“How Long” by Pacific Gold

The title sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

First, it’s been awhile. Hello!

Second, I’ve been singing lots. In the classroom, to my boy at home, in the car, in the shower, and finally, in the basement where I can finally retreat to my ginormous electric set of keys and quietly tinker out what’s been in my head all these years. It feels good. Even if I haven’t finished any of the songs. Even if it’s really only been for two hours. Even if the only place I ever sing them out is in my own house… It feels really good. It feels like me.

A sister friend of mine recently challenged that cultivating this time and space for myself (which in theory feels selfish and is therefore, in my head, laced with guilt), that this is actually for everyone else. When I write/play/sing, I’m simply watering the seeds. It serves my husband, my baby, my students, my friends and family precisely because it’s what makes me able to escape, express, and return to them as myself when I’m through.

Gee, when she put it that way, it made total sense!

And in practice, it’s even better.

But to think about it, to plan it out and organize the time and the space, it makes no sense. How could spending even more quality time away from my sweet baby Johnny Boy (which is the whole point of my usual grumblings… how can I be home with him more?), how could that be what’s best for everyone?

But it is. I’m free when I sing. I have JOY. It’s what I do AND it’s who I am. It’s what I do because it’s who I am. Say what you will about that; it’s true.

And here’s another truth: I actually don’t have to sacrifice my time with Johnny to do this. It can be done while he’s sleeping. (And he’s actually pretty great at that, thank you, God!)

So, as it’s snowing on Spring Break and I sit here counting all the beautiful reminders to BEW in the face of my fears, I submit to all of you this unique little spin on an old classic hymn.  Let it remind you that the glory of God is man fully alive. Go do what makes you ALIVE!

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To see the law by Christ fulfilled
To hear His pardoning voice 
Can change a slave into a child
And duty into choice

No strength of nature can suffice
To serve the Lord aright
And what she has she misapplies
For want of clearer light
How long, how long 
Beneath the law I lay
How long, how long
I struggled to obey
Then to abstain from outward sin 
Was more than I could do
Now if I feel its power within
I feel I hate it too 

Then all my servile works were done 
A righteousness to raise
Now, freely chosen in the Son 
I freely choose His ways 


 

 

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“A New Day” by Robby Seay Band

This one’s for my mama, Jan, or Granny Janny, as we’ve called her in recent years.

Four years ago, we found out she had colon cancer. We were crushed. It was 10 months after I had moved three hours away from her. We made many trips back and forth to be with her and my dad as she underwent major surgery and then, chemotherapy. It is so terribly difficult to watch anyone battle through a disease so demanding, but there aren’t words to describe what it’s like to watch it happen to your mother.  There is so much I could write about those times, so many important things we learned and ironically, so many hilarious things she said (mostly while recovering in the hospital). There are so many ways we all learned to love each other better and more deeply. But those are details for another post…

She was incredibly brave and all heart, she fought with a faith that never complained (at least not to me), and now, she is cancer-free and enjoying life. She writes poetry and loves her grandsons and listens to music everyday. We are extremely grateful to God for the excellent care she received from her doctors and our family, especially my dad. We are extremely grateful to God for how he so carefully orchestrated the events and, most importantly, the people surrounding her healing.

This is a song she introduced me to during that time, and it made me feel like we were together even though we weren’t and that things were going to be just fine, even though they weren’t.

Mom, you’re my hero. I’m so proud of you and so very happy it’s four years later! Je’taime.

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“Even the Winter” by Audrey Assad

It would be so easy to quit

When times get tough or your day is fine, but you’re just plain tired…

It’s so much easier to just lay down and FORGET.

Forget to sing yet neglect to notice how beautiful the silence can be…

But it’s so much harder to forget the hurt that comes when your heart realizes that the noise you think it might be is not actually noise at all… and you really miss the song.

It would be so easy to stay

Warm within these four walls and those four corners (although the springs are literally caving beneath us now)…

It’s so much easier to lay down and just GIVE UP,

Give up the movie in your mind, reel by reel, of every nuisance and every mercy in your day.

But it’s quite impossible to give up every JOY these mercies (and even nuisances) become

When you simply quit running away

And stay.

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Hasta la Raiz~ Natalia LaFourcade

Don’t look back.

The past is in the past.

All you have is right now.

Yes. This is meant to encourage forward movement. This is meant to encourage more abundant life. I’m all about that.

BUT.

Sometimes, you just need to dig something up, dust it off, and buff it to a shine so that you can see how far you’ve come.

It’s a risk. There could be tears.

But I think, sometimes, it’s a risk worth taking.

This is a song by an artist I LOVE in a language I LOVE.

The video creeps me out, but I secretly LOVE that, too.

For me, there’s just nothing like the feeling of the weight of the words mixed with the strength of the sound, lifted and carried out on a deep, steady breath.

It all gives me the courage to look back and celebrate no matter how it used to look to me.

 


Sigo cruzando ríos,
Andando selvas,
Amando el sol
Cada día sigo sacando espinas
De lo profundo del corazón
En la noche sigo encendiendo sueños
Para limpiar con el humo sagrado cada recuerdo

Cuando escribo tu nombre
En la arena blanca con fondo azul
Cuando miro el cielo en la forma cruel de una nube gris
Aparezcas tú
Una tarde suba una alta loma
Mire el pasado
Sabrás que no te he olvidado

Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz
Y, por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí
Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña
Y encuentre un campo lleno de caña
No habrá manera, mi rayo de luna
Que tú te vayas

Pienso que cada instante sobrevivido al caminar
Y cada segundo de incertidumbre
Cada momento de no saber
Son la clave exacta de este tejido
Que ando cargando bajo la piel
Así te protejo
Aquí sigues dentro

Yo te llevo dentro, hasta la raíz
Y, por más que crezca, vas a estar aquí
Aunque yo me oculte tras la montaña
Y encuentre un campo lleno de caña
No habrá manera, mi rayo de luna
Que tú te vayas


I keep crossing rivers,
Walking through forests,
Loving the sun
Every day I keep pulling thorns
From the depths of my heart
At night I keep igniting dreams
To clean every memory with sacred smoke

When I write your name
In the white sand with a blue background
When I look at the sky, in the cruel form of a grey cloud,
You appear
One evening, climb a high hill
Look at the past
You will know that I have not forgotten

I carry you inside me, to the root
And, that you may grow better, you will be here
Although I hide myself behind the mountain
And find a field full of sugar cane
There will be no way, my moonbeam,
For you to leave

I think that every instant survived while walking
And every second of uncertainty
Every moment of not knowing
Are the exact key to this tissue
That I always carry under my skin
In this way I protect you
Here, follow me inside

I carry you inside me, to the root
And, that you may grow better, you will be here
Although I hide myself behind the mountain
And find a field full of sugar cane
There will be no way, my moonbeam,
For you to leave

“I Place My Hope” by Ellie Holcomb

Work-life “balance.”

I’m coming to find that it’s hooey. Or misguided.

Yeah, that’s a more sophisticated way to paint it. It’s misguided.

After reading (ok, trying to keep up with) David Whyte’s profound ponderings in “The Three Marriages,”  I had to re-think how I was thinking about all of it. And it took me all summer. In fact, I’m not sure I finished it. I think I was 20 pages away from the end when I went into labor… Hold on while I go put this on my To Do list…

Ok. I’m back!

Whyte writes that we have three main relationships or marriages in life: one with our work, one with ourselves, and one with someone else, a spouse or significant other.

It’s not about striking a balance, but about finding the ways in which these three relationships are connected (duh- they all involve you,) and how they are designed not to be balanced or fought with, but together, with LOVE,  to make your life fruitful and satisfying.

And it’s HARD.

In hindsight, it was probably the perfect stuff to simmer in my soul before I became a working mama because now, it is helping me understand, or heck, remember that there is a bigger picture, an epic love story whose happy ending is counting on the synergy of these three marriages in our lives. My relationship with myself directly effects the one I have with my work (and yes, I have now seen the light: this is a relationship, me and my job), and this directly effects my marriage to my amazing husband, who effects my relationship with myself, and round and round we go.

I believe these marriages are officiated in my life by God, who loves me immensely. He is glorified when we are fully alive, fully ourselves, and fully focused on infusing LOVE into our relationships. “Balance” implies a level of strength and control that I have not ever attained, nor do I want to anymore. All it does is make my heart muscles tired. But if I’ve got my mind set on loving what I’ve got and who I’m with and what I’m doing, if I’ve got my mind focused on His love in the spaces I occupy, then balance doesn’t even matter anymore. Things can be all lop-sided and lumpy, as things tend to be, and love can see past all that.

This song, the lyrics and the music, make my soul feel loved.(Plus, I love Ellie Holcomb’s sweet, honest voice.)  I sing it and my heart is happy, and I’m reminded that God’s love irons out all wrinkles in my three marriages.

Are you feeling wrinkly or crumpled or imbalanced? What song helps you straighten out?

 

“My Love Hasn’t Grown Cold” by Bethany Dillon

It was seven months ago.

I was, in many ways, feeling like a pulp-less rind.

I was four weeks deep into two terrifying and completely new adventures:

motherhood and breastfeeding

Glamorous!

Neither adventure was turning out to be as I had dreamed it would.

Motherhood, the institution I had toiled for almost two years to be admitted to, was turning out to be better than I thought. It’s so cliche, all the ‘nothing can prepare you for that moment you first lay eyes on your baby’ and ‘just wait til this or that other thing happens’ sort of statements people make- but they’re true. My heart and my body were caught very unprepared for the love (and subsequent sacrifices) I began to feel (and make), last summer. And still, eight months later, each minute I spend with my baby boy is one where I am being simultaneously filled up and drained out with pure love. It’s thrilling and terrifying and exhausting. It’s a spiritually pulpy business. If you’re not careful to mind the state of your heart, (notice I didn’t say feelings…), you could easily lose yourself to your tiny infant, and the rest of you might also become pulp.

Breastfeeding was, at that time, seven months ago, what had battered me into a pulp-less rind. If my heart was unaware of the amount of love it could feel for anyone (which we are learning, my heart and I, that it’s infinite, because it’s God’s), then my mind was completely  foolhardy when it came to breastfeeding. I had not the bluest of clues. I didn’t study anything, I didn’t ask any questions, I didn’t receive any training prior. And, quite frankly, my mind was also naive to what has been currently going on in women’s healthcare in America. No nurseries in many hospitals, birthing classes are optional, and as soon as my baby was born, they were trying to get him to nurse. I don’t even think I knew what was happening until it was over and I was injured.

Four weeks later, I was a mess. I was sleepless, wired, and draining fast. I only felt lovely and womanly and good when I was holding my little one. And I was seriously doubting my natural ability to do any of it in a way that would also allow me to feel beautiful. Don’t kid yourselves, ladies. We need to feel beautiful. Regularly.

Baby boy was asleep between feeds one evening, and I found myself in a hot bath just long enough to sing this song. It’s a love song. From God to us.

It made me feel beautiful again.

Such a lovely memory!

What songs make you feel beautiful?

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You, you shake your head, what is so hard to believe
When you, you are in your bed, I sing over you the sweetest things
Because oh, my love is does not tire, I’m awake when the moon is full
And I know the times when you feel lost and you just aren’t sure

And lo and behold
My love hasn’t grown cold for you

You could steal away in the middle of the night
And hide in the light of day
While you cloaked yourself in the darkest lies
But oh, my love, it swims in the deepest oceans of fear
And as soon as you lower your head, I, I am here

Lo and behold, my love hasn’t grown cold
Oh lo and behold, my love hasn’t grown cold
Yeah oh

If only you could see how heaven stills when you speak
I know all your days and I have wrapped you in mystery
And oh, my love for you is as wide as the galaxies
Just hold out your hand and close your eyes
And come, come be with me

And lo and behold, my love, oh yeah
Lo and behold, my love yeah, hasn’t grown cold for you

It hasn’t grown cold, oh it hasn’t grown cold

“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas

“Well, this is rich.” ~Emma Crawford, Playing House (on USA).

Let me just preface this by saying I love all types of music. Pretty much. Maybe not all forms of rap. But mostly, I enjoy the sounds of many genres and appreciate most of the rest.

That said, I am not crazy familiar with classic rock. At least, I don’t consider myself to be.

THAT said, it was all that was playing at the gym today, and I decided, even though I was only familiar with the melodies and couldn’t sing along to most of the songs (in my head, of course. Can you imagine me, at the squat rack, belting out a song? HA! Nope), I appreciated them. These songs have funky beats and encouraging messages of badassery that are perfect for someone pushing a prowler and gasping for her next breath.

And, as I was catching my breath in between sets, while the online radio went to commercial, I was thinking about all sorts of wonderful things I hoped to do today, and this song arrived in my head: “Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done..” That’s it. That’s the only part of the song I know. It was great.

A minute later, it came on for real. In the gym. I stopped in my tracks and looked around, thinking, ‘Wait. Has this been playing the whole time? Did I just hear this?!’

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“Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn

Raise your hand if you are burnt out TIRED.

I know, I’m too tired to raise my hand as well.

It’s only day two of a four day work week!

I didn’t even DO anything to burn out today! Wait, did I?

Ha! Look at that. Even my brain is fried.

It’s February, and though many of us are burning the candle at both ends, our resolve to do many normal things seems as frozen as the ground.

Lift weights at the gym? I couldn’t possibly!

Clean out the guest room closet? Another time, daaaahling.

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“Mothers” by Daughter and “Everything Changes” from Waitress the Musical

Dedicated to all the miracle-seeking mamas, especially my own.♥

This piece has been a long time coming.

Just like this blog. And just like this life.

I, like millions of other strong-hearted women, have learned many useful things in my lifetime: how to cook a meal, how to teach a room full of children, how to love with my whole heart, how to effectively cover up my zits…

But I’ve also learned to keep some horrible habits. Among them is the habit I keep of blaming my circumstances for my crappy feelings. My many blessings and faith do not seem to matter much when anger and resentment and fear come calling, and when they do, I immediately find the closest thing I wish were different and give it a good verbal lashing. Whether that thing has anything to do with the anger or resentment or fear is of little consequence. My human mind looks for some thing to blame, to act as the altar upon which I can slaughter the chaos with my rhetoric.

Somehow this is supposed to make me feel better, but it usually makes me feel like crawling into the ground and fading away.

I know. Gross.

It occurs to me that, instead of destruction, I can choose creation. I can even choose reparation. Instead of tearing a thing down, I can build a thing back up, or even create something new that is beautiful and life-giving to counteract the thing that is not. Just as often as I walk around listing off all the things that never seem to change, I should be counting also the things that have changed, for the better. (For more on this, see Sister Beth‘s teaching here.)

Isn’t this what mothers do?

When I look at my boy, whether he’s smiling or screaming at me, I can see all the things that have gone right. He’s breathing. He has a strong heartbeat. He can see me. He has LIFE, precious and new and full of learning, every moment, taking in another new thing. Tiny miracle after tiny miracle, adding up to one giant miraculous song, some melody to swell in my ears and make me know beyond a doubt that love is real. And that I was made for this.

I don’t see all the things he can’t do yet. I see what he is learning to do now. I see growth.

THIS is what mothers do.

It sounds like a ‘silver lining’ philosophy. Maybe it is. But it seems like more than that.

Because these miracles are brighter than just a dim light around a storm cloud. They power the sun!

These tiny miracles, or these things that have gone ‘right,’ are not dependent upon any feeling to sustain their truth or importance. They stand alone. Neither are they vulnerable to my crappy feelings. These miracles, they are very forgiving. They are true even when my eyes are distracted by the chaos, even when my focus shifts. And there are so many. Think about it. How many things had to go ‘right’ just so you can be sitting here reading all of this? We could spend way more time, in fact, identifying the things that go ‘right,’ than we could listing off the things that are all screwed up. In fact, there are really only one or two screwed up things that tend to monopolize my thoughts. And I am in the habit of letting them do just that. I need a different kind of habit. (Let’s not even peek behind this other curtain: that these things that don’t go ‘right’ might also serve some grander purpose for good…)

I am a mother now. I will have my moments, but mostly, I’m learning that mothers are miracle-seekers. We have a pull like gravity towards the incredible, the small but the heavy, the exquisite pain of what is many times an unrequited love. Some of us know it from the first glance, but all of us know it from the immense and painstakingly slow ascent up the mountain of sleeplessness and constant concern that is raising a child, the same one with the breathtaking views of watching that child grow and become and LOVE. We see their faces, we hear the sweet notes of their cries and laughter, and we see and hear beauty. Not every time, but most of the time. It’s a miracle.

And I’m daring to believe that this skill is transferable. That I can see miracles, the things that go ‘right,’ in other roles I play in this life. Starting now.

Who’s with me?

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“Mothers” by Daughter

This band comes recommended by my brother-in-law. I’m glad he told me. I relate to the lyrics and the musically chaotic ending. It is just like motherhood- beautifully challenging!

You will grow all you need to grow inside my spine
And then take what you need to take, what’s yours is mine
And then just give all you want of it to some new thing
I’ll stay here, the provider of that constant sting they call love
They call love

You will drain all you need to drain out of me
All the colors have washed away, no more rosy sheen
Not just a pale isolated shallow water place
Oh what a place I call myself
I call myself

Oh love all you need to love before it goes
When your face becomes a stranger’s I don’t know
You will never remember who I was to you
Carried in the womb
I’m called mother
I’m called mother
They’re called home
They’re called home
They’re called
They’re called
Mothers
Mothers

Give all you need to give
And sometimes they won’t take what they need to take
The strangest chemical reaction
Inside of her brain, no she’s not the same
No she’s not the same
No she’s not the same

 

“Everything Changes”

This song is all HOPE. In its movie version, the entire world stops as Jenna, the new mama, lays eyes on her baby girl for the first time. And things become clear to her then.

Today’s a day like any other, but I am changed I am a mother oh
In a instant, and who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here, so innocent
I was lost for you to find
And now I’m yours and you are mine

Two tiny hands, a pair of eyes
An unsung melody is mine for safekeeping
And I will guard it with my life
I’d hang the moon for it to shine on her sleeping
Starting here, and starting now
I can feel the heart of how

Everything changes
Oh my heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes, they make sense
When I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say
We were both born today
Oh and it’s true, what did I do
To deserve you

I didn’t know, but now I see
Sometimes what is, is meant to be
You’ve saved me
My blurry lines, my messy life
Coming to focus and in time, maybe
I can heal and I can breathe
Cause I can feel myself believe

That everything changes
Oh my heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes, they make sense
When I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
And I swear I’ll remember to say
We were both born today
Oh and it’s true, what did I do
To deserve you, thank God for you

“Little Black Dress” by Sara Barielles

I’m “sorry-not-sorry.”

I can’t not write a post featuring this song.

One day, I’ll cover it myself. Soon. ♥

This song, its lyrics and its bubbly upbeat tempo and interesting melodic climbs and dips…. I’m all about all of this. It gives me HOPE. This song IS my little black dress.

I’ll put it on every time I feel like a blob, both physically and emotionally.

And I know it will let me see myself as beautiful and hear myself as strong and happy.
A shout-out to you, Sister Sara! Thanks for this gem!

What’s your ‘little black dress’ song?

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“Little Black Dress”

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