A Comman Case of the Shoulds


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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

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Having a little faith… and Commitment


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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

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

The value of waiting, slowing down and finding simplicity


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Sit right here and wait. What? No thank you. Remember when used to actually wait for our parents outside school? We couldn’t text them. We just hoped that eventually they would show up to claim us and take us home.

We just hate waiting. You know it’s true. From drivers who nearly run you down just to get to the same stoplight to the bosses who needed it done yesterday or I want my coffee NOW. We despise waiting. Maybe it somehow reminds us of our humanity and the honest truth that we don’t get everything we want when we want it. Sob sob. I realize how easy it has been to fall into the trap of not wanting to wait. Why is my career not further NOW? Why do I not have the man of my dreams sitting by my side NOW? Where is my lunch NOW? The ironic part of all of this is that we have actually traded our anxious ways and don’t really know what it’s like to live NOW. Being present is something we all struggle with. We love to go and do and live life. But it’s time we all slowed down just a little bit (or rather a lot) to be able to process our lives. Processing what is happening and the actual process behind everything is something we’d rather pass over, forget and live without. When we’ve gone an entire week without assessing what we did well, what we could have done better and perhaps some mistakes we made along the way, we have become to busy. When we are too busy to stop for a conversation that needs to occur with someone or to express thankfulness to someone, we’ve become too busy. Our “busy-ness” will eventually be the death of us all, since running ourselves into the ground will exhaust us both physically and emotionally.

I’ve become very interested in the Slow Movement which believes in more of a mindful way of living- a connection to food, a connection to place, a connection to people and a connection to life. It involves slowing down and really being present in the moment. I prefer to start living more slowly and mindfully as opposed to being forced like a current through the gates of a dam. In the Entrepreneur Issue of Kinfolk, there is an interview with Carl Honore´, one of the world’s most respected advocates of the Slow Movement.  You can watch his Ted Talk here.

I decided to include some blogs regarding the concepts of simple living and a slow living mindset, so check them out:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/becoming-minimalist-start-here/

Home:

http://www.slowyourhome.com/

Family:

http://lifeshouldbethecatsmeow.blogspot.com/

Other thoughts:

http://prettygoodstories.com/

http://valueofsimple.com/start-here/

Let’s take time to be mindful, be present and not be afraid to live a little slower paced as we journey along our path in life.

~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

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

Freedom in the Fall


There is something different in the air at the end of September. There’s a crispness like an apple and a hush like a fireside glow. New connections with new people give me hope. The promise of new opportunities and new adventures and a life to be led in front of me pull me along my pathway of light.  Through growth, you begin to fear that you will never feel alive or happy again. But slowly a raw heart begins to realize something is there, something of a kernel of possibility.

Promises, promises the people cry

And you know you aren’t scared to die.

In the quiet darkness of the night

You feel closer to a better life.

Have a wonderful weekend enjoying the fleeting days of warm summer as the Fall is headed our way 🙂  Thank you for reading, and check out new show dates on my other page at the tab at the top of this blog.  If you’re interested in booking a house show, feel free to email me at leahemusic@gmail.com

~lmeflowers

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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Fill your cup at the well


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Photo Courtesy of: The Swedish National Heritage photostream

As you age, you begin to realize that all the discouragement you feel in the your imperfect friendships with people is fixed in the perfection of God.  Think about it.  The failings of others are contrasted in the things He does everything perfectly.  Someone doesn’t give you time?  God is always there for you, always.  Anytime you need to talk, He has a listening ear.  When you can’t explain yourself to a human, the Holy Spirit can intercede in the groanings of your soul as you tell God.  People hurt you?  God has good in store for you, despite how hard you’re fighting and failing daily.  When you feel like people only want to use you or abuse you, remember this.  God wants what’s best for you and wants to bring you home.  That’s why he left a book full of love letters and words to help you stay on the straight and narrow.  Relationships will fill you full of questions.  God doesn’t desire to keep you in total darkness.  He says when we search for Him with our whole heart, we will find Him.

So be seekers.  Be learners.  Be strong in the Lord.  Be lovers of good.

Go.  Be.

~lme