August 30, 2015

Music Monday

Hold on Forever-Rob Thomas

-I've missed his music, and this is kind of song that makes me want to dance in the middle of the street and not care who I'm bumping into!

To The Moon and Back- Luke Bryan

Locked Away-R. City

Blue Bandanna-Jerrod Niemann
-He has a great voice, and I appreciate the shout out to Chicago!

Kiss You In The Morning-Michael Ray

Have a great week!

August 26, 2015

The First Pages

I recently found a box of old journals that I saved, one of which is the original notebook that I used when I began writing poetry. It's easy to grimace at the thought of being in seventh grade again, to wish that I had known then what I know now. Yet when I read the words of that girl, a girl who was very naive and unsure of who was in her corner, I can't help but feel surprised and in awe. I was a lonely, fearful, and depressed misfit teenager, yet still managed to see the bigger picture. Either by the Grace of God, or the skin of my own teeth, I pushed onward.

Maybe this seems too happy-go-lucky in light of what we see on the news every day, or that hope seems to grow a little bit more distant every time we're on the internet. Nevertheless I wanted to give a glimpse into the early days of being a serious writer, if only to give thanks for how far I've come.


August 20, 2015

Championing Creativity

I can’t say if creativity is bequeathed at birth or somehow manifests itself over the course of a person’s life. At four years old I could talk somebody’s ear off about fairies and princesses, supposedly making up elaborate stories as I went along and apparently never shut up. In middle school I was aptly nicknamed “The Boom box” because I sang whatever popped into my head, writing poetry as though they were song lyrics. Ten years later I’d be cooking in my apartment with off the cuff recipes, discovering that a bagel sandwich with peanut butter, Nutella, and bacon is actually pretty decent.

It might have been an antithesis for my lack of athleticism, but I’ve always had a competitive streak: I grew up in an incredibly sports-oriented family, and feel like a little kid whenever I get to watch my favorite teams. I also know several who are pretty damn good on the field and with an instrument, so that’s not to say that you have to be one or the other. Yet, it’s interesting how the right-brainers are met with skepticism, doubt, and even discouragement: they’re deemed idealistic at best, and unrealistic at worst.

Creatives tend to feel deeply and take notice of everything, almost to a fault. They know it’s partly because of who they are, and partly because it’s what they’re supposed to do: if you don’t pay attention and capture the details, the moments that matter most, then you won’t have anything to be inspired by. Inspiration can be a matter of waiting, but it’s also a matter of discovering.

For some, the threads of expression become a way to survive, especially when they can’t quite grasp what’s going on around them. As a teenager I wrote myself raw, where my dreams, thoughts, and feelings came out more clearly on paper than in actual conversation. I was in that confusing in between stage of not-quite being a kid, but definitely not an adult.  Artistry, whether in the form of writing or music, was the comfort and support I craved but couldn’t get (at least not in a way that I could understand at a young age). I was told that I had a God given talent, but sharing it seemed to result in pushing people away, or frustration because of what I was going through. I developed a sense of perfectionism, wanting to protect what I viewed as sacred, not to be blotted by the opinions of those who could only see from a distance.

“So…what are you going to do with that?”  

It’s a question that most high school and college graduates are faced with, and a valid one. That being said, it’s often loaded with open-endedness and doesn’t really help in planning a future. It’s more thought provoking to ask, what are willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to give? And most importantly, how many times are you willing to pour your heart out and bare your soul, running the risk of getting sucker punched with a “You’re not good enough” at the end?

Not everyone wants to make a career (let alone a life), out of that, and it’s completely understandable. It’s a challenge, finding the balance of giving an audience what they want to see/hear, and saying what they want to say. There’s no shame in not wanting to stop loving what you do because you might demanded to produce more than authentically create. The words are in my bones, but I’m not in a place where I’m ready to devote each and every day to being a full-time writer. I’m not ready for the isolation and quiet fury that comes with the territory, and I’m certainly not in a place financially to do it. I’m young and I want to establish myself first, which is why I went into marketing and content writing. It’s still cutthroat and competitive, but it gives me opportunities to be part of a team and form relationships, which I get most of my energy from.

I have a story to tell, and I will continue to do so regardless of the professional path I take. It takes courage to bleed vulnerability, knowing that some won’t understand where I’m coming from, and might even see it as a personal attack against them. I would never say anything to purposefully hurt anyone, but I can’t promise that it’s not going to be a tough pill to swallow.

I hear the skeptics, and I respect their opinions. But if you really stop and think about it, creativity is what keeps this crazy, ever-changing world going. None of us would stay sane if it wasn’t for art and entertainment, which is why I shake my head when people gripe about the latest book or movie/television phenomenon. Why is it so wrong to take a break from reality every once in a while, as long as you know how to separate fact from fiction? Yes, there are things that are completely BS, but it’s not the job of the creator to facilitate discussion about right and wrong.

For me it’s not about entertainment as much as it is about connecting with people; I’m much better at writing than I am at talking, so nine times out of ten I’ll give them an essay or something to read first before I try to articulate whatever it is that I’m mulling over. If they get weird about it, I’d like to think it’s because they see something in themselves that’s hard to face, or they just don’t get it. And that’s OK.

It comes down to doing what makes you come alive, and what makes you feel authentic. It doesn’t just involve pursuing happiness, but pursuing what makes you whole. Stop overthinking and trying to figure it all out, but go out and experience life. Ask questions. Allow yourself to get close to God and others.

Occasionally I hear talk about schools motioning to remove art and music programs from their curriculum, and the prospect makes me sad. If this has to happen due to lack of funds or teachers, I hope that they can still incorporate it into learning somehow. Teach kids what it’s like to listen to the radio, music and movies that previous generations grew up with. Encourage them to play, be messy, and find joy while doing it. The world is certainly scary, unkind, and not the safest place to be in; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful either.

Never lose that sense of child-like wonder, regardless if time or experience makes you age. Explore. Write. Paint. Build. Be curious. Play. Stitch. Re-purpose. Finish.  Savor. Breathe. Learn. Love. Live.

August 12, 2015

Transparent Sanctuary

I wrote this while waiting for a church service to start last weekend; it was definitely a think-out-loud moment, as I've been working figuring out how to move forward, away from the craziness of the last year. It seems simplistic, self-explanatory, even; but that might be because starting over is a lot like learning how to walk again, especially if you've been stuck in an unhealthy way of living for a very long time.

Transparent Sanctuary

I am afraid
I’ve been so for thirteen years
Cowering in the corners
Of my mind
Allowing pictures of misconceptions
Stemming from past words spoken

I fear
Not being enough
Unable to meet the needs
Of a significant other, a lover
Leaving without warning
Already distanced from those
I've grown up with

I’m hesitant
To write
About my perspective
To acknowledge
The Reality
To express my truth
Of who I am
And what I’ve been through
For repercussions lurk around dark corners

I know
It’s not about me
What I did or haven’t done
Despite what I once believed
I’m not responsible for
The choices of others
I cannot bear blame
Or burden
For what’s out of my control
But the challenge is to let go
And leave what was alone

I want
To rise above my past
What is realistically, now only memories
To be vulnerable
Be comfortable with asking
For what I need
To share my life with those around me
Loving deeply, purely, honestly

And so it is

August 06, 2015

Faith (In Moments)

“Where is your Hope tonight?”

The guitar chords began to strum faintly, signaling us to stand. I could feel the tears start to prickle at my eyes, the weight of the week threatening to overcome me. I was homesick, exhausted, and a little overwhelmed. It was my first time at camp ever, away from my parents, having all these experiences and emotions that I didn’t know what to do with.

My camp counselor leaned over and quietly asked if I wanted to go talk. Without a word, we both stood up and began making our way out of the makeshift sanctuary toward a nearby park. We sat down on the edge of a sandbox as I attempted to explain all that was going on in my thirteen year-old mind. 

She asked me if I wanted to know God, though I thought I knew him well enough from all the pleading and bargaining I did in the past. Part of the reason why I was on that trip in the first place was because of going to my neighbor’s youth group for the last six months. The pastor explained everything in a way that made more sense than multiple years of Catholic religious education ever could, and this whole week I could feel a deeper sense of longing. I wanted that connection, that wholeness that was discussed literally every single night, but I couldn't find the words.

“Alyx, you are a treasure, and God desperately wants you to know and understand that.”

I nodded and bowed my head, something deep down indicating that I had reached the end of my rope. I closed my eyes and prayed along with her, something that in various Christian circles is known as the Sinner’s Prayer. I recall that when I opened my eyes, the sun was shining almost blindingly through the Montana pine trees, and I seriously wondered if I was witnessing a supernatural phenomenon.

 I would not recognize the impact of that decision for a very long time, but in that moment I was just grateful to feel lighter, and actually have a smile on my face.

This past Monday marked ten years since that day. Ten life-changing, wonderful, awkward, painful, side-splitting, breath-taking, joyful, insightful years.

I look back on that time and can now admit that I had no idea what I was actually doing. Not that I didn’t want it or didn’t mean it; I had scars on my wrist and on my heart that needed healing. I had anger and self-hatred that was consuming my whole being, and continuing down that road would have killed me. That being said, I was young and hadn’t been raised with any particular set of beliefs, having to investigate and practice my faith on my own. When you’re only thirteen, fourteen years old, you can only grasp or comprehend so much.

As a teenager, I often equated my relationship with God to my relationship with church. Church was my safe haven, a place I could go to when school or life at home became too chaotic. If I understood the sermon, I understood God a little bit better. If I felt close with my friends at youth group, I felt close with God. We would go on weekend trips and experience a kind of “Jesus high”, then come back and lose it in the midst of every-day, real-life stuff. It was very surface-level, and on the outside it probably looked like I was doing everything for the wrong reasons. The next four years were like being tossed around in a tiny boat in the middle of violent storm: my parents’ marriage was collapsing, and I was using every ounce of emotional strength in me to hold onto the idea of my family that I had grown up with. Being a sensitive and observant person, I was more aware of the tension than I needed to be. I had very little self-confidence, and that definitely affected how I interacted with others.

My need to survive eclipsed a willingness to fully embrace and rest in God’s love.

Love and validation from family, friends, and peers seemed more tangible than eternal promises in heavily interpreted texts.

I knew that God loved me, but genuinely believing it was and has been a different story. And that has always been my struggle, causing me to chase after false hopes and depend on circumstances that had no guarantees.

When I went to college, I realized that church was slowly eclipsing God, and I did not want to relate to my creator based on a checklist, performance, or exclusiveness. That is another post for another time, but I stepped away from church for a while. I needed to learn how to separate the two, to measure myself by Grace instead of perfection.

There was no singular moment, no epiphany of sorts, but a lot of moments that I revisited on a regular basis. A lot of writing; poetry, journals, essays, questions. Praying for the anxiety to subside and the tears to dry.

I ran into walls multiple times over, reminding me that partying, boys, and climbing the career ladder was not going to give me what I needed.

And I knew deep down that I needed God; I always have and I always will. Knowing the challenges that I've faced, I can’t go through life just simply existing without some sort of foundation, an anchor that keeps me grounded. I want to seek Him in the midst of all the cacophony, without the fear of becoming hateful or judgmental. That’s why I’ve hesitated to immerse myself in my faith, because of what Christianity is associated with now a days. I have my own opinions about a variety of topics, but it’s easy to start second-guessing them when I hear enough people screaming and shouting about Truth and love and supposedly being right. It makes me want to run.

But I don’t want to run anymore, at least not for the sake of survival. If I’m going to run, it’s going to be towards something.

From the outside, I don’t always act like a Christian, and haven’t really been during this last year or so. I curse. I drink. I let my imagination go for joyrides. I’ve learned more toward anger and defensiveness than forgiveness.  I raise my voice (and am tempted to raise my fists), when I should be hitting my knees.

When I reflect on the last ten years, I’m honestly not sure how to feel. But when I think about now, and occasionally down the road, I want more than anything to just be healthy, free, and secure. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To not live inside my head anymore, but to live out what is on my heart; to be vulnerable, so that I can be reminded of who I am and why I’m here. That will take time, discipline, strength, gentleness, and accountability.  And perhaps it’s not necessarily about forcing myself to change, but allowing myself to be changed in the process. To be molded by the unseen, but still shrouded in love.

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
-Romans 15:13


photo credit: Deeply enchanted evening via photopin (license)