The Language of Our Culture


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Photo by Nicholas Donner

I sat in on a songwriting master class with National Community Church’s Worship Director Kurtis Parks last week and wanted to share a few nuggets I took away from the meeting, especially for any fellow songwriters that might need encouragement or inspiration for continuing to write. Kurtis has written over 1,500 songs, produced over 40 albums, and has relationships with many other amazing musicians. We sing his songs every week, often without knowing it. All of that to say, it was a really cool opportunity and I took notes–a lot of them.

One of the main points he made is that music is the language of our culture. Everyone understands music whether they can sing, play, dance, or appreciate it. Music fills a void that words and talking can’t. It has defined decades, dance moves, and life’s peaks and valleys. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a song and thought “that’s exactly the way I’m feeling and I didn’t even know it!”

Alex Clare’s “Too Close” came out right at the time of a difficult breakup and when I heard it, I understood myself in new ways. He summed up so many complex thoughts and emotions in one song! Every time I hear it, I’m reminded of that small awakening. When I hear Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day” I’m dancing with my hubby at our wedding (and always think about how she wrote that song about her dog, which I totally love). When I hear Sublime’s “Santeria” I’m in the car with my sister in high school, excited that I got to listen to the music the older kids were into. When I hear “Oh How He Loves Us” I’m new to DC and remember the story John Mark McMillan shared about losing his best friend and how God was faithful through that.

What songs transport you back in time? What songs have others written that have meant the world to you when you heard them? This is a reason (one of many) that we write.

New Chances

So, another year has somehow passed between my journal entries. How did that happen?! I’ll tell you. 2015 ended up being a rather tough year lacking good balance, time management, and clear purpose. I dove into my profession as a photographer and started gaining skills in running a business, creatively, and working with my spouse. This is an important time for any creative professional or artist, but it’s easy to get buried. I pressed the pause button on my intentions for other parts of my life to attend what was most pressing or urgent.


This hurriedness informed every other part of my life. Even visits with friends and family–normally a welcomed break–became infused with stress that carried through from everyday life. Our marriage was also experiencing growing pains. We learned about each other the hard way, stretching ourselves too thin trying to make everyone (except ourselves) happy, and often observed one another at our worst. We started realizing that we would need to be honest and tell each other what we really wanted if our life together was to be a joy-filled, inspired, free one. We needed to create space for our new little family.

In February, we took the month off in Miami and spent some time reconnecting and growing our visions for life, our dreams, and our art. My love and hope for music started to flicker again. I wrote a song or lyrics almost every day while we were away. I also read for pleasure, walked on the beach about every morning, rode my bike, took our paddleboard out, and enjoyed the animals around me. I sat in nice looking beach chairs and didn’t have anywhere to be. It was glorious and restorative in ways I didn’t realize it would be.

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If potential goes untapped or unused, it doesn’t matter how amazing or competitive or impactful you might be. You’re not making. You’re not sharing. You’re not growing or giving a voice to that potential. I started setting goals again to play shows and record some of my songs this year. And thanks to a lot of hard work last year, I believe I can also be successful in my work and continue to grow as a photographer. The first show I’m taking on is a house concert in Los Angeles this summer hosted by Nick’s wonderful aunt. I also joined the National Community Church worship band at our Potomac Yard campus and will be playing a couple of open mic nights over the next couple of months.

I’m reading the Simple Abundance devotional every morning this year. The farther along I get, I realize that achieving dreams requires taking tangible steps to do it each day, no matter how hard or inconvenient that feels at first. I laughed out loud the first couple of months while this author suggested taking a bath, making a discovery journal and a gratitude journal every day, and taking creative excursions every week. But the more I’ve made efforts to implement this approach to self-nurturing, the more I bear fruit personally and relationally. I feel more alive, more excited, and more giving than I have in a long time. Margin inspires imagination, and we all need more imagination in our adult years.