A life built on grace - Mary Jane Holt

When I first heard Greg McDougal sing, he was introduced as Christian Country's own James Taylor. Certainly, it is easy to recall Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" as you get to know Greg, but McDougal has even more going for him.

I suspected as the first note left his tongue that Greg had been granted more than some would consider his fair share of talent -- talent laced with the raw energy and passion born of intense heartache. It took a few days for me to begin to understand.

I was in Nashville for Inspirational Country Music Week. I met Greg's mom the day before the Oct. 18 Awards Show. She told me he was the funny one of her seven kids. A twin who enjoyed light-hearted humor, he was always pulling pranks, telling jokes and keeping everybody laughing. She said he'd always loved music and the music loved him back.

Greg moved to Nashville 16 years ago. Doors opened. Amazing publishing deals came his way. His early and ever-evolving Nashville success was only enhanced as he and his wife, Diane, looked forward to the birth of their first son. At 30 years old, Greg's music dreams were coming true and he was about to have the perfect family to share it with. Life was good.

Greg and Diane welcomed their firstborn only to have him immediately snatched from their eager, reaching arms and rushed to Vanderbilt hospital with a hole in his intestines, a diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, and the first of many fights for his life.

Subsequently, Greg left the music industry and the travel it too often required. He would not leave his wife and child. A man at this church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., handed him a hammer and offered to teach him how to use it. For a decade, he has built and repaired homes by day and stood by his family by night. There have been countless hospitalizations, surgical procedures, and numerous days missed from work to be near children who fight to live. Today, there are four precious children, three of whom have been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

A while back, when a carpet-free and mold-resistant home was added to the list of things needed to enhance his kids' quality of life, God led Greg back to his music, but He never told him to put down his hammer. Today, he's putting nails into a new and healthier home for his kids -- a home made possible by those who have supported Greg's music since he gave his talent back to God three years ago and recorded the amazing CD, "The Work of a Carpenter."

Daddy hammers by day, actively loves his family by night and sings on the weekends. When things are going well, and their health permits, the kids sing with Dad at the growing number of churches to which he is being called to tell his story and theirs.

Greg's amazing voice with that "something more" I felt so bent on defining, sings praises to the God who has held onto him, sustained his family, and blessed them beyond measure through the financial struggles, mental and emotional anguish, the physical pain, the uncertainty, the quest for relief, for hope, for a cure ...

Greg's house for his kids will soon be complete, yet donations continue to trickle in. He believes God has a plan. He is establishing a non-profit organization, through which he can continue to hammer and sing for the glory of God, as he uses money from his music to replace carpet with hard floor flooring, build wheel chair ramps, and address mold and mildew problems for other families where children suffer with Cystic Fibrosis.

The road has not been an easy one, as he attests to in the song, "Grace," which he wrote for his wife, Diane, after the birth of their fourth child, Grace, who the doctors felt sure would be born healthy. She was not, and so he wrote these words:

"... I know your heart is broken

sometimes this life is tough

but think of where we might be

if not for God and his love

before you let the world decide

where you'll put your trust ...

remember all the grace

he gives to us ..."

You can read Greg's story in his words at www.ahouseformykids.com.

You can hear the kids sing at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3A277jdl-8, or just google Greg McDougal. I hope you can find a way to let him touch your life as he has touched mine!

Mary Jane Holt writes an occasional column for the weekend edition of the Clayton News Daily and the Henry Daily Herald. You can visit her at: www.maryjaneholt.com.