The Privilege of Waiting

Last night I got the weekly email: I've sold 88 albums this week for a grand total of 3,863 albums sold since my release date on February 12th. I've basically just told you how much I weigh and every dirty little secret I have.

Unless you are celebrating CD sales with a gold record in your hand- there is really no need for anyone to strut their numbers, especially numbers this paltry.

I laid in bed- refusing to cry.

But then it occurred to me that one time, when I was doing a wrapping paper fundraiser for middle school choir, I was desperately trying to win a plastic helmet that had a fan and flashlight attached to the top and a swirly straw that wraps around your entire head and lands in your drink- and I am sure I sold way more than $3,860 then.

The tears came.

I've sold more boxes of girl scout cookies.

Yesterday I crunched numbers. How much it costs to travel to where I am going, how much I pay the people who play the music for me on stage, how much for a hotel room. I think I've already lost money well into September. How is that possible- you wonder with shock? Last summer I was asked to perform before the headlining artist at a festival. They raved about how many people would be there and who I would be exposed to. Plus opening for the biggest of the best. They could pay me $750. That didn't include travel or lodging. And it didn't include my personal cost: paying a guitarist. Paying 15% to the booking agency who would handle the contract, who gets 15% of every show no matter what. And 15% to the managers who so bravely manage me. I would have gone in the hole by over $750. The girl booking the event later told me the headlining act was paid $45,000. And that was rock bottom for the artist.

So I crunched numbers yesterday and realized that I won't make money until September and even then it's a gamble. Then I got the email telling me how many albums I haven't sold. And I laid in bed and refused to cry. And then the image of that hat. That twirly gig hat from the 5th grade came and ruined it all.

I laid in bed crying my eyes out.

Now what? What do you do when Plan A or B or C  (or plan Q in my case) just seems to be hitting a dead end? For those of you who have followed my journey the past few years- you should know- I am still in the middle of the becoming. Putting 38 minutes of music down on an album didn't fix it. Didn't tidy everything up. It wasn't the clear-cut, decisive, Ah-Ha moment at the end of the desert that I had hoped for. I am closer, to be sure. There are all sorts of slivers and glimmers of light and answers and new ways and new life- but nothing fully formed yet. Answers don't come quickly. And even when you endure being nine months pregnant- labor and give birth to the baby- it's still months before they smile and years before their personality is decisively theirs. Even after the new thing arrives- you are still waiting. Still nurturing every moment because it leads to the next.

You are not alone in your waiting. I've heard about this couple who wanted to have babies so bad and were basically dead by the time they finally got pregnant. Mind you- they ushered in the birth of an entire nation that would change history forever- but the WAITING. OH THE WAITING.

So I am still in between. Still trying to figure out what happens next. And when? And why doesn't the current gig seem to really be taking off? And was I created for something more? Something different? Something better? And when- oh when- will I see the finish line? And for God's sake don't tell me there isn't one until heaven. Really. You really think that is what a lost, waiting person wants to hear? It's just all wrong turns and deserts and half dreams till you die baby. All halfsies and everything. See you in the promised-land!

Just tell me it's coming. Like Jesus does. The next step is coming. The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living is real. Old people have babies and young people change the world and middle people- like me- dream new dreams and take new adventures and get used up and spilled out and re-created a million times before the other side of eternity. Tell me that.


Back to the bedroom last night. I cried. And then- like usual- decided it was time for me to fix it once and for all.

I got on Monster.Com followed by For two hours last night I searched for a job. A real life grown-up person job.

Let me tell you what- if you are a phlebotomist, you're in luck.  Apparently we need about 800 of them in this city. I've ruled out the Staff Scientist position at Vanderbilt. What is that- your token scientist? All I could envision was a room full of English professors and regents and then one frizzy-haired, white coat, crazy-eyed scientist lady who was running around the room laughing an evil laugh. Dollar General needs a merchandise designer. I could totally color-coordinate that store like Charming Charlie's. Dave Ramsey is hiring lots of people right now. But I didn't see my ideal job. If I'm going to work for Dave Ramsey, I wanna be his hype man. Just dark glasses and a turn table and my head bobbing all gangster style. The church jobs stare at me. I give them the evil eye. I refuse! Still, I spent a good chunk of time studying churches all over the country who are hiring-specifically churches along the ocean- because someone has to do it.

My friend, who is having a similar life crisis said that the guy spraying for bugs in her house yesterday told her she is always welcome to come work the front desk at the pest control place. There is nothing wrong with pest control. Truly. But for 12 years she has pursued her life's dream- shall it all end with 'Do you want to add roach repellent to that? And how about a mouse trap with your order?'

I hope not.

So the fighting and the waiting and the angst of figuring it all out rages on.


Waiting is a privilege that only the rich enjoy. It is a luxury for those of us not fighting to feed, clothe and educate ourselves and our babies. So in the middle of the angst- there is this:

I recorded an album and some radio stations played my songs. That is what some girls around the world can only ever dream for while they hang on for dear life and fight to survive.

This whole 'Waiting on becoming who God has created you to be and do and become' it is a luxury that generations before us have not enjoyed and a reality that people living in poverty have no concept of. There is no "waiting" when you have to kill a chicken to feed your family or walk three miles to fill up jerry cans with water or wait in line for hours on end hoping to see a free doctor because your sick baby needs medicine.

If you have options on the table- you are among the world's most rich. So I will count myself as blessed beyond measure.

Blessed. Beyond. Measure.

We wait as privileged people. I wait as a privileged person. Refusing to get too lost in the narcissism of a life that only swirls around my own dreams. Refusing to be too pitiful over the privilege of waiting and figuring things out little by little. Refusing to be a phlebotomist. Refusing to hand too many nights over to the fact that I've sold more girl scout cookies than I have albums.

Refusing to do anything but get up each day- sit on this porch- have a cup of coffee- listen for God's voice- and then keep moving into the vast- privileged-unknown of this life.





Ever the Student

I am slightly addicted to reading the news. I like to know what’s going on in my country. I like to know what’s going on in politics. I like to know what’s going on around the world. I like to know about new inventions and the state of our economy. I like to know about people who are shaping policy, leading armies, creating cures for cancer, developing the newest high tech gadgets, and of course, who's winning Grammy’s. I like to know what sports teams are winning what tournaments, and even though I can hardly listen to him without feeling compelled to sin on a severe level, I like to keep tabs on what Glenn Beck is preaching.

The best teachers? The articles in Vanity Fair. The Week Magazine. Foreign Affairs. The articles written by Richard Holbrooke and the incredible wealth of knowledge from the life of Henry Kissinger.  Men whose knowledge of foreign policy, love for diplomacy, and wisdom when the two collide comes as naturally to them as milk to a baby.  Richard Holbrooke passed away suddenly in December and I spent half the afternoon crying. Henry Kissinger recently offered commentary on the movement in Egypt, via Fox News, and I shushed Ryan as if I were listening to the first man landing on the moon. Like the Pope was about to announce the arrival of the end of times. Like Luciano Pavarotti was belting out his final note to the world.

Ryan, the great Henry Kissinger is speaking. Reverence please. Reverence.

So when I get a break from Annie, even though I know I should be writing, I often find myself scouring the news, catching up with the latest Foreign Affairs journal and texting my dad questions like:

"Emergency! What do you think are the drawbacks to START? Why isn't it being passed in its entirety? Confused. Write back asap!"

Or  "Why don't we implement sanctions on North Korea more heavily? Doesn't make sense to me. Head hurts. Write back asap."

Or  "DAAAAAAAD we are all going to die if the nuclear weapons in Pakistan get into the hands of a terrorist!!!!!!!! You HAVE TO STOP THEM. Write back ASAP."

I might have a little more faith in my dad's military career and super powers than I should. Still, he's my dad. And he's the guy that was smart enough to tell me to read Richard Holbrooke's articles in the first place, and he's the man who once did the Heimlich on me when I was choking on a banana and a bag of ruffles,  and he's the man who once used pliers to remove the retainer from my upper lip after I got it stuck jumping on the trampoline (trust me, it's possible), so I assume he can stop nuclear weapons too.  Or at least properly answer all my questions regarding the issues in the news that I don't quite understand.

I guess you get the point. I love studying the world. I am ever the student.

And not without cause.

This little girl was on the front row of our show last night in St. Louis. She was one of hundreds of little girls. Though there were also college students, young adults, and even dads who were there claiming to be 'our biggest fans' something about a room full of girls struck me. Struck me with glimpses of beauty and hope.

And, struck me with glimpses of fear.

Fear that they were listening to every word I said. Fear that they were singing my lyrics at the tops of their lungs. Fear that they looked at me as if I were important. Fear that when the song was over and my voice started speaking they might actually remember the words I say when they go back home, go to bed, and wake up the next morning to go back into the world.

It was not the kind of fear where I am actually afraid or stressed. Fear that steals peace or dominates your mind. Instead, it was the fear that the Bible talks about possessing when we go into God's presence.  A fear that is actually a form of humility and reverence. C.S. Lewis says it's the kind of fear that makes you "feel wonder and a certain shrinking" - not the kind of fear that makes you afraid of "ghosts and tigers." "It is a fear that comes forth out of your love for the Lord." (Problem of Pain). It is the kind of fear that our song, What Do I know of Holy, implies. A  state where you remember how small you are; how limited your scope; how big your Creator.

As the writer of this blog, a girl who has a platform to speak in front of thousands of people each year, a devoted citizen of humanity, and a follower of Christ, I find that besides time spent with Jesus, time spent reading the news is one of the most important things I can do each day. It gives me the education, information, and world view that is necessary to formulate educated thoughts and opinions on current events, policy, wars, and governments around the world. It helps me to stay relevant and connected with society at large. And it allows me to explore how my faith can, and should, intersect with the truths and realities of every day life for people living in California or Uganda. In France or India.  In Mississippi or Texas. In North Korea or Venezuela.

As a girl who longs to be a part of creating positive change in the world, I am committed to ongoing education. Not because I’m smart or pretentious, not even because I always enjoy it, but simply because I have a responsibility to present truth to these little girls with pig tails who are listening to every word that I say... I am responsible to speak truth because they are listening, because they are our future, because God requires it. Speak truth.

And truth doesn’t just arrive on your door step.

You look for it. You seek it out. You put filters up and sift through the partisan rhetoric, media frenzy, and half-baked stories and you look for the real story. The real problem. The real bottom line. You surround yourself with good teachers, and you sit at their feet and learn. And you ask God to guide you in truth; revealing perhaps the most profound truths in the world by simply watching the leaves blow off of a tree or by reading a passage of scripture in a completely new way; the Holy Spirit teaches an open and willing heart.

Last night reminded, yet again, that to whom much is given, much is expected. For those of us who have a platform, we also have a profound responsibility to lead people with integrity towards truth and away from ignorance. We have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about what we claim to believe and about the world we live in.

We don’t have to be scholars. I certainly am not. But to shirk knowledge, is to shirk the ability to fully know and discover truth.

Last night I was reminded of my own responsibility.

Heavy thoughts for a Friday afternoon, I know. But as I sit here in Kayak coffee shop across the street from Washington University and watch professors and students walking in and out; cracking books to study; getting ready to take on the world; I am reminded again how important knowledge is.

I hope that anyone we choose to put on a pedestal, anyone who has a platform, anyone who uses their voice to persuade...  be it pastor, politician, or president... would seek knowledge.  Not for the sake of pride, but for the sake of competency.

And I hope that if they do not do so, those of us listening to their voices will hold them accountable and demand that the voices we listen to be

faithfully-  academically-  spiritually-



With people and the pursuit of knowledge.

Ever the student, my prayer today is to lead, in the limited capacity that I have been given,  with knowledge and integrity. Not for my sake, but for the sake of those little girls...

who look to me

to tell the truth.

A Human Touch

A mom, dad, and two little boys sit down at the table next to me.

The dad is kind of serious looking. Dark hair, tall, broad shoulders, scanning the room with an empty stare, completely unaware of the breakfast discussion that is happening right next to him.
Mom is feisty. She has the rough and tough mannerisms of a mom who is raising two boys and has been away from the female race long enough to lose joy in picking out the perfect muffin. "Whadya want to eat? Come on? It's not that hard... just pick something." She points to something in the pastry case for herself and orders without truly looking.
The little boys, probably eleven and nine, are dirty and sweaty, fidgety and totally bored. It's Saturday morning and although they aren't sporting a baseball uniform, I'm quite sure she has just scraped them up from some park and put them in the car against their will. I think she's put the husband in the car against his will for that matter too. And there they sit, distracted and totally uninterested in pastries, muffins, and one another. Their faces say, "Saturday is for sports, for hobbies, for guy stuff... not these stupid muffins and family talk time."
Three men. Three islands.
Any minute I expect her to stand up, slam her hands on the table, grab the attention of the men in her life and say (with a fiercely threatening voice that makes you think she might not cook ever again or that she might pull her girl card and cry right there in front of God and everyone), "WE will enjoy this *&*$%^* breakfast as a FAMILY whether you want to or not!"
But she weathers the silence with grace and patience and somehow she draws everyone in with a series of questions and jokes.
Suddenly they are talking. The three islands are talking. This woman is amazing.
I think to myself... if I had been her I would've spewed my venom at them for their lack of interest and for making me do all the emotional, conversational work. I might have clamped my lips shut in a passive aggressive protest of their little care and concern for me and my family breakfast plans.
"Poor me. My boys won't talk to me. I'll show them." And then, as only a woman can do, I would make them endure my brutal silence as punishment for not loving me well. But she didn't do any of those things. She didn't get her feelings hurt. She didn't retreat. She didn't punish them with her silence. She fought for her children's words. She won a small victory.
an aside:
This mom showed me that no matter what your child is: boy/girl, shy/personable, angry/happy, interested/uninterested; a diligent effort to emotionally engage your children, will, more than likely, pay off.
Now, the conversation is marked by the laughter of these two little boys and the dad's full attention.
And me?
Well, I am the creep sitting at the next table watching them... but in my defense I am a very happy creep who just witnessed a mom being a really good mom. And I am relishing in the moment of this ladies victory.
Of Course...
This is all ruined when the nine year old kid, who, by the looks of his wild impulsive eyes suffers from some form of attention deficit, grabs a rock from the fountain behind him and throws it.
I'm not sure what it hit, but it ricocheted, it's path of destruction eternally long and it was loud enough that the entire restaurant stopped and took a collective breathe.
The morning was, yet again, ruined.
The dad instinctively grabbed the son by the leg in anger. The mom shot straight in, "What are you doing? What are you doing? Why would you do that?" People's eyes bore into them. All four of them. The dad's grip tightened. His stern look was debilitating even for me.
It stemmed from embarrassment of course. That's what I'm learning. A lot of times we parents are reactionary. What deserves a normal- don't do that- turns into a swift and militant response when the kid is 'doing that' in front of lots of people and we find ourselves cringing.
Inevitably this response, though, leaves the child embarrassed. And this nine year old followed protocol.
He looked down at his legs and his eyes burned with tears that he kept sucking back. I watched his whole body sink and deflate as his little brother stared at him. In his mind, I guess the whole world was staring at him. He kept his head down like a dog who had been scolded and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone. He went to his own universe. And they to theirs.
Mom acted like nothing happened, but the tension came all the way over to the creepy girl's table and I was as stressed as she was.
The mom did as many moms do. She tried to make it better. Tried to talk to the little boy and ask him questions from across the table. But he wasn't buying, he wouldn't raise his eyes above table level. Dad tried to smooth things over by talking to mom, laughing about something terribly not-funny; he was keeping the pep in the deflated family breakfast trip, but he was failing miserably too.
I had written the rest of the story in my mind. They will leave. Mom frustrated- which always leads to tears. Dad frustrated- which sometimes leads to throwing the towel in and making the rest of the day a "personal day" as Ryan calls it. Big brother either smugly satisfied that the blame could all lie on his counterpart or angry that that his counterpart ruined the morning. And little guy... hurt and angry, embarrassed, would spend his Saturday sulking.
I was all torn up. It was like watching my own reality show except no one won any money and they all ended up going back home empty handed. I freaking hate reality shows. I scolded myself. Why do I watch them? They came so close. I stopped watching and went back to writing my book.
The Touch
And then it happened. A human touch.
Something came over the father's face. His countenance changed.
He turned his body towards his son who was sitting one bench over. He put one arm around his shoulder, another under his knees, and with one big swoop he lifted the little boy up, put him directly on his lap, wrapped his arms around his chest, and bear hugged him. He whispered into his ear and kissed his cheek. He held him there. Not letting go. And there they sat. In the middle of a busy restaurant. A shamed nine year old boy. In his dad's lap. A grown man. Putting himself aside. A human touch.
It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen a dad do. Ever.
And, in one moment, that human touch redeemed the entire morning.
The boy, of course, fought it in the beginning. Still sulking. Head down. A little scowl. But the longer the dad held on. The longer he hugged. The more this big, strong, grown man whispered into his little boys ear... you could visibly see it, the wall of shame and defense began to crumble. The embarrassment was left on the other bench. The little boy let go of the anger, came out of hiding, and felt safe again. Loved. Liked, even.
I no longer felt creepy. I felt honored. I found myself with tears burning my eyes as I watched what grace looks like. Grace with skin on it. And I found myself, in that busy restaurant, sitting in my own father's lap as he hugged me, told me I was beautiful, told me to forget about what happened, told me he loved me. I fought it, of course. I wasn't even sure that I had done anything to make me feel like I needed to be lovingly taken back into the family (like throwing a rock that made a whole restaurant stop and gape) ... still, I had an overwhelming sense that I needed it. Right then. Right there.
I squirmed a bit and felt way too grown up for what was happening. I suppose I'd much rather be left alone to sulk. I tried to get my shoulders free. But that whisper. Leave me alone, I'm the one who screwed up and everybody knows it. But that kiss. A feeling of annoyance. Please just stop. But that gentle squeeze. A denial. But that acceptance. A rejection. But that hug... the one I didn't want... right there in the middle of the restaurant...
intimately, strongly, lovingly I was swooped up unto my father's lap
before I knew it, I was smiling
I am loved.