Ulysses by Josh Garrels  

I’m holding on to hope that one day this could be made right
Cause I’ve been shipwrecked, and left for dead and I have seen the darkest sights
Everyone I’ve loved seems like a stranger in the night
But oh my heart still burns, tells me to return and search the fading light.

I’m sailing home to you I won’t be long
By the light of moon I will press on
Until, I find, my love

Trouble has beset my ways and wicked winds have blown
Sirens call my name, they say they’ll ease my pain then break me on the stones
But true love is the burden that will carry me back home
Carry me with the memories of the beauty I have known

I’m sailing home to you I won’t be long
By the light of moon I will press on 
So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home

Before I lose the one I love, before my chance is gone
I want to hold her in my arms

I’m not sure how to jump into this one. Josh and his older sister, Gala, have a special place in my heart. 

Gala baptized me in a pond on a friend's property in Bloomfield, Indiana.

Gala baptized me in a pond on a friend's property in Bloomfield, Indiana.

I can literally mark the year that I met them as a point in my life when there was a definite fork in direction. Twelve years ago, I had planned to live alone in Muncie, IN, and my new car stalled in the middle of the street on the way to see an apartment. I missed the appointment and ended up living with Gala whom I didn’t know well. That year was definitely topsy-turvy for both of us at times, but a long-lasting friendship has developed. Probably, the strangest addition to my life then was church. Every Sunday morning, Gala and I would leave to pick up her younger brother, Josh, and go to Muncie Alliance Church. 

Josh was 18, a freshman at BSU; I was 23, in a new job, driving my black hot-rod of a car, and no longer knew many people in Muncie. Every week, we stumbled around trying to find our “sea legs” so to speak, but we both found a community of people that embraced us and kept coming back. Later that year, I was in the car with the two of them when Josh got ‘saved.’ A few years later, I was baptized. 

I recently got to see them and their families this summer for the first time in years. I expected to feel nostalgic during Josh’s show, but it was outside the church afterwards in the parking lot of Muncie Alliance Church when I stopped (and looking back, should have stayed longer). Before the new sanctuary and extra parking were added, the back half of the lot was grassy. Often, a group of us would have bonfires, picnics, conversations on the swings, or walks back by the train tracks. There was something about the quiet of that night after the show that brought me back to those times at the beginning of my faith.

Maybe that’s why Josh’s song, Ulysses, caught my lowest rib and hit me straight in the gut when I heard him perform it the next night in Indy. He wrote it while living in the Northwest in response to watching several relationships fall apart. It references Ulysses’ long battle to get ‘home’ to his love. I decided to collage through it. (Josh, forgive me if I have missed the mark!)

“Sirens call my name, they say they’ll ease my pain then break me on the stones. But true love is the burden that will carry me back home.”

“But true love is the burden…” Isn't this true?? Loving people, giving a project time that it needs… is work – annoying, painful work at times. Sometimes, it requires you to stand in the thick of hard conversations, to see from another’s perspective, to repent, to forgive, or to start over. Other times, you have to step away from it and wait.

Even with this little collage, I had to ironically repaint the word 'back' five different times! However, I’ve learned that if I’m actually willing to wade through it, the end result is rest. So the question that I have been asking myself recently is what leads me into my initial reaction in those situations– which is to avoid?

What do I use to distract myself from having to deal with conflict? What pulls me away from fighting for the things and the people that I love? What pushes me to quit in the middle of the walk? And, have I forgotten who or what my true love even is?

That’s why I chose these particular lines to highlight because in any relationship - as ordained as it might seem to be - or as clear of a path as there might seem to be – chances are there are going to be times when you get bombed, can’t see, and want a fix.

I used an old symbol, the vine, around the words “ease my pain” because the plants are pretty but they eventually choke. “They say they’ll ease my pain then break me on the stones.” There are so many things that promise fulfillment and even offer some levels of happiness, but where do they lead?

Do they offer something fruitful or is it a temporary band-aid that when pulled off just leaves a decayed and divided mess? Half of the time I feel like I don't even know. Other times, I DO know and I pray by having the words painted in this book that I might pay attention.

I love the next line in the lyrics, “(But true love will) carry me with the memories of the beauty I have known.” At different points in my life, I’ve stopped working on creative projects and I’ve stopped opening myself up to people because I either felt defeated or hurt. I wouldn’t allow myself to see the potential in a relationship because something going sour again seemed so much more realistic. I’ve learned that when I live in this state I’m pretty much dead.

I think Josh's words are true. Sometimes when you feel called to a person or a project (or whatever) and all hell seems to be breaking loose, you’ve got to keep your head in the “glory days” to make it through. 

Josh is a unique soul because he lives from his heart and he dreams big. I know his albums, Indy Alliance Church which he initially pastored, and his relationship with his wife would not be present if he had not held onto the beauty that he originally found in Christ and Michelle. I’m thankful for the humble man that he has become and for the bold and somewhat insane moves that he has made to release albums for free.

If you don't know Josh's music, check it out here.

And while you are at it, check out Gala's artwork - which is also 100% amazing - here.