Have Faith

Hi friends! I don’t know if any of you know this about me, but I write music. I started writing when I was in grade school as a way for me to get my pain, frustration and loneliness out. I would hide myself in the basement of our house for hours on end. I remember just popping in a cassette tape (some of you kids don’t even know what that is, but I promise you back in the day, those things ruled my world), and just sat there listening to every single word, replaying it over and over to listen to different aspects of the song—the lyrics, then the melody, then the drums, then the guitar, well you get the picture. When I would have a bad day at school, I couldn’t wait to get home and go in the basement to listen to music. Eventually, I started writing some of my own. Granted, they weren’t very good, but it was still an outlet for me and oh man how it helped. It was my escape. Music never judged me. It didn’t care that I was bullied at school, that I didn’t have any friends. I remember when my Grandpa Carlson died, I was devastated. It was the first time anyone close to me had died. I was 12 and I didn’t know what else to do to deal with that sadness, so as I was sitting in the basement I wrote a song. It’s actually now on my album and even though I was super hesitant to record it (I thought it sounded like a song a 12 year old would write), it’s actually one of my favorite songs I’ve written (which says a lot, because as you know, I don’t talk my music up much at all. It’s called Castle in a Carnival, if anyone wants to check it out on iTunes). I took my love of music and turned it into a career. I did it for quite some time, too, but towards the end I was putting in effort that I realized wasn’t fruitful anymore. When I stepped out of that life, I had to rediscover who I was. Music was my life. Music was ME. Without it, I had no idea who I was, where I was, what I was doing and that caused a whole lot of anxiety and mild depression. Yep, I said it. Anxiety and depression. I never experienced any of that before, so when I started having anxiety attacks, I had no idea what was going on. I just literally thought my life was closing in on me and I was meeting my doom. You can laugh at that all you want, but if you’ve ever had an attack, you know it’s nothing to laugh at. It’s real. But, you know what else? It’s also OK.

In the months, and year following my identity crisis, I exhausted my friends with countless phone calls, coffee meet-ups paired with incredibly deep conversations and wondering if I was making a huge mistake or if everything really will be OK. Though my friends never expressed it, I am sure they were sick of hearing me go on and on with “I don’t know…I am scared I will make the wrong move and my entire life will be messed up and I will never be happy ever again. What if I make the wrong choice? Will I ever know? When will I know? I need to know right this second.” Seriously, I repeated those words about ten million times. Not to mention the many tears I shed with them, and alone in my home. How many times I had to talk myself off a ledge, or how many times I had to make plans with someone just so I had something to look forward to…even if it was just going for a walk or for coffee. This was also the year that I found something else—faith. I hesitated talking about this, because I don’t want to lose followers (do I have any?!), but it’s also a huge part of my life and I would be doing a disservice not talking about it.

I had always believed in God, but never really did anything about it. I thought going to church a few times a year was enough. Then, during this painful year (OK, maybe two years) of my life, a friend invited me to her church. I thought, “well, I don’t have anything else to do, so I might as well.” Oh my, my entire life changed that day. Not just the service itself, but the feeling I got from it. I was inspired. Hopeful. Moved. Touched. HOPEFUL. That was something I hadn’t felt in so long. I was hopeful for the future. God loved me. Scars, failures, mistakes and all. No judgement. Just love and acceptance. That day, I met some of my now best friends. It felt like home to me. Like I belonged somewhere. I learned how to believe again, how to have faith, how to feel, how to trust in something other than material things, how to give up control. I wanted to control everything. I started praying, reading the Bible, reading devotionals, and those panic-stricken conversations I had before with friends, turned into conversations about things I was actually excited about. My conversations went from “how will I know I’m making the right choice? What if I make the wrong choice?” to, “I know God has amazing things in store for me. He wouldn’t bring me to this point in my life just to leave me here! I can’t wait to see what He has for me!” I went from wanting to jump off of my balcony to breathing and believing. I truly believe that God brought me to that place because when I had nothing else to lean on, He was all I had left. I used to go to bed early so I wouldn’t have to feel that pain so long, but then I was staying up late to read and getting up early to read.

He has worked countless miracles in my life, even as recent as this week. I realized that it’s not just enough to believe in something, or someone, you have to act on that belief. You have to show them, cultivate a relationship, and learn to give up control, be patient and trust the process. Let go of what scares you, holds you back…even if what’s holding you back is you.

Lately, I’ve caught myself slipping back into the funk of sadness, crankiness. That is not who I am. That is not who God created me to be. I blamed my circumstances. One of the most mind blowing things I’ve ever learned (that I just learned now) is that we are responsible for our own happiness and our own feelings. What?! You mean to say that even if something is falling apart around us, or someone hurt us…we are still responsible for our feelings? Yes! Of course, if someone hurts us, it’s normal to be upset and to express our pain, but in the end, you have to own up to your own happiness. If you can’t make yourself happy, how can you expect anyone else to? I truly also believe that true happiness and love has to start with God. I’m not here to preach or sway anyone, I’m just simply sharing my experiences. True peace, joy and grace comes from God. I’ve been a piece of work sometimes, a pain in the butt, a punk, but the grace He gives me inspired me to do the same with others. I have a laundry list of things I know I need to work on, but my number one thing is to regain my joy and zest for life. We can’t expect someone else to solely make us happy; that’s too big a burden for one person to carry. It starts from within.

We are all a work in progress, so why not just all support each other through it? Open your heart to new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new beliefs, new people, and new experiences. You never know how much it could really change your life and give you the hope you deserve. We all deserve to be happy and healthy. Not just physically healthy, but emotionally and spiritually. We deserve to have people in our lives that inspire us, challenge us, and lift us up when we are struggling.

I’ll lift you up, you lift me up, k? I’m on your side.

Xoxo,
Aly

What I’m listening to:

“All For Something,” P.J. Pacifico
“All I Want,” Toad the Wet Sprocket
“Run,” OneRepublic

Good Friday

Hey friends! How are y’all doing? I, for one, am SO excited that it’s finally warming up outside. I love having the windows open and hearing birds chirping…and traffic, haha. Lots of traffic. But, I honestly love it!

Today is Good Friday, and I couldn’t let it pass by without acknowledging it on here. This is one of my favorite holiday weeks of the year. What makes Good Friday good? Jesus died for us. On the cross. He was made to walk to His death, carrying his own cross. And He did it for us. Willingly.

Let that sink in for a second. Between the time of Noon-3:00, is known as the time of darkness. That was when He was crucified; when He took his last breath and died for us. He literally thought that I was worth dying for. That YOU were worth dying for. It’s hard to fathom that, isn’t it? But it’s true!

Three days later, He rose up from the grave and kept His promise. This post is short (and grammatically incorrect, oops!), but I wanted to encourage you to take some time today to meditate on what this day means. With everything going on in the world right now, I hope you can carve out some time to put away distractions, turn off the news, TV, radio, put your phone away, and just drink in what happened on this day. Talk to Him, thank Him for what He did for us.

Good Friday always blows my mind and wrecks me. I hope it wrecks you, too…in the best way. Friday is here, but Sunday is coming.

Xoxo.

Did Someone Say Christmas Crafts?

Happy holidays, friends! Are you ready for Christmas?! I think a lot of people this year are doing things a little differently, but I hope however you’re spending this holiday, you can find some way to find peace. Whether it’s going for a walk (connecting with the Earth is one of the best medicines ever), watching your favorite holiday movie, baking cookies, sending Christmas cards, even just going to an empty room for 20 minutes just by yourself.

If you’re like me, you’ve been spending time making Christmas crafts. I think my love for Christmas crafts started when I was in grade school. It was one of the very few things I did enjoy about grade school. I remember the smell of the glue, the construction paper, ALL the glitter (the more, the better, please and thank you), sequins…you name it. When we did these in grade school it was usually a solo project, which is why I liked it because then it meant that I didn’t have to worry about not being picked to be in a group. I loved the excitement as a kid: wearing normal clothes to school instead of our uniforms, eating candy during class, exchanging gifts and cards…oh wait, yeah, that didn’t include me. There were many times when teachers would try to give me a gift because they felt bad that I was the only one in class that didn’t get a card/candy/gift from a classmate. It was humiliating.

I remember one Christmas season at school where I was sick, which wasn’t really surprising because for whatever reason, I was always sick a week or two before Christmas. But, I was really sick that year and the teachers thought I was making it up to get out of gym class (I mean, in their defense, I probably did use that excuse a time or two which actually came to bite in the butt the year that I tried to pull that when we had to all do the Achy Breaky Heart line dance. They made me do it alone. By myself. In front of everyone. Come to think of it, that may have been the last time I tried to pretend to be sick at school.) Anyway…so, I was actually sick at school, but they wouldn’t let me go home, or even go to the nurses room. I was trying not to even more because I wanted to throw up and it was during craft time. One kid threw garbage at me and I asked the teacher for the fourth time if I could go home because I was sick. Again, she said no. I sat back down and guess what? I threw up all over the desk, floor and he kid next to me. Kids were laughing at me, calling me names, telling the teacher to rub my face in it. The teacher actually yelled at me. I was in fourth grade, so it’s not like I could really do much more. The teacher literally made me sit there and look at it before she had someone clean it and take me to the nurse.

I remember going home and watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (the cute, clay animated one) and after being able to relax and not think about anything else, I was feeling so much better. Of course, that also started the need for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches when I was sick—they really are a cure-all for me.

I think this could be true for many things: when we are stressed, anxious, tensed up, it can make us sick. When you’re constantly in a situation where you’re being bullied and abused, it can wreak havoc on our heart and your entire body to the point where you just breakdown. Once you take a moment to distance yourself from that, you might see that your physical and emotional wellbeing improves, even though there’s still healing that needs to be done.

If you’re there, friend, I feel you. If you’re in school and it’s just not going your way. If you’re being bullied, please talk to someone who can help you. If you keep it in, it will only grow inside of you and make you feel worse. I promise. I want you all to be happy and healthy and live beautiful lives. Please know that you are worthy, loved, accepted, seen, heard and that you matter. You are not alone, not for one second.

I still love Christmas crafts and to be honest, I sometimes still make some of those crafts I made when I was in fourth grade—not because it reminds me of pain, but because it reminds me of the beauty that came after the pain. When I was able to go home. Rest. Lie by the colorful Christmas tree. Be with people who love me. Watch Rudolph (which I have to watch every year now). And, of course, eat Arby’s.

I hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas. Thanks for reading (anyone, anyone?) and for putting up with all of my grammatical errors. 2021, we’re ready for ya! If you’re crafting, let me know what you’re making!

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Judy Garland (I mean, this song. A happy song and Judy just turns it into the most heartbreaking Christmas song ever…but it’s one of my all-time favorites)

“Willow,” Taylor Swift (thank you 2020 for not one—but TWO—Tay albums!)

“Kings & Queens,” Ava Max

“The Bridge,” Dolly Parton

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. If you’ve read any of my posts, you know by now that this is a subject that’s really important and close to me. I am literally sitting here crying because all I want is to see people believe in themselves and know their worth. That’s literally what this all boils down to: you matter. I wish, with every single part of me, that I could hug every single person in the world and tell them they matter…and have them actually believe it.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, alone: please know you are not alone. There is so much the world has to offer than what we see at face-value these days, which is hate and divide. More importantly, though, there is so much YOU have to offer this world. You are unique. You were given gifts no one else has. You were created for a reason. I know I say that all the time, but I mean it. I wish I could pop out of this page and throw my arms around you and tell you that face-to-face. There was a time when I was at my lowest point a couple years ago. I was depressed and felt so alone. I wanted to disappear, and at that moment, I needed someone to hug me and tell me it was all going to be OK. That person wasn’t there for me (in fact, I was left in a parking lot). One thing I can promise you is that it does get better. It always does. You will meet people who will make you feel worthy and you won’t be scared anymore. If you are offered help, take it. If you need help, ask for it. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. I say that all the time, too…because it’s true. Some people will make you think that it’s weak to need help, but IT’S NOT! You are worth more than rubies. Proverbs 3:15.

You are not alone. You will get through this. There will be better days. Happy days. You will see your dreams come true. I am living proof of that, as are so many others. Your story matters. Speak it. Share it. Your story could very well be someone else’s survival guide.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 800-273-8255.

I’ve got your back. Stay safe and healthy, friends. Look out for each other. My promise to you is that I will continue to be as open and vulnerable as I can. I truly believe that’s the way to breakdown stigmas and to create a safe space for you all to do the same. Maybe we can create a ripple effect.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:
“This Could Change Everything,” Francesca Battistelli
“Better Days,” OneRepublic (in case you need some encouragement, and you can’t go wrong with this band)
“the last great american dynasty,” Taylor Swift

Starting the School Year!

Hey friends! Doesn’t it seem like summer just started? Kids are already either back at school or will be soon. Or, should I say you’ll be virtual? In school? Hybrid? Whew, I’m not in school and it gives me a headache just hearing about all the school stuff going on right now. It’s times like this that make us all (whether we have kids in school or not) appreciate the teachers and parents. I have a couple friends who are teachers, and hearing what they have to do this year is mind-blowing. If that’s you—my hat’s off to you. If you’re a parent trying to navigate the demands that seem to keep changing–my hat’s off to you. There are so many factors that seem to play into this. I mean, it’s hard enough being a kid and having your first day at school…now, you have all of this other stuff going on. I am in no place to give any advice on how to navigate this, other than to say: give yourself grace! Whether you’re a teacher, parent, student, janitor at the school, we see you and hear you! You are all in our thoughts and prayers!

I love summer so much, so whenever I started back at school, I dreaded it. I had a break during summer from getting beat up, thrown down flights of stairs, teased, told to kill myself. I never knew what I would be in store for when I went back to school. Would the kids that bullied me before, still bully me? Would there maybe be a new kid in our class that maybe would want to be my friend? Would I be able to enjoy anything about school? I woke up feeling anxious, and I went to bed feeling anxious. For as long as I could remember, I had always wanted someone to stand up for me. I got so tired of doing it myself. Do you ever feel like that? Yes, it’s true that the most important thing is to be able to stand up for yourself, but sometimes we get tired. Sometimes we just want someone to step in and say “I got this. You can rest now.” I heard someone last week say something that hit me: “Be with people who stand up for you, not people you have to stand up to.” Now, that’s a word!

Since the school year is just starting, I wanted to encourage you kids to go easy on the others. Maybe go out of your way to include someone in a conversation or group. Initiate a welcome conversation with the new kid. Ask someone how they’re doing. You can make someone’s day or break someone’s day. It’s your choice.

This is a short post, but I hope you’re all doing well, staying safe and healthy. Reach out to me anytime you need, friends! Be kind.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Who Am I To Say,” Justin Townes Earle
“Rogers Park,” Justin Townes Earle

With a Heavy Heart

Oh, friends. I’ve been trying to decide if I should post something about this or not, because I don’t want to sound judgmental, or like I’m hating on anyone. However, I think you all know me well enough to know that’s not who I am, or how I ever intend my posts to sound like.

My heart is so heavy today. I hadn’t watched the 10:00 news in months, but last week I decided to turn it on to see if there were any developments in the George Floyd murder. (Yep, it was murder) What I saw was horrible. My home city on fire, being ripped apart. I couldn’t believe it. I started shaking, crying. It was something I never thought I’d see in 2020. Protests, yes. We have the right to peaceful protests.

Thousands of people now without jobs because their business burned down. People without a place to move into, because a new apartment building was burned down. Elderly people without a place to get food or medicine because their grocery store and pharmacies are gone. (and we’re still in a pandemic) I want justice for Floyd and his family just as much as anyone else, but I don’t think this is what he would have wanted to have happen. I truly do believe in the power of our voices, and there’s no better time than now to use them. Call the Mayor’s office, call the Governor’s office. Sign petitions. Reach out to your friends of color.

My Pastor said it best: Racism is evil. Plain and simple. You or I don’t get to decide who deserves acceptance or love. God didn’t create us to discriminate, judge or treat less than. He created us to love. In fact one of His commandments is to love your neighbor greater than yourself. GREATER THAN YOURSELF. Not everyone was born with the same privileges and opportunity. (look up systemic racism) We are to love all.

My faith tells me to love God and love my neighbors, and to help out when I can. I’m scared for what will happen today, tonight, tomorrow, this weekend. I just pray that everyone stays safe, healthy and helps a neighbor when they need it. As my girl Esther says: “Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.” This is the moment to use our voices in loving, compassionate and caring ways. Love each other. ❤️

 

Spoiler Alert: The Tomb Was Empty

Happy Easter, friends! Wherever you are reading this from, I hope that this finds you healthy and safe. There’s no doubt that this is not the Easter we anticipated having this year, and not physically going to church just feels kind of wrong, but I am thankful that my church does online services.

Thinking about what happened all those years ago today; I can’t help but get super emotional. I mean, I talk a lot about bullying, abuse, betrayal, disrespect…and you guys. What Jesus knows exactly what that is like. Jesus was bullied, abused, betrayed, disrespected, and denied, too. He knows how we feel, He suffers right along with us because He’s BEEN THERE. Talk to Him about what you’re going through!

What He went through, what He felt, what He saw: He did willingly and He did it for us. All of us. Not  just the person who never misses a Sunday in church. Not just the one who gives to charity. But for you, and for me. All of us. I mean this about this for a second: Jesus looked at you and knew your worth before you were even born, and He decided that you are worthy enough to die for. He loved you so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice. Then, He rose from the grave!

Whenever you are feeling sad, anxious, unworthy just remember that Jesus calls you worthy. You are never alone, and he loves you unconditionally. It is hard to fathom that kind of love, and it is hard to fathom someone actually dying for us. He paid the ultimate price for our hearts and us. So, every time we deny ourselves, hold ourselves back, hurt ourselves, we are ultimately hurting Him. I mean, imagine how He feels after He did all of this for us, and then we just waste it away by complaining, sulking, telling ourselves we’re stupid or “too this” or “too that”. He grieves every time we do that. We are disrespecting Him!

So, even though this Easter is a bit different than we’re used to, He is still the same today, as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow. Spend some time with Him today and let Him show you just how much He loves you.

Xoxo.

Social Distance, Close to God

Hey friends, how are you all doing? It would be kind of weird to not talk about what’s going on right now, even though to be honest, I don’t really want to. It seems like every conversation I have with someone almost always ends up being centered around what’s happening in the world right now. I mean, how can you not talk about it, right? How can you not be scared? Or sad? Or anxious? Or depressed? Or numb to it? Or all of the above and then some?

It kind of all feels like a bad dream. I’ve never experienced this feeling before; where I can be fine, and then all of the sudden I stop and think “wait, this isn’t real, right? This has to be fake.” It’s surreal and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it.

It’s hard to believe that this is our new normal and try to figure out what the other side of this is going to look like. How long will this last? What will the world look like when it’s over? Will it ever be over? I’ve had to turn off my news alerts on my phone and sign off of most social media. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely had my moments of complete breakdown—bawling, shaking, scared of what could happen. Missing those I love and not being able to be with them is probably the hardest thing about this for me right now.

Everyone keeps saying that they’re scared of what this world will look like after this. I really, truly believe that this world will be better. We have the capability to be more caring, more selfless, more giving, more compassionate, more gentle. I have seen unbelievers start praying and listening to Christian music. What the enemy meant for harm, God is going to use for good. We have the chance to slow down a bit. To need less material things. Spend less money. Eat what we have in the cupboard instead of going out to eat. To prioritize family time. To enjoy the little things like playing board games (Monopoly, anyone?!), play cards, watch movies, read, write, pray. There’s time to get in touch with ourselves, our hearts and dig deep into what’s really important.

I’ve tried to lean into this time and make the most of it. I’ve gotten to know people on a deeper level by opening up and being vulnerable. All the writing I’ve been able to do with minimal interruptions (welcome interruptions, obviously!) has really felt incredible. And, to be honest, I have never appreciated fresh air and a walk as much as I do right now!

Lean into this time however you feel like it. Whatever that looks like for you, whatever way brings you comfort. You don’t have to write a novel, or create something big. Just be. Connect with yourself and make sure you also connect with others over the phone. Talk to God. He’s there, waiting for you. He is so in love with you and is just craving time with you. As much as we need Him right now, He needs us. He needs us to be his messengers. This situation is not a surprise to Him. We have the choice in how we respond right now. We need to social distance, but we can be closer to God.

Stay safe and healthy friends. I am really glad we have each other.

Xoxo.

What I’m listening to:

“Better Days,” One Republic
“Lovely,” Sara Haze
“Oceans,” Hillsong United

 

Day 30

Hey friends, guess what today is? Final day of our 30 day bucket list challenge! This, by all means, doesn’t mean that you have to stop today. I encourage you to keep going and live to your fullest! Regardless of how long you do this, finish the 30 day strong! Go out with a bang. And of course let me know what you did and how you’re feeling!

Lots of exciting things happening over here and can’t wait to bring you along on the ride.

Have a wonderful Sunday, friends!

Xoxo

Kindness In the World

Hey friends! My bucket list challenge has been going really well so far! It’s been really fun hearing from some of you who are doing it with me, so it’s kind of like a little community we’ve got going, I love it! Keep sharing and so will I!

One thing that I really do find helpful (in any situation, really) is to notice the good things. Notice the kindness, the beauty that’s still left in this world. I feel like lately so many people are only focusing on the negative things, which don’t get me wrong, are valid and we need to notice them in order to change them; however, we can’t lose sight in the good things. Those are the things that keep me going. I can still see that this world is good and beautiful and worth being in. I see people spreading kindness, offering help to strangers, going out of their way to support someone. No matter how much hurt a person inflicts on another person, I still truly believe that everyone at their deepest core, is good. One of my heroes, Anne Frank said it best: “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”

I believe that life throws us experiences, lessons, hardships and it’s what we do with those that make us who we are and how we treat others. That’s on us. Not the world. Not other people. We can either take those experiences and let them make us bitter or better.

If you can look at the ocean, mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, peaks, wildflowers, forests, wildlife, the sun, the moon, the stars and still say this world isn’t beautiful, then I’m not sure what else to say. If you can witness a complete stranger buying groceries for the elderly man behind him, or seeing a stranger console a single mother who is overwhelmed and not feel a bit of hope and love, then check your heart. Maybe I’m just sappy or too much of a dreamer, but even a simple smile to someone in passing or buying someone’s coffee can take someone’s day from bad to good in a second. I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of those things and even a smile can make me feel better. That’s why I always try to do something for someone else because I know what it’s like to feel low, sad and hopeless.

We are here to love and support each other. If someone says “it’s not my job to make them feel better. It’s theirs.” That’s just not true. At least, not to me. Yes, I do believe that there is a lot of internal work that needs to be done, but we are not here for just ourselves. We are not the center of the universe. We are for each other. We were made for community. I’ve always believed that since I was little.

I hope this encourages you to take one step to do a random act of kindness today for someone. It doesn’t have to cost a dime. You could quite literally save a life.

Xoxo.