new Year

2017 + a book review

First of all, Happy New Year!

Yes, yes, we are 30 days in. But writing here on the blog hasn’t made it to the top of my list before now, so I haven’t said it yet! 

Our first Christmas in Nashville wasn’t half-bad, though we had deep moments of homesickness for our family of friends in North Carolina.

I entered this new year with a mix of emotion: heavy-heartedness around the events shaping our world and culture, and yet a persistent hope that we are fully capable of doing better, of drawing closer together for things that matter.

I woke up with fresh ideas brewing for songwriting, potential projects and collaborations that excite and challenge me, that hopefully will see the light of day and feed others in some meaningful way.

I carried over the awareness that the best way to push back against quiet despair is with loud thanksgiving, so I remind myself of the monumental gifts I still enjoy every single day.

I also started 2017 with an armful of new books - poetry and fiction and memoirs - that help me wake up every morning and think new thoughts.

Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Seth Godin were all under the Christmas tree. I don’t usually read just one book at a time but have them all right there on the wicker chest coffee table, and I pick up whichever is calling me at a given moment.

Here’s something from Mary Oliver’s Upstream that spoke to me as an artist:

"No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not.  Still, there are indications.  Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen.  It likes the out-of-doors.  It likes the concentrating mind. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker."

It’s amazing really. The power of a single poem to transform my outlook at the start of the day.  Thank you, Wendell, Mary and Seth for your good and life-giving work.

 

And then I occasionally am lucky enough to get free books from author friends or publishers who are looking for book nerds to potentially review or endorse a new release. Because of that, I’m getting to read an early version of Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home In The World (more on that in the near future!) and Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

I don’t know Erin personally, but I wasn’t shocked to discover that she is friends with Tsh Oxenreider - one of my favorite bloggers, thinkers and online pals - and has been working with Tsh on the Simple Show podcast.

I’m not gonna lie. The first thing that drew me to Erin’s book was the cover. Yes, I might sometimes be that shallow. It was just so clean looking. Modern. The layout & design of the hardcover is very cool, very different. She’s a designer, after all.

And also, I like the word “slow” (almost as much as I like the word “quiet”)

Erin is a former art director/stylist. She’s a wife, mother, writer, designer. But most helpful to the rest of us is that her story has had some major challenges to face, which has given her added depth and insight and relatability. Well, it's hardship AND that she’s from Indiana. A midwestern girl who just happens to spend time in Hollywood and be featured by HGTV and the NY Times. Since I attended college in Indiana, I pretty much have to like her.

I’ve seen a lot of writing about “slow living” the past few years, because obviously we’re bad at it. We’re trying, though, and all of us have at least one bee-keeping friend and have tried to grow our own basil. We walk when we can and play games with the kids and celebrate simple moments on Instagram. But we all know it’s an effort in these times when you CAN do/be/see/try/accomplish so much.

So I appreciated reading Erin’s personal story of working harder and harder, to get...where, exactly?? That’s the thing I’m personally realizing: How little we stop and question ourselves on just about anything. We follow whatever crowd we identify with and react emotionally and do-by-default more than we think we do. (At least, I do.)

Foreclosure, bankruptcy and family losses helped Erin see that what “everybody” wants was not actually what she wanted. A Pinterest-perfect house isn’t necessarily a heart-safe home. And work success doesn’t equal life-success.

Though it’s not the only less-is-more story, it is Erin’s unique story, honestly and vulnerably-told, and a good one especially for female friends who struggle with perfectionism and a my-life-looks-plain-next-to-hers inner monologue. Also a good one for the young, creative crowd finishing school and ready to find an exciting place in the world. Erin’s husband is a filmmaker and they spent their first married years in L.A. pursuing work in the arts.

Click here to order your copy of Chasing Slow. Or here.

Well, here's to a new year full of making - music and art and words and moments, stories that light up our small and big patches of the world.

It's an honor to be on this journey of making with you.

Love, Christa

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Learned in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.51.08 AM Thanks to Emily P Freeman for challenging us to look back on this year and not focus on what we did not do, but on what we learned in the process of living and loving and working. There could be 25 or 50, but 10 is enough to make public - and all I have time for today. :)

Hope you are inspired to reflect and share, as well. Life is learning!

Things I Learned in 2014

1. My “place” is not my prison. Prison is fear – of staying, as much as going.

I wrote this post about how averse I’ve felt to staying put and how fearful of being boxed in or confined. After growing up in a military family with frequent moves, I’ve now been in Raleigh, North Carolina, for 18 years and am finally ready to embrace this place as mine. Doesn’t mean I refuse to relocate or that we’re done having adventures or that I’m laying down to die. Just means that for now, I love my little city and am calling it “home.”

Same goes for my other places – in music, in friendships, in family.

2. Our home-made coffee is better than Starbucks. It’s San Francisco Bay French Roast, and we order it in bulk through Amazon. You’re welcome.

3. Writing for other artists with bigger platforms is a way I can serve.

It took me a while to enjoy co-writing and appreciate writing music that wasn’t 100% me. I’ve learned to love the act of helping other artists whose voices and audiences are very different from mine to say what they want to say in a way that works for them.

4. I no longer like Texas Bon Bons.

Still grieving this one, as it was our family’s traditional Christmas treat. Suddenly I find them too sweet, too rich. What is happening?! However, persimmon pudding with ice cream continues to satisfy.

5. People enjoy seeing other people try new things.

I’ve tended to think people “need” or expect me to keep doing the sure thing or being the way they first found me. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Not so. You may lose a few “fans” by trying something new, but you’ll gain others. And the people who really love & get you in the first place will always cheer for you being truly you & you being courageous.

6. My husband is a way better independent thinker than I am.

He asks really good questions that often terrify me because they challenge the status quo and challenge my comfort and threaten to not please others. I’m learning it’s okay for us to admit there are things we don’t know, things we may even have been wrong about. It just means we get to keep listening and keep learning.

7. It only takes one big blow to plant distrust.

Since the postal lady missed the stop sign and sped out in front of me, resulting in the total loss of both my Suburban and her mini-van, I find myself eyeing every car at every side street and traffic light, expecting someone will break the rules and hurt someone. It’s helped me to better understand the people in my life who have been abused or disappointed by others and now struggle to expect good.

8. I really, really love my neighbors.

I already knew this, but waiting at the school bus stop this year together and caring for each other’s pets and having neighbors rush out and wait with me after my accident, bringing blankets and offering to pick up my kids from school…just makes my heart grateful beyond words. Also, we have marvelous neighbors not from our hood, but from elsewhere in our city and church, who make life so much better.

9. The Enneagram personality profile is more helpful than Myers-Briggs.

I’ve said if the M-B is like seeing yourself in a mirror across the room and recognizing your general shape, the Enneagram is like looking at your face in one of those awful close-up make-up mirrors where you can see all your pores and hyper-pigmentation. It’s helped me understand my motivations and vices, as well as strengths and virtues. (I’m a Type 9 – Peacemaker, married to a Type 8 – Challenger…makes life interesting!)

10. December isn’t as terrible as I have thought.

In fact, I actually enjoyed it this year. Since I had children, I think it’s felt like a cruel month of yet more work and expectations I can’t possibly meet. This year, with our critters in school, I was able to have enough hours of solitude to be a healthier version of myself and to breathe more deeply. Having them in school has also made Christmas vacation much more appreciated and wondrous.

And I understand now that the lights and festivities help us traverse the longest, darkest nights of the year, so that by the time we take down the tree, every following day brings more minutes of daylight.

11. Okay, 11.  One more came to mind while I was in the shower, where all good ideas are born...

Following an impulse to love beyond expectation speaks loudly.  When my husband's grandfather died in W. Virginia, my dad drove 6 hours to be at the funeral with us, despite our protests that it really wasn't necessary, we knew he loved us, etc.  He wanted to be with us to celebrate Grampy and that was that.  The family has talked about it a number of times since, how much it meant. It would have been TOTALLY FINE to not come, none of us expected it or even "needed" it.  We didn't feel slighted by those who didn't attend. Did we feel loved by his presence, though? Most definitely.

It was just one of a number of times I witnessed that kind of love this year, and it inspires me.

Love to you all.

Here's to 2015 and increasing Light in our days, in our hearts, in our world.

cnw

From Frederick Buechner:

Thou Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Wherever there is war in this world, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.

Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.

Savior, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name. Come quickly.

Amen.

2014. Hello. Let's Go!

2014 I hang my hat on this peg each and every year and laugh with delight at the chance - again! - to wash the chalk off the board and say, "Here we go!"

I'm one for adventure mainly when in the company of the phobic or the homebody. If that's not you, and you're trying to force me to the high-dive, I'm fairly comfortable saying, "I'll wait down here" if I think you won't be angry/disappointed.

That's what this random marking on the calendar is for, in my mind. The chance to shed scales and weights and tired excuses and say (mainly to self):

Yes, I can be quite different, thank you very much. By the grace of the God who empowers and makes possible, I can see new sights and taste new tastes and touch what I've never felt before. Watch me.

Who cares if the exact details shift a little as we make our way into February and March?  It's not about perfection. It's the principle of the thing: We're not giving up. There is REAL HOPE for us beyond these precise goals, so let them serve to lead us into adventure and a real life of worthy risks and irrational hope.

And, yes, accomplish those goals, if you must.

Rather than sharing my personal resolutions (boring), here is my list of high hopes for you. For all of us, really.  In 2014.  Here's to more truth & beauty made visible through us in 2014.

In 2014, I hope you will:

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Signing out of 2013 with an ocean of love & gratitude for you.

cnw

 

 

January: why I love it

It's true.  I've come to love January.  Some people get it, others are feeling a letdown after the Christmas holiday highs.  And I admit that I came to love January after moving south where the sun makes frequent appearances in the dead of winter (although this year is turning out to be much colder than usual).  

Still, the beauty of this time of year exists even in Chicago (where I began this week, supporting Nicole as she made a new recording of "Witness"). 

January is...

New.      Hope.      Clean.      Open.      Spare.      Simple.  

Christmas decor comes down, and the house feels a new spaciousness.  I am motivated to clean out things accumulated and paint a wall or two.  The calendar isn't (yet) cluttered, and sometimes I just like to look at it and enjoy the empty.  

If you think about it, it makes sense:  If Christmas is Hope entering, then January should be Life Transformed by that Hope.  

I want to be transformed.  From the inside out.  

The visible, external displays of change in a new year are reminders of that, I suppose...and lift spirits, even when the cold is not yet lifted.  

But not empty, feel-good-for-the-moment hope.  Last year at this time I wrote about daring to be a fool.  Living with courage.  Swinging the bat.  All of which has not been in my nature.  The transformation that began January carried through 2009 - not in my own strength - but through the propelling spirit of God breathing wind behind my back, diminishing the face of fear.  You have also been a part of that story.  And I am not the same.

The promise of spring is in my veins.  Far off yet, but guaranteed.

Hope and Peace to you, my friends.  In with the new!

love,

christa