Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank God for Natalie Merchant, part 2: Life Is Sweet

Back in August, I had what any normal person might call a series of unfortunate events. However, I'm not exactly what you would call "normal".

Suffice to say, I had my rear brakes changed a week before I was to move from one side of town to the other. After they were changed, I noticed I would skid a little every once in a while when stopping. I called to have it checked out the next day, but before the end of the day I called, I rear ended another vehicle because I couldn't stop. This was two days before the move. My insurance company hired an outside agency to inspect the vehicle and they could find nothing wrong with the brakes.

Yes, I cried "injustice!" Oh, believe me, I cried a lot. I was mad, I was frustrated, I had no idea what was going to happen financially. The first week was a whirlwind. And a lot of waiting. The next few weeks, everything got sorted out. So my insurance is going up, but they covered the repairs. But, that's not the point of the story...

As soon as I saw the accident happening, I could feel the Lord say deep down in my spirit, "I've got this." I would like to say that I was okay with that, but if you read the above paragraph, you'd know I was lying. I was scared witless. This car was my baby. I didn't see how it could be "got" if it was smashed. And in the midst of a move from one side of town to the other, I was just plain worried. Yet as I stood in the parking lot that I and the other driver pulled our cars into while we waited on the police to show up for the police report, I had my head on my car, and I once again heard God say, "I've got this." Actually, he said, "You can stop worrying now, I've got this." Yeah, he knows how I tick.

Over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time talking to Him. Mostly in my new bedroom or in the rental cars I drove during the month my car was in the shop. During this month, I discovered two things musically: Spotify and the gloriousness that is XM satellite radio.

First of all, Spotify. I discovered this a short time before I moved, and was searching for new music one day after the accident. I ran across some Natalie Merchant songs I hadn't heard before. Namely, "Life Is Sweet" from her "Ophelia" album. How I never heard this some before in my life, I have no idea. I have a feeling I'd listened to the song before, but never really heard it, if you know what I mean. But having walked through a few months of inner healing for things like self-pity, rejection, abandonment, loneliness... the first line caught me and I knew I needed to listen. As I listened, I found so much LIFE in this song, that I would play it on repeat, just to soak up the message it contained.

Besides this, I also discovered a few gems on the satellite radio in the rental car. One of my favorites was "Closer To Fine" by the Indigo Girls. The line that stood out to me was "The best thing you ever taught to me, was to help me take my life less seriously. It's only life after all." Because by this point, I was realizing... Life isn't worth getting all caught up in worry about. It's worth so much more. Life is worth living. Worrying isn't living. Worrying is death in a breathing body, because it's all hypothetical exaggeration of something that probably won't happen in the first place. And I discovered over this month of not having my own car that I was beginning to worry a lot less than I ever did before. And I was also smiling a lot more. Not that I don't smile a lot as it is. My friends and even complete strangers compliment me on or notice my smile probably more than anything else. While the smiles were always real, there tended to be an underlying current of worry that I couldn't really enjoy anything as much as I wanted to because of... whatever. The because was never really clear. Just that general sense of worry. Basically that anything good can't truly be enjoyed because it will be taken away.

The mood of my mind shifted on Labor Day. I can't forget this. I slept in and didn't feel the need to get up and do something, or the guilt I normally felt for laying in bed and not doing anything. I just felt happy. When I finally did get up, I ended up reading a number of articles online, many of them on topics of how to improve your quality of life, getting plenty of ideas and encouragement (most of them being from this website: ). I also worked on and completed a painting I'd begun a couple weeks prior. When I finished the painting, I felt like I had had the most wonderful shoulder massage! My shoulders had been killing me over the previous weeks due to constantly sitting hunched over my computer at work, and just plain old... you guessed it, worry!

That day was the start of something wonderful. I literally feel like a switch was thrown in my thought processes. I had begun to realize that, like the lyrics in the song say, "life is sweet, in spite of the misery, there's so much more, be grateful." These songs, "Life Is Sweet", "Closer to Fine", and a number of other songs, have become my hymns. More often than not, they get sung loudly in my car (with her shiny new "nose job") to my God who has "got it" when I don't get it.

It's been such a magnificent journey, I did something I never thought I would ever be decisive enough to do... I got a tattoo on my left forearm with the words "life is sweet" written in my own script. It seemed like the right thing to do, to commemorate such a drastic change in mindset.

(I have goosebumps in the picture because it was COLD the day I got my tattoo! This is maybe an hour or so after I got inked, on my "half birthday" 28 October 2011)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thank God for Natalie Merchant, part 1: Wonder

I just got back from seeing Natalie Merchant perform at the Schermerhorn Symphony right here in Nashville. Oh. My. Word. Beautiful!

Natalie's songs have always stirred up something inside me. From "Kind & Generous" which I remember seeing a music video for as a kid, long after knowing the song, and loving the carnival theme (and it was a "Pop Up Video" so they popped different translations of "thank you" during the end of the song), to "Carnival" and "Wonder" and "Jealousy" to songs back in her 10,000 Maniacs days, like "Because The Night" and "These Are Days". Something about her voice and her style is just so enchanting and melodic and beautiful.

Recently, I rediscovered "Wonder" in particular. Recently being it very well may have been a year ago! I just know, when I re-discovered it, I changed the ringtone on my phone as a reminder to myself, and it's been this song for a long while now.

I don't remember what it was that struck me. Maybe it was a prophetic word I had received. Or just a shift in my mindset about myself. But whatever it was, thank God for it.

I had never had the greatest self image in my life. As a kid, I grew up thinking I was fat, shy, and not sure if I'd ever amount to much of anything because of this. I had so many insecurities as "pets" I could have populate a zoo. Now, of course, these things didn't sound so blatantly obvious in my head. I couldn't separate the insecurities I had picked up throughout the years from my true identity for so long.

Enter: Encounter Weekends and SOZO ministry.

Thank God I moved to Nashville. Thank God for a friend who believed in me and dragged me down here. Okay, so she didn't drag me, I wanted to get out of Indiana and experience something different and get out on my own. I'll spare all the details, because it's 11pm on a Sunday night and I do want to get some sleep at some point before going to work tomorrow. But suffice to say, an Encounter Weekend with the young adult group at (my now home church) Grace Center, changed my life forever. It's a weekend of "getting rid of the junk" - which basically is you learn about what it means to hold on to bitterness and why that's so bad for you, and then you get to let go of it through a verbal, out loud, renouncing of it. Or you learn what an Ungodly Belief (aka UGB, something you believe that God didn't teach you nor is it His character) looks like and how to get rid of that and get Godly Beliefs. You also get to deal with the really "deep" stuff, like sexual sin. Doesn't that sound like a brilliantly fun weekend? Okay, so maybe it's a little intense and you want to be prepared with some tissues and maybe take a day off work to process it all... but it's worth even the seemingly awkward moments.

And then there's SOZO, which is somewhat similar to what happens during an Encounter Weekend, but is within a two-hour(ish) timespan with you and two SOZO ministers. The Greek word "Sozo" means "saved, healed, delivered" and that's what this is all about. It's a dialogue with God, basically. Going deep into the roots of things that are holding you back, and praying through them. Some great info on it can be found here:

Anyway. Where was I going? Oh yeah. After some much needed ministry, and a new roommate who wouldn't allow me to wallow in self pity or lies about myself, I somehow re-discovered "Wonder".

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of God's own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She'll make her way

People see me
I'm a challenge to your balance
I'm over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of God's own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

I realized this is a beautiful song all about my identity. Not just mine, but yours, too. I listened to this song on repeat for days. Changed it to my ringtone on my phone. Stared at the lyrics until they became ingrained in my head, in my heart, in my soul. I realized, finally, for the first time in my life, I am a "wonder" of God's creation. People in the charismatic circles talk about "signs and wonders" all the time. Yeah? Well, I'm a wonder! You're a wonder! Do you know what it means to "wonder" at something, or to be a "wonder"? It means this is something that brings a sense of awe, that they don't quite understand, that they're definitely intrigued by, and that they thus can't explain.

I realized through this (not just the song but all the inner healing ministry that was happening - honestly a lot of it looked like me in my bedroom wailing at God and trying trying trying to understand it all) that I am beautiful, that I am unique, that I truly am a Wonder of God's own creation. Somewhere along the way, I also realized that though I gained a lot of weight as I entered my teen years (perhaps because I believed the lie that I was "fat" from a much earlier time) I never was "fat" as a young child. While I was bigger than all the other girls in my class, that was simply because I was "bigger" - meaning I'm now 5'7" and they're probably mostly around 5'0" - 5'4". It's a difference in genetics that, as a child, was impossible to understand, and coupled with the childish desire to insult others that look different (another day another blog) became somewhat of a curse. Thank God curses are breakable.

Yes, I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation. I am beautiful. It took nigh 26 years of life for me to begin to realize this.

So, if you want to know a little bit of your identity, who you really are in God's eyes... go listen to "Wonder". Here, I'll help you out with that: