Thursday, May 16, 2019

When Was Your Last Day Off?

Today, I found myself looking at painted furniture online.

Now, this isn't unusual for me. I'm happy to spend hours looking at before-and-after shots, learning new skills, and dreaming of my own projects.

As any crafter will tell you, the dreaming is almost as good as the doing!

But this wasn't normal looking. I was looking a lot. Like, a lot! I kind of couldn't stop. 
And then I realized it. I wasn't just looking at furniture...

I was procrastinating.


I've got lots of faults, but I'll admit: I'm not a procrastinator. 
For me, one of the keys of being successfully self-employed is self discipline. 
I'm good at making my list, sitting down, and doing the work.

But not today. 

Today, I dreamily drifted over photos of chalk paint and thrift store finds while my To Do List sat abandoned.

I was a little taken aback when I realized what I was doing. Why was I procrastinating? There's nothing too intimidating or burdensome on my list right now. Everything's pretty straightforward. We did a concert last night, but I got a good night's sleep. I should be good. Wait, we've been on the road for a while now...

When was my last day off?

So, I pulled out my calendar and started scrolling back. Back through the ten days in New Brunswick, back through East Coast Music Week, back through the final days of tour prep, back through our busy Easter season, and then I found it.

My last day off was SIX WEEKS AGO!!!

And if I'm really honest, my day off six weeks ago was technically a sick day, so not a proper day off at all...

Many years ago, when we were working on staff at a church, I started insisting on taking Mondays off. I realized that, if we didn't claim a day, everyone else would claim our time for us. Now, in freelance ministry, we continue to recognize the need for time off, so Monday is our day. I'm pretty strict about it. I keep it free of appointments, set up a vacation reply so I don't check email, and hide my phone.
Monday is our day...

Until it isn't.

I could tell you all the reasons why my busyness has been justified over the last few months - full performance schedule, tour planning, grant writing, and just to complicate things, a puppy in need of medical treatment and surgery.

But the fact is, I needed to take time for myself, and I didn't do it.

So, now I find myself on the road, which is always the busiest time of our year. On any given day, we're either rehearsing, planning, booking, performing, interviewing, driving, or some combination of these. For these two months, we'll drive across six provinces, sleep in about 50 different beds, and interact with thousands of people.

Don't get me wrong: it's amazing and we love it and we wouldn't give it up for anything! I love working hard, and I love what I do. My lifelong dream was to be a touring artist, and here we are, making that dream come true.

But the artist life is intense. Touring is especially intense. We need to be open and present at all times, and that takes energy and focus.

So today, I found myself feeling a little worn, and needing to look at furniture.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I took a deep breath. In the past, I might have reprimanded myself for procrastinating.

Today, I chose gentleness. I reminded myself of how often Jesus took time to rest. He also lived life on the road, traveling and sharing the Gospel. His work was much more intense and important than mine.

If Jesus could take time to rest, 
surely the world can turn without me for a day.

(And if you caught the Jesus Christ Superstar reference in there, you are truly my people!)

This weekend, most of Canada will take a break as we celebrate Victoria Day. We're leading worship, and we can't wait to share Sunday morning with the wonderful people of Shediac Cape.

But this Monday, we're taking a day off.

A full, proper day off.

On Monday, we'll be in beautiful Lunenburg. I'm going to sleep late, walk by the water, eat seafood, and visit gift shops. Or curl up in a cafe and read a book. Or maybe tour a museum. Or maybe, just do nothing.

We'll wait and see what the day holds...

That's the beauty, and necessity, of a day off.

Friday, May 03, 2019

"You Should Be Dead" - 10 Years Later...

10 years ago today, this happened:

You can see the original post HERE.

We had been leading worship in a little church in Kingston Springs, just west of Nashville. It had been a great morning. We were having that typical Sunday drive home from church, talking about the sermon, and deciding where to go for lunch.

A tractor trailer changed lanes and smashed into our little Toyota Corolla.

He hit us so hard we crashed into the right-side guard rail and spun out in front of his truck, where he began to push us down the highway at 70 miles an hour.

We took another hit and spun around to the left side of his truck where we were trapped between his wheels and the guardrail, being dragged backwards down the highway.

We spun again, this time with the hood of our car spinning under the bed of his truck, and his wheels coming up on the hood of our car.

At that point, the guardrail ended, so instead of crushing us, his wheels pushed us off the road where we flipped, rolled, and landed upside down on the side of the highway.

And we walked out of the car.

With a little help...

There had been a light rain, and the final landing was oddly soft, like the slow-down at the end of a roller coaster ride. We had landed just inches from a stone outcropping which, had the car shifted just a bit in that final spin, would have given us a different ending.

The first person to approach our car was a vacationing paramedic from New Orleans. He talked us out of our seat belts and helped us open a door so we could walk back to the road.

Did we mention our guitar was in the backseat? 
The same guitar Gerald plays in every concert today. 

The car was crushed beyond recognition. Even the veteran tow truck driver had to ask the make and model of our super common Corolla. But somehow, Gerald and I (and the guitar) walked out.

That day, we heard the same words over and over:

"You should be dead."

The paramedics, state trooper, tow truck driver, witnesses. 
Over and over:

"You should be dead."

Those words will play on your heart and your mind.

The months and years that followed were filled with all kinds of struggles - physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual.

We sued the second largest trucking company in the United States. After years of depositions and negotiations, we finally settled for a pitiful amount, sparking a new family debate. Which was worse - the accident or the lawsuit?

And now, it's 10 years later.

10 years today, we stood on the side of the road, shocked and amazed that we were simply alive, with no idea what was coming next.

In those first few years, pain and healing were prominent themes in our lives and in our marriage.

The accident is a before and after moment, shaping us in countless ways.

As we started our journey of healing, we lost all tolerance for petty annoyances. "Life is short." "Don't sweat the small stuff." "Be thankful you're alive." All those cliches became powerfully true.

Family, faith, and purpose became even more important, and we discovered a sharper focus for our art and calling.

As fairly newlyweds (we had only been married three years at the time), we learned to trust in a new way, leaning into our marriage and each other through some truly difficult times.

But as the years went on, the accident took on a different place in our lives.

It's become a source of strength. We conquered a beast of a struggle, and came out stronger and healthier than before. When we doubt ourselves, we remember that journey.

It's a reminder of priorities. I wish I could say that I'm still immune to petty annoyances. Truth be told, I give them far too much attention some days. But when I think back to that fateful day, priorities line up pretty quickly.

It's a source of shared pain and healing. For ourselves and our family, but also for others. We've shared our story in our concerts. We've also spent hours post-concert, holding someone's hand as they share their accident story. Some of these stories have been victories, but many have been tragic. But somehow, sharing them allows each of us to feel seen and loved, and it adds to the healing.

It's become an inspiration for gratitude. When we think back to that day, we're reminded that it could have ended very differently. We will never complain about getting older, because we know that, in a different version of the story, we might not be here to celebrate that next birthday. We are thankful for our whole bodies and our emotional healing. We're overwhelmingly grateful for our amazing family and friends, who fed us, cared for us, prayed for us, and surrounded us with patient and generous love.

I'd be remiss if I didn't name our parents, Helen and Hollis, Sandy and Gerry, and our amazing friends, Tara and Kyle. Words can't express our love and gratitude for how you brought us through that season.

And we are eternally thankful to God. Not only did He see fit to bring us through such an ordeal, but what a plan He had in store for us!

And as Gerald alway says, "It's not lost on us that the God who saved us on the highway is the same God who called us into a nationally touring music ministry!"

So today, I'm going to take a deep breath, and give thanks.

For the struggle, 
the healing, 
the journey, 
the lessons, 
the love 
and the Spirit.

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow..."