We Showed Up

To be quite honest I was terrified of Thanksgiving this year. Holidays are typically stressful- in the best of ways- for most families. Schedules, road trips, different beds, tired kids, unusual routines, faces you love-but-haven't-lived with since high school and about five, ten, fifteen extra people squeezed into houses built for, well, not fifteen. We walk into the holidays silently praying that no one turns on the wrong news channel or brings up politics, hoping that we don't get caught giving the stink eye to another siblings' kid (though we love our nieces and nephews- we do-it's just...) and praying that everyone eats the food with as much enthusiastic joy as the hostess is hoping for. 

Most people spend the holidays waiting for earthquakes, praying for tremors, grateful for fault lines buried deep beneath the earth's surface. Even the irreligious know to start the holidays off with a little holy help prayer on their lips.

So this year was no different than any others. There would be two sisters, four nieces, three husbands, one tiny house, two excited grandparents, and more food than we could stomach. There would be the normal aforementioned family issues that people face whilst heading into the holidays. Joy and stress co-mingling. Fault lines shifting. Families colliding. But this time there would be holes. Missing spots at the table. Grief, raw and unvarnished.

This year there would be no Grandpa. No Mamaw. No Maggie. No Ellen.

I was terrified that our family had weathered the most immediate moments of our deep losses but would come together, thrust into the familial chaos of holidays, and finally implode. I knew we had made it through the center of the storm. The part where you are thrashed about until your bones hurts and your soul cries mercy. But sometimes, when it's all said and done, that's the easy part. The storm. The decimation. In those moments you get these magical things called endorphins. They kick in and kick butt.  Leading up to the storm, and at the storms very height, you are surrounded by the prayers of people, generous doses of God's peace that passes understanding, super-human grace and an overall blurry, fuzzy feeling that keeps you from actually feeling the full weight of it all. But after all that passes and you are mangled up like driftwood, in a river three counties over, in a place you have never known...well, that's when the hard work and spaghetti aisle meltdowns begin.

And I was afraid that moment would happen for all of us, simultaneously, around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The spaghetti aisle meltdown. As if all our grief--- raw, unvarnished, different in nature and beast- would rub to together like sand paper until the fault lines had no choice but to find fault and finally falter.

What happened instead was quite unexpected.
We had our best Thanksgiving ever.

I think it's because we all came with our limps, battle scars and sadness and we were kind to one another. Empathetic. Gracious. And honest.

I think it's because my 83 year-old-grandma who had to take her husband of fifty-five years off of unexpected life support in August... was brave enough to get on a plane by herself and show up for the day of giving thanks.

I think it's because my dad loved on the granddaughters he did have, but when it came time to pray around the Thanksgiving table he gave thanks for Maggie and Ellen too. And then he openly wept, and in so doing, gave us permission to finally do the same. 

I think it's because we played football. And wore turkey hats. And drank more Starbucks coffee than can possibly be good for us. And played dominoes. And let our girls run free. And let our tears run free. And dwelt in the beauty of the moment while also being able to say to one another, "Hey, remember that one year FROM HELL?!?!? Yeah... it's almost over now." And I mostly think it's because we all showed up when we didn't want to.  When we didn't think we could and didn't know how or what the outcome might be. We showed up anyways. And we all knew we were walking on fault lines that might give at any moment- but still- we walked.

And you know what? The fault lines seemed to re-align. To pull in tight. To grow stronger under the earth beneath us. There were no stress fractures, no earthquakes, no tremors. There was strength in showing up with what little we had, but showing up all the while. And this year I am thankful for Thanksgiving. The actual day, the actual meal around the table, the actual chaotic holiday of it all. Because this year we are still walking... and we all walked to the table together.

In loving memory of Maggie Jane and Ellen Olivia Miller, my beautiful nieces. Merlin Hehn, my amazing grandpa. Merle Chisolm, my beautiful mamaw. Jimmy Mac McNamara, my friend and manna. All celebrating Thanksgiving in heaven this year.

To Be Well

Friends,

I wanted to let you know that my first independent EP—created in partnership with Kickstarter backers—is available for download on iTunes and Amazon today! 

To Be Well is a collection of seven songs that wrestle with what it looks like for us to take one another to The Healer. This is by far my most vulnerable collection of songs I have written. Also, did I mention I finally covered my dream Amy Grant song? What more could a girl want?! 

The best part? My Kickstarter backers made it possible for me to print 1,000 copies of the album to give away to women in shelters, rehab, minimum security prisons and other vulnerable situations. So the next few months will be like my own teeny-teeny-tiny version of Oprah's Christmas as I give away the new EP! 

I'd love for you to have this music too. I pray that it draws you nearer to the God of hope and redemption who is ever at work teaching us what it looks like to be well. 

Much Love, 
Jenny

Be My Healer

Last fall I began reading a book called Between the Dreaming and Coming True by Robert Benson. Some months later, on my third or fourth re-read of the book, I was lying in bed one night when it struck me that my next collection of music was to be anchored in the type of healing that Benson's book encouraged. The kind of healing that happens when we are too weak to get to the Healer ourselves, so our friends, family, pastors, therapists and strangers pick us up and carry us to Jesus instead. 

On that night, when the Holy Spirit spoke this idea inside of me, I protested. "But Lord, I don't have a record deal anymore. I can't afford to make new music." And God's answer was no answer at all- just an affirmation deep in my soul, "Jenny, these songs are important." 

Then came a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that funded my book AND funded new music. It was more than I ever asked for and beyond what I was brave enough to dream up on my own. And I sat down to write these songs knowing that many months before I was given a vision for exactly what the songs were supposed to be about. 

What I did not know then- when these songs were first being written for "other" people- was that I was writing these songs for me. 

I had no idea that my Mamaw would die on April 3rd. That my Grandpa would die three months later. That my sister would be told her unborn twin babies were going to die. That my husband would have major surgery, that I would nearly burn my fingers off, that our rental house would be found contaminated with black mold, that we would have to sink our life savings into a move made more quickly than we had planned. The list goes on and is almost comical in its length and brevity.

I had no idea that one year ago as I laid in bed and had a vision for writing songs of healing for people too weak to make it to The Healer themselves... that I would end up being the one who needed my friends to put me on a stretcher, carry me across town, climb a roof, dig a hole in the top and lower me to the feet of Jesus. 

But here I am. 

On the back end of five months that have left me exhausted in every way possible and I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that I am still standing and still breathing...

our family is still standing and still breathing...

because of the many people who have taken us to the Great Physician when we did not have the strength to do so for ourselves. 

And I wrote this music for you, but turns out, God wrote it for me. This is perhaps my favorite song on the EP and I am so grateful to finally share it with you. This collection of songs is dedicated to the many people who spend their lives taking the sick, broken cripple to the Healer. Yours is holy work. 

To Be Well: Songs for Healing #September23rd. #ToBeWell