Mumford and Sons

If you have known me for a while, you know that I am a huge music fan. I am not musically talented in any way, but I think music has the remarkable ability to lift spirits, touch souls, and calm nerves….not to mention bring back memories! (For example, matchbox twenty’s mad season album immediately takes me back to high school…remind me to tell you later the story about their song “Leave” and Andrew and I leaving the beach! Fun times.)

ANYWAY –

When I first heard Mumford and Sons, I immediately thought of my dad…he loves the banjo! (I would be curious to hear his take on their music, too…hmm.)

I became a fan of theirs after hearing “The Cave” – I would blare it in the minivan and sing my heart out (how cool am I??), but I didn’t buy their “Sigh No More” album until just a few weeks ago on iTunes.

Wow!

Their songs are beautifully cryptic, and when you listen to the words, you can see that they are talking about faith more often than not. I have Googled them several times to see what their songs mean, and I have found a few blogs discussing them. One had a post about  “The Cave”, and someone posted a chapter of a biography on St. Francis of Assisi. I haven’t really found anything that is straight from the band telling the meaning of their songs, but after reading this excerpt, I am sure this is what this song is about!

Here are the lyrics to “The Cave”:

It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand (*this is straight from the biography of St. Francis of Assisi!)

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

In addition to this song, they have a song called “Roll Away Your Stone”, and here are some of those lyrics:

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart

And then there’s “Awake My Soul”:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your maker
You were made to meet your maker

These are only a few of their songs…the others have similar messages as well.

I also found videos of them singing “Amazing Grace” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” on Youtube…check them out if you get a chance.

Like I said, I don’t know for sure what they believe…but some of their lyrics have certainly resonated with me. I am a firm believer that a song doesn’t have to be “Christian” to be taken with a Christian message…in fact, our former church played secular songs often, and some were just as worshipful for me as the ones that presented the Gospel.

I think one of the commenters on one of the blog posts I found said it best:

“…recently listening to Mumfords words for the first time I found myself praying “Lord I wish I could form poetry for you with this type of skill”. It is obviously not up to us to decide the relationship between Marcus and God, but there is no doubt that there is a relationship, and it overflows into the lives of both believers and non, regardless of what that relationship may be.”

If nothing else, their songs have proven to me yet again how powerful music can be.  Oh, to be that gifted in writing and performing!

*Disclaimer – the song that often plays on the radio, “Little Lion Man”, curses…it’s the only one I’ve heard with bad language. Just an FYI in case you want to check them out while kids are around. 🙂

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fresh look

The girls somehow made their way outside as their daddy left for work this morning.

I went with it, and we ended up staying outside for about an hour.  Mumford and Sons played in the background as we laid around on the hammock, snacked on crackers, rode the scooter, and raked some leaves (this quickly ceased when I raked up a baby brown snake! YUCK!). Carlyn ran around trying to find red leaves, and by the time we went inside, she had a nice little pile.

As she searched for her leaves and gasped when she found the red, orange, and yellow colors, I sat there thinking of how lucky I am to have someone around me 24/7 that is so excited about the little things in life. There is something about a child’s excitement that is contagious. Carlyn is exceptionally happy most of the time – in fact, it’s exhausting some days. However, I often find that when she gets excited, so do I.

I posted just the other day on Facebook about how Carlyn found a little container of bubbles, left over from a wedding reception we had gone to. She was so excited, and when I blew the bubbles, she and Blakely just ran around in circles squealing. At one point, Carlyn was twirling with her arms out and she exclaimed, “Oh, what a wonderful day! I love EVERYTHING!” I couldn’t help but just smile at my sweet little girl and admire her joy. (It brings to mind a scene from the movie Knocked Up, where the men are watching the little girls run after bubbles…the dad says something like, “I wish I could be excited about ANYTHING as much as they are about bubbles.” I think about this a lot!)

As she exclaimed over and over again about her leaves this morning, I realized that I have not enjoyed fall (or summer, or spring, for that matter!) as much as I have with my children in a long time. Before my kids, I rarely took the time to look out and truly enjoy the changing leaves, the clouds in the sky, the seashells on the beach, or even the cows and horses in the pastures along the road. I was missing out on the beauty surrounding me – I didn’t have someone as innocent as a 3-year-old child reminding me, on a daily basis, to slow down and notice it.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, he talks about something that has stuck with me ever since I read it. He talks about the grace given to us from God through Jesus Christ as a gift that we don’t have to do ANYTHING to earn…us receiving it has nothing to do with how good we are, or what we have done for God in return. He talks about how Jesus told us to become like little children, and he says we don’t take this seriously enough. He compares it to a child on Christmas – a child doesn’t hesitate to take a gift from you; they expect to receive it, and they are joyous when they do! They don’t get caught up in the details.

Why aren’t we like that with the free gift we are given – salvation for eternity?

Anyway, as a parent, I feel a constant responsibility to take advantage of every teaching opportunity that is presented – which, with a 3-year-old especially, is ALL THE TIME. Every moment is a chance to teach spelling, or counting, or shapes, or colors, or manners even.

However, I feel like my girls are teaching me just as much as I am teaching them. Because of her and Blakely, I take time to look up at the blue sky, or have a random dance party, or pay attention to the bugs and sticks in the yard. And I’m thankful for that.

Blessed

A couple of weeks ago, after my almost-breakdown, I started cleaning out closets, toy chests, cabinets, our pantry…you name it! Nothing was safe.

In the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (if you read my other blog, you know how much I love this book…you can go to her website here), she talks about how outer order contributes to inner calm. In fact, the first month of her Happiness Project, she works on getting her life in order. One thing she did was acknowledge how clutter can cause anxiety, so she cleaned house, literally. She got rid of tons of clothes in her closet that she knew deep down she didn’t need, and she talks about how freeing it was for her.

I definitely agree with her on this! When I was struggling with my anxiety, I would look at my house and all of the STUFF in it, and the tightness would start creeping in. I got overwhelmed with the thought of going through everything, and at the bad times, I just ignored it. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to look at piles of bills and things, and I had to make myself sit down and take care of our finances… I just wanted to block everything out.

Finally, this began to recede and I began to organize. However, as I went through our food, spices, toys, and clothes, a different type of anxiety filled me. I almost got physically sick at times, looking at all of our STUFF and realizing how blessed we were compared to others. I read my Bible. I know what it says about giving and possessions. I don’t feel like I value possessions over people…but do I? Can I REALLY give up everything like I sometimes say I could, and be okay?

Carlyn walked in at one point while I was in Andrew’s and my closet, and I mentioned to her how blessed we were. I tried to explain to her how others don’t have nearly as much as we do, and how we needed to share what we have. She just didn’t get it. She kept asking, “But Mommy, why do they not have toys?” It is inconceivable to her that other children don’t have what she does. We didn’t talk about it again until Saturday – nearly 2 weeks later. We were in the car, and Carlyn pipes up from the backseat: “Mommy, why don’t the kids have toys?” Andrew and I just looked at each other – we are used to crazy questions coming out of nowhere by now. I tried to explain again that some people don’t have jobs like Daddy, and they don’t have the money to buy things like we do. She said that she would share with them, and we said that would be nice.

The next day, we go to church, and it’s Orphan Sunday. We saw this video:

Also, our church just had a group had just returned from Haiti, where they have partnered with an orphanage there. The group told about the children they saw, and how they built lockers for the kids with 4 shelves. The children’s possessions – everything they had in this world – barely filled those 4 shelves. However, the group told about the pure joy these people in Haiti had. So many would get up before sunrise every day to worship the Lord.

Why don’t we have that joy?

One of the pastors made a statement that stuck with me: There, they worry about demon possession, but we don’t hear about that much in America…could it be because we have our POSSESSIONS?

This is so true.

It might be tempting to feel sorry for those that don’t have as much as we do…but I think we have it all wrong. As I have pondered my struggles in the last month or so, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the case if I was one of those mothers in Haiti. I get so wrapped up in all of my STUFF here that I lose sight of what is important. I long to have the joy the group told us they saw there.

Sunday night, as I rocked Blakely for a minute before she went to bed, I just prayed and thanked the Lord for what He has given us as a family. It is just by chance – well, it’s His divine will – that He chose me to live here, at this time, and not in Haiti. Andrew and I have been convicted about being good stewards of what we have been given, because none of this – even our children! – is our own. I am praying daily that I will use what I have been given to further His kingdom. I heard Perry Noble say Sunday as I watched part of his sermon online – How can we say we believe the Bible about the Lord that saved us, but not believe what it says about giving?

Something to think about.

Note:

Capstone has been raising money for a clean water system to go to Haiti. So many people die EVERY DAY from lack of clean water, and we had a Walk For Water to raise awareness and money. One system costs $25,000, and that is a lofty goal for a church that has under 200 people – but we are about $7,000 away from our goal! Learn more about it here.

The Capstone mission team that just returned stressed how the orphanage is in desperate need of sponsors. If money is not donated SOON, the orphanage could close by January 2012. That means 43 children that our church members have gotten to know will not have a home. We (as in the Stoddards) picked up a boy to sponsor on Sunday; his name is Massa. It was not a coincidence, I believe, that we were able to sponsor him the day after Carlyn asked about children not having anything! Learn more about sponsoring and donating to this orphanage here.

Finally, Capstone is also helping with an event in Fountain Inn called Celebrate The Child. It is December 17, and it is a faith-based Christmas event for the less fortunate families in our area. We are collecting new coats, toys, and/or books for children and teens, as well as monetary donations. Please contact me for more information.

Find out more about Capstone here or on our Facebook page.

If you feel convicted about your blessings as I do, please prayerfully consider helping these causes! Be Jesus to someone who needs it!

Here lately…

Just when I think I have things figured out, I get my world rocked.

I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, a nice house, car, clothes…everything I could want. I started grad school in August because since I started staying at home (something I never thought I would do in the first place), the plan has been for me to go back to teaching when the girls went to school. We figured this would be the perfect situation – I could be a mom full-time, but still focus on my schoolwork when I needed to. The Lord also brought us to our church, where we have already started serving, in June, and we are so thankful for this.

However…

Long story short – a month ago, I suddenly started struggling with anxiety. Not only that, I was having irrational fears, depression, and just a feeling of “I am going crazy”. I think I was having warning signs of this, but I ignored them until I was THISCLOSE to breaking down. I have family members that have struggled with anxiety and depression, but I never understood it until I experienced it this past month. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I had some serious issues I had to get through as soon as possible. I wanted to declutter everything in my life.

First, I deleted my Facebook. It started to freak me out that people that never talked to me, kept up with my children and me online….and there’s no way for me to know about it unless they mentioned it. I realized that I also knew too much about people that I never talked to, and I wasted precious time on there – so I decided just to get off altogether. (I am now back on, as of today. Everything just seems to be on Facebook now! I will not be on it often, however.)

I started making sleep a priority. Carlyn has not been sleeping well…well, for a long time now, and it’s killing Andrew and me. I feel like part of my problem was not sleeping, so I tried to get as much as possible.

I started taking time for ME. I realized that I needed to make myself a priority. I still don’t go get pedicures, or go on long weekends away by myself, or read as much as I would like…however, it was huge for me to make myself come home after dropping the girls off at Mom’s Morning Out one day, just so I could do some schoolwork and pay the bills alone. Before, I always tried to cram in as much as I could during my alone time (grocery shopping, errands, etc.), so I would go to pick the girls up and be utterly exhausted.

I also started really focusing on my most important role at this time in my life – being a wife and mother. I just sobbed one night to Andrew when I realized that I have this wonderful gift – being able to stay at home with my children – and I felt like I had wasted so much time trying to find other things to do.  I feel a calling like I can’t explain (more about that later), but during this past month, it was like the Lord was telling me to look in front of me – this is my calling now! I have really tried to step it up at home and with the girls. (Disclaimer – my girls have never been deprived…they are spoiled rotten and I am the worst one about it. However, I was horrible about just being “in the moment” with my babies, and that’s the thing I’m working on the most.)

Can I just say….my mother has been telling me all of this for two years now? My grandmothers and sister have also chimed in a bit. It just took me getting to the brink to truly listen. So…that’s what has been happening here lately.

I ended up visiting my doctor and he prescribed some medication, which, THANKFULLY, I have not needed to take at all…yet. He reassured me that I was not alone. These feelings I was having were normal for a lot of women, and I was doing the right thing by trying to get help. And I have gotten help.

Not only do I have a very supportive husband, family, church, and friends, I also have turned to Scripture.  This has not been easy either – which is so strange to me, because even when this happened, I was reading my Bible and praying daily.  I feel such a conviction to serve in a church and share my faith in Jesus Christ, and I was certain I was following this. However, when this came about, I started having my worst anxiety about attending church and helping with anything. One Sunday, Andrew looked me in the face and told me – “You’re going.” This, thankfully, is what I needed, because the Lord spoke so clearly to me that day through John and Walt. I have really tried to push through my feelings of anxiety and I have continued my quiet time most days, making my way through the entire Bible (I started at the beginning of the summer). The Lord is blessing me through it.  I have not felt my anxiety creeping in a few weeks (with the exception of last night when I finally shared my story with our small group from church), and I have learned so much about myself and my Savior through this journey.

I feel something under the surface here…I can’t describe it, except that I know there is a bigger plan that I have a TINY part in. This has been in the works for months now…I thought back on my meeting with a pastor at our former church just last night. One day in the spring, I showed up in his office, crying my eyes out because I know God has a big plan for my family – I just didn’t know what. I still don’t know, either! I just don’t want to miss a minute of the FULL, JOYOUS, PEACEFUL life the Lord has called me to. At this point, nothing is off limits. I have no clue anymore if I am EVER supposed to teach again, or what is in store for our family in the months and years ahead…I just know that God is in control, and Andrew and I just want to be obedient.

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.