I AM DEARLY LOVED
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“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

I can’t believe “Dearly Loved” is going to be out in the wild in 6 days! Crazy town.  Before that happens, I wanted to share with you guys a little bit about the song itself and what it was inspired by. I wrote this tune with my friends Ethan Hulse and Luke Brown, who also produced this track and made it sound all kinds of magical.  They are great songwriters and people and are some of my favorite musicians to create with. I brought in a picking pattern and some melodies, and it wasn’t long before we dove into all the feelings (my favorite thing, obvs).  Ethan mentioned the phrase “dearly loved”, and that sparked so many emotions in me. 


And here enters my fear of abandonment! Woo!

Everybody, I think, has what I’ll just call a base-line fear.  It’s the one that is kind of underneath all of the other ones. It tends to drive a lot of knee jerk reactions, triggers a lot of emotional responses, and tries it’s best to direct our choices.  It’s the one that is the easiest for the enemy to use, and the hardest for me to get a grip on. Mine happens to be the fear of abandonment.  The fear that I will be alone, that no one could ever truly love me, that everyone will eventually leave me. Especially when they figure out how insanely extra and self-centered I am.  Especially when they really, REALLY see me for who I am. 

How sad is that?! It’s sad. You can say it. IT’S FINE. But no really, it’s actually fine lol. Because there is beauty that comes from knowing my base-line fear (thanks, therapy!). It means I can try my best to stay just one step ahead of it. It means I can pray and ask the Spirit to teach me what is actually true.  It allows me to speak out against it and take away just a little bit of it’s power.  And there’s another lovely thing about knowing this fear: I can look directly at the character of God and ask myself if that is true about him. Does what scripture says about God and what has been revealed to me about his character sound like he is the type that would up and leave me the minute things get messy? 

Nope.

In fact, it says the opposite. That is the difference and the beauty of our love story with God. It is unlike any human relationship we will ever have. Because whether by death or by circumstance, every relationship on earth ends at some point. It is simply the mortality of the human condition. But God's love lasts way beyond that, and that can be hard to wrap our finite minds around. It actually makes no sense, because what kind of relationship do we have to compare it to? There isn’t one. It’s completely unique. But I mean, why would we want to serve a God who is just as limited as we are? Why would we want a spiritual relationship that is just as messy and unpredictable as our ones here on earth? 


So, to me, this song acts as a lullaby that sways me back into believing and trusting that God is a Father who will never leave me. I remember feeling so emotional while we were writing this. I mean, every worship write tends to be emotional for me LOL shocker, but this one felt particularly special. Not because we just KNEW it was going to be a SmAsH #1 ChArT tOPpin HIT, but because it was already ministering to each of us in it’s own way. It was like the words were washing over me, reassuring me, wrapping me up and holding me still.

He will never leave me nor forsake me. 

I can fall apart and He isn't going anywhere. 

He doesn’t think I’m “too much”.

He is a safe place to land. 

And that is enough. Even on the days I don’t feel it, it’s enough. 


So, I hope this song is a lullaby for you as well.  My prayer is that it becomes a sweet reminder to the Church of the uniqueness and the safety of our relationship with the Lord. Of course it doesn’t make sense. Of course it is mind-boggling. But shouldn’t that elicit even more worship? I hope it does.

LYRICS:

Here, as you surround my heart

I have found a safe place to fall apart

And you pick me up again, remind me to whom I belong

I have never been more than a child in your arms

When you are holding me, I don’t have to be strong 

Cuz I know…

I am loved, dearly loved

By a father who won’t leave me 

I am loved, dearly loved by you, God.

Its enough, always enough

I can let my guard down here cuz I am loved, dearly loved

By you, God


Here as you restore my soul 

Piece by piece you patiently make me whole 

And you pick me up again, remind me to whom I belong

I have never been more than a child in your arms

When you are holding me, I don’t have to be strong 

Cuz I know…

I am loved, dearly loved

By a father who won’t leave me 

I am loved, dearly loved by you, God.

Its enough, always enough

I can let my guard down here cuz I am loved, dearly loved

By you, God

When I couldn’t reach you, you pulled me in

When I had given up, you never quit

When I couldn’t trust you, you proved me wrong

When I was a stranger, you brought me home.

Shaylee O'Neill
From Unworthy to Unworthy
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So, I’ve been in Nashville doing the whole “music thing” for awhile now. Almost 8 years, to be exact. I’ve dipped my toes in many different waters, I’ve sampled a bunch of flavors (#Jenis), I’ve made a TON of errors, and have done a lot of things I’m proud of. But as hard as it is to explain, something always felt off.  I would be doing what I loved, but couldn’t QUITE get there mentally and emotionally. What I mean is, my heart was about 75% in, and I didn’t really know why.  I mostly attributed it to my Enneagram 4-ness, always daydreaming, comparing, spending too much time in make-believe worlds inside my head, wanting more. But what I really think it was now looking back, is that I hadn’t found what my soul loved. What I (insert dramatic pause) was made to do.  

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It’s similar to my messy wanderings in my journey towards Ryan.  There were some great relationships and some not so great ones, but for whatever reason, my heart was never fully in. I blamed my skewed view of marriage, my fear of commitment blahblahblah, but I never realized what it was until I met Ryan.  It was that I hadn’t met Ryan lol. I hadn’t met the one my soul loved.  And it felt so different and wild and exhilarating and yet comforting and safe at the same time. It felt like home. 

To get all kinds of real (which is my favorite thing to do forever and always), I fought this off for a long time. I had always loved leading worship since college, but never thought that was what I wanted to do full time. And I definitely didn’t think I was capable of writing congregational worship songs. The pressure of that, of writing something that people would then say to God, before his throne, seemed so daunting and heavy and out of my comfort zone. But what it truly boiled down to was that I didn’t feel good enough. And I’m not even talking about musically, though that certainly came into play at times. It was that I didn’t feel worthy.  

“I’m not a good person.”

“No one would take me seriously or care what I had to say.”

“Oh that drama/conflict/mistake I made with that person? It’s too much. They’ll just think I’m some big fat hypocrite.”

“There are plenty of people that are better than me, and God would rather use them.”

If it isn’t insanely obvious by now, I was insecure lol. These feelings could be traced back to as early as my childhood and as recently as my years in Nashville. When I first moved here especially, I was this wild tornado of untapped emotion and relational error, leaving a path of chaos behind me wherever I went. I was blissfully unaware, until I started to glance back and see the collateral damage.  And as I kept finding myself in the same situations with the same kinds of people, I thought maybe the most consistent thing about all of it was me.  And that’s when I started going to counseling for the first time (insert praise hands and laughing and crying and endless hallelujahs). There I was able to finally start working through all of the mess described above, and it was the most freeing experience of my life. I happened to meet Ryan around this same time too, and he has helped shape and refine me like any good “opposites attract” type of relationship does.  This healing process (which I’m pretty sure is a life-long thing, tbh), has been so necessary and has helped teach me how to shift my eyes onto what it is I was made to do.  

I remember my first worship co-write.  I was so nervous and out of my element.  I remember praying simply that I wouldn’t look like a giant idiot lol. But it ended up being the most incredible, life-giving experience and it shocked me to my bones. I could sit in God’s presence, with fellow believers, talk about what we were going through, how we felt about God, what his Word said, and that could be a job?! INSANITY.  I remember crying in my car on the way home thinking “WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN DOING THIS MY WHOLE LIFE?!”

And whether it was the voice of God or just my own conscience, I heard the simple answer of “Because it wasn’t time.”  Naturally the immediate rebuttal in my mind was “Uhhhh what makes you think it is now?! Still a hot mess over here helloooo.” And honestly I still feel that way daily lol. But over the past year or so I’ve been gently reminded that God doesn’t require me to have it all together for him to use me for his kingdom and his purpose.  I know that seems like an obvious thing, but it wasn’t to me. Of course I was unworthy. I still am. But looking back to scripture, since when did God only decide to use perfect people who had all of their ducks in a row? It seems like he was looking more for willingness and humility. And less ducks. But man, did I need to learn a few lessons before I stepped into this season.  I needed to fall over a few times, needed to be uprooted and replanted.  From unworthy to unworthy.  And now I can be confident that He is enough to fill up and fortify those insecure bones of mine.

Shortly after said co-write, I was spending some time praying about what the heck I was supposed to do with my life. And I remember saying “Ok, God. If you want me to do worship, I will. You just let me know. No idea what I’m doing, but I mean…” Literally the next morning I got an email from my now mentor and dear friend, Carl Cartee, asking if I would be interested in doing the worship residency at Fellowship. He had remembered me from awhile back, and randomly felt like he should reach out and see if I would be interested. Little did he know how much of a huge slap-in-the-face sign that would be and how much that year would change me. The next day?!

OKAY. I’m in.

So, here is what I’m passionate about and what I want to get across in my personal ministry that I believe God has called me to:

I’m passionate about leading Gods people in worship,

about writing for his Church,

about solid theology and sticking to what the Bible says, even when its uncomfortable,

about mental health,

about understanding + balancing emotions (that God created, btw),

and about learning to lean heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit.

I say this so you know where I stand, but mostly I say it for accountability. Like wedding vows said in front of the people you love and trust, I want to be held to this. I want to be encouraged to stand by this. I want my songs to reflect this. And mostly, I want to talk to you about this. So let’s do it!!

(see what I did there? VOWS. Cuz I mentioned vows.)

(see what I did there? VOWS. Cuz I mentioned vows.)

In CoNcLuSioN, despite the growing pains and damages done, I’m truly grateful to be where I am. Sure, I can still be a jerk in my marriage. Sure, I can let my friends and family down sometimes. But I know that I was made to write for his Church, and I shouldn’t feel weird or embarrassed or ashamed to say something like that out loud.  So, you know, I won’t then. Most days. ;)

What do you feel made to do?

Shaylee O'Neill