a songwriter's soliloquy

You know the feeling. That defeated feeling when you’ve set it all up just right: a blank document on your computer or open page in your journal, a perfectly tuned acoustic guitar, a quiet room, maybe even a freshly lit candle — what should be the perfect *inspiring* space for a fruitful writing session. Full of determination and excitement, you begin to strum… but your mind goes blank. You play the same 3 chords over and over again, hoping for that perfect combination of a heart-wrenching melody and eloquent lyrics to come out of your mouth. But nothing comes, and before you realize it, you feel defeated.

This was me, over and over again, as I began my journey of songwriting. It was full of struggle and rarely ended with what some might describe as a “win.” When I was young, I have a distinct memory of God saying He would give me songs for this generation to sing. I was sure that God had called me to write songs for the church. So, why the struggle? How do so many of us as worship leaders wrestle to produce the songs our hearts desperately desire to lead?

It took me a long time and a lot of tears to realize that like many things in life, songwriting is a process. It is an art that must be crafted and refined. But more than that, it is a journey — and a sanctifying one at that. This journey requires dependence, surrender, creativity, and endurance. It requires the Spirit of God to be present and us to be listening.

If you can relate, I have some encouragement for you that I hope will help you along your journey:

  • Let go. Release the pressure of having to come up with the *perfect* song. The harder you try to write it, the more impossible it becomes to write. Perfection is not the goal, surrender is. The times where my writing struggles the most are the times when I realize I’ve stopped writing for my Creator and started writing for what I think others want to hear. Honor Him with your gifts and let Him drive your songwriting.

  • Ask God for a word from Him. If we believe God’s Spirit is alive and inspiring our hearts to do His will, don’t you think He will inspire the church with new songs that express truth and bring Him glory? Maybe you are that truth-bearing vessel. Try to think of people and situations that you are aware of in your church — what do those people need to be singing? What truths do they need to hear?

  • Listen to songs that are resonating with your heart and spirit. Try to emulate those. Maybe even write new words over a melody you love from another person’s song or lyrics over someone else’s melody, just to get started.

  • Break the mold. Write creatively. Maybe you start with a drum beat loop to get you going, or you use a less familiar instrument as you write to stretch your knowledge base. Don’t let yourself fall into a rut of writing the same song over and over.

  • Collaborate. This is a hard one! Be brave and show someone else what you’ve been working on (even if it’s unfinished). Surround yourself with people who will both encourage you and push you in your writing. I’ve found that my writing skills grow leaps and bounds when I have the courage to share my songs with other worship leaders to get their feedback. They might see blind spots in your songs or have helpful tips for how to nail what you’re trying to say. It’s risky to the ego, but well worth it.

  • Finish, and then start again! Don’t let too many pieces of your songs linger undone. Finish what you’re working on (even if you don’t love it) and start another. It’s too easy to write a thousand fragments but never bring anything to completion. Or, to write a great song, but never write again. Continue to craft your gift by completing them often.

Maybe this isn’t your story. God has gifted many leaders with a natural ability for writing, where the songs just “flow” out with little effort and the whole experience feels serene. However, in my experience, most writers are in the former camp. They struggle. And too often they give up. If you have a desire to write songs for the Kingdom, tell that to God and bring Him into the struggle. He might surprise you with the songs He brings. And when He gives them, use them for His glory.

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that foodie life | pt. 1

So, if you know anything about me, then you know that next to creating music I absolutely love creating beautiful food for people. One of my greatest joys in life is having people into my home and sharing life with them over a meal.

I follow a number of great food blogs and love experimenting with new things… but most of the time I just resort to some “old faithfuls” in our household, so I thought I would share those with you over the course of the next few weeks. Here are a few of my all-time favorites!

Embarrassingly Easy Smoky Sweet Potato / Black Bean Tacos

Sun Dried Tomato and Broccoli Pasta

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

Strawberry & Leek Quesadilla

Pappardelle with Spiced Butter

Baked Herb Pistachio Falafel

Spring Roll in a Bowl

Roasted Vegetable & Chicken Salad

Tomato & Peach Salad with Buttered Bread and Pistachios

Enjoy! 

XO,

Linzy

come away with me

“Come away with me for a while. The world, with its nonstop demands, can be put on hold. Most people put Me on hold, rationalizing that someday they will find time to focus on Me. But the longer people push Me into the background of their lives, the harder it is for them to find Me” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling).

How often is this true of all of us? How often do we rationalize away our time with Jesus to attend to whatever “urgent” need arises?

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I’ve always been struck by the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. You’ve heard the story… Martha is preparing the food and details for the festivities of the day, while her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching. There is so much to do for the party, so Martha gets frustrated at her sister for sitting, being still, and listening to Jesus. In her anger, Martha confronts Jesus saying “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Ouch.

Only one thing is needed… to sit at the feet of Jesus and to listen to Him. Would you have stopped working, sat down, and listened to Jesus?

I’m afraid to admit that I would have been Martha in this story. So often, I get “busy” and think that by doing more, I’m accomplishing more for the kingdom and therefore Jesus is glorified. After all, it’s all for Him anyway, right? The rewards of a busy lifestyle feel so immediate and tangible. It’s hard for me to believe that Jesus would rather spend time with me than have me get more done… but that is the complete truth.

Busyness fuels self-sufficiency and at it’s root is nothing short of a prideful heart. Satan can get a stronghold on our lives by getting us to “do” more and “be” less. His voice so quickly convinces us that busyness and productivity lead to life, when they really... they choke it. Busyness is often a symptom of a heart operating independently of God’s strength. Pride results when we give into that temptation and start believing that God needs us to make things happen. As that sin grows, so does our ability to experience the freedom and life-changing power of Christ.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Jesus calls us to simply “be.” He desires a deep relationship with His children that can only be cultivated through intentional, quiet, listening time with Him. He wants you to put aside that which is urgent to focus on what is truly important. What is more important than your relationship with your Creator and Savior?

Jesus deserves to be in the foreground of our lives, not the background. He desires to be with you, to speak to you, and to pour out His love upon you. The process may be slow, but the reward of a deep, life-fueling relationship with Jesus is unmatched. Come away with Him and you will reap a reward that will never being taken away.

vocal remedy #1: singer's tea

When life throws you lemons, make THIS TEA.

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I love lemons. They’re so refreshing and cleansing, and they are such a foundational element of a singer’s healthy lifestyle. If you sing professionally, you know how important it is to keep your instrument in tact. You also know how easy it is to irritate it!

Our vocal cords go through a lot of strenuous activity in a day’s time… talking, yelling, even breathing is an activity that involves use of the muscles in the throat. Sometimes, you’ve already worn out your instrument by the time that evening gig rolls around. Yes, I’m all too familiar.

SO, I am excited to share with you some of my vocal remedy secrets that I use when my voice isn’t cooperating with my lifestyle. One of my favorite remedies is one that I like to refer to as “Singer’s Tea.”

This recipe has been adopted and combined with about a zillion other similar recipes out there. I claim no ownership over the idea. This is just the combination and proportions of ingredients that works for me. Enjoy!

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SINGER’S TEA

  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 6 thinly sliced pieces of peeled ginger root
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Boiling hot water
  • One quart mason jar

Steps:

1. Squeeze a lemon (or two, if you really like citrus) into a teapot or mason jar. I like to use a mason jar, so I can store it in the fridge easily. The best way to get the most out of your lemon is to use a fork right in the flesh of the lemon. Twist the fork as you’re squeezing to ensure you get all of the juices out. Then use the fork to take out any seeds that might have fallen into your juice.

2. Add a tsp or two of honey, depending on how sweet you like your tea. Honey coats the throat, so it’s a natural soother… totally worth the ‘sugar’ calories you take in by drinking it.

3. Take a piece of fresh ginger root and with a knife, slowly peel around the outside. Then thinly slice the root until you have 6 or so thin disks. Toss them in the jar.

4. Add your spices! I like to add cloves, star anise (gives a very minor licorice taste), and a cinnamon stick for flavor. You could also add hibiscus, lavender, or cayenne pepper to help clear congestion.

5. Boil hot water and fill your mason jar to the top. Seal the jar and shake gently to mix ingredients.

6. Steep for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight in the fridge. The next day, take out the spices and ginger, heat and enjoy! The tea will last up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

to those who hurt

Today, I'm reminded that amidst the perfectly posed, beautifully edited photos and stories I see on my Instagram today, there are hundreds of other ones I do not see. So many are experiencing the sting of loss, the brokenness of betrayal, the pain of fresh heartbreak... and you need to know that you are not alone. Though it might seem like everyone in the world has it all together, it’s a fallacy. No one’s life is perfect. In fact, I would venture to say that your life, much like mine, is perfectly imperfect.

It’s amazing what you can do to a photo. You can take a basic, nondescript picture of something and with a few swipes of a finger, transform it into something that is alluring and beautiful. On one hand, it is an art form. It takes incredible skill to be able to create beauty and elicit an emotional response out of the mundane, the dark, the emotionless. But when we use this ability to put forth an image of who we want to be, rather than who we really are, we feed into the spiral of shame and comparison--the ultimate joy-stealer.

We cannot edit our lives the way we can a photograph; remove the smudges and stains, saturate the good parts and fade the whole image to make it seem natural. Our lives don’t work that way. So, why are we so quick to display the polished, I’ve-got-it-all-together side that makes others gawk and spurns on jealousy when the reality is oftentimes the opposite?

I’ll be the first to say that I am guilty of putting forth my “best,” oftentimes on days when things are the worst. It somehow feels better to join the rest of the world in showing that I have an amazing life, when the reality might that I am crumbling inside and trying to pull together the pieces.

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This post is for all of those kindred spirits out there wishing you could trade shoes with someone you see today. For those of you who feel “other” than the rest of the world, left on the sidelines, alone in your suffering and brokenheartedness. You are not alone. In fact, God says that he is especially near to you. Listen to these truths:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” - Ps. 34.18

“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He makes known to them His covenant.”  - Ps. 25:

“For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.” - Ps. 22:24

“For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” - Ps. 27:5

Be encouraged friend, knowing that God is in the business of healing and redeeming even the most painful parts of our stories. Remember, your story is YOUR story--it's unique and special, no less than anyone else's. Let His voice speak louder than the ones in your head and the ones of those in your social circles. God is not standing idly by watching your pain; He is holding you, listening to you, loving you, healing you, lifting you, empowering you, and will eventually strengthen you to send you out again.

To those who hurt: I hurt too. My heart is all too familiar with it’s broken state. But I am learning to trust in a God who can and will restore. May His voice be louder than all the others as we journey on the road to healing together.

here in the waiting

It’s been about 2 months since the release of my worship EP “Here in the Waiting,” and I have been completely overwhelmed and humbled by the response. Thank you all for the stories of how God has been using the words and songs from the album in your lives. My prayer was that this project would be used to help others connect with the heart of God, through both personal and corporate worship. God is answering that prayer one day at a time, and I am grateful!

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I wanted talk a little bit about what inspired the title of the album “Here in the Waiting.” I’ll start by saying my main inspiration for writing often comes out of my own personal journey with God along with situations going on within my own community.

Well, when I started asking God for a vision for this album I was in a pretty dark and difficult season. Many of you don’t know this and most of you probably wouldn’t guess it, but I struggle with fairly significant depression. A little less than a year ago, I was in one of these seasons where everything seems lost, hard, confusing, dark… you know what I’m talking about?

All of those thoughts led me to an intense search for meaning…  I was back to asking God questions like, “what do you want me to do with my life?,” which led to deeper questions like “what’s the point of my life?,” which started revealing even deeper pain and struggle that led to some pretty dark days. Some of you know what that feels like. I asked God to take away the cloud that loomed over my life, the dark thoughts that I couldn’t shake, but He didn’t answer right away and I was left in a season of waiting.

Through it all, I slowly realized that as I fixed my eyes on the things before me -- the circumstances that I could see with my own eyes, the feelings of the day -- the struggle worsened, the days got darker. But, the more that I could lift my eyes and fix them on Christ and on a future in heaven that is promised to me, where all pain, loss, and hardship are gone, the more freedom I experienced.

It made me realize how much we are often “here in the waiting” for things to get fixed in our lives -- for the hard things to disappear, when really we are here in the waiting for our Savior to come and fix this messed up world. We are waiting for eternity. And when are eyes are fixed on that, it changes everything in the day to day.

I would guess that every one of us is in some season of waiting -- waiting for that job to come through, waiting to find some purpose in life, waiting for the heartache to heal, for the bad memories to disappear. I want you to know that God hears you. He knows what you’re going through and He will answer in His time. Our God is a god of hope, love, and He promises that one day He will take it all away and give you eternal life with Him. Until then, we remain here in the waiting.