The Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

It wasn’t until I really sat down to finish this post that I realized how out of reach that Nashville seemed to be to me as a kid. I can remember friends reminiscing of their trips, but Nashville from Houston somehow seemed both close enough to be a possibility, but only if all the cards were held just right. To my Mother’s credit, where annual trips out of state or out of country for vacation were irregular at best for us both, she made a way to make (at times with scholarship) a week of Summer Camp or a Mission Trip happen.

Between the bills; rent, utilities, clothes, food and doctor visits there were always reasons to avoid larger trips.

Car broke down? Not happening.

Latest boyfriend steal Christmas? Not this year.

That’s not to say that some smaller trips weren’t made a priority, but on the whole, I can say that I received the benefit of experience without doing much of anything to earn it. And vacation or at least comfort and relaxation was always something that came with a price in those days. Responsibility was always a priority.

Even if I didn’t share some of the elaborate vacations that some of my peers had, I at least hope that I was appreciative of the times we made it to Disneyworld or small trips around Texas. Recently transitioning from a corporate job into a small business startup of her own, “extra” was rarely a term used in regard to funds for my Mother. At a very early age, I remember discussing want versus need.

Nashville was described to me as a songwriter’s city, filled with talented artists all aspiring to make something more than the practical service jobs that help make ends meet. Nashville’s headquartered preferred music genre by most accounts is easily Country Music. Nashville plays host to The Country Music Hall of Fame. There are ties to southern gospel and bluegrass influences as well, yes, but mostly Nashville is billed as the premier Country Music Capitol. Along Nashville’s Broadway St. near Second and Third Avenue you can find honky tonk after honky tonk. Live bands, play standards and tie in their own mark on the music to stand out.

Yet, to think that Country Music was solely born of bar fueled debauchery is a false narrative. It had a place in the homes of many families throughout it’s inception and refinement.

Which may explain, at least in part, my fascination with a former church turned music venue in The Ryman Theatre. It is touted as “The Mother Church of Country Music” not only as a catch phrase that you can buy on magnets and tees in the gift shop, but in it’s rich history that is held in it’s stained glass windows and pew seating.

The Grand Ole Opry was for a long time housed in these walls before heading to a different location. Week in and week out, concerts, lectures and performances were held on it’s stage. Touring the location now (or catching a concert there, as with renovation has continued it’s venue status) you can see the history of performers who have made their way across that stage and there is a certain connection that you feel as you look out to imagine what the crowds must have looked like across the years.

I chose “Amazing Grace” this week because of both the tagline used for Ryman and how I somehow still relate the melodies of Country Music to church music. And, if I am honest with myself, it’s not because I am super religious. To each their own, and most days I just try to be the kind of human I aspire to be.

But, if the Church is to label me as “lost” because of an attendance record or how much I invest in things outside of it’s doors, I think I need to remember to be appreciative for and practice a little Grace in my own way. And maybe that is the key, wherever we stand, but especially in these times when certain dreams can weigh down or seem out of reach. Maybe we just rely on grace and some amazement in what we are provided.

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