Monday, March 5, 2012

The Landscape of Wonder

It's been a while right?  I really am a writer I promise!  I hope to increase my frequency of blog posts...honestly.  Having a 3 year old doesn't exactly allow for lots of free thinking but every now and then I get the chance to take a trip back into the soul I wave goodbye to Elmo and his friends along the way. : )

Life has been full with transition, music, travel and family.  I've been so grateful for the opportunities that have come our way already this year and have been peeling back the layers as I weigh the busyness of life and what value there is to behold behind the surface.

There is no doubt that blessings are...well...blessings...but what I've learned is this:  I believe the grace to actually ENJOY these gifts in the moments they are given is indeed the greater BLESSING.  And I believe the greater blessing has a name: WONDER.

As I've gotten older I've grown weary of 'going through the motions' and coasting on auto-pilot.  I've grown weary of not being fully present in the moment and falling prey to the "what's next" syndrome. 

In this most recent season of life I've decided to pray these moments will hold more than just achievement.  I have prayed that each opportunity will carry the joy of wonder

This last run of live dates on the West Coast was an answer to that prayer when the gift of new friendships and the richness of new stories taught me lessons that I couldn't have learned anywhere else and from anyone else but only in those exact moments.  I ache to think about the beauty that could've been lost underneath the weight of the tasks at hand...buried underneath the weight of progress.

There are some things I know.  I know I will develop deep lines in my face, lines that not even Mr. Clean's Magic eraser can erase (although it is salvation to the parents whose toddlers draw on walls!).  I know my hair will change from deep brown to silver gray to white someday (even tho I plan to go a little Bonnie Raitt with it!) I know my voice will one day weaken and I will no longer be able to sing above a whisper.  I am certain I will mourn the loss of all these things. But in spite of the passing of time and the ever-changing seasons of life I pray that God would allow me to retain the JOY of wonder.  I pray a simple prayer...that the enemies of busyness, frustrated plans, betrayal, disillusionment and the general harsh elements of time would never take away my child-like sense of this my Father's world.

"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering."
Saint Augustine

Indeed there was much beauty to behold along the landscape of our West Coast travels but the highest and best, the richest and most purpose-filled beauty was held in the stories and in the friendships gained.  In my giving I received so much more than I could've ever imagined.  What a blessing to stand in wonder at the beauty God breathes into life right before our very eyes.  He is still a God who creates extraordinary things out of sheer nothingness and He can always be found in the landscape of wonder.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Loneliness, Community & the Enemy of Assumption

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival."
C.S. Lewis

As cited in my last blog post I've recently been thinking a great deal about community and in particular the bitter fruit of loneliness and isolation which seem to thrive off of the one side of the tree where the light of community has yet to really shine.  Little sunlight = little growth.  I speak in first person.

This subject gave me its first glare and demanded my attention when I returned from a 6 week stint away from home during which time my already tiny relational tree had been gravely under-watered and malnourished.  I returned with hopes of tapping into the same sources of replenishment, the same few friendships I had counted on...only to discover that time brings change and change can make for a difficult transition.  But before you break out the violin...there's something you should know.

Unlike previous encounters with isolation I unexpectedly turned outward instead of inward, a move so unnatural for me that I am certain only grace is responsible for it.  In an almost effortless manner I began to reach out, seeking opportunities to understand and learn about others and give my own life away. Reaching outward is something I had never been able to do with much success in my 30 something years of life as an introvert but quite honestly I became convicted.  I thought about how easy it is to fall into relational enter into a community with a subconscious expectation that your needs are the priority.  I remembered this scripture:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  Matthew 16:25

How easily we forget this!  We can become so engrossed in so many worthy causes we forget that life is about relationship.  While we may be afforded one or two extremely close and loyal relationships in our life-time, God calls us to love others...not just those we easily connect with or those accepted in our social cliques.  Life is about relationship.  Our relationship with our Creator foremost, who is our ultimate source, and then with one another.  When God puts the last period at the end of the sentence that is my life I would've failed if I was remembered for much else than the love I had for Him and others.  

I find it interesting that the most painful "heart surgeries" in my life have also been the most effective ways to be made well again.  And for me, the beauty of accepting this process again involved pouring into some under-developed relationships.  I found such a richness in these new stories, a richness that spilled over into my own life as a result.  I felt well again.

I also came across one GIANT observation that I identified as the cardinal obstacle to my own intentionality in relationships.  This came through multiple conversations with others and was further wrestled down in my own reckoning room.  My giant observation was this:
Assumption is one of the arch enemies of community.

By definition assumption is:  A thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

I observed that good relationships give little to no room for poor assumption.

Consider this: If I assume that you are too busy to do life with me, are disinterested in my life or put plainly, do not like me, I do you a disservice.  In assuming the worst, I have taken away your power of choice by simply not allowing you to make the decision, to engage or not, for yourself.

This observation resounded in my conversations with others.  I talked with people from different demographics....a working Mom, a working husband & father, a single person working full-time, a stay at home Mom of 3 and the list goes on.  So consider the busy stay at home Mom as an example.  One might assume she is tapped out after a full day of facing the general stress of parenthood.  There are many days when this is unquestionably true but what of the days when she is starved for adult conversation...when she's discouraged by her performance in her calling or when she feels detached from the outside world around her? Again and again we discover that loneliness is a condition of the heart.  While certain outside factors can contribute to isolation we also know a person can be surrounded by the noise of life and still be only painfully attuned to their own private heart ache.

There's one question that is seldom asked in casual conversation.  How's your heart?  How are you really doing?  This is where it starts...but many an answer must be earned.  Each of us may not have the means to accommodate a dinner appointment or a scheduled conversation over coffee but relationship is still built over a quantity of quality time...somehow.  Yet how difficult we find it to even begin with asking someone HOW they are really doing with the expectation of an authentic answer?  We can't force a sincere answer out of someone but we can provide an opportunity for an authentic exchange...we can provide an opportunity for a real beginning.

So many of us are slaves to daily life and the work at hand whether meetings, deadlines, to-do lists etc...all necessary things in a world where we are either laboring for a cause and a calling or toiling to simply earn our keep.  But what about the priority of authentic community?  How do we foster good solid authentic relationships?  Is this not part of our calling as well? Maybe its as simple as just showing simple as caring enough about another person to make no assumptions that would hinder a possible opportunity to connect in a genuine way. Yes - reaching out carries a risk, but so does isolation.

I love that God can turn loneliness into opportunity.  I love that even a withered vine can find life again when given the proper care.  I love that recently I've found more care in giving than receiving...a lesson relearned in due season.

I hope this post inspires you to accept that someone else needs what you have to offer...that you are NEVER alone because of your belongingness to Him...that He is still able to redeem all we think cannot be redeemed and that maybe even sometimes He displays His redemption as we walk in community with one another.

Traveling mercies as you follow His lead...


Drawing, Black chalk, washed
Paris: March - May, 1886 
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 1380r, JH: 1019

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Fall

Hey Everyone!

It has been 4 months since my last official blog post!  What?!?!  I've been a little busy and so we have some catching up to do : )

Life has been rich with all of the things I've prayed for.  Family, music, ministry and more.  I feel really blessed to have my hands full.  I just finished up a run of shows in support of the new record this Fall.  You can check out my media page for pictures and my youtube page for a live performance or two from those shows and appearances.  I had a great time out and I definitely got my sea legs back.

I don't care how advanced technology many social media websites are developed...or how effective they are in promotion.  There is no substitute for connecting with an audience in a live setting...for looking in someone's eyes and making that personal exchange.  I loved it and am going back for more in Feb/March.

And now that things have slowed down I'm doing lots of reflection.  Lots of processing about relationships, community and stewardship so that means...I'm writing!  I have 9 or 10 songs floating around in my heart, head and iphone.  Who knows where these ones will take me...I'm sure the Great Narrator knows and I'm content to rest in that at this point in the story...AND I'm honored that you've come along for the journey.



Monday, August 1, 2011

The Story behind "White Page"

It was a Friday afternoon last October and I was packing for a weekend in Texas. I was heading out alone and decided to download a book as a companion for the journey. I'd always been a Beuchner fan but it had been a while since I had visited his work. I looked through his seemingly endless catalogue until I ran across one I wasn't familiar with: The Longing for Home.

I had been writing for months now and felt as if the season was nearing its completion. Up to this point the song writing content seemed to circle around the journey of life “from everyday to eternity.” So I confess I was secretly hoping Beuchner just might offer an insightful bookend for the theme of this record.

Around this time I had two Grandparents who were approaching the end of their faithful journeys and now we were only waiting to say our goodbyes. In the midst of this, my aunt (their daughter) was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. While my own personal compromised health paled in comparison I was still in the throes of fighting a bad case of mono with recurrent respiratory infections and was generally feeling as if my quality of life had fallen into the same chasm of disappointment and loss my family was feeling as a whole. 1 + 1 didn't seem to equal 2 at the moment and life was offering an equation that wasn't adding up. So I began to ask questions. What really matters in life? What really matters to God? I became so full with longing...for answers only the hope of eternity seemed to carry.

...I also know the sense of sadness and lostness that comes with feeling that you are a stranger and exile on the earth and that you would travel to the ends of that earth and beyond if you thought you could ever find the homeland that up till now you have only glimpsed from afar. Where do you go to search for it? Where have I myself searched?
F. Beuchner

As I read these words I could feel my eyes welling up. These thoughts about eternity only enlarged the center it had recently swallowed of my own heart. Beuchner talked about the places he had searched for it, mainly in his own writings but what I was about to read next would impact me more than any other commentary in his book.

In between periods of actually writing down words on the white page before me, my eyes almost always glance off to the left...I am not really seeing anything or doing anything in the usual sense of the term...I am simply letting an empty place open up inside myself and waiting for something to fill it. And every once and so often, praise God, something does. The character who speaks something closer to the truth than I can imagine having ever come to on my own.

I remember the moment I knew I was supposed to marry my was a knowing. I remember the moment I knew I was carrying my first was a knowing. And when I read Beuchners words, the phrase White Page settled in a place in me that was all its was a knowing. I was supposed to write a song called White Page and I was terrified.

I continued to soak in the goodness of this book and finished it long before I ever revisited the seemingly daunting concept of writing a song called White Page. But every so often the creative winds would stir in stories that met me along the way and quotes happenstance offered. I remember the day I ran into a possible crumb along the songwriting trail and boy was it golden.

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."
- Mother Teresa
This quote gave the song a definitive direction and as I continued to pray for understanding more and more crumbs began to surface. I was reminded of Donald Miller's A Thousand Miles in a Million Years. It was the book responsible for the hard prayer we began to pray...the prayer to live a better story than the life we had become so complacent and comfortable in. Shortly thereafter, the music and lyric of the chorus came.

Oh We're just a White Page
Oh the Story of Our Days
Is Like a White Page

I don't pretend to fully understand the mystery of songwriting. Sometimes the work feels like a 500 piece puzzle, intricate and tedious. Other times the words fall onto the page as if by some holy act. What I do know is this: I believe every new song is a birth of its own, whether by quick labor or a long tiresome journey. It is a seed planted that grows and grows until it's entrance into the world has finally arrived to begin a life of its own.

I held onto this chorus for a month or two until my song writing deadline dictated we have a 'come to Jesus' meeting. As I sat down to write I realized the white page is our life and our life is our story. The rest of the song flowed onto the page from there as if it had been waiting on the surface of time. In so many cases I write from a place of experience but this was an exception. This song was teaching me, this song was challenging me to live bravely in light of eternity. Then the practical questions came flooding in.

Are my priorities ever questioned? Is there a place for God's kingdom in my mental daily checklist? Do I leave space in my life for God, the ultimate Author, to write the story He wants to write? What in my life carries eternal value? Here again, the theme of eternity seemed to rush in covering every unaffected place in my heart.

I wanted to be intimidated by the charge of this song. I wanted to pretend it was too great a task for me to accept until this scripture came to mind.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

In that moment I felt as if the burden had been made light. Maybe all we have to do is pray for and walk in the good works God has already planned for us to do. It's His story to write, right? So this became my prayer. Nothing more, nothing less. God, what are the good works You prepared beforehand for me to do?

Oddly enough I felt freedom when I prayed this prayer, comforted when remembering that God writes the stories...stories He had in mind before we ever took our first breath.

I thought about people in my life who were living redemptive stories...of a new mom who night after night was faithful to her 2 and 4 and 6 a.m. feedings, of a family trusting God through extended job loss, of a couple heeding the call to adopt a special needs child from across the world.

These stories were beautiful and compelling. There was a quality of otherness to them. They seemed impossible to achieve within human limitations and so pointed to God's authoring. He was bringing glory to Himself in these stories. The characters weren't seeking to control their future, they were simply trusting God with each white page even in the face of uncertainty, fear and risk. The focus of these stories was not immediate contentment but on stewardship of life and on the importance of eternal legacy.
“In hope, in faith, in suffering we are the truth this world will read/Love strikes the page we're reckless marks/we're lines that write redemption's song,”

These stories had taken their place in the passage of time leaving traces of eternity along the way as they walked in the good works God had planned for them to do beforehand. What an inspiring thought. We pray, God writes. If we believe that He hears, we must also believe He will answer and lead.
Most of us may never have the opportunity to be a missionary overseas or share the gospel with tens of thousands. We may never have the resources to build homeless shelters or care for the disenfranchised masses...but we can love each other. We can serve the world with our gifts. We can bravely trust God with our own white page until “the lines that keep/once we've fallen asleep/are etched in eternity.”
We are “simply letting an empty place open up... and waiting for something to fill it.” -Beuchner  May we pray, may we love, may we trust and may we live with eternity in mind.


Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'm really excited about this new blog! It has long been a goal of mine to have a place to document life and art as it happens. Check back soon for the story behind my song White Page. Can't wait to interact with you all!