Correcting the Soundtrack in Your Head

After graduating from college, I moved to the biggest city in Maine for my first “real job,” bringing with me a wardrobe fashioned around college life south of the Mason-Dixon. Clearly, my flimsy sandals would not fit my new life as a ministry professional. However, it soon became apparent that my feet were not going to fit into any of the smooth and snappy dress shoes I admired at the Maine Mall. Navigating life with big feet has been part of my journey of self-acceptance, and a huge aspect of my mental soundtrack that I’m still rewriting.

In How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself, Amena Brown shares her own trail of super-sized footsteps from sneakers and flats to styling elegance in her Beyoncé stilettos. With footwear as a metaphor for self-acceptance, the spoken-word poet and inspirational author also remembers the freedom of learning to love her own natural hair after years of fighting it. Looking back over her shoulder with humility and gratitude, Amena honors the resiliency and courage of the women who have contributed to her story’s formation:

“My great-grandmother picked cotton
and worked in a tobacco factory
so my grandmother could work at a hospitalCorrecting the Soundtrack in Your Head
so my mom could become a nurse
so I could become a poet.”

A product of the I Kissed Dating Goodbye generation, Amena was astonished to find herself still single at age 30. Now, happily married, she writes with transparency about the disappointment of infertility and her puzzlement with the ways of God, who moves slowly and in ways that are, at times, inscrutable. Her collection of stories documents her progress in working on the broken messages that have colored her thinking (and which are prevalent in Christian circles):

“I am learning the painful truth that even when you pray and ask God, even when you quote back to God the applicable Scriptures, even when you walk around the object you are praying for six times and play your trumpet on the seventh, God doesn’t always answer the way you want him to.” (158)

Remind Your Soul that God is Bigger than You

Solid roots in the Body of Christ and in one’s identity as a daughter of God are indispensable in embracing the hard realities that come with a complicated family tree. Amena began laying down healthy grooves in her record by honoring her roots following a DNA test, some hard disclosures, and a commitment to the challenge of painful wondering.

Like a vinyl record, the grooves in the human heart catch and preserve all manner of voices. We spend our lives layering message upon message, and in the process we come to define ourselves by what’s been caught in the grooves. It is startling, then, when words and feelings long forgotten (we thought) rise to the surface as a reminder that the healing process must continue. The God who makes all things new can also make broken things whole.

Be Humble and Kind and Say “No”

As an artist and an entrepreneur, Amena Brown lives in the tension between staying true to her calling and building a business.  Taking responsibility for her own choices, she has learned to say “no, even if it means less money, less popularity, fewer likes.” She has concluded that there is much wisdom in realizing she “must constantly lay down the weight of opinion, the chokehold of pride, the race of comparison. It is saying no to my own selfishness, no to trying my best to be god instead of walking with and learning from God how to be who he created me to be.” (119)

Brown urges women to surround themselves with a squad of warriors who will lament, pray, rejoice, and speak truth into our lives. Book-mentors and on line friends lend us courage if we read well and choose our influencers carefully.

There’s Healing in the Stillness

It takes discipline to pull away from the continual pressure to “do” when your soul requires time simply to “be.”  The healing power of sleep, the perspective that comes from pulling away, the peace of a slow listen to the voice of God: this is a humble stance and a product of wisdom.

Amena Brown invites her readers into a thoughtful parsing of our motives behind our lists and all the busy-ness that keeps us spinning. Intent on “making something of ourselves,” we forget that God is the primary Maker, and it is only He who can fix our broken records. We are made for the music of truth and hope. Healing and a healthy future are found in the groove of grace that God longs to write into your story.

This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLook Bloggers Program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you should decide to purchase How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Every blessing,

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Greet One Another with Grace

I lived south of the Mason-Dixon just long enough to be introduced to the word “Hey” as a greeting – not long enough, however, to become accustomed to it. Here in New England, “Hey!” is the word we use to get someone’s attention, as in, “Hey! You can’t pahk heah!” A simple southern greeting would stop me in my tracks on campus, as I waited for the rest of the sentence.

These days, I’m stopping in my tracks when I read the greetings in Paul’s New Testament letters. There were no “throw away” words in his writing – they all carried weight, and he was very aware that his written words were carrying the weight of grace to his readers:

  • grace that would enable them to be peacemakers in times of intense persecution;
  • grace to boldly refute false teaching;
  • grace to forgive so that relationships could be restored.

Maybe that’s why every single one of Paul’s thirteen epistles opens with the words “grace to you” and ends with the phrase “grace with you,” as if his readers could carry the truth of God’s great love and forgiveness with them when they finished reading his letter.

Is it possible for mere words to be so consequential?

In my world of hurry, I have mastered the quick hello, the cheery smile — and the averted eyes. It’s “Destination, Ho!” even on a Sunday morning when, supposedly, I have gathered together to do my part in strengthening and encouraging the body.

With hair aflame, can I really take the risk of asking, “How are you?”

What if they actually want to tell me how they are?

In detail?

Without literally using the words, what would “grace to you” sound like in the paper towel aisle at Wal-Mart? In the hallways of a Sunday-morning church? I am pondering the notion that my greetings, though not inspired as Paul’s were, can truly mediate grace to my sisters in Christ.

Jesus is never recorded as having actually used the word grace. He just taught it and lived it, so whether I find in my heart sufficient grace to pour out to others depends on whether I am faithfully taking the unconditional grace He offers to me. When my mind is occupied with odious comparisons, grace-filled words of greeting will stick in my throat. “I’m so happy to see you! Tell me how you’re doing!” will never find its way to the open air if I’m suffocating it behind judgment, impatience, or discomfort in my own skin.

Like Paul, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” Trusting that this is true, and that God is at work in me, I find grace to hold a sister’s gaze and to hear her heart, to scribble down an important date or a prayer request, to pray on the spot for an expressed need.

I’ve been asking God to open my heart during the brief moments I spend chatting with my friends. They’re busy too, and maybe they’re even wishing I’d move along and let them get to their Sunday school class or finish their shopping . . . but maybe they’re hoping for someone to stop for a minute to see their pain and to hear their story.

Living in a nation where Rome’s brutal customs mingled with Israel’s preoccupation with measurable and highly visible righteousness, Jesus chose to address the seemingly trivial topic of greetings in His Sermon on the Mount. It seems that He wants me to offer greetings of grace to people I’d rather not even see!

“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Mt.5:47 ESV)

Greetings of grace make for peace, so there’s no ducking behind the Cover Girl display at Target or pretending to ponder the missionary bulletin board in the back of the church when I run into THAT person. If I open my heart to give a grace-filled greeting, I demonstrate that I am a daughter of a grace-filled God who daily pours out grace into the life of this impatient wife, sharp-tongued mother, fretful blogger, fitful worshiper, and inconsistent pray-er.  As God’s grace is set free to transform me, I am praying to become an instrument of transforming grace in the lives of others.


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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.