|the weight of my song was heavy|

The past year has felt a lot like getting sucked into a time warp of seemingly unwanted growing experiences.  I had a very productive and musical 2014, and I was on track to have an equally or more successful 2015.  What most people do not know is that by the end of 2014 into the beginning of 2015, I was having an identity crisis, one that ended up lasting until recently.  I was having a difficult time understanding myself, making it hard to be creative, because I also didn't know what I wanted musically.  I can't blame this season on any one thing and I don't judge this season.  It's natural, as a human, to question things - even when that thing is yourself.  When you mix feelings of insecurity with people pleasing with busyness with expectations, it's easy to lose parts of yourself, which then tends to influence relationships and work, likes and dislikes, making it near impossible to really see anything.

In the midst of trying to understand myself, pneumonia got the best of me, and for the next two months, my only time spent out of the house was every two days at the doctor's office where they kept giving me massive shots (not of whiskey, unfortunately).  Some of those days were gloomy.  I did, however, start and finish the entire series of LOST as well as every other show in my life that I had started and not finished.  So there I was - a 27 year old child, bedridden with complete songwriter's block, unable to breathe well or sing, eyes exhausted from netflixion and candy crush.  During those couple months I was forced to analyze myself.  My questions included but were not limited to: 1) what is wrong with me?  2) who are my real friends? 3) what are the quality of those friendships?  4) why am I not happy?  5) how am I spending my time?  6) what do I even care about? 7) why can't I get another dog-friend for maggie moo?

I started to grow physically stronger due to my three antibiotics, two inhalers, and three caretakers (my parents and moo), but my unanswered questions left me feeling unsettled.  As the months went on, the growing anxiety about myself, my music, and my career started to manifest itself in my life, and even more so when I tried to ignore it.  I no longer wanted to perform or write.  I sang in church every week, because I truly loved it, and it was my job, but it was difficult.  However, I, along with my team, had created a musical atmosphere that made complete sense to me.

Over the course of the next few months, it had been impressed on me to start writing original music for our services, but like most things, I had been avoiding it.  The few days prior to my first "breakthrough" were rough and emotional.  I was feeling very alone and confused.  But it was a Tuesday, and I had to plan a Sunday service.  I felt uninspired and like I was on autopilot, which is never a good feeling as a worship leader or as a person in general.  There was a reading from Lamentations 3 - a direct reflection of God's faithfulness and goodness - and I had to find a song to fit the reading.  There are thousands of contemporary worship songs that at least say the word "faithfulness" or "goodness," but apparently I couldn't find them.  Reluctantly, I decided I had to write a song.  I can assure you that I didn't start writing it without initially kicking and screaming.  But as soon as I made the choice to be obedient, it came naturally and it brought me peace, as well as made me feel emotional and vulnerable.  The weight of my song was heavy - I was being mended and prepared for something and God wanted to remind me of His faithfulness in a way that I understood most.

So there I was.  I was a singer/songwriter and a worship leader.  I was still figuring out different aspects of my life, but of that I was sure.  I had tied a good portion of my identity to my specific job description, but I didn't think anything of it at the time.  It's good when a person takes ownership of what they do and why they do it.  I felt like my job and my passion finally started to align, and I was no longer at odds with myself.  The artist within me and the leader within me started to like each other.  That feeling was new, and I liked that it made sense to me and those around me.

My vision started to become clearer and I began to once again see myself as a good songwriter, which I hadn't felt like in a very long time.  I decided it was time to start planning to record an album for my church community, so they could have the same experience in the car or in their homes as they did on Sunday evenings.  I was having a moment.  You know those moments, the ones that make you feel like you're exactly where you're supposed to be.   If you're like me you've gone through a good portion of your life on a path walking next to the version of yourself that is the real you, opposed to just being that person.  But this was it, I had arrived, and I was finally the person.  I was standing in the right place, and I didn't feel confused anymore.  I had a plan.

But you know how it goes.  You're sailing along and everything is good and making sense and you're right where you're supposed to be and then your boat hits a very large rock.  Maybe it's more of a boulder.  The boulder comes out of nowhere and it's completely out of your control.  You had done right by your boat - you had prepared your boat - maintained the integrity of your boat - you washed it, you mended the sails, you figured out the problems and took action to fix the boat.  But a boulder can come out of no where - it had made it's home in that course long before you even thought about building the boat or setting sail - and there's no avoiding it.

The weight of my song was heavy.

When a job is tied to a vision - losing it can be debilitating.  Especially when it's lost under circumstances that you had no control over.  I broke.  I spiraled into a constant back and forth between complete emotionlessness and extreme emotion accompanied by anger and anxiety.  I was depressed.  I was grieving.  I had gone from a person of purpose to a shell of a person who had no motivation to stand up off of the living room floor.  I was a leader who turned into a pile of insecurity.  I felt like a failure, even though everyone continued to assure me that I was not.  It is much easier to remember that you're not a failure when you feel like a rockstar - not as easy to remember when you haven't showered for three days.

I knew in my mind that all I had wanted and hoped for, all of the plans that I had, were not lost.  But they were now a burden and extremely overwhelming.  People kept reminding me that I was meant to do great things and my music was so pretty and this was all part of God's plan and so on and so forth, etc.  Uplifting and encouraging words came at me left and right from the people I cared about most, but I was standing behind an impenetrable shield - with headphones on - and sunglasses that covered my face.  I was angry, hurt, confused, and I did not care.  I was convinced everyone viewed me as wounded.  I didn't like to have conversations with most people because I felt like they could see through my mechanical head nod and agreeable smile.

It became difficult for me to sing in church, even though I was in a sea of people with no microphone.  Every time I would get a note out, I felt like breaking down in tears.  I didn't think I would have anything to give to people again as a worship leader.  I felt cut off from a community that I had poured myself into.  In reality, I am the one who cut myself off because it's easy to move on unhealed when you're not facing the source of where you were hurt.  I've recently made a conscious effort to reconcile that part of myself through the cultivation of certain friendships, which has been essential to my healing process.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy for me to reference back to where I was standing, or sitting, just a few months ago.  I am now able to see that the boulder didn't break the boat, even though it felt like it.  The loss didn't break the vision, even though it looked like it.  The boulder forced me to reroute the boat - the loss forced me to see through a new lens.  This lens was buried somewhere under layers of dirt and I had to spend some time digging.

Some days I still get sad, and that's ok.  I believe in the cliche, "one chapter ends and another one begins," but that fact doesn't mean the previous chapter doesn't exist - it means that things do change and people do grow.  Most days I am thankful.  I am thankful for my friends and family who kept encouraging me even on the days they could not get through to me.  I am thankful that not everything is in my control.  I am thankful for the things I do not know or understand - the things the reveal themselves in perfect timing.

For the first time in my life, I am unapologetically embracing the idea of writing original music straight from Scripture.  There is no better way, for me at least, to connect to the truth of God - to be reminded of His character, goodness, and faithfulness - that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He has given us a hope and a future.  And I am excited to share it with you. 

On Thanksgiving Day I will be releasing "Doxology," feat. Lee Martin, as a pre-release to the EP I will be recording in 2016.  I hope you love it, and I'm thankful for your support.

I write all of this to say: the weight of my song was heavy - until I realized it wasn't meant to be carried alone.

|blankets for the homeless|

As I walk from my car to the front door of Jungle Atlanta for Week 1 of Sing for Your Life Season 3, I have one thought in my head: I am very cold and I have to get inside right now.  Minutes go by after walking inside, and I forget about the temperature beyond the walls.  I am even warm enough to take my jacket off as I enjoy the performances offered by this season’s talented contestants.  The show ends and I put on my furry leopard print jacket.  I brace myself for the cold and walk outside and think: I cannot wait to get home and immediately get under my blankets.  

I slept well on Thursday night.

As I sit here writing this post, I am overwhelmed by the luxury of choice.  To turn the heater on.  To make coffee.  To put my sweater on.  To take my scarf off.  To write these sentences.  To sit here.  To wait for someone else to do something about the so many somethings in the world.

I have so many choices.  And they often stress me out.  The very thing that stirs my anxiety is something I should actually view as beautiful.  

I have the power of choice in my hands.

Let me extend this realization to you and encourage you to take action.  Would you choose to provide warmth for those who have no such choice of comfort?  If the answer is yes, I ask you to please bring gently-used or new blankets to Sing for Your Life this Thursday night, January 15th.  I will personally see to it that your blanket is given to someone in great need.  

Please stand with me and resolve to turn yesterday’s annoyances into today’s opportunities.  Anxieties into growing experiences.  Worries into small assurances.  Choices into power.

 Love,

Amanda