While I sat in my car crying in the hospital parking lot, a doctor sliced open my husband’s neck for a lymph node biopsy. Days earlier a CT scan suggested that my husband had lymphoma. While we prayed that the biopsy would not confirm this, I let my fears consume me in the waiting–I was immobilized. I managed to stop the sobbing long enough to call my friend Erin and ask her how I should pray when frozen. She told me not to worry about the words right then, that my tears, heart, and each breath would be enough for the Spirit to intercede for me. We hung up and I sought distraction and maybe solace in music until the procedure was over. And that is when “God Will Lift Up Your Head” by Jars of Clay played at just the moment I needed it.
The band included this reworked hymn on their 2005 album Redemption Songs and the words cleared my mind’s fog that day,”Into the wind your fears, hope, and be undismayed. God hears your sighs and counts your tears. God will lift up, God will lift up, God will lift up your head.” Call me crazy, but then, and now, I knew that I was experiencing an undeniably supernatural moment. The song ends with, “through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way, wait, ’cause in His time so shall this night soon end in joy, soon end in joy, soon end in joy…” Just like that, my sobs of fear turned to sobs of hope. How did I deserve the promise, that whatever the biopsy, this night would soon end in joy? The song became the soundtrack during my husband’s illness, stage-IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma, playing in loops to buoy my hope anytime it started to sink. Six and a half years later, I still can’t listen to the song without crying.
First round of chemo
Our photo session with Magic Hour, organization of photographers who serve cancer patients and their families
If you have read TPH for a while, you know our story. But I can’t tell you how meaningful it was to me to relate this experience last weekend, face-to-face, with a member of Jars of Clay. The Ugly Cry happened, y’all.
Jars of Clay celebrated their band’s 20th anniversary with a music-filled weekend in Nashville that we were lucky enough to attend. Coincidentally, it is also the 20th anniversary this year when my husband and I met and fell in love…and also became Jars of Clay fans with their first album. If you love music like we do, it can be hard to love contemporary Christian music. Jars of Clay changed the contemporary Christian music game, massively, influencing many artists who came after them. And, they are still the standard against which I measure any new Christian band or sound. We’ve followed every album, attended many of their concerts through the years, and even had one of their songs used for divine intervention, no big deal. It was a pleasure to celebrate with them last weekend.
They performed acoustic rarities Friday night at the offices of Blood-Water, a non-profit organization the band founded that helps the AIDS/HIV and water crises in Africa. It was cozy and intimate, but the poor guys (good sports) had to pose for many photos with fans–our goofy family included.
The band hosted coffee and tours at their Gray Matters recording studio on Saturday morning. The kids came along, too, because they are big fans themselves.
Outside Gray Matters in Nashville
A band amasses mucho memorabilia over 20 years–t-shirts, posters, stickers…Grammies and Dove Awards, too, just lying about. We chatted with the band, and when we cornered Charlie Lowell–keyboardist for Jars of Clay–I mustered up the courage to tell him how their song pulled me through my husband’s illness. I almost didn’t because why would he want to listen to just one more fan story, I assumed. But he graciously listened like I was the only one there, even with the ugly cry and snot. It felt full-circle to me.
Sitting at the studio, practicing their “serious album cover” shot
They delivered a fabulous 20-years-of-music concert in the historic theatre in Franklin, Tennessee. (Franklin, by the way, is too cute for words. I’ll be back.)
Q&A with the band before the concert
And, you know what, of all their many songs, they played “God Will Lift Up Your Head.”
Twenty years is a long time, with the multiple lifetimes we’ve packed in; yet it goes by fast. The years are a gift–and all the good and bad within those years, too. Two weeks ago my husband had his annual CT scan, that time of year when I alternately ignore it from fear and pray over it with desperation, depending on the moment. It came back clear, thank you! And, so, we are now two years out from his last reoccurrence. Twenty years out will be a dream come true…thirty years…fifty years out so I can see the day when our children will change our diapers.
When I could barely eek out that prayer six years ago for him, for us–for our children, that they could have years with their father please–God promised me joy. It is written on my heart forever.
And now that chubby baby knows exactly how wonderful his father is, the nuances of Daddy’s personality, the absurdity of his corny jokes, the dedication to his family’s happiness. That little boy can now say deliciously preposterous things like, “You’re the Daddy…you can do whatever you want.” Every year is a gift.
Thank you–Charlie, Matt, Dan, and Stephen–for a fabulous music weekend.