Say Oh!

“Each breath that we breathe is a display of His mercy.

So even weary hearts can sing a song of thanksgiving…”

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Sometimes I lose enthusiasm. Who doesn’t, though? There’s no shame in feeling ‘blah.’ There is shame, however, in letting that ‘blah-ness’ dictate your actions.

Here’s what I try to remember (and I’m grateful to have parents and friends who remind me often) when being overwhelmed makes me underwhelmed…when I’ve lost sight of my vision…when I’m barely trudging along…when I have trouble mustering up excitement about what I’m here to do…when I forget to celebrate…

I’ve been anointed. That’s not to say that I’ve been drenched in coconut oil (though my curls might appreciate that). But basically, being anointed means despite my doubts, my nature, or my flaws, God is merciful enough to breathe life into my lungs everyday so I can perform a specific set of skills with unnatural, unexplainable ease. Re-phrase… I don’t/can’t empower myself to do what I do. I don’t get bragging rights. I sing and write to inspire other people because my Creator gifted me the ability and the passion. And if I neglect that truth, He has every right and ability to revoke the privilege.

I’ve been appointed. A generous Creator destined my existence. He’s crafting my story to inspire and relate to somebody, so no matter how skeptical I am of my impact, it’s His impact to make. He’s burdened me to do something that someone else might not do as effectively, and not because I’m naturally any more skilled or worthy, but literally because He said, “Hmm… Maya Elizabeth…here’s a voice. Because I love you, I’m going to entrust it to you. Use it to introduce the world to healing, truth, and love… All the things that I am…”

I’ve been chosen. He’s etched my name on the very thing He gives me chance after chance to wake up and run after. He’s even merciful when I crawl… Do you get where I’m going? I have no excuse, essentially. I’m not here for me. I don’t exist to make art for my own delight and pleasure. At the end of the day, I’m not hustling to pat myself on the back. It’s bigger.

I’ve been graced. It is my responsibility to keep going. It’s my duty to remain steadfast and devoted, to act honorably, to live a life worthy of the gift and pleasing to the gift-giver, to show gratitude for every inhale, and bestow blessings with every exhale.

Even on a blah day, or during a blah week, month or beyond, I have every reason to sacrifice what and how I feel. If I’m alive, I have an assignment to fulfill, contributions to make, and seeds to sow. I’ve been selected and equipped. That, in my opinion, is pretty motivating and exciting. Just the thought gives me reason. So, although I sometimes have a hard time getting excited about my day-to-day, I should be grateful just to have a day-to-day and live it intentionally.

Anyway, the purpose of this rant was to describe the message in my latest single, The Anthem (Say Oh). As you listen, I hope the lyrics meet you where you are and provide somewhat of a pick-me-up to reignite your enthusiasm and your commitment to living on purpose. In every season, give thanks and keep going. That, essentially, is what this song means to me…

Just Ask

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Our lives have meaning. That’s an absolute truth. But there are times our efforts in life lack meaning. There are seasons, perhaps, where we don’t contribute much, embrace our full potential, or use our gifts productively because we don’t know what we’re doing and we don’t ask for direction. We want to pour out, but we ourselves are too thirsty. We get stuck in a rut.
The graphic above pictures an excerpt from a song I wrote as a plea to my Source when I hadn’t written in a long, long time. Recently I was reflecting on these lyrics that have helped “un-rut” me during some dry times and began contemplating the following points. I thought about thirst and its remedy. I was reminded I have plenty of water at my disposal… I simply need to ask for it.
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1. We have to ask for what we truly need.
Sometimes we move in vain because our motives are misguided and dishonorable.
We can want success. We might fear failure. We can want money. We may be anxious about lacking financial security. We might chase a title so we can demand respect. We can pursue a relationship to secure a status or fill a personal void, perhaps. We may work hard and acquire those fabulous things, and that’s beautiful, but what will we do with them then? Pat ourselves on the back for a goal well accomplished, realize we’re as empty as before, and keep running after the next/better/more?
Instead of asking for visible or tangible things, what if we asked for wisdom? That’s an uncommon request. What about direction, guidance, strong judgment, or discernment? Image-1-1.jpgIf we sought as or more diligently to obtain those qualities, we’d probably make more effective decisions, and spend our time living more focused, purposeful and fulfilling lives.

2. Asking saves us time & trouble.
I’m honestly learning myself that we don’t have to expend and exhaust ourselves trying to figure out (on our own) what we’re supposed to do with our lives–in general, day-to-day, all of the above. We waste too much time running, walking, and crawling in circles when we could reach out for guidance and up for a lift. We pursue things that don’t align with God’s perfect plan for our lives. We just do what we feel like doing, or we do nothing because we don’t feel like it (guilty). Then, when our (non)efforts don’t totally pan out, we get angry, upset, or confused and find ineffective (and usually destructive) ways to cope.
3. We have to ask because we don’t have all the answers… but we have access to the One who does.
 So, if you want to know your purpose or how to live, ask the One who created you. First, get to know Him, then chat about what He had in mind when He decided you should exist. He already knows what He has for you and how he wants to prosper and not harm you. But we make ourselves too busy to sit down and converse, ask questions, listen intently, respond when necessary… This quality time and conversation fills us up–quenches our deep thirst for the answers we attempt to get in so many different places.
He shakes His head, “Child, if only you knew….” If only we recognized the access we have.
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We can literally just ask our Creator. Starting the dialogue is as simple as saying, “Hey, I believe you exist and you are who you say you are, and I trust you even though I can’t see you (that’s called faith, btw). Since I accept that you know best, can you lead me? My feelings/nature don’t seem to know how to get where we’re supposed to be going…” If you don’t even know you can talk to Him, you likely won’t ask Him anything… But I promise you can and you’ll want to.
But, anyway… Get to know the One who knows it all and become vulnerable enough to ask for wisdom and direction. Tell Him where you are and what you want. We all get thirsty. We’ve all been in a place (or will land in a place one day) where we realize we’ve gotten off track or lost all sense of meaning. That’s the space where we recognize we’re in need. And if we land there enough, we’ll know what we’ve been drinking doesn’t really satisfy.

My First Music Video

This is so wild! Last night I had a blast during the ‘Come Ye’ music video pre-release party! It was absolutely incredible to witness the outpouring of love and support from so many people who are excited to walk this journey with me. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing and seeing how your commitment to using your gifts wisely and pursuing your passions impacts others. Seriously, you’re not alone. And when you let your God-given gifts shine, you invite others to support and experience abundant life with you.

When I say I’m thrilled to share this video, I’m totally understating my elation. I’m excited that this song has brought so many listeners to realize hope and peace in the midst of their own battles, but I’m hoping a visual depiction will take the impact to a whole new level. The story is definitely meant to elicit emotion, but above all, we wanted to paint a picture that displays how God’s healing presence and His grace can show up in even so much as a song, a smile, an angelic being, another person’s gentle word or embrace…He can restore any situation/trouble/burden, no matter how grim or unfortunate or desperate.

The creator is love. His Word is truth. His power heals. Don’t give up and don’t ever feel that you have to bear your sorrows, your worries, you mess, or your circumstances on your own. Share this video and this message with someone today. You never know who might need some motivation.

 

 

Thanks for reading, listening, viewing, and sharing! Checkout www.mayaelizabethmusic.com and subscribe for updates on the Maya Elizabeth Music Movement. There’s more to come very soon!

Does That Matter To You?

The sun sees the same…over and over and over…nothing new. Music has always been therapy. It’s been our voice. It’s been our release. It’s been our attempt at processing tragedy. And it has been a large part of our contribution to this country’s culture. But we’re not here and we’ve never been here to simply entertain. Art and music should enlighten, empower, elicit and catalyze.
They built their religious and secular rituals, festivals, and social gatherings on the foundations of song, dances, and rhythms they invented to cope with and express their New World realities…Image-1.jpg

In the United States, the dominant forms of contemporary American music and vernacular dance are also derived from America’s African-based slave legacy. This has occurred despite the fact that drums, the rhythmic foundation of African music and dance, were outlawed in many slave communities in the United States. 

When slave “masters” and overseers in the United States discovered that drums could be used as a secret means of communication, they were banned. But African rhythmic sensibility would not die. Nor could it be suppressed.” (An excerpt from a National Geographic News article that explains the connection between African slave’s roots and American culture.)

Image-1-1.jpgIf you’re having trouble processing all that’s happening in our country, especially this past week’s killings –mind you, it’s nothing new–I’d encourage you to try making some music, or find some type of creative activity to release your emotions. And then, if you feel led, share what you create to uplift and educate other people. It’s not the only way to respond, and it’s certainly not going to fix our society, but it breaks the silence and  it counts in it’s own way. I spent some personal time yesterday reflecting, writing & strumming. Here are the lyrics and a clip:

 

We only want the same things that you’ve got,

but we pay much more.

What will it take for you to recognize our worth?

From the time that the drum was silenced,

our desires stirred

for us to matter and our voices to be heard.

Now you can watch,

but you see what you want to see.

You can hear the screaming,

but are you listening?

Every moment, we’re moments away

from another tragedy.

Does that matter to you?

Because it matters to me.

 

©Maya E. Hairston, 2016

And As For My Next Steps…

A few weeks ago, I graduated Summa Cum Laude and School of Business Class of 2016 Valedictorian from Howard University. I used to get really antsy when people would ask me my plans and next steps. I speculated they were anticipating I’d boast about a well-paying, full-time entry position in someone’s corporate office. “First,” I’d shrug with a half smile, “I’m going on vacation.” Which I certainly did…and it was absolute bliss!

Now, though I still feel that tug, at times, to be embarrassed like my unconventional path is somehow less-than (as much as I know otherwise), I take the opportunity to share how God has been growing my faith and allowing me opportunities to pursue my music. I employ my marketing degree for a shameless plug about my first single, Come Ye, and how people can show the love by buying it on iTunes and sharing the link to my website…hint hint.

Fighting through the doubts and the fears that come with not knowing for sure what tomorrow looks like has never been my forte. However, as I embrace life as a college graduate with just a dream and a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and LOTS of support (that cannot be understated), this verse I wrote a couple months ago is my particular prayer for my new season:

 

Place me in a garden where

you’ve designed for my work

to help the flowers grow.

I want to be where my purpose lies

where the passion you’ve bestowed

drives my flow.

Bring the people in my life you desire.

Let them aid me on my path

to glorify You alone.

Lord, place me in your garden

so I can grow!

 

 

Words for a Fortune

I’d like to introduce you all to someone I love and admire. Chiereme is a sweet soul and a brilliant creative who also uses her gifts to impart healing truths.  You may not know her yet, but you’ll soon be giving thanks for her inspirational literary art, as I already am. Her message speaks to some incredible experiences women face, some universal insecurities, and some comforting realities about beauty. Having been privileged to hear and see her deliver such meaningful, original bars on more than one occasion, I’ve concluded I’d like to learn her perspective on writing lyrics, processing situations as an artist, identifying inspiration, and the like. Here’s what she had to say in the following mini-interveiw:

  1. When did you begin writing spoken word and/or songs? When did you discover your passion for writing? 

    I’ve been writing as long as I can remember! I’ve always had a passion/fascination with word(s), books and great stories. I got my first Barbie journal when I was about 6, and I have’t stopped journaling since then. I actually started doing spoken word on accident. A friend of mine had progressed from poetry to rap and initially wanted me to sing on one of his mix-tapes. As soon as I agreed, he change(d) his request to writing a verse to rap instead of sing. I kept telling him I wasn’t a rapper, though I was dabbling in poetry for the page. He referenced his journey from poet to rapper and challenged me to try. I tried and what came out was my first spoken word/song piece, You Are. I’ve been slightly obsessed with spoken word, intriguing word-play and the artist that create similar art forms ever since.

  2. What inspires you to write?

    My journey. The stress of life. The joys of life. Other poets. The Word of God and His presence throughout my everyday life.

  3. What kinds of emotions allow you to write most productively?

    The people, situations and experiences that cut me deep. Humbling experiences. Moments when I can’t stop smiling. And the scratch-my-head-moments that make me  wonder why in the world Jesus chose me.

  4. Whom are you hoping your art will impact most?

    Specifically, women in my season of life (16-35), learning to be still, learning when to move and learning themselves as they dig deeper into who God is – some for the first time. 

  5. About which subjects do you write most often? Why?

    I write mostly about my own experiences – loving, learning, living, winning and losing. My poems seem to always true back to ideas like identity, personal reflection and the contrast between what we do and how God responds.

  6. If you were to sum up everything you’ve written into one key theme/message, what would that theme/message be?

    Becoming the woman God created me to be one messy day, vulnerability hangover, question mark, season, and hallelujah at a time. 

    Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of what inspires Chiereme’s art, I bet you want to check out some of her work… Here’s where you can find it:

Timbo’s at the Door

Sometimes doors fly open. Don’t let them hit you in the face and knock you down. Anticipate them and take advantage of chances to practice your approach and your delivery. I’m learning.

Last weekend, I navigated some inviting opportunities. I was supposed to perform Come Ye at a function on my campus, but other obligations conflicted with the rehearsal schedule. I wasn’t meant to walk through that door, and thankfully I didn’t bother picking the lock, because I would have been too preoccupied to notice another that swung right open.

Quick background before I explain door #2… When I was in high school, my dad introduced me to Leon Timbo‘s music. For those who are unfamiliar, I liken him to a male India.Arie, so to speak. His tone is enchanting. His sound is soothing. His acoustic guitar playing is masterful. Inspired, I bought and played his songs over…and over…and over.

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Okay, fast forward to last Friday… In addition to finally hearing Timbo live, one of my favorites was gracious enough to share his stage and let me open the show. Right… how Sway?

Well, a dear friend and sweet soul (Thanks boo!) introduced me to her connects, advocated on my behalf, and trusted me to show up prepared. And, to make a long story short, I just held onto resources, words of wisdom from lovely people, tons of support, and collected experiences & skills, and trusted God to walk me through the door He’d assigned. He’d been piecing together my path to that point all along.

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For instance, I’ve sung and played Come Ye so much that I should be sick of it. I’ve journaled, contemplated, drafted/redrafted web content, and hash tagged enough on social media that I’ve become comfortable introducing myself and communicating my main message succinctly. I carry my track and/or guitar with me wherever I go. When people ask how they can find me, I know exactly where to direct them. In fact, I was able to share with an eagerly receptive audience that night how they could search “Maya Elizabeth” and buy my first single on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and other online music distributors (I know I’m not slick…Shameless plug).

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Of course, I’ve got plenty of additional prep work and practice ahead of me. I’m learning as I go, but I’ve got to be ready to get going if I really intend to learn anything. This incredible opportunity has played a roll in my continued development, introduced me to more creatives with amazing talent, and (by faith) will lead to doors on doors on open doors.

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Timbo, Christen B, & Me

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