Tag Archives: Art

I Fight Anxiety Through Taking Back Words

22 Mar

I’ve had this phrase rolling around my head lately.

I keep pushing it back, telling myself I am ok.

I say it to myself when I wake up in the morning and an immediate feeling of dread washes over me, like I did something terribly wrong but I can’t remember what it was.

When I am literally sick to my stomach and can’t eat because I am anticipating an uncomfortable social situation in my mind, rolling it over and over until I don’t know how to think about anything else.

“I really struggle with anxiety.”

It’s taken me 30 years to say it.
I don’t know what that means, necessarily.
I don’t want label myself.
Or limit myself.
Or pretend I am a mental health professional.

But somehow, admitting it gives it less power.

Whatever it is, I don’t have to let it control me.

I remember all the moments I thought fear had won.

All the tense, churning feelings in my gut.
All the obsessive replays of stupid conversations the other person probably never remembered.

That intense feeling like I am a problem.

Like I am inconveniencing people.
Like I don’t need to ruffle any feathers.

Panicking over a tiny social interaction.

Practicing in my head what I am going to say to someone, even if I’ve known them for years.

Repeating these conversations over and over in my head until I feel sick.

You sounds so stupid. 

Who are you to do this?

Words, betraying me.

This has been me… for as long as I can remember.

Not to say it’s always torture.
There have been moments of triumph.
Moments of victory.
Of letting go and conquering my fears.

Of doing what’s uncomfortable and talking to people I don’t know.
Picking up the phone.
Speaking up.
Speaking out, boldly.
Proclaiming truth.
Doing what I never thought I could do.

But lately, I feel like I am going backwards.
Maybe it’s just a culmination of life right now, or me just being tired from “adulting” but lately I feel I hardly go a moment without feeling the intense weight of anxiety.

Like I am always doing something wrong.
Like the it’s only a matter of time before the world figures out I am a fraud.

Like I have nothing to give.
Like I am 30, but I feel more like I am 4 years old, hiding in a dark closet shaking with fear.

Yet, I get up.
I rise again.
I whisper a feeble prayer.
I push through my day.
I do what I have to do.
I speak when I don’t want to speak.
I make effort to connect with people when I just want to crawl into myself.
When it feels too hard to function.

I write, this.

I fight anxiety through creating with words.

I take them back and make them my own.

I hear whispers of goodness and grace through the sentences that come out as I let go and let myself be honest.


I come to “the breaking point.”
And as tears flow,
I know

In my weakness His strength is made perfect.

I know,

He chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

I embrace Grace.

I know
Every day  is a choice to believe I am who my creator says I am:

I matter.
I have a voice.

I am not how I feel.
I am not whatever thing is plaguing me,
Be it my own imagination or a real diagnosis.

I am not my fears.
I am not my anxiety.

These words, go beyond anything I feel

Straight from the the burning heart of love and truth:

I am simply loved.

Let Me Tell You A Story

3 May

I am sitting down to write this morning because that seems to be the way I get my lungs and heart to work.

Writing sometimes feels like riding a stationary bicycle. You approach it with resistance, maybe a little boredom. You don’t really feel like you are getting anywhere, but later you feel the ache coupled with a sense of accomplishment.

You are getting stronger.

On better days you feel more like Captain Cook traversing over unknown lands, embarking on great adventures to go where no human has gone before.

At least, that’s what it seems,  until you see footprints in the snowy tundra.

Because really, there is nothing new under the sun.

But I don’t say that cynically.

The world can always be seen as new, it’s all a matter of whether we open our eyes or not.

So, as writers and artists we dare to portray ancient truths in new light. To make connections, build swinging bridges over deep and dangerous chasms.

We write to make sense of life. 

When you forget this, you begin to live like life isn’t very extraordinary. You begin to get into this routine, chugging through hours and days, waiting for something exciting to come your way.

You forget that being a writer and being an adventurer go hand-in-hand.

You realize you can make your own way,  so you do, slashing through thick proverbial jungle green, pointing out that bright yellow bird along the way.

“See that? Look at the way his feathers shine. Look! Look how those droplets of dew glisten in the sun on that green bud!”



And the party you are leading, (because you are never on this journey alone) “Ooh” and “Aww” because they were so focused on the mosquitos and overwhelming foliage they couldn’t see the beauty right in front of them.

And so eventually you come upon a clearing in a valley. Inevitably, somebody starts a fire. The weary travelers take off the loads they have been hauling and rest, staring into the flickering flames.

And you all feel like maybe you are just like  generations of people who lived this way, who found themselves journeying and  suffering and reminding each other of bright birds and water droplets right in front of them.

Then someone stands up, energized by thoughts of those that have gone before them, and speaks, those sacred, exciting, life-giving words,

 “Let me tell you a story…”

Then all goes silent.

Words tumble out, dancing upward with the firelight.

And the world becomes new.

Blue Like Jazz- A Movie Worth Saving

22 Mar

In 2008, on his cross-country bike ride.

I am a long time fan of Donald Miller. Seven years ago, I got a hold of  Blue Like Jazz. It was one of those books that came just at the right time. I was in the middle of  touring with a youth ministry, and many of my life-long beliefs were beginning to unravel right in front of me. I remember reading Miller’s words and feeling  free in a way I didn’t think was possible.

He gave me permission to question my faith.

He helped me begin to realize life wasn’t neat and tidy, that like jazz music, it doesn’t resolve.

Through his books, I also began to find my voice as a writer. I realized I too could write in a way that was deeply personal, exposing the mess that was me, so that other people could feel like they were not alone and come on this journey with me. For years my one goal was to be a “female Donald Miller.” I don’t claim to write as well as him, or in the same hilarious self-deprecating style, but I just wanted to be honest. I wanted to be free from the fear that because I believe in Jesus and feel “called” to be a writer, I have to give people step-by-step Sunday School answers.

Miller opened up a new conversation in the church that has become mainstream. (Even the phrase “open up a new conversation” was unheard of before 2005!) Blue Like Jazz beckoned a whole subculture to come out of the woodwork: us 20-somethings who have grown up in church and became disillusioned. He voiced our struggle with re-learning to love Jesus after cynically abandoning our parent’s religion.

That being said, I think my expectations were a little too high when I went to the pre-screening of Blue Like Jazz the movie last night. I had followed Don’s journey of trying to make his life into a movie through his most recent book, A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, so I already knew facts were going to be changed. I mean, they had to be, right? Even the best producers can’t take a rambling poetic memoir and turn it into a 90 minute watchable story, right?

I tried to disconnect myself from my love for Don’s words when I watched the movie but I just couldn’t. I was still taken by surprise by a few things, both positively and negatively.

1. Most of it was fictionalized. This is the part I had a hard time with. I love fiction, and I believe it holds a deeper truth that helps us understand life, but I think because the book was such a personal memoir, I almost felt cheated, like a friend was lying to me about their life. I know, I know, maybe I took it too personally. Trust me, I wanted to disconnect myself and see the movie as it was: another story in itself, a separate piece of art, but I found it almost impossible to do so. I am usually pretty opened-minded when it comes to seeing that a movie needs to be different from a book, it is inevitable. But again, maybe because I felt so personally connected to the memoir, I felt annoyed that it was so fictionalized.

2. It was hilarious. I know Don is funny, but I wasn’t expecting the movie to be a comedy. I mean, I laughed during most of it. The comedy in it was random and quirky, almost giving it a Napoleon Dynamite feel. I mean, I almost peed my pants at a few parts.

3. It was not cheesy. Despite the fact everyone has said that this is different then any “Christian” movie made, I was still expecting maybe some bad acting or cheesy dialogue. The dialogue was as witty as heck, and the acting was good. I was honestly more impressed with Claire Holt (Penny) then I was with Marshall Allman (Don.) But, overall it was convincing. They didn’t try to tame down or Christianize the reality of a party college which was refreshing.

I wasn’t a fan of the random animation spots though, I think it would have been better without them.

4. The entire story of making the movie made it more meaningful. Hearing from the director Steve Taylor share that this project has been six years in the making, knowing that it was dropped by financial backers only to be saved by some ordinary fans who started a kickstarter page and raised $345,992 from 4,495 backers. Realizing this was a completely independent movie in every sense of the word, made it extra special.

It gave me hope for all the story-tellers out there that love Jesus but hate that when the words “christian” and “movie” are together, most people cringe.

People came together and made something happen. They told a story that is more than just the life story of one guy who grew up  fairly sheltered in Church, then lost his faith in college, only to find it again through the most unexpected means.

It’s about people’s misconceptions of God, and the power of simply letting people know He is so much more loving than us flawed humans portray Him as.

It’s a story that resonates with so many, and that’s what made Blue Like Jazz worth saving.

Don’t Let Comparison Kill Creativity

25 Oct

Words have power.

Certain declarations are like pins pricking the balloons of creativity that are meant to float up into the sky and show the world something beautiful.  Instead, they are left lifeless and deflated on the ground.

“They are so talented, I could never be as good as them.”

“I may as well smash my guitar after hearing that guy.”

“After reading that, I feel like giving up on writing.”

“That’s a tough act to follow.”

“There is nothing new under the sun. Everything has already been created.”

I have said those things and more often I have thought those things. It’s impossible not to at times, especially in a culture where everything is a competition. We make art a contest.

I mean, isn’t it? After all, this is a dog-eat-dog world. There is not enough spotlight for everyone, only the best rise to the top, right?

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago asking the question,  Does Good Art Deserve Recognition? It was amazing to hear the feedback I got from writers, singers, musicians, etc. Most people want to live a child-like and care free existence where they are creating out of joy, but along the way life catches up with us and we began to feel chewed up and spit out by the system, we begin to compare ourselves with others and feel deflated. Our dreams become grounded.

We don’t need to stay there.

I say, it’s time to stop making art a competition. Everyone is unique, we all have something different and beautiful to give the world. We know this as four-year-olds, we learn it from Barney and Sesame Street, but somewhere before we hit middle school we stop believing it.

But we can go back there, tap into that pure flow, in the place that exists before the pressures to perform took over.

What we have is a unique expression of what it means to be a human being. We don’t have to hoard it or be ashamed of it.

There is enough beauty and color, enough pain and suffering, enough story in the world to reflect it in six billion different ways.

Is there a place for critique? Definitely, we all have a lot to learn. But if you pick something apart in the middle of it being born, it loses the spontaneous life in it.  Is there a place learn from others who may have years more experience at their craft, or a different perspective? For sure, diversity is a wonderful thing. But we can’t expect to be them. And we shouldn’t need to. The world doesn’t need another them.

So let’s stop using our words to negatively assess and compare our gifts with others.

Let’s stop judging and start living.

I recently read some of the best advice from Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet. He is speaking of poetry, but it applies to anything creative.

“You have asked if your verses are good. You ask me. You ask others. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when editors reject your efforts. Now, I beg you to give up in all that. You are looking outward, and that above all, you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.

There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart. Acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all– ask yourself in the stillest hours of the night: must I write? Delve into yourself deep for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ Then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.”

“Believe that you can change the world. Your dreams have been living in a code of silence. Find your voice. Make a noise.”-Katie Herzig

What A Daring Thing

16 Oct

“I am grateful that I started writing at a very early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do, to set down words on paper, to attempt to tell a story, create characters. We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more then we are, to see through the plastic sham to living, breathing, reality and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love.”-Madeleine L’Engle, Walking On Water

She knew a little bit about bravery.  A Wrinkle In Time was rejected 26 times, and then when it was finally published, went on to win a Newbery Medal.

If we are  going to create anything meaningful, we are going to be misunderstood, made fun of, rejected, and even hated.

The forces that come against a creative work are often directly proportional to how much impact that work will have on the world.

But we won’t stay there forever.

Every mother knows the labor pains are worth all the love and beauty you will soon hold in your arms.

“Be brave! Have courage! Don’t fear! Do what you think you  ought to do, even if it’s nontraditional. Be open. Be ready to change.”

Does Good Art Deserve Recognition?

18 Sep

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must take a wider view, see the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here.” – Annie Dillard

Last night I wandered streets of a small town, bustling with people “crawling” for an art crawl, they wore boots and brightly colored scarves in celebration of the air finally turning brisk. I had just driven ten hours with Becca, several through the mountains of Tennessee, the scenic road running along a river dotted with yellow rafts filled with people squeezing out the last moments outdoors before the cold sets in. I was feeling both tired and invigorated, drinking in all the smiling people, old friends, art and music going down warm like the glass of pinot grigio being handed to me.  It felt like a welcoming party for the autumn for being in North Carolina for the next few months of my life.

I followed friends into a coffee shop where a girl was singing passionately, her face bright with emotion and meaning. A man accompanying her on the piano sang along at times. When they announced they were going to do The Civil Wars I melted with happiness.

It was a nearly perfect duet. Only Joy and John Paul could have done any better. I looked around at the twenty or so people in the cafe, eyes wide at the beauty filling there ears, a slight smiles reminding them of some memory, some person.

I don’t have a choice, but I still choose you.

In the midst of it all, I thought what I can’t help think when I am faced with incredible genuine talent,

“Why aren’t they famous!?!”

The thought was normal, but in the moment it felt almost profane.

Whether they are famous or not has nothing to do with the beauty they possess in their voices, their instruments singing along.

And then tonight I saw a play. It was written by an eighty-year-old man.  His wife played the only character, the entire performance a two hour monologue. But I was enraptured. I went on a journey with this woman, crying and laughing. I peered into her soul, saw her pain, her reasons for being, and ultimately walked with her out of the door of the prison in her mind.

Afterwards, we talked to the genius couple that made this play come to be. The man spoke of how hard it was to market it, as all he knew was the old school ways, and they were thinking of canceling the next few shows. Again, the question arose in me, this time more urgently.

“Why doesn’t the world know about this? This is such incredible talent! This is such an important message! We need to get as many people to see this as possible!”

I wonder how many times I have said that. It’s a natural reaction, to want to share beauty, to try to as Annie Dillard said, “take a wider view and describe what’s going on here.”  It compels us, it’s part of what makes us human.

But can our desire for masses to behold these works of art actually rob something from us as we behold them?

This is so close to home because I see myself as an artist. Not in a pretentious way, but rather in the simple fact my purpose is to create, to string words together to try to create image, emotion, to  allow Something Else to breathe into it and reflect on what it means to be a human being and beyond. It’s obviously hard when I feel like no one is listening. I am sure this has been the conflict of creators throughout the history of humanity; like a new mother, we desire to show the world our baby so everyone can know how special he is.

Jeff Goins, in his e-book “The Writer’s Manifesto” says,

“This is natural, of course. This desire to be heard. To be acknowledged as an artist. But ultimately it corrupts the art, the pure desire to create.”

But I still get this sense of righteous indignation, the idea that those with amazing creative talent deserve a huge platform.I am sure you know at least a handful of “should be” famous people. They play in dive bars and coffee shops, paint in their basement, sing in the their shower, act in front of a handful of people in a warehouse-turned-theater. Often, they are struggling, the “starving” artists who can barely pay their bills, and yet they keep creating.



In a culture that cranks out auto-tuned robots and uses sex and CGI to sell instead of creativity and good story telling, it’s easy to get bitter real fast.  But there has to be a better way.

We all want beauty. It’s easy to rant about how “arts and entertainment” shouldn’t be in the same category, how society as a whole just wants fluff and no substance, how culture is dying and being replaced by clones, but I’d rather try to see the hope.

People, all over the world, are creating because we love to. We have songs and books and plays and sculptures inside of us and nothing will stop us: not being broke, and definitely not anyone telling us that what we are doing has already been done or that it’s not marketable.

Side note: That is never good advice to give someone- it kills dreams and stops people from even trying. People who say this usually have given up themselves. Don’t ever listen.

Every year I have been alive, I understand more how important art really is. It reflects how we try to make sense of the world around us. It is our mouthpiece of dealing with pain, overwhelming emotion, beauty that muddles our minds. It shows us who we are and where we are going.

It’s our “feeble attempt to express the inexpressible.”

Maybe the amount of people that experience art does not determine its value,  maybe it is valuable because it was made in the first place.

How many people have given up because their talent was never recognized, they never got paid for what they thought they were worth? How many of those people are now bitter at the world?

I don’t write this because I have it all figured out. Even as I write this I hope I will be recognized. It’s a choice every time I post to choose to not allow my view of what I’ve written be judged by the amount of facebook likes.

If I write for the praise of people I may as well give up right now. Accolades are addictive, you can never have enough.

I wrote this because I’ve listened to the music and watched the scenes play out and I’ve felt the frustration of wanting the world to experience what I had in those moments. I wrote this because my fingers literally start twitching and I know if I don’t get it out I’ll spontaneously combust.

So I’ll keep on writing until the day I die, whether it’s an audience of one or a million.

I will leave behind the facade and bare my heart because that’s who I am and the world doesn’t need another copycat.

I’ll know I create because I was created to create and every day I will choose to believe that is enough.

Art Is Home

23 Jul

notes build like bricks
to create structures to be filled
with souls who find home there

words mix like swirling colors in paint cans
making drab and old weathered browns
new blush reds
and starry-eyed blues

we live inside art because we need to know
our slight hope of excruciating beauty
really means something

that this doesn’t have to fade with childhood
this belief fireflies glow because they need to
light up the black
that willow trees push their way through thick layers
because they have to see the sun

and we’ll know the best thing to fill time and rooms with
is hysterical laughter
and songs that walk through walls

we live inside creativity because
if we don’t see newness
in each morning
we cave into death

we know if we begin to think it’s all been done before
we may as well cripple our legs our gouge out our eyes

so we swing wide the front door
ignoring locks and alarms systems
we let our hearts become a canvas
and our minds a sketch pad
we allow words written across our limbs

and then we know

we live inside beauty because
we need to know beauty lives inside us

Both a War Ballad and Lullaby

28 May

Drops of water jump from heaven
singing as they hit every object below
They each play their own tune
melding into a odd orchestra
bringing sky and earth together
connecting atmosphere with underground
and I, stuck watching,waiting
in this in between place
and hear the lyrics, clearly:

this is a place of darkness, light
love and fear
where all comes together
and falls apart
a place of mystery and common knowledge
frailty and resilience
a place to see with your tired mind
jaded and broken and bored
or  like a child
with wonder, majesty, beauty,
infinite potential
how you see it is up to you…

It muddles as puddles form
I am struck to the core
by this ancient song
written at the same time
rain was thought up
both a war ballad and lullaby
I know it
I feel it
I cannot escape it
It seems now
my skin is leaking
I am bleeding these words
I look up at a troubled sky,
colorless, ready to break
tense from all histories events
pouring out
pounding dust into life
things will grow in time
it can’t be helped
and I know in the green emerging
somehow without asking for it
my ears have been privy to something
rarely heard
yet always playing on repeat
the soundtrack of the
the universe

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