I am sitting at the stage, maybe two rows in, and Sara or Andrew or Don start this story, the one about growing up as a preacher's kid with rebellion in his heart or what it felt like to sit at mom's side in the hospital, just before death visited. There isn't another voice in this room; every ear is listening. Their stories become ours for a moment. We are in that sanctuary with the boombox and the piano when the flash of grace comes, in that white-walled room when everyone is praying, but everyone knows hows it ends.
And I wonder can I hold such sorrow in my heart!
Then we are taken into their marriages, their children's imaginations, their awakenings. We hear when love washed over a multitude of things gone wrong, when promises were kept. We're allowed to see what beauty struck them when this song became a song, when thought turned into lyric turned into melody.
And I wonder can I hold such joy in my heart!
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitutde at the gifts of these artists, whose work matters so much. I want to look them in the eyes, write them a letter, somehow let them know.
So, here is my thank you to a few of my favorites, for letting us in...
To you, Sara Groves, thank you for the simplicity and depth of your songs, for making your music accessible to all of us, with college degrees, with difficult pasts, with happy marriages, with failing ones. Thank you for following that call years ago from full-time, "sure of a paycheck" work - valuable teaching work - into work that is giving us these gifts of word and song. I met your music in 2003 and never turned back.
To Andrew Peterson, thank you for that concert last night, in that beautiful North Carolina valley of Lake Junaluska. Thanks for giving yourself to us; you are a gifted storyteller. You made us laugh and cry. You introduced yourself to my family for the first time... and it was a good meeting. You are so very real and approachable; we feel human when we're listening to you.
To Don and Lori Chaffer (Waterdeep). Thank you for writing about everything - grief, loss, and how hard it is to love anybody down here. For making us laugh from the stage. For reading poetry. For being so vulnerable. For getting married. I, too, met your music in 2003, alongside Sara Groves and have been supporting and purchasing your work ever since. Your albums, both together and solo, have stirred me at the core of my being. Oh, and your music is the best canning-tomatoes, chopping-vegetables, all-around-kitchen music.