Top 5 Favorite Things to Share with Creatives

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

You can read the post about having two halves of life and comparing their bucket-lists here
You can read the post called “What’s stopping you from being you” here

 

Betony and I often find ourselves in incredible conversations with awesome, creative people. We talk about the how-to’s and inspiring maxims and stories we find.
These seem to be Betony and I’s top 5; the wisdom we’ve come into over the years we keep returning to. What would you add to the list? 

1. All Projects Have 3 Parts

Let’s stop viewing art through a romantic lens for a moment and get down to the flesh and bones.

A project has three distinctive phases:
creating/ producing/ sharing

We write the songs or dream up the idea or finish the screen play. That’s the creating part. But then we have to get out the microphones, gather the teams, rent the rehearsal space and produce what’s been dreamed. We’ve got to give life our ideas. Producing is such a hard phase!

And most creatives stop there. I know I have before. Your dream has come alive and can be seen or heard or experienced…

but who’s going to invite your friends and fans to the glorious thing you’ve made?!

Marketing is difficult but for the most part no one is going to do it for us. We have to find natural and loving ways to share our work with those who we know will love experiencing it!

2. The Journey of the Project is as Important as the End Product

Early in my career I made an album that ended, I believe, 4 friendships. I was close to each of these musicians and invited them to play on this new project, but after so many rehearsals and events and lack of communication, I burned them out. They didn’t want to work with me after that.

The final project turned out great; everyone played beautifully and it sounded wonderful. But it’s my least favorite album of mine. I actually rarely open and listen to it because it relives, for me, such a failure of leadership and lack of understanding.

There’s a love of journey and joy in making that needs to resonate in the creation of a thing. Climbing the mountain can be tough and challenging, but a great time too. That’s why we do it. It shouldn’t be a miserable experience that turns people against each other or creates bitterness.

I’ve tried to take this to heart. A few years ago Betony and I finished a project called Becoming. When musicians came over to record in the evenings we would often feed them and spend time with them, just hanging out. Then when the album was done we had everyone involved over for a foodie’s paradise experience, an award giving ceremony (think Throne Room scene from Star Wars and old war medals), and a Becoming listening party. I look back on the creation of that album with warm memories of special times. The journey was wondrous. 

3. Make Lots of Work

There’s a wonderful passage from the book Art & Fear below and Betony and I reference this whenever we start to romanticize our current project too much. It goes like this:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I talk with young music writers that have been working on the same 5 songs for 3 years and my first challenge to them is: You have 20 minutes. Go write a new song. And then after that we’re going to do that exercise again and again. It’s shocking what people start to make when they get unstuck from what they’re trying to perfect.

We learn by doing or make the road by walking. In the arts it’s no different. 

4. The Most Personal is Often the Most Universal

My friend and artist Wes Sam-Bruce was where I first heard this idea: the most personal is often the most universal. I was still surprised when it came true for me.

I was getting ready to release an album called Frailty and was a little worried with how personal the themes were. My first daughter had been born and all of a sudden I was faced with my own morality. It sank in that one day I will leave her, my wife and family, leave all this I love, and walk through that passage we will all walk; death. So the album was a collection of my reflections in that season; facing my own frailty with bitter-sweet sentiment and outrageous hope for the New to come.

As I shared the album from this place of uncertainty and vulnerability(on social media, email, and beyond) I was surprised by many responses that came my way. Lots of parents had experienced similar feelings and struggles. Lots of people in general wanted to talk to me about these themes charged throughout the songs. 

When I was willing to write from the personal places of my story
it struck a chord in the story of those I loved as well.

5. Just love them

There are two things I do before going on stage. And this is whether I’m leading worship at a church or performing at a concert or teaching or whatever.

Two things.

And they are a bit embarrassing to disclose. (At least the first one is.)

The first I learned from a TED Talk.

I look into the mirror of the nearest bathroom I can find (a place of privacy). I look into my reflection and give a big smile and I square my shoulders in a sort of power-pose. The TED Talk explained that doing this physical act of showing yourself to be strong actually helps our brains believe we really are. The study involved people doing these power-poses in the mirror before job interviews and they reported an increase in confidence. 

I’ve done it for years. Even more than confidence, I’d say it helps me focus on being present and energetic and fully ready to be a good leader.

The next thing I do I consider the most important.

I look in the mirror and I say, Just love them.

The power-pose was from a TED Talk but this one is from some article my wife found. It was by a motivational speaker who traveled and spoke all the time. He made sure it wasn’t about his performance or some results oriented marker. Just love them. That was his main goal entering the room.

And so I find myself at times wondering,
will I do a good enough job?
what if my voice doesn’t hit those high notes?
what if they find my songs boring?
what if I’m not cool enough or say something stupid?
what if no one shows or no one buys any CDs or what if…?

Just love them

I’ve found that if I orient myself around that, everything else will be secondary and I will have achieved what I was supposed to and I can let go of the outcome.

 

There’s my top 5 pieces of wisdom I’ve returned to over the years in my creative field. I hope you found it helpful and/or interesting.
I would LOVE if you wanted to add to the list below in the comments. What’s an anecdote or concept you’ve found helpful?

What’s Stopping You from Being You?

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

Here’s the post on the two halves of life where I compare bucket-lists, 7th grade’s and today’s.
And here’s our Top 5 Helpful Things for Creative People!


It was ten years ago and Betony was pregnant with our first child. We were having dinner with some friends who are a bit older than us; people whose wisdom in the music profession I trust.

After dinner we were talking about dreams and songwriting and insecurities.
My friend turned to me and gave me something I’d been looking for a long time: permission.

He told me it was time to take my music career out of the closet and give it some sunshine…
let it breathe. He told me I could do it and essentially to stop wishing it and go be it.

Isn’t it strange how just a bit of encouragement from a trusted source can be all we need?

Before this moment I had played in bands and led worship music and produced demo albums with incredible musicians. But I’d never taken any of it as seriously as I’d liked. When we played a show I rarely invited anyone. When we made an album I wouldn’t invest very much money or even pay to get it mastered. I had this major fear and hinderance in my mind. It’s one I still will wrestle with on bad days. It goes like this:

If I don’t make enough money doing this then I’m not successful.
If this doesn’t lead to a tipping point of notoriety that leads to sustainability then I’m not successful. If I don’t create enough income to arrive at the American dream of a sweet house and some cars, then I’m not successful.
If I can’t make a living doing this, isn’t it just a glorified hobby?

And around and around my mind goes
until I feel embarrassed calling myself a musician. 

We all have a major hangup, don’t we? That main roadblock that’s in our way that we just keep struggling with.
Mine seems to be this definition of success. What’s yours? 


My hangups are still present, but after this eye opening conversation 10 years ago something in me changed. I had a big shift in perspective. 

I probably wasn’t ever going to be a singer-songwriter as a singular career. But that was ok.
I was going to keep being an intentional singer-songwriter because…
when it came down to it, I had been compelled to since I was young.

I had written songs and longed to share them since 2nd grade.

I had a fire in my bones, as a prophet once put it, and I had to create and share.

That sentence reads melodramatic, but I think most creatives know what I’m talking about…
the compulsion to make something meaningful and share it with the people we love;
to connect in deep ways where what’s being sung and experienced becomes a conversation of “me too”;
to make something beautiful that speaks in and over and through the human condition. 


So that year, a decade ago, after that important conversation, I started taking creating seriously. I had another job as a worship leader but I also started dedicating time to songwriting, to having a website, a Facebook page, to setting up a series of house concerts. I put together my first ever tour with the goal to break even (I made $500 and was so thrilled).

I had just turned 30.
And I’ve kept this up the last 10 years.

When people ask what I do for a living I tell them musician
and it’s usually with a great deal of pride.
That title is a juggling of a whole lot of “main jobs” and “side hustles”. I think the most important thing the intentionality over these years has done… it has addressed the compulsion to make and given me space to create.

To put it maybe a better way, it’s helped me be the person I’ve needed to be; the person I’ve felt called to be.

I’ve made work I’m proud of. I’ve had people respond and let me know a song or project or experience meant a great deal to them.
And that truly has felt like the answer to the calling.
And it’s still not been my main source of income.
But it’s not a hobby.
It’s an identity. 

I’m so thankful, grateful that someone came along to give me permission to do this.
I needed the affirmation and encouragement
that even though creating this art is not my sole income, it’s my soul income.
That has personally been my largest hurdle to overcome in being an artist.


So now I say this quite seriously
to those of you with the fire in your bones to make and create and connect,
whatever your hangups are:

You can do this.
You feel deep inside you’re called to it and you HAVE to make.
Do what you need to do.
Be responsible. Live economically. Make it work.
It’s worth it.
Keep on your side hustles and passion projects
and add beauty to this world starved for meaning.
It makes a better us when you are fully you.
Thank you for being bold. It’s we who benefit. 

 

My 7th Grade Bucket List vs. My 40 Year Old Bucket List

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

Here’s the post called, “What Stopping You from Being You?”
Here’s the Top 5 helpful things we love sharing with people in creative work.

 

Tim Coons Life Goals
from 7th Grade Health Class (and yes, this is real. Proof in the above picture.)

1. Skydive
2. Learn to surf
3. See Europe
4. Play high school football
5. Scuba dive
6. Be good at tennis
7. Go to C.U.
8. Party a lot
9. Get a Geo storm
10. Be famous

When I was in seventh grade I created this gem of a bucket list. My mom has kept it on a poster-board all these years and gave it to me recently. I still cannot read through this top 10 without laughing out loud. And for those of you who know me, you realize just how far this middle school version was from my actual self.

What is doubly incredible is that I failed to achieve any item on this list. I have yet to see Europe or scuba dive. I was never any good at tennis. I went to UNC instead of CU Boulder. I still don’t feel like I’ve partied a lot. And just where is my Geo Storm? My 13-year-old self’s dream car? That’s probably the biggest question.

I’d love to say out loud right now, in response to these lame dreams and aspirations…
Thank God my priorities have changed.

I’m so thankful that we “grow up” in life. If we happen to live long enough we are gifted with both painful and joy-filled experiences that open our eyes. We evolve and the values we held at 10 may be different at 20 and 30. And I hope that keeps happening for me past midlife!

I think it will, as I believe our souls are constantly becoming our true selves.

 

Two Halves of Life

In the book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, he presents the idea that there is a major shift in the first half of life to the second half of life that many of us experience. And perhaps our goals and priorities in life’s first half will drastically change in the last. 

The first half of life is preoccupied with making the container of who you are.
It’s our job and family-building
and home-making
and career-establishing time.

It’s about the development and enhancement of our Ego and its mind-set: ambitions, plans, competitiveness, judgments about others, looking after oneself, one’s career, one’s family.

It’s a natural and important part of life!

The second half seems to be about undoing much of what has been accomplished in the first half in order to get at a deeper heart of human life. And it’s around midlife we begin to sense this.

We ask, What does it mean to keep growing? for the soul to keep becoming?

The second half of life is about pouring out from this container you’ve created. You’ve climbed some mountains and now it’s time to help others up the peaks.

“Most of us think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.”
-Richard Rohr, Falling Upward (153)

Rohr recounts four stained-glass windows he sees in a church in India. It is a Christian church but the windows represent the four stages of what a Hindu would call a great life.

The stage’s actually really surprised me.

The first part of life you are the student.

The second is the homemaker,
where you are establishing your family and home and vocation.

These first identities made sense to me and it could be said these make up the first part of life.

What’s fascinating is as Americans we stop there. While driven by so much by the story of capitalism, we are constantly urged to continue the game of this first half of life until we own three homes and have more stuff than we can possibly know what to do with. It’s only about our ego formation; mine and my own. Then we retire at 65 to travel, disconnect, and enjoy our stuff. Or if we don’t achieve this we note a label of failure hinted at by our culture. 

But in the stained-glass windows was presented an aspect of the second half of life that seemed so new to me.

The third phase being forest-dweller.

I think of the great American poet, Mary Oliver, walking through the woods of her property and coming back with lines of wisdom. The forest dweller realizes there is more to know about the world than the building of their own small kingdom and begins to leave home to seek out that insight.

Then the last stage of life is, of course, sage. The elder person brimming with wisdom who you find yourself loving to be around with their gentle humor, easy joy, depth of mind, and compassion.

Student
Homemaker
Forest Dweller
Sage

These stained-glass windows certainly hint at what I’m feeling, this mid-journey. When it comes to my own growth, I’m feeling this.

In my vocation I still have work I’m excited to do and albums to produce. But I know that work and career doesn’t completely define me.

The idea of entering into the second half of life feels true to me. It is both scary and exciting as all great adventures are. In some ways it feels like a death: the death of dreams not yet realized and the difficult reality of just how fast life really goes. But of course with death you always find a rebirth and I can feel that resonating within me too.

So here’s my new list.

I know it will change in vocabulary over the coming years and I welcome that as I continue to grow. But here’s a first attempt. 

The new, 40 year old Tim bucket list:

1. Be a soul who abides in Love.
2. Share this life with my wife in deep partnership
3. Be a present father for my children.
4. Belong to and be connected with the family and friends I’m blessed with.
5. Produce good, life-giving, and fruit-bearing work and experiences.

This bucket list is much more ethereal and harder to quantify. I can’t checkmark these of these dynamic goals off, because, like the soul, there’s never really an arrival point for any of them.

It’ll be much harder than the tangible purchasing of a Geo Storm.
But I find this list to be much more satisfying for where I’m at in life. 

 

August 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Inspired by the yearly migration of the Monarch butterflies  –

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

March 2018 Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Easter Goodness:

I don’t love it when Easter falls so early in the year, because I feel like I haven’t gotten fully into the swing of Spring yet, but it is a great kick off for the season.

Easter morning photos (Tim is missing because he had services to lead at his work)

Dying Ukrainian Easter eggs as part of our “Good Master” Book club. It is such a beautiful layered process – you use very intense dyes paired with layers of beeswax to create really beautiful eggs.

 

We read “The Good Master” for our book club. It is a story about two Hungarian children on a farm – a perfect portrait of spring. Our book club is never complete without lots of literature inspired feasting!

Sneaky little bugger…

Making seed bombs

Lots of fun hunting easter eggs –

 

 

And of course a visit from the Easter Bunny

Art:

We spent a morning studying birds nest and eggs

And wrote bird postcards

Harriet rediscovered her love of hedgehogs

Matisse inspired “backwards color” portraits

Life:

We delivered this art piece to Houston

And we maneuvered a family crisis with a lot of love and help from our friends

Rainbow Science:

We spent a day in rainbow land (including color themed outfits)

Rainbow snack time

Light table fun with magnatiles

Preschool Fun:

Learning about cavities the importance of teeth brushing

Buzzy showtime on our table top theater we made last year!

Engineering Fun:

Fun with ropes and pulleys as part of our Simple Machines exploration

And we made an official inventors kits!

and finally, we built little circuit lanterns with Tinker Crate

February 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Ancient Greece:

Because of the olympics, we thought this would be a great month to learn about ancient Greece.

We read D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and I made these peg doll representations of each of the main greek gods with help from the girls.

We also read Lightning Thief for the first time.

And enjoyed tasting Mediterranean food courtesy of our TopMunch subscription

Coloring Greek god and goddess trading cards

Drawing mythical monsters

A selection of the Greek books we enjoyed exploring

Book Arts:

For our making this month, we explored the Book Arts – Marbled paper and Book Binding!

Making marbled paper for the end papers of our books –

Working on the covers for Asian stab-bound sketchbooks we made –

Harriet made an “un-tearable” tiny baby book for Arlo out of packing tape and her own illustrations

Constellations:

For science/nature this month, we learned about constellations (which tied in beautifully to our Greek Myth studies)

Magnets, Math, and Money:

In our little impromptu science club, we tried our hand at making Magnetic Slime

Played with fractions

Learning about money – “Count It and Keep It!” was a big hit with the kids.

Olympics:

The Olympics are my favorite! So fun to get to share this with the kids. We made tiny flags and olympic ring shirts for the opening ceremony.

Lots of USA spirit over here!

Watched Cool Runnings too just for fun

Preschool:

Learning about color mixing using air dry clay and “Do You Know Colors”

Lots of help from Buzzy getting this art piece ready to deliver to Houston

Stamping Letters

Valentines Day:

The table for valentines morning –

We participated in a Homeschool Valentine Exchange. So much fun!

Lots of love notes were written to each other

 

A very chilly Valentine tea party out in the tree house

Some of our homemade Valentines we made –

 

Valentine party in Kansas with Grandparents!

Wood Carving:

While in Kansas, we got to learn about wood carving from my Grandpa Fritz. So beautiful to watch.

 

Moving to a New House and a Song About Home

The blessings came in waves
and could be felt for days
O, how my bones still shake at your names
In sweat we set the stones
in blood we brick the roads
a holy breaking comes for every home

Give me your hand, we’ll climb up the balcony
Ditch the front row and sway with the symphony
Make as much noise and be as we want to be
Your voice in my voice and hands are the canopy
Feel the old rhythm play what’s inside of me

The fields are glories now, the fields are glories now
So guide your wild eyes down
The promise in the pain, the code that’s in the grain
We’ll move beneath the weight ‘til you raise


When I was a child, around this time of year on the orchard my dad would prune all the apples trees. I would help look for branches that were crossed, or growing in at strange angles. We would then clip off the offending branches and sometimes prop them with these little red supports to help them grow straight so that they could get the best light possible and eventually grow the best fruit.

Tim and I are moving to a new house in 10 days. We bought a “fixer upper” in the middle of town near a big park. It’s a MUCH bigger house in a nice quiet neighborhood. We weren’t really planning on moving yet, but then suddenly everything fell into line at the same time, like it does.

This whole moving thing is crazy… crazy exhausting, crazy nerve wracking, crazy exciting, and crazy scary.
Ten Years.
Ten years we have lived in this house I am sitting in right now.

I know where every light switch is and where to step over the crooked floor boards.
I know the name of every plant in the garden,
why there is a funny hole in the kitchen screen,
how to walk in the middle of the night so the squeaking floor doesn’t wake the children,
the funny trick to the bathroom door downstairs,
and the story behind most of the nail holes on the walls.

It’s where I found out I was pregnant for the first time and where I brought each of my four babies home to. It’s the place where we’ve had so many wonderful Christmases, Thanksgiving feasts, and simple, every day meals.
It’s where my children took their first steps, laughed their first laughs, and tried their first foods.

It’s also where Harriet broke her leg,
where the basement flooded too many times,
where I had my anxiety breakdown,
where Tim and I had our most difficult fights,
where we had belongings stolen off our front porch,
and had to call the cops on the neighbors so many times.

This house is old. It’s been around more than 100 years.
It really has seen its fair share of marital fights and make ups.
It’s flooded but it’s dried back out.
It’s been cold and drafty and also cozy and safe.

I hope it will be around for at least 100 more years. I hope it will be the same gift to the next residents as it has been to us. (Please take care of my planty’s!)

I am sure for this home, 10 years is just a blink. But it feels so significant to me. 

Somehow leaving this house feels much more substantial then leaving high school or leaving college. I suppose if you look at it that way, those were only four year institutions. This home has been ten of mine.
Ten years of themed birthday parties and late night hard conversations with friends sitting on the kitchen floor (the best place for those kinds of talks),
nights pacing back and forth with wakeful babies,
ten years of pinching pennies to patch the wear and tear of everyday life,
of having tea on the front porch,
hosting cooking clubs and wedding showers,
play dates,
years with miscarriages, mistakes, and misadventures.
All the rhythms of our days and what I know have been centered in this place for ten years.

You can hear it in my lists… It is breaking me to leave. It feels like a close friend.

Like family.

And I am scared.

Scared this new home won’t be me.
Scared I’ll hate it.
Scared something will happen to the kids and I’ll somehow blame this decision.
I am scared it will change me. Change us.

And yet it’s time.

Time to move on, time to adventure out, time to try something new, try our hand at starting with a blank canvas, try this new place out. It’s time to move.

Time passes so damn fast, doesn’t it?

My babies are getting bigger. It comes to the end of the day and I wonder. Wonder if I did it right, wonder if I could have played it out differently, wonder if this is it, wonder are we centering our lives on the right things? Wonder if we are making the right choice.

10 days. We are moving in 10 days.

So I’ve been obsessing over this new place. This new house.

It’s not the one I would have picked. I did not like it at first.
I love old and history and craftsmanship.
This is black shag carpet and popcorn ceilings. And florescent lights. And 80s. On a cul-de-sac.

So I have created every pinterest board, design mood board, photoshopped room, shopping budget, detailed plan I can possibly do with out actually living there.

And I am starting to see it.

See the lovely that could be revealed there.

I know I can make it beautiful.
I know WE will make it beautiful.
I think about how it’s only about a block from a huge green space,
and a pool,
and how I found rhubarb sprouting up near the fence,
and how this one room feels like the barn I grew up in,
and how the layout is perfect for us,
and how we will have room to spread out,
and be able to have people over more easily,
and host house concerts,
and how I want to give every room its own theme,
and how we are going to start off by pitching tents and camping in the great room,
and so many other new things.

It will be a challenge to start from a blank slate.
But we can’t wait. We are so excited.

And still, the packing and processing all the memories and moments sucks. It is such an emotionally wrecking experience. 

Is this pruning?

Pruning is painful but good. It helps us grow straight and true so we can bear more fruit.
The truth is that I am scared about not being able to find the light switches,
and whether I can hear the playroom from the kitchen,
and having to use a 1980’s electric stove for the next ten years,
and life on a cul-de-sac,
and even more that feeling of being exhausted and wanting to go home and not being able to.

But then I take that step back.
I am reminded of my white privilege and how we are going to be living in a mansion compared to the rest of the world, and how millions of refugees can’t ever go home again, and I feel stupid. Stupid white suburban mom. Ha.

You make it work and you make it beautiful and you invite people into the mess,
because it is NOT about it being beautiful.
And it is NOT about it being ugly.
And whether it is HERE or THERE doesn’t matter.

It is about WE. And US. And TOGETHER. And HOME. And LOVE in the best way we can.

And so, let’s adventure on family.

The Fire at the Orchard and a Song About Hope

A couple weeks ago an arson’s fire tore through central Kansas burning 800 acres. My wife’s mom and dad, who live on an apple orchard, lost almost everything. About 180 acres of their trees, farm buildings, equipment etc. burned. Their home miraculously survived as my father-in-law placed several sprinklers around the perimeter before making the final exit.

Betony and I were on tour in Houston and when we got back helped out with cleanup and rebuilding. While there, I had a chance to be with Mike and Elaine as they processed the great loss. In the turmoil of emotions and the various stages of grief I was very inspired by pictures we all were receiving of resilience and hope.

As we prepped and leveled the foundation to rebuild the well, my father-in-law, Mike, recounted just how incredible it was that people came out of the woodwork to help. Neighbors rushed in on four-wheeler‘s, people called and wrote with thoughts and prayers, and a go-fund-me reached its mark within the week.

Then, as we were throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of burnt hoses, the same hoses that saved the house, Mike told me to look over at the swing-set he’d built for the grandkids. It had fully lost one of its legs in the fire but was still standing, swaying slightly in the breeze.

“Do you think I’ll rebuild that Tim? Hell yes I will.“

Lastly, we received a FedEx delivery of 10 new cherry trees. Mike talked to their FedEx delivery woman who freely cried at the sight of devastation and offered condolences. As we were digging the holes for the new cherry trees, Mike excitedly ran over to to something he saw in the dirt. There was a large patch of new buds coming up only days after the fire had ripped through. He told me these were a specific type of flower that will now bloom brightly. It actually took a fire to enact their seeds.

With these pictures of hope and resilience: people rushing to help, the steadfast spirit of rebuilding in the face of destruction, an orchard on the edge of blooming wildflowers after devastation, I’m so taken by the paradox of death to rebirth. It’s stirring how hardship, tragedy, darkness, and death is answered by such resilience and hope and new life.

This week is Easter. It’s a great time to reflect on the darkness and tragedy found on Good Friday, and the new life and new hope that bursts forth on Easter Sunday.

Here’s a song I wrote specifically about hope called “There is a Balm in Gilead”. The title is taken from an old spiritual of the same name. The writers of that African-American spiritual encountered an old testament scripture that speaks of there being NO balm in Gilead to aid in suffering. And these writers, in there hardship and turmoil, answered with such hope and resilience. They stated no, there IS a balm in Gilead. God is our hope, our freedom, and our new life.

In the face tragedy, new life will burst forth. This is our great hope.

Here are the lyrics and the song for you to listen to.

There is a balm in Gilead
it comes like a  wisdom but speaks like children
it’s a sight to the blind and a strength to my weakness
it’s something for soul, body, mind

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s a rest for the weary, a song to the sore
its like a dew to my dryness
that fills me with joy when I had none

There is a balm in Gilead
its a spring in the desert
for the withered of soul
it’s a strength and a power
that keeps making you whole
its the question your asking
and the answers you need
it’s the face you’ve been seeking
the one, the one you’ve been begging to see

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the trash and the remnants
of all my train wrecks
coming together
and still heading out west
like a blank paycheck paying off the back rent
taking me further to
whatever’s supposed happen next

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the light of the dawn
the scales without measure
it’s the bread of a baker
the blood of a maker
The water I long for
and the story on fire
its the breath and the magic
Its something to die for
it’s the laying down of the shepherd at night

There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead

A Song About Anxiety

I don’t want to sensationalize the story, but I want to be truthful in how it felt. 

Last year in May, Betony was admitted to the emergency room for the second time that week. We were at a loss as to what was going on and we were really damn scared.

It started earlier in the month, where she would feel a sensation that was hard for her to subscribe. Often this would come on at night as we were going to bed. It was like a quickening of the heart or like she was falling. At least that’s how she tried to describe it to me. Then she’d shake violently for 20 or 40 minutes after the rushing feeling left her. This was also accompanied by really dark thoughts, uncharacteristic for her.

She didn’t think it was anxiety, because her mindset really wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed or mad or anxious. So was it her heart? Or some strange sickness we hadn’t placed?

Like I said, we were damn scared and symptoms were getting worse rather than better.

And during that second visit, the emergency room doctor, an eccentric personality mix of kindness and blunt force, sat down with us. He told us all the tests had come back clean again for this second time- heart, blood work, thyroid, etc. It all looked fine. So we have to consider anxiety. He said it several times. We HAVE to consider anxiety.

Betony was upset at this. Anxiety felt like a non-answer or catch all. In that old show “House”, the brilliant doctor would figure out what strange disease the patient actually had… the colleagues he outsmarted always thought it was lupus. A designation of anxiety felt like a sloppy, semi-educated guess of “lupus”.

In the same way I don’t want to sensationalize the story, I also don’t want the following to feel prescriptive either. What is working for us might not translate for someone else’s anxiety symptoms. But I want to share our process of the last year.

My wife approached the diagnosis as scientifically as possible. She gave the different medicines they prescribed trials and tests. She settled on a beta-blocker and half a sleep aid at night and took both of those for about 3 months. 

She also read everything she could about anxiety; what is known and what is being discovered and followed the threads she trusted. Ideas she found helpful, though may in the end NOT be proven scientifically, she held loosely to see if results followed.

One of these ideas is that perhaps her anxiety was attached to a fight or flight scenario. In this season of life she’s raising four kids and one is a baby who sleeps lightly at night and she also is a part time artist and is also homeschooling…

That’s a full life and there are moments of intensity that can happen. These moments can trigger the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. For example, driving all the kids home from Denver by herself and two of the kids are screaming for an hour and it’s past everyone’s bedtime, including her own. If the brain goes into crisis mode and sends adrenaline and other chemicals to her muscles and systems… there has to be some negative effects on body and brain in these scenarios. 

So alongside her medication she’s also been working out a little more, getting her heart rate up in case there is extra adrenaline or other things happening in her body she needs to move through. And perhaps this helps with the shaking as well.

With medication and working out we also added counseling. For Betony’s personality this was difficult but good. (That could probably be counseling’s tagline- Difficult but good.)

Since August of last year she went off of medication and has not been symptomatic. She’s had some rough days, but for the most part things have been better thus far. And at the very least we’re out of that place of deep fear.

Now, Betony is an immensely private person. We haven’t really shared this story publicly on social medias, though we’ve talked about it with friends and family and church communities.

We offer the story now alongside a song. While working through this season together, Betony and I were surprised at just how many stories of other people suffering from anxiety came to light. It remains fairly mysterious and scary and unexplored. It can come across like a catch all or a diminishing of something that is truly happening in our brains and bodies.

As I processed all of this I wrote this song called “Settled Down”. So we offer this story alongside this art for a since of solidarity. We hope you find the conversation we’ve offered helpful and open and caring.

Pre-Order Bellwether now and receive the single “Settled Down”

Lyrics for “Settled Down”

I’ll keep my hand here on your back
I won’t move it while you sleep
The shaking hours have settled down
Take all the help that you need

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

What the wires couldn’t catch
Fails to give a certainty
And the world stirs around
On the edge of all you see

We can put blankets under the leaves
We can fill pages and keep on the dream
I set a good table, take all that you need
I can set more if you come back to me

We can keep sleeping, be late on the rise
We can stay novel with every surprise
I set a good table, take all that you need
They all remain open, you see what I mean

We will blur edges and rid every cage
We will push candles and feel every blaze
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

We will see colors that wonder and burst
We will raise glasses that rid every thirst
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

You put it on just like a hiding place
With three separate acts, that ends in disgrace
In the morning everything is safe
and you make your way back home

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

January 2018 Free Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

 

Happy New Year friends! It’s a new day. A whole new year. Everything is waiting for you.

I am going to try something a little different this year for my desktop wallpapers. The theme of “MIGRATION” keeps coming back to me, so I am going to try out having a connecting thread for the wallpaper artwork.  I love this idea of movement from one place to another, of traveling great distances, of coming back home. Each desktop this year will be exploring that theme.

Secondly, I want to include a poem/writing that inspires the artwork – a centering writing to reflect on for the month. We heard this piece by David Whyte on the On Being podcast. It is a beautiful piece for a new year.  “Or the window latch grants you freedom” is the line that inspired my artwork.


For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.


“Everything Is Waiting for You”

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
 as if you were alone. As if life
 were a progressive and cunning crime
 with no witness to the tiny hidden
 transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
 the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
 even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
 the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
 out your solo voice. You must note
 the way the soap dish enables you,
 or the window latch grants you freedom.
 Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
 The stairs are your mentor of things
 to come, the doors have always been there
 to frighten you and invite you,
 and the tiny speaker in the phone
 is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
 conversation. The kettle is singing
 even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
 have left their arrogant aloofness and
 seen the good in you at last. All the birds
 and creatures of the world are unutterably
 themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers: