A Comman Case of the Shoulds


deathtostock_lonely_commute-09

Photo Credit: DeathtoStock Photos

We spend a considerable amount of mental time and energy in the world of the “shoulds.” I should have been farther by now. I should be married. I should look like him or her. I should not still be struggling with this. This should not bother me. I should have gotten so much more accomplished today.  I should, I should, I should…. let’s breathe. And consider a few things about the should thoughts that tend to float into our minds or rather attack our minds…

  1.  You are where you are today. And that’s ok. One powerful thing a therapist once told me was- “you’re exactly where you need to be.” There’s purpose in that. There’s power in the process, in learning how to gradually grow. There’s beauty in realizing how vulnerable and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. No matter what the struggle, no matter how deep, no matter the pain, or how big that heap….. every mountain can be conquered step by step if you keep moving forward.
  2. How much of the “shoulds” are actually imposed perceptions by others OR supposedly imposed perceptions by others? Begin to ask yourself questions when a should pops up suddenly. Do you honestly want the things others want for you? Do you have the same worldview as them? Do you care about the same things they do? How much should their opinion affect you like the ankle weight they are? What if we began to challenge what others decided for our lives and decided to consider what was truly best, healthy and balanced for ourselves.
  3. Let the “should” only be used as a short emotional spurt of inspiration to spur you onto greater accomplishments. Want to conquer a goal and say I “Should” be here in my career? Then turn that statement quickly into a “how could I accomplish that” or “how might I find that purpose or enjoyment in another area of my life if I can’t be there today?” Then begin to map out small steps for improvement in that area. Even the tiniest incremental changes are STILL CHANGE 🙂

All in all, the “should” statements and thoughts focus on what we lack in our being. What if we were less harsh to ourselves and encouraging of the growth, gifts and goodness we did see in ourselves. Lovingkindness should be directed not only to others, but also to ourselves. And THAT is a “should” statement I think we can all get behind.

~lme

Advertisements

Open scars


DeathtoStock_NotStock2

Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I burned myself recently on the heating element of my oven…. yes, cooking accidents are my forte.  And that burn was a doozy.  And as I’ve watched it heal recently, I began to think about it.  I thought about how I hadn’t covered it with a bandaid, and I hadn’t even really doctored it.  I just kept it clean and watched the skin began to re-construct the layers that had been melted.

And then I thought about what a perfect metaphor and reminder it was of scars in general and the struggles we endure in this life.  And I thought…. What if we didn’t hide our scars?  So what if I wasn’t able to keep my left index finger from scarring.  A blemish- the horror of horrors! What if each time I saw it, I was reminded of that painful memory?  And what if I didn’t try to cover it up, make it heal prettier or sugar coat what really happened to that piece of skin? Why not leave the scars and the stories on myself of all the things I’ve experienced or lived through in this short life on earth.

And just like letting my skin scar, I thought a little more.  What if we were more open about our blemishes, struggles, failures and imperfections.  I know we claim pretty openly to be imperfect, but do we really believe that and own it?  Or do we still feel we are trying to reach some unattainable goal the world or culture has set for us? In a world fixated on perfections, fancy creams, liposuction, tanning beds, hair dyes and spanks, it’s rather hard to want to accept and be ok with the shortcomings, blemishes and limitations we all deep down realize we have.  And to that I say- stop it right now, self and world.  I’m human, and I struggle.  I know others have had their share of struggles too.  But what if it was ok.  Ok to not uphold some image of feminine fabulousness. Ok to be not ok at times.  Ok to not always know what the future holds.  Ok to show your imperfections to others.  Ok to not try to cover up every little so-called flaw on your face.  God loves this mess.  He blessed me and many others with creativity, time, talent and heart that wants to find joy in the world around me.  So it’s time I, and you, stopped listening to the voices of negativity that try to tell us to cover up things that aren’t perfectly perfect.  Accept the imperfections, work on the things you can and be really thankful for God’s grace as he fills in the broken pieces of your vessel 🙂

~leah

 

Having a little faith… and Commitment


Deathtostock_creativecommunity2

Photo Courtesy: Death to Stock Photos

There is a connection between commitment to your faith and pursuing a career passion, in both your daily walk and your artistic journey. You can’t be a tried and true artist without having a little grit in your soul. There’s this sheer persistence beneath it all to prevail no matter what the chaos around you looks like at the time. Being an active and forward moving musician is teaching me commitment and sifting out the go getters from the half-tryers. Commitment is a skill that is earned and learned over time. Just as relationships aren’t cultivated in a short time, so a craft is not completed quickly.  In a generation that has everything right now or needed it yesterday, it’s worthwhile to realize that I’m learning the beauty in the struggle throughout the process.  Artists grapple with doubt, worry, fear and the “I’m not good enough” thoughts that constantly float in our heads. But we don’t let that stop us. We take the charge seriously to “neglect not the gift that is within us.”  Here are some thoughts on how working as an artist is similar to having faith and commitment spiritually:

  1.  You don’t always have a clear cut view of the story that will unfold. Unlike lawyers, doctors or teachers who know the model for success and follow it, artists do not have that same luxury. We are forced to brave a dark forest of unknown trials and winding paths that are each specific to our own careers. We don’t have a model for success because everyone’s model is different, even ones with similar backgrounds, managers, hometowns and more. In the same way your faith begins in a small way (a measure of it), it is grown and cultivated, tested through storm and has to be proven at times. How much do you care about it and how much are you willing to sacrifice for it? Those questions can never be answered until faced with more difficult choices.
  2.  You keep at it in the midst of the unknown. If your faith or your art are such an integral part of you, you practice them even when no one gives you any recognition. Artists understand the feeling of discouragement readily as we continue to hear more no’s than yes’s at times. Despite all of the rejection we face, there’s something eternally optimistic about us. Deep down, we don’t really believe the option of giving up but rather we choose to just keep on moving. Just because we’re at the bottom, doesn’t mean we give up.   
  3. The naysayers are often waiting in the wings and ready to whisper negativity and threats in your ears. There are those who will test your faith spiritually and as an artist. They will say things can’t be done, you should just quit and really what’s the purpose of even trying. They will try to drag you down to their level. They will also tell you all of the reasons it would NEVER work. Don’t listen to them. If you believe in what you are doing, keep at it. And remember, if you don’t want to live their life, then why should they get to determine yours?

So remember that it takes faith and commitment. Your spiritual walk and your artistic walk are not easy roads. And as Tom Petty said,

“Some say life, may beat you down, break your heart, steal your crown.  Learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings, coming down, is the hardest thing…”

Look to the light-

~lme

A letter to the women of the world (and music industry)


IMG_0086

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Women of the world,

You are more than your body.  Showing off your body doesn’t garner respect like you want to believe it does.  You want respect and to be treated as beautiful and smart?  Don’t sell your body through images and videos.  Share your art, share your music, and share your talents, but don’t share every inch of your skin with the entire world.  Considering the image you present is important- more than you will ever know.  Whether you want it or not, you brand yourself every single day by the clothes you wear, the way you talk and how you carry yourself.  Don’t want to be judged?  Harsh reality- in a world saturated with images and everyone on social media, there are a million eyes looking at you and you will be judged.  Don’t take that responsibility lightly.  I won’t name drop as badly as I want to, but you musicians, artists and actresses know who you are- stop it.  Stop making us think that it’s ok to throw our bodies in people’s faces whether they like it or not.  Stop making us think we have to be a specific size.  We don’t.  Beauty is found in all shapes and sizes.  Stop telling us that you’re a feminist and then propagate a less than respectful image to the public.  Don’t kid yourself because you aren’t kidding us.

May we women stop talking so negatively to ourselves and about ourselves, learn to smile more often, spend time on inner beauty, and worry less about what people think of us and more about what God thinks about us.

~lme

Platonic City


boat

Platonic city here we come

To the ocean

I must go

No one but my heart

Can know

The waves that pull

My body so

And hold me

In their sway

 

Like a love

That must end

Shorelines

That begin and end

The golden globe

Is sinking in

into a rising summer

Moon

 

Get me

Far away from here

Where the ground

Is crystal clear

And I won’t be forced

To hear

A man

With lies profuse

 

I know something

Waits for me

Blues and greens

And calm bliss be

he pulls me in

but owns not me

for I

will not be caged

~lme

Sugar in the Shoreline


“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are getting back from whence we came.” ~John F. Kennedy

The open road is a reset button for the mind. A simple roadtrip can clear the senses, help one take in the scenery from a new vantage point and gain fresh
perspective. You merely watch the frustrations, irritations and pain of life disappear in the rear view mirror with each passing mile. As we drove through the mountains of Asheville, I was able to be in the moment if only for a moment. Winter was melting away as the water rushed down the hills and shot off the rocks in tiny waterfall fashion as if dancing for me and shouting- Spring is here! For us wandering spirits, the open road holds promise, possibility and the pursuit of something new. Charleston was our home for a long Easter weekend, and we soaked it in like a bowl of creamy, delicious grits. We met new characters, allowed our taste buds to revel in both savory and sweet, ambled amidst the sea colored cottages and smiled as we heard the swelling song of the ocean in all her glory. Charleston can boast of a slower pace, a calmer smile and a wealth of historical connections. From the marshy and peaceful beauty of Cypress Gardens to the pasted painted perfection of Rainbow Row, Charlie-town (as Brianne named it), did not disappoint us in the least.

Travel, like music, is a process of changing with a movement of ourselves from one place to another. Perhaps musicians are at times signified as vagabonds, because music and travel clasp hands like the ocean and the shoreline. A longing for freedom and a sense of cutting the strings tied to our wrists by the infringing world of doubters, naysayers and realists. To seek a wealth of experience as opposed to a wealth of money is a noble aim. Charleston, the ocean and the moments of respite from our frantic lives were a welcoming haven for us.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

photo (1)

photo (3)

photo (6)

photo (5)

photo

photo (8)

IMG_1268

IMG_1241

FullSizeRender (2)

photo (7)

FullSizeRender (3)

 

IMG_1221

 

IMG_1226

It’s No. 41 day!!


IMG_1216I have had the pleasure of meeting up with Tara Clapper recently, founder of No 41, an organization out of Rwanda by way of Nashville. Tara’s story is amazing. After traveling to Rwanda for mission work at a young age, she began to see a need and found a way to help.  Here is the Story of No 41, and I hope you will find it as encouraging and full of hope as I have found…

When No.41 started, there were, roughly, 100 young adults over the age of 18 living in the Noel Orphanage. With no family and limited resources, the prospect of university or becoming gainfully employed was low. Along with that, confidence was low, dreams were small and hope was almost non-existent. It was important, not only to provide a means of sustainable employment doing a culturally relevant trade for these girls, but also to remind them that they were created for a great purpose, by an even greater God. We all have been given gifts and talents and, once realized, we should spend those helping others and that is where the feeding program came in.  In our village there are three secondary schools, grades 7-12, and these students go to school all day, most without eating. The schools, generally, offer a 20-minute break for lunch where children who live close enough or have money, may go home to go to the market to eat. Most do not.

All that has transpired at No.41 is beyond our wildest dreams. We have had ten girls move themselves out of the orphanage and we now have 19 enrolled in university. We have career fairs and business trainings, bible study and English class. I never believed this couldn’t happen, but I never imagined it would happen like this. No.41 is a testament to all that God wants to do in you and through you, if you’ll just say, yes. -Tara

Tara and I have discussed some joint ventures in the future involving music and her non-profit, so stay tuned for some future announcements!  So here’s my call to action- today is No 41 day. She is asking everyone to take what they would have spent (I know, I’m late with my blog post) on lunch (or dinner!) and give to this organization.  I invite you to read more about her and all the great work she is doing.  We have been discussing some exciting future events for No 41 and myself, so stay tuned!

Instead of April Fool’s Day- let’s consider today No. 41 day- a day where we can create change, do good and help others!  To donate or purchase other items for this cause, click here!

~lme

Right where I belong


photo (10)

 

Photo Courtesy:  Fall 2014 Issue of NSAI membership magazine

There is something providentially beautiful about turning around, seeing where you’ve been and then looking around you and realizing everything you have been through has led you right here to this place.  Some things are not handed to you on a platter, and in fact, most things aren’t.  You have to work hard to build a reputation anywhere and you have to work hard to achieve the goals you set forth for yourself.  I feel strongly at times that experiences in my work life (and even my personal life) have led me to my path in music.  Here are some highlights that I’ve considered lately…

1.  Having  jobs that were not ideal and multiple jobs at one time kept me grounded.  You have to learn you are really low on the totem pole in the music industry.  You can’t think, act or talk like you are a big shot when you have very minimal accreditations on your music resume.  You learn that acting like some rockstar doesn’t get you far and doesn’t garner respect from those who have put countless hours in.  A good rule of thumb is to let another man’s lips praise you and not your own (Proverbs 27:2).   To earn respect in an industry as old as the music industry, it will take awhile in the community.  So remember- every choice you make will affect who you are and what others think of you.

2.  Working at small businesses and a startup for more than 10 years has taught me how to tackle projects I have never done.  If you want to survive in an ever-changing music industry, you have to be versatile.  You have to learn to do things you’ve never done and you have to teach yourself how to do some of these things.  From setting up an entire sound system to figuring out your best social media campaign approach, you have to be willing to try, learn and possibly fail.  I’ve learned a lot from the entrepreneurs i have surrounded myself with in the past ten years of my life.  There must be an element of bravery to daily walk into the unknown and tell yourself that it’s going to be ok as an entrepreneur.

3.  Finishing college taught me the power and beauty of sticking with something until it was complete.  There were times in college I was so exhausted and wanted to quit.  When I recorded my first EP and worked a 40 hour a week job, I wanted to quit at times too.  But I pushed myself through the exhaustion, kept reaching for the goal and eventually completed a project I could feel really great about.  You don’t learn to do the hard things unless you make yourself do the hard things.  Commitment and a strong work ethic don’t just happen- they must be cultivated in the days when you don’t feel like it and are mentally, physically and emotionally at your breaking point.

4.  Working in so many different types of jobs from food service to education to photography to natural foods to retail has taught me how to work with a plethora of personality types.  In the music industry, you meet a host of different people.  You must interact with people who are different than you and you must learn to respect others and communicate effectively with them.  I’m so thankful to have had the time to hone these interpersonal skills through all of my various interactions from Austin to Nashville and traveling abroad.  Your relationships with others will grow your career roots over time, so don’t minimize the effectiveness of cultivating those relationships.

5.  Moving to nine places of residence and various states within a 10 year time frame has taught me how to build community and quickly make friends.  When you’re a stranger you have to learn to adapt and quickly make friends.  I don’t meet many strangers, so thankfully I was blessed with the ability to connect with others around me.  I’m thankful to have had to sink or swim by building a support system around me.  This has prepared me for building a fan base for my music and connecting to people through my art.  Without past experiences, I would not have have those skills that I now need so much.

I hope that no matter who you are, you are able to look back and see the reasons for your life unfolding as it has.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand at the moment.  But then at times, you turn around, look how far you’ve come and realize there is something pretty spectacular about where you are standing right now.  Feel free to tell me about similar experiences you’ve had in the comments below.

~lme

True gifts


present

The truest gift is not chosen by the receiver but bestowed by the Giver.”

I created this quote after contemplating a conversation I recently had with a coworker, Jon.  Jon and I were discussing holiday gifts.  He said he found it odd that people make lists to tell people what they want.  He said that a gift is something that the other person gives you and part of that gift is figuring out why they felt you might have wanted that gift or what the message might be in the gift.

Thinking back on that conversation, I realized that our talents and gifts, much like a holiday gift, are something that we should see as having been bestowed on us.  We should not look at what others have been given and say- I wish so much I had that gift instead of what I have been given.  Each of us has a talent, an offering, something we can contribute to society and share with others.  Our Maker infused each of us with these wonderful talents and part of our calling in life is to determine what some of those strongest gifts may be.  If we do not use those gifts for good, or if we aren’t grateful for them, we are devaluing the gift on some level.

And as my mother once told me when I was too proud to accept something from her… “Rejecting the gift saddens the giver.”

May we all be thankful and work with our gifts and may we also be people characterized by giving.

~lme

Days after a 30th Birthday


photo (8)As I thought about my twenties reminiscently last week, I realized something that brought me to tears.  I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.  I have cultivated so many friendships, experienced adventures and cultures, made strides in person character growth, felt the pain of difficult moments, learned how to push myself weary for people I cared about and beliefs I held, served in foreign lands, became a part of something bigger than myself, tackled my dreams, completed goals that were difficult to attain, graduated from college, cooked with and for those who I have loved and tried to make my own impact in God’s kingdom.

And as I look back, I’m not sad that I was single.  I have such a beautiful decade of amazing adventures and stories to share with others someday.  I’m so thankful to have experienced life and learned lessons that will make me better qualified to show true love to another individual.  Love isn’t about all the warm fuzzies.  It’s about putting forth the time and effort when it’s difficult.  Love is about reaching out even when your hand gets bit.  Love is about being there even when there are a million places in the world you’d rather be.  Love is something that holds back in times but also walks onward too.  It can also be walking away when it is time to leave it be at that point in time and walk on alone for now.

I don’t have many regrets at 30.  The ones I do have, well I still have time to work on putting them in the “no regrets” bin.  I prepared myself much better for my 30th birthday.  I am aware of the shortness of my life as I have now officially found 2 grey hairs on my head- what?  I’ve begun to realize what things are most important to me.  As my friend group grows more intimate, it it also becomes more genuine and full of quality.  I’ve learned to say no.  I’ve learned some things about human nature that are both disheartening as well as hopeful.  And I am always learning, changing, growing and breathing in the world of my Maker.

So here’s to the 30s and what they hold.  May we all appreciate every day as it comes.

~lme