I just buried my kitten

Ups and downs. Highs and lows. So much joy.  So much sorrow.  I heard a young man speak today about how we were created to experience this type of life.  We were created to experience GOD through the highs and lows of life.  Through the joys and sorrows. Comfort and pain, gains and losses.  This young man spoke about how young people use technology to desperately escape these highs and lows and conversely,  long for monotonous, easy, do-able and numb lives. Why? We are lost. We are a lost people; aimlessly wandering in deserts.  We have lost sight and touch and smell of our Creator,  the Lord, and so of course we are wanderers, but grasping. Who could BARE an ounce of the joy and pain people walk through alone?  If you don’t have God, you will find something else…food, alcohol, exercise, sex and yes…technology.  This is why I LOVE the Old Testament.  Full of men and women who walked the highs and lows of this life…with the Lord.

In the beginning, right away, we have Adam and Eve in the garden, in full fellowship, full bellies, fully known…so high.  Moments later fearful and ashamed, they were driven away…an ultimate low. Abraham…waiting on God’s promise for children, has Isaac…then is asked to kill Isaac…then Isaac is rescued, up and down and up.  Jacob, is promised Rachel, but given Leah, and then given Rachel.  Again, up and down and up.  Joseph, adored by his father, hated by his brothers and sold, then is admired by Pharaoh, then falsely accused and framed and put in prison, then made important and honored again, then reunited with his family. Up and down and up down. Moses, condemned as a baby, Hebrew boy and abandoned in the reeds, rescued by Pharoah’s wife, struggled to lead God’s people out of Egypt, then walked God’s people on dry ground out of Egypt. Down and up and down and up.

The man I heard speak this morning specifically used David from the Old Testament in the Bible to illustrate how these ups and downs can look like when we cling to the Creator by our side. David, being a shepherd himself, refers to the Lord as THE great Shepherd in Psalm 23. I am struck to the core at David’s claims of comfort during these highs and lows. Lying down in green pastures and beside still waters contrasted with experiences of deep valleys of dark shadows and looming death…David sees the Lord’s hand, feels comfort, enjoys peace, goodness and love because David DWELLS in the house of the Lord. The Psalms are FULL of David rejoicing with God, mourning with God, asking God the why’s, pleading with God, thanking God.  Through it all, David ne’er forgets God is with him.

We long to escape these high mountain tops and low valleys because we are not able to deal on our own.  We consistently avoid feeling and run to a source of numbing because we can’t experience as we were created to experience.  We numb ourselves by the seeking of technology and creations VS immersing ourselves in the constant and satiating presence of the Creator Lord.  I am Queen of escaping. Netflix show binging, foods, wine, new diet trends, workout regimens, staring off into space…QUEEN of escaping.   But I long to feel safe,  to feel life as it’s meant to feel.  The solution, the only solution. Clear as day. The Lord.

Prayer, listening to God’s word, reading God’s word and studying God’s WORDS…without these things, these simple, everyday things…I am lost and numb.  The Psalms are conversations with God…back and forth.  This is how we are meant to experience highs and lows…through and with our Lord.

So, today I buried our kitten, Wonton.   As I buried this little, lifeless and stiff being, that had so quickly won the affections of my family barely two weeks ago…I was struck by sadness…a grief.  A super low. Just yesterday, my son and I were dragging a string along with a feather, laughing as Wonton chased and lept after.  Hours later, Wonton died in my arms after our dog “played” with her.   And today I allowed myself to feel and boy did I cry.   This morning I allowed myself to weep as I dug a grave under the post oak trees out back and filled in the dirt. And I cried for my friends. Because the Lord brought to mind people, and  I remembered and prayed for my friends who are moms who have wept and buried lost infants in the womb, lost babies just months old, lost children who were 11 and 38, lost husbands who were married only years and husbands after 50 years of marriage.  I cried over the status of our country and the words being flung around  at each other on comment sections of posts.  I cried as God is forgotten,  and people judging one another take stage, even through He was the subject of the post to begin with.  I cried because I long to not fear.  Again…a low.  It is much harder to feel than not feel.  We are surrounded by a gazillion ways to numb ourselves.  Today I prayed.  I prayed and I prayed and I read scripture, and yes!  God was with me…and that made it real.  It hurt, so bad, but it was real hurt.   And I’m thankful for real. Real is good. Real is how we were made to be. Real and raw and authentic and right beside the Lord.  In joy beside the Lord.  In utter despair beside the Lord.  Up and down, beside the Lord.  There are a thousand hymns and even more scriptures speaking this truth into our lives….I prayed for belief.

I long for heaven…beside the Lord with no pain…but He promises to never leave nor forsake me this side of Heaven…I long to really live life moment by moment, up and down, in this Freedom of truth.

 

IMG_8570

“lift up their feet”

“Another baby on the way, she’s got nothin’ left to give.  Eight others with bare feet and nothin to eat.  She closes her eyes and wipes the tears from her face…and carries on”  

-Alison Acton “lift up their feet”

When you are overwhelmed with life, where do you turn for help?  Do you turn for help?  I have been living in the depths myself before…I have lived when I thought I would just die.  I have seen light in complete and utter despair.  My feet were literally lifted up and one foot was placed in front of the other.  ‘Just one more day…’ I would tell myself.  ‘One more hour…’ and day after day, the light shone round bout me brighter and brighter and brighter.  Sometimes help looked like a random offer of babysitting.  Other days, I would find my fridge filled with groceries someone had surprised me with.  Help looks different.  Help was my strength, my fuel.  The difference between falling and strength ultimately came from another place other than my own strength or anyone’s strength.  There is one who is stronger, the strongest, because He made strong.  Our heavenly Father…the creator of all.  He is my strength.  I have not lived a day without the sweet taste of His presence…there is not one day I have lived…even in the depths of the deepest darkness where He has not been shining right by my side.  I have been given eyes to see God in the fullest and richest places and the hurtful painful places…sometimes, right?  I still fall and can’t get up…and it takes reading my Bible and prayer and fellowship to pick me up again.  Lord, give us light into this darkness and tools to guide us right back to your feet…as you lift up ours.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. “

Philippians 4:12-13

I did it, I did it, I did it!

Today I launched my kickstarter project…eeeee!   It was one thing to learn how to play guitar, which led me to learning some beautiful music through hymns and other genres.  Then, it was another thing to begin to write about life, and observe with words on a page.  Then, further, it was another thing to hear music and melodies to these words on a page.  Then…prayer.  Lots of loads of prayer.  Some quitting and self-denial which led to a fire to write even more.  Which then led to asking the question, now what?  Now what I asked?  Do I hold these in my brain and heart forever?  It doesn’t feel right.  My songs don’t feel right until I share them with people…not because they are good, but because they are reflections of creation!  These songs are about people and places that are created.  Which led me to calling my dear friend from college, which led to us saying…lets make an album, which led to another dear friend mentioning kickstarter, which led to making a page…sending it for approval (approval?  At age 35??), which led to approval and then me pushing the launch button.  whoa nellie was that scary.  But I did it I did it I did it.  And so the roller coaster continues….with many ups and downs, I’m sure….can’t WAIT to see where this ends…

The link to my kickstarter project…spread the word friends, spread the word!

 http://kck.st/M7FTx4

Sharing….

My pastor said something that struck me and yet explained me.  Just like our faith isn’t complete with the fullest of joy it has to offer until we share that gift with other people to enrich their lives, so the music planted in my soul isn’t fully created until I share that music with others to hear it and be enriched by it. For by hearing my music, I hope people hear my creator somehow. Here are some of the songs that I have been writing for an album and want to share.   In the background you’ll hear doors opening and closing, children playing and a totally precious and oblivious hubby doing dishes and giving instruction which is a testimony to how these songs are created. In the fullness of life, distracted and inspired, these songs are written and recorded in my living room.

Fairest Lord Jesus

fairest lord Jesus, ruler of all nature

son of God and son of man…

I’ll never forget being Switzerland when the reality that I wasn’t my own boss hit me.  I had come to Switzerland to “teach” at an American School in Leysin, Switzerland…a quaint town nestled in the Alps.  My high school choir teacher had begun a choir program there during the summer terms, and had recruited some of her students to come along and teach with her.  I was an avid outdoor tree hugger, birks and all.  The mountains beckoned me and I went.   I had the opportunity to “teach” P.E.  P.E. to a bunch of kiddos…from Spain, China, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, the “middle east”  One of my students was the nephew of a king in Kazakstan.  Whaaaat?   I was 18 years old at the time.  My job was to be pseudo mom to these kids who spent their school year abroad at boarding school, and their summers abroad at summer school, take them on hikes in the mountains and play sports.   AKA: dream job for Alison.   My heart broke for them.  I lived at home all the time.  But this was their normal.  It was completely normal for kids to only see their parents three times a year???    Some kids spoke broken English.  The only other language I could brokenly speak at the time was Spanish.   I actually communicated with Italian kids that were 8 years old in Spanish because they knew Spanish but no English and I didn’t know Italian, except what words I had learned studying Italian arias in my voice classes.  I became fluent in Spanish while living in Switzerland by speaking to kids from Italy.  Go figure.  It was awesome to be there.  I was learning to comfort kids who I couldn’t speak too.  They would get sick, or be scared, or lonely…and I got to just hold them or pat their backs…or take them for a hike.  It was a sweet place to be.

On the weekends, I would travel with other teachers to crazy places like France, stay in hostels and hike in the mountains.  I would go on hikes up 15,000 feet peaks!  I would awake at 5am and return at 8pm.  I would sleep with my windows WIDE open with the cool mountain air blasting my face, but my body warm beneath the down comforter.  I would gaze out in the mountain valley and see lights flickering that were outdoor fires…and watch fall asleep as I watched them burn out.   I traveled all OVER that part of Europe.  I hiked to chateus and would have salads that had just been picked and covered in goat cheese…as the goat was nibbling at the strings on my hiking boots.  I would stay up late and play cards and drink wine (yep, totally legal after my 18th birthday in Switzerland)  with people from all over America that came to teach during the summer, after teaching in the States all year.  That seems like a dream now when I look at my scrapbook.  Did that really happen?  There was sooo much freedom to choose whatever I wanted.  I was my own boss.  But I had come to seek something while I was away from America.  Seek and find I did.

The spring before I had left for Europe, I had a friend who shared about her faith in this “Jesus”.  My family had gone to church on important holidays, and did our service days when I was scheduled to be an acolyte or sing in the choir.  I knew there were faiths.  I knew there was the church where “good” people went on Sundays.  But there was something striking, different and so attractive about this lady.  She read her Bible EVERYDAY.  She prayed EVERYDAY.  She said her life was not her own and that she had accepted Christ as her Savior.  She had chosen to not be the boss anymore of her own life, but to follow what the Lord says in the Bible.  She had given up freedoms for a captivating love of a Savior.  She was different because of these things and I wanted to see what it was all about.  Freedom was pretty sweet here.  Why would I seek captivation?

So.  I bought a small, pocket Bible…covered it in a cool piece of leather so people wouldn’t know what I was reading.  And I read.  I read and read and read.  All my spare time I spent reading the Bible…when I was hiking, I would stop, take my Bible out and read.  I began to speak into thin air about life and questions I had about the words I was reading…my first prayers.  I began to read before I went out for the day, and at night when I returned.  I read the entire Bible in 8 weeks.  Genesis to Revelation.   I was thirsty to know.  I was lost and needed guidance.  And I was seeking.  Seeking to let go of being the boss of my own life, and to begin the process of giving it away.  It turned me upside down and inside out.  It rocked me to read these words of love.  Of unconditional love.  I could give my life to Him and not have to prove myself everyday?  It was already done?  I couldn’t do anything to earn the love of Jesus?  Crazy faith.  Crazy. No way.  Crazy.

I became a Christian that summer.  My faith journey began with just opening the Bible and seeing what it was all about.  Reading God’s word transformed me.  I don’t know how.  I can’t say the “day” or “time” I gave my life away to Christ in faith.  But that summer, I began a journey.  A daily journey of giving my life to Christ.  I still wake up and read and pray.  I have had such breakdowns in this rhythm since I began it.  I have failed and fleed.  Yet, I still return to this Word that gives life.

I found God in the mountains of Switzerland.  God sought me, and found me in the mountains of Switzerland.  Every time I sing this song, I remember how God used His creation to woo me to Himself.  Here is an arrangement of “Fairest Lord Jesus” that I wrote.  This hymn has an unknown author.  It is thought to be written my monks as early as the 1600’s in Germany.  The words would be sung in a Gregorian Chant style.  Music was written for the words by Richard S. Willis in the mid 1800’s for hymnals.   I pray the Lord seeks you and finds you and you find freedom in His captivating word.

The Rock

IMG_6805_2

Have you ever jumped off a rock into water?   Doesn’t matter if it’s 10 feet above the water, or 2 feet above the water.  Want to connect with your “inner nature”, or feel “old-timey”?  Then go on a hike on the amazing greenbelt trails of Austin, Texas…find a rock in the middle of one of the flowing creeks…and jump in.  It refreshes.  It renews.  There’s something very “Huck Finn-ish” about this action.  There is something that brings us back to “the way it’s supposed to be” when we do something as silly and simple as swim in a creek.  Don’t wear a swim suit…wear your clothes!  And don’t wear water shoes…wear your hiking shoes.  (Mind you, try it when it’s warmer outside!)  When you’re done…let the air dry you as you hike onwards.  This is my favorite rock on the Barton Creek greenbelt in Austin.  I have jumped off it at many ages and stages of my life.  All my five children have jumped from this rock.   It has been there for as long as I can remember.  Makes me think of other “rocks” in my life.  My father.  My grandfather.  My sister.  My mom.  My Lord.  What are your rocks in life?  It’s fun to think about them and give thanks with words, thoughts and for me, photographs.  May you find many rocks in your lifetime.

Eyes

“Her haunting eyes, and her tiny frail hand….”  Eyes.  I LOVE eyes.  Eyes tell so much.  You can see beauty.  You can see emotion.  You can see health and sickness.  You can see color and texture and intricate design.  Eyes can focus on or look past.  Eyes can see or be blind.  Eyes that can’t see cause you to hear deeply.  And…if you look closely, you can see a reflection of yourself…..a reflection of the soul.  Many of my photographs of people will have the eyes as the focus for these reasons.  I’ve always wanted hazel-green eyes with specks of brown floating…I have brown eyes with specks of amber.  We teach our children to look in the eyes of the person they are talking too.  I like this.  I want my children not to miss the beauty of eyes.  I’ll never forget when I was walking with my friend Muhammed on a little path in the mountains of Switzerland.  Muhammed commented that I always looked down when I walked…and that I was missing so much beauty by keeping my gaze downward.  He was so right.  There was enormous amounts of beauty I was missing…including my dear friend’s beautifully wise, dark eyes.  Thank you, Muhammed, wherever you are….  Keep your gaze upward…enjoy beauty…and observe with me the beauty and uniqueness of eyes everywhere….

Album to be released spring 2015!

I am in the beginning stages of production of an album.  My first album to be exact.  I am thrilled, excited and totally scared to begin this foreign language study process.  As I juggle  our family of seven, the day in and day out life that comes with that…and add a new project…keep me in your thoughts as I press on ahead.

“What are thinking ?”, you ask?  “Don’t you have enough on your plate already?” you ask.

IMG_8431

Good questions.  Very good questions.  Hmmmm.

I guess my first thoughts are:  This doesn’t make any sense and it makes absolutely perfect sense.

My plate is full with a busy life of kiddos, schools, activities, meals, house work…and yet…I can’t help myself.  I want to give back.  I’ll stop my vacuuming to sit for an hour and write about a bird.  Or…I’ll remember my Grandma’s kind hands…and I’ll just have to write a song about her.  I’ll see a picture of some bark I took on a walk….and a song will come to me.

IMG_8606

I guess I could just keep these songs to myself forever…which some might stay that way.  But I want to share them with people, too.  Why?

IMG_1686

I follow in the great footsteps of all the great songwriters who have come before me (definitely shrinking in their shadows)…because I love their songs, I want to share those I have written, too.  Not because I am important….but because stories are important.

IMG_9259

Stories tell history and history is so important.  It is important because it tells us where we come from. We learn what is good, right and beautiful, from history.  And we can also learn ways to change, from history.

IMG_1992

I happen to want to sing history.   I can’t wait to share my songs with you soon!  The path is a privledge….

IMG_8404