Friday, November 1, 2013

The Glorious Unfolding

He's done it again, I thought, and shook my head and smiled, as I watched this little Kentucky guy on stage with a guitar play and sing with great power, as loud and strong as ever. Steven Curtis Chapman was back in town last weekend, and once again Pam and I went to see him... and took a few more friends with us this time - Mary, Hannah, Brie, and John. Call me an old-school nerd if you want, but when the concert started with the prelude to "The Great Adventure," I got goosebumps.

It's "The Glorious Unfolding" tour, promoting his newest - and 26th - album, and also featuring Laura Story and Jason Gray. One of my favorite things about this concert was that the artists told pieces of their stories that really brought out the depth and richness of their songs. They have all come through tremendous hardships and tragedies, and it was beautiful and powerful to see how God has helped them and blessed them and received so much glory from their lives. It made me wonder, and be in wonder of, why our weakness and pain is so often required for God's power and glory to shine.

If you haven't noticed before, music means a lot to me, and I think God uses music to speak to my heart when it is not ready or willing or able to listen to other things. Over the years, through different seasons and struggles, SCC's music has comforted and challenged me and helped me understand deeper the heart of God; as much as his songs have been mile-markers and stones of remembrance in his life, they have also been in mine. And that is just as true for his newest album. Needless to say, it was a pretty emotional evening for me.

I've been going through a difficult time lately, wrestling with changes around me that have caused some expectations and plans and dreams to get shaken and shifted and shattered, which is never easy or fun. So I am in a place where I need songs like "Nothing is Wasted," and "Remind Me Who I Am," by Jason Gray, and "Blessings" and "I Can Just Be Me" by Laura Story. And then Stevie introduced the title song of his new album, and the lyrics popped up on the screen behind him as he sang, and I felt like he had written it for me...

Stevie's always been an optimist, but his unwavering hope means so much more when you know the things God's brought him and his family through... his words aren't hollow or ignorant or carelessly chosen. He knows these things to be true because he's faced them, struggled with them, and found healing in them. So I know I can and will too. The story is so far from over, so hold on to every promise God has made to us... 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Adventures of Connie in... Farmland

Last weekend, Hannah drove to Bluffton to have dinner with Mary's family. As we drove past corn fields and farms and grain bins, Hannah said, "Mary said sometime she wants to take me out on a combine!" "Oh, cool!" I responded. Then there was an awkward silence. Which of us would admit the truth first? Fine, I'm older, I'll swallow my pride and say it: "You know, I don't think I've ever actually seen a combine in action..." "Yeah, me either," she said. More awkward silence. Then I said, "Um, I'm not sure I really know what a combine does..." "Yeah, me either," she said. Even though neither of us knew what on earth a combine was, we both had a feeling it was one of those basic common-knowledge things in Bluffton. And we're going to Bluffton, to a pig farm, for dinner with real farmers. Oh dear.

Thankfully, Mary's family is very gracious, and after getting over the initial shock of having such ignorant city girls in their house, her dad explained combines - what they do and how they do it. Fascinating stuff, actually. He would have taken us out to see one in action, but it was almost dark, the combines were finished working for the day, and there were pork chops and sweet potatoes to be eaten. And her mom asked if it homemade cherry pie was ok for dessert. Ummm... yes, forever! Dinner was amazing - I've never had pork chops so tender that I could cut them with a fork. And it felt so good to have dinner around a table with a family, even if it was a family we were just borrowing for an evening. Made me feel homesick, but also comforted at the same time.

After dinner we looked at photo albums, listened to Mary's brother play music, and told stories and jokes. By the time we finally decided to leave, we felt so loved and accepted... Mary's dad told us to come back anytime, that we were always welcome, and I really believed him.

We left and drove under the starry sky, passing semi-trucks that we now realized were full of corn harvested from the fields. Of course we should have known that a visit to Bluffton cannot be complete without a crazy adventure, which is probably why the water pump in my van broke ten minutes down the road. Mary and her brother and dad came to rescue us, which involved trying to fix it on the side of the road in the cold and darkness, then decided it would be best to leave my van there until the morning. They got me out of my chair and into the passenger seat of their Suburban, then (through dangerous and astounding feats) got my chair in the back of it. Hannah and Mary and I drove back to Fort Wayne in this fashion and went straight to bed. The next day, before noon, Mary's dad had my van fixed and brought it back up to us, waving off any suggestion that I would pay for the new pump he installed.

So now that my van is in good working order and we know what a combine is, maybe we'll find ourselves in Bluffton again soon...