Running Out

I know I frequently post music on this blog, and to be honest, sometimes I wonder if I overuse it. Because everyone has such different musical tastes, I often question if the songs I post mean anything to my readers.

But then I remember the intrinsic magical quality that music possesses. Music cuts through our defenses to deliver truths we wouldn’t otherwise accept. Music soothes, energizes, heals, emboldens, and teaches. In my life there’s a special joy that only music can produce. And when I remember all of that, I can’t help but believe that, even if the music I write about doesn’t mean something to every single one of you, it’s bound to speak to some of you, and is therefore, worth writing about.

So today I’m going to unapologetically share a song with you. It’s called Running Out by Andrea Marie.

I discovered this song three months ago, but the more I listen to it, the more profound it becomes.

Take the first verse.

I’ve tried to make it all work out 
But I’m running out, I’m running out of good ideas
I’ve tried my best but all I see is humanity
Running out of good ideas

Look at our nation. Look at our world. What do we see? Humanity, running out of good ideas. And in my own life, I feel the weight of trying to make it all work out while coming to terms with the reality that, I am flat out of good ideas. To be completely candid, there was a day last week when I came home cussing and crying because there are situations in my life where there’s no solution in sight. My ideas are no longer enough.

Then there’s verse two.

I’m letting go of all I’ve known
And I’m coming out, I’m coming out of bad ideas
You’re all that I want to believe
So I’m coming out, I’m coming out of bad ideas

Verse two is the next step. All too often it takes my good ideas drying up for me to realize that my ideas were never enough to begin with because the true solution will not come from solely me. When I reach the end of myself, I can let go enough to start running from my bad ideas, and more importantly, the sin that was born of my self-sufficiency.

Then there’s the chorus. This is the part that really cuts deep for me.

You are who you say you are
That’s different than I thought you’d be

Although I do not know the songwriter’s intent, to me this speaks of the character of God. God is exactly who He says He is, but oftentimes, who He is is not who I imagined Him to be. Recent life circumstances have been teaching me this firsthand. What I’m discovering is that suffering and pain burn up our misconceptions and incorrect assumptions about the character of God. The Bible describes it as a refining fire. Fire burns away impurities, leaving behind the good, true and beautiful. But the process hurts. It’s scary to have elements of God’s character you thought to be true called into question. But at the end of the day, I’d rather know God for who He is than who I’ve constructed Him to be.

Finally there’s the bridge.

Stand a little taller, little taller
Cause you know now this is who you are
Make your voice louder, make it louder
Make them hear you this is who you are
Step a little closer, little closer
To the edge now this is who you are

I see this part of the song as a call to keep your chin up. Yes, you’re out of good ideas, running to distance yourself from your sins, having your understanding of God shaken and refined, but in the process you’re discovering who you are. And that knowledge will forever empower you to stand a little taller, make your voice louder, and step a little closer to the edge. You know who you are.

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“How Rare and Beautiful It Is To Even Exist”

Tonight I’m taking a detour from my typical posting style to bring you a light and fun blog post. Although I have many other potential posts I’d love to share with you, in the midst of discovering new food intolerances and exploring a new direction for my life post-graduation, as well as juggling classes and relationships, I don’t have a lot of brain power left over for writing a deep, thought-provoking post this month. Also, in this season of life (as in so many others), music is providing much needed inspiration and motivation. So, I thought it would be fun to share some of what I’ve been listening to lately. Besides, who doesn’t love new music?

Currently 85% of my time spent listening to music is also spent studying. Sometimes music is the only thing that gets me through the long hours of reading and writing and memorizing and…

So without further ado, here are (in no particular order) my top ten favorite study songs:

  1. The Ash Is In Our Clothes by Sleeping At Last
  2. Hello/Lacrimosa by The Piano Guys
  3. West of the Rockies by Garth Neustadter
  4. Rey’s Theme by John Williams
  5. Intermission by Coeur De Pirate
  6. When Ginny Kissed Harry by Nicholas Hooper
  7. Chord Left by Agnes Obel
  8. Wake Me by Message To Bears
  9. Tundra by Cello Fury
  10. New Day by Philip Wesley

When I’m not doing homework, I often turn to worship music. I’ve found that in this season of uncertainties, I need to be frequently reminded of the stability of God’s character and plans for me.

So here are some worship songs that have been speaking into my life this semester:

  1. To the One, Make Us Ready, and Song of the Lamb by Harvest Bashta
  2. Sinking Deep by Hillsong Young and Free
  3. Here’s My Heart by I Am They
  4. Be Still My Soul by Jason Lavik
  5. Come Away, The Anthem, and In the River by Jesus Culture
  6. When I Am Afraid by Laura Hackett
  7. Tears of the Saints by Leeland
  8. I Knew What I Was Getting Into by Misty Edwards
  9. There May Be Tears by Scott Cunningham Band
  10. Give Me A Song by Will Raegan and United Pursuit

I have also made some random musical discoveries in the past few months that are absolutely worth sharing. (I honestly think I could write an entire blog post on each one because wow, talk about incredible music!)

  1. Sleeping At Last – If you have never listened to Sleeping At Last, stop reading this blog post right now and go listen to them! Incredible, right? I could go on and on and on about why I love Sleeping At Last. Their music gives me chills, and their lyrics are profound. My favorite line comes from the song called Saturn, and is the title of this blog post. You can read about the intentionality put into each song here: http://sleepingatlast.com/blog/ It’s unreal!
  2. Hamilton – This a musical that my friend Rylie introduced me to. It’s about the life of Alexander Hamilton, (cue the history nerd-out session) and not only does it have great music and an incredible storyline, but it also courageously engages issues in our society surrounding gender and race. My favorite songs from the soundtrack are The Schuyler Sisters, Satisfied, and Wait For It.

Finally, there are two random songs I recently discovered that I’ve been listening to multiple times a day. One is called Light Ahead by Surveyor and the other is called Sons and Daughters by Allman Brown and Liz Lawrence.

What have you been listening to lately?

PS: Just in case you didn’t stop reading to listen to Saturn by Sleeping at Last, I’ll just leave this here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEnkgfe6jTM

Peace Home

I have a new blog post up on the Tiny Hands Blog! Also, I promise I won’t only be posting Tiny Hands posts to this site. At two weeks into the semester I’m still working to establish a routine, but I’m playing with lots of ideas for new blog posts, so stay tuned!

Peace Home

On our sixth and final Saturday in Nepal our team leader announced that we would be visiting Peace Home, the one Tiny Hands’ home in Kathmandu we had yet to see.

Normally, when our team visited a children’s home, we would spend the afternoon doing fun activities with the kids and seeing the work of Tiny Hands firsthand. Because we had already done multiple visits, I thought I could anticipate how the afternoon would unfold. We would introduce ourselves in English and in Nepali, and then play games like Dutch Blitz and Fire in the Mountain with the mainly elementary school aged kids.

Unbeknownst to me, God had a better plan.

IMG_1373

You can read the rest at http://www.tinyhandsblog.com/?p=223.

The Music We Breathe

As I sit on my bed, two weeks before finals, trying in vain to write a research paper, my thoughts drift back to a typical summer day at home…

I wake up to a cool breeze kissing my slightly sunburned cheeks. When I open my eyes, they are bathed in the golden glow of summer sunlight. Sweet birdsong floats through the open window, and downstairs I hear the familiar melody of George Winston’s “Fragrant Fields” playing through our Sonos wireless speaker system.

I go downstairs to greet my early bird mother. At 7AM she’s already spent a solid hour in her beloved garden, pulling weeds, and checking on the progress of the tomatoes and cucumbers and raspberries. Now she’s back in the kitchen, making homemade granola, and listening to our favorite summer soundtrack – George Winston’s album entitled Summer.

As I get ready for the day, I listen to Hillsong United’s Zion album on my laptop. Lately I’ve been feeling spiritually dry and complacent, so I’m trying to make a conscious effort to fill my mind and heart with truth. Hearing the familiar melodies paired with the lyrics “Who loved me through my rebel way/Who chose to carry all my shame/Who breathes in me with endless life/The king of glory Jesus Christ” helps me keep my desperate need for God in the center of my thoughts.

Once I am ready for the day, I decide to run some errands in town. By now my mom is listening to Journey so I yell, “Where are the keys?” over the rich chords of “Faithfully” flowing out of the speakers in the living room.

I find the keys and turn on our Honda Pilot to find the stereo blasting “Long Time Gone,” another summertime favorite by The Dixie Chicks. I keep the volume up, and drive the quick 1.7 miles into town with the windows down, singing all the way.

As I walk back into the house with my arms full of mail and library books and milk, I am met by the thud-crash, thud-thud-crash of my brother practicing on the drum set in the basement. Even though he’s wearing headphones, I can tell by the distinctive pattern I hear that he’s playing along to “Just Like Lightning” by Press Play.

My sister emerges from her room and says, “I just found this awesome new song that I HAVE to show you!” I follow her and hear the acoustic goodness of “All I’ve Ever Needed” by A.J. Michalka for the first time.

While my sister is showing me her newest song discovery, my cousins come bursting through the front door in a whirlwind of noise and excitement. They’re singing “Share It With Me” by Family Force 5, bringing back memories of an old family joke. My aunt has dropped them off so they can go to the pool with my siblings. Their constant chatter and energy would give the impression that we hadn’t seen them in months, but in reality they come over to go to the pool at least three days a week.

As the oldest cousin, and the one with a driver’s license, I have become the designated pool driver. My cousins insist that we listen to Lindsey Stirling at max volume with the windows down. I willingly oblige, effectively earning bonus cool cousin points.

When I arrive back home, I immediately get into my dad’s car to run into town with him. I love that lazy summer days give me the gift of time to spend with my dad. He has a sporty blue Honda Accord with fantastic car speakers. The best part of his stereo system is the subwoofer in the back seat that allows you to truly feel the music, whether you want to or not. We put on “Louder” by D.J. Fresh. My dad has discovered that if you time it just right and start the song right before getting on the freeway, the combination of the music building and the car accelerating simulate taking off in an airplane.

By the time we get back from our errands, my mom is grilling chicken with garden-fresh peppers and onions on the deck to make fajitas for dinner. George Winston’s Summer album is playing for the second or third time, but none of us really mind.

After dinner, it’s time for our favorite nightly routine. Tonight my brother and I are on the dishes schedule, so we set out to pick what Pandora station best fits our mood. We decide on our guilty pleasure station, Pitch Perfect. In our house, dishes absolutely must be accompanied by dancing. Although my sister is off the hook for dishes tonight, she still chooses to join our dance party. My siblings are very good dancers, but somehow the coordination gene skipped me. I’ve got rhythm, but graceful I am not. However, in our kitchen, anyone can dance, and while I may not be a good dancer, I make up for my lack of skill with my enthusiasm. After thirty minutes of heavy dancing and light dishes, we decide it might be time to buckle down and finish the work.

…my roommate walks into the room, jolting me back to the reality that I’m still at college, and it’s not quite summer yet. But in two weeks I’ll be home again, where the music wiggles its way into every nook and cranny of our lives.

Music Cascading from My Fingertips

This is a piece I wrote in my Creative Nonfiction class that harkens back to my high school days…

As I walk around the corner of the high school, I am met by a wall of noise. Trumpets hit the high notes over and over, just because they can. Clarinets and flutes perfect their tricky runs by playing the same few notes on an endless loop. Tubas fill every crack and crevice of the football field with their deep meaty tones. And the percussionists hit anything and everything within their reach, drumming, always drumming.

The wall of noise is wild and untamed. To get to the podium I have to fight through this nearly impenetrable force. When I reach the podium, I climb the ladder, and with those few steps, I am granted authority.

I am the drum major.

The noise continues around me, pretending I don’t exist, until I raise my hands. I draw my fingers together while making a quick circular motion with my arms. Instantaneously, the noise stops.

I feel a rush of power surging through my fingertips. Now that I have my peers’ attention, I tell them we’re going to run the show from the top of the second movement. They scatter across the field to their rightful spots, and with a sweep of my arms, they begin to march and play. This time, instead of blaring noise, they’re creating music.

Lilting melodies and currents of harmony wash over me in a river of musical masterpiece. From my vantage point on the podium, it feels as through the very notes of the trills and runs and full-bellied chords are dancing out of my fingertips.

A Piece of Home

Three weeks ago I moved away from my home and family to the land of no sales tax and lots of rain, aka Hipsterville USA. It was the biggest transition I have ever made. Some days I legitimately feel like I have been dumped on a foreign planet, but even in the midst of all this upheaval, I have been able to find pieces of home. On one hand, home is the place you live and the people you live with, but on the other hand, home is part of your identity. It is an integral part of you that will never leave, no matter who you live with or where you go. Home is the underlying currents, those threads of your life that transcend location. Pieces of home remind you that life is beautiful, and God is good.

For me, music is a piece of home. The house I grew up in was always full of music from every genre imaginable. One of my favorite genres is seasonal music. My mom has certain CDs that we are only allowed to listen to during certain seasons. My family follows very strict rules for when we can listen to seasonal music. If we listened to seasonal music all the time it would lose both its sense of novelty, and its sense of tradition. Before I left for college, I made sure to load up my iPod with fall music. When I sit at my desk and work through my mountain of homework, I listen to the fall music and think of home. I see my mom cooking a delicious dinner while my siblings and I sprawl all over the house with our homework after a long day of school. Once my dad comes home from work, the whole family gets to be together in the glorious fall evening. I may be almost 400 miles from home, but whenever I hear Woods by George Winston, I am instantly transported to my childhood home. Music is a piece of home that lives within me.

When life hands you a season of change, what are your pieces of home?