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Alison Brook

Devotions

Hymns For The Wanderer

Hi EIG readers! I’ve been absent for the last few weeks because I’ve been busy at work making a thing; a Hymns EP to be exact! Though, because of my busy creative life, I had to take a step back from blogging, our fearless leader Krystal suggested I post a little about my project, so here goes!

Introducing “Hymns for the Wanderer”

Many people don’t feel like faith based music tells an authentic, vulnerable, real-life story. These people gravitate toward the depth found in hymns, yet are sometimes unsatisfied with the traditional way they are sung.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to record a hymns EP. I wanted to harness the timeless depth of hymns but give them a fresh interpretation. Of course hymn remakes are nothing new, but I’m hoping these arrangements will reach a unique subset of people.

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Why this Title?

One day, as I was shopping and saw an inspirational quote sprawled across the front of a journal, “All who wander are not lost.” I contemplated the song “Wanderer” and thought that, though I wrote it for someone who was wandering away from the Light, it may have resonated with so many people because it spoke to more than one type of wanderer. Not only did it resonate with people wandering away from the Light, but it resonated with people wandering back to, through and with the Light.

It suddenly clicked; not all wanderers were lost.

This is why I chose to title my EP “Hymns for the Wanderer.” This musical narrative is a sequel to my song “Wanderer” and tells the story of someone who isn’t a “lost one” anymore, but is instead searching for the way back home.

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If you are interested in learning a little more about this project, hearing music samples, or even ordering the EP you can find lot of fun things over at alisonbrook.com. Thanks so much for your support. It means the world to me that I am able to make art because of people like you!

Home Life

Is Creativity Essential?

Sometimes I ask myself, “Does the world really need more art?” I make art (music) for a living, so this question nags me on my low days. There is a frivolousness attached to art at times, causing my mind to question my reasons for being a creative.

Well I’m tired of waiting for the next time the question will nag me. Instead, I want to answer it.

Desert Island Non-Essentials

Have you ever played the desert island game? Basically, a group of people shares what they’d bring to a desert island if they were hypothetically stuck on one indefinitely. When forced to choose only one thing, most people name practical items:

“I’d bring a raft or a boat so I could get back to shore.”  

“I’d bring a fishing pole so I could catch fish and not starve.”

It’s a silly game, but the results are telling: true necessities are things that contribute to our physical survival. Yet my heart screams, “The world needs art too!” Maybe we just need art in a different way than we need food, water, and a roof over our heads.

IMG_6014 Our Lives, A Creative Essential

Can we survive without art? Technically yes. But without it, a part of who we are as beings created in the image of God is lost. Ewin Mcmannus in The Artisan Soul says,

“We will never create anything more powerful or more significant than our lives. The complexity is that we are both works of art and artists at work…He who is the creator God is the creative God, and he created us in his image and likeness. He created us with imagination and curiosity, with the capacity to hope and dream, and he place within us all the material necessary to live an extraordinarily creative life. The proof is that soul is the divine material with which we are made to create. The difference between humans and every other species on this planet is that humans are artists. This is our uniqueness–we were created to create. Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We became convinced we were something less. It is time to become more.”

In the desert island scenario we may not have brought a favorite piece of art or a guitar, but we brought our lives; both the greatest tool with which we create, and our greatest creation. Without our creativity we may not have the gumption to use the raft to get back to shore or the fishing pole to catch our food.

So, is being a musician, or some other artistic endeavor, a “real” job? Yes! If creativity is essential to who we are as human beings, then the people who model this bring value to our culture by teaching that it is less about what we accomplish and more about how we accomplish it. Even people who don’t consider themselves creative are creative just by living out their lives, and allowing God to shape their lives; you are a creative testament to who He is!

Devotions

Maddy The Miracle Dog

I know, I know…the internet doesn’t need more pictures of small animals being cute. But before you go, let me tell a story about Maddy, the miracle dog.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who owned a small dog, but when one of my friends found a Chihuahua abandoned, I agreed to keep her until they could find her a more permanent home. Maddy was unlike any small dog I had ever met; she was sweet. (Chihuahua’s have a bad wrap for being demonic).

Consequently, I decided to keep her, and this began our love story. She has been with me during breakups, moves, trips across the US, career changes, and even my wedding. If dogs could really be best friends, she is mine.

I soon found out Maddy had a penchant for getting herself into trouble: one time she ate rat poison, another time she nearly got run over by a truck. Then there was the time she got stung by a bee and blew up like a balloon, as well as the many times chased packs of dear in the woods for over a half an hour.

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Much to my relief, she always seemed to avoid injury or major health problems.

This week however, I was given a bigger scare than times before: Late one night she had two uncontrollable seizures complete with foaming at the mouth, temporary blindness, and dizziness. Apparently seizures in dogs are more common than I realized at the time, but as it was happening, I was so traumatized I couldn’t bring myself to sleep in case I missed something.

In the morning we took her to the vet and found out that as long as she doesn’t have another seizure, she should be fine.

The night Maddy was having seizures, I really thought she was going to die. I was utterly heart broken and more distraught than I had been about anything in a really long time. I was struck with how unfair it is that animals have to suffer because we sinned. They are innocents!

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Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” That night, as I watched my tiny brave dog suffer, I wanted Jesus to come back more than ever. Though there are so many beautiful things in this life, we don’t have to look far to realize that this place is not our home.

Let’s take care of it best we can while we are here so people (and animals) don’t have to suffer anymore than they have to. Yet, let’s do all we can to bring the second coming of Jesus so there will be no more pain, and no more sorrow.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)

Relationships

Almost Free Date Ideas

You don’t have to be married, or even dating, to enjoy a date day. You can take yourself or friends on “dates” that are just as fun as they are with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the penny pincher in me holds me back from getting out as much as I’d like to. Over the years I’ve come up with great date ideas to appease my thrifty ways.

Go Explore a New City

I live in the country so it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing to do in my town. However, it has pushed me to go exploring outside of my town on the weekends. All you need is a car, some good radio tunes, and a sense of adventure. You never know what you might discover!

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Thrift Store Board Games

I heard someone say that they love buying thrift store board games because they often have missing pieces. They make it a game to see how inventive they can be with missing pieces. Sounds like hilarious fun!

Have a Photoshoot

You don’t need a fancy camera to go on a little photoshoot. My husband and I do this every once in a while. Even though he hates pictures, he likes having the memories. Devote an afternoon to scoping out a nice spot and take a few pictures, even if it’s with your phone camera on a self timer!

Cook Something New

It’s surprisingly fun to cook with people. Go pick out 3 weird ingredients from the grocery store and see what interesting dish you can make together. I like doing this on weekends when I don’t feel like leaving the house for very long. One time I made the most delicious olive oil and sea salt chocolate cookies!

Do something fun this weekend!

Relationships

Dealing with Internet Trolls

Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is probably loved by as many people who hate it, no pun intended. Though it’s not one of my favorites, I applaud Taylor for writing a song that rejoices in deflecting negativity. When it comes to trolls on the internet, it’s much harder to “shake it off” than it is to sing.

“THIS IS GARBAGE. I’M SORRY!”

Bumping into trolls online now seems like a part of our modern day life. Everyone has an opinion, and they feel is too important not to share.

Being a singer/songwriter with a small public platform, I get mean comments about my music, what I wear, and how I act. I usually deal with these comments by having a good cry and being done with it. They are painful of course but worse are comments that attack my skill. One particularly biting comment was posted under one of my youtube videos a few years ago. It sticks out in my mind because it was one of the only times I ever responded;

“This is garbage. I’m sorry…It is truly sad that we’ve to have all these unskilled musicians working the skilled out of work.  -JB”

Ouch.

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HE OPENED NOT HIS MOUTH

My response to “JB” was one of the only times I felt peace responding to a troll because I saw an opportunity to shed light on a misunderstood topic. The rest of the time, even when it hurts the most, I’ve felt led to remain silent.

Isaiah 53:7 famously says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

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SINGULAR FOCUS

Jesus had enemies, haters, and cruel comments flag at him. It comforts me to know that he understands our pain. Because he condescended and took on human form, these experiences hurt him as much as they hurt us, and more. Yet no matter how painful it was, most of the time he remained silent. He knew his mission on earth wasn’t to put haters in their place, but to save lost souls. Dedication to his mission outweighed the negativity of the opposition he faced, and he didn’t want to waste his time quelling hate when he could spend it healing the sick.

We can learn so much from this example.

What is your mission on earth? If you figure this out, you will be more equipped to deflect hardship, opposition, or even “haters.” Narrowing in our singular focus to what God has called us to will fix our eyes on the things that truly matter.

Home Life

Spring Cleaning Ideas

Spring showers bring may flowers? Maybe in other parts of the world, but here in Michigan it’s not spring showers, it’s spring snows. Regardless of how cold it is outside, the spring vibe still manages to pervade even the gloomiest Michigan days: the birds are beginning to sing again and some flowers are beginning to brave the frost.

I don’t know what it is about spring, but it makes me want to clean things. Here are my best spring cleaning tips that will leave you feeling refreshed.

Start Small

Not everyone gets giddy about cleaning like I do. If you get easily overwhelmed with cleaning or organizing, try starting small. Start with one drawer in the kitchen or one drawer in your dresser. Like magic, big tasks can feel small when broken up into manageable parts.

Have a Cleaning Party

Maybe you have kids, or a husband in the house. What if you made a game out of cleaning and got everyone involved? Tackle a project together, but do it in a fun way; play loud music, order a pizza, or do something special to celebrate cleaning accomplishments.

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Get Rid of One Thing A Day

Go through your closets and find things you haven’t used in over a year. I paired down half of my closet last year with this simple method. And guess what? I don’t miss any of the clothes I got rid of! Why? Because my tastes dramatically changed and I only kept the clothes because they were expensive or in good condition. There’s no reason for us to have “good” clothes or things if we are not using them.

Reward Yourself

Like having a cleaning party, try rewarding yourself to make cleaning more manageable. I have a really hard time getting rid of old clothes for example. I make deals with myself that if I get rid of 7 things I don’t wear, I can buy myself one that I love.

Sell or Repurpose

There are things you just can’t fathom getting rid of because you paid good money for them or they have sentimental value. For valuable items, try eBay or craigslist. You will be surprised how good it feels to sell something you never use! If you have sentimental attachment to the item, try making something out of it that won’t take up space in your drawers, shelves, and closets. I’ve seen great blankets made from t-shirts, greeting cards made into books, etc. Pinterest holds a plethora of ideas!

I hope this get’s you started in your spring cleaning endeavors. Happy cleaning!

Well Being

An Introverted Extrovert

Do you remember taking personality tests in high school or college? When I took them, I’d always score somewhere between introvert and extrovert, usually tipping ever-so-slightly towards extroversion. Though I hesitate to put myself, and others, into neat little personality-test boxes, those tests helped me visualize the strange teeter-tot I felt between wanting socialization and isolation.

Some of this teeter-tot can be blamed on my parents. My mother is almost overly social. Between performing, speaking, putting on events, and traveling, she always seems to be right in the middle of the loudest and busiest crowds. My dad, on the other hand, would probably be perfectly happy living in the woods somewhere with only mosquitos as neighbors.

I am the offspring of these two opposites: I crave socialization to feel balanced and happy, but all at once enjoy reflective alone time. Really, it makes me a perfect singer/songwriter because I enjoy both the introversion of songwriting and the extroversion of performing.

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Since childhood I’ve felt a need for social interaction but my introversion (shyness) would sometimes get the better of me. Luckily, with age, I found ways to deal with this quandary. One way was to become a facilitator of social events.

Recently, after a small social gathering I organized had came to a close, it dawned on me that the the reason I am constantly organizing and facilitating is because the little girl inside of me, the one struggling with her introverted side, is afraid of not being invited if she’s not in charge of invitations. Though it seems I have the teeter-tot between extroversion and introversion under control, I still find myself lonely sometimes. When this happens I bury myself in my melancholy songs saying to myself, “I don’t need people anyway.”

But I do.

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I have found, on the border of extroversion and introversion, Jesus stands. He experienced the solitary of introversion. Jesus retreated to the wilderness to be tempted, and experienced the betrayal of his closest friends. He was even shut off from God and left utterly alone (Matt. 27:46).

He also came so that our extroverted hearts may be fulfilled. He sent the Holy spirit after Him so we would never be utterly alone. “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:10). “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16 KJV).

Today I find comfort knowing God has provided for our every need, both our extroverted and introverted ones.

Devotions

The Lord Will Restore

This past week I was on vacation and it happened again; I managed to have a valuable possession stolen. Last time it was my cellphone, this time it was my guitar. I was devastated of course, but more because of the sentimental value than the monetary one.

The whole trip fell apart in more ways than one: it seemed everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Have you ever had weeks like that? I got back yesterday feeling like I needed a vacation to recoup from my vacation.

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As tempted as I am to give into a feeling of bitterness, I am uplifted remembering this verse nestled in scripture. It is a reminder that the trials we face on this earth are far more about looking forward to eternity and less about current realities. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).”

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Just like these reminders in scripture, a few bright spots were also nestled in my trip as a token that “the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you (Deut. 30:3). Photos from Torrey Pines, San Deigo.

 

 

Relationships

The Power of Creative Community

I’ve talked about it before on this blog, but I am part of a woman’s group I meet with once a week. Each week we share our hearts, and encourage each other creativity. This community has been, in part, a catalyst for new creative adventures for me including a new video series, two new albums, and even a photography hobby.

Through our discussions and the books we read (The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, and The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus), I have learned the power of freely creating in a safe community.

The world always has an opinion on what we create, just the other day I got some hater comments on my Facebook page (which I promptly deleted). The fear of those opinions causes many of us to hide our creativity or attempt to share only perfect creativity, which is almost contradictory to its very essence. Erwin McManus says in The Artisan Soul, “We will never create anything more powerful or more significant than our lives.” Our lives are a little messy sometimes, but a beautiful mess nonetheless. Isn’t that also the essence of creativity?

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I’ve learned about this messy creative freedom, and so much more, while being a part of this woman’s group. I create music for a living so technically I’m creative all the time, but there’s something freeing to creating with no agenda or end game.

I urge you to find a creative community, even if you don’t believe you are very “creative.” Again to quote McManus, “The difference between humans and every other species on this planet is that humans are artists. This is our uniqueness–we were created to create. Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We became convinced we were something less. It is time to become more.”

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(Pictures are from a retreat we took as a group: we rented a cabin near the lake, took walks, talked, ate, and of course created. It was the best.)

Relationships

Social Conditioning and Truck Nutz

I feel sick.

I can’t get it out of my head; someone I thought supported my music career said they don’t think that being a musician is a real job. I don’t have a lot invested in the relationship, so it doesn’t bother me that they said this. However, it’s the consequential nagging question that bothers me: What if there are other people out there who think the same thing? What if those are relationships I am more invested in?

That would hurt…

It’s the subtle judgements that hurt the most. They stick to your mind with an eery familiarity, but maintain creepy distance: close enough to know them by name, but far enough away to misunderstand.

Truck Nutz

I saw a truck at the mall the other day with a pair of testicles hanging from the back bumper (I believe they are called Truck Nutz). I made a subtle judgement when I turned to my husband and said, “I bet the person driving that truck has an over-the-top personality.”

However, the person driving may not have been the character I imagined at all. My social conditioning may suggest a stereotype, but I must occupy the possibility that the guy simply thought it would be funny to hang testicles from his back bumper. Maybe he’s not that ridiculous after all, maybe he just doesn’t take himself too seriously.

IMG_4536We All Judge

My friend judged my career choice. I judged the testicles truck. We all judge… We judge other people in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways.

It can seem like a cruel world out there. Instead of trying to ignore it, or simply give into it, let’s admit that we have a problem. Let’s admit that we allow subtle cues from the media we’ve consumed, the people we grew up with, or the communities we’re apart of to influence our ideas about people we don’t know. Once we’ve admitted it, then we can do better next time.

I encourage you to be brave and ask questions you don’t know the answer to instead of filling in the blanks with personal cultural biases. Furthermore, seeing people through the lens of love colors them in a completely different light. Even if our judgements turn out to be true, reminding ourselves that people–the ridiculous person, the rude person, or the loud mouth on Facebook–are all children that God died for puts things in perspective.

Just something to chew on.

Devotions

Blessings From Waking Up Early

I’m self-employed. I teach, freelance, and create music from home unless I’m on the road giving concerts. In the past, partly because of the freedom of being self-employed, it has been very difficult for me to wake up before 8:30 am. Judge if you will, but I didn’t really see the point of getting up early until I tried it as an experiment and fell in love.

Of course, I haven’t conducted any scientific studies on sleep, but I would say it’s not the hour you get up, but consistency. That being said, for me getting up earlier is synonymous with consistency. If you don’t like the idea of  waking up early, that’s OK. However, I would say most important key to a successful morning is finding a rhythm and sticking to it.

Here are some blessings I’ve gained from earlier mornings:

A Rested Mindset

The thing I love most about waking up early is my rhythmic morning routine. Setting things like reading, devotions, and exercise at the beginning of my day helps me prioritize them. These are things I know are important but are more likely prone to be pushed aside if something more urgent comes along. They put me in a restful mindset for the rest of the day.

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A Sense of Accomplishment

Another thing I do, even before I get dressed, is prioritize my hardest work for right after my morning routine. I feel a sense of accomplishment early in the day, and later if something comes up–a friend needs a ride somewhere, I need to get our car tires changed–I don’t have to feel guilty saying yes and I don’t feel pressured to say no!

Better Sleep

Maybe it’s all in my head, but I genuinely feel like I sleep better when I wake up earlier. Again, the key is consistency. When I’m consistent with bedtimes and wake times, I feel refreshed when I wake up.

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Seeing the Sunrise

An added bonus to waking up early is watching sunrise! As I do my devotions or read, I catch the morning light peeping through the window, washing over my neighbors roof, and spilling into my living room. Sometimes the sunrise looks like cotton candy (see pictures!), icing on the cake of getting up early…(or the cotton candy on the cake…?)

Devotions

Does God Have Enough To Go Around?

Scarcity mindset is thinking there are only a select few spots on a given platform, and that we must scramble to attain these spaces. This mindset can create jealousy and fear in community, and can also drive us to act desperately instead of making decisions based on calling.

Scarcity mindset abounds in our careers, churches, and even our personal lives: When your coworker gets a promotion instead of you, you and act like the promotion was the only job in the whole world that could utilize your particular set of skills. Or, maybe the church you attend is fighting over the style of worship music because the congregants are under the impression there is only space for one. Sound familiar? This is scarcity mindset.

However, if we shift our mindsets we start to notice that God is leading us to more instead of less.

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After all, consider creation. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artists Way says, “There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. The Creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative endeavors.” Does that not sound like a God who has enough for youand all the other people you are desperately competing with?

Some examples above may be considered oversimplifications. I know that church fights and job positions are not simply be solved by saying, “stop being stingy.” But I wonder if it would be easier to navigate the tumultuous waters of life if we would widen our grasp a little, learn to give, and learn to lift each other up? What if we reminded ourselves that there is room for everyone? What if we knew for certain there was enough to go around and that we didn’t have to desperately grasp at straws anymore?

What do you think would happen if we abandoned scarcity mindset? What would that look like in the church, in relationships, and at work?