, it’s gotta be about You / and all I wanna see is who You’re turning me into / I will not forget that You said You’d always lead me through / to who I wanna be, making every part of me about You“. And “I Believe” became one of those confident, brave anthems of a young Christian– “now I’ll shout it from a mountain / that I am not the same that I used to be / I believe in God, believe in God!

In early high school, when I went through that rough season of pruning and discovered that at the end of the day, the only Friend who will never ever fail you is Jesus, “You Get Me” was what I listened to when I was teary-eyed and frustrated over friendships that never seemed to stay. If you want to know what the cry of my heart was during that time, listen to that song. (Or, if your heart is crying out, go listen to it. It’s like getting hugged and being reminded that you’re okay because you’re His.) Now, I listen to that song and smile because it was an important season, one that grew and stretched me and brought me closer to Jesus, and I’m grateful.

Now, there are three ZOEgirl songs that are my favorite, that I would call my current anthems. “Beautiful Name”, “Unchangeable”, and “One Day”. I’ll just share some of my favorite lyrics, and you’ll understand why they’re my anthems. They’re fairly self-explanatory, if you know me. 🙂

“Beautiful Name”:: “I will run, I will fly / I will live to be a sacrifice / through it all I’ll rise above / unafraid, I will face what comes / I will run, I will fly / and for my faith I’ll live and die / I’ll be strong, I will press on / for the sake of Your beautiful name / Your beautiful name“. Is this not epic? This song makes me so happy. And brave. And wanting to just go sing it and share Jesus everywhere.

“One Day”:: I honestly can’t even choose my favorite lyrics; this song is just so me. All of it. The frustration and hope and joy. And it forever gets me excited about my heavenly home. One day, I’ll be there, and everything will be worth it, and Jesus will win for eternity. Yes please. Go take a listen, and maybe you’ll get excited too. 🙂

“Unchangeable”:: “a faith that’s unshakable / a heart that’s unbreakable / Your truth has set me free / a love that’s unchangeable / a life that’s available / if I would just believe / that’s what You gave to me“. I just love how this song flows. How all the un’s work together. I don’t have a very deep reason for loving this song; I just do.

All of this to say– we all have music that’s followed us through the years, and I’m thankful that this is the band I get to say this of. I’m thankful that I got that CD way back in elementary school. And I’m even more thankful that God has used ZOEgirl in different seasons of my life to tell me what my heart (be it selfish or broken or timid) needs to hear. Oh yeah– and I’m thankful to you for reading this, and letting me share some of the music that’s impacted me with you. You are much loved. 🙂

So now, if you’ll excuse me– I’m going to run, and fly, and be strong and press on, all for the sake of His beautiful name. ^_^

{love always, Em}

// on living as children of Light. //

It begins as nothing more than a simple observation, as my family and I are wandering the crowded streets of Hollywood Studios at Disney World in the evening; I’m watching all the kids (and a few teenagers, ahem) running around with light sabers they’d bought at one of the several Star Wars-themed gift shops scattered around the park.

Most of the light sabers are red.

I promise you I’m not going on a tangent about Star Wars again on here ( ;-))– but pretty much everyone knows that the red light sabers mean the Sith. The Dark Side. The evil ones.

And then there’s the scores of little boys (and teenagers, again) proudly wearing their Kylo Ren t-shirts.

…And then, the little boy who makes friends with Matt in line for the Toy Story ride, whom I overhear saying, “Kylo Ren’s the best. I like the Dark Side best.”

There’s a little pinprick of discomfort in my heart at seeing all these little kids practically idolizing Kylo Ren and Darth Vader and such– and consequently, what they stand for. The darkness. Terrorizing people. Ruling by their own laws, hang the consequences. No value for life, for light.

But I brush it off, rationalizing that these are little boys and they just think the characters are cool and yes, it’s a shame that people value a character’s abilities and powers more than the strength of their hearts and minds, but they’re just kids, Em. It’s not like they like the darkness, it’s not like they really get what the Sith actually are. Right?

But still, the question lingers– Why are these parents encouraging this?

Because sure, they’re kids and it’s all harmless– or at least, it is right now, from our only-human vantage point. At this point, though, it’s just an observation and a silent question, and I haven’t worked through my thoughts on it, and I’m at Disney which isn’t exactly the place to ponder deep spiritual matters (unfortunately), so I don’t bring it up. It doesn’t seem prevalent enough to talk about. Not yet.

A few days later, I am home and meeting up with a dear friend, and we’re talking over life and creative projects. I’m told something that bothers me deeply, sinks into my stomach like a stone, and stays there for the rest of the afternoon. After we part ways, I spend the drive home talking (ranting, ahem) aloud, half to myself, half to the Lord, because my mind seriously can’t handle what I’ve been told.

At that point, I know I need to say something; my heart just might explode if I don’t. So, here I am, finally ready to speak up.

I’m not going to share what it was that I was told, but I do want to share my thoughts that spring from it, because I feel that it’s something that Christians need to be reminded of, especially in today’s culture.

Guys– we shouldn’t be glorifying darkness. And we certainly shouldn’t be sending messages in anything we do– from our daily lives to our creative projects– that contradict the message of the Gospel.

I mean, really. If you really call yourself a follower of Christ, and you’re all in, and you believe the Bible is true, then why on earth isn’t that the message you’re sending people?

I can understand it when the lost prefer the darkness over light, when they think it’s cooler and more interesting. I don’t think that way myself, and I do wish that people didn’t think that way in general (since when are the good guys too boring, too childish?), but I can see where they’re coming from. I get it. They don’t know any better; they don’t have a reason to turn away from the darkness. Why should they, when they haven’t found the Light?

So no, I don’t hold the lost to that standard. But you and I? We know that we have a higher calling, because we have found the Light, and we do believe the Gospel– that Christ has come to set us free in His grace, and that Goodness will absolutely win in the end.

Why on earth would we completely disrespect all that Christ has done for us by continuing to glorify the darkness?

Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

Live as children of light, not continue to live in the darkness.

Because once you’ve been set free, why would you return to what enslaved you? And why would you preach that slavery is cool and interesting, especially when you have so many opportunities to share that freedom you have with others?

And also– we talk all the time about how the things we’re watching, reading, and listening to impact the purity of our hearts and minds. But as much as what we put into us impacts our purity– what we send out reflects it. The way we live, the words we speak, the things we create, they all reveal what is inside our hearts and thoughts.

With that in mind, we as Christians need to be diligent about praying over the messages that we’re sending out, especially in our creative projects.

Because people are reading those stories and looking at those photos and listening to that music that you’re sharing with the world, and if the message you’re sharing undermines the Gospel you claim to believe in?

Girl, you’ve got to stop that now.

Because you’ll lead people astray with preaching the wrong messages. You’ll lead yourself astray. 1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” Don’t allow yourself to be a stumbling block to other believers who aren’t yet grounded in their faith. That’s just wrong.

Yes, you should absolutely be creative, and it’s wonderful that you’re sharing your gifts with the world. There are so many platforms out there for the artists and dreamers of the world to share what they think and feel, by doing what they love to do. But please, from a believer to a fellow believer, hear me out– really think and pray about what you want to say when you share your gifts. Make sure that whatever it is you’re creating glorifies Christ, the light, and not the darkness.

1 John 1 says it best: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Guys, we have the Light living inside our hearts. Let’s stop conforming to this broken world’s view of light and darkness. You want people to see the difference in you, the way Christ has transformed you into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Keep the messages you share consistent with the life you lead, and the Truth you believe in.

We’re called to live as children of Light. Let Him shine in all that you do. It might be hard sometimes, going against what the world says is normal and harmless and good, but in the end, we know it will be so worth it.

Because the Truth is that Light always, always triumphs over the dark.

{love always, Em}

(Oh, and Disney was AMAZING, by the way. Just going to put that out there. :))