What I Learned this Spring (songwriter edition)

"The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming."
Frederick Buechner

At the close of each season, my friend Emily P. Freeman invites us to take a look back and share what we learned over at her house. Before we head into sunshiny summer, let's take a minute to look back on the green buds of spring. Throughout Spring, I scribbled down a short list of what I was learning into my commonplace book. While the crocus and daffodils were rising out the fog and the birds coming home from wintering away, my lessons seemed to somehow circle around songwriting.

Maybe my list will help you notice who inspires you and exactly why, lessons you can learn from their creative ways, how they work with their personality and their scars, and how you can too.

  1. Songwriters inspire me in my work as a writer.

On Mother's Day, right after church and before hosting my own family in our backyard, we went to brunch at my friend Laurel's charming 1920's house, the blue one with hardwood floors slipping beneath arched doorways.

Hanging on the wall was a letterfolk board with a lyric from Tom Petty's song "Wildflowers". I had been humming that song all weekend. Mike and I had been watching band documentaries and just watched one on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I loved seeing the man behind the music and his creative process.

I snapped this photo at Laurel's home.


I have known for a while now that songwriters inspire my own writing, but I had yet to understand just why. When I sat down and really thought about it, I came up with a few good reasons why I am inspired by good songwriters.

Good songwriters:
• are poets and storytellers
• reflect back on life
• turn their pain into beauty
• capture common life in snapshots
• are masters at the turn of a phrase
• become pros with their instruments
• keep returning to a thought or feeling (refrain)
• let songs gather around a theme (album)
• find a way to share their voice that is true to who they are
• need a community to create their best and most wholehearted work

I can use all of those practices to nurture my faith, family, and creative life.

Then it occured to me that a good song lyric can be like a prayer. (I am not saying all song lyrics are prayers). The poetry of the Wildflowers lyrics hung around in my heart and led straight to a prayer. It felt like a confirmation of how God sees us and how I long to be when I am freely living with him, near and dear.

I say it here as a prayer for you,

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong on a boat out at sea

May you know how much you are deeply, wildly loved, and thought of just as you are - held in God's tender care and fierce loyalty. That might just be another way to express Luke 12:27,

Think of the wild flowers,
and how they neither work nor weave

I've been listening to Wildflowers cover by Wailin' Jennys

You might enjoy it, too.

  1. Willie Nelson uses scars to keep sound true.

Willie Nelson's guitar is named Trigger after Roy Roger's faithful paint horse. If you want the technical terms, Trigger is a Martin N-20 classical guitar modified with a prismatone pick-up. But at its heart, Trigger is a genuine member of Willie's band in his own right with a sound and timbre all his own.

When Willie played with musicians he admired, he didn't just have them sign Trigger, he had them carve their names into Trigger's face. Not written, but dug in like Isaiah 49:16.

Trigger has played over 10,000 concerts. Under Willie's hand, that means wear and tear and love. Apparently, when Willie plays, you can sometimes see bits of wood and fine sawdust fly from his fingertips. I'd like to see that.

That is why Trigger has his own doctor. After being out on the road, Willie sends Trigger to Mark Erlewine of Austin, Texas for tuning, trimming, and shoring-up from the inside out. Willie doesn't want a different guitar, he wants Trigger with all of his history, voice and scars.

I believe that is just how our God loves us right on through all of our fine tuning, trimming, and shoring up from the inside out.


I cannot get enough of seeing my scars this way - useful, beautiful, and making a glorious sound.

  1. "Bind my wandering heart to thee" is a line from an old hymn.

Have you seen those painted wooden signs that say "Bind my wandering heart to thee" and thought they are a sweet sentiment for marriage?


That is what I thought. But we sang a song in church this spring and I realized that phrase is from the hymn "Come Thou Fount" written in 1757 by 22-year-old pastor, Robert Robinson. 22-years-old!

Let your goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord,
Take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above

Of course, it is a good reminder for faithfulness in marriage, but it doesnt begin there. If we can first realize our bent to leave the good God who loves us, who is more faithful than we can ever be, then we can bring that kind of devotion to our faith and from there to the beloved we married. Then it is not a bootstrap kind of faithful love, but an image-bearing kind of devotion, and that is of a completely different source and substance.

Listen to the hymn
Come Thou Fount by Chris Tomlin
or hang the words on your wall,
Come Thou Fount large framed sheet music from Between You & Me Designs

Either way, these are good words to dwell in.

  1. I need to wear waterproof mascara to church.

It wasnt always this way, but lately I have to wear waterproof mascara to church.

Our church has been through heartbreak. We are healing under a new healthy shepherd and I feel the mending threads when we sing God's praises together.

We were singing in church recently and my heart was soaring when my pastor said something that rose to the rafters, not that we quite have rafters, but we have 100 year old rough timbers and that works. Andy said, "God inhabits our praise" which I had heard before, but now I felt deep in my bones.

I am not saying we have to cry every week at church to truly praise God. I have not typically been a very-often crier, but lately something in me has broken free. There is something holy in being heartbroken and then surrendering to the mending thread. I feel the healing when I am singing on Sabbath in my little ragamuffin home church. It's winging home like those wintering birds.

I guess what I am saying is if you have been broken by life or church or even those you thought you were your friends or good leaders, Jesus knows all about it. There is healing in the praises we sing to God together. God, our kind Maker and our Father who loves us dearly, rests awhile when we sing and praise his holy name and remember who we are.

Even if all we can offer are our tears for a while, they are a song to God's ears, expressing inexpressible things. He knows how to hold them.

  1. The Enneagram is singing to me.

I have to tell you, I am smitten by the Enneagram, those nine personality types grouped around the heart of God.

The Enneagram shines a spotlight on our deep motivations and deadly sins. I find it an unhurried journey of discovery; a living way of understanding myself, the God who crafted me, and my dearest relationships. It doesn't only tell me who I am in all of my passions and pricklies, it does that, but it doesn't leave me (and those I love) stuck there.

The Enneagram uncovers the ways I see the world and how I react from my viewpoint in either health or stress. It expresses and explains, at least in part, how I have coped in the world so far. It suggests how others have done the same. At the same time, the Enneagram challenges me to grow into my truest self with more grace and compassion - closer to the heart of God.

And here is the songwriting thread . . .

Ryan O'Neal, of Sleeping at Last, is writing a song from the perspective of each number on the Enneagram. He is capturing the heart of each type in lyric, instrument, and song. And his voice is clear and haunting. He is realeasing these songs one at a time. Songs one through four are out with five is due out at any moment.

Here is the gorgeous Sleeping at Last- Four song.

If you're interested in your own Enneagram journey, here are a few things I have done so far to discover and explore my number.

I took a test or two.
Free Enneagram Assessment
The Enneagram Institute test

Some say the tests are only accurate 55% of the time and you'll need a workshop to really know. The tests seemed to work for me. Some people take a year to find and accept their true number. Still, a test is a place to begin.

I had my whole family take the test. It is resonating with some more than others, but realizing our personality tendencies is helping me see how to come together more gracefully.

I read a few books:
The Road Back to You by Ian Cron
The Enneagram - A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

I listened to a few podcasts:
Typology with Ian Cron, Introducing Typology and the Enneagram
Typology with Ian Cron - Life, Family and the Enneagram
Typology with Ian Cron - Grace Requires Nothing of You

I met with a small group of women to dig deeper.
We met once-a-week for five evenings over pie and wine. I did not know most of the women, but on the first night I suddenly realized how thirsty I was for making new friends. It might be more helpful and you might move more quickly to meet with friends you already know, but as I said, I was glad for new friends and this is not to be hurried. However you do it, be ready to be genuine. Authenticity and paying attention is at the heart of the Enneagram.

This is not a quick and easy splash in the pond. You will need to do your homework. You will likely resist and push back on what you discover. I did. It's never fun to see our flaws in the dressing room mirror.

I found it took some patience and grit, but it's proven worthwhile for knowing what lies beneath the surface of my heart and for building compassion and boundaries in the places that matter most - my faith, marriage and family, dear friendships and working relationships.

I hope you like looking back into the passing season in order to move forward into the one ahead as much as I do.

It was a beautiful, blooming spring. I'm taking what I learned and heading into summertime with a little more songwriter in my heart. What are you taking into Summer?

• • •

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Things I Learned this Winter.

If you want to get these posts before everyone else, and treats no one else gets, then ask for a note from my porch swing.