Last night, I participated in a Gospel concert to kick off our county fair. I was the third performer in the line-up. Right before they introduced me, I started to get nervous. But something kicked into gear, as it always does. I can turn off Ashley the Insecure and turn on Ashley the Singer. It's weird. I can't really explain how it happens, but it's like taking on a character in a play. You become someone different.
My first song was Jerusalem by the Hoppers. It's an awesome song with lots of elongated notes on good pitches for my range. It builds, as a good song should. It just felt so good to sing it.
My second song, a special one to me, was My Tribute. If you don't know that song, you should look it up. It speaks to the true Christian heart. I introduced it by saying that I know all of the performers would agree with its lyrics. Standing up there, singing to that crowd - it's not about us. It's not about who sounds the best or who nails the notes. The glory belongs to God. He granted us the gift of talent, and through us, He speaks. During that song, I got chills - my personal sign that God is present. So, so awesome.
I closed my set with the Isaacs' He Ain't Done Me Nothin' But Good. It's a rockin' bluegrass number that makes everyone feel good. I also sang it in church yesterday morning...and biffed the words on the last verse. I know. But it happens. Particularly on songs that move like this one. Needless to say, I was a little worried that I would make the same mistake. I didn't! God was with me, and He got me through!
I felt really good about that performance last night. After I finished, I took my kids around to look at the animals. The pigs were weighing in, and there were a few cows in the Beef Barn. I could barely talk. My voice was raspy - so I know I sang my heart out last night. And when I woke up this morning, I was a little hoarse. (Hee-hee - a little county fair pun for you!) I started to wonder if perhaps I hurt my voice. What would I do if I couldn't sing anymore?
And you know, as much as I enjoy singing, I'd be all right with that. I ended on a fantastic note! I couldn't ask for more. I know I'll never see the likes of American Idol or even America's Got Talent. But if my final notes were sung giving praise to God, it doesn't get any better than that. Plus, I'm in a new stage of my life. Writing is now my focus.
I know that I will sing again. My voice is just tired. But it was interesting to go through that thought process. And through it all, peak or valley, storm or sunshine - it's not about me. I will forever look above. Thank You, Lord.
I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You.
O, my soul, rejoice.
Take joy, my King, in what You hear.
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.
I grew up in Colorado. Been here most of my life. But I always dreamt of the day I would travel. After high school, I went to Boston to a theatre school. While the city itself held some pretty neat sights and opportunities, I was so homesick, I couldn't enjoy it. Here I was, thinking I was going to be on Broadway one day, but I just couldn't stand being that far from home. Two whole times zones away!
Went to school in Arizona at that point, and wound up in L.A. of all places. I thought I had City Girl in me. And I loved my time there. My parents came for frequent visits, and I worked for the happiest place on earth. But something still called me home.
I've lived in several big cities, and after marrying, several small towns. Colorado, though, will always be home. This was where my dad brought us when I was very young. He loved the mountains and the fresh air. He loved the fact that he lived at a higher elevation than the rst of his family. I always used to joke with folks in Virginia - our speed bumps have a higher elevation than your mountains. Not being mean! It's fact!
This afternoon, as I sit down to write, I am drinking tea and listening to Celtic music. And I'm thinking about home. What is it about those mountains that I love so much? I think it relates back to my heritage. My ancestors on my mother's side came from Scotland. My dad's last name is of Welsh background. Celtic blood flows through my veins.
Now I know that the United Kingdom doesn't have mountainous peaks. But the rocky terrain is very similar. There's one place I can think of between Limon and Colorado Springs where rocks jut out from a grassy hillside. I look for it every time we drive through. I imagine the island home of my people.
I've never been there, but one day, I hope to go. I want to immerse myself in the history. I've always loved kings and queens (particularly Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). I want to lie down in a grassy meadow - become one with the rhythms of the land. I want to see castles and villages. See what it's like in real life...because in my imagination, it's pretty grand.
But sometimes, I wonder if it's better in my head. I had opportunity to travel across the world. I went to Singapore, Bali, and Australia when I worked for a cruise line. And I was miserable. But those were parts of the world that I never cared to see. So I'll continue to cling to the dream of my beautiful Isles. And if that dream comes true, I'll enjoy it for what it is.
All right. So I have my Old Lady Knickers on tonight. Excuse me for that. But I just caught myself posting the word, "Yay!" on my Facebook page. About a year ago, I forced myself to change to "yay" from "yea," as it seemed that more people recognized the former than the latter. But it still bugs me! When I took English in school, we were taught that "yeah" is slang for "yes" and "yea" is formal for voting purposes OR a celebratory exclamation. No longer the case, apparently, as "yay" is becoming more widely accepted.
My dad raised me to be very picky about grammar, spelling, and the proper word usage. The word nuclear, pronounced /NOO-kyoo-ler/ got on his nerves. "Reoccurence" was another one that irked him. "Jewlery," instead of "jewelry." Yes, those are just a few that my dad always pointed out.
He was a proofreader for a newspaper back in the day. So when I see signs with mistakes, I cringe. My favorite was a Wendy's, advertising tickets for the "Renassiance" Festival in Colorado. Or even locally, we had a motel advertising "clean and quite" rooms. Thankfully, they've since fixed the sign. But, oh boy!
I realize our world is changing. Our language is evolving. And I'm nowhere near Level Perfect when it comes to writing and/or speaking. However, I think we're losing something when we add words like "bling" to our dictionaries. I guess I just have to go with it, huh? Yay!
My husband has taught my children to say, "Whenever I'm afraid, I will trust in God." Power outages seem to be the scariest times for them. When the lights go out, that phrase is recited over and over again. My anchor is a bit more detailed. I cling to Isaiah 41:10, which says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." It's comforting to know God is there.
Colorado - my beautiful, wonderful state - has suffered another tragedy today. It seems like we've had more than our share this month, although no one should have to "share" in this kind of thing. A mass shooting, much like Columbine, at a place where no one would expect something like that to happen. It's terrible. Frightful. Horrific. Who could be filled with so much hate and torment that would lead them to do something like this? There are too many questions and not enough answers.
My prayers go out to the familes of the victims. May you all find comfort and peace in God. The pain is beyond what any human can deal with. Go to Him. Please. I also lift the family of the suspect. I can't imagine the grief they must be going through. Unspeakable. And I lift the first responders. Not only have they recently dealt with fatal wildfires, but they recently lost an officer to an unrelated shooting. They are first-hand witness to the wake of violence left by these awful events. Even heroes have a tender side. Let's remember all these folks as we bow our heads and release our grief to the One who can make beauty rise from the ashes.
God, please have mercy upon Colorado, and all of America.
Walt Disney once claimed that Disneyland would never be completed. He said, "It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." Being a creator myself, I know exactly what he meant. I am constantly thinking about my next story. My old stories. My website. My blog. What can I do to improve on what I've already done? And what's the next step?
I don't want to think what the world would be like without imagination. It's a horrible thought. God has given us a small portion of His amazing creative power, and for that, I am most thankful!
But imagination cannot mix with perfection. At least not in human terms. Perhaps that is the culmination of God. He IS imagination and perfection in One. The things He makes are perfect with no room for improvement. James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." With my finite mind, I may strive for perfection in my work, but there's still lots of room for improvement. I am a shifting shadow.
I know my work will never be perfect. And I'm okay with that. What's more important is that it leads people to the Perfect One. That people see God in what I have to share. In that way, it becomes perfect. It becomes a witness and a testament to His faithfulness. I couldn't ask for anything more. Soli Deo Gloria.
I have three singing gigs coming up within the next couple of weeks. This makes me laugh because I haven't always been a singer. It's really no big deal to me anymore. Don't get me wrong - I like to do my best, and yes, sometimes nerves get the best of me. But I've performed so much over the last four years, it doesn't really phase me much anymore. I've grown comfortable on the stage.
I remember auditioning for a variety show my freshman year of high school. I didn't know this at the time, but everyone who auditioned made it. I wanted so badly to find my niche! Just a couple of years before, I discovered the theatre. Colored lights, magical scenery, enchanting stories, lilting music. I was in love! For this audition, I sang "The Sound of Music." I croaked. My voice shook with nerves, and I know I was terrible. But I landed a number! I was in the chorus - and again didn't know until later that I was placed in the number for all the untalented girls.
Throughout high school, I participated in a variety of choirs. I learned a lot about music - how to read it, how to sing it. I even got to go to All State Choir my senior year. That involved sight reading - a very hard skill! I was quite surprised when I found out that I had made it. I also sang alto in an elite show choir that had just started that year. The auditions were tough, but I made it in.
Out of eight girls in that choir, five of us were seniors. The seniors always had a talent show at the end of the year. The three senior sopranos decided they wanted to perform in a quartet - and asked the other alto to sing with them. Hurt and offended, I signed up for the talent show. Solo act. The quartet ended up backing out. But I stood on that stage - proud and confident - and belted out "It Had To Be You."
I went onto college and learned that my place of comfort was backstage. I sang with friends and for class, but I never auditioned for anything. I put that idea away and held onto my dream of being a stage manager. But life changed, as did my career. Friends asked me to do shows here and there, and I got to perform in some pretty interesting places.
After getting married and becoming a mom, I started singing in church. And when we moved to our small community, our church members made sure I was plugged in for various events. I connected with the high school drama club - the only "community" theatre company in town - and performed with them. That also became an outlet for my writing! Singing has just become part of who I am.
I have to give the credit to God. There's no way I could have taken that stage way back in the day unless He prompted me. I may not have known it at the time, but I've come to realize that was all Him. He's led me to this point, and He'll continue to walk me through. The talent is not my own. It's a divine gift. Oh, that's not saying I'm a great singer, but God is definitely the source. So when you hear me, think of Him. When you clap, applaud Him. He's the One who is singing. I'm just the instrument.
This morning, I knew some big news was on the horizon - whether it benefitted me or a handful of other folks. Today was the day that WestBow Press and the Munce Group would announce the winners of their 2012 Writing Contest.
I had already been named among the Top Ten Finalists. That, in itself, is an honor. To be chosen from among 150 entries...wow!
So as I crawled out of bed, the first thing I wanted to do was check to see if the winners had been announced. But I didn't let myself do that. The announcement was to be made at the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, and we're in a different timezone - 2 hours behind. But still, I wasn't sure if the announcement would be posted. I made myself check email and other social network sites before I went to the WestBow Press site.
And then, I screamed.
The most beautiful thing appeared on my screen. My manuscript - Asylum - had taken the Grand Prize! This means that Thomas Nelson will review my manuscript for possible publication. If they decline, then I get to publish with WestBow Press (Thomas Nelson's self-publishing firm). Either way, I am now a published author! My dreams have come true!!
I am honored, humbled, amazed...and I owe it all to my very big and awesome God. He will make all things beautiful in His time.
P.S. A big, hearty congratulations to ALL the finalists and winners! Don't give up! The world needs your stories!
I just spent two hours in the swimming pool with my kids. That was two hours I could have been writing. Cleaning. Reading. Doing laundry. Checking email. Drinking tea. Watching TV. Crocheting. But instead, I spent it exercising, laughing, hugging, chasing, catching - building memories. That time will be treasured far beyond any time I spend doing the other stuff. (Well, for me, the writing is important, but for the kids...not so much.)
So, what's more important? All the little things that jam up our schedule? Or spending time with family and friends? Yes, those things have to get done. But when I see my kids' faces light up because they know I was watching as they dove under water or came down the slide...I know. I know that the time I give them is precious. And I also know that it's dwindling away quickly. I am choosing my kids.
Give your little ones a big squeeze. And if you don't have any, do something special for yourself. It's important.
I met someone on Twitter yesterday who went to the same school I did. We had a great conversation, remembering old haunts and such. It got me thinking about the passion I used to feel for the theatre. I know I've said it before, but I so badly wanted to be a stage manager on Broadway. I was on that path, starting out as an assistant stage manager for Disneyland. No, I wasn't doing full musical theatre productions, but I was dealing with celebrities and other high-profile people. My dream was starting to come true. But that ultimate dream of reaching Broadway never happened.
Life took me a different way. Here I am now, a mom of three, a wife - and much to my surprise - a writer. I don't work outside the home, and I often kick myself for racking up student loans for nothing. But you know what? I wouldn't trade where I'm at for anything. I may not be where my former self wanted me to go, but I'm dreaming new dreams. I'm enjoying my days with my kids. I'm writing about fantastical worlds and people. It blows me away when I think about it.
My dad always made a huge deal about success and pushing oneself beyond normal achievement. I'm glad he was around to see the things I accomplished. But with that behind me, I am so excited about my new dreams. I'm excited about the dream of getting a book published. I'm excited to watch my kids grow and develop. Just living day toAs Peter Pan says, "To live will be an awfully big adventure."
Ah, Sondheim. (The title of this blog post is brought to you by Sunday in the Park with George.) But that really has nothing to do with what I have to say. Just a little extra for you.
Back toward the beginning of the year, I had this idea for a really cool story. As a
child, my dad taught me how to play chess. I have always been fascinated with the game, and when I was a sophomore in high school, I learned that there was a musical! Okay, I love the musical, but I have to admit that it's nothing like what I thought it might be. So perhaps this story has been brewing since that moment. Tie that together with the human chess matches I enjoyed at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, and there we have it.
I started the story in the middle. That's what I do. For some reason, as I am sure I mentioned in a previous post, I cannot write chronologically. That portion is not yet complete, but I could tell that it was going to end up shorter than any other piece I've written. Not the length of a short story, but certainly not the length of an adult novel. The age of the main character was just right for a young adult story, so I decided that was where it would go.
After finishing most of that story, I was curious about the beginning. How did it all start? So I started writing that about a week ago. I'm 15,000 words in, and I love it! I am usually writing in space. It's exciting to write in the realm of kings and queens. I've always loved the
Renaissance era, so I'm drawing from that to complete this. Not that it's set in that specific time - this is a total fantasy.
The story is titled, "Xadrez", which is Portuguese for "chess". I like using Google Translate to come up with names. To me, it gives meaning. For instance - all my good guy characters have names that pertain to the color white, while the bad guys have names that pertain to the color black. Typical chess pieces are black and white, but I wanted to avoid the idea of races. I m not racist in the
least. So I chose to go with "Sacratus" (Latin for "the holy") and Tenebris (Latin for "the dark"). The affiliations have to do with their personalities and not the way they look. Although that comes into play down the road.
All that to say, I am now looking at three parts of the Xadrez story. I'm closing in on finishing Part I. Part III is mostly done. And Part II is mapped out. I am so excited about this story! And I already plan to dedicate it to my dad.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3