Tender and Fierce

I think I've always been very tender hearted. I feel things very deeply and powerfully, I just do. I always have. I remember thinking everyone cried as often as I do… and how shocked I was to learn that it was frowned upon to wear my feelings on my face when the tears started to fall. It is still a blessing and a curse, to feel everything so deeply and so close to the surface. Yet, as I grow up and learn more about myself and the world, it is one of my favorite things about myself. I proudly call myself a very emotional and emotive person. In fact, the last time I cried was a meager two days ago. But let me tell you, friend, that my emotions do not make me weak. My strong emotional side makes me a force to be reckoned with.

The photo for this post is a poem from the book Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I first discovered her through pinterest, constantly finding myself in her beautiful words. I finally found her book and spent the next three days pouring through it, torn between devouring each page and savoring the delicious emotion in each word. This page in particular felt like my heart whispering in my ear. I have spent so much of my life being told I was too soft, too tender, and too emotional. No one could see how powerful it made me.

I don't know how to explain the confidence and solidity that my feelings and self-awareness give me. It is as if I doubt myself less when I know how I feel and that it is okay to feel how I do. I feel my feelings to validate them and give them space, and then I am in control. It's me in control, not my emotions. I think that is where it gets blurry when I try to explain this part of me to people. I am very emotional, but I am still in control. What a beautiful thing it is to feel your feelings and be aware of your thoughts and still be in control of them.

That's the key, I think. Is to be soft and tender, but still in control. I can feel my heart breaking when I see shelters full of puppies, but I can have the self control to know I can adopt one myself someday. I can feel angry when I am wronged and still be in control enough to love and forgive. I can cry in movies and I can laugh like there is no tomorrow. And I am still a strong, intelligent, and powerful woman. Knowing myself so well only makes me more powerful and it will never take away from the storm I aspire to be.

Rupi Kaur is right, to be soft is to be powerful. I will never be less because of my deep emotions. My tender heart does not make me weak, it makes me fierce.

Obligatory Catch Up Post

A lot has been happening in my life lately, and I sort of forgot about my blog so many of you may not know about it all. So I suppose this is supposed to be a catch up post, telling you all about what I’ve been up to. And it is one of those, but instead of telling you what I’ve been doing I am going to tell you what I have been feeling.

Surrounded. I felt so surrounded by my family and loved ones when I came home from Nashville. I went on tour, came home, and got to go on vacation with some of my favorite people in the world- my family. They surrounded me and lifted me up, supporting me and loving me, making me laugh like no one else does.

Apprehensive. I was nervous, I’ll admit, to live at home again for a time. Yet, here I am, living with my family for the first time in three years and wondering how I will ever survive when I have to go back to school in two months. I had nothing to do, but now have a wonderful job and music to work on. Which brings me to…

Excited. I practically burst with excitement when I started the process of producing an ep with the songs I wrote while I was in Nash! And then I booked my own show in a coffee shop, I was so excited to make a setlist and practice and play my music for my Minnesotans. But then…

Disappointed. My show didn’t have the turnout I wanted, honestly. I was very hopeful because of the great responses online and great feedback from those who made it. However, in my time in Nash not taking tests or writing papers I had overlooked the detail that my show was during finals week. Oops.

Purposeless. I am putting my heart on my sleeve with this one. I felt purposeless for a majority of the beginning of the summer. I was working on my music, yeah, working most days, yeah, but it was lacking the Jesus-driven purpose that my summers working at camp were filled with. I was confused for a long time. I am learning to bloom where I am planted, to serve where I can, and to love those who cross my path daily.

Anxious. These last few weeks have uprooted a lot of my own expectations and plans for my future. I have learned that I graduate college in December. I have no plans. People who were close to me have drifted away. I have leaned heavily on my support system. I am looking at a future that is unknown and I am learning to trust my Shepherd in that.

Freckly. I have spent hours upon hours in the sun so far this summer. Working at a garden center has taught me a lot about water, plants, and bugs. And sunscreen. I have cursed and blessed the sun within the same hour. I love being in God’s creation every day, even if it means some weird bug bites.

Anticipatory. I feel changes coming in my life, like I am walking straight towards a fork in the road. Many opportunities have come into my life or are standing on the edges of possibility for me, making the future look both exhilarating and foreboding. God is preparing me, gently guiding me as a shepherd does his sheep.

And finally, I am happy. I get to spend mornings sipping chai tea with my mom, evenings having dinner with my family. My dad is teaching me how to drive stick shift. I get to watch my sister play soccer while holding the other sister’s hand. I get to visit my brother at camp, which is ever home to me. I have many opportunities upcoming, I am speaking at a conference for high schoolers in Colorado and I am working on my debut EP. I have many reasons to smile every day, and most of them have names. I feel close to my family, close to my God, and close to my heart. I am living my summer day by day. And I am loving it.

 

This Life is Crazy and Tour was Too

A wise man once sang the words “this life is crazy” and wow can I tell you he was right. (This man is Ben Rector, the song is called Crazy and it’s great). So, I just got back from going on tour with some incredible musicians and amazing friends of mine! The program I am in down in Nashville took me to Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan! All in a week! And here, on my blog of word vomit, I will tell you all about it.

So. Every day was nearly the same. We wake up at the crack of dawn, get in a bus, and drive to the venue for that day. Once there, 29 people all help unload a truck full of gear and build a set fit for a quasi-professional show like ours. Eventually we have lunch and hopefully get a soundcheck or two in before we have a show! Once we’re done with the show we take everything down, pack it back into the truck, and go to a hotel to sleep or a bit before doing it again the next day! Wow.

Yes, a group of 29 college students put on 5 shows on the road (one more when we get back to Nash!). We played for crowds of varying in size from 5 to over 250, we played some sets nearly perfect and some had words missing or guitar amps turned off by accident. We failed, we succeeded, and we were members of the music industry for a week.

One of our emcees said at one point in the show “We came to the CMC to learn about the music industry. What we learned is that we know nothing about the music industry. But then we learned a little more about the music industry, enough to put on this show for you guys.” That, my friends, has been my semester. I got to take classes about songwriting, music licensure, and how to compress a vocal. My tests were weekly shows, my finals week, a tour. It was crazy.

I never imagined that my life could look like this. I never imagined I would have an EP recorded by the time I turned 21, that I could go on tour simply because I was in a super rad music program, that I could do a semester of college for fun. I never imagined what I could do with my life… Isn’t that insane?!

This semester has shown me that there are endless possibilities! So, learn from me! Don’t put yourself in a box (as my parents have been telling me all semester). You can’t imagine the good things that God is going to put into your life, and He works in the most mysterious ways! Here’s to life, crazy and unpredictable life!

I am Enough

I’m an artist in multiple mediums and a perfectionist at heart. I wouldn’t say I am competitive but I would definitely say I am hard on myself. I have another post about being my worst critic and I meant each word. I want everything I do to be perfect, to be good enough for everyone as well as myself. I want each and everything I make, do, and say to be just what is needed. But rarely do I feel that way.

I rarely feel good enough. I can hammer myself down until I’m a nail stuck in a wooden plank, giving splinters to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I can listen to my songs, read my writing, and look at my paintings or drawings and see nothing of worth. Even worse, I can look at myself the same way. But we weren’t created to view ourselves as worthless sinners, trapped in sin and failure. We are so much more.

One of my favorite passages of the Bible is Romans chapter 8. Verse 37 says that we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. More than conquerors. We have endless possibility in our hands, our minds, our feet. If we can do more than conquer (which sounds difficult if you ask me), what else can we do? Can I get out of bed? I can do even more. Can I ace this test? Write this paper? Can I write this song? Perform the song? Can I really publish this blog post, acting like I know what I’m talking about? I can. Through Him who loves me.

I’m nothing without my Jesus. He is my backbone, my strength, and my glory. I am more than a conqueror, through him. Without him? Forget it. Without Jesus I wouldn’t be in Nashville, I wouldn’t be in music. I would not be who I am without the one who loves me. Is that beautiful? I don’t matter. He does. I am enough because He is enough. I am worthy because He is worthy. I love because He first loved me.

The weight of being enough was lifted off my shoulders when Jesus died and rose again. I am no longer in charge of my worth, I don’t have to earn it through perfection or hard work. I have it. I have worth in Jesus and the best part about that is that it never changes! Nothing changes how God feels about me. Nothing changes His unconditional love. Nothing. Not mediocre song lyrics, not word vomit blog posts. Nothing.

I am enough. Say it with me, I am enough. Out loud. I don’t care if it’s a whisper or a shout, say it. I am enough. You are enough. We are enough. Not because of anything I did, but because of what Christ Jesus has done on the cross and in my heart. I am enough.

Glory Moments

I think about the future too much. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I worry about the future too much, far too much. I am a worrier in the first place, but mention the future and I can go for miles. The great unknown is scary and I want to plan it. I love planning ahead, though whether or not I follow that plan is often more of a “let’s wing it and see what happens” kind of situation. Yet, Jesus asks me if worrying will add even an hour to my life. He tells me to look at the lilies of the field and how they are clothed, to look at the birds and how they are fed. If Jesus cares for those parts of His creation, how much more will He care for me, a masterpiece of His hand?

There are times that thinking of the future is terrifying. Thinking about graduating college in a year or less, finding a job, not knowing what I am doing for the summer, those are scary unknown future thoughts. But there are also times that thinking of the future is exciting. Reading Mark 9 this morning while watching a live-stream message from my church helped me see that. You see, Mark 9 talks about the transfiguration and gives the disciples (and us as readers and believers) a peek into what life could and will be like with Jesus! This reminded me of all the many ways that God gives us glances of the glory to come.

I was at a concert, jumping around and singing along at the top of my lungs with the rest of the audience. I saw a glimpse of what worship could look like in heaven.

I was in Mexico on a missions trip, surrounded by the most joyful people I have ever seen and I saw what community will look like.

I was in my hammock on a mountain side as I breathed in the crisp fresh air I felt a peace that could only be from God. A peace that will be constant and everlasting in eternity.

These are precious moments that I keep close to my heart, moments I pull out to remember in times of chaos and doubt. These are moments that God revealed Himself to me. These are moments that I saw and felt the Holy Spirit, the moments I was closer to that Shiny Jesus moment of the transfiguration. I did not worry in these moments. I could not find the space in my heart for fear in these moments because perfect love casts out fear. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s love in these moments, making it impossible to worry about anything.

These moments are some of the purest of my life, and if you have moments like these I would love to hear all about them. These stories are worth sharing. If you don’t have these kinds of moments yourself, take mine. Tell them to yourself in your times of need and believe them. You will have your own moments in your walk with Christ when He reveals himself in some of the strangest and most beautiful ways. Those stories are incredible. They are beautiful. And they are worth sharing, so please share them. Share the stories of your glimpses into a future full of God’s glory, because we need it. We need reminders of the glory to come.

How I Write Songs

So, the program here is all about the music industry and I am in the artist track, meaning I am learning how to write songs and then bring them to life in performances. It’s mildly terrifying. But also fun amid the difficulty. Turns out art rarely comes easily, so here is your once in a lifetime chance: I am going to take you through my process of writing a song.

Step One: Inspiration. Find something you want to write about. This could be just about anything, which is the hard part. Happy love songs, mad love songs, songs about dogs, songs about road trips, about how much you love cottage cheese, there are endless possibilities.

Step Two: Try not to get angry when nothing sounds quite right, keep trying until you find something you don’t hate quite as much as everything else.

Step Three: I suggest writing your chorus first, it helps you figure out where you want the song to go as a whole and often gives you a title. You’ll need a melodic and lyrical hook, something catchy that people will find themselves singing when they’re alone in the house on a Saturday night. Use more simple chords here, sticking to the 1, 4, and 5 chords like C, F, and G. It helps it sound familiar to the listener’s ear. It’s also easier to play on the guitar.

Step Four: Here is when I usually put it aside and forget how it goes when I want to work on it a day or two later, if you don’t want that to happen try recording it on your phone. Or, you could do what I do sometimes and just never go back to finish it.

Step Five: Once you have your chorus I suggest looking for some slightly different chords for your verses. Don’t go too crazy if you’re writing pop but maybe add some minor chords in there to make it interesting. Lyrically use the verses to playfully expound on the main idea you present in the chorus. Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.

Step Six: This is when I usually realize I forgot to write a pre-chorus, so now you can look back at your chorus and write a shorter thing to lead into it. The pre will sort of lift from the verses into the chorus and remind the listener “hey the part I usually like to sing in the shower is coming up!”

Step Seven: Once you have verses, a pre-chorus, and chorus it’s time to mix it up a little! Here you have a choice, you can pitch the whole thing in the trash and start all over or you can write a bridge! The bridge is usually a left turn in the song so use this chance to use any funky chords you’ve been waiting to throw in. The bridge is also a left turn lyrically, so you can present the other side of whatever story you are trying to tell here.

Step Eight: You might think you’re done at this point, maybe leave it to sit in your brain and go back later. My friends, you’d be incorrect. You will come back later and you will either love the song and consider it done, or you will hate it and edit the poor thing until it is a nearly new song.

Step Nine: Cry a little because it’s not exactly what you wanted it to be. Edit it some more. Retune your guitar, because surely that’s the problem, right? Or maybe it needs to be raised a couple half steps, angrily get your capo out and attempt singing it in keys that sound all too similar yet worlds different.

Step Ten: Rejoice! You have potentially finished a song! Send it to your friends so they can all tell you how awesome it is! Remember to record it or practice it once in a while because if you don’t you will forget how it goes and have to write it all over again! Good luck!

Alright, so part of this is a joke, but honestly– songwriting is hard. It’s pouring your heart and soul into art and hoping that people will hear what you have to say. It’s editing each word mercilessly and angrily staring at the ceiling when your pitch reference starts to fail you. It’s crying when you can’t find the words and crying when you do. Songwriting is no walk in the park. However, in the end, when you’ve said what you wanted to say and sung your little heart out, music is worth it.

Freckles and Scars

A friend on Facebook brought it to my attention that today is March 1st, Self-Harm Awareness Day. She wrote a beautiful post telling her story and every single point hit home with me, especially after I spent last week writing and working a song reflecting on newer and happier moments in my own self-harm story.

It’s called Freckles and Scars, a title that came from a surreal moment in a well lit dance studio a couple weeks ago. I looked down at my arms and could see the faded scars dancing with my freckles, happily coexisting. My freckles are one of my favorite parts of my physical appearance. Yet, there they are fraternizing with the memories of my darkest moments, the faded scars from nights of ripping myself apart. The longer I thought about it the more beautiful it became, the mosaic I had become. All my broken parts coming together to make something new and graceful. The chorus goes like this:

“Rebuild myself out of freckles and scars, Refuse to tame my lion’s heart, Grace wins the day, I think I found my new start in my freckles and scars.”

As I rolled the idea around in my mind, I found myself in a rather tumultuous week. One day I was on top of the world, embodying my lyrics perfectly and finding that place of renewal. The next day I had to go on a run because I was so angry with myself I was afraid I would do something stupid. But the more I wrote and the more I sang the song the more I believed it; the more I was able to look at myself as a mosaic put together with grace.

It’s been two years and about three months since the last time I self-harmed and I praise God for that every day. It’s still hard. There are times that I remember the pain as cleansing and clarifying rather than seeing the harm it did to both myself and the people I love. There are days that my arms itch more than you can imagine. But friends, there are days where I can smile ear to ear knowing that I have survived. Days where I can look at myself in the mirror and genuinely love who I am becoming. I have not only survived but I am healing. I can look at my scars and see something of use, something beautiful. And I can write a song about it.

I can’t wait to sing this song for you, my friends. I can’t wait to show you the joy I feel when I sing it, the clean daylight that I can feel on my face when I sing the words I wrote that week. I want to share this with the world because I need you to know how it feels. You know how it feels to fall apart, the whole world knows that. But do you know how it feels to rebuild yourself out of all your little pieces? Do you know what it feels like to be a mosaic, to see the beauty next to the broken and bruised parts? I need you to know. I need you to know who you are, not as little pieces scattered around a room after you’ve fallen apart and exploded, but who you are when you are rebuilt and renewed.

I can show you how I feel, how it feels for me. But I can’t put you back together. And honestly, you can’t do it either. Not by yourself anyways. Grace wins the day. Jesus conquered the grave. Jesus died and rose again, for the broken and the bruised, for you. No one builds a mosaic quite like Christ.

I Love Love. And Chocolate.

I love Valentine’s day. I really do. I love love in general. I love seeing people start dating, get engaged, get married, or have kiddos. It’s beautiful to watch people experience love. I adore how we met stories, first kiss stories, and proposal stories. I love remembering Valentine’s day as a kid. My mom would cover the house in pink paper hearts with notes on them, draw hearts on the mirrors in dry erase marker, and one time we ate dinner on big red heart shaped plates. I loved it. I love love.

Have you ever looked at a person and you feel like a balloon is expanding in your chest? That warmth that spreads out from your smile, to your ears, then down your spine? I’m sure there’s names for these, but really it’s love, isn’t it? Love feels like something. It’s different for some people, but I think there are some universal signs. Why else would there be an entire day delegated for the exchange of chocolate and flowers? For me love feels like a hand holding mine, or a gentle kiss on my forehead; letters or voice messages, a quick text to tell me good morning. What does it feel like for you?

It’s fun to think about, love. The small things that put a smile on your face or make you giggle in pure happiness. The way a person’s smile brightens the room and how their voice sounds when it says your name. It doesn’t even need to be one person. I adore when I go home to my family after being gone a while and I can hear my sisters giggle as they run to hug me. Sitting at the table, smiling and taking the teasing of my brother. My family feels like love to me. My friends feel like love, when they stop me in the hall just to squeeze my hand or insist that we get coffee that weekend. Love is my people.

Love is scary too. In a new place, with new people, love can be scary because there is so much unknown territory. I don’t know these people or how to make them laugh or if they like hugs, I don’t know how to love them. And I don’t know if they’ll love me. Love is vulnerable, it’s putting yourself out there for other people. Love is scary. But it’s worth it, isn’t it? The fear of putting yourself out there is worth the acceptance you receive in relationship with others. Because we need love too.

It’s quite the conundrum sometimes. Love is scary, but we need and crave it. So, there is a decision to be made here. Do you fear love more than you need it? We aren’t made to fear, so, really, the decision is already made. However, you need to make the choice yourself as well. You need to decide to love love more than you fear love. Because loving out of fear isn’t love. Perfect love casts out fear. But love, oh love does wonders. Love brings the dead to life, gives song it’s sound, and colors the world. Love is as necessary as air, my friends. Love is love. And love is yours. And love is mine. Love is vulnerable. It’s scary. It’s important. Love is necessary. Love is here, love is now. Love is fearless. Wow. I love love.

 

My Worst Critic and Biggest Fan

Predictably, I forgot I had a blog. To catch you up, I’m still in Nashville and I’m still writing songs at the CMC (Contemporary Music Center). I have started a couple recording projects and I have spent only two or three nights in the CMC working until the wee hours of the morning. I wrote a sweet song with words compiled from people helping me through my anxiety attacks and then I wrote an angry ex-boyfriend song. I have song ideas coming out of my ears and the fingers on my left hand are losing feeling in the tips because of guitar calluses. I am currently prepping to perform in a live show later this week. I’m only slightly terrified this time.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I love performing. Once I’m singing I’m having so much fun, but nerves are a thing too. I’m singing a song carefully pieced together in my hands and someone might not like it. Someone could dislike the lyrics, my voice, or the way I hold the microphone. Luckily, this isn’t American Idol and I don’t have to worry about hearing Simon Cowell saying “it’s a no from me” in that disapproving tone. The critic I worry about the most is me.

I will always end up being harder on myself than others. Not only do I hold the highest expectations of myself but I also have the best view of my weaknesses. I am with myself 24/7, which seem like a silly thought, but sometimes it is hard. There are days that I just can’t handle how my brain talks to me or how I behave in certain situations. I can hear if I sang one note of a run after the chorus a little off. I can feel if I was moving awkwardly when I swayed during the last line of the third verse. I am my own worst critic.

But I am also my biggest fan. I can look into the mirror some days and absolutely adore what I see. I can dress how I know I feel most confident, I can spend the day in power stances and thinking positively. I have the ability to change how I’m feeling and thinking, though when I was younger I firmly insisted I couldn’t. It’s true, you can change how you feel. I have found that the key is giving validity to yourself and your feelings.

I can address my feeling of self doubt, let it exist for a minute or so, and then look at it more critically. Why am I doubting myself? Is it because I missed a note in that rehearsal of a song? Okay, I got it wrong once but I can do better next time. I won’t lie, it is so hard. There are days that giving the feelings validity is dangerous and I come too close to giving it control. But I am the human being with a brain and God-given gifts and free will, I am the one making the calls here. I am in control.

I may be my own worst critic, but I have the ability to conquer myself as well. I can prove myself wrong just as easily as I can prove others wrong. I can tear myself down or build myself up, it is all up to me. I can make decisions I know I will be proud of later or I can make choices I know I will regret later. It’s all up to me. It’s scary. But it’s worth it. I can fail at convincing myself to get out of bed on time, I can give myself the best pep talks before a performance. I can make or break my mind, because I am my worst critic and biggest fan.

What Did You Do Today?

Is what you’re doing now getting you closer to where you want to be?

Honestly, is it? Look at what you did today. You woke up, got out of bed, then what? Maybe it’s easier to think of where you want to be first. Look at your life and think about what you wish it was. Would you rather be living somewhere else? Working somewhere else? What do you want to get out of this funny thing we call a lifetime?

I’ll tell you what I want. I want to glorify God through my music and my relationships with others. Practically, I hope that looks like writing and releasing my own music, leading worship, and loving each person I meet as Jesus does. Okay. Now, today I woke up, went to classes at a music center, had lunch, spent some time on Pinterest, went back to class, then analyzed a song I wrote to figure out what key it was in and what the chords were in the nashville number system. Then I talked to one of my best friends on the phone for an hour or so, did some dishes, then finished typing up the chord sheet for the song. Now I’m writing this blog post and thinking about the things I have left to do tonight, like cleaning the bathroom, putting in laundry, and restringing my guitar. Has this gotten me any closer to my dreams? Yes.

I hesitantly dedicated the school year of 2016-2017 to my music in the spring semester of 2016 when I got accepted into the music program here in Tennessee. It was hard. I had a lot of trouble making my own music a priority, balancing it with my classical music studies, work, friends, sleep, etc. I don’t want to talk about the free time crisis that many young adults find themselves in, I want to talk about the purpose of your time. This semester I could ration my time, giving a few hours to songwriting and producing, a few hours to Netflix, a couple hours to time exploring with friends. That’s what time management is, after all. It’s always been a struggle for me.

But lately I have realized that even time with friends or even an episode of Netflix can still help me get to where I want to go. I just need to make sure that is why I’m investing my time into it. Take today for example. I went to my classes to invest in my knowledge of the music industry and my own learning experience. I had lunch and time on Pinterest to take care of myself, feeding my stomach as well as giving my brain some time to think about things not connected to music. I went back to class. Then I invested in my songwriting. Then I invested in one of my best friends, a relationship that is incredibly important to me. Now, I’m processing to keep my mind healthy and focused. I’ll clean the bathroom and my clothes to take care of myself. Without taking care of myself I will have no reason to pursue my dreams, in fact, I will have no mind to pursue my dreams with.

Will time spent on Netflix or Pinterest or Facebook get me closer to my dreams of pursuing a place in the music industry? Well, if it is giving me a brain break, lulling me to sleep, or helping me network, maybe it is! But if it’s just taking up valuable time, then it’s not worth it. Today is a day that we will never get back. This is an hour we won’t be able to redo. Every minute that passes is a minute closer to the end. The end of the day, the week, the semester, the year. Each moment is valuable. Each moment is a possibility to further yourself, to bring yourself closer to your goals and your God.

Is what you’re doing now getting you closer to where you want to be?