The Civil Wars sing a song called “From This Valley” that has been rolling around in my head for days. And while its fun, lighthearted melody “rolled around” it, actually began careening into the deeper folds of my heart, where things are not quite as lighthearted at the moment. The title “From This Valley” pretty much describes the place from where I am writing right now.
The other day my sister inquired ever-so-gently if this valley I’m in might have anything to do with the recent passage of another birthday, to which I replied, “Whatevs.” Then I secretly took her keen observation to heart. (She knows me too well. I love that.)
It’s not only about turning 43, though. I am adjusting to a new stage of life. It’s the stage where I am no longer raising children. I am raising teenagers. TWO teenagers. (Artistic, busy teenagers with opinions.) And it’s a stage when our family schedule depends on a very carefully timed taxi service, fewer meals together (which have been non-negotiable in the past) and mind-reading skills which I do not possess. And, sure, every birthday reminds me that I have one less year in which to help them fly with their own wings;but add to that ticking clock the sudden tragic death of an artist friend, Stephen Hill, this past week (who was only 55) and I start asking myself some hard questions. Am I making the most of this stage of life? Or do I need to set my expectations lower and just get through it with my head on?
Over the past 15 years I have made a long series of sacrifices — professionally, socially, and I’m sure I don’t have to mention financially — to give my kids every possible chance to learn from me what only a mother can give them. And right now, the payoff is coming in extremely small increments. Extremely. Small.
I’m grateful for a husband who is in this with me. At times, after we have unintentionally said the wrong thing (again) or hit an emotional landmine, we will look at each other with that knowing look that says, “We have no clue what we’re doing here!”
So, back to this Civil Wars tune that I keep singing. This verse particularly strikes me:
Oh, the caged bird dreams of a strong wind that will flow ‘neath her wings.
Like a voice longs for a melody, oh, Jesus carry me.
YES. That! My voice longs for a melody. My “wings” long for a strong wind to make the flying – or whatever this is – a little less laborious. I am grateful for constant reminders that is Jesus carrying me, and you want to know what I’m noticing? We can’t teach our kids to fly while we’re standing down on the ground. We show them how. So…please send some wind over this direction, Jesus! The chorus of “From This Valley” says…
Won’t you take me from this valley to that mountain high above?
I will pray, pray, pray until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray to the one I love.
I’m definitely praying more than ever lately. It’s the only way I know to live inside the knowledge that the One I love is with me constantly, even when everything else feels out of sync and I am not feeling the love.
I understand that valleys are where character is developed, trust is deepened and we learn what we can’t learn any other place. So with that in mind, I certainly don’t mean to wish a moment of this season away. And there are redeeming moments. But this simple little song has offered me the refreshing reminder I needed this week.
Thank you, Civil Wars.
Just for fun, I’ve included here a video of Joy Williams and John Paul White singing “From This Valley” live. Enjoy. In the comments here, feel free to let me know how you survive the valleys! I’m open to any and all suggestions.