3.20.2014

A Voice in the Desert.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a man I didn't know that basically said, “Hey, would you like to come to the desert outside of LA to visit the set of some famous person's movie next week?” Since I knew nothing about the guy, or the movie, or why I'd been invited, or what I was being asked to do, I said yes

Meet you in the desert? ...Ok!
Then, when I told El Chupacabra about the invite, because he is obviously cautious and protective and overly concerned for my well-being, he said “DO IT!”

It was an easy decision.

There was no good reason for me to go. It wasn't great timing. We had a lot going on at home. I wasn't getting paid. I'm not really interested in meeting famous people. I never loved the desert. If I went, it wouldn't be to advance my career or provide for my family or rally my cause. And I didn't have anything to wear.

If I went, it would be just for fun. WHAT?! I KNOW!!

So I went for fun. I really did. I hit the road one morning with a full tank of gas, a triple venti skinny caramel latte, the address of a hotel in one of those dusty towns south of LA, and no plan B.

I drove 8 hours alone. I howled along with the radio like a wolf howls at the moon... but, like, a rabid wolf...a tone deaf, rabid wolf...with a head cold... that's what I sound like when I sing... a sick, tone-deaf, rabid animal... Ok. Anyway. I sang. I turned the air conditioning to whatever the hell temperature I wanted. I thought my thoughts. And I peed. I stopped so many times to pee - even if I only had to pee a little, I stopped. You know why? Because.

When I got there, I met the guy (who, it turns out, is not an ax-murderer) and a few others. There was a little posse collecting to head out to the desert and see how Hollywood makes its multi-million dollar magic. And I still wasn't sure why I was there. I mean, usually when I get invited to do cool stuff it's because somebody wants me to talk about it on the internet. But this was not the case. This was like the exact opposite. They actually said, “You can't talk about this on the internet.” (Which I am currently doing while also abiding by the specifics of the NDA. So relax.) But my confusion grew. As I learned who would be joining us, it became clear that a mistake had been made. These people were theologians, PhDs, seminary professors - there was a fancy Priest, like, in a collar - and some media execs. Apparently, we were there because they wanted our faith-based opinions about their film; the story, the script, the audience. I think?

So, basically, it was a bunch of smart people who know what they're talking about. And me.

Um... yeah.
Cool people. Fun people. Very nice people. But these folks were out of my league. When they talked about Bible-y things, they said words I've never heard before. Not words I don't know – words I've never heard – it was like they were talking about God in a different language than the language I speak. Except they weren't. They were expounding their theological positions and I was kicking the dirt just outside the circle, muttering, “I dunno... I just... really love Jesus and stuff. ...Don't look at me."

To get us to the set, they put us in a giant, crazy ATV thing that appeared as if Disney designed a ride where you go into the desert and eat sand until you die. We climbed into this monster truck/short bus from a freestanding ladder – I am not kidding. Then we bounced out to the middle of nowhere, with wind whipped hair and watery eyes, making our way up some isolated river bed. And the whole time I was shrinking inside. This is what I do when I feel out of place. I put on a straight face and play along while doubt eats away at my crooked little heart.

When you're in the desert,
it looks like it never ends.
“They're all wondering why you're here, too.”

“These people know you're stupid.”

“You have nothing to contribute.”

“I mean really... who do you think you are?”

“Your words don't matter.”

Into the desert, I carried my own. A dry spirit. An empty cup. An impressive expanse of cracked and broken foundation. Unknown and unlovely. The tiniest signs of life, waiting for rain. Waiting for water. Thirsty and wanting.


No one could have known how lost I'd been when we arrived. No one could have known how small I felt. No one knew, as I climbed down the wobbly ladder, that doubt was shaking my soul.

And then a steady hand reached up and took mine.

She was on the ground, guiding each of us to the sand with warm words “Welcome, we're so glad you're here!” I wrapped my hand firmly around hers for those final steps, and as I made my descent I thanked her and told her my name.

And, you guys?

In the middle of the desert, this incredible woman (who does work I admire and lives a life I could envy) grinned and she said, “I love you, Jamie, I read your blog!”

And then she gave me a squeeze. Yes. A squeeze. I believe she's a hugger and a forearm brusher, an affectionate arm grabber, maybe even a waist wrapper arounder. She is a soft squeezer. I do not know this woman, but I know this is her love language - and I felt so very loved when she gave me a squeeze and looked me in the eye - in the middle of effing nowhere -  to say, yes, I know you and I love you...

When we made introductions, she said kind, generous, embarrassing things about my words, and I totally didn't know how to respond because I don't know how to act in public, but I hope she could see that I was grateful. Beyond grateful. I mean, super embarrassed, but really, really grateful.

And just like that, she flooded my desert.

It was so entirely unexpected and so encouraging and so exactly what I needed, what I'd been needing for a long time - a voice in the desert to remind me that sometimes my words matter... 

 The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth feels like
sand spilling into your moccasins while Love sets your soul adrift.

I snapped this leaving the desert, that day.
For real. 

On the 400 mile drive home, I ugly cried. A lot. I listened to “Oceans” on repeat and sang along even worse than normal because when you add squeaky cry voice to my normal (sick, foamy-mouthed wolf) voice, it's pretty terrible. But I don't care. I mean, really, I was literally overflowing with thanks, I couldn't be bothered with singing pretty or looking non-hysterical or any of that crap. I just drove and sang and thanked God over and over again for the people who meet us in the desert, who take our hands, and who speak gently to us, and remind us of our purpose.

This is how God gives me life in those dry spaces, this is how He whispers, “Well done, Baby Girl. Now, keep going.”

And I will, because maybe I have the words that will walk you out of your desert. And who am I to hold those flood gates closed?...