MAY SINGLE: HOLY GROUND

The Destination by Mandy Rogers Horton

The Destination by Mandy Rogers Horton

This piece by my sister, Mandy Rogers Horton is a companion to my new song about our lives and earth and work as sacred space. I love the many & varied windows and invasion of green inside the cathedral-like enclosure.

It’s pretty easy to be either flippant or harried with our days and with our relationships, desires, and work.  Easy to compartmentalize, designating one day or aspect of our lives meaning-ful, and hanging the domestic and the uncertainties and the unattractive people and the “things on the way” out to dry. It’s in the pause, the long gaze of gratitude, and the co-creating that we recognize the preciousness of every breath and really begin to live.

After reading Jon Foreman’s introduction to Charlie Peacock’s book, New Way To Be Human, I pretty much ran to the piano and started writing this song. So thank you, Jon Foreman, for your insights, and I hope you’re flattered and not offended that I borrowed them.

HOLY GROUND

 

You think singers & dreamers

Invent escape from the real

Oh, but they have eyes to see

What must be revealed

There’s a kingdom before us

whose gate is always open

Looks like earth & sounds like human voices

And it feels like heaven

 

Holy, Holy

All that is within us

All that is without

All of life is holy ground

 

If your compass points to wealth & fame

It has been altered

There is only one true north

One good road to follow

When you lift your eyes you’ll find

The view is ever wider

Til the vanities fade and your love burns

Brighter and brighter

 

chorus

 

We’ll take our shoes off

Honor the moments of our days

Find our treasure when we give our love away

What a gift to hold this in our hands

Behold the beauty

See the face of God in a grain of sand

Holy Holy

Holy Holy…

 

Please take a listen to this preview of the song. If you’d like to have the full song, I’d love to send it to you.  Just sign up as a TuneTribe subscriber, and we’ll send it over, along with the other songs already released this year.

APRIL SINGLE: CAN I MOVE YOU

The Collection by Mandy Rogers Horton 

The Collection by Mandy Rogers Horton 

A few weeks ago when it was finally my turn to pick the movie, the kids and I sat down to watch Little Boy which I’d been eyeing for a few weeks. I loved it & was only mildly surprised to learn it was made by Metanoia Films, producers of another favorite, Bella.

The story behind this new song involves a reference that may be a bit of a spoiler for a particularly great moment in the film, so feel free to save this post for later if you plan to watch it.

(Note: This isn’t a review of the film, but as an aside I do heartily recommend it, because it was such a beautiful balance of tragedy & hope, and we found it both entertaining & provocative.)

 

Little Boy is a young kid whose life has been turned upside down during the war. He’s lonely. He’s fearful. No one can promise him his circumstances are going to improve or that loved ones are ever going to come home again.

One day the community’s children are gathered in a theater, and a magician chooses him to volunteer onstage and allows Little Boy (and the audience) to believe that Little Boy, by his own inner power, willed a bottle to slide across the table. He leans towards it groaning and stretching his small arms to pull it through the air towards himself.

And the object obeys.

Little Boy is as shocked as anyone else, but now his mind is working on the greater implications of this newfound power of his. What else might be possible?

Then a sermon is preached on Matthew 17:20, and he hears that the power to “move mountains” is directly tied to faith the size of a mustard seed. So naturally, he heads to the local grocery and gets himself a mustard seed to examine. Doesn’t look so big.

Next, Little Boy visits the priest (Tom Wilkinson!) and asks him how one goes about getting a faith big enough to make big things happen.

And this is the moment that lodged itself in my thoughts for weeks.

Little Boy mentions to the priest his success on the magician’s stage, and the curious priest sets a wine bottle on the desk and gently asks for a demonstration.

Little Boy stretches his hands out in the direction of the bottle, closes his eyes, and grunts and strains, willing the bottle to come toward him.

Nothing happens.

The priest says, “Try again.” Little Boy takes a deep breath, stretches, grunts and strains again.

Nothing.

The priest says, “Try it again.” Little Boy repeats the effort, and by now your heart is breaking for this disillusioned child, as nothing happens again.

The third try is no different, until suddenly and swiftly…

The priest grabs the bottle and moves it to the boy’s side of the desk.

“There, you did it.”

Little Boy’s face is crestfallen, and he says, “No I didn’t move it. YOU moved it.”

The priest replies, “You MOVED ME to move it.”

I don’t pretend to comprehend the mysterious ways of God or the power of prayer or the seeming inconsistency in the changing of circumstances through faith. There must be a thousand differing opinions on the other spiritual insights offered in the context of this film. Plenty of room for those discussions around any dinner or pub table.

But that singular image of the desperate boy and the priest’s response that, in the midst of my own mountainous landscape, stayed with me and became something musical.

I write songs that reflect humans as we really are, in the context of a God-centered worldview.

I like to explore the questions we ask even if they don’t have easy answers. This song represents our side of the conversation.

Hear a preview of the song here & join the Tribe to get all 12 songs:

Can I Move You
Every one day feels like a decade
Carrying this weight
Where did you go to
Don’t you know I need you
The situation is grave
There’s a light on the other side
But there’s a hill I’ve yet to climb
I thought I had the strength
But I was wrong
Won’t you roll this rock away
 
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
 
I heard a witness praying to Jesus
Hands laid on his lap
If you’ve been listening
Don’t hold it against me
My faith don’t look like that
I’ve been waving at the sky
If you see me, don’t pass me by
Hear the hope inside my doubt
I want to feel the quake
Before the sun goes down
 
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
 
I don’t think I’m shouting into a void
I don’t think that I’ve been just making noise
I’ll keep it up until I get your attention
‘Cause I have seen you show up in the past
And my heart’s not giving up yet
No, I’m not giving up today

MARCH SINGLE: YOU FOR ME

Untitled by Mandy Rogers Horton (2013)

Untitled by Mandy Rogers Horton (2013)

(Today members of TuneTribe 2016 are hearing the second new song release of the year, called “You For Me” and getting an email with some behind-the-song thoughts. These songs are not available elsewhere, though I will perform them in live online shows every few weeks. Join at any time and get all the tracks released so far and going forward. The email with notes goes out on the 1st of each month.)

This month’s single release is a love song. Yayyyyy for Valentines Day-inspired romantic reflection!

Before you roll your eyes, I don’t tend to write about one-night stands, so you may be getting a love song, but this is real life, real love, friends.

I was a very young bride and have seen up-close all the trials and temptations that follow the infatuation & exhilaration stage. Like you, I’ve watched the marriages of friends fall apart for all kinds of reasons. I’m incredibly grateful to have some remarkable role models and to be married to someone who makes me laugh and makes me more than I would be without him.

That kind of love deserves a song or two, don’t you think??

Hear a clip of this new song here (& join the Tribe if you’d like to get all 12 songs):

 

You For Me
Christa Wells, February 2016

At 17, I hung everything
On a boy who needed more time
I fell again and again for strangers and friends
But not one of them was mine

I was told there is a great big sea out there
The possibilities are endless
It was easy to believe til I met you
And impossible ever since

‘Cause I’ve had my share of warm embraces
There’ve been some who can make me smile
And there may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me

Well I tried to lie to myself
But I couldn’t run when you said my name
And I see in you what I’m trying to become
In so many ways

I have seen there is an ocean full and fair
And she’s given her best to me

I’ve had my share of warm embraces
There’ve been some who could make me smile
And there may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me

And if you roll away
Like a restless wave
I will follow you to shore
If your blues and greens
Grow dark and deep
Still my heart will beat with yours

My heart will beat, my heart will beat
My heart will beat with yours
My heart will beat, my heart will beat
My heart will beat with yours

‘Cause I only want your embraces
And the ways you can make me smile
There may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me
There is one you for me

February Single: Lighter From Here

What We Love  (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)
What We Love (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)

I shared with my email list last week that I won't be recording an album this year but instead invite you to join a tribe of listeners who will be able to stream or download a new song each month of 2016.

Album projects are amazing, but it's also amazing to share a new lyric and melody with your friends while it's fresh from writing and you're still living the story.

So every month Jess Ray and I will go into her home studio and lay down acoustic production on a new tune. If you join the tribe ($10), you'll get a little note in your Inbox each month letting you know your new tune is ready (mp3 & wav available). Download right away, or wait and get several at a time when you're in the mood.

These songs will not be available elsewhere this year, but you may be hearing the demo of a future single, who knows?

To top it off, each track will be paired with an image of an original piece by Mandy Rogers Horton, whose artwork was featured on the COVERS ep.

"Lighter From Here" is our January song, and it's ready, folks. Head on over to The Store if you're ready to take this musical journey with us.

ABOUT SONG #1: LIGHTER FROM HERE

2015 brought some hefty trials into our life, and Lighter From Here is my song of response. It's a new year hope rooted in the memory of God's goodness and of the faithful return of light year after year.

I've written before about my loathing of winter darkness. Well, I was interested to consider a couple of years ago that the longest night of the year arrives just before Christmas. Our hanging of decorations and our songs of Advent waiting and Christmas celebrating are a massive communal effort to persist in hope and survive the shortened days.

By the time we take down the white lights and get back to regular routine, the long night has actually passed. It's behind us, the worst. We can expect a literal lightening, slowly but surely, day by day.

It's not mere optimism. It's a beautiful and true thing, this faithfulness of nature to reflect the promise that light will win.

We may have some winter yet ahead, but I hope you'll hear comfort and even a gradual return to joy in these words and melody.

Hear a clip of this new release here & join the Tribe to get all 12 songs.

LIGHTER FROM HERE

In late December the sun refused to show

This frosty winter has cut us to the bone

But maybe we’ve felt the worst

We’ve been to the bottom

Maybe we’d take the hurt and the loss

For all that they have taught us

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We’ll keep our eyes on the horizon

It’s all getting lighter from here

It’s all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

We pull the embers into the new year fire

We will remember how wind and flame conspired

To bring our bodies close

And bind our hearts together

Send everything that’s gone up in smoke

Give us hope for warmer weather

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We'll keep our eyes on the horizon

It's all getting lighter from here

It's all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

It's all getting lighter

The sun will be higher

The days will be kinder from here

TuneTribe Photo
TuneTribe Photo

You Are My Defense: behind the song

IMG_0660

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

Albert Camus

I love that quote. But it hasn't always been so. At least I didn't think so.

I finished high school outside of Chicago and don't remember the cold or snow, even in the black early morning at the bus stop, being the real issue. I was rather lonely during those high school years. I attributed that to being new, awkward, shy, fashion-challenged.

But maybe it was really the long winter. Or maybe I've merely associated winter with those blue feelings? Whatever the reason, my dread of the dark months seemed to grow over the years, even here in mild-natured North Carolina.

IMG_0696 (1)

As I said during a recent show, I even resented autumn because I knew where it was heading. The months of September, October and November formed a long, dreary hallway leading to winter, which felt like death.

(I'm not prone to overstatement at all.)

The slow but sure shortening of daylight was oppressive to me, to the point that the beauty of falling leaves or seasonal festivities went unappreciated almost entirely.

IMG_0694 I talk about this in the past tense, because this year and the last have, thankfully, not had quite the same effect. Certain circumstances in my life now allow for more solitude and focus which seems to be helping.

But in 2012, we saw a friend in our community repeatedly hospitalized for severe and chronic depression. This wife and mother of two young children known for creating beautiful and whimsical wall murals in playrooms seemed unable to keep her face above water for long, no matter the weather.

Numerous friends and family close to my heart have felt themselves swallowed up by depression during different life seasons, due to circumstance or chemistry or a combination of both. I remember the dread I felt walking into the apartment of one of these, the blinds closed mid-day, lights off, music blaring, finding there was nothing I could say or do that could get a smile out of this former class clown. I found red marks across his wrists and chose to believe him when he said he'd cut himself washing dishes.

IMG_0705

 

When I really look at it, I know my own struggles have never been quite that.  Depression is a brute, and I am less an expert than a bystander devastated by her own powerlessness to fix anything.

I asked my friend back in 2012 if she could describe it for me, what it was like for her. The songwriter, I suppose all artists, are prone to walking battlefields as well as beaches, gathering shells and making something out of them.

I wanted to write about this reality without trying to fix it. It's okay for a song to be a moment in time, to write where you've been and what you've seen. Of course, I've also seen too much love for it to not to make an appearance.

The stories of my people became linked to the story of me in winter, and this song, "You Are My Defense," took shape.

 

I feel the clouds coming over like a bad dream

Same shadows I’ve known since I was 18

Weeks before winter falls

You find me in the back hall, hiding

I feel the sunshine slip away

 

I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense

 

You carve the stone with evidence of your love

Strike a match to warm us when the cold comes

And I will sing of summer light

That feeds the soul through the dark night

Will you feed my soul through the night?

 

Oh, when I’m a ship out on the sea

You are, you are the lighthouse calling me

And when I feel unreachable

You get to me

You get to me

 

And I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Every time you’ve laid yourself beside me

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense

IMG_0699

I wish I could say I actually remember writing the second verse, what prompted the stone image. I sing it almost as a newcomer to the song, which is kind of cool. The stone may have had a different inspiration, but I now think of it as the whole of planet earth. Call me crazy, but I do believe there is a Person behind all this wonder. And I think the whole place screams it.

Similarly, the match doesn't have to be one thing, but one thing it might be is the faithful-to-return sun-soaked months that restore and revive before the cold.

The song I sing of hope is one I choose to sing and must choose and choose again, because it does not always come naturally. I sing of summer light because I want to live and that's the only way to survive. I sing because I remember the way the sun felt on my skin and expect to feel it again.

It is invincible within me if only I pry my hands from these fearful, reluctant eyes and see.

IMG_0707Time and time again while I sleep, Someone comes and lays himself beside me.  Being aware of that...saves me.

It's not about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps but by Love that lays down for you and with you.

Finding yourself not alone, not beyond the reach of one who loves you..it really is something.

-cnw


Through the end of January, every moleskine journal we ship will be sent with                       a handwritten lyric of your choice inside + a free copy of my COVERS ep.

The journals are a great place to record the things that feed your soul this winter or any season. The songs on this album are songs that, in their own way, fed my soul "back then."

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 8.11.56 PM

 

thoughtful gifts for songwriters...

ITBMW_Art Well, friends,

Before I get to the point, if you haven't yet gotten your free download of the Christmas single (cover art above) I recorded with my pals Jess Ray & Taylor Leonhardt, I want to make sure to give you that link, so go ahead and CLICK HERE. Merry Christmas!

Hopefully you're ahead of me and have finished all your gift planning for the Christmas celebrations. If not, and if one of the outstanding recipients happens to be a songwriter/music-maker, then this is for you.

My friend, Taylor, and I were talking about how sweet it is when you find a gift that truly adds to a life without also being a burden in terms of clutter or maintenance.  I googled "gift ideas for young filmmaker" the other day, because I have one of those in my house, and I thought I'd put together something like that for us musical types, in case you're googling "gift ideas for songwriters" (probably not on the most searched list, but still...).

Here are a few that came to mind, in no particular order.

I apologize for not taking time to add pretty pictures and poetic descriptions. As I mentioned, I'm not done with my own preparations yet! May update in time for next Christmas?

Instrument or Accessories

I almost didn't include this, because it's obvious, but if it's time for new strings or a travel case or cables or boom stands? Easy.

Journal & Pen 

I'm partial to ordinary composition books these days. Less intimidating, less guilt if I don't fill it, slim & lightweight. But, I've loved many a fancier journal in my life - so just choose something soft that lays flat when opened. Then find a nice ink pen to wrap with it. Voila. (I do have this Moleskine journal now in my store, but I promise that's not why I mentioned journals.)

Books

I know not everyone enjoys reading, and there are artists who make great work without reading a lot.

But if you CAN enjoy it, I say it's one of the very best things you can do to fuel your art.  For me, any books that come highly recommended and are well-written, fiction or non, will make me happy.

But here are a few I've especially appreciated as an artist:

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art – Madeleine L’Engle

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon

Show Your Work – Austin Kleon

A Million Little Ways – Emily P. Freeman

Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo

Writing Better Lyrics - Pat Pattison (okay, this one I have not yet read, but a number of my writer friends have & have highly recommended it)

 Subscriptions

American Songwriter magazine - I love this magazine so much & only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover

Tickets

There's almost nothing more helpful to a performing artist of any kind than to actually GO to see live performances. If cost were no issue, I think most of us would be attending a lot more shows and watching less Netflix.

Give your loved one tickets to concerts, and not just the big productions. Those are great fun, but most of us aren't ever going to have the resources to pull off that kind of show. Find tickets to a house show with a reputable artist performing or an intimate local venue, so they can learn by watching & be inspired.

Give tickets to theatrical productions & arthouse movie theaters. Most people will spend money to hit a mainstream theater a few times a year, but it feels risky to a lot of people to try an independent film. Because those films are often so interesting and provocative, get two tickets so you can go together and then have dinner & conversation after.

 Host a House Concert

If your writer is interested in sharing their work publicly, help them out by graciously planning a concert in your home and inviting your neighbors, friends and family. It'll be a gift for you, too!

Does it sound scary or difficult? It's totally do-able, and my friend Matthew Clark has this great house concert resource page for you. Check it out!

Yeti Blue Microphone 

I love this little guy for capturing work tapes or even rough demos. We've also used it for broadcasting live online shows. I love it because it doesn't require me to be a techie and it's the best affordable USB mic I've found so far.

Headphones

I've used Bose and Audio-Technica. Again, I'm not a techie, so definitely do some research, but something other than earbuds is super helpful for recording and listening to mixes.

Scholarship to Masterpiece Project

I work at Masterpiece Project as a songwriting studio leader one week every summer and cannot speak highly enough about this place. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was a teenager, a safe intimate environment to explore art and make friends under the mentorship of faith-based professional artists.

If your artist is rising 9th-12th grade, this would be a fantastic Christmas gift that won't end up on their bedroom floor with dirty socks.

Demo Recording Session

For a beginning songwriter, one of the most exhilarating experiences is to have one of your songs recorded professionally. Demo production can range from $200-$1500 depending on complexity of recording and reputation/demand of the particular producer.

If it's a new/young/aspiring songwriter, definitely find someone in your local area who will do it on the budget end of the scale. Make sure you hear samples of their work before hiring.

Portable PA

This has been the handiest thing I've purchased in the past few years. I use the Fishman tower system, but I've heard good things about the Bose, as well. Perfect for small venue performances. If you only need 1-2 inputs, you won't even need a soundboard.

Soundboard

For performances with multiple vocalists or instruments, use a mixing console like this one from Yamaha with your PA.

Music!

You can't go wrong with iTunes gift cards. Or vinyl for the young/audiophile crowd. Or physical CDs for the non-digital car. And maybe give them some music that has stood the test of time that they wouldn't ordinarily seek out. I was heavily influenced by music I found laying around my childhood home, music popular before my time...Patsy Cline, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Roy Orbison. Help your writer get acquainted with the greats of the past OR greats from genres other than their first love.

Time

If your writer is a grown-up, one of the best gifts I can think of is dedicated time.

Is she a mother? Take the kids away from the house for a day and let her write in peace!

A married man? Give him an evening a week to himself & a place to create.

Or get crazy and find a place on the beach where you can go together - but go your separate ways during the daytime.

Macbook

Enough said. It's true, not all artists love Apple, but it's a good bet.

This Calendar

I don't have this, but someone is getting it for my young filmmaker, because he's interested in making actual progress toward goals, and I've heard great things about this helpful tool from Jon Acuff. Check it out.

 Professional Photos

If he or she wants to share their music or book shows, this is going to be necessary. Find a good local photographer who has some experience with artist photography (different from wedding or baby portraits) & book a session.

Website Design

You don't have to have a pro do it nowadays, at least not to start out, because there are some good build-your-own sites. But if they are getting busy with music work, this could be an amazing gift. OR, simply buy a domain with their name so they can use it whenever they're ready!

Skype Songwriting Mentoring Session(s)

Finally, I love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. It's one of my passions to come alongside others who are using their gifts.

If you have a songwriter in your life who would benefit from conversation and feedback on the craft of songwriting or the life of music-making, I'm happy to offer a limited number of session times as I have time.

Please email me at christa@christawellsmusic.com to discuss the possibilities. Fun!

 

So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!

Love,

christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 4

  IMG_0353

29 Oct 2015

I’ve been home for three days, hanging with the kids and realizing autumn somehow breezed in while I wasn’t looking and set up camp. Carolina is looking fine in gold & bronze, and even this cold-weather hater is smiling about it. And about the butternut squash soup I made last night and will eat again tonight.

I didn’t post a journal last week. Monday was an early travel day, which left me wanting only sleep & cuddles. Tuesday was prep for youngest daughter’s birthday. Wednesday, family day. We kept the kids home from school (unexcused! Gasp!) and headed to the state fair, which was EXACTLY the right call. So much fun. Thursday I was back to Nashville and climbing on the bus for our last weekend of the tour!

IMG_2898

Several bus mates were ill over the weekend, leaving everyone a bit wary of picking something up. Would have made a very interesting finale! Plumb was recovering from bronchitis, and I was amazed by how she powered through. When your body is your instrument and it breaks…it’s a pretty stressful predicament. It would be for any of us, but especially when you have larger audiences and a busload of musicians depending on you to not cancel.

Connecting with people at the Food for the Hungry table.

 

IMG_2868

Anyway, the show went on & we loved every minute. Apparently pranks are common on last days of tours, and the best prank of all was the fact that Geoff Duncan & Brad Dring had me prepared (as in, nervous wreck) to be pranked during my last set and then DIDN’T. Exhale.

What we did do is scavenge some costuming backstage and rush the Rapture Ruckus set during Mister Roboto for a (somewhat) impromptu dance party. I guess they knew we were coming, but they didn’t know we’d come in style. It was incredible.

plumbtourwigs

I soaked up every late night conversation and listening session, knowing this was a special moment in life. I felt ready to be at the end of this stretch and home again, but not ready to let go of the people I’ve come to love & admire. I mean, you can’t brush your teeth with a bottle of water next to someone for five weeks and not feel pretty tight. It’s a strange temporary reality that I think resulted in permanent relationships. They are good people, every one.

 

Tiffany and I have lives that have circled back together over the years, and I love that. So grateful she took a chance and invited me to be a part of this journey. And overwhelmingly thankful to my Raleigh family & friends who cared for me & my family in so many ways. I wouldn't have been able to be present on the road if you weren't present at home. Thank you.

Cheers to new adventures & new friends & each of us doing the work we were made to do.

Love,

christa

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 3

IMG_4693  

 

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.

FullSizeRender-1

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.

FullSizeRender-2

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.

FullSizeRender-4

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. ;)

 

 

Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 1

Photo Credit: Edwin & Joyce Ormeo 29 sept 2015

I arrived home Sunday late afternoon after my first weekend out with Plumb's Exhale Tour. For these five weekends, I am the first (and smaller) of two openers, the other being a band from New Zealand called Rapture Ruckus.It's an eclectic line-up, with RR's high energy pop/rap and Plumb's gorgeously massive vocals set against lights and electric guitar. And there's me with my keyboard. I joke, but in truth I humbly and gratefully embrace my role filling the quieter, singer-songwriter space at the front.

"Come Close Now" especially resonated with people this week, and they often came to the table asking for "the fire song." It makes me so happy to see again and again that music mystically enters the most sacred spaces of a stranger's life, where I myself cannot go.

Our family has been in such an unusual state of upheaval over the past several months that I was unaware of the full extent of my stress level until it began showing up as headaches and sick stomach, which resolved itself once I was settled onto the tour bus.

Here is where I interrupt this journal to send out a public thank you - from the bottom of my heart - to the people in our church & family & community (local and far-0ff) who have taken care of us in SO many ways recently. We have been so humbled in a very good way to depend on you & so aware of how real your love is - for us and for God. And how real His love for us is.

So, for the curious...the highs & lows of the first weekend on a tour bus?

Lows...

...initial anxiety of being completely clueless regarding absolutely everything. Here's something true: If you say "yes" to things beyond your comfort zone, you're gonna be uncomfortable. Deep, huh?

...and...that's about it, unless you count the fact that I never read more than one paragraph of the book I brought along for bedtime (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho)

Highs...

...overcoming said anxieties with experience. The great thing about the first time is there is only one first time. You get over the hump pretty quickly.

...the food. Hello. I asked the bands: How do you do this all the time and not weigh twice as much as you do??? Eat, set up, eat, soundcheck, eat, perform, load out, eat, sleep, repeat.

...the black-out curtain on bus bunks. I slept well inside my little coffin.

...being parked in the Chautauqua State Park Saturday, which was beautiful and gave me the chance to escape for a quiet walk. I need nature like some people need Diet Coke.

IMG_4497

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...NOT having to set up and run a portable PA. It's 1000x easier and more pleasurable to play & sing with a great sound system.

...by far, my favorite thing is meeting the people who volunteer at the events and the people who stop by the table afterwards to connect. I have zero interest in being on any kind of pedestal and find the best antidote is to stay busy working alongside other people, swapping stories.

FullSizeRender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After four nights on the bus, I was greeted by my brother-in-law & enjoyed several hours with him & my sister, Mandy (of COVERS art fame), sipping coffee and eating donuts & pasta (health).

I arrived home to cool, gray Carolina skies (tropical storm off the coast), a 6th grade science project, and a delicious rice & chicken dish prepared by friends from church.

Daily chores & cuddles & quiet hours of solitude are welcome on these days between travel. Mom arrives to help tomorrow & I'm looking forward to a day with her before I leave.

Getting to do this work is a gift. Obviously. I know that well & will remind myself of that on the days when I don't really feel like getting on a plane.

Today, I'm home and practicing the art of being present.

IMG_4520

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I will practice hiding my disgust as a take my little girl & her hamster who murdered his partner and has now scratched all his hair off to the vet.  #reallife

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

sky

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.

 

Hey, summer, what's up?!

Well, obviously, spring & summer are the most wonderful times of the year. Can I get an amen? Sorry, Christmas, you're just a little cold & dark & busy to win the title around here. Everything is nicer when the sun is shining, including me. So here's to the season for making merry & making music outdoors whenever possible.

COVERS ep!

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.25.52 PM

Thank you for sharing the COVERS album with your friends & family!

I'm in love with the whole project & the way people have connected with it, and it wouldn't have happened without your support. That's a fact.

This awesome t-shirt featuring original art by Mandy Rogers Horton & design by Shelly Eve is available & will re-ordered in additional sizes, so if you don't see yours, please let us know what you need, so I can add it to the list!

TWO BIRDS mini-concerts

Along the lines of making music outdoors, my musical friend Taylor Leonhardt & I spontaneously started something we can't seem to quit, a series of back porch mini-concerts (or front porch, when it's raining).

If you could use a little live music over your lunch break, sit in while we share just one song each with a 10-minute rehearsal & an iPhone.

We've dubbed the series "Two Birds." Here's our most recent episode.

Subscribe to the channel to be an earlybird (see what I did there? heh heh) when a new video is posted.

SLOW TRAIN COMING

Last night, I had the extreme privilege of participating in a collective tribute to Bob Dylan's Slow Train Coming album in Carrboro, NC. Esteemed musician Tim Carless planned & led the way & Emmaus Way of Durham sponsored us at The ArtsCenter.

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert Christa Wells_Reagan Lunn-5

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert_Reagan Lunn-12

2015.06.11 Slow Train Coming EWay Concert Jeff Crawford_Reagan Lunn-3

It's crazy energizing to play together with other musicians. Hoping we have more opportunities to work together!

ESCAPE TO THE LAKE

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.23.12 PM

Really looking forward to playing in Watertown, Wisconsin, at the end of this month and then heading immediately to ETTL to co-lead a songwriting bootcamp & do a little performance.

Discount tickets available for night-only concert passes (for a limited time). Use promo code "fireworks" and save $5 per ticket (no limit). Tix/Info: bit.ly/ettl15n

I especially recommend ETTL to any of you musicians who are serious about both faith & excellence in art making. It's a uniquely intimate setting where you'll get to spend time with artists, listening, asking questions, being inspired. Join us!

MASTERPIECE PROJECT 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 12.21.20 PM

End of July always finds me leading songwriting studio for high school students at Masterpiece Project in southern Kentucky.

I can't say enough about the way Masterpiece impacts students & staff. It's one of the highlights of my year.

The July week is already full this year, but my friend Jessica Campbell will be leading songwriting for Masterpiece the week of June 21, and there are still several spots open. Masterpiece is not just for musicians but for young artists of any medium.  Each week offers specific studios--get the details on their website.


I'll be in Nashville to write next week & will play a couple shows with Jessica Campbell July 17&18 in WV & VA, but in general I'll be hanging out around Raleigh more over the summer, which I'm glad for.

And...a surprising announcement coming soon regarding the fall, so stay tuned!

Hope you & yours are finding ways to be outside, be together & be present.

much love,

christa

 

You're wrong about your age.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.46.36 PM  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 11.51.40 AM

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

COVERS Release!

covers digital cover  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends,

I'm so excited to announce that the COVERS ep I arranged & recorded with the amazing Ben Shive - fully funded by 156 equally amazing Kickstarters - is OUT!

You can get it at iTunes, but the full album is also being featured this week FREE on NOISETRADE.  All five songs - free for you & your friends & your Aunt Sue!

I'd be ever so grateful if you'd take a listen & let me know what you think!  And even more grateful if you'd let others know about it.

Ben & I are truly pleased with what became of these songs as we experimented and played in the studio.

We hope you'll feel the same.

With  Love & Gratitude for all your support & encouragement,

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.

wales-71891_1280

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

These Are a Few of My Favorite...Indies

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.53.31 AM I keep finding myself in conversations where people are lamenting the shortage of good music in the world and asking for recommendations. Honestly, there is SO much good music being made. You just have to know where to find it.

At our house, we listen to just about everything in terms of genre, and we find our music by word-of-mouth, Noisetrade, Spotify/Pandora/iTunes Radio, mainstream radio, and great online curators like Under the Radar Radio. We love it all, and our playlists tend to lead or follow our moods and activities.

Okay, and we also disagree. Often.  In fact, my personal favorites happen to be on Toby's "most loathed" list. That's okay. It is what it is.  I can play OTR as loudly as I want when he's not home to avoid the groans, grimaces and "this is the WORST" comments.

So, I'm not going to give you everything, but rather focus a few of my favorites who are a little (or a lot) lesser-known. Because nobody needs me to tell them about "this band called Mumford & Sons."

(Several of the artists I have included need no introduction, either, but just in case they're new to you. Also, I'm leaving off music that I can't in good conscience recommend to your kids.)

Treat yourself & your people to new music during these long winter months & find joy in supporting some under-discovered artists!  

p.s. Some of these albums will be included in a giveaway happening here next week! Drawing 3 names from orders placed in November & shipping music, books & a signed Christmas greeting. 

So, here we go.  Artists - and one of their well-loved songs - as a jumping off place for you.

 

My Most Played Over Past 12 Months:

Sleeping At Last - "In the Embers"

Over the Rhine - "All My Favorite People"

Andrew Belle - "Pieces"

 

Extremely Gifted Singer/Songwriter Friends:

Jessica Campbell - "Time"

Nick Flora - "Lost At Sea"

Sara Groves - "It's Going to be Alright"

Andy Gullahorn - "I Will"

Ellie Holcomb - "Magnolia"

Jenny & Tyler - "Song for You"

Shelly Moore - "Tie That Binds"

Cindy Morgan & Andy Greer - Hymns for Hunger

Eric Peters - "Where Would I Go"

Jill Phillips - "It Will Pass"

Rachel Stevener - "Holding"

Carolina Story - "In the End"

Nicole Witt - New Album Coming!

 

Quiet Music to Play Loudly

Sanders Bohlke - "I'm Gonna Make It"

Future of Forestry - "Pie Jesu"

Kye Kye - "Peace Song"

Milk Carton Kids - "Michigan"

Salt of the Sound - "Where Do I Begin"

Waterdeep - "Not Looking Good"

 

Good Guys w/Big Talent

Colony House - "Glorious"

Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - "Live Forever"

Josh Ritter -"Bright Smile"

Judah & the Lion - "Rich Kids"

 

The Josh Garrels Category

Josh Garrels - "Farther Along"

 

New Discoveries

Jason Barrows - "Voyagers"

Kaleb Jones - "Hold On Tight" - p.s. I met Kaleb in a coffee shop on Thursday, fell in love with his music & voice, and 4 days later he was singing on my upcoming Covers album.

 

Young Artists I'm Excited to Work With/Watch for These:

Emily Sage Dempsey - "Grow"

Jansen Hogan - Album Coming!

Elle Michelle – "Sleepy Heart"

Jana Gilmore – "Stay With Me Til Morning"

Taylor Leonhardt - "Sunday in the Park"

Jess Ray - "Better"

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your loved ones.  These colder months can be hard, which for me means I have to work harder at the practice of gratitude. May your list of gifts be ever-growing.  I'm thankful for YOU.

love,

christa