Carie's Song

I met Carie several years ago. She remembers it as a time when we were exchanging our middle school sons – trading them between cars on the way to somewhere. My car was full of a ‘passel of children’ (her words). And I was extremely distracted by the commotion in my van. It wasn’t a memorable meeting. But who can really remember the moment a friendship is formed? One anonymous poet describes it as many drops of water filling a cup over time. At some point, with some final drop, there comes an overflow.

Carie’s son Evan, and my son Andrew formed a friendship long before we did. They are now in India together. They are traveling around the world as a team of three, with Christian. (

Evan came to embrace his faith and became a wildly passionate Christ Follower when he was in his early teens. Some people kind of ‘whisper’ their stories of faith when their lives change. Evan, is more the type to light explosive fireworks and say, “THIS WAY! Follow me!!” When he declared himself to be a Jesus Follower, it had community impact. And, in that time, Andrew suggested that I start praying for Evan’s mom. Because of that prompt, God gave me a quiet and unexplained love for Carie. It wasn’t anything visible. We never talked. I rarely saw her. But, some odd pressing weight set on my heart for her, because of our sons.

The moment of overflow happened later. A friendship was formed. And, as is true with most defining moments, it was born out of crisis. On July 19th 2006, lightning struck a soccer field, and I found myself standing outside a hospital Emergency Room door, next to Carie. Our sons had been on the soccer field with their friend Andrew Yarger. One moment they were kicking the ball. The next moment, they were trying to stand and recover from the bolt that had sent them all to the ground. But Andrew Y. didn’t get up. We stood together as Mom’s, watching with numb grief as our sons heard the news. We stood together as Moms, in the crowd outside the ER doors. We stood together and watched the Yargers file out of the hospital into their long white van. We stood and listened to Sibbi, speak the truth of her son’s death, and her concern for our living sons. We stood together in that moment. And that was the beginning …

After the funeral, Carie and I somehow ended up meeting at Dairy Queen. We weren’t friends yet, really. But we were willing, having just shared something too big to ignore. We talked about the loss, the funeral, our sons. And since death tends to drive thoughts in a deeper direction, we talked about spiritual things. It was there, that I started learning new things about God, from Carie. That day, she described the first of many instances to come, when God got her attention and tapped her on the shoulder. That day, she described the sky. Something about it had made her cry. She said it was clear only in some vague intuitive sense. But she was sure that God was trying to talk to her.

Since then, Carie and I have met weekly with a little group of women friends to talk about faith and discuss things like the Bible, Jesus, and Marriage. I have watched her move from being boisterous and argumentative to boisterous and receptive. She used to say things like, “What the *#! is 'redemption'?” She used to narrow her eyes, and purse her lips when we’d talk about ‘church’ and religious people. But she stayed in the conversation. She kept coming. And in the process she became much beloved in our little faith community.

Carie points out things I’ve never noticed. She has a propensity for finding parts of the Bible that stump people. After a group discussion with Pastor Bruce on the overall content of the Bible, she was interested to find out that the book contains history, prophecy, poetry … and sex. Apparently the women in Song of Solomon had round stomachs. This should be encouraging to all women with body-image issues, because Carie proved that plus-sizes were esteemed in the Bible:
“ Your navel is a round mixing bowl – may it never lack mixed wine!
Your belly is a mound of wheat, encircled by lilies."
(Song of Solomon 7:2)

No one could argue with that insight. Later, I asked for the group’s take on Jesus in a certain chapter in Mark. I remember that she was a bit taken aback by one story of Jesus. She summed him up as ‘mean.’ Her proof was his unprovoked curse and killing of an innocent fig tree. A lot of times, she’s right about theses things. And always, she is open to learning, and absorbing, and truly understanding.

The most profound lesson in my friendship with Carie, has been a lesson about God's heart. He has wooed Carie in very personal ways. He has shown himself to her through other people’s words. He has caught her attention in the hot tub, in her car, in a hospital chapel, or through sign language. And all the while, her son’s unmitigated passion has been a Jesus beacon, always on her horizon. It has become her compass in the midst of now-and-again God messages that show up in her life. They are experiences that she has called “God tapping me on the shoulder … "

I have watched a scale slowly tip in Carie’s life. Her ongoing debate of faith has looked like one of those justice or science scales -- where weights are placed on either side. A balanced scale hangs equal on both sides. An imbalanced scale has an over weighted side which hangs down low, while the lighter side dangles up high. The heavier side of Carie’s faith scale was loaded with issues of church baggage, hypocritical Christians, legalism, and much rational dispute of God-topics. The lighter side of her scale contained real-life experience with friends who had a faith that intrigued her; her son’s belief and passion, resonating moments of truth, and an accumulating collection of ‘shoulder taps’ from God.

Over time, I watched her scale begin to balance, then counter-balance. It’s her story to tell. But I will testify that the weight of God’s quiet revelations of himself to her, finally tipped her life. Somehow, at some point, after a series of many sacred drops in the cup of her soul, Carie’s relationship with Jesus overflowed.

And I continue to learn from her. Last week, at Fiesta Mexicana, while we were eating flan and talking about God, she described a real ‘a-ha!’ moment. She said that she had realized in one moment of clarity that this wasn’t just about her. She told me that so much of this journey has been hearing about how God is ‘pursuing’ her, personally. But she stopped and looked me right in the eye and said something roughly like, “Except it’s not just for me. It’s for everybody. He’s talking to everybody … it’s just about whether people will stop to listen to him … or not. But, this isn’t just for me. It’s for everybody .... everywhere. ”

This past Christmas, as her own quiet testament, Carie decided to stand in the congregation the she had formerly shunned. In the house where she used to tightly cross her arms, she chose to open them wide. She chose to step into the middle of a worshipping crowd of friends, and publicly speak her own. At the end of both Christmas Eve services at Community Church, Carie ‘sang’ the words of Silent Night, in sign language. Her Silent Night was indeed silent, but it was the loudest declaration I have experienced.

As she signed the words, I sang my own agreement with her on my flute. We were 'standing' together in another significant life moment. Except this one wasn't born of crisis, it was born of a savior. And, it wasn’t a moment of spoken language. We were speaking different languages; she, in sign, and me, in music. But we were singing the same song; the same truth about Jesus. Oddly, in the same way, our sons are now learning to speak the lyrics of worship and faith – except they are doing it across the globe, in the different languages of many human tribes. And as is true in matters of faith and belief, sometimes we are speaking different languages, experiencing different ‘shoulder taps’, seeing different aspects of God. But together, we speak with one Faith, that there is one body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. And to each one of us this grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Jesus Christ. And this gift is not just for one, but for all of us … for everybody, everywhere.


Perhaps the best way to describe Carie’s song of faith is for you to watch it for yourself. Please go ahead and watch this video clip (below) of Carie’s ‘Silent Night.’ And notice this: She starts out singing this song about a “Son of God, love's pure light.” She sings it, alone, in the spotlight. But after her silent testimony, she is joined by a host of light-bearers, singing her same song; visual evidence of infinite family and a redemptive gift only God could give.

“Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth. "

Thank you, Scott Stearman, for editing and posting this video.


Laura Parker said...

this is a phenomenal story and a phenomenal account of it. i love carrie stookey! sooo cool to see her performance again. i loved it the first time and loved it even more after reading the history behind it!

KELLY said...

Absolutely Beautiful, Absolutely Him. So Beautifully composed!!