10 Songs to Make You Brave

I don’t listen to music very often, not like I did in high school and college, when every song on the radio had some meaning to me. All of them reminded me of a person or place or event. I dated band boys and swooned when they sang to me on stage or wrote songs based on my poetry.

Nowadays, I rarely know the songs on the radio. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts more than music. I’m not sure when that happened, but it did.

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I don’t dislike music. As a matter of fact, music is one of the most powerful magics on earth. Music is an audible miracle. But it isn’t a miracle I can manipulate, so maybe it scares me a little. Words that paint pictures and shape ideas are magic too, but they are a kind of magic I know something about. I can make magic with words. I can’t make squat with music. I’m tone deaf and baffled by my 11-year-old’s ability to pull notes out of thin air.

Recently, I was shopping with a friend, absent-mindedly picking through Target clearance racks, and she mentioned creating a mood CD as a gift. I’ve done that before, and it’s really fun to collect songs you think will match where someone is in life.

Or where someone needs to be.

I cannot manipulate music, but music has always been able to manipulate me. It can change my mood.

With this in mind, I’ve been playing my son’s favorite tunes on a speaker via Bluetooth in the mornings. He struggles with mornings, and if Christian rap will help everything run smoothly, I will endure Christian rap before I drink my coffee. That is how much I love my child.

Recently, I even stumbled upon an app that indexes your iTunes account, dividing your songs into playlists by mood. The app is called eScape. According to its algorithms, the vast majority of my music can be labeled depressed, stressed or aggressive, followed closely by excited, happy and bored. Only a whopping nine songs fell into the peaceful or chilled categories.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s right there in the Bible, in 1 Samuel 16: Saul’s advisors said, “This awful tormenting depression from God is making your life miserable. O Master, let us help. Let us look for someone who can play the harp. When the black mood from God moves in, he’ll play his music and you’ll feel better.”

As I march into 2016, I have been thinking a lot about daring. I want to be brave. I want to take risks. I want to chase the dreams I have dreamed forever and the new dreams God gave me in 2015.

It’s like I’m writing a character in a story, and that character is me, and that story is one where the protagonist fights the battle against herself and the obstacles life throws at her, and she doesn’t just win, she stands on the mountaintop, flag planted, and claims her life as her own again.

I want to be her, and I am going to be her.

When I write a character in a story, I try to get inside her head. I want to think how she thinks and feel how she feels. One way I do that is to create a playlist of songs I think fit where she is within the bounds of my story. If I’m struggling to get inside a character’s head, I play her music and I find her voice there.

If I’m writing a story where I am the protagonist, and I want the protagonist to be brave, to be fearless, to be on a mission to conquer the world and become everything God intended her to be, then I need a bunch of songs that make me feel daring.

Not being a music person, as I explained at the start of this post, I decided to call in reinforcements. I asked my Facebook friends, including many of you, to tell me what songs make you feel daring.

I’ve chosen ten of the songs that will be going on my personal playlist for 2016:

10 SONGS TO MAKE YOU FEEL BRAVE

  1. This is Me,” Demi Lovato – Teeny bopper Disney movies can offer a lot of wisdom.
  2. Brave,” Sara Bareilles – I think the name says it all.
  3. Defying Gravity,” Idina Menzel – I adore this musical, and when I hear this song, I am taken back to how I felt watching it unfold on stage.
  4. Fight Song,” Rachel Platten – Words aside, there’s something about the beat that makes me want to shake my fist and climb a mountain.
  5. Oceans,” Hillsong – I listen to this in Spanish. Since learning Spanish is a big part of my “daring” this year, I think that makes it fit perfectly.
  6. Brave,” Moriah Peters – I love a strong female voice.
  7. Girl on Fire,” Alicia Keys – Again, I love strong female voices. There’s nothing wrong with male singers. I have a bunch of songs by men in general, but it seems this particular playlist is pretty heavy on daring women.
  8. Make Me Brave,” Bethel – The lyrics are a lot like “Oceans,” but it has a different feel that makes it its own.
  9. Born to Fly,” Sara Evans – This song always makes me feel happy. It makes me ache to follow my dreams.
  10. Dive In,” Jennifer Knapp – This is a song I play often. It reminds me to dive into my own life, to quit “standing on the edge of myself.”

Honorable Mention: “Sing, Fight, Cry, Pray, Laugh, Work, and Admire” – Pieter Embrechts (from which I learned that bewonder is Dutch for admire, and how gorgeous is that word)

So, what songs would be on your “daring” playlist? What songs make you feel brave? I’d love to add them to my list.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Moving: from Overwhelmed to Organized

I hate packing.

I get overwhelmed when I pack for a move. All of this stuff has to go into boxes, and usually I’ll have some odd bit of space left in a box and nothing that makes sense fits in that space. Everything in the box goes to my son’s bedroom, but nothing else in his bedroom will fit in the area left. So I stuff something random into that extra space, because there’s no need to waste cardboard real estate. I want to fit it all into as little space as possible.

Then there’s the never-ending feeling. I pack five boxes, look around the room, and cannot tell I packed anything at all. It’s like stuff magically materializes on the shelves as I empty them.

I sit here this morning, hands dusty and nose stuffy, because the boxes I am packing into have been in a closet in our garage for the last four years. This entire move feels unreal to me. There have been so many other anxiety-inducing situations in my life this year, I haven’t had time to be nervous about a new town, new people, or new challenges. The challenges I am facing right now are plenty, thankyouverymuch.

Terry Pratchett said it best: “This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic.”

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Let me share with you a few of the ways I am managing (or attempting to manage) the overwhelmed feeling.

Lists: I love lists. I keep daily reminder lists on my phone and enjoy tapping completed tasks. For the sake of this move, I bought a small pink notebook and used a sticker from my craft supplies to make a divider halfway through. The first half of the notebook is where I’m listing everything I need to do in the weeks leading up the move. If it pops into my head, I write it down. The second half of the notebook is for tasks I must complete once we move.

Procrastination: I am giving myself permission to procrastinate certain tasks. I know, that sounds backwards, but there’s method to my madness. When I think about EVERYTHING I need to do this summer, I get so overwhelmed I struggle to breathe. To conquer this feeling, certain tasks are moved to the second half of the notebook I mentioned above. These are things I COULD do now but it won’t be a problem if I do them in July instead.

Soul-Feeding: This will look different for everyone, but for me it includes a lot of colored pencil art in my journal, reading bits from the book of John, purposeful breathing exercises, and curling up in my recliner with a good book. I’ve also started using Stress Away essential oil on my wrists most days and burning scented candles and I went to the theater to see a fun show with a friend. I promise you, laughing hysterically with a girlfriend WILL improve your outlook.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

On a more practical note, if you have any amazing moving tips, feel free to shoot those my way. I could use help in moving from overwhelmed to organized.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Your Favorite Thing

What was your favorite thing to do when you were ten?

I think about this question from time to time and it has been following me around lately. Middle Sister Dana wrote about summer earlier this week. She talked about recapturing the magic of the season, and it struck a chord with me.

We’ve had a rough year with a lot of changes, both good and bad, happening. Parenting has been difficult, to put it mildly. My stress levels are through the roof and I have tried all sorts of things to gain some peace. Many of you shared your own suggestions for calming an anxious heart, and I posted about them. I tried quite a few of those ideas, and some have helped.

If things go as planned, my oldest son will be spending the summer with his grandparents. He and his brother need a break from one another, and I need a break from their fighting. On top of that, we are moving to a new town, and change is hard on my oldest. This way, he gets to skip the stress of the move itself.

I want this to be a summer of healing. I want to learn to breathe again.

And that brings me back to my original question: what was your favorite thing to do when you were ten?

My Favorite Activities As a Ten-Year-Old

Riding my Bike – I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a good deal on a bicycle. I really love the beach cruiser style. Maybe I can ride with my youngest son. We can explore our new neighborhood. I also loved rollerskating and, eventually, rollerblading, but that isn’t as easy to make happen. So I will stick to two wheels for now.

Library Trips – Dad would take me to the library where I would borrow his card, because then I could check out 25 books instead of just 10. This was before Goodreads and book blogs and Net Galley. I had a few favorites (Sweet Valley, Babysitters’ Club, Choose Your Own Adventure) but I mostly picked up books because the cover or title caught my attention. I think I will do some of that kind of reading this summer. I will have a new library in which to wander and new librarians to get to know.

Drawing – I wasn’t particularly talented, but I liked making marks on paper. I went through a dress designing phase. I doodled clothes everywhere. I colored in coloring books. I tried to copy the art from my grandmother’s walls. It was fun. I’ve already returned to this with my journaling Bible and Praying in Color.

Writing – I had a cheap chipboard desk that sat by my bedroom window. I vividly remember writing contemplative poetry while watching the pine boughs sway in the wind. Were those poems good? Not in a literary sense. But they helped me think, and they stilled my mind. Lately, I have been writing poetry again. I tend to set it aside while writing fiction. For the summer, I am returning to verse.

What about you? What did you love to do at ten? Is there anyway to add a touch of that back into your adult life?

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Refill, Please?

It has been a hard week in the Truett house, and I’ve thought a lot about the Middle Places April theme, (re)Plenish. How do I replenish my spirit when it feels emptier than empty? I shared a little about why last week, and before that post even went live, a related event sent me spiraling into a black hole.

Oh how I wish I could signal a waiter and say, “I’d like a refill, please.” Off the waiter would go and before I knew it, my cup would once more overfloweth. Since no mystical waiter made himself available, I turned elsewhere.

I asked my Facebook friends to tell me how to relax. I was too keyed up to be still, but I wasn’t focused enough to be productive. I was sleeping fine, but when I was awake I was wrecked. My Facebook friends came through for me, as they always do. Here are some of the things they shared, summarized, in case they may be helpful for you when you face a similar rough patch.

Guided Meditation: Some of you are tuning out already, but hear me out. I am a contemplative, and I like silence. But when I am at this level of anxious, no amount of will-power can keep me still and silent for very long. I need a little help, and That. Is. Okay. Finding guided meditations that work is a hit or miss experience. I listen to the beginning of a few YouTube offerings before settling on one, and I have been using them before bed, but I may try one in the mornings as well. For the sake of making it easy on you, I found this website devoted to guided Christian meditations. So if you are worried about accidentally worshiping another God, there are options that will let you relax and try a new experience without fear. I bet a quick web search will turn up other resources as well.

Color: This suggestion comes in many forms. There is my favorite Praying In Color, which I am pretty sure Sasha has posted about before. There are zentangles, which have fascinated me recently. I may try one of these today. Also, of course, there is the old standby of coloring book and crayons. You just can’t go wrong with that. I have a Lisa Frank book full of cats. And I am not ashamed.

Make/Do Something: Of course, Middle Sister Sasha suggested this, our wine corn/scrabble tile queen. But others did as well. Susan said to get my big muscles moving with a little yard work. Jorie mentioned weaving wire, and Dolli suggested doing a small household task, like cleaning out a drawer. These activities have the benefit of giving you a concrete accomplishment to tuck under your belt. You feel a little more capable when you are finished. I took this advice by catching up on my Project Life albums.

Listen: My sister-in-law suggested listening to music that fits the mood I want to be in instead of the mood I am in. This is a good idea. When I need a pick me up, I will often turn on 90s pop on Pandora or just play “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” on repeat. My friend, Jennifer, suggested a jacuzzi tub with nature sounds. I don’t have that tub, but the sounds are a good idea.

Other suggestions included essential oils/aromatherapy (I have been wanting to try these), drinking beer while watching Animal House (funny Jeff), tapping (rhythm is soothing), reading the Bible, Yoga (which I love and miss), going outside, deep breathing, etc…

And, of course, eat ice cream and call a friend. You can’t beat a few hours with a good friend for stress reduction (Thanks Izzie).

 

*originally published on Middle Places

10 Things About My Writing

There is a lot of non-writing stuff going on in my life right now, and I am struggling to focus on much of anything. But my little blog was feeling neglected. Inspired by the lovely Tara Sim, I am going to share ten random things about my writing…

1. In between fiction projects, I focus on poetry. I think of it as a sorbet between courses. I truly believe my poetry makes my fiction better. Recently, I have been using the poem-a-day prompts from Poetic Asides to help me jumpstart my muse.

2. I dream of writing a series for kids, and I have the first manuscript already written. It is called Via & Fia, inspired by my best friend’s two daughters, Olivia and Sophia.

3. I go through phases with writing locations. I wrote most of my last completed manuscript sitting on my bed, but I did almost all of the revision work in my husband’s office at the intern’s desk. I also write in a recliner a lot, and I wrote one whole book at a desk in my kitchen.

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4. People buy me journals and I love journals. But I don’t do a lot of longhand writing. My hand cramps really quickly. I do usually write poetry by hand. I do that during sermons pretty often, and I like having a journal in my purse at all times. My journals are full of everything from poems to prayers to scenes for whatever book I’m working on.

5.  Most of my fiction somehow involves poetry. The last book relied heavily on Edna St. Vincent Millay and the book before that wrapped around “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” (Emily Dickinson).

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6. I have one manuscript that includes a dark brown cocker spaniel named Steven Tyler. In my dreams, someone tells him about the book and he laughs and I get to meet him.
7. When I finish a book-length project, it takes me a while to recover. I get to the point I am sure I will never have another idea and never feel passionate enough to start a new story. And then I hear a voice in my head and I have to write it down and before I know it, I am deeply engrossed in another project and feeling all alive and happy again.

8. I have a concept I want to use for a grown-up novel. I have a lot of the details worked out in my head but the very idea of writing something for adults makes me short of breath. For now, it will wait. I have details but no character talking in my head to give it voice. Once a character speaks, I will be able to work through the fear.

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9.  I struggle with what to read when I am writing. I can’t help but be influenced by whatever I am taking in, so I like it to be far away from what I am writing. I read poetry while writing fiction. I will read nonfiction work related to my story’s theme or details. I will read fantasy novels and mysteries… whatever is different.

10. I also struggle with reading while revising and editing. I find myself taking the books apart instead of enjoying them. This last time, I cured that by reading Mercedes Lackey. Her stories are so far from what I write, it is much easier to disappear into them.

It had been a while since I did a list post. They are always fun. Anything else you’d like to know 10 things about?

Things I Brought Home from Seattle

  • A billion Instagram photos
  • Somebody else’s razor
  • A deep sense of grace being lived
  • A new kind of respect for my dear friend, Liz
  • Memories of conversations with holy women
  • A twist to my yearly theme
  • The humbling knowledge that a published book will not fix me
  • Two parking tickets
  • An even deeper love for my girls
  • Cravings for real cherries
  • Notes for a future book
  • Notes for the current book
  • New eyes through which to view the South
  • An adorable owl bag
  • A small wooden keychain from Bali

Best Reads of 2011

 

I was lucky enough to borrow a copy of My Reading Life by Pat Conroy from the library (Kindle library loans are a godsend to my bank account). Pat Conroy is my favorite living novelist. I have not read everything he has written, because then I will have read everything he has written. If that makes sense to you, then we are kindred spirits. I also reread Prince of Tides this year. The rhythm of that books moves inside me.

A favorite Line: “The writers who scoff at the idea of primacy of stories either are idiots or cannot write them.”



Another of my favorite novelists, Barbara Kingsolver, had a new book out last year. The Lacuna was completely engrossing. Also, in reading it, I learned a ton. I loved that Frida was a real person, and I was able to look up some of her art online. Also, I found the paranoia of the 1960 fascinating. With the recent passing of the NDAA, America is poised to descend into that craziness all over again. Instead of communists, the fear is terrorists.

A favorite line: “My words, me, how could there be any difference?”


I stumbled upon this fun read and am glad I did. Amazon suggested it to me, and they were right on target. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making by Catherynne M. Valente was a fantastical romp through brilliant imagination. I have her other stories on my to-read list.

A favorite line“She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.” 
 

 



I take part in the Amazon Vine program, so I sometimes get my hand on a really good book before it even hits the shelves. That was the case with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I absolutely adored every second of the story, and I am sure it will be one of those rare books I reread from time to time. I have also convinced quite a few people to buy their own copies and have seen some of them suggesting it to others. One of our youth guys even did his English project on the book. I missed out on getting to meet Erin when she was in MS on tour, but my sweet husband took my ARC by for her to sign. I just cannot say enough good things about this book. You can read my post on this book by clicking HERE.

A favorite line“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.” 




1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp was the first book I purchased for my kindle, last year. It was a beautiful read, and it changed my life in a very literal way. I began listing blessings, challenging myself to reach 1000. I am well past 2000 now, and the notebook I list in lies open on the kitchen island. I still hear the word “eucharisteo” in my head all the time. I bought my mother a copy for Mother’s Day, last year, and she loved it as well. She said the writing reminded her of me, and that is high praise in my opinion. Actually, I have not read the last few pages of this book. Once I read them, I will have finished reading it, and I don’t really want to be finished. 

A favorite line“Just that maybe … maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”



Yet another one of my favorite novelists, Jodi Picoult released Sing You Home in 2011, and I was sucked in, as I am with almost all of her books. She does so much research to get things just right, and I appreciate that. I worry a lot about messing up some tiny detail or another when I write, so her skill with legalities amazes me. She has this way of exploring all sides of a story that illustrates the very reason I think novels are so important to our society. When you read a novel, you have the chance to be someone else for a bit. It is okay if you feel or think differently, because it isn’t real. But, that’s just it, with a good book it IS real. By the end, you have felt and thought things you never would in real life, and you can’t unfeel or unthink them. Novels can change how we see other people and the issues that confound and separate us.

A favorite line: “With my eyes closed, with every word a brushstroke, I do the kind of praying people do when they don’t know if there is a God.”




During Lent, last year, I read Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler. The timing was perfect. As Passover (and Easter) approached, I explored the Jewishness of Jesus. A million little nuggets of truth found their way into my heart, and I began to look at Jesus differently. Always, He has been Savior, Lord, even Friend and Lover, but after that reading, he also became Teacher. Our church book group is reading it this month, and I get to lead the discussion in February. I am excited to see if they love it as much as I did.

A favorite line: “Would it surprise you to learn that the rabbis thought that study, and not prayer, was the highest form of worship? They pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us.”



Sticking to my little crush on Judiasm, I also read Strangers and Neighbors in 2011. It is a slim book, by Maria Poggi Johnson, that I bought at Annual Conference in 2010. It sat on my To Read shelf for close to a year before I picked it up. The author lived among a group of Orthodox Jews and they all raised their children together. Her insights were refreshing and challenging. I love books that parallel the practices of Christianity with those of Judaism (think Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner), and I also love books where someone learns from another culture. The opening up of minds and hearts to invite in, well, strangers and neighbors… I love it.

A favorite line: “Christianity is built on the foundation of the Jewish covenant, but it is not just slapped on top of it like a trailer home onto a concrete lot.”



If you have read here very long, you already know that owls have become a sort of symbol for me. I was attracted to them, originally, a few years ago. I had no real reason for this attraction, but God did. As my obsession grew, I found myself at the Cincinatti Zoo, face to face with Homer the Barred Owl. He was beautiful. I stared into his eyes and fell in love. The trainer surprised me by saying that owls are stupid birds, the hardest of creatures to train. That stuck with me. We call them wise, but they aren’t? Then I picked up Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien for a dollar at BAM (before ours went out of business). I was delighted to learn that owls are not stupid at all. They are hard to train because they have no need for us and see no reason to obey our commands. They are, rather, relational animals. To me, this showed the difference between being a religious drone and being a child of God, head over heels in love with Jesus. Honestly, I could go on forever about the spiritual epiphanies I had while reading Stacey’s book. I will spare you, for now.

A favorite line: “Occasionally someone would ask to see “the baby,” and when I opened the blanket, would leap back shrieking, “What is that?! A dinosaur?” Apparently, the world is full of educated adults with mortgages and stock portfolios who think people are walking around grocery stores with dinosaurs in their arms.”



Finally, there was Little Bee by Chris Cleave. The writing was lyrical and beautiful. The story was shocking and heartbreaking and motivating. It is hard to properly describe this book. I’ll just say, you have to read it. The girl on the beach, the missing finger, the scars… it is a story you need to hear.

A favorite line“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived’.” 


Stay tuned for my best YA/Kid reads from 2011.