Tag Archives: fernando ortega

Friday Faves: Dealing with Bummed-Outness Edition

9 Sep

Since I’m going to a Women of Faith conference (full story) this weekend, you’d think I’d be in a great mood.  I mean, what a great opportunity to commune with the people of God, right?  Absolutely!  And I feel the need for it now more than ever.  Looking for a church in the area is taking its toll on me.  So is the pressure of leading a weekly small group.  I’m giving out, but not filling up.   The rainy weather doesn’t help.  Even the local schools are closed due to flooding.  (Is it even safe to go out there?  Should I invest in a house boat?)  Really, I’m just plain ol’ bummed out.

I don’t know what to do for this depression (and anxiety) except to walk through it and know it, too, will pass.  I spend more time praying, thinking, talking to God and less time social networking, hanging out, and uh, showering.  Hopefully, the Women of Faith weekend will kick start my spirit.  Until then, here are some “faves” that help me get through the murky times.

*Bebo Norman is my go-to guy for hard times.  Whether I’m about to have a panic attack or cry my eyes out, I pop in a Bebo album and I feel immediate relief.  It reminds me of when David played his harp for King Saul when Saul was overcome with bouts of madness.  Bebo’s music is a gentle reminder that someone’s been in the depths, made it out, and that God is still very much present.  Lately, I’ve also listened to Jason Gray and Andrew Peterson, and of course, my old stand-bys–Rich Mullins and Fernando Ortega.  I used have specific playlists on my iPod for “sad times” and “mad times” and “happy times,” but they somehow got deleted.  Another song that resonates with me is “Hold My Heart” by Tenth Avenue North.  While I enjoy artists like Tenth Avenue North and Josh Wilson, when I’m down and out, their upbeat songs feel like salt rubbed into an raging wound.

*The Book of Psalms is an inspiration for many, and when nothing else makes sense, the psalms usually do.  I particularly love Psalms 42 and 46.  I also turn to the book of Hosea, which may sound like a strange choice, until you consider this passage from Hosea 3: 19-20,

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

As cliche as it sounds, the Bible is an amazing source of comfort in its prose, stories (Elijah, for one), and guidance.

*One day someone who is very dear to me gave me a copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love as a present.  She told me to read it, but not all at once, just bit by bit.  So I did, and still do.  In Nouwen’s most personal work, he shares his journal entries from a time when he underwent extreme hardship (some may call it a “nervous breakdown”).  At the urging of his friends, Nouwen published this book.  I rarely read an entry without bursting into tears. I also read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (read review), which is great for use in small groups or for personal devotions.

*It may sound silly, but online games like Gnome Town and Words With Friends (both on Facebook) provide needed distraction.  I cannot always live in the pain, focus on the hurt, feel the depression, deal with the anxiety.  So, instead, I build a world of friendly forest creatures and get my butt kicked by high school kids who know more words than me.

*Since I’m a writer, it should come as no surprise that words at a healing balm to my soul.  In his song “The Cure for Pain,” Jon Foreman sings, “So blood is fire pulsing through our veins.  We’re either writers or fools behind the reigns.  I’ve spent ten years trying to sing it all away.  But the water keeps on falling from my tries.”  Like Foreman, I keep trying to write, not sing, it all away.  Still, I keep my journal close by and consider my notebooks full of scribbles among my most treasured possessions.  One of these days, I’m going to get a nice leather or mole skin journal (usually, I get them for 50% off at Barnes & Noble or as gifts from friends).

*Dogs, not diamonds, are a girl’s best friend.  Lonely days seem a little less lonely because of my two dogs–Cassie the Peekapoo (left) and Maddy the Shih Tzu (right).  They sense my mood and cuddle with me more often when I am down.  My bird, Kylie the Cockatiel, chirps praises to God when my spirit feels faint.  Animals are truly a gift from God.  And so are friends and family, who are willing to listen, even they don’t understand or don’t know what to do.

I’m not going to apologize for my less-than-chipper mood because it is my goal to be real, rather than entertaining.  Ideally, I like to be both, but real trumps entertaining.  Pray for me and I will pray for you!

How can I be praying for you right now?  What do you do when you feel bummed out?  Do you suffer from clinical depression and/or anxiety?  What kind of pets do you have?  Do you journal and/or blog to relieve your stress?

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The BSW Raven Awards:: Where Everyone Wins!

24 Apr

Now that GMA Week is over and the Dove Awards have been handed out, I can finally announce the winners of the Backseat Writer 1st Annual Raven Awards.  Here’s the thing with the Raven Awards, if you’re nominated, you win!  Of course, our winners don’t get a cool looking-trophy (maybe next year). Heck, half of ‘em won’t even know they won a Raven Award…but that’s not really the point.

The point, dear friends, is to nominate songs that have impacted my life and the lives of those around me throughout the past year.  Whether these are artists who are making it big or who are rockin’ the indie scene, they have all been meaningful to me.

Originally, I thought it would be funny to have my own awards to rival the Doves…and what’s the opposite of a white bird of peace?  The black bird of death!  Then I thought to myself, that’s not really the message I want to send.   But then I realized why ravens are among my favorite birds.  The book of Kings speaks of the prophet Elijah’s flight into the desert when he was fleeing for his life from Queen Jezebel, who promised to kill him.  While sitting under a broom tree, God provided His messenger with food delivered to him by ravens.  In this instance, ravens were used by God to bring life to His Child, who was in a very dark place (read my post “Fed by the Ravens”).  To me, being fed by ravens is be given a message from God Himself, delivered by a third party.

Thus, these are my “Ravens.”  Feel free to nominate anyone you think deserves a BSW Raven Awards in the comments section. You can share how this artist or song has impacted you.  Sorry, I just don’t have the energy to put links to everyone–do a Backseat Writer site–chances are that I’ve written about these artists. Oh, and we definitely needed some side art; I’m not favoring the artists whose pictures appear on this post!

(Artist pics from top to bottom:: Seabird, Tara Leigh Cobble, Josh Wilson, This Beautiful Republic)

Song of the Year

“Cinderella”—Steven Curtis Chapman
“For the Life of Me”-This Beautiful Republic
“Learning How to Die”—Jon Foreman
“Don’t Wash Your Hands of Me”—Alli Rogers
“Britney”—Bebo Norman
“Savior, Please”—Josh Wilson
“Listen Up”—Brandon Heath
“Rescue”—Seabird
“Hold My Heart”—Tenth Avenue North
“Still Young”-Shirock

Male Vocalist of the Year

Bebo Norman
Jon Foreman
Josh Wilson
Brandon Heath
Fernando Ortega

Female Vocalist of the Year

Alli Rogers
Francesca Battistelli
Dawn Richardson (Fireflight)
Tara Leigh Cobble

Band of the Year

This Beautiful Republic
Seabird
Leeland
Shirock
The Myriad

Album of the Year

Til We See The Shore—Seabird
Limbs & Branches—Jon Foreman
Empty and Beautiful—Matt Maher
Perceptions—This Beautiful Republic
Bebo Norman—Bebo Norman
Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup—Josh Wilson

If any of our winners want the world to know about his or her or their amazing award, please feel free to use this cool award jpg I designed!  It’s not a statue, but it’s pretty darn close. Congrats to all our award winners!

Amy’s Favorite Things (Take that, Oprah!)

13 Dec

By Amy Sondova Every year, Oprah Winfrey features a few of her favorite things on her daytime talk show (“Oprah’s Favorite Things“) and then adorns the audience with each and every one of her favorite things.  Well, I’m not Oprah, and therefore, cannot give all Backseat Writer’s readers samples of everything that I adore.  But I can tell you where to get ‘em.   Without further adieu, I bring you “Amy’s Favorite Things,” which I hope will help you as you finish shopping foryour favorite people this holiday season (and beyond.   These are timeless suggestions).

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

Altered Art Charm from TickleMePinkBoutique on Etsy.com

*Etsy.com—Have you visited this site?  It’s a entire craft show right on your computer screen with everything from Scrabble tile pendants to handcrafted shoes!  There are a plethora of cool things for guys and gals alike.  Don’t believe me, guys?  Check out some of the screen printed messenger bags and t-shirts.  There’s something for everyone, and unique is the bottom line.

*Music—Every year almost everyone on my Christmas list can expect to get a CD or two.  This year there are a few artists who are hot on my list—debut artist Josh Wilson and music veteran Bebo Norman.  Besides being two of the nicest and most open guys I’ve ever interviewed, they’re also great singer/songwriters who released albums this year.  Bebo Norman’s self-titled release, Josh Wilson’s Trying to Fit the Ocean in a Cup, and Jon Foreman’s Limbs and Branches are must-haves!  But perhaps you’re looking for something a little rockier, then look no further than Seabird’s ‘Til We See the Shore or This Beautiful Republic’s sophomore album, Perceptions.   If you want to support indie artists, then get lost in the vocals of Tara Leigh Cobble’s Playing Favorites or Justin McRoberts’ latest project, Deconstruction.  And here are a few more recommendations: Narrow Stairs – Death Cab For Cutie; What If We – Brandon Heath; The Nashville EP and the Bee Sides – Relient K;  Opposite Way – Leeland;  With Arrows, With Poise – The Myriad;  anything by Caedmon’s Call, Fernando Ortega, Phil Keaggy.

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

Limbs and Branches - Jon Foreman

*Sock Monkeys & socks—Is it just me or are you always running out of socks, too?  Whether getting lost in the wash, stolen by a shih tzu who shall remain nameless (Maddy!), or developing ginormous holes, pairs of socks seem to lose their mate after a month or two.  Therefore, I wear a lot of mismatched socks–argyle, plaid, and all patterns funky are worn together and I become a candidate for “What Not to Wear”.  Besides becoming a fashion mishap, there are are only things to do with those single socks.  You could make sock

monkeys, of course! You don’t even have to limit yourself to monkeys, there are patterns for all kinds of creatures online (sock monster, sock owl).  Then you can sell your creations at etsy.com.  Or you could just buy a conventional sock monkey at sockmonkey.com.

*Digital Cameras—The first time I got my hands on a digital camera, I took pictures of everything in sight, and I haven’t stopped.  My first pictures weren’t that great; then again, my camera wasn’t that great.  Yet I treasure the images of my grandmother’s last Christmas with our family.  Buy yourself a camera to capture the moments that truly matter, and then buy one for someone else.  Check around for the best prices and give yourself a gift that goes far beyond an electronic device.  I highly recommend Canon cameras, but if you want to go a little cheaper, Olympus makes great cameras as well.

*Anything handcrafted by you—Maybe you’re not into making sock monkeys, but there are tons of other projects in which to immerse yourself.  Try your hand at crocheting or knitting (you can even use a knitting loom like the Knifty Knitter) and make everyone scarves, hats, and SOCKS!  (See what a valuable gift socks can be?)  You could paint a thoughtful picture or make a collage.  If you’re not crafty, melt chocolate wafers and dip some pretzels; chocolate-covered pretzels make great gifts!  If all else fails, just make your dad an ashtray like you did in kindergarten—he’ll still think it’s cute (hopefully!)

Psych - Season 2

Psych - Season 2

*Amazon.com—Free shipping on orders over $25 and books, music, and DVD’s galore.  Every year Amazon is adding to its inventory.  I check back every day to see what’s on sale so I can nab Psych Seasons 1 & 2, Bones Seasons 1-3, books like The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, the chick-lit novels of my fave fictionista, Christa Banister and those aforementioned CD’s at discounted prices.

*Ebay.com—Whatever you can’t find on Amazon.com, you can find on Ebay.  There are literally millions of treasures on this site from low, low prices on video games to truly bizarre items like vintage hand towels.  But whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it on Ebay.  You can also find a bunch of stuff you weren’t looking for, too.

*Michael’s, A.C. Moore, Joann’s—Craft stores are slashing their prices, and signing up for their e-mail newsletters allows customers to get even more coupons (especially if you don’t get them in your local newspaper).  Remember that camera I told you to buy?  You can get beautiful frames for those pics on sale at any of these stores for 40-50% off during the holiday season.  Plus, custom framing is 60% off (I say buy a frame and do-it-yourself!)  Not only that, but you can find deals on Christmas décor, craft kits for the kids, and nice gifts like candle holders and scented candles for your co-workers.  Even if you aren’t crafty, craft stores are a great place to shop for gifts.

Even though Black Friday has come and gone, you can still save money and give great presents to your loved ones…and those people you don’t really like that you still have to buy for.  We know Christmas isn’t all about the presents, but if you’re like me, you sure do like to get them (hey, I’m being honest here).  Plus, great presents show cleverness and creativity that has little to do with price and everything to do with thoughtfulness.  Our mere trinkets can never compare to the gift of God’s Son wrapped in humanity, so as we give to one another let us remember the greatest gift that mankind was ever given.

Click here to see all my my favorite things!

Review:: Christmas Songs – Fernando Ortega

5 Dec

By Charlotte Sublett Fernando Ortega’s newest album, simply titled Christmas Songs, is definitely one that you can enjoy over and over this Christmas and for many Christmases to come. Ortega’s timeless contemporary piano arrangements and simple, clean-cut vocals are heart-warming, and his newest takes on some of our favorite Christmas songs are refreshing and enjoyable for all audiences.

Creativity:: 9 The track listing follows the birth of Christ from start to finish, including interesting interludes on classic hymns and some different takes on the traditional meters and rhythms.  I also enjoyed the instrumentation.  It’s not just piano like some of his other albums.  Christmas Songs includes instruments like bongo drums, guitar, various types of percussion, and cello.  This album contains three instrumental pieces: “Go, Tell it on the Mountain”, “Carol of the Birds”, and “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella”.

Original Songs:: 7 All of the songs have original musical arrangements by Fernando except for “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”  The one entirely original song, “Jesus, King of Angels,” seems a bit like an album filler in this case. It’s a good song, but it seems a bit overshadowed by the other Christmas favorites.

Classic Covers:: 10 I loved the inventive arrangements of familiar, traditional songs we all know by heart.  Even though I’ve heard them a thousand times, I want to hear them all over again Fernando-style!

Musical Score:: 6 Fernando uses piano interludes and backup vocals on one or two songs, but other than that, it’s usually kind of bare bones piano when he’s not singing.  Backup vocals add a lot but don’t overshadow Ortega’s simplistic vocal style, and the instrumental interludes are ornate and creative.  I love his simplicity, even though it doesn’t make for big points in this category.

Overall Holly Jolliness:: 9 Overall, this is a great album, and it definitely puts me in the Christmas spirit! More than anything, it’s a reflective album that helps me remember the REAL meaning of Christmas amid our other Christmas songs that mark our very cultural idea of Christmas.

Total score= 41.   If you’re getting a little tired of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, grab a copy of Christmas Songs and a cup of hot cocoa for a relaxing night by the fire.

Print copy of review.

To read our review guide lines, go here.

You can find Christmas Songs and the rest of our great “12 Days of Christmas Music” reviewed albums in Backseat Writer’s online store, Drive-By Shopping, under the “12 Days of Christmas Music” category!

Charlotte Sublett is a young woman who loves love and loves life.  After many years of training in classical voice and the consideration of a career in opera, Charlotte is now a sophomore psychology major at Wheaton College.  Some day, she’d like to open a private psychotherapy practice with the mission of helping hurting young women find God in the midst of their struggles.  Charlotte has an overwhelming number of passions in life, some of which include singing, writing, photography, painting & other art projects, theology, princess dresses, and anything that’s pink.  A proud Nashvillian and a true southern belle, she’s a stickler for etiquette and feels that every man should be forced to read Jane Austen.  Check out her theological & spiritual musings at her blog.

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