Adoption, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

It’s My Blogging Birthday!

One Year of Blogging!…

You guys! I’m so excited! I’ve been blogging for a year! Honestly, when I started this, I just wasn’t sure if I’d keep with it. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to keep at it, but I just didn’t believe in myself 100%. I’m so glad I went through with it anyway. Now I can say I’ve blogged for a year! I’ve been looking back over my past posts and thinking about what I had in mind when I started blogging and where the journey has gone so far. So, this post will be a reflection on blogging over the past year.


I thought it’d be fun to begin my reflection with a few stats. Over the past year I’ve written 44 posts with 33,782 words! I’ve had 68 comments on the blog itself plus many more through Facebook comments. My top three most viewed posts are White Savior?!?, Could This Be Our Match?, and Adoption Update 2019. Finally, there have been 2,944 visitors viewing my blog 4,376 times from 36 countries! Wow! Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this blogging journey!

World Map of where my blog has reached

Let’s start at the very beginning…

When I started this blog, my mind felt like it was being pulled in so many directions. First was the adoption process. There were so many boxes to check before we could be approved to adopt and then who knew what would happen after that! Then, there was this deep longing inside of me to share more of who I am and what my life story has been. The stories swirled as I desired to share them with someone new! Last, through more introspection, I had many new questions, ideas, and thoughts come to mind and I really needed a place/person to dialogue with about those things. Enter my blog.

That was my mindset when I started this blog – a soup full of so many ‘tastes’ and they all called for attention. That’s when God, in His quiet and calm voice, prompted me to start a blog. I didn’t know what He was doing or where this would go, but I decided to go along with it. A local friend gave me some very good advice. I now pass this along to anyone thinking of starting a blog. She told me that I ought to have 10 posts written before I even published my first post. I’m so thankful for that advice. It really helped me keep traction at the beginning. 

Then when ‘life happened’ in the middle of my first sequence of ten posts, it was my husband who encouraged me to veer from what I planned and allow myself some spontaneity in the post cycle. After all, a blog of this type is usually about what’s happening NOW and interrupting my plan to reflect on the current events would be totally in-line with what I was doing.

When I started this post, my goal was to alternate posts between one of my thoughts/ideas and adoption related topics. I did that pretty well for a while. But, those posts started to get fewer and far between. What started as a deep need to talk out the adoption process and pass along information to others who might be in a similar place, moved to a need to discuss the information I was taking in from so many different sources and opinions about interracial adoption and even race/culture in general.

The posts moved from a place of safety (just telling my story) to a place of personal tentative viewpoints (posts about race/culture). How would my posts with the topic of race/culture be received, understood, and viewed? Did I write them in a way that was loving and honoring to everyone involved? Did I often come out with a white woman’s perspective or was I able to write with another perspective in mind? And while I’m bringing that up, how in the world do you separate your own life-long perspective, the one that you don’t even realize you have, with the other ones that you’re reading about and listening to and really thinking about? It’s hard to do. I still don’t know if I’m doing it well, but I believe I’m trying with a pure heart. So, I wrote out the hard questions I had and made myself come to and voice a place of conclusion, at least for the time being.

Somewhere in the Middle…

Somewhere in the middle of the past year, I started to fall in love with my musical side again. I expressed my deep connection to music and moved through what it’s like to create music and also teach others. The joys of helping someone else ‘win’ at creating music is so rewarding! Yet at the same time, this focus on music began to pull my own heart towards creating music again. I immersed myself in figuring out how to play piano so I could play and sing on my own. I went out on a limb and recorded myself learning this new musical ambition. Then, in act of true transparency, I posted the recordings, mistakes and all, in hopes that I could be an encouragement to others to keep progressing towards their musical dreams. 

My first recored and posted video
My most recent and posted video

The Present Place…

Now, a year later, I’m in a very different place for writing. I don’t have the stash of posts ready to publish anymore, but I do have a long list of topic ideas yet to be explored. I don’t have the swirling craziness inside my head anymore. Instead I have a great system (blogging) for thinking through and expressing the journey of any particular thought or idea. I don’t have as many posts about adoption. Instead my lack of posts reflect where we’re at in the journey – waiting. This blog has helped me organize my thoughts, express them, and then dialogue with others about them. Sometimes I get pushback on what I’ve posted, but most of the times I’ve been incredibly encouraged by you, my readers. 

All in all, I’m feeling really glad that I went out on a limb, publicly, and started to blog. I’ve found a really helpful way to organize my thoughts, talk them out with others, and find expression for the deep feelings inside of me. As I’ve written, I’ve felt God encouraging me that my vulnerability and authenticity will allow others to be the same. It allows others to ask the hard questions and wrestle with what they really think. While I share my story, through writing or the music videos, I’m giving voice to what’s going on inside me and that’s really important for all people.

In January 2019, while I was in England and talking with God, He told me, ‘You have a voice and it’s meant to be heard.’ It seems that over this year through blogging, singing, and teaching, that statement is being walked out. It’s thrilling and terrifying. It’s exciting and sometimes humbling, but in the end, I feel peaceful. I’ve followed God’s leading and in a sense, I’ve ‘grown up’ or matured because of it. I’d like to keep that trajectory in the following years.

What’s Next?…

So, what does the next year hold? I plan to keep writing, that’s for sure! But where and what will my blog posts explore? I hope that we’ll make an adoption match soon and I can share the process of being on that journey in a fresh, new way! I hope my musical ambition will continue to push me forward into new spaces and remind me of the all the things that have formed me. I hope I won’t shy away from hard subjects, but instead invite a dialogue about these topics in order to learn more and get new perspectives. What’s next? I honestly don’t know, but I’m excited to witness the change in me, my family, and my ‘world’ a year from now. I’m looking forward to sharing more with all of you!

Adoption, Bible, family, God, Kingdom, Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship

Have Fun and Obey

What’s going on?…

It started with a look. I could tell she was processing something. She seemed a little worried, a bit fearful, and agitated. I decided we should try worshiping together (kids and me) and then see if we could do some spontaneous prayer-worship afterwards. It sounded great to me, but none of my kids went for it. As I sang on my own I noticed my daughter drawing ever more inwards focused. Soon she was crying and when our time of singing was done she ran up to her room and locked the door.

Photo by Kat Jayne on

Oops. Did I go too far in requiring us all to worship together? Even though I was hoping this would be a moment where we’d all rally together through music, my expectation didn’t happen. What did happen was that the emotions being held down by ‘strength of will’ came to the surface. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I experience that all the time when I’m worshiping Jesus – Smiles and Tears. It was no different in my kids. The emotions of stress rose to the surface and now I had three kids with varying degrees of emotional stress needing me. Worship helped me and the kids finally be ready to talk about what worries they have had over the recent changes in our lives. So, it still turned out to be a helpful time, just different than I expected.

Being Comforted…

As I went upstairs to talk to my daughter, I hoped she’d open up and let me help her. PHEW! She opened the door to me and allowed me to hug her while she cried. Then she shared her worries. It was related to Coronavirus. Through tears she told me that she was afraid that her grandparents and our new (yet to be adopted) baby might get sick. She didn’t want them to get sick. She was worried for them and that caused her to have some pretty big stress hanging around her. I was so surprised at the depth of compassion she had! I didn’t know that was what was worrying her! I thought she’d be more worried about her own health. Not so.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Doing the Right Thing…

It was the answer that God gave me in the moment that stuck with me most. I could tell that my sweet, kind, and oh-so-responsible kid was taking on a load much too big for her. She was wanting to be sure that she was doing the right things to keep others from getting sick. The only problem was that she didn’t know what all those things were. And, as we’re all well aware, the guidelines were/are changing regularly. She felt a level of responsibility over this COVID-19 stuff.

At that moment, I told her that her only responsibility was to have fun and obey her parents. (Yes, I’m sure there are many other responsibilities, but that’s what was needed at that instant.) I then went on to explain that it’s my responsibility to keep track of the guidelines that the government is giving us. It’s my job to listen to the press conferences, check the news, and keep updated on other notifications. Then I would tell her what she needed to know. As long as she obeyed what I said, then she’d be doing the ‘right thing.’ That was her job – obey her parents.

Responsibility: Have Fun and Obey…

As I thought about this a bit more, it became apparent to me that this is a lesson for adults too. In the midst of a constantly changing atmosphere of rules and regulations, it’s our job to obey too. It’s not our responsibility to know all the ins and outs of what’s happening or even how to defeat this disease. We have lawmakers, government officials, and other well-educated-in-these-areas people to do that. If we as citizens listen and obey the guidelines set forth, then we’re fulfilling our responsibility. We can allow the governing officials to do the higher level work in this area.

Then, as usually happens, another area of realization came to mind. I was discussing all this with my sister-in-law when she sweetly pointed out that it’s also like this in our Christian walk. As God’s children, it’s our responsibility to obey God. We don’t have to know all of the information. We don’t have to plan or make perfect decisions. God is the one that has the ultimate vantage-point and information to help us as we go about fulfilling our purpose. He guides us to what’s best and it’s our responsibility to have fun and obey our Parent, God. 

Photo by nappy on

This is so true! When God asked me to start writing this blog, I thought I had heard wrong because surely God wouldn’t ask me to write a blog. That was nowhere near my desire or my experience. In fact, I had tried blogging before and stopped after just one post! But, I obeyed. And now, almost a year later, I can see the trail of good things that have come about because I obeyed – and I even had a little fun. 😉 God knew the bigger picture and I didn’t have to know it in order to obey.

So, what about you? How does this look in your life? I’d be so interested to hear a little story from you. When has God asked you to obey …and have fun?

P.S. My daughter gave me permission to share her story, although I doubt she’d want people to talk with her about it face to face. 🙂

Adoption, God, My Story, Praise and Worship

Espresso & Mocha

First, I blogged…

I began blogging because I had so many things inside that I wanted to share with people, but it just didn’t seem like there was often a lot of time to ‘shoot the breeze.’ The blog has been a great place for me to share my stories, reflect on how God’s been a part of each of them, and dream about my future. It’s helped, healed, and grown me in ways I didn’t know would happen when I started. It wasn’t my idea to start blogging, it was God’s. So, a few weeks back I decided to blog about a joy that was given to me during a painful transition in my childhood – a Siamese Kitten. That kitten was so special to me and I was very sad when I had to give him up after only a year or so because we were moving to a new home and couldn’t have the cat. 

Fast forward to not long ago. It was the end of the work week after what had been a very busy week and preceding weekend. I getting some rest time in before the kids came home from school and another busy weekend began. At this point Putty, my husband, had been on a work trip for nearly 1.5 weeks and I was being intentional to get some down time in whenever possible. I decided to read that afternoon, but as I was reading I felt very strongly like I needed to get up and make a video recording of a praise and worship song that had been on my heart that week. After I finished, I sat back down to upload the video and continue reading and that’s when I received a text notification.

Then, I Received…

I received a text from my mom. She had been volunteering at the Humane Society/Animal Shelter when she happened to come across some new kittens that were just put out for adoption… Siamese kittens! She stopped in her tracks and couldn’t believe her eyes! She talked with God about how I had just blogged about my first Siamese kitten and then less than 2 weeks later, here were adoptable ones just the same! She heard God tell her that these kittens were a gift to me, her daughter. As soon as she could, she sent me a text about these kittens.

I played it cool and tried not to get too excited about them. I had a number of reasons why it wasn’t the time for us to adopt kittens, the biggest of which was that my husband was across the globe in Australia! How could we make this decision and why on earth would he agree to adopting them without meeting them? 

Mocha & Espresso

Then, Mom sent me the links for the pictures of these kittens. My heart fell for them immediately. Not to mention, their names were already meant for us: Espresso & Mocha! We love coffee. That was that. I texted my sister to get another opinion and while I was texting I started to cry over the possibility that these kittens could be mine! I didn’t understand it, but it sure felt like a confirmation that God was leading me to keep exploring the idea of adopting these kittens. So, I texted Putty and his response floored me. He told me that he couldn’t really discern one way or the other if we should get these cats, but that he felt positive that God was telling him to go with my lead on this. So, the decision was up to me.

I quickly asked my friend to come babysit, then asked Mom to meet me at the Humane Society, and I was on my way to see these little ones. I knew that I needed to take the next step of seeing them in person. On my way, I asked God about these kittens and He told me that they were a gift for me if I wanted them and that He has already provided for us to have these two join our family. I cried tears of joy. He also reminded me how I had just posted a video of me singing Reckless Love by Cory Asbury only a few hours earlier. This song always reminds me of adoption and here I was going forward with a potential adoption! I was racing after these kittens just as God chases after us.

I met those sweet kittens and I already felt like they were mine. I didn’t need a lot of time before heading to the front desk and letting them know I wanted to apply for adopting them. In the time it took me to fill out my paperwork, two other interested people changed their minds and adopted other pets. I couldn’t believe it! I was going to be first in line to adopt them! What are the chances? Well, pretty good when God is presenting you with a gift and you walk the steps out to receive it or in this case, them.

Now, I Steward…

The next day I went shopping for new cat items even before hearing that I was approved to adopt them. Then I got the call that I had been approved and could come pick them up in a few hours! Immediately after the kids came home from school I got us all in our minivan and we were on our way. The kids didn’t know what was about to happen. They thought we were just going to take a trip to the Humane Society and see some animals that Grandma wanted to show them. They were so excited when after seeing them for the first time I announced that we were going to bring them home. Right away their hearts moved towards the kittens, holding nothing back.

It’s been so fun to see the kids and the kittens interact. They have so much fun together. It’s been great to see how much my husband loves having kittens around again and it reminds me of how much he loves even the littlest creatures and how gentle he is with them. And every time I see them or tell the story of how we got them, I’m reminded that God loves me and still wants to give gifts to me, even 25 years later!

Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

I am a Private Voice Teacher

I am a Private Voice Teacher…

Not many people know the ins and outs of the profession I chose. It’s not one that gets put on display often and it’s done in the privacy of my own home. Each day I get the excitement of partnering with people to improve their voices, specifically singing voices! I am a private voice teacher. Others might call me a vocal coach. Some say singing teacher. No matter the term, it all leads back to the same idea. I teach people how to use their voice in a way that it’ll last for a long time to come (health) and sound pleasing to the ear (tone). 

My Home Music Studio

I love it. It’s as simple as that. I. Love. It. When I began studying voice, it was because I loved to sing, but now it’s morphed to loving seeing my students sing. We rejoice together over an improvement, we problem solve together to get the voice to reach new heights and goals. We talk together when it’s just plain hard to sing due to emotions and we come out with a song on our voices and a smile on our faces. I’ve come to see how much of a wholistic art and process that voice teaching really is. It’s not solo, it’s a partnership. It’s not just the vocal mechanism, it’s the whole being – body, mind, and spirit/soul. 

Academic Plus More…

Me Teaching During a Voice Lesson

I began teaching with the model of academic musical goals due to my college experience. It’s been great to have the structure of classical music and style. However, teaching from a private studio has brought all sorts of singers to my door. I’ve had the classical singers, the rock band singers, the international singers, the musical singers, the church singers, etc. Each new student brings new goals into the studio and I’ve acted as a detective to tease out the best way to teach each person and help them with their goals. It’s often looked different from the requirements of an academic setting and it’s made me a more rounded teacher.

Teaching Voice and its Effects

I don’t think I can begin to explain quite fully what teaching gives to me and how it changes me on a regular basis. The highs and lows are there and each of them are connected to a person… a student… a partnership. We are on the mountain together and in the muck and mire together. We wade through the intense work and soar to new heights when we’ve had breakthroughs. Perhaps the most surprising thing has been the relational side of lessons. A student and teacher must be connected enough to be vulnerable in singing and teaching; in trying new things and new ways of doing things; in sharing why we’re not 100% focused during that days lesson. Because of this close connection to my students, I feel with them as they go through the non-singing parts of their lives too. 

Me and My Student of More thank Ten Years!

Try and Then Try Some More

But on the practical level… We sing! They sing their song and I suggest trying it this way or that. They sing again. I suggest a repeat or a different technique or trick to try. They sing again. The students who willingly try and try again, whether it’s two times or ten times, will succeed. They will strengthen their voices and become more self aware of their whole singing mechanism. They will listen with new ears and make minute adjustments that only they and I know about in order to change their sound, get out a note, or paint a phrase with tone color.

My Student Tuning the Guitar for Her Voice Lesson

These students of mine… they are awesome! I’ve had so many students that work hard and use their whole hearts to go at it again and again. I’m so impressed with the focus my students have shown me over the years and even when they’re not taking lessons, they keep at it! They keep practicing the things they’ve been taught. Teaching voice is seriously one of my top rewarding experiences. Not just one experience, but each lesson is a repeated joyful experience. Thank you, my students, for all that you’ve taught me and given me over the years. I’m so super blessed to have you as part of my life story.

One of the Many Triumphs…

With that, I’ll leave you with a song that two of my students co-wrote and then recorded live and then released as a new single this weekend! It’s a Praise & Worship song called To The One. The male lead singer and the female background vocalist in the video below are students that have touched my life and teaching experience.

‘To The One’ written & performed by Kyle Howard & Joanna Machen
God, Kingdom, My Story, Praise and Worship

Jamaica Roadshow

All my life I’ve loved singing. From singing on the church stage, to the school stage, to the college stage, to local performing. It’s all been fun and brought much joy to my heart. 

In high school I had the opportunity to go on our church mission trip to Jamaica. My role was as a singer in our praise band. We led worship songs as a group, but I also had the task to learn a solo song and be ready to sing it whenever asked. I chose Jaci Velasquez’s version of ‘I Get on my Knees’. I worked and worked to get that song comfortable in my voice and to have feeling with it too.

Most of the times we sang in churches and schools, but one evening we were scheduled to sing at a road show. Basically, our group was one of many that performed on a big semi-truck bed on a closed off street with many Jamaicans looking up from the road below. What a different experience this was for me! I hadn’t done anything like this before. 

We did some of our praise songs and then it was time to sing my solo. I don’t remember every part of that performance, but I vividly remember looking down at the crowd of people and seeing that they were all singing along with me. They knew the song and they were singing their hearts out with praise to Jesus! It was so uplifting and I felt something I didn’t know how to explain.

Singing Jaci Velasquez’s ‘On My Knees’ at a road show in Jamaica

After I finished, our fellow mission teammate got up and shared his testimony, but even though we had heard him share many times before, this time was different. We were all so excited when it was done and both this young man and I could only explain that we truly felt like God was singing and speaking through us. We didn’t ask for this big change in presentation, only to do well. We didn’t ask for a special experience, we just wanted people to be impacted.

Looking back, I now have words for what happened that evening. Holy Spirit. I knew God used people and could talk through people, but it wasn’t something I regularly expected. Now, I see how much Holy Spirit wants to speak through us. He wants to use us to bring life to those around us! He wants to fill us and empower us to give away more of Him!

How often have we experienced something that we couldn’t explain? What has been our response? Have we brushed it off? Have we assumed it was a one-time thing? Or have we recognized that Holy Spirit was at work in and through us? Have we pushed in for more? Have we stayed open to ‘see what the Father was doing’? Now that I know God wants to use me as a partner in ministry, I can’t help but respond with, ‘YES!’ whether in singing, speaking, writing, or praying.

A recent recording of ‘On My Knees’
Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

Perfection to Praise – Part 2

Perfection to Praise

A wise friend said to me, ‘Leading praise and worship is not about perfection (self-focus), but about bringing people into the presence of God (God-focus).’ When I first heard this it jarred me. Was she saying that she didn’t think I could lead worship from a heart of praise, but that I’d be longing for perfection and the affirmations from people instead? Whoa! Time out! I had to think about this. I dearly loved my friend and knew that she was not saying this to hurt me, but rather to challenge me. Since I also dearly loved God, I didn’t want to do this worship stuff ‘wrong.’ But even that response was self-focused. My mindset was so focused on the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ way to do things that even in this, I was using a perfectionistic mindset.

Praise of Man or Praise to God…

Because of my friend’s caution to study my heart before jumping on the church stage, I paused and considered my motives. I still participated in the praise choir weekends and even co-led them. I really enjoyed doing this. I also led a group of carolers in the Christmas season for multiple years and this group had the opportunity to join up with a local music store and carol around at area businesses! Finally, I served on the kids worship team, but I still didn’t move forward with trying out for the worship team because I just couldn’t figure out if my motives were to perform and hear praises from people or to truly lead a congregation with a heart turned fully towards God.


I also had a hidden insecurity. What if I wasn’t good enough? I was asked once, just once, to do background vocals at a leader’s meeting many years ago. It didn’t go well. In my defense, I had barely any practice, not a lot of feedback or input, and I wasn’t confident in harmonizing since all of my experience was in singing the melody! But this realization, that if I was going to be on the worship team I’d have to begin with harmonizing, was terrifying. For me, it was SO MUCH EASIER to sing the melody than come up with harmonies on my own. So, I practiced in the audience for many years. When it was time to sing, I’d turn my heart to God and also try out some harmonizing in the safety of a thousand voices.

Where am I now?

Today, I trust my heart enough to sing with purity of praise to my wonderful Heavenly Father. I can even harmonize much more confidently and accurately. But the stage of life that I’m in makes being a regular member of a worship team a very difficult task. I don’t feel like God is calling me to sing on-stage right now. Instead, I have the privilege to teach on-stage vocalists and see them improve and go further because of proper voice use! My heart bursts into praise as I lift my voice with my students and the congregants around me. But, God’s stirring something else. He’s been talking to me about honing this skill and being self-led in worship. So, I’m learning to play piano chords and sing at the same time in the private space of my home. Jesus and me… and my little kiddos, playing in the swirl of music, voice, and praise.

Check out my earlier post leading up to this time: Perfection to Praise – Part 1

My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

Perfection to Praise – Part 1

Worship Thread

Years ago, God challenged me to reconsider my motives for leading worship on stage. Some might be surprised that I would write on worship because outwardly, it doesn’t look like I have much to do with the worship community. However, I’ve been connected to it here and there throughout the years since high school. More recently, I’ve been involved through teaching voice lessons to many worship leaders.

So, as I reflect on my past , I see the connections woven throughout. I’ve been on the church stage my entire life. My earliest known solo was when I was a pre-schooler! From there, I’ve been involved in as many weekend services and special events as children and teens are welcome to participate in. Those were all fun and I loved being on the stage. But, my true ‘praise & worship’ participation began in high school. I was already a performer at heart and so it was natural to join the youth worship team as one of the singers. I LOVED singing with this group. When we went on our mission trip, I got to sing with the band there too! What a thrill. Truly, I would be happy to sing anywhere and at any time.

Singing onstage at church as a pre-schooler

Studying Music…

When I got to college, I didn’t sing on a praise team anymore, but I was constantly on-stage. Most of my time was spent studying music and performing with my academic groups rather than doing music recreationally or with my church. I spent hours practicing solo and chorus songs. I applied technique and really got to know my voice and how to manage it and make it go where it needed to go. I thoroughly enjoyed this process, but my performance mindset was shifting. The world of musical study is often associated with working towards perfection. I still experienced great joy in singing, but a lot of it was filled with being constantly aware of how ‘on target’ I was in my tonality. Of course, I didn’t notice the subtle shift happening inwardly, but I did know that every day I wanted to work towards improvement and get better and better.

My college choir singing in Europe! (I’m in the middle front)

Life After College…

When I graduated, I received my Bachelor’s of Music in Applied Performance: Vocal Emphasis. After my choir toured in Europe, I got married and moved to a new state to prepare for my next stage of life: being the wife to a Physics PhD student! I had already been teaching voice lessons during college, but stopped for the first year of marriage as I adjusted to what my new life would be like. I worked full time in a non-music job for the next four years. After a year of not teaching, I had to get back into it. A part of me really was missing without it. So, I started teaching again and little by little grew my voice studio to a part-time business. At the same time, I got involved in my local worship community by co-leading the praise choir at our worship leader’s invitation.

Perfection to Praise…

During this time, I became good friends with a worship background vocalist. I talked with her about being on the worship team as a background vocalist and what that would be like. The only thing I remember from that conversation was her remark that ‘leading praise and worship is not about perfection (self-focus), but about bringing people into the presence of God (God-focus).’ This really got me thinking about my heart behind wanting to be on the team. Was it for worship and praise to God or for perfection and praise from people?

more to come on my heart journey of worship…

My Story, Praise and Worship

In Memoriam of…

… Cousin Renee Zensen, Dad Jerry Olson, Cousin-in-law Neil Guggenmos.

It’s been a surreal month with two cousins dying in addition to the remembrance of my own dear father’s premature death. For a time I could ‘hold it together,’ but the grief flooded out at the latest events and I’m truly feeling my feelings. The story is below.


My older sister, uncle, baby me, and cousin Renee

In late March, I got notification that my cousin had suffered a medical emergency and passed away a little more than a week later. This is my dad’s sister’s daughter, Renee. It was unreal, truly surreal. This is the type of thing you see in movies, but you don’t actually expect to happen in your family. And yet, it does happen to some, to us. It’s nonsensical. I remember my older cousin more as my older siblings’ playmate than mine, but there were times I played with her too. One memory in particular is laughing with her. I wore a red fringe skirt one time we visited. We girls were in her bedroom and I stood in front of her full-length mirror and made that skirt shake! We giggled and danced and there was so much joy! I’ll remember most her smiles and laughter.


Dad and me playing and cuddling

April 20 is Dad’s birthday, or rather ‘was,’ depending on how you look at it. Renee’s memorial was held on the same day as her late uncle’s (my dad) birthday. I couldn’t make it up to the service but I remembered her on that day. I also remembered my father who died at age 67 after a 17 year battle with cancer. I felt the pain of his premature death more acutely this year. He would’ve had some very comforting words to offer his sister and family and yet, he wasn’t here to express those. There are many things Dad didn’t get to experience and I didn’t get to experience with him because of this disease, but I take comfort in remembering the good memories and all the growth that has happened in my life since then. Dad would be proud and he’d probably tell me that I am beautiful, that he loves hearing me sing, and to keep following God.


Neil & Kara’s Christmas photo years ago

Less than a month after Renee’s death, we got news that my cousin’s husband was missing in the Alaskan wilderness. After a long search, he was found and I am mourning his loss. I loved Neil from the first time I met him. It was completely obvious to anyone that I had a little girl crush on my older cousin’s new husband. He had a big smile and welcomed me openly. How could I but welcome him openly into my family and my heart as well? My heart aches for Kara because not only is she my cousin, but she’s also been a role model and mentor. Whether she knows it or not, I look up to this powerful opera singer who loves Jesus so dearly! Our similar educational paths has put a special connection on my heart to her and her family.

Flooded with Emotion…

How could I respond to this pain and grief? I was in deep heartache and no words of prayer seemed to go deep enough. But God’s been stirring something in me. He’s been preparing me. He’s been calling me to deeper intimacy with Him. On Thursday, May 2, I sang. I sang for Neil, I sang for Kara, I sang for Renee, and I sang for Dad. I ‘raise(d) a Hallelujah in the middle of the mystery.’

Thinking of my loved ones and deeply mourning with you all. I love you, truly. – Brittany