Small Town Someone-
A few years ago we were at an awards show and my friend, Kenna won the award for her songwriting abilities. In her acceptance speech, she simply said she was so grateful that God used her lunch to feed others. I texted her from the audience to congratulate her and said we have to write that song! Last spring when I started writing for this project, she was the first writer I called and this was one of the first two songs we wrote that day. It's one of Jeff's favorites on the project! I am both humbled and excited that God can take our offerings, no matter how small and use them to do great things!
This Side Of The Dirt-
It always takes Jeff a little longer than me, to commit to a song choice. I usually hear a song and know immediately what I like and rarely does that ever change months, or even years later. Jeff is different. It could be an incredible song, but he's not completely sure it's a song he should sing. Kenna told me last fall that she'd love to write a song specifically for Jeff. I've recorded many of her tunes, but until this album, Jeff hadn't. She sat down with Sue and Jason and with one of my favorite hooks from the album, created a beautiful story about Jeff and the men who shaped him. Jeff remembers sitting on the front porch listening to the Osborne Brothers Favorite Hymns album, loving this style of music with his Grandpa Sechrist who owned a junk yard. That junk yard was an incredible teacher for Jeff and it honed his skills as a mechanic. His daddy always shared that love of fixing things that were broken and it crossed over into his preaching and singing. Encouraging folks to live better every day on this side of the dirt is a wonderful way to help fix a broken world.
We try to choose songs for our project that marry the Jeff & Sheri style without compromising the style/message that is best for our daughter, Morgan to sing. Morgan is twenty-one dealing with issues that a young, single girl deals with everyday...learning how to walk with grace through her struggles and hardships. She is just beginning to witness the ever-present help that God promises in His word. During weekdays, Morgan is a caregiver to my mama, her grandma, and it's sometimes hard to sing about God's faithfulness, yet witness the unfairness of a godly woman, confined to her bed with no means of communicating because of a crippling disease. Doubts are part of the growth process and Morgan is learning through those real life doubts and questions, the songs that she sings can be a lifeline for folks who are hurting.
Jesus Loves You-
After hearing a discouraging news report one night, I was thinking that the reason we hurt one another is because we don't recognize our own value. We sometimes forget we are loved. We forget we are important and I simply wanted to remind my audience that no matter what they are facing, no matter how hard it seems, God still loves them with a love that never ends. That same week I read the scripture that reminds us that although a mother may forget her nursing child, God will never forget you. When I went in to write the song with Don Poythress and Kenna Turner West, I cried trying to convey the necessity of that message. We started writing the verses and then, Don at the end of the first verse, strummed a downbeat on his guitar, paused and then sang, "Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you...". I knew at that moment, this would be the message for the entire project. It was such an important song that we wanted it to be as big of a production as it could be, so we included a choir of vocals and a full string section for the first time ever on one of our songs!
Our good friend, Bradley Gaskin came by the house one week to write. As soon as he walked into the house, Jeff took him over to the window and showed him my mama's house across the street. Jeff in his 'Mayberry' fashion said, "You see that street light over there, that's where it all started!" Bradley immediately locked into that hook and we began writing a song about our first date and how two people found love under a literal street light, while finding light in each other. "Isn't it amazing, what a little light can do, takes a darkened life and shines the truth."
More Than Enough-
This has been my go-to phrase this year. When I heard about a friend who was struggling, I encouraged them with these five little words, "God is more than enough!" I had said it so often, that when I went in to write the first song for the project, this was the message. In my life, God in every tough situation has proven Himself to be more than enough for whatever I face. Our precious friend, Paul Lancaster, who has done background vocals on all of our projects for the past ten years, does some outstanding vocals on this one!
Like You're Still Here-
Because Jeff loves country music, new country artist/songwriter, Mo Pitney has quickly become one of Jeff's favorites. We also love him because we've had the privilege of knowing his precious family for over 20 years now. Mo sent Jeff this song, one he had written about his grandfather and Jeff fell in love with it. It was the first song Jeff chose to record for this project and he asked Mo to re-write the second verse a little more specific to his relationship with his dad. Although Jeff's daddy is still alive and traveling/singing/preaching, he lives in Virginia and there are many days they have to be away from each other. Jeff does everything he does with his oversized heart, to make his daddy proud as if he were here watching his every move!
When The Harvest Comes-
I wrote this song with Kenna and Lee Black especially for Morgan to sing. The older my children get, they are beginning to realize what an incredible heritage they have as fourth generation gospel music singers. They are beginning to see the seeds planted years ago are proving to be an incredible harvest in their young lives. There is no sweeter compliment to Morgan than to say she sounds/looks like her mama, or her grandma. The same was true in my life and I wanted to say that in a song. Morgan sings it with passion and commitment, "You plant that seed anyway, knowing there's gonna be a day when the branches will be heavy from all the work you've done, and you bless the ones behind you when the harvest comes."
I Love You-
Jeff's uncle Edd sang a song to him backstage that he had written for his wife, Ann. He explained that he sings it every morning when they wake up and every evening when they go to bed, to remind her of his love for her always. Jeff loved it and realized that's the way he feels about me! He asked Edd if he could record it for our new project and Edd, who has only written gospel songs for over 60 years with his two brothers, shared this beautiful love song with us.
Hallelujah Coming From The Valley-
This was the first song that I chose for the project. I have been looking for this style of song for years...a song that is earthy, grassy, yet has a message of hope and promise. It reminds me of my roots, soft and acoustic with soaring harmonies and a lyric that lifts!
Jimmy pitched Jeff this song years ago, but it wasn't until the past year that he really felt a stronger connection with the lyrics. He played it for me around Christmas and although, I had heard the song several years ago, the timeliness of it brought me to tears. We're so blessed to have this beautiful life that God has given us and we want to live it to the fullest. One day Madison mentioned that he would love to sing a verse of this one with his dad. Jeff was obliging and grateful that the song meant so much to Madison that this would be the first song that he has recorded on one of our projects as an adult. It turned out to be a beautiful celebration of life between a father and a son, and they both wanted to have our friend, Michael English do our background vocals for this song.
Good Old Gospel Song
When Jeff was about 12 years old, he sang I'll See You In The Rapture in a small church as his first feature song with his family. His daddy started the song in the wrong key and as Jeffrey screeched out the verse, he realized that the chorus was coming up and that it was even higher. By the time he finished, he was so upset at how horrible his performance had been, he started crying and ran down the aisle to the back of the church. As Jeff tells it, "People thought I was in the spirit. I was, but it wasn't a good spirit!" Recalling that moment with friend, Jimmy Yeary, Jeff and Jimmy began writing about the experience and many others relating back to the power of a gospel song. A gospel song has the power to move people, regardless of a performance.
Standing Here Wondering
Ever since I was a little girl, this has been one of my favorite spirituals that my Mama sang. She knew how to sing from her soul and this song gave her the opportunity to showcase that gift. She recorded it in the early 1960's and then, re-recorded it in the 1980's because it was one of her most requested songs. When I went into the studio, all I could think about was how much my Mama loved this song, loved Mahalia Jackson and loved black gospel. I did my very best to honor her and enjoyed every moment of singing with 'Polly' on my mind. Although, she is now completely bedridden with Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia, she gave us her big, beautiful smile as she listened to the final mix...and that's all the affirmation I need.
There Is A Purpose
About 2 years ago, I was asked to judge the Singing News Songwriter Contest. I accepted and explained that we’d be happy to participate by judging, then recording the selected song on our next project. I began to eagerly go through package after package, looking for THE song. It was quite the undertaking, but proved to be a wonderful way to find new writers with new and fresh ideas.
This song was our winner. It was scripturally based, had a memorable melody and was a message that listeners could count on being true and lasting. I was told many years ago, that if God gives you a platform, you must be very careful about the things you say to your audiences, making certain that it is a message they can trust. You can count on the unpredictability of seasons, the highs and the lows and knowing that through it all, there really is a purpose!
I Won’t Have To Worry Anymore
August 2011, we received a call that Jeff’s mama, Louise was very ill. She had been sick for about 5 years and each day was getting a little worse. The doctors explained to the family that it wouldn’t be long.
All of her family made efforts to travel to North Carolina to say our goodbyes. As the final day of her life approached, her husband of 56 years sat by her bedside playing her gospel music. James played this song, I Won’t Have To Worry Anymore, and soon after, she left her tired, broken body here to live in her new one in Heaven.
As my sweet Mama’s condition worsened to the point of her being bedridden, life was slowly changing for us. Sometimes it felt like, one day we hugged each other to say ‘I love you’ and the next, we simply held her hand in the quiet. Sometimes we helped her walk across the room, and later, we cradled her to lift her into bed. Ironically, every act, every effort, no matter how different from the last, no matter how small, felt like love…a simple expression of kindness to show her just how much she meant to us.
Love is…Taking ten minutes of time to stop by and visit Grandad, it’s praying for soldiers you don’t even know fighting to keep us all safe, rocking your son till his fever breaks, or a teacher who stays till the last bell has rang to help a kid struggling in class.
Love is a multitude of selfless offerings that make someone else’s life just a little bit better than before.
Anything But Happy
As we began to search for songs for this upcoming project, I wanted songs that brought fans of Expecting Good Things up to date with everything going on in our lives. So I started examining my life a little more closely, started noticing the things I did and the things that impacted me so much that I held them in my heart and pondered them awhile.
What I noticed more than anything else was how gratitude was permeating every moment of every day. I found myself grateful for good health, thankful that I get to spend time with my kids…even while I work, at a job that I love. I looked into Jeffrey’s sweet face and whispered a ‘thank-you' to God for blessing me with not only a wonderful husband and father to my kids, but also, the best friend anyone could ever have.
All too often we stand at the windows of heaven with our tiny little cups raised and waiting for blessings, when God wants to pour them down in a torrential shower. When you look at your life like that, how could you be Anything But Happy?
I Wonder If He Ever Cries
About 20 years ago, I recorded a song that I thought was such a tender depiction of Christ’s love for us. It also recognizes the pain He must sometimes feel. I Wonder If He Ever Cries was such a fresh perspective and people loved it. They loved it so much that 20 years later, they still request it.
When we began selecting songs for this project, this is the first song I asked Morgan to do. It is well loved, but it needed a fresher sound to be appreciated by audiences today. Morgan always sings from her heart and effortlessly breathed new life into the song. “And every time He sees His scars, does it bring a tear into His eyes?” I’ve been assured all my life that God loves me, it’s nice to show Him just how much we love Him back, isn’t it?
It Must Have Been You
Isn’t it amazing to look back at the paths that life has offered you, and see the footprints of God? The awesome affirmations of His fingerprints on your life, the choices you made, the circumstances that turned everything around all add up to the definitive evidence of God at work in your life—every moment of it! Only He could have known how desperately we needed Him. Somehow He saw through eyes of mercy, knowing there was life beyond our present trials. Daily, He helps us to stand to our feet and walk one more mile.
I Know How It Feels To Survive
Recently, I celebrated my 4th year of being cancer free from breast cancer. It created a day full of reflection, gratitude, and celebration. There is nothing like living with eyes wide open! Nothing like living with perspective, and being able to always see the good in every moment of life.
Back in the spring, I began writing a song for our new project, and a line from the song became the project’s title Eyes Wide Open. Our last project dealt with faith, hope and trust even when life is hard. This project deals with celebration and gratitude AFTER life has left its scars.
Now I live with eyes wide open, and my heart is filled with gratitude.
I know everything I have is only borrowed, and by the grace of God, I know I’ll make it through.
Cause I know how it feels to walk out of a valley, and how it feels to breathe the air that gives me life.
I know the silence that comes with trusting and believing and the darkness when the shadows hide the light.
Yea, I know how it feels to survive.
Sitting On Top Of The World
I just love a good love story, always have and always will! I was brought up a mile or so from my grandparents who, in 2002, celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary. Pop put a ladder to the window and brought Grandma down as they eloped to a neighboring county. From what I witnessed in my almost 40 years of watching them together, they were a good love story!
The same goes for my Mama and Daddy. Though their time was cut short by his sudden passing, their love was beautiful to watch. Mama recounts how she and Daddy worked at the same textile mill and at lunch one day, she noticed how pretty his green eyes were.
When I first heard Sitting On Top Of The World, I cried. The events may not have been the same, but it reminded me of the seasons of life and love I’ve been blessed to have with my wonderful husband of now, over 27 years. We’ve built a career, a family, and a home together, and it all started with a glance across a rodeo arena, during a gospel concert.
I’ve always told my friends, I’d love to be sitting out on my front porch, holding Jeffrey’s hand, maybe in our 80’s and like a song we recorded many years ago, “I pray the Lord is tender when He comes to call us home and He lets us go together, so we’ll never be alone”.
A good love story really does make you feel like you’re Sitting On Top Of The World with your feet hanging off!
I'll Take It
I’ve hummed the tune all week, I’ve heard the lyrics resounding in my head, the song I’ll Take It from our new project is what gospel music should be—a healer, a comforter, an inspiration! It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, everyone one of us feels defeated at times. Sometimes we just need to realize that God is faithful and waiting for us to surrender our control so that He can carry what burdens us. The song says it best:
Off in the distance, just up ahead
There’s a valley waiting for me.
I cannot face it, can’t take one more step
I’m frightened by what I can’t see.
Silence consumes what is left of my day,
But then He appears and I hear Him say
I’ll take it, the trial you fear and I’ll make a way from right here.
You are still one of my own so I just can’t leave you alone.
It’s time to let go of what you hold to and surrender to what I can do.
When your burden says, “You cannot make it”, I’ll take it.
A Little Bit Of Sunshine
We’ve experienced some vicious thunderstorms lately, high winds, hail, booming thunder and fierce lightening. We were pretty much confined to home, didn’t make any plans, just waited out the storms. But yesterday morning, I opened the door to walk out onto the porch and sunshine made me smile. I began to make a mental list of all the wonderful things we could do, I heard the birds singing and the spectrum of colors engaged me. I felt alive. I felt like singing. I felt like celebrating life. The irony in all of this—four years ago, this week I was diagnosed with breast cancer; it was a vicious thunderstorm that paralyzed us for a time. But soon after, we saw a little bit of sunshine. I can’t explain how or when or why, but when it came, it warmed our world, it lit up our pathways and it made us begin a mental list of all the wonderful things we could do. And all it took was a little bit of sunshine!
Hear My Heart
There is something very special about the quiet. It’s the place where we hear God’s voice most clearly, without the distractions of life. My life gets so busy with school functions, laundry, and doctor’s appointments, feeding the dog, the cat and the fish, and a host of other necessary, yet overwhelming chores. I long for understanding, for someone to know how I truly feel, but I simply don’t have the time to express myself completely. The wonderful thing about God is that He, only, can hear your heart. Without words to get in the way, He knows just how you feel. That encourages me! Here is a portion of a song I wrote with some friends of mine for our latest project…my prayer during the quietest time of my life!
Sometimes I feel no one’s ever been in this place before.
This is hard, and I’m not sure that I can do this anymore.
I know someday I’ll look back and all this won’t seem real, but Lord right now I need you to know just how I feel.
When there are no words to say and no prayer that I can pray, hear my heart.
When I don’t have strength to try and I’ve cried all I can cry, hear my heart.
Cause you know every fear and every doubt I cannot speak.
You know all the ways I need you and all the ways I’m weak, so I’ll be quiet…
So you can hear my heart.
Sheri Easter, Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey c2008
In The Name Of Jesus
Jeff recalls a time in his life when he was completely surrounded by fears. His Daddy suggested that anytime he felt oppressed, simply call on the name of Jesus. Jeff was a young teenager at the time, but is still reminded of that every time he faces a fear. When we began reviewing songs for our new project, this song affirmed everything he had believed about the power in speaking the name of Jesus. According to the Word of God, we stand on the promise that at the mention of His name, demons will flee, hearts will be restored and lives will be changed.
I Don't Wanna Cry
I can't think of anything more isolating than crying alone with no one to comfort you. As Christians, we are promised that God is always near, that He knows every teardrop that falls and that He cares about the pain we endure. It's comforting to know that on your worst days--the days you feel like giving up--God knows you are hurting and He cares. Remember this promise, "God will hold you when you cry wiping every tear from your eye".
I Need You More Today
When Morgan began singing with us, Jeff wanted to chose just the right song to showcase her voice, her presence and most importantly, her heart. We were on our way to an annual date in New Holland, PA, and Jeff was listening to the radio when this song recorded by The Bishops in the late eighties, early nineties began to play. The message was perfect, the melody was perfect and there was no doubt it sounded like angels when the family harmonies began. We felt like the song was so relevant to what a fifteen year old would experience, and ironically, the writer wasn't much older than that when she wrote the song. The song simply cries out to God for every need, because we are not self-sufficient, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves we can go it alone. The truth is that we need Him, more today than yesterday!
I Get To
I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking, "That just says it all!" We get into such a routine of living that we sometimes forget how to really live. We dread the chores, the deadlines, and even the expectations of others until we realize the blessing wrapped up in each one. Helping Dad wash the car and cut the grass seems so mundane--until we realize that one day, Dad might not be around. So, instead of thinking I have to do something, we remember, "I get to". With the awakening of life we experienced last year, Jeff and I realize all too well that we don't have to do anything, we get to. It's become a motto of sorts around our house this year. These days we remind each other of all the wonderful things in life we 'get' to do!
Over The Mountain
Last December, our family took a trip to Disney World. It was just days before my final round of chemotherapy. When I got back to the bus that evening, I commented to Jeff as we were leaving the parking lot, "I may not be over the mountain, but I can see the other side". It's amazing how just a glimmer of hope can strengthen and carry you through the most difficult days of your life. It's all about perspective, I could see celebration in my near future, therefore, I prepared my spirit to celebrate. Keep your eyes on things that matter, and you'll rise above the blue!
Expecting Good Things
Seems if we could just somehow find perspective and see 'the big picture', we'd all do better at keeping a positive outlook on life. Too often, we grumble and complain about minor inconveniences as if they were just the most horrible set of circumstances when, in actuality, they are just simply inconvenient. Paul said he had 'learned to be content' in whatever state he found himself, meaning that we, too, can 'learn to be content', trusting that God is at work in our lives. We really can trust Him with our every breath. Just because you can't see the sun, doesn't mean it isn't there. Wake up each morning expecting good things, knowing that the sun will shine again, and believing that God and Heaven are awaiting you!
I Know I Love You
There are a lot of things in life I don't know. Who invented the washing machine? Where is Timbuktoo? Why have I been so blessed? And then, there are those things I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. I know I love Jeff, and there is no sweeter sound than when he says my name. I know I fell in love with my babies the moment I held them in my arms and looked into their tiny eyes. I know that my Mama can touch my hand and communicate things that words simply cannot. I may not know everything, but I know I am loved.
Working On A Road
At a Gaither concert, Gordon Mote approached Jeff with the idea that he should record the old Lester Flatt tune, "Workin' On A Road". Jeff and I both remembered the song and we began brainstorming ideas for how to give the old song new life. We were both brought up listening to bluegrass music and the thing I think is so unique to bluegrass is the energy of the song. Whether the song is slow and mournful or chicken-pickin' fast, it exudes an energy that is captivating. Before long, you're tapping your toes or clapping your hands to a melody that feels like home. Nothing could have made this song any better than having our long time friends and Grand Ole Opry members, Marty Stuart and Connie Smith sing along with us. Also, joining us on some really smooth bass is the new 'voice' of WSM, Eddie Stubbs. A great friend of more than 25 years. Thanks to these legendary voices, the song, once again, became new!
After such a tough year, I told Jeff, "I hope and pray no one ever has to go through what we have, but I pray everyone can feel as loved." Cards, letters, phone calls, floral arrangements, small gifts, books, music, emails--it was unbelievable to witness the outpouring of love from God's children. Prayers were being offered up on my behalf; my family was being lifted 'into heavenly places' by these kind gestures. It's amazing when your solid ground is shaken, everything is stripped away, and your faith seems distant, the one thing that remains is love. "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days"--Psalm 90:14 (NIV)
Time For Me To Fly
Last year as we began selecting songs for our upcoming project, the song, Time For Me To Fly, was the first song I chose knowing that it would be the debut single for our daughter, Morgan. She was accepting an awesome responsibility to travel and sing, while still attending high school. I was very aware of the sacrifices she would have to make, but I also knew the overwhelming joy it would be to sing songs of hope and encouragement to a hurting world. Last year was a test of faith for our entire family and Morgan knows firsthand how young people need encouragement when life doesn't seem fair. Spread your wings, baby girl, it's time for you to fly!
Born to Climb
Sometimes in life, the mountains we face overwhelm us at first sight, we feel defeated before we ever begin the climb. Doubts creep in and cold, hard reality whispers, “That’s impossible, you can’t make it!” The truth is—you can’t. The good news is—God can! Set your sights on God, knowing that He’s working all things together for your good, knowing He loves you and has a purpose for your life, every day of it. Then, trust Him. Remember that ‘grace has strengthened you time after time, so don’t be afraid of the mountain, friend, you were born to climb’.
The Sun Will Shine Again
Anniversaries require us to look back. I recently celebrated an anniversary I never planned to celebrate, the one year anniversary of my initial diagnosis of breast cancer. Although, I didn’t plan it, I do celebrate. I celebrate being a survivor and I’ve done an awful lot of looking back over the past month. I remember hurting so badly that falling asleep, when it rarely happened, was my only relief. I remember crying so much that there were no tears left to cry, just groans out of an aching heart. I remember anger, fear, and feeling like the unfairness of it all was simply more than I could bear. It was a dark time. A season without sunshine, nothing but clouds covering all my blue skies, but you know what else I remember? I remember the intimacy of God like I’d never known. I remember feeling so loved by family and friends that no words could adequately convey the depth. And, I remember believing ‘the dark clouds will vanish and the rain will end, there’s a brighter day around the bend, I know the sun will shine again’.
7 year breast cancer