"Did I tell them I was a stripper? GOD- I hope I did not tell them I was a stripper. I mean it wasn't for long, but you know-"And we all died laughing.Read More
I took Annie to the park today. She loves the park. She loves to swing, play in the sand pit and run through the maze of wooden passageways. But mostly, she loves chasing the birds and the ducks down by the lake. She tells me, with a very serious and determined face, to stand back and not make any, any noises. She begins to walk painfully slow and awkward towards the birds, which makes her foot steps sound louder, which scares the birds faster. They begin to make bird noises and decide as a group that they must escape. She yells "NOOOOOOO" and starts charging at them, arms flailing in the air, jumping, nearly running into the lake. The birds and ducks fly away from her and she retreats, visibly angry and frustrated.
"Mom they won't let me catch them," she grunts out.
"Baby, birds don't like to be caught. And ducks bite. You aren't supposed to catch them, you're just supposed to look at them."
"But mom, all I want to do is a catch a bird."
I wonder sometimes what I will tell the Emergency Room staff when I check her in with duck-bite-wounds. I imagine them saying something like, "Well, how did she get close enough to a duck to get bitten? Why in the world was she holding a bird in her hands? Where were the adults?"
And I will have to say, "I was there. I was there praying to God that He would please, for the love of all that's holy, just let the kid catch a bird. It's all she wants to do in this life." And the nurse will shake her head in displeasure.
Dreams are hard.
They are. Because some dreams won't ever come true. And if you fight and scratch and chase your way into a "dream" that was never meant to be, you might end up with duck-bites all over your face and a room full of triage staff treating your wounds, wondering, "What in the world possessed you to chase a duck for so long that you actually caught it? Don't you know birds bite?"
All she wants is to pet a bird. To hold a duck in her hands. She just wants to catch one.
But how do you tell someone that the only thing they want is never going to happen? How do you tell them, that if it happens because of their sheer determination and will power, that a forced dream almost always ends in an emergency room? That what happens after catching a bird is not really going to live up to their expectations?
Some dreams have to die.
Not for lack of trying or giving up- but simply because they were never ours to dream in the first place.
No matter how much I want it, I will never be a fashion designer or a professional whistler. And if, by the work of my own hands I landed myself there, it would be a long, embarrassing, forced journey that at best would leave me unsuccessful and un-content, and at worse might leave me in a hospital reeling with grief at the dream that ended up crippling me.
Dreams are Beautiful.
Before Annie and I went to the park this morning, I sat on the couch watching last night's recording of David Letterman's show, crying like a baby. Annie didn't understand why so many tears were coming out since I was smiling.
"Why are you smile-crying Mom?"
I hushed her. All wrapped up in the moment. Tears streaming down my face. Watching that TV screen like it was delivering the most beautiful story I had ever seen. My heart was racing and I felt so proud and happy and giddy and grateful, I just wanted to run outside and gather people up to come in and watch it with me.
There on the screen was my college friend-roommate-bridesmaid, Elizabeth A. Davis, playing her violin, dancing, singing...
living the dream she dreamed when we were both girls-
doing exactly what she was uniquely created to do.
She is part of the Broadway cast for the new, highly acclaimed musical, Once. Everyone is talking about this small, tight-knit cast who has taken the movie, Once, to a new level of beauty and artistry on the stage. It seems like overnight they went from an off-Broadway show to being the darlings of the theatrical world in the heart of New York City.
Dreams are Born.
We were just freshman sitting around in dorm rooms and odd buildings on campus singing Dixie Chicks, playing instruments and convincing Dr. Todd Lake to let us add music to the chapel services at Baylor University. Staying up late, wondering if we were the only girls chasing big dreams... and what might happen if... if we saw them come true? What then? How do you stay true to your beliefs in a culture that is irreverently seeking to push moral boundaries to entice and entertain? Is it even possible? And why were we created like this? Quirky. With too much love to pour out. Enough energy to charge a small country. Drawn to broken people. Making art that inspired those on the fringe. Constantly talking our demons, and there were many, down off the ledges.
When she didn't come back on her red bike with the basket, I assumed the worst. One of the homeless men had finally taken advantage of her kindness and grace.
When yet another guy showed up at the door, I assumed the worst. For him. Not only did he not stand a chance, but if he did, would he be able to live with her complexities? Her dreams? Her divinely given giftedness?
When she spoke another outlandish dream out loud, I assumed the worse. What if it never happens for her and she ends up waiting tables and wishing- wandering where she went wrong?
She. A girl from a dusty West Texas panhandle town, in the middle of no-where, with dreams bigger than the whole state and talent to match. She dreamed these dreams long before leaving home- long before landing the lead role in the Texas musical, long before spilling her guts to her roommates in college, long before taking bit jobs in New York city to pay the bills, long before millions of people saw her on David Letterman, long before starring as a main cast member in a Broadway musical that has captured the most stringent reviewers heart's... long before any of that...
She was just a girl- who dreamed big.
How could you stop her if she wanted to catch a bird?
Dreams are Dreams.
Dreams. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they are dreams worth chasing. Sometimes they aren't. Some dreams were never meant to be. Others are waiting for you to wake up and do what you were always supposed to do. Some dreams were written just for you...
a girl in a West Texas Panhandle who just happened to be born with beauty, the voice of an angel and artistic parents who taught her to play instruments in a way that makes another person melt...
and a broadway play who needs the beautiful voice of angel, in a tiny, passionate package, playing the violin the way Billy Joel bewitches the ivory keys.
I'm all wrapped up in dreams today.
It's true, some dreams are not meant to be. Some dreams, if we chase them, will definitely leave us broken and bandaged- being scolded by the nurse who doesn't understand why we were chasing the flock of birds in the first place. And yeah, we will eventually come to the same conclusion. Catching a bird in our hands probably wasn't the dream...
But the dream is out there. Your dream. My dream. Her dream. Small and quiet. Big and loud. Broadway or Baton Rouge. Music or mom-hood. Career or care-free living.
Figure out your dreams- the ones that aren't going to inevitably bite your fingers off after a wild bird chase. But the other ones. The ones that you were truly created for...
and keep going. Because some dreams are...
They started off as strangers. Two sets of friends who had never played with one another. They kept their distance and reluctantly accepted the invitation to join.
They decided. They would stay. All four of them, sharing the same space. Strangers with a common goal. Playdoh. Play.
Still, they each operated in their own orbit.
But pretty soon, they forgot their own rules. And there were no walls. It's kind of hard to make Playdoh cupcakes with only one color.
At the end of the day, they left friends.
The Playdoh was mostly unusable, covered with dirt and gravel and mashed together by twenty sticky fingers. And Annie wasn't even playing with them anymore; she was uninterested in all this boy-cupcake business; but that didn't matter to me. Three boys and a little girl shared space together, laughed, played, created, smiled. No division because of politics or religion or money or ethnicity or country or agenda...
Just kids being kids.
the way it should be.
I took Annie to West Virginia. We drove through windy roads overshadowed by trees that must have seemed enormous through her two-year-old eyes.
“Momma! The jungle!” she squealed.
“Yeah baby! The jungle!”
You forget that a two-year-old resident of North Texas has rarely seen trees en masse. Why wouldn’t it be the jungle? Of course it was the jungle!
I didn’t have the heart to tell her they were just trees.
And it was just West Virginia.
My friend and I decided to road trip from Glorieta, New Mexico back home to Dallas, Texas. We decided to do so with my two-year-old. We are adventurous like that. Ok, some call it stupid. But we decided to call it an adventure. As we drove through the flat plains of the Texas panhandle Annie looked out over the dry, tree-less land and squealed,
“Momma! It’s Africa!”
“Yeah baby! Oh my goodness! It’s Africa!”
You forget that a two-year-old resident of a busy city can’t really distinguish one dry piece of earth from another. Why wouldn’t the outskirts of Amarillo or Tucumcari be the dusty ground that lions and giraffes and elephants roam?
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was just an oil field.
And it was just the Panhandle.
Last year, when we were out on tour and living on a bus with Matt Maher and his band, Annie- who was then, one-and-half- had a phobia of Kemi. Kemi is a first generation African American and one of the coolest guys (not to mention one of the best bass players) that I’ve met. It was Annie’s first significant amount of time to be with somebody that had a different color skin than hers... and she was scared. The running joke became that I was raising a racist baby. Which could not be further from the truth! Still, Kemi walked in and Annie freaked out every time. So I started showing her Mr. Kemi’s ears and nose and eyes. I would point to my nose and then Mr. Kemi's nose. I would laugh and then I would have him laugh. I would ask Annie to find his toes and touch his nose. Pretty soon, she realized we were exactly the same and Kemi became her favorite person on the bus.
When we got home from tour she would often ask, “Momma, when is Mr. Kemi going to come back home?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this little apartment was home.
Not a bus with 13 people who all woke up and gathered in our PJ’s in the front lounge to share coffee and dreams we had in our sleep and terribly unhealthy breakfast foods.
She missed her little family.
One day while we were snuggling on the couch, she looked up and squealed, “MOMMA!!! Mr. Kemi!!!” She jumped out of my arms, “Yay, yay, yay... Mr. Kemi!!!”
I had no idea what she was talking about. That is, until I followed her eyes to a framed album cover on our living room wall.
I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't Mr. Kemi.
Poor kid. She can’t quite distinguish between faces or places; reality or fiction; Africa or the dusty plains of Amarillo. Miles Davis or Kemi. The jungle or West Virginia.
She is caught somewhere between big dreams and concepts- trying to grasp reality, but so far from it.
Oh- how I wish I could keep her right here. God, please keep her here. Not quite ever knowing the full extent of reality. Living in the joyful, ignorant bliss of believing a clump of trees is the rainforest. Squealing with delight at the sight of a dusty field that is probably Africa. It must be Africa. It is Africa!
Yesterday we painted a pumpkin with glue. Annie carefully picked out eyeballs and stuck them all over the pumpkin's face. Then, with both tiny hands, she picked up a wide bottle of white, shimmery glitter and poured it all over the pumpkin.
Squealing with joy.
She collapsed next to the pumpkin.
“Now cover me, Momma.”
“Annie, I can’t put a blanket down right here. It will get covered in glitter. If you’re cold lets get some warmer clothes on.”
“No mom. Cover me up with glitter so I can be like the pumpkin!”
In a move that was hard for even a free-spirited, messy mom, I began to sing Christmas carols and poured glitter- an entire economy sized glitter bottle- all over her legs and arms and hair and we sang Jingle Bells at the top of our lungs.
She was beaming. “It’s raining sprinkles on us, Pumpkin! Look it’s raining sprinkles!”
I didn’t have the heart to make the sprinkle rain go away.
To tell her that the glitter falling on her, manufactured in some cheap factory in China, was probably full of toxins and was definitely going to aggravate her father and would be stuck in the carpet for years to come. The carpet didn’t seem to matter.
Yesterday we went to the hospital.
“Momma, this is so much fun!” Annie squealed as we walked through the children’s ward, stopping to play in their magic tree house and on their gigantic worm. Making our way to the carousel with the animals she would climb on and then to the cupcake shop where she would pick the cupcake with the most frosting and the carrot on top.
“Is this a field trip Momma?” she asked with so much joy that it made my pain hurt more deeply than I could imagine.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this is where people come when their bodies are sick.
This is where people are born... and this is where people die.
She pressed the buttons on the elevator and asked me, “Momma, am I going to get sick too? Can I someday come here too?”
Tears settled into my eyes and her little life played out in front of me so quickly I could hardly contain it. Kindergarten. School. Junior high. Puberty. Prom. College. Marriage. Babies. Grand babies. Career. Heartbreak. Love. And mixed in there, with all the possibilities, the possibility that yes- she might have to come here one day too. The true answer to her question.
Yes, baby, one day you might get sick too.
Of course we don’t live that way, in fear of broken-world realities. At least we try not to. But the truth is it lingers there, underneath the surface.
Am I going to get sick too, Daddy?
I feel like I ask God that question a little more often these days. Being in ministry- I see it everyday. I see it at every concert. I see it in the emails that come into my inbox on a daily basis... people get sick. Lots of people get sick. Young. Old. And in between.
Tragedy is not rare. What is rare are the people who have not yet had to face it.
So you prepare yourself for it. Not as one who lives with a fatalistic soul with no hope, but as one who is aware of the precious gift each day is.
But... some days I wish I could be in that in between place again. The place between reality and childhood ignorance and bliss. The place between Africa and Amarillo where rain showers drop sparkly glitter all over your body.
The kind of ignorant bliss that allows you to believe the trip to the hospital is a field trip.
My friend has cancer. The friend who traveled on the road with me for years- who loves history and the founding fathers with the same kind of dorky passion that I do- who loves the military because that’s all her daddy has ever known- who makes ghetto crafts and has no shame in it- who let me be in her beautiful hill country wedding- who told me, after the bus fire, “Jenny, your life IS insane. But you get to be a part of God’s story and that’s more important than whether your baby is on a schedule or not or whether you lose all you own in a fire or not." That friend who inspired me to write my new album, who loves hard, hurts deeply, and bares her soul to the world and makes it more beautiful-
she has cancer.
Monday- she didn’t have cancer. And she didn’t live on the 9th floor of the hospital. And she wasn’t sick.
But Tuesday it all changed.
And as Annie and I stepped off the hospital elevator and I told her that our friend was sick- but that she was with the best doctors and nurses in the world and they would work very, very hard to make her better as soon as possible- and that we were just there to give her hugs and kisses...
Annie said, “And I can give her a band-aide Momma!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that chemo was the only band-aide that would work.
I could only say, “A band-aide would be perfect Annie.”
There is no answer to the heart ache of suffering.
There is only hope.
There is only the chance, for those of us raising or influencing children, to protect these years where their souls soar, their hearts dream, and they know no difference between Africa and Amarillo.
And as the adult bearers of sadness and tragedy- we can only take moments to stop and let the rain shower us with sparkly glitter.
We can stop and allow ourselves to be wrapped up in beauty.
And we can stop and ask God to fill us with hope and fight and enough innocence that the 9th floor isn’t the end of living...
it is only the beginning of believing.