Archives for February 2017

Singer-Songwriter Ashley Stringer: Songs of Healing and Hope

Ashley Stringer – Singer, Songwriter & World Changer

Ashley Stringer is a vibrant young singer and songwriter who hopes to change the world one song at a time. She started writing songs at twelve years of age and will be releasing her first album while she’s still fourteen. Her songs represent a journey woven into a musical tapestry of good news. News of healing and hope, identity and joy. She can be found in coffee shops, church venues, special events and sharing her unique sound on social media, including her own YouTube channel. I recently interviewed Ashley about her love of music and passion to express her thoughts and heart through songwriting.

Music & Song

Q: Ashley and music go hand and hand. Smile. Did you come from a musical background growing up, or was music just born inside of you when you came into the world? Or, maybe a little of both?

A: My mother’s side of the family is musically inclined but I have always had a love for music since I was very little. I was either eleven or twelve when I believe I realized music was my passion.

Q: You sing, but you also play the guitar. Do you play other instruments as well?

A: No, I would love to learn to play the piano soon.

Q: Music is a universal language. How does it feel to use your gift of music and then also to have a platform to share it with others?

A: I feel blessed that God has revealed to me the gift of writing and singing, and count it an honor to be able to sing His praises.  It’s a privilege to write music and I pray that with every song there will be an audience that can relate to it and be ministered to by it.

Q: What is at the heart of your music… What propels you to want and need to express yourself in song?

A: Writing songs and expressing myself seems like a natural thing for me to do. When I have ideas or thoughts I journal them and that’s where a lot of my music comes from. I pray that others are blessed by the songs that were birthed from personal experiences of my own or ones that others have shared with me that I have put to songs.

Q: Have you identified a word or a couple of words that describe what you feel most near to through your expression of music… meaning, your “message”?

A: Honesty, Joy and Freedom.

Ashley in the recording studio.

Ashley in the recording studio.

Songwriting

Q: Not only do you sing, but you are also a songwriter. When you write songs, do you have an idea in your mind of the person, or a type of person, you are singing to/for?

A: First, I always write for the glory of God. Second, I write songs for people who are walking through challenges. I want my music to bring hope, encourage, and help others realize they’re not alone.

Q: When did you know it wasn’t enough for you to only sing, but you also felt compelled to write your own lyrics as well?

A: When I was being bullied, I taught myself how to play guitar and not too long after, I started writing songs. During that season of loneliness, writing music was my stress relief. Anytime I was hurting I would play my guitar and God would put lyrics on my heart and notes to strum on the guitar, He helped me author what I think is beautiful music.

Q: It must feel extremely freeing and gratifying to be able to sing words that are straight from your own heart and mind. With both gifts (voice and writing), you are able to truly express, in the way that you want, ideas and thoughts and challenges for others to hear. Would you comment?

A: Absolutely, every song is a story that allows the listener to pierce into the window of my soul. I pray that through my honesty others will be touched and experience healing through Jesus.

Listen to Ashley’s single about bullying and fitting in called “Simple Smile“on YouTube. (See the cover photo below).

Growth in the Journey

Q: Have you ever felt fear or comparison creeping in, and if so, how do you deal with that in order to push forward?

A: I have to remember when I feel this way that God only created one me and my story isn’t going to be like everyone else’s and that’s okay. I sing only for God’s glory and I don’t let comparison creep in. 

Q: What types of things have you done to help yourself communicate your messages through music even more?

A: I have been actively a part of dance troops and taken vocal lessons since I was very young. I’ve ministered in worship and word at several churches and coffee shops. I’ve volunteered for several years leading worship in kids ministry at a church. I feel that all of these things have helped prepare me.

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Ashley’s anti-bullying single, “Simple Smile”.

Following Your Dreams

Q: What have you found to be one of the most challenging parts of seeing your dream become a reality?

A: Patience and trusting God has perfect timing for all things. I was hoping to have this current album completed a long time ago, but studio production is time-consuming and costly. We have had to wait on producers, musicians laying tracks, and much more.

Q: How did you overcome that?

A: It’s a daily “die to self”. My parents remind me often to trust God and His timing for it all.

Q: If you could give one or two pieces of advice to others who want to follow their dream, what would it be?

A: Dream Big! Trust that God knows what’s best for you and know His timing is Perfect. God won’t put you in a situation you can’t handle.

Q: I know you have amazingly supportive parents. What’s one of your favorite things about how they’ve come alongside you in your musical journey?

A: I’m grateful to have parents who are willing to invest in my dream. They constantly encourage my gift. They have absolutely been a pillar of strength for me on this journey. I owe so much of this to my Dad for being our family’s covering, priest and encourager.  My mom is co-producing everything with me and the other producers.  She has a good ear and gives me advice and keeps me grounded.  She takes me to vocal lessons, studio recording sessions, and makes all possible on the ground-level.

Ashley wrote a song for her father while he was undergoing treatment at MD Anderson for Stage 4 cancer. They later created a short video featuring her song, “Journey“.

Social Media

Q: Where can people connect and learn more about your music? Do you have a website, blog, FB or Instagram page? 13007283_113616142377329_2278447126599045461_n

A: I am available on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. I also have a YouTube channel where you can see covers I have done, and more. (My website is currently being updated.)

Q: How has Social Media made an impact or opened doors for you to share your talent?

A: It has allowed me to get exposure from people I would have never reached before. 

Q: How have your fans played a role in building your momentum?

A: I really wouldn’t say I have much of a fan base, only time will tell. I have followers on both Facebook and Instagram, but haven’t intentionally sought to build a base yet.  It has all been organic and we trust in time it will grow on its own.

Q: Do you use any hashtags specifically for your music on social media?

A: #SimpleSmile, #AshleyStringer and #ConsumedByYou which is the title of my album.

Personal

Q: Your faith is at the core of who you are as a young woman. How has your faith strengthened you, inspired you and/or made you more confident and free to be who you are?

A: The bottom line is, I couldn’t do this without God. He’s the one who has opened every door, made way for every relationship, and empowered me to do what I do.

Ashley with her father, Doug Stringer.

Ashley with her father, Doug Stringer.

Q: You travel a lot with your family. What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to so far?

A: I’ve traveled to seventeen countries many of them multiple times and so far I don’t have a favorite. I’ve enjoyed them all!

Q: What’s someplace you’ve never been that you’d love to visit one day?

A: Greece, although I will be traveling there in the next few weeks! (Ashley just returned from Greece and loved it! See her photo below.)

Ashley’s 2017 trip to Greece.

Q: Name a musician, past or present, that is one of your favorite inspirations.

A: Tori Kelly and Celine Dion are my two favorite artists. I admire their vocal ability and Tori’s consecrated walk. 

Q: What is your favorite genre of music? Is there a genre you’ve not yet explored but would like to?

A: I really like Christian Pop and Christian Rap.

Q: Tell me something that your followers may not know about you yet.

A: Most people don’t know I’ve been homeschooled most of my life and really enjoy it.

About the Album

You’ve been busy preparing to release your new album…

Q: What is the name of your album and can you tell me a little about why you decided to do it?

A: My album will be entitled “Consumed By You”. I began to write music and thought releasing an E.P. would be cool but then God gave me enough material for an album.

Q: What is something significant that you’ve learned or discovered through the process of stepping out with your music and sharing it with the world?

A: Just how much healing can come from music

Q: Okay, Takeaways… What do you hope people will come away with after listening to this album?

A: That whatever my listeners may be facing, they can make it through. God loves them, and with Him, all things are possible.

Q: It’s been a joy to watch your talent and journey unfold. I’m sure this is just the beginning. Can you share something you’d love to explore or do next?

A: It’s hard for me to see too far down the road. I’m just excited for every ministry opportunity I have today. 

Q: Where can we hear and purchase/download your music?

A: I have a single out on iTunes and the album will release mid-February. You will be able to listen through Spotify, iTunes and YouTube.

Love this Girl! Stay tuned for more of Ashley Stringer, singer, songwriter and world changer.

Connect with Ashley Stringer!

The best way to connect with me is through my website or my social media accounts.

Facebook: @AshleyStringer

Website: AshleyStringer.com

Instagram: @Ashleymstringer

Twitter: @AshleyStringerr

YouTube: Watch/Listen to Ashley on YouTube

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Speaking of Love…

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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” -1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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Simple Smile: Anti-Bullying Song by Ashley Stringer

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“Simple Smile” is an anti-bullying song written by Ashley Stringer. Ashley is a fourteen-year-old singer-songwriter who has a passion to share her gift of music to bring hope and healing to those who need it most. She writes:

“This song was written when I was twelve years old. I realized the value of affirmation that would come from a smile, and the deep hurt that can occur when one feels rejected by their peers.

My prayer is that we would recognize that smiles are priceless, and when shared, they can change someones outlook. Share a smile, and be givers of hope.”

“Bullying is a physical or psychological aggressive behavior intended to harm or hurt others. The bully uses offensive bullying words in the process of victimization, states NoBullying.com. ” The general view is to make the affected person seem worthless, unloved, and uncared for.”

The Bully Project says, “Bullying today does not just happen at school. It happens on the streets of our towns, in our homes, at extracurricular activities, at camp, online (cyberbullying), and in many other places.” They’ve created a film called, “Bully” that speaks to this issue. According to their website, 3 million kids are bullied each month, and 13 million kids are absent from school every year because of bullying.  

Many youth suicides have been connected with some form of rejection or bullying, to the extent the victims no longer felt welcome in this world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on youth suicide states that suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year. Read my blog Victims of Bullying.

Whether bullying occurs at home, in school, in a public venue or online, it is always victimization. It is always connected to rejection or trying to diminish another’s self-worth. And it is always wrong.

The Bible says that out of the heart, our mouths speak. Unfortunately, too many hearts, instead of being filled with contentment, goodwill and joy are filled with just the opposite and it’s spilling out and doing incredible damage. I’m grateful for people like Ashley, who understand that even the simple, under-valued things like befriending someone who’s lonely, listening and showing compassion, helping someone in need, offering a prayer, or a simple smile can literally change someone’s day, their mind, their world and possibly even their future. Just by knowing someone “out there” cares, means there is still hope. Listen to Simple Smile and Watch the Music Video by Ashley Stringer and share with someone who needs to hear it!

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

“Understanding Bullying” CDC Fact Sheet

Information on Bullying by StopBullying.Gov

“Impact of Bullying Words on the Victim” by NoBullying.com

Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide: The Lasting Effects of Bullying 

The Bully Project

Online Security Tips for Parents & Kids

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2015

Stop Bullying Now!: A resource website sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that addresses the warning signs of bullying, how to talk about bullies, how to report bullies and cyberbullying and offers a 24-hour help hotline for victims at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Scars Speak

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What comes to mind when you read the word SCAR?

A scar can be left over from a surgery or a “trophy” on a veteran of war. It can be a reminder of a painful accident or a traumatic physical assault. And not all scars are visible to the eye. Sometimes we carry internal scars caused by wounds from a verbal assault, emotional or psychological damage.

“We’re stronger in the places we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway

One thing all scars have in common is they tell us that at some point in time, trauma occurred. They also tell us by their nature, the incident that caused the trauma happened in the past. The hurt may or may not remain, but the scar always does.

Some may look at their scars and be unaffected or even laugh because they don’t have any recollection of the actual incident. They may have had surgery and been under anesthesia. Or, they may have received their wound in an accident but their memory of the event has been erased.

There are some people, however, who have to look in the mirror and live with negative memories associated with their scars every day. They are the ones I’m writing about today. Scars caused by abuse, neglect or violence. Their scars are a constant and merciless reminder of pain. The relentless pain of hatred, rejection or violence against their person or spirit. Those memories summon our worst nightmares and haunt us with torment. Sometimes the scars taunt as if to say, “You deserved what you got” or “You’ll never be good enough. You’ve got the scars to prove it”. They are reminders of the powerlessness in abusive encounters. To some, a permanent warning sign to stay inside an imposed boundary. And they can’t be erased. The most we can do is cover them so the world can’t see. Because if the world sees them, they will wonder how our scars came to be, and we can’t bare to reveal or re-live the trauma.

Donita’s mother burned her with cigarettes and left scars from beatings with an iron hanger. Veronica’s uncle sexually assaulted her and her sister leaving a different set of scars. The pain of shame on top of sexual assault with the pressure of keeping a secret no girl should have to bare. Morgan’s arm is scarred with needle marks from a life she desperately wants to forget from her drug-addicted past. As beautiful as she is, Chandler wears scars under her clothes from cutting. No one knows because she masks it with a fake smile. Shauna wears long sleeved blouses and lots of bracelets to cover her wrists after attempting suicide. Makeup and jewelry cannot completely hide years of abuse to Trina’s face and neck at the hands of an abusive husband. Women and girls with faces and bodies acid-burned by their own husbands, fathers, brothers and family members–people they should’ve been able to trust to love and protect them. Every single scar from abuse cries out, “Why me?” Our faces, our bodies, our minds and our spirits are such a deep part of our identity. When we are assaulted in any way that is meant to inflict injury and pain by another, visible or not, it is inexcusable. When it is self-inflicted pain or abuse, we hurt and scar the same.

Thankfully, as the saying goes, beauty truly can come from “ashes”. We can rise to a better place. The other thing that all scars have in common is they Tell a Story. Your story. A very personal story. A painful story. A pain-filled story. But yours, nonetheless. So what’s so great about having a personal painful story? Nothing. That is, nothing in and of itself. But your scars, our scars, tell us and the world, “I am here!” They say without speaking a word, “I lived through it!” THAT is the story. THAT is the grace. It is your badge of courage. It says you are a fighter, a victor.

The truth is, the scars are proof that you made it through. You are meant to be here. And maybe one day, you will come to understand that you lived (or made it through the pain) to tell your story so that others can learn from it. And in so doing, what someone tried to take away from you, (your confidence, self-worth, freedom, identity, voice) ended up positioning you to give strength (and courage and hope) to another. And in the process, gave you back the voice no one could ever truly take.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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America: We Can Choose Better

American Flag (Kevin Morris)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current personal, national and now global discourse about our nation. About our future. About our families. About us as unique individuals. Sadly, the “discussion” phase buckled under the weight of disrespect, mistrust, hatred, violence and eventual anarchy. Tidal wave after tidal wave of blame. I suppose it’s nothing new to the human race. But it’s ugly and messy and us not at our best. We can choose better.

People are fighting for what they say they believe in for the whole. But in so much of the activity, it is not. It is for themselves. When our soldiers fight for our nation, they check their political party and personal beliefs at the door. Why? Not because these things aren’t worthy. Because they believe in something much greater than their own personal preferences and opinions. They are fighting together to secure and strengthen something that transcends the individual struggles. And importantly, they know that unity matters. There is power in unity. The same goes with families. Healthy families choose to go higher. They choose the greater good. When we step outside of our personal protective walls, we can see a world much bigger than ourselves. Humanity seems to trip on “self” a lot.

Unfortunately, we have come to a place in history where we can’t even agree on the definition of “greater good”. Therein lies the rub. A nation divided against itself. Sounds cannibalistic. And because of our collective intolerance, pride and catering to self-interest, we’re about to lose much more than an eye. I would like to see a nation fighting together, not AGAINST itself, fighting FOR its common good. But then again, we can’t seem to agree on what “common” means anymore either.

Sounds dismal. And it is, if you believe that’s the end. But it’s not. We still have the freedom to dream, create, build, speak, worship and to “become”. To become smarter, braver, kinder, more reasonable, giving, thoughtful, compassionate, prayerful, wiser, loving and discerning than we were before. But it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. Who do you want to become?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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