RSW Blog #1: Getting Ready to Move

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I'm going to be attending the Radiant School of Worship (RSW) this fall. Most people know this already because of social media, but I don't think I've written about it on my blog yet, so here it is. I want to keep you guys updated on this exciting new chapter of my life, so this is the first of many blog posts that I'm gonna put out into the world over the next 9-ish months.

I made a video about my acceptance into RSW a couple months ago, so you can watch it if you want more info:

Ever since I received my RSW acceptance letter in the beginning of June, my life has been an absolute whirlwind. I have no choice but to trust God during this season - let's be honest, I have no idea how to move, how to choose an apartment, how to be an adult. But God has been guiding me so firmly and sweetly, and he has been providing for my every need. I have been a Christian for so long and experienced God's goodness before, but never to this extent. It's honestly blowing my mind how he's taking care of things. All I had to do was present my obedience and best effort.

Upon receiving my acceptance letter, my first goal was to find a place to live. Not knowing where to start, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew of people looking for roommates around Kalamazoo. A friend I met at camp shared the post, and one of his coworkers happened to be renting out a cool little loft only 10 minutes away from Radiant Church. After talking to her about it and traveling there to see the place, I thought it was way too good to be true, but I once again felt a nudge from God to go for it... so I did. I confirmed with my friend's coworker last weekend. I'll be moving into that loft on September 15th.

After finding a place to live, I ran into another hurdle: I didn't have kitchen stuff, furniture, or anything that I'd need to live on my own. But after announcing the fact that I found an apartment on social media, friends and church members have been offering their extra stuff to me for free. The only things I need at this point are a couch, a bed frame, a bedside table, and some miscellaneous small stuff. Everything else has already been taken care of, even down to the moving boxes. It's been a humbling experience; God is providing for me through the selflessness and kindness of His people, and it's a convicting reminder that I need to work on being more selfless and kind myself.

I'm about to start the process of packing stuff into boxes and planning the logistics of the move day. Normally I would be very anxious and scared about this, but at this point, God has been so faithful and kind in every single step of this process and I know I have nothing to worry about. Is this what it's like to truly follow God? There's nothing but uncertainty ahead, but I'm feeling overwhelming peace about it.

The realness of this whole thing has been starting to hit me lately. I'm so excited to live on my own, decorate my own place, meet new friends, and grow musically and spiritually at RSW - but I'm also nervous about figuring things out, and I'm not looking forward to being so far from my family and boyfriend. I know that adjusting to living on my own for the first time in an unfamiliar city is going to be difficult. But one of the things God told me back in May was "2018 is going to be difficult for you - but I am with you through it all. It's because of my presence with you that you're going to grow."

I'm excited to grow. No matter how difficult it may get.

 

How you can help

Quite a few people have asked how they can help me - if you're one of those people, here are some things you can do that would mean the WORLD to me:

  • Pray for me.
  • Click here to buy my music on BandCamp. You can choose to pay more than the listed price, if you feel led to do so. This is a great way to support me financially (and you get some pretty cool music too).
  • Click here to buy a t-shirt with my logo on it.
  • If you live near me and you have any of the following items that you're looking to get rid of: twin bed frame, couch, bedside table, toaster, or some other misc household items, I will gladly take it off your hands.
  • I hate asking for money, but that's definitely what I need the most right now - RSW doesn't provide housing, so I'll need to pay for rent and food while I'm there. So if you don't feel like buying my music or a shirt, but you still want to contribute financially, click here to get in contact with me.

Reckless Love Cover to be Featured on Reverbnation

It is with great excitement that I share this news with you: My new cover of Reckless Love, which has only been out for less than a week, earned a featured spot on ReverbNation's homepage AND caught the attention of their senior curating team!

Songs that earn a 7.5 (out of 10) rating or above on a crowd review get to be featured, and my Reckless Love cover made the cut with a 7.6 rating. My song is in the 93rd percentile of all ranked songs on ReverbNation, which is a big accomplishment! My feature slot will run for a week, starting on October 23rd.

Being noticed by ReverbNation's curation team is also very exciting. Being curated can open doors to all kinds of opportunities in the music industry, including (but not limited to) record deals, brand partnerships, and promotion to millions of listeners. I'm not sure what (if anything) will come from this, but it's a sign that I'm doing something right and that people are enjoying my music.

I'm very humbled and thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me lately, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the next year takes me. To whoever may be reading this, thank you so much for supporting me and believing in me!

5 Things I Learned By Giving Up Social Media for 31 Days

Easter Sunday is next weekend (how??). I chose to give up social media for Lent.

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Before I get into the main points of this post, let me explain a little of the story. I am not Catholic so I don't observe the Lent season in a traditional way, but every year I try to give up something that has consumed my life in one way or another. Last year I gave up sugar, the year before I think I gave up coffee - this year, I felt God nudging me to fast social media.

Social media is a crucial part to marketing my own music & personal brand, so I kept telling God "I can't give up social media. What if I lose followers by being inactive, and my music career takes a hit?" He kept telling me to trust Him, so on Ash Wednesday I deleted the social apps off my phone and committed to only visiting my work-related social accounts (I'm a social media manager at both of my day jobs).

I broke the fast on my birthday and intended to resume the fast after that, but I decided to end the fast there so I could start marketing my music again. Even though I didn't do the full 40+ days of Lent, I still gained a lot of healthy perspective when it comes to the internet, and I'm so glad I chose to fast social media.

Here are the main things I learned:

1. You're allowed to enjoy things for yourself.

The first day of Lent, I spent my afternoon at Starbucks, and they were playing music by Julien Baker (one of my favorite artists) over the speakers. I remember wanting to tweet about it. Instead, I realized, "I don't have to share this happy moment with anyone else. This happy moment belongs to me, and I get to enjoy it." It was liberating. The same kind of thing happened frequently during my social media fast - I'd be hanging out with new friends, realizing "I don't have to add this to my Instagram story. These friends chose to spend time with me, not with a couple hundred of my followers."

2. Facebook is toxic.

When I broke my fast on my birthday and checked Facebook for the first time, I felt sick to my stomach. My news feed immediately blasted me with Facebook statuses filled with complaints, political arguments, and memes with Minions (ugh) on them, and my profile was filled with half-hearted birthday wishes from people I barely knew. I thought to myself, Is this what Facebook has always been like? Was I just blind to all this negativity and superficial "friendship?" Needless to say, I won't be re-downloading the Facebook app on my phone, and I'll be happily limiting my time on Facebook from now on.

3. No one misses you while you're gone.

Unless, of course, you're a popular blogger or a celebrity or something... but as for me, a little-known musician, my followers went on with their lives as normal the whole time I was gone. There was absolutely no pressure for me to get back on. I didn't come back to a lower follower count or comments demanding where I've been. I didn't miss out on much either - in fact, a friend got engaged, and of course I missed the Facebook announcement, but I still found out about it via a conversation with a mutual friend.

4. People's impressions of you (and of what you represent) are shaped by your social media presence.

This was something that I learned after I logged back in, when I had a fresh perspective: People are watching me, especially because I volunteer on the worship team at a large church. I felt a little convicted; I definitely have complained about my life and posted negative things on social media before, all of which was seen by people who have seen me lead worship. They know that I claim to love Jesus, so shouldn't my posts look like Christ? Even from a non-Christian perspective, there's already WAY too much negativity on the internet, so I should only be contributing kindness and positivity.

5. Social media saps creativity out of a creative person.

By taking a break from social media, not only did I free up a lot of time that I'd normally spend scrolling; I freed up my thoughts as well. Before Lent began, my thoughts consistently dwelled on social media: "I wrote a little chord progression. I should post a video of me playing it." "Something frustrating happened at work today. I'm gonna vent on Twitter."
Stepping back allowed me to think normally. I was able to write chord progressions and then work on adding to them or developing them into full songs, instead of stopping the writing process to record an Instagram video. And when something frustrating happened to me, I'd channel my feelings into writing music instead of channeling it all into my Twitter account. When I freed my brain from its social media cage, it was able to freely create.

 

This social media fast was exactly what I needed, to say the least. Now, with fresh perspective, I'm ready to harness social media as a marketing tool, NOT a crutch or outlet. I encourage you to do something similar; just take a break. You won't miss anything, and you'll come back feeling liberated and refreshed.

New Beginnings

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Happy 2018!

I'm not really a New Years person. I don't like staying up late, I don't like parties, I don't like fireworks, I don't think there's anything special about entering another calendar year - basically, I just don't understand the hype, and I'm content playing video games by myself and going to bed at a reasonable time on New Years Eve. However, even though I believe you can start over at any point during the year, I'm choosing to give into the cliche and make 2018 a new beginning in my life. My personal slogan for the year is "Lazy Alanah will not win," and that will shape every aspect of my life, from working to exercising to making music to how many times I snooze the alarm in the morning.

I have audacious goals for my music career this year, and I'm working on some brand new things that I'll hopefully be revealing to you soon. I used to say that writing and releasing my albums was scary, but really, those albums were very easy and fun for me to make. These new projects, however, are uncharted territory for me, out of my comfort zone, and they genuinely scare me. 2018 is going to be the year of doing new things, taking risks, and forcing myself to get better at things I never thought I'd do.

I'm so excited to show you all what I'm working on, but I can't reveal anything just yet. If you want to be the first to know when I announce it, join my email list:

Thanks for journeying with me and supporting me in 2017 as I released an album, made videos here and there, and chased my musical dreams. I'm stoked to have you with me in 2018 as well!

Humanity

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The past few days of my life have been pretty rough. My first car accident and the death of my sweet cat were among the stuff that has happened, and I've cried more tears in the past few days than I have in a long time. All of this is happening the week of a big Christmas production that I'm very involved in, so I can't help but feel like there's no time for me to pause and process while I run back and forth between work and rehearsals.

In the midst of all this insanity, however, I'm noticing how amazing the people around me are. Coworkers who are normally loud and angry have been softer and kinder to me, offering sympathetic words and simple "I'm sorry"s. Authority figures who are normally strict with me have offered me gentle advice and encouragement. Friends who live far away have been texting me to show me love and support. And my closest friends have been there for me through it all.

This is something I've never experienced before in a time of struggle; up until just recently, I actively pushed people away and tried to impress everyone by how "independent" and "strong" I was. And when I did let people in, it was often just because I wanted attention. As a result, I had very few close friends, and found myself alone during every difficult season. I'm not sure exactly when that changed - maybe it was just a part of growing up and maturing over the years.

As sucky as this week has been, it's been so beautiful and humbling to see other humans gather around me like this. God is opening my eyes to how powerful kindness is - even small simple kind words to someone you barely know can make a difference in their day. People always say that, but this week I'm experiencing how true it is.

The reason I write this post is not so you would feel sorry for me; I just want to stress the importance of loving the people in your life, even if you don't know them well, and letting people in when you need help. Don't let your pride tell you that leaning on others is a sign of weakness; it's actually a sign of humanity.

Peace On Earth: A Christmas Production

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Every year, my church puts on an amazing Christmas program, and it's always a ton of fun to be a part of. This year's program is called "Peace On Earth" and it's already been a blast to work on!

If you enjoy inspiring musical performances, creative storytelling, free homemade cookies, or just an overall excellent show, you will LOVE Peace On Earth. This event is free and open to the public, so I'd love to see you there! I'll be on stage at the Warren campus playing keys.

Here are the times/locations:

Warren Campus - 14300 E 13 Mile Rd
Friday Dec 15 - 7PM
Saturday Dec 16 - 5PM & 7PM

Chesterfield Campus - 54205 Washington St
Saturday Dec 16 - 7PM
Sunday Dec 17 - 9AM & 11AM

St. Clair Shores Campus - Avalon Elementary, 20000 Avalon St
Saturday Dec 16 - 7PM
Sunday Dec 17 - 10AM


Not only am I arranging a lot of the music and producing tracks for this, like I did in past years' programs; I was recently hired by the church to manage their social media. I get to make cool graphics and videos promoting Peace On Earth, and I've been documenting what goes on behind-the-scenes on our Instagram story. It has been really interesting to go around getting videos of different areas as they prepare, like band & vocal rehearsals, kids' ministry preparations, cookie baking, and more! Follow us on Instagram to see more of that!

The Story of Overflow (Coming November 1st)

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I’ve produced a total of 4 albums now for both myself and for other people, and the last month or so before an album release is always so strange. You’ve finished all the music and submitted it to the music stores, so then all you can do is wait, and it’s really weird. Overflow is the same way. For almost two years, I worked on this music for hours after getting home from work every day. Now that it’s done, I don’t know what to do with my free time, but the excitement I feel for the coming release date is stronger than I’ve ever felt before.

Making your own solo album is always an introspective learning process. I learned early on in Overflow’s process that I had to step out of the way and let it shape itself, which was definitely a challenge at first. I had a very different idea of what Overflow would look like when I first started making it; the lyrics were more sad, the music style was completely different, and it was an EP with only 3 or 4 songs. But when I gave up trying to control it and started letting it take its own shape, I learned that the sad lyrics and moody styles weren’t me, and the “story” of the album would not be complete with only 3 or 4 songs.

Instead, Overflow ended up becoming a beautiful reflection of my life and my brain over the past year and a half. The style is definitely me, and the 9 songs form a complete “story,” a story that was never planned or even thought about. It simply just came together. And now, when I listen to it all, I think “huh, that’swhat God was doing in my life. I had no idea.”

The “story” you hear when you listen to Overflow could be different than the one I hear, but here’s the main thing that inspired this album: Imagine standing in a waterfall, water crashing into you and soaking your hair and your clothes and flowing down into the river you’re standing in. That’s God’s love for you. The love of God is endless and overflowing, and it will never stop pouring over you, regardless of how long you’ve been ignoring it or what you’ve been doing. That’s what I’ve personally experienced over the past 2 years, and that’s the basis of this album.

I’m so excited for November 1st. I can’t wait for you to finally hear this music.

 

I’ll be posting previews every week in October on Instagram and Facebook, so make sure you’re following me!

Bay Shore Camp 2017

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This past week, I had the incredible privilege of returning to Bay Shore Senior High Camp to help lead worship and to be a camp counselor. I originally didn’t want to go, but I knew from the beginning that God would end up changing my heart over the course of the week, so I vlogged the whole week in an attempt to capture the heart change as it happened.

As you can see in that video, God definitely did change my heart.

Something about staying in the same place and doing the same thing for an extended period of time just isn’t good for me. I get too comfortable doing what I do every day, talking to the same people, hiding in my office or behind my computer. It makes me blind to the good things that can be found elsewhere; the great things I have yet to experience, the amazing people I haven’t met yet. It was the reason I didn’t want to return to camp, even after having such a great experience there last year.

Camp was the perfect way to break out of that toxic routine. It forced me out of my house, away from my work, past my small circle of friends. I met incredible people who I otherwise would have never met. I experienced God in a way that I never would have if I had just stayed home. I found myself doing things outside of my comfort zone that ended up being fun.

Now that I’m back, I’m taking steps to break out of the routine more often. My first step: this weekend I’ll be driving all the way to Lansing to visit one of my camp friends, because why not? I want more time with the people I love, even if they don’t live nearby, so I’m gonna make it happen.

If you feel hopeless or stuck in life, I’d say that going to camp is a perfect way to snap yourself out of it.