Music Monday: Tenth Avenue North – Cathedrals

Photo: Tenth Avenue North
When I popped the new Tenth Avenue North album, Cathedrals, into my CD player, I secretly hoped that I would hear something other than ‘just another contemporary Christian band’. I had a craving for something different.
But before I get into the review, here’s a little background info about this American based ensemble: They are a full on band, with Mike Donehey on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Jeff Owen on  electric guitar and vocals, Ruben Juarez III on bass guitar and vocals, Jason Jamison on drums  and Brendon Shirley on keyboard.  The group, who has had a few member changes since conception, had originally met at Palm Beach Atlantic University, releasing three independent albums before its major label debut with album, Over and Underneath in May 2008. They went on to receive the coveted Dove New Artist of the Year Award in 2009 and Song of the Year in 2010. Cathedrals is their fourth studio album and has already reached Number 1 on both iTunes and Billboard’s Top Christian Albums Chart. Lead, Donehey, had this to say about the album: ” ‘I am a cathedral of God’s spirit’ we’ve been told in Acts 17, we’ve been told in 2 Corinthians 6, we’ve been told in Colossians and Hebrews that we are a living temple of God’s spirit right?,” he asked and then explained his reasoning, “Now I’m not afraid of this big bad secular world. In fact now I know if the spirit of God lives in me, everywhere I go I make it sacred, just when I walk through the door.” According to Donehey, it was this very thought that inspired the title and content of the new album. “So many of us live in isolation and we really don’t have to,” he shared. “So the idea is: ‘Hey get in the boat with us, sail by the stars of God’s promises and reach the shore of community.’ We realize that when we start to live together, we become the cathedrals on earth. We are the place where the spirit resides. It no longer dwells in buildings but in each of us.” Powerful stuff!
The band has penned most of the album themselves – which I found impressive. I love that they write together as a collective. This album was written while on the road and only features 1 or 2 guest writers, which shows the amazing unity in the spirit between the band members – which is something that I admire.
Right. So when I popped the new Tenth Avenue North album into my CD player, hoping to hear something different, I found exactly that. I actually started smiling during the first few seconds of the album opener, “No man is an island.” With a sound that filled the atmosphere, Donehey begins singing, as God, beckoning us to build community and not live this life alone. Great album opener!
The following track, “Stars in the night” made me intensely aware of their amazingly sharp song writing skills. These guys have something to say and want to say it straight up – no sugar coating. This pop rock song starts off with a melodic piano riff backing the vocalist who sings: “No matter where you lead we want to follow you/Trouble is we forget who we belong to.” It later on goes on to speak about grace making a way through, even when we are filled with shame and brings across a message of hope and redemption.
I am a huge fan of Track 3, titled “Iesu, Dulcis Memoria”, a hauntingly beautiful Latin hymn sung by Audrey Assad. Wow! I love the sudden shift in song style and that the song serves as a prelude to title track, “Catherals”, which is one of my favorite tracks on this album. I love everything about it – from the cool kick drum that introduces us to the song; to the hook that challenges: “Let joy take temptations place!”
And then the album shifts into yet another genre of rock with song “I need You, I love You, I want You”. It feels a bit out of place on this album, but totally works, serving as a nice break away from the more mid and up tempo pop rock songs. It is through and through a worship song and its title literally says more about the song than my description of it ever could!
“The Spark” and “Closer”, have a much more mainstream sound. The latter has a catchy piano intro and hook. I love that they don’t ‘mince’ their words and keep lyrics to the point. The bridge, for example, says: “Well I’m embarrassed to admit/The distance I’ve been feeling/Has all been self-imposed.” I love honest lyric that puts things into retrospection.
“Stay” sparked my interest. It seems like the song speaks about marriage and divorce. Coupled with interesting instrument arrangements and a catchy hook, I think this is one that you should listen to while reading the lyric (which is found in the album cover by the way – score!)
The brutal honesty in “We won’t numb the pain” made me wince! The track speaks about the cheap thrills that so many in the world are falling for and really hammers home a declaration with a bridge that sings: “We won’t number the pain!/Hands reaching to the sky/Hearts ready for the fire/Eyes open til we die”. I especially love the 2nd half of the song, which is really more like an outtro, titled “Fire”. It breaks down into a melodic guitar riff and Doneheys hauntingly beautiful vocal asking God to give him “one glimpse of Your lovely light.” It really is stunning!
The simplicity of “All the earth is holy ground” rounds the album off nicely, summarizing the message that the band had wanted to share with this compilation.
The Deluxe Edition features 3 more songs: “Just getting by”,“Forgive me” and “For those who can’t speak” which features Derek Minor and KB.
As a Tenth Avenue North newbie and first time listener, I can wholeheartedly say that I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The songs are all written with the heart of the message in mind, the production is well thought out and the vocals are on point. I get the feel that each song was assembled in a way that is quite bold – an indication that they have been on the music scene for a while and are confident with their sound and know where they are going to. If you are looking for something fresh, easy to listen to and real, give this one a go! Listening to this album made me feel like I had just been on scenic journey and I was left feeling spiritually refreshed.
This review was originally written for and published in Gateway News

Teenager 101

I am the mom of a teenager.

This daunting realization only hit me a few weeks ago (months after my son actually had his 13th birthday) when we had an argument about his hair style.
Yep, it happened. I became that mom.

The boy has decided to follow the new “comb over” trend (short back and sides, top hair combed over).
Example 1:


But instead of maintaining it, he pretty much just wakes up and runs his fingers through his hair.
So its basically short back and sides, top hair… sticking out everywhere!
Its not quite “combing over” as the hair style would imply.
He has really thick hair, albeit isn’t curly, but it isn’t exactly Justin Bieber.

I am sure you can tell that my boy is everything I am not!
If I am a list maker, he would be the one to use the list to stick his gum into.
I want things to be perfect. He wants things to be easy.

With this said, I am slowly learning that I cant turn him into a mini me (like when I excitedly told him he could audition for the schools drama club and he looked at me as if I had leprosy).
Our kids are not meant to be like us.
And I am making peace with the fact that God has given them each unique personalities, traits and interests.
In order to bring out the best in my child, I need to support his dream and who God has called him to be.
Even if it’s uncharted territory for me!

So after the realization that I need to let go and slowly step away from the hair… I remembered MY awkward teenage years where I insisted on wearing my hair in 1 style: a ponytail at the base of my neck… and not in a cute way.
Example 2:

Photo: Google Images

Just as I grew into myself and into the woman I am today, he too needs to grow into himself, all by himself… without me making him feel like a dork about it.

So this me, officially stepping away from the hair….


The Journey Journal

journey journal

Pregnancy and weddings have a couple of things in common. Well, for starters, they are flippen expensive. But that aside, I love the excitement of a new season and the expectancy of a new change on the horizon! And also, isn’t it amazing how you plan the “big day” for a couple of months and you literally sneeze and all those precious moments are finished. It is with this in mind that I started a journal while I was pregnant with our Curly. In fact, I began documenting every, single moment from the minute I found out I was pregnant. (spreadsheet brain, remember?).

I used it as a diary of sorts, to jot down my gynae visit dates and lists of things I would need to do as we began prepping for her arrival. I also wrote down my thoughts and daydreams, including photos, little stories, keepsakes that was special to me during this time. Before I knew it, the journal was filled with pages and pages of my heart, hopes and dreams, for my girl and a bunch of stuff, like advice and life lessons, that I would want to pass on to her one day. I plan to give the journal to her when she is 18 or 21 or on her wedding day, or something.

journey journalI recently had this revelation about her JOURNAL being a part of her JOURNEY. That’s what life is all about though, right? It’s all about the journey… the road you choose to take… the decisions you make, the memories you collect and the life lessons you learn and grow from! I want my girl to know that the journey of her life started when she was but a seed in my belly and that she was loved even then! I want her to know that God knew her name before she was in my womb and that she has purpose and every part of her life is special!

Working with youngsters has shown me that there are so many who go through life believing that they are not as important as so-and-so OR not as pretty OR not as talented etc. The truth is that there are a lot of kids, out there, who simply lack the affection and love of a parent. We can blame it on social media or the Kardashians or heavy metal music but we really only have ourselves to blame. There is a lot more emphasis on living life a certain way and a lot less emphasis on the basics… quality time spent, words of affirmation, guidance and loyalty. We are rearing our kids in a hardhearted society where you get told that you have to be a certain way, in order to be deserving of love.

journey journal

So yes, part of the reason why I started the journal was to share all these overlooked truths with her: You are enough. You are loved. You are perfect, just the way you are. But also, other significant things like the importance of being kind, loving those that other’s would deem ‘unlovable’ and acknowledging that every, single life is valuable and precious.

Ah if only more children could experience the kind of love that would help them to love themselves and OTHERS! What would our future look like, then? It is my prayer that my girl will grow into the kind of woman who knows what she wants and where she is going to! I want her to be a light in dark places and be a difference maker in her sphere of influence! I am so thankful that she is a part of my journey and so grateful to be a part of hers.

Mom, what sort of keepsakes and memorabilia have you set aside for your children?

Booby love

One of the best things about being my daughters mommy is that I get to do something that no one else can – I get to feed her. Its so strange that there are so few who share my sentiments and I’ve had to explain my decision to breastfeed to a few more people than I’d care to explain myself to. It makes me wonder what on earth goes through the minds of sane human beings who look at me with “this girl is crazy” eyes when I mention that I love breastfeeding and I will do it for as long as baby girl needs me to. I mean, since when has processed, lab made milk been better than the milk that God had intended mommy’s to make for their baby’s? To each their own, I guess.

DSCN6416bI think that the suckiest part of breastfeeding is the fact that I had to go back to work after 4 months and didn’t get to feed her as much as I wanted to. I did go through a few weeks of breast pump mayhem, but had to then start topping up with formula, since I was not pumping enough at work to send home for the next days feeds. She now gets about 3 formula bottles per day and then the rest of her feeds are mommy’s milk.

I know that it would be easier to simply just give her the formula bottles and quit the breastfeeding (especially when I feel like I’m about to explode after a whole day of not feeding her and not pumping) but nothing beats the bond that we share after a long day of work and nanny!

So, for now, I’m okay with the accidental spills when I’ve failed to bring my breast pump to work. And I’m okay with looking like I’ve just went for DD cup breast enlargement surgery after 4pm each day. It’s all worth it in the end!

How to be someones mom

How to be someones momIn a weird way, I think that I rediscovered my “mom groove” after the birth of my baby girl. I’m calling it “weird” because I actually knew how to be someones mom before she was born. I mean, I was not completely foreign to the concept. My firstborn is 13 years old so I’m practically a pro! But rediscovering all the joy (and dedication) a newborn baby brings reminded me of the importance of being Mom.

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