A (crazy) year in the life of a southern gospel wife

January –

I celebrated my first birthday on Facebook. It was quite moving. That is about all that happened. January stinks.

Ok wait… there were a few other things. One is that we took a weekend trip to Disney World, just Rod and me. It was glorious, especially since we left record low Chicago temperatures – it was 15 below when we ran coatless from our car to the airport shuttle – and spent three days in perfect 70ish Orlando. Ahhh.

The other was that for the first time, Rod joined me in participating in Bloom Writers’ Day, an annual event at my high school. The one day conference features alumni who are writers by trade or passion. Because I was speaking about this very column, Rod was invited to come and sing…sing GOSPEL music in a public high school, SOUTHERN gospel music in a very urban setting. The kids loved it, and so did we.

Little baby Kaity’s first birthday was seriously the only stand out moment in what is, for me, the dreariest month of the year!

March –
SGM FanFair. While we were there, we realized that not only were we really having a convention, but people knew we were the ones behind it. This was both extremely cool and quite terrifying.

Also while we were away on this trip, I learned that a friend of a friend lost her daughter – near my Kaity’s age – to a driveway accident much like the one suffered by the Steven Curtis & Mary Beth Chapman family. This news, this night, in many ways changed my life. It motivated me to make some promises to God about my allegiance to Him. I am every day grateful that He has not yet chosen to test those promises. This news is one reason I hug my babies tighter.


I learned of Maddie Spohr after she was already gone. Her smile will light your computer screen and melt your heart. Her mommy is Heather, who blogs about life after losing a child and is now expecting another baby with her husband Mike. Why is this a milestone in my year? Because I met many amazing people through hearing of Maddie, including her dear mommy. Because this sealed a burden in my soul to pray for strangers, to care about them, to feel for things that might not ever touch me. That is Compassion.


Rod and I learned that our business partner for the convention was in fact, as I named him on Twitter, a #ShadyBusinessPartner. We lost money, as did at least a dozen artists recording with him. We also lost someone whom we thought was part of our family. While this was terribly unsettling news, it was also a turning point for everything about Rod and me: our marriage, our faith, and our ministry and business together

We sat across from each other, on our facing desk chairs, and pledged to go through the convention, no matter what it cost us. See July for how that turned out.

Our son – Rod’s by birth, mine by marriage since he was age 12, graduated from high school. It rained and the ceremony was moved inside, which meant only Josh’s mom and Rod could attend. We celebrated all together afterwards. As we gathered on the front lawn for pictures, Kaity was crying from her crib, which is near the window overlooking our yard. She had smeared her diaper everywhere during her nap. We had one child in his cap and gown, one covered in her own…mess. As a friend of mine said, it was ‘the circle of life’ all under one roof. It was also a perfect, funny, and gross example of the chaos of life with two teens and two tots. I will never forget it.

Also in June, Rod and I took our two sweet girls to be Princesses at DisneyWorld. While we swam and visited a castle and sang “It’s A Small World” and “Once Upon a Dream” 300 times a day, we also learned of more damage that had been caused by #ShadyBusinessPartner. We had to plan a very  hurried and hasty trip to Branson to make sure that our contracts were in place the way we needed them to be. I fasted and prayed for the first time in my life. It worked. Though we managed to get lost on the way to Branson (because a certain wife put BRANdville in the GPS), we had favor in all of our meetings there.

And the morning when we returned, with essentially no sleep, my children broke a glass jar in the background while I gave a phone interview to Paul Heil for Gospel Greats. I’m told the editing was brilliant. I’m glad something was! (And for the record, PAUL HEIL!)

I didn’t have morning sickness during either of my pregnancies, only during student teaching and the weeks leading up to the convention. I stopped shopping for organic foods. In fact, I stopped cooking. I subsisted on coffee and salt and vinegar chips, and I don’t really remember what everyone else was having, other than non-organic milk. I do remember the day my stepkids’ mom moved away and how ridiculously useless I felt in the middle of a whole lot of craziness. I remember a sweet moment the day before we left when I was gathered with some mommy friends to plan and pray. I also remember how hours, mere hours, before we were to leave for Branson, the enemy of our souls tried to steal what we’d managed to keep until that point: our resolve. He used one of our kids as a pawn in that. It threw us for a few minutes. We needed quick wisdom and a lot of strength. And God provided.

He was bigger and more visible to me in the week of the Branson Gospel Music Convention than I think ever before in my life. Artists after artist showed up in Branson with tales of the obstacles they’d met on their roads to that convention.  And artist after artist left with the same thing we did: a testimony of how God used that week to make a difference, to refresh our spirits, to renew our callings, and to change our lives. i walked, well, ran, through that week in a daze of adrenaline and awe. I met people who will be my friends for life. Relationships with friends I already had became deeper. I have never felt so united by a purpose. I have never felt so supported by a group of believers. I have never felt so used by God.

And when I got home, I had never felt more tired! We’re gearing up for the second convention, and we still haven’t recovered from the first!

We had a short stint at home, during which we celebrated my Grandma’s 91st birthday, Rod’s annual homecoming concert with our friends Jay Stone Singers, Miranda left diapers behind forever, and I agreed to become the editor-in-chief of an online magazine, just to break up the monotony.

On August 4, Rod came home from work at Comcast early…never to return. A stirring in us that was tangible when we returned from Branson had been confirmed. Seemingly out of nowhere, he was given a one year severance package and an immediate boot: a cushion to have time and security to dedicate to his personal ministry, the convention, and some other stuff I will be writing about soon. Every night for several weeks, our smiley two year old thanked Jesus for “Daddy’s new job” at bedtime. I’m still thanking Him. We have some adjusting as we still learn to figure out how it all works, but I could not have asked for better. I love being with my best friend pretty much all the time.

We attended the National Quartet Convention for only the third time, but marveled for the entire week how our experience there has changed because of how our ministry expanded. The late night/lazy morning was replaced by late night/get up and meet with people. It’s ok. I loved every minute.

I also loved being introduced as the Editor-in-Chief of SGN Scoops Digital. Our first issue debuted during NQC. It was an incredible amount of work and a total labor of love. It’s also a dream come true for me. I can now call myself a professional writer and editor…the cherry on top!

We celebrated Paige’s 16th birthday with a party that was meant to surprise her. I not only enjoyed but kinda loved having 14 teenagers in our house, which says a lot about our daughter and her friends!

Kaity took her first trip to the ER for breathing problems. Rod was out of town on a consulting gig. God was totally cool as was my whole family. What could have been scary and discouraging was a lesson for us all in letting go and trusting. Rod traveled a lot that month and I struggled a lot with time management and Mommy guilt. We made it through a fun Princess-y Halloween and then…

began with a bang as Kaity returned to the hospital 4 weeks to the day after her first visit. Rod was away again, and Josh had no car. KK and I were sent by ambulance to University of Chicago’s PICU in the middle of the night. Oh, and this was days before Rod and I were scheduled to be in Branson for our first press conference. It was insanity for a few days… sleepless, weepy insanity. But we made it. Kaity’s reactive airway is being monitored and treated preventatively. No more hospitals for us. No way.

We eventually made it to Branson for a wonderful, productive business trip, we celebrated Miranda’s 3rd birthday and her entry into DanceClass!, and we gave thanks like nobody’s business on my favorite holiday of the year.

…flew by in such a whirl I can only describe it in phrases: long ride/good trip to Pigeon Forge, Disney World!, great increase in magazine readership for a very special issue on grace, house guests/Rod’s new singing group, stomach flu, Christmas Treet! (what KK calls it), meeting the Oak Ridge Boys, trip to Ohio, bathroom remodel, more lessons learned… and here we are.

It’s been the most full, the most challenging, the most incredible year of my life. I know it’s just a foundation for what’s next.

“All I ever have to be is what You made me. Any more of less would be a step out of Your plan. As you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind that I only have to do what I can find. And all I ever have to be is what You made me.” -Amy Grant (w. Gary Chapman)

“My heart wants to sing every song it hears.” – Rodgers/Hammerstein, Sound of Music

“Sometimes I lie awake just thinking of all the horizons we have seen, and as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me. ‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me when the sun goes down
Living on faith and holding on tight to the love we found. And we go rolling down this highway chasing all our crazy dreams. I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way and everywhere in between. One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground, just outside of some sleepy little town and set this circus down.” – Tim McGraw (w. Bill Luther/Josh Kear)

“We’re on a road that has no end and each day we begin again. Love isn’t something that were in, it’s something that we do.” – Clint Black

“I’m walking in the light of my Savior’s love, I’m living in His fellowship diving. As I travel down this winding road that God has before me, I’m glad to know I’m His and He is mine!” – Rod Burton (w. Bobby Carter)