In The End

I honestly have no idea what brought Brooke Fraser to mind. But for some reason, I found myself looking up her music this morning, adding “Albertine” to my offline music downloads. And tripping out on the realization that album is ten years old. (Almost eleven!) Released in 2007 and tied to some memories that I can recall better than I can remember last week.

I was living in Australia back then. And part of the church that she was part of. And I remember her playing a song off the new album during a service – just her and her guitar. And I remember thinking “Hmm. I wonder what it’ll sound like when it’s done.” And then experiencing the done version with a full band and video backing at the women’s conference that year. And being blown away. It was an exquisitely well-produced experience of a great song from a great album. An album named after a Rwandan orphan Brooke had met in her travels… her Compassion child, was it? I can’t remember that part clearly and I may be mixing up Hillsong sponsored things. Anyway, as that song (track #5 on the album) started to play this morning, I remembered the origin story of the song and I felt a flash of panic. This is a song written ten years ago about a Rwandan orphan, by a white Kiwi-slash-honorary-Australian, wonderful and easy-going people who are not particularly known for their racial sensitivity. So I braced myself for the possibility of losing another thing in the fire of “well that didn’t age well”. But it was fine. Still a moving call to action. Which made me sad in a different way.

“Now that I have seen, I am responsible.
Faith without deeds is dead.”

That’s the hook and the primary message of “Albertine” – Responsibility. Once the excuse of not knowing is stripped away, deeds are proof. Of sight. Of growth. Of change. Of life. Brooke had seen the aftermath of the genocide that had taken place in Rwanda, some ten years before her visit, and felt the weight of the storyteller: to tell the story.  And so she did. And she wasn’t the only one, there was a lot of concerted effort at that time to help the people of Rwanda, to rally the world to restore hope there. And God bless everyone who took part. Who took on bits of the responsibility. But I do remember a quiet question being asked from quiet corners: What about the Aborigines? There was an undercurrent of cynicism about the willingness of so many Australians to restore hope in Rwanda in the light of their unwillingness to confront the harm done in their own country. And as an outsider with no skin in either game – Rwanda or Australia – I kind of felt like help is help and a rising tide lifts all boats and all in good time. And all of that. I understood where the murmurs were coming from and I got it, but I didn’t get it.

Now I do.

Do you know what the best kind of responsibility is? The optional kind. The ones what we don’t actually have to do.  The “extra mile” things. It’s the difference between arriving on the scene to pour hope on another country vs. stepping into the messy issues of your own history to extract justice. The difference between being a hero and being here. But if we’re honest, we’d all much rather be heroes, because it’s hard to be here.

Which is why listening to “Albertine” made me sad today. Because I know a lot of heroes. Compassion photos of brown kids worlds away decorate many a fridge in my world and it wasn’t that long ago that practically every birthday I knew of was being donated to Charity:Water… I know a lot of very helpful people, good people doing good things: Heroes. Who are absolutely useless here. Who would rather talk about it, than actually be about it. Because they think talking is actually something. And in this climate, yes: saying Black Lives Matter is better than nothing. But actions still speak louder than words. And to say Black Lives Matter, but continually only hire white folks… guess what? Your “better than nothing” is actually just nothing wearing some trendy merch.

I got this text the other day and I wish I could say that it stopped me in my tracks, but what it actually did was remind me that I haven’t actually been making any lately. I’ve been quiet. And getting quieter. And some of that has been good. I’ve been able to step back and reassess a lot of the noise I’ve surrounded myself with and some of the old favorites – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – got cut from the playlist. Quite possibly forever. (jk about Snapchat. It was NEVER a favorite.) And a lot of my own words have been coming back to haunt me. To remind me how long I’ve left them lingering in limbo. Out of my mind, but not yet in your sight where maybe… just maybe they could help you see something. Something that might just make you say, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible…”

And so with that in mind, I’m definitely letting go of this blog.  “SingularShe” started as “The Miss League” which was started as a safe place for single women to grapple with being single. And I’ve struggled to write consistently for it for the past year and some change because my grappling has changed. My conclusion on my singleness is this: It is what it is. But more importantly, what it’s not is a punishment or an indicator of worth or sign of personal deficiency. It just is what it is. And until it changes, there is nothing I can do about it other than do everything I can to be the best, most whole, most honest and authentic version of me – good, bad and ugly – not for some man, but for myself and for everybody else. Which means I have to see these other grapples through – the ones between my faith and my religion, my race and my nation, and those places where the failures of my religion and my nation in regards to my race are not matching up with my faith. It is messy stuff. And I love it. It’s what I’m here for. But it’s not exactly what you, reader of this particular blog, signed up for, so… I have to let this go.

My thought right now is that the SingularShe will officially end as what it was originally going to be when I wrote its first words: a book. I’ll finish going through all the old posts and compile the best, brightest and most relevant of them and throw that bad boy on Amazon for whosoeverwill.

And operating under the assumption that my friend is right and the world does need my voice, I’ll be working on speaking up in the ways that I can: through scripts and songs and scripts full of songs. Some of which are going to ruffle feathers. (Some of which already have. #SAINTS.) But I have to do it. Because I’ve seen too much. And I don’t think that was by accident. I have stories to tell and like Brooke Fraser, surveying the aftermath of ten years time, I feel the weight of the storyteller. To tell the story. Because now that I have seen, I am responsible.

And faith without deeds is dead.



So that’s that. Hit me up in the comments or via email (livelovelagata@gmail.com) to let me know if you’ve got any favorite posts you’d like to see in the book. (Or most definitely don’t want to see.) And please don’t think things between us have to be over forever – we can still kick it, you can find me at JaniceLagata.com and spoiler alert: there are already a few warm up posts over there…

Best Ever

Best Ever

Have you ever had a moment of realization and growth that you felt really good about suddenly turn around and kick you in your face? I have. Just this past week. There I was, fresh off my last post about not being afraid to let go of things because even if it’s the best you’ve ever had, it’s not the best that God can do and then 17 minutes later I’m crying because I have just written one of the best lines ever and I don’t want to give it away.

For a year now I’ve been working with an up and coming artist on his debut album. It’s a project that started out small and no-budget, but has grown and now has some pretty serious steam and momentum behind it. I started the gig as a favor and didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the future of it, but dammit… this kid has got the goods. And he’s gonna make it. And my writing is part of that. And overall, working on this album has been a great experience. Within every song there have been moments of inspiration and frustration and some point where I hated everything about it and wanted to quit. And then just past that… somehow… it would all come together. And we’d be on to the next one.

And it’s not my album, but there are obviously pieces of me all throughout it. And there are moments and lines that I really love in each song, but there have only been three times when the writing has actually moved me to tears. And for two of those times, it wasn’t the brilliance of my lyrics as much as how they stepped right on something I was feeling at the moment. But the third one… I thought “Wow. This is a really good lyric.” And I got really sad at the thought of giving it away.

Because what if I never write something that good for myself? What if I’ve peaked and it was all for someone else? So for a good 24 hours, I had to do some soul-searching. Because it’s easy for me to let go of places and things, I know money comes and money goes, but what about what I really have to give? My gifts and my talents, my words and creativity — what do I do with this urge to hold back, to be selfish, to keep the best for someday for myself?

Well, I wish I could say I heard the voice of God say “Don’t be silly! Of course you haven’t peaked!” but I didn’t. If I heard anything it was just the question being thrown back at me “So what if you have?” What if the greatest work I ever do and the best contributions I ever make are on behalf of other people… would that really be the worst thing?

Honestly… Yes. Because God’s not done with me and I am still extremely selfish. But also… No. The worst thing would actually be to hold back today’s creativity and then spend too many tomorrows trying to shoehorn it in somewhere it never belonged.

So I let the lyric go. I gave it away. And now, looking back with the added wisdom and experience of approximately 6 days, it’s actually laughable to me what a legitimate struggle that was. I still think the lyric is amazing, but as I was working on some lyric ideas for one of my shows yesterday, I could feel the old magic lurking and I knew, I know that I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Because God doesn’t compartmentalize generosity – He’ll honor any area we choose to live with an open hand in.

So I’m really grateful for this album project. For many reasons. But mostly for how much it’s stretching me. And teaching me. And reminding me that experiencing that Ephesians 3:20 better-than-you-can-ask-or-imagine means having to let go of whatever I could ask or imagine and probably thought was the best thing ever.

Because **spoiler alert**: it gets better.

That Wasn’t So Bad

That Wasn’t So Bad

Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and thought “Oh. That wasn’t so bad.” It happens to me a lot. Is that weird? It is, isn’t it? Because it sounds like I spend a lot of time looking at pictures of myself. But I don’t. I’m just saying that when I do see a picture of myself, I usually look better than I remember thinking I looked at the time. Usually. There are some pictures out there that exist for the sole purpose of keeping me humble. And keeping my haters justified.  But for the most part, looking back reminds me how skewed my current perception probably is.

Because I tend to obsess over the negatives. As part of my goal to launch a theatre company this year, I recently held a reading/listening party for a new show I wrote. And afterwards, a few different friends asked me how it went and if I was happy with it. And I had to answer honestly that no, I wasn’t. But I was never going to be. Because I never am. Because nothing is ever perfect and I am always going to fixate on what went wrong. During the first half of the reading, I was absolutely convinced that at least 80% of the audience was going to come up with excuses to leave at intermission. I was braced for it. And then it didn’t happen. They stayed. And afterwards, their questions and comments seemed to indicate that they didn’t hate it. And I didn’t hate it either… after two days of relentlessly picking it apart and putting it back together in my head. The reading was on Saturday evening and on Tuesday morning I made peace with it. And I’m pretty proud of that. Because that was record time for me.

But I want to get even faster in 2017. Faster to forgive. Faster NOT to forget. And faster to look back.

  • Faster to forgive. Not just others but myself. 
    “The only people who never fail are those who never try.” I’m not gonna like it, but I hope I rack up a record number of mistakes in 2017. Not maliciously, just meanwhile. In my attempts to move forward. And when I do, I hope I’m as fast to forgive myself as I would be to forgive a friend who I knew was doing their best to do their best.
  • Faster NOT to forget. To not let the bad block out the good.
    I lost two friendships in 2016. I mean cut out, radio silence, won’t-like-my-instagram-posts-anymore (#passiveInstaggression) lost.  And because there were no conversations and attempts at contact were rebuffed, the only reasons I can find in retracing our steps are so petty, that they’re almost award-worthy. (With the award being a no-expense paid trip to the nearest White Castle. Enjoy.) But I was shook. I found myself getting paranoid and waiting for my other two friendships to fall apart. Except… I don’t have two other friendships. I can’t tell you off the top of my head how many friendships I didn’t lose in 2016 because I haven’t been obsessing about those.**  But I should have been. I should be. When I’m losing things, I need to be faster not to forget all that I still have.
  • Faster to look back. And appreciate now for what it really is.
    I started re-watching “The Office” in December. So for a few weeks it was my constant background noise. And when it got to the last episode I was blown away by this Andy Bernard quote that I had forgotten: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” However faulty and flawed and far from the mark I am at this moment, I’m closer to where I’m headed than I’ve ever been. And when I look back on me three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago and I look back on the things I thought I’d never get over, the answers I didn’t have, the ways out that I couldn’t see… I have so much grace and so much gratefulness for those previous (dumber) versions of me and what I know now because of them. And I’d like to get better at looking back on these days while I’m still in them. And at giving myself grace and the space to learn what I don’t know yet.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting bolder or just getting older, but I feel like I’m getting over myself. I’m not necessarily worrying less about what other people think, I’m just not letting that worry have the final word. Because we’re going to fail. We’re going to fall. We’re going to lose things. And our lives are probably always going to look awkward to us as they’re unfolding in the moment. But someday, with some perspective, we’ll probably realize “Oh. That wasn’t so bad.


** I fully realize and acknowledge that not everybody is going to like me all the time. And fully realize and acknowledge any number of people have legitimate reasons not to. Yourself included, probably. So if you’re reading this and you are still my friend, you are a true Christian and da real MVP. And I promise it’ll be worth it someday.