2.25.2015

13 Things Fellow Missionaries Will Relate To


1)  Your first mission's trip will always be a cornerstone for your love of traveling - whether good or bad.
Not everyone can boast of having a great experience their first time on a mission's trip.  The ones who do, frequently talk about it.  The ones who don't, share their experience in hopes of letting people know that mission trips aren't all rainbows and good times.

2)  You love meeting people who do not know Jesus.
You're like a magnet wanting to draw people of all races and religions to you, in hopes of sharing the Gospel with them.

3)  You have a very different worldview.
You think outside of just the specific place where you live.

4)  You are fascinated by languages.
This may only be one in every ten missionaries, but for me, personally, languages astound me.  And I want to learn as many as I can.  And go to as many countries as I can where I can practice the languages I learn.

5)  You pray.  A lot.
Now this doesn't mean that missionaries pray 'more' than other Christians.  But there's a certain significance that you place on praying.  Maybe because you've seen, firsthand, the power of prayer - whether it be in regards to raising funds for your trip or in praying for someone to come to know the LORD.

6)  You know that being a missionary isn't about lifestyle, not a 'job'.
Being mission-minded, you know that it doesn't matter how many trips you've been on, how many orphans you've fed, how many wells you've dug, or how many homes you've built, if you aren't following God's command to share the Gospel, you are wasting everything - time and money.  And with that always at the forefront of your mind, you are constantly looking for opportunities to share His love and reach as many humans as you can.  You speak, He works.  The task is not done.

7)  You love meeting new people and building relationships.
...and this comes fairly easily.

8)  You view others as fellow sojourners in a life-long journey.
Whether they are Christians or not, the people in your life all have a future.  And you encourage them in their dreams, their goals.  And try to always push them to God.

9)  You are excited to get others excited.
God has used your mission trips to change you and impact you in numerous ways, and you want others to be affected the same way.  You are eager (and sometimes, too constant) in sharing about your experiences with others and asking them to pray about maybe joining you on a trip sometime.

10)  You are supportive of other missionaries.
Before you actually experienced what it was like to go on a mission's trip, you really couldn't stand the people who were constantly begging asking for sponsorship.  But now...you are one of those people.

11)  There is always that one (or more) thing that you are always sure you pack.
Whether it be your soft pillow, a favorite granola bar, or extra plastic bags.  People may look at you funny but hey, you've done this before.  You know the ropes.

12)  You long to go back.
Whether to the last place you went, or just on another trip.  You are eager to serve and share.  And are always on the lookout for new opportunities.

13)  You have a new understanding of just how faithful God is, that He always provides, and He will give you peace and confirmations to go or not to go.


2.24.2015

What I wish I could tell you... | letter to a young girl


Dear girl,

You may not have reached that age yet, where people begin calling you a 'teenager'.  But you will.  And you'll experience changes that you may not have been expecting.  And what's that thing people keep talking about?  'Emotions'?  Yeah, those took a while for me to grasp too.  They're like feelings...but not.  They're hard to understand and decipher, those emotions.  They're what you're thinking and feeling all wrapped into one.  Confusing?  Yes.  Difficult?  Yes.  Able to explain?  No.  I wish I could tell you that you'll figure them out in no time, and get the hang of how to deal with them, but truth is, I'm almost 20 years old and I'm still piecing my own together.

I wish I could tell you to always be open and vulnerable.  I wish I could tell you to trust and respect people.  But the truth is, darling, we live in a messed up world, and most of the people who you'll trust are going to end up showing you that you couldn't or shouldn't have.  And don't even get me started on respect.  Just so you know, there are very few people I respect.  I wish I could tell you that you could control what people thought of you, and that they will always see and love the best you.  I wish I could tell you that people will always encourage your womanhood and your strength, and not separate the two.

I wish I could tell you that you'll never suffer from being self-conscious, or having insecurity, or comparing yourself to other girls.  Or that your life will always go as smoothly as the next person's [seems] to be.  I wish I could tell you that you will succeed at every goal you set and every dream you have will come true.  I wish I could tell you that stepping out of your comfort zone will always be one of the best choices you make and that you'll never embarrass yourself and that no one will ever laugh at you.  I wish I could tell you that being a people-pleaser is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it isn't.  Because the way people want to be pleased isn't always right.  Even if it is popular.

And by the way, good communication is one of the most important keys to life.

I really want to tell you that being alone is far different than being lonely.  You may not believe that, but it's the truth.  Being alone is very significant in everyone's life.  It's a time to learn more about yourself in a way that no one could teach you.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes, of doing things by yourself, of figuring things out on your own.  But also, never be afraid to ask for help.  Asking doesn't mean you're ignorant; it means you want to gain more wisdom.

I wish I could tell you that the first guy who says he likes you is 'the one'.  And that he will respect you and always be there for you.  I wish I could tell you that his intentions are honorable and that he will truly love you.  I wish I could promise that he will never hurt you - physically or emotionally - and that he will give you space when you need it, a hug when you need one, or a kiss on the forehead.  Don't ever, ever settle for a guy who is 'good enough'.  Know your value, dear girl.  If someone isn't willing to treat you as a daughter of the Most High, they're not worth your time of day.

I wish I could tell you that all guys are men, that there are beautiful sunsets every night, that you'll always have a stable job and whenever you're having one of those lonely days, there will always be someone to hold you.  I wish I could tell you that you will always see the beauty of the world, but honestly, sometimes, you'll need to really look for it.  I wish I could tell you that you'll always have a reason to laugh, always have a reason to smile.  But sometimes, you just need to find those reasons on your own.

I wish I could tell you that everyone will understand what honesty is and always be honest with you.  I wish I could tell you that you will have a lifelong friend(s) from childhood.  And they will never leave your side, never ignore you, never give you stupid immature silent treatments where you two don't talk for days.  I wish I could tell you that you'll have always more friends that build you up, rather than tear you down.  I wish I could tell you that drama won't ever happen and you'll never have horrible arguments with your friends that leave you not talking for days on end.  Seek out good friends.  Seek out friends who will build you up, encourage you, make you stronger on your OWN.  And yes, there will be times when you have to be the mature one in the friendship.  Either way, everyone is in your life for a reason, to teach you something.  Learn from them - the things you should and shouldn't do.

I wish I could tell you that you'll never face temptations and never see any bad pictures and never hear evil thoughts expressed out loud.

I wish I could tell you that you and your parents are always going to get along, that they'll never overwhelm you with rules, that you'll always be close to them, and that you'll always want to obey their advice and requirements.  I wish I could tell you that all your siblings will be your best friends, that you'll never have fights with any of them, and that you'll always want to be around them.

But you might not.

Sweet one, I may be wrong about some of these.  I really hope I am.  If some of these prove to be the opposite in your life, I am so happy for you.  And you should count yourself as blessed.

But there will be times when you just need to wipe the tears off your face and be your own little hero. And moments where you need to choose whether to be happy or let the sadness seep into you.

And in the end, those will be the moments you will look back on and see just how strong of a human you really are.  That you are absolutely and without question, a beautiful and unique human soul.  Showing your own strength can and will encourage others to be strong on their own.  Don't let your past keep hold of you.  It shouldn't dictate your future, but it should be part of who you will become.  You have the choice whether you learn from your lessons and move on, or let the lesson keep twisting its knife in your heart, telling you that you're a failure.
Remember to fight for what matters.  Always tell the truth.  One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is forgive - even if the person never asks for it, or never acknowledges that they were in the wrong.

Your life has a purpose.  You have much to accomplish.  Don't let others stop you.  And don't ever say you 'can't'.  That word shouldn't even be in your vocabulary.  Because a person who doesn't first believe in themselves, won't believe in others, and their plans won't succeed.

God allows everything to happen to allow something else to happen.


2.23.2015

Music Monday | 12 songs to listen to when you don't know what to listen to


We've all had those moments when we need music (well, okay, we always need music...) but when our iPod is on shuffle, we find ourselves skipping songs to...uh...find one that we want to listen to.  You know what I mean.

Below are 12 of my go-to songs.  Maybe you'll like them.

1)  Forever Unstoppable by Hot Chelle Rae

2)  Multiplied by NeedToBreathe

3)  Cop Car by Keith Urban

4)  Rather Be by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne

5)  Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran

6)  Have Everything by David Dunn

7)  I Want Crazy by Hunter Hayes

8)  Lightning in a Bottle by The Summer Set

9)  Daylight by Maroon 5

10)  Good to Be Alive by Jason Gray

11)  Stuck in the Middle by Boys Like Girls

12)  Something I Need by One Republic



What are some of your go-to songs?  Which was your favorite from the ones I listed?


2.19.2015

Everyday Blessings // 29


I haven't done an Everyday Blessings post since December?!  That's horrible...


>> Peru
>> having pictures to look at, remembering my time in Peru
>> being asked to become an author on Bravery and Jordan Kranda
>> green tea macchiatos
>> movies with friends
>> having a Valentine this year
>> my job
>> helping make someone's birthday special
>> Taco Bell
>> my 'Wild and Scenic Oregon' calendar (at work)
>> my Benedict Cumberbatch calendar (at home)
>> a new custom-made jewelry box (it's purple)
>> Young Living oils diffuser
>> when a coworker buys me Kombucha
>> buy one, get one free DVD sales
>> late nights with special people
>> music jamming
>> meeting with a coworker for breakfast
>> when people make an effort to get to know you
>> honesty


---

Story behind the photo:

It was such a beautiful, sunny, and warm Monday this last week. Honestly, it was a little difficult to be in the office at the computer all day. But before I got off work, I decided that I would go on a hike when I got home. And I felt like God was telling me 'Yes, my daughter, I want you to come spend time with Me, surrounded by the nature I created'. As I was hiking, the sun was beginning to set. The sky directly above me was dark, but once I reached the top of the hill, this horizon greeted me. My Daddy had painted such a beautiful sunset for me. I felt so overwhelmed with His love.  And yes, that photo is a #nofilter.

'How many years
Did You plan this moment here
To show me
How You love me
It's like I'm seeing for the first time
Like You opened my eyes
To show me
Everything I've missed before.'
- Britt Nicole


2.14.2015

I Love Being Single. And Here's Why.


I get asked, on a fairly regular basis, if I have a boyfriend or not.  I usually reply with ‘Nope.  I’m as single as you can get!’ accompanied by a smile on my face.  A few people have admitted that they were surprised by my seemingly joyous reaction and answer to their question.  ‘Does it bother you at all?  To see girls your age or younger who already have boyfriends - or are even married - ESPECIALLY around Valentine’s Day?’ some have asked me.

First of all, why would it bother me to see someone else happy?  That’d just be immature and dumb to feel that way.  If someone has a boyfriend or is married, I am genuinely happy for them!  Sure, it’s not always a breeze for me to see so many of my peers having a significant other.  Just about everyone has the need for companionship and the tendency to get lonely built into their system.  But am I going to harbor jealous feelings against people who have found the love of their life?  Uh, no.  Instead of doing that, I can delight in my singleness and stay busy with some pretty fabulous stuff.  And below are a few examples of why I love being single...

1)  I’m not ‘tied down’ to a relationship where I would have to cater to someone else’s needs and desires.
I can see how that may sound super conceited and selfish, but I’m just being honest here.  I love my freedom.  I love being able to get another piercing or get dreads without someone saying ‘I’d rather you not’, and me knowing that I should be self-less and love them and do what they ask.  I’ve been in an almost-relationship (I know that sounds confusing but sorry) where he was very demanding of my time and my attention and it got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t do ANYTHING without having to tell him first, and basically ask him for his permission.  THAT is what I have in mind by saying having to ‘cater’ to someone else.  I’m sure nobody would like to be in that sort of relationship.

2)  If I want to go on an adventure or go somewhere for the weekend (or at least overnight) I don’t need a chaperone to come along with me and my significant other.
Everyone’s dating rules are different and I totally respect that.  For me, though, I plan to really try to never put my boyfriend and I in any tempting situations, including being alone together for long periods of time.  And in the case of a roadtrip or weekend camping trip or whatever, that proves to be a hindrance, right?  For example, I wouldn’t want to drive across the U.S. with my boyfriend and have to worry about separate rooms at a hotel, separate tents while camping out, etc., etc.  (Roadtripping across the U.S. with my husband though?  Totally different story.)

3)  I’m a very social person and singles tend to be more outgoing and sociable than people in relationships (dating or married).
I’m not trying to point fingers or find fault in married people, but c’mon.  You’re in a relationship.  Your priority is your significant other.  I totally get that.  Whereas, singles can mingle, enjoy being with more than one person, not have to focus on the needs of a certain individual, and are just plain fun to be around.
This is NOT to say that married people aren’t fun!!  I know some couples who are a blast to hang out with.  But only some.

4)  I can invest my full attention and time in certain areas of my life and pursue dreams and goals that being in a relationship would prevent me from achieving.
I pretty much explained everything about this point in one sentence.

5)  I can get alone time when I need it.
I’m an extrovert, so I get my energy from being around people.  This does NOT mean that I don’t sometimes enjoy retreating to a quiet corner of the world for some alone time.  I really crave those moments, actually.  Where it’s just me, in my sweats and a hoodie, reading a book, listening to music, praying or whatever.  Alone.  And singles just plain get more times like these than people in committed relationships.

6)  I don’t have to deal with someone always being jealous of me and my friendship with guys.
When I am in a serious and committed relationship, I will have absolutely NO problem putting distance between me and my guy friends.  And obviously I’d want to because no man will be more important to me than my boyfriend.  But until then, it’s nice not having someone breathing down my neck, wondering who I’m texting, or who I’m going to hang out with because they want me all to themselves.  Trust me.  When I have a boyfriend, I’ll WANT to be with him.  He’ll probably think I’m too clingy.

7)  I never know what’s around the corner.
I love mystery and suspense.  I’m as curious as a cat.  I love trying to figure things out.  And when I view my singleness as an intriguing mystery story, it really does put things into perspective for me.  I never know who I’ll meet next.  Or when.  Or where.  Is my future husband someone I’ve already met?  A life-long friend?  Or that guy I accidentally bumped into at the store?  Or the stranger who wanted to take a random selfie with me?  Or the guy at the new shop that opened in town who I need to go interview?  I’m not trying to set myself up for disappointment, but rather look at my options.  And remember that life is an adventure.  I’m not sitting around, waiting for my man to come find me.  I’m staying active.  I’m meeting new people, seeing new places, enjoying life!  And whenever God decides to set him in my path, I’ll meet him then.  I'm in love with possibilities.

8)  I have the whole bed to myself.
This is NOT to say that I wouldn’t much rather be cuddled at night, but I really do enjoy having a big bed, not having to share blankets, or listen to snoring.  

I would like to end this with saying that I really do look forward to getting married.  Whenever God allows that to happen, I know it will be at the exact perfect moment and I will be more than ready and happy to commit my life to a man.  But until then, as a friend of mine told me recently, ‘I like the idea of marriage but I also don’t mind waiting for someone I know I would enjoy marriage with’.  

Amen.

---

What are some reasons you can find and be thankful for in being single?


2.13.2015

Before You Make A Decision About Fifty Shades of Grey...


"There is nothing new under the sun..."

Not even erotica.

It's just a newer and more modern outlet for sin.

This weekend the movie based on the novel, titled 'Fifty Shades of Grey', will be releasing in theaters across the country.  It is the story about a college graduate named Anastasia who is enraptured by a smart, rich, intimidating guy, Christian Grey.  She signs two contracts - one is an agreement forbidding her to tell anyone of anything she and Christian do together, and the other is one that allows him to have a dominance/submissive relationship with her.  No love is mentioned.  No commitment is required.
Christian goes on to supply Ana with luscious and extravagant gifts (he's a billionaire 'boyfriend' so he can afford literally anything).  She starts getting a little nervous about having a potential sexual relationship with Christian, though, that is not stemmed from a romance.  So she avoids him.  But, they get back together again (how surprising)...something else happens and Ana realizes that the two of them aren't compatible...so she leaves him...blah blah blah.  (It's an ill-written story, to be honest.)

Surprised?  I wasn't.  Disappointed?  Yup.  We live in a messed up world so I'm rarely surprised by new horrors.  But the more I hear of them, the more angry and frustrated I become that...well, that the world is just getting worse.  You know what's worse than that though?  Knowing that even some professing Christians are defending this trash.  Erotica and torture porn are being disguised as a fairytale love story.  And we're applauding it?

Not only are the women saying "yes" to it, but now the poor guys in the world are believing that this is what women want.  They're watching women all around them embrace signing contracts instead of covenants, wanting to be used instead of loved, wanting to be sexually aroused through actions that women say 'no' to.  Because apparently, "no" doesn't really mean "no" anymore.

To quote a fellow blogger, Lauren DeMoss, "We have now crossed a dangerous line in our society that cannot be erased.  A dangerous line - and any woman in a society that freely accepts pedophilia, rape, and abuse as 'sexy' should be scared for themselves and scared for their children."  There's nothing normal about it.  There is nothing romantic and wooing about a man guy who tells a virgin girl that he's attracted to her and wants to do unspeakable things to her, but wait!  Here.  Sign this contract that forbids you from telling anyone about what I do to you.

Excuse me?

What happened to romance and pursuing and earning and winning?  Not someone's body, but their heart, their soul.  What is so sexy about a guy telling you he's attracted to you but doesn't want a romantic relationship because he just wants you for sexual pleasure?

I have not only heard from married women that they want to read/watch Fifty Shades of Grey to help in arousing flare to their marriages, but I've also heard girlfriends who are wanting to try to spice up their relationships with their boyfriends by...what exactly?  You all already know my stance on saving oneself for marriage (and I stand solidly on what Scripture says about sexual purity), so what I'm curious to know is why a girl would want to 'spice' up her relationship if it'd only be a temptation that would surely lead to more?  I'm looking at the professing believers here.  What the heck are you thinking?  You tell that boyfriend of yours to bring you a ring and set a date and I promise you things will spice up pretty quick.  You won't need Christian Grey to help, or suggest, or advise anything.  And why would you want to have images of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele having sex together floating through your head when you're alone with your man?  (Not to mention they're both super unattractive actors...)  

"But Raquel, I don't have a boyfriend," you may say.

Then what are you doing reading/watching - or even thinking about reading/watching - something that has been classified as erotic fiction?  You think God is honored by that?  You think He considers that 'okay'?


"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'.  But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
- Matthew 5:27-28

The same is true for a woman looking at - or reading about! - a man.  Let's turn the tables here for a second.  Would you have a problem with knowing your man looks at porn?  Then how do you think he'll like the fact that you read and watch erotic books and films?   And fantasize over a [super] fictional guy who he could never be like?   

And seriously, married people?  You want to read a book that tells you about arousal and sexual experience?  Song of Solomon is literally the best.

What Fifty Shades of Grey teaches is all opposite of what God says is right.  Where Fifty Shades endorses BDSM and sex fueled by pain and humiliation, God commands that sex be an act of love and selflessness.  Where Fifty Shades endorses dissatisfaction because c'mon, you want your man to be filthy rich and buy you everything you could desire and have a room just for sex, God says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and coveting is a sin.  Where Fifty Shades endorses women to pursue a man guy even though she's confused by his actions, doesn't understand his intentions, and he's a "troubled human because of his past" (but I mean, he's Christian Grey.  He does no wrong.), God says a man must treat a woman with gentleness, honor and respect, and to love her the way Christ loves the church.  Which would you choose?  

So you tell me.  Why shouldn't you read or watch Fifty Shades of Grey?

---

Other articles on Fifty Shades of Grey:
Love Isn't Grey: A Post Not About 50 Shades
Fifty Shades of Grey - A real story of abuse
Will You See Mr. Grey? (2 Reasons You Might But Shouldn't)
Christian Women, Christian Grey
I'm not reading Fifty Shades of Grey
5 Things Fifty Shades of Grey Teaches About Sex

Sign the petition to boycott the Fifty Shades movie HERE.

2.11.2015

It's The National Week of Love & Romance & I'm Single.

Even though I've never had a boyfriend, I have been on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day.  I've received a handmade Valentine's card from a 'special friend', I've said yes to being someone's Valentine, and I've gotten chocolates.  But I've also spent Valentine's alone (besides family, of course), watching a cute movie (I think last year it was 27 Dresses), and eating chocolates that I either bought for myself or a bestie gave to me.  

When this especially romantic holiday rears its ugly head comes around the corner, people get ready for it, either by preparing something special for their significant other, or gearing up to spend it alone...in solitude...and silence.  Pretty sad.  

But then there are those people in the middle balance.  The ones who are going to enjoy the holiday, whether they have a boyfriend/girlfriend or not.  They're going to embrace the day for what it is.  Just that.  A day.  Another day.  To celebrate life and love.  And they have both of those simply because they are human.  (And also, it's a day that you can get a lot of discounts on chocolates and stuff.)  

THAT is how I want you - if you're single! - to spend your Valentine's.  (If you're not single, then you should probably not be reading this and should be doing something much more relevant to your significant other...like figuring out where to take her for a romantic date, or planning how to surprise him with that really yummy cologne you bought him.)

So...You can either sulk around and feel sorry for yourself this week.  OR you can embrace your singlehood and have the time of your life.  That's right.  As a single.  Alone?  Doesn't have to be.  You have friends, right?  

Something I absolutely love seeing is when my single friends take advantage of their singleness and go out and DO things.  It's so much fun - and encouraging - to see friends taking roadtrips, going to the movies, forming big groups to go on beach trips, going wine tasting (never thought of that, eh?), going on a shopping spree.  I really commend those singles.  The problem with a lot of single people nowadays is that they think they have some sort of deadline to reach.  It's stupid, really.  Cuz there is no deadline.  And God will let happen whatever it is He has written for you when He has it planned.  But people need to stop looking towards the future so much.  Yes, it's healthy to dream and have goals.  But you need to live in the here and now.  

Being single isn't bad.  It's not wrong.  It's not a label.  It's a title.  For?  Someone who is waiting for something that's worth it.  Something that's worthy.  Someone who is worth their time and energy and is amazing enough to change their status and check that 'taken' box instead of 'single'.  You're amazing on your own.  You were created as an individual, not as an ‘other half’.  Until your other half joins you in a covenant of marriage, you're on your own.  Embrace that!  Because being alone has advantages.  Many of them.

If being around couples doesn't sit too well with you, then what are you doing?  Go out and look for other singles.  Throw a singles-only party.  Get to know more guys.  Get to know more girls.  Pamper yourself.  HAVE FUN.  

Think about the day after Valentine's.  What would you rather remember? The miserable day you spent feeling sorry for yourself?  Or the incredible day you had with other singles, enjoying being single, blasting music in the car and livin' it up?

It's the national week of love and romance.  And you're single.  

And that's okay.

So...

What are you doing for Valentine's Day?

2.09.2015

Music Monday | Interview with Mars Meusic


I don't remember how I was introduced to Mars Meusic.  It was probably one of those late nights where I was looking for good cover artists on YouTube.  And when I found him, I was instantly a fan.  He not only plays about a billion instruments - and plays them well - but he also has an incredible voice.  Definitely a favorite.  Oh and he has dreadlocks.  AND his name is kind of legit.

I'm always looking for new artists and musicians who I can support and introduce friends to.  Plus it helps expand the fanship so that's always cool.

Mars is very unique.  He has a one of a kind sound and brings his own style to every song he covers.  I can't wait for his EP to come out.

Mars agreed to letting me interview him, and I was pretty stoked.  He's a really great guy.  Very humble, incredibly talented, and texted me in Spanish so that was an automatic point.  I was very privileged (and excited!) to interview him and I hope you enjoy his answers.

I'm including my favorites of his covers throughout this post...


1.  Let’s start off with something simple.  Tell us about how you got started in music.
There was always music in and around the houses where I grew up.  Maternal Grandpa played 
some Flamenco guitar and Paternal Grandpa loved Jazz.  Parents both messed with music but I 
think the biggest thing was how much emphasis and respect my family had for art and the 
support I’ve always had towards a music career. 

2.  What instruments do you play and did you take lessons or teach yourself?  What is your favorite to play/perform with?
I play violin, guitar, piano, and kit - although by no means would I consider myself a drummer.  That’s 
helped me understand how to produce instrumentals from scratch; it’s an amazing thing to 
build a song from the sounds and rhythms you hear in your heart and soul.  I take pride in that! 
For instruments, I started violin when I was 8, guitar and drums at 13, and piano and audio 
production at 14.  Background in all these instruments individually bring different musical 
perspectives to my sound.


3.  Have you ever taken voice lessons?
I was in high school choir with a really great vocal instructor that had a actually been an opera 
singer.  He really helped me understand how to blend with a group which I was unfamiliar with.  When you make beats and rap or sing on them, you tend to use your voice as a solo instrument 
out front.  That helped me understand a different dynamic to music and that individuals can blend 
together to really shine as a collective sound. #SquadUp 

4.  Can you share with us who some of your first and current inspirations were/are?
Early influences were Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, as well as rock records like Van Halen and Queen my mom or dad played.  My next door neighbors were from LA and had me listening to 
NWA/Snoop/West Coast back in preschool days as well.  It all combines in some crazy 
conglomeration that makes my music present itself in an interesting way! 

5.  Who are some artists/bands you’d enjoy performing or collabing with?
I’ve enjoyed collaborating with local artists including Skool’d, BenReal Verse World, MakeUp, 
BenJamin, StickMonster, Marq C from the block.  Zeaphy and Rob Sheppard from Des Moines!  A 
lot of great talent here in Iowa.  Also loved working with MarksRecords from Canada on some 
YouTube covers and French Dose from Paris super sick original collabs coming your way and Tres 
Mortimer from Chicago on point! 

6.  Which was one of your favorite songs to cover?
I’d have to say Love Never Felt So Good was a great time.  Funny thing is, it was such an 
impromptu cover as well.  MJ will always be a favorite. 



7.  How many originals have you written?
300, but I’m a perfectionist.  Although the number could be higher after having had produced for 
10 years, each and every song has something real to say and I’ve put my soul into each record.  I 
feel like you can hear it.

8.  What are your goals with your music?  
My goals are to become a internationally touring recording artist.  I’d love to see the world and 
share my music with them; culture is beautiful! 

9.  What has been one of the greatest blessings about performing and having a following for your music?
My fans are amazing.  Them buying the music, coping the merch, coming out to shows to 
support.  I wouldn’t be anything without my fans so they are my biggest blessing.

10.   Have you thought about trying out for any big shows – i.e. The Voice, American Idol, etc?
I actually tried out for The Voice, made it through all the auditions as an alternate in 2011.  Didn’t 
end up getting the call.  I feel like it turned out for the best though; their fine print is crazy.  For a 
writer/producer, their contracts are super constricting as they own the rights to your likeness, 
image, and music throughout the remainder of the universe at time of signing - although I think all 
that is renegotiated later.  Super platform for exposure but more so as a performer than as a 
performer/songwriter/producer, in my opinion.

11.  Do you have any projects currently in the works?
My EP is almost finalized and looking at time to drop in early March; I’m super proud of it and 
have a couple sick music videos by Malakai Creative shot in Phoenix, AZ to support the first 
singles!  My debut album is underway as well.  We recorded 3 songs for it when I was at 
Atlantic studios in NYC.

12.  Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully touring the world and collaborating with my music heroes.  Would love to collab with 
Daft Punk, Slash, Amr Diab, or Stevie - that would make my life! 

13.  If you had to choose, what would be one word that could sum up who you are and what music is to you?
Martian, because it’s out of this world. ;) 

14.  What is some advice and encouragement you would give to any budding musicians?  Or to ones who have continually run into roadblocks in their path to becoming recording artists?
Stick with it.  Consistency is one of the most overlooked ingredients to success. Not everything you 
put out will be your greatest hit but if you keep swinging, one is bound to hit great and that’s all 
you. 


Official Website: http://www.MarsMeusic.com
Twitter: @marsmeusic
Vine: @marsmeusic
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/marsmeusic

2.07.2015

How much am I worth?

I recently had to report on a beauty pageant that took place in a nearby town.  As I was reviewing the details, my eyes fell on the total amount put into the event, for scholarships and awards.  It was the grand total of $6,500.

The first thought I had was: 'How many more profitable things could that money have been put into...'

The second was:  'Just what kind of message are we getting across to all these girls who are in a competition based on their looks.'

This saddened me.

Today's world bases so much of approval and recognition on physical beauty.  So much so that there are prizes and money for 'beauty'.

Now I won't pretend that I know a ton about beauty pageants, nor am I criticizing those who have participated in them.  I am questioning them though.

What is the purpose?  How do they affect the ones involved?  And what kind of legacy is being left?

From what I can see, beauty pageants are allowing - and encouraging - young girls to think that they have to be beautiful.  That they have to meet a standard set unrealistically high.  They must meet this height, this weight requirement, this size, have these kind of boobs, these kind of lips, these kind of legs, this kind of body.  Girls, and women alike, are paraded before a panel of judges to be surveyed and rated on their overall attractiveness.  And are expected to conduct themselves in a way as to please the audience.  Talk about being objectified!

It's natural to enjoy looking at beauty and attractiveness, but our culture has made us believe that the rate of a woman's sexual attractiveness is determined by others.  And this can - and will cause - major problems.  Not only health wise, but social, physical, and mental problems as well.  If a beautiful girl enters a contest and doesn't win, she will start to consider herself ugly, too skinny, fat, and who knows what else.  Why?  All because a few insignificant people judged and decided that she isn't beautiful enough.  Enough.

I'm sure we all know of at least one girl who considers herself unattractive and has increased dieting, has eating disorders, and/or their self-esteem is very low.  And that's without a denial slip from beauty pageant judges.  That's just everyday life for them.

Girls have enough pressure on them as it is - to be beautiful, to look sexy, to look appealing.  And they will either grow up feeling ugly or will always try to be 'more beautiful'.  Or...they'll turn into mean, snobby, goody-two-shoes who think that because they've been told they're beautiful or because they have won a beauty contest, it means they're perfect.

Simply put, beauty pageants are harmful, degrading and sexist.  They turn girls and women into objects, not treasures.  Something to be used and admired and played with, not a human being who deserves respect regardless of their looks.  

So just because a female is thin and fit and measures up to a certain look makes them beautiful?  What about the women who are thicker, have larger curves, and are considered 'heavy-set'?  A woman OR man can be either kind or mean, sweet or evil.  Someone who isn't physically attractive can have a beautiful soul.  And someone who is attractive on the outside, can have an ugly soul.  Either WILL reflect onto their outward appearance.

Every girl, every woman is worth so much more than a 'Yes' or 'No' at a contest rated on their physical appearance.  Beauty pageants are only skin deep.

2.05.2015

You Know Those Days?


Do you ever have days when you feel that you don't matter?
You want so many things, but you feel you can never attain them.
Your heart aches.
It's a constant struggle.
And always seems to worsen at night.
You feel alone in this battle with your emotions and thoughts.
You know that God has a plan, but the process is never pleasant.
You feel useless and like you should be doing something but you don't know what
So you're kinda just stuck
In this 'Trust God and Be Patient' sort of box.
Makes you upset.
Really upset.
Then emotional
Because you're asking God to USE you
SHOW you what He wants you to do...
And then you get in bed but can't sleep,
So you start thinking about how much better it'd be to have someone to cuddle with
And talk to
And someone who cares enough to feel and understand your heart
Even if you don't say a word
You start thinking about not having that and get really lonely.
The whole night turns into hell.

Do you ever have those kinds of days?  And nights?

You're not alone.

I get those too sometimes.  And the best thing to be reminded of is that I'm not the only one who struggles with it.

I get lonely easily.  I have to be careful about what I talk about and who I'm with and what I watch or read cuz small things can trigger it.  

But I want you to know that you're important to me.  And I want you.  In my life.  I want you to stick around for a really really long time.

I believe everyone in our lives is in it for a reason.  I don't know why God allowed us to meet but I'm thankful He did.  And for however long of time He allows us to know each other, I am thankful for it.

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This was inspired from a talk I had with a friend the other night.  I wanted to publish it on my blog and let others know that they aren't alone in their struggles, even when it feels like they are.  

2.02.2015

Music Monday | Interview with The Gray Havens


Remember the artist I reviewed last Monday?  Well they agreed to letting me interview them for this week's Music Monday.  Enjoy!

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What has been your biggest inspiration for music and writing – as individuals and as a couple/band?
My musical inspiration first began with my parents.  I grew up in a very musical home.  We were always listening to something.  Frank Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, and Cat Stevens were some of my favorites over the years (and Disney soundtracks).  In high school I joined the marching band (trumpet) and the choir, which lead to musical theatre, madrigals, you name it. 
Licia was more of a closet/bedroom singer up until we started dating.  We decided to be friends after a few dates, after which my mom (being the matchmaker that she is) offered LIcia "free" guitar/voice lessons (at our house).  By the time we started dating again, Licia was often playing the guitar, but it wasn't until about 6 months into our relationshp that I actually heard her sing.  She was really really good. 

Tell us about your fascination and inspiration through writings by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Where did this begin?
C.S. Lewis has been incredibly influential in my thinking and writing.  It began with Narnia as a kid, but it wasn't until I went back to those stories in college that I really grasped the brilliance of what he had accomplished.  Spending time in Narnia increased my joy and delight in God and His good gifts.  It taught me about His sacrifice, about friendship, courage, and faithfulness.  It also inspired me to try and write with as much creativity, imagination, and excellence as I possibly could. 
I'm currently re-reading through The Lord of the Rings for the second time, and have been struck over and over at how masteful Tolkein was at world-building.  You really feel as though you have been transported to Middle Earth.  Everything about it seems believable and authentic, definitely not contrived or commercial.  All qualities of good song-writing that we try and emulate as best we can. 

Tell us about some of your music inspirations.  Who is someone you can compare your music style to?  Who are some artists you’d like to perform or collab with?
We've been describing our style recently as "narrative-pop-folk" because many of our songs are so story-oriented.  Pop-folk is a bit vague.  There are lots of influences that show themselves in our songs.  Lyically, we take our cues from good story-tellers like Paul Simon.  Instrumentally, we've been inspired by Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, and a ton of other bands. Vocally and melodically, there's a lot of jazz/big band background coming through.
Artists that would be fun to play with? Josh Garrels, Gungor, NEEDTOBREATHE, Jars of Clay, Colony House, and The Lone Bellow to name a few:) 

What is your goal through your music?  What do you hope to accomplish through The Gray Havens?
Good question.  I think we're still working that out, but for now we're content with a broad mission, which is to stir up the minds, imaginations, and affections of believers and non-believers through song and story, so that, through them, they would experience a deeper joy in God. 

Do you have any projects currently in the works?
I have about 350 voice memos on my iPhone I need to start going through in order to start writing more intentionally for the next project.  Nothing is on the calendar yet, but I don't think serious discussions about when to begin production are far off. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
That's a good question.  We want to do this as long as it's still feasible, fun, and life-giving to our family and to our listeners.
 
If you had to choose, what would be one word that could sum who and what The Gray Havens is?
Transporting. 

What is some advice and encouragement you would give to any budding musicians?  Or to ones who have continually run into roadblocks in their path to becoming recording artists?
Listen to a lot of music.  Write a lot of music.  Perfectionism kills creativity.  Find life-giving people to help you and encourage you along the way.

Congratulations on the news of the baby Radford!  When are you due?  And can you share a bit about how the little human is going to fit into your goals with music and The Gray Havens?
Thank you!  We are due sometime in mid-June.  We will probably take copious notes from other husband-wife duo groups who have made it work (The Groves, the Hellers, Jenny and Tyler, etc...).  Whatever happens, I'm sure it will include lots of trial and error (and maybe some new songs!). 

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Thank you for taking the time to let me interview you.  Your answers were fun and information-filled.  Blessings on your journey as talented musicians!