Artists Change the World

Last week, Penny and I traveled to Long Beach, CA for a convention I had for work. I work for myself, but distribute for a corporation and our CEO is somehow both a billionaire and a nice guy. Not sure how that works, but it meant I got to watch Jewel perform on the last night of the convention. Remember, I went to high school in the late 90's, so this was pretty sweet. Plus, my mom was back at the hotel with sleeping Penny so I got to be fully in the moment. I feel silly getting so worked up about seeing Jewel because she's not currently "a big deal", but I'm only giving you that one apology, because she was amazing. There is just something infinitely beautiful about watching someone do exactly what they should be doing with their life. It's evident not just in their obvious talent, but in how they wield their talent as this weapon of beauty that touches everyone who witnesses it. I know her 90's hits well, but I could barely sing along because she was riffing so much on her own stuff that I was blown away by her obvious musical mastery. I could rant about how untalented many current "musicians" are in comparison today, but that'll just date me even more, so let's just pretend I didn't say anything. 
I think no matter where I was in my journey I would have enjoyed her performance. But in light of everything that's happening in my world right now, it was particularly poignant. Because you see, I have typically minimized the arts as something that's great for really talented, other people to do, but that I am supposed to do something "productive." I'm performance-based and that translates into more tangibly productive activities. Things like the business I was being trained to build at my convention. But lately all the artistic somethings that have welled up in my heart for many, many years are starting to overflow. I've tamped them down. I've belittled them. I've justified my various distractions. I've tried to be practical. I've judged my undeveloped abilities. I've put the spotlight on others and elevated my safer choices (ironically, this includes ministry) as the "right" choices for me. 
In order to discover the hidden artist in me, I have to be willing to take risks, to learn, to create space for vulnerability. These things frighten me. As a black and white thinker, I want to label all my non-artistic activities as "bad" before I can give myself permission to do anything else with my time, my energy and my heart. But the only bad thing about anything I do to deter my own impending artistry is just that: delaying the inevitable. I just might have to release myself to this process, to begin to unpack whatever gift(s) are pressed so tightly to my guarded heart. 
It's such a strange thing to know there is more waiting for you but not knowing what it is. I'm standing on the precipice of something beautiful, intense, sacred. Something that others may witness. But it's up to me to take that risk, to find out who I am fully, what I'm meant for ultimately. I've got a pretty normal life. The normal stuff has never quite been enough for me, but I've always been afraid to ask for more. I didn't want to get greedy. But what is a gift left unopened? It's a waste. 


I've always said that the first and second birthdays are the hardest. Then Macy turned 3, 4, 5, & 6. So far, there hasn't been a birthday yet that hasn't thrown me for a loop. Even though I anticipate my children's birthdays with excitement and I really enjoy making plans to celebrate them, somehow I'm still surprised when they actually happen. Kind of like how you feel when someone who's been sick for awhile finally dies. They were ready. They were looking forward to it. And on behalf of them, you were ready for them and celebrated their release from pain. But for yourself, it's still sad and somehow shocking. I still don't get it. 
My little Penelope is turning 1 year old tomorrow. For those of you who don't know, it took us 2 and a half years to conceive Penny. There was a time that I wasn't sure if we would ever get the pleasure of having another child. That process was such a learning experience for me and very personal in my relationship with God. He spoke to me in those places of longing, loss and impatience. There were times I really thought I was pregnant and wasn't. I tried to tell myself not to get my hopes up only to find myself disappointed time and time again. I remember one month, God actually asked me to thank Him that He did not give me a child. Ouch.
One year into the process, we were fired from ministry. Initially, God was asking me to trust Him with the timing of another child. That turned into a season of Him asking me to trust Him if there was to be no more children at all. And finally, asking me to thank Him for my empty arms. He reminded me that my arms were not empty, that He had already given me a child, whom I loved very much. At the end of all of that, we lost our friend Ryan to cancer. He was 30. In our grief, we clung to each day and to each person whom we loved. And in the midst of that grief, we conceived my precious treasure Penny. 
As I may have eluded in other posts, and will surely discuss many times in the future, my theology has changed a lot in the last few years. It's been a difficult but mostly intentional process. But there are a few things in my faith experience that are incredibly personal to me, times in which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was working. This fertility process and the timing of the gift of my second and final child is by far the one of which I am most convinced. 
I had a difficult pregnancy which resulted in me slowing down a lot. Her birth was totally nuts (somehow it took 5 days of false labor and then only 1 hour and 52 minutes for her to be born) which resulted in me biting my husband at one point (bet he was wishing I'd had time for that epidural). We went through a very painful post-partum season with Tim's depression, which was so much more severe than we ever could have anticipated. We had the privilege of being loved through crisis. Our life was literally held together by the people who love us. Somehow, in all the darkness that was this year (and we are SO not done), Penny has been the shining light through it all. As much as we've cried, our moments with her have been almost entirely pure joy. She is a gift. I call her my treasure (and then promptly sing Bruno Mars). 
I am so proud of the fact that I have spent night after night rocking her to sleep, nursing her, reading to her, feeding her (which feels like an Olympic sport these days), kissing her, holding her and talking to her. I have not taken her babyhood for granted. When I had my first baby 6 years ago, I was more anxious, almost seeing the baby phases as something to hurry through. Boy, did I regret that! Babies do require a lot of care, duh. But then when I didn't know if I'd ever have another one, I promised myself I would savor it. As much as this year has thrown us some very painful curveballs, ones that we never intend to repeat, I have so many moments with her that have changed me forever. She's changed all of us forever. 
She's made Macy a big sister, which I'm convinced has been as big of a gift to her as it's been to us. I've never been prouder of my oldest than when I've seen her day after day welcoming her little sister into her world. She has grown tremendously this year and I hope they will always have each other. There's just nothing sweeter than watching your kids love on each other. 
There have been moments this year when I've felt anxious about the passing of time. Like an hourglass, the time of Penny's babyhood felt like it was slipping through my fingers. In those moments, I've reminded myself that I really have done the best I could to treasure her, and that the time passing isn't within my control. I only get to decide what I do with the time I'm given. And so, with a heavy heart, I laid her in her crib tonight and kept my hand on her back until she fell asleep (this isn't me just being super nice, it's actually the only way she'll sleep:) And I came in here to capture my thoughts, knowing that the next time I see her, she'll have magically turned into a one year old.