Posted in Inspired by Music, NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano, Uncategorized

A New Way to Cope

Today is the first day of what is known around the interwebs as NaBloPoMo, or in layman terms, National Blog Posting Month.  The goal is to post on your blog everyday in the month of November.  Since I’ve been jonesing to get back to writing, I thought this would be a great time to jump in head first. Oh, and I’m dragging my husband along with me.  Well, okay,he’s joining of his own free will and I’m so grateful for that.  I have attempted some of these month long challenges before and have not stuck with them on my own, so I’m hoping having him on this journey with me will encourage me to stay the course.  It’s worked really well for both of us before so I’m hopeful it will again.  

One of the ways NaBloPoMo helps those taking part in the challenge is to provide daily prompts. I’m not sure we’ll always write to the prompt, but our goal for now is  to try.  So, without further ado, here is today’s prompt and my thoughts on said prompt.

When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?

When I’m having a bad day, you can be certain there will be music somewhere near me.  Many years ago the playlist would have consisted of 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Staind, or Audioslave.  Mostly, I looked to music not to soothe the savage beast inside of me, but to give it permission to rise up.  If you happened to witness me during those periods of my life, you would have no question about where the term ‘head banging’ music came from.  Whatever emotion I was feeling would be amplified and would therefore be in no way healing for me.  If anything, my choice in dealing with a bad mood often led to an even more bad mood.

A few years ago something began to change inside of me.  It all began after attending Winter Jam.  The headliner was a band called Skillet.  This band, this worship band, rocked my face off. I turned to my husband while watching fire cannons and elevated rotating stage sets and said, “Do you have any idea how different my life would have been if I’d had this music as a teenager?!?”  

In almost an instant, I went from using songs with lyrics like “Shut up when I’m talking to you, Shut up, shut up, shut up” to calm my bad moods (what was I thinking!?!), to songs with lyrics like “Lift up your voice, Let love cut through the american noise.”  It was a shift that I so desperately needed.  I’m not saying that secular music isn’t still a part of my life, but I find that when I’m experiencing some adverse emotion, I crave something that will lift me up rather than entice a monster inside of me to rise up.  This subtle shift in what I allow to influence my thoughts (positive, Christ focused music) really does make all the difference.  Instead of enhancing the already negative emotions I may be feeling, this change in choice of music now brings light into the crevices of my thoughts where darkness was threatening to overcome.

A few years ago my husband and I did a small group study on the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel. One of the statements in this book has really become a mantra for me.  Groeschel says we should ask ourselves one simple question in the decisions we make, specifically when consuming current culture.  “Is what I’m doing, is what I’m looking at, is what I’m thinking honoring God?” Now, in all honesty, the answer to this question is often a resounding and shameful no.  But, I can testify now for you that since applying this question to the music I listen to, I’m happy to report I believe the answer is a big fat yes.  I firmly believe that God used something that I loved dearly and allowed it to open multiple doors (my church band, NEEDTOBREATHE, Winter Jam) that in turn opened my eyes to new ways to cope and pull myself out of a bad mental health day.  

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:18-20

Thank you for reading!  Please take a moment and check out my husband’s post on the same topic.

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Posted in Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

Crossroads

A week ago Gil and I headed down to St. Petersburg to see one of our favorite bands perform at The Hideaway Café. It’s such a great venue and the perfect spot to catch Sarah Mac Band when they’re in town. Of course, with any favorite band there must be favorite songs. Here are my Top 5 SMB songs, in no particular order:

Baptised
Crossroads
Gloryland
Satisfied
I’m Not Scared

In looking at these 5 songs, I realize there are very distinct reason why each one is special to me. Satisfied, because…well, just because. I’ll leave it at that for now. Gloryland is precious to me because of the memories surrounding the first time we heard it live, and it is now at the top of my list of funeral songs.  And of course I can’t hear it without crying, although it’s not the only one in the list above that leaves me in tears. Crossroads is a song that wrecks me every.single.time. I can’t help it. It’s spontaneous crying, kind of like when I’m in church during worship and my soul starts overflowing out of my tear ducts.

When I hear Crossroads I find myself transported back to certain moments and events in my life. I think it’s human nature to think about all the crossroads you’ve faced and what your life would be like if you went left instead of right, north instead of south, straight ahead instead of taking the detour.

“It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

Memories of the choices I made as a child often slip up out of nowhere to haunt me. If I had run faster for help, could my grandfather have been saved?  If I had not wrestled the gun away, would we have survived in the wake of suicide? If I hadn’t gotten into the truck with my crush, would my innocence have lasted a few years more?

“Spent so much time thinking about how it might have been
How my life could’ve turned out
It’s long gone and part of history now
No turning back and no regrets
No room for doubt, no holding debt
‘Cause from here on out, I’m gonna just forge ahead
It’s funny how we don’t know then the weight of what we’re choosing at the crossroads”

As my teenager years drew to a close, my wrong turns were numerous and with abundant  regrets.  I was a strong willed teenager who had a weakness for the boys. I didn’t go to art school because of a boy. I did start junior college because of a boy. I left a boy and embarked on a solitary journey that led me toward too much alcohol, sexual promiscuity, irresponsibility, bankruptcy, and one of the deepest depressions I had ever faced.

“In the dark, all alone, I tripped on a dead seal washed up on the shore
The smell was on my hands when I handed in my visa at the border the next morning
Left behind, something died, washed to Asia by the pull of the Pacific that night
But it made room for something new and it brought me to you”

When I hear these lyrics, I can’t help but think of where I am today. I have a job, a home, a car, and a healthy family. I have a husband who takes care of me and loves me without reservation. I am blessed. My life is blessed. Had I taken the straight path instead of staying on the winding one, any one of these blessings might not have happened.

“…But it made room for something new and it brought me to You”

Even though I could easily apply these words to my relationship with Gil, it’s often not him that I think about when hearing this song.  I think mostly about how my bad decisions, stupid mistakes, careless behavior, and sinful transgressions have all allowed me to experience God’s grace and love. God was at every crossroad I’ve encountered, and He allowed me to choose my own direction. While I wandered aimlessly, He held on and He loved me.  When I took the path that led me away from Him, he would just wait at the next crossroad, ready to show me which direction to take. For so long, I just turned away from Him seeking acceptance and love from other sources.

There was a point several years ago that I realized how tired I was from all the years of running down roads that never seemed to go anywhere. And sure enough, when I stood at that crossroad, my God was faithfully waiting for me, just as he had been my whole life.

I hope one day I don’t look back at my journey through a lifetime of crossroads and feel regret and shame. I hope that I will someday cherish my wrong turns and know they were not wrong at all. Each of them was preparing me for the greater God has planned for me as I serve His kingdom here on earth. I try to look at my trials and tribulations as blessings, because with each one I have come to know grace and forgiveness in ways I never thought possible.

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days, Inspired by Music, Uncategorized

First Love and Transformation

I took a vacation day today so I could go spend some time with my first love. Now, don’t go thinking I was stepping out on Gil today. It was nothing like that. The first love I’m referring to is the first BAND I fell in love with – The Oak Ridge Boys. I think they were the first band, or artist, that made me feel what one is supposed to feel when music touches your soul. You know, that feeling deep down, the one where you know a spark has been lit. And then every single time you hear their music or see them live, the spark just grows brighter. Well, I can tell you that today I’m absolutely beaming.

Even though my first concert was not The Oak Ridge Boys, I do think it was my second and third concert (my first was Marty Robbins and I was very young and have almost no memories of that). I have such fond memories of TORB on Hee Haw, or some music awards show. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, we were lucky to catch our favorite artists on one of the three channels maybe 2 or 3 times a year. But when we did, it was a family affair. For me, The Oak Ridge Boys represent a time of innocence. It was before I discovered boys and rock and roll,  and my dad was the only man in my life.  He loved this group of musicians, and because of his and my mom’s love for them, I loved them too.

As I developed into a teenager, my childhood innocence faded. It was replaced by boys, and booze and even a few drugs along the way. The Oak Ridge Boys were replaced by Iron Maiden, Ozzie Osborne, and Judas Priest. Family time was no longer spent watching silly variety shows. Actually, family time became much less important as time with my friends took priority. What was a simple child who loved God, family, and country music, became a teenager who wanted none of that.

I drifted far away from the things that were important to me, not the least of which was God. It seems that overnight, I went from a child with a dream to become a missionary to a young woman who wanted nothing to do with God or His churches. I’m not even sure what happened, or even when it happened. All I know is that for many years, God was nothing more than an afterthought, much like the music of The Oak Ridge Boys during that time.

IMG_8736Now, fast forward 30-35 years. As much as I love TORB’s county and crossover music, their incredible harmonies when singing the Lord’s praises is what melts me now. During the show today, they all came together on stage and sang Life’s Railway to Heaven, a capella. And it was truly Heaven inspired.  As the Boys beautifully sang these lyrics, my heart opened up and was filled with the knowledge that no matter what path leads us to God, the important thing is that it LEADS us to Him.

Life is like a mountain railroad
With an engineer that’s brave
We must make the run successful
From the cradle to the grave

Watch the curves, the fills, and tunnels
Never falter, never fail
Keep your hand upon the throttle
And your eyes upon the rail

Blessed Savior, Thou will guide us
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In that great forevermore

As you roll across the trestle,
Spanning Jordon’s swelling tide.
You’ll behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide.
There you’ll meet the superintendent,
God the Father, God the Son.
With a hearty joyous greetings:
“Weary Pilgrims Welcome Home”

The beautiful thing about God is that he extends His grace to the lost and fallen. God loves me as much today as He did when I was a young girl living for Him. What I didn’t know during those dark years was that God was faithfully pursuing me. I was running and turning my back, but He never did. Every sin then and every sin now is forgiven. He is waiting for me with His arms wide open, ready to welcome me home.

**************************************

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Today’s 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge was another small success, but a success nonetheless. Because I took the day off work, I was able to get in several hours of quality computer time this morning. I caught up on several blogs and even cleaned out several hundred emails. These are two items on my declutter list that I hope to work on each day, little by little. Even though these non-stuff items don’t get a bag sticker today, I did check two items off my list.  I headed off the the bathroom with the intent to only clean out my medicine cabinet, as task that should have taken me only a few minutes. Because so few items needed to be tossed, I decided to go ahead and tackle my other cabinet of miscellaneous items and my makeup. The result was another stuffed grocery bag in the trash.

Sadly, though, I failed to start YouVersion at the beginning of my task and missed out on about 15 minutes of more bible time. I wasn’t going to let that discourage me though. I came back to the computer and pulled up an unread email from Joyce Meyer’s 3030 Challenge. I read her devotional and several bible passages.  I love the verse above. It speaks to my blog post today, as well as this project I’m working on. I’m changing my mind, my habits, and my life.  God is transforming me and I’m loving it!

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

298/365 It’s a Listening Room, People!

Clearly, people are either blind, inconsiderate, or just plain stupid. We went to Hideaway Cafe tonight to see the Sarah Mac Band perform. It’s just an incredible venue because it’s small and intimate. And because the people who generally attend these shows are actually there to hear the band or artist perform. Unfortunately, tonight was not one of those nights, and sadly, it took away from our enjoyment of the show. However, Sarah has such a strong voice that even with all the chatter in our ears, I was still moved to tears during several songs.

draft

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

293/365 Twice as Nice

Due to some scheduling conflicts, I attended church all alone today, which I rarely do, which I really don’t like to do.  However, I’m really glad I didn’t just skip out because it was a super powerful message AND the band did back to back NEEDTOBREATHE songs. The first was my favorite, Something Beautiful. The second was The Reckoning. This is by far my favorite live NEEDTOBREATHE song, so I was a little nervous when I quickly recognized the first few chords from the band this morning. Our band is amazing and I had no doubt they could kill it, but….nothing in this world can compare to the live performance. Carl and the boys in the band did not disappoint one little bit. There was no drum line, but the heavy thumping of the drums on our little church stage, coupled with the incredible service Paul had just delivered,  was just powerful enough to leave me sobbing in my seat. Of course, that is nothing new as I’m regularly leaving the worship area while wiping the tears away.

I don’t have a photo for you today.Instead, I would love to share an example of what I consider to be one of the greatest live onstage moments (one amateur video captured performance of this song), start watching at about 2:30. However, to get the full effect, I would strongly encourage watching the whole thing.

I know an amateur recording doesn’t completely do the song justice. For your listening pleasure, I’m including a link to the song on Spotify.

NEEDTOBREATHE – The Reckoning

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

237/365 Time for Church

Day 4 of Rock by the Sea 6: I was able to wrap up the raffle and auctions with seconds to spare…literally. I claimed my saved spot by the stage (Thank you Lindsey and Tammy!!!!) just about 60 seconds before the boys walked onto the stage.

As always, NEEDTOBREATHE did not disappoint on ANY level. Even when the power went out on their microphones, Bear stepped out to the edge of the stage and gave us everything he had. And it was enough. This 90 minutes was the dose of Holy Spirit that I had been craving all weekend. There is nothing I love more than feeling music. Correction, there is nothing I love more than feeling music and God’s love washing over me.

Or maybe that was just the sweat from having danced my tushy off.

But seriously, God blessed those boys in that little band from South Carolina. He not only gave them talent to write, sing and make beautiful music, he has allowed them to share that talent with so many people. And if you are very fortunate, like me, you will hear the words and know that God is working through them. I am proof of that.