songs about life, living, and letting go

So Am I, album


I wrote and recorded this album during the 14-month life of our fourth child, Olivia.

Available on vinyl and digital

01 So am I

I began writing this song years before Olivia was born and then put it aside. At the time, I worked in the Church. I felt frustrated with the way church-culture seemed to set aside humanity in order to elevate Christianity. To me, that never felt right. I have always felt like God's deepest desire is to restore our humanity, not to cover it with something else.

After 30 years in the Church—15 of them part of its leadership—I found myself longing for a more simple and more human exchange. That's how "So Am I" began—as an example of a conversation that, to me, felt more true, more basic, and more human.

I ended up throwing the song out because I didn't want to just write a song about a problem I saw. It didn't feel helpful.

A couple of years later I found myself sitting on the bed in our bedroom, holding Olivia skin-to-skin during a particularly long day of just. sitting.

We couldn't do anything. We just took care of Olivia, kept our other kids alive, and—once in a while for a few minutes—took care of ourselves with a shower or a peaceful coffee. In order to take care of Olivia, we had to let go of everything. So we did. And here I was, sitting all day in bed with my daughter. While I sat, my hopes and dreams about all I would be and accomplish faded away.

I'd always measured my worth by my productivity. Now, I was no longer "productive”. No one saw me. I was no longer on a stage. I was just in this room. Sitting. I felt like I had disappeared. I'd lost all of my usefulness to the world. I just sat.

As I sat there with my daughter—a girl who was deemed "incompatible with life”... a girl who could not hold up her own head or even breath right... a girl who would never do a single "productive" thing—I realized we were the same.

“Incompatible” with life. Yet, very much alive.

Olivia may be the most alive person I have ever known. She did not live the length of time we expect a person to live. She did not accomplish the things we expect a person to accomplish. But she was definitely alive, and the way she lived changed the way I live. She was all her—no one else, nothing else... she just was. She breathed in. She breathed out. She smiled. She cried. She loved, and she was loved. She was anything but incompatible with life. She embodied it. She was beautifully alive.

And so was I.

We're still here. We're breathing out. We're breathing in. We're alive. And maybe life is still ahead.

When Olivia passed away, my wife and I were broken. We could hardly pull ourselves out of bed. I wanted to die. Our daughter was gone and the pain of her loss was too much to carry. The most we could do during those months was to allow ourselves to breathe—not an easy thing to do. But we were breathing. In and out. Even though we were in the worst pain of our lives, we were no less alive than ever before. In fact, we may have been more alive than ever before. Looking back, I now can see that we were beautifully alive. And as my wife and I sang these words at concerts, I couldn't believe how true the words had become for us:

We're still here. We're breathing out. We're breathing in. We're alive. And maybe life is still ahead.

After more of these concerts, I realized that many of our friends were grieving with us. The concerts became a place for us to share those moments of grief together. And as my wife and I sang these words, I looked up and realized that the original purpose of this song had come to being.

We're still here. We're breathing out. We're breathing in. We're alive. And maybe life is still ahead.

02 Olivia

03 Inch of water

My whole life I’ve felt like time is running out—like there is a bear behind me, chasing me through my life. No time to stop. No time to slow down. No time to think. No time to breathe.

I wrote this song several months into Olivia’s life. Like most of my songs, I was thinking of some other person who needed to hear these words, when it was obviously what I needed to hear.

You have wings. You’ve always had them.

During Olivia’s life, we had to constantly remind ourselves that we weren’t going to die. It felt like we would. And even though Olivia would at some point die, in that moment she was alive… and so were we.

Even before Olivia, I’ve always been afraid to slow down. “The bear is behind me.”

It’s a useful trick. If someone wanted to render my life useless, all they would need to do is put the idea in my head: “A bear is behind you… time is running out… you’re going to die.”  I better run. I better not slow down.

It’s ironic how an actual life-or-death situation can jolt us out of our day-to-day, habitual state of fight-or-flight. Olivia forced us to slow down. I suppose we could have run even faster, but we didn’t want to miss her life, so we slowed down. We stopped.

In our stopping we realized the truth:

Time is not running out. There is not someone chasing you down. You are not going to drown.

What I found in the slowing down, though, is that I don’t run only because I truly believe there is a bear chasing me. Even if I know there is no bear, I don’t know how to stop. I’ve been running this way for so long. I don’t know any other way to be.

It’s become a habit, this running—this day-to-day state of flight-or-flight. Something in me doesn’t want to let that go—it’s too scary… it’s too painful.

But we weren’t made to live like this. We have wings. We were made to fly.

04 Rest in you

I recorded this the day before Olivia passed away.

We had experienced so much pain and trauma and sleep-deprivation for those fourteen months. As I recorded these words, I had no idea that the end of that road was coming so soon.

When the road is long, when all hope is gone, in our suffering we will rest in You.

This recording is so valuable to me—it’s the very last thing I recorded with Olivia in my home. She was just upstairs while I recorded. The air I breathed to sing these words is the same air she breathed that day. I love that.