Album Review: Palms (Thrice)

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I remember hearing about Thrice for the first time in 2007/8 with the release of The Alchemy Index Vol. 1 and 2. I thought that album was incredible in to be split into different sounds to match the elements. While I liked the album, and gathered more albums in my collection, they weren’t a band that I played over and over again.

That changed with the 2016 release of To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere. Thrice was coming off a hiatus where frontman Dustin Kensrue spent time writing solo material and was one of the worship leaders at Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill campuses. TBEITBN was charged with spiritual themes as well as socially conscious themes throughout, which have always been part of Thrice’s music.

With Palms, Thrice serves up 10 songs that continue their maturity, intensity, and thoughtful lyrics. Still plenty of heaviness in the music, Palms also includes a piano ballad and a harp adding to the musical pallete. There are some interesting themes present in Palms:

Doubt:

In the song, The Grey, Thrice sings about moving away from of a black and white understanding of the world. Kensrue sings

And my hands are open, reaching out- I’m learning how to live with doubt- I’m learning how to live with doubt- I’m learning how to lean into the grey. Cause I’ve had enough of black and white- I’ll find another way- and I will lean into the grey.

In A Branch In The River the listener envisions holding onto a tree branch in the midst of a rushing river. They are encouraged to

Let go, and let yourself be carried away. Let go of all your certainty; let go, and let yourself be carried to me.”

The songs makes me think of Kensrue’s time as a worship pastor as Mars Hill. Churches can be very black and white- even to our own detrimant. We find comfort in being certain. I believe that part of faith is knowing that we don’t have all the answers. It would be a lot easier if life was black and white- but faith is faith because we lean in the grey.

Using Your Voice

The song The Dark seems to be a song about speaking up for those without a voice and/or acting on behalf of those in need as well as speaking against those who abuse power. We can choose to live “in the dark” and plead ignorance about what is going on around us the plights of people in our community and world. Kensrue and Thrice sing

“We’re not gonna stop ’cause we’ve seen a world worth fighting for. Ready of not- together we’re kicking down the door. And we’re not gonna sit in the dark anymore.”

Redemption:

Hold Up The Light is the most anthemic song on the album. The song takes place in the midst of darkness. Kensrue tells of the power of the light to cut through the darkness and the cold. We live in a tiring time, but we’re told to

“try and raise your lamps a little higher. Hold up the light- hold up the light- hold up the light ’til the world is won.”

The song, I believe, is a song longing for redemption. That even though the night is long, cold, and dark- the dawn is just about the break through when the darkness is pushed back. The song concludes:

Darkness above, but we’re dreaming of the new dawn when love burns this night away.

Palms is a continuation of TBEITBN thematically and with a continually evolving sound. It has been in constant rotation since getting it last week. It will continue to stand out in Thrice’s celebrated catalogue.

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A Long Overdue Update on Caleb

Wow- time flies. The last update I wrote about Caleb was back in May when we were still six days from returning to America. It’s been a busy summer. At one point (May through August 1), our family had been some place other than home for 41 out of 85 days.

But enough about us, you’re probably reading this to know more about Caleb.

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Caleb joined our family on May 14th and we arrived back in America on May 25th. He has been quick to assimilate into our family and as “one of the kids.” Part of the reason for the quick assimilation is that he is very happy, fun-loving, and “goes with the flow.” What better kid could you ask for in a fourth child?

You may have read in earlier post, but Caleb was born with a condition called Hemifacial Microsomia that left the right side of his face not quite fully formed. He does not have an outer ear or an ear canal- which has led to hearing (and speech) issues. We’ve been told that this is a physical condition while Caleb was in utero rather than a genetic condition.

This past week, Andrea has been up to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia twice for two full days of test and specialist. This week, Caleb has seen Cardiologist, Plastic Surgery (Cranial-Facial), Genetics, as well as ultra-sounds and x-rays. He had previously seen an audiologist and an ENT. The test have all turned out well and allow Caleb to have a tube placed in his good ear on Monday (August 13) to drain some chronic fluid. This is exciting because it will allow him to have a more accurate hearing test in several weeks- which we expect to lead to a hearing aid.

Caleb has handled all the doctors appointments like a champ. He was calm and sat through an EKG. He played with the doctor’s light and examined their eyes and mouth. He got to spend a lot of quality time with Andrea. (Andrea really likes traveling with Caleb because he LOVES food- and eats anything. This allowed Andrea to take Caleb to Panera today for lunch.)

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There is so much I could share with you. Like how his smile lights up a room; how he gives kisses when it is time for bed; like how he ran away from us and did a cannonball into the pool (he doesn’t know how to swim); or how he loves getting piggy-back rides from his sisters; or how he enjoys playing with Malachi.

At this point, what really needs to be said is “thank-you!” Many of you prayed for us and for Caleb during this process. When we agreed to adopt Caleb, we were unsure if he had significant hearing loss and what his physical condition would be like. But we felt God nudging us to say “yes!” We invited you to pray for physical and emotional healing in his life. We can only give Jesus praise for the ways in which he has adapted and begun the attachment process. We continue to pray that he will keep growing and loving life!

 

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This is America: Are We Listening

I’ve been watching the video for Childish Gambino’s (or as Cardi B wonders, is it Donald Glover?) song “This is America.” It is an important commentary on the America that our African American brothers and sisters experience that is different from my experience as a white American. The differences of privilege makes it necessary for me to listen to the experiences of others so that I might be able to stand beside and walk with my neighbors.

There are a lot of interpretations of what Gambino is trying to communicate in the video and there are many places on the internet to find those thoughts. A couple really stand out.

1. Treatment of Guns vs. Victims: Notice that the two times guns are used in the video, Gambino’s character gives them to a man who takes great care of them, wrapping them in a cloth/towel to protect versus the way the man killed by the gun is drug offscreen. There are those who are quick to cherish our guns (things) while disregarding victims/marginalized (people).

2. Distractions vs. Injustice: The dancing in the video, especially in groups, looks like any number of pop song dance routines. It really doesn’t fit the tone of the video- which is intentional. Look in the background of the video. There is chaos happening all around. The dancing takes our attention away from the injustices and chaos being portrayed. The news cycle has trained our minds to do this.

A great example of this is the recent news story that the hurricane is Puerto Rico killed over 4,000 people rather than the official 64 listed by the government. TV news stations greatly ignored this story and instead chose to focus on the racist remarks by Roseanne Barr that got her fired and her sitcom cancelled. (Read the analysis here)

Oh yeah, Puerto Rico still needs power. (Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean drinking water).

As Christians, and especially a white Christian, it is imperative to listen to our brothers and sisters, and the experiences that they have and are having. We cannot discount what they go through because it does not line up with our experience or because it is something we cannot relate to.

Watch the video. Listen to what it says through the medium of art/music. Where are there injustices happening that we too quickly gloss over through distractions?

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#BringCalebHome: Paperwork and Bonding

It’s Saturday afternoon here in Guangzhou, China as I am writing this. It is hot! Like 95 with suffocating humidity hot. We have had Caleb for five days and have about five days left before getting back to Delaware. One question we’ve been asked is why the trip to China is so long (15-16 days).

The process of adoption here (not sure about other places) is very linear and happens a step at a time. You cannot “Pass Go” or “collect $200” until the step before is complete. So here is a quick rundown of our itinerary and the process of adoption.

May 10-13: Arrive, Sightseeing in Beijing (helps adjust to the time change), fly to province.

May 14: Receive Caleb- 24 hours with Caleb before adoption

May 15: Officially Adopt Caleb, get everything notarized

May 16: Apply for Chinese passport

May 17th: Touring Day (waiting for paperwork to process)

May 18th: Health Clinic Check-up

May 19th: Touring/Shopping

May 20th: Zoo Visit

(Now we really start working our way home)

May 21st: Visa Appointment at the US Consulate

May 22nd: Shopping Day (i.e. waiting for paperwork)

May 23rd: Pick up Visas, go swimming one more time, pick favorite place to eat, and say good-bye to the other families.

May 24th: Leave Guangzhou and begin long journey home

Every step along the itinerary is build around paperwork of either the adoption or the visa process. Most of the appointments take 1-2 hours with travel. Some 3-4. Which leaves time during the day to bond with your child. Doing this in a hotel room is less than ideal- but families make it work.

Attachment/Bonding is a long process that has many stages over the course of weeks, months, and years. I think we are off to a good start, though you can see the difference in the process with Malachi (14 months at adoption) and Caleb (25 months at adoption).

We are ready to come home. We looking forward to a bowl of cereal, water with ice cubes, seeing Abbie and Malachi, and sleeping in our own beds. Thank you for your continued prayers!

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#BringCalebHome: Yuexiu Park

Across the street from our hotel is Yuexiu Park. It is a large park that we got to explore when we adopted Malachi and visited again today, with Chloe and Caleb. The park is lush and beautiful. Even after a couple of visits, we have not seen anywhere close to the entire park.

We were told during our first trip to China that the parks are the center of community-especially for those who are retired. The parks function as a meeting space, exercise space, a place to practice the arts, and a place to be entertained. In short, the parks are a outdoor senior center (that everyone can benefit from).

We were able to sit and watch a, for a lack of a better word, talent show that was happening at the amphitheater. There were groups in colorful costumes doing dances and singing songs. (For those in the Caesar Rodney Immersion Program, it feels/looks a lot like the Chinese New Year Celebration at Delaware State University.) The show started at 9:30 and ended at 11:30 a.m. before the real heat set in. There was a schedule set up and there are shows nearly every day in for people to participate in and watch. There were well over 100 people watching the show.

Instrumentalist would meet up with friends and jam, people would gathering around and play hacky-sack (Chinese version), and there were all sorts of exercise/Tai-Chi/dances going on with fans, umbrellas, and badminton rackets. The park is beautiful botanically. There were wonderfully landscaped areas, and orchid house, and traditional Chinese architecture throughout.

In short, the parks (like Yuexiu) provide space for the well-being of the individual and the community. It is a part of China that is beautiful and exciting to observe.

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#BringCalebHome: And Then There Were Six

It’s been a long birthing process- two years in the making. Little did we know that when we started to apply to adopt a second time in July 2016 that there was a little four month old boy who needed a forever family. Today, we met that little boy for the first time. His name is Caleb Hong Xi LaMotte.

The day started a little earlier than we anticipated. A thunderstorm woke us up at 2:00 am and I have been up since. Along with another family, we had to navigate the city to find a bank that would exchange our US currency for Chinese Yuan. While the teller, thankfully, spoke some English, it was a 45 minutes ordeal of paperwork and struggles through the language barrier to get the tasked accomplished. While it was lunchtime, our teller immediately closed her window as I walked away! I think she had had enough!

The receiving part of this adoption was much more organized than when we adopted Malachi. There were not as many families present, and they brought each child out one at a time to be united for their forever family for the first time. It made it easier to be in the moment and to capture that moment with some pictures.

Caleb came walking out with one of his caregivers. It was great to see him for the first time. He looked healthy and happy, until Andrea tried to pick him up. It was stranger danger! While he cried, he did settle in quickly until I tried picking him up which caused him to cry again. I am slowly working on a rapport with Caleb. This is to be expected as he has had women caregivers with, likely, very little interaction with men.

When we returned to the hotel, Andrea and Chloe accompanied Caleb back to our room where they began to play with some toys together. While the fun stopped when I entered the room, Andrea said that Caleb was laughing and showing off his personality. That personality is present in some of the pictures we received. While we know we have a long road of bonding and becoming, we were encouraged by our first few hours together.

Thanks to all those who continue to keep us in your prayers. We feel them and continue to covet them!

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#BringCalebHome: Day 2

Today was all about The Great Wall of China. We visited the Great Wall in 2014 when we came with Abbie to adopt Malachi. It was incredible then- and just as incredible now. There are myths about the wall. First, it is not one continuous wall. Two, you cannot see The Great Wall from the Moon.

When we came four years ago, we saw what we wanted to of the area. We had a good time watching the locals take pictures of Abbie (Blond hair!). But today we stepped up our game. This particular section of the wall is a 3km loop up and down some mountains. The stairs are steep and uneven. With Chloe’s approval, we decided to see how much of the loop we could hike in two hours.

We started out going along with everyone else, hitting the “steep side” first. It was a bit arduous. Andrea and I have both been running and working out, but we were also sucking air on some of the sections of the wall. Chloe, on the other hand, was excited and motivated. She served as encouragement for Andrea and I, calling out to us to “Pick up the pace” and “just a little bit farther.” She had a bounce in her step all day.

We made it to the peak fortress in about 45 minutes. By this time, the crowds had thinned out and we had most of the rest of the walk to ourselves. The views were still breathtaking even though a thick smog was present from Beijing. The walk down from the peak was steep, but our muscles were happy not to be climbing.

We also knew that we had to make a decision. We were either going to walk the entire thing and be late getting back to the bus, or we were going to walk about half of what was left where we were pretty sure that there was an escape route back to the beginning. Thankfully, we were able to get off the wall and back on level ground. The excitement didn’t end there as we realized that we were know outside of the park and had to get back in without our tickets, which our tour guide had. Andrea saved the day and used her Mandarin skills to ask if anyone spoke English at the ticket booth and we were let back in the park and reunited with our group.

We had a great day, making some memories that will stay with us for a long time! Tomorrow, we say good-bye to Beijing and fly to Guangzhou to prepare to receive Caleb into our family on Monday!

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