Here we are! If you follow me on instagram, you should know by now that I'm recording an album! This is huge, but it's been a bit of a journey. One that I want to share. So let me tell you what I'm writing these songs about. This is part one of Behind The Ocean Shelf.
The title of this album, and subsequently it's titular track, is from a poem written in one of my favorite books.
If thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — "This is not dead," —
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — "This is enow
Unto itself — 'Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."
-Sir Thomas Brown, A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle
The ocean shelf (or continental shelf) is the underwater part of the beach, before it drops off into the depths of the seafloor. I've had this image of myself standing, my feet in the water, looking out over the ocean of my life, not knowing what was out/down there, but knowing I was heading to that drop-off. That became my theme for this album. Going into it, I didn't know what I was going to write about. Honestly, I didn't even know *how* to write at all. I didn't know what I'd discover in myself, what would come naturally and what would be trickier to nail down. I didn't even have a genre in mind. What if nothing was cohesive? I had no idea what I was doing.
I remember forcing myself to finish a draft of my first song, recording a demo, and sending it to a songwriter I admire for notes and tips. Like it was no big deal, even though his response would totally make or break the whole project for me. I was ready to shut it down at the smallest hint of disapproval. However, after a very detailed and encouraging reply, I was committed to at least beginning. So I started inching forward.
I first got the idea for The Ocean Shelf (the song, that is) back a few years ago, after one of my many rereads of the Meet the Austins series. I've always loved the book, and the poem, and the idea of emptying ourselves of self, so God can (and He always does) come in and fill us with Himself instead. I adapted this poem into a chorus that's been stuck in my head ever since. I must have rewritten the 2nd half a dozen times, but eventually it settled:
If I could empty me of myself,
Would you find me on The Ocean Shelf,
whisper, "This is not dead,"
and fill me up instead?
Oh, help me believe
my only good is all Your good in me
I was lost when I heard
You calling out to me
That's what this album became, kind of a cry to God to take the reigns and responsibility. I can't do this, it's too scary, I don't know the right way to go, there are so many ways to get to where I want to be! Show me the right way, God! Make sure I know Who is really making things happen!
I started taking shaky steps, dragging songs out of the depths of me, kicking and screaming. I have no idea what I'm doing! This is bad! No one would listen to this! I wouldn't even listen to this! Everyone has written about this already! I don't know how to write! I can't play an instrument! How can I possibly communicate the vision for this song without properly playing an instrument! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING!
And after freaking out, I always found myself back to the metaphorical shore, toeing my way back into the water, all the way out to the tip of the ocean shelf, looking out. Maybe the way to quiet the fears was to just dunk underwater, and maybe I'd slide all the way down to the bottom of the ocean, or maybe I'd start swimming. Maybe I'd really be okay either way. I was committed to the idea of writing the album, and I was spending time on it, but the problem was: I was equally committed to abandoning it if it got too hard or if I felt like I was failing.
It's interesting to note that I would never have written this album, or even started The 52 Weeks Project if I didn't feel God telling me to do it. The truth is, I was totally scared. Why would I pursue my greatest dream? Why would I give 100% to what I was made to do? If I failed, I stood to lose the most! But it's amazing what happens when you just move forward anyways, not unafraid, but resolute. "Ahhh, I'm so scared! What if this fails!!!" slowly turns into, "But, oh yeah...I'm going to do it anyways, regardless of if it fails or not. So...I guess I'll get to work." or at the very least, "Yeah, I'm freaking out, but I'm going to freak out while at least getting to work."
So what's the point of this blog post? The point is, I'm only halfway through this first album and already this is the most fulfilling project I've ever done. In my life. Period. I'm so excited to share these songs with you, very, very soon!