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.



FINDING the rest...

Dear Friends, I haven't really found a clever way to share this bit of news.  Something will probably occur to me right after I click "Post."  :)

In just over two weeks - 24 hours after returning home from our last Christmas concert- Toby and I are taking the kids and heading down to Central America for several months this winter.  That’s right…several months!  Various factors and desires and circumstances converged to lead us to the decision to just do it.  Recent exhaustion and a battle with anxiety have caused us to look forward to this "hard stop" even more.

And to realize that God does indeed lead us in particular directions for reasons we can’t foresee.

We have long hoped to give our children an experience life outside of our American culture, to allow ourselves the chance to do some studying that will enrich our respective works, and to learn the Spanish language (one of our children being from Guatemala makes this extra important to us)

And simply... time to be undivided, reading, praying and seeking wisdom and direction for our life and work.

So when people ask: What will you DO while you're there?...

The answer is NOTHING…and EVERYTHING.  Trading hurriedness and multi-tasking and constant preparing, for a time of exploring and listening, studying and cooking, praying and resting.

And if you're wondering: Are you doing mission work down there?

The answer is No...and...YES.

We're taking a break, but not a vacation in the traditional sense.  It's not a "mission trip," per se, and yet ministry will happen, with us on both the giving and receiving ends.

We are eager and uncertain.  I expect I’ll weep and sleep on the flight - from fatigue and relief from all the hurdles we'll only finish crossing the minute we take our seats.  We may get sick when we get there, simply because we haven't the time to be sick here.  :)

Life is gorgeous and full, and we are so grateful and have no complaints, other than our own failure to manage our time well.  Changes have come without us taking the time to re-sort our priorities.  For the past year we've moved at an unsustainable pace, and a "hard stop" (a phrase I learned from Ann Voskamp) is needed.

So what does this mean for the music?

We are releasing a new album, How Emptiness Sings, in the spring, and will hopefully return from our travels with a clearer picture of how we can continue to share the music while still balancing the other parts of our life well, and not be reduced to panic attacks. :)

While we're away, things will be happening to gear us up for the album release and to allow me to stay in touch with you.  We will be online, and I’ll keep you posted here on the blog.  Should have some amusing stories to pass on!

As Nicole and I prepare to go on the road for a couple of weeks, I realize the next time I post here may be after we get off the plane!

THANK YOU for your encouragement and support and for sharing the music.  Knowing that God uses this flawed work from my seriously flawed hands is what makes it all worthwhile.  He is faithful.

with Love and Joy and Gratitude,


p.s.  I got to participate in a live recording of some unique Advent music with local NC can find it here!