As travelling musicians, our diary for 2020 was completely filled with conferences, retreats and concerts, when lockdown hit in March. Overnight, everything was cancelled, leaving us with an empty diary, nowhere to live and a complete loss of income!
Our first challenge was somewhere to live. Constant travel had meant that we had rented out our home to friends, so we had nowhere permanent to go. We both had a deep peace that God had a plan, however. We realised quickly that my elderly mum Jean needed extra support, so moving in with her was the obvious solution. Over a year on, we are still there!
The constant “doing” gave way to enforced stillness, and this was the greatest blessing we could have hoped for. Despite the urban setting of inner city Birmingham, Jean’s large overgrown garden proved to be a source of inspiration for early morning photography and still moments.
In the huge changes, hardship and fear that many were facing, we knew we had a well of hope to offer, by sharing Jesus in a creative way. We began to respond to God’s gentle nudges to share messages of hope and peace via social media during those days.
After writing a musical version of Psalm 91 very early one morning, I felt a strong urgency to share it immediately, hearing God’s inner voice say “someone needs to hear this right now”…and despite still being in my pyjamas I did as I was told! This led to “Pyjama Musings”, a daily blog which lasted for over 300 days! I was truly amazed at the messages I was sent each day by people who were encouraged, and the little community that grew up around it. Nigel, likewise, shared daily sunrise photographs, and “reimagined” popular songs, which brought many moving responses from people who were struggling, and several who were searching for faith.
Perhaps the craziest thing we felt led to do was to begin to record a new album, despite having no income! Inspired by the themes of hope and lament, we initiated recordings done in isolation, at home, with guest musicians contributing their parts from different places around the world, from their homes. It was during this time that my brother fell seriously ill with Covid, spending 4 weeks in ITU. The powerful themes of lament and eternal hope began to resonate more deeply than ever.
The resulting “Celtish Home” album has surprised us with its power, receiving a 5 star review in Premier Christianity magazine. I believe that it is out of pain, loss and adversity that the deepest truth of God’s love is most revealed. As a widow, losing my first husband David after 25 years of marriage back in 2012, I have lived through the searing pain of loss. I can truly say that it was in these darkest of days that I came to receive a deep comfort and reassurance that a hopeful future was possible. This is why I believe the music resonates with many who have been in similar places, and describes something real and deep.
For us, when everything we had hoped for in 2020 was removed, God showed us a new, creative path. He proved that the river of hope and life never stops, but always finds a way to flow, and a new path to bring water to the desert. I believe our songs and stories are heard loudest in the most challenging days.