Monday, March 26, 2012

lean in again. and let it go.

Listening To: The Way it Was by Brooke Annibale
Line Obsession: "It's easy to forget now, how effervescent and free we all felt that summer. Everything fades: the shimmer of gold over White Cove, the laughter in the night air; the lavender early morning light on the faces of skyscrapers, which had suddenly become so heroically tall. Every dawn seemed to promise fresh miracles, among other joys that are in short supply these days. And so I will try to tell you, while I still remember, how it was then, before everything changed -- that final season of an era that roared." - Anna Godberson, from the prologue of Bright Young Things (If all prologues were this gorgeous, I'd never skip them.) 

I'm sitting at the corner table at a Starbucks in Somewhere, South Georgia. The storm clouds just rolled out but the wind still has a rain-memory caught up inside it. The air is cool and breezy. White clouds are blooming across the sky. Tall pine trees are rushing together whispering, "Shhhhhh...." all around me. I love these lullaby woods.

There's a man sitting at a table close to me who has an unlit cigar tucked between his teeth. The guy across from me is wearing a grey knit hat. His guitar is plugged into his computer and he pricking the strings, watching sound-waves flicker up like wild heartbeats across his screen. I might scoot closer to him to try to catch whatever whim of inspiration he has obviously managed to find. I wish that's how inspiration worked. Maybe it does? Maybe sometimes it is contagious. It has to be. 

Because he's getting to me. And not because his music is too loud or off-key. His music is cool. 

But his eyes are closed and he's leaning down low over his guitar, the way musicians do when they're caught up in the right song. When they've waited and wondered and tried and stopped and started again and then finally they find it: that loose cannon of a chord they've been trying so hard to get just right. 

There's this thing I've seen guitar players do - famous ones, infamous ones, ones that just jam in the garage with their friends. They arch over their guitar like they're trying to keep something safe. Do you know what I'm talking about? Am I making too much out of posture? Some guitarists stand tall and let the music ring out of their hearts and mouths all wild and unruly-wonderful. It's after the song is over that they fold in on themselves a little bit. Ray LaMontagne is my favorite example. He screams out a song and then the song ends and he's soft-spoken and shy, like he's embarrassed that people are giving him a standing ovation. Like he can't decide if he should tune for the next song or just go ahead and walk off stage.

But sometimes musicians get really, really vulnerable about what they're playing while they're playing it too. 

Their bodies curve around their guitars like they're trying to protect a song, or protect their heart maybe, even though they're obviously turning something loose. Even though they've already hit the point where they can't hold it in anymore. I think it's that tension that makes the song so beautiful. 

Sometimes you have to let the wild thing inside of you grow wings and go be whatever it wants to be.  

A few months ago I was listening to a sermon and the pastor was talking about how to get back to a place where you've got momentum again, particularly after you've been through a very difficult season or experience. Like, when you've been disappointed to the point of giving up. Or when you've given up. When you've been rejected. When you've climbed out of some goopy pit of discouragement that's still clinging hard to you. I assumed the pastor would say the usual: "Press God's Word against your heart. Pray like a juggernaut.* Get out and love more." That kind of thing. He got to all that (sort of). But his first suggestion was: 

"Find your song." 

He talked about how music gets inside you and revs you back up. How music is this wonder of a thing that starts pumping through your veins and sticking in your memory; it sets your mood, whether you realize it or not. So he said to find a song that stirs your heart back up and then to wear that song out. Listen to it first thing in the morning. Listen to it when your mood starts to sink. Make it an anthem. His example was a song by U2 (I don't remember which one). I've decided my song for this season is Needtobreathe's "Slumber."

I think that's good advice - find your song. 

I also think, sometimes, when you're finding your way back to a place where you've got momentum in your life ... you should sit near a musician. Not to compare your work or your life or anything dumb like that. But sometimes when you're sitting close to someone whose heart is really in what they do - someone who completely lacks the cool marketing gloss, the branding (... someone who doesn't seem to care if people around him love his music or hate it)... it's like your heart flickers back to life again. And you want to make something beautiful not to get applause for it, but because, dagnabit, you've got it in you to make something good. And fear and self-doubt have been holding you back for way too long.

Lean in again. And let it go. 

That's not what the knit-hat-guitarist is singing. For all I know, he's just jamming to the Black Eyed Peas or something and I've made it sound like he's writing the most amazing song of all time and always. But that's what's rolling through my mind while I'm watching him play: lean in again and let it go. This too: 

I want to make a mess of a story. 
Make a mess of a song. 
I want to do whatever it takes to get it out of me. 
I want to lean into the lyrics again
and whisper over the words I'm most afraid of.
I want to find my way back. 
and sing my way through. 
I'll let these words be my map to someplace good. 
That's all they've wanted to be all along, I think. 

Is there a song right now that sums up the season you're in? A song that's you've listened to so much lately you could (or do) sing it in your sleep? I hope you'll tell me what it is! I'm in some serious need of new music. Hope you're having a happy spring : ) 

* "Pray like a juggernaut" is something Mark Batterson kept saying in The Circle Maker, and it's a quote that stuck with me ... but the sermon I'm referencing wasn't his. 


  1. I don't really have a song that sums up the season I'm in. But I have been listening to the Avett Brother's "Carolina Jubilee" CD and the Hunger Games CD nonstop lately. From the HG soundtrack, I've had "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder" {I *love* the Secret Sisters} and "Run Daddy Run" stuck in my head, though they have nothing to do with my life right now. :)


  2. As someone who's been bent over a guitar almost as often as I've been bent over a laptop, I'll go ahead and say you're not making too much out of posture.

    Song(s) for my season: "My Story" by Addison Road and "To Those Who Wait" by Bethany Dillon.

    Love your words today. They hit the spot. :-)

  3. It's crazy, I've been feeling really down the past couple weeks and just today God was apparently singing over me and I was thinking the exact same thing about music and trying to think of a song. My song right now is "I Will Wait For You" by Phil Wickham, and nearly every other song of his. But particularly this one.

    "Sometimes you have to let the wild thing inside of you grow wings and go be whatever it wants to be." I love that, it's something else that I've been thinking about lately...letting go and letting the wild things that God has grown within my heart, the adventure out because most times it's easier to stay safe and comfortable.

  4. the only song that's coming to mind at the moment is "this is not the end" by gungor, it is beautiful and real and kind of perfect for me at this particular moment in my life. i loved this post. i always do, but this one's special.

  5. Natalie, your prose never fails to amaze me. :) Sometimes I think ther ereally is nothing better than witnessing a musician wholly absorbed in his art and creation of music -- not for performance's sake, but because he has no choice BUT to commit himself to the work completely.

    The first song that came to mind is Keith Urban's "You Gonna Fly," which I initially dismissed as a completely frivolous product of my KU fangirl-dom. ;) But then I re-read the lyrics...and verse 2, especially, I feel like God could be singing that over me as a call to fearless living:

    You could be a blackbird
    On the country street
    Hiding from the world with a broken wing
    But you better believe you're gonna fly with me
    You could be a songbird from New Orleans
    Scared of the rain just as scared to sing
    But you better believe you're gonna fly with me

    So there you have my two cents' worth. :)

  6. "Trust" by Kristene Mueller! That song is everything I've been praying to God over the past few months. I'm just in a high school girl, but I think high school is where you really have to learn to trust God.
    That's why this post really resonated with me. Because I always have a song that seems to be exactly what I need. I think God speaks to me through music.
    Thanks so much for this blog post! :)

  7. I can't say how much I love this blog post! I went out in search of the perfect song for my season, and the one i kept coming back to was invincible by Hedley. I let the lyrics wash over me and I found they were so true, and totally reflected on my current situation.
    Thank you for encouraging me to find my song, and I'm off to go find a musician to sit by!

  8. Songs truly bring me through life. Oh my word I seriously love Britt Nicole's "All This Time" because I get this picture of Jesus seeing my most broken places and walking alongside me, especially while I cry through the moments I feel so stuck, rejected and forgotten. Its a serious song of hope. I love this Natalie, because I love writing so desperately much and I feel like its so scary to have words in your heart that you type out and nobody sees, but when you take that next step for someone else's eyes to read it, its such a crazy leap. I think its the moments right after we're the most vulnerable that we become most confident and the most real. Also, if you've ever heard of Boyce Avenue, I really like their song "On my way" because I really feel like sometimes I'll never fall in love...but this song made me reevaluate my despairs and doubts. ;) Audrey Assad's "restless" is a fabulous song to refocus and quit striving. ;)

  9. This is a really, really beautiful post, Natalie! I've been reading your blog (actually I've been reading your beautiful stuff since the Brio Magazine days!) forever and for some reason I never left a comment... Well, here I am now! :) Lately the song that has been stuck in my head is "Heaven Song" by Phil Wickham. I recently lost a really, really close and dear friend of mine, my only friend in the USA since I moved here from Brazil two years ago, and since the Lord took her home, I've been longing and thinking about Heaven even more. This song definitely sums up the season I'm in, specially the lyrics that say "You said that You'd be coming, coming for me soon. Oh my God I'll be ready for you", which I sing "Oh my God I'm SO ready for you!". Another song is "Beautiful Things" by Gungor. This is the song that most reminds me of her, since I heard it for the first with her at church. Actually, any song that talks about Heaven has been my song lately! I have to say that I absolutely LOVE your writing, Natalie, and you've been a huge inspiration for me since I love writing too and have a secret dream of 'becoming a writer' some day (I've loved words since I was able to put them together)... :) Your articles on both Brio and Susie mag have helped me so much to learn English (since Portuguese is my first language), to want to write more, and specially helped me grow in my relationship with the Lord. Your words always touch my heart. I love how you write from your heart, and it's like I know you! :) I will never forget the first article I read from you on the first issue of Brio that I got that was something about the Wizard of Oz and you said how this life is like an airport, that we are only passing through here, we are not home yet. I remember that when I finished reading it I thought, "Wow, someone gets me!" I've lived my whole life (even more now) between places and I never had just one place to call "home" (the reason why I love thinking about Heaven so much!). I've loved your writing ever since then!! :) Well, my spring hasn't been as "happy" as I would've like it, but the Lord is slowly making flowers grow in my broken heart... Hope you are having a happy spring! :)

  10. "You're Here" by Sixpence (from the original City on a Hill album).

    Last week was insane. Like, missed-every-flight, best-friend-got-married, failed-the-written-portion-of-my-MBA-thesis-again, lost-my-debit-card, ran-out-of-cash, all-I-have-in-the-fridge-is-butter insane. But that song wouldn't leave my mind.

  11. I was on the ocean just now and had Much of You running through my head the whole time. And I just finished Bright Young Things on the way here. Great story...very classy :) I think I'll be hearing much more from this author. Love the book ideas and inspiration I always get here!

    I want to make much of you Jesus
    I want to make much of your love
    I give you my life
    Take it and let it be yours

  12. (I'm a little late on this, but...)
    That was absolutely beautifully written and rang true in every corner of my heart.

    **"Holding out for a Hero" --by Ella Mae Bowen

    1. Never too late! :) So glad you feel that way too. That song is absolutely gorgeous. It's crazy how changing the tempo (and the voice...) can bring out a whole different emotion when you hear it.