Tomorrow we celebrate one whole year with my sweet Elijah David. I can hardly believe it. This past year has simultaneously flown by and granted me hundreds and hundreds of honey moments that drip and drizzle so slowly I can still savor them.
The year has taken us on some wild adventures through near-death and baby-tours to a brand new city where we’re still in the process of making our first house the home we’ll grow old in.
The year has taken me from the highest heights to the deepest depths and back up again, and left me lingering at times in a lost limbo of in-between. Sometimes I’m able to climb with Rocky-esque ease to the top of the mountain where I do nothing but celebrate the journey. Other times, the climb is a mountain marathon I can’t even begin, much less finish. Sometimes the descent is a peaceful journey down into the valley where I’m able to rest despite the depths. Other times, it’s like a free fall whose crash landing leaves me bruised and broken all over again. Lately, the journey has been across rolling hills that scale both hills and valleys over and over again, leaving me exhausted at each day’s end.
This morning, as I was cleaning the bathroom (company is coming!), I was stabbed by a pang of self-pity and doubt. I was nearly overtaken by that old toxic lie, “God is punishing you.” For what, I’ll never know. I go over and over the events of that day, thinking to death what I could or should have done differently. I always land in the same place: I did everything right in pregnancy. I was as healthy as I could be. For medical reasons, at the behest of the professionals, we chose to induce, but that should have been safe and uncomplicated. And yet…
Cycling on repeat… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”
And then. I remembered back to the summer of 2002, when I was engaged to someone else. How we did everything right. More than ever before, I was following at God’s heels, stepping exactly where He directed my feet. I was obedient. I was chasing Him. I was devout! And I was…oh, I was crushed. For having done everything right, it ended in utter disaster. I was angry, hopeless, replaying those same words… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”
God is so good to remind me.
Because now, I see now.
I see my husband, whose love is deeper than any depths I’ve sunk to; whose grace is wider than any desert I’ve wandered. Whose long-suffering is…well, loooooong suffering. I see my best friend, my lover, confidant, provider…my champion. The man who scales walls with me and for me, who carries me through and abides my tantrums. Who celebrates me – and us – in ways only I can appreciate. He is the best expression I’ve found of God’s perfect love for me.
I see our son. This perfect, blessed boy who draws from me more exuberant joy than I ever dared imagine. Whose smile, I’m certain, could light the world on a dark night. Whose hugs and kisses smother me in inexpressible cheer. Whose cries stir in me a cast-iron will to surrender life, limb, and soul to see him safe and at rest. The boy for whom I would endure infinite hell to ensure he’ll never see its gates.
I see our life. This life I never deserved and never would have had if the other future I’d so desperately wanted and “done right” for played out in reality. This life I wouldn’t trade for a thousand other “good” – but not “this” – lives.
And I am reminded:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.”
Just as surely as He took one future away in order to give me a better, more perfect one back in 2002…so He
will do is doing again.
I hope in glory for the day I see its unimaginable fruit.
I’ll be honest: Today’s news about Invisible Children’s Jason Russell being arrested and then detained for psychological evaluation felt like a sucker punch. I love Invisible Children’s premise – that they fill a void and meet an actual need. Where so many organizations focus solely (and rightly) on individual rehabilitation and on-the-ground programs, IC is and always has been an awareness campaign. They exist not only to work on the ground, but equally to educate, energize, and mobilize young people to do something (lobby for justice) in a part of the world most will never see (Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR) for people most will never meet (literally countless young men and women who were abducted and forced to live as murderous soldiers and/or rebel sex slaves) in an effort to rid the world of one of it’s most horrendous and yet unrecognized genocidal maniacs (Joseph Kony).
I’ve participated in many of IC’s campaigns. They are why I knew about Kony, the LRA, and their evil tactics years ago. They are why I searched for a way to get more deeply involved with victims in Gulu. They lit the fire in my soul that got me involved with Mocha Club and put me on a plane to Gulu, where I met the recovering, owned their stories, and in whose keeping I left half of my heart awaiting my return.
So you can imagine how excited I was last week to see #KONY2012 trending on Twitter, to see his name and the now-infamous video on every major media outlet’s front page. I was ecstatic that the world – yes, THE WORLD! – was finally taking notice and committing to capture and finally defeat this man whose pure evilness can only be compared to Hitler’s.
But then…a different firestorm started. Invisible Children started becoming more famous than the guy they were trying to make famous. Rather than talking about Kony and the horror he’s sprayed on Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR for nearly three decades, people were talking about Invisible Children’s “questionable” finances, political relationships, and the maturity and seriousness of its leaders. Because some were legitimate questions, and because they’re on the up and up, instead of dismissing and ignoring the charges leveled, IC chose to address them succinctly and clearly, in hopes of redirecting the focus back where it belonged: on Joseph Kony.
But it didn’t work. The bullets kept flying. And yesterday, it came to an even more explosive head when Jason Russell, the face of Invisible Children on the video in question and on almost all media interviews, was detained for public intoxication and masturbation and when, instead of pressing charges, San Diego police had him committed.
My immediate response tricked me, though.
I would have expected myself to say, “Oh, come ON!” I’d be angry with Jason for drawing more negative press to an already bogus situation. I would have immediately questioned my own defense of IC up to this point. I would have imagined the firestorm awaiting me on Facebook for defending them so strongly.
But what actually hit me immediately was this: This is bigger than Jason Russell, or Joseph Kony, or gossip. There is a battle of epic proportions going on, and it involves deeper and darker things than mere humans. I don’t say this lightly, and I’ve rarely said it before, but I believe it to be truer than anything else today: I am witnessing a battle between the principalities, between Light and Dark, between the Enemy and the rest of us.
I believe the Enemy is attacking.
He would have us believe Kony is no big deal; that perhaps he’s not even a legitimate bad guy. He would have us believe the problem was solved years ago. He would have us believe Kony is weak and powerless. He would have us believe those who have been working tirelessly for years to capture and bring Kony to justice are of lesser character than Kony himself, and that rather than serving Kony’s victims, they’re serving other evil warmongers. He would have us believe leaders of Invisible Children are a bigger problem than leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
He would have us believe salacious gossip is truer and more relevant than capturing the ICC’s most notorious fugitive.
He would have us distracted.
And, if today’s twitter trends are any indication, we have played into his hands.
I don’t know what I would do if I were Jason Russell or any of Invisible’s other leaders. I can’t imagine giving my life to building an organization from the dust and watching it explode into an incredible global effort, only to then feel it collapse at its pinnacle. I can’t imagine the massive pressure they’ve all recently been under from every side. I think it must feel something like being thrown into the deepest end of the ocean with ankle weights and bloody guts for shark bait. So while I can’t explain or defend Jason’s actions, neither can I condemn him.
Not when God has been so historically adamant about using the chiefest of sinners to do His work, to bring His Kingdom.
And not when such an important, generation-defining issue is staring us in the face, begging for a response.
After all, if the Enemy is at work, God is in the process of accomplishing something massive.
Whatever you may think about Invisible Children or Jason Russell…
Let it not distract you from the real monster, Joseph Kony. Let it not distract you from his real victims who, somehow, still remain invisible to so many micro-blogging gossip mongers. Let it not distract you from the real story of 26+ years of genocide and abduction and slavery and violence waged against children who are only now beginning to recover and heal.
No matter how tempted you may be…
Give them your attention.
…they’re not just about giving private concerts to a select group of uber-special people (though they are that, too). They’re about fellowship. Storytelling. They are, to me (as an artist), the quintessential picture of the Church as it was back in the Day. People gathering to eat, talk, share burdens, and be lifted…through music and message and hope and just being together.
I love house shows because even when I enter the home of someone I’ve never met or even spoken to, I leave with a few new Great Big Family members. I have new friends I know will listen if I need an ear, and who know I’ll listen too.
There are plenty of artists out there who would prefer to do big stage shows, who don’t do a lot of intimate interacting with their frands* and I get why: some are huge and famous and it’s just unrealistic; for others, they simply prefer to keep their professional and personal lives very separate. That’s just not me. My music is a pretty major expression of who I am and what goes on in my head, so sharing it with people is inviting them into a deeper place anyway. Why not make it even more Real by making it a shared, listen/listen experience, rather than a one-sided singer/audience one? You invite me into your living room, I’ll invite you into my writing space. You feed my belly, I’ll try to feed your spirit.
Anyway, that to say I’m looking very much forward to another round of House Shows with one Ms. Bethany Dick-Olds in a few weeks. We’ll be hitting some spots again, like Spartanburg, SC and Asheboro, NC, and a few new ones as well, like Greensboro, NC and Philadelphia, PA. If you’re anywhere nearby – or somewhere along that route – give me a shout. We’d love to come share with you!
1. A fan of one’s professional artwork who has become a personal friend.
God always speaks most clearly when I least expect it. Usually when I’m wallowing.
Take tonight, for example. I was browsing Jeremy Cowart’s unbelievable photography, clicking through gallery after gallery of people famous, beautiful, and/or rich enough to hire him. (Oh, that I had the money to pay him to make me look like a celebrity. Ha!) A small seed of jealousy set in and I began to think, “Why can’t I be important enough for someone to become my manager and make me famous and hire Jeremy to take my picture for a magazine or an album cover or something very cool that would show the world how truly unique and important I am? Woe is me; woe is me indeed.”
Yes, I confess: I am addicted to myself, and sometimes it’s rears its head like that one really scary scene in Lord of the Rings when the elf queen lady Galadrial gets that wonky voice and looks like a skeleton and starts talking about ruling the world…you know, when Frodo is practically sleep-walking? Anyway, that’s how I look when I get like this.
Anyway, so back to the point: Tonight, I was doing that…looking at amazing photos of disturbingly beautiful and famous people and wishing I was like them and wondering why I’m not, when I skipped to the next gallery – the “Voices of Haiti” gallery.
After the devastating earthquake of 2010, Jeremy took a team down to Port-Au-Prince, where they documented the aftermath. He says in the gallery’s intro, “After the 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti on January 12th of this year, I was deeply moved as most of you were. For days I watched as the television flashed images of gloom and doom… dead bodies, crumbled buildings… It just felt like a heartless display of numbers and statistics. ‘How were the people feeling?’ I wondered. I was tired of hearing endless reports from strangers that just arrived to this devastated nation. So I decided to go to Port-Au-Prince myself and ask them directly. My question was simply ‘What do you have to say about all this?’ This photo essay reveals the many answers to that question.”
As I scrolled through the photos of homeless, broken, lost, and abandoned men, women, and children who’d lost house, home, life, livelihood, and family members, I was struck again by the simple truth that while we know almost none of their names (except, perhaps, Jeremy & crew), these people and their five-worded-statements had the power to profoundly change their photographer and doubtless countless others…like me.
Theirs is the reality I want to be part of. Theirs are the lives in which I want to invest. Theirs is the hope I want to see flourish. Theirs are the futures I want to see become. They are nobodies. They are everybody.
And they are, I’m quite certain, first on Jesus’ mind and heart.
These people don’t know me, nor I them. They aren’t famous. They aren’t modelesque in beauty. They are – according to their own country and most of ours – incidental and forgettable at best. There are millions of people just like them in Haiti, in Uganda, in India, in Cambodia…all over the world, people in dire need of help whose best hope is a guy like Jeremy taking their pictures and showing it to us, that we might be moved enough to see them as Real and equal, and do something.
Even if all we do at this moment is recognize their inherent, incomparable value, and our brotherhood with them.
So yeah. I guess my choices, if I want to be photographed by Jeremy Cowart, are to either a) become sickeningly beautiful and famous, or b) move to a rundown, third-world city too few care about, and live among unnamed masses too few have heard about.
Jeremy did his job tonight. He made me fall in love with the face in the photo. He made me want to live among them. He made me want to be part of something bigger and infinitely more important than celebrity and wealth and influence. He got me out of myself.
And he made me desperately miss Gulu, and ever more anxious to return to the only place I’ve felt I truly belonged.
Because it’s the end of the year, and because everyone who’s anyone who has nothing better to do does this…I’ve decided to make a Top Ten of TwentyTen list for your perusal and enjoyment.
So here goes.
10. I ran 25 miles in my longest training run to date, while training for my first ever 50k ultra marathon. It took me 5 hours and 20 minutes, but I did it, and it was amazing.
9. I enjoyed traveling to countless cities – for free! – with Husband, thanks to his job which affords him this amazing perk of frequent flier miles which added up to a free one-year companion pass for me. Which means I can go anywhere with him, anytime, for nothin’. Go Southwest!
8. I’ve had the privilege of spending many days with some of the most incredible kids in the universe on a near-ongoing basis, some of whom are pictured here:
(This is Rebekah, my best friends’ oldest daughter, almost 4yo)
(And here’s Abigal, Rebekah’s sister, who is every drop of two years old.)
(The big kid would be Matt, my 14yo stepson, who occasionally tags along to help me babysit…and read to the young’ns…who LOVE him.)
7. I ran and finished my first ever trail race, covering nearly 12 miles and climbing upwards of 3,000 in elevation, at Chattanooga’s Stump Jump (I was supposed to run that 50k race I mentioned training for in #10, but alas, my #1 thing of 2010 kind of hampered that):
6. I ate some *amazing* food in some amazing cities, including but not limited to:
^^This incredible – and I mean incredible – hot dog at an Anaheim Angels game in California.
^^…as well as this unbelievable lobster in New York City.
^^…and this Green Curry in Alexandria, VA.
^^…and (finally) this unspeakably delicious bbq smorgasbord in Black Mountain, NC.
(It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that I did NOT eat to run, this year, but rather ran to eat!)
5. I enjoyed a rather intoxicating anniversary weekend away in …wait for it… Washington, DC with my Love:
(That’s the Lincoln Memorial from across the Reflection Pool.)
(And that’s Love and me in front of Lincoln…)
4. I somehow, through no fault or success of my own, managed to write one of my personal favorite songs to date, “Stronger Than You Think,” which has become a bit of a quiet anthem for myself and many I’ve had the privilege of getting to know:
3. I traveled to a LOT of states across the whole country on tour, running through and/or simply enjoying the sights of some incredible cities along the way, like these:
Seattle, WA…(the view from my hotel room balcony)…
….Greensboro, NC (the view from a 6 mile lakeside trail run)…
…Times Square in New York City (where I rather enjoyed looking grumpy for a moment, who knows why?)…
…The gorgeous shores of Long Island (NY)…
…and the Harvard University Campus in Cambridge, MA.
2. I spent over two months touring with two of my musical heroes, Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb, during which time I literally shared the stage (and a van) with them, sang songs with them, ate food with them, made jokes with them, and took pictures with other super famous cats like these guys (they’re called “Hanson”):
the number one thing I did in 2010….
1) I MADE A BABY!! (With the help of Husband, of course!) He’s currently 23 weeks baked in my uterus for an oven, and due on April 27, 2011. He will, no doubt, be number one on next year’s Top Ten list as well!