Yours to Discover: Part II

I wrote the blog post “Yours to Discover: Part I” in July 2017, without a plan of what “Part II” would even be about. It was inspired by the slogan etched on the vehicle license plates here in my home province of Ontario. I saw it with fresh eyes back then as I switched the plates on my car after moving home from Prince Edward Island (where I lived for nearly 5 years). “Yours to Discover”…sounds hopeful and promising, doesn’t it?

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Well, I had forgotten all about that blog post until this past July when a new co-worker called me out about it, having looked into my music and stumbled upon my [neglected] blog site. “Where’s Part II?” he asked one day at work, catching me off guard and confusing me, causing me to ask if I had made a mistake with some patient’s paper work.

“You wrote a blog post ‘Yours to Discover: Part I’, so………where is Part II?”.

After returning so suddenly to Ontario from the USA due to the pandemic…

After weeks of feeling lost and adrift and forgotten…

After a month and a half back on the job as an endoscopy nurse…

After 18 months in Tennessee as a music student…

After 3 years, nearly to the day, since I had written that “Part I” post…

…..he brought to remembrance something small yet so significant:

Part II comes after Part I. “Part I” implies that there will be a “Part II”.

“Naturally”, you say, or, more colloquially, “duh, Amy!”.

But hear me out, please!

My coworker had no idea that his casual question brought my attention sharply to this truth: this unexpected, unknown-filled season back home “again” is not an accident.

This is the Part II I did not even know would exist.

It’s here, now. It is the here and now.

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The story is not over.

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Wherever it does or does not lead
No other path I’d choose for my feet
Than to follow faithfully
My God who truly cares for me.

Seeing

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Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon.

For the past four weeks, I have been zig-zagging my way through the land of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louis Lamour as I follow the Oregon Trail, yes, you guessed it, to Oregon! Every turn in the road has been so breathtaking, and my imagination likes to run away and envision how it looked “way back when”. There are hints of the good old days every now and then from a random ghost town to abandoned ranches and dilapidated homesteads, not to mention pronghorn antelope sightings. Truth is, I grew up reading western and pioneer novels at a young age and this is has been my first experience seeing the landscapes I only ever read about. I have always been captivated by the fact that people just like you and me traveled across wild, unknown country because of some intangible pull to see over the next horizon and find a better life. It is thrilling to follow their foot steps and also astonishing to see how times change, as I hurtle along in a car on blacktop where they used to plod along in covered wagons pulled by horses and oxen.

Trouble is, I think it’s easy for me to wear those proverbial rose-coloured glasses when looking at both the past and the present because I love old things, old stories, and the mystery of a totally different time period. Yet, I can only imagine how harrowing and messy the past truly was. And I’m learning just how troubled the present is when we strip away the hip revitalization of small towns and seek to see the people who are still in the grip of poverty and hard times.

For example, though this is not a historical-political commentary, I will say that driving through the west and seeing people who are still marginalized and displaced to this day, has caused a knot in the pit of my stomach to form that hasn’t quite gone away. This journey I’m on with The Extreme Tour brings to the forefront the reality of the social landscape for which the beautiful scenery is only a backdrop. As we seek out the areas of town that others may have written off, we are on mission to have a celebration for the people who are rarely celebrated. It is sobering to see that in every city there are far too many who fit this description. And yet this isn’t an “us” and “them” situation. I recognize that I can’t explain why I get to play music and travel, but instead I see more and more of myself in their stories and struggles, and it quickly becomes “we”.  If I hadn’t had people helping me, encouraging me, supporting me, would I still be where I am today? I’m not quite sure. So, if I can encourage, support, and build up someone who hasn’t had a helping hand in while, I want to be there, doing that. I’m just grateful that music is the means of bringing us together in that moment.

One such moment was with a young boy in a town in Wisconsin. He came to the event to watch the other skateboarders compete. To his disappointment, there was a poor turn out so we couldn’t do the skateboard competition after all. But God always has a plan for what seems to be a let down. This young guy told me that in fact, it was his birthday the day after the event and his mom was going to get a skateboard for him! He hadn’t yet learned how to ride one though. Fortunately, our resident extreme sports team member, Graydon, was the perfect one to coach him as he tried it out for the first time. Not having a skateboard competition meant he had the whole park to himself to learn and practice. Even his sisters gave it a try too. Not having a skateboard competition meant we didn’t have a “winner” to give the prize to, which was a generously donated gift certificate and merch from the local skate shop. Well. It ends up that this whole plan for a competition was a divine set up to celebrate the birthday boy. He got the prize package and left a very happy skater. It was beautiful. There were tears. (lol).

 

 

So, side note, I also played music at the event. But it was just the backdrop for the bigger purpose of celebrating a kid who needed to know he was important. And that is just the way it should be. I’m grateful to be on this tour, learning to see people everywhere that before I might just walk by and not truly “see”. Once we “see” people, we have a choice to respond or ignore. And too many people have been ignored for too long.

Turns out that “seeing” the people around us, and affirming their worth, just might be the thing that tips the scales in favour of love and purpose and a little less hurt for everyone, everywhere.

 

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with love,

Amy-Lynn 

Breaking Ground

I have spent the last 8 months living in Memphis, Tennessee attending Visible Music College, completing a Certificate in Songwriting. And that is a sentence I never would have imagined ever writing about myself! Isn’t it wild to reflect on how we got to where we are when it is somewhere we never planned on being? I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it has been challenging, let me tell you. Growth always is though, isn’t it? It looks easy for a plant to sprout up through the dirt but have you ever stopped to think about the amount of energy needed to push up from the dark earth through the layers of mess to emerge into the light of day?

I suddenly have empathy for the the flowers.

This past year has been about music, yes, and about honing skills and learning concepts about songwriting and the music business, however, it has been about so much more.

Like the flowers in spring, God has beckoned me to push through the messy dirt that I have been living under and to come out to the sunny side to bloom. Things that have been dormant are coming to life. The dirt is now below my feet rather than piled on my shoulders, though the further I step in faith, the more I need to keep shaking off the fragments of anxiety, worry and doubt that I let accumulate. Time to leave the dirt, the mess, the dark places.

It’s time to bloom.

But the warm, comfortable dirt of negativity, poor self-perception, and trusting in my own understanding are all I’ve known. (I’m getting tired of writing about it, and you might be getting tired of reading about it LOL)

I was reminded of the story of Moses today. It’s one that I have read many times and it resonated with me years ago. You see, God chose Moses to lead his people out of captivity in Egypt. Moses had the right response in saying, “Here I am, Lord!” and wanted to join in what God had planned. However, almost in the same breath, Moses said “Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Can you imagine? The God of the universe calls your name, tells you he’s chosen you to embark on a journey that would shape the course of the world’s history, and you say to him “Ummm…hey God, can’t you hear that I don’t sound so great when I talk in front of people? Maybe you should look elsewhere because I see a discrepancy between what you’re asking of me and what I’m legit capable of. So ya, thanks for the shoutout, but you’re better off choosing someone more capable.”

Yet how often do we do the same thing?! I am living in this tension right now. Not that I think I am going to shape the history of the world, but I can see opportunities ahead and some open doors that I need to step through that will require me to stop saying, “But are you sure about this, God? Me, Lord?”.

As a dear friend kindly reminded me…”Don’t you think He knows all about you?”

All the things that we think are shortcomings, the flaws we see, the ways we are not “the best” …..HE KNOWS! He says back to Moses in Exodus 4:11 “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

This has been underlined in my Bible for quite a few years now, and I STILL need to go back and be reminded of this story whenever new opportunities come up that stretch me beyond what I’m capable of.

I think God was asking Moses to grow and “bloom” too. All his life experiences had prepared him, and, God was going to fill in the gaps exactly where He needed to  and where He knew He needed to. Moses was not in it alone!

Whether it’s stepping into a new job, risking it with sharing a hidden talent or skill, starting a family, or maybe opening your heart to love for the first time, you need to know that God knows us inside and out and if he is calling us to do something, nothing about us will surprise him. We can trust him.

Wherever you are today, keep pushing upwards because you are breaking ground and it just might be time for you to bloom, too.

 

Moving Air

Your voice is meant to be your voice.

Let me repeat that for us both:

Your voice is meant to be your voice.

 

Did you know, the way the air moves past vocal cords is no different from one person to another? I used to work as a nurse in a department where I cared for patients as they had a test done that involved a small camera scope passing through their vocal cords to their trachea and on down to their lungs. I have seen dozens of vocal cords this way, and they all looked unremarkable for the most part. No gold-gilded cords to indicate a powerhouse vocalist,  no “mediocre singer” vocal cords, and no raggedy-looking cords that were dead giveaway of a tone-deaf individual. Nope. Barring any sort of illness or abnormality, they looked all about the same. So what makes each voice different?

Could it be that your voice is connected to your soul and spirit by the Creator for exactly the intention and purpose He has ordained for your life?

Even if you consider yourself an “I can’t carry a tune” person, you STILL have a voice. No, maybe it won’t lead you down the path of a musical career, but it is still YOUR voice. God listens from Heaven to hear your unique voice as you call on Him, as you praise Him, as you thank Him, as you cry out to Him. It is not for our own glory, you see. He made us to sing, to talk, to laugh, to cry out.

A voice is not merely for entertainment, it is for communication.

It’s time we moved some air and brought the Kingdom of Heaven to earth through our songs and through the words we speak. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). Friends, what comes out of our mouths and enters the air around us matters. What and how we communicate matters. The words we speak, the songs we sing, they matter.

Why is it then that I hear over and over again from vocalists and musicians: “I hate my voice” or “I can sing but there’s nothing special about my voice” or worse yet, “I can’t sing like her/him”. The thing is, I am right there in the mix and have been one of the worst to discount my own voice and allow pride and vanity to keep me from singing because I don’t “sound” like someone else. It has caused me to drag my feet and blatantly rebel against the quiet whisper that has been nudging me along for the past decade. Just last night I started to cave back into the “maybe I’m not meant to be singing because my voice doesn’t sound like it should if it’s supposed to be good enough to be heard by others”. OoOf. I was overwhelmed by the shame of having fallen for the comparison game once again.

I am painfully learning that the comparison game is a waste of time. But I think it goes even deeper than just comparison. Stick with me for a minute more: if our voices are connected to our spirits and souls, and we display God’s beauty and glory when we pour ourselves out in song and in the words we speak, then it makes sense that the enemy of God’s glory, the devil, wants to keep us consumed with “how we sound”. He wants to keep us fixated on what we don’t have or what we think we need to be able to carry out what God has designed for our lives. Read that line again. If God has made us a unique way, with specific plans for us, and goes with us each step of the way, how can we discount what he has equipped us for, what he has entrusted us with, and moreover, how can we tell him that he is not able to fill in where we think we lack or worse yet, how can we not work diligently to do our best with what he has given us?

I tell you all this to humbly point out the tough lesson I am learning: if God has been calling me to something and I have been fighting it with doubts and excuses because I don’t think I’m “good enough”, I need to just stop. Stop fighting it. Stop running from it. I need to open my eyes and see that I am simultaneously “not good enough” and absolutely exactly good enough for what He has called me to. He fills in the gaps when I let him, when I step out and trust Him, and if he has called me to it, he will equip me for it! And He wants to do the SAME for YOU, whatever it is that you have been running from!

It’s scary to consider letting our walls (doubts) and crutches (excuses) be stripped away,  because then we might actually have to do something with what he has given us and put our faith into action. Singing even when we don’t hear it in our own voices is the sort of surrender God wants from us. Let me tell you, it’s in that surrender that God shows up and makes something out of “nothing”.

So, what do you hear God calling you to do with your voice?

like a monarch

So, my nephews have been raising monarch caterpillars this summer. It has been an incredible miracle to witness as each little caterpillar consumes enough milkweed leaves to grow and grow until they somehow know it’s time for change.

And then they just start.

It’s hard to know HOW they know, but they just know when to start the steady transformation into what is called their “chrysalis”. They shed the only skin they’ve known to become something entirely different and yet so completely part of their genetic make up. They were meant for this. They don’t doubt the process, they don’t appear to want to fight the change, they don’t cling to the skin they’ve known so well for fear of what’s to come.

As someone who has, more often than not, doubted myself along each step in life, I marvel as I watch these little creatures just do what they do. No questioning, no pondering, no bargaining with God about why they weren’t a lady bug or a cicada instead of a monarch caterpillar. Nope, they just do what monarch caterpillars do.

And somewhere in this tiny miracle I see God, I hear Him telling me to just do what I’m made to do, fearlessly. It’s not always clearly one thing we were made to do, but sometimes it is. Sometimes there’s a specific vocation or calling that God leads us to that just so perfectly suits how we were made and aligns with what we’re passionate about. Other times, we might not see what we’re “made for” with such clarity, but there’s such beauty in being so ourselves in whatever circumstance we live. Because, you see, no matter what you “do” in this life, each one of us was made to be known by, and to know, our Creator, and be changed by this “knowing”. Once you realize that you are who you are for a reason and not an accident, not a mistake, not second-best or lesser in some way, it changes the whole game.

Despite seeing God’s fingerprints alllll over my life, I have tended to cling to remnants of what used to be comfortable, to hide, to not be vulnerable to others’ scrutiny or rejection. But it’s time to see that we were made to encounter our Creator, see His abundant love for us, see where His saving grace runs deep and then shed the skin of past hurts, shame, fear, guilt, and poor self-esteem in exchange for what He has for us in this lifetime, namely, love. Love permeates everything if we choose it, if we choose to receive it and if we choose to give it, especially when it doesn’t come naturally. I think that is when we become like that beautiful monarch butterfly, when we have been transformed by God’s love and live freer than we ever have, without looking back.

It would be awfully silly for a butterfly to carry around it’s old skin, wouldn’t it? It would weight it down and keep it from doing what it was now intended to do.

So, one by one, day by day, in the moments when we feel the default of bitterness or anger or fear like a reflex, we can choose to let go and reach for love.

Yes, I think that’s what we were made for.

 

 

 

take this heart

So, I know I’ve been posting lots lately about the song I have in the one and only CBC Music Searchlight competition (a free contest put on by THE music biz here in Canada!). I’m just thrilled and excited beyond belief!! I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the encouragement I’ve had from so many, and for the fact that this great country promotes artistry, provides opportunities, and supports individuals to follow their dreams.  You see, I read yesterday about the devastation happening across the world in the Middle East and was reminded again of the importance of keeping perspective.

You might remember that just over a year ago newsfeeds were peppered with concern about war in the Middle East, specifically Aleppo, Syria- remember the headlines? It was those haunting headlines back in December 2016 that prompted me to look into how I could financially support organizations on the ground. Well, as God often does, He took me in that moment of searching and lead me to a facebook post that changed my life. It was posted by an amazing team called For Hearts and Souls, and it was an urgent request for more nurses to actually go provide medical care for children in a country nearby. And I went.

While on that trip to Kurdistan, I learned about an international relief organization called Preemptive Love Coalition, and I even met one of their staff members at a hospital there! Let me tell you, these people are doing hands-on good, providing for material needs, and are the face of love in places ravaged by tragedy.

A year has passed, and I read a post by PLC yesterday about how there is still war going on, there is still violence, and there are still innocent men, women, and children caught in the crossfire. People with dreams and hopes, for themselves and their loved ones, living in a hellish reality that I CANNOT begin to understand. The newsfeeds are quieter these days regarding that part of the world, so I felt compelled to share something with a personal note. I’ll just leave a link here for you to check out if you’d like to learn more about PLC and how your support can make a difference!  https://preemptivelove.org/

With all that in mind, I will still appreciate the excitement of a contest, because these sorts of things should be enjoyed and celebrated! However, I hope to do so with a fresh awareness of how important it is to balance genuine excitement over each “like” of my song on social media with the reality that there are hurting people all over this planet who need to know that they are loved.

So, in conclusion, I hope you have a chance to listen to the words of my tune “Take This Heart“. I wrote it from a place of desperately wanting God to take this heart of mine and reshape it and rewrite what I know to be true, to have this “loving others” come more naturally, to not get caught up, to not forget, so that my heart would always know God’s goodness in a way that compels me to pass it on. I fail in little and big ways from day to day,  but His grace is sufficient.

With love,

Amy

 

year in review

So, 2017, eh? This has been a year to remember! Filled with some significant experiences, unexpected twists and turns, and numerous wonderful new friendships. I am so thankful when I reflect on all that was crammed into 365 days. Seriously!

Yet what I am actually most grateful for is not one single moment or adventure. I’m most grateful for how each step into unknown territory brought to light a whole host of insecurities, doubts, and fears that had been accumulating in my soul.

 

With each “new” and unexpected thing I did this year (i.e. paediatric nursing in Iraq, moving provinces, singing my originals on tour…you get the picture!), I had to face the thoughts/emotions/feelings of fear and inadequacy that surfaced over and over again. And I am so grateful for it. I see now that each valley lead to a mountaintop, each struggle gave way to even the smallest victory! Not because of my own strength or courage, but because I leaned in during those moments of fear and got better acquainted with a God who sees me and loves me, just as I am. The One who is with me every step of the way, teaching me more about who He is thereby granting me a better understanding of who I am, and where I fit in.

As a good friend of mine wrote, “we are all a masterpiece, crafted by God’s own hands, created to bring hope and love to all in our own unique way” (Still Listening, Susan Vitalis). This is something that I needed to have drilled through my thick skull over and over again, and thankfully I think it’s finally sinking in. Masterpiece. Crafted. Unique. Each and every human being embodies those three words, it’s time to start living life that reflects it!  No explanations, disclaimers or apologies. No room for fear or insecurity.

So wherever you find yourself heading into 2018, I pray you start the year afresh, with the knowledge that you are a masterpiece, you have been crafted and created, you are unique. Just as you are.

 

 

 

Dear Killjoy

So, I wrote a tune while on tour this summer! We were in Middletown, NY for about 4 days and I happened to have a few moments of downtime. I found myself standing in the sanctuary of the lovely old church where we were hosted, sifting through some thoughts that had been percolating. Amidst the time-worn pews, I was working out the kinks of lyrics and melody, yet, there was something much deeper being worked out within my heart.

You see, the week before I went to join the Extreme Tour, I felt pretty anxious. I felt uncertain. I felt overwhelmed. I felt unqualified. And this “feeling” was all too familiar and seriously frustrating. I thought I was “over” that insecure, unsure, fearful phase of my life. Wasn’t I?

Just when I’m finding myself standing a little taller,

with my feet more firmly planted,

rooted a little deeper in the truth of who I have been made to be,

when I’m laughing a bit more freely,

loving more open-heartedly,

living moments of fearlessness and total abandon,

….things suddenly get a bit shaky.

Wait. What?

Why does that doubt creep in? Why do old patterns of thinking try to usurp the new?

Yes, I am human, flawed, prone to wander, and a creature of disheartening habits.

But there is also a killjoy; one who seeks to smother every flicker of light.

It whispers “retreat!” and I almost do.

But in that quiet space in Middletown, NY, I recognized with stunning clarity, this truth:

I have found the light that darkness cannot overcome.

In spite of my own frailty and faltering.

It cannot overcome.

Dear Killjoy:

“You have not won”.

 

P.s. click on link “Dear Killjoy” above to listen to the acoustic live track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours to Discover: Part 1

So, in the past 6 months, life has been a veritable roller coaster involving an unexpected trip to Kurdistan, Iraq, followed by uprooting from my beloved PEI, then exploring possibilities in Nashville, TN, and most recently, 23 days serving with The Extreme Tour throughout the northeast USA.

Phew! I honestly never saw any of that coming my way.

So what’s next, you/I ask? Well, I’ve been “home” for 4 days. And according to my driver’s license and license plates, I am officially a resident of Ontario as of yesterday.

And that’s all I know for now.

And already I’m feeling uneasy about just standing still for a while.

I mean, I’ve got this blog now, so my life needs to stay extra-exciting, right? Thrill the people with tales of a jet-setting, “rolling stone gathers no moss”, modern-gypsy life! But, there’s something to be said for settling. Not “settling” in a sense of tired compromise or complacency, rather as the ole Dictionary.com defines it, “to become calm or quiet”.

Standing still.

Trouble is this old potent notion of potential. Potential spurs someone on to greatness with the right amount of effort and drive. Potential is that glimmer of “a diamond in the rough” that can be mined to shine one day, gloriously. Potential can be that quiet promise of future value in something, someone. Potential, I’ve been learning, can also be a disquieting whisper, taunting with its elusive sister, possibility, just loud enough to disturb contentment with the present.

I find myself without a set course at the moment, no defined path. I am not callously or ignorantly lamenting what I see is truly an incredible freedom and a blessing, the bright side of potential. possibility.  But I have been wading through seas of opportunity lately and find myself searching for some solid ground. A Solid Rock.

How do I start putting one foot in front of the other? Maybe by unearthing the beautiful busyness of being content. Finding routine. Living wholeheartedly where God has lead me to be, right now, whatever that looks like from day-to-day for an optimistic-dreamer-artist-nurse like me. Will you still journey with me if I find myself back in the daily grind, maybe even back in the land of nightshifts and bedpan-wielding? For as my old colleagues and compadres know, that is the true stuff of legends anyway.

Or of blogs, too, I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

Inaugural Post-Script

So let’s be honest, I am a bit old-fashioned and have trouble keeping up with social media. My posts aren’t always polished or hip. Latergrams are my forté; I rarely remember to “instantly” share the super-cool-exciting moment I just experienced, even though modern technology has given us the tools (my iPhone 4S is still in a mostly functional state, thank you very much!). Right at our fingertips. Literally. But the truth is, a single day can be full of little instants of awe and wonder and I often feel a deep longing to capture them, savour them, and then tell somebody. Describe it. Express it. Don’t we all? These little memorable blips accumulate and when witnessed by another, it feels as though value is added somehow. Key word: feels. Moments unshared are not worthless or worth less, they’re simply just that: unshared. There’s something in this “sharing” that points me to my Creator, and I see how He designed us to be relational beings. Ever notice how often a child says to anyone who will listen, “Hey! look what I can do!” or “See? See that? Watch me!”. It’s deep-rooted, this relating to someone, this searching for a witness to our moments that build the days, weeks, months, years of our lives.

So consider this blogging endeavour my attempt to pin-down some of these moments. Not to “wow” with what I have done or experienced, but to highlight the divine thread woven through it all and ascribe all glory.

It can be nerve-wracking to open up, to share a perspective that is so uniquely your own, and hope it resonates somewhere with someone.

But I’m gonna give it a whirl.