When BOLD means driving to the top of a mountain

There were twelve of us crowded into luxurious leather couches, leaning close to hear the wisdom, love and inspiration that oozed out of Christa Wells and Nicole Witt.  Both ladies are established songwriters and performers, and when they pair up in song, chill bumps are always included.

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In November, a single facebook post got the ball rolling on this magical “Songwriter’s Retreat.” The result was a mixture of lyricists, poets, singers and songwriters of an amazing age spread, gathered together to learn more about the craft.  With the unity of a common faith, the stage was set for true community, the linking of hearts and stories, tears and triumphs.

I drove back down the mountain a different person.

The new me realizes that this dream He planted in me is going to take some real work. Writing the songs is the easy part. (And it isn’t easy.) My word for the year, BOLDperfectly describes the current leg of my journey.

It will take BOLDNESS to BELIEVE that I am enough.

It will take BOLDNESS  to contact people in the industry to find out where to play, and it will take BOLDNESS to strike up conversations with other songwriters.

It will take BOLDNESS to co-write with strangers. And to let those strangers become friends.

It will take BOLDNESS to reach out, to promote myself as an artist, and to try to find the other two missing people for my dream.

It took boldness to send the email that allowed this amazing weekend to be part of my story.

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My heart is full, my dreams are front and center, and I am boldly evaluating and preparing, so that I am ready for the next step. Thank you, Christa and Nicole, for offering yourselves to us. We treasure the gift of your music, your voices, and your wisdom.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

 

Promises —

There is so much on my heart as I try to process everything that I have learned over this migratory adventure that God has provided for us.

After years have passed, we can see the reasons for things that we thought would achieve a completely different purpose. For example — when my husband got the call to plant a church in Boothbay Harbor, where I taught for thirteen years, we had visions of changing hearts and lives for Christ in the community that I loved so dearly.  But — though we toiled and served and worked and prayed (oh, how we prayed), the church plant never outgrew the confines of our living room.

But — I wrote a heartfelt song that became my anthem for a time. Listen to What it All Comes Down To on my SoundCloud account. And as time passed, the church dissolved, and we continued to pray, all the pieces came together in July of 2013 when we felt the Lord leading us to Nashville. It was a crazy and exciting time as we used the next year as a long goodbye —  to students, my huge family, friends and everything we love behind us in the rearview mirror as we pulled away in a HUGE yellow moving truck.

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And guess what — another song came out of it. 🙂  It was my first co-writing experience, too –which was such a joy! Listen to Doubtless Faith on my Soundcloud.

We have felt His constant guidance and love through this journey — we have so many GOD stories. Of provision, of schools working out for my children, of things that seemed like a door shutting leading the way to something BETTER happening. . . We know without a doubt that we are here for a reason, and that we can trust His promises. We can cling to them, and we can rest in them.

What promises are you clinging to in this season? How can I pray for you?

Love,

Meredith

 

When the FEAR turns to DANCING — and other lessons from the cave

We arrived in Nashville on June 30th, 2014. We left behind everything that we knew and loved on June 29th.

 

Nashville Skyline

Every comfort zone that I had in Maine has been stripped away — with the exception of my husband, children, and guitar.  Our friends and family are now 1,256 miles away. My status as the band director that helped shape young lives for the past 13 years is gone.  The safety of the income that I received from the job that I adored — definitely, woefully gone.

But instead of complaining about the circumstances (though I will admit to doing my fair share of whining before He got hold of me), I now remember the words of my Pastor that he shared with us recently about the present situation of the church plant with which we have become involved. “It’s like we’re in a cave, and God is keeping us here, because He doesn’t want anyone to see what He is doing.”  He reminded us about the many times that God would reveal to David part of his future calling, and then spend years in the cave, preparing for the calling.

Those words were the Holy perspective that I needed during this exhausting, exhilarating time.

It is exhausting to be literally counting pennies, and wondering if the gas in the car is going to make it to payday and still allow me and the boys to get to school, 45 minutes each way, every day. It is exhausting to wonder if the groceries are going to last.  It is embarrassing to now qualify for reduced price lunches for the boys, and be so completely grateful that we do  qualify, because it means I only need to worry about feeding myself during the school days.

It is frustrating to want things and to have to go without. (It is humiliating to know how many idols I have been hearing drop from their pedestals.)

I hear the line from Great is Thy Faithfulness, “all I have needed Thy hand hath provided,” and realize that since You haven’t provided any of those things that I long for, that I don’t need them.  Because God has provided for us, mysteriously, miraculously, and amazingly- – – over and over again. Some day, I will tell you the story of the blessings that came without a single word of asking on our part, to help us get here.

But I am here to tell you that it does not take long for the child of God to forget what He has done. A recent song that I wrote with a beautiful friend of mine has a verse that rings in my heart, again and again.

“You say be still and know that I am God
Why would I bring you here to leave you now?
Rest my child and remember everything I’ve done–
You were never meant to carry this on your own. . .”

In my more selfish moments I have had emotional temper tantrums at God, wondering how I am supposed to move forward with this songwriting thing — what HE BROUGHT ME HERE FOR — if we have literally nothing extra after the bills are paid.

When my pastor spoke the words about our church being in the cave, I felt the Lord speaking peace and love into my heart.  Right now, my little family and I are in the cave. He is preparing us for something. In this time, I must be faithful to cultivate the skills, the words and the music that He has given me, until such time as He moves.  In creating this situation for us, He is giving us a real understanding of what it means to trust Him. He has also ensured that I will not be able to try to push ahead of His timing with the singing/songwriting. In my attempts to not let fear win, I could easily see myself rushing into something that I am not ready for. God is protecting me — isn’t that just like Him?

So as exhausting as this season is, it is also exhilarating — because the God that made the heavens and the earth, and the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, is carefully providing and taking care of us. We have no doubt that His purposes, and His plans will prevail — and we will not stop seeking His face, His glory, and His presence!

Release — {Five Minute Friday}

In order to fully live in God’s will, I have to be willing to let go of what I love to receive what He intends for me. And I love being the band director to these amazing students.

 

my last BRHS concert

 

We are moving to Nashville, TN in 9 days. I have less than a week here in my beloved seaside town before I pack up my boys and stay with my parents for a few days before the big move. I have had to say goodbye to students, colleagues and friends. I have had to pack up a band room, and file back music that I have neglected during a 13 year career.

We have several knowns for the next chapter– a church, an apartment, and a job for me. But there are countless unknowns that we have to be willing to create space for — to release what we have now for the things to come.

I am releasing my identity as a band director, and trusting in my identity as a Daughter of the King.

I am releasing fears and insecurities, and trusting the dream. Believing that He is bringing us 1,256 miles away from all that is comfortable for a reason. And that obedience doesn’t require understanding. It requires faith.

And right now– I can do that. I can walk by faith. I can take the steps forward that I can see, and I can release control, and let Him lead.

What are you releasing today?

{Today I am linking up with Lisa Jo for 5 minute Friday. Come play along!}