immersed

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over the past year and a half, i contemplated enrolling in ministry school. in late july, i finally waded the waters of my uncertainty to an online application for nets (northeast evangelism training school). it was simple enough: name, address, number of years active in church, some recommendation letters, a part of my testimony, a fee. it was cool; easy. about a week after, i came into contact with alina, the office assistant at the school. she answered all my questions and chatted up the program, and everything was good. i was only ankle deep in my decision, it wasn’t real yet. the start date was august 20th.

let’s back up a bit to understand my situation for the past few months; despite my best efforts and close to hundreds of applications, some interviews, and extensive pre-screening processes, i hadn’t worked all summer. the cost of tuition was $4300; i had about $20 in my bank account. at the suggestion of alina, i began a crowdfunding campaign, and i’d like to say i received the full amount, or even half the amount, but $100 is all that came in. during this process, i decided to hold a fundraiser/concert/bake sale. i had three weeks to invite performers and audience members to ‘a night of poetic praise’ set for august 15th at 7pm, sharp.

in all i had about 10 performers, and by the time the date arrived, everything had come together. small decorations were being put up in the church multipurpose building, the food was done, and i had a stunning lineup of artists. the concert was set to begin at 7pm, so at 5pm i went to pick up a friend. i thought two hours would be plenty of time to do this simple task, put on real clothes, and get the food from my house.

almost as soon as i started driving, the rain swelled out of the ominous clouds that had been hovering all day, but i decided to press on. after about 15 minutes, i started to notice nearly all the roads on my path were flooded, and i passed some drivers who thought their cars could channel the girth of noah’s ark as they tried to coast the waters, to no avail.

finally, i had reached my friend’s street to find it completely covered in dirty storm water. she tried to take me a different way, but that was flooded as well. and the rain so thickly blanketed the skies, it was unwise to move. so i pulled into a cvs parking lot and sat while liquid bullets pelted the roof of my car as if they were saying, “let us in.”

i sat for 40 minutes worrying about all the things that would be wrong when i finally got back to the church.

at 6:34pm, i was able to roll up the driveway of my friend’s home and we were off. but, there were still important tasks to be done. the most pressing being that the food was not at church. so i had to stop off at home, to waste even more time.

here’s what happened:

  • i arrived late (not dressed)
  • my sound guy decided not to show up (so i had to do it)
  • food that was supposed to be brought was not
  • we started at 7:30
  • a performer flaked
  • a cord stopped working
  • one of the mics went out twice
  • i messed up my song

despite all the wrong–despite the slight dew of chaos in the air–the Lord blessed. all the performances were wonderful; the bread, cookies, brownies, and smoothies were a hit; and i raised $652 in one night!

in total i now had $752, and despite the wonderful success my concert generated, i was still short over $3000. i had lost; that concert was my greatest, and seemingly last, effort. i messaged alina full of doubt and defeat to tell her i couldn’t attend nets this year. at least i had tried my best and that’s all anyone can ask of a person, right? yet, she still told me to pack my bags, come anyway, and trust God.

i was now neck-deep in the realness of decision, and wanted badly to let my head slide beneath, but the risk was too great. i couldn’t do it. my logic wouldn’t free me; “what if i go and have to come back home?” i prayed for God’s will to be done.

.***

monday morning, august 17th, i received a call from a strange number. if anyone knows me or my father, they know we don’t answer the phone, let alone for an unknown number. but my finger found its way across the flat, green circle on my screen and my ears were greeted by the voice of kevin, the program director for nets. he asked where i was in fundraising, how much i had, and what i was going to do. i told him about my fundraising efforts and that i concluded i would not attend this term because, i didn’t have even half of the money. it was then he offered a slant of hope, and said he would talk to his staff to “see what they could do.”

all day i waited, until 5:43pm. the phone rang again with the same unfamiliar string of digits, and kevin greeted me. he told me to come, continue to fund-raise, and even if i didn’t get the full amount, it would be alright.

praise Jesus!

i ordered my ticket that night, packed everything i could, and was on a train the very next day.

***

throughout this past week, i still felt doubt in the recesses of my heart–“should i be here?” “am i wasting my time?” for ten days, since the start of the program, i’ve felt void of any direction–until last night.

last night, after doing an assigned reading for class, i had never felt so close to God and understanding who and what He is. i feel a renewed vigor, and have never been more sure that He will provide for me. i feel affirmed in my decision to come to evangelism school. i prayed, and i prayed for others which is something i realized i had neglected. i can’t claim to love people and want the best for them, if i keep my prayers fertilized with selfish inquires and requests.

Love cannot be perfected where there is only one.

last night i asked God into my life again.

if you would like to donate to help pay my tuition you can click here. all support is appreciated no matter how seemingly big, or small.

open your eyes: social anxiety and musicianship

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on a sticky florida morning, i met ayanna at the old train station. with my guitar in hand, she pointed her canon and fired some test shots while i scanned the area for nice places to pose. during our lighting tests, a city worker walked by and asked me to play for him. i sat down on a stoop and as my fingers plucked the chords for heavenly day, i opened my mouth and closed my eyes. it wasn’t the best performance i’ve given, but it was my best at the time. when i was finished i felt the breeze blow my hair out of place, and heard an explosion of one-man applause. he offered me one critique: open your eyes more.

i’ve always had this thing when i meet new people–i either act like i’m too cool for school, caught up in being aloof and mysterious, or i speak as few words as possible while avoiding eye contact.

this revelation came to light this past friday night after i got back from one of the best concerts i’ve been to in a while. it was jamie grace and her sister, morgan harper nichols. as jamie grace walked onto the stage of the church, i readied my camera, making sure i had enough battery life and that the lens cap was off. as she introduced her sister to sing her song “storyteller,” I pressed record. throughout the concert, i laughed and prayed and said a lot of yeses and amens inside my head. and when it was all over, my friend and i got in line to meet them, and have our posters and cds signed.

as we waited, we talked and laughed about the first time we met them about three years ago. i found out jamie had seen me on youtube. after about an hour of waiting, we were finally within arms sight of the table. as i approached, morgan said, “hey we know you.” i smiled. as she signed my poster, and jamie signed my cd, jamie said, “you sing, right?” i replied with sort of, and another embarrassed smile. “sort of?” she continued with a chuckle, “i’m trying to get you to brag on yourself. you’re so modest.”

a few minutes before we’d gotten to the table, while we were still in line, i pulled a business card out from my bag, and wrote my website on the back (i made the cards before i decided to make a website). i didn’t know if i was going to give it to her, or not, but by the time we got up there, i had decided on not. then morgan asked how to spell my name, jamie remembered it was spelled with an e at the end, instead of a y. even though i’d decided against it, i thought it was the perfect opportunity to slip them my card, because they asked how to spell my name. when jamie asked, i pointed to the slick, black card stock with white lettering and she picked it up to read: “word welder. string tickler.” and she was like “oh! that means you’re a singer-songwriter!”

from the way i just described it, it doesn’t seem so bad, but reflecting on the night while in bed later, i realized i only actually spoke about five words. and i worried they would think i was blowing them off with my lack of social skills. to them, it probably wasn’t a big deal, but anxiety told me dwell on it and play it over in my head as many times as would make me dizzy, and think up all the things i could have done differently–all the things i could have said, everything i did wrong, was giving them my card too forward? i wished for a time machine. as we left they called after us, “nice seeing you again,” all i did was smile nervously and hurry away.

social anxiety busts its ugly head through any new or uncertain social situation, even if there’s only one new person in a group. i find myself throwing up the distance defense with curt, one-word answers, or just not talking at all.

when i perform, i don’t mind doing it in front of strangers, in fact, i prefer it. but after i finish i open my eyes all the way, glance over the room, then slide my guitar around my body to rest on my back and hurry off the stage and down the aisle as quickly as possible, without looking at anyone. after the show is over, if someone tells me how well i did or how much they liked it, i give a quick smile and slink away out of sight.

i think about all the connections i’ve missed, the people i’ve unintentionally offended, all the time i’ve spent alone. there’s no quick fix, but thinking back, all the could-have-beens make me want to open my eyes, and look up a little more.

“release”

in my previous posts, in various places around the internet, i put the word ‘release’ in quotation marks. it’s a self-esteem thing, i guess. i don’t know if i can, or should, use the word release in its legitimate sense. i mean it’s not like i’m an artist with fans, and people who were waiting in anticipation for my music, right?  so, if i don’t call it a release, then i have nothing to stress over when no one listens or downloads, right?

wrong.

as much as i’d like to spare my feelings of rejection, and let everything roll off my back, it still pricks my chest a little when i reach and am returned no response (especially from people i know personally). “shaking the dust off my feet” and moving on to the next thing can be easier said than done sometimes—most of the time—but i think i’ve forced myself to do it so many times in the past year trying to find my audience. there’s no time to mourn the connection that could have been because trying to find the right one, that is beneficial to both parties, requires a lot of time and energy and, so far, breeds about a 20% success rate (probably less). to any artists, musicians, etc. out there, how do/did you find your audience?

to cover, or to original?

I posed a question some months ago asking if it was easier to cover a song or to sing your own song. To answer my own question:

In general, it’s easier for me to sing my own songs. Why? Because, I know all of the nuances of my own work, I can change it however I want without it being compared to the “original,” or anyone else who’s sang ti. It’ll also be written in a key I’m comfortable in and won’t have to change or work through. 

With that said, I’m working on some original stuff right now. I have so much to sift through and edit, and I can’t wait to share it!