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Homecoming… Coming home?

This guy with told me as a freshman in college that 18 to 24 are the most transformational years of your life. At the same time that this message spilled into my mind, 18-year-old Rachel scanned his sleeves of tattoos on both arms and legs. He told me that he would not be able to recognize his 18-year-old self if he met himself right then. To be completely honest, I was apprehensive to this information because I thought to myself, “Will I have this many tattoos when I’m 24?” He was 25 at the time and he was put into jail last year for dealing drugs.

As a senior in college, I think about what I was like as a freshman in college. The funny thing is that I am 21 now, half way through the “transformational years” and I feel like I’m actually getting what he means. He didn’t mean that he couldn’t recognize himself because he looked older and got sleeves of really awesome tattoos. He meant his heart changed. He meant that his heart had shattered, opened, grown, and been nurtured. It had been at times very numb, and at times very soft. Over the past month, my heart has been completely changed.

I hadn’t REALLY prayed in a long time, I wasn’t living in a way that I felt like I could talk to God about my issues. I had a lot of addictions and loves that did not match what God loved. So, I had God shut out of my life and I was first. I was living for me. I had a lot of guilt and I wasn’t honest or transparent with most of the people around me. I came home one night around midnight from a day that I initially considered the worst. I was broken, I was tired, and I was alone. I called my closest friends and no one answered. In the midst of realizing no one was there for me, I felt The Lord so softly speak into my heart, “I Am Here.” Then, I began crying. I had told God that I didn’t need Him for years, and He still wanted to take care of my heart. He forgave me. He let me cry to Him and take comfort in His friendship. I am humbled and overwhelmed my the grace of who Jesus really is.

In that moment, I felt like I was home after being on a devastatingly long trip. I feel like I am living life again. I feel joy. I’m SO not perfect and I realize that I can’t be, but I find that Jesus is faithful and perfect. He loves me despite my issues. Despite my messy thoughts and actions. He forgives me every day when I disobey Him. He corrects me and sharpens me when I study the bible and talk to Him, but that doesn’t ever make ME a better person. It makes me only see and know how GOOD He is. He reveals to me that He will be my strength in my every weakness. I pray that He will make me obedient to His word, and I always have a heart that is tender to His truth.

This week is Homecoming at the University Of North Alabama, and it’s funny that Homecoming has meant something a little different to me this year. I am finally home.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him….
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15

Wherever the wind blows…

It has been so exciting to be back in school and start my senior year at the University of North Alabama as a Professional Writing major.

I have found it scary, and at the same time relieving, that I will graduate next May. My plans are so uncertain, but I hold on to the fact that Jesus has me in the palm of His hands. I believe my life, my musical career, and my schooling are full of opportunity.

I have so many directions that I can go when I graduate. My heart is in songwriting. I would love to write songs and try to get them in big films. At the same time, my degree allows me to have the credentials to be Editor of Vogue Magazine one day, which is a fresh vibrant dream of mine. At the end of my life, I want to end up teaching English at a university in California. This summer for two short weeks, the beauty of Santa Monica drew me in closer and closer. But the music always remains in my heart.

These past few weeks have been the coolest weeks of my life. I have met some AWESOME people. I came across Thomas Fleischman while thumbing through social media. T Fleischman is one of the best and unique voices that I have ever heard. He WILL be really big, so you should look him up now so you can be one of the people to say you heard him first. I aim to hear his voice till infinity and beyond. After hearing only a snippet of him, I asked Fleischman to play a wedding with me and we met up to practice. He walked in and started telling me exactly how we were going to sing each song like he was my piano teacher or something… But I just went with it. The best musicians in the world are bold and somewhat stubborn, so I trust the demeanor. And then effortlessly, I had a musical epiphany during that practice and knew this was definitely going to be cool.

So, at the end of the practice he told me that he doesn’t play without his friend Blaze.

“Okay?” So Blaze was down and brought his own vocals with his guitar to the next practice…. and yall. B is good. B has cool glasses, cool voice… coolest person ever basically. I couldn’t stop feeling like, “this is great.” I’ve been in a few different awesome groups, but THIS is exactly what I asked for this Christmas. And it came way early. So it’s worth telling and documenting the story. I plan to have them on my upcoming record along with Krista Sparks and The Philly Cheese Steaks.

I thank Jesus for blessing me and holding me. My biggest goal is to serve Him.

Best,
RW

Submit your story here!

We all experience different struggles dealing with love. We all have good times, but it’s the crazy stories, the frustrating months, and the overwhelming emotions that we grow from the most. Let’s be real. Sometimes love just seems unfair. And, in the end those are the times when our lives change and our eyes are opened to what we really want and need. I find that writing out my different stories are therapeutic for me. I have many friends who have crazy stories about relationships, and I plan to write about them (with their permission) on my third album. I am accepting stories from people who want their story heard. I will choose five to put on my album. I will choose the stories based on the most emotion that I think I can bring out. I like funny, wild, and unfortunate stories (because that’s what people like), so anything with emotion will be perfect.

HERE WE GO: Give me the general idea or, if you please, your entire story (the story and what you learned or haven’t learned yet) with details that you think should be shared with the world. Anything that you would want to be made into a pop song. Submit as many stories as you want. If you do not wish for me to share your name with the song, let me know somewhere in your response. Those who provide the story will not receive any compensation or copyright. If you wish, I will include that the song was written for you on my album! Happy writing!

Musicians in the Percussion World

Tonight I enjoyed attending the Junior Recital of my friends Angelo Sandoval and John Frederick. They performed multiple selections on the marimba, vibraphone, timpani, and drum set. Angelo and John each performed three solo pieces, and they performed a piece together. In 2012, I was on the drum line in the Pride of Dixie Marching Band with Angelo and John. It was inspiring to see them play; they have both perfected the art of performance and molded themselves into great, professional percussionists.

As I watched them play, I thought about how important it is as musicians to feel the music that we play. Angelo played a piece on marimba called “Wind Chimes Beneath the Summer Rain.” Robert McClure wrote the piece in 1983. I could tell as Angelo played each note that he tried to embody what Robert was feeling as he wrote the unique piece. I saw in Angelo’s face and his body that he wanted to portray that every note has meaning. McClure wrote the piece on a porch at dusk right before a rain. His goal was obviously to illustrate the peace and passion that he felt in that moment.

For me as a songwriter and composer, I hope to feel that same sense of ownership to my audience. I want people to believe what I write is true. The main goals I have as an artist are to write real stories and reveal them with emotion that moves my audience. I want them to know why I wrote the music, and how that experience affected me personally and musically. The emotion is what engraves a good story or moment and makes the art real deep down in the ocean floor of our hearts. At the same time, I hope my art will not be real to only individuals that I know now, but to those watching or listening twenty years from now and a hundred years from now. My favorite thing about art is the story; that is what makes it timeless.

Writer’s Block?

I’m taking a course right now at the University of North Alabama called Advanced Composition. We are learning about what inspires writers and composers. I am a busy person, and I am proud of my accomplishments. But, I need to take time to just sit and let inspiration come to me. I think something that writers should focus on is having down time. Sometimes, we get so caught up busy work and don’t take time to ourselves. That is when inspiration comes in the most honest and bold way.

Inspiration comes to me most often when I am getting ready in the morning, taking a walk, going to sleep, or thinking about nothing on a long drive. I think my best ideas come then because my brain isn’t thinking about what’s going to happen next in my daily routine. Instead, I am thinking about life and how I want to approach it.

Right now, I am working on three separate songs for my third album. Being Miss UNA and being involved in pageant life, I have set actively writing aside. However, the inspiration has still come in a fast paced way. This chapter of my life is taxing, but it is so rewarding. I have gotten to do community service work that I was never driven to do before. This gives me fresh ideas to write about. In some song ideas, my focus is bigger than relationships. In others, I’m being more real about how I feel instead of making my feelings ambiguous. I feel like I am on the verge of something great. I am lucky to say I have never experienced writer’s block. I don’t think that is because I am more special than anyone else… Because each person is original and creative. But, I realize that inspiration is everywhere.