A STORY OF GRIT, GRACE & GUITAR STRINGS
A STORY OF GRIT, GRACE & GUITAR STRINGS
Our story begins 32 years ago. Glen and I met just a month after he had been diagnosed with OCD and bipolar illnesses. A few months into our relationship, he shared his diagnosis and felt reluctant to lay this grief upon me. I was completely naive about his struggles and the world of mental health, so I blindly looked past his health and took him for the man that I saw and was growing to love.
We were married in December 1988 and how his health changed our lives has become the passion behind our story and business. Over the years, but especially in the first 10 years of our marriage, Glen lost many jobs. Almost every loss was the result of stigma and discrimination and we never fought back. We just took being dumped and discarded as something unavoidable. People often made us feel like we were getting what we deserved.
In 1997, we had just taken yet another job as ministers of music and things were not going well. Glen had to seek additional outpatient psychiatric assistance for his health and the stress on him was mounting daily. This job came to an abrupt end within 4 months. It bears mentioning we had just uprooted and moved 1200 miles with 3 our children who were under the age of six.
What followed was heartache and sadness for about 9 months and then a miracle happened. We were able to move into a modest home and open a music teaching studio offering piano, voice and guitar lessons.
I look at this period of time with fondness. We flourished here but we also did a lot of personal work and digging out. We mended, forgave those who had sinned against us and forged ahead with grit and grace. We began to see the vacuum in the mental health world, especially in church, and felt a deep longing to make a difference.
While in this phase of dreaming, we had the good fortune of working in a small church that had really begun to love and value us, especially Glen. We shared our vision with them and they got behind us. This was the first of what would be a pattern of selling possessions to pursue dreams. We hosted a yard sale and raised money for our move to Nashville where we felt sure that doors would open so we could live out our dream.
But the plans shifted as the doors remained closed. We opened another teaching studio and in 2009, this became the springboard for our jewelry company. All the while that burning mission of creating an oasis for the hurting mental health community never left our side.
Once again we dared to dream and for the second time in our lives, we sold our possessions to pursue the dream. This time we sold everything...literally all of it. We hosted 16 days of yard sales and put our money behind our vision. We bought a 5th wheel RV and all 5 of us moved in without a truck to pull it.
And then another miracle occurred. We took our jewelry to a flea market where we sold nothing the entire day. Just before packing up to head home, God sent an angel our way. The story spilled from our lips and resonated in her heart. With a check in hand and a contact to pull our RV, we headed off to warmer climates in search of chasing the dream.
We initially thought we’d share our vision through concerts but it quickly became evident that our jewelry was another way to reach people. We set up our tent at art shows, sold guitar string jewelry and people asked about the story. It grew in ways we never could have imagined. We flourished again and heard of a monthly market taking place on Riverstreet in Savannah. This tourist city was perfect for us and so we decided to stay. We set up our tent, sometimes twice and 3 times a month and this space became our sanctuary.
One more year of RV living and then we decided we needed solid ground. We moved into an apartment and then a few years later into the house of our dreams. We didn’t own it but it felt like ours and we lived out our mission and passion. We thrived and thought we might be able to stay there forever. We prayed over that house. We begged God to make a way so we could buy it but then... the 2020 pandemic, where life came to a screeching halt.
With the crisis before us, and with every art show cancelled, we told the homeowners the truth. We didn’t see how we could stay. They decided to sell the house and for the third time, we sold our possessions, but this time so we could survive. It was the most heartbreaking season of all. I felt like my soul died there. This was an oasis for Glen. We lived on a quiet cul-de-sac in a beautiful neighborhood with ponds for fishing and wooded swamp behind us where we walked trails and talked with God. It was our sanctuary from an often cruel world.
This July, we left Savannah like Abraham, going not knowing where we’d land (I wrote a blog about this recently, and you can click this link to read it). We thought maybe RV life was the answer but I’ll spare you the details of why that didn’t work. It’s in another blog post. With no where else in mind to go and because we had not received any unemployment financial assistance yet, we went to stay with family. At almost 60 years of age, this was humiliating and humbling. We submitted to the process and sought to remain hopeful and optimistic.
After 4 months, we couldn’t take not having our own space. We literally fled to Nashville where 2 of our daughters were living. We linked arms with them and decided we’d bear each other’s burdens by sharing an apartment. This isn’t the final chapter in our lives. Apartment living feels like it’s not the final answer. It’s difficult to be fully creative without the needed space to do so. So for us, we feel there is something more we need. Something permanent.
Glen and I need a place of refuge for ourselves but also a home where we have space to open the doors and minister to others as the needs arise. I know what it is to need someone to walk with me as a caregiver. Glen understands how grievous it is to be bounced around and to have an unsteady life. We’ve prayed and paid our dues. We have sacrificed and dreamed amid insurmountable odds. We have sold our possessions to fuel our own visions but we can’t finish the dream without help.
What would it mean if we could finally close out the senior years of our lives in a home that no one could take from us! I can’t even begin to tell you how much this would mean. In 32 years of marriage and because of too much loss, we have never had the privilege of home ownership.
In the past year we’ve rented 4 Uhauls and if you didn’t know, one move is more stress than any mental health patient needs, let alone being unsettled and displaced multiple times within one year! My husband wept yesterday over the stress load and we all wept together. I know his heart is troubled and burdened. I know he has bravely faced each challenge and now he needs to rest and heal.
The year has drained us in every way; mostly financially but also emotionally. We are awaiting yet another round of unemployment and feel desperate for the help. Winter is always hard on creative businesses but amid a pandemic and an election fiasco, well...it’s been unusually stressful.
So here is what we are asking for?
1. Just like at the beginning of the pandemic, we need supporters and givers to step forward to help carry our load. We are praying over our dream of having a place to rest our bodies where we can stay and never look back. In many ways, this is missional work and needs to be treated as such. The daily task of writing and blogging takes time. I have a book I want to finish but it will never happen without financial support that enables me to take time away to write. I’m also a caregiver which means my day is always interrupted by conversations about what Glen may need or about how his struggles effect me. It’s a constant daily battle which we both are willing to engage in for the benefit and blessing of us all.
It is worth mentioning that sometimes people assume you have nothing to offer if you’re still engaging in the battle. Somehow this makes no sense to us. Who better to help you navigate than someone who still engages and has done so long term and with positive results. Separate ourselves from this pandemic and you’ll find a couple who was flourishing and thriving. Not without pain or grief, because with think we will always and forever grieve loss because it’s not what we want. But the pandemic has been an alarming blow to the need for a regulated life. Bouncing around and having little normalcy has hurt my husband to his core. He needs rest to bad. I’ve heard him say we need a vacation, but we can’t go because we can’t even pay this months bills without help. It’s that serious. The pandemic has robbed us of the stability we had spent so many years striving for.
2. We are asking you to pray about how we can finally have a forever home. We believe there is someone or a group of someone’s who could give enough to see this through to completion. We feel we need a permanent home so we will never need to move again. We feel like Nashville is where we should be in part because we need the closeness of our single adult daughters. They are our caregivers. For me, because 32 years of caregiving without much support from outside sources has worn me thin. For Glen, because they will always have his back when I do not have the strength. Perhaps God has blessed you with more than enough. I know you are out there and maybe you’re reading our story now while feeling a tug in your heart. That’s God! We need a pretty, modern, updated respectable home, one as good and as beautiful as you’d want. We aren’t being demanding by this but saying we have loved sacrificially more so than any people we know. We need space, privacy and close proximity to places where Glen can fish for his mental health and well being. This needs to be large enough for our family and with a guest room where we can open our home to other hurting people. We need a garage and I need an office studio for creating.
So what can you do?
I’d ask, what are you called to do and what are you capable of doing? Give if you can. It’s obvious we are not lazy nor are we irresponsible. We have passion and more persistence than most people may understand.
I’d ask that you support us with kind words and a generous spirit if that is all you can give. Believe me, that’s essential to our well being.
If you believe in praying, then pray because we believe God works through prayer but we also know he uses people to accomplish his work.
I know we are asking a lot along with needing compassion and respect! We’ve been pretty beat up this past year and we have all felt at the end of our ropes. There are days we don’t know how we survived and there are days that have now become a blur amid the chaos and loss.
We know we need to stop the loss cycle and get our feet on solid ground. Yesterday I spent several hours filling out an application for SSDI for Glen. Monumental day because he has never wanted to accept this kind of help. But he needs it. We need it. And if anyone deserves it, it’s him.
I am making every attempt to move past what my family has said to me about Glen. I have been crushed to my core by a family that has been equipped to bless our lives and lend a hand up in our hours of need. They have mocked our story, our needs and have been mostly silent when life dealt us a debilitating blow.
So any help for our future will have to come from friends, fans and loving customers. We know who you all are and you have stood by us all in incredible ways, especially during this pandemic crisis. We are asking for your help now and recognize it’s a weighty matter, and even more so in the middle of a pandemic, but this family needs solid ground once and for all.
So here is our dream spelled out clearly with completely vulnerability. Our dream is really all we have left to aim for. It’s been 28 years of hoping and praying and I n many ways we’ve succumbed to our own silence because we’ve grown weary in waiting. We pray these words fall on fertile soil in your souls. If you have any questions, please email or message us. We will respond and in the mean time, we pray for peace!
God bless you all,