Last night I had to make a quick run to the wretched, wonderful Wal-Mart.  On my way, I was listening to a CD that I had intentionally chosen to play in my car this week because my mind has been struggling.  The CD is a collection of hymns by Crystal Lewis.

When I begin questioning God and my faith, I often find myself turning to music.  This particular CD is one that has comforted me through a broken engagement, an estrangement from family members, three miscarriages, and the loneliness I have experienced when I have moved to new places.

My mom intentionally taught me many things.  Love God. Love your neighbor.  Eat all your vegetables.   Go to bed early on Saturday night.  The list goes on and on.

You know, I don’t ever remember my mom sitting me down and telling me…when you are having a ‘dark night of the soul’ … start singing.  But many of the lessons I learned in my childhood were learned through observation of a life lived well by my mom.

Every Sunday morning of my childhood (except for the two weeks each year when my dad took vacation), I saw my mom worshipping the Lord singing in the choir of our church.  Then again on Sunday nights I would stand next to my mom and hear her singing the alto line of the evening choruses and hymns.

Those sweet songs she sang, still resonate in my soul.  Throughout my life I have found that the words of those hymns have helped to bring healing to my broken heart and strength to my weak spirit.

Last night as I was listening to Crystal Lewis sing, I had my hometown on my heart.  You see, this past weekend a terrible accident occurred that involved children.  With one child dead, others seriously injured, and countless others impacted emotionally because they know and love these children, my mind went to a place that it has been many times in my life……

Life is not fair.  Why would God allow this?   Why does life have to be so painful?

As I was grappling with these things, I was also thinking about how blessed I am to have been raised in a small town.  I have been a ‘city’ girl for most of the
last decade of my life.  It takes me less than five minutes to get to the nearest mall, movie theatre, Mexican restaurant, Target, and Sam’s Club.  I love, love, love this part of living in a city.    But…there is something that this city could never offer me.

You see, I grew up in ‘Love’ county.  Seriously that is the name of the county in Oklahoma where I spent my childhood.  If the internet source I checked is accurate, the population of the entire county is only around 9,000 people.  As I have watched the response of this small community to this weekend’s tragedy, I can’t think of a better name than ‘love.’

I am so proud to still be a small town girl at heart.  Though most of the friends I grew up with no longer live in Love County, there is a unique connection that we all have.  Even those of us who are now ‘city people,’ found our hearts breaking and longing to go back ‘home’ to cry with and hug those we love.

There is a small town spirit that just cannot be duplicated in a city that hundreds of thousands of people consider ‘home.’    You see, small towns are not defined by the stores, the restaurants (well…okay…my hometown is well-known for Robertson’s Ham stand!), or the great movie theatres.  Instead, small towns are defined by the people.

Last night, as I listened to my CD and prayed for my friends ‘back home’ whose five-year old daughter was seriously injured in the accident, I felt an amazing sense of peace come over my heart.  It was a feeling I have felt many times in my life.  An unexplainable sense of hope and assurance that God is still on His throne.  Though life doesn’t make sense.  Though tragedy strikes.  Though my eyes are swollen with tears and my heart is broken in grief….the words to the old hymn still resonate true in my heart.

“my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweet frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

Last night I found myself sitting in the parking lot of Wal-Mart with tear filled eyes, singing those words at the top of my lungs and crying out to God to comfort my friends and family ‘back home’ …

And this I learned from my mom…when life hurts keep singing.  Forever imprinted on my heart and in my mind are those melodies that I heard her sing and that I learned to sing.  Songs that time and time again have been a source of comfort and healing in my life.

For my Love county family and friends who are hurting I want to share with you two of my favorite hymns that I turn to when I need comfort.  The words of one of these hymns are written out below…it was penned by a man in the early 1900s who lost his wife and three sons in a tragic fire (read more about the story behind the song here.)…May you keep singing through the pain.

The other hymn is the one that I was singing in the parking lot of Wal-Mart last night, The Solid Rock.  I’m sure some of you need a good laugh about now, so click on the link to this song and listen…imagine Holly sitting in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart pretending she can hit all the notes that Crystal Lewis can!  You should try it too…come on I dare you!

He Keeps Me Singing by Luther Bridges

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.