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.