At Year End

If I had to pretend 2019 was a piece of writing and give it a title, I would call it “The Battle with Selfishness” or “The Struggle to Sacrifice.” The prevailing event that occurred was the birth of my son in early January, so naturally, my life turned upside down.

All the poets and writers and anyone who has ever had a child were not kidding when they said that upon becoming a parent, one’s entire perspective on life changes. For me, the key word was perspective. My actions did not change much, but I got the overwhelming sense that I needed to be changing my actions in accord with this new perspective of parenthood.

So much of what I do on a daily basis is selfish. So much of it is useless and destructive, not in an overt way like alcoholism or drug use, but in a softer way. I was playing on the floor with my son one night, and my phone vibrated from inside my purse where I promptly forgot about it upon walking in the door and seeing my son’s drooly grin.

I ignored the phone, but in the back of my mind was a nagging feeling that I ought to check it, even though it was likely only a text from a family member and not urgent. This nagging feeling occurs all the time when I’m doing something worthwhile or unselfish. The nagging feeling says that I need to surf the Internet on my phone, sit down and read a book, go on the computer and write something, or just be alone and away from people.

Sometimes the nagging feeling becomes a roar, and it is extremely hard to ignore it. I don’t know if that is the sound of my old pre-married life coming back to haunt me because there are certain parts of it I find hard to let go of, like unfettered alone time. When I try to make myself remember that I was not as happy in those days, the roaring quiets and the nagging goes away for a time. But it inevitably returns, mostly when the phone vibrates or when I start to get tired (damn that noonday demon!).

Honestly, I’m happiest when I’m with others, although it does not appear that way. Being around others is hard because I have to control my selfish impulses, but it is infinitely better than doing things alone. It is better to serve others than to serve oneself, as painful as it is to be around others at times.

So my resolutions for 2020 are related to being more “other centered.” I will die one day, and I doubt I will be remembered for how many blog posts, journal entries, and fiction pieces I wrote, how many books I read, or how many government documents I edited. I don’t think God is going to judge me on the basis of those things either. My vocation is to be a mother and a wife. That is the way I am supposed to bring light into the world and lead others to God. Everything else in my life should be in service to that vocation, which was chosen by God to bring glory to him, so my resolutions have also been chosen for my vocation.

All this is to say that I didn’t set a writing goal. I’m going to keep posting THE ARCHIVES until all 365 chapters are up. I’m sure the constant urge to write will spur me to post the occasional blog entry here and there, but it’s not going to be a priority. The world is a strange place and becoming stranger by the day. The best way to prevent it from having too much of a hold on me is to renounce it, little by little, and do what I can for God.

Top 5 Favorite Albums

Music time! These are my five favorite albums that I physically own (not downloaded). Feel free to share yours in the comments!

1. Evanescence – Fallen (2003)
Genre: Hard Rock
This was the first CD I ever got and it’s still my favorite to this day, even though I’ve come to see some of the lyrics as a little too dramatic for real life. Fallen has never ceased to inspire me when I’m writing, though. Listening to those overdramatic, soaring vocals can be just the trick.

2. The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
Genre: Rock/Grunge
This album has been listed as a 90s classic many times. The lyrics may be some of the most depressing, angst-ridden stuff you’ve ever heard, but, strangely enough, the sound is as calming as it is angry.

3. Flyleaf – Memento Mori (2009)
Genre: Hard Rock
I already wrote a review of this album in an earlier post, but it was worth mentioning again. The album is Christian-oriented, but even if you aren’t Christian, you’ll feel the intense emotion infused in every song.

4. Spyro Gyra – Three Wishes (1992)
Genre: Jazz fusion
Totally instrumental, this album will still make you want to get up and move. It is definitely not the kind of jazz that constitutes elevator music or background sounds while you’re on hold.

5. Michelle Branch – The Spirit Room (2001)
Genre: Pop/Rock
There is something about the sweet hopefulness of the lyrics that keeps drawing me to this album. Artistically speaking, it may not be the most unique album in the world, but its positivity is very worthwhile if you’re feeling down.

Flyleaf – Memento Mori

And now for something completely different! I’ve been meaning to do a CD review on here for a while, so here it is. Disclaimer: Opinions and song interpretations are mine and if you disagree, please do so with respect.

Memento Mori - Flyleaf

Although the CD is almost a year old now (it was released in November 2009), I still haven’t gotten tired of listening to it. Flyleaf, classified as a rock/alt. metal band, has put forth an album just as satisfying and loud as the one before it (eponymous debut released in October 2005).

The members of Flyleaf (Lacey – vocals, James – percussion, Sameer – guitar, Jared – guitar, Pat – bass) do not want their band labeled as a “Christian rock” band, but the entire concept of Memento Mori (be mindful of death, in Latin) is about the battle Christians must face against sin and death. The inside liner notes tell the story of the fictional “Passerby Army” as they struggle to keep their faith in a world that does not honor God.

The religious/inspirational nature of the lyrics may not appeal to some fans, and the lack of focus on Lacey’s signature screams on the album may also be disappointing (she does scream, but considerably less than in the first album), but nevertheless, it’s a great listen and definitely not a “soft” album by any means.

It’s the power of Lacey’s voice that makes the album shine. She puts so much emotion into every song. Every time I hear “The Kind,” “Tiny Heart,” and “Missing,” I tear up. As a Christian, the album spoke to me very deeply about how fleeting life is and how we really should be preparing ourselves for a battle against worldly urges that aren’t very good for us.

Track-By-Track

1. “Beautiful Bride” – Second single. Not so much about brides in the literal sense, the song’s about people from diverse backgrounds (presumably Christians) banding together against the “enemy.” It’s a powerful opener, a battle cry that kicks off the album with fearless energy. The peaceful “Hallelujah” sequence at the middle of the track gives the otherwise loud (I’ve heard some call it “exhausting”) song a bit of a break.

2. “Again” – The first single from the album – and it might be because the lyrics are not so overtly religious. It’s all about helping someone who has fallen to see the light. With as much energy as “Beautiful Bride,” “Again” is a kind of love-letter to those who may fall during “battle.”

3. “Chasm” – Fourth single on the album, and a definite earworm, “Chasm” has a message directly from the Bible (Luke 16:19-31). If I were to interpret it in a more secular sense, it seems to be more about the thirst for a certain spiritual fulfillment – which we all need, as we are spiritual beings whether or not we believe in organized religion. It’s got a cool instrumental outro at the end, too.

4. “Missing” – Third single on the album. It probably relates to a quote by St. Augustine that says something to the effect of “our hearts are restless until they rest in you”, the “you” being God. Flyleaf’s message here is that we can’t be filled completely by earthly things. The song itself has definite sing-along potential; the melody’s easy on the ears and the lyrics repetitive enough to remember them easily.

5. “This Close” – Probably my favorite song on the album. The lyrics speak of disparity between what’s false and real in this life, and about getting close to the “stranger” aspects of yourself. Like “Again,” it’s all about coming back to the light and finding out who you are – “breathing again” and all that.

6. “The Kind” – I always tear up when I hear this song because it reminds me of a situation with two people who were once my best friends. The basic premise of the song is “you can’t serve two masters,” those two being God and money. The song’s got a great message for modern times, with all the corporate greed and the debt of the US government going on nowadays. The little story in the liner notes reminds me of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. The most powerful part of the song is the “I’m sorry” sequence at the end – we get a little of Lacey’s signature screams here.

7. “In the Dark” – The whispered intro to this song is unique among the songs in this album; it’s not as much of a powerful kickoff as the other songs have, but the whispers force you to pay attention as the song builds its way up into the type of power we expect from Flyleaf – complete with a death-scream! It’s got a strongly religious tone to it; the name of Jesus is mentioned explicitly.

8. “Set Apart This Dream” – Taking on a far more gentle tone than the other tracks on this album, this song has an inspirational (not necessarily religious) message to little girls everywhere. If I had a daughter, I’d let her hear it. It could be interpreted as a true-love-waits anthem, but I see it as a celebration of childhood. Lovely track – at the end there’s a lot of “background noise” with more of a good message within.

9. “Swept Away” – I’d go so far as to consider this the most violent track on the album. Screaming in the beginning, then strained vocals released to triumphant praise in the chorus, all in all, it covers a similar theme as “Again” and “This Close” – someone fallen from God or from the light who needs to give up the darkness and turn to the light. The “violence” in this song comes at around 2:40 – more strained vocals, then release in the form of the strongest scream on the album. I love the chime sounds at the end; a very calming finale to a powerful song.

10. “Tiny Heart” – After a strong track like “Swept Away,” “Tiny Heart” works well. It’s a reworked version of an earlier song and some may not like it as much as the original, but both hold their own. Some lyrics have been rearranged and a chiming sound like church bells features right before the chorus. It’s another of my favorites on the album – and it makes me cry… in a good way.

11. “Melting (Interlude)” – This track, almost a minute long, is a quiet (but somehow haunting) break in the middle of an otherwise noisy album.

12. “Treasure” – Written about Lacey’s fiance proposing to her, this song manages to send a positive message to everyone: we’re all treasured and loved by someone, somewhere. It’s another overtly Christian song – a Hallelujah in the chorus and the mention of Jesus as Yeshua. One of the quieter tracks on the album, it still holds to the triumphant, loud atmosphere of the album.

13. “Circle” – Probably the most emotionally-wrenching song on the album, with the possible exception of “Swept Away,” I see it as a definite Jesus jam, although it can be interpreted in lots of other ways. (One of my favorite things about Flyleaf – all the different ways their songs can be interpreted.) Like the others, the song is loud, but it ends on a quiet, meditative note.

14. “Arise” – Fifth single. They couldn’t have picked a better track to end the album. I think this song is the strongest (lyrically) of the entire album; the message is applicable to everyone. I consider it the end of the story that begun in “The Kind” – although we may be dirtied by the things of this world, we can rise out of it and “be all we dreamed.” Lacey’s solo vocals at the very end announce that the battle’s not over – we still need to fight for what we believe and what we want to be.

Overall, for an album so focused on death, the songs as a whole are inspirational and filled with hope. Did you like this album? Do you have different interpretations for any of the songs? Let me know! 🙂