Friday, June 10, 2016

On The Road Home

They say that it can be life-changing to go to another country and serve in some way. I've served at orphanages in Mexico, played music in the Baltic States and enjoyed leading worship in Germany with women gathered from all over the world. 

Though some people may have immediate life-changing results by taking such trips, I think my experience has been that the impact comes in a gentle, quiet way. Perhaps the way a seed appears to be sprouting weeks after you planted it and you almost forgot.

I just returned from Thailand where I met people from all over the world who are working with children in desperate need. But the most transforming moment happened at the airport on my way home. When my friend and I arrived at the airport in Chiang Mai to start our long trek home, we discovered a group of our African friends laughing and having a great time at the same departing gate. 
Saying goodbye to our African friends.
To our delight, we found out we were all on the same flight to Bangkok. While we waited to board, they shared funny stories from the conference. For instance, they didn't realize you had to pay for all the snacks in your hotel room and had been enjoying them all week, marveling that they would find a new supply every night, only to discover that they had to pay for everything they ate.

We also heard stories of hardship, of saving for a whole year to be able to attend the conference and having their belongings stolen on the way to the conference. 

On and on the stories went. We laughed and cried and ended our time together with prayer, in French (well, the Bishop prayed in French) and I cried as we parted ways.  Something about it touched me deeply. Their walk of faith seems to take them on roads much more difficult than mine.

Last week I was reading in Hebrews 11 - the great faith chapter - and somehow it stirred up those same feelings I had when we parted ways at the airport with our African brothers. Everyone's path is different in the Hebrews passage. Some people suffered greatly and others saw their dreams come true.

I could sense a song brewing. Lately, I've been trying to practice writing by reading a passage, pondering it and then writing a short song about it - all in a very short amount of time. (They say you need to write 100 songs before you write a great one, so I'm working away at my 'hundreds'.) I thought I'd share it with you.

On The Road Home
by Frances Drost

plan your own way
I'll plan mine
walk your own path 
I'll walk mine
plow your own ground
I'll plow mine
hoe your own row
I'll hoe mine
                            we're all headed in the same direction                           
so if we meet at an intersection
let's not compare
how the other fares
on the road home
on the road home

plant your own seeds
I'll plant mine
grow your own crop
I'll grow mine
reap your own food
I'll reap mine
share your own stuff
I'll share mine

         we're all headed in the same direction           
so if we meet at an intersection
let's not compare
how the other fares
on the road home
on the road home

To listen to the song in its raw form, you can watch the video of it on YouTube. Just click the link (or video) below.

Or click here to view song video.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Low Blow.

I pulled the blankets up over my head. I felt sick down deep in my gut. "Please, don't make me get up", I groaned inwardly. The phone call had not been good news and from all appearances could cost me a lot of money.

What happened to my sparkly ambition for early morning exercise I wondered? Now I just wanted to stay in bed, pull the curtains shut and turn off my phone, my computer, my life. I even went back and re-read my own blog "Stairway to Something Better" posted a few weeks ago to try and give myself some encouragement.

Dumb blog.

How can one phone call send a person reeling so far down that they wish for someone to just "knock them out" so they can't feel any pain? Please, let the bell ring!!! Someone count to eight and declare the fight OVER.

A "Low Blow" is a punch deemed by the referee to be below the legal level.

I've felt this way before.

Fifteen years ago we had just celebrated Memorial Day with a picnic together as a family and I noticed my Father seemed especially weak as he tried to lift the left over firewood into the trunk of the car. The next morning, the phone rang intrusively at 7:00 a.m. and it was my mother telling me they were taking him to the ER. He was coughing up blood. Three days later, he passed away with the whole family gathered around his hospital bed. It was a gut-wrenching week.

It took me a long time to get over that dreaded feeling every time the phone rang early in the mornings (and that happens frequently because we are self-employed and customers call early in the morning). I despised the old green phone hanging on the wall.

The "Low Blow" comes when the Doctor discovers a spot on your mammogram and calls you back in to be re-examined.

Or your job has been terminated and they've hired someone younger.

It's a very low blow and it usually comes out of nowhere.

On my recent trip home from Thailand, the last flight was 14 hours, so I watched a few movies to pass the time. (I was too brain dead to accomplish anything significant.) In the movie, "Creed", the former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

I was delightfully surprised at the ending of the movie. It didn't end the way I thought it probably would. You know, typical story of a kid from a rough background who rises to the top, beating all odds, following his dreams and wins - to the shock of everyone in the crowd.

Nope. Didn't end that way.

I could connect with this story! Especially after getting the phone call that sent me to my bed looking for solitude and a chance to disconnect from life. Sometimes, I could be really tempted to just throw in the towel and forget this whole "dream" stuff.

It is very hard. And truth is, it only seems to get harder.

Since I usually hope to inspire and motivate through what I write, this time I decided that I would let you know that I have my times of doubt, struggle and tears. I want to turn back and just live a normal life - forget the passions and callings deep inside. Don't even get into the ring to fight. Just sit in the bleachers and watch others fight their way to wherever they think they need to be going.

You see, that's what a "Low Blow" is. It's a punch deemed by the referee to be below the legal level. The difference between life and the boxing ring, however, is that we don't get to determine what the legal level is in life. I wish I could stand up and say, "ok, I've had enough of this, ring the bell, let's move on, leave me alone now". We don't seem to get to do that. I don't mean that we don't ever fight. We just don't seem to get to pick our fights.

So here's what I gleaned from the movie, even before I knew I'd need it:

1.) Having a team around you that loves and supports you is worth everything!!

Creed received an encouraging note from his Mom, expressing her belief in him right before his fight. He was embraced by his coach and his girlfriend at the end. They had walked in with him and they had walked out with him. The crowd served only as on-lookers and cheerleaders. His inner circle gave him strength. Choose your inner circle carefully. You'll need them.

I am thankful for my husband and my sister, and a circle of friends who support me no matter what.

2.) Sometimes the greatest victory is that you simply make it through to the end of the fight. Not that you take first place.

is the hard work you do 
after you get tired of doing
 the hard work you already did." 

Newt Gingrich

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Stairway to Something Better.

I stared out the glass doors pondering whether or not I should wander out into the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand, for my morning run. If I did, I would be ignoring my friend's request to use the indoor fitness center instead of venturing out into the streets alone. (The last thing she needed was for the guest worship leader to turn up lost.) If I stayed inside, I'd feel doubt about it!

I strongly dislike indoor fitness centers. Especially when there are new roads to explore. True, I was in unfamiliar territory, but still, I love investigating new landscapes and discovering unique paths - especially in a new country, on foot.

I paused for a moment longer.  Finally, choosing honor over adventure, giving in to what was sure to be "confinement", I turned and meandered toward the steps to see what I could discover within the walls of this new, temporary home.

Once I found the fitness center, I was surprised to find that it was closed.  Now what was I going to do? The temptation to ignore my friend grew stronger.

Made of ornate wooden rails and marble floors, the stairway before me offered a unique option. StairMaster anyone? Sure, it wasn't the adventure I had hoped for, but why not explore the options within my restricted area? I glared at the flight of steps and decided they would have to do.

But as the stairway continued upward, it began to not only challenge my physical endurance (what was I thinking?) but also my bravery. The beautiful floors and railings were changing with each new level, and not in a good way. Where was this leading me anyway? With some hesitation, I continued upward.

"Hang in there kiddo," I said to myself.

"GIVE UP," my legs screamed.

"You can always turn around and go back down," I argued with myself.

The higher I went, the less attractive the stairs became.

Just as I considered turning around and heading back, I discovered an open door at the top of the stairs (18 floors later). Propped open by a bucket, the door invited me to give in to my curiosity and take a peek. My leg muscles begged for a break.

As I stepped out on to what was obviously the top of the building, I wished I hadn't watched so many TV shows where the super hero and the villain end up on the rooftop to finish their final battle. (You know, the ones where the door slams shut behind them and they have to face each other.) I could almost hear the door slam shut behind me, permanently locking me out, away from any possibility of rescue. After all, no one knew I was up there and if that door slammed shut, I was in big trouble.

But with one glance around the roof and it's panoramic view of the city, my quandary over the "open door" vanished.

Suddenly, I giggled with delight at my new found stage. It became my dance floor, my running track and my worship zone for the week. How could I have known that by persevering up those steps, I would actually find something not only better, but amazing? Plus, I honored my friend's request at the same time.

Confinement? No way!! I called it freedom.

Every step had been worth it. 

I was reminded of how often life's circumstances can cause us to feel confined. We have an objective in mind but for one reason or another we feel prevented from achieving it.

What if you:

1) Look for another way to accomplish your objective?
2) Discover a whole new possibility because you took another approach?

“The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. 
Laugh at them, 
tread on them, 
and let them lead you to something better.” 

- Enid Blyton
Mr. Galliano's Circus

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Long Term Stitches

I should have never told her that I was bored. 

Or maybe I should have.

All I know is that I went from complaining that I was bored to having to make a quilt. What teenage girl wants to sit and do that? Some might, but not me! 

From old clothes to scraps of leftover material, I had to sew patches together, one by one. I've never been good at sewing straight seams and this was the ultimate test of my patience. But today, thanks to that summer of boredom, I have a beautiful finished quilt that I treasure. 

We just celebrated Mother's Day and it's a good time to be reminded that if we want to create families that last, we must be patient and make stitches that will hold them together through all kinds of experiences. They are what I call long term stitches.

There are so many threads of positive traits my parents sewed into the fabric of my life. Not only do I have a beautiful array of material to spread on my bed, but I also have an assortment of healthy lessons and good work ethics that my parents gave me.

What are you stitching into your children or someone else that you love?

As I reflect on my upbringing, I realize there are 3 lessons I learned from the quilting experience with my Mother, for which I am thankful.

1.) Use boredom as a springboard to create something special. 

  • Don't just sit in front of the computer or tv. 
  • Read a book together, pull weeds, tell stories, play games, make a quilt, ride a motorcycle.

I'm so thankful that when I have a free moment, I am generally anxious to put that moment to use. I think that must have come from my parents who valued spending your time wisely and though I am quite sure I complained about having to make a quilt that summer, I can assure you that I am very glad she made me find something creative to do with my time.

2.) Teach them the value of long term stitches.

  • Help them see the value of a finished project.
  • Teach them how to see something through to the end.

I remember when I was living in Oklahoma, attending school. I had moved out there to attend Bible school and become skilled in studying the scriptures. However, while I was out there, I discovered a school that interested the musical side of me. I went to check it out and was eager about switching to their school to study music.

I was on the phone, telling my parents about this new possibility when my Father gently encouraged me to finish the schooling where I had already started. I could always pursue the other training later, but he wanted me to follow through with my previous decision.

I'll never forget that advice, and I'm so glad I kept my commitment. When I finished, I moved to Florida and met my husband, thanks to an opportunity I learned about at the school where I finished. But if I hadn't stuck it out, I would have most likely never learned of the opportunity in Florida, or met my husband. 

3.) Teach them that even small pieces and "scraps" can be used and made into something special. 

  • Affirm them for small accomplishments.
  • Show them how they fit into a bigger picture.

When someone you love makes a mess of something, or does something seemingly insignificant, be sure to help them see the ways it can still be made into something beautiful or the reason it is still significant in the bigger scheme of things.

I spent a few years in the banking industry and though I enjoyed the people I worked with, I soon became bored with the job. I did administrative tasks that felt insignificant, like clipping ads from other banks out of newspapers so that the VP of Marketing could see what other banks were doing. I would squirm when bank Executives walked by my desk. I hoped they knew I wasn't just sitting and reading the paper. There was a purpose to my job!

Those years could seem like a waste, but the truth is, I have been able to use those administrative skills in my music ministry and keep accounts of expenses, income, booking information, traveling details and so much more. I scan for ways that other people in my line of work are operating and try to learn from them, just as I was doing for my boss when I clipped the ads of other banks.

Some of the material used in the quilt my mother had me make were "scraps" of material. Leftovers. Old dresses that I outgrew. But through careful planning and creativity, we were able to find a use for them.

That's the kind of value you can teach your children, your friends and anyone you come in contact with. Help them appreciate the scraps and leftovers in their lives and believe that it all fits into a bigger plan. After all, creating anything of lasting beauty takes long term stitches of patience, foresight and encouragement.  

Thanks to my Mother,
I have this beautiful quilt that we finished together.

Friday, May 6, 2016

From Slobbering to Wobbling to Baby Steps.

He slobbered all over what was going to be our holiday dinner table. Gross!!!!

But as gross as it was, how could you NOT cheer for little Kayden? He was learning to use his arms and legs as he wobbled across the table. The whole family sat and watched him struggle to make progress, his mother urging him to come to her. He kept trying.

It was obvious to all of us that soon he would be crawling. Once he could crawl, he could take baby steps and then nothing would hold him back!

Holding little Kayden on Thanksgiving Day, 2015.
Kayden is my great, great nephew and I think he is the most loved little boy on this planet. 

I am 50 years older than him, but I relate to his struggles. I've been slobbering and drooling over my dreams and wobbling 'across the table' in front of my family for years. They have clapped and cheered for me, thank God!   

I drooled over the possibility of doing my first recording.

Recording my first CD project, "Under The Big Blue Sky".
After I wobbled to the studio I struggled to accept the sound of my voice playing back to me from the recording equipment. (It takes a long time to get used to hearing yourself in a studio.)

Learning the whole process of recording with David Levy at Legacy Lab.
I crawled on to the stage after my first CD was finished and presented it to the world.

My first CD release concert: "Under The Big Blue Sky".
Please clap and cheer for me, I thought. Some day, I want to be able to stand on my own two feet and walk.

Fortunately, they clapped and cheered. And I kept crawling toward my dream.

I drooled over the idea of doing a Portraits of White concert with an orchestra and grand piano and I crawled ever so clumsily toward the conductor asking him to help me. I crawled all the way through the first year of planning, discovering what it really takes to do what I had just slobbered over.

I learned that it's easier to just sit and drool.

I crawled on to the stage a little more confidently than the early years and wouldn't you know, people still clapped and cheered as I crawled 'across the table' again.

Portraits of White 2014.
After the first Portraits of White concert, I finally took my first big baby step. Something shifted inside of me and I became even more focused on slobbering over my dreams. Time to suck it up and start walking, I said to myself.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Lao Tzu

I started drooling over another dream a couple of years ago and it went like this:

  • Michael Hyatt's "This Is Your Life" podcast promoted the SCORRE Conference with Ken Davis and I drooled over going to it.
  • A link to another podcast appeared in my 'in box' one day and I began listening to the Dynamic Communicators Podcast with Ken Davis and I started drooling even more over the SCORRE Conference.
  • This week I stopped slobbering and attended the conference. 
  • I wobbled up to the podium and gave my first speech in front of my coach (and 7 others) and fell flat on my face. I went to my room defeated, but determined.
  • I stuck with it all week and had to speak 2 more times. (I thought I would die.) But they all clapped and cheered as I continued to wobble 'across the table' in front of everyone. I took my second baby step and everyone cheered some more. Fortunately, I was not alone in the nursery room.
  • The icing on the cake? Meeting Ken Davis himself and learning from him all week after hours of listening to him on the podcast and drooling over attending some day.
Meeting Ken Davis, after winning a whole pack of his resources by tweeting!
(Maybe there really is something to twitter after all.)

If you are ever going to pursue your dreams, you must realize it's a lifelong process and from my experience, it starts with 3 questions:

1.) What makes you drool?

2.) What makes you so determined that you're willing to look like a fool, wobbling after it?

3.) When you start to get a taste of your dream, can you be content with baby steps?

One day you'll wake up and realize you are well on your way to your dream. So don't be afraid to slobber, wobble and take baby steps!

Look at little Kayden go now!!!
(Thanks Derek and Brittany Albert for letting me use pictures of Kayden.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Golden Piano

I don't remember where this piano came from but I do know this: I kept it in hopes that someday I'd have a real grand piano. They say that having a picture or some kind of visual of your dream is a good way to keep it alive. So I held on to this little golden piano.

Now, I'm parting with it. It's item # 30 on my list of "50 things to part with before I'm 50".  My dream has come true. I can part with the little metal replica of what I really longed for.

Another piano I will be parting with soon is the first piano I ever played. It was my Mother's first and only piano. She bought it as a young woman with her own money. It will be item # 50 and will be re-located to the home of my Mother's first daughter-in-law.  Nancy married my Mother's first-born son who was killed in a tragic farm accident when he was 26. I'm glad she can keep it.

I have to say that this has been one of the more difficult things to part with on my list, even though I thought I was ready.  Yesterday, I dusted it off to get it ready for it's new home and I was a bit emotional.

I don't know that I was actually playing the piano in this picture. LOL!
My Mother says I just wanted my picture taken!  So she dressed me up and curled my hair. 
I was happy as could be on this piano until one day my piano teacher bought a beautiful Yamaha baby grand and I was no longer content with our Wurlitzer.  From the first moment I laid eyes on that baby, I wanted one. I started praying for one and have kept on asking for over 30 years.

Playing a duet with Donna Houser - my piano teacher (on her baby grand).
Preparing for my senior recital on the Yamaha at Mrs. Houser's home.
On February 6, 2013, my very own baby grand arrived at my studio. It was my Mother's birthday and we had a frightful snow storm, but the piano movers braved the roads and came anyway.  My prayers had been answered.

My very own Yamaha baby grand.
My kitten loved the piano too.  She'd spend hours on the lid gazing out the window.
Bad kitten!
Finding the baby grand has a unique backstory.

After suffering from debilitating depression, I decided to see a counselor who encouraged me to do something I loved to do as child. Clearly, that was ice skating. "I want you to go ice skating", she said. That's not what I expected to hear from a professional therapist. But I took her advice to heart - about a year after she suggested it.  I know, I'm a little slow. What good could that possibly really do anyway, I wondered.

I had always loved ice skating, but this time, when I stepped onto the rink during a public skate session, something happened inside me. I could feel a new electricity and an idea was borne. A week later, I was at a rink in Harrisburg, at 6:00 a.m. with a new pair of skates and a determination to learn how to figure skate - for real!

In the following weeks, my husband and I sat down and decided that if I was really going to pursue the dream of doing a big Christmas concert, I should have a grand piano to practice on. He would contact our local bank and start the process of borrowing the money to buy one. We prefer not to borrow money, but for some reason, my husband was open to this idea.

We decided together how much we could afford to borrow and went on with our day. I kept going to the rink as usual and he promised to make arrangements with the bank.

One morning, about two weeks into my skating endeavor, I walked into the rink and my coach began a conversation with me.

"Hey - you're a musician - do you know of anyone who might want a grand piano?"

"Well........I might.  What kind of piano?"

"It's a Yamaha, baby grand."

"What color is it?" (I had my heart set on a shiny black one just like my teacher's.)

"It's shiny black", he said in his adorable British accent.

The next morning after skating, I went to his house and played the piano. It was the perfect size for my little studio. It was everything I had wished for. As it turns out, he and his family were moving back to England and didn't want to risk moving the piano across the ocean. This was a fact he couldn't tell me at the time when I asked why they were selling it. Due to privacy issues with a new job he was taking in the UK, he couldn't tell me anything.  

The good news is, I got a piano and the bad news is, I lost my coach. But that's a different story.
He took what we offered and it was such a great deal, we didn't have to borrow the money after all.

Do you have a dream?

Find a small replica or picture of that dream and keep it where you can see it often.

Don't give up on it. Enjoy the journey until it comes true. I know - that seems like an oxymoron when I've been suggesting we let go of things - but there is a time and place for holding on to something that represents a future dream or goal. Trust your instincts when evaluating your "stuff".

From the Wurlitzer, to the Yamaha at my teacher's home, to the golden piano to help me hold on to my dream, to the figure all ties together. It's the beauty of accumulating something and then being able to let go.

It's a beautiful thing to let go of old things and make room for the new. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

High Voltage Dress. BEWARE!

There are 2 yellow dresses hanging in my closet. One used to be full of electrical charge and the other is just a yellow dress.

As I part with "things" I'm learning a lot about why I hold on to stuff.

I look at it this way: every item has varying degrees of voltage. Some things are loaded with emotion and memories and are very "alive" with emotional electricity.  Other things have no voltage whatsoever and getting rid of them is as painless as grabbing a wire that has been cut off from the power supply. There is no life left in it and you receive no harm to your physical body by touching it. Therefore, it's no big deal to let it go.

The dress on the left (above) was a very special dress. I felt really pretty in it. Besides the fact that yellow was my Mother's favorite color, I was very slim at the time I purchased it and I wore it for my very first CD release concert "Under The Big Blue Sky". I even had special yellow shoes to match.

Wearing my yellow dress at my first CD release concert in 2000.
To this day, having matching shoes always feels like a luxury item to me because I rarely had special shoes to match an outfit when I was growing up. They were either white for summer or black for winter. When I have a pair of shoes that perfectly matches a special dress, I feel extra lucky.

One day, my Mother and I were driving somewhere in the car together. In what seemed like a random act, she reached over with her index finger and poked my thigh. "You're getting fat", she said. I was horrified. My Mother had never spoken to me about my weight. I don't tell this to condemn her because, honestly, I've said some things in my lifetime that have shocked me and have been just about as horrible, so it's only to give you a sense of how words, formed like seeds, can be planted, take root and grow - no matter who says them!

I don't recall much after that, but I can tell you that a long time later I was getting ready for a concert in Canada at a church and I will never forget putting on my special yellow dress and suddenly realizing that the skirt was very tight in my thigh area. A very horrific feeling came over me. Had I really gained that much weight?

From that day on, the yellow dress became a measuring stick for me. If the skirt was too tight, I sunk into deep shame. I began to be very self-conscious about my weight and how my clothes fit...or didn't fit. I'll never forget the bathroom in the church where I first became aware and overly concerned. I don't even remember much of the concert, just that moment in the bathroom.

I began a slow descent into obsession with weight gain/loss. I began to be afraid that every bite I ate (even healthy) was going to immediately jump from my mouth right to my thighs. I remember reading Karen Carpenter's story and her struggle with an eating disorder. At the time I read about it, I pitied her but could not relate to her. Years later, I found myself struggling with some of the same issues.

A few weeks ago when I spotted that same yellow dress in my closet, I pulled it out and smiled. Ah yes. It was always full of sparks in years gone by. I remembered the apprehension I'd feel when I'd start to put it on - wondering if I could fit into it or not. If I could, I felt relieved. If I couldn't fit into it, I felt ashamed and overwhelmed.

The downward spiral would begin.

I've been on a journey for the past year. I'm learning to eat well, exercise regularly and make healthy choices, for healthy reasons and stick to it! Our bodies benefit from healthy choices no matter the reasoning, but it leaves our soul in poor condition when we are making good choices for the wrong reason. We can become obsessed with how we look (or don't look). And I've been there.

You may or may not remember my post about The CSD Diet.  (The Christmas Show Dress Diet.) The goal I set last year has been reached but in a much healthier way, thanks to much prayer and perseverance. I've lost 20 pounds and been able to keep it off. But it's not over. I have to continue to make good choices - and for the right reasons! That's no small task, as many of us know.

I'm ready to let go of the yellow dress. The sparks that came from that dress no longer exist. I look at the dress and smile and I feel ready to move on. I'm not even going to try it on. It's moving out of my closet and my life!

I know that letting go of stuff is hard. Now I'm starting to see why. It usually goes much deeper than just a fond memory. So here's what I'd suggest if you want to get rid of things but are having a hard time.

1.) Start with easy things - like a hair pin or sock that has a hole in it.

2.) Keep a list of what you are getting rid of. (Keeping a list can make you feel accomplished!)

3.) Ask "why" is this hard to let go of when you get to more difficult things.

4.) Sit down and write out what that item means to you - the memories you have associated with it and you may begin to find it's importance is much deeper than you thought. You may associate that item with a death, a life or the day you lost your job.

5.) If there is a big electrical charge in an item and you just can't let go, it's ok. No judgement! The day will come when you can let go.

6.) Choose a number to start with: 5 things, 10 things, 50....whatever you want!!! The key is to just start.

7.) Have fun! It can be amazing to let things go.

Open your life to a new era.