Sunday, February 24, 2013

relocating to boughs of hope

There's so much to be thankful for/And so much to be forgotten
There's no perfect secret/To the things that bring us joy

Ha ha! to the old year/Goodbye to the cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it
Goodbye, denial

The mind is a wanderer/It slips off into a false world
Never stopping for a minute/To take a good look around

Ha ha! to the old year/Goodbye to the cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it

I'm gonna live like a living soul
Gonna write it on my wretched bones
And stop waiting for happily ever after

Ha ha! to the old year/Goodbye to the cold, cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it

Ha ha! to the old year/Wave goodbye to the cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it, laugh when I need it
Goodbye, denial, goodbye

-Eric Peters' "The Old Year (of Denial)"

A few weeks ago, Matthew and I went to an Eric Peters concert. Though I've been somewhat familiar with Eric's music for years, and heard him open for Sara Groves last March, I never owned any of his music until recently. I bought his new album, Birds of Relocation, on New Year's Day and it's been on constant rotation in my car and on my iPod ever since. The video above is the first song on the album, and was the perfect anthem for me this New Year's as I said goodbye to a hard 2012. 

As many of you know, Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts has been huge for me the past couple of years (that's a post in and of itself). On the cover is a birds nest, and that image has become very symbolic for me. It's been an image of thankfulness and of hope. 

For my birthday this year, Ben and Michelle got me a Barnes & Noble gift card. I was wandering the aisles on a Sunday afternoon, trying to find just the right purchase, and I came across a devotional book called The Book of Hope. I felt like the Lord had put this book on the shelf just for me as soon as I took a look at the cover, and then started flipping through the pages.

I've been reading through it ever since, and it's been such a blessing. 

So, the symbolism of Birds of Relocation has been particularly meaningful to me in light of these books that I've been reading, and how God has been using these pages to restore some hope into my sad and fearful heart. 

The concert we went to earlier this month was wonderful. It was in a small chapel with a small crowd and was therefore extremely personal. Before the show, we got a chance to say hello to Eric. We told him how we had a hard year, and how this album had really been ministering to us. What I like about Eric is that he's extremely honest. He's struggled with depression and has been very open about it in his writing. He's also just a very melancholy personality much like myself, so I definitely feel a kinship to him. His music that night really ministered to my heart in the deepest places that I can't even properly describe. I felt so close to Jesus in that little chapel. I felt so loved and cared for as I listened to these songs of struggle and, ultimately, hope. The issues aren't wrapped up in neat little 3 minute pop song packages, but over the course of the album the hope just creeps in and takes root... it nests, if you will. 

Eric ended his concert with two songs that are even more meaningful to me than the first. "Fighting for Life" is exactly what I feel like I'm doing a lot of days. I am fighting to be encouraged, to stay thankful, and to choose hope. 

In a little while, in a little while
The ghosts return to noise.
But not right now, no, not right now
The sky must be enjoyed.

Fighting/I'm fighting for/I'm fighting for my life
Fighting/I'm fighting for/I'm fighting for my life

Another way, is there any way
To multiply our years?
Here to stay, I am here to stay
My eyes are bright and clear

Fighting/I'm fighting for/I'm fighting for my life
Fighting/I'm fighting for/I'm fighting for my life

Like a secret hope that is forcing me awake
Dust and quiet rake the ground that I have claimed

Where I'm fighting/I'm fighting for my life

But what got me most about this song at the concert was the end. On the recording, I had a hard time making out some of the words. But that Friday night, with Eric only a few feet away, I heard it loud and clear, and it brought tears to my eyes:
I go into the darkness carrying a light
I will have no fear because I’m not alone
I got angels’ voices and friends who love me for who I am
So when the waters come
I fly above this flooded earth looking for a sign of life
And I relocate on boughs of hope,
Like a living soul, remembering that
In a little while, in a little while
The ghosts return to noise
Ooh, but not right now, not right now
The sky must be enjoyed.

I love this idea of relocating to boughs of hope, of flying above the darkness and the fear, of choosing to believe truth, and the friends who love, and the great cloud of witnesses. There really is so much to be thankful for.

And finally, he ended the night with "The New Year". As he finished the final notes, he looked Matt and I both square in the eye, remembering our earlier conversation, reassuring us that, no matter what, in Christ there is always hope.

This is the year that something changes but nothing ever does
This is the year that all my failures turn into a pile of dust
This is the year, with fallen faces, we learn we're not enough
This is the year to hold each other up

Oh, oh, oh it's a new year
Oh, oh, oh it's a brand new light
Oh, oh, oh can you believe it?
It's the skies that we dream of

This is the year when laughter douses charred and burnt-out dreams
This is the year when wrens return to nest in storm-blown trees
Is this the year of relocation from boughs of old despair?
This is the year to perch on hope's repair

Oh, oh, oh it's a new year...

I was pale and weary sad, tired of ghost debates
A slave to voices old and vile, bitter bones in the grave
But this is the year, it's the year that something changes
This is the year, the year that something changes

Oh, oh, oh it's a new year
Oh, oh, oh it's a brand new light
Oh, oh, oh can you believe it?
It's the skies that we dream of...

(Matthew, Charlotte, and I were actually at the show where this was recorded last March...)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

...and still there are songs

Well, it's been awhile. It's been over a year since I last updated my old blog, Pictures of Egypt. Today I'm not going to write about why I've been silent this past year (though I will, soon). Today I'm just writing to introduce you to my new blog. A new blog for a new year and, in some ways, a new Nicole.

I've been tossing around the idea of a new blog for months. I kept getting stuck on the title. Stacy said she knew it needed to be musical. Liz agreed. "You need a Sara Groves song," she said. My old blog, Pictures of Egypt, was titled after a Sara song about transition, homesickness, restlessness. That was the season I was in when I started the blog in 2006, but it's not really the season I'm in anymore. That's part of why I knew I wanted to start over with a brand new blog for a brand new season.

Liz suggested "It Might Be Hope", an idea I loved. We also talked about "Open My Hands", which has been my theme song this past year. Both would've been great, timely titles for what's been on my heart these days. But then out of the blue, a few days after Liz and I talked, it came to me. I was thinking about how very hard life is, about how so much can - and often does - go wrong. BUT - and it's a big but - God is the one who's in charge, and I know deep down that I can't let the fear of what could go wrong get the better of me in this life. And as I was thinking about these things, the chorus of a different Sara song, "In a Girl There's a Room", came into my head.

Oh, tell me what you know
about God and the world and the human soul
how so much can go wrong
and still there are songs

Awhile back, Matthew and I were driving somewhere and I said to him, "you know, music really is the soundtrack to my life." He laughed. "Um, that's pretty obvious. Music is everybody's soundtrack." Sigh. Here I thought I was being all profound, but he was right. A soundtrack is by definition musical, and everyone, whether they are "music people" or not, has one.

But where I was going with my shallowly profound thought was that music is incredibly important to me. My faith has been defined by music more than just about anything (except the Word). For most significant (and insignificant) experiences in my life, I can pinpoint the songs and albums that were narrating the state of my heart at a particular time. And conversely, if I put my iPod on shuffle, for almost every tune that comes on I can see myself in very specific places and very specific times in my story, and I can see God at work. 

I am in an incredibly difficult season of my life right now (again, more on that later). I've been to some very dark places in my spirit over the past year. But even in all of that, God has given me lifelines - in books, in the Word, in friends and in sisters, and in music. 

Children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones writes, "A bird doesn't sing because it has answers; it sings because it has a song." So that's where I'm at right now, in a trying season where I have more questions than answers, but still there are songs. 

I sing because I'm happy,
I sing because I'm free
For His eye is on the sparrow
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He's watching me

-Audrey Assad's "Sparrow"