Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dreams Can Come True

Back in 2009, Kristie had a dream. She was finding small amounts of money everywhere, in different denominations and currencies. At first the amount seemed small, but as she gathered it together she realized it was significant.

Around that same time, I had a dream. In it I was pulling coins out of an old couch. I was finding them everywhere. Fifty-cent pieces, quarters, even Canadian Loonies and Toonies (those are $1 and $2 coins, for my non-Canadian friends). I started by finding a little, and as I gathered them together I remember feeling like the amount was becoming something substantial, something that we could really use.

Three years later in 2012, Kristie quit her job to focus on being a full-time mother. Her income was the only steady source of funds we'd earned as a couple, and it was with a certain amount of both fear and faith that we decided to press on, passing the full responsibility of income-earning to me.

The thing is, we were broke. We'd always been broke. We'd relied heavily on credit cards to help us in between dry spells where I didn't make anything, and we'd never developed a plan to pay them off. We'd never had anything happen to encourage the idea that we would someday be free of that particular financial burden.

Feeling the pressure of being a "provider," I started taking real estate courses. I also started a musical side-project called "Vocal Few" with Kristie, in order to help alleviate some of the expenses of having a child.

Kristie and I were no strangers to financial "hardship." We were married without much more than a few hundred bucks to our name. With Kristie's citizenship status in limbo early on she couldn't legally work, so she came on tour and sold our merchandise. It wasn't glamorous. 

We lived in a van on the road with The Classic Crime together, the six of us sleeping in truck stops and Wal Mart parking lots. In between tours we were often homeless, so we slept on a mattress topper on the floors of some of our generous friends and family. We were perfectly trained in the ways of "making-do," so as we prepared to have a baby, we prepared to experience more hardship.

I studied real estate, met with brokers, and planned my entry into the workforce. I was prepared to give up music as a source of income. It simply wasn't enough to sustain myself, let alone a family. I was going to get a real job. Something seemed appealing about that. I took shifts at a catering company, washed dishes, and set up buffets for weddings, parties, and corporate events. I liked getting my hands dirty and working behind the scenes. It was gratifying. It felt like I was doing something that directly helped my family. Music isn't like that. It sells or it doesn't, and often the hours spent on it don't pay off like you need them to. I was used to the disappointment of the music business, so I was happy to take a paycheck in relation to the exact hours I spent working.

Meanwhile, Vocal Few started to sell. We were floored by the response. It was my first independent release in 7 years, and I was shocked to discover the percentage of money that actually came back to us. Small opportunities for licensing came in, they started to add up to some real "bill paying money." Because of the writing and recording of "She'll Be Right," I was offered some contracts to write music for commercials. The income I earned from that really helped us pay down our debt.

Inspired by Vocal Few's independent release, we decided that The Classic Crime should attempt it. We ended up raising almost 300% of our goal on our Kickstarter campaign, and subsequently I became extremely busy producing, mixing, marketing, and performing publicist and A&R duties for the release. It was a six month job, but it was some of the most gratifying work I've ever done in music.

Money started coming in from so many different places, and most of it wasn't a lot on it's own, but when you added it up we were able to pay our bills. Not only that, we were able to completely pay off all the debt we'd accrued over our seven years of marriage.

I ended up not being able to complete the real estate course. I was 80 hours into a 90 hour course, and I kept pushing it back until I couldn't push it back anymore. Eventually, my time to complete it had expired.

Somehow, after being on the verge of giving up music completely, I was swamped with music projects. Paying projects... the rare kind. We went from having two incomes (one being very steady), a load of debt, and no kids, to one income, a child, and no debt. 

What was seemingly impossible back in 2009 had come true, and it was around mid-2012 that we remembered our dreams from three years prior. We were filled with gratitude to God for His faithfulness. We apologized for our lack of faith, our questioning and fear and doubt. We didn't know why it happened, or how exactly, but we knew who orchestrated it.

Let me start by saying that I know we didn't deserve this blessing. However, I'd be careless not to say that I strongly believe that when we give our money in faith, when we tithe or give it towards a charitable cause, especially when it hurts, that it pleases God to take care of us

The times when we've been the most worried about money have been the times where we've been the most selfish with it. It just so happens that when we give more, it seems like we're taken care of more, not only financially but it feels like our souls are more at peace. And the funny thing is, we're still just living month to month. We're not guaranteed that it will work out. That's the fun part of faith.

I also learned that I am not the Provider. I do the work He gives me to do. I am comforted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:26...

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Kristie and I feel a little like these birds.

As I write this I'm facing what looks to be an inability to pay the rent next month. Something happened where some money that I was relying on fell through, and now God only knows what the future holds. We're hoping that Vocal Few's new Tall Trees EP sells well, but the truth is there is no guarantee that it will pay our bills for the next few months. Somehow, we're still at peace. After these last couple years, we're starting to feel foolish when the fear and doubt creep in. We know better.

Our lifestyle has caused us to pray a lot more, be more generous and walk by faith, not by sight. For that, we are grateful. We've also been given incredible perspective for the things that matter in life. We've been investing more in our community and in our family, but don't think for a second we have it all figured out. We're still making plenty of mistakes. We're still deeply flawed people, regardless of our attempts to try to find the right way to do things. It is often that I fail to do what I should.

It's funny how when things are going good we can easily ignore the words of Jesus, and when things are going poorly we desperately seek the comfort of those same words. I hope that someday we can find comfort in those words no matter what our situation is, and that in all things we can have gratitude for what God has done and how he continues to care for us.

I read the other day that if you have $10 in your pocket and no debt, you're already wealthier than 25% of Americans. What an incredible perspective-enhancer that stat is! 

We are not desperate by any means, but we also cannot place our faith in anything other than God to help us. The projects can present themselves, or they wont, the random paychecks might show up, or they wont. We've done the work, and will continue to do it as it presents itself, but ultimately we are not in control of the money that comes in.

I shamefully admit that sometimes, when it gets scary, I ask God if I'm really supposed to do music in this capacity, but as soon as the words form on my tongue I hear the answer. I tried to do the "provider" thing. I tried to give music up, and He opened so many doors to so many opportunities that I couldn't. He buried me in more opportunities in one year than the seven years prior to it. My answer was given in the work that was placed before me. Maybe that answer will change in time, and maybe someday I'll have to do the "responsible" thing and secure a stable income. For now, I try to be as diligent as I can on this music path I've been led down, even though I have no idea where my next paycheck is coming from. The truth is, I cannot rely on myself to pay the bills.

And as scary as that may sound, it's actually quite nice.



  1. We're going through the same kinda thing. We're called to be ministers, but that's not paying the bills right now. We were youth pastors, but that didn't last. We started a church, but it's being shut down. We have 2 kids, and I have to work at McDonalds to make ends meet (or almost meet).
    But someday, I know we'll get that break. God is in control.


  2. It makes perfect sense now why you seldom post anything on here anymore, but you didn't mention that you are "making room for one more"! I understand how life can get "difficult" now and then. I haven't worked in 29 yrs, having left my paying job with my first born. My husband has not had a steady job in about 12 yrs, but by the Grace of God we are able to manage. But part of following Jesus is learning to live by faith. Christ had no home (other than Heaven with God), no belongings, nothing, yet God provided everything he would need. He even told his followers this in Luke 9:58 "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of Man has no place to lay his head." Living by faith is trusting in God to provide for our every need, so hard to do in this world these days, but really it is no different than thousands of years ago. It's great to see how your little family is growing in Faith!

  3. This was incredibly inspiring to me. Like most people it seems, we're also going through a rough patch. Patch being a few years. Regardless, we press on trusting in Him that all will work out. I will do what I can to help you out by buying your Vocal Few album. Your songs, be it on that album or any number of the Classic Crime albums, always seem to hit home with me. No other band has stuck with me as long, or gives me quite the comfort and happiness that yours does.