When life’s sorrows bring us into shadowlands, we need the joy of Christ to restore our strength. We tap into this joy by nurturing a deeper longing for God. Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing takes you on a quest for joy and a life-changing longing for God.
Written by a C. S. Lewis expert and a skilled composer, the book explores 18 beloved C. S. Lewis classics, from Narnia to Mere Christianity, and 13 spiritual principles behind the art of songwriting, as seen in 13 studio albums by U2–all to answer one question: how do we experience deeper joy in our relationship with Christ during times of sorrow and trial?
Shadowlands is available to pre-order at Amazon or ChristianBooks.com. If you pre-order a copy, the author will personally email you with a thank-you note and a copy of his upcoming e-book devotional “Devotions with Tolkien,” which uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” and Scripture. (This is all on the honor system: simply pre-order Shadowlands, and then send an email to shadowlands2016 (at) gmail (dot) com letting the author (Kevin Ott) know you’ve ordered it, and he will contact you.)
Text LIGHT to 54900 to get a preview of Shadowlands and Songs of Light.
But this mission almost never happened. In December 2011 and on into 2012, the devil tried hard to end Plumb’s career, break apart her marriage, and destroy her family.
But then God weighed in on the matter.
And, like so many plans of the enemy — most noticeably the one involving the Cross — everything backfired. What Satan intended for evil, God redeemed for something amazing.
The whole miracle — from the beginning stages in Plumb’s early years to this current season of her life as she travels the nation on her Fall Tour — is captured in her new book Need You Now: A Story of Hope and in her new album Need You Now: Deluxe Edition, which features the entire Need You Now album plus four new songs, as well as new versions of favorites from the original release. (Check out her official site to learn where you can purchase the book and the album’s deluxe edition.)
Plumb personally recommends to every one of our readers — and I wholeheartedly agree — that you read the book first, and then listen to every track of the Deluxe album. It works like a soundtrack to the book and adds a wonderful, stirring depth to the reading experience.
Need You Now: Deluxe Edition is essentially a concept album, but it presents a concept that God put together with His redemptive love and power. As you’ll read about in the interview below, this album was not planned by the record label or even by Plumb herself. As God went to work in Plumb’s marriage, He began shaping this album long before she knew there would be a Deluxe edition.
God truly is the Master Artist.
I had the chance to speak with Plumb over the phone as she was traversing the country on her tour bus “somewhere between Idaho and Oregon,” as she explained, to her sold-out show in Coos Bay, Oregon; and she was kind enough to pour her heart out and provide some wonderful, thoughtful behind-the-scenes detail about the new book and album:
Your book really opens up your life and gives people this stunning front-row seat to very personal moments. What moved you to write something so revealing?
Something I strive to be is very raw, very honest in my lyrics, my music, my interviews, and so I wouldn’t do anything less in a book that’s for sure. I’ve been through quite a few things that I feel like the highs and lows of my life could be very encouraging, very hopeful to others that are maybe experiencing some of the same things — however, more specifically in the book, the story about my marriage falling apart, and then the story that went on to be a complete reconciliation and all that.
It’s just, God did something so massive, so huge there, and I just want to do anything and everything I can to give Him credit for that, glory for that, honor for that, and to encourage other people that may, whether they relate to a marital crisis or not, they may relate to crisis. They may relate to feeling hopeless for whatever reason. And I just felt like, okay, God restored my hope, God restored my belief that there is always hope, and so the most faithful thing I can do, out of my love and affection for Him, is to write a book that says, no matter what you’re going through, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, there absolutely is always hope even if you cannot see it; there is an ocean overflowing with it. And I think that our circumstances blind us to that sometimes, like a fog that we just cannot see past. He is a God of new mercies every morning.
But when He restored my marriage, that was a deal breaker for me. I’m gonna not just write a three minute song, and I’m not gonna not just explain it for 30 seconds before stage or give it a 10 second affirmation after a show. I’m actually going to tell the story and actually be able to let someone climb into that, and then climb into my whole life because, as I started the thought process of writing a book about our marriage, it became evident to me that, well, wait a minute, how did I get there? Well, I was born, and then I was raised, and then this happened, and then this happened, so suddenly it just became the most appropriate thing to write a memoir that said: here’s the story of my life, I’ve actually done more things than just my marriage that have brought me to that place of redemption; and [God has] been pretty redemptive throughout my whole life when I had panic and anxiety attacks, when I struggled with IBS and depression and ADD, when my deal went completely south with my first record label and I was going to court all the time; and it was a character-challenging time for me becoming a new mother and feeling completely stretched and overwhelmed — the three people, next to my husband, that I love more than anything in this life — and to feel that inner conflict of just being overwhelmed by something you love so much, and just how that changed me, some for the great, some for the not so great.
But just little by little it leads up to my marriage. I think it’s a story that God just put on my heart to do, and when He does that, it’s an honor, I’ve learned. It’s an honor to be asked by Him to do something that He wants to use. So I’m a super fan of what He can do and who He is.
As I was reading your book it really was a story that was worth knowing every stage from the very beginning to the very end, and it was just kind of like this, almost cinematic experience, just by the end I was completely in tears, so I definitely agree that it was a story that needed to be told. And I’m glad you told it.
Thank you, thank you…
The way God resurrected your marriage reminds me of Zechariah 9:12, which says: “Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” Is it fair to say that God has restored double to your marriage and your family now?
Oh, more than fair, yeah. Absolutely. And I have a better marriage than I ever had, I have a stronger faith than I ever had, I have more of an affection for Jesus than I ever had. I have more peace, I have way less fear. My trust level in what He’s capable of is just through the roof, and I feel like I’m a force to be reckoned with against evil because I love Jesus and believe in what He is capable of so much that it’s like, “Okay, bring it on, because I watched God take His gloves off and tell you right where you can stick it when you tried to mess with what was His.”
And the key to that story — and I say this from stage now — is that I don’t believe that God causes bad things, I don’t even believe that God allows bad things, to be honest with you. I believe that we live in a fallen world — and when He made the apple and she shared it, we became a fallen world — but the reason she could eat that apple is because she was given a choice. God didn’t make them robots that are forced to love Him and forced to do everything that He says. So being able to choose is a beautiful gift, that we have this God that created us and yet He lets us have free will, and I love that.
But in our choices sometimes those add up and natural consequences add up into something really negative, and we want to blame Him, we want to ask Him, why would You let this happen? Why did You do this? Where are You in this? Are You not even paying attention? Like all of the emotions that go through it. And I believe that God is grieving with us with a broken heart as a father to a child saying, I didn’t do this, I didn’t cause this, I’m not happy about this, but because I’m God I can use this for the good even though it looks so bad; I can also use this to draw you closer to Me so that you can trust Me more so when things like this in the future happen, you’re less afraid because you trust that I can actually use this for something so much greater that you can’t even see. You can have a hope in Heaven that even in this life — we’re really resident aliens here, this really isn’t our permanent home — when bad things happen, not when He causes them or allows them, but just when bad things happen, having the mindset, “Okay, God, how can You use this for Your good? How can You make me closer to You through this so that I can trust You more and fear less.” All that does is make Satan want to just throw up, and I am just in the business of making him sick.
And I recognize that bad things are going to happen, so when my husband and I split up, God was still there — [like] every panic attack that I ever struggled with in the bathroom in my high school restroom, He was present in those — and I stood on the stage last night, and I was telling some of this. And it just crossed my mind in the middle of my talking that this is not what Satan had planned when he deceived my husband that leaving would be best. This is not how he thought it would play out. He was really hoping this record would not release. He was really hoping this family would stay broken. And he was hoping that she would come off the road, and she would be a single mother unable to actually tour this record, much less write a book about redemption, [and the devil was] like, “No no no no no!” And God was like: “really.”
So the key that I want to point out in all of this is that God doesn’t need us, He wants us. And I think I say that in the book. But more than that, He wants us to give Him permission — and I don’t think He needs permission — but He wants us to say with all our hearts, God, please take this. Please help me not to meddle. Please help me not to get in the way. Please show me how I can let go. What do You want me to do? Help me to do that. And be Your partner in this instead of meddling and orchestrating and manipulating, and I think that we don’t realize how much free will He gives. Greater is He than he who is in the world, however, we’re pretty great ourselves — we’re not greater than Him — but we can totally get in the way of that.
And I learned while separated from my husband that the biggest problem in this story right now is me. And that wasn’t obvious to me right off the bat. But a few months into that story I just relinquished it all, and I just truly, truly let go. And that’s when I started to see His faithfulness right in front of my face, and I got very emotional about it several times, like, oh my goodness, this is what He was asking of me. He was asking, “Please be slow to speak and quick to listen. Quit saying all these things, just this knee-jerk reaction; quit just saying this to Jeremy; quit just doing this because you feel like it’s the right thing. Quit, just stop. Just be still. Know that I am God, know that I’ve got this. Know that I love you guys. I put you together. I want you to stay together. But you’re both going to have to listen to Me.”
And that’s the ringer in marital crises. In marriage it takes two people having the mindset of, “What do You want from me?” And so often there is one that finally comes to a place of surrender, and there’s one that doesn’t. And so for anybody reading that is divorced because they really fought but it still ended in divorce, there’s a good chance the other person was not willing to fight. And I’m just so, so thankful that God, in what He was working out in me, He was also working something out in my husband, and we’ve since learned that He was working on us separately before He worked on us together. And when He restores something, it’s not like renovating your grandma’s old rocking chair with a new stain of color. It is better than it was before. It’s just stronger than it was before.
I just wrote a song not too recently that’s for my upcoming new record that says, it’s called “Broken Places,” and it says, “you’re strong in the broken places.” That’s where He does His best. And so whatever is broken in you or broken in your life, just think about that — that God can actually be strong in that completely fractured or shattered place.
And, you know, it was counter-intuitive, when we got to that point in the book, my gut feeling was, “Oh, gotta do something to fix the problem, do more, do more,” — that kind of thing. And then when you surrendered that really was just a twist in the story, and it hit me: wow, we just need to surrender our choices to God, and He takes the choices that hurt us like a sword and turns it into a sword against the enemy. That element of surrender really hit home. On the lighter side, I love the full range of your book. As a parent and a huge fan of Lord of the Rings, one of my favorite moments of the book is when you used Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings movies to explain to your kids what happened in your marriage because it was something they loved and could understand. Their reaction was so priceless and adorable — that alone was worth reading the book. What has been their reaction to you writing a book that includes them as part of the story?
My daughter just turned 6, my son is 7, and my other son is 9, so they haven’t necessarily sat down and read the whole book, but they do know [laughs]. But I asked my nine-year-old the other day, if he wanted to read it, and he was like, “What level is it?” because, you know, that’s all they talk about is trying to get to the next level of reading. I said, well, this is a grown-up level, I’ll be honest with you, this is definitely a grown-up level. But they’ve heard me talk from the stage about certain things that definitely alludes to what’s in the book.
One part of the book, at the very end of the book, I kind of zone in on marriages in crisis because the book is certainly not limited to those just with a marital crisis. It is a full range book, but I do talk about my marital crisis. In the back I say for marriages in crisis, these are some things that worked for us. And one of them is to protect the innocent.
So our children, although my husband lived somewhere else — so that was definitely different, definitely peculiar to my children — other than that they knew nothing. And we had made a commitment to each other even in our anger and our frustration and our hurt that we really loved them, and we had been told by our therapist that if you really love your children, which clearly you do, you want what’s best for them, right? And we were like, absolutely. And she was like, obviously staying together and being madly in love with each other is what’s truly best. But if for some reason you just can’t make that happen, she said at least the next best thing is to not badmouth each other and not bring them into this unnecessarily; and she said, “So, without lying to them, I really encourage you to get creative with the truth and to help them feel less fear and less insecurity during this time.”
So we made a commitment to never tell them what was going on, to never badmouth each other, and when they would ask questions, be creative with the truth. And so when he lived somewhere else for instance, you know, “Mommy why is daddy sleeping at Nana’s and Papa’s house?” And I remember saying, “Well, you know he’s working on a project right now,” and convenient to our life my husband and his father are in business together, and one of their offices is on the property of their farm, and so for him to be out there does not, it’s not something weird for him to be over there, you know, working on a project with his dad. So there was a sense [from the kids] of, “Oh, okay!” And I just said it very, like, “He’s working on a project. It’s just better for him to sleep there right now because the project is so important that first thing in the morning up until he goes to bed at night he’s working on this project.” And the project for me was the project in his heart. But that was not anything that they needed to know. And so when we would say prayers at night and we would talk about him, I would talk as if everything was, you know — well, I will say this — I would speak the truth, and the truth was that I loved my husband. So when we would go to bed at night the kids and I would say, “Be with Daddy tomorrow at work. We just love him so much. We thank you for what a great Daddy he is and Mommy loves him, so help him have a great day tomorrow.” And so that they could hear at least what was true. What is true is that he’s a good dad, and what’s true is that I love him, and what’s true is that he’s working on a project. And so doing everything we could to kind of just maintain the hope and the peace and the strength that they pull from us as a couple.
The therapist that we have said, “You know, if it comes to the place where you’re absolutely, positively, inevitably getting a divorce, then you will sit down and have a very very difficult conversation with your children.” She said, “But until that moment, even if there is the smallest sliver of hope, you need to protect them.” So, we just protected our children from that, and we have been so thankful because there was still hope, and we obviously reconciled, and so our children — though at that season it was peculiar to them, obviously — but we didn’t avoid answering their questions when they would have them. We would be as truthful and creative as possible, and our story has lived to benefit from that because I have kids that now hear the story about us almost divorcing, and they’re like, “Was that before we were born?” That is one of the most refreshing things for me to hear is my children say that because I was fighting so hard for them, and God used them in such an incredible way.
When she [the therapist] looked at us and said, “Clearly what is best for them is for their parents to stay together and love each other like crazy, but if that can’t happen” — and in the back of both of our minds we want is best for our kids and knowing what is best for them is for us to be together and love each other. So if we don’t stay together and love each other, we’re actually choosing what is not best for our kids. I realize that in marriages, sometimes, I totally get that sometimes you’re fighting and your partner is just not fighting, and that stinks, but God is still redemptive, and there’s gonna be some scars from that, but God is still redemptive. And so there’s hope in that. But I think we all agree that when a mother and a father can stay together and love each other like crazy that truly is what is best, and if that’s not possible then obviously there’s redemption. But I have to say that God honored my, and I can only speak on behalf of myself right now, but God honored my heart’s desire to do whatever He wanted — because I love my babies, so much.
And, you know, the beautiful thing about a book is when your kids are adults, when they can really appreciate it — because your story, I mean, God redeemed it into something so beautiful that it’s almost like an heirloom. When they’re adults they can appreciate and see the glory of God in it.
It’s definitely crossed my mind several times about what is it going to look like that day when Solomon actually sits down and can cognitively, really get this story. He can read the book right now, but he may not necessarily comprehend everything at 9; but to actually sit down as maybe a teenager and read it and go wow, wow, I didn’t realize it really looked like this. I didn’t realize the story, this is what the story was, and these last few years my mom has been out there trying to give hope. This is why. Now I get it. Now I get why. So for now he just takes my word for it that I’m doing what God is asking me to do. But I feel like they will all hopefully read the book one day, and I really hope that God will use it to just encourage them and inspire them — that their parents are not perfect and their parents are just human, but God is perfect, that He’s great, that He’s big.
I really believe that when they read that story it will be like that. I’m sure they’ll have tears of worship and joy because that’s the general reaction that I got. It’s just a very worshipful experience.
Thank you so much. That makes me happy.
And, to talk a bit about the new songs, your book mentions how each album you’ve done over the years perfectly represents chapters of your life. How do the new songs for this deluxe version fit into your life’s story right now?
The record Need You Now, the original, was finished two months before we separated. So from the time we separated until the time we reconciled a lot happened. And that record took on a whole new meaning because it was on the shelf for that season. Until we were back together I just could not fathom releasing it. So by the time we were reconciled and the album was out in stores and I was out promoting it, every song had a new meaning, but I also had experienced a tremendous amount of stuff in between that time. So here I am promoting a record that was written before the demise of my marriage, and now the demise and the reconciliation of my marriage has happened, and I’m out promoting this record that was written before all of that happened. The songs take on new meaning, but when we completely re-married each other, from that point forward in the last, just over a year, is when I felt like this is a story worth telling, and I began writing the book, and as I was writing the book I felt like, you know what, this record informed this book, yet this record doesn’t have songs on it that say where I’m at right now. But at the same time I don’t have time to make a completely new record and do this book. But I want this story out there so badly.
And so we had the idea to add however many songs we could make time to get on there, and I had been writing intermittently, and there’s four specific songs that I have, if we could make time for those four. So there’s a new worship version of the song “Need You Now,” and a radio version of one of the other singles. Those are just additional tracks, but there are four brand new songs, and they speak to the journey from the time the record was finished and we actually broke our marriage up to now. So those four tracks kind of cover that.
One song is called “Starting Over,” and it’s basically describing how we just fell apart. And then there’s a song called “Fall Back In,” about the desperation of trying to reconcile this break-up. And then there’s a song called “Faithful” that captures how much I fell in love with Jesus in that season, and it actually enabled me to love my husband better because I loved Jesus more than my husband for the first time.
And then the fourth and final is the single “Lord, I’m Ready Now,” which captures where I’m at now, saying: all the walls are down, all the secrets are out, I’ve been exposed, here’s the book, everybody knows everything now. Instead of wasting any more time I want to live for You because everything from the past, from the times when I was not living for You the way that I should have or that my motives or my agendas were not pure, You’re still able to use that. Nothing is wasted. And because You’re redemptive I don’t have to look back there with regret. I can just be thankful that Your mercies are new, and You’re letting me start over. So I’m ready now, I don’t want to waste any more time. Let’s go.
And that’s what that song is saying. I just felt like it was a perfect complement to the book. And so as I’ve described to some people: sometimes you read a book, and then you go see the movie. Read this book, and then listen to the deluxe record top to bottom, and it’s almost like it’s been put to music.
Wow. I love that. Even before I read the book I listened to these songs and I got teary-eyed just listening to them so there’s definitely that spiritual power in them — innately in them. It’s a wonderful thing.
Oh, well thank you. And you don’t have to do it that way [read the book before listening to the album], but I’m just saying if you wanna, you know–
–oh no I agree. I kind of just stumbled into the songs first, but I definitely agree that the music would be great for after you read the book because then you really appreciate it fully. I really believe God is using your testimony like a sword that He’s forged in Heaven’s fires, and it really is going to be an amazing weapon against the enemy. It’s just a beautiful thing to witness, and I just love seeing stories like this.
Thank you so much!