I remember the first time someone actually purchased one of my CDs. It was 1999 at a roller-skating rink in Sacramento, California, where I was opening for a ska band (a story unto itself). The kid who made the purchase had blue hair and was probably sixteen. He handed me sweaty cash from his pocket saying, “I didn’t think I’d like you,” which I took as a compliment. Further, I took it as a sign that I’d made a connection and, as corny as it may sound, I was actually moved.
My husband, daughter, and I were in upstate New York for an extended vacation to see family, and I shot through the roll in three days. After each photograph I pulled the camera away from me to see what it looked like, a habit I’ve acquired with my DSLR, only to be reminded that this type of photography was not immediate. I had to wait. I had to take my time, adjust the camera and the focus carefully, and wait until the entire roll was exposed to take it to be developed.
Mumford & Sons bring to life what America seems to long for when we give ourselves over to the nostalgia of the Depression Era. Their poetry and poise bespeak a life of hardship and loss and yet, they haven't lost the hope of redemption — the beauty of suffering, even. There’s a refreshing absence of cynicism in their lyrics that provides a contrast to the dominant American attitude of entitlement, arrogance, and individualism which is often hard to shake off.
As I move farther and farther away from the way I believed as a child, is there anything left to hold onto? Is it possible to believe in anything so strongly again? In the song, Rob describes his grandfather’s faith and recounts a story his grandfather told him about “a train wreck in the ’60’s,” which brings up what theologians call theodicy, the problem of the existence of evil if there is a God.
So you dressed in linen on the threshing floor
and made that man’s feet an altar:

bare for the pleading, the head-covered prayer
of a woman coming to beauty.

Who are you, he says, you
like a merchant ship bringing wine?
His painting consisted of red and blue brushstrokes across the bottom of the paper, because that was as high as he could reach. I saved the painting in a plastic bin somewhere in his bedroom closet: not a particularly beautiful painting, definitely not an important subject, but it is significant. It marks a few moments in which my son wondered about paint.
Sometimes, before I open the door, I can hear the music within.

It might be a muscular reel, a bouncy jig, or a lilting hornpipe. My pace and pulse quicken. A smile sprouts. In a moment I will see the musicians, and the faces I meet will tell me they’re glad I came, and a space will open to absorb me into the circle.
For me, pressing my brush against a canvas shakes the snow globe of monotony. It’s how I process this season of life and refill my cup. More than that, it’s the way I etch toward beauty, contemplate truth, and lasso the wayward bits of myself so I have more to give to the people I love.

The Gift

The young woman sitting next to me in the Denver airport gripped the grande cup of hot Earl Grey I had just purchased for her. Her name was Marta. She was seventeen, an exchange student from the Ukraine on her way back to Eugene, Oregon, for a few days of debriefing before heading home. She had spent the last year of high school with a host family in Minneapolis where I’d just attended a conference. Her wide brown eyes and long, thin legs gave her the look of a fawn — a frightened, waif-like creature. She also had a nasty cold that I did not want to catch.

When we first started talking about an Art House Dallas launch, we knew it needed to include three aspects: good food, live music, and opportunities to gather our Dallas friends for meaningful conversations. We imagined a handful of Dallas artists and Art House America supporters would meet together for a couple of hours to talk about what it looks like to live an “artful life.”
My son Adrian, our oldest of four children, is a talented singer-songwriter and musician. I say this with as much objectivity as I can muster, for it would be easier if he wasn’t so good. I carry with me all the broken promises, misplaced optimism, wishful thinking, and bull-headed stubbornness that thirty-odd years in the music business doles out. Without a doubt, I also had some signature moments of my life, but what weighs more: the successes or the struggles?
Early on a Thursday morning two weeks ago, I gathered my bags and hit the road for Laity Lodge's annual artist retreat, including Art House America founders and friends. Eight hours and a triple-shot latte later, I turned off Highway 83 and eased the car down a gravel road. Hand-carved signs punctuated the progression of slopes and curves leading down into the canyon, asking me to slow down. At the bottom of the canyon, the road disappeared into a river. I stopped to double-check the driving directions. “Turn left into the river . . . ”
In a sense, Danielle is the catalyst of Raising Up the Dead. She wrote six songs — literally half of the album. Her songs are extremely well-written, and they resonate as deeply personal. “Some of them are hard to even talk about,” said Danielle. “I don’t mind sharing them in the guise of poetry and lyrics, but it’s hard to come right out and talk about them.”
When I was a child and my mother called me over so she could pull the measuring tape around my chest and along my torso, I didn’t think much of it. She knitted often, and making sweaters for me was a regular event. We lived in upstate New York; sweaters were necessary. Being a child, though, those sweaters didn’t mean much more than my other pieces of clothing. To me, they were just sweaters.
I’m six months pregnant with my first child and nesting like there’s no tomorrow. Nesting takes many forms for me: cleaning, painting, sorting, shredding, and acquiring. A substantial portion of the process involves acquiring books — books about pregnancy, nutrition, labor and birth, baby development, philosophies of child-raising, and how to love a child as part of our family, our church, our neighborhood, and the world.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a college convocation. When I told the Director of Spiritual Life that I would share my creation-care journey and then ask students to work in small groups on a Good Steward Covenant — committing to specific actions they would take in a day, a week, a month, and a year — I could see he was a bit skeptical. No speaker had ever done anything quite like this in a convocation, but he was game.

Raising Artful Children: a Grandmother’s Perspective

In this grand vocation of teaching kids about the world, it’s important to give careful thought to the environments we create for them to grow up in — grandparents’ homes included. Our homes are not neutral places, but rather culture-shaping places. We’re helping to form ideas, attitudes, imagination, compassion, and skills. Our little people will one day be big people who take their places in the flow of history. In hundreds of vocational spheres — as mothers and fathers, artists and scientists, shopkeepers and CEOs — our children and grandchildren will grow up to be the culture-makers of their generation.

I grew up as the youngest of five boisterous kids, and liturgy was not a major part of our family culture. Church was formal, but relegated to Sunday mornings. Impulse was our modem operandi; ritual was the exception. These days, I maintain that improvisational lifestyle. I don’t have a daily commute. In fact, I don’t drive the same route twice if I can help it. (This used to make my husband crazy when he was first learning his way around Nashville.) A singer-songwriter by trade, I don’t even play the same set list two nights in a row. But in my mid-twenties, I took up the habit of afternoon tea.
Almost two years ago exactly, I entered the Art House for the first time. Like someone who had been there a hundred times before, I came in through the kitchen door and sat down at the Great White Table (the best place in the house). I had recently made the career transition from politics to entertainment through my job with the Wedgwood Circle and our team was in Nashville to help co-host a musician retreat at the Art House.
There is a gastronomical upset brought upon by reading God-awful writing, but that is not the kind of which I speak. If these books that lure me do yield any bitterness, it is because they turn my world upside down with an unveiling of reality. They change me and form me — and sometimes, reversing my mindset is a bit unpleasant. Not meant as a quick gulp of novelty or escape, these are books to read, eat, and chew . . . slowly, like meditation.