Strings In My Mind

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The guitar was an instrument I was never going to play. But, that being said, at one time I never intended on playing any instrument other than my voice. I was a vocalist. I would sing and others would play. Then, I turned 16 (many years ago) and things for me changed. Suddenly, I wanted to write. I went to the piano because it’s what was there. There was a piano available and I could play it well enough – just about – to use it as a songwriting tool.
 
I’m not sure when it all changed for me – where I got tired of looking for others to accompany me – where I wanted to be free to perform utterly solo – but the change happened. And, from somewhere inside, I heard the piano call to me. I sat down. And. I. Played.
 
I would laugh when people would call me a pianist and when they would speak glowingly of my playing. I’m a vocalist, I would say. I heard the piano giggle, too. We had our secrets. But, I finally realised I wasn’t just a vocalist anymore: I was a proper musician – I’d just taken the long way ’round.
 
What other instruments could I play? I began to pick the odd one up… can I make this sing?
 
The djembe.
The Native American flutes.
The lyre.
 
And, we sang while the old guitar (that belonged to my husband but he didn’t play either) gathered dust and I avoided frets like I avoid making a phone call.
 
Oh, every once in a great while I’d pick it up and ‘try’. But, I wanted it to be easy, of course.  And, I didn’t want it to be painful. The guitar is neither easy nor painless.  My nails would have to go, too.  Fuck this.
But, I’d write guitar songs.  I’d write them on the piano and then have a guitarist friend play them.
Then. Earlier this year, a chance invitation from someone had me inexplicably attending a ‘build your own ukulele workshop’.  And, in an afternoon, I was playing the ukulele as if I had done all my life.
I thought, ‘Hmmm… I can manage these frets…’ I looked over at the dust covered six stringed beast, just sitting there taunting me.
Understand this, musical instruments have souls. They have personalities. It’s why I name all my instruments.  And, I may be crazy, but I’m not off my meds and I’m NOT delusional…  musicians know this: instruments have a way of communicating with you. The guitar was smug.  It was taunting me.
‘I’m out of your reach, old woman.  Can’t teach you a new trick.’
Long story much greatly shortened, we grappled with each other but eventually reached an understanding; a truce was called.  He let me in.  I discovered he needed a bit of help in order to help me play him. So, I had his action lowered and we set off teaching an old girl new tricks after all.
This is the result.
I’m proud of this; I’m excited to share it.  And, I’m grateful.  Grateful for this musical journey which has done so much more than add versatility to my performance as a musician; it’s gone deep, affecting the very fabric of my being. I’m selling this short EP of acoustic guitar and rich vocal songs for just £2, but to me it’s worth so much more…this experience has been priceless. May you enjoy the fruits of my labour – and my precious friendship – with the guitar.
Lesson: sometimes, some things are worth the pain.
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Forget Redbull… Music Gives You Wings!

“Forget Red Bull… music gives you wings!” – Autumn Dawn Leader, Singer/Songwriter

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Embarrassment (And What Does It Have To Do With Ducks?)

Image“Like water rolling off a duck’s back”, so the old saying goes. I’m not much like a duck (well, other than I may waddle a bit when I walk, and then there’s that quacking thing…and, my lips, of course). I wish I was more like a duck. How great it would be to have bad experiences just roll off like so much water and not be affected because my God-designed waterproof feathers keep me from getting soaked, damaged and overwhelmed by the badness.

I wish I was more like a duck.

Last night I had a rather embarrassing, humiliating and demoralising experience. To make matters worse, this pickle I found myself in was not my fault (hey, I’ll hold my hands up and admit often I’m the one to blame for my pain, but this time it wasn’t the case). I cried most of the night, kept awake by my anguish.

The whole episode reminded me of a time when I was about 15 years of age and was to sing at a special meeting for Veteran’s Day. Now, I have always been good (or, at least I was so when I was younger) at remembering my words. I never forgot one. Up until that night, when almost every word in the song flew out of my head in an instant leaving me up there blinking into the spotlight while no words came out of my mouth. Some people blamed my age or lack of experience; the truth was I had been singing professionally since the age of four. I had no excuse. This, unlike last night’s experience, was my fault. I had no one else to blame but myself. The experience marked me. I was so embarrassed it made me sick. I have never fully recovered from that night over 20 years ago. So much for “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, eh? What a load of bull-poo!

Of course, that experience when I was 15 was not the end of my musical career. The fact that I was so young worked in my favour even if people were mistaken in thinking that it was youth – and therefore – inexperience that had caused my nightmare situation that night.

Last night was the same, but different. I didn’t forget my words. And, there was very little I could have done to change it other than to not sing at all or stop when my guest accompanist began the song we were doing in the wrong key forcing me to sing it way out of my comfortable contralto range (where we had rehearsed it – and, man, it sounded awesome in rehearsal). The song was part of a bigger programme, so it wouldn’t have done to stop and start again – so, the professional “went on with the show”. Of course, there’s no explaining this to people who don’t understand music. I simply sounded crap (“who told her she could sing?”). There was no way to save my musical/vocal reputation. For this night, and those people, it was ruined. And this time it wasn’t even my fault.

Now, I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken idea that I am badmouthing my extremely talented keyboardist. The man is simply talent on legs. He played what he played absolutely exceptionally (and any decent second soprano could have handled it easily and beautifully, but I am a contralto) it was just, unfortunately (for me and my rep), the wrong key. Believe me, there’s a lot of difference between F and C.

I sobbed most of the night, feeling kicked in the teeth by life again – marked, irrevocably, and not feeling in the least bit duck-like. Humilation is just so utterly sh*tty!

I didn’t get much sleep, obviously. But, after I did mercifully drop off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, surprisingly enough I woke up without immediately starting to cry again (although, I did tear up a bit as the morning progressed), and I felt led to read Lamentations from the Bible (well, if anyone is lamenting, it would be me…).

Lamentations: 3:14-24:

My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord  is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord  never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord  is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Well! Here I am rolling around in the dust like Jeremiah the prophet was, humiliated, in sorrow and pain…yet. What a great word that is. Yet. Jeremiah chose hope again and so can I. Why? One reason:

am

loved.

I remembered my grandfather when he would comfort me when I was little, and he’d say, “You’s bein’ wuv-ved” (wuvved – pronounced like wuvv-ed). He didn’t have a speech impediment and he was quite well-spoken and a very intelligent and well-educated man. But, when he was affectionate with his family, he used language like this with us. I still hear him say it, though he has been gone these many years, when I feel very vulnerable and very unloved. “You’s bein’ wuvved.”

This morning it was as if my Heavenly Father was saying to me, “Autumn, there’s hope. All is not lost. This situation has affected you greatly and maybe you can never forget it, but you can put it behind you today and start afresh, because you’s bein’ wuvved.”

So, we have established that I am not much like a duck where it counts but I am somewhat like an ancient prophet. We have pretty much made it clear that humilation sucks big time, and – judging from past experience – we can pretty much assume that I am not likely to “get over” it anytime soon. YET. We have seen yet. And, that one little word makes a big difference going forward, because I can’t go back and change anything.

Thank God for yet, for hope, for grandfathers, for music, for ducks and, most of all, for wuv.

Climb The Steps In Your Imagination

After the high of having a good day yesterday, today/tonight I am quite out of sorts. I wrestle with how much to share, not because of the sensitive nature of what is causing me angst, but out of desire to be understood, and I don’t know how much of my present woe will be understood by a wide audience. It’s a musician thing… and then, to further narrow the field of those who would “get it”, it’s – specificially – a worship leader thing (well, part of it is a worship leader thing – a big part of it, but there’s some more to what’s upsetting me and most of it is under the heading of “tortured artist”).  And, I don’t want to exclude my readers and be, well, exclusive. And, it would take too long to explain. So…I shall type those immortal words: never mind.

So, in looking for some solace (read escape) from this pervading sense of woe, I have perused my WordPress reader, to find that one of my favourite bloggers has put up this:

Photo Post: Curving steps at Williamson Park, Lancaster.

And, while the photo is nice and the place sounds intriguing, it’s Mark’s line,

“Climb the steps in your imagination and let me know what you see.”

that grabbed me and inspired this post.

I could camp here. I could write a song – and, I don’t know, maybe I shall – on this line. Certainly, if I don’t, someone should. What glories such a line evokes. But, what of the practical application of Mark’s advice?

I stand at the foot of winding stone steps. I cannot see the top from where I stand. I am tired. I am weary. I am out of sorts. I want to sit and rest, not to climb – and yet, these steps beckon me. I will rest when I reach the top, I think – I…hope. Yeah, somehow these steps, the winding stair, the anticipation, it suddenly gives me the motivation I need to move, to climb. Climbing takes effort. I know I will be out of breath by halfway up (I’m not as young as I used to be, and I have heart palpatations and dizzy spells). And, indeed, things begin to get fuzzy and dark around the edges about the time I’m passing the halfway mark. I now wonder why I embarked on this climb in the first place. I now wish I had stayed put, down there. I am now berating myself for ever starting on this foolhardy and sure to be failed mission. Someone, carry me the rest of the way! But, there’s no one there, and it’s either sit down right there in defeat (it’s tempting) or carry on. I could go back down (gravity is in favour), but I’d likely fall if I go in that direction, as dizzy as I am. So, slowly up I go again. One. One more. Another one. Just one more. And again. I’m looking at my feet, willing my legs to go on. My heart pounds and a cold sweat has now broken out on my brow; I feel like I’m going to throw up. I’m nearly there. One more. I lift my eyes…

I see…

I see…

I MADE IT!

And, that’s the best thing of all I could ever see.

The problems are being fixed. Please wait…

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Wow, 921 problems corrected, immediately – with the click of a finger, in the blink of an eye. This morning, after clicking the notice given by my anti-virus for maintenance, my computer screen began speaking to me. I thought about how I wish I could fix my 921 (at least) problems by clicking a button; I wish human maintenance and mental and emotional health was that simple; I want to hit a button and have my mind defragmented!

However, when the day went on and the defrag continued into the afternoon and the evening, this is what hit me:

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While the 921 problems were rectified almost instantly at my click, this defragging biz takes time and is a longer process (especially when there is “severe fragmentation”). A sermon was forming…

Please wait…

Isaiah 30:18:

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

At the cross, 921 problems (and more) were – instantly and forever – taken care of when Jesus said, “It is finished.” There is no power in religion, only in relationship, and the way was made, then and there, for all time, for that relationship to happen. So, what now?

So now, people like me (with issues and “severe fragmentation”) have hope. But, the defragging (restoring of the soul) is something that doesn’t just – poof – happen. It’s a process that takes time. Just as the computer files have to be carefully worked through, so my “internal system”, my “hard drive” aka my soul (in other words: my mind, will and emotions) take some major sorting out. Or what? I will run sluggishly and I will, more times than not, crash.

Because of the finished work of Jesus, spiritually, I am peachy keen (that’s a theological term, don’tcha know). And, ultimately, I know, one day, I’m going to see this:

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BECAUSE OF THIS HERE:

Philippians 1:6:

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

But, right now I am here:

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And, I am promised that “the problems are being fixed” and am advised (over and over again): please wait…

Psalm 27: 13-14:

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the  Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Isaiah 40:31:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

And, there are many, many more places where waiting upon the Lord is encouraged and instructed. So, here’s my little paraphrase, in light of my ‘puter’s defrag lesson:

St. Autumn 1:1-2:

Wait upon the Lord and you shall be defragmented. The problems are being fixed; please wait.

What is waiting? Well, the original Hebrew in these places where it says “to wait” more literally means to be expectant. So, it isn’t just a resigned sitting around. It is an expectant trust.

This is GOING TO HAPPEN (He’s promised it):

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But, it doesn’t just happen with the click (it only STARTS with the click). It’s a journey that He is committed to, that so must I be if I want an optimized operating system minus interference. I must…

Please wait…

And so, my response shall continue (with expectation) to be:

Psalm 130:5-6:

I wait for the Lord , my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

Wholeness That Swallows Up My Brokenness

“In Him I meet wholeness that swallows up my brokenness.” – Autumn Dawn Leader

I call out to God from my depths. The depths of despair. The depths of depression. The depths of depravity. The depths of myself. The depths of my humanity. And, in Him I find mercy, forgiveness, help, hope and healing; I find full redemption.

In Him I meet wholeness that swallows up my brokenness.