“God has always spoken to me through birds and creatures of flight—there’s something worshipful about the way they move, something I admire and am jealous of, because I want to worship Him like that.” From the way she speaks, it seems like Lauren Chandler has no idea how far she is from the ground.
When I first met her through the internet, as modern friendships go, Lauren invited me to join her for church and dinner at her home the next time I passed through Dallas. A few months later, I drove 12 hours west and sat on the third row of The Village Church as she led worship. At the time, I couldn’t even tell you what her voice sounded like—it disappeared somewhere in my chest, covered up with the tender trappings of the Father’s affection. Afterward, we grabbed takeout at a Mexican restaurant and took it back to her house. We ate burritos straight from the wrapper, drinking through straws. There was no pretense about her. She listened well. She leaned in as I talked. This was a woman who knew how to love in a way that seemed effortless—almost as if she weren’t the force behind it at all.
So when she told me she was writing songs for a worship album, it seemed like a given. By this time, I had heard her voice—the soulful, aching timbre reminiscent of artists like Patty Griffin and Christy Nockels—and I had watched her walk through her husband’s brain cancer with a grace and joy that seemed incongruent to the tragedy. She trusted the Lord when life appeared to be all Mexican food and blonde hair and blue eyes, but that trust hadn’t faded when life turned to surgery and seizures and chemotherapy. Hers was a story worth telling, a joy worth singing about, simply because it was His.
Lauren’s debut album The Narrow Place has been a long time in the making. “God had been stirring something in me to worship Him regardless of circumstance, even before Matt’s cancer.” Her husband Matt is the lead pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, one of the fastest growing churches in America. Shortly after Lauren had their third child, Matt’s pathology report showed a terminal cancer. Their faith, unshaken, led her to pen lyrics like, “My heart and flesh may fail / The earth below give way / But with my eyes, with my eyes, I’ll see the Lord… And I’ll know every tear was worth it all,” on “Though You Slay Me,” a song of surrender.
The hopeful vulnerability she presents in the album’s lyrics echoes her life verse, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “In the midst of everything,” she says, “I’m trying to learn to trust God not just with my future, but with the whole of me, with who He made me to be. Trying to be someone else or hide my imperfections only results in perpetual frustration. I want to learn to be comfortable in my own skin.” She smiles and adds, “My dad can recognize birds in flight, just by the way they move. Their patterns are so unique.” She pauses. “Maybe I’m more like a butterfly right now —in that place where I’m cocooned, being transformed by ‘the hope of glory.’ A caterpillar is still essentially a butterfly.” There’s the hope again. Conversation with her is always thick with hope and scripture.
Her transformation includes stops along the ways of music, writing, and speaking. She’s collaborated with artists like Bethany Dillon, Shane & Shane, Donna Stuart, Christy Nockels, and Folk Angel, and she has already garnered a Dove nomination. She has a book in the works, and she speaks to women around the country on a variety of topics, including how to worship God in her calling as a pastor’s wife.
Lauren lands for a moment on another thought, one that sums up the entirety of our conversation and who I’ve come to know her to be. “If He truly is the stability of our times—and He is—then the ground isn’t necessary for stability and balance. We can be stable when we’re suspended in flight, through wind and storms as much as in sunlight.” Her words move through the air, trailing off as she smiles. I recognize her flight pattern, but only because it looks less like her and more like Him.
-Tara-Leigh Cobble (taraleighcobble.com)