Saturday, December 31, 2011

One Week Ago: Bare Trees, Clay Jars.

Saturday, Dec. 24. Christmas Eve.

My brothers were out kayaking, my parents out singing carols for a candlelight service. Presents wrapped and, refusing to stay in the house alone any longer, I got into my car and headed for the mountains.

The higher I climbed, the more mountains came into view. I could see them clearly through the bare branches of winter trees. Higher and higher.

I parked right on the NC/TN border, got out and hiked up to the top of my favorite bald. It was cold...breathtakingly cold. The sun was on its way to setting and the world just seemed to open up all possessed beauty before me. And trees - winter trees. Their branches bare...mere skeletons of what they once were. But beauty - so much sky and green and vast stretches of mountain that I could see through their bare branches.

And it hit me.

2 Cor. 4:7 is the biblical verse that compares us to clay jars. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us..." -- broken, cracked, fragile jars. Put a light inside of a jar. The greater the crack, the greater the light that is shone. The more broken, the more the treasure inside is exposed.

I had only heard this spoken of (in this specific way) only a few weeks before.
(Check that out here.)

And on this day, I could see it in the bareness of winter trees.

Fall is beautiful, but speaks of things dying. Passing away. The colors fade to brown and join the earth. All that is left are these bare branches, these colorless limbs. The attention is no longer on the shape of the leaves, the size of the fruit it bears, the fullness of its' leafy growth.

Now it is bare. But now it is free to reveal beauty greater than itself. Through its' branches, there are endless skies, the poetry of the sea, grandeur of the mountains.

And so we see - brokenness reveals beauty. Hallelujah.

New Years' Eve's Eve: Old Woolen Mill, Cleveland, TN.

I shot my first wedding yesterday inside of this building:

It's an old cotton mill built in 1890.

I don't know much about wedding photography, but I have a feeling this is what most of the photographers look like when they don't have a camera in their hands.

Whew, it's done. Yay for Ashlee and Brandon!! The loveliest of friends....

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lessons in EP-making. But, of course...not just that.

I met up with a friend today to chat. He asked, as many other friends have asked, how my music making was coming along. I sighed that usual sigh that typically precedes my launch into an explanation of the many thoughts, doubts, fears, insecurities, highs and lows of my most recent musical endeavor.

I have studied music from the time I was five years of age, wrote my first song when I was ten, entered competitions, prepared for recitals, earned my degree and have taught music for several years now.

But I waited until I was nearly twenty-five to take on an actual recording project.

I could spend a long time discussing the forever hours of arranging strings, communicating ideas about instruments I know nothing of, the near impossibility of coordinating schedules. I could, but I will not. The deepest lesson I have and am continuing to learn about is the lesson of overcoming insecurities. The reason it has taken me this long to actually work publicly on my own songs has everything to do with fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of taking years of internal ache for the outpouring of creativity to finally begin its' molding, its' shape. The fear of birth.

Entering into what we feel, with every ounce of being, that we were created for is beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying. Out of the endless questions that invade my thoughts, this one continues to pull the most weight: What if it isn't perfect?

I can see the eye rolls now. Trust me, I know. Of course it's not "perfect." At least, in the sense that I'm seeking. But this is my fear: the lack of perfection.

The truth is, this endeavor has been mostly for the sake of experience. I pulled some songs written over the course of a few years and began to build around them. As lengthy and tiring as it could be at times, the process was the real beauty. The purity in creating. The "imperfections" becoming the whispers of something coming alive.

And so. Friends. Within the next couple of months, I will be working through this endeavor. It's coming in close and I am becoming less and less afraid of showing you the process that has very much so become the past year of my life.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Summertime and the livin' is easy....(debatable)

Here I am.
Sittin' on the front steps of my porch.
Enjoying the sun on my skin.
Watching my strawberry popsicle melt on a plate beside me.
Wigglin' my toes.
I can hear an old 1920s crooner singing on the radio at the auto repair shop next door.

My friends are all at work.
I have a list of things I can do.
I'm not doing any of them.

Wedged between two bushes.
Top step.
Paper and pen.

The need to feel purpose.
The need to know meaning.
The fear of growing apathy.
The fear of the fear of engaging purpose.
Fear of knowing meaning.
Breeds apathy.

Be still.
Get up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lessons in Blueberry Bushes.

I flew into Charlotte last Friday morning. The ever-lovely Seth Dresser picked me up for a surprise visit to a blueberry field in Concord, NC. We spent all morning sitting under bushes of blueberries, our white 1-pound buckets slowly filling to the brim, the smells and feel of a coming storm all around. Peace. Calm. Just me, a bucket and bushes of blueberries.

I'd been in Aliquippa for two weeks - an intense and challenging two weeks of travel, new faces, old faces, planning, re-planning, dissolving plans and starting new ones. Students pouring themselves into writing, students wanting nothing to do with it. Students coming to you - excited for the day, students wanting to shut the world out for fear of having to face their home lives again...for fear of letting someone else in.

So to be sitting quietly under a blueberry bush, against the contrast of my July whirlwind - against my scattered thoughts, felt strange and foreign. I have lots of things to be planning! Will my recording dates work out? Will my students be ready to record their words next week? The final program is in two weeks?!?! My head was swimming, but my body was tired. My brain needed rest. My worries had the power to overwhelm me, but I also had the power to tell them no. Power found in simply sitting under a blueberry bush and allowing myself to rest. Physical rest. Mental rest. Rest in the knowledge that things work out, one way or another. In the knowledge that this project is not about me in all of my perfectionist tendencies, but about leading these children the best I know how in opening their eyes to a new creative outlet.

The peace of Christ is ever present. The peace of Christ does not hide itself. The peace of Christ is to be sought after.

So, for crying out loud, go sit under a blueberry bush.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Broke & Healthy.

"I'd really like to buy healthy food, but it's SO expensive. I can only afford to buy this cheap stuff that will sit inside my stomach like a hunk of plastic. Save that organic stuff for the yuppies."

Ever had this thought before? Yeah, me too. Put aside your old ways, friends. The solution is here.

*Click* (that's the sound of you clicking the link below. With a mouse. On a computer.)

Good job, Ande Truman.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: The Scone That Fell, the cafe Prophetess.


[9:55 a.m.]

I am tucked away in an outdoor corner of the Wildflour Cafe, goat cheese/sundried tomato scone in front of me, coffee to the right, eavesdropping on the business meeting of two elderly folks seated at the table next to me. For the moment, things are peaceful. I am fed, caffeinated. The post-storm weather this morning is perfect.

The scenario just before this was slightly less calm. I walked into the bakery, met by the hurried, tell-me-what-you-want air that I so often felt as a barista when a customer seemed indecisive. I finally got my scone and sat down in the only empty chair - one with a table covered in supplies. The worker brought me my food, cleared the table and hurried back to her other customers. A few minutes later, a space cleared outdoors, so I quickly gathered my things to begin the migration before some other table vulture stole it. In typical Erin Dalton style, I attempted to grab all my things - scone, coffee, plate, camera, bag, Ollie the travel owl - and move them at once. (When is this EVER a good idea?)

I pushed the door open, took one step outside and flop! My scone slid off of my plate and flopped on the ground. [Perhaps "flop" is a terrible description of the scone. It's certainly not a half dead fish. "Swish." "Splat." "Thunk."] "Thunk." Now that's a better word.

So, "thunk," my scone hit the ground. The elderly couple (er, business people) sitting outside made a small, sweet ordeal about the event, with the woman running inside and requesting (Politely, mind you. This is Charleston.) another scone. The whole point of telling this story lies in her explanation of why we needed another scone:

"Hi, hello. We are going to need another scone for this young lady. You see, she was trying to do too many things at once and her scone fell off of the plate."

I immediately felt compelled to ask this woman how long she had been prophesying - could she be my sacred, spiritual mentor? Would she impart her wisdom on a more regular basis for me? Of course, I spoke none of these things aloud. This woman so well knew (or didn't know, really) what plagues my life above most other things: doing too much all at once. Trying to fill in every possible gap, feeling the rush of time and age, wanting to do it all before the possibility of no longer being able to.

If nothing else during these few days of solitude, I believe I am learning that the world still spins, lungs continue to breathe, life goes on living without my flailing attempts to do ten things at one time. And really, I understand that most things can't really be worked on in excellence, deep-seated thought, patience, diligence - if they are all being worked on in a fleeting manner - with the pressure of time and age growing larger than sitting peacefully and taking one thing at a time.

Madeleine L'Engle so beautifully stated (see quote below) that I do not have to do anything to earn God's love. He loves me exactly the same, whether I am busying myself with multiple projects or sitting quietly on the beach.

The question to myself is this: Do I still love myself whether I am busy or sitting quietly? And, if my professed identity is in Christ and Christ alone, is not this concept one in the same?

Christ loves me - is my identity - therefore, shouldn't I still love me?

I believe that just being - in taking joy that I am loved beyond measure - fruitfulness will follow.

I don't have to try so hard to find things to do, projects to busy my hands and lose sleep over at night.

I am content to know these things will come in their own time and birthed as they should be birthed if I will only seek rest and being with Christ.

This, today, is resurrection life. And I suppose it can start with making sure my scone doesn't fall off of my plate.

"We are loved because we are his children, because we are. The more we feel that we ought to be loved because it is our due or that we deserve it, the less we will truly feel the need of God's love..."

-- Madeleine L'Engle, "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art" (pg. 72)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cosmo Dogs, Beach Town, USA.


[5:20 p.m.]

Jack's Cosmo Dogs.

Everything you're probably imagining and more. Blimps hanging from the ceiling with the printed logo. Paintings of hot dogs in space cars. Two huge rockets as the pillars for the sign out in front. Screaming children. 90's alt. rock. Overly-friendly grunge boy workers. I just filled my body with a Cosmo Dog, cheese fries and a Draft Root Beer Float.

Yes, folks. Beach Town, U.S.A.

My stomach already hates me.

My stomach can just get over it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Prayers in Solitude: Tea Break & A Lonely Room.

How long will we continue to ignore You, my God? Especially I, though outwardly giving an impression of put-togetherness, inwardly and privately do not run to You as I should.

I worry before I trust. I worry far too long before I trust.

I speak before I bring it to Your feet. I speak far too long before I bring it to Your feet.

I fear before I leap. I take far too many steps in fear before I take bounding leaps of faith.

Even a tiptoe of faith might help, but no. Fear drives me away, holds me shaking - bound to one place rather than into the passionate, unknown of my God, my Mystery, my Love.


Lord, I ask that You quiet my heart in this moment.

Push aside what You will so that I may see You in the ways You reveal Yourself to me.

If I am to go, send me.

If I am to stay, steady my feet.

If I am to speak, give me words.

If I am to be quiet, steady my tongue.

Only You know my heart.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Stay or Leave? (A Two-Part)


Part I.
7:05 a.m.

I woke up at 6:15 today to catch the sunrise over Folly Beach. Beautiful, for sure, but I feel like I need to write prose and poetry of epic vocabulary proportions.


I'm just trying to decide whether or not I want to stay at the hostel another night.

Yesterday, after leaving the beach, I felt very ready to leave. Wait, need for clarification here: I mean, LEAVE leave - pack my car up and head back to Charlotte.

Wandering around a town where no one knows my name (except maybe now that espresso guy from Caviar & Bananas who has to take your name for orders. "Erin? Your kama chai sutra tea is ready.") can be an exciting idea at first. A town where I didn't set out to make new friends, just be in my own company. And yes, I am well aware that the purpose of my being here is to spend time in quiet, mostly silent, retreat.

Retreat from what?

I feel like I spend a great portion of my life chatting away. I teach, I perform and I love a good conversation. And not even good conversation in small doses. I could go on for a good many days before I feel the need for verbal break.

So what's a girl to do when this part of life is cut off? Throw in the towel and drive home? All of this wandering around, with no one knowing my's beginning to wear on me a bit. But I know I can't leave just yet. I'm not so dense or fickle that I do not recognize the need for lessons learned in not speaking.

As I was so gently reminded by a phone conversation last night (and yes - my rules of quiet retreat are upheld until 9 p.m. each evening, so I'm allowed to talk after hours), it is not easy shutting up long enough to feel the Lord's voice inside of oneself - to begin to view the world through a glimpse of His words and vision for me. It takes some serious adjusting.

So, Father. Creator. Speak in me as I fight to remain still today. Teach me what You will. Allow me to rest in You. Reveal Yourself in the quiet today.


Part II.
3:05 p.m.

I can't believe it took me this long to finally swim in the ocean. (And by "this long," I mean on this trip, not my whole life). Silly fears (silly, to me) have kept me back this time, a prime example being that I end up on the news as the most recent shark attack victim. Or what if a rip tide pulls me away and no one notices? So, I waited until a pleasant-looking family with boogie boards took to the water before I finally went in.

I honestly don't feel like writing at this moment. I just wanted to say that being in the water was really the only thing missing from this trip.

I haven't felt like talking much today. If nothing else, I feel God could be reminding me that it's okay to be quiet. It's okay to listen, to observe, to not fill the world in on every detail of my existence.

My God is pure. And true. And good.

I am thankful to be resting in this today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: The Tongue, The Blessing & The Curse


"With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing." --James 3.9-10.

This is the most frequent portion of the Bible to enter my mind on a regular basis. I'll give you a hint as to why: I am in my car all the time. Driving. With other drivers. That's right, folks. I mutter (and sometimes not-so-mutter) very unnecessary, very selfish, very (here's the nice way of putting it) mean things directed at other drivers on the road. I know that I am far from alone in this, BUT that certainly does not make it okay. And every time something dreadful falls from my tongue, that good 'ole third chapter of James shows up to put me in my place. Which, in turn, puts me in an even fouler mood than before because now the blame is on me.

Not speaking today (for the most part) proved that I am still capable of driving even when I'm not cursing other drivers. I sighed a few times and made one or two annoyed noises, but, other than that, no verbal nonessentials.

As I was writing earlier on the beauty of so many different shapes and sizes on the beach, these are all stunning reflections of my God. He created each with such detail ~ and each with their own story, gifts, potential to change the world.

And yet I get angry at them because they don't drive fast enough. Real rational.

"My brothers, these things should not be this way." (3.10)

Yes, James, I know.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Garden of, Garden of Sea & Shore.


I love the idea of a beach. It's as close to a Garden-of-Eden scenario as I can get. In my head, I imagine a time of freedom in body image, good health, contentedness in being, close communion in Creator/creation relationship. Absolute perfection.

My idea of a beach: public space where all shapes, sizes and colors congregate - not to host a constant slew of cocktail parties with shallow communication - but to just be. To enjoy the mighty creation of the sea and the sand, wave upon wave, the salty wind in our hair. I truly believe this is what makes the idea of coming to the beach so appealing for me. And yes, so far this day has been gloriously restful and peaceful - lying on Folly Beach, napping, observing, writing. In my observations, however, I have been reminded of something else: the ugly lies of body image insecurities that plague so many, particularly noticing females today. Lots of skinny, tanned girls with skimpy bikinis. Lots of not-so-skinny, not-so-tanned girls (and guys) with t-shirts on over their bathing suits.

I hate the pressure put on women to be a certain color and body type. Driving to Folly Beach, I passed a Subway sign that simply stated, "It's beach season. Eat Subway. Get skinny." Yes, really. No exaggerations here. What were they thinking? Were they thinking?

Maybe part of this frustration stems from the battle with my own skin color and body image. It has taken many years (and still a choice I have to make nearly every day) to feel beautiful in my own skin. I think about how hard it was for me as a child to accept that I had freckles. I used to be so embarrassed by them. I noticed that most other little girls were not as freckle-y as myself and I allowed these observations to give birth to strong insecurity and a belief that I was, in fact, not very beautiful. These days, I cannot imagine feeling beautiful without them. What a creative Father I have! Some get tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, wear lots of makeup...not that I am against these things, but I've never felt the need for any of them simply because I was already created with splashes of color...

And so I see these different shapes and colors along the beach and I know they are to be enjoyed and truly appreciated...looked upon as one of many creations from what was once many blank canvases. I am stunned by the beauty all around me.

Alas, our media does not feel this way. Sure, there are lots of pretty magazine article titles about "being yourself," but don't gain an inch of width, conceal all of our naturally created beauty and pretend you were born to look like everyone else's skewed idea of what beauty really is. And this, I fear, has become the new definition of "being yourself."

I suppose it is only fair to bring up the topic of good health. I see different sizes here, yes. I would be a fool to not acknowledge that many of the additional (or subtracted) inches I see are a result of improper stewardship of our health.

My "Garden of Eden" is full of varied sizes and good health.

There now, I am done thinking about this topic for now. Time to rest my mind.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Surface thoughts from an afternoon.


3:32 pm.
As cliche as this is, it never fails: the chubby guy with a cute puppy always gets the attention of the bikini-clad female. Always.

3:55 pm.
No, I'm not trying to look artsy. It's just hard to think of ways to entertain yourself when you've taken a vow of silence for your solitude retreat. Now back to collecting seashells as I wistfully gaze into the endless blue of the ocean whilst reciting poetry in my head...

4:01 pm.
Dude, just because you have dreadlocks and I look bohemian, doesn't mean we'll make a great couple. Or beach hook-up. So look the other way, please.

4:05 pm.
There's a man on a bicycle walking two puppies in front of him. I just heard the "Ben Hur" chariot race theme music in the distance.

4:06 pm.
Can't wait to tell Stephen Morrison that I heard his voice singing, "Nobody knows my name" as I walked around the hostel by myself this morning.

horseshoe crabs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Arriving.


It is cozy in this private room of Charleston's NotSoHostel. Titled the "Dylan Room," I cannot help but wonder if it is named after the great Bob Dylan. Single bed. Bare, wood floors. A quaint, antique-looking desk in the corner facing one of two windows.

Took three trips to lug all of my things into this room. This is my retreat, my getaway. So I want it to feel as comfortable as a simplified, bare-essentials-kind-of-way.

11:21 pm.
My TomTom (affectionately called "Templeton" on occasion) informs me that I have arrived at 516 Spring Street. So why can I not find what I'm looking...

11:42 pm.
Still driving in circles within a half-mile radius, I'm sure. And...sleep.

12:15 am.
My things are loaded in. There are quite a few people sitting and chatting on the second story porch outside of my room. Maybe I'll say hello?

12:16 am.
Oh wait. One predominant male voice is discussing (lecturing, perhaps? Certainly not conversing - I only hear one voice..) the economy and taxes. At 12ish am? No thanks. I'll be an introvert tonight.

12:50 am.
Room complete. So homey. Perfect for solitude. Now do I move it all out before 10 am? Money issues...

12:59 am.
Wash hands. Face feels gross. Everything feels gross after sitting in a car with myself for nearly 6 hours. Need to wash face. Why not use the hand soap for my face? Who says I can't? My face is covered in skin just as my hands are covered in an outer layer of skin. Done. My face feels awesome. And smells like lavender. Sometimes rebellion is the best option.

1:35 am.
(1) Time for sleep. (2) I'd really like to write more, though.
Okay you win, Option #2.

1:36 am.
On the drive here, I had a hypothetical glimpse into my near future (some prefer to call this a "daydream"). In this daydream, I chose this solitary retreat to be one not just of solitude, but a vow of silence. My dorm room neighbors were fascinated by my quiet manner and eventually asked me to explain. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote the words: "vow of silence. spiritual thing." The girls were intrigued and invited me to the beach with them where we never spoke words to one another, but instead shared in the bond of peaceful, wordless days on the shore.

Such 'saintly' daydreams. We'll see how that pans out.

Now I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to spend my time in (1) silence. (2) Or mostly silence.
Option #2 again.

Okay sleep. Good night, me.


Lessons in Solitude: Reflections from a Vow of Mostly Silence.

I had been desperately craving to get away. Not in the usual wanderlusting-can't-stay-in-one-spot sort of way. I needed to be alone, to breathe without uttering words in conversation. It was a strange craving for someone like myself - someone that thrives off the words from good conversation, the verbal or non-verbal company of someone else. But it was undeniably a part of me and a part of me that I would soon remedy, given the first opportunity.

This first opportunity arrived for me in the form of spring break. The studios & school that I teach for were all taking this break on the same week, hallelujah! I quickly began researching hostels on the east coast, found a cheap one in Charleston, and made my way there on the night of April 20. My car was packed and I had Ollie, the travel owl and my bicycle for company.

Once there, I made a list of vows for myself - vows of "mostly silence." My life is filled with people, talking, conversation, introductions. All beautiful things, but it is my belief that an excess of anything is in need of a break at some point.

And yes, I was at that point.

One of these vows required me to write as much as possible, ESPECIALLY when I wanted to talk about it instead. I frequently begin talking about issues and struggles before I really let them steep and sit and be meditated upon. I am not against talking to someone you trust about the things you go through, but I do believe I am at fault for too quickly speaking and not enough time spent in thinking things through first.

Which leads me to the point of this note: my journal gained a good number of ink-filled pages throughout the duration of my stay in Charleston. This week I plan to post the thoughts I feel most publicly appropriate - lessons learned in solitude. Lessons learned in steeping. Lessons learned in resting.

We'll keep it light and simple for the first couple of posts.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lessons in Unseen Weight


I close my eyes for a moment and feel the physical burn of weariness from the past few days. I am thankful to be closing up this day - the sort of day that holds a certain, unseen weight to it. The sort of day where I am aware of sirens everywhere - fire trucks, police cars, and most terrifyingly - ambulances. The sort of day where I feel close to tears at any given moment, though it is not certain why. My insecurities rise to the surface and, though I try hard to place a veil over them, it's like trying to hide behind a lamppost. The clouds toss back and forth the idea of darkness and storm, never quite sure of whether the coin is face up or tail up.

Though I try in great effort on some days to fight it, today I have given into the unseen heaviness that has seemingly slowed my steps to a crawl. I want so badly to believe that it does not exist, that it is all in my head - that I am strong enough to take on the blues in the front lines of battle. That nothing is too great to defeat me, especially something I don't even have a name for.

But no, I am only foolish enough to believe that I am invincible, that a weight cannot add pounds to my day - that I, alone, am strong enough to take on anything at any given season in my life with ease.

And I rest alone in the knowledge that my Father does not despise a bruised spirit, but cradles it like a father holding a child with scraped up knees.

Like a father waiting with open arms to a wander-lusting son, saying, "Come on, let's get the pig slop off of you. I've got a feast prepared."

Like a gardener waiting for a seed to break through the soil, patient as I am having to grow; unsure of what I will be.

I rest alone in the Loving Arms that take my bruised spirit and tell me that these bruises do not hold their sway forever. That I am not forgotten and left for dead. That I am still breathing, still filled with Life.

And life is exactly what I need to reminded of today.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

lessons in greener grass.

I just got off of the phone with a dear friend. She is currently out of the country, following her heart into the great Central American unknown, teaching youth to see the world through the new eyes of a camera lens, filming heart-wrenching film projects in one of the village dumps where many call "home," pulling a kayak out in the afternoon to catch the sunset at dusk and reflect on the day. Doing exactly what she was born into this world to do for this moment.

I am here, inland and in the safe parish walls of a city I never would have imagined my trails would lead me to. Surrounded by familiar language, familiar faces, familiar conversation, the freedom to choose where I buy my groceries, easy internet access, a job that keeps me steady and lets me sit in a room with a piano.

Both decent sounding, eh?

To hear our voices on opposite ends of the phone line, you might think otherwise. Both of us weary of separate challenges, yearnings of the heart not met in our current longing for the comfort in good, familiar conversation, the other trying desperately to not focus on the urge to pack a bag and be somewhere else in the world.

Both of us are where we need to be. But that pesky, green hue is shining on the other side of the fence and I suppose it takes a conversation of stark contrast to put it all back into perspective.

My friend will have her familiar conversation soon enough. I will have my adventures in time.

Patience. Trust. Obedience. Prayer. Contentment. Discontentment. Living presently. And gratitude.

Tonight, gratitude. Reminders of the Hand that covers me in grace and blessing and love. And the pain and goodness of growth.

Visual gratitude:
Being woken up & dragged out of the house by my brother to see the sunrise. On Thanksgiving Day, 2010.

Everyone and everything used to encourage the pursuit of passions. And willing to learn your songs for free :)

My interesting variety of jobs here in Charlotte that are living proof you can make it as a "full-time musician."

Sweet reminders of my Tennessee home. The people and places that have given me foundation to be who I am becoming.

A kindred spirit, a child that brings joy and light, conversation that brings sanity, laughter and love at local bakeries.

the promise of new adventures :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Altars: Part I.

Tonight is a night of remembrance. Just what were those moments where I absolutely knew, with everything in me, that God's hand was so strongly guiding me into His path for my life? The characters of the Old Testament were always building physical, tangible altars to serve as reminders of God's sovereignty in their lives. I'm okay with attempting to repeat history, with slightly different materials. For now, my "altars" will be pen to paper, keeping pace with the memories as they return to me...

"You Probably Shouldn't Be Here."

When I entered college with intentions to be a music student, I thought I could somehow get away with using my voice as little as possible. The plan was to sing in the less-strict, non-audition choir on campus so that I could meet my needed ensemble requirements and hide away with my composition papers for the rest of the time.

But, of course, this was not going to work out for me.

After studying my schedule more closely, I realized the only large ensemble that would work was, without a doubt, the ever-strict, audition-only Concert Choir.

I had never been in a "real choir" before. I'd never made it past the mostly-elderly, lightly-populated church choir of my quiet, Southern Baptist upbringing.

So you can possibly imagine the fear that welled up inside of me as I prepared myself for my first vocal audition.

I remember entering the choir director's office - quiet, timid, sure that I would be rejected the moment he realized I had no experience singing with professional groups. I handed him my application. After scanning the information, he asked what "part" I sang. "Um, I'm not sure. In church choir, they always made me sing the soprano lines." (What a lame answer! I was done for!)

He sat the paper down on the desk, looked at me and said, "If you're not sure of what part you sing, I don't even know that you should be here, auditioning for choir. And we really need altos, anyway. (silence) But since you're here, we may as well hold the audition."

At this point, I almost felt relieved. Good, I won't get in! Now they'll HAVE to stick me in somewhere else!

He began doing various exercises to find my vocal range and I sang in as much ease as I knew how. I was already at the bottom, so I had nowhere to go but up, right? We then reached the most trying point of auditions: sight-singing.

The summer before entering college, my mother "warned" me of this "sight-singing," this panic-inducing terror used by music professors to strike fear in the hearts of their students. So, on a few occasions, she would hand me a sheet of music that I had never seen before, play the first note of the phrase, and make me guess the rest. I really didn't put too much thought into it past those few moments.

Until this moment.

Just as my mother had prepared me, the choir director played the first note of the line and left the rest up to me. When I finished, he seemed surprised and said, almost to himself, "Huh. That was better than most of my upperclassmen."

The dreaded audition process ended soon after and his parting words to me were, "Well, I think we can give you a spot in the alto section."

And that. Was that.

But in my heart, "that" was much bigger.

"God, what did you sign me up for?" A sense of joy, of excitement began to fill me. The choir director's doubts had been proven wrong! I couldn't have predicted this outcome if I had tried.

And so, for the next four years of my life, I experienced "real choir." My spring breaks were always decided for me, as we spent the week touring around a part of the United States or another part of the world. My "free" hours of the day lessened due to extensive rehearsals and campus concerts. My ears always ringing with the sound of vocal student friends belting out their latest soulful rendition of our semester's repertoire. And I would not have traded it for the world.

I knew, as I would soon see in many other instances, that God did not hold a desire for me to half-heartedly sing in the background, in the seemingly easier paths of mediocrity. I was to pursue this gift with excellence, always. I am to pursue this with excellence, always.

Maybe I don't always know what part to sing. At least, not yet. Maybe it's when I am at the bottom with nowhere else to go but up, that I am able to sing with ease. Because His promises are greater than what my straining eyes cannot yet see. So yes, excellence. Always.

Even if I am told I probably shouldn't be here.