A word in context


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Photo Credit:  Maria Ellen Photography

Awhile ago, I had the pleasure of going to the Italian Fashion Exhibit at the Frist Center for the visual arts, and it was fabulous. So much detail, so many beads, so many layers of fabulous fabric beautifully hand-crafted as an art form. There was also a Jaume Plensa exhibit and one of his pieces, composed of letters, foreign words and all sorts of text really struck me.  In the plaque about the piece (and I’m probably not quoting verbatim), he mentioned something like this:

“One letter seems nothing but in association with others they could compose a word.  One word with another word could compose a text.  A text with another text.”  I thought about this in regards to being an artist.  As an artist, you are one.  But when you start connecting the dots from artist to artist and building community, you begin to be enriched.  Your medium of art becomes richer, more developed, more intense with emotion and relation to something outside your tiny world of self art.  The art then becomes a piece in a larger painting, and you can find your place of belonging in the realm of creativity.  The idea of individuality is great, but in relation to a larger picture, it has more context.  If you are an artist, think about yourself more as a word in context.  Here are some ways to think of art in terms of context:

1.  Don’t restrict your music to just being influenced by what you can give to it.  Let other artists influence it, help paint a stroke on the canvas and move it forward in a direction you might not have considered before.  Sometimes the growth comes from the interaction with others.

2.  Don’t try too grip tightly onto it like a helicopter parent.  Realize that music is an entity all it’s own that moves and breathes and has to become.  A song sometimes is something you can’t control.  You need to let it happen naturally.  I’ve heard people in the recording industry talk about it in terms of what is needed to “best serve the song.”  It’s like having a love for your music as if it were a child, and you would do well to let it have room to become.

3.   As an artist, consider that you are not merely an isolated creative force.  Rather, you are a force being acted on and acting on others every day as an inspiration and a muse.  And take it a step further, and don’t only let your career be focused on pushing your music into the atmosphere.  Don’t merely shout, but listen.  Connect with others, offer them help when they need it, volunteer with your other musical friends and build relationships instead of just trying to take something all the time.

When I see others who seem to be just waltzing through with roses everywhere, I tend to get discouraged.  Some days I’m not sure what to do with these gifts I’ve been given.  Perhaps other artists’ paths are not as winding as mine have been.  But those uncertain times are those that build our faith and teach us to trust.  Maybe we must first be lost to then find ourselves.

~lme

 

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Liberation through Limitation


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Photo Courtesy: Maria Ellen Photography

Limitation. What an unpleasant concept to us, creatives and more. We hate being limited by time, talents, energy and finances. We want everything now and to be able to do everything we want when we want to with unlimited funds (I mean, that’s realistic right?). But what if our limitations are really something that liberates us? And what if those limitations actually help us instead of hurting us like we think. Allow me to expound.

Limitation provides:

  1. Context– Limitation gives us a field or a boundary to work within.  It’s a good thing we aren’t able to do everything with our own two hands.  By learning where our skillset lies, we are able to focus, hone our craft and really find where we can excel and best serve. Limitation actually helps us narrow that search. Surely we can learn and grow, but some people have stronger aptitudes for certain areas.  I don’t personally consider myself a super strong instrumentalist, but I have other gifts in a different facet of music.  Once you begin to see where your skillset lies, you can begin to center on where you would experience a truer fit and ideal opportunities for yourself. The ability to say no to things that aren’t well-suited for us actually leaves openness in our schedules to say yes to things that are a better fit.
  2. Creativity– Limitation actually make us stretch our creativity. If I’m not proficient on an instrument, I may try to make that same sound using an instrument I do know how to play. Throughout that process, something innovative can be born. We learn by our limitations in time, talent and finances how to be effective where we are right now. So you can’t afford to fund a massive marketing campaign, so you roll up your sleeves and get to work making your own things, building connections and going out and networking in your area. Despite seeing limitations as hindrances, you might do better to see them as actual gifts.
  3. Cultivation of acceptance and community– Early on, we believe that we can do it all. Every super mom and wonder woman leading her team at work makes you think you can do it all (or you are lacking when you can’t). But let me tell you, it’s a big fat lie we’ve been fed. I’ve been told early on that there are trade-offs for everything, and I can see it very clearly now. You may think you are doing “it all,” but you cannot do everything to an effective level by cramming as much as possible into your day. You will choke out the moments of realization, creativity and joy. Some facet of your life will not be excelling. Now almost a year into my 30s, I’m learning how valuable it is to have a grasp on reality. I cannot expect myself to be at a level where I am not. accepting that you aren’t a rockstar at everything, you begin to employ the use of other talent, fostering community and building relationships. You develop a mutual respect for people and their skillset that is stronger where yours is weak. You are humbled by the fact that you do not “rock” at everything and are stronger as a team of people striving for one goal. You also learn to appreciate the level of talent you see in others and working with them is a pleasure.

So, go create, accept your limitations, but be willing to work to press them where you can. Also work toward a better version of yourself despite those limitations. Happy weekend 🙂

~lme

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


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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

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

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The start of an Italian love affair


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Italy. Few places have pulled me in so tightly initially and held me in their warm embrace. Italy was different from the trips before, and I completely fell in love with the culture. I enjoyed soaking up the cultures of Peru and New Zealand, but Italy is, well, brava. The people are warm, inviting, loving and willing to hug you, shake your hand and kiss both of your cheeks. When they talk in an animated way, they’re not mad. They just use their hands and speak with passion and can be intense, because they mean what they say about the food! Oh and the food- fresh fish at the fish market, cheeses (especially the water buffalo mozzarella), vegetables, olives, olive oil, Sorrento lemons, fresh baked breads, tomatoes, meats, lightly dressed salads and the ultimate local meal with all food taken from 100 feet of where we sat to eat Christmas Dinner at Chef Luca’s house on the coast, were perfecto. I felt at home there.

Travel is part of what makes the world a  more beautiful and better place to live. I truly believe that if more people saw more of the world, there would be fewer wars, less hatred toward others and a more peaceful and kind place to live.  We think others are different because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, the way they dress and the food they eat. But really, deep down, there are countless common threads woven within our makeup as human beings.  We all want safety and peace, freedom to go where we choose, worship how we choose, pursue our dreams, raise children in a healthy and safe environment, be fed and sleep calmly with a roof over our head.  I believe our similarities far outweigh our differences if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves. I think that’s why i’ve always felt so emotional watching an Olympic Opening Ceremony. It seems that for a brief moment in time the world, full of some many different nationalities, languages and races can all come together to celebrate something we love and be at peace. That coming together has always been something I love about the Olympics (maybe I should be doing their marketing or something).

This trip was only the start. I have to return. I have to see what people, adventures, stories await me in South Italy on the coast. Positano bites deep- said John Steinbeck, and I can see why. It grabs a hold of your heart and doesn’t let go.  The village nestled on the side of the mountain is unforgettable. It’s magical and frozen in time with no shopping malls, fast food, Wal-Marts or massive American commercialism. It’s a haven for simplicity and connection with nature.

The narrow cobblestone roads in Rome to the little marketplace alleyways of Sorrento that offer hours of strolling and searching for scarves, pasta and more, and the Italian fashion, refuse to disappear from your mind. They merely linger as if to whisper- come back and please come soon. It’s hard to ignore the beckoning of the Italian coast once you’ve been.

Here’s to the future and travel adventures yet to be had!

~lme

Adoption Benefit Show this Saturday, November 15th


I have the pleasure of playing the Sacred Selections Adoption Benefit Dinner this Saturday from 4-5!  It will be a great cause supporting a particular family in adopting a little girl who is yet to be born.

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Here are the event details for anyone interested in attending:

Dinner & Auction from 4:00-7:00pm Saturday Nov. 15th

Location: Indian Hills Country Club in Bowling Green

Dinner Buffet provided by Home Cafe

Tickets: $30 for adults $17 for children

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/sacred-selections-bowling-green-tickets-14028279963

Sacred Selections is a 501c3 Non-Profit organization. Tax forms are available upon request.

Contact Caleb Hastings at chastings@edmontonstatebank.com with any questions.

A little information about this adoption agency… Since 2006, Sacred Selections has assisted financially in the adoption of children into Christian homes. In just 8 years, they have helped to fund the adoptions of more than 100 children. In Bowling Green, we are inspired by the work of these individuals striving to fulfill the Lord’s plan. The local committee of Sacred Selections families and volunteers have arranged an opportunity to assist in their efforts to raise funds to help even more families in adopting children into loving homes. 

Right where I belong


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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


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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

Eulogy while I’m still alive


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I hope to die with a thousand stories woven within my skin.  There will be tales of adventures in foreign lands, of amazing people that I have met and befriended along my journey, of moments that taught me, lifted me and pulled me closer to who I was meant to become.  My face will be well worn but all of the smile lines will indicate a myriad of moments where laughter lit my face up and a hearty burst of air exhaled from my chest into a world where I temporarily existed.  My hands may look old but hopefully the river of veins running throughout them will tell of the people they’ve hugged, the meals they’ve cooked for those I have loved or handed something to someone in need.

The vacant body that they will see before them will have only been the vessel.  A vessel that had opportunities beyond what she thought at 20 when she thought the world would end.  For in this body she traveled around an incredible landscape, saw sights that ancient queens never comprehended, heard music that made her spirit soar, created music to share with others, flew above a Costa Rican rainforest like an eagle, hiked the Inca trail in the Andes into Macchu Picchu with her family, walked in the great cities of the ancient world, climbed mountains, swam in oceans, stood beneath waterfalls, whitewater rafted in Idaho, devoured lobster on the shores of a Maine island, felt the waves of the ocean caress her feet, overcame fears, met countless souls close to home and far away, learned to sail, gained skills in cooking from an Italian, an American mother and grandmother, entertained at dinner parties and birthday parties, rode horseback through the ephemeral forests of New Zealand, did mission work in Jamaica, traversed the British Isles, seeing the graves of Shakespeare and more, met and connected with those in poverty, opened her heart to love those different than her and those less fortunate and extended hands of friendship to those the world over.

I will hope that I learned to give and value real love.  To have learned that love is a choice and not just a feeling.  I hope that I will have loved when it was difficult, and I hope I will be willing to love enough to desire to give up.  Love is an emptying of self and pride of which it takes a lifetime to learn and a lifetime to put into practice.  And the person that I became will not be focused on how pretty or fit or well-dressed I was.  I will have become someone who lives and abides in the comfort that my validation does not come from others around me.  I will be focused on the fact that none of these temporal things matters to the God I serve and that those who focus on the true things of life will have always been present in my life.  I will have learned that the people who are meant to be near us and surround us will gravitate toward us continually.  Should we have desired affection or attention from others that we did not receive, perhaps we were never meant to be the recipient of that.

I hope the look on my face in my coffin resembles a smile instead of a frown and that I did more of the first in life than the latter.  A soul at peace should have nothing but a smile on her face and a song within her heart when it’s her time to go on.  I hope that when people think of me they in turn will smile.  I hope they each have vivid memories of places I shared with them, sunsets we sat beneath, trains that passed us while we played our instruments, conversations we shared that involved depths not comprehended by the naked eye as well as songs I shared and left around the American landscape as a piece of my legacy.  I hope people come to a closer view of my Maker when they come in contact with me.  May I not be merely focused on myself as a musician, a career woman, a writer, a daughter, a sister, a thinker, an explorer or a songwriter.  But may I know that all facets make up a daughter of God walking and breathing and trying to walk on a good path homeward.  As they lay me back into the dust from which I came, my stories will turn back into organic matter that become the setting for the next generation of adventurers and dreamers.  For they will carry on what we have started.  And I will hope I have done my part to leave it in good hands and to have bettered the world while I inhabited it.

When I die and begin to travel toward the light of the sun, perhaps the shackles around my feet will unclasp and release me from the bonds of an earth to which I shall never return.  And as my spirit soars ever higher up and through the clouds and into the stratosphere, I will begin to hear music and familiar voices.  And when I arrive at heaven’s front door and I softly knock, He will open it with a warm and welcoming smile and say, “We’ve been waiting for you- come in.”  I will leave my jar of troubles outside and enter in where the most beautiful song I have ever heard is wafting toward me and slowly washes over me.  And forever I will be in eternal joy.

Go forth and do good as you create a lasting legacy 🙂

~lme