I’m still in Nashville. Anticipating the need to assimilate thoughts after Hutchmoot, I planned in a couple of extra days here. I’m putting off re-entry. Apparently it’s time for my (yearly?) blog entry.
Today I’m thinking about how it’s not too late, and this thought is a balm for my soul. Somehow I had slipped into an unnamed shapeless sort of running-in-the-background fear that said I was kidding myself if I thought I could really do music, like, for real.
People work for decades to be good at this craft. Yes, I started when I was 4, but what do I have to show for it? Haven’t I been just “family-ing” for fifteen years–having babies, homeschooling and such? Where are the songs? How did I manage to let so much time go by and produce so little. If you need to write 1000 terrible songs to get 10 good ones, then the eight songs I’ve written this past year must, statistically, all stink pretty badly. If singing and songwriting are truly my calling, how could I be so neglectful?
But Jack and Tollers didn’t know when they were flipping a coin in the pub, that they were “Jack and Tollers flipping a coin in the pub.” That coin toss would result in Gandalf and Aslan, but they didn’t know it yet. They were just themselves. They were older than I am now. They had no appreciation for the momentousness of the scene in which they found themselves. I think of Diana Glyer and her 20 years of research on the Inklings. I am thankful that she persisted after the litany of NOs from the publishing world. Would Hutchmoot even exist if she had given up? I silently thank the person who told her that he would, “see it for her until she could see it for herself.” I think Carrie Givens would call him a “namer.”
I remember moving to Colorado when I was 11. I went to a private Christian school. I had been moved up a grade and as such was the youngest kid in the 7th grade. The school was so small that there were only three girls in my class. The other two girls were best friends since first grade. They made fun of me. They ridiculed everything from my general inexperience in life to the clothes I wore to the way I chewed my food. I would come home after school and cry. My mom would hold me. One day she murmured, “Maybe someday you will write songs about this.” It was a small consolation, but I did believe that one day I would write those songs.
I think the power of her naming songwriting for me helped shape the things I was enduring into a framework that allowed for the possibility that someday they would be redeemed. The naming kindled hope. Even in my young mind, I began to understand that my suffering could help someone else. When I was in my early twenties, and I read about the disciples who rejoiced that they had been “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name,” (Acts 5:41) it rang true deep inside me.
I knew, even before I could read, that music was what I was “supposed” to do. So here I am, in my forties, and I have never recorded an album. I could look at the lack of musical accomplishment as a great personal loss. I could feel an overwhelming heaviness about what could (should?) have been if I had only concentrated on my music. Some days that is what I do. I picture me, hiding my talents in a hole, and I am devastated with regret.
Other days, I look at how I did spend my time: I earned a degree. I taught French to middle-schoolers. I opened up a photography studio that helped feed our children when my husband lost his job. I gave birth to four children, my sweet darlings. Though flawed and fallen ourselves, my husband and I have been intentional about raising them up in the way they should go. I have been singing on the same church worship team for something like 18 years. I have learned to grab onto joy wherever it surfaces. I have learned that I must seek out beauty and goodness. I have learned that it is essential to remain vulnerable in the midst of suffering.
When children learn to speak, the process requires “comprehensible input.” The child needs to hear the language and understand what is being said. Children typically spend months or years taking it all in and arranging it in their little brains before they themselves begin to speak. Maybe, in the same way, I have been collecting “comprehensible input” for all these years and am now ready to begin speaking the language of song. Maybe the joys, triumphs, sorrows and losses have lead me to glimpses of truth that I can share with others. Maybe this was the plan all along.
And so my heart resounds again, IT IS NOT TOO LATE. It is not too late.
This post reminds me of a song. Here it is:
Ok, friends, I am making this public. It’s a little scary, because it makes this crazy idea harder to back out of. I want to write a song a month for twelve months. It has been two months so far, and I have two songs.
I already posted the first song in my (other) blog post, but I’m posting a newer, slightly prettier version here as well. Disclaimer: I am just getting started with recording songs. These are done on my iPad with just me and my guitar, (no mic–not even an iRig for the guitar) so please excuse the recording quality. I may or may not be recording these in my closet with a blanket over my head. 🙂 Okay, I am.
This photo was taken was during “The Rain Keeps Falling” at Andrew Peterson’s release concert for his new album, The Burning Edge of Dawn in Nashville, TN. This photo is special to me because I can’t wait to show it to two of my newest bosom friends. Let me explain:
A couple of weeks ago, I was at a women’s retreat. We were in breathtaking Estes Park, CO. The towering pines and aspens resplendent in pinks and oranges along with the rippling brook and placid lake were all together too beautiful. The first afternoon we were there, I was walking toward the meeting room and happened to glance over my shoulder at an area near the stream. There was a patch of sun highlighting a small grassy area and it fairly glowed. It was framed with the branches of a tree. The earth was shouting to me, “I AM.” It was one of those scenes that I (as a former professional photographer) would not even attempt to capture because the camera’s sensor, though advanced, could never hope to capture all the myriad of shades of color that my eyes perceived. It was one of those moments you have to commit to memory. One that tugs on your heart strings for no apparent reason other than indecipherable beauty.
I had pre-ordered The Burning Edge of Dawn, and this order came with a bonus instant download of three songs, one of which was “The Rain Keeps Falling.” I had this song running through my head all weekend during the retreat. Three or four times, parts of the song would come to me as one of my friends was sharing during our small group sessions. She wasn’t really a friend–more like an acquaintance. We were both on the worship team for the retreat.
I had this uncomfortable feeling that she needed this song. I HATE stuff like that. It reminds me of my grandma giving me books that she thinks I need to read. It’s a nice gesture, but also a bit presumptuous. It always made me feel like she had observed something wrong with me–an area in which she had determined that I needed growth, and then came up with a prescription for me. (Grandma, if you are reading this, I really do appreciate the thought! And, I love you.) This particular friend had lost someone close to her and had been hurt by church people handing her platitudes like “Just remember that God is good.” Knowing this made me even more fearful to “prescribe” a song for her.
And so, against my better judgement (and desire to be liked), I asked her if she might be willing to listen to this song with me. As is sometimes (often?) the case with me, my timing was poor. Worship team practice had just taken up an hour or so of the only free time scheduled for the weekend, so we decided to listen to the song later.
After the last meeting that evening, “later” came. We went outside and another friend joined us. I felt even more pressure and almost embarrassment because the act of putting it off and subsequently coming back to it seemed to build up anticipation. It was obviously “kind of a big deal” to me, and it made me exponentially more nervous than it should have.
We sat at a picnic table outside and I hit “play.” The night air had gone cold in the absence of sun. I was shivering, probably from more than just the temperature. To add to the awkwardness, as soon as the song started, I began blubbering. (I basically tear up at everything in this season of my life. It isn’t from pain, it’s more from a renewed sensitivity to life, but that’s for another post.) I just put my head down and kept as quiet as possible.
When it was over, I looked up sheepishly, terrified that they would say, “That was nice! Thanks for playing it,” and I would feel so foolish for going out on this limb. Somehow, I felt as if I were exposing my soul to them, and that the chances of a real connection being made were slim to none. As I gradually looked up to meet their eyes, I was relieved to see that they, too, had succumbed to tears. Not the pretty kind. They matched me in all of my snotty, slimy glory. It was a beautiful and humbling moment.
We spilled our guts for several hours and all three of us shared stories of the excruciating pain that we have weathered over the past couple of years. We spun tales of deep wounds without trying to put a positive spin on it (as I am sometimes tempted to do). No one offered trite answers, yet there was no wallowing. It was bare naked brokenness, the kind that cleanses the soul. Near strangers experienced life-giving intersection that night. (Now, after attending Hutchmoot, I am tempted to call it some sort of divine pre-mootery training).
After an hour or so, I felt prompted to share a short essay I had written the week before. I had been on a sort of silent retreat. I awoke one morning with a picture in my head. It (of course) made me cry and I was compelled to attempt to capture it with words. Strengthened by the level of connection in our conversation, I was bold enough to pull it up on my phone and read it to them. I said:
“Today I began to see myself as a teacup. A teacup that is a gift from God, but that is me. When, as an adult, I decided to follow Jesus, he presented me with this cup. It was an exquisite cup, with graceful filigrees and lovely designs and I was quite taken with it.
Into it he poured all the experiences I have had with Him. It held all the things I have learned about Him, and the wisdom that encounters with Him has brought about. I was safe, secure, and overjoyed with my cup.
Throughout the next fifteen or so years, I pursued Him, and He pursued me. My cup began to fill with the weight of glory. I grew in my practice of the fruit of the spirit, I grew in many ways.
Then, one day, a fissure appeared in the shiny porcelain of the cup. Without warning the cup burst with an explosion that shook every part of me. I, along with all the contents, was jettisoned from my safe, beautiful cup and began a free fall. I didn’t know what was below, what would catch me, if anything.
During this free fall, all the things I knew that I knew were somehow out of reach. I had to reexamine the very truths that had been life blood to me for many years. Everything seemed like a mirage, without substance. Finally, slowly, painfully, I and my truths landed.
Bloody and bruised, I began to explore this new landscape. It was shiny and white, and stretched farther out than I could see. I slipped and fell as I walked around. Eventually I began to realize that this new place is my new cup. In a puddle at the bottom are all the things from my old cup. They look different now, after having been rearranged in the fall, but I can still recognize them. This teacup is vast. It is fiercely beautiful. I wonder at the thought that one day it, too will be full and burst, unable to withstand the weight of glory.”
Once again, I looked up sheepishly. Once again, they were both as slobbery with tears as I. One said, “You just described my 2014.” There is an uncanny lightening of the spirit that comes with this type of communion. I woke up the next morning with Galatians 6:2 in my heart: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Nothing in any of our situations had changed, yet it seemed that we had collectively grabbed onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, the tiniest bit of light had begun to peek over the horizon. Maybe these dark seasons in our lives were beginning to come to an end. And even if not, our hearts were mysteriously lighter.
There was magic in the air that September night. As I look back even now, the awe I felt watching kindred spirits intertwining seems like a tangible thing. I am changed. We are changed. Now, I have to show them this photo from the concert. I know it will mean as much to them as it does to me, because we have communed together.
Incidentally, this prompted me to write a song. This is the first song I’ve written in a long while. I recorded it in my room while I attended Hutchmoot. It is a technichally challenged one-take version of this song recorded on my phone. My guitar playing leaves much to be desired. Still, I wanted to capture the raw emotion and feeling I had when writing this song. And what better place to record a song than Nashville?
The experience I have described here, as well as a number of others in the past month or so have reminded me of the hunger and thirst for writing that was buried deep within. It emerged when I was a child, and grew as I was a teen, but it feels like it has been in a coma for at least a decade. I can hardly sleep these days for the onslaught of words and rhyme and truth that are clamoring to be put together with music in my mind. It is with great anticipation that I write this, my first blog post. May this longing in my heart for what is good and true spur me on to create things that will point to the one true story.