It had just started raining when I got off work Monday night, it was after 1AM when I locked the doors of the shop and made my way to my car. I knew I had a long night ahead of me, coming off the heels of my 8 hour shift and driving another 5 hours through the night to Chicago. About a week and a half earlier, while scrolling through my Instagram feed during a lull in a closing shift, I saw that Reeve Carney (musician/actor extraordinaire) was going on a tour for the summer. I tapped the link to check on the cities he was visiting, and sure enough there were none in Ohio. But one caught my eye, only a week and some change away: Evanston, Illinois. I hadn't been following Reeve very long, but I thought, “Why not, what's it going to hurt?” I mean, a spontaneous concert in another state? Yes, please. Excitedly I prosed a text to a dear friend: “Wanna do something crazy with me?” Her eloquent response was exactly what the situation warranted, “yeh.”
“Good 'cause I already bought you a ticket.”
So there it was. I climbed into my car, uniform still on and drove to pick up Nikki. She greeted me with a smile as we loaded her things in my car. Nikki is my oldest friend, having met when we were 12 we are going on 12 years of friendship now. And honestly, that surprises people. Nikki is leather and studs, tattoos and piercings. I'm church on Sundays and sundresses. We are very different people, inside and out and somehow after all these years we have managed to work it out. I love being a Christian, and all that comes with it. Nikki has never had the enthusiasm for the Faith like I do, but she understands it.
So here I was, being impulsive. Going to my one non-Christian friend to share in my moment of madness, because I knew she would.
We drove through the soggy night, stopping for coffee, snacks, and a box along the way. (The box will be important later). Singing Bohemian Rhapsody, and a killer rendition of Separate Ways as we blazed through the night. We got to Chicago around dawn, found some parking and made our way to Chinatown first. It was still too early for things to be open so we walked along the streets quietly, taking in the store owners getting ready for the day ahead of them, seeing the stacks of newspapers in a language we couldn't read; waiting to be opened and share their stories. There was a beauty about that morning. A glow about the streets as a mother playfully chased her son across the crosswalk to school. I hadn't had any sleep, but I wasn't tired. I was glad to be on an adventure. We didn't stay put long, we had a limited amount of time in the city before we had to move on to the hotel in Evanston, and Nikki had a hot date with some Chicago deep dish.
After our time in the city, we were headed to Evanston. I put on Carney's album: Mr. Green Vol. 1 for the ride past Lake Michigan. I was telling Nikki about finding Jesus in all of the songs I had been listening to, and pointing out lyrics and how they spoke to me during our ride. We made it to the hotel by 2PM and at this point I had been up for near about 30 hours. We carried our bags up to our room to catch a little sleep before the show. This is the part I can't get out of my head. 4th floor, room 415. We open the door to the room with a view straight out the window of the front of the tall ornate church across the street. As Nikki stands there, with her back to me, looking out this window she says, “I've been seeing Jesus in a lot of unexpected places today.” I laughed and told her, “That is literally the point. He's always there for us.” And her words stuck with me.
When we made our way down to the venue. It was this neat little place where you had to go through a restaurant to even get in. When we got inside, we were instructed to take our seats wherever there wasn't a table. So we picked the side of the stage, front row. It was about knee height off the ground and we figured it would be perfect. And you know what, it really was. After an awesome opening performance from Alexander Webb, Reeve was up. It was an amazing performance, switching back and forth from piano, to guitar and nailing every song to the wall. I don't know what I expected. It being a tour for a new album coming out in the fall, I figured the show would be mostly songs I didn't know. But then I got a look at the set list. “Oh goodness. He's playing 'Testify' tonight.” I whispered excitedly to Nikki. I was responded with a wide smile and an eyebrow raise, this had been a song that had inspired me as an artist during the past month and was one of my favorites in general. When he got around to the song (8 minutes long) and was a few minutes in, I realized that I wasn't just watching a performance. I was watching worship. Now, I'm not saying that to be weird or anything, it was super cool. If I'm totally honest with you, I just wanted to do it, too. Raise my hands and close my eyes. It was that powerful in that room.
While sitting there, Nikki's words came back to me. “I've been seeing Jesus in a lot of unexpected places today.” and I started to think, it's so true. I recounted the day we had behind us, how much laughter and adventure we had had. Watching the sunrise on the highway, driving through the middle of the night and watching the chorus of blinking lights in the darkness from the wind turbines scattered across the horizon. This trip was originally to satisfy some sort of impulsive part of myself, but I managed to see Jesus all along the way.
So I would say that Reeve and this trip has inspired me. Not only to continue what I know my call to be, but to expand and open up to so much more. To not be ashamed of the things I have to say, and to stand up and testify.
“I don't wanna to have to learn the hard way,
I don't wanna fall along the side.
While I keep on running out this good race,
I will Testify.
I just wanna listen to your heartbeat.
Tell your people Lord, you're still alive.
And there ain't nothing sweeter than your mercy,
I will Testify,
that it's all for you.
I don't wanna keep on living my way,
I don't wanna keep believing lies.
I don't wanna wait until it's too late,
I will Testify.”