Song Stories: Wild Love
So much of life can’t be explained and can’t be tamed. This song is my wrestling with this force that is larger than myself and larger than life. I call this force God; you might have a different name. The thought of God invokes trembling. He is to be feared. He can do anything He wants, and he allows us to live in a world where anything can and does happen, a world that is often unfair and unjust. Yet this same God pursues me with a love so overwhelming, nothing braces me against it. His love is a force that I’ve felt present always. Even in my darkest of grief and anger, I somehow knew I was not alone. And this is what makes God so intriguing to me. This wild love keeps me coming back for more.
Lay Down Your Arms
As an artist partner with Preemptive Love Coalition, I had the immense privilege of seeing their work firsthand when I visited Iraq in the fall of 2015. Their founder Jeremy Courtney’s book Preemptive Love largely shaped my heart and birthed this song. Please visit PLC's website to learn more about their work. There IS love. There IS hope.
More than diamonds
I wrote this song after one of those sweet summer days playing outside with our three kids. Life rarely—well, never—looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. But this day came close. I remember kisses, tickles and giggles as we tucked the kids in that night. A few days later, I was lying on the floor with our two-year-old under a fort we’d just built, my face next to his. I said, “I love you.” He leaned in (I thought he was going to kiss me) and he said, “I love jelly beans!” And that sealed it. I HAD to write this song! This song is for anyone who’s felt that their heart may burst because they love someone so much!
I’ve always loved birds and I wanted to write a song to explore what it is I find so fascinating and inspiring about them. But as I dug deeper, I found that birds are a symbol to me for the deeper reality of those things in life that I can't see or understand. We see the effects of wind, but can’t see the wind itself. Birds too point me to a reality I can’t see with my eyes but know in my heart. This song is a celebration of that mystery and the hope that we are all a part of a larger story and a grander reality than what our tangible ‘everyday’ experience might suggest. It's an invitation to enter into this bigger story, to step into this mystery where anything is possible.
Each summer, we gather with several other families for a week of fun together. I wrote the first half of this song during one of those family vacations to the mountains. When we (finally!) got the kids tucked into bed, all the adults sat quietly in rocking chairs on the porch watching fireflies. The quiet after a full day outdoors with kids was the most beautiful sound. Yet, it was full of mountain sounds, and it was a richer quiet for my heart than mere silence void of any sound. This quiet felt like a healing balm going deep into my soul and refreshing its weariness. Nature does this so powerfully. This song is a celebration of that quiet.
I wrote the second half in a castle in Austria days before I was to kiss my husband goodbye and get on a plane bound for Iraq. I was playing a piano at the top of the castle's spire overlooking the hills (that, yes, were alive with the sound of music). That evening, as the sun set upon the piano, I felt the fear I held for the trip ahead begin to melt away. The more times I sang over and over, "fears lose their hold on me" the more that became my reality. This song has been a healing balm for me, and my hope is that this song and this entire record touches your heart in those deep places where you long for healing. That way, you too can sing, "fears lose their hold on me."
Beauty was there
This song begins three days after the car accident that killed my first husband, AJ. A few days after the initial shock of the accident, the doctor told me that our baby, if he survived, would likely never walk, talk or show emotion as a result of his injuries from the wreck. A group of friends and family gathered at AJ's parents house, speechless from grief. The pain so thick.
I wrote this song ten years later, looking back through all the years: So very many hard times, days that seemed impossible and never-ending. Tears that seemed pitifully insufficient to express the deep grief I felt. Being angry. Being brutally honest. Persevering to stay present, to grieve in healthy ways. To not run and hide from the emotions, but to keep feeling, even if feeling meant hurting.
That heart work eventually led to healing. I'm not even sure how or when; it was so gradual. But looking back, it was overwhelming to realizing that I was not made whole again on my own. I was never alone in my grief, not even for a moment, not even on the nights when I cried myself to sleep or cried myself awake. This song is a celebration of that faithfulness. It's an awakening to a reality that was hard to see in the midst of the pain but so evidently clear through the lens of hindsight: Beauty was there all along, protesting darkness till darkness was gone.
I once heard someone define intercession as literally stepping into and feeling fully what someone else is experiencing. This song is my intercession for others who are hurting.
I wrote this song one week while my husband was traveling for work. I had (finally) gotten all the kids tucked in and plopped down in front of my computer to decompress. I checked email and at the top of the list was a message from a friend saying that her cousin’s baby had drowned in their pool. My heart hit the floor. Everything stopped. I wept with a depth and intensity for this mom as if it were my own child. I felt the pain in such deep places in my heart. It was a pain on behalf of another. That pain, that intercession, became a melody, and over the next few days, that melody became this song.
It’s so debilitating to compare ourselves with others. It either leads to pride or it leaves us feeling inadequate and discontent. I was attending a conference and I found myself comparing myself to everyone around me, sinking deeper into that hole by the hour. I was ready to press the eject button on the conference and go get a (gluten free) pizza, when suddenly, an image of an oak tree came to my mind. It was so random that it got my attention. I began thinking about how, in many ways, we are meant to be like trees. A tree is not concerned about the other trees that are growing around it. It simply grows where it’s planted. It grows. Often, instead of tending to my growth, I spend my time protecting myself against hurt, damage or death—often in ways that hinder living. I fail to realize that I too am planted to grow and flourish in life, even when that growth is painful. On the other hand, sometimes I worry that I'm not growing, or that I'm not growing fast enough. If I sit and watch a tree grow every hour—or even every day—and judge its value by what I see, it will be pretty discouraging. You can’t see a tree grow overnight. But if I came back 5, 10, 15 years later I’d be amazed at the changes in the tree.
So there I was, convicted of how I quickly judge my worth by my productivity and growth in a day. Yet for an oak, growth takes time and stands the test of time. Then another thing struck me as poignant: The very thing that causes the tree to grow cannot be seen. The roots grow deep into the ground. The roots are what enables the tree to grow high and majestic. It’s what’s unseen that enables and produces the seen. I need to be careful to cultivate and nurture the things I do that no one else sees. The time I spend in prayer, reading, practicing the piano, writing in my journal, serving others, cleaning the house… the list goes on. All of those unseen things matter. They amount to growth and strength of character. Those unseen things shape me into who I am made to be. So in a sense, this song helped me get back to my "roots" and become more mindful of the deeper truth.
(Okay, mom, if you’re reading, you might want to skip this one.) This song is about sex. But unlike many songs about sex, this song is not about the act itself, but about the relationship—about all the little daily interactions that lead (or don’t lead) to the act. It’s about marriage, the dance of the business and ordinary with love and passion. Relationships are nothing like the movies make them seem. They take work. And this is good work to get to do. It’s messy, we step on each other’s toes, it’s not always romantic. But I've found that marriage is so worth every moment. So we keep showing up. We keep dancing.
I love hearing stories, particularly stories from people who are older than me. People who’ve gone before, experienced more, who have wisdom to share, who’ve overcome. We need each others' stories. They point the way forward for us. Each one illuminates the otherwise dark and daunting path we call life. These stories—some which can be traced from the beginning of time and some which recount something that happened five minutes ago—are all spotlights that help us see where we are going.
more about love
One New Year's Eve, my sister-in-law and I were talking about all the pressure women and moms feel in our culture. There seem to be a million ways we’re doing it wrong and a million more ways to tell us how to do it right—often all contradicting each other. The rat race seems so complicated and we both felt like it’s not even the race we want to be in anyway. My sister-in-law and I talked about how so many of the rules we give ourselves and the expectations we place on others are arbitrary. Our interactions can be so much more simple if they're summed up with one word: LOVE. If what we are doing is done in love then it will be okay. We get so focused on being "right" that we often miss the bigger picture of what is "loving." And now, as I parent, I say this to our kids all the time. It’s less about being right and more about being loving. How would our homes, schools, politics and churches be different if we really lived as though we were more concerned with loving others well instead of being right?
I tried to name this song something else, but each person that saw the original title said I must keep it. Writing this song began as a simple exercise: If a painter can paint a self portrait, could a songwriter write a self portrait? I began thinking about themes in my life others had pointed out over the years; about my personality, my experiences. This quickly grew into more of a juxtaposition between how others saw me and how I saw myself. Which then led into being about how I wanted to see myself. So I’m not fully comfortable owning the title of this song. But I do think the realities in this song are true for each and every one of us. This is how each of us are viewed. So maybe this song, in a sense, can be each of our own self portraits.