“My experience of life is that its a mixed grill. It’s not predictable. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. You can have very deep faith and still experience deep disappointment and confusion. Jesus doesn’t promise to take away the pain, confusion or disappointment. But he’ll enter into it with you and keep you company till you cross over to the other side.”          —Anne Lamott

I’m doing something I’ve never really done here before, which is reprint a previous post. But these past couple of weeks have been such a rollercoaster ride of dizzying highs and lows, that when I sat down to write about it, the words that kept coming to my mind were the same words I had written a few years ago, when I had experienced a similar season of extremes. So if you will allow me this indulgence, I decided to just revisit those words here today.

The recent lifetime honor the industry paid to Russ at the Dove Awards was an indelible, humbling, indescribably sweet moment for this family. It was followed all too quickly by the death of Russ’ beloved big brother Marvin in California, as a result of a landslide of complications following a routine knee replacement surgery. Our 8 month-long frustrating, often heartbreaking quest to move to a smaller rural community as we inch (kicking and screaming) towards those inevitable ‘empty nest’ years, has suddenly blossomed into a unexpectedly PERFECT (for us) potential home in the why-didn’t-we-think-of-this-sooner, familiar and much-loved little village of Bell Buckle, TN.

See what I mean? Highs and lows, blessings and loss, uncertainty and answered prayers… A mixed grill.

Such is life, but dang– it can wear a woman out, you know?!

So in honor of ALL of our ever-changing circumstances, here is an encore presentation (complete with soundtrack) from September of 2009:

The Perfect and the Broken Hallelujahs*

I love it when life feels full of possibilities! You know that hopeful feeling, when it seems as if you’re poised on the brink of something good, maybe a new job or a new friendship or a new season in your life? Actually now that I think about it, things have sort of felt that way around here, lately. It’s like a honeymoon, that brief giddy period before reality sets in. Yeah, I love that.

So it stands to reason that my least favorite feeling, what I hate the most, is when all of those promising dreams have been dashed and I’m left standing in the smoking ruins of disillusionment– angry at myself for daring to hope or believe in whatever it was that has now let me down, and angry at God for letting it happen.

I’ve spent a lot of my life somewhere in between those two places. Not wildly careening back and forth (I’m not really a “careening” kinda girl), more like cautiously basking in the ‘full of possibilities’ days and doggedly struggling to survive the disillusioning ones. Optimistic by nature, I’ve never lingered in the Land of the Hopeless long enough to really set down a taproot, but I have definitely spent more time than I would like to admit wandering around in the State of Numbness– detached, listless, emotionally muted. It’s like drawing a big ol’ self-protective cloak around myself, except that of course, it never works. It doesn’t actually protect me from anything, it just serves to delay the feelings that I am trying so hard to avoid. And then when I do inevitably have to face my grief and sadness, it’s as though they’ve gathered strength in the meantime like one of those tropical storms that hover out over the ocean and develop into a Category 5 hurricane before they return to land and flatten everything in sight. Sadly, the numbness never really seems to last long enough to soften the blow. At best, it just buys me a little time between initial shock and grudging acceptance.

You’d probably think that someone who hates disappointment as much (and as melodramatically) as I do would be very leery about daring to hope again, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. For better or worse, before I know it, something or someone will show up on my metaphoric doorstep and I will sense that stirring in my heart, that lightening of my spirit, that feeling that once again, life is full of possibilities. And I will happily allow myself to be seduced by it– because honestly, who wants to live in a world without hope? Not this middle-aged blonde.

need to believe that the horrible, shot-thru-the-heart moments in life are survivable. Not only that, but I need to believe if we allow God to work that alchemy that only He can do, the devastation those experiences leave in their wake can be born again as wisdom, compassion and yes, *she says in spite of herself*, even victory. I need to know that I am not left alone in my sorrow, that Someone is there even when I can’t feel Him, rooting for me, waiting for me, empowering me. And I need to know that the universe, for all of it’s mystical inscrutability, does still contain some absolutes, some things that have proven to be true again and again– and the most important one is that God does indeed love me, beyond all reason. He can’t help it, it’s who He is. After all, the primary message of the gospel is redemption, it’s what God does best. He takes something that has died and breathes life back into it. My job is to simply believe that even when I don’t understand and wholeheartedly HATE what is happening to me, there is a power greater than myself at work. If I allow myself to surrender to that power, the anguish and despair will eventually fade and what remains will be a hard-won faith that I can call my own. Because even though grace is free, sometimes faith has a price.

I’m so grateful for each of those crystalline, rose-colored, gloriously expectant moments in my life. And reluctantly, I’m also grateful for each of the shatteringly sad, desperate and disenchanted moments, too. I’ve learned to recognize and accept them both as the ultimately redemptive gifts they are– the perfect, and the broken.


(*I borrowed my title from my favorite Leonard Cohen song, which I realize everybody in the free world has heard ad infinitum/ad nauseam. But here’s a bunch of Norwegian guys performing the best version I’ve ever heard–)

20 Responses

  1. jcolquette

    Thank You Tori~ This describes my life and feelings so succinctly! Praying for you, Russ and your family as you meet each challenge of temporarily saying So Long to Marvin, Hello to a new home and Open Arms of God’s Blessings!

    I appreciate your honesty and the your writing!
    Love and Prayers,
    Joetta Colquette

  2. auburn60

    Lord,girl, you are ‘readin’ my mail’! Been trying to pull my taproot out of the ‘land of the hopeless’ for a while. Even found myself questioning when, exactly, God turned his back on me. Although I KNOW He really hasn’t sometimes I can’t find the perfect among the broken parts. He keeps working on me.

    No feeble attempts at humor today. Too many real words here.

  3. Kimi

    Welcome to the family chica!

  4. DonnaMariePatterson

    Thanks for sharing. I love your writing, Tori. It’s one of those really low times for me. Today is my daddy’s birthday and I miss him now more than ever. Thank God for His grace and for my portion of faith. I couldn’t survive without it! Sending love & prayers to you and Russ.

  5. rachelbaker

    In 2 Corinthians 6, when Paul is describing the hardships he is enduring, he claims that he is ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’. The NLT translates it as ‘our hearts ache, but we always have joy’.

    I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago. So often we swing from hope to despair and back again. We see sorrow and joy as irreconcilable opposites. Here, the bible suggests that isn’t the case. Both extremes can be part of our day by day, minute by minute existence.

    So often we feel like we’re supposed to wear the ‘shiny happy Christian’ mask. We’ve all met the kind of person who makes you feel unspiritual if you admit to having problems, struggling with life or just feeling sad. They’re wrong. Here, Paul says it’s OK for our hearts to ache. This sin-tinged world can be an oppressive place to live sometimes. Horrible stuff happens, hearts get broken, dreams get shattered and sometimes daily life is just plain hard work.

    What makes those of us who’ve met Jesus different from everyone else? The joy and the hope (sure and certain). We live in two realities. The temporal world around us will get us down, but we have an eternal reality in us now that will reach fullness one day. This reality sometimes seems distant and can get clouded by the immediacy of what is going on around us, but whether it feels it or not, it’s more real than anything this world can throw at us. It is possible to feel crushed yet rejoice.

    Sometimes this is easier said than done, and circumstances will always affect us positively or negatively, but it’s something that’s challenged me. I thank God for the hope we have, and am asking Him to give us His supernatural joy – not to take the place of our sorrow but to get right in there beside it.

  6. phwd737

    Exactly what I needed to read today.
    Thank you for sharing with us your gift of words & sentiments.
    Such a blessing!
    ~Tricia Appler

  7. jonny

    One friend pointed out that God turns our sorrow into joy. Not, replaces sorrow with joy.

  8. LindaB

    Amen to all you’ve so beautiful expressed, Tori! You so read our minds.

    I enjoyed all the other comments too! What a sensitive insightful bunch!

    When I got married to the love of my life, something happened that I didn’t expect. When something bad happened to me, my first reaction before would be to withdraw and be alone with my thoughts. But after marriage, I wanted to run to my hubby and tell him what happened and how I felt, and somehow, whatever it was that hurt me seemed easier to bear. It was like he took on half of my pain. And when something wonderful happened,……couldn’t wait ’til he got home to tell him and that seemed to make whatever wonderful thing that happened even more wonderful! It was amazing—–when we shared our griefs, they were halved, but when we shared our joys, they were doubled. And that’s how I feel about God………about how being a Christian and dealing with disappointments and griefs when God is in your life is better than going it alone. I feel sorry for atheists. What a tough lonely road.

  9. LindaB

    Please convey our deepest condolences to Russ on the loss of his big brother. Russ’ music has helped so many of us get through a lot of “stuff” and just enjoy being God’s child. I pray that the God of all comfort will comfort him at this time like his music has comforted and blessed us. ((((Russ))))

  10. Barbara M. Lloyd

    One of my favorite scripture is “Be still and know that I am God” for He is in the midst of everything…good or bad. He’s either filling us with joy to celebrate one of His many blessings….or He is there holding us in His big old arms comforting us through the misserable and often sad trials in life. I find myself calling on this brief but powerful promise so very often and for so many different reasons.

    So often people comment here on how honest Tori is and how they can relate to her so easily. Tori has so many talents but I believe the reason she is so successful with this blog is best described by those comments. Too often, pastor’s wives or wives such as Tori who are married to gospel singers…areexpected….or atleast they themselves believe they are expected to have perfect lives…perfect children…perfect everything. They believe they would be considered failures if people knew they sometimes have the same problems that everyone else has. Therefore, people are reluctant to share their burdens with those with perfect lives because it is thought that they would never understand.

    Then therecomes along one like Tori, who shares it all…the good and the bad,and people marvel at her honesty and her ability to minister to them just by being normal and, thus, being able to understand. And you know, folks, I know that some of this comes from Tori’s strength…because she is a strong woman….but I belive most of it comes from her belief in God’s strength….she leans on His strength.

    Perhaps we are given our highs to get us through ourlows. The Dove Awards tribute to Russ was one well deserved and put the whole Taff family on a mountain top….not to mention the many many fans of that precious family.

    And our wonderful God prepared them for the sad loss of Marvin. I don’t know what to say, Tori….if I were there, I would simply hold each one of you, tell you how sorry I am and that I love you.

  11. LindaB


  12. rachelbaker

    … and Amen!

  13. bettyrwoodward

    …and Amen again!

  14. jonny

    Yep, Amen. And, Love rules !!

    I would also appreciate continued prayer for my health. Just got back from seeing the doctor and my situation is not good. I’ll be going back Monday morning again.

  15. LindaB

    Praying here, jonny.

  16. rachelbaker

    and here.

  17. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Praying for you dear jonny….and believing.

  18. jonny

    Thanks ladies, truly appreciated = )

  19. bettyrwoodward

    and here jonny.

  20. jonny

    Thanks, Betty = )

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