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!

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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

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Faith For Real

Tour is in full swing. We just finished 10 fantastic days with our dear friend, Sammy Horner. We had seven hours to pack and now find ourselves in Bushnell, IL at Cornerstone Music Festival.

I’m not much of a camper. In fact, I’m probably a level -2 camper (if there is a scale). It’s hot and sticky. Long days of loud music, thousand’s of people and offering more that any one person can do in day. I have felt oppressed lately and uneasy about the future, so my surrounding aren’t helping. For so long we have been focused on the vision of our call. The vision of sharing family, song and encouraging community and connection through reconciliation. That is all still there but I find myself totally absorbed in my mind, trying to control the details and it’s not working out very well.

Yesterday, I was so overrun with weariness and desperate to leave the festival. My family was having a lovely time and didn’t want to leave. I knew I was being a downer and a bit selfish as my reasonings were all based on fear. “I need to get back to our home so we can have our garage sale, so I can book shows for our future, so I can bla bla bla.” It all sounded so responsible but what I really needed was to stay and be open. I talked myself into just taking a deep breath and seeing what comes. And it came!

I meet three families. All of them servant minded, “kinfolks” as I like to call them. All of them gifted in their craft and all of them focused and moving forward. They told me their stories about how they found themselves as travelers and faith and the mystical ways that God worked out the details. My skeptical mind listened but kept a distance.

Grace, a wife and mother of three darling little girls, is a leader along with her husband of the “Tribe of Judah,” a school out of Iron Mountain, MI. They weren’t planning on traveling except for a few times a year with the students from their school. But last year, just before Cornerstone Festival, a bus was provided and they have been on the road since. She told me a story of a time in New Orleans where they only had a bit of change left, (mind you there are more than a handful of students plus her family on the bus) It was one of those nick of time, testing of the faith stories. I listened but probably squirmed a little.

Later I meet Tony. He was standing by a wagon full of sweet little children in the back of the Chelsea Cafe’ Tent. He was watching his grandchildren while his wife, two beautiful daughters and son set up for their show. I’m not even sure how it happened but in the course of about 20 min. I learned about his 20 + years on the road, traveling with his children and now grandchildren. When I began to ask him questions about the logistics of finances and where they traveled. He just answered, “No, no we didn’t book ahead really. We just did the faith thing.” Hmmm. The Faith thing.

Then there’s Alan Aguirre and his band Men As Trees Walking. He has quite a presence at the festival. He rolls in on his big ol red bus with a fierce lion on both sides. I heard a bit of a buzz about who he is and what he has accomplished. The camp site is busy with movement and I don’t usually approach folks with this sort of presence because of pride, I’m sure. I fear they will think I’m needy… I’m laughing because I am needy. Anyway, I walk past several times and then my feet just start moving in and all of a sudden I’m by his side introducing myself. Craig is with me and we start asking questions about logistics, busses verses RV’s, traveling with family. (He also travels with wife, daughters/son-in-laws, a new baby grandson. About 11 total) He talks of obedience and working through trials. He shares a story about the bus. It’s a disheartening story about the cost of the journey with this bus. He is convinced that God wants him to be in this bus and I’m not going to argue with that but I do ask him if he ever get frustrated with God and question why God would have wanted him to by such a burdensome bus? To paraphrase, he answers, “No where in scripture do I read that if I obey God, he will…. I just read obey because I love God.” I start to tear up. I ask him how he and his family get through. He doesn’t answer in material terms talking of marketing and networking (although, he does that well) but he says two simple words, “prayer and fasting.” He encourages our family to stay in unity with one another spiritually. My defenses are down now and the tears rush out. He hit the nail on the head. We have been so focused on the material issues of selling our home and what we’ll live in next, booking and getting life organized that we’ve lost our vision. The ultimate vision of loving and obeying God. Really it doesn’t matter where we live, what we do or become. My deepest longing is to know God and be open.

Then this morning as I sat down to reflect this came to me…

“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” Rom. 12:3

I rest in the encouragement and advice that comes from such wise souls. Allowing the waves of faith to wash over me and laying my pride down. Today I look forward to gleaning more of the goodness will come my way.