Tried and True

This March we celebrated our first love in Key West, taking in the beauty of a sunset and enjoying a fantastic dinner by the sea. While we sat there enjoying each other and our surrounding we took a sobering look at our marriage journey line, remembering the heights and depths that we have traversed over the last 15 years. We fully embrace every aspect of our journey, the good and the ugly and the truth is that we know that without every single moment we would not have the conviction or drive to live the way we do now.

Many have heard our story sitting around a table, sharing a meal or through listening to our second album, Ashes to Beauty, which poetically chronicles the first ten years of our rocky marriage. When we sit with kinfolk from all walks of life, we understand that they are influenced by different subcultures and lingo. However, through the face to face conversation process we are able to really work through meanings, finding common ground and understanding.

I have rarely written about our story of covenant, mostly because of the limitations of language when writing prose. It’s also a long story and I never know where to start. However, recently I stumbled upon some old journal entries, like the one below and felt a prompting to share it in it’s raw, vulnerable form. I’ve sat on it for a few months now, but can no longer hold it in. I believe story, specially stories of restoration, redemption, and reconciliation are valuable to the heart of humanity. When we hear these stories it is like taking a shot of wheatgrass, revitalizing the soul, infusing goodness and building faith.

Ours is a story including three characters, God, Man and Woman; all working out this thing called covenant. Whatever your predisposition to spirituality, our hope is that you will find it encouraging and begin to see the value in sharing your own story.

This particular sequence of events was written in 2010, during the darkest hour of our marriage. In this entry I remember back to 1999, back to the beginning of our relationship.

“Nov. 5, 2010

Betrayal is one of the most relationally debilitating experiences. It evokes feelings of rage and engages that dark part of the soul that longs for revenge and justice. In the past, I have experienced the fruitlessness of bitterness but this time my heart longs for more, I longs for reconciliation. However, reconciling is a process that is a mysterious as the idea of grace and I don’t know how to make it happen on my own. Over the months I have fought, waited, fasted and had hard conversations with my beloved with seemingly no result. It all came to a head last night but didn’t end with an apology, it actually was the darkest, loneliness night of our marriage, I ended up sleeping downstairs and woke up with deep deep heartache. To occupy my mind, I spent the day cleaning and in prayer. I was reading through the old testament book of Isaiah chapter four, which was poignant as I had read this once before during a very important moment in our past.

It was 1999, the year Craig and I were dating. I was learning how to discern my voice from God’s. (another conversation for another time) I had been given a very clear impression that Craig was going to be my husband but as we neared that pivotal time in our courtship I started to wonder if I heard right. I struggled with so much insecurity and was very unsure of my own feelings. Not towards Craig. No, I was smitten by him, but rather I was scared I was being selfish and of falling back down into that deep dark pit. (that’s a whole other story…) I really wanted to be on the right path and I wanted assurance. So, I “fleeced” God the first and only time in my life. For those who don’t know about fleecing, it’s often involves seeking God’s will through a predetermined sign. And so, I asked the Creator of the Universe to show me “rain” in the morning when I woke. If he did, I would know it meant that I was on the right path and that I had heard right, Craig was to be my Beloved.

I know, I know, as soon as the words came out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. What was I doing? Of course I heard right the first time. I felt like a silly child. I prayed and asked God to forgive my unbelief and to just never mind but I knew it was out there. And so, I laid my head to pillow but barely slept a wink, arguing with myself about how ridiculous I was, yet waiting with great anticipation, hoping for rain.
I woke up to the brightest, sunniest day EVER and my heart sank. I apologized again and again. I felt so silly. My day continued on with breakfast, taking my daughter to her pre-school and heading back home to contemplate what I had done. I was reading through the sacred text of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter four to be exact. I sat there in a fog reading about the Branch of the Lord and how it will be beautiful and glorious. I continued on… bla bla bla…I was reading but my mind was distracted and numb. And then, these words nearly jumped off of the page “God will bring back the ancient pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and mark Mount Zion and everyone in it with his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence, shade from the burning sun and shelter from the driving RAIN!” I began leaping in the air, screaming out, “Wow! Wow! Oh God! Wow!” Oh, how thankful I was for God’s clever sense of humor and his amazing mercy and faithfulness. And,  honestly I had no idea what the actual chapter was about, all I knew was The God of the Angel Armies graciously and tenderly affirmed me, showing me rain, giving me the confidence I needed to enter into covenant with Craig.

But, here I am eleven years later and I am just as insecure and unsure about God’s faithfulness. Wondering if I really did hear right, for how could my beloved betray me. How could “the little foxes breach our walls and wreck havoc on our vineyards?” I am still committed to my husband, but these are really hard times. The perfect timing though, in remembering this moment in 1999 is one more gift of assurance, for I am reminded of God’s unfailing love and desire to turn our ashes to beauty. I can feel something brewing, as discouraged as I have felt over these past six months, I know that something has to break. We are His. He put us together and He has our back.”

Nov 6, 2010

My beloved came home from work early. He looked forlorn and as he set his lunch bucket down, he reached for me and embraced me like never before. His heart had broken and he offered a sincere apology asking me to forgive him. The light changed in his eyes, they were no longer haughty or proud but humble before me. As his tears fell, I could feel my anger, hurt, angst, and pain instantly start to melt away. I literally felt it flow from the top of my head down my shoulders, lower back, all the way to my feet. It left my body and a peace that is pure filled my being.

This was real. This was a miracle and as the sense of aloneness and the relenting need to stand alert dissipated, I could breath again, I could see again.

Thank the Lord for this miracle of reconciliation, for freedom and for faithfulness. We’re ready to rebuild!

************************************************************************************

It was Jan of 2011, just two months after this entry that we began to dream of a life that was simpler, less fragmented and community driven. The idea of giving away our possessions and buying/converting a bus, came over the course of the next eight months. Finally leading to the our lauch in Oct 2011. The joy of making our way, sharing our gifts and talents, merrymaking and encouraging those we meet along the way as well as, the impact this experience has had on our marriage and family has been more than we could have ever dreamed.

It is a delight to share our story and we will continue to do that. But, even more it’s amazing how your stories encourage us and keep us on our way. So, if you have a story to share, please do, we’d love to hear.

“We have broken bread with some along the way during their darkest hour, some well after the miracle of reconciliation has come. Always it is an honor to share in this journey with you.” ~Craig & Jana Holland

Maybe This Is The Storm That We Won’t Make It Through

“Below the street,” is a term counselor, Jerry Price, uses in his teaching on “twisted thinking.” It represents going deeper, being more transparent, removing the mask. You have to go below the street if you want to find out what’s really going on, if you want real change.

Well, for the past two weeks I have had a bitter root taking hold of me. Fears about things that might happen to my children to harm their minds and faith. Fear of what our future holds, how we will sustain. Little thoughts of discord, here and there, about my husband. Anger brewing, to the point of tiny outbursts. Stupid little moments would arise where I would feel he was not protecting me or the kids and I would blow up at him. Things that were totally out of his control or things that I misunderstood.

For instance, a few days ago we stopped in at a local youth center. We got out of the car and my husband made his way a cross the street. I was still back at the car and shouted, asking if we could get a business card out of the trunk for the director. Looking back, I’m sure my tone was harsh, as I felt he was abandoning me by going ahead so quickly. He responded, with a slight shift of his head and plainly said, “no.” He then stated that the case was buried under all our luggage. I really didn’t hear his whole comment but everything in me went hard and I began to yell at him, scolding him for speaking to me that way, like I was a child. He was a bit taken back and begin to explain that he was just stating a fact but I read it so differently. We didn’t really take time to work it out then and there but rather kept walking into the building; greeting the director only moments after this outburst.

After our meeting with the youth director (which went fine, by the way. Amazing how we can put a mask on and just soldier on when we want to) we returned to the car and just carried on with life but deep down I knew something was going strangely wrong. Harmony was absent, but who’s fault was it?

I could feel a storm brewing, and remembered Jerry Price’s teaching in our  More Married sessions, where we learned about “storming” and how it’s a natural process in relationships. However, we learned that when we don’t enter into the storm we go back to a dysfunctional “norm,” and stunt our growth, keeping everything on the surface. However, if we engage the storm and allow it to clean house, so to speak, we come out in a new form; a form that allows deeper connection and harmony.

Investigative, I scoured through the gamut of reasons to why my heart was so hard. From dire straits “this is it, maybe this is the storm that we won’t make it through,” to the more rational, “this is definitely a storm, how do we make it through?”  I began to move from focusing on what my husband was doing wrong to what I was doing. I considered that maybe it was hormonal or maybe it was the change in my diet, maybe it was living out of a suitcase in a foreign country or the uncertainty of life and feeling out of control. What ever it was, self loathing crept in every time a little blow up would happen. I felt more and more insecure and I began to feel extremely isolated.

I’m practiced at “white knuckling” and was able to fend off some of the outbursts; keeping them at bay, specially when we were around others. And, I even choked out a few prayers. However, all I could get out was a whisper of “help me.” What in the world, I hadn’t felt this way in years. What was going on?!

 

Then the final straw broke. We were planning on going out to a local coffee shop to work on web stuff.  We had spent a comfortable morning, sharing breakfast and getting ready for the day. I was lingering and at a certain point in the morning, my husband announced that he was going to get in the car. That was it, just a simple announcement and I flipped out. His declaration seemed abrupt to me. I began to bark at him, “What? What about the computer… and the bag…and what about the kids…are the kids ready?” I panicked, trying to reel the words back in. He stood there looking at me like a deer in the head lights, asking what he was meant to do? He asked, what did I want him to do? No words came but rather I began scurrying around gathering the computer and bag, yelling at the kids and we all clumsily made our way to the car. Once inside the car, we all sat utterly stunned. My mind was racing, what is going on with me? Why am I so out of control? And, then I saw it plain as day, a manifestation of my past began to come forward.

My husband sat patiently, quietly, and then the vision became clear. Seems that when he announced that, “he’ll be in the car” it triggered a memory from my childhood and my dad saying this to my mom and then leaving the house. Then for the next 15 or 20 minutes my mom would hurriedly try to get all of us children out the door. I don’t really know what was going on between them but from my little person perspective, it seemed that my dad abandoned my mom to do all the heavy lifting. I made note of this at that young age and developed a belief system about men based on that belief.

I began to weep. I was paralyzed and didn’t know what to do next. Seriously, everything could have gone south at this point. He had every right to admonish me but he didn’t. Instead, he began to speak gentle words of truth over me. He declared harmony in our relationship and then he asked if he could pray for me and not is a sappy patronizing way, but in a genuine I care for you way. I wept even harder and said yes. What followed was an experience I can only describe as supernatural. His petition for Abba’s mercy, power, discernment and his declaration of Love began to envelop me to the point that the hard casing around my heart shattered. I felt immediate relief. I could see clearly now, all that had bound me up.

Look, working to get below the street was no easy task, as my ego was bruised and my natural tendency was to try to hold face. However,  the more his love covered me the more my pride was laid low. His was a true act of grace; the kind of grace that bleeds for another. The kind of grace that trusts the repentance process, that leads the recipient back towards Abba’s original intent for our lives. Not the cheap stuff, not the fabricated kind that says, “it’s OK, you’re just living your truth, you can be an ass and we’ll all get by” but the kind that says “this isn’t who you’re created to be and I will cover you in order that you might actually have a moment to reflect without the distraction of self-protection.”  It was in this moment that I could see my twisted thinking errors, my stubbornness, victim stance and manipulative thinking. I could see that my own ability to “fix” them was not enough. I began to pray silently along with my husband, weeping for forgiveness, thankful for this relief and new hope.

freedomLook, we don’t always get it right, but in this situation, my husbands humility and grace, is a beautiful example of how we are called to care for one another in the body. His faith carried me to the cross and in doing so, carried me into the presence of God. He fought for me, stepping out-of-the-way and allowed Abba to heal me. Had he allowed his pride to get in the way, we would probably be at ground zero, still storming. His willingness to fight for me and surrender his own pride set a wise tone that allowed me to surrender my own pride, see clearly and fight for us.

In the end, we stormed and can now get on to enjoying the new form. Everything is above the street. For now. 🙂

 

All the Little Foxes

It’s amazing how all the little foxes come out in our marriage when we have to deal with logistics or discomfort. And, the heat, the heat really brings ’em out.

We hit an all time physical low over the past two weeks as we’ve all been struggling with a harsh cold/cough. Add in the fast pace of life, working on the bus, performing, doing taxes, visiting with folks (which we’d rather do the whole time) and finishing up home school for the summer. Then this heat wave hit and there was little respite.

Our little scenario went down like this:

I had been whining about the heat. Just basic grumpy faced whining. I wear the elements on my sleeve, so to speak. Craig was sick of hearing me whine and went out and bought a room Air Conditioner. He arrived home with it, big smile on his face and I was delighted. We set up Air/Con. Closed all the windows in the bus and started it up. I left for a music therapy session at a local nursing home. I returned to Craig sitting at the dining room table, in the bus. He sat with sweat pouring down his face, all the windows still closed and Air/Con fan running but no cool air pumping out. I said, “What? Why is so hot in here? What is wrong with this thing.” He responds, “I told you this wouldn’t work.” HA! That was it, WW3…. Well, sort of.

What happened was, I had complained about the heat to a few friends. Craig felt that I had done this to put him down. And, maybe deep inside I did? Maybe deep inside I didn’t trust that he was really concerned about this issue. I felt that every time I tried to problem solve the issue with him, he would say “he’s” working on it. So, you know what, I’m sure there was something in my tone and manner that suggested to him that he wasn’t doing a good job. Anyway, the next morning when he decided to purchase the Air/Con, his mindset was that it was a temporary fix and not really how he wanted to solve the problem. So, when the unit didn’t work, well, his true colors came out and the bitter root was exposed. As we talked through the scenario we saw clearly the Twisted Thinking that we had both succumb to.  We discovered that we both had believed that deep-rooted fear of being put down or dishonored. Once we put it all on the table and got to the root, we were able to reconcile and begin to really problem solve. (Mind you, this knowledge and ability to be able to get to the root has come from much support and help from Jerry Price’s MORE MARRIEDSTAR Energizer)

Our past tendency has been to full fill self gratifying desires instantly, or as soon as possible. However, after our big decision in December to pay off all of our credit cards and only live by what we have, that desire for instant gratification has been challenged in every way. From, wanting an Air Conditioning system NOW to simple things like the desire for a coffee and even for things that in the past would have seemed like basic necessities like new socks or makeup, all of these desires have been put into a new perspective. We can attest to the fact, that most things eventually are granted. We have new socks, we do end up going for coffee and we totally trust that someday we’ll have air conditioning. Or maybe we won’t but at the end of the day we trust that we have what we need. When our conversation finished, we decided to take the unit back to the hardware store, not for a return but for a refund. The credit balance is back to zero, we are unified in our plan for Air/Con and thank the Lord it’s cooled off these past few days.

This Side of Heaven

So, here we are 8 months into our travels and we are finding that although our original desire to serve and encourage community has not ceased, the journey is more about us being healthy enough to serve and encourage.

When push came to shove there was a lot of stuff in our marriage that needed to be put on the table, owned and forgiveness asked for. Once that process started it was only a matter of time before the health that comes from reconciling started to permeate our journey. It began to impact our relationship with our children, challenging us to be open and keep short accounts. It exposed attitudes and beliefs that kept us from being truly connected and it began to reshape our thinking about our connection with extended family and friends.

Meant to be a safe place, “family” is typically dangerous ground with shards of impatience, critical spirits and co-dependency.  Yes, in family it all hangs out, the blemishes,  junk and our hypocrisy. But, family is also where the deepest root of reconciliation can begin. It is where that reconciliation can transform a marriage, a parent/child or sibling relationship into one of the most profound connections we feel this side of heaven.  It takes the choice of two to make that connection, to enter the mystery, hearts softened, arms wide open. We are thankful for continued opportunities to experience this awesome gift. We are thankful for family, all of them. Every single one.

Learning to Swim Upstream

What a whirlwind of a year! 2011 was a year of new birth. Not just in the movement of becoming mobile but in all aspects of our lives; our marriage, our family, our finances, our music, our purpose. We went into this thinking that we had to have our ducks in a row but have found that the more we try to control the process the more we get in the way.

We don’t doubt that 2012 will continue to be a journey of learning to swim upstream and we embrace it fully. Our desire to encourage folks to engage in genuine, creative and committed community is stronger than ever.  We have been blessed dearly by the ministry of reconciliation and our longing is to continue to bring that blessing where ever we go.

Our hope is to continue to be productive members of the International Folk Alliance, sharing our music in venues and homes across the US and beyond. We’ve begun writing a new album with songs that reflect our journey and the stories of folks we continue to meet along the way. Stories of those downtrodden and tired, those in the margin, those who feel betrayed and those who have found new life. And, we’ve also begun to seek out partnerships with groups along the way who need an extra set of hands; to be available to serve and share.

Everyday Craig gets a little bit more finished on Celu’haven. Our hope is to have a place to lay our heads by Feb. 1, 2011. Until then we have been cared for and loved by The Golden’s. (family friends) They have blessed us beyond measure with their quiet faith and kind hearts. They are living proof of the good news and we are so thankful for their example.

UPDATE PHOTO’S:

                                                         

Ashes To Beauty

“Ashes to beauty, healing has come. Will you look in the mirror or turn and run? Redemption has come, now rest your weary soul. Will you consecrate your life or go back to war?” ~jh

We are excited to reveal the cover art by Kara Counard.

“Ashes To Beauty” is the name of our new album.

The name feels right, maybe a little cleche’ but it’s fitting. We have been married for over 10 years and this album reflects many of the highs and lows of our commitment to each other. Everything from our first love to betrayal and the act of reconciling our love for one another. It would fair to say that we are MORE married today than yesterday.

It’s not only for married people to listen to however, our desire is for the listener to hear a message of hope and encourage the connection that comes with commitment whether it’s in marriage or in community. We chronicle our journey, to show the process of healing that comes through reconciliation.  When we are open and look in the mirror to see our impact on others, redemption comes and our ashes turn to beauty.

Release date to come…