New EP Coming Out 4-14-15!
I should totally be asleep right now. The thing is, I just can't really figure out how to do this parenting thing without somewhere losing A LOT of sleep. I fought it with my first sweet baby but when we moved 2,500 miles across the country when our second was only 8 weeks old, I gave up the battle for sleep.
In the last few years since leaving Nashville our world has been waves of changes one after the other. The tide creeping up on every little sand kingdom I have tried to build. So I gave up on that too... the building my own kingdom thing. It wasn't quite working out for me anyway. I was addicted to control, terrified of change, and feeling hounded by the idea that I had more to offer the world than a couple closed fists and a locked front door.
I was fighting all the wrong things, taking shallow breaths, clinging to fear instead of trust.
I felt that nudge to sing...to just sing. Don't worry about who or what it's for, just sing. So I started waking up early in the mornings...when I should have been sleeping. Somehow in the name of Jesus (because I was not capable of waking up as early as I did in the name of Alli) I woke up well before the sun and before my family, and I wrote. I drank my coffee and sang my songs and wrote whatever was in me to write. And I started to feel like myself again.
I wrote a lot of songs in those early mornings and four of them have found there way onto this EP I am calling Breathe. The fifth song is one I wrote with the lovely Audrey Assad years ago that has haunted me ever since, and seemed to have a home in this collection. When I sat down to record with Don Chaffer, these were the five songs that I sang the bravest. We had just two days to get it all done with just Don and I playing all the instruments, and I absolutely love what we got.
Something you'll hear me say to my kids often is "Take a deep breath."
I tell it to them when they are overwhelmed, melting down, angry. And then I tell it to myself for the same reasons. The desire for things to be simple and uncomplicated is a futile waste of a longing. But that doesn't mean we should despair. It just means we have a choice, to long for different things. So I am continually redirecting my longings. Adjusting my gaze off of myself and off of the fear and onto the One who holds it all. And in the process, I am taking A LOT of deep breaths.
[Hear Alli's new EP Breathe exclusively on iTunes available April 14th]
Show coming up in Portland July 19th
I'm so looking forward to this upcoming show with longtime friends Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson. It's going to be a collaborative night of music, live art, and storytelling. Find out more here!
Learning to grow...one scraped knee at a time
When my son James was turning 3, a friend told me about strider bikes. They learn balance when they are young and then don't need training wheels down the road, she said.
Well, James will be 5 next month and he is the poster child for these balance bikes. The transition to a bike with pedals has gone smoother than the transition to cups without lids. Seriously! And now I am that mom at the park craning my neck and holding my breath while I watch him race down the incline on the path. You should see him, it's really something. He doesn't quite understand the concept of bragging or showing off and he thinks that everyone everywhere wants to see how awesome he is on his new bike. The smaller kids at the park will run after him with curiosity and James' eyes will sparkle as he leans down and pedals even faster, loving the attention.
Of course, he does have falls. And they are from farther up than he's used to and from different angles than he had learned to control, so he has some scrapped knees and elbows. (if either grandmother is reading this, please don't send knee pads. There is no chance he would wear them)
The other day I was watching both of my kiddos ride around on their bikes, keeping an extra close eye on James who was probably a little too confident in his newfound bike freedom. He rounded the corner to our driveway and the front wheel turned faster than he could stop and he fell right down on to his elbow and side. Reaching down to console him, expecting a tender response, he said loudly,
"Mom! SEE! You should have been staying closer to me! You should have been watching!"
And instantly (in the kind of flash that can only be the Holy Spirit revealing something to me) I saw myself and the way I often react to God:
"You shouldn't have let me think I was ready for this! I wasn't ready! You should have been standing closer to me! You shouldn't have let me fall."
How often, when something is painful, do I turn to blame or doubt. Too often. Like my sweet boy who doesn't want to go through the trial and error of learning something new, I push back against growing pains. I fight against change. I clothe myself in the old things because I believe the lie that familiar is better than freedom. But friends, that is so far from the truth.
On this first day of spring, I am reminded of a song I wrote a few years ago about this very thing.
If it not be springtime in me, Lord make it so
I am weary of gray skies within
if in my heart I am fertile and green, Lord help me grow
I am ready for new to begin.
Three years ago I found myself sitting across the room from Tim Timmons, set up to co-write a song or two at the office of my Nashville publishing company. It only took about 30 minutes for me to realize that Tim would be a very influential person in my life.
Tim's youthful energy was contagious despite the story he humbly unfolded about living with an incurable cancer. His eyes sparkled as he asked questions like, "What would happen if all of us who believe in Jesus truly followed Jesus? What would that look like?.... What if we realized that the same power that defeated sin and death lives inside of us?!"
As we left the room that day after beginning what became the song Only One Standing I found myself thinking: I want to know Jesus the way he knows Jesus.
Three years and many songs later, Tim has become one of our dearest friends and a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for our family. His first label release, Cast My Cares, has been playing non-stop in our house and I'm incredibly proud of the songs Tim and I wrote together (Cast My Cares, Lets Be Beautiful, Christ In Me, I Will Follow Love, Great Reward & Only One Standing).
Check it out!
The Gold That Wasn't Needed
I have been reading through the bible chronologically (which I'm really enjoying) and have been really encouraged by a certain section in Exodus.
The latter part of the book includes details (after details) about the building of the sanctuary, the place where God met with His people. It describes how God put special skill in people to do all sorts of work that was needed to complete the building. And the people were more than willing to bring what they had. Their skill, their possessions, whatever was needed they brought freely. Until one of the overseers told Moses:
"The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do." So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, "Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary." So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more." (Exodus 36:4-7)
I can't help but think about the man who had just decided to take a leave from his job in order to help with the sanctuary. Or the women who was in the middle of sorting through her jewelry with a pile of gold to bring for them to melt down and use for another purpose. I can image how eager they were to bring what they had to offer, and how disappointed they may have been when they heard they weren't needed anymore.
We all desire to be valuable and appreciated. Our response when our offering isn't needed reveals who it is we are seeking value and appreciation from. Is the offering of those whose gold never got melted down any less valuable than those whose Gold became the mercy seat?
It is not a matter of whose name is on what brick, whose hand wove what curtain, whose gold became this or that. It is not even a matter of what got used, and what didn't. It is a matter of what each offering meant between the individual and God.
And it still means that today. I don't believe that God gives us gifts or resources for nothing, and if you feel like you are sitting on the bench asking God to put you in the game, perhaps you are in a season of waiting, or learning. And I would bet there is a way that you can serve right where you are. The truth is that sometimes the gifts, resources and skills that we have are needed in a public sort of way. And sometimes they are not. Jesus sees and is honored by both.
This is a lesson for me in my current season where my primary role is to be a mother. There have been times for my songs to be heard by the thousands, and then there are times that my songs are meant for my two little red headed kids. And both are an offering of the gifts that God has given me.
It is always good to ask, whose appreciation am I seeking? Who is my offering for?