Open scars


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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

 

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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

 

Poetry for your Thursday


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Photo Courtesy:  Maria Ellen Photography

Little succulents and the glow

I wrapped my fingers round it

And choked the magic out

All because of hurried pace

In the here and now

 

The light that shone

Lost some of its glow

When I spent my days

Crafting for show

 

Fragile, worn and unaware

Nothing grows right overnight

And with these feet, I try to walk

Upon the path that’s most bathed in light

 

I expected my return

to unfold without much labor

And I have given more than I should

to those who did not return the favor

 

Love is lost on those who grip

with nothing underneath

Words hold weight

Even if you use them too freely.

~lme

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

Slowing your roll and minimizing your social media presence


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An important facet of slow living is learning to properly cull. Taking a breather from all that we have can be helpful.  Take some time to be calm and ponder over some tea or coffee.  Think of it like a reset button. I myself have realized oftentimes that, like a drug addict needing a fix, I begin to live on the distractions, getting hyped by liking, sharing, and commenting on all that others say and think.  Sometimes we need an intervention- put the phone or the laptop down and walk away.  And I’ve realized that the reason I do that is because it’s somehow filling a void. When we feel like we are lacking in social engagements, friendships or just feeling lonely, there’s the phone- our modern-day pacifier to calm us down. We are scrolling addicts. I’m not saying it’s wrong that we seek a connection and have this need, but the way we are filling it may be displaced. Seeking relationship with people because I like that in a digital world doesn’t necessarily give me human connection.  It’s only a partial-version of a true connection with another person, even if it’s just to talk and listen. Our time is being sucked into a vortex until two hours later, I’m past my bedtime, not able to quiet my mind and not getting restful sleep yet again. I think we need to learn to say no, realize that we are becoming addicts and where we are lacking in our lives.  Here are some thoughts behind slowing your roll on social media a little.

  1. We weren’t meant to process all of the information fed to us in our newsfeed.  I’m not sure we were meant to know that everyone who knows everyone that we know is having a baby, getting married and going to the Dominican Republic. It’s so much to process, and sometimes our brains might explode from having to consider everything that really does not have any bearing on our lives. Can it help us make informed decisions, pray for others and know a little more about the world around us? Yes. Is that always information that we actually take and act on? Not often- at least for myself.
  2. Viewing only a facet of others’ lives can lead to comparison and discontent on our part.  Negative thoughts, when fed, can in turn eat us to death- wow she looks great, and her husband is the best ever, her kids look perfect and nothing in her life has ever gone wrong I bet. This is part of the warped perception of believing everything we see online. We fail to realize that these people we argue with or judge or idolize are people just like us with daily frustrations just like us. Their lives are imperfect, they are flawed and they really don’t live a hip life 24/7.  Ask them how much prep time went into hair maintenance, clothing maintenance and making their face look as good as it does?  Possibly a decent amount of time that personally I’d prefer to spend elsewhere.
  3. We tend to waste a lot of time on things that don’t improve the quality of our lives. Distraction seems to be the norm in today’s culture, and by the end of the day we are mentally exhausted. If we spent the time we were scrolling online to actually sit and think about ways to improve our lives, taking care of our bodies or others, or minimizing unnecessary cares, we might be better off. Does it help me to be able to be “up” on the latest news of everyone’s life? Not really- when we meet in person- we don’t have much to say. And when people do talk to us- they reference all of the past posts we’ve had on facebook. We are basically all just living in the past or the future instead of the actual present.
  4. We are missing out on real living. While we’re looking down at our phones, seeing the fabulous lives others are living, we are missing tons of opportunities to be soaking up an amazing world around us. We are believing a culture that says if you aren’t on every single platform, you’ll be left behind (being a musician is a prime industry for that). You are being lied to. Put the phone down (preaching to myself here) and for one day don’t connect with a screen but with the world around you and try to be present. Try just living and being. There is so much that you are missing out on if you would only open your eyes.

Feel free to let me know what you think about all this processing of information in the Digital age.

~lme

Spoiler alert: No such thing as a “big break.”


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Just like a breaking of a tree branch, artists have come to believe in this so-called concept of the big break.  Spoiler alert:  There is no such thing as a big break.  Need a tissue?  Tis true.  We musicians have been warped into thinking this mentality about the “big break” from shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent.  We expect it to happen fast without all the uphill battles, sores upon our feet and weariness for the dream.  I think it’s time we stopped looking for our “big break,” and started looking for ways to work at our craft or spend our time more effectively as music business owners.  Why on earth have we spent so much time thinking that one door would solve our problems?  For the same reason people think that marriage will be the holy grail of perfection in their lives.  We need to start viewing things as new challenges and new opportunities to work and use our talents.

Another aspect of the “big break” is this.  It amazes me that “new bands” are seen by people and no one really knows the behind the scenes.  They think- wow this band just catapulted into stardom.  No, no, actually they didn’t.  Every huge band you know and love did not begin that way, and there is SO MUCH more that has gone into what people thought was their “big break.” Musicians sometimes are in multiple failed projects before settling into a really great one.  Years of sleeping on couches or working terrible jobs to fund their touring endeavors are never seen by the public.  Then there are the countless hours of doubt, worrying whether people like the music and even asking why they’re doing it in the first place.  The public never knows what goes behind the seemingly easy “big break” that actually isn’t big, but it is a break.

You know what the real big break is?  It’s a breaking of these things: Your pride (playing for an audience of 2), Your bad attitude (giving excuses for why you couldn’t or didn’t do something), Your unwillingness to work (willing to drive for a gig and lug your gear in the heat or rain or ice to play) and Your desire to take the easy option of giving up (and believe me, you’re gonna wanna give up).  The big break is breaking off all of those pieces of yourself as you continually reach farther and higher and push yourself to new goals and new heights.  Sure- an incredible opportunity may come your way, but without utilizing that and keeping the momentum from that, it won’t do you a bit of good.  The big break is not just a moment, a person or a venue you’ll play.  It’s a culmination of many moments, meeting many people and playing countless shows all around that begin to shape you, shave the laziness off of you and the bad attitudes that won’t help you work for your goals.  It’s being broken and vulnerable and real that is the honest “big break” for an artist.  Once you have let go of that one pill fixes all mentality in this cut throat music industry, you’ll begin to view things in a healthier way, pick up the tools in your toolset and get to work carving your own niche in the business.  Until then, you’re just a hotshot that wants others to notice how amazing you are, living for the fame and glory.  Let’s get up, get moving and get over ourselves.  There’s enough ego out there without more.  What do you guys think about the “big break” mentality?  Let me know in the comment section below 🙂

~lme

Itcy Feet


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I can see the desert

or life there by the sea

or somewhere that’s less traveled

somewhere in between

In the bustling city

or a smaller town

or maybe overseas

where I cannot be found

Do you ever feel it

The itch under your feet

to be somewhere far away

maybe it’s just me…

As I contemplate these final 10 months living at this great house in Nashville, Tennessee, I have begun a new research project.  What new, where to live, what to do at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016 in my life?  Here’s your brown bag, breathe.  I have various ideas such as take a vacation and work on an organic farm before I move to my next locale I’ll call home.  I’ve considered by the ocean that I love, possibly out West near a desert or a small but vibrant little town where I can grow, connect and relate as an artist to a community.  I would like to be near my family, but I’m not certain currently whether I’m ready to settle back down in the Lone Star State.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the biggest fan of cold.  If I’m bundled properly, then ok.  I want to be in a good area, but I also want a slower pace than a bustling city life.  At moments, I’ve thought about New York City and also the DC Metro area, but I’m just not sure it’s calling me strongly enough.  I’m currently a little messy-headed and trying to pray about it and decide what my next move should be.  After our travels to Italy (which I will post about in the upcoming weeks), I feel strongly that I would like to live there within the next several years.  Should I look for some exciting, adventurous and new job or should I launch into trying my music full-time.  I’m at a precipice here people.  I welcome advice, thoughts and encouragement.

But here are some thoughts, places to visit, things that seem to draw me to themselves:

~South Carolina- Charleston and Beaufort

~The Pacific Northwest- particularly Seattle and Portland

~Wilmington, North Carolina- a place where various movies and television shows have been filmed- quite quaint and on the water

~Sedona, Arizona

~Simplistic and healthful living- a job in this realm

~the travel industry- being a travel writer is not easy, but something in that field would be of interest

~I want to possibly visit places that hold some negative meaning for me and create new and beautiful memories there to retrace those memories in goodness.

~the concept of making music my career for a year, just to try it.  Because honestly, there are always jobs to be had to fall back on in a few years.

~Family- not more than a 2-4 hour plane ride from them

~possibly overseas for a time being

~a short stint working at an organic farm and staying there

~Sheep farm work in Ireland- sounds fun

I welcome thoughts, connects, advice or anything else as I grow through this research project in the next six months.

~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

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

Good News in Jamaica!


A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve and share God’s message with those in various places in Jamaica surrounding Savanna la Mar (or Sav as we called it).

It was such an encouraging week and one unlike any I have ever spent.  To get out of one’s comfort level and have the sole purpose of encouraging, connecting and serving can be so freeing and helpful for the soul. The simplicity really struck me.  It’s almost like an America of days gone by with kids laughing and riding bikes in the street with this ever present sense of community.  We ate together in one of the communities called Little Russia one day and led the neighborhood kids in a rollicking game of the hokey pokey. Amidst what at first glance looks like a lack, after some time reveals rather an abundance.  There is a wealth of beach views, rolling and lush hillsides, delicious and fresh fruits, smiles, warm greetings by those on the street and uplifting songs in services. The heat of Jamaica paralleled the warmth in our hearts as we bonded with other brothers and sisters on this island far from our homes in Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Georgia.  We bonded as a team and beganI think one of my favorite memories is the beauty of 30 Vacation Bible School children crammed on a bus, bouncing and singing praises to their wonderful Maker who made each and every one of them special.  Mission work teaches us to focus and to work as a team.  It teaches us to remember what is important amidst all of the devices and distractions in our modern landscape.  And it also teaches us the beauty in coming together for a bigger purpose, utilizing our time and talents in God’s work.

I realized I should be ever so thankful as a young and able servant in the kingdom with sufficient funds to have the opportunity to serve in a foreign land.  I am blessed beyond measure and I forget that all too often.

If any of our Good News Jamaica team reads this, I would like to thank you- for your hard work, for your encouragement, for giving a week or two of your life to give, serve and spread the Good News in a place far from home.  We worked as a team for a higher purpose than ourselves.

Love to you all, friends near and far, new and old, those I have come to know and those I have yet to meet,

~leah

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