the power of the plus-sign

Seeing our names listed on the Grammy nomination certificate we received recently, I found myself thinking a lot about the ‘plus-sign‘ in-between our names and why we chose not to use a ‘&‘ sign or a ‘and‘...

Grammy nom-0431-2
Grammy nom-0431-2

Back in early 2008, I was a full-time songwriter and Joey was an aspiring singer. We had been married for five years, but Joey’s dreams of following in her musical hero Dolly Parton’s footsteps had eluded her.  She had all-but-given-up on music and was working every day at Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, our little family-owned cafe Joey had started with my sister just down the road from our farmhouse.

Little did she know that while she waiting on tables… God was waiting for the right timing to make her dreams come true.

I wrote in another blog post a good while back in more detail about how we got our start singing together.  About how a friend of a friend recommended that we try out for “Can You Duet”, a new CMT reality music competition show that was looking for America’s next great country duo.  About how I was nervous and skeptical about it.  And also how, though Joey and I didn’t have a tv and didn’t want to be on one, my best-friend and cousin Aaron (who’s our manager now) and I made a little homemade video about our lives and music up to that point and sent it in to the producers to try to get a spot on the show.

When we found out we had made it through the first round of auditions, they asked us what our stage name was going to be.  I told Joey that I think we should tell them “Joey+Rory”, because that’s what it actually was…

You + Me = whatever this is going to be.

She agreed.  And though it might have been a bit confusing to others, the plus-sign made sense to us, and that’s all that mattered.  And so our career singing together started off with a bang…

Now all these years later, as I sit here with my laptop at the dining room table and my beautiful wife sleeping peacefully in the next room… I find myself looking back at that moment.

We had no idea back then that our lives were about to change.  Or all the places our music would take us and all the dreams that would come true for Joey.  And for me.

In hindsight, I think I was right about the plus-sign in Joey+Rory, but not about the math.

One-plus-one does not equal two.  It actually equals much, much more.

And the plus-sign?  I’ve come to realize through the years that it’s not what I thought it was either.  It’s more too.

Without know it, what we were actually adding into the equation that day in 2008… was God.  It was faith that we added – a willingness to trust Him and be okay with whatever He had in store.  I think that’s where the power is.  There’s nothing magical about Joey and I together.  We bring our skills and talents into this union, but God brings the magic.  He takes those gifts and adds in His timing and mixes it with all the years of joy and hardship and smiles and pain we’ve had… and He makes something bigger.

Something better.

We’ve seen it happen in our lives in dozens of other ways too.  Each time Joey and I have made a conscious choice to “add” someone else into our lives, God uses His mathematics to turn us+others into something more beautiful than we could’ve ever experienced on our own.   It’s easy to see that with Marcy, Aaron, Russdriver, Sandy, Gabe, Julie, Thomas, Keith… the list goes on and on.

And it’s not just people.  It’s time.  When the plus-sign has been giving away the most precious thing that we have – our time – to others.  It too turns into something bigger.  And our world gets better.

My wife will tell you… I really do believe in magic.  Not the kind with cards tricks or rabbits being pulled out of hats, but the kind that God does – where He brings something out of you and your life that you never-in-a-million-years thought was possible…

Like our beautiful marriage… or our music career…

or the greatest magic of all in our lives… our little Indiana.  She’s the most precious addition that God has given us.

But why?  Why would He give us such an incredible addition, and allow it to be followed by such a heartbreaking subtraction?

I cannot even begin to imagine going home to Tennessee without Joey, or living my life and raising Indy without her… but chances are, that day is coming.

Joey and I both have questions.  Lots of them. Hard questions that we don’t have any answers for.  But still, we have faith – we choose to believe.  I think that’s why they call it faith.  If we knew all the answers, no faith would be required.

And so Joey and I do our best each day to only see the plus’s in our life. all the extra days and weeks that we’ve been given together (the doctors here didn’t expect Joey to make it to Thanksgiving, and here we are near the end of January), and all the beautiful conversations and time we’ve had with her family.  And the amazing gift of life-slowing-down-to-a-crawl and only having and needing THIS moment in time. And of course, the incredible amount of love and support that the whole world has shown for us during this special time.

And every morning, when our little one wakes and I pick her up from her crib and take her in to see her mama – and her sleepy little almond eyes look into ours, once more we see…

the amazing power of the plus-sign.

Joey+Rory = Indy

Indy eys-0097 2
Indy eys-0097 2