During the month of November 6 children lost their lives in a tragic bus crash here in Chattanooga, TN. These children were students at Woodmore Elementary School. They had friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, adoring teachers, church families . . . . they were treasured. The next morning I got up having slept very little.
Many of you know this, but some may not - I have a day job. It's not all just songwriting and eating bonbons over here in OLL land. I'm an elementary school music teacher. Chattanooga is my city. I love it here. Some of the teachers at Woodmore Elementary are dear friends of mine. We've taught together, laughed and cried together, prayed together, and dreamed about what the future might hold for students we've shared over the years.
I prayed for my friends. I cried for my friends and for these families. I wrote songs about grief. And I began to wonder what else I might be able to do. Fundraising for situations like this is complicated. After talking with United Way and hearing a bit about what was already going on I thought it would be best if I could find some sort of a program that was actively supporting students at Woodmore and also students in other neighborhoods downtown. That's when I found a lovely lady named Janice and the snack pack program at East Brainerd Church of Christ. Every 4 weeks these people get together and pack no less than 4,000 bags to give out to children in schools all over Chattanooga so that they are not hungry over the weekend. One of the schools they serve is Woodmore. As soon as I heard some of these details I knew for sure this ministry was it - the way I could use my music to support something that would honor my wonderful friends who teach and have suffered great loss this year. If you want to know more about EBCOC's snack pack program, please click: HERE. We'll be using the concert on March 25th as an opportunity to be involved in a little Divine multiplication . . . loaves and fishes.
So, with the help of my good friend, Brett, over at The Soundry I recorded a very special EP called "Surely" that is made up of songs inspired by children, grief, and hope. I will provide it for free download March 25th via Noise Trade and will always keep these tunes set aside, free to anybody, as a sort of offering to the community . . . a memorial.
Below I've listed the tracks that will be included in the EP and have shared with you a brief description of each song's origin. This has been a year of challenge and loss on all sides, and there was plenty to be writing and praying about. At the bottom of the page I've included a sneak preview of "Surely," the song that became the springboard for the whole project.
I hope to see you at Wired Coffee Bar in Ooltewah, TN around 8pm on March 25th. The coffee shop is donating 10% of that evening's profits to the snack pack program I've mentioned above. We will pray during the concert and might even sing together a bit. It'll be a reverent time and also a time to be looking forward in hope. Join us!
Track List and Stories:
1. "Phoenix" - written after losing 2 former students to violence. Looking for hope in the face of hopelessness.
2. "Clarity" - written during my first year as a teacher . . . for the love of my work and my students.
3. "Sin-Hsing's Song" - written in November when my graduate school piano teacher, Dr. Sin-Hsing Tsai, died much too young. I wish I'd visited you more, Dr. Tsai. Save me a seat in the choir.
4. "The Valley" - written the day after the Woodmore bus crash. Acknowledging that some things are too much and that we have to grieve openly.
5. "Surely" - written when my friends went back to work for the second semester, in January. Thinking of teachers who walk back into a mountain of grief as they do their best to love the children in their care.
6. "Enough" - written in February after seeing exhaustion written on every face I passed in the hallway one afternoon. Acknowledging that we do what we can, and that we have to trust it to be enough at a certain point.
Now, Dear Reader, here is the song that started the whole project. Not gonna lie - it was hard to sing. All of them were a little bit hard to sing. But it's the truth. Surely God has born our grief and shouldered the great burden of our sorrow. Surely God, in the person of Jesus, understands our loss and our suffering. Surely God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, was with our sons and daughters and is still with them even now . . . Surely God is with all of us. Even in the midst of this. Even here. Even now. Surely. May we cry, knowing that God is still with us. May we rage as we find we need to, knowing that God is with us. May we sit in silence, knowing that God inhabits our silence. Surely.
Take it easy, Friends. Give grace to yourself. Especially if you find yourself grieving. Grief is a process . . . God's all over that. God gets it.
Peace&Goodness . . . &Surely,