My husband Jamin and I were shopping for a canoe some time ago, and found a likely prospect in the town classifieds. At the home of the man offering the sale, we were greeted by a very colorful, homesteader whose conversation kept us in stitches. The topic veered to “the good old days”—days before the main roads were paved and life was less hectic. As he began to share how now feels when he leaves his driveway to drive into town; with all the road construction, detours, and detours for the detours, the confusion makes him “doodle-dashed”.
“Doodle-dashed”. The word alone makes me laugh. While I have never heard it before, I know the feeling. It’s a word that explains seasons in my life when I know where I want to go, but can’t figure out how to get there. A few years ago would be such a season–it was the year I began writing songs.
I had set a goal to write one song a month. As a mother of four children the task proved to be an exciting challenge. I began filling notebooks with ideas, and recording melodies that had begun playing in my head. I was on my way. And while I met my goal that year, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the final product. After all, I wanted to write a magnificent song—a song to be sung for generations.
Intent on doing just that, I worked myself into an analytical frenzy: I read books by songwriters, read interviews with successful writers, listened to seminars on writing, and tried to put all the formulas together. I began to analyze the songs I loved that others had written only to find my reasons for loving each song were different. Some, I loved the lyrics, others it was the arrangement of the music, still others, with simple melodies and few lyrics, I loved the way some seemed to have the presence of God “built in.”
Then there were the endless questions: why did some songs with no predictable pattern make it to the top 40? How come songs with grammatical errors lead people into worship? Who knew that “la, la, la, la” could make up an entire verse and people would sing it? I began picking music apart until I couldn’t listen to the radio without being critical. Before long I no longer enjoyed listening to music. I would write, write, write, and tear it up. Then I would re-write. I was working myself into a bundle of frustration. I was doodle-dashed.
Have you ever been there?
When I could take it no longer, I wrote a letter to a mentor of mine, Billy Simon, asking for advice on how to pull myself out of this place of despair.
Billy has been a songwriter for Meadowgreen Music, Sony Music, Sparrow, Randy Cox Music, Riverstone Publishing, Crosswind, Still Working, Word Music, and Keybrothers/Jeff Silvey Publishing and is an accomplished musician and solo artist. It was my admiration of his music that caused me to seek him out to begin with, but it is his heart of humility that helped lead me out of “doodle-dashed” and put things in the right perspective.
“The main thing is to be calm in your gift and know that no matter who hears what you create… that your gift matters and is pleasing to the one who gave it to you. No need to be overly anxious. Love life first then add some commentary. We song writers are not necessary in the whole scope. Only our message is. Sometimes our gift can be so exciting to us that we give it too much attention and time. Step out of your “write, write, write” stage and just write. Trees are vital for life on Earth. They’re beautiful and it’s nice to have some in your yard. But if you plant one everywhere you think one can grow, soon you will have nowhere to play kickball. Have peace that you are where God want s you to be, to affect the people He wants you to affect.”
A little while later, my mother-in-law, who was battling cancer that had metastasized to her lungs, confided in me her fear of dying of suffocation. She was a believer in Jesus, so she knew her destination, still the fear was mounting. As I wept with her and prayed with her, I felt inspired to write a song. The song expressed that God is still a God of Hope beyond our last “breath” and that no matter when she left us she would still be alive…forever. The song was an intimate song, written just for her, and God used it to minister peace. Was it a magnificent song? It was to her.
Some months later my mother-in-law passed away. I sang her song for the memorial and this time the words spoke to those of us left behind—reminding us of the promise of the resurrection and the hope that extends beyond our last breath. When I recorded my first cd this past spring, I included her song, and named it “Resurrection.” I have since heard from others who have lost loved ones; they share the encouragement they now receive from the words of the song. It may never make the top 40 on the radio, but it was a song written for a purpose; and that purpose continues to be fulfilled. What an honor!
So the lesson is this: in the end, what matters most is that we minister where God plants us; that the words we write and sing feed whoever God had intended them to feed. When we find ourselves focusing on ourselves and our gifts, when we don’t know where we’re going or how we’ll ever get there—when we’re feeling “doodle-dashed”—that’s when we need to refocus. We need only to stop, breathe, rest in God and allow Him to speak to our hearts and inspire our words. He will give us peace and direction, and He will make sure we’re exactly where we’re meant to be.