Face the Window
I bought a new desk. Some of you reading this will understand the magnitude of this transaction. I recently did a little rearranging in my writing space, which involved moving my desktop computer upstairs, clearing out some clutter, and a general cozying of the little room where I spend a good portion of my time. Knowing my creative self needs this to be a place I want to be for hours on end, I carefully curated the books, pens, notebooks, candle, chair, blanket, photos, and lighting, which I have deemed necessary for making me feel the way I want to feel in this room.
I brought my old desk up from my studio in the basement and knew immediately it wasn't going to work in my writing space. It was too big, too unstable, and frankly, looked awful in the room. I wasn't crazy about the idea of spending money on a new desk, but decided my recent royalty check of $28.82 might be well-spent on this new item. Yep, you read that right. Moving on... I also had some money sitting in my Amazon account, courtesy of a gift from my dear friend, E. A songwriter herself, I knew E would find great joy in knowing her gift had been used on this purchase, so I began perusing for the perfect desk.
Eventually, I found something I thought would look great and serve me well. The right shade of wood-grained top. Black metal legs. A small, removable stand, identical to the desk itself, which I could use to prop up my iPad for Zoom meetings. A storage unit that attaches to the end of the desk, perfect for stashing a legal pad, a few papers, and anything else I needed within arms reach but didn't want lying on top of the desk. Best of all, it was only $64. I placed my order and waited. Two days later, the desk arrived and I asked my poor husband to put it together immediately, even though he had arrived home late after a long work event. Perry, being the nicest person on the planet, which everyone knows and frequently reminds me of, obliged and assembled it quickly.
When it came time to move the desk into my writing room, I did something I have never done before. I pulled the desk out from the wall, far enough to where I could barely squeeze my chair in, with enough room to comfortably swivel. Now, instead of coming in to this room, sitting down and facing a wall, doing my best to stay focused on the task at hand, I would be able to walk in, sit down, and face the window. Having come in to this space frequently over the past couple of weeks, I cannot being to tell you what a difference this had made. I understand this might seem silly to some of you, but let me explain.
I am a strange mix of desperate creative and self-imposed taskmaster. Those left-brain, right-brain tests? Yeah, my results come out 50-50 on every one. When it comes to writing, I love everything about the creative process and live for those moments when something new stirs inside me and I find a way to unleash it as a song or other creative work. I am also a person who likes to put her head down, block out the world, and do whatever is necessary to get the work done and cross things off my list. I understand how those parts of me can co-exist, but I also know I can easily settle into "do the work" mode and in doing so, limit my ability to notice, dream, and feel. My friend L, regularly tells me I have deeper places to go in my writing. I am trying to go to those places, but I think that requires something of me I haven't quite had the resources for. Up until now, that is. Life has now given me time, space, and hopefully soon, the energy to go new places in my writing. Some deeper, some farther.
Which brings me back to the placement of my desk. From where I sit in my little room, I can now lift my eyes and stare out the window. I can allow myself to be distracted by my beloved cornfield just beyond our back fence. I can watch cotton ball clouds float across a blue sky and get lost in wondering. My world just got bigger, simply by choosing to face the window instead of the wall. I still have my list in front of me. I still want to be productive. I still want to get to the end of the day or the week and know I've used my time well. But how much more will there be to write about, now that I've given myself a broader view? How much deeper is the well of ideas, now that my brain isn't blocked by taupe-colored drywall?
What if we all turned our "desks" around to "face the window?" Could it be we'd all find new ways to unleash the beautiful things that begin to stir in our hearts? Maybe we would sit with the sunlight finally shining on our faces, warming our skin and brightening away the temptation to simply accomplish something. Or maybe we'd all have days like I'm having today, when I've opened the window so I can hear the rain fall even though it's 55 degrees, let a space heater warm my feet, and allowed myself a few hours in this space where I can get lost in an idea.
I think we can all get there. To that place where we have a broader view of the world. It might take stepping away from our to-do lists and allowing ourselves time to feel. It might take hopping off our soapboxes so we can be at eye-level with people who think differently than we do. It might take clearing our schedules or trying new things or getting off social media (which is NOT a healthy view of the world, by the way). Or it might just take a little moving of the furniture. Trust me, choosing to face the window can make all the difference.
Health Update: I am currently slugging my way through physical therapy, occupational therapy, and new medications, which have brought with them some yucky side effects. Up until now, every phase of this journey has been difficult for various reasons, but each has had a relatively short season. It certainly didn't feel that way in the middle of it, but again, each treatment, each surgery and recovery, I've been able to view as short term, meaning I've tried to approach things in 6-12 week chunks. The season I'm currently in feels long and relentless at times, and can be very discouraging. While I have viewed past seasons in weeks, I am now forced to think in terms of years. Am I grateful to even be able to think of my life in years? Yes, of course. Is it hard to think about how long it will take me to feel better? Do I worry about upcoming labs and scans? Do I wish healing meant I would have the body, energy and stamina I had a year ago? Yes to all those things. The uncertainty of it all can be all-consuming. So, I try and wake up every day and tell myself, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." Today also has a whole lot to be thankful for and to celebrate. So, I move forward, with gratitude.
I was 20 years old when I boarded a Greyhound bus headed for Nashville, Tennessee. I had been accepted into a workshop for artists and songwriters where I would take a deep dive into a world I hoped would be my future - the music business. By that time, I had already recorded my first album of original songs, released only on cassette. Yes, you read that right. I was at a bit of a crossroads in life when, as a sophomore in college slugging it out as a music major, I wasn't sure I wanted to stay on that path. I knew, deep in my heart, I was meant to be a singer/songwriter. I just didn't know exactly what that was supposed to look like. I was counting on the workshop in Nashville to help me figure it out.
The biggest question I had in coming to the workshop was whether or not I was supposed to move to Music City. Nashville was the hub of contemporary Christian music and I knew there were opportunities there I wouldn't have anywhere else. During those two weeks, I met people, listened, learned, and prayed for direction. When I returned home, I had made my decision to stay in Nebraska. Not because I didn't think doors were opening in Nashville because they were. I met the people I would eventually record more music with, and some of the folks I met that week I have continued to interact with to this day. I remember my dad asking me why I wasn't moving to Nashville. I replied, "Because I think I can do exactly what I want to do and live here."
Over the next few decades (yes I'm that old), I recorded a dozen records, traveled the world singing, and found a way to carve out a life making music in one way or another. However, the best thing, and the thing I always wanted most out of life, was to be a mom. God also granted that desire of my heart, five times. One child I'll see in His perfect time, the other four have been the joy of my life here on earth for the past 28 years.
A few weeks ago, I moved one of those kids to Nashville. Harrison was the same age I was when I headed south, and at a similar crossroads, knowing it was probably time to find out for himself if Nashville was where he was supposed to be. We stood in the kitchen the morning of his departure, tears streaming down both our faces. Harrison loves Nebraska. He loves our house. He loves cornfields. He loves his dogs. He loves his family and friends. Leaving home was difficult, to put it mildly. I was about to walk out the door and head to the car in order to give him a few minutes alone in the house, when I turned around and said this: "I just want you to know that just because you're going to Nashville now, that doesn't mean you aren't supposed to be back here someday. Maybe this is where you're supposed to be, but you won't know that unless you go. And remember if you do come back, it won't be because you've failed at anything. It will be because you figured out where you were supposed to be."
I think Harrison is exactly where he is supposed to be right now and my little speech was in no way trying to provide a way out if things get difficult in Music City. He has seen enough of the music business through my lens to know it will be hard, and there are a couple things that might actually be more important than talent: work ethic and a love for people. He's got those things down. What I wanted him to know was the world has a definition of success that's pretty messed up. And if he let's that definition determine his success or lack thereof in his career, he will wind up frustrated and empty.
A very long time ago, when Perry and I made the decision to come off the road after three years of full time music ministry, a friend of ours said to me one day, "Aren't you disappointed? I mean, things never really turned out the way you'd hoped, did they?" I couldn't believe it. I'd spent the past three years pouring my life out in a way that brought me joy and fulfillment. Mostly, I thought I was right where God wanted me to be. And because I was then pregnant with my second child and wanted to spend more time at home than on the road, we'd figured out God wanted us somewhere else. And yet, to her, and probably to many others, coming off the road looked like a failure. It stung, I'll be honest. There were many times when I wondered if she was right. Yes, life on the road was hard. We were often exhausted. We had very little money. We missed family and friends. But I hadn't really entertained the thought that coming off the road might look like we'd failed. But that's the world for ya.
When I gave Harrison those last words of wisdom before he left, I wanted him to know from day one that while life in Nashville would be hard, and likely filled with his fair share of disappointment and rejection, only He could determine what success meant for him. I also wanted him to know that it would take trying, and trying a lot of different things, in order to figure out what his definition of success would be. And do you know what happens when we try things? Sometimes, we fall flat on our faces. Sometimes, we crash and burn. Sometimes, we fail. But that doesn't make us a failure. It just means we figured something out about who we are and what we should or shouldn't do.
Social media doesn't help when it comes to having a good perspective on success. One look at social media and it is very apparent the world has an image problem. A success problem. There's a lot I'd rather not see regarding what other people choose to post, but it takes a lot for me to unfollow someone on social media. I think I've only blocked or unfollowed a handful of people in the 12 or so years I've had social media. I have a fairly thick skin when it comes to seeing other people's posts and how they make me feel. However, I am increasingly bothered by two things that are making it very tempting to simply hit "unfollow" and say "sayonara" to a few people. First, anyone who evidently thinks God is an American. Enough said about that - probably a subject for another blog. Second, anyone who subscribes to a Winner God theology. You may have heard it called something else, but that's what I call it. Winner God is the perspective that when something good happens to you, it's because Winner God has looked down at whatever situation you've chatted with him about and in His perfect wisdom, has decided you should win. You should succeed. You should prosper. And God is just so good.
The problem with Winner God theology, okay there are many problems with it but there are entire books for you to read if you want, is that it leaves a whole lot of people thinking they must have been stuck with Loser God, since their situation didn't quite turn out as great as yours. Their plans fell through. Their hard work didn't pay off. Their cancer came back. They lost everything. Sure must suck to get stuck with Loser God.
I get it. God does something we view as good and we give Him praise. As we should. We see God go above and beyond and we acknowledge Him for it. As we should. We face impossible situations and think "there's no way." Then God makes a way and we celebrate Him. As we should. But what if Loser God is actually Winner God doing things a different way? I mean God does have a habit of letting things completely fall apart in order to do what is best. I'm thinking of a certain dead friend, who Jesus Himself wept over, then saw fit to bring back to life. And remember that whole dying-on-a-cross thing? Sure must have looked like Loser God was going into that tomb. But, wait. Winner God actually did show up! And right on time! Funny how that works. Maybe there actually is no Winner God and no Loser God. Maybe there's just God.
Last week I taught a class about staying creative in times of crisis. One of the things I shared with the class was how I had released a book in October, 2020 called "What If They Fly? Raising Creative Kids to Believe They Can Soar." I had intended to spend much of 2021 out and about promoting the book, because surely the world would open up and we could go about our business. And surely I wouldn't get diagnosed with cancer and spend the next year going through treatment and surgeries. Obviously things didn't go according to my plan. But what I shared with the class is how what I perceived to be an interruption to the plan was actually THE PLAN. It wasn't as if Loser God stepped in and said, "Uh, no. You don't get to do those things you'd planned for." And it certainly wasn't that Winner God was saying, "Yeah, I'm not showing up for this one." What did happen was GOD. Not Winner God. Not Loser God. Just GOD. Right there, smack dab in the middle of my disappointment over my wrecked plans. Right in the middle of my book not getting the promotion I'd intended and the sales I'd hoped for. Right in the middle of test results bringing bad news. Right in the middle of other hard things I've not yet blogged about.
Here's what I'm continuing to learn about disappointment. Bad News. Failure. GOD doesn't care about those things. What GOD does care about is me. He cares about people knowing HIM, not people simply knowing He can come through in a crisis. He doesn't just care about people knowing He gives good gifts. He cares about people knowing HE is more valuable and precious than anything we could need or want or work hard for. Believing all those things has helped me see everything differently, especially heartbreak in one form or another.
I released a song back when my book first came out. It's all about viewing failure differently. I wrote the song long before I knew we would be moving Harrison to Nashville, but as happens often with my songs, they circle back around to me in ways I didn't expect. I feel it more deeply than ever, and believe its message to be more true because of what this last year has looked like for me. GOD has shown up in my moments that may have looked like failure or disappointment to others. But those moments have simply given me more ways to learn how to trust Him. As this song says, I'm learning new ways to land. I'm confident Harrison will learn new ways to land as well, as he weathers his own storms of disappointment and heartbreak. And who knows, maybe one day he'll land back in a cornfield. If not, well, I've got my bags ready for an occasional road trip.