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Timestamp: 2011-08-29 02:50:12 UTC
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In addition to my love for words written in books, words set to music often speak to my heart and minister to me at an even deeper level. Such was the case when I heard the song Blessings by Laura Story. When I found out she was going to be available for interviews at ICRS in Atlanta, I immediately requested a time to meet with her.
It was one of the highlights of the week.
This young woman is the real deal, folks. Laura is not one who has a theoretical faith which has not been challenged by life's storms. She and her husband are walking a difficult road, and God is using it not only to refine them like pure gold but also to speak hope, encouragement, and truth to others whose lives have also been upended by heartache.
As I listened to the interview to transcribe it for this post, I was blessed once again by the beautiful Spirit that radiates from the hearts of this young couple.
For all of the seriousness, Laura is not a solemn or dour person. She is quick to laugh and we detoured a time or two to talk about Chuy's Mexican food and a couple of other central Texas icons and landmarks! I definitely call dibs on picking her up at the airport if she ever comes this way to speak or sing!
Laura's husband, Martin, sat across the table with his laptop while Laura and I talked and she told me their story. I truly felt as if I were sitting with a dear friend as she opened her heart. This may be the most stark and authentic conversation I've had in a while. I'm not even sure I like calling it an interview, for it felt much more than that.
So grab a tissue and enjoy this chat with recording artist Laura Story.
My girl sings and plays the piano and viola; she's taking AP Music Theory this year, and she wants to major in music in college. She wants me to ask, how did you get started in your music career?
Now I know the proper Christian perspective is “It’s not about me; it’s about Him.” But you know, nobody has had any idea who Laura Story is for a long time. But everyone knows who Chris Tomlin is. (Laura bursts out laughing.) And everyone knows the song Indescribable. And Laura Story wrote that song.
I did. And I’ll tell you: it was my first year of marriage. And at first I thought, “Well, that’s kinda neat that he gets to travel all around the world and play this song.” We did our first promotional thing with him, and I met him and all the guys in his band. They were so tired, they looked like they were about to fall over, and they said, “Yeah, we’ve done about 300 dates this year.” It was the same year that I had just gotten married, and I had been at home doing college ministry with my husband. And I genuinely thought, “I am so glad that Chris Tomlin is willing to travel around and sing this song all over the world so I don’t have to!” Who knew that eventually the Lord was going to be pushing me out there to do more of the “up front” stuff? So yeah, at that time in my life, I was so thankful.
So the anonymity didn’t bother you.
Nooooo, not at all. I feel like I got to learn a little more about the music industry and a little more about what I would want to be like if I ever were the recording artist. I’d just gotten to see a lot of friends go through the process of getting record deals and booking concerts – people like Chris who I really admired how they did that, and I got to see some other people who made some poor decisions. We’re trying to steward the opportunities well. Some days we do; some days we don’t.
I have read and know a bit of the background of the story of the song Blessings, but can you share that?
It was birthed out of an evaluation of the last five years of our life. I’ve been married to my husband, Martin, for seven years, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor about two years into our marriage. In some areas we’ve seen recovery and healing from all that, and in other areas we haven’t. It wasn’t cancerous, but it grew so much that it did a good bit of damage in his brain to his vision and his memory. Learning to live with a disability is always a huge learning curve, so that’s on the practical side. On the spiritual side, [it’s been] learning that sometimes God allows His kids to walk through really hard stuff. I totally believe that God is all-powerful. In His word He says that He’s a healer. What does that mean when I pray every day for five years for God to heal my husband, and He doesn’t do it?
The song Blessings is a song full of questions. I would say, “God blesses His children by giving them the things they pray for.” But what if God’s definition of blessings is different than ours? And what if there are things He wants to accomplish in our lives—or not even in our lives, but maybe just in His world? Everything’s always about me in my synopsis of things! I always talk about how it affects me and how comfortable I feel and wanting this pain-free existence! But what if there are things God wants to accomplish in and through me that necessitate Him not answering my prayers the way that I want Him to? And what if I look back on this life, and there are things that, much later in life I can count as blessings, but right now I have to maybe just label them blessings by faith? I don’t know. Sometimes people say, “That’s such a cool song with so much wisdom,” and I tell them it’s just a bunch of questions because that’s where we are. But what we’re finding is, that’s where most people are in their Christian faith. No one understands why God’s plan includes suffering and abuse and divorce and death and so many things that people walk through on a daily basis. But if I believe that it’s possible that He could have a plan that’s greater than what my finite mind can understand, if I believe that’s possible, then I probably just need to continue to trust Him through it.
Did I mention I’m a worship leader? I’d been at this church for almost six years and had been on staff with them for about 5 months when all of this happened. So I have this job as a worship leader, but this thing has happened to us, and the last thing I wanted to do is get up on stage and sing How Great is Our God! Just to be real honest, I didn’t know if I even believed that anymore! I didn’t know what to do with any of this. It was either me quitting my job and going to work at Wendy’s or something, or me looking to the Scriptures to say, “Okay God. Please tell me that You have something to say about how to worship you when life is hard.” And that was the beginning of a process of searching the Scriptures that completely changed my life. It completely changed my life and how I see Scripture.
And this may be controversial, but Scripture does not teach the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. It doesn’t at all. You see King David, who says, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Not, “I feel like blessing the Lord at all times.” You see Job. You see the Apostle Paul who has this thorn in his flesh and he’s praying that God will take it away. And God doesn’t say, “No, Paul, I’m leaving it because you’ve been such a bad person.” Sometimes we feel that way—that God has given us this hard thing to punish us. The ultimate purpose we see Paul saying that God told him is, because we are weak, that God can be seen as the strong God that He is. So as much as I want to—and do!—complain about the story God has written for us, at the end of the day, both my husband and I would say that the chief aim of our lives is for people to see God through us, for people to see God as He is. And if that means us limping along, rather than experiencing the snap-of-a-finger healing—if that’s how God’s seen as the big God that He is, I want to be part of that! I feel like there’s a blessing that’s bigger than what this world offers, there’s a blessing that I can experience just being part of that story.
I’m a worship leader, so some of these songs are corporate worship songs and some are sit-in-your-car and worship songs. My songs are about God’s promises intersecting real life. It’s one thing to sing about how good God is. I feel like the secular music industry is a lot more honest about life being hard. I think sometimes Christians don’t feel like they can admit any disappointment or struggle. So especially on this CD, the songs talk about how God’s promises give us a framework for walking a road that’s hard, for walking through trials. Scriptures tell us that it’s not “if”, it’s “when.” It’s “When you walk through the fire. . .”
Are you on a tour schedule?
We had a heavy touring schedule in the spring and we’re taking some time off this summer to just breathe a little bit, and then we’ll hit it hard again in the fall.
How do you balance that with being a worship leader?
Oh, I don’t balance it very well! I’ve had a commitment with [the church] for almost six years now to be there every other weekend. This is the first time we’ve taken a chunk of time off; we’ll be gone this summer and a bit into the fall. I just noticed that everything I was doing, I was leading. That’s not good for anyone. We’ve had some time this summer to be led in worship and Bible Studies and that’s been nice.
Are things stabilizing with your husband or is still a rocky road medically?
It’s something where we see little improvements every year. We’re learning to find the balance in being thankful for the healing God’s given us – because we really are! We’re so thankful for how He’s worked in Martin’s life and his body and the things He’s taught us. But also, being honest, we don’t want to just do the spiritual band-aid thing of “It’s okay. God works all things together for good.” I feel that the Lord gave us emotions, and when we don’t mourn the things that are hard in our lives, we end up emotionally constipated Christians! What I find is that if I can’t call something bad or hard, there’s only so much I can make the gospel relevant to non-believers. If they look at me and what I’m walking through and I say, “Oh, no, no it’s okay! God’s in control, they say ”that just doesn’t even make sense!" I’m learning to say “It’s really, really hard and we spend a lot of days dealing with a lot of disappointment.” I think that the difference is what we do with that disappointment – do we run from God or do we run to God. We’re learning to run to God and to trust that in our hands it’s a mess, but in His hands it’s really going to be something beautiful where He’s glorified through it, even if we don’t see how He’s doing that.
Is he able to hold a job?
He’s not working and he can’t drive either because of his vision. We’re slowly getting back into talking about some vocational things with him. He was doing some graphic design before his brain tumor, and he’s slowly getting back into that, so that’s neat. But it’s a slow process. When we first went into the hospital they gave us a pamphlet about what to expect from your recovery, and it was a five-day plan – surgery on one day, two days in ICU, two days in a regular room and then home on day 5. [I thought], “Oh! It’s that easy!” Three months later, we’re still in the hospital! And that’s kinda been the story of the recovery process. Everything takes a lot longer, both in physical recovery and in recovery and healing of our own hearts. I’ll talk to people who have lost loved ones – and even though this is not the same at all, it’s still the death of some dreams – and anyone who’s mourning the loss of anything always says, “Wow, it’s just taking so much longer than I thought.”
One thing we’re learning is that, that pain and that ache of life not being exactly what we thought it would be-—I know for me, at least—motivates me and gives me this longing for the next life. It motivates me in evangelism. It motivates me in talking to people about the whole reason for any of this—whether it’s a Christian blog or a Christian CD or anything—is shouting from the rooftops that there’s more to this life than just this life. So if it’s the pain and the ache in my heart that reminds me of that, and if it’s the hard life that we live on this earth that reminds me of that—because that’s the question: everyone looks at us and asks, “What is there to hope in, in the midst of your situation?” Well, because we believe that this life isn’t all that there is. And if one person hears Martin’s story and comes to faith, yeah, that’s worth it.
So you were married a year and a half when this happened. What has this taught you about marriage?
(Laughs!) I’m a terrible wife! Is that what I’ve learned, Martin?!
You stood at the altar and took your wedding vows in your mid-twenties, fully expecting that any of the “for worse” situations surely wouldn’t happen for 50 years or so.
It was definitely hard that the “sickness and in health” stuff came early on.
The world would tell you this is not what you signed up for, so Laura, you just need to get on your way.
Yeah. I think that they are not just vows that we make before God and witnesses. I truly believe that people who think that they can get married in a church but then live the rest of their life out on their own – that’s just the biggest bunch of bull! God is not only the One that we pledge to and the One who created marriage, but He’s the Sustainer of marriage. And the reason that you get up there with a pastor and a bunch of people is because they’re the hands and feet of Jesus who are helping us through marriage when it’s hard. I think a lot of people who have struggles in their marriages don’t think they can talk to people about it. And that’s one thing that we’ve learned: we can’t do marriage on our own.
Martin’s disability is a rub in our marriage. It would be easy for us to get frustrated and point at each other and say, “Why or you this way?” or “Why are you impatient with me?” Sometimes it’s good for us to stop and say “It’s the disability we’re mad about right now. It’s the fact that all those years ago, Adam and Eve ate the apple and sin entered this world and creation has been forever marred because of it. And it allowed death and disease, and that’s what we’re mad about! It’s the stupid devil; it’s our own sin that we’re mad about, rather than pointing a finger at each other all the time. (She laughs.) Not that we do that perfectly or anything. We still quarrel about stuff. But I can honestly say that I’ve never thought, “If I’d known it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have married Martin.” Because everyone has their thing that they walk through. If for some crazy reason we hadn’t gotten married and I found out he was walking through this on his own, I would have found him and been right by his side. Or I’d have been so jealous of whatever woman got to walk through it with him! So there are blessings even found in how God has used this illness to bind us together. (She looks over at Martin) Wouldn’t you say that?
That's sweet; that encourages me. Anything else you want to say to my blog readers?
There’s one more thing I want to say. So many people look at life or look at ministry as something they’re going to do after they get their life together, after they get past whatever thing seems to be paralyzing them or complicating their life, whether it’s walking through a divorce or dealing with a wayward child that isn’t living out the way their parents raised him to believe. And I would challenge people: God is the God of every story. He’s the God of every season of our lives. And He wants to glorify Himself, not just in the springs of our lives but also in the falls and the winters of our lives when things seem really hard. He’s a God that’s about bringing Himself glory. A lot of times people see their certain situations in life as being a detour when, really, it’s just the road. It’s the road that God’s calling them to walk down. And not only will He never leave us or forsake us on that road, but He’ll use all of it. He truly does use every ingredient of our life to bring Himself glory. So I just want to encourage people that God has a plan for whatever hard story they’re walking through. The central point would be making sure that we’re running to Him rather than from Him in the midst of our hard thing.
Laura, you endeared yourself to me and blessed me more than you know. Thank you for the opportunity to visit with you and for allowing God to use "the greatest disappointments and the aching of this life" to minister to the world for His glory. And I hope we get to eat at Chuy's together some day soon!
You can learn more about Laura at her website or on her Facebook page. Here she is singing Blessings live in the KLOVE studio.
I have a brand-new copy of this CD to give to one of you! To enter, leave a comment on this post. Earn a second entry by posting about/linking to this interview and giveaway on your blog or FB and leaving a second comment letting me know you did so. Entries must be received by 8:00 pm CDT next Sunday, 8/28/11, and I will randomly draw a winner. US Residents only.
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