The Pilgrimage Road

The Pilgrimage Road

At first we stepped onto it
because wilderness was less wild
and more uncertain
And we thought we’d been promised
enlightenment instead of fear
in miracle prayers

Protected by our blindness
we traveled the pilgrimage road
holding our trinkets
Prior to our journey we wanted
to transcend the uncertainty
we thought we might rise

They told us ahead was hope
urged us to forget the disquiet
in marvelous prayer
The road grew ever wider
and the stops became less frequent
soon we did forget

Memories were pushed away
because we no longer needed them
on this crusade road
Men, women, and their children
traveling the pilgrimage road
did not need reasons

The road became our houses
filled with our baubles and trinkets
we found new meaning
There was no need to look back
without mirrors or memories
just our daily road

But in the blind forgetting
a danger heavier than fear
more than confusion
Bright sunlight burned dark to ash
spread it under flowers we past
still we didn’t know

All along our faithful road
lay crates and baggage forgotten
soon to become ash
Abandoned by forgetting
we didn’t need remembering
we didn’t need fear

Boxes of why forgotten
and left where we couldn’t remember them
we did need reasons
By the time we remembered
too far down the pilgrimage road
it was much too late

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Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few

Let’s talk about regret. And about doing things that we regret. Because I’ve been really, really good at that this last week.

This might sound arrogant or presumptuous, but if I’m being honest I really don’t often do things that I regret. I try hard to keep a level head on my shoulders and to think before I do things.

But this last week has been a rough one in my life for a lot of reasons. My mind has been pulled in a lot of directions with a lot of things, and as a result my mind has been even less mine than it normally is.

What is hard about doing things you regret is that you can’t undo them. You have no way of knowing just what your actions have done or how they have changed your life.

What’s funny about this post is that from a grand perspective these things I’ve done really aren’t bad. They really aren’t even regret worthy. I honestly should’ve saved this post for something regret worthy.

I was talking to God about this tonight, and it was a really great experience because I’ve felt rather far away from Him throughout this whole thing.

He assured me, as He always does, that He has a plan and everything is going to be okay. That our tiny mistakes aren’t going to ruin the grand scheme.

It’s such a relief to know that even when we slip up, God is still on our side. He is still there for us, and His promises are still sure.

We just have to start again and have faith and hope.

For the Red Haired Girl

For the Red Haired Girl

sun peeks over a white horizon
evergreen twinkling in the window
your red hair tumbles down around your shoulders, love
your picture in my heart because

believe me, you’re stunning
and I’m thinking that I wish your eyes could always hold
this gleam
your world is wide open
and it be a joy to watch you as you live
your dreams

your smile’s brighter than all the corners
you’ve never been afraid of a dark day
a day might come when the sunlight goes
when you’re broken and tired and nothing’s okay

the tide pulls so hard now
and all the light is drowning in a sea of
blacks and greys

keep hold of the memory of the sunlight, my dear
you have nothing to fear

please keep that memory in your pocket
what’s meant to be will always find a way
please keep that memory in your pocket
what’s meant to be will always find a way

sun peaks over a while horizon
evergreen twinkling in the window
red hair’s gleaming in the new sun like ruby gold
waters recede and you’re going home

please keep this newness in your heart, now
it will help you if you happen to forget
please keep this newness in your pocket
what’s meant to be will always find a way

Imma Be Honest

Imma be honest with all of you:

Sometimes I get so ridiculously tired of blogging.

But I have this thing where I’ve been writing this blog for almost…four (?) years now and thinking of blog posts is just a part of who I am now.

However.

bad decisionsI don’t really know what’s going on inside my head, or what the cause is, but for whatever reason the last couple of days I have just been so, so, so mad. Just mad.

Have you ever woken up absolutely furious?

I still can’t decide if I would recommend the experience or not, but I’ll get back to you assuming that at some point in the near future I don’t wake up furious. One of the objects of this anger has been my blog.

I guess that for some reason I always thought it meant something, but I’m not sure it does. I guess I always wanted to write these posts that rattle everything inside of me while also putting it all into place, and somehow everything in my life causing the rattling would just fix itself. It would be like the universe saying, “Yo. I read your blog. And all those things you’re working towards and waiting for? Here they are. Stay golden.”

Actually, that’s never happened. Maybe the universe isn’t following this blog.

I’m fairly certain that I’m trying to be funny in this post. And that the fact that I’ve been absolutely furious for three days straight is also quite funny. Not sure. Nothing really feels funny right now, but the part of me that usually finds most things funny is assuring me that it’ll all be funny soon.

When I feel this way, I just constantly have to remind myself to remain focused on what I know. Just remain focused on the answers I received, do my best to avoid falling into sadness (which is so easy when life feels uncertain), and just continue doing good things and doing what I know makes me content.level of hell

I will say with complete confidence that I’ve been doing this remarkably well in recent months. I’m actually proud of myself for all I’ve been able to do.

But the last three days I’m just mad.

I think it’s an experience I only recommend if it doesn’t last too long. Sometimes you just have to drive through town wearing your sunglasses and mean face. With the bass turned way up and your rap music blaring. Actually, I’d recommend that experience on any day, but on days like this, it is an entirely new level of satisfying.

Stay golden.

 

New Frontier

New Frontier

all of the memories keep rushing by
like the movies we watched on Tuesday nights
this is a new frontier
there are no maps for way out here

there are empty shelves and a broken path
your favorite book inside of the trash
welcome to the new frontier
I can’t see you from way down here

you always told me that you wouldn’t leave
and I believed you but we did not see
the army
descending

please tell me you miss me, I see it all
the life we planned before we lost it all
the army
descending

we weren’t prepared to have to fight it off
and that is just exactly why we lost
this is a new frontier
you’re not here to dry my tears

something happens when you’re blazing trails
it’s harder than you think and then it fails
that is just the new frontier
I wish you were still right here

I wish it didn’t have to be this way
whatever happened we couldn’t explain
the army
attacking

I’m not blaming you for things that came
I only wish we’d tried to ride the wave
of the army
attacking

something whispers that you’ve been spending time
all shut away, did you finally cry?
that would be a new frontier
I can’t imagine you in tears

did you put up walls to everyone else?
is it only me who’s been through hell?
this is a new frontier
so this is how that feels

remember moments when I heard your heart
pounding so fast, we couldn’t bear to part
the army
surrounding

maybe if I write it all out in lines
my heart won’t burst each time you cross my mind
the army
is surrounding

I get the feeling that you’re feeling lost
and drowning guilty from the times we talked
welcome to the new frontier
you can’t see me or even hear

but maybe you’re fine and your heart’s all healed
and you’ve forgotten what we both could feel
this is the new frontier
where do we go to from here?

there was a moment when I saw your eyes
couldn’t believe you really were all mine
the army
defeating

do you remember how the pieces fell?
I can’t believe we had to say farewell
the army
defeating

I’m learning new things and taking some steps
but I can’t believe the words that you said
welcome to the new frontier
there are no maps for way out here

remember the night you were scared and called
I told you to walk away from the wall
that was a new frontier
you trusted me, I was in tears

was it that wall that suddenly went up?
so many questions but the answers none
the army
is winning

it seemed to me you were being a shield
for things you felt you had to keep concealed
the army
just winning

whatever it is that you’re feeling now
please know that I am on your side somehow
this is just a new frontier
day by day it gets more clear

I know you better that most people do
hard, believing it could really be true
welcome to the new frontier
learn how to be alone, my dear

I think I’m done with counting syllables
It’s time to make it understandable
the army
retreating

I’ll keep on walking for another day
and keep on wishing when I do not pray
the army
retreating

welcome to the new frontier

Heartbeat Part 4

My broken heart has been a funny thing.

Actually, in case you didn’t get this, it hasn’t been funny at all. Like…at all. After one month, I expected to be better. I expected it to not hurt any more. I thought that by now I’d have moved on. I’d have forgotten. I’d be okay.

Well, that isn’t really the case. It still hurts so badly sometimes that I have to wonder how I made it this far. I still feel so confused about so many things. I’d still give anything to have it be different.

But God is teaching me things.

I’ve always been the type of person who could look ahead and see myself in the future. I’ve always been able to just see ahead. That hasn’t been the case for me recently. Every time I try and look ahead past the next hour, all I see is darkness. So I’ve been praying about this very sudden shift in my vision. And what do you suppose He said in response?

“Be patient.” God said. “I have a plan. I need you to trust me.” God has been pretty adamant about teaching me patience and trust in the last year and a half. Don’t even get me started. He keeps telling me things like, “I have everything under control. You work on you. Fix you. Leave the rest to me.”

You’d think that this would be easy.

Turns out it isn’t. It turns out that I like to be in control of my life a little bit more than I was aware of. So this moment in my life, when I can literally only see for one hour at a time, is really hard for me. It is really hard for me to simply let go. To trust that God has a plan, that ultimately He is in charge, and that no matter what happens in the near future it will all work out the way that it is supposed to.

I’ve realized that pretty much everything is easier said than done. This last month of my life has been so incredibly hard. There aren’t words for it, actually. I honestly wasn’t aware that a person could feel this kind of emotional pain and live through it.

But somehow my heart is still beating.

I wish I knew what the ending was. As an author, I’m pretty used to knowing the ending of things. I feel very out of my element right now. But God is teaching me things, so I have to trust Him. The truth is that I don’t know what the ending is. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after that. And right now, I know that I’m not supposed to know. I’m just supposed to have faith. Trust God.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have my hopes or desires. I was praying about them earlier today, in the middle of a particularly hard moment when I couldn’t believe it still hurt that badly. God let me know very quickly that He understands exactly where I’m at, and He’s got everything under control. I get this feeling that something big is coming in my life. Something wonderful, just around the corner, and I need to be ready for it. God is just asking for a little bit of faith and trust, and something totally amazing is going to happen. I know it. I have literally no idea what this something is. But I know that it’s coming. One of my best friends in the world, Adele, said to me today, “You don’t have to know what it is. You’ve been given all the answers you need. Just move forward, hour by hour.”

She’s right. She’s pretty much always right.

Sometimes the pain is so fresh, like it just happened yesterday. And it feels like I’m drowning in it. And I can’t get to help fast enough before I absolutely lose it and cry so hard I can’t breathe. Sometimes I feel so confused and angry I could scream.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t learned anything, though. There have been a ridiculous amount of blessings in my life in the last month. I’ve repaired relationships with siblings, become closer to my friends, spent much needed time with my grandparents, gotten a stronger relationship with my dad, and have had countless moments with God. He and I have talked so much about all of this. And it has been really wonderful. God is good, everyone. He is so, so good.

I’ve realized so many things about life.

I have realized that life is scary. And love is scary. And there are a million things to be unsure about and worried over. And I’ve also realized that there will never be a moment when you feel you are 100% ready. It’s going to be terrifying. There’s going to be things you don’t know. So many of them. But you just have to do it. Just jump. That’s all life is. A lot of jumping off cliffs when you only have the tiniest seed of faith in your pocket.

I have also realized that for too much of my life, my priorities were ridiculously out of wack. There’s a really long backstory as to why that was the case, but I spent so many years being bitter and angry about the things that are the most important. I don’t feel that way anymore. Not in the slightest. Those things I was so angry about, those things I was so scared of, they are all I want now.

God is teaching me so many things.

Tonight was hard. Today was hard. I left work with a very heavy heart. The steering wheel of my car got washed with a lot of tears tonight. My very wonderful roommate got bombarded with a lot of my pain tonight.

Then she suggested we go for a drive. We ended up on top of the hill in our city. We shut the car lights off, unrolled the windows, turned on some music, and sat on the hood of the car looking up at the sky. It was absolutely stunning.

I felt truly happy for the first time since it happened.

We talked about God. About how He has a plan, and ultimately He is in charge, and sometimes we just have to have faith that everything is going to work out. Right as we were saying this, an absolutely stunning shooting star zoomed across the sky right in front of us. It had two tails. I’m taking it as a sign.

We laughed a lot, too. I can’t even remember what about. All I know is that it felt good to laugh again. God has been feeding me constant support and hope recently. He has never left my side. He’s given me numerous answers, and always sent me help in the moments that I needed it most.

I know there is hope.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. And it will probably hurt again tomorrow, because it hasn’t stopped hurting. But tonight I saw a shooting star.

And today God told me He has a plan. He asked for my patience. He asked for my faith. He told me He understood what my hopes, desires, and pain are, and He’s got it under control.

This is what He told me.

And for now that’s all I need.