Getting Lost, Of Course

We took a  quick trip last week; an eight-hour drive northwest, scurrying quickly to take care of some family stuff, followed by an eight-hour drive southeast, hustling to get back in time for my Sunday responsibilities. It was a lot of driving sandwiched layered between a lot of scrambling, and we came home exhausted. I slept like a rock the first night, but tonight, here I am – sleepless again- with my brain racing, listing all the things that seem imperative and important.

They are, truth be told: Imperative and Important.

So I got up, and I journaled, and I made a list, and I took literally the notion that we can cast all our cares and I think it worked. Except I opened the computer to order a book that was on the list that I need before Friday and now here I am, writing things…

By the way: I have figured out the secret to my sleepless nights – how to prevent them, that is – but that’s fodder for another post, so I’ll save it. I have discovered that when they do occur, the best remedy is to get up and journal.

Maybe have a glass of water.

Maybe reach over and grab my husband’s hand, or wiggle and worm myself under his arm, or rest my head on his shoulder. All of this I do while desperately trying to avoid waking him, but he always stirs and mumbles something unintelligible.

There’s something symbolic there about marriage, but I’m not sure what it might be… He’s there, and he provides comfort, even if he’s unaware. And mumbling.

When we drove home Saturday we got distracted on the turnpike and missed the exit. I thought, How does this happen? Are you serious? We have driven this road – separately or together – hundreds of times. How do you drive right by Breezewood? What? It turned our eight-hour trip into an 11-hour one; getting off the turnpike is no easy thing. We were nearly to Harrisburg.

We exited and headed south and figured out how we’d make our way back to our original route, forfeiting the GPS notion of south-on-I-95 because we never trust the Beltway traffic. We chose the road less taken: A two-lane country lane meandering through rural farm country; stars on the houses and quilts on the barns. We did a double-take and turned around for the Double Dipper, a family-run ice cream shop with an immaculate parking lot and pristine grounds and a great view of the mountains. Late, we pulled over on a high vista to throw our trash away and take in the view before winding our way down into the next valley.

We stopped to take a picture of a porch we liked; we stopped at a sit-down restaurant for dinner instead of something faster. We stopped for gas, after the small grace of glancing down and noticing that the tank was nearly empty.

It was distracted driving, and we were fully engaged in being distracted; and by the time I realized how late it was and how little sleep I’d get before morning, my emotions started churning. Morning would come early, but only for me; he had no obligations.

But I did. And I don’t do well on too little sleep, or maybe I was just jacked up in general – so I started stewing. Eventually I popped the cork and said You know, I’m really frustrated. I have to work in the morning. I’ll get – at best – five hours of sleep, IF I can even sleep, and I feel like we’re just meandering our way home without any thought of everything I have to do tomorrow and all that I need to do tonight when we get home because we’ve been gone and I’m not ready and I just don’t really feel like you took any of that into consideration.

It wasn’t all his fault, not really. We missed the exit because he was in the middle of an important conversation, and I was reading, and we travel together as a team, trusting one another to navigate as necessary. We both blew it. It wasn’t his fault. I did mention that I didn’t want to spend a lot of time eating dinner somewhere, but I didn’t push hard, and so we sat down to have a good meal together. We’re a team; we are partners, and so for me to get frustrated about singular implications for me about where we’d ended up together wasn’t exactly fair.

But he didn’t say so. Instead, he said, I’m really sorry. I wasn’t thinking, and then he did everything he could to see me and serve me and help all throughout the next day. And everything got done, and I survived.

And our partnership thrived, because that’s what grace is, y’all; it fills in the cracks when things don’t go right (because that happens, all the time). And in the end, the broken, filled-in places are bonded tighter than they were before, because that’s how grace brings healing.

And you know what? Three days out, you know what I remember most about that whirlwind trip?

The getting lost, of course. The Double Dipper and the new scenery and the struggle to figure out where we were and how to get back on track. Getting lost, together, and finding our way home. Together.

It was the best part.

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Church Day Is Changing

My job is changing.

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Every Sunday morning during my commute, I took a photo and titled it ‘Church Day’… 

Eighteen months ago, I wrote this post. It explains how I ended up falling in love with a handful of people in a ‘foreign’ community – across the river, further west.

In the next several weeks, my time as the leader of that community of faith will come to an end. I’ll hand off that mantle of leadership to a friend and coworker who, I daresay, finds himself just as awestruck as I was, as he anticipates his future as the Campus Pastor.

I have been doubling up for this year and a half; trying my best to maintain the job I was initially hired to do (creative stuff, music stuff, service planning stuff), while learning to be a campus pastor.

And learning to be loved.

We had a leaders’ meeting on Sunday after the services; the last one I’ll preside over as the Campus Pastor. We did our business, with lively discussion and optimism. I wrapped up the meeting and got ready to leave; but my successor said, Wait – sit down. One more thing…

I sat, and he looked around and said You all got my email and you know that we’re all going to take a minute to thank Beth for serving here…

Smart guy, my friend and successor. He has picked up on the fact that I’m a words girl, and he gave me a great gift that I’ll not soon forget.

These people, these rural, country folk who are smart and committed and talented and wise; these folks who have shown me, in 18 months, the true meaning of community and the absolute joy of seeing change in people who have given up and been given up on – my friends and brothers and sisters spoke words to me that were as life-giving as any I have received. I was overwhelmed.

I kept telling myself, Be present, be here, just be. I tried to just listen, to look in their eyes as they spoke, and to be in the moment.

It wasn’t long, it wasn’t much, but it was enough. And the truest, deepest part of it all was when a woman I’ve known for a decade said I remember you from the beginning, when you first came. You’ve really grown.

I’m not sure anybody ever thought I could really be a pastor in the truest sense of the word. I know that I wasn’t sure myself. But somehow, I grew into exactly the kind of pastor that suits the quirky nature of my soul. These past 18-months were undoubtedly more about refining my soul than anything I might have had to offer as a leader.

You’ve really grown.

I was scared to death when I said Yes to this role. I felt, in some ways, like they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get someone in this spot. I never felt worthy or qualified; truth be told, I wasn’t.

But I was willing. And darned if just showing up didn’t set something in motion that has left me closer to exactly who I’m supposed to be at this stage of the game.

I am thankful, beyond thankful, for the people who looked at me and said We think you can do this. The ones who said We’ve got your back; we’re with you. The ones who looked me straight in the eye and said We miss Chauncey, but we’ll stick around. 

Mostly, though, I am thankful for the people who walked through the doors of The Little Campus That Could and trusted us with their joys and their sorrows, their burdens and their blessings. I have met the most amazing people; men and women and children willing to share their journeys and look for meaning and seek God and welcome others to walk beside them. I have stood before a man who said No other church would have me; but this one did. I feel like I have family here. I have heard honest stories of struggle and pain, addiction and shame. I have seen men and women in the latter season of life come alive with the joy they find in a relationship with their Creator. I have seen people tell the truth about who they are and keep showing up.

I have been so unbelievably, overwhelming blessed and honored. And, yes, Alana; I’ve really grown, thanks to you and about 150 other men and women who call Riverside ‘home’. It couldn’t have happened any other way.

Grace, lived out, undeniably real. I’m tracing the trajectory tonight with gratitude. And ready for the next season.

Except I don’t know what my ‘Church Day’ photos will look like come September. It’s just not as pretty around here; I guess I’ll just have to start looking a little harder.

 

 

You Can Never Love God

Our church staff and leadership team attends the Global Leadership Summit every year. It’s a beautiful configuration of leaders from business, government and faith, sharing best practices and glimpses into their influence and management styles. For two days, we sit along with thousands of others across the country (the technology of satellite links!) and watch people claim their 40 minutes of renown on the Willow Creek stage. Melinda Gates, this year. And the former chairman of Ford, Alan Mulally. Bishop TD Jakes. In years past, Colin Powell. Bono. Jimmy Carter. Carly Fiorina.

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Bill Hybels

No slouchers, these folks.

I have personal connections that make the Summit extra special; I’ve stood on that same stage and noodled on the piano during a break at one of the first Summits, during the season that my brother was on staff at Willow. My sister-in-law’s job is to manage and direct the technical teams at all Summit satellite locations every year, so a successful Summit is always a personal high five for Shana.

Even beyond my family connections, this conference time is always full of incredible insight, applicable information and inevitably, some spiritual course correction. This year was no different. My Evernote file is full of sketches and doodles and drawings and bullet points full of words.

Words like people first.

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What my Evernote files look like…

All lives have equal value.

You can change your legacy.

Humble…hungry…smart…

Changing the behavior of others is brutal.

Value people.

Daily bread…

Real connection.

True humility…true dependency…

Red sand beach…

Keep coming back.

There’s a wealth of information represented in those eleven phrases. Each one represents stuff that I haven’t forgotten yet – but I will. Because, the truth is, there’s no way I can hold all of this in my head – even with the best note-taking. And the truth is, I’m not supposed to.

I believe to everything there is a season, and I have learned this: What is needed for each season of my growth and development as a leader, a woman, a parent, a wife – as a human – simply comes.

It comes. I trust the process and I open myself up to what needs to fill in the gaps in what I am learning and experiencing and thinking, because I can tell you this; of all the things I have learned in my half-century on this earth, I find myself utterly thrilled and totally excited by the discovery that there is more.

More self-awareness. More willingness to let go. More desire to lose the control issues. More to learn, from years and years of wisdom that existed long before I started thinking deep thoughts. 

There is this tugging, a gently-sloping descent of sorts, into an existence that is focused less on the certainty of knowing and practicing a way of being that reflects my faith, and more on an open embrace of the vast amount of….well, everything.

Knowledge. Beauty. Experience. Language. Theology. Science. Love. Paradox.

The violent crackle of thunder mixed with the cleansing pinpricks of rain; the deep ache of sorrow and loss fused with the surprise of hope and history.

All of the Summit teaching distilled, for me, into one specific segment, from a scheduled presenter who, quite frankly, did not engender great expectations from me. I was cynical about John Maxwell, but his words are the ones that rocked my world.

Leaders lift. They intentionally add value to people. There is a thin line between motivating people and manipulating people. Do you want to add value to the lives of others – or do you want them to add value to YOUR life? People want to know: Do you like me? Can you help me? Can I trust you? Everything worthwhile is uphill. Selfishness and significance are incompatible. Most people don’t lead a life; they simply accept their life. Jesus values people. His entire life shows him encountering others and reflecting that God values them. Are we going to spend our life connecting with people or correcting them?

Just typing these phrases, scattered throughout my notes on his talk – they convict and inspire and bring tears again, because this; this is the tugging, the gentle descent into releasing years of striving and fighting and clamoring for affirmation. This is, I think, the point.

And then tonight I get this from Pete Rollins, a philosopher and theologian who I trust to spark my thinking. Rollins, paraphrasing philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, says these words:

You can never love God, but you love someone. And in loving someone, you love God. God is not an object that you love, God is that which you discover in the act of loving itself.

And first I think, What is this nonsense? because in every church I’ve ever been, to boldly state YOU CAN NEVER LOVE GOD would start a fire and end in shame. Of course we love God! We love God because He first loved us! Look at me, loving God in all my God-loving ways! My prayer and my music and my wall art and my proclamations…

….all my things….

I backed up and heard this statement again, because I felt a Holy Nudge, and I knew there was something for me there. And in a flash of brilliance, a thunderclap of dots connecting, I saw that what stuck in my soul from John Maxwell was woven in the somewhat existential philosophical declaration of Rollins, and I tripped over that love your neighbor business that Jesus said more than once, and I stopped what I was doing and decided I’d write all this down.

You can’t love God. Think on that for a while, and think about adding value to someone’s life by connecting with them instead of correcting them. Think about the uphill battle, the tide of political fencing and half-true news stories that we swim against. Think about the quickness that is in our nature to judge and to walk on the other side of the street.

Just think about that, and see what happens.

That’s what I’ve told myself. We’ll see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

Created. Redeemed. Provided For.

I didn’t really relax until Thursday. On a vacation that began the Saturday prior, scheduled to last but one week, that left precious little time to find the good things that one expects with unscheduled, unscripted days and nights.

It just takes that long, and I should know better, because it always takes that long.

But here’s what is good: I sought peace, every day. I’d drag my book and my colored pencils and my fat green journaling book out to the third floor deck, and I’d sit in that extra-wide rocking chair and stare over the tops of the tall trees at the relentless coming and going of the sea. I read, and I thought, and I doodled and colored those doodles beautiful, and I waited for something sacred to rise to the surface.

And it did.

I’m not ready to enter back into the life I vacated; I am certain that is not the plan or the path. I am claiming one more day, set aside to hear and to obey. Today my ears were opened and encouraged, as journaling over a morning coffee on a Sunday morning led me to consider the true intent of a Sabbath, and how precious and necessary that is, and how a Sunday morning outside the norm truly feels like a Sabbath to me, because I was literally and absolutely not working, and when does that ever happen? I’ll tell you: NEVER. So my pen flew across the lined paper and I wrote about the deep, calm truth of the Sabbath; and then I walked a block down the street and went to a worship service and the pastor began his message talking about the Sabbath and Jesus healing a guy on the Sabbath and the religious people getting all upset (though to be honest, Jesus also basically said he was God, too, which is another reason they got all upset). I’m already thinking about Sabbath and God is saying Look, I know where your head is and I know what’s going on in your heart and I hear you and I’m in the middle of this, too, so would you just trust me? How about it?  And the pastor goes on to define the principle of the Sabbath (in the context of his message), which is that doing the right thing is the right thing regardless of what day it is, like Chick fila serving chicken sandwiches on Sunday to all the people giving blood after the Pulse shootings in Orlando, never mind that they aren’t open on Sunday, because doing the right thing is the right thing, period. 

And that gave me lots to think about, in a slightly different direction.

But the bottom line, for me, is this: I went on vacation and hung out with my family and walked the beach and ran / walked 15 miles in one week and talked to God in the same space where we’ve met for conversations about Important Things for the past 25 years. I came home with a handful of shells and these three truths, which are forming something powerful in me for the future:

God created you. God redeemed you. God will provide for you. 

It ain’t much, but – then again – it’s everything. And everything is enough for me, right now.

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To Vacate The Premises

The act of leaving something one previously occupied. 

On the drive down, Mom and I were in the car together – Dad, husband and The Baby (AKA my 6′ tall, 17-year-old son) drove the Suburban, because we’re at the point in life where a simple week away is anything but. People came and went from all directions, at all times, and so cars were plentiful. The fact that Mom and I had 5 hours together was a gift, and it was revealing.

I always regretted not doing more real vacations with you and your brother when you were kids. Seems like all we did was go visit family. I wish we’d gone to more places.

This was a stunning revelation, and it’s stuck with me for these several days, because it’s so normal to me that vacation equals family reunion that I’ve never really given any other sort of time away a second thought. Oh, sure; we’ve had conversations about how we’d like to see the Grand Canyon, and I’d love to revisit the Dominican Republic some day. But when I think vacation, what comes to mind is exactly what we’ve had this week:

Joint efforts to cook dinner, with favorite recurring ‘beach recipes’, plenty of Crystal Light lemonade, and Grandma’s pancakes, whenever you can talk her into making them. 

Joint efforts for the clean up crew; the call to action is Whoever didn’t help with dinner, go clean up! – and they do. 

Sitting on the same beach for several decades and measuring time by how the babies that once squatted in the sand to dig a hole now lay on beach towels reading Jane Eyre on the final summer before they begin college. 

Becoming accustomed to the fact that two of the kids are adulting to the point of getting their own bedrooms instead of the communal bunk room, because they now have husbands. 

Somebody picks up a guitar and plays Take It Easy and Dad asks for some Merle and we sing and play and he cries. 

Long walks on the beach where we get to decompress and talk about how we really are and confess how inept we feel as parents and as followers of Jesus, and remind one another of how much good has happened.

There’s more; it’s every moment, every day, and I am reminded, again and again, of how necessary this time is for my soul. Lately, I seem to question everything; I feel less than successful in my life in so many areas, and tied to that feeling of insufficiency is this nagging suspicion that I don’t deserve a vacation. I haven’t earned this gift, this tremendous blessing of a spacious, air-conditioned house filled with family and seven full days of doing absolutely nothing. There is so much to be done, and the constant drumbeat of the brokenness inside of me still – still, after al these breakthroughs and discoveries and epiphanies and redemptive moments – lurks to say YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING.

With that mindset, it’s nearly impossible to vacate the premises.

But after almost five full days, I’m getting there. I’ve chewed up three books of fiction. I’ve dug into a new book that is restoring my soul. My morning prayer journaling / sketching has morphed from dark, angry, bound-up colors to something calming – blue and green and peace-filled.

I am very fond of looking up definitions of a word – I love words, words matter, I’m a words girl – and letting those new words behind the one word wrap themselves up in my thought patterns to help me define (see what I did there?) exactly what it is I’m contemplating. Vacation can be defined as follows:

The act of leaving something one previously occupied. 

There it is, right there. That equals 50 minutes in the therapist’s office.

I’m on vacation to leave the anxiety-ridden, overwhelmed, wrong-thinking, control-freaky, way-too-busy, self-doubting, insecure, fearful, overstimulated me behind.

So far, so good.

#grateful

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How Are YOU Doing?

It happens all the time, but twice this week I stopped and paid attention, because it unnerved me.

Meetings: I have them every day, all week long. Project management, people management, checking in, reporting. Our ‘business’, such as it is, centers on people and God, and so we interact with both throughout our work week. I’m a creative person, and that’s primarily what I bring to the table, but the nature of my role makes me a people person, too. So that’s where much of my attention goes during my work day.

Creative, yes; but my work style is a ‘Director/Motivator’, based on my Insights Profile, so when we get down to business, I often function in a ‘Be Bold, Be Brief, Be Gone’ manner. Here’s a direct quote from my profile:

She is bored by facts, details, and repetitive activities, especially those not relevant to her current areas of interest…only when a strongly held value is at risk will she willingly attend to important facts and details. 

We use Insights Profiles to aid in communication and leadership development with our teams. The profiles are amazingly insightful (hence the name!) and helpful as we interact with others, but can I just confess that I’m most fascinated by my own profile? What does that say about me? I’m a horribly selfish, self-absorbed person.

Yes, I am. I’m human. I think we all are fascinated by ourselves to some degree, and maybe that’s a good thing; remember that old adage about an unexamined life not being worth living? Today, I make no claim on humility or putting others first. Today, I’m thinking about me. But, oddly enough, that’s what set me on edge this week.

Several times this week, I started meetings with a general How’s it going? What’s happening with your family / project / relationship / etc? From my supervisory / leadership position, it’s a sincere question; I really want to know. It matters. My colleagues answered and the conversation was flowing easily, but then the tables turned.

How are YOU doing? they asked, and I bristled. I hemmed and hawed…but then I started talking. Or, more accurately, verbally vomiting.

I’m good it’s all good had a long week driving to Florida with my parents but it was great to see family lots of transitions we are planning right now school is almost out kids are fine summer is finally here vacation in just a few weeks lots to juggle wearing lots of hats simultaneously but it’s all good…..

All the while, as the words are tumbling out, internally there are red lights flashing DANGER! DANGER! STOP TALKING! DANGER ZONE! and I found myself irritated by the question.

I don’t want to talk about myself.

(And yet I am fascinated by myself…)

It was unnerving, and in the moment I told myself that I didn’t have time to talk about myself, that we had more important things to do, that my attitude or situation or current state of wellness had nothing to do with the task at hand. Annoyed, I even projected that on the person across the table from me (Why are you derailing this conversation? WE HAVE WORK TO DO! Stop deflecting my attention!!!)

I’ve been thinking about that this morning, because of a card that came in the mail FullSizeRender 46yesterday. One of the people who sat across from me as I was engaged in these internal somersaults sent me a card, and only the Divine Creator of the Universe could have orchestrated its arrival at the most opportune time. Just hours earlier, I was stumbling over my words trying to not talk about myself while simultaneously talking about myself anyway; then I got home and opened the mail and sort of crumbled.

The eagle has become a powerful metaphor for our team. You can read the back story in this blog post from Miles Welch; suffice it to say that we have been captivated and encouraged by the challenge to Be an Eagle. It’s become an axiom for us, and a way to encourage one another. Don’t be a duck; be an eagle!

“Never doubt the eagle that God has placed within you and you are able to soar….”

It appears that I’m working like an eagle, I think. But in another powerful metaphor, the truth is that I’m crippled. I’m struggling with broken wings, and grief that is just now catching up with me; internal assessments of my changing role as I parent adult children and one remaining teen. A challenging cultural climate and changes that push me out of my comfort zone. Changing relationships and the inescapable impact that the passing of time brings to all of us. Changes at work, changes at home…

The key word is change, and for someone who rearranges the living room furniture constantly because I need change, irony reigns here.

Too much change.

And what really happens when people I love and respect and trust say And how are YOU doing? It’s not that we have too much work to get done; it’s not that I doubt their sincerity. It’s that in that brief, honest moment I begin to answer the question and see that the right answer might be, quite simply, Not so well…. Panic sets in and the present tense swirls all around and what needs to simply be an expression of grief turns into me trying to control and explain and manage and sound like I’ve got it together.

I learned something new today; let’s add it on the irony pile. Tradition and the movies have taught us that the cry of an eagle is a loud, piercing, majestic screech. But it’s not true. The sound we associated with an eagle is actually the overdubbed cry of a red-tailed hawk. A real eagle sounds…well, pretty wimpy, actually. It doesn’t quite meet up to expectations.

But it’s true.

And it’s a gift to me, in a bizarre sort of unmasking of assumptions. On this Sabbath day, it is well for me to drop the pretense and slow down and ask myself How are YOU doing? and answer truthfully, even if the reply is nothing but a waterfall of questions and confessions.

Our Insights profiles offer Suggestions For Development that I find especially helpful today.

Beth may benefit from: Slowing down and thinking things through; A week’s private meditation alone; Being left alone to work quietly…

Don’t mind me today; I’m just over here developing. And thankful that all the time, things are working together for good.

And especially grateful for those people who sit across from me and ask How are YOU doing?, even if I’m a bit dodgy with my answers.

 

 

The Things I Am Made Of

I remember driving down the rutted roads late at night

Following the summer moon, bright as any pair of headlightsIMG_0452

I felt the air on my face and the night pressed inside my palm

 A moment captured in a place, this memory stays strong

O my darling, o my love; o my darling, o my love

O my darling, o my love…the things that we are made of…

I heard this song last week and it broke me clean in half. Music can do that, you know; any great art can wreck you, tear your soul to ribbons, dismantle you and leave you fragmented, in pieces. I read books, sometimes – sentences and paragraphs that create stories and characters and tension and sorrow and joy – and I can’t help but tumble into the world created therein. The best book, I think, is an invitation, and I readily respond.I am transported to the place where I am so much in that other world that the things that are real and tangible, the flesh and blood and work and food all around me – these are the interruptions, the false things. I become immersed.

 

It takes time to recover.

It is unnerving.

There are bonds within music as well; don’t we all have a song that is ‘ours’, a moment of real or recreated romance? First dances; what played on the radio during our first kiss. The song from a grandparent’s funeral that still wields great power. These are the most powerful for me, these soundtracks of the past.

To this day, one of the most powerful moments in my entire life is wrapped around a Mary Chapin Carpenter song.

Some people remember the first time; some can’t forget the last

Some just select what they want to from the past

It’s a song that you danced to in high school, it’s a moon you try to bring down

On a four in the morning drive through the streets of town

Come on, come on – it’s getting late now

Come on, come on – take my hand

Come on, come on – you just have to whisper

Come on, come on – I will understand                ‘Come On, Come On’ – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Many years ago, someone handed me that CD – an offering of grace and encouragement. I had never even heard of the artist; I listened to the country pop songs with mild appreciation and amusement, even. She’s funny and many of her songs carry humor with a wry sensibility. She’s a great songwriter.

But then this final track came on, and I can tell you now just as clearly as if it is my current reality: I sat in the dark with headphones in and my portable CD player clutched in my trembling hand and tears streamed down my face. It was the story – the history and the present, pulled together; it was the way the piano was orchestrated, to pull the bottom end of the song into a solid place – the piano as percussion, sparse and perfectly timed. The whispered vocal. The connection, the assurance that I will understand; this song connected to my soul and still, to this day, compels me to stillness and something so holy that my legs tremble and my heart folds in on itself. The message I received was sacred.

This visceral, emotional, soul-filled reaction was not just the because of the impact that the song had on me as I experienced it. Because this friend had handed it to me, I took it as a message; a sort of secret, passed from one to another. I felt this song so deeply, so profoundly, and I connected it to my friend and believed that we shared something with this song – that there was a deep, meaningful truth between us that culminated in the invitation.

Come on, come on….I will understand…

That memory has soothed and encouraged me for many years now. It has been resonant, and a powerful tool to tug me towards nostalgia. It was ‘our song’; it had deep meaning and connected us on an almost cellular level.

Not too long ago I had occasion to mention this song and that memory to that friend, and I remarked upon its transcendent power and deep meaning. I don’t remember clearly the details of the conversation, but my friend replied, essentially, Huh? What are you talking about?

The Mary Chapin CD. That song! You know!

What song?

The song you gave me! You know!!!

What?


Turns out I was alone in my deeply poetic vision of our connected souls. It didn’t happen. My friend gave me that CD on a whim; it was a slight notion, a thought that I might enjoy a female singer songwriter. We weren’t connected by the deep, hidden meaning of a song – not at all.

It was my imagination.

This really bothered me for a while – for a few weeks, in fact. I looked back on these deep feelings – during a season when I had a LOT of deep feelings – and tried to reconcile the ‘togetherness’ that I assumed with the truth that I was alone in all of that.

Then, just last week, I listened to this interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter (thanks, Mom!), and I heard The Things That We Are Made Of for the first time. It harkens back to Come On, Come On –the phrasing and the vibe of the song are so similar. I couldn’t help but connect the dots; it’s almost like chapter two of the same story.

But this time, it was just me listening. And here’s the thing: I cried anyway. I felt deeply. I was – and continue to be – profoundly moved by the lyric and the wistful melody. There’s no connection, no shared understanding; there’s just me.

And that’s enough. It’s enough to let my heart yearn so that it repeats, three times, O my darling, o my love, before the honest and open acknowledgement of the things that we are made of. 

It’s enough to recognize what I am made of, and to make note of where I see it in another, and to hold this song of life and love and memory close to my heart, all by myself.