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Still (part 2: feeling the grind)

Traffic was thick on my way to the hospital last night. It’s full-on Christmas, you know (even if Mary might not even know she’s pregnant yet), and the back roads into the two shopping malls I live near, plus any number of strip malls and restaurants, get super clogged super quick between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve. Still, I managed to find a parking place relatively easily and rushed against the cold and into those sliding doors as fast as I could.

A woman was on her way out. Wheelchair bound, clearly so ill. Another man was, too. He was lined and weathered and half-asleep and I ached for his caregiver. She looked so deep-in-her-bones tired. I took a deep breath and walked past the dark side hallways and closed offices–only the infusion suite is still open in this part of the hospital at 5pm, and I stepped into it gratefully.  Knowing I would be warmly welcomed.  And I was.

I noticed immediately that last week’s plastic floral arrangement had been replaced with shiny Christmas baubles of varying sizes, and cheap greenery hung wherever they’d been able to anchor it. I knew the effort had been made with good, full-hearted intention–a dash of merry and bright in the midst of sickness and trauma. But it felt off, somehow. Like we were trying to gloss things over.

A different nurse this week–no less kind and personable as last’s. But the same suite mates–faces I recognized from last week, and, that, this week, looked just as worn and worried as they had a week ago. All of us quiet and still.

Soon enough we were all hooked up to the machines and tubes that gave us whatever we’d come for. My own IV bag is the darkest, brownest red you can imagine. Liquid iron, of a sort, and it drips slowly and surely for close to an hour. And while it does, done as I am with needles, I work on distracting myself with a rerun of Chicago PD and an ice cold Diet Coke, straight from the can.

So this is Christmas inside the stillness of an infusion suite…the constant and daily grind of bodies betraying themselves and nurses offering truer compassion than is evidenced most anywhere else, and beeping machines and bandages and warm blankets upon request. It does not stop for Santa or the Christ Child either one. It just keeps going. Still and constant and never-ending. 

I’m not feeling super-Christmasy, y’all. Not even Advent-y, for those church folk out there who mark the liturgical season. This sucks for someone who has delighted most of her life in the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, who typically drags out the tree as soon as the leftover turkey is stashed in Tupperware, and who adores the chaos of shopping, the hustle and bustle of music and lights and All. The. Things. holiday.

This year, I feel the truth of a world that I truly believe is crying–deep, agonizing, heart-wrenching sobs for the weight of all that is threatening to destroy us. I am sick to death of the left and the right making a mockery of democracy. I am sick to death of families torn apart by conflict and anger and selfishness. I am sick to death of children going hungry and women being judged less than. I am sick to death of money guiding every damn decision that’s made in the general public. I am sick to death of greed. Of gluttony. Of snark passing as actual opinion or fact. Of social media determining who and what we believe. Of broken hearts and broken promises and broken lives. I am sick to death of how we hurt and exclude and judge and manipulate–all in some shallow effort to make ourselves feel more secure…as if our very survival does not, in fact, depend upon our cooperative efforts at community.

Good God how we need that baby Jesus to come among us and show us the way home again. How we need to eschew Amazon (full confession: they’ve already been to my house twice this week) and embrace caring for one another. How we need to set aside our insistence on who is right and who is wrong, and simply admit that we’re all so very scared and feel so very alone, and the only way forward is to recognize that within each of us dwells a bit of the God who made us. Within each of us. Even that person you hate.

Especially that person you hate. 

The grind is real. And it is hard. And some days it wins. It just does. But it cannot–it canNOT have the last word.

Because into infusion suites and shopping malls, into political posturing and policy manipulating, into hate and ugliness, into the utter shambles of our broken hearts comes, I promise you, one day, the very good news that you have not, ever, not once, been alone after all–that all along Love has walked beside you, and it will, in the end, lead you home. 

And if it takes the stark stillness of four hospital walls and a needle in my veins and just wanting to get home to my precious girl to help me remember that…then I am grateful beyond measure for every bit of it.

Sometimes, being forced out of the grind and into stillness is the very best thing that could happen. Because it’s in the stillness that such a clear, calm voice is able to be heard…the one telling you that all is not lost.

And that there is, sometimes even if just in the garish beauty of a tacky Christmas decoration hung with love and care, and a cold soft drink with the tab popped open for you, hope to be found. 

Hope to be found….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Still (part 1: feeling the rain).

Dusk was quickly turning to evening as I found a parking place, easier at 5pm than I’d thought it would be, maybe because a bunch of folks were leaving for the day. The sounds of rush hour city streets swallowed up the atmosphere, and the tantalizing smell of grilled meat and spices wafted up from the Mexican joint across the street.

I dashed across the lot and slid through the automatic doors, making it to an elevator just as a group of of nurses ending their shift exited, calls of “See you tomorrow!” bouncing down the halls as they parted ways. I punched “3,” for my floor and took a deep breath in step with the “whoosh” of the elevator’s ascent.

Suite 309’s door opened easily. And then–just as I’d known it would–time did a funny thing. It didn’t stop, exactly. It just…changed. Became still.

Very, very still. Like I’d stepped into a part of the universe pocketed away from the chaos and noise, the frenzy of 5pm in a major metropolitan area kept at bay by the charge nurse’s kind hello and the somehow just right array of cheap and fake fall flowers surrounding the check-in counter.

Time always does this funny thing inside the walls of a hospital. It’s as if the outside world keeps marching along while inside things move at their own pace, their own culture, their own way of being. I used to feel this as a chaplaincy intern in my early twenties. I’ve felt that way holding the hands of church members or friends laying in hospital beds. I’ve noticed it as a patient myself.

Stillness. No choice but to step out of where you came from and into what you’re there for.

In my case, the first of four weekly iron infusions for a stubborn case of iron deficiency anemia–most assuredly a result of celiac disease, and, while troublesome and annoying and not great for my energy level, nothing at all compared to what the folks around me waited for–chemotherapy. A terrifying word no matter how you say it.

One gentleman told me he’d been there yesterday, too. And the nurse said, “See you tomorrow!” as he left, and my heart flipped in an odd ache for what this holiday season must hold for him. Another man came in on crutches, smiled in recognition of the nurse, and they exchanged easy conversation–it wasn’t his first visit either.

Stillness. Like we were all in our own little snow globe scene, each with a part to play in our shaken up moment.

I’ve yet to find an unpleasant infusion suite nurse. They are kind. Gentle. They know you’d rather be anywhere else and there’s an overall quiet compassion to these suites that always makes me feel like I’m seeing the best of humanity. It’s humbling. Graceful, somehow.

They called my name and I went back, my nurse working quickly to get me set up for an hour of iron dripping slowly into my veins. (Get ready, world–I could be the next Marvel heroine–or at the very least, perhaps Pepper Potts could make me a matching suit?)

Sprite. Check! TV remote. Check! “Do you want the lights off or on?” Ooh…a nap sounds good. Check! She grinned, said she knew I just wanted to get it over with. I allowed as much, but then said, “You know, it’s fine. There’s folks a lot worse off than me down the hall.”

She stopped for just a moment, looked at me, and said, “Yes. There are.”

And then she sort of looked off in the distance for a moment, and, almost like a prayer, quietly said, “You know, sometimes, when it rains, I walk outside and raise my hands up to the sky and just stand there. Letting it rain. My husband, he thinks I’m crazy when I do this. But I tell him, ‘I see patients every day who would love to be able to feel the rain. And many of them will never feel it again. So I don’t want to take it for granted.'”

She walks outside to feel the rain, y’all. For her patients who cannot. 

Stillness. Like I’d just been in the presence of the holy.

An hour later we said goodbye, and I walked out into a now inky-black night. Immediately the stillness faded and life pulled me back in to its familiar embrace. Normalcy returned, but with this little corner carved out, for what I’d just heard and seen.

Stillness. Space for my soul to remember the capacity the human heart has to love: simply and wholly and without constraint.

 

 

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belonging (and not).

Dark. Rain pouring and wind gusting. Miles of traffic backed up and at standstills on multiple major thoroughfares due to wrecks. Headlights and brake lights fusing into disorienting patterns of light.

This was the scene on our drive to school this morning. I felt as if a really talented movie producer had instructed a cameraman to pan out wide, all across the city, the shot would feel so disjointed. So stressed. So edgy and isolated.

I took a long and rather wandering route home across side streets and through neighborhoods, simply to avoid the chaos of a gridlocked interstate, and even still, things were so snarled, and so little could really be seen, that I felt like I was in a video game of sorts, just trying to dodge all the distraction and make it alive to the castle or the stone with special powers or what have you.

I felt lost. Alone in my own community–a place where I have undoubtedly have a tribe, places where I belong, and a safe, warm, beloved home…but even so….

I’m not sure there is much that can wreak more havoc on our souls and well-being than feeling as if we don’t belong.

Even if we know we are loved. Even if we do have folks we interact with every day. Even if there are those in our lives that we care deeply for. Still, feeling that we don’t quite have a spot where we just fit can tear at the edges of our hearts in really painful ways.

And we really, really, in these United States, in this day and time, have trouble with true belonging, with feeling anchored, at port, no matter if the day is calm or stormy.

I know a middle schooler struggling mightily with that these days. And I talked with a bright, beautiful, talented young adult this week who does, too. And one of my most favorite people in the world, expressed to me last night the same feelings of disconnection as that middle schooler and that young adult. Which is to say, y’all, this need to belong, it knows no bounds of age or stage in life. We are, as brilliant researcher Brene Brown says, “hardwired,” for belonging, for real relationship.

And when we’re adrift, feeling aimless, not sure where to look for a northern star to guide us home, we feel so very vulnerable. So anxious. So uncertain. So lost.

I’ve known the rough landscape of not belonging. Of feeling like my own life story is unfolding in ways that make me too different to relate to, to damaged for anyone to want to include, to much a failure for anyone to want to claim me. I wanted to crawl inside myself. Hide inside the pain. Never come out, because to do so would mean facing all those people whose lives were still in order.

External appearance and false influence about what does or doesn’t really matter in life doesn’t help. Because even if you know, deep in your bones, that the size of your bank account or your house isn’t the measure of a person, even if you really do believe that the best legacy we can leave is how we loved, how we treated others…even still, it is mighty difficult to keep your head up when all your friends are taking fancy vacations, or all your married friends still have intact relationships, or your Instagram and/or Facebook don’t seem to quite be keeping up with the Joneses.

God, y’all, we’re so hard on each other and on ourselves. Not single one of us has a perfect life. Such a thing is pure myth.

I know a person who I perceive as incredibly selfish, who engages in a particular sort of manipulation of others every single day that makes my insides rage. And the only way–the only way–I am able to keep my cool around this person, to practice even the tiniest sliver of compassion (and therefore not give into my boiling blood…) is to recognize that such rampant self-centeredness must be rooted in such tremendous, unhealed, vicious pain…of having known what it is to not belong, and having never dealt with it. And so, as Glennon Doyle says, the hot potato of this person’s pain just keeps getting tossed around, damaging everyone in its path.

(And, there’s also this: I am confident, too, that I sometimes wield my own pain in ways that hurt others. I’m so, so sorry….)

What I know for sure is that I don’t want go through this life–and I don’t want anyone else to have to, either–like I drove back home this morning–so anxious and lost and frenetic…so not belonging to the world around me, rather, just trying to survive it.

I’ve no idea what the fix is, what a path towards healing for all of us might be, but I suspect it has to do with more kindness. More willingness to talk to each other. More bravery–the kind that steps away from some jacked-up notion of perfect status and embraces flawed humanity. I suspect it means caring less about how others might perceive us and just working towards authenticity in our behavior and in our conversation. I suspect it means being willing to share each other’s pain instead of running blind from it, and I suspect it means having enough courage to face our own hidden fears and insecurities and traumas.

And that, my friends, is all terrifying work.

May your journey home today include someone who says, “I love you.” Someone who takes your hand in his. Someone who includes your well-being in her own. Someone who simply lets you know you matter. Baby steps, sure, and not a one of them the single answer…but it sure beats driving home in the dark of an angry fall storm with no clear path in sight.

Somewhere, you belong. 

You. Belong.

 

 

 

 

 

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Messy.

My daughter’s space–her bedroom, her study area, her play area, whatever–will never be a picture of tranquility or order. Her imagination and interior world are so engaged at any given moment that whether or not her clothes are on the floor is her very last thought–and nowhere near as important as whatever she is creating or processing or dreaming up in her head. Truth be told, she’s just messy. And this has been true since she was a small child, leaving a trail of “projects” or half-dressed dolls or artwork everywhere she went, piles left here and there like little altars to all that is holy about childhood.

I, on the other hand, need my space to be, if not clean, at least everything-in-its-spot. If you’ve ever seen me adjust a piece of furniture or a bookshelf trinket just so, or been privy to my constant room-rearranging, you know–my outward need for my personal space to be in order is generally directly proportional to how disordered I am feeling inside. And because I am a deep feeler, and have a brain full of thoughts and words at any given moment, and also tend to absorb the feelings of those around me…well, let’s just say my insides are almost always a wreck.

Needless to say, the girl and I, we’re different. And, I’m learning to settle for the happy place of “Mom’s mostly satisfied,” and “CG feels not too oppressed” when it comes to her space and my space. 

Mostly because I feel like her approach is more honest. The reality is that life is messy. Living is messy. And this mostly terrifies us–because somewhere early on we often get the message that order is supreme and that presenting a good front is paramount.

Don’t get me wrong–there’s a time and place for putting your best foot forward even if that means cramming a week’s worth of laundry into the hall closet and out of sight, while praying the pantry doors don’t fly open from the strain of the disorganization behind them. There are even moments that must be gotten through by smiling when you don’t feel like it. I’m grateful for the years of my childhood spent in South that taught me that grace-under-pressure-or-anger-or-sadness can be a good thing. A survival tool.

But the deeper thing that matters is that very little is as it appears. And most of us are walking around without our insides and matching our insides.

And mostly we’d rather no one know it.

Except…

How much better would it be if we could just name the messiness and then move on with growing into our best selves anyway? To be sure, boundaries and discretion are both important things to learn to use, and use wisely and well…but not if we’re trying to hide who we are in the process.

Messy.

Life is messy.

Relationships are complicated. Marriage is hard work. Sometimes we don’t do our best at our jobs. Sometimes people we love and admire let us down–tremendously. Sometimes we get betrayed. Sometimes we let our own selfish desire blow up. Sometimes our children disappoint us and sometimes we disappoint them. Sometimes the world is a terrifying place and it’s literally all we can do to face another day. Sometimes our emotions riot. And sometimes we fail. Fail hard. And sometimes we feel so miserable, full of so much self-doubt and anxiety, that we cannot even imagine how revealing our real self those around us would be good for anyone.

Because life is messy. And many, many people do not like, and are supremely uncomfortable with, messy.

The key is finding balance–which can seem impossible. Finding the joyful place of knowing you aren’t perfect and agreeing to stop trying to be. Of not letting someone else’s box be what you’re trying to fit into. Of finding your own truth and living in it. Of sometimes leaving your shoes by the door, just where you kicked them off when you came in, and definitely leaving the dishes in the sink overnight, because spending that half hour curled up with your kid on the couch is way more soul-satisfying.

Life can utterly shatter us, y’all, leaving messes beyond what we ever thought was possible to live through. This is just how it is. It happens to all of us. And it seems to me that sharing this mess, maybe even braving our own painful mess to help another person through theirs, is a far better route to gratitude and joy than is pushing it all away, to the dark and cold places of our souls where we can pretend it doesn’t exist.

It’s complicated. All of it. I know. But I think probably owning that is what’s important.

And then loving each other through it. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you, Evan Hansen.

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

–“You Will Be Found”, from Dear Evan Hansen

I’m lucky enough to have seen more than a few of the big name stage musicals live. Rent. Les Mis. Miss Saigon. And, most recently and unbelievably, Hamilton. There’s nothing quite like it, ever. A huge auditorium with killer acoustics and live orchestra and crazy-talented actors and crowds generally hanging on every word. The energy is palpable every time, and it’s always stunning to me how hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people can get so caught up in a singular story that you lose all track of time or space and are quite literally transported somewhere else.

That my Curly Girl is growing shares this love of live musical theater is one of my greatest joys, and making the sacrifices necessary to be sure we can see a show from time to time is a priority in this house.

It’s Fall Break here in Louisville, and we were not able to travel anywhere; but, I was able to score tickets to the national touring production of Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) during its week-long engagement here.

Real quick, and with no spoilers, DEH centers around the events that unfold after the suicide of teenager Connor Murphy, predominantly told through the actions and decisions of his classmate, Evan Hansen, in the days immediately following Connor’s death. It’s utterly gut-wrenching, but not overly dramatic at all–instead, the writers of this show manged to strike a real balance of raw and gritty and, to a degree, instructive about this time we are living in–social media and anxiety and broken relationships all creating this perfect storm of anger and sadness and, eventually, hope.

Actual, real, life-saving, make-you-breathe-again, hope. 

Like I said, I’ve seen some big shows. I’ve watched dancers and huge full cast scenes and amazing special effects. I’ve been blown away, several times, by what’s possible to bring to life on a stage. But I have to tell you, I’ve never experienced anything quite like the effect I watched DEH have on the couple thousand folks packed into the Kentucky Center for the Arts, especially the first act finale, “You Will Be Found.”

It’s a song that strikes straight and true to the heart of what it means to feel alone. What it means to truly believe no one cares. With a simple and somehow heart-string tearing melody, it crawls right under your skin and forces you to face the times in your life when you’ve known the very real pain of loneliness. Of believing you might not matter. Of thinking nothing will ever be okay again.

And with a very insistent and richly harmonized chorus, it also promises you that you are not, in fact, alone. That the voices screaming that you don’t matter are liars. And that all around you are people begging you to see that you will, in fact, be found.

You will be found.

In the moments this mighty chorus resolved into its closing notes, there were about 2 seconds of the very loud sound of a theater in total silence. Silence so brief, so profound, you could actually feel it. And then…thunderous applause. Thunderous. Mixed with the very audible sounds of hundreds of grown adults unable to hold back their tears. The mix of sobs and hands clapping and faces both beaming and streaming tears was truly unlike anything I have ever seen.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this–and I have come to the conclusion that DEH is having such deep effect on people because it grapples with the very things no one wants to talk about. Namely suicide–but also divorce, broken families, the way social media can warp any existence of reality but can also harness so much good. DEH does not shy away from difficult conversations around mental illness–specifically severe social anxiety–nor does it back away from the realities of single parenting, or the dysfunction a still-together-but-very-messed-up marriage can create.

Which is to say, DEH gives its audiences permission to face, even dwell in for 2.5 hours, their very worst fears and grief and insecurities and failings…but it doesn’t leave you there in the mire…it reaches down a hand, pulls you out, and says, “Ok. Yep. That was pure hell. But you’ve been found. And one day…one very blessed and grace-full day…you will be okay again.”

Many days, I feel like the world, especially my particular corner of it, i.e., the United States and its communities, is a full-on dumpster fire, in which we have lost any and all respect for the basic sacredness of life. Our failure to see in one another’s full humanity is fanning the flames of our burning in ways that terrify me. That make me afraid deep in my bones for what my precious girl is going to grow into.

But also…and (and is such an important word, y’all), you might say…there is grace. And there is DEH. And there is real and sacrificial care between neighbors. And there are people putting their lives on the line for justice. And there are voices shouting above the din that this is not the way and doing their best to redirect us to towards life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

In other words, there are people seeking those who need to be found Every. Damn. Day. And I believe that in this lies our great hope. 

Maybe you feel lost right now. Maybe right next to you is someone trying desperately to help you see that you’ve actually been found all along. Maybe you’ve got some strength to go searching for someone who needs finding. Maybe you have a voice to use, a talent to share, a way of helping people see that no matter what, they are part of you, because the beauty of our humanity is this: We need each other. 

We need each other. 

We need each other. 

We need each other.

And in the space between…we are found. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Searching for beauty.

Saturday night we did one of my favorite local things and caught a Louisville City game. LCFC is temporarily housed at Slugger Field (to the chagrin, I know, of many a local baseball fan) while a new stadium is being built in Butchertown.

Slugger Field sits just downtown along the Ohio River. If you are in the right section of seats, and happen to be catching an evening game on a clear night, you’ll get the bonus of a gorgeous sunset while your team plays. Saturday was exactly such a clear night–and just as halftime was coming up for the City men, I looked up, and saw that the tallest points of the Abraham Lincoln bridge, normally a steely gray, were burnished pure gold in the fading light of the sun.

For two blessed seconds, everything else blurred and went quiet and all I could see was the pink and gold and peach fire of the sun settling down across this town I love so much, turning everything in its evening path into something beautiful.

I am long overdue for a early morning beach sunrise or a mountain sunset or just getting lost in a small tourist town and discovering something lovely where you least expect it. And maybe I’d be feeling that overdue-ness anyway (because work and life and middle school and everything else), but I suspect I am not alone in this keen sense that, these days, beauty is hard to find.

There is very little around us testifying to real beauty. Oh sure, there are advertisements. And TV shows. And social media posts telling us how to be better, fast, thinner, whatever-er. But none of that is real. And on top of it is this vicious layer of broken relationships and hate and mistrust and shouting matches and finger pointing. And, at least where I live, heat, as the world’s most stubborn summer refuses to go gently into the good night of fall. Things feel angry. Chaotic. Unsettled.

Meanwhile, we’re missing sunsets. And moon rises. And the simple goodness of a still backyard, early in the morning, before the world is quite awake, when for even the tiniest moment my heart is able to remember what it means for something or someone to truly be beautiful. We’re missing the hearts of our children expressing themselves in art and song and poetry.

We’re missing the very thing we are wired for–physical connection with one another and with the earth that sustains us.

Last night at a busy and noisy restaurant, I sat across from my own tween and our sweet friend Livy–two twelve year-olds, both of whom were caught up in YouTube videos as dinner wound down and folks were getting up to say goodbye. Suddenly one of them squealed, “Looookkk!!!” and began flashing around her phone for all to see–a meme depicting Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse, two characters who are not generally seen together. But the essence of the meme told a story of Mickey having shared his clothes with Pooh Bear, such that Mickey now only wears red shorts and Pooh now only wears a red shirt–shorts and shirt that were, so the meme indicated, once one outfit that is now shared between friends.

“It’s so sweet!” they both said. “That’s such a great way to look at it!”

See? Beauty. In a new story of old characters. In two middle school girls who understood that the new story mattered. In a depiction of deep friendship, where what one friend has is shared with another friend in need. 

Y’all, we are aching for real relationship. And we are aching for the beauty of a stellar sunset. Because far too much around us is ugly. Mean. Selfish. Greedy. Fake.

And we’re going to have to open our hearts and eyes far wider, with much more intention, if we’re going to notice that all around us is evidence of goodness in the world, of grace on the job, doing its merciful and salvific work, of love refusing to bow down to the voices of hate.

All around us are normal things like steel bridge supports being made into sacred and beautiful altars to a just and loving Creator, when we’ve eyes to see that even in our darkest moments–as people, as communities, as a nation–there is light pulsing within, begging to be seen.

Light a candle or sing a song or breathe a prayer or hold a hand or take a walk against what’s ugly today. Insist on searching for beauty. I know…it seems a lot to ask on a gray Monday morning when there is so much to do and so much to fear and so much to worry about.

Do it anyway. Because my hunch is that none of us will have to search very far. 

 

 

 

 

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Giving voice. Singing hope.

CG and I leave before the sun’s up for school. For real.

We follow the moon from where we can see it still shining bright in front of our house, all the way west of downtown, and then by the time I turn around to head east home, the sun is rising over the Ohio River. Every clear-sky weekday, this is how I morning.

Also, I listen to the Bobby Bones show. Which keeps me either laughing, singing, or listening to good stories for the roughly 40-minute round trip. This morning, however, it had me wondering why it was So. Dusty. in my car…such that my eyes were leaking. Because this morning, thanks to Bobby, I first heard the voice of James Dupre.

Mr. Dupre is a singer and former The Voice competitor. He’s got a single out that apparently is doing pretty well. He’s also about to head out on tour with Randy Travis.

And by “head out on tour with,” I mean, “make it possible for Mr. Travis to still share his music.”

You may know that Randy Travis, who’s been singing popular country music since the late seventies, cannot sing anymore due to a stroke in 2013. Y’all, I can’t imagine not being able to speak or sing–I rely on both things to get through every day of my life and they have been central to my career path and to my faith. How much more painful it must be for someone like Mr. Travis to not be able to do what, arguably, he was put on the earth to do.

He cannot sing anymore. 

And yet, this fall, there’s going to be a 16-city tour featuring all his #1 hits, his original band playing the music live, Mr. Travis present…but…James Dupre will be singing.

Y’all. An internationally known chart-topping country music singer who can no longer sing has picked someone to still bring his songs to life and is handing over his microphone and his band to make it happen.

James Dupre is literally giving voice to Randy Travis, who no longer has one. I’m telling you right now, that is what it means to be human. That is what it means to stand with each other no matter what. That is the Gospel.

I know, I know…of course, there will be money made for them all. Of course there will be good press. Of course Mr. Dupre’s career will likely get a much-needed boost. But none of these very pragmatic business matters take away from the beauty of one human being lending his voice to another.

One person…giving voice to the voiceless.

I can assure you, there is someone you know, or at the very least know of, who is struggling to find voice.

  • It might be a loved one, who is simply in such a dark or sad time that he can’t figure out how to speak his pain.
  • It might be your barista, whose trying desperately to hide the bruises her boyfriend left on her the night before.
  • It might be a coworker, who is fighting to stay above water financially and whose shame over that has stifled her.
  • It might be your daughter’s classmates who have less privilege, less security, less support than her, and so act up and act out in ways that harm both themselves and those around them.
  • It might be anyone…who has faced crippling loss, who has battled disease, who is an addict, who isn’t sure where the next meal is coming from, who has been trafficked, who is homeless, who is lonely, who is afraid.
  • It might be you. 

During a particularly difficult time in my life, when I could not believe that anything would be okay, ever again, a dear friend said to me, “It will be okay. This is not the end. And I am going to believe that FOR YOU until you can believe it for yourself.”

I’m going to believe that for you.

I’m going to stand here with you.

I’m going to give voice to what you cannot.

What an unbelievable shift we would create in our families, in our relationships, in our communities, in our country, if we could find our way to being so completely present for each other. Because at one time or another, I promise you, you will need someone to believe for you. To speak for you. To stand with you. We all do. Because this is what it means to live this awful and beautiful life. This is what it means to care for one another as brothers and sisters. As children of God.

When we lend to another a bit of our own strength, our own voice, our own heart, we create space for grace to do its mighty and powerful work. And in that space, mercy flows and hope is able to breathe again.

It’s all around us, y’all, even in an early morning commercial radio show–the things noticing each other, caring for one another, showing up for one another, make possible….