Readers, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Hope Dunbar who I’ve known since college. Hope is a singer/songwriter as well as a pastor’s wife, mom, and all out cool person. Her words, her story, her adventure into creativity and faith will inspire and encourage you . . .
Hope, thanks for popping in to say hello to my friends. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a wife and a mother of three little boys livin’ the dream in a very small town in Nebraska where my husband is a pastor. We love camping and hiking and dance parties and if you had told me back in Southern California that I would leave the West coast and end up in a town of 850 in Nebraska, I would have never believed you!
You’ve been up to some singing and songwriting lately. Tell me how this recent phase of creating & performing music began to take shape in your life.
Like most of my brilliant ideas, it wasn’t my idea to become a songwriter. I was always involed in music and choirs growing up, but never considered writing my own music. I have a pioneering sister-in-law who started writing music probably 10 years ago and she inspired me to try writing just one song. Three years ago I picked up a guitar that I could barely play and I hammered out my little tune. After singing other people’s words and other peoples stories for so long, I realized that I stumbled upon the urge to tell my own story in my own words. Three years later I’m surprised at how songwriting has taken hold of me and made me see who I really am. I mean to say that for the first time in my life I feel really good calling myself a wife, a mom, and a songwriter. It’s just a little bigger than a hobby, but I feel like I’m doing good work.
How has this musical expression been connected to or informed your faith?
I don’t write overtly Christian songs most of the time, but my identity as a child of God is so much a part of the story I want to tell that faith themes come up quite a bit in my writing. In a songwriting workshop I took a couple of summers back, the instructor really focused on the importance of telling the truth in your work and that advice directs so much of my writing. So, if you weed through the break-up songs (which are mostly fictional, but fun!), you’ll find many songs dealing with forgiveness, with sinners in need of redemption, with the admittance of weakness and subsequent reliance on the Lord. For me, my faith-walk has so much to do with admitting helplessness and falling at the feet of my Savior. If I’m telling the truth, then much of the time that’s what’s gonna come out.
Whether it’s music, doodling, or other creative acts like cooking or knitting, how can creative expression enrich a woman’s life? What encouragement might you offer to my readers from your own experience of diving more seriously into your musical pursuits?
I guess I’d say something I told myself when my boys were just a little younger and life was a little more tiring than it is now (They’re all potty trained now! Hurray!): no matter how far down you’ve put yourself on the list because the babies need you and work needs you and your spouse needs you, you’re still YOU and our Lord wants that YOU He made to shine through (that rhymes). So bring a little bit of you into the work that you’ve got for the day — dance to your favorite song in the living room while the pasta boils and use the Crayola watercolors to make your own masterpiece before the children turn all the colors a muddy brown! Just like we want our kids to reach their full potential, so also our Father in Heaven wants to see us be the women He created us to be. Creative self-expression shouldn’t wait until all the chores are done, but should weave itself into our every day ordinary lives making our stories unique to us.
I might never be on the radio, I might never cut a CD or sell a song to some big-time singer, but that doesn’t mean my artistic pursuits aren’t valid. Somehow we’ve let this world tell us that art is only for the gallery, for the museum for the paid professional, but I remind myself that it belongs to everyone. God gave us strong arms to rock those babies, He gave us big hearts to love our neighbors, He gave us intellect to explore this world and He gave us this desire to express ourselves so we shouldn’t ignore it or consider it less than the practical parts of our lives.
This month on my blog we’re focusing on the spiritual discipline of service. One powerful way to serve is through understanding our God-given calling and giftedness. How has music played into that for you? Can you share a bit about your own sense of calling—and how you’ve been able to serve others in that sense of calling?
Well, as far as calling, I know for sure that God has called me to the vocations of wife and mother — those are pretty certain, but I also think songwriting is something God wants me to do. I took this chance with my first song and it has taken me places I didn’t know God wanted me to go. I’ve written songs for Sunday school kids to sing during Sunday worship, I’ve written songs for friends to help them through tough times. Just recently a young man in our congregation lost his battle with cancer and left his young wife a widow. Immediately I thought of a song (not my own song) that could help minister to his grieving family . . . when the phone rang. It was the family asking if I would sing at his funeral and, through the tears, I said yes. Music has a powerful way of working in people in good times and in bad times and I hope God continues to use me to help His church and to speak to those who do not yet know Him.
Sometimes we serve out of weakness or we’re called to serve in less-than-inspiring ways. As a mom of several young boys, you certainly do your share of that kind of service. How has “serving” your family formed or shaped you in your Christian walk or character?
Being a parent is hard. It’s physically hard and emotionally hard and just when I think I’ve got it down, then somehow something changes and I’m back to trying to hash out a plan and feeling ill-equipped. My role as a parent has helped me understand who our loving God is as our Father. It’s a day of preschool pick-ups and drop-offs, lunches, and the occasional time out, but after the day quiets down and I look lovingly on my boys I think, how much more love does my heavenly Father have toward me? Even when everything goes wrong and they won’t stop fighting with each other I’ve got this seemingly endless supply of unconditional love for my boys and so how much more grace and mercy has the Lord shown me, His rebelling daughter? God, in His vastness, chose to reveal Himself to us in a way we could understand. Now that I’m a parent and understand how big the job is, I’ve got a little hint of what our Lord does and feels for us and I’m astounded. Like a Father, He loves me, wants the best for me, is patient with me and works to mold me into the woman He knows I can be. Learning this has been enough to change my attitude, change the way I see myself and change how I serve my family.
You can follow Hope’s songwriting adventures at www.hopedunbar.com.