What I'm Reading Now... And Learning From It

I just finished reading a collection of short stories called The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol. They were powerful and masterfully written. The scenes were scattered among geographies and lots in life, but revolving around Jewish identities, communism and the red scare. The writing was vivid, palpable and astonishingly detailed. And though I couldn't articulate the literary themes across the stories like someone with an English degree may be able to, I could feel them, knowingly and deeply. They had something to do with loneliness, secrets and utter human frailty.

What is your audacious goal?

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When I first ventured out with Jars of Clay to bring 1,000 wells to communities across Africa, it felt like an audacious, unattainable goal. But by the grace of God, we reached our goal. It shifted slightly to meet the needs of specific communities — sometimes a raintank was of more value than a well. In the end 1,000 communities had access to safe, clean water.

Now I can’t help but ask myself, what’s my next audacious goal? With where I am in life, I find that question hard to answer. Does it have to do with motherhood? Does it have to do with my move to California? Does it have to do with another 1,000 communities. My head hasn’t quite wrapped around it. So I’d love to hear your audacious goals.

Blood:Water is launching a social campaign to hear that exact same thing from you. It’s called #my1000wells. Here are a few samples we have received so far:

book1000

kristin100

scott1000

So comment below and post about your audacious goals on social media. Be sure to use #my1000wells. Let’s reach our #my1000wells together.

Even Dan Haseltine's dog, Grace, has a goal:

dog1000

One-Way Ticket

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I’ve flown out of Nashville hundreds of times before, but this flight was different for so many reasons. It was a true departure without a return. A one way ticket to the next wild and uncertain season of my life. (In case you read last week’s “Bookends” post, this is the second bookend I was referencing).

Though it's only been a couple of months that we've known that the Bay Area would be our next stop, James and I have know for the last year that something was brewing inside of us, which might necessitate a move out of Nashville. I just can’t quite believe we are actually doing this.

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During the first days of Blood:Water, Roger Parrott, president of Belhaven University, asked if we would rather be a motorboat or a sailboat. A motorboat gets you to your destination quickly but doesn’t require much skill. A sailboat requires teamwork to operate and sometimes you have to be willing to change direction or make other adjustments to find the wind.

That’s how I believe we are supposed to move in our personal lives, as well. We must remain fully surrendered to where the wind will take us, not where we want to force it. Sometimes the patterns of our sailboat don’t make sense; sometimes it feels like there is no wind at all. And sometimes the wind carries us somewhere we never saw coming. But if we fully surrender to and trust the wind, we are sailing exactly where we should be. That doesn’t mean we let go of the mast and say, “Good luck, hope we don’t capsize.” It means we work the boat and sail into the direction into which we are led.

After a lot of prayer and hard conversations, James, Jude, and I are setting sail to northern California. I have never been more grateful for living in a day and age where technology allows me to telecommute. I will still be involved in Blood:Water, visiting Nashville and Africa often, all the while promoting my memoir. But my day-to-day work will be done in The Golden State. James has accepted the principal role at the Skoll Foundation in Palo Alto. The job will (should be) less demanding than what he’s been leading over the last six years. The pace we have been running is simply unsustainable if we want to be healthy and present for each other and for our son. We need to catch our breath.

The leaving is not out of an inherent desire to leave. It is out of a hope that a new location in proximity to family, to the beautiful outdoors, and to occupations that won’t occupy the whole of us will help us build and develop the muscles of a whole person that have atrophied over the years. That our marriage can find its way back to adventure and romance amid the diapers and the logistics of toddlerhood. That to take some of the edge off 24/7 responsibilities and 100+ days of travel a year will help sustain us through this season so we can come out of it full and ready to take on the next big, audacious goal. That somehow we rest, even if just for a season.

That way when the wind blows again, we are ready to surrender and follow.

 

P.S. I'm sure I'll will be posting more about this transition and our new life in California. Stay tuned.

Bookends

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Some life seasons are short, some long. Some seasons in life are smooth, others rocky. Some seasons simply fade into the next season without us really ever noticing. And some seasons have bookends — they end the way they started. That’s where I find myself today about to put the bookend on two big seasons.

More than 10 years ago, the Blood:Water journey began on a tour bus with Jars of Clay. I, the only girl, climbed aboard to a bus load of musicians into a world I knew nothing about. I cherish those memories.

Tomorrow wraps up 20-day journey across the country touring for my new memoir, “One Thousand Wells.” This time, only one of those musicians was with me - Dan Haseltine, the lead singer of Jars of Clay and Blood:Water co-founder. He and our two Blood:Water colleagues, Audrey and Kristin, piled into a beat up, maroon minivan with me — and hit the road to tour. With maintenance lights shining bright and dents edging the sides, the minivan was a far cry from the tour bus days of 10 years ago. But as Dan drove, I sat in the passenger seat driving next to a friend of 10+ years who has carried a vision into the world that only he could see and launch out.

The Book Launch Team — Audrey, Dan, me, Kristen

As we traveled from Knoxville, Tenn., through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Charlotte, N.C., I looked out toward the landscape and soaked in the views and the memories of the last decade. With Spotify as a chest of sounds and memories, I was somehow inspired to open the door to the Jars of Clay discography - and I indulged, with Dan by my side, in the lyrics and songs that had served as the most consistent soundtrack of my life. For an hour, or maybe two, I picked songs from the annals of the Jars of Clay library and played through the ones that mattered most to me. “Redemption,” “Faith Enough,” “This Road,” “Water Under the Bridge,” “Light Gives Heat,” “Waiting for the World to Fall” — whatever the song — it brought me back to a particular moment, to a feeling that had somehow shaped me. And, I got to tell Dan as much. He, too, hadn’t heard many of these songs in years and heard them with new ears.

I felt such gratitude for an artist who had given me words and music to live by from 12 to 32, whose vision was big enough to let a 22 year old to take hold of it and opened the door of his platform, relationships, and dreams to let me in.

A few days later when we drove back to Nashville late after an event in Atlanta, Dan and I sang through an endless stream of songs - this time through albums of the Indigo Girls - which happen to both be favorites of ours, despite how different our life stages were when the songs were released. We duetted our way home, which was both hilarious and sweet.

Jars of Clay songs made way for the Blood:Water story. And through this 20-day journey Jars of Clay songs have ushered me into the new season of book touring. That’s bookend number one. As for bookend number two, that’s a post for another day, one I promise to share.

By the way, Dan wrote a guest post for my blog on what it has been like touring with me (he references our road trip music habits, too). If you haven’t read it, click here.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me at bookstores and coffee shops across the country these past 20 days. I am honored to have met each and every one of you.

"What is Next, is What Was and What Is" — Reflections on a Book Tour

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When Blood:Water first launched, I spent countless hours on a tour bus with the band Jars of Clay. Eleven years later, Lead Singer and Blood:Water Co-Founder Dan Haseltine joins me on my tour across the country, helping champion my memoir, "One Thousand Wells." So I felt it only fitting Dan should write a guest blog post about what it's like touring with me this time around.

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This is my second book tour, third if I count having Donald Miller as a guest opening up for Jars of Clay. I should say that there is something I can't quite put my finger on about people who commit to an evening at a bookstore listening to an author read excerpts of personal writing and talking about themselves. That may have sounded negative... this "something" is a positive sort of "something."

I remember that my wife and I used to go on dates to the local bookstore. We would grab a book and sit in a comfy chair and read. So I understand, to some extent, the allure of a good bookstore. To us it was a peaceful oasis in the middle of hurried lives and scattered episodes of drama and busyness. But I never knew when someone was coming to speak or share about a book, I wasn't in the circle where people spoke up and said, "Hey! (author blank) is giving a lecture at the local library about their recent exploits chronicled in their book (blank)." But I always thought those people were far superior in intellect and way more learned than the average weekend movie or concert goer.
I didn't have many expectations going into this book tour. I knew that my role was to interview Jena and captain the rental min-van from city to city. I knew that I would be subjected to copious amounts of well-curated introverted moody female singer/songwriters as they dripped their mid-tempo molasses out of the speakers and into my ear canals as I was sure I wouldn't have control of the radio.
Turns out I did have control of the radio... so we listened to, well, mostly mid-tempo laden female singer/songwriter records from the angsty 90's. Hey! don't judge me.
Aside from the musical selections, there was another surprise.
I hadn't expected the gift of awakening to the Blood:Water story with such sweet remembrances through the retelling of stories that missed the pages of Jena's book. I hadn't expected that the time spent in a van or a coffee shop or at a bookstore would bring me back to a season of life where wide-eyed idealism fed ideas into a frenzy and inspired plans to change the world simply on the perspective that we thought we could.
Over the course of a decade, the Blood:Water story had gotten complicated for me. It had gotten covered over by the tall weeds that kept the question, "Why is it so difficult to do a good thing?" at the entrance to every idea and start of every new audacious dream. I had stepped back and firmly believed that the best course for the organization was for me to keep my distance.
To be certain, I still believed in the work. I still championed the stories of people in Africa, but I didn't get my hands dirty. I didn't fill my hours with creative ideas to tell those stories, and I wasn't out on the road fundraising to make sure that we could keep fueling those African dreams. A big part of my zeal and activism around Blood:Water had moved on.
Jena and I are now "old" friends. We have been contributors to various milestones in the human life. I have watched her start a career, get married, become a mother, grapple with faith and real life, much in the way a big brother might. I have championed her from a distance, and have marveled at her growth as a human being.
What happens in the retelling of stories is a gift. Stories don't change, at least the events from those stories do not change. The elevation and deflation of what was important or what is important is as fluid as an ocean tide. It may crash in the same line, but it is never the same wave.
I am grateful that the vision and idealism that birthed Blood:Water is a well that won't run dry. The inspiration to love the world well is one with enough wind in the sails to keep it moving. Even if some days that wind is barely felt, there is a gift in the silence and the pause that still echoes with the noble and astonishing will to serve and to support and to care for those in our path and those we create paths to get nearer to.
It occurs to me that what is next for Blood:Water is what already is and what has been for Blood:Water. It is a connection to humans, a stewardship of stories and lives, and an affirmation of dignity that promotes health and dreams and love and responsibility.
Can't wait to continue the conversations on the road, and see what is to come for Blood:Water.  I hope you will come and join us.
-Dan Haseltine
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It's not too late for you to join Dan and me on tour. We have three more stops on the west coast.
9.10.15 - Seattle, WA 9.11.15 - Portland, OR 9.12.15 - Bay Area, CA

 

Mountaintop Lessons

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Africa is my home away from home. But so are the mountains. The crisp, fresh, quiet air relaxes me to my core. I breathe in and all the stress and worries of the day exhale with me. When I stand on a mountaintop I am reminded of two important lessons I had to learn somewhere along the way — 1. to take on immoveable mountains, the first thing you have to do is move; 2. it’s important to take moments of true rest.

I didn’t used to love the mountains. In fact, all mountaintops were my Everest — never seemingly within reach, a feat I’d never conquer. Back in junior high I went away to summer camp and settled into activities well within my comfort zone. I prefered the repetitive nature of the same activity day in and day out over trying anything new. But one day, my counselor put the kibosh, if you will, on my activity of choice and informed me I would be participating in an overnight hiking trip up a mountain.

If you read my memoir, “One Thousand Wells,” I go into more detail of this story. But to sum it up, the beginning of the trip was terrible. I was weak; I was not happy; I wanted nothing to do with the mountain. But fellow campers wouldn’t let me give up; they pushed me, and together we reached the summit.

I learned a lot that day — community, risk taking, reaching goals together. But most importantly, I learned that to take on immoveable mountains, the first thing you have to do is move. You have to grow used to the weight of your pack, adjust your lungs to the quality of the air, and build muscle for the grade of the incline.

We live in a world with an attention span climate that changes so fast many of us are too scared or too distracted to move in any one direction in particular. So we turn around in circles, never really moving. We must put down the comforts that are actually chains encircling us and step out of the repetitive activities we’ve cemented around our feet. We can climb our Everests together, but we must move.

I said at the beginning of this post that when I stand on top of mountains I am reminded of two lessons. The second may seem like an oxymoron to the first — it’s important to take moments of true rest.

Once we start moving or climbing, sometimes our momentum carries us so fast the world begins to rush on by. Priorities get whipped into the frenzy of deadlines and good intentions, that pieces of life begin to suffer. We can grind so hard at the mountain ahead of us, that we grow faint along the way and never make it to the top.

Just like moving is the key to taking on immovable mountains, so is resting.

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This photo of me on a mountain was taken just yesterday. It’s in Estes Park, Colorado. I am currently on a 22-day journey across the country showcasing my new book. I’ve met amazing people along the way, and I’ve loved telling my story.

But plane ride, after car ride, after late nights, after early mornings begins to wear on anyone. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. But that mountain couldn’t have come at a better time. It was brief, but it was exactly the rest I needed to continue climbing.