Last week I set the stage to share my biggest mistake by writing about the first half of our recording odyssey. If you missed it, you can read about it here. Today, I’ll wrap this story and share what my big mistake taught me.
2006– My family is sent to France for work while Jeremy continues to recover in Minnesota. For me, leaving the album unfinished is the hardest part about leaving for France.
2007– With Jeremy’s cancer in remission, we gingerly discuss resuming recording after I’m back in the States. We are both fiercely committed to the project, but still gun shy.
2008– I have a baby in January, and Jeremy’s wife has one in June. We hold off.
2009– We finish all the recording. After years of laboriously slow going, Jeremy and I record “Ruth” together in a single take. I savor it (but seriously regret not doing a live album). Jeremy finishes the mixing and mastering, and I finish the design and packaging. “Return to Sender” is a reality. Our 2 families quietly celebrate together in late autumn.
After all we went through to get here, I want to shout about it from the rooftops! But I don’t. I’m newly pregnant and nearly incapacitated. And while completing the album was a REALLY BIG DEAL for us, it (understandably) wasn’t for anybody else. Most of our friends at the start of the process weren’t in our lives by the time we finished. We had disappeared off their radar, in part because of the years we spent away. Most of our new friends had no idea I sang, let alone wrote songs. Through all the years that we worked (or didn’t work) on the album, I imagined sharing this story in the liner notes of the disc jacket, but by the time we finished the album, nobody does that anymore. So I often just sheepishly hand people a CD and mumble something about “We made this…it’s a long story…”
2012- I realized this wasn’t enough and released the album digitally in April. I launch this blog largely because I think I’ll be talking about my music. But Jeremy’s cancer is back, and he’s going through a bone marrow transplant. Promoting my music seems distasteful at a time like this. I write about my own brush with death instead.
Jeremy dies in June. It feels like there’s no tasteful way to promote the album after that. Everything feels petty. I know that God still had plans for the music, but nothing had gone as I planned.
2013- Almost a year later, I realize my mistake. Not promoting this music wasn’t gracious, or tasteful, or anything that I want to be. It’s cowardice. The fact is, God entrusted me with gifts to share. Not sharing them is a huge disservice to the people they’re meant to bless. It’s also a disservice to Jeremy, to myself, and to God. From now on, I’m gonna shamelessly promote everything God’s given me, because that’s truth . False humility is just false.
I have an album of songs I wrote and recorded, but maybe you already knew that. Recording “Return to Sender” is one of my biggest creative accomplishments, but my mistake is what you probably didn’t know. I’ve never really told the story behind the album, which is perhaps more remarkable than the album itself.
These days, you can retreat into someone’s basement with a few instruments, mics, and a laptop, and you can emerge with a completed album in a weekend. That’s what I did, but in my case the album emerged…8 years later. What took me so long? Here’s some of the story:
2002– I’ve written songs for over 5 years, but I feel called to share them with a wider audience. I want to make sure the message of the lyrics isn’t obscured by technical glitches, so I need a high quality recording. It feels like a major stretch financially, but we sign a contract with our friend Jeremy to produce an album. We meet to pick songs and set the overall mood for the project.
Our church leadership chastises us for not consulting them about recording an album. They accuse us of being selfish and not fully committed to the church. We back off for almost a year, second guessing our motives (now it seems sillythat I viewed this as such a set-back, but at the time we were young, prone to people-pleasing, and desperately wanting to do things “right”). Finally we get a second opinion, and the project is on.
2003– I record my first vocal tracks in Jeremy’s basement studio. When I’m behind the mic, it feels like I can do no wrong. Singing takes everything I have, and yet it’s effortless. Clearly I was born to sing these songs.
Jeremy’s carpal tunnel pain slows the recording of the instrumental tracks. We’re getting anxious to finish.
I lose my voice. I can’t sing for almost a year, and even talking is torturous. There’s no diagnosis, and no progress on the vocal tracks. I can’t stand knowing I’m the one holding up the show. I’m also angry with God, who I felt sure was leading us to do this recording. So why can’t we do it?
Jeremy is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The instrumental recording grinds to a halt.
2004– Our spirits are deflated. Singing isn’t effortless, and I feel like a shadow of my self in so many ways. But we’re still compelled to bring these songs to life. We tentatively venture back into the studio and manage to eek out a couple more songs.
2005– We have our second son. Jeremy has cancer. We stop even talking about the album.
2006– Months into his chemotherapy, Jeremy calls from his hospital room. He sounds so weak, but he’s eager to discuss a new idea for the album. I have no words.
Here’s where I’ll press pause on the story for now. I want to ask you: Have you ever felt called to do something, only to confront one roadblock after another? Where did those roadblocks come from?