Scott's been working extra long hours for 3 weeks now. For the last 3 nights, Piper has woken up crying and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Lots of holding, rocking, singing...in the middle of the night.
Our first Steven Curtis Chapman concert, "Speechless", was way back when we were first married, 11 years ago or so. I remember him talking about their 3 kids saying "We have eeney, meeney, miney, and we are going to have no MO!" HA! We didn't have kids yet, and I remember thinking that was funny. We had someone sing "I Will Be Here" as a part of our wedding ceremony - love that song. He sang it that night as well.
Our next concert was in the beginning of 2006, about a year into our adoption process. Our paperwork was in China, but the wait was just beginning to grow, as well as the uncertainty surrounding what was happening with China adoptions. I went to that concert weary. Came home inspired and encouraged. My personal BIG moment at that concert was SCC and Mark Hall singing "Believe Me Now" together. It was a moment I'll never forget. It felt like God took me by the shoulders, shook me gently, but firmly, and reminded me that He was the one who had led us to adoption, and He was working, even when nothing was going according to my time schedule or plan. I had no idea at the time, but on the other side of the world, a woman was about 7 months along with our future daughter.
"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:15-16
So, Friday night was our first SCC concert since going to China and adopting Piper. It was only his 5th concert since the death of his adopted daughter, Maria, and his first since that time without his band, just him.
He walked out on stage as the audience took in the site of him, first time to actually see him since tragedy entered his family. It was good to see him putting one foot in front of the other, doing what he does so well. The sound of his voice is ripe with brokenness, wisdom, reverence. He sat down behind a keyboard and said, "I don't actually play the keyboard, but just wanted something to hide behind for a little while." He said it was going to be different for him, first time without the band since May 21st. He said the song "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" was the only real thing that he held onto on the night of May 21st, and it has been his comfort since then. He said he doesn't think he'll ever be able to play a concert without doing at least part of it, and he began playing and singing it. There are many lines to that song that cut deeply given his circumstance, but the end "He gives and takes away....He gives and takes away...My heart will choose to say....Blessed be the name of the Lord...". And I will say, the tone of those words seem to mark SCC now. Surrender, complete brokenness, trust, reverence.
He talked, a lot, maybe even more than he sang. We loved it. Several times he apologized for rambling. I loved how he didn't seem to have a real plan for what he was going to say, just following his heart.
The second song was one he decided to do last minute after seeing the promotional posters they had up in the church "Changing lives one heartbeat at a time". The 7th song on his latest CD, This Moment, is "One heartbeat at a time", a song he wrote for his wife, Mary Beth. Every mom needs to go listen to song! I had listened to it many times before Friday night, but it has taken on a whole new meaning for me after hearing SCC tell about it. Wow, I started crying and couldn't stop, so glad it was dark in there. Like I said before, I'd come to this concert weary, tired, wondering if anything I do really matters all that much. As anyone who reads this blog knows, since going to China and falling head over heels in love with Piper, I carry with me the weight of feeling like I should be doing more, and vacillate between barely being able to sufficiently care for 3 kids and wanting to adopt the rest of the worlds orphans. So that was the place I was in as I sat and soaked in his story behind the words of his next song.
Years ago, when Shoahannah was little, he'd called home after concert to an overwhelmed Mary Beth. Shoahannah had been having trouble sleeping, common for these kiddos who have experienced so much in their short lives. Mary Beth was frustrated at her inability to get "anything done" and was worn out from so many nights of being up with Shoahannah. SCC was speaking straight to me - I just know it! I so connected with Mary Beth's feelings, but suddenly I could see just what SCC was getting to - this thought that she wasn't actually "doing anything" worthwhile, barely just making it day to day. Lately, I've started to get frustrated that right now I can't even attend bible study because Piper is having so much trouble separating from me at church. We are sticking to Sundays only, trying to give her consistency in a measured way. My time at church is spent praying she'll make it through the whole service, praying she's doing ok, etc.. The thought of "serving" in any way is out of the question right now, and I think I'm starting to feel like a Christian loafer or something, like I'm not pulling my weight. Like I should be doing more.
SCC said he felt so much compassion for the place she was in, and then jokingly said he wanted to slap this crazy notion out of her head. But being the songwriter kind of guy he is, he sat down and wrote her a song at 1 a.m. instead. He said, "there she was, mothering this sweet child, who not long ago lived in an orphanage with no mother."
He then paraphrased Mark 9:36-37 "He (Jesus) took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."
"That word ONE recently jumped off the page at me. Think about what that means. We don't have to save the whole world to welcome Jesus himself, and live in that place. Just one." he said. Something clicked in me with those words. The burden I had carried was lifted off of my shoulders in that very moment, and instantly I felt the significance of those middle of the night sessions with Piper. Gratefulness flooded me as I realized what a wonderful privilege I've been given. I've known this at other times, but like Mary Beth, temporarily lost site of it. Perspective. Scott, knowing the place I was in, looked at me and said, "that's you, one heartbeat at a time". I cried through the entire song. Months of burdens that had piled up without me even realizing it flowed out in those tears.
I also cried everytime he talked about caring for the fatherless, orphans. No words to describe the meaning those words carry when your own child was once labeled an orphan.
It's an amazing experience to be so ministered to by one who is in such extreme grief. There's really no way for me to adequately express it. We got the sense him being there and sharing his heart was healing for him, but at the same time for us too.
He asked for prayers for Mary Beth and said he loves her so much and is amazed by the strength she has shown in the last two months. He then sang, "I Will Be Here". He said himself how the words of his songs take on a whole new meaning now. That song sure does. He said he's gone through all of his lyrics and asked himself if he can still sing those words. He thought he'd never sing "Cinderella" again, but has since realized it's message is more important than ever.
He started talking about Maria and ended up sharing her adoption story. They had already adopted Shoahannah and recently Stevie Joy, when he was in Beijing singing at a worship service. He walked out into a parking lot and was stopped by an American family with 2 Chinese babies. They explained that they were missionaries and their teenage kids would love to meet him. SCC said he was missing his babies terribly and asked who the babies were and could he hold one of them. The family was fostering them and was in the process of adopting one of them and was looking for a family for the other one. He asked the name of the one he was holding and they said "Maria" - an unusual name for a Chinese girl. SCC said that immediately and loudly, the words to a song he'd written 12 years earlier flooded his mind. He'd written it about a friend of his daughter Emily who'd come from a troubled family. The name of the song was, "Who's going to love Maria?" He said with all of the work they do in orphanages in China, he'd never felt so strongly pulled to an orphan in this way, like he was supposed to do something. He called Mary Beth who said he was crazy, so he figured he'd have to help her in some other way than making her his own. He said he got home a week later and Mary Beth had the filled-out adoption paperwork on their kitchen counter, waiting for his signature. Maria became Maria Sue Chapman.
He told about how she had asked to pray to accept Jesus into her heart, completely out of the blue, just weeks before her death because she wanted to go to "God's house, where there are many, many rooms!".
He seemed to think maybe he was talking too much and said, "I guess I just needed to talk about Maria tonight." Tears (mine).
He talked about the level of suffering they are in. He says looking back on the place he was when he wrote some of his songs, it was like they were in a foot of water saying, "wow, we are in really deep.". Now it's as if they are in the bottom of the ocean, saying "okay, this is really deep!". Everything he knew before is still as true as ever, just with a whole new view of eternity and the fellowship of the suffering. He kept back tracking, wanting to make sure we understood he didn't think he was experiencing some special kind of suffering or that it was about him. He kept steering everything back to God, His provision, His sovereignty, His plan.
He also asked for prayer as his family shares their suffering and their hope with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America on Monday. The show will air sometime the first week of August, but she is coming to their house tomorrow to interview the entire family. Their hope is to glorify God.
So that's my little recap. Hunter and Ella are spending the night at our friends house tonight! Ella has asked me 584 times today if it is 6:00 yet. I think we are all a bit excited!