Surprise! You can now stream “Free in You” on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and anywhere else you like to listen to music!

I wrote “Free in You” when I first started learning about grace. For so long, My relationship with God was marked by stress as I tried desperately to make Him happy. Lots of rules. Shame when I broke them. Pressure to get it “just right.”

Even though I had accepted the forgiveness of Jesus for past, present, and future sins, I was still living a life marked by religion—trying to keep God happy by “being good.” It was way more complicated than it needed to be.

When I started to see God as a loving Father who loves me unconditionally, who is perfectly prepared for any mess I make, who loves to teach me fun things, and who is the only person in the world who fully sees me and loves every part He created—my world changed. 

I realized I wasn’t on a tightrope after all, just a sidewalk. And I was free!

“Free in You” is a celebration and a reminder to never go back to those shackles of religion. I only want to move forward toward more and more grace.

In the studio yesterday I connected with an up-and-coming musician in OC who was looking for advice, and I realized the only encouragement I could offer carries on to all aspects of life. I’m calling this an “Artist Pep Talk” but I’m pretty sure it applies to everyone.
Here are 7 things I have learned to live by:
  1. Find out your WHY, and let that carry you through when it’s hard. (And by the way, “because it makes me feel alive” is a good enough why!)
  2. Everything important is on the other side of fear; therefore being afraid is not a good enough reason not to do something.
  3. Art is meant to be shared. Do what you love first for you, protect a few pieces if they really are too intimate, but otherwise let others be moved by your creations, just as you are moved by the art of others.
  4. If you’re nervous or feel lost, start small. Then take the next step. Then the next.
  5. Don’t flatter yourself—most people aren’t thinking about you as much as you fear they are. If you make a mistake, most people won’t notice, and the ones who do notice rarely care.
  6. The few who really have a strong negative opinion of you and take time to bring you down with it are not the kinds of people whose voices should matter to you. Let. It. Go.
  7. Be yourself and do your best—that’s enough!
I have sooo much still to learn as a person, as an artist, as a musician, as a functioning adult! 😅 But I have found the above to be true. Whatever your art is—whatever makes you feel alive—I hope you do it boldly!

What advice would you give someone who’s embarking on a new creative or professional journey? Comment below or tag me on social media!

The pain never completely goes away.

I can have a good 6-9 months before experiencing debilitating pain or flashbacks. Every once in a while something will hit me, I can’t always pinpoint from where. That raw, innocent part of me gets rubbed and I hurt again. I cry with no explanation or feel an overwhelming grief take over my body. My heart cracks, ricocheting pain throughout every extremity. My brain quakes with memories and I’m ripped back in time, a helpless child manipulated for purposes no one understands.

I choose to forgive each time.

As far as I know, the human extension of forgiveness is not a “one and done” kind of deal. Not for deep wounds, anyway. The more I live, the more ways I discover I’ve been hurt by that season of adolescence. I have to forgive with each new revelation of pain.

I hate how I start to look when bitterness creeps in… Some of the awful features of evil start to rub off on me. I’m distrusting of others, easily angered, unforgiving, closed off, harsh. Soon I’m unrecognizable as the true, free, loving version of myself. That’s when I know I need to forgive again.

I’ll never stop learning about forgiveness; I’ll be giving and receiving forgiveness for the rest of my life. But since the offenses of sexual abuse have been some of the deepest wounds I’ve had to forgive, I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned so far.

I don’t know how to forgive aside from Christ and the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is the biggest example of love and forgiveness, so everything I share comes from years of exploring the topic with God and the Bible.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending the wrong was right. I understand I was wronged. I also understand the necessity of forgiveness.

Bitterness and unforgiveness will destroy your life like a toxic infection, often unknowingly spreading throughout your body until every last organ ceases to function. Bitterness is an ugly killer, slow and miserable.

Forgiveness can seem like defeat because there’s a forfeiting of something you believe you deserve. It’s frightening to let go of what you feel is holding you together. That firm grip and pointing of the finger can become a comfort.

But it’s difficult to walk through life with clenched fists. It makes it hard to pick up a pen or paintbrush and create something beautiful. It makes the gentle ease of holding a loved one’s hand practically impossible. Good luck climbing a mountain or playing an instrument while your fingers dig into your palms. What beauty, freedom, and strength we miss when we clench our fists this way!

Do they deserve to be forgiven?

No. I don’t believe anybody “deserves” forgiveness. We are all responsible for our poor choices and each one warrants its own payment. But what is a fair payment for sexual abuse? It affects the rest of your life FOREVER. It causes some victims to take their lives and steals the ability of others to truly live. In some senses the most severe punishment will never be enough for the undue pain caused by the perpetrator.

And yet, there is also healing and compassion born from a wound so severe when it finally mends. One may go on to do more good than they otherwise would have. I’m convinced that’s true in my case. That will never make the abuse ok, but it does seem to make a lifelong harsh sentence less fair.

And then there is the fact that we are all imperfect, damaging each other all the time. There is a law at work that gives us a natural bend to break things and each other. A world without forgiveness and sole retaliation in the name of “justice” looks like physical and emotional prisons, a constant counting of wrongs, and an impossibility to love. In this broken world with the inevitable damage we will cause each other, another law had to be implemented—a law of redemption and love. This law of healing love is at work within the law of our brokenness.

Forgiveness is a survival tool we rely on daily; it just gets harder to use when the wound is bigger. It’s ok that it’s hard. It will likely take supernatural Love to help genuinely forgive.

The freedom and health is worth it. Don’t believe the lie that bitterness or unforgiveness is helping you heal—it is destroying you, or at the very least keeping you from living life to the full. I’m not sure there’s a difference.

I’ve heard sayings like, “Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else” and “Don’t forgive for their benefit—do it for yourself.” But how do you get there?

There is no clear-cut answer, but having the desire to forgive is a great start. Realize that you will be swallowed up by bitterness if something doesn’t change, and ask God for help.

First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one enemy, one accuser, one evil ruler. Evil loves a high return on investments, and the lifelong healing required for sexual abuse is well worth the brief moments of disgusting behavior. This is why devastation like sexual abuse is so rampant in EVERY society. The immediate transfer of shame, lifelong wounds, chronic need for the victim to forgive or else find themselves with the debilitating infection of bitterness, etc. are all very worth it to someone bent on stealing, killing, and destroying.

The Bible says we have an enemy who stalks around like a lion, seeking whom it may devour. That explains much of the hurt we see in the world today.

The distinction must be made between the evil a person commits and the core of who they really are. We are responsible when we cooperate with evil… but that is not all we are. Each person is a created being, loved by God and invited to beautiful life with Him. However near or far they are from Him at any given moment doesn’t change that truth. My sexual abuser is more than the decisions she made as a young adult. We are all bigger than our mistakes.

In fact, I think one of the biggest steps toward forgiving others comes from realizing how much God has forgiven me. Forgiveness requires humility… a difficult posture until I ask God to examine my own heart. God doesn’t see me for my mistakes, for the times I’ve blatantly spat in His face despite His grace and love. God sees me as righteous and pure even though I couldn’t describe myself as such on my best days if it depended on my own merit. As I accept grace for myself, I can’t withhold that from another person.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean there are no consequences. There is a difference between forgiveness and restoration of relationship. I’m still keeping my distance from the woman who abused me for reasons of wisdom. I still reported the sexual abuse to police in an attempt to create proper boundaries and hopefully prevent it from happening to someone else. She was and possibly continues to operate from an unhealthy state of mind, which makes her unwise for me to be around. But forgiveness allows me to see she is not unloved by God, nor is she all her past, present, and future mistakes say she is. (And thank God, neither am I.)

If God looks at her and sees who she was created to be and longs to develop good things in her life, then that becomes my standard for how to view her. If God who is perfect can look at her with love and offer forgiveness before she repents (while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8), then I, who am imperfect and in desperate need of forgiveness for my own shortcomings certainly must do the same.

Sexual abuse doesn’t define me, and in my heart it doesn’t define her. I have to choose forgiveness and see her through God’s lens. I pray for healthy growth and friendships in her life. While I don’t picture it happening this side of eternity, I imagine in heaven the two of us will be restored and it will be a beautiful moment of God’s grace for both of us.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, whether it’s sexual abuse or something else, I highly recommend you forgive as a means to life. If you’re struggling in this area, know this: You were wronged. You did not deserve what happened to you—that will never change. You can be angry, devastated, and heartbroken. You probably will experience all of these things in varying degrees until you breathe your last on earth. However, you don’t need to spend the rest of your life tethered to someone else as a result of the harm they caused you.

Forgiveness is a necessary tool for freedom, for being the person you were designed to be rather than the sum of your painful experiences. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s not easy. But it’s always worth it.

Biblical References (Only a Starting Point)

  • When Jesus was being humiliated and tortured on a cross, He said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
  • “But if you refuse to forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15 Well shoot, it’s a bloody commandment. Probably because we’ve been forgiven MUCH and can therefore forgive others their smaller debts.
  • “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. – Isaiah 43:25  If this is the kind of forgiveness God offers me, I have no choice but to forgive. (I can’t help but remember certain hurts since I’m human, but I can extend forgiveness as the memories come.)
  • A “sinful woman” was forgiven much, and consequently loved much. Luke 7:36-50
  • David writes in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.” When you understand the context, you know that David murdered a man after he had committed adultery with his wife. While the offense against both of these people was great, I believe He’s saying the greatest offense was actually against God.
  • The story of Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers and ended up saving and blessing their lives. “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” – Genesis 50:20 (The whole story begins in Genesis 37)
  • Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor: A king forgave a HUGE debt of one person, and that person went on to demand repayment of a much smaller debt. It didn’t end well for him. (That’s how it is when we receive God’s incredible forgiveness and refuse to extend forgiveness to someone else.) – Matthew 18:21-25
  • Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” –Matthew 18:6 Proverbs 18:5 says, “It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.” I can trust that God takes child abuse and justice very seriously and He will judge it fairly. That’s His job, not mine. I am free to trust His justice and obey His command to forgive.


Happy New Year!

2015 was a year full of blessings, difficulties, and A LOT of growth. I believe there are far better things ahead than what we leave behind, and I’m planning for 2016 to be even greater.

But I’ve realized there’s one enemy that has and will continue to rob me of fully living if I remain paralyzed by its power—FEAR. That sucker has messed with me my whole life! I’m tired of my fears inter-fear-ing! (I know that was painful for some of you to read, and I’m sorry I had to do it anyway.)

Fear has inhibited me from the things I love most, the things that make me me Sharing songs I’ve written. Talking to strangers. Exploring new stores and restaurants alone.

Fear has also been an entryway for shame to beat me up when I cave to it, which in turn completely freezes me from making any sort of progress in the future, resulting in me feeling pretty miserable.

So today and this year I’ve decided that I’m done. My only New Year’s resolution is to do something that scares me every day.

I can’t make fear disappear, but I can decide that it will no longer rule my life. Fear may roar louder than ever this year—I almost expect it to. I plan on choosing courage anyway. In 2016 I’m going to be intentional about noticing fears when they’re out of place and conquering them.

I hope that a year from now I can say I’m braver, but even if I’m just as afraid of silly little things 366 days from today, at least I’ll have tasted freedom from the ice cold grasp of fear. At least I’ll be able to say, “I lived.”

So when misplaced fear shows up uninvited in 2016, I will do my thing anyway… at least once a day! 😉

And if you’re even half as fed up with fear dictating the course of your life as I am, I encourage you to do the same. Let’s live!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10b

Remember that one sleepless night I mentioned a few weeks ago? The one where I admitted just how crazy I am deep inside, and how I stayed up from midnight til dawn because I was housesitting alone and scared?

Well, I wanted to follow up…

The next morning I started blaming my very protective upbringing. I’ve been raised to fear. I wish I were like some of my other friends who were educated but given confidence. Now I’m stuck like this.

No. I felt God gently directing me. You are not going to blame your childhood anymore for the decisions you’re making as an adult.

He was right! I’ve spent so much of the last year searching for the root of my insecurities and it’s easy to point the finger and give up. But we don’t have to be the product of our childhoods; we can choose a different path as adults. We can choose to pursue healing and overcome the obstacles placed in our lives by circumstances and other people.

No more excuses.

I was determined to beat this. Later that day I enjoyed a light swim in the pool with my younger brother and felt complete tranquility.

What was I even thinking last night? I’m safe—I don’t know anywhere else I’d feel so relaxed. I’ll sleep just fine tonight.

Hours passed, my brother left, and the sun went down. As darkness crept in, so did my fear.

Are you serious!? Again? No…

But I could already feel it everywhere. My hope of overcoming lifelong “worst case scenario” fears was dwindling—and quickly. It was getting later and I was terrified of never sleeping again. I decided to try a friend who had sincerely encouraged me to call anytime. Because I’d noticed the 3 AM timestamps on her Facebook posts, I figured she meant it.

I gave her a call and fought the shame urging me to be silent. “I’m ok… this is really dumb… it’s nothing really… but I’m staying alone and I’m scared.There. I said it. The statement sounded ridiculous, but it was true.

Grace met me through the words of my dear friend on the other end. “That’s not dumb, that’s real.

She told me I wasn’t alone and that she had once learned how to sleep by herself in the midst of a crazy neighborhood with very dark nights. She encouraged me that this fear was a spiritual attack—this refreshing housesitting gig was a gift only God could grant me and the devil was trying to take it away. Satan can’t snatch what God has given someone, but he can try to scare them into forfeiting their gift.

My friend instructed me, “Anoint the doors of that home with oil and claim Psalm 92 over your situation. Blast praise and worship music, sleep with the light on—whatever you have to do to feel safe—and know that you are.”

As we hung up I felt a boost of courage. The fear was smaller, and an ember of faith was burning within me. Hope permeated my soul and for the first time in forever I had total confidence that I would destroy this fear—once and for all. I brought my frankincense oil, Bible, and phone to play “Christ be all around me” and approached the first door.

“Lord, this represents the protection You’ve already promised me.” As I smeared the oil on one doorpost after another, I thanked God for the faithfulness He’d proven my entire life. I expressed gratitude for the gift of this temporary home and His promise to keep me safe. After covering each door, frankincense was soaked in my fingertips and the home was filled with its royal scent.

Although peace and protection were always available to me, they finally seemed tangible. Inspired by this new awareness, I place the oil on my chest and prayed, “Lord, seal and protect my heart. Keep me from fear.”

The scent of frankincense had already become a calming reminder of protection, so I placed one small drop on my wrist and climbed into bed.

That night I slept with a tiny flashlight nearby and a worship playlist on repeat. I woke up twice a little panicked. Both times, like a child looking for comfort, I smelled the oil on my wrist and was immediately soothed. That simple smell triggered peace by reminding me that the house was surrounded by the God of Protection. I fell back into a deep sleep.

It’s been more than three weeks since that night, and I’ve been sleeping soundly. This blog post is a testament of victory Christ has claimed in my heart and mind. Never in my life have I felt so much peace, confidence, or security.

Sure, we’ve all been influenced by our upbringings. But I am finding increasing joy in being influenced by my Heavenly Father who never intended for us to live in fear. He created us for freedom, and by His grace I’m one step closer to that today.

I truthfully didn’t imagine resolution so quickly when I wrote the last post. I expected to reference that blog months or years down the line. Little did I know my Father wanted me free even more than I did! My natural response is praise and gratitude to the One who doesn’t leave us broken. Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to set me free!