Music Mondays: Beyoncé

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Beyoncé released a new album on Friday at midnight. If you aren’t a fan or a music junkie or live under a rock, you probably missed this momentous event. People – both celebrities and normal folk alike – took to social media to express their shock and awe. The internet was all abuzz with a diversity of reactions. Most of the commentary was fun and funny to watch and read. Others were much more thought provoking a la this post over at the Crunk Feminist Collective and this video by the Queen of Nerdland, Melissa Harris Perry, where she hails this visual album as Beyoncé’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’. My favorite track is ***Flawless, which features the words of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her Ted Talk entitled, “The Danger of a Single Story“. It has me bobbing my head, shaking my hips, puffing out my chest and singing at the top of my lungs, “I WOKE UP LIKE DIS!” As a womanist with feminist leanings, this song speaks to my soul.

I have been listening to the album non-stop since Friday. It was released as a visual album, meaning that she recorded a video for every song. I recommend watching the videos as you listen to the songs to get the best experience and to understand the context.

All the commentary and pop culture hoopla aside, I was particularly excited about this album because I am in the midst of the hardest season of the year. I have written about my struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder and am valiantly trying to be positive and proactive during this time of year. It’s hard. I am facing my third Christmas a divorcée. I thought it would get easier, but its not. I travel all the time. I am a long distance away from my family. And I’m sad.

So as I woke up on Friday and reached for my phone, I couldn’t wait to download, listen to and watch this album. It’s hard for me to get out of bed. Like really hard. I jokingly posted as my Facebook status the following:

“Only Beyoncé can get me out of bed excited. Well, and God. But seriously God is using Beyoncé today. #FLAWLESS #thatisall”

I was only partially joking. I believe that music can be therapeutic and I believe that God uses various mediums to remind us of God’s never-ending love and encouragement. So in this instance, God used Beyoncé to encourage me and remind me of the power of love.

The album is all about love – love of self, love of others, love of home, love of life.

It’s all about love – eros, agape, philia and storge.

It’s all about love – confident and mature love.

It’s all about love, which I am desperately seeking…

I’ve struggled with loving myself. I feel like I am on an ongoing journey of practicing patience and grace towards myself. I really want to grow in love of myself because  I believe that I can only truly love others and experience love in relationship if I love myself. This album has me thinking more about what it means to not only love me, but to happy with me.

The last line of the opening track, Pretty Hurts, ask the question – are you happy with yourself? I feel like the rest of the album goes on to answer this question and it seems that Beyonce is happy – not fleetingly, surface level happy – but truly happy. And I want to experience that. I want to be happy too.

I’m inspired and for that I’m grateful. This album is going to get me through the next few days until I am home and can revel in the love of family and friends. It will get me through this season of being alone. It will get me through the sadness.

Thanks Beyoncé. Your music and vision give me life.

Love,

Me

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Music Mondays: I Didn’t Know My Own Strength by Whitney Houston

Whitney-Houston-I-Didnt-Know-My-O-503938Have you ever experienced a moment when you realize that you are so much stronger than you ever thought you could be? It’s not just enough for others to tell you that you are strong. Something has to happen to make you believe it. I’m finding that the past couple of years have placed me face-to-face with the reality that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be….

This is my first Christmas post divorce. My ex-husband and I separated on August 19, 2011. Our divorce was finalized on July 12, 2012. I’ve written about how my separation was one of many things that led to my most recent depressive episode, but I haven’t really written about how it affected my identity and my perception of myself. Making the decision to get a divorce was the hardest decision of my life. I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed. I felt like I didn’t have what it took to be a wife. I felt like a disappointment to my family and friends, especially to those who stood and witnessed my wedding.

I Didn’t Know My Own Strength performed by Whitney Houston has been such an inspiration for me. The words, written by Diane Warren, speak to the strength that exist within and comes to the surface in times of suffering.

Lost touch with my soul
I had nowhere to turn, I had nowhere to go
Lost sight of my dream
Thought it would be the end of me

I thought I’d never make it through
I had no hope to hold on to
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength

Survived my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

I always wanted to be one of those women who wasn’t defined by a relationship or lack thereof. I always wanted to be a woman who bounced back from hardships with incredible grace. I wanted my identity to be steeped in something much greater than my current circumstance. As hard as it’s been, my divorce has taught me that I am this type of woman. Most of all, it taught me that I didn’t know my own strength…

My prayer is that you are able to believe that you have incredible strength within.

Love,

Me

Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland

One of the hardest things I’ve had to face as I have gotten older is the reality that some roads must be walked alone…

You might think this is a contradictory statement since I talk so much about community support and accompaniment. But let me clarify – even when you are surrounded by people who care for you and want to shoulder your burdens with you, only one person can walk in your shoes at a time. My journey has taught me that there are some things I have to do by myself…

HOWEVER……..

Shine the Light by Sugarland provides imagery for how people who are on the outside of my journey have helped me and how you can possibly help someone who is struggling. The lyrics are so profound that I’ve listed them below. In an interview, Jennifer Nettles, one half of Sugarland, expressed that she wrote this song for her band mate, Kristian Bush, when he was going through a particularly difficult time. When I hear this song, I can imagine my friends and family on the edge of my darkness, shining the light of hope and healing.

So even though they can’t walk in my shoes, I know that they are there, carrying the light so that I might find my way.

I pray that you have someone in your life to carry the light of hope…

I pray that you carry the the light of love for someone else…

I pray that together we walk into the light of life…

Love,

Me

Shine the Light by Sugarland

Lyrics from http://www.sugarlandmusic.com/releases/the_incredible_machine_deluxe_editio n

When you walk into the edge of those
Dark and lonely woods
And when I ask how was your day
And you answer, "Not so good"

And when nothing seems to be working out
Quite the way it should, I will shine the light

And when the skies up above you fill
With gray and stormy clouds
And there's not a single face you know
In the maddening crowd

When you know that you don't make your way
But you just can't see how, I will shine the light

I will shine the light, I will shine the light
I will hold you in my arms
Until everything's alright, I will shine the light

And when your worries, they won't let you sleep
And rob you of your days
And you've looked in all directions
But you still you can't find your way

Oh, when you just need someone to remind you
That it's all gonna be okay, I will shine the light

I will shine the light, I will shine the light
When you're staring down your demons
Weighing in your darkest night, I will shine the light

Sometimes we jump into the great unknown
Sorrows, we all will have to walk alone
But waiting there in the end is a heart that calls you a friend
That's me, clapping the loudest, welcoming you home

So when your heart is heavy like a stone
From carrying its load
And you look into the mirror
And see someone you don't know

Oh, when the shadows are closing in on you
Like a hand around your throat
I will shine the light, I will shine the light

When you've given into your fears
When you've lost your will to fight
Let me know what I can do
Let me try to make it right

And I will shine the light, I will shine the light

Music Mondays: Break Away by Hunt Ft. Jae Michelle

Click here to see the powerful video for Break Away by Hunt Ft. Jae Michelle.

Abuse, bullying, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, self esteem…

The list goes on and on and on…

Many try to ignore their reality.

Others try to be something or someone they aren’t.

So many of us who suffer from depression have also experienced one or more of these things during our childhood and youth. I love this song because it highlights some very real issues that young people face today. I also applaud artists whose music inspires… Hunt is one such hip hop artist who has continued to write powerful lyrics that capture the nature of human suffering. Check him out at http://iamhunt09.wix.com/iamhunt.

This song inspires me to continue to fight and face my demons. Maybe it will do the same for you.

Love,

Me

Music Mondays: Never Would Have Made It by Marvin Sapp

I am unapologetically Christian. Even as I type this truth, I cringe because I know the perceived implications that may be assigned to this statement. I should follow up and say, that I’m not your average Christian. (To get a sampling of my particular bent of Christianity, visit my congregation’s website – House of the Rock). I practice this religion because of one simple thing – the notion of God becoming human and walking among us literally overwhelms me. And I mean this in a good way. Everything else that is associated with modern day Christianity, I could take or leave. I’ll write more about that in another post…

What I love most about this song is that it speaks about relationality and being present, which for me, is a central tenet of Christianity. I read that the artist Marvin Sapp wrote this song as a tribute after the death of his father. The song is very repetitive but I think that it’s divinely inspired. Hearing the words over and over again reminds me of the importance of those who have supported, loved, nurtured and challenged me throughout my experience with depression. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be here today without my community of friends and family.

My favorite part of the song is when he sings,

Never could have made it without you
I would have lost my mind a long time ago, if it had not been for you.
I am stronger
I am wiser
Now I am better
So much better
I made it thru my storm and my test because you were there to carry me thru my mess

I could say more about the theological implications of this song but I’m going to leave my comments at this – I never would have made it to where I am today without someone helping me.

I pray that you have someone or many ones who do this for you. Give them a chance. They may surprise you and literally save your life…

Love,

Me

Click here to see the video for Never Would Have Made It.

Music Mondays: Alright by STARBOARDERS

Today’s song holds special meaning for me for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is that the title, “Alright”, is a reminder to me in that I am not alone and that one day, everything will be alright.

The second reason is that it is written and performed by some of my best friends. Starboarders is comprised of Matt Simpkins, Bill Porter and Greg LaRose, three men that I was introduced to almost three years ago. These guys have not only become like family, they are instrumental in providing support and encouragement in my darkest moments.

The third reason that I love this song and this band is that they have managed to do something that very few people ever achieve – embrace their gifts and make a difference in people’s lives. This band writes excellent music that is not only meaningful but purposeful. The band decided that all proceeds from their first album Chroma would go to purchase LifeStraws, water filtration devices that can be used in places where people suffer from a lack of access to clean water.

This band is focused on something other than themselves, and I am learning that when we do this, our own healing takes place. So the lesson I’ve learned not only from this song, but from these guys is that we are called to care for and love one another. This brings about abundant life for everyone and helps make everything alright… Thanks guys.

Love,

Me

STARBOARDERS Links

Music Mondays: Skyscraper by Demi Lovato

Yes, I am admitting that I am a Demi Lovato fan. Deal with it…

There have been times when I feel like my depression has taken everything from me and broken my spirit in ways that are inexplicable. I’ve felt tattered and torn; I’ve felt like I was in a fight for my life and was losing. Looking back, I believe that it was God in the presence of my family and friends that enabled me to rise.This song embodies my struggle with depression. I love the chorus…

You can take everything I have
You can break everything I am
Like I’m made of glass
Like I’m made of paper
Go on and try to tear me down
I will be rising from the ground
Like a skyscraper, like a skyscraper

My favorite part the song is the second verse, which describes where I am now…

As the smoke clears
I awaken and untangle you from me
Would it make you feel better to watch me while I bleed
All my windows, still are broken, but I’m standing on my feet

The smoke is clearing. I’m untangling myself from the darkness. And I’ve realized that I am still standing…
Love,

Me