amy courts: en route

Waiting for “Even More”

Because our pastor was meant to be filming a movie (in which he plays a hairy hobo, no less) in snowy Montreal over the weekend, our new church in Minneapolis featured a guest speaker on Sunday, Steve Wiens. I wasn’t particularly excited about it until I realized a) we’d already heard him speak when we visited Church of the Open Door (and he’s good); and b) we’d already heard this message too (it happened to be the very same he’d given back when we visited, and it’s also good). Some people might scoff and say something about “the pastor who recycles his sermons…” Those people can shut it. Because this sermon deserves to be given – and received – over and over.

Based on Matthew 1:18-25 (with a little bit of Genesis 37 sprinkled in) and titled “Considering the Even More,” it’s all about the Joseph’s: Joseph, husband to Mary, step-father to Jesus, and a guy who probably said “You have GOT to be kidding me!” when he first learned of Mary’s “immaculate conception”; and Joseph, son of Jacob, who was sold by his brothers into slavery, endured years in prison under the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, but somehow ended up right-hand-man to Pharaoh and The Guy Who Saved The People from Death By Famine.

It’s about how each of them, in otherwise paralyzing circumstances, were able – by grace alone – to pull back and ask, “What can’t I see? What don’t I know? What might God be doing here?”

I’ve mentioned this before, but names are significant, especially in Scripture. I only came to realize the power in my own son’s name, Elijah David – which means “The LORD is my God; I am His beloved” – after he was born. Not insignificantly, the name Joseph means “Yahweh Adds” or “Even More.”

Most of you know that after Elijah was born, I nearly bled to death and the bleeding was only stopped by removing my uterus. And thus, I can’t ever have any more babies. I am, by some odd flip of the coin, the one in 110,000 women who suffers such severe post partum uterine atony as to indicate emergency hysterectomy.

I have asked too many times, “Why me, Lord? Why not one of those crack head baby mama’s from the ghetto who has nine kids and counting? Why remove the possibility altogether, leaving no room to hope?”

I don’t know the answer to that question and I’m not sure I ever will. But, after hearing this sermon twice now (and I don’t believe it’s by accident), I’m inclined to think that’s probably the wrong question.

Instead, I am reminded to consider the Even More.

…To consider Joseph son of Jacob, who could have wallowed or taken revenge but chose instead to believe that Yahweh Adds, and in so doing “saved many lives,” including those of his brothers whose jealousy drove them to do the unthinkable.

…To consider Joseph husband of Mary, who could have abandoned her to the law and seen her, his pregnant-by-someone-other-than-him betrothed, stoned, but chose instead to consider the Even More that God was up to and in so doing NAMED the Savior.

And I am compelled to consider our own situation: What if, by allowing this certain tragedy in our lives, God is somehow saving more lives? Perhaps we are meant to parent some of those nine-kids-and-counting who would otherwise be fatherless?

I can’t say it enough: I don’t know and can’t begin to imagine what plans He has conceived and intends to birth in and for us.

But I know, because of Elijah, that The LORD is my God. And I know, by the Joseph’s, my God is the God of even more; He is the God who adds, who ever gives even when He takes.

And I can therefore anxiously await Even More.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout generations.” > Ephesians 3:19-21 <

Conceiving the Inconceivable
January 5, 2012, 11:18 am
Filed under: Activate, africa, Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein

I ran across this quote this morning. I pondered it. I thought about it along with something I’ve been considering for a few weeks now: that perhaps my fear and paralysis, my eternal worry about my professional life, is my own doing. My own responsibility. My own failure to believe and really internalize what is both simple and true… that I am meant to dream inconceivable dreams so that God can out-do them and so prove Himself bigger and better than I’ve ever imagined.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

I’ve spent a long time being afraid I’m asking too much, expecting too much, wanting too much, hoping too much. I should know better. In one year – 2010 – I watched, in stunned jaw-dropped-ness, while God brought me home from Africa (where He taught me what it is to surrender) only to meet and tour with my two musical heroes, Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb; then, for the first time ever, gave me exactly what I asked for in the exact context which I asked: I got pregnant “accidentally” and found out on my birthday.

So I ought to know better than anyone why we should ask for more than we can ever imagine having…because God is in the business of doing the inconceivable for those who love Him and ask it, with hope and expectant confidence.

But it’s taken so long to even recognize the concept, much less believe it. It is still a struggle for me to actively believe that God wants to give me amazing things. But if the Apostle Paul was telling the truth, then He has already planned the inconceivable for me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him…” – 1 Cor 2:9

The only question, then, is what I find inconceivable. I’m beginning to believe that the less inconceivable it is to me, the  bigger God is allowed to be.

In all of this, my dreams are shifting. They’re not as much for me anymore, but for Elijah.

I may never change the world. But my son can. And the most powerful thing I can give him is a taste for the Inconceivable.

May Elijah ever know that the impossible is always possible; That he can literally be anything he wants to be, and do anything he wants to do; That what’s inconceivable to him is small potatoes to his Infinite God whose dreams for him are bigger than even mine.

And may I only ever empower and equip him with tools of courage, hope, faith, fearlessness, boldness, confidence, and above all love – for God and others – that he might dwell in the truth that no matter how small he is or may feel, his God is infinite.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” – Maximus

Oh, that he would echo.

Top Ten of TwentyEleven
December 31, 2011, 11:41 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Because it’s what I do every year (or at very least, think about doing), I offer you this year’s Top Ten of 2011 year in review. It’s fun, right? So here you go.

10. We moved to Minnesota!
It’s a bit sad for me, because I do love and dearly miss Nashville. But moving made practical sense for our family, and in truth, I don’t *need* to be in Nashville for music anymore. It never really embraced me, and I’m not sure I embraced it, professionally speaking. I guess. Maybe I’m making that up. Either way, the move was BIG for all of us. No more gentle winters…except this one, of course. Because, as is perfectly predictable, THIS is the easiest winter in Minnesota’s memory. Anyway, it was still a big move. We’re now Minneapolisians, and loving it. And I’m sincerely looking forward to learning the musical terrain of the Cities and diving in, head first, to hopefully find my place here.

9. We bought a house!
Upon deciding to move to Minneapolis, and finding that rental properties were astronomically more expensive than buying, we took the plunge and bought our first house. It’s a quaint 19teen’s house with exposed beam ceilings, a built-in China hutch, its original wood floors, and as unique a floor plan as one could hope for from an early 20th century home with four bedrooms and a sun porch upstairs. It’s got a full basement AND attic just waiting to be finished and made into a media room and studio (respectively). And we got it for the bargain price of $70k from a woman who’d owned it since the 1960s and raised her whole family there. It was rife with old memories and ready for some new ones. So we pounced!

8. Um….

7. Uh….

Screw it.

8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and…

1. >>>WE HAD A BABY!!<<<
His name is Elijah David. He was born on May 6, 2011. And he, my friends, takes the cake.

Happy 2012, from my adorably perfect family (made thus by my incomprehensibly gorgeous 8 month old Elijah, and his charming 15 year old big brother Matthew, and only barely crippled by their silly parents, me and Paul) to yours. May it blow your mind.

ps: in fairness, there were a couple more exciting bits about 2011: I wrote a few handfuls of amazing songs with brilliant songwriters Bethany Dick-Olds and Eddie Christy, and Bethany and I took our show on the road – along with Elijah – for two mini house show tours, in July and in September. Turns out my sweet boy is a road dog after all!

When You Win the Wrong Lottery
November 16, 2011, 11:18 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s been an eventful week for my friends…and a bit of a rough one for me.

It was precipitated by the happy fact that a few weeks ago, Elijah started sleeping through the night, thereby ending our sweet, middle-of-the-night interludes. He’s growing up too fast.

Then, last Monday, Paul ran his hand over my belly, and like a shock wave it hit me that we won’t ever again get to feel a tiny growing baby dancing inside me.

Then, stupid Betty Draper didn’t want to be pregnant with her third baby.

Then, three friends had their second or third babies.

Then, a few more friends posted magnificent announcement photos of their brand new baby bellies, or new pictures of their ever-expanding, almost-ready-to-pop bellies.

And then, just for good measure, one more had her second baby.

Sometimes, it seems, the mountain literally crumbles when you’re already in the valley.

So, like a emotional champ, I skipped over to Google and typed in “emergency hysterectomy.”

(I’ve done this before. It rarely ends well.)

I read scattered findings – because there are no major, concrete studies that tell us anything conclusively about why or how many women’s childbearing days end this way – and came across one teaching hospital’s study at which 22 out of 110,000 women had emergency hysterectomies over a ten year period, all due to similar complications but otherwise for no discernible reason.

After wading through thickets of anger, regret, and crossing the inevitable “What if it was my fault? What if I had just waited for Eli to come on his own, instead of inducing labor and starting this ball rolling…?” river, I reported these findings to a dear friend who shared my experience. And her response was, “When you do the statistics it sucks – 1 out of 30,000 or something – really couldn’t I win a really good raffle? Or the lotto?”

It sounds funny, but it’s a healthy reality check too: This can’t possibly be my – or anyone else’s – fault, ’cause massive postpartum hemorrhaging leading to near-death and the consequential life-saving emergency hysterectomy is, as Marilyn pointed out, about as likely as winning the lottery.

That to say, there’s no point in wondering where blame lies, because it doesn’t. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen…at least, not to more than a couple dozen in one-hundred-and-ten-THOUSAND women. When it does happen, it’s a classic fluke. The terrifying exception to an otherwise predictable rule.

So…where do I go from here? What do I say, and how am I to feel, when part of me is truly rejoicing with my friends for their healthy new babies and perfectly normal wombs, and the other part is screaming “WHY!?!”

I mean, where does the 30-year-old widow turn when her friends are celebrating one anniversary after another while she grieves another year without her husband? Where does the almost-mother turn when others are celebrating birth after birth while she grieves the loss of her stillborn daughter?

To where does anyone turn when the most senseless devastation befalls her, and there simply are no answers for the questions burning the last shreds of her faith?

To Hope.

To the One who is so intimately acquainted with grief and sorrow that He knows the best – and only – thing to do is invoke the all-knowing groans of the Spirit who so perfectly and adequately pleads the Father’s mercy on our behalf.

To the peace that lies solely in the bittersweet company of the Knowing few, who can grieve together.

To the Comforter who promises that all will be made right, in the end.

six months
November 9, 2011, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

sometimes there is
no bright side
no silver lining
sometimes the grass is really greener
because there it is
and here it is not
sometimes no words of comfort
no healing balm
and all you can do
– what you must do –
is feel and feel
and weep and feel
until you’re all cried out
your heart dried up
and everything
is a gift

but even still
the dark is not the gift
nor even the light that seeps
into it
but the knowing it
cannot stay dark
though a cloud may
ever hang

Grace, and Grace, and Grace
September 28, 2011, 11:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Maybe it’s inherent to motherhood. Maybe it’s inherent to beginning my thirtieth year, or my fourth decade of life.

But never have I experienced so much grace, and never have I needed it more.

When I’m driving down the interstate in another state (or city…or my own, for that matter…) and not at my road-worthy best, I just wave at others and say “Give me grace! Please, give me grace!”

When Elijah is having a meltdown, and I’m on the brink of my own, I just beg the Lord for grace accompanied by some mercy that I might be filled with patience I don’t have.

And when friends call or text or email with stories of new wounds and heavy burdens…oh, it’s all I can do not to fall on my knees and groan, willing the Spirit to join me.

I suspect it has something to do with the simple fact that I experienced real, true, tangible salvation this year when God brought me back from the brink of death to be Eli’s mother and Paul’s wife. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so aware of Christ’s presence in and around and for me as I have been these last five months, since He saved me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so fully consumed by the knowledge of prayer’s power for those around me, since seeing how God interrupted so many others’ lives to plead for me and Eli. I have prayed and prayed that He would interrupt mine, that I might be part of the mystery and miracle in a similar way for someone else.

I do know I’ve never been this awe-struck by the weight and depth of the struggles we daily face, or by God’s hugeness in comparison.

And I have never been so keenly moved by the small beauties that transform…well-written songs, powerful prayers spoken by tiny lips, baby coos, and falling leaves.

And so every day, for something or someone new, I’m drawn to my heart’s knees if not my actual knees, pleading for grace, and grace, and grace in the world around me. For my friends whose marriages are deteriorating; for those who are facing injustice upon injustice; for almost-orphans and their dying mothers; for my family in Africa and Nebraska that I miss so dearly; for close ones facing the shock of aging in sudden illness. Grace and grace and grace, that I might hold tight to the life around me, grace for everything dying, grace for the eyes to see it coming alive.

Grace and grace and grace, that it might be made right, that life might bloom and I might watch it. Again and again.

…But You Will Be Safe In My Arms…
September 4, 2011, 9:27 am
Filed under: Baby, Home Life, Music

I very nearly bawled my little green eyes out this morning all over the clothes I was folding.


As ever: because of a song.

I was listening to Plumb’s “In My Arms” (which is FREE at Noisetrade right now, along with 5 other pieces of musical honey) for the first time since having a baby. I used to think that song was a little cheesy. But now I’m a mom. I get it. And there’s no cheese about it. Except maybe the sweet, cream cheese icing kind of cheese.

Anyway. It’s going so fast. Too fast. Elijah is rocketing skyward. He’s talking and giggling and – I swear – holding entire conversations with me and others in a language that can only be described as Screech. And before I know it, he won’t want to talk to or be around me anymore, and after that he might want to, but he won’t need to. He’ll be a grown man, showering his own beloved wife with kisses and diapering his own babies’ perfect little butts.

How do mom’s do this?

A few days ago I was wondering if music is done with me. Now I’m not entirely sure I’m not done with it.

No, I’m not done with it.

But it is, at best, a back burner love these days, a tool I’ll use only as often as needed to say to this boy what no other form of communication can convey.

I just don’t want to miss a second of Elijah’s fleeting days. I want to soak in every one.