Tragedy is not rare. What is rare are people who have not yet had to face it.Read More
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.
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.
I DON’T LIKE kindergarten. I have to wake up early every single day and brush my teeth. I have to put on real clothes and my hair can’t look like a rat’s nest. I have to remember to get rid of face crustys and eye buggers. I have to have uniform shirts that are clean and not wrinkled. And no they can’t be worn inside out *in a pinch.* I have to make a lunch every single morning. And it has to come across as "healthy" or I get the stink eye from the teacher. I have to be on time. Like, it’s not an option. On. Time. Every. Day. There’s even a bell! It’s judging me! It freaks me out! I only have 5 excused absences for the entire year. What about my birthday? Cinco De Mayo? Or snuggle days at home? Five days?!? Now, I have to make up a fake doctor and a fake illness. It's the only way to squeeze a few more days out of this system. I have to meet new people. Most of them are too happy, too weird, or don’t follow the rules. How hard is it to follow rules people? I have to memorize names, faces, positions and titles. I just finished learning names at church and around the neighborhood. Now these people too?!? I have to prioritize my time. Everything has to get done before the bell rings at 3:00. I have to check the backpack’s abyss for new papers Every. Single. Day. Which means... I can’t leave the backpack- and the contents of the lunchbox- in the hot car. I have to go home with a good attitude. Play. Eat. Bathe. And then start all over again the next morning.
I DON’T LIKE kindergarten. I’m sure it’s hard for my daughter, too.
Dear Heartbroken World- We are going to make it, you and I.
Our hearts grieve the death of our beloved Robin Williams, the helpless and terrified Yazidi people, the senseless death of our young black brothers, the cure-less disease showing no mercy in parts of Africa, the children of Gaza and Israel, the bloodshed in Ukraine, the children on our own borders- without parents, without advocates-
the pain of our own broken pieces of earth.
It all seems a bit cruel right now, doesn’t it?
Roger Cohen for the New York Times recently surmised the seemingly hopeless future of the Israeli/Gaza crisis with this, “Shed a tear, shed a thousand, it makes no difference.”
Although he did not write those words in the context I am applying them to, I can’t help but think they are the sentiment most easily adopted by anyone who has watched the news this week.
Shed a tear. Shed a thousand. It makes no difference.
It feels heavy. Out of control. Frantic, spoiled, hopeless, despairing and fatalistic.
In his brilliant book on the chronic depression of President Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Shenk says, “Hopelessness, in an extreme form, leads people to think that only one thing can break the cycle, and that is suicide.” He goes on to quote Edwin Shneidman, the creator of the field of suicide studies, “The single most dangerous word in all of suicidology, is the four-letter word only.”
Only one way out. Only one option left. Only going to get worse. Only way to find relief.
Shed a tear. Shed a thousand. It makes no difference…
Says the fatalistic heart who sees only death, destruction and heart-ache with no hope for beauty, redemption or joy.
But I say a tear matters. A thousand tears matter. And you and I? We are going to make it here in this beautiful, tragic world because our tears do make a difference.
Empathy matters. Our voices, raised in unison and whispered in prayer, matter. Our love for one another- the child on the border, the teenager walking the streets, the elderly in our nursing homes, the Yazidi cornered into a mountain, the driver in front of you, the person bagging your groceries, taking out your trash, the officers selflessly protecting our communities, our own babies, neighbors, spouses, friends, grandparents- our love, mercy, attention and kindness to each of these matters. Volunteering matters. I don’t care if you save a whale or a chicken! If you are reading to our children, cleaning up the side of the highway, teaching vocational skills in a prison or playing Bunko at the nursing home… it matters.
It matters that you and I show up. It matters that our tears of pain, anger, injustice and sadness pool together; that our empathy- our humanity- is not lost in the current tidal wave of destruction.
It has been said that without vision the people perish. I would say that without hope, the people perish.
A hopeless society is far more deadly than any war, atrocity or dictatorship. When the bleak, despairing voices of fatalism and defeatism threaten to overwhelm a society- bold advocates of resilient hope, faith, optimism and joy must fight all the more to be known.
Though we are hard pressed on every side, we are not broken. Though we are perplexed, we are not driven to despair. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
And what of the life of Jesus?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Jesus in us does not look like hopelessness, death, defeatism or fatalism. Jesus in us- even in our current collective suffering- looks like life. Abundant.
Joy in the sorrow. Hope in the broken spaces. Peace in the midst of chaos. Beauty overshadowing, prevailing, over every dark dirty day.
We are going to make it, you and I. We are going to do so with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We are going to do so as bold bearers of hope. We are going to do so through our tears.
With a firm, holy indignation I refuse to believe that our showing up makes no difference in each others lives. Indeed, our willingness to show up for one another in big and small ways, is the balm that soothes broken hearts and makes pathways out of the chaos and confusion.
Shed a tear, shed a thousand? Yes, PLEASE.
Because the only commodity you and I can offer a hurting world is our tears. Tears shed by people who continue to SHOW UP with brave voices of HOPE in the midst of heartache.
Fight the good fight, friends. Don't give up. Now more than ever, it matters.
much love, jenny