This morning I woke at the farm

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This morning I woke at the farm.

I read DeMello and Rohr and Mary Oliver. Copied some words down so they might cement themselves into my understanding. 

A letter to myself began: “Remember, Christa…”

I found a hidden place on a stone bench to stare at one particular branch blowing in the breeze about 25 yards away. I stare and stare and stare, listening for earth songs and the heartbeat of the Beloved. He can spill a universe of love into my soul with just His eyes. The trick is not looking away...

(Read the rest of this piece on my Patreon page + watch for more prose and poems there...)

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 3

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PLUMB EXHALE TOUR JOURNAL: 3

October 14, 2015

Thursday. I’m writing from the top of a large rock in a wooded Raleigh park I’ve never explored til now. I decided this morning to pack my books, journal & laptop & spend some time at the library after getting the kids to school. Didn’t need to check out any more books, just needed a space to not risk interruption or distraction. The library chatter is impersonal to me, and I got so lost in the white noise and reflections of Christian Wiman’s My Great Abyss (still slowly, slowly meandering through this amazing book) that I lost track of time and almost dozed off at one point (or two).

Hunger eventually propelled me home but only long enough to pack a lunch and head back out.

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I don’t do this every day. Most days have too many appointments, tasks, errands. Always everything is in tiny windows, too small to follow a long train of thought to its outpost or complete work without watching the clock or being yanked out of the flow.

But tomorrow I’ll be flying back to Nashville and climbing onto the bus for another weekend of music with Plumb’s Exhale Tour & today I need this. Not a “break,” not time to “veg out.” Today I heed the call of my mind/soul/body to be fed well. To be more (or less) than a worker bee. I think we identify so strongly with our roles of responsibility to family, community and work that we forget our responsibility to tend our minds/souls (yes, I did write a whole album related to this).

After hours and days in the company of humans (beautiful, wondrous humans), something absolutely begs to get lost. If it’s weird to weep for happiness at the sight of a people-less wood, break into grin when you turn the corner onto a sun-filtered path, or greet the trees with an audible “hello, friends,” then okay, I’ll be weird.

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I watched the film Maleficent for the first time last night. Pretty great. In the moment when young Aurora first encounters the fairy swirling with color and light around her, she turns her face upward, beaming, and lifts her arms in delight, and that is exactly how I feel out here.

I’m getting weirder by the minute, I know, but I’ve always felt this way about the natural world. Not science-minded, not super curious about the way things work. I don’t want to know all about it; I just want to be IN it.

So I’ve taken this great rabbit trail, but the reason I’ve chased it down is because touring these past weeks has helped me see it more clearly…

Last weekend was our longest ride, with four shows (three in NC, one in TN). We met beautiful people and found the folks in Kill Devil Hills and Lexington, NC, especially enthusiastic about live music coming to town, and that energy was contagious. We shook a lot of hands and made new friends and heard a lot of stories at the merch table. All of this I love.

There were a few mishaps along the way, including losing the tires on the trailer, which was not a small deal for the hard-working production guys. They had to drive a U-Haul behind the bus the rest of the weekend and still managed to keep smiling. But it was stressful.

By the time we were loaded and back on the bus Sunday night, I found myself suddenly teary-eyed and couldn’t articulate why. Too many feelings connected to too many thoughts plus fatigue. I took a few minutes in the back of the bus alone and then returned to the front for the comic relief of nine guys playing air guitar and singing to Toto and Celine Dionne (a highlight of the tour).

I arrived home Monday morning only wanting sleep & solitude, and so the dots began to connect. How you can thrive on deep human connection, but find the fuel to connect by being alone in the natural world. Recognizing this consciously will be useful going forward.

There is also the issue of transition for all of us, and I have newfound sympathy for people who travel regularly (more than my normal) like this. It takes a couple of days to fully settle back in to life at home, and if your turnaround time is not much more than that, it can be pretty tough (for the traveler & the family).

None of this is complaint. Hope it doesn’t sound that way. It’s just a process of discovery, and I’m enjoying the journey so much that I imagine there will be grief at being done in a couple of weeks.

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Before I embarked on this walk, I texted Toby and said, "In case I go missing, here's where I am."

"Love it. But why?" he asked.

"Because I can. And I must."

And that's the truth.

christa

Hamster update: Tufts of fur making reappearance. Hope in sight.

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 2

PHOTO CREDIT: Edwin & Joyce Ormeo 7 October 2015

Late Monday night, I arrived home and was greeted by my Mom, who had been with the children since I left last Thursday. She loves being with her grand babies & holds up amazingly well, considering how much she gives on so little sleep. All were alive and well & seemed to have had plenty of fun in my absence.

Going into the second weekend of tour was a whole lot less stressful & I enjoyed feeling more established, sliding back into the rhythms & routine of sleeping, unloading, setting up, sound checking, playing, etc.  The people I'm sharing space with are really, really enjoyable humans - funny, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, sincere - which makes it very hard to force myself to go to bed at the end of the day. I keep asking them to please stop having fun so I can get some rest, but they don't listen.

People at all three shows (Indiana & Ohio) were gracious & as always, I loved seeing the unique personality of each one. Sunday night we played in the Gloria Theater, an old movie theater in the small town of Urbana, OH. The vibe was special there & the sound felt really great, for the solo opener especially. :)

Got off the bus Monday morning, used Uber for the first time ever (easy, successful), and spent the afternoon writing with Nicole Witt & Ellie Holcomb, two of my favorite soul-sisters, before heading home.

Reading...

On the flight home, I finally finished The Alchemist, which was such a provocative read that I wish I had read it in a less interrupted way. Also, it was a library book, so I refrained from highlighting, but there was so much I'd like to hold onto and ponder regarding the way we perceive God and our purpose in the world and how we journey.  It's deep and is a good companion to another book I was handed recently, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (Barbara Brown Taylor). Still wading through that one. May have to purchase The Alchemist and go through it again.

But yesterday I stumbled on The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles at the library & am already sucked in. I say "stumbled," but in truth I lean heavily on staff recommendations (at libraries and restaurants) and found that someone named "Emil" and I have very similar tastes.

Another book that has consumed my thoughts lately is The Enneagram Made Easy by Elizabeth Wagele. I brought it on tour to loan to Tiff (Plumb) and now she's hooked, too. You might roll your eyes and think, like my husband, that people should simply BE the way they are and not worry with WHY they are the way they are. Maybe you're right. But I am finding it immensely helpful in a. connecting better with my loved ones and b. connecting the dots of my own person and past.

Oh, and I'm also continuing to work on Peter Enns' The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. It's another provocative book and I'm trying to take it in thoughtfully and weight it all out in my own mind, form my own opinions. (If you have opinions about him & his perspective, I'd prefer not to have them in the comments here. Thanks!)

Listening...

One thing I have found interesting on the road the past couple weekends is how great a divide there is between the world of mainstream Christian music and the world of independent music by Christian artists. I'd like to see more consumers and artists aware of the great work being made outside of CCM/radio.  It goes both ways, of course. I have an unusual vantage point, being involved with both communities. Many in my  indie tribe are unfamiliar with CCM's artists, just as many of those artists have never heard of Josh Garrels.

Anyway, I'm enjoying getting acquainted with new work being released by Sara Groves (Floodplain), Giants & Pilgrims (Becoming), Elle Michelle (Coming of Age), & Nick Flora (Futureboy), friends who have either just released or are preparing to release albums.

Alright, better get to laundry and repacking. Heading out to Kill Devil Hills in the morning. This weekend's shows are close to home in NC!

christa

p.s. Update on Charlie the Hairless Hamster: a bad case of mites. Getting his second treatment tomorrow...hopefully returning to a state of hamster normalcy soon. Apparently, while I was away, he did have a minor setback when he took a tumble down the stairs in his hamster ball. It's not easy being a small rodent. Thanks for your prayers. ;)

 

 

how to do this one day...

rowancreek Like you I berate myself with “I should” when it comes to whatever is not easy or highly pleasurable.

“Easy” are mindless chores done halfway before getting distracted and starting another mindless chore.

“Highly pleasurable” includes drinking coffee, reading, walking, napping on Sunday, laughing, watching an episode of The Good Wife or Brooklyn 99, or songwriting.

Hardest of all is sitting still in a chair to write actual sentences of any kind. It’s no small feat to make sense of all my constantly swirling thoughts, which is why I admire you long-form writers, authors & bloggers so much.

But I know, I know. It’s good to remember how to write whole thoughts in whole sentences and share them with real human creatures who care. So yes, occasionally I force myself to sit down and write on the blog, and I’m always glad I did and always feel like I experienced a kind of accidental therapy.

Well, one of my sisters did the unthinkable the other day. She broke what I thought was an unspoken agreement between us by quoting one of my song lyrics back to me (one of my Mom’s favorite pastimes, btw).

She reminded me of the third verse of “How Emptiness Sings” which begins:

I haven’t been asked yet to walk the hard road,

but still there’s a sense of deep loss in my soul…

Until she said it, I don’t think I’d really acknowledged it to myself because I’m really quite good at finding silver linings. But honestly, the road our family has been on over the past several years?  It's been hard.

Lots and lots of love and grace and other good things that bring joy. Yes.

And the road is hard.

None of us is physically ill or dying, which I remind myself of constantly and which keeps things in perspective.

But there have been some pretty major losses, predicaments, grief, uncertainty and exhaustion as our story in some ways suddenly failed to play out the way we imagined it would.

I like problem-solving, but these problems are literally beyond me, and I find it very easy to “lean not on your own understanding” because I HAVE none.

So what’s a fixer to do when the thing won’t be humanly/easily fixed?

When it’s almost comical how so many things are breaking or shifting around you?

When your ideas about your future have shrunk to the size of this one day?

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Well. I guess you do this one day. One breath at a time...

And I'm finding these four things have become essential to my waking hours:

     Thanksgiving. Because neither you nor I have reached a point where there isn’t the smallest thing of beauty left in reach.

(deep breath in...long exhale...)

     Begging. Ask like a desperate man (because you are) for things to come right again. Ask God to make Himself undeniably known & make things right. Even if things come right in a whole new, unexpected way.

(deep breath in...long exhale...)

     Seeking. I read everything that speaks to the questions of my brain & heart and solicit wisdom from mentors & friends. Emotions are valid and great, but I need a constant inflow of truth to keep them from wreaking havoc.

(deep breath in...long exhale...)

     Planning. And I mean a very small & immediate plan. What can I do TODAY? Usually what I can do is show up & show love for my work & my people.

(deep breath in...long exhale)

One day.  

Just do this one difficult, HOPE-LIT, living day.

You might have to laugh or cry your way through it, or both at the same time (which feels strange and awesome). That's okay.

No one gets through life unscathed. No one needs to do it alone. No one is beyond hope.

We can do this one day. The mindless chores and the highly pleasurable and, occasionally, a few whole sentences.

 

You're wrong about your age.

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I felt old when I was 25.

I guess it started when I became one of the first to get married in my friend group before I was even 21 and suddenly felt separated from my former dorm-mates who were getting apartments together off-campus. After having my first baby, sleep-deprivation and semi-confinement to the house added to my sense of removal from culture, the working population and my own generation in general.

I’ve always felt like an outsider, like many of you – like most of us? – but now I was an OLD outsider.

At the ripe age of 25.

So when this fresh-faced musician approached me looking for reassurance that he hasn’t yet passed his expiration date, I totally got it; the anxiety you feel when you have exactly zero momentum, zero accomplishments, zero opportunities in sight.

The funny thing is, I do remember being eager to turn 22, the magic age when you’re finally taken seriously as a grown-up with some valid life experience and opinions.

That eagerness to age didn’t last.

And if you feel over-the-hill at 25, then of course you’re going to cry in the shower the morning of your 30th birthday.

Of course you’re going to describe yourself as “early thirties” when you’re 34.75 years old because “mid-thirties” is basically the same as dead.

And you're likely to approach 40 sighing an apology to the world for no longer being relevant and salting every conversation with “getting old ain’t easy.”

UGH.

But I think…you've been wrong about your age.

You’re wrong because you think that number has to mean a certain thing that's been advertised by a youth-centric media.

You think that the number of your years is the limit of your potential.

It is not.

Your age is not written in Sharpie on your forehead, nor is it remotely the most telling thing about you.

Listen.

Those numbers – or rather, the conventional assumptions about those numbers -- are not the boss of you.

There is no need to walk through life like heavy-lidded prisoners in ankle chains, when we have legs ready to run, feet wanting to dance and minds able to innovate and imagine.

Yes, yes, the human body wears out eventually. That’s why we start signing up for 10ks and eating kale.

And so also can we fight the stereotypes that trap young(er) & old(er) alike.

Still in your youth?

Why don't you go blow those clichés about teenagers out of the water by showing up not because you need the volunteer hours but because you’ve learned early to care for others?

What if instead of being fascinated by who "they" are, you find out who YOU are, and instead of doing what "they" do, you do what YOU do?

Devastate expectations by asking your elders what the world looks like through their eyes.  And listening to their answers.

Added a few years to your youth? (I like that framing.)

How great!

How about stepping outside your comfort, so that through discomfort you can step into a more vibrant & generous life?

Keep engaging with the world in the ways that move & excite you.

Stir up curiosity & admiration for the generations coming after you.

Keep being YOU, with all your affinities and quirks, because (p.s.) your license to be you was handed to you in the womb and it does not have an expiration date.

(Note to grown-ups: Life is short enough. Need we shorten it further by inserting a margin of 40 years to be bored, irrelevant and grumpy?)

Like you, I occasionally worry that my best is behind me, that it might be too late to try again.

Like you, I have felt I needed to wait for permission to add my voice to the important conversations.

But you know what?

photo credit: MaryAlice Joyce

I just had one of the best nights of my life, without anyone's permission and with a few years added to my 20s.

Musical friends helped me put together a release show for my recent COVERS ep at The Pour House in Raleigh. Not only was it incredibly fun, but the consensus is it was one of the best performances I’ve ever been a part of. I was a decent singer & songwriter in my 20s, but…I feel like I’m only now getting to really know my own voice, literally and figuratively. Quite honestly, I’m better now than I was then.  Don't be afraid, dear 25-year-old! More good things to come for you!

That night a guy and a girl happened into The Pour House “randomly.” They hadn't heard of any of the artists in the lineup and said it was one of the best “randoms” they’d ever experienced. In conversation we realized we are 10-15 years apart, which surprised them. Their enthusiasm about the music affirmed again to me that we are wrong to assume people are incapable of valuing our contributions because of the numbers.

 

Are you doing the work that is yours to do?

Are you doing it with joy & care?

 Are your thoughts and voice continuing to develop in substance & beauty?

 Is your work meeting someone’s need?

Are you still here, breathing in your mortal body?

 

Then welcome. There is always room at the table for one more choosing to live this way, at age 6 or 92.

This is not a statement about earning potential, nor is it an exercise in sentimentalism.  This is about the community of humankind, all of us learning to see & cherish each other because it is right & it is good & it is in our best interest to do so.

We begin to change the harmful, marginalizing system of age-ism (that travels both directions) right here in our own minds by internalizing the fact that our true worth does not ebb and flow with the hours.

Neither youth nor wrinkles have the power to diminish a reality which didn’t originate in the flesh but in the unfathomable love of the Maker who's devoted to what he makes.

You were BORN LOVED and SHALL REMAIN SO.

Every year added to your life is just a little more time to practice believing it.

That's what I think.

cnw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release Show & Other Happenings

photo cred: Taylor Leonhardt!  

Dear friend,

I sat down to write and realized that today is the 2-month anniversary of the COVERS ep release!  We gave away 3,000 full album downloads on Noisetrade the first week. Many thanks to the Kickstarters whose funding made it possible for me to give the music away that week, thus getting it into the hands of so many new listeners.

I really hope you've had a chance to hear it, because man, it's been GREAT fun to interact with so many people who have memories attached to these songs & others who had never heard of The Smiths.  It's surprised me how many people are into covers and would never have found me apart from me covering Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight Tonight." :)

So what happened after Feb 10?

Since release day, I've had the pleasure of doing several interviews/podcasts, a small tour in Texas, a writing trip to Nashville, and have spent a good bit of time working up those promised Kickstarter rewards, as well.

I'm also carving out time for songwriting--both for me and for other artists--which is maybe most exciting, because one of the things I hoped the COVERS album would achieve for me is a renewed sense of energy in my writing.

Flow...

With spring upon us, I find I'm waking up with my brain exploding, creativity sparking, and it's been noted at the dinner table that my knee is bouncing in that antsy way you do when you've been in a state of flow and had to stop to do human things like talk and eat.

At times like this especially, the work doesn't feel like a job but like being alive, at play, outside of time, lost. And found.

I told Toby the downside about the writing days where  lose myself like this is that my brief hours of solitude are gone before I even look up.  Still, it is such a great gift to have work that makes you feel that way; it's a small price for the joy & honor.

Also...

I'm gearing up for songwriting workshops/events such as Young Songwriters Workshops in Raleigh, Escape to the Lake, Masterpiece Project 2015, and a Writers Retreat some friends and I are leading in Nashville in August (currently being revamped, will repost soon).  If you have any songwriters in your life, please have them check out these opportunities to connect with peers & grow in their understanding & practice of the art.

Last but not least...

I've been practicing with this gifted & oh, so fun group of musicians for the only currently-scheduled full band show on the books.  Our COVERS Release Show will take place at Raleigh's Pour House Music Hall THIS SUNDAY, and I couldn't be more excited.

If you're in town, please come and enjoy openers Jess Ray and Claybrook and stick around to hear the newly released tunes as well as some originals from past projects!

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If you've hung in there to read all this, wow! Impressive attention span.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to have the privilege of your time and ears.  I know you have your own work in front of you & it's good to be in such good company.

Keep saying it your  own way...

christa

 

 

 

 

 

the trouble of listening

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.05.04 PM A bit of context?

When we adopted our son, we gained a sudden sensitivity to the well-intentioned words that manage to nonetheless sucker punch a parent's heart.  Things like, "So that one's adopted, and these are your own?"

In the wake of a miscarriage or divorce, you heard things like, "Well, at least you're young...you can always try again...".

Other times you weren't the one in the difficult shoes, but you were close enough to feel what another human felt when he/she was dismissed, overlooked, humiliated or rebuked, and suddenly you're appalled at all the missing-the-mark things that have come out of your own mouth.

The antidote isn't to stop trying, but to keep coming close and straining your heart & mind toward that of your fellow humans, to really listen, to make small steps toward understanding.  Straining to see & hear God together.

THAT is what it means to love your neighbor.

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Love is a pilgrimage through sunlit hills and dreary forests and across roadless deserts, with companions who carry vastly different kinds of luggage and often can't even agree on where to the pitch the tent.

Some of my favorite traveling companions are skeptics, wounded faithful, and unbelievers (cue "All My Favorite People" by Over the Rhine), and right now coming close to them means taking a look around from their vantage point for awhile.  I want to hear them out, and I also want to understand my own perspective in truer context.  So that's what my brain is doing these days, and you know what?  I'm experiencing some frustration.  Spoiler alert: that will likely come out in my poetry, songs, and conversations from time to time.

Sometimes you have to pry yourself out of whatever emotional/intellectual/theological armchair you've gotten so comfy in, if only to cross the room and put your arm around someone you love.

-cnw

 

the trouble of listening

(a poem)

 

I sit in the parked car and listen to the voice of my inner man,

Louder than wind whipping the glass

Louder than the spinning wheels of suburban traffic

More brutal than the signage of strip mall storefronts

So bassy and persistent I can hardly believe passersby aren’t rubbernecking

Wondering at the ruckus

And the lady behind the wheel, still and staring.

 

Some days I am prisoner and warden,

The man in striped pajamas climbing barbed fences

And the armed guard yanking him back down by the waist of his pants.

 

Is it okay to admit it? That I sometimes want out?

That I want all mouths, including mine – mostly mine – to shut?

That if I could, I’d take what’s “mine” and leave the rest?

 

Would it be alright with you if – just for an hour or so - we

Box up the trending phrases and memes

Discard assumptions and studied answers -

Quietly walk by the tracks like we used to do

Knowing they lead

SomePlace

But having no earthly idea where

And not even thinking to ask

 

Because once

We were there

We were really there

And the grass was dead, the trees leafless

We had no phones or cameras or soundtracks

Only cold Virginia wind

Our own shivered breath

As we killed time,

Lived, together

In the singular, unremarkable moment

 

Now there is duty

And the backspace button

As if all the world’s salvation hinges

Not on his God-ness

But our goodness.

Not the sound of his voice

But mine.

As if my humanity may accidentally, irresponsibly,

Tumble out,

Remind you of your own.

 

I’m talking to myself, of course,

The weirdo at the wheel.

 

I’m neither cynic nor melancholic

But today I hear our chatter through my skeptic brother’s mind

And see through the heavy-lidded eyes of my grieving sister.

 

What I see are filtered photos and

Smiling pairs of eyes that subtly avoid contact

What I hear are framable arrangements of words

Around well-set tables, with no open chairs

 

At the moment what I know best is that we know less than we think we do

And may be more terrified of uncertainty than of hell

And that sometimes certainty saves us the trouble of listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Learned in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.51.08 AM Thanks to Emily P Freeman for challenging us to look back on this year and not focus on what we did not do, but on what we learned in the process of living and loving and working. There could be 25 or 50, but 10 is enough to make public - and all I have time for today. :)

Hope you are inspired to reflect and share, as well. Life is learning!

Things I Learned in 2014

1. My “place” is not my prison. Prison is fear – of staying, as much as going.

I wrote this post about how averse I’ve felt to staying put and how fearful of being boxed in or confined. After growing up in a military family with frequent moves, I’ve now been in Raleigh, North Carolina, for 18 years and am finally ready to embrace this place as mine. Doesn’t mean I refuse to relocate or that we’re done having adventures or that I’m laying down to die. Just means that for now, I love my little city and am calling it “home.”

Same goes for my other places – in music, in friendships, in family.

2. Our home-made coffee is better than Starbucks. It’s San Francisco Bay French Roast, and we order it in bulk through Amazon. You’re welcome.

3. Writing for other artists with bigger platforms is a way I can serve.

It took me a while to enjoy co-writing and appreciate writing music that wasn’t 100% me. I’ve learned to love the act of helping other artists whose voices and audiences are very different from mine to say what they want to say in a way that works for them.

4. I no longer like Texas Bon Bons.

Still grieving this one, as it was our family’s traditional Christmas treat. Suddenly I find them too sweet, too rich. What is happening?! However, persimmon pudding with ice cream continues to satisfy.

5. People enjoy seeing other people try new things.

I’ve tended to think people “need” or expect me to keep doing the sure thing or being the way they first found me. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Not so. You may lose a few “fans” by trying something new, but you’ll gain others. And the people who really love & get you in the first place will always cheer for you being truly you & you being courageous.

6. My husband is a way better independent thinker than I am.

He asks really good questions that often terrify me because they challenge the status quo and challenge my comfort and threaten to not please others. I’m learning it’s okay for us to admit there are things we don’t know, things we may even have been wrong about. It just means we get to keep listening and keep learning.

7. It only takes one big blow to plant distrust.

Since the postal lady missed the stop sign and sped out in front of me, resulting in the total loss of both my Suburban and her mini-van, I find myself eyeing every car at every side street and traffic light, expecting someone will break the rules and hurt someone. It’s helped me to better understand the people in my life who have been abused or disappointed by others and now struggle to expect good.

8. I really, really love my neighbors.

I already knew this, but waiting at the school bus stop this year together and caring for each other’s pets and having neighbors rush out and wait with me after my accident, bringing blankets and offering to pick up my kids from school…just makes my heart grateful beyond words. Also, we have marvelous neighbors not from our hood, but from elsewhere in our city and church, who make life so much better.

9. The Enneagram personality profile is more helpful than Myers-Briggs.

I’ve said if the M-B is like seeing yourself in a mirror across the room and recognizing your general shape, the Enneagram is like looking at your face in one of those awful close-up make-up mirrors where you can see all your pores and hyper-pigmentation. It’s helped me understand my motivations and vices, as well as strengths and virtues. (I’m a Type 9 – Peacemaker, married to a Type 8 – Challenger…makes life interesting!)

10. December isn’t as terrible as I have thought.

In fact, I actually enjoyed it this year. Since I had children, I think it’s felt like a cruel month of yet more work and expectations I can’t possibly meet. This year, with our critters in school, I was able to have enough hours of solitude to be a healthier version of myself and to breathe more deeply. Having them in school has also made Christmas vacation much more appreciated and wondrous.

And I understand now that the lights and festivities help us traverse the longest, darkest nights of the year, so that by the time we take down the tree, every following day brings more minutes of daylight.

11. Okay, 11.  One more came to mind while I was in the shower, where all good ideas are born...

Following an impulse to love beyond expectation speaks loudly.  When my husband's grandfather died in W. Virginia, my dad drove 6 hours to be at the funeral with us, despite our protests that it really wasn't necessary, we knew he loved us, etc.  He wanted to be with us to celebrate Grampy and that was that.  The family has talked about it a number of times since, how much it meant. It would have been TOTALLY FINE to not come, none of us expected it or even "needed" it.  We didn't feel slighted by those who didn't attend. Did we feel loved by his presence, though? Most definitely.

It was just one of a number of times I witnessed that kind of love this year, and it inspires me.

Love to you all.

Here's to 2015 and increasing Light in our days, in our hearts, in our world.

cnw

From Frederick Buechner:

Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.

Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.

Savior, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name. Come quickly.

Amen.

How to Stay: a sense of place for the tent-loving nomad

FullSizeRenderIt was a morning in May, and we were having breakfast in the lobby of a Hampton Inn.

We were on our way to Grandma’s funeral, and Toby and I started talking about my grandparents’ house – how the house would be sold soon, which felt heavy to me – he sympathized -- and then he was talking about planting oak trees in the backyard of our North Carolina home for our great-grandchildren – and I felt myself growing weirdly irritable – grumpy that he was thinking so far out and would want to– I don’t know --- “lock us in” to staying in North Carolina (I love North Carolina, by the way) – agitated that he would want to spend himself on something that (duh) won’t be realized because we won’t even be in that house by then…I mean, didn’t we spend our first long drives looking through maps and planning to try it all?

Within minutes, I was in tears over my dry factory-muffin. Clearly, there was trouble in River City.

By the time we were back in the elevator, I knew my problem was this thing called place, and my issue was that I didn’t believe much in “permanency” or “long-term plans” or physical home, and I thought we were on the same page about this, what if we want to try something new in a couple of years, why would we want to just be in this one house forever, how can we possibly know that, and I’m getting claustrophobic …

Sometimes we respond to not having something (home, intact family, spouse, children, talent, "success," looks, money…) by deciding we never wanted it in the first place. We say, “That’s for other people” or “Yeah, it’s just never been important to me.”

But maybe I do believe in roots & permanence. Maybe I’m open to going, but could also enjoy staying, and possibly I raged against it not because I didn’t want it but because I didn’t see the point of wanting it and found it foreign and, frankly, terrifying.

As army brats, we didn’t grow up thinking of home as a particular spot on a map but as us -- wherever we were. We didn’t stay in one house or continue in the same schools or vacation in the same spots. It was a wonderful, love-packed and adventuresome childhood.

When required to list a “permanent address,” it was always the little brick house in Beech Grove, Indiana, owned by Howard & Wilma Rogers, we listed. It was the place – along with Aunt Linda’s house -- we did return to every year except the four years we lived across the ocean. Those years, Grandma & Grandpa & Aunt Linda came to us.

This was the place that my parents and siblings and I kept and was kept for us, with its tiny plot of green and storm door and yellow kitchen and small bedrooms and concrete basement and homegrown green beans and memories of snow. And what I perceived as our one place – the one place we could bring our children “home” to -- was about to be taken away, and there would be no more going back.

Suddenly place mattered very much.

And so it began, my conversation with God about naming my places and stepping into them with my whole self.

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I’m not just talking about geography. We can be restless in lots of areas & prone to wanting something new/different/better. We like to live with one foot in, one foot out, with a bag packed "in case." We resist feeling too attached or too dependent or worse, controlled.  Or, on the other hand, we do our thing apologetically, loitering around the edges, because we don't believe we truly belong or are "good enough" to be there.

But these places that have been given to megeographically in my neighborhood and city and the world; relationally in my friendships, family of origin and the hearts of my children and my husband; vocationally in the world of independent music and the world of Christian music; and spiritually in the Church, global and local – are MINE, and in them, I DO BELONG.  

My assignments, like my Dad’s, may in the end be temporary, but I want to try to live in them like a citizen.  Or rather...like a civilian.

Sometimes it's hard to celebrate the uniqueness of our own places and be happy in them.

It's risky to let ourselves feel deeply about things that can be taken away or can take away our sense of freedom. It is.  Even as I write this, I feel a bit of dread and resistance and know there will be many moments when it’s right to say “yes” to uprooting.

But for now, my naturally nomadic spirit is going to try to leave the tent for a house of brick and mortar.  See what comes of it.

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*Decided to include the video for "Everything Moves But You" since this post may have shed new light on the lyric:

For the Under-Discovered Artist (inspired by the sad tenor at the bar)

I started writing this for you nearly two weeks ago but keep hesitating to post it.  I'm afraid it sounds a little too strong or too soap-boxy or maybe defensive. As the years roll on, though, I'm coming to know myself and believe that along with being a singer/songwriter, I'm a determined encourager.  Maybe, as Kris Camealy so thoughtfully put it, I'm meant to be a door-holder for other artists.  So if the title of this post caught your attention because it sounds like you, then hear these words as me cheering you on.  Because that's what I came to do.

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For whatever reason, he can focus better at the cool Irish pub down the street than at home.  So he goes out some late nights and writes.  And not infrequently he finds himself in friendly conversation with whatever interesting characters populate the suburban bar at those hours.

So as we stood waiting for morning coffee to brew, he described the group of musicians he’d passed some time with the night before.  In particular, he told me about the 62-year-old tenor plagued by discontent and frustration toward the music industry – or toward his own perceived lack of success.

Standing in the kitchen, this guy who fell for my emotional, 19-year-old songwriting self a long time ago and has supported my work in multiple ways these years since, looked at me and said how he never wants me to feel that way, like a failure.  He said he’s had a taste of that himself and would hate to see me suffer the disappointment of not reaching my dreams, to live with late-life regret.

You don’t feel that way, do you? he asked.

I considered, then said I think there are some key differences between that guy (we’ll call him “Dave”) and me.

Clearly, we both love making music.  I LOVE songwriting.  And it feels pretty amazing to see others respond to that music.  I have goals I’m working hard to reach.  BUT. In the end?  The outward “success” of my music doesn’t define me or determine how successful my life has been.

After releasing an album with my sister in 2006, we thought, “It’s so fun to just be able to be two of the many people making music!”

I do not want to be a superstar, and I don’t think anyone owes me their attention.  I do want to be a part of the whole thing, a color on the wheel. What a privilege.

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Maybe Dave fell in love with the idea of becoming an acclaimed artist, where I fell in love with the Original Artist and the idea of being a part of what He’s making.

Dave, like many hard-working people, wants to be a SUCCESS story, but what I want most is to help tell THE story.

I hate it that Dave is living with bitterness, because every little encounter that says, “Yes, it matters somewhere somehow” brings a smile to my face and deep gladness to my heart.

I know it’s hard to keep your eyes on the distance.  I totally get that.  Sometimes jealousy and sadness creep in here, too.

But when you get your vision right?  The music business becomes the person you make small talk with while your eye is really on the love of your life across the room.

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Our art doesn’t need to be widely recognized.  It needs to be deeply meaningful.

Let’s make something we believe is honest and good and beautiful and true.  Let’s grow and improve and help others grow and improve.  If awards or recognition come, okay.  If money comes through our art, so helpful.

But don’t mistake money and acclaim for an accurate measure of Good Art.  Your work can matter greatly without ever earning you a dime.  YOU matter without any social media followers at all.

I recently read A FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.  His characters talk about the idea of “the universe wanting to be noticed,” and something in that resonated with me, but it’s not quite there yet.  We DO want to notice everything we can about this intricate, marvelous universe, but not as an end but a means.  The more I notice the universe, the more intensely I REVEL in its Maker.

We’ve grown up in a world of STAR Search, American IDOL, THE Voice…it’d be pretty tough to be immune to the pressure to rack up applause.  We’re well-acquainted with the “Go big or go home” mentality.

But, seriously. WHAT in the WORLD?  I find that to be both self-centered and short-sighted.

What is BIG??

Some of the biggest moments in my own experience have taken place in obscure moments in time with zero humans watching. 

Some of the most affecting people I’ve known have the least name recognition.  

Almost ALL of the most deeply moving songs I’ve loved were never radio singles.

For crying out loud, the most notorious world-changers and culture-makers didn’t emerge from a vacuum but were themselves built on the backs of countless nameless, unremembered, thinkers/artists/scientists/leaders/teachers/parents who hacked the brush out of the way and started the conversation and whose work was every bit as important in the life of the universe.

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It’s who we ARE and WHAT WE GIVE AWAY that makes us a PART of something worthwhile.  If they remember our names 300 years from now (and they won’t), we won’t be here to care about it, anyway, so why not celebrate and honor the fact that we’re alive today and have something to share?

Why not do what brings you so much joy that you do it when you’re NOT getting paid--because you “feel God’s pleasure” when you do it?

Why not do what meets someone else’s need and sends people reeling, thinking “There MUST be a design to all of this”?

Do something that tells the truth and asks good questions and leaves a footprint on souls that won’t wash out when the tide comes for our bodies.

Do small, unnoticed things you’re good at that make a difference to your family and community.

Do it with LOVE.   Do it at a cost to yourself.  Do it in small increments, in the midnight hours, after working your day job, or the wee hours of the morning, if that’s all you’ve got.

Do it because you CAN’T STOP.  (hat tip to Miley)

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I intend to be grateful at 62, regardless of the opportunities that come or don’t come.  Regardless of which circles invite me in and which ones overlook me. And they will do both.

I can choose.  So can you.  (So can YOU!)

The Maker of the universe wants to be noticed.  I don’t want to miss my chance to be a part of that.

 

 

you CAN do a lot of things...

“You don’t HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.”

She was 16-years-old and said it with a comical grin, referring to my dilemma over whether or not to feel obligated to patch a small hole in my favorite skirt.  She’s a free spirit.

I have never been as free as I want/could/should/will be.

Her hair changes shape and color frequently.  Her opinions are strong, independent and well-supported.  She sees through people and things.  She was intimidating to adults when she was only 14, though she was almost always laughing, smiling, and teasing.

She had no idea that such a small, impromptu comment would linger and replay in my mind over the years. She probably had some idea that I have never really believed it.

What I've really believed is:  “I have to do a lot of things, and I can’t do just anything.”

I'm not talking about thoughtlessly following every impulse without concern for motives or how our choices affect others.  I'm not saying it's a bad idea to seek wise counsel...on things that matter.  In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

"Freedom is the freedom to live as persons in love for the sake of God and neighbor..."

But good grief, we put a lot of silly expectations on ourselves (and others) that have nothing to do with love...or anything.  We value things that have no value.

Apparently, I do not need to ask anyone's permission to wear that old skirt or to change my hair.  In fact, no one really cares, not even my husband, who says: "I don't care if your hair is long or short as long as you stop talking about it."

You do not need your friends to agree with your choice in music or college or parenting style.  Go ahead. Do your own thing.

I don’t even have to choose one approach to writing or one genre to work in or one way to interact with people.

I can be free to think my own thoughts without apology, make up my own mind and even CHANGE it later.  We can be free to (gracefully) disagree with each other.

How great is that?

In her song, "Conversations," my friend Sara Groves sings,“The only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way He set me free…”.

Because of this, I can wear the skirt with the hole and leave it that way.  Or fix it.  Or toss it.  I'm free to not think about it, to not waste a second worrying about what someone might think.

There are very few things that truly matter. Who I am is safely rooted in the fact that God loves me because He loves me.  With all my holes and tears.  As is.  Since that's secure, I have nothing to prove, nothing to earn, nothing to lose.

Because we ARE free; we should act like free people.  You don't HAVE to do anything, but you CAN do a lot of things.

 

The Songwriting Life

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 7.56.55 AMSo I sat down and wrote a few lines and tried for a melody, but nothing memorable came. Returned to familiar key progressions, fiddled, stared out the front window at the road, then stood and went back to the oven to check the roasting zucchini.

That was one day.

I sat on a piano bench in a room with community and coffee, and we couldn’t stop smiling, at the inspiration and flow and our own jokes. One sang and tried out a lyric while I played and nodded and a third dropped in spontaneous fiddle parts.

That was another day.

My laptop is open and I’m listening to someone else’s songs, in awe of the instincts and choices. Google title for words, put the tune on repeat and let it fill up the room, while I inwardly cheer that someone thought of it.

I don’t even try for something of my own that day.

Last month, all alone, a song came right up out of my skin. Maybe it had been coursing through the veins for quite some time. Maybe it was waiting for me to take it seriously, take it to dinner, ask the right questions. Love at first sight, we were made for each other.

That was a good day.

But every day…

I make, and I am made.

I sing, and I am sung to.

Together, we listen to the stories, we open doors, and we hold hands.

We laugh for no reason late at night, stand close with tears in our eyes, remind one another to look at the illuminated road rather than the lightning*.

This is the secret truth: the music doesn’t stop, not for one unseen second of our days.

You are a writer, and you are also a beloved character on the pages of another writer’s masterpiece.  A favorite part of the melody in another writer's song.

EVERY day.

So am I, even on the staring-out-windows days.

 

 

 

*Taken from Eugene Peterson's A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION, where on page 30 he paraphrases Elie Wiesel on the stories of the Hasidim.

Panning for gold...

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 I go to the riverbed, shoes on the shore

I’m shaking a little bit, hardly know what for

Oh, and the water’s cloudy as the sky

I’m looking for answers in the riverbed of life…

My parents are pretty amazing, no doubt about that.  My childhood was filled with enough love to make the frequent relocations more than bearable, our house filled with people always.  I have no complaints.

But Mom & Dad were very careful about what kinds of music, books, and television we consumed, so I missed a few moments in pop culture while I grew.  Okay, I didn’t know a single Prince song until I saw Pretty Woman.  That’s a fact, Jack.  (Unfortunate that I didn’t miss more of the fashion trends.)

But as they slowly opened the doors for us to explore music and film during our teen years, they also taught us to pay attention.  To think for ourselves.  To listen and work to discern truth and notice all the big and small ways Truth gets told in stories that aren’t necessarily telling - or trying to tell - the whole gospel truth.

 I go to the pages handed down and worn

I’m hearing the sages with the truth on their tongues

Sifting beauty from the layers of ash

I’m tracing the universe with my fingers in the sand…

Above all they showed us that all people are worth our attention and that there’s nothing more important than looking for things to love in others.

Over time, for me, that theme has carried over into the way I see all of life--our books, films, music.  There’s gold just about everywhere.  Maybe all our moments--of triumph and failure and longing and love and humanity--are moments within the great story.

It’s a game of Where’s Waldo or I Spy.  Give us something well-made, thoughtfully crafted, and shaped in pursuit of excellence. Don't we want to spot the good, the true, the hopeful, the redemption, the STORY – even if only glimpses – in the most unlikely places?  Cosmos from chaos, as Madeleine L’Engle wrote in Walking On Water.

Sometimes the good is more breathtaking for having been discovered like a baby grand at Goodwill.

It’s here in the city where the nations converge

It’s in the graffiti and the shapes of the earth

Choir lofts and kitchens, where voices ring loud

Reflections of faith shining glory over doubt…

Friends, I’m about to do something different, and I’m a bit tentative. Not because I have doubts.  But because I’m so hopeful you’ll want to go down to the riverbed with me and do some panning.  I’m so hopeful that you’ll be as excited as I am to put fingers in the sand and trace the true, even in the dark moments of your own journey.

Get ready.  Sharing soon.

Gonna be beautiful.  And fun.  And truly worthwhile.

Panning for gold, I’m panning for gold

Until I have all my heart can hold…

 

Monterey: holding it together

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“I’d like to hold those moments again Turn them over like stones in my hand Before they fly…”

We’re sitting on the Monterey pier waiting for burgers and clam chowder.

I asked Toby to bring me to this town even though it would make our drive from LA to San Francisco even longer, because it’s one of those thumbtacks on the map of my childhood I haven’t had the chance to return to yet. We were so close, it was too good to pass up, so we followed the GPS to La Mesa Elementary School and called my mom to get our old address.

As it turns out, our apartment building – where I learned to read and learned the truth about Santa and begged to keep my pet snail - has been torn down, replaced with stucco duplexes, but the uphill path (much longer in my memory) to the school is still there. I walked in front of the school, looked through windows, and Toby patiently listened (and at least pretended to be interested in) the 15 or so memories I hold from the year I was five.

So 45-minutes later, we’re in the little restaurant when I look out the window and say: “I don’t really like coming back to these places.”

He’s surprised. “Why??”

“I mean – I want to go, I feel compelled to go, but after the excitement there’s… melancholy.”

And before even I see it coming, my face is in my hands and I’m having a full-blown breakdown in this little burger shack. He’s reaching out, unsure of what to say, and my throat is closing around the words.  All I've got is a whisper. “It’s just…it was a good childhood. And...I want good things to not end anymore.”

A deep sob rises up and nearly doubles me over, and my chest hurts, but as the waiter comes with drinks, I muster enough self-control to quiet down.

I chalk it up to last night’s lack of sleep, the day’s earlier conflict, hormones. All true.

But also true is that I’ve always had a sense of being a person in pieces, parts strewn across geography and time. Of being a whole person, but not belonging. Or…belonging in too many places, leaving little to just be right here.

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The artist – and the army brat - tends to think this inner tension makes him/her unique, but the older I get, the more I kind of think most of us human creatures feel this way, at least on some level.

We aren’t all here.

Contentedness we have to work at. Searching across fences comes naturally.

And the love - the deep, wracking attachment to the fragments & faces, good and bad, along the road – it’s there beneath the surface, threatening to erupt & send a mushroom cloud of crazy into the sky.  Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with all of it.

(Answer: Write songs.)

Rarity makes a thing more precious, so we treasure the moments as they pass knowing we won’t meet again. My little guy said the other day: “It’s so weird. This minute is gone already. It’ll never happen this way again.”

"My mother seemed older at my age but I'm just a baby 'cause the years behind me are a handful of days I am 26 and 17..."

I’m not stuck in the past. I’m stuck on the people. Stuck on the joy affixed to specific moments like a stamp on an envelope.

I don’t want to go back. I just want to be able to hold it all together.

The food arrives. I ordered too much. My plate is overflowing, and I pack most of it into a box to take with us as we get back on the road.

 

 

last words

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It was at that last moment I woke to the pain My face pressed into the thin skin of her neck Skin kissed 90 years by sun & wind Husband, siblings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren Skin soft as satin Remarkably tan, even in February

I hid in that space My hand stroking hers My cheek pressing hers My ribs trembling in quiet heaves against hers Only she and I in the small room of people.

I can’t remember being alone with her like this.

It was seconds, minutes - But we stood outside of time And I know she felt it all.

When I once raised up, she quietly asked: You crying? Not with surprise or alarm But with knowledge, understanding

She’s said nothing about it all, No “hospice” or “dying” or “when I’m gone” But she did sign that paper - The one that says: Let me go.   If she’s afraid, she doesn’t show it.

I tried to memorize her. She still smells good.

I searched for last words. It’s always only at the last moment A sort of panic rushes in-- When you thought it wouldn’t When you thought you were ready-- It surges like burning water rising Over the riverbed of your eyes, It finds a way out.

Yes, the salty current finds a way, But where are those last words? The ones that say what - maybe - hasn’t been said? I didn’t plan this part. Where are the words??

As it turns out, We had only these: I love you. I love you. I love you. And one secret.

But beyond words something more Took the place of eloquence, Uncontained by syllables or voice, Her blue-glass eyes, my earth-brown eyes Held onto each other and spoke A quiet goodbye.

 

-for Grandma Rogers, 2/26/2014

at the sea

Image 1 Heaven rises on horizon And I with her am bird and brightness through clouds Over open sea That opens me

I begin a pilgrimage west Leave bags, sandy shoes And don’t look back, not once

I see and see and see Endlessly Talk to self, talk to God In silence Out loud

Listen to the past Replay words given Hours ago Days ago Years ago

Listen to surf Listen for something Demand something Ask outright

This is where the sound breaks loud & clear at my feet.

This is where no gulf exists between us.

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Here you are ocean And I lay a foot trail at your side

Here you wash my feet And I let you.

Here you are unavoidable.

Here you overwhelm and overtake, And imagination can no longer compete With senses.

I want to not turn back.

I want journey I want what I haven’t seen I want to make new tracks Without retracing

To walk until some final weariness Turns me fully to your navy depths And I enter with gladness Without waste or regret

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2014. Hello. Let's Go!

2014 I hang my hat on this peg each and every year and laugh with delight at the chance - again! - to wash the chalk off the board and say, "Here we go!"

I'm one for adventure mainly when in the company of the phobic or the homebody. If that's not you, and you're trying to force me to the high-dive, I'm fairly comfortable saying, "I'll wait down here" if I think you won't be angry/disappointed.

That's what this random marking on the calendar is for, in my mind. The chance to shed scales and weights and tired excuses and say (mainly to self):

Yes, I can be quite different, thank you very much. By the grace of the God who empowers and makes possible, I can see new sights and taste new tastes and touch what I've never felt before. Watch me.

Who cares if the exact details shift a little as we make our way into February and March?  It's not about perfection. It's the principle of the thing: We're not giving up. There is REAL HOPE for us beyond these precise goals, so let them serve to lead us into adventure and a real life of worthy risks and irrational hope.

And, yes, accomplish those goals, if you must.

Rather than sharing my personal resolutions (boring), here is my list of high hopes for you. For all of us, really.  In 2014.  Here's to more truth & beauty made visible through us in 2014.

In 2014, I hope you will:

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Signing out of 2013 with an ocean of love & gratitude for you.

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This one goes out to the ones I love...

Thanksgiving 2013 - A year of much-given.

A year of fear & trembling & trying & saying yes to fear & trembling & trying.

A year of waiting & wondering & wonder & wondrous.

Twelve months of questions & answers that lead to more good questions.

An autumn of waiting, winter of writing, spring & summer of releasing & another autumn of working what was released.

Of being opened for and in and through songs.  The mystical power of music.

This has been a year that’s heard me say “thank you” out loud more than most. Heard me sing how I am made more by your love that imagines and believes and smiles back.

It's true.

And I'm afraid "grateful" doesn't cut it.  I’m a girl with eyes turned down, leaving the room awkwardly, embarrassed by graces undeserved.

Laid low by the deep affection I feel for the people I share this road with.

You.

You (individually you, you are not a blur of faces) I grew up with, share blood with, went to school with, shared an office with.  You I've just met but feel I've known for centuries somehow and wonder how I survived this long without you...

Down the street, in the church, at camp, in the front/back rows of concerts, online…

You Kickstarter supporters. Oh, you Kickstarter supporters. You.floored.me. No words are enough. They will never, never be enough.

You who mentor, friend, pastor, encourage, bear with, cry with, stay with…me. Despite what you’ve seen.

Despite the ways I’ve let you down.

It’s not that I think it’s all about me. It’s that I know it’s not. That’s why it’s so breathtaking - how you love.

So. Thanksgiving 2013.

I give thanks on this day and every other day for who you have been, who you continue to become, to this humble life.

Here's hoping your upcoming year finds you with eyes open.  That you'll catch so much light that you'll be just such a blubbering mess of thanksgiving, too.

Always love, christa

Smooth Like Sand

Image Each second lingered like it had nowhere to go.

We levitated in the early autumn light under pines.

Nothing happening here.

Fingers in sand, raking, scooping, pouring.

Simple.

Two boys, side by side, One mission, to do nothing.

I recalled the little boxes you can get for your tabletop that come with a miniature rake. The point is to be still, practice serenity.

“It’s really peaceful doing this, isn’t it?” I said out loud.

The older boy, the one who has tended toward struggle, anger, frustration…the one who fights me…who has seen me angry, untame, in his face, at my worst…he smiles his quiet, closed-mouth smile at me as he glances up and then back to his “work.”

“Yeah,” he says.

And after a long pause, “When you smooth something out, you feel smoothed out.”

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…………………………………………………………………

Image 4 I need to be smoothed out.

So I rake my fingers through sounds and syllables. Feel phonemes slide into a lyric or sentence or message.

Slowly my wind-torn and uneven soul becomes a shore on the moonlit beach.

You think I am here doing this for you, but I can’t take that kind of credit, because I’m not so generous. I only do what I have to.

As my friend Nick Flora sings,

I’ve got a longing in every part That will not let me be

And though it seems that everything is just fine Underneath what you can’t see I’m dying just to make it out alive

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Yesterday I was the sand.

You ran your palms over my back Smoothed, soothed Because I couldn’t reach What needed tending. Thank you for that.

We are a see saw, Rising and falling in unhurried rhythm. When your eyes lift, face the sun, You beam, And I take from you some of the Light and Joy I have none of at my weightier end. And you give it, knowingly, happily. Thank you for that.

Tomorrow it will be my turn. You’ll be the sand And I’ll reach For you.

Together we’ll smooth the wind-blown world Into dunes and rows ‘Til time And spirits Still.

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