2014 – A Year in Review

2014 has been pretty wild. Let’s recap it, month by month.  (Important backstory information. I was born and raised in Maine, and started writing songs as preparing for our weekly worship gatherings for our little chuch plant, two years ago. I kept writing, filling up my notebook with songs, with nowhere to perform them — and then in the summer of 2013, the Lord revealed that He was calling us to relocate to Nashville– the Christian Music Capital of the WORLD. Also important — in December of 2013 I answered the call of Jon Acuff to make the next year count for something and was put into a group of amazing, like minded people that are all trying to make their goals and dreams reality. It’s called the 30 Days of Hustle.)

In January, my goal was to prepare my resume, letters of recommendation, and obtain my teaching certificate for Tennessee.  Check, check and check.

In February, my goal was to write 8 songs. I wrote 7 — one them is still a favorite: The Language Barrier, inspired by the amazing work that The Seed Company does in Bible Translation.

In March, it was time to apply for jobs! I was a band director back in Maine, and was looking for positions as a music teacher or band director, or as an Instruction Technology Specialist. I was checking 20 websites daily for job openings. (Middle Tennessee doesn’t take advantage of the services that put all openings in one place. UGH.)  I learned a lot, become skilled in adjusting cover letters to suit the position, and tweaking resumes as well.

In April, I had interviews, and we took our first trip to Nashville! We were able to attend a small group meeting of our future church home, as well as go to a Sunday Service! As we were driving around, in the “buckle of the Bible Belt” we saw churches everywhere. We were so grateful that careful research, and the beauty of listening to sermons online, that we had already decided where we needed to be! We secured an apartment that we loved in a suburb to the North of the city.

In May, I had a job lined up — working in a gorgeous computer lab at a wonderful elementary school in Franklin, TN.  Which is significantly south of the city. So I started researching my commute. My substantial commute.  May also was a time of tremendous conflicting emotions. Excitement because our moving date was getting closer and closer, and extreme sadness at leaving my students behind. I had my final concert with my high school band and my last Memorial Day Parades.

my last BRHS concert

 

 

June held more tears as I said good-bye to my Seniors, and ALL of my students. I was leaving behind the legacy that I had created in my 13 years teaching in that small, oceanside community. Farewell parties at school, at church, and goodbyes to family, neighbors and friends.  We loaded up a HUGE Penske truck with everything we owned, and even had it trailing our second vehicle. Our good friend Rob helped my husband on the 1,256 mile (over two days, thank you very much) drive, while my sister came along with my two sons and me.  On the very last day of June, we arrived and unloaded our lives into our apartment north of Nashville.

July was all of the summer that we had, since school starts at the beginning of August here! What a shock!  My husband landed a good job on our first full day here. The rest of the month we were learning how to be a family with my husbands new schedule — overnights. We learned how to be quiet during the days, and got to know our branch library pretty well!

We began school in August — with the miraculous happening, and both boys able to attend my school with me! Jonathan, our 4 year old, was accepted as a peer model in the special education preschool classroom — which is amazing, since even though the school right next door to us had a preK classroom, the waiting list was 3 times longer than the capacity! This naive Maine girl had a LOT to learn getting used to the way cities run things!

September brought the first Labor Day that I have ever truly and completely enjoyed — because I had already been at work for a month, rather than having to say good bye to summer on that same holiday!

October started amazingly! I had my very first gig in Nashville!!  Here is an audio of my song “Doubtless Faith,” which I wrote with my dear friend Lindsay, performed at the Pavilion Coffee House.

 

After that, though the month was a blur of sickness after sickness. The boys and I traded off the school cold, while avoiding the stomach bug that was going around at school. My husband got both of those, AND the flu and missed an entire week of work. But — I am so thankful for my Jamberry  business, which I had started in October.  Even though we didn’t have the income from my husband’s job from that week, God provided through amazing friends and Jamberry to make sure we had food on the table and gas money.

November was great! We had a full week off at Thanksgiving, which was divine, and every day that passed was getting us closer to when my parents were coming to visit us!! On Thanksgiving Eve we were invited to celebrate with friends of ours from church. Their large family gathering made us feel right at home! On the actual Turkey day we found an Asian restaurant that had a wonderful buffet open. It was fantastic! (I’m not one for traditional fare. Unless we are at festivals or county fairs.)

December dawned with a count-down — just 11 days before my parents (Mimi and Grampie to their wildly excited (read: impatient) grandchildren) arrived from Maine! Unfortunately, their arrival coincided with Stephen’s diagnosis of strep throat, and Jonathan’s symptoms starting. Their visit involved snuggles and staying close to home. It was a beautiful visit, even if we didn’t get nearly anything we had hoped accomplished. Oh well. 🙂 The sickness didn’t end quickly. We spend one long night at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with Jonathan, trying to figure out what he had, when the antibiotic wasn’t working on his symptoms, and the strep test came back negative. Since then, the boys are on a cycle of one being almost better and the other one coming down with other symptoms. Christmas had both boys under the weather, and now on New Years Eve, they are on the upswing (again) and Randy and I  are the ones battling symptoms. I have taken four packages of Emergen-C today, and am diffusing all of the health inspiring oils that I can (from my brand new Young Living Oils that I was blessed beyond belief to acquire.)

2015 has great things in store right away — I am headed to a Christian Songwriters Retreat near Knoxville on January 9th!  Christa Wells, whom I greatly admire and can’t wait to meet, and her co-writer Nicole Witt are putting the event on for just 14 women to come, learn and soak up the experience. I am so very, very excited!  Even better — the woman I am traveling to Knoxville with is in the 30 Days of Hustle with me!! (Remember from the backstory at the beginning of the post?)  We discovered this fact yesterday! Maybe this is where my long held dream of creating a Christian version of the amazing group The Wailin’ Jennys (look them up!!) will become a reality?? Who knows!

All I know is that this amazing year has taught me so many things, and I cannot wait to see what is next!

 

Wishing you all an amazing 2015!!

— Meredith

From Authenticity to Boldness — a 4 year Journey, One Word at a Time

Authentic (2011): I had been compartmentalizing myself on the internet — with a running and weight loss blog and then a faith based blog. I was tired of feeling like I was splitting myself in two, and being shallow versions of myself in both places.  I created a brand new blog, which merged the two of them together into a brand new site. It was called My Journey to Authenticity.

The next year, it was Cultivate (2012). I had to make the most important relationship in my life my priority. I delved into Bible studies and prayer times and embraced the fact that I am already beloved,  but that I needed to cultivate my relationship with God.

By the end of that year, the Lord had started a new thing. He had started giving me songs to sing. They kept coming, and I kept writing. My focus for the next year became Rejoice (2013).  I wrote blog posts, and songs, and learned how to find my voice. During that summer, the Lord dropped the biggest, craziest bomb in our lives, revealing that He was calling us to move to Nashville!

Last year, preparations already in place and being made for our move at the end of June, my word was (quite necessarily) Believe (2014).  Believe served me very well. It got us here, in Nashville. It helped me have the confidence to start calling myself a songwriter. It gave me the boldness and courage to reach out to songwriters that I respect and admire. It gave me the courage and strength to believe, despite the fact that there are more talented people here in this metropolis than there were residents of my home city . . . and that hopeful musicians are a dime a dozen . . . to believe that God has a plan to use me, and that He brought us here for a reason. He connected me with wonderful friends who support, encourage and nudge me out of the comfort zones that I created here after leaving all of my other ones behind.

It has become increasingly obvious that fear has become a real issue for me. It paralyzes me. Fear is what is keeping me from doing the work that will make me ready for when He reveals His plan. In order to fight these fears– these feelings of inadequacy that sabotage me — I need to be BOLD.

bold

I need to boldly believe the promises that He has given me. I need to boldly approach the throne of grace. I need to boldly do the work that is required — and rejoice every minute! I need  to pray boldly for His help and strength to accomplish to good works that He has set before me to do. I need to boldly believe that I am His workmanship, His work of art. 

I need to remember that at no time am I ever alone.

And the best part of all of this, is that when I am able to be bold in conquering myself, I will be free to boldly proclaim His love to everyone — through my songs, my writings, and anything else that I do!

That is my mission this year, dear friends. Are you with me?  What is your word? Let me know, and leave a link to your blog in the comments, because I would LOVE to make you a graphic with your word!

 

 

Fear: The Invitation We Shouldn’t Accept

Let’s be honest.

Let ME be honest.

I have a list of things that I SHOULD be doing that I KNOW will help me achieve my goals.

  1. Practice my guitar daily
  2. Vocal exercise research (and then practicing whatever ones I find that I think will be useful)
  3. Writing exercises from the lyric writing book I have been reading.
  4. Consistently staying in the WORD to keep my priorities and inspiration in check.

But I’m not. I start out strong and make it a couple of days… and then life gets in the way.

I have a list of things that I SHOULD be doing that I KNOW will help me be the healthy person that I want to be.

  1. Eat smaller portions.
  2. Drink lots and lots of water.
  3. Get INTENTIONAL exercise
  4. Get enough sleep at night.

But I’m not. Drinking water is like breathing– so I usually do okay with that one, but lately, not so much.

I know exactly why I am not doing them. And while it presents itself as laziness, a lack of motivation or passion for the end result, the truth is, it’s FEAR.

WordItOut-word-cloud-615113

 

And I hate that.
Because I know that in HIM there is no fear.  And I know that at the root of it all is the fear that I will not be good enough. BUT HELLO — if I never try, then I will never improve, and of course I won’t be good enough.

Here’s one more thing. If God has given me this assignment — to come to Nashville, and write music, and share the joy of His love to people, and I am too afraid to do anything, and I don’t practice and prepare so that the when the opportunity presents itself — then He would be perfectly just and right to choose someone else to achieve His purposes.

God doesn’t NEED ME to accomplish His will. He is inviting me.

Every time I choose to sleep a few more minutes instead of spending time in His word, or in His presence, I RSVP’ing a “no thanks … I’m washing my hair that night.”

Every time I keep scrolling through facebook instead of getting out my guitar, or working on those object writing pieces, I am RSVP’ing a “no thanks, it’s just such a busy time right now. Maybe later?”

It has to stop.

The Lord of the Universe is inviting me on this wild adventure. But I have to be brave enough, and bold enough to do the work necessary along the way.  The thing that I always forget is that HE IS STILL WITH ME during the journey. He isn’t just waiting out of sight along the road. He is with me when I get up in the morning to get into the Word and His presence. He is with me when I am practicing my guitar and trying for the seventeenth time to make the barred chord transitions ring and sound smooth.  He is with me through the whole journey.

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Friends — what is God inviting you to do?  Let’s be brave and bold and answer “YES!” to His call!

Tell me about your journey. Let me pray for you and cheer you on!

Trusting and Faith in the Waiting

Abraham is widely respected as being the “father of the faith.” And why not? God told him to go, and he went. God promised that HE would father a great nation, and he believed that it would be so — even though he and Sarah were already middle aged (or downright OLD).

(For the sake of clarity, I will refer to them as Abraham and Sarah, rather than changing their names back and forth.  #JustSoWe’reClear)

Repeatedly in Genesis chapters 12 – 20 God is reaffirming his call on Abraham. When Abraham questions, God calmly reminds him of the promise, and that it would indeed come to pass. And Abraham had a long time to wrestle with the waiting.

Are you in a period of waiting? We are! We have moved to this new land, far from our families. We are trusting that when it is time to move and start doing the work  he brought us here for, that He will let us know.  It’s been just over 5 months. Abraham waited decades for the promised Isaac to arrive. (Five months doesn’t seem all that long when put into perspective.)

But let’s talk about faith. And trust. As I was reading about our friend Abraham, I was just in awe of his absolute faith and trust in God.  He packed up his entire life and went out into a complete unknown!! His faith that God would accomplish what He had promised was strong and sure.

Until they approached a new country, and he was not familiar with the King. All of a sudden, God must have seemed far away. Because instead of clinging to the same faith that allowed him to leave his home for the wilderness, he fell apart! Fearing for his life, he asked Sarah to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. (Later we see that he wasn’t “technically” lying.)

As I read that part of the story, I stopped cold. It hit me forcefully that I do the same thing. We had the faith to leave our families and comfort zones behind. We packed everything up to follow God and this crazy songwriting/ministry dream. But at the first sign of hardship, trouble, financial stress, or discomfort — I flew into a panic. There were tears — many of them — as I wondered where my youngest would go to school, since the naive country girl didn’t realize that having a waiting list 3 times as long as the one pre-K class available is a normal thing. When we finally found a school with an opening, we cried and wrung our hands wondering how on earth my husband would get both children to different parts of the city on time.  We solved that issue by having my oldest son come to school with me. But — when my hours were different than I had originally been told, all of a sudden our “kid drop-off” plan wasn’t going to work!  And all the while, God must have been just waiting for me to remember that He loves my children even more than I do, and that He ALWAYS has their best in mind.

After a couple of days the situation resolved itself in the exact way that I hoped for, but didn’t think was possible. But — I had to wait in order for all of the puzzle pieces to fall into place. I had to start my new job, become friends with a woman who has become like a sister to me, and through that friendship, I learned that the special education preschool program at my school accepted “peer model” students.  I talked with the teacher,  and my principal.  My principal talk with the district coordinators. Jonathan was accepted into the preschool program at my school. Both of my boys attend the same school as me — which is what my heart desperately wanted, but didn’t believe was possible!

The saying “God’s provision is never early, but is always ON TIME” is so true, and we have seen it proven over and over agin . . . usually followed by a few days of panic. We are learning, though, to trust first, pray second (and third and continuously), and then just relax. While we are relaxing we are continuing on in the last things He gave us to do. Serving in our church. Working diligently at our jobs.

Waiting is hard. I take immense comfort in knowing that God doesn’t mind reminding us of the promises He has spoken.

And that even if we freak out in the middle and pretend that we aren’t married, like Abraham did — or freak out and act like our children are going to be abandoned in a big city, like I did — God still has our backs. Thank goodness. 🙂

What transition are you in right now?  How can I pray for you in your time of waiting?

-Meredith