Personal Response: “I Am.”

For anyone who knows me personally, you probably know that I love music; especially songs that empower individuals to do their best and accept themselves as they are. The song, “I Am.”, from pop/R&B singer JoJo’s 2016 album Mad Love., is one that really stands out to me—not just as a piece of musical notation, but as an example of remarkable writing in general. It’s one of those songs that will make the listener feel confident every time they hear it or read the lyrics.

Written by Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Alex Dezen, Eric Rosse, and Jaden Michaels, the track stems from a difficult time in the singer’s life—one that led to depression, insecurity, and doubt—and, ultimately, a lawsuit against her former record label, the now-defunct Blackground Records. It is a piano-led ballad that is filled with tinges of heartbreak and empowerment. I could easily comment on how much I love the instrumentation, or how incredible I think JoJo’s powerhouse vocals are; however, it’s the lyrical content that stands out to me, especially in a generation where people don’t really know who they are.

Before I go on, let me elaborate on that last sentence. When I say “a generation where people don’t really know who they are,” this is what I mean: We live in a society where technology and social media is everywhere, and information (regarding virtually anything) is right at our fingertips. This can be beneficial in ways—online marketing, for instance—however; it can also cause a significant amount of damage. As a collective, we frequently see all these magazine covers that look flawless, and Instagram posts that demonstrate the so-called “perfect life.” Although I’ve noticed this trend in all forms of media, it appears to be especially prominent in magazines that are targeted towards girls and women (such as Seventeen Magazine). And it’s starting to become a problem.

With the influx of media outlets such as the ones mentioned above—which are often edited to an extreme (with filters, Photoshop, or other means of digital editing)—individuals—namely young girls—may start to feel envious or worthless because they don’t have the lifestyles promoted through these outlets, and some may even resort to drastic measures just to change their appearance and achieve that unrealistic goal of perfection. This state-of-mind is reflected in the opening lyrics, where the narrator channels her feelings of self-doubt, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / you seem to think you know it all / Why do, why do I believe?” and questioning if she is “strong enough.

Partially due to mainstream and social media, issues like eating disorders have become a rising trend over the years—though there also seems to be a more positive trend. Music artists such as JoJo are creating these inspirational and motivational pieces of writing that will surely inspire listeners to not listen to the pressures of the world; to be confident in who they are; to be resilient and rise up against any challenges they may face in their lives. Throughout the remainder of the song, she tackles her insecurities head-on (with the lyrics, “Can’t be that little girl no more / the one you cut up on the floor.”), and in the end, it’s the repetitive affirmation “I am beautiful” that really inspires listeners.

If I were to expand on that quote, I would say the following as advice to my readers: You are smart; you are talented; you have the ability to make a difference, even if it’s just a small impact on someone’s life; you are loved by so many people; and you are perfect the way you are. Never let anyone tell you any different.

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Fall Love!

As much as I love every season (even winter, to an extent), nothing beats the sights and smells of fall. The extravagant colours of the changing leaves, the return of pumpkin spice everything, and the fact that the best TV shows are coming back… what’s not to love about the changing seasons? Here are some of my favorite things about fall; and I want to know what you think! What is something you love about this season? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

1. Fashion

I am so into fashion– especially the comfy clothes that are associated with Fall and Winter! I love summer dresses, tank tops, and shorts… but when the cooler weather arrives, nothing compares to wearing sweaters and cute leggings! And don’t get me started on boots.

While everyone around me is trying to hold on to what’s left of Summer, I’ve already started wearing my Fall clothing!

 

2. The Leaves changing colour

As soon as the leaves start to change colour and drop from the trees, I know it’s officially Fall! Even though here in Alberta there is only about a week of leaves falling, I still think it’s a beautiful sight (no matter how fast it happens). It reminds me that God can create something beautiful out of even the smallest things!

 

3. The return of pumpkin-spice EVERYTHING

reasons-i-love-fallpumpkin-spice-latte

If there’s one thing that signifies the arrival of Fall, it’s when Starbucks starts serving their Pumpkin Spice Latte. Although, I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of it this year, that doesn’t mean I don’t love anything else pumpkin-spice-related! (For some reason, I really like McDonalds’ Pumpkin Spice Latte though)

 

4. All my favorite TV shows are returning… including “The Voice

the-voice-judges

With the exception of “America’s Got Talent,” it seems that all the good TV shows disappear during the summer! I’m happy that my favorite shows are coming back… including the popular NBC singing competition “The Voice.” This time, there are two new judges: Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus. A lot of people aren’t happy about the change; but I am.

I grew up listening to Miley Cyrus’ music and watching “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel, and her song “The Climb” has influenced my life to this day. And while I– like many other people across North America– am not particularly a fan of some of the decisions she’s made in her career, I have to admit she’s very talented and will be a good addition to the judging panel this season.

 

 

5. The time to reflect

psalm-55-22

The change in seasons always offer a time of reflection; a time to think of what has happened in the year so far, and what is to come.

I must admit, the past season has been one of challenges and triumphs. I had been experiencing a lot of tiredness, dizzy spells, mood swings, and lack of motivation over the last six months, but hadn’t really thought much about it until this summer. I was actually getting kind of concerned about my symptoms, so I went to the doctor’s and got my blood tested. A few weeks later, the results came back saying I had Hypothyroidism. I have to take one pill every morning, and get a blood test every few months (so that the doctors can see if the medication is working, if they have to increase the dose, etc.); and just like any condition, there will be highs and lows (at least for a little while anyways). I just have to remember that God will never leave nor forsake me, and asking Him to help make me stronger on the tough days.

 

6. The Fall sales…

While I’m reflecting on what was– and is to come– I can’t forget about the fall sales! A lot of people are doing their Christmas shopping early this year, and I’m already seeing Christmas advertising on TV (in the middle of September!). So what better time to start your holiday shopping than now?

From now until September 25th, 2016, you can save 10% off any order in my Rustic Christian Signs store over $100 with the coupon code “sharethelove”!

Waiting For A Change

These days, it seems like the world can be a confusing place. Whenever I see news reports about terrible things happening (whether it’s here in Canada or elsewhere in the world), I wonder why does this stuff happen?

Take, for instance, the recent events in Florida. When I heard on the news that there was a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando a couple weeks ago, my heart broke. Because what I don’t understand, is how– or why– innocent people are targeted. Just because of who they love… it doesn’t mean they’re any different from us.

In John 13:34, Jesus says that we must love one another, as He has loved us. And, for me, that means “loving EVERYONE, regardless of anything that might make them ‘stand out from the crowd’.” As a Christian, I firmly believe that we should show genuine love to everyone. And, while writing this post, I was reminded of a quote I heard on the popular Canadian entertainment-news show, eTalk.

“No matter who you are, or where you’re from, or where you’re going in life, you have the right to love and be loved.”

~Nick Jonas

Now, I understand that this may be a controversial topic for some. But after hearing more reports about innocent people’s lives being taken simply because of who they love, or the colour of their skin, or anything that may set them apart– I’m asking myself one simple word; why? And I really felt the need to express my emotions about all of it.

There have been several tragedies in Orlando– and across the U.S.– prior to and following this incident… and for the past month (and continuing), the entire state of Florida has been in my prayers. The entire country of the U.S…

Actually, the entire WORLD is in my prayers at this point.

I think Christina Aguilera’s newest song, “Change,” pretty much summarizes everything I want to say in this post. Because, when it all comes down to it, “we are all the same when everybody’s breathing.

Recap: The 2016 Billboard Music Awards

The Billboard Music Awards were tonight. Let’s talk about the performances for one second. 🙂

Most of the time, the performances aren’t great at these awards shows. However, there were a select few that really stood out to me (Shawn Mendes’ emotional performance of “Stitches” being one of them). Artists such as Kesha or Rihanna, both of whom I’ve never been a fan of, shocked the entire crowd with their insane vocal skills. I never knew either artist could sing like that! Australian pop artist, and newcomer to the Billboard Awards, Troye Sivan, was also surprisingly good.
The Unofficial Kickoff To Summer:
I’ve seen her perform live (whether in concert or on various TV broadcasts) multiple times. And I still can’t believe how talented Demi Lovato is. When she began singing her 2015 hit, “Cool For The Summer,” I was mentally preparing for a not-so-great performance (as some of her live performances have been in the past). However, I was proven wrong. That girl can SINGGG! Looking forward to seeing her in concert again on August 26th as part of the Future Now Tour.

Speaking of the most anticipated concert tour of this summer… Nick Jonas, who is co-headlining the tour with Demi, also performed at the Billboard Awards; this time with up-and-coming pop star Tove Lo. They performed “Close,” the first single from Jonas’ latest album, Last Year Was Complicated. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with their performance… but I want to know what you think! 🙂

Alternative pop-rock group DNCE made their Billboard Awards debut tonight as they performed their insanely popular song, “Cake By The Ocean.” I must admit, this song is catchy as anything, and it may end up being the unofficial song of the summer 🙂 However, from the few televised performances I’ve seen of this band, I haven’t really been that amazed. Joe Jonas is an awesome songwriter in my opinion (as proven by the two or three songs he wrote for John Legend’s 2014 album, Love In The Future), but he isn’t really my favorite singer anymore. (Although I must admit, I liked him when I was in elementary school, around the time “Camp Rock” was popular)

I think that despite their performance, DNCE stands out to me for one reason in particular: they don’t care about what others think. The band members are not afraid to just be themselves and they don’t care about being perfect (in comparison to artists such as Ariana Grande, for example). And for that reason, their music is extremely successful. 🙂

If you watched the Billboard Music Awards tonight, what was your favorite/least favorite performance?

Personal Response: “Scars To Your Beautiful”

It’s something that’s been written about before. Songs such as Britt Nicole’s crossover hit “Gold,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” or Beyonce’s “Listen” all have this recurring theme: inner beauty and what happens if you believe in yourself. The underlying message is even present within various forms of Disney media, such as the 2008 children’s song “Fly To Your Heart” by Selena Gomez. But a lot of these songs, despite being good, don’t often provoke very strong emotions while the individual is listening. With her new song, “Scars To Your Beautiful,” Canadian alternative-pop/R&B artist Alessia Cara has done the complete opposite.

Since buying her debut album last week, I had been listening to the CD as background music while doing homework, etc, and had never really gotten the chance to listen to the lyrics closely. But when I finally got the chance to listen to the words in this particular song, I almost cried.

The lyrics open with a description of a struggle that many girls across the world experience. “She just wants to be beautiful.” It’s a question that everyone asks themselves at one time or another: what is it like to “be perfect”? In recent years, society has created all these expectations of how people should look and act, and for some, it can be tough to navigate. In some cases, societal pressures may cause individuals to view themselves in a negative way… even causing many to go to extremes because of their dissatisfaction with their image in the mirror. Alessia illustrates this at several points in the song, stating near the beginning that “Maybe we have made her blind / So she tries to cover up her pain and cut her woes away / Cause covergirls don’t cry after their face is made…”

For a pop song that would likely be played on the radio, this is very heavy content. A change from some of the more generic self-empowerment anthems that have received airplay. What I understand from this song is that society– anything from peer pressure to the media– has made it hard for individuals to see their true value. And as someone who has struggled with finding my identity, I understand how hard it can be to realize that beauty goes deeper than the surface. I appreciate that Alessia wrote a song like this; a song that’s poignant, real, and from the heart. That’s how you know if an artist is really talented.

And in terms of the empowerment part of “Scars,” these lyrics, which practically summarize the meaning of the song, are my absolute favorites:

So to all the girls who are hurting / Let me be your mirror, help you see a little bit clearer / The light that shines within / There’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark / You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are…

If you want to hear this inspiring song for yourself, check out the video above. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. And remember you’re beautiful!

17.

It’s my birthday today. 17.

I still remember last year: when a couple of the boys in my grade 10 class, who I didn’t really know that well at the time, made a birthday cake for me and brought it to school. Then they brought the cake out and the whole class sang “Happy Birthday” to me during study hall. It was such an awesome surprise… I’ll never forget it!

But besides it being my birthday, today also marks another important milestone for me.

Can you believe that it’s been just over a year since the beginning of Rustic Christian Signs? Last year when I started making and selling inspirational signs, I thought it would just be a small side project that I could work on during breaks from school. I didn’t think that so many would be interested in my work– and I sure as heck didn’t think it would grow to be as big as it is now. I smile every time I get an order because it means one more person is being encouraged by the scripture verses or inspirational quotes on the sign(s) they’ve ordered. Even when I post prayer requests, such as the request I posted a few weeks ago for my mom’s vertigo, everyone is quick to respond with kind words (my mom is feeling a lot better now, by the way. Thanks for all your prayers!).

I’m just a teenage girl trying to balance school with work, and there are times when I have to put it all on pause for a few days while I’m trying to get my stuff together (such as when I have to write final exams twice in a 10-month time frame). Sometimes, I need that encouragement that I’ve been giving the past year. And it amazes me so much that I have so much support from people I barely even know–

I guess what I wanted to say in the first place is, thank you all so much for all your support over the past year! I have a feeling this year is gonna be even more amazing… although I say that every time. 🙂

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My “Stay Strong” Playlist

As I have mentioned several times on this blog, music has always been a huge part of my life! Certain songs always make me feel empowered, put me in a good mood, and inspire me to do great things! Here’s a list of some of my favorite self-empowerment anthems– a combination of Christian and secular; music that helps me keep feeling positive and reminds me to, as the title says, Stay Strong!

Unbreakable Smile” by Tori Kelly

I love this song! Tori Kelly has such a powerful voice, and the lyrics encourage me to keep smiling no matter what life throws my way!

Live Like We’re Dying” by Kris Allen

This song, like “Unbreakable Smile“, is really fun and reminds me to live each day to the fullest!

Life of the Party” by Shawn Mendes

The first time I saw Shawn Mendes sing at We Day 2014, he performed this song. I fell in love with the “don’t be afraid to stand out and be yourself” message in the song, and listen to it everyday for that reason!

It’ll Only Get Better” by Tayler Buono

Although I’m a fairly positive person, there are some times when I start to feel discouraged. When that happens, I listen to this song… it has lyrics that I can relate to, and reassures me that things will get better!

“To the Dreamers” by For KING & COUNTRY

One of my favorite Christian songs! This song motivates me to “go for it”, and to “keep on, keeping on…

Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson

This song encourages me to spread my wings and take chances because you never know what’s going to happen!

Life is Worth Living” by Justin Bieber

A Christian-pop crossover song, this reminds me that there is so much opportunity in life, and it really is worth living.

Strong Enough” by Stacie Orrico

Another song I listen to everyday, this song reminds me that I have a purpose in life. God really is strong enough. ❤

Beautiful” by Bethany Dillon

The lyrics to this song remind me that I am beautiful, because God made me in His perfect image.

I hope these songs encourage you and impact you somehow, as much as they have impacted me. Remember, wherever you are in your life right now, you are not alone ❤

God Bless,

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Reminiscing on a few memories

I’m writing a music review on Rustic Christian Signs, of a CCM album that I may have unknowingly listened to when I was little. The 2000 release, “Genuine“, by Stacie Orrico. And while I’m working on this post, there is seriously so much nostalgia going through my head right now, I thought I’d share it here.

I’m not really a huge fan of a lot of the newer Christian music that’s out there. It seems very commercial and not at all genuine. Although there are a few current artists I like (mostly independent artists), I still find myself returning to the music from the late 90’s- early 2000’s.

Oh my goodness, the memories. I remember starting school, making friends, spending time with the family… and then there are the media-related memories. Memories of when I listened to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” for the first time, and loved it! (Fun fact: I actually had a copy of the “Breakaway” CD when I was little; then my parents must have sold it at a garage sale or something. Then last summer, I bought the CD again! 🙂 )

Memories of when I was allowed to watch the Disney Channel at a young age. Even though I was just starting school– and barely understood the implicit messages of the shows– I still remember watching TV shows such as Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven… and practically every single Disney Channel Original Movie and music video from that time.

And the random PSA’s from the Concerned Children’s Advertisers that still seem to be ingrained into my memory almost 12 years later. Very random. 😛

What I Got for Christmas 2015

Did you have an awesome Christmas? I know I did! My Christmas was filled with family, friends, and fun– and, of course, the occasional Starbucks 🙂 I received a lot of awesome gifts this year, and I wanted to share what I got for Christmas.

Makeup

Urban Decay: 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (in Matte Black)

MAC: Extended Play Gigablack Lash Mascara

EOS: 2015 Holiday Decorative Collection (Sweet Mint, Pomegranate Raspberry, and Vanilla Bean)

  Extended Play Gigablack Lash' Mascara | Nordstrom 

 

Music

Confident – Demi Lovato

Made in the A.M (Deluxe Edition) – One Direction

Purpose – Justin Bieber

Stacie Orrico – Stacie Orrico

Sony MDR-ZX300 Red Headphones

One Direction - Made In The A.m. (Deluxe Edition) - Full Album (2015 ... Justin Bieber - Purpose

 

Accessories

Set of 3 LED candles (Faith, Hope, and Love)

Green M&M Flashlight Keychain

Via Roma asymmetric cross-body leather purse

Love Hope Faith LED Electronic Flameless Candle Light For Wedding ... Green Light-Up KEYCHAIN Flashlight keyring - 1

 

Misc.

iTunes gift card

Ardene’s gift card

 

So that’s most of what I got for Christmas. I had an awesome holiday season, and I hope you did too. But remember, the most important thing about the holiday season isn’t the gifts; it’s being together with family and friends, and celebrating the important things in life.

Happy New Year, everyone!