Acclaimed vocalist Crystal Lewis shares her story of discovering life after divorce. Counselor Nita Andrews also lends her experience to the sensitive topic. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations – subscribe below!


TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW

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Mark: Well, today’s episode is with a precious lady. I’d never met her until she showed up here at Dinner Conversations, but I’d heard of her. Michael English is the one who first mentioned her to me, and he said, “Man, you know who I’d love to do a duet with, Crystal Lewis.” Of course, I had to run immediately and find out who is that? And boy, is she good and sweet!

Andrew: Yeah, she’s a real gentle spirit, I think. We’re talking about a really heavy topic, and that is life after divorce. We know divorce is a reality not just outside of the members of the church but inside the members of the church, and of course, Crystal is giving us a firsthand glimpse into her journey into life after divorce and how one of the takeaways I think I have to mention in the intro, that God loves us more than even marriage. So, this is a conversation that many of us can dig into.

Mark: And there’s one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. So let’s join the conversation.


Mark: Crystal Lewis, I can’t believe it.

Crystal: I can’t either!

Mark: Isn’t this fun?

Crystal: It’s really fun.

Mark: When you came around the corner today and you went, “Ahh,” you were just so, your personality is so—

Crystal: I’m sorry.

Mark: No, I love that!

Crystal: Uncontrollable.

Mark: I immediately felt at home.

Crystal: Oh, good!

Mark: I thought, oh, here comes a friend I didn’t even— You know, it’s like Reba Rambo. You were with her last night. She sometimes has said that, when she saw me, and I’ve always wondered about that, she said, she knew that like, she’s almost like we’ve known each other in other, not in another life, but ya know, back in Heaven before we got here. I don’t wanna say what she thinks. Anyway.

Andrew: He’s not going there.

Mark: But when you came around the corner, I thought, oh, I’m gonna love her.

Crystal: I knew I liked her.

Mark: And I’ve heard good things. Michael English has mentioned you, you sang on his record, to me, and so I’m thrilled to get to meet you. I think you’re one of the greatest singers.

Andrew: I concur.

Mark: I just want you to know that.

Crystal: Thank you.

Andrew: It’s true.

Mark: In case I never get to tell you. Thank you for being here.

Crystal: It is my pleasure. Thank you so much.

Andrew: A friend of mine says there’s rhythms already set in place within us from the time we come out of our mother’s womb, maybe when we’re still in the womb, that place us in paths with one another where we’re on the same rhythm with someone else.

Crystal: I love that!

Andrew: Doesn’t even have to be spoken. It’s a rhythm in the body that naturally connects.

Mark: And you know also when you don’t. Haven’t you met people where you go, my rhythm is really off here?

Crystal: We’re not in sync.

Mark: Yeah, I mean, and that’s, there’s some people I think you’re not supposed to be in sync with, right?

Crystal: I think that’s true. I heard that, a similar concept to that, but from the perspective of, as a human growing inside my mother’s womb, I grew to the beat of a heart and this rhythm that I didn’t choose or, ya know, didn’t know yet, and I love thinking about this concept of when we talk about our moms and, ya know, how often we’re like, oh, I’ve become my mother or I don’t wanna become my mother or whatever. I have gone through phases of thinking that or, ya know, wanting to be like her or hoping I’m not or whatever. Now, I really do realize that I’m so grateful to be like my mom.

Mark: Oh yeah!

Crystal: She is, that’s where I get it from, that never met a stranger, definitely everybody’s friend and everybody just immediately gravitates toward her and appreciates her and gets along with her.

Andrew: Well, you showed me that video of y’all singing when she was playing. She’s a piano player. She’s a pianist.

Crystal: Yes.

Andrew: Y’all were doing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and she was playing it, I mean, amazing gospely player. So much soul but then she turned and spoke to the camera. It was so natural, ya know. She literally just began to speak right into the eyes.

Crystal: Yeah, there were times where I, my mom absolutely never could sit at a piano and not do what you said she did, which was like, and turn to you, ya know, and start talking or make stuff up and just start singing some new thing, or she always had to say something. As a teenager, I’d be like, oh, you gotta be kidding me.

Andrew: Just play, Mom.

Crystal: Just play, please don’t. And now, of course, I mean, I’m not as bad.

Andrew: New improved version of your mother.

Crystal: Oh, she’s absolutely still that way. Yeah, my mom is 74. She has Alzheimer’s. So we’ve been on that journey as a family together, and I love having her accompany me still, when I can, depending on the audience. If it’s a real comfortable situation because, I will tell you, we do all kinds of interesting modulations.

Andrew: So you do, is this part of–

Crystal: Yes, I mean, I don’t know where we’re gonna go, and often, she kind of looks at me like, “Tell me where to go.” Or if she’s in it, just all the way in it, she doesn’t look at me at all, and I have to follow her.

Mark: Right.

Crystal: It’s wonderful, and I love it so much. You just never really know what you’re gonna get.

Andrew: You know, when we were talking on the phone the other day, you were saying how OK, so your mother has Alzheimer’s, she’s about four or five years in, correct?

Crystal: Yeah.

Andrew: Your father’s still living with your mother and that your youngest sister and her family live with them.

Crystal: Right.

Andrew: You live not far away.

Crystal: Correct.

Andrew: And you said, what really stuck was you said, “And we’re all in it together.”

Crystal: Yeah.

Andrew: I’m curious, like what does that look like with a parent with, it’s something we never hope, wish, dream, but we know is a reality for many people with their aging parents. It might be a reality for us when we age. But what does altogether look like, and I mean, are there things, ways your family now exists that you wouldn’t have before your mother’s disease?

Crystal: Yes. I mean, for one thing, we’ve all kinda been spread around the country for the last decade or actually longer. My parents, my Dad’s pastor, or he spent the better part of his life as a senior pastor in the Nazarene denomination and I grew up in southern California in Anaheim, and he moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1989. So I was 19-years-old, and he took a church in Detroit, and then he was there about seven years and then moved to Washington state, and he was there for a while, and so in between there, my sisters who are quite a bit younger than me, they wound up in Michigan for a while. Then they both came back to southern California for college, and then I got married very young and then, ended up moving, had a couple kids, and we ended up moving to Montana for almost 10 years while my parents were still in Washington. So, eventually, I mean, as in three years ago, we all wound up back in Orange County, California, and it had kinda been this plan that we’d began to formulate once we saw what direction my mother’s health was headed in and my parents still owned the home that we grew up in, and so they all kind of started, ya know, making their way back down south. So, for one thing, we’re literally in it together as in physically present.

Andrew: Sure, yeah.

Crystal: In each other’s lives, where we weren’t before. But also, we are in a constant family text thread of here’s what happened today. Here’s the conversation I had today. Here’s where we’re at. We need you to get over here and take Mom to the doctor or we need you to come do this.

Mark: Does your mother know she has Alzheimer’s?

Crystal: Yes, but that’s a tricky question because we have to tell her all the time.

Mark: She forgets.

Crystal: So, when we go to the doctor or whatever, like, “Why do I have to do this again? Nobody ever tells me anything.” So we’re always trying to be very gentle in our reminders because I think that’s part of–

Mark: Because every time, it is new information to her.

Crystal: Correct, yeah! And she’s functioning beautifully. I mean, she really can play like amazing.

Mark: It’s the last thing to go, ya know that right?

Crystal: It’s incredible!

Mark: My mother had the same thing, and the last week she lived, we sang together. She knew every word to every hymn but couldn’t carry on a conversation.

Crystal: Oh yeah, and she’ll sit there. She’s a brilliant musician. I’ve worked with everyone.

Mark: Really.

Crystal: She is at the top of my list in terms of understanding theory, bossing you around when you, ya know, telling you where to go in the song and still loves to do that. But my sisters are very musical as well, and we grew up singing together with her, so she still really fills that role, ya know, for us.


Crystal Lewis singing “Precious Lord”

Precious Lord

Take my hand

Lead me on

Help me stand

I am tired

I am weak

I am worn

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand

Precious Lord

Lead me home

Precious Lord

You’re the one

That I build

That I build my life for

You’re my rock

You’re my whole

You are my song

You picked me up

And made me strong

When my way, when it was all wrong

Here’s my hand

Precious Lord

Lead me home

When my way

Grows drear

Precious Lord

Won’t you linger near

When my life is almost gone

Hear my cry

Hear my call

Take my hand lest I fall

Here’s my hand

Precious Lord, lead me home


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Mark: You recently went through a divorce.

Crystal: I did.

Mark: Was yours the first divorce in your family?

Crystal: It was not.

Mark: It was not?

Crystal: There are cousins and aunts and uncles and a sister as well.

Mark: So, it wasn’t like a big shock to the family.

Crystal: I mean, yes, it was a complete shock because I was married for 28 years. My whole world, my career, my faith, my family, everything was all wrapped up kind of together and intertwined, and so to pull that apart came, for other people to see that that was being pulled apart came as a complete shock because I did a really good job of pretending like everything was great.

Mark: Yeah.

Crystal: So yeah, it did come as a surprise to most.

Mark: What about your kids?

Crystal: Not to my sisters. My sisters know everything about me.

Mark: Or your kids? How are they doing?

Crystal: They’re doing well. They’re in their 20s.

Andrew: They’re adults.

Crystal: They’re grown, they’re married, and complete shock to them even though they grew up in a home that was not always awesome. But they, I’m so thrilled because specifically my son and I think my daughter as well, but my son has specifically told me like, “I just want you to know that I look back on my childhood with great fondness, with nothing but fondness.” Now, he might have been the creative type that’s slightly aloof and some things kinda went over his head.

Andrew: But there’s some grace in that to hear from your child.

Crystal: Oh, totally and my kids are brilliant and they’re musicians, and we all get along wonderfully and everything.

Mark: And it’s true. It’s probably true.

Crystal: We’re fine.

Mark: I mean, just ’cause the marriage ends doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great childhood for the kids.

Crystal: Yeah, something I loved that Sandi Patty said when she was, was she sitting right here?

Andrew: Yes, she was.

Crystal: Oh my gosh. Love her. So, one thing Sandi said was, we were the only two that chose this. Her and her new husband. When they got married,

Mark: Wasn’t that great?

Crystal: They were the only two that chose it. I loved that. There’s a weird fine line that you walk when you want so desperately to be seen as just a human to your kids, and I don’t know if that’s ever possible. I mean, I think as you get older and you become more self aware, you’re able to look at your parent and go, oh, they were just, now I know ’cause now I’ve been there too, ya know? You can’t, there’s certain things you just can’t know until your kids get older, until you get older.

Mark: So you worked on the marriage for a while I’m sure, right?

Crystal: Oh yeah.

Mark: So when did you know, OK, this is not going to get any better, and how did you reconcile?

Andrew: Is there a line? Yeah, that’s like–

Crystal: I think, yeah, I think there’s a line, and I think that different people cross that line at different times, choose not to cross it, choose to just keep living the way that they’ve been living and like hope for the best or decide like I’m just gonna sacrifice this. This is, whatever the unknown of making that choice is, I’m not willing to deal with that.

Andrew: That’s not pretending though to just keep living?

Crystal: Oh sure. Yeah, it just felt like, I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of people who have really walked through this that are super, super close to me that we’ve talked about, a very small handful. And every single person’s experience is so completely different.

Andrew: So unique, right.

Crystal: From the others, so you never have, even though you can say me too, me too in some areas, your experience is your own. So, it’s hard to say.

Andrew: Well, you know, first of all, I think you know this and we’ve talked about this but this is a safe place. This is what we consider sanctuary around this table. But too, there’s a, I know you’ve talked about that’s not true everywhere. There’s a certain expectation, sometimes especially in the culture that you made your living, your career has been in and even the culture you grew up in as a pastor’s daughter, right? In the Nazarene tradition. There’s certain expectations. Was there a lot of fear that developed, or how did, how do you maneuver that if you’re like, I’m about to blow up these expectations?

Crystal: Absolutely, so this is the first time I’ve talked about this out loud with, with a camera rolling for sure.

Andrew: Four.

Crystal: With multiple cameras rolling, yeah. I was very afraid because, like I said before, my life was completely intertwined with, not just from a marital standpoint. That is to be expected when you are married, that’s the point of being married. You’re merging these lives. But for us, it was business, it was career, it was, ya know, he managed me and was my booking agent and we wrote together and we produced together. A lot of great things and made these great kids.

Mark: Right.

Crystal: I mean, I’m really, really proud of what we did together and that had nothing, well I shouldn’t say nothing to do with where we are, but that can stand along on its own as a beautiful thing and I’m really grateful. I’m grateful for a year and a half of therapy is one thing I’m super grateful for, I have to say. To help me get to the place of looking at it like that. You don’t have to hate something to move on from it. I don’t wanna hate my history, but part of it is, the fact that I grew up in this era where so much was expected of you as far as a Christian singer.

Mark: Right.

Crystal: Where obviously if you sang a certain thing, you believed that and you lived it and expectations can become so distorted. They become, everybody kinda makes up their own. Like well, as a fan, I expect X, Y, and Z from you, and if you’re not delivering that to me, then you’re clearly in sin, and all of a sudden, you are not who I thought you were and it’s like, you don’t actually even know me.

Andrew: Know me, right, yeah.

Crystal: But you think you do, and partly that’s ‘cause, I came from my mother’s womb and haven’t met a stranger, and you know, you go all the way back to that. Like I legit enjoy people.

Mark: Yeah.

Crystal: So you give off this impression like, yes, I am here to, what do you need? What can I do for you? Ya know, who can I be for you?

Mark: Right.

Crystal: And you get lost in that really quickly. So, to break down the walls of this box that well, I walked into, I’ll give ya that. I’ve built up some of those walls of expectation myself as well, but then when you start to feel like, ugh, I need to like, this box is really small and I need to push out from it a little bit and people don’t wanna let you do that. They want you to stay who they want you to be. That’s really tough from a musical perspective, from a spiritual perspective, from all the angles. That’s a really hard place.

Andrew: Do you think ’cause your marriage was so associated with that box, that’s not your fault, your former husband’s fault, whatever, just but you grew up together for one.

Crystal: I met him at 16.

Andrew: Right, then you have this career that starts very young. By the time we knew who Crystal Lewis was, you were just in your 20s, and then that’s also associated with the church and some of this expectation, and I’m not saying the church maybe puts on, but maybe a certain fan or maybe a certain industry or whatever ’cause the marriage was still associated with that. He’s your manager, he’s your co-writer. And then you’re saying, “But I got lost inside this box.” Did that add to some of maybe feeling lost inside a marriage? Maybe for either one of you?

Crystal: Absolutely, and a lot of again, I’m working through, ya know, absorbing all of the weight of all of the blame. That’s something that I’m absolutely guilty of doing.

Mark: Absorbing the weight of the blame of the divorce?

Crystal: The divorce and just like yeah, for sure, but also just where I am in terms of the things I’m trying to do differently.

Mark: Do you feel like it was all your fault? Is that what you’re saying?

Crystal: Oh no.

Andrew: No, no, no, no.

Crystal: But I’m very quick to say, well, it takes two and there’s two sides to every story. Which is true, which is totally true, and I think it’s really important and valid to address that and express that. But again, I’m trying really hard to like, talk about just me and not talk about other people’s issues because I don’t think it’s my place.

Andrew: No, work it out.

Crystal: Like I can tell you my story, but I don’t wanna tell it from somebody else’s perspective.

Andrew: Very healthy, yeah.

Crystal: So, all that to say–

Mark: That your half of therapy worked.

Crystal: Heck yes, it did!

Andrew: Or is working.

Crystal: Still working, yes, very regularly. But I was gonna say that I got lost in the fact that I started so young, and then I had this person that would like do things for me in terms of career and making those kinds of choices and–

Mark: Who became your husband.

Crystal: Yes.

Mark: Yes.

Crystal: Yeah, and it kind of happened simultaneously, and I will say he is a huge part of the reason that I became a writer. I didn’t write songs before we got together, and he really pushed me to write which I’m so grateful for. But as the years went on, I allowed a ton of control to happen on my behalf. Then when I became a mom really young, I was 24 when I had my first child, so then I was just like, I don’t even care. You make the decisions, do what you want. I’m super busy, like all I’m doing is staying up with these kids, I’m nursing these kids, I’m getting onstage, I’m singing the songs, I’m getting off the stage, I’m nursing these kids. I’m not sleeping. So it was like, just please do it. And not that I’m not saying that he took advantage of me or there was some like negative thing about that. It just became, I grew into myself as an artist and as a woman and as a person that wanted things done a certain way really late in life. By that time, now you’ve established these roles of, yeah, but this is my role and this is your role. So as I grew and matured and, ya know, wanted to do things differently, that was a really, really tough thing to untie, I don’t know. I guess that’s how you say it.

Mark: I’m gonna ask something. Are you going to jazz now?

Crystal: Ultimately, that is really the direction I would love to head.

Mark: Is that because you’re afraid the church is gonna reject you because of the divorce, no?

Crystal: No, uh uh, it’s not.

Mark: Well, you got the perfect voice. You’ve got the perfect voice for jazz.

Crystal: Thank you.

Mark: But gospel, we don’t wanna lose you now that you’ve got something to talk about.

Crystal: I’ll still talk.

Mark: Think about that. Now you’ve got something to talk about. You’ve got, once you get this all figured out, and I know it’s early.

Crystal: Right.

Mark: It might even be too early to even really have had this discussion, but I love the fact that you’re willing to talk about it.

Crystal: Well, I think that I’m finding the teensy bit that I have dipped my toe in this conversation with people I don’t know.

Mark: How are they treating you?

Crystal: I have been shocked, pleasantly surprised.

Mark: Yeah, I thought maybe.

Crystal: And delighted at number one, people’s response, positive response, encouraging response. I don’t wanna say positive.

Mark: Less judgmental, sure.

Crystal: Way less judgmental but also the amount of people that are like, “I am right now going through this,” or, “I just went through this.” Or these women who are in similar life phases and stages as me, and that’s been really comforting to know that, oh, I don’t even have to use words to explain to you how it felt.

Mark: You’re not alone.

Crystal: To be, to feel like I was down for the count, ya know, and so emotional and so, just

over the top feeling like I didn’t do what I set out to do when I was 16. I didn’t get to 99 and stay with the same person. That was not my expectation. That wasn’t my goal.

Mark: So you don’t need anybody to beat you up. You’ve done a good job yourself.

Crystal: I’ve done a super good job, yeah.

Mark: And now we need the church to love on ya and invite you.

Crystal: Well–

Mark: I’m serious. People, can’t they? Right, we need to let everybody know who she is.

Andrew: I had a friend that, whose parents went through a divorce when she was younger. She remained close with those parents, and my brother was a friend of hers, OK? He was watching someone else go through a divorce. Anyway, had a little bit of a, we’ve talked about this since. Had a little bit of judgment. This was when he was younger and was like, “Well I don’t see why,” ya know, “they gotta stick it out. They got a lot of love.” This friend of his said, “You didn’t live in my household.” Now, she had a negative experience growing up but she said, “I have seen my parents grow.” She’s like, “We were born into a broken world. There was brokenness all around us. There’s brokenness within us and without us. Sometimes that impacts a marriage.” She said, “But I saw my parents grow into two healthy individuals. That was not possible within that marriage.” Now you can say maybe it was a mistake to get married.

Mark: You mean, after the divorce, they grew into healthy–

Andrew: Yeah, and she said, “You can make whatever opinion you want. Maybe they should’ve never gotten married. Maybe the way they became was impossible to reconcile.” Ya know, whatever.

Mark: I begged my dad to divorce my mom when I was 17.

Andrew: Gosh.

Mark: But he said, “No, I love her,” and I couldn’t talk him out of it. Sometimes you just gotta say it’s over.

Andrew: Well, I do think for the health of individuals, did you ever think you’re, when you knew this was coming to an end, did you ever think your spirituality or your faith was in jeopardy because of that?

Crystal: Um…

Andrew: Not what other people told you, how you felt.

Crystal: Not really because I really feel like I kinda had come to the conclusion that God loved me more than he loved the idea of marriage, and not that he doesn’t love the idea of marriage.

Mark: Whoa, that’s a big statement.

Andrew: But I think that’s true.

Mark: Of course it’s true, but it’s hard–

Crystal: And he loves him, he loves him, he loves Brian too more than he loved, he wasn’t, I don’t think that God was so desperate that we stay together that he was like, “Well, good. All these broken pieces of you will just have to stay that.” No, I think it was, yeah, I’m more important to him than this concept.

Andrew: Redemption is real.

Mark: He died for people, not marriage, not institutions. He died for people, right?

Crystal: Yeah.

Mark: That’s the way I understand it.

Crystal: I think, yeah, I think there’s lots of things that were made by men.

Andrew: Yes, that’s a big conversation, but yes.

Crystal: That we want to say no, no, no, this is ordained by not just the church, but you know-

Mark: Well, I like it that way because you own the woman and you tell ‘em, “Get in that kitchen.”

Crystal: This is, yes, I’m not even gonna go down that road with you.

Mark: No, you didn’t.

Crystal: But yeah, I mean, I think that he loves me more.


Available now! Season One of Dinner Conversations on DVD

Mark: To learn more about Dinner Conversations, visit dinner-conversations.com.

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Mark: Yeah! So when we have our next conversation, you can have coffee with us. Let’s get back to the conversation.


Nita Andrews, Counselor

Andrew: So Nita, Nita Andrews, we spoke with your husband, Al.

Nita: Uh huh.

Andrew: Last season, and we thought that would be the perfect imbalance if we didn’t have you on the show too.

Nita: Symmetry matters.

Andrew: That’s right. Plus, you’re the prettier of the two.

Nita: Thank you.

Andrew: I’ll just say. But you have been a therapist and a spiritual guide for couples for years, including walking people through divorces. When you’re thinking about when you walked alongside couples because I heard you say something that’s completely fascinating to me but can be a little bit of a touchy way to say this. You said you have helped and really love helping, don’t let me put words in your mouth, but people partnering with people to help them experience a mature divorce.

Nita: There are two kinds of divorces, and one is kind of a car wreck where I just wanna do a hit and run. That leaves more damage in its wake, and there’s another mature divorce where you really do say, “You will know why I needed to leave. You will know all the different thoughts I have about my next relationship.” Ya know, you will know kind of the closure of this one will go very out in the open. And that’s more honorable ’cause it leaves both people with at least a chance to do an autopsy of what happened.

Andrew: And I would guess to move forward in health rather than with a lot of toxic resentment and unforgiveness.

Nita: Right.

Andrew: So, it can seem like, OK, I’m walking through a mature divorce. Some people say, well, you’re just condoning it. But that’s not, I’ve heard your heart on divorce. Divorce is not an easy, this is not saying, here’s the solution.

Nita: No, I mean, there was a point in the history of the Jewish faith where you could divorce your wife over burning toast, ya know? Things that were just like looking for issues, and if anybody wants to look for an issue, we’re all divorceable. I’m divorceable. I mean, if you want to go on that expedition, you’ll find a way to, ya know, basically name and, ya know, get that other person out the door. But I think the way I look at it, we do long for the beginning and the middle and the end of a marriage story. We’re hard wired for the beginning, the middle, and the end. And so, when it abruptly hits mid way, like I need to be away from you and I want an ex put in front of our name, like ex-wife, ex-husband, when that moment of declarity, you’re like I want out, it’s a break. It’s like a broken bone. My biggest issue with people is like they try to say it means nothing. It does mean something.

Andrew: And to not let it mean something, that’s almost a reversion of, I mean, emotional, mental health. I mean, that’s bound to be equivalent of sweeping it under the rug, isn’t it?

Nita: Well, if you had no bond, then you can go, I wash my hands of this. I never was close to them, so there’s no loss if I leave them, ya know? But if you were bonded–

Andrew: You don’t get into a marriage without some sort of bond.

Nita: Right.

Andrew: We were talking right before this, right, about two people I had overheard who had both been through divorces in their first marriages who’d been married for now decades in their second marriages and so had learned and also just experienced a different thing. I overheard one of ’em ask the other, “Do you ever get over it?” Meaning that divorce and the other person saying, “Never.”

Nita: No, if your souls were knit, you always will wonder how did that story end up? I pulled my part out of that narrative, and now, how did the story end up? But before I ever speak to anyone about their hope for a divorce, I always say, “Have you grabbed the hand of mercy first?” Because that’s what matters is that Moses was given the writ of divorce because he knew that two sinners trying to build a relationship, there’d be plenty of times that it would fail. When I was growing up, I begged my parents to divorce. It would’ve been a healthier relationship.

Andrew: Really?

Nita: I begged them to leave kinda the carnage of how they treated one another. They never did, of course, until I went to college. Like hey, now, do it, I was smart, do it when I asked you to. So there are times when I think that analogy that I use is if a marriage has died and you think you’re being noble to carry a corpse on your back for another 10 years and your kids are gonna be better off if you carry this corpse, there are times, ya know, that the medical examiner has pronounced it dead. You’ve outgrown one another, ya know, there’s just such a parallel life, there’s infidelity or betrayal or loss. There’s just, it’s gotten to the point of death, and it’d be better and healthier to say, “Let’s give it a real honorable, clean, honest appraisal and let’s move forward to a new relationship or to singleness.”

Andrew: Maybe people don’t, so I’m single still, and I’ve seen marriages in my family, and I’ve seen them succeed and I’ve seen them fail and I’ve seen them have to work hard.

Nita: Sure.

Andrew: Whenever, so I know if ever I come to that time where I want to marry or that opportunity is something I wanna seize, I already know there’s risks involved. Like I don’t know that I’ll approach it and think, oh yeah, without a doubt. You told me earlier, like I’m not gonna stick that, yeah, stick that landing, achieve this. I’ll come in with it like you’re saying and or hope the hand of mercy to say, OK, this is risky business ’cause we’re two human beings, but lead with mercy. Talk a little more about leading with mercy. You could even, I love the story of the couple popes ago and what he’s saying, I love that.

Nita: Yeah, there’s Pope John, I think two popes back. He did what’s called a codicil, which is a long treatment of sexuality in the human body. But before the interpreters and the commentators began to unravel it, they just began all their teaching with, “Before we go down the question of birth control and abortion and all the things that come out when you have two human beings that can procreate. Before we even go down that road, ever even get on the road, we’re gonna take the hand of mercy.” And I believe that the thing about marriage is it starts out with so much hopefulness. I have this really fun poem. It’s about six lines. Here it is. “We are placed on a wedding cake like two dolls, the bride and the groom. When the knife strikes, we will try to stay on the same slice.” Because the knife will come and by the knife, I mean, betrayals, disappointments, ya know, broken promises about finances. Like you said, you were gonna finish your doctorate, and your dissertation still isn’t done, and I can’t support you anymore. One thing that my husband and I have always tried to get back to is, am I a person that is committed and wants to see how your story moves forward? When I’m not interested in your story moving forward, I’m gonna be sabotaging you.

Andrew: Interesting.

Nita: That’s a real important moment and most couples have moments where they just, they regress to childhood behaviors or whatever, and they throw the wrench in and say, I’m not supporting your story anymore. I want this or that, or I’m so exhausted. I can’t support both of our stories. I need to take care of me. And that’s a valid point, ya know? That happens at times. There’s all kinds of reasons.

Andrew: Sure. And there can be space for that.

Nita: There can be space for that.

Andrew: But that requires communication.

Nita: Yes, uh huh.

Andrew: That requires me telling you if we’re in a marriage relationship, saying where I’m at, what I may perceive that I need. And then the marriage can perhaps support that or, at times, not support it. Ya know, Crystal, I thought one of the most meaningful things that she has talked about is a friend of hers who said to her at some point, do you, and maybe she was beatin’ herself up a little bit, and especially as, OK, someone who made her profession–

Nita: Like a standard barer.

Andrew: Yeah, and I’m a Christian singer, and I’m a performer and someone who speaks the truth, a deeper truth, right, this gospel truth from the stage, and I can’t mirror that wholeness in my marriage. So dealing with all that, and her friend said, “Do you realize God loves you more than the institution of marriage?”

Nita: That’s where we go to the level of restoration that God is after. He’s after individual healing and restoration, and I’m not sure that it’s always that you get to the finish line married. You know, I would wish. I love continuity, I love unity.

Andrew: Sure, yeah.

Nita: I love full circle. I love it when you thank me and I thank you and we, gratitude circles, I love intimacy circles and sometimes, there is a break in the circle and it can’t be repaired.

Andrew: And our ultimate, isn’t our ultimate desire like you talk about this wanting to be completed, wanting to be whole and how we are drawn back into that or even compelled forward by that constantly. When we recognize that, that’s an even deeper, humanity will come into the marriage relationship, but what we want, our ultimate completion is we’re wanting communion with God. So, the things in life, I mean, I’m asking this. The things in life that do not mirror, whether they’ve grown to not mirror or they didn’t mirror it from the beginning or whatever, not mirror communion with God or even like you talked about, spouses supporting the forward motion of each other’s story. If it doesn’t support the forward motion of us being completed and our wholeness being found in God, that’s where our struggle comes in, isn’t it?

Nita: Yeah, but I have to, I have to make a pitch for depravity here.

Andrew: Oh darn! Mark won’t like this.

Nita: I’m just depraved enough that I could use and weaponize that idea. I could say, “I’ve got to go forward with God and be united with him.”

Andrew: I see.

Nita: “You were my biggest obstacle.” I just–

Andrew: So you could use the God card.

Nita: You could use the God card. Now, we had, Allen and I had to go into marriage counseling, which is fun when two marriage counselors go into marriage counseling.  But our therapist said we wouldn’t make it based on our need to differentiate ’cause we were working together. I finished his sentences. I don’t anymore, really have gotten a lot better. But ya know, there is a sense in which you accommodate that it’s two healthy people who will die alone and they will know Jesus alone and they are baptized alone and they learn scripture alone. They have the Holy Spirit telling ’em new things alone.

Andrew: Uh huh.

Nita: Ya know, we are individuals, but I do think if you’ve made that commitment to try, to further the other person’s story, spirituality would support that in large, ya know?

Andrew: Sure.

Nita: Spirituality wouldn’t cut against it.

Andrew: Would not diminish that.

Nita: Yeah, it wouldn’t cut.

Andrew: Love God, love your neighbor, those are the two things, right?

Nita: Yeah.

Andrew: Essentially, our greatest neighbor is our marriage partner.

Nita: I just don’t want my depravity to have a new way to get rid of Al. You’re not getting me to Jesus.

Andrew: Right, yeah, I got it. Get your way to Jesus, get your own way to Jesus. I love this. I love the conversation, that we can have it.

Nita: Oh, you have to have it ’cause it’s insane to put your head in the sand like an ostrich and say, “Divorce, I don’t even believe in it or don’t see it or don’t know how to interact with it.” Most pastors need a full semester on just the theology of wholeness, fragmentation, and where do they support their congregation during the rupture of fragmentation.

Andrew: Sure, which will happen.

Nita: Fragmentation is going to happen. Yeah, it just, set your clock, it’s gonna happen.

Andrew: Yeah. And if you had an expectation and you go back to the pope, every pastor should go back to the pope.

Nita: And hold the hand of mercy.

Andrew: Hold the hand of mercy before. That’s the precedent.

Nita: And the person sitting across from you was genuinely hopeful on the day of their wedding. They were as brimming with Holy Spirit hope, and so they’re disappointed too. Now, I don’t think that losing a marriage is the loss of all losses. It’s not, ya know, like your identity is snapped in two or you don’t have a future calling or individual witness to Christ. All of that survives the divorce. But I’ve seen some people ashamed of their divorce, and what they do is kind of sad. They put their children and stepchildren and all the parties in what I would call a jelly bean jar, and they shake up the jar and then they say I’m gonna pour the beans out, everybody’s better. Yes! Everybody’s happier, let’s go to Disney World. And they don’t approximate that there’s been a death, and after a death, you have bargaining, you have anger, you have, ya know, the stages of grief and loss. Finally, you get to acceptance. But I think kids feel pressured to pretend there was no broken arm, there’s no broken continuity. The story’s gonna patch up quickly, ya know? We all just need to be honest. It is a severe blow.

Andrew: So, all these things are possible even in the midst.

Nita: Beauty for ashes. I mean, as long as we acknowledge that our hearts yearn for that unity and we’re always gonna lay our head on the pillow at night and say, “Oh, I wish for unity.” It’s not in a fallen world gonna be my experience.


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Crystal Lewis singing “Beauty For Ashes”

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

When sorrow seems to surround you

When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head

Know that tomorrow brings wholeness and healing

God knows your need, just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

When what you’ve done keeps you from moving on

When fear wants to make itself at home in your heart

Know that forgiveness brings wholeness and healing

God knows your need, just believe what He said

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

Beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

See, I once was lost but God has found me

Though I was bound I’ve been set free

I’ve been made righteous in His sight

A display of His splendor all can see

I once was lost but God has found me

I was bound, I’m free

Been made righteous in His sight

Display of His splendor all can see

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

He gives beauty for ashes

Strength for fear

Gladness for mourning

Peace for despair

Peace for despair

Peace for despair

He gives peace for despair


Andrew: So what does life afterwards look like for you?

Crystal: Woo!

Mark: Oh yeah.

Crystal: OK, so at 48, I pay rent, which I never did before. I set up my own utilities.

Andrew: Alright.

Crystal: I have to call AT&T sometimes.

Andrew: This is getting real.

Crystal: Yes, sir. No, but I mean, I was a teenager. And I am not, I was grateful to be in a relationship where it was a partnership and we did all this stuff together, but there were some gaps. I mean, I failed to learn some things, and I’m so grateful to be learning them now. From music industry things, business things, money things, all of that is relatively new to me to be on the flip side, underside, like all up in it. And I love that.

Mark: You do?

Andrew: I love learning it. I like being the boss. I like having ideas and bringing them to life. I think sometimes when, again, pros and cons, ya know, there’s good and bad to having like even business partners and people who you can, I think we need people. We need partnership to bring things to life. But sometimes it’s hard when you have an idea that you really believe in and all you have is naysayers around you and it’s hard to face a uphill battle, to just find yourself constantly fighting for what you think is a great idea. So, this season has been incredibly difficult. I’m trying to do all kinds of new things. I’m starting this vocal coaching, mentorship thing, and that has multiple phases to it. Writing and I’ve got a bunch of new music in the works that I’m totally experimenting with. Different producers and different friends and just pulling in favors.

Mark: Really?

Crystal: And saying, “Do you wanna try this with me?” Just seeing what’s out there and seeing how those things make me feel. That’s a huge part of my therapy. I so highly recommend sitting down with someone that you’re not related to, and I don’t mean over a meal or a beverage.

Mark: Spilling your guts?

Crystal: Like just, ya know, yeah. I like that I’m becoming more self-aware and growing in that.

Andrew: Is there a new connection with your Creator in that?

Crystal: Oh yes, for sure. Yeah, definitely. I think I will be completely honest and say that I’m rethinking everything I’ve ever thought, ever. And I’ve never done that before. That’s pre, pre separation and before.

Mark: What have you given up or accepted or what—

Crystal: Well, Mark, you can read my book when it comes out.

Mark: Oh, you got a book coming out?

Crystal: No.

Mark: Yeah, ’cause I think I’ve done that during my life. I have given up things that were really cornerstones.

Andrew: Like re-evaluating?

Crystal: Yes!

Mark: Yeah, like ya know, I’ve never, that hurt to pull it out of the building.

Crystal: And don’t you think it’s scary initially to, like, you’ve gotta find the right person to go, OK, I just, I’m gonna say something and you’re gonna think I’m crazy for saying it, but I’m gonna say it. And then you’re brave enough to say it and more often than not, that person doesn’t go, “You’re a crazy person.” They say, “I thought about that too,” or, yeah, giving you the space.

Andrew: Well, the mysteries around us are evident. We just try to bottle ’em up and sell ’em.

Crystal: And put them in tiny boxes! I hate boxes with all my heart.

Mark: I love what Paul Young, I think, that’s the guy who wrote The Shack, right?

Andrew: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: Something like that. He says, I heard him say this and I thought it was so great. He said, “The only time you’ll find God in a box is when he wants to be where you are.”

Crystal: Hmm.

Mark: ‘Cause we’re all in our little boxes. Denominational boxes,

Crystal: Yeah, yes!

Mark: Political boxes, but he didn’t wanna be in a box, but he’ll get in one if he has to because he’s crazy about us!

Crystal: I love that, mmhmm.

Mark: He will do anything to be with us, I believe. Just like any parent, any healthy parent. I mean, don’t you love being with your kids?

Crystal: More than anything, and that helps me be a better daughter, too, the way that I feel about being around my kids. I’m now finally able to look at my parents more. It’s just humans–

Mark: You finally get it.

Crystal: Figuring it out too.

Andrew: Right alongside.

Crystal: And give them more of me as they, as I sense that they need it, ya know?

Mark: Well, I love you, Crystal Lewis.

Crystal: Thank you.

Mark: Thank you for sharing your, I don’t even know, are we done?

Andrew: I have one more question.

Mark: I’m sorry.

Andrew: I love you too.

Mark: Did I say I love you?

Andrew: No, you said, I was lookin’ at her. We made eye contact. No, you just like the reaffirming touch.

Mark: Don’t touch me.

Andrew: So, this year, yeah exactly, this year of firsts, like it’s just kinda recapping, but I wanted to ask. I mean, when I think about, OK, marriage as a teenager, young mother, career, a primarily Christian music, now single, parent, soon to be grandparent. That’s hard to believe.

Mark: Isn’t that wonderful?

Andrew: Ya know, focusing on these or experimenting with these different musical things. Like this year, year and a half, two years, whatever of firsts, did you ever think at this stage of your life, at this age–

Crystal: Uh uh, no.

Andrew: That you would be experiencing all these firsts?

Crystal: Never, and I think I’m so grateful to be becoming a young grandparent. I love, I loved being a young mother, and I’m so grateful and glad that I made that decision then to have my children young. I have lots of friends that waited until their late 30s and even early 40s to have children. It’s just a different life.

Mark: Sure it is.

Crystal: Good and bads to all of it, but for me, not knowing that I would be here, oh man, oh man, I’m so grateful that I have these grown kids that are–

Mark: Aren’t you glad you don’t have an eight year old?

Crystal: I mean, technically–

Mark: ‘Cause if you’d have started when you’re 40, you’re going through it at 48, you’d be a single mom raising a baby.

Crystal: Exactly. Yes, I do watch my niece who’s four once a week. I’m her special babysitter.

Andrew: It’s a good fill.

Crystal: Yeah, it’s my granny practice because, but anyway, yeah, I do feel some–

Mark: Do you know what it’s gonna be yet, do you know what–

Crystal: No!

Mark: Oh no?

Crystal: They didn’t find out!

Andrew: And she/he’s coming in?

Crystal: Two weeks!

Andrew: We’ll have to follow up on that.

Mark: I hope it’s human.

Crystal: So do I.

Mark: Wouldn’t that be nice?

Crystal: I mean, I like puppies.

Andrew: Actually, depending what kind.

Mark: I’ve got three. I’ve got three puppies.

Crystal: I have a cat.

Mark: You do. See, I’m not a cat person.

Crystal: Yeah, I love him.

Mark: I think they’re evil.


Andrew: Can you slow down my vibrato?

Crystal: I’ll work on that.

Andrew: He gives me beauty for ashes, strength for fear

Crystal: I feel like you’re doing that on purpose.

Mark: Are you really doing that?

Andrew: No, I’m doing that on purpose, but can you even do that?

Mark: I can. Wait. Beauty for ashes. ’Cause I had to do that when I played Pinocchio when I was 9-years-old, you know, he’s underwater. Pinocchio

Mark: You know how he’s underwater in Pinocchio?

Crystal: Yes, when he gets–

Mark: You know, the whale and all? 


Mark: When I hear myself back, I say, “Oh gosh, the scooping is starting.” Ya know, well. I’ll be like Doug Oldham. Remember Doug Oldham?

Crystal: Yes sir, I do.

Mark: Well, the key—

Crystal: I love your tone and timbre of your voice. I think it’s beautiful!

Mark: You do? Thank you!

Crystal: It’s so rich!

Andrew: Dial it down, dial it down.

Mark: Now, why is he here? I was just getting a compliment from Crystal Lewis, and you will not allow me that?

Andrew: I’m sorry, say it again.

Mark: No, don’t.

Crystal: Once was enough.

Mark: Yes, it was. OK, we done?


Mark: Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode with Crystal Lewis!

Andrew: Yeah, you can check out all her amazing music through our Amazon affiliate links in our episode descriptions.

Mark: And you can binge watch all of Season Two Dinner Conversations right now on Amazon Prime.

Andrew: So thanks for watching Dinner Conversations with–

Mark: Mark Lowry.

Andrew: And Andrew Greer.

Mark: Turning the light on.

Andrew: One question at a time.

Mark: Dinner Conversations is brought to you by Food For The Hungry, a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years.

Andrew: Help our friends at Food For The Hungry save thousands of refugee lives today by considering a generous gift.

Mark: A gift that will be matched 22 times!

Andrew: It’s incredible. Visit fh.org/dinner to give now.


Join Mark and Andrew as we support our Dinner Conversations Season Two title sponsor, Food for the Hungry (FH) – a relief and development organization serving those in need around the globe for more than 40 years. 

Partner with us as we partner with FH save thousands of Rohingyan refugee lives in Bangladesh today by considering a generous gift – a gift that will be matched 22-times! And remember, every dollar enters you into the Season Two Grand Prize Giveaway, which includes dinner with Mark and Andrew in Houston, plus more surprises. 

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Watch Our Other Episodes:

S02, E01: A Change of Mind featuring Danny Gokey and Dr. Caroline Leaf
S02, E02: The Last Goodbye featuring Amy Grant
S02, E03: The Humanity of Billy & Ruth Graham featuring Will Graham and Gigi Graham