"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Stone of Remembrance

If I were wearing boots, I'd be quaking in them.

I'm standing around,

Waiting for other people to have their turn.

I tell my best friend that I'm so shy,

I don't know what to say.

I've already ripped the plastic wrap off 3 CDs

And she has my camera around her neck.

I'm standing feet from one of my all-time favorite artists

Who's just given a phenomenal concert.

There's so much I'd like to say,

Like, "Thank you for being such an inspiration and encouragement to me."

"Thank you for all those blog posts that are such a help to young artists like me."

"Thank you for writing and singing truth."

"Thank you."

There's just one problem:

I am so shy.

Maybe it's because there's a fan girl in me,

And yet there's also an artist,

And maybe I know better than some just how human she really is?

Yet it feels a bit like meeting one of my heroes.

Maybe that's because it is?

I don't know.

The people in front of me finish,

And it's my turn,

And I open my mouth, not knowing what to say.

Fortunately, I don't have to start the conversation.

She looks at me and tells me I look familiar.

I'm absolutely shocked.

Somehow, the words, "Um, we've communicated online a couple of times" come out.

She thinks for a moment, then she says my name.


She knows my name.

This is turning out to be something even I wouldn't have dreamed up.

(And, believe me, I've dreamed up some pretty interesting encounters.)

She asks what I've been up to.

I stutter something about homework.

(Because, really, what else do college students do?

I can guarantee they don't sleep.)

Maybe she had to clarify,

Or maybe she wanted to know both,

Because next she says something about my music,

What I'm doing with that.

I don't even remember exactly what it was that she said,

But I know I would never have brought up my music on my own.

What have I been doing with my music lately?

It's kind of been one of those seasons . . .

Just no time.

And yet, there's more time than there was last year.

Maybe I just haven't been making time?

I manage to say that I haven't been doing as much as I'd like to,

But my goal for Christmas break is to put a set together.

She signs my 3 CDs

And we pose for a picture,

And I go home,

Scarcely even able to believe that Christa Wells knew who I was . . .

And asked about my music . . .

It takes me awhile to get to bed.

First, I must share the excitement of the evening with my friends on Facebook.

Then come the usual before-bed activities.

I open my composition book to write,

But it's a little hard with the refrain of "Shine" still coming through clear and strong in my head.

Instead, I flip through earlier pages,

Hurriedly scribbled characters

Spelling out the words I twist in my brain.

There are songs about friendship,

Songs about reconciliation,

Songs about mental illness,

Songs about laughter,

And lots of songs about being tired and needing sleep.

(I guess I should make more of an effort to write earlier in the day . . .)

I remember the events that sparked them -

The songs about death from when I watched my grandmother slip away,

The song about going into the river from a particularly inspirational sermon,

The song about steamer trunks from my family's summer cleaning project.

I look back on the pages

And find my years traced out in song,

These tiny stones of remembrance

Of the Faithfulness of God.

I finally manage to write something,

But falling asleep seems to be a different problem.

I can't stop thinking about my music -

All I've done,

All I haven't done.

But it's good.

It's good to remember what this last year has held.

It's good to remember that God has been working,

Even if it seems,

In my crazy, day-to-day life,

That not much has been going on music-wise.

Maybe it's time for me to lay a few stones of remembrance here?

What's Happened With My Music in the Past Year:

I got braver and ask some friends to critique a song for me while on a road trip.  They really liked it and asked me to sing it as we're riding in the van.  Very nervously, I did.  When I finished, everyone applauded.  I was humbled.
My friend encourages me to not write "elementary lyrics".  He knows that I can do better.  And I can.
I released Masterpiece, Album #2.
I'd gotten better at recording.
Maybe I'm getting a bit better at marketing, too?
I created a Facebook page the day after it released.
I asked for help through this blog in sharing about it.
Kelli Woodford and Pam Depoyan kindly responded to my pleas.
I'd never met them before, but I'm so glad I know them now!
I made my first $4.20 as an independent artist (and then some in the following weeks . . .).
I asked for $5 per album . . . and I sold almost all that I'd made (which wasn't very many, but every time someone asked for one, it meant the world to me).
"Past the Wishing" became the song that marked this season of my life.

According to Facebook, had writer's block for a couple of days.
Fortunately, it's never lasted too long.
Had my siblings take some new pictures of me.
Sold more CDs.
My amazing best friend recorded my first-ever interview, during which I talked way too much.
Lent.  I write "Fall on Grace".  I needed that song.  Still do.  Every day.
I showed the song to the friend who had given me advice on lyrics before, telling him those were the least elementary lyrics I'd ever written.  He agreed.
I nervously email my first draft to Ann Voskamp, whose post inspired the song.  She kindly writes back and thanks me for grace.

I'm just going to paste this from Facebook:
So Sunday, two days after once again coming face-to-face with some of my fears about my music (and particularly my voice, which happens to be my greatest insecurity in this area), two of the people at my church who had purchased CDs from me told me how much they enjoyed them! And one specifically told me that I had a lovely voice! It's amazing how God uses people to encourage us in exactly the areas in which we need the most encouragement! So blessed!
Released a demo recording of "Fall on Grace", which is still one of my favorite songs.
At one point, I was so inspired that I wrote songs on scrap paper in the middle of the day.  I love it when that happens!  So much fun!
Received a lot of encouragement from friends - seriously, there are days that this is what keeps me sharing what I write!

The cover art from my album was accepted in my school's art show.  Pretty impressive considering I used a cheap program that won't do what I want it to.
I was having trouble deciding what to write about and ended up with my best attempt yet on the issue of human trafficking.
I had a hard time going to sleep because I could imagine exactly how I would want a recording of the
song to sound and I really wanted to record it.
Several friends critiqued for me and one even started working on a guitar part for me.
Still would like to get that song recorded . . .

Divided songs on Noisetrade into albums.
Started working on my website.
Talked with Dad about maybe doing voice lessons.
Looked back at God's Faithfulness in my music.
Found that even remodeling can inspire music (as if there was ever any doubt).
Signed up to do special music in July.

Continued working on website in spare time.
Worked on updating all social media to match website.
Got my keyboard set back up in my room again.
Was a counselor at summer camp.  Sang one of my newer songs to my campers and they loved it.  One little girl wanted a recording.

Officially announced the new website.
Planned two weeks before special music to play the song I'd sung to my campers and an arrangement of "Past the Wishing".  Practiced once and made little progress.
Planned one week before special music to play "Fall on Grace" with a piano accompaniment and "How He Loves" because I knew it.  Lost hours of sleep throughout the week getting ready.
Asked Dad for help critiquing accompaniments and almost started bawling telling him how much I wanted to be doing music over the summer and literally hadn't had any time to practice.  The voice lessons the two of us had talked about earlier in the year never happened.
Played the songs for special music and even told the story behind "Fall on Grace".  Received a lot of compliments.

Started working on videos from July performance.
Had a little more time to practice.
Spent a couple nights before school started playing the piano for quite awhile.  Realized how much I miss that when I don't get it.

Was inspired to write in the middle of the day again.
Roommates critiqued some lyrics for me.  So good to have feedback!
Got the videos from my July performance posted.
Got to practice the piano for HPE homework.  Three times.  Best assignments ever!

Had a tough week struggling with sin.  Fought by playing and singing for awhile, and later singing hymns while doing the dishes.
Got to pose for a friend's art project (a.k.a. got to play the piano for over an hour!!!).
Went to Christa Wells' concert.  This is the closest thing I get to creative community, and it was awesome.
All the stuff this post started with.
Had several people ask about my music since the Christa Wells concert.  People at my new church are now starting to find out that I write.
Realized that my lyrics have been a bit more "elementary" lately and resolved to do better.
Spent the last several days thinking about my music, what God's been doing in my life, and what this all means to me.  Which has been totally awesome.

So, in sum?

God is Good.

And I've been missing that lately.

I've started praying for guidance again

As I'm trying to take steps on this crazy path He's leading me down

And hopefully I'll be paying more attention

To His Faithfulness in leading me as I walk.

Thank You, Jesus.



CynthiaJSwenson said...

That old piano keyboard takes me back to a long time ago as it reminds me of my grandparents old piano. I enjoyed this post & am praying you'll clearly hear God's voice in everything...there is no better way for us than His path! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

Sylvia R said...

I find special treasure in these words:
I... "find my years traced out in song,
These tiny stones of remembrance."
Yes, I see the tracing in your recounting. Warm and lovely.

Mary said...

Hello, Cynthia! That keyboard? Found it at a railroad roundhouse when we went for a photography shoot. I don't know that I'd want to play it - it was pretty dusty - but I love its character! Thanks for your prayers, friend! We all need prayers like that. Love & prayers for you, too, friend!

Mary said...

Thank you, Sylvia! It was definitely a special time of realization for me. So good to hear from you, friend!

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