Thursday, April 23, 2015

Signed. Sealed. Delivered?

I signed the contract with a new venue to do another Christmas concert:
* sealed the envelope.
* mailed it....(the old fashioned way.)
* it's been delivered.

That first, big step is done - I have made my choice after months of deliberating and calculating.
I feel like I want to celebrate.
(The official announcement for the Christmas concert is coming soon, so stay tuned.)

It feels done.
But it is not - I have merely been relieved from indecision.
I have not been relieved from the fear and doubt I will face EVERY step of the way.
Every time I take the next step, I will be relieved from THAT decision and on to the next one.

So many large and small decisions/steps we make all the time.
Then there is the follow-through.

You want a life-companion.
So you decide together to spend the rest of your lives as one.
You sign the contract.
You say "I Do".
Then what?

Tomorrow you will wake up to the start of a brand new life.
You will learn which of you is a morning person - for real!
Do you like it quiet in the morning or do you like
Processing differences.

You want to lose weight.
You sign up for weight watchers.
You show up and weigh in.
Then what?

Tomorrow you must decide what to eat.
And the next day.
And the next.
Next week you will have to go back.
You could NOT go back.

Signing the contract is a big step.
Sealing the envelope feels final.
Mailing it - feels like the end, done, the final step.
But it's not.

There will be many more decisions ahead.
Frustration, joy, doubt, courage, fear and perseverance.

You decide.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What's your greatest battle? Inside or outside stuff?

Sometimes I think
if I could hide myself away
from the world and all I see
I'd be a better person
if I could live somewhere
far away from here
ignore the things I hear
I could live this life perfectly

But it's not the outside things
 that keep me from you
it's my heart 
all the inside things
it's not the outside things
 that keep me from your love
it's my doubt
 all the inside things

I know a place
I could lay the blame 
for the pain I feel inside
though I know I shouldn't do it
and I'd like to say
 it's all another's fault
that I'm not living free
but it's not them 
it's all in me

It's not the outside things 
that keep me from you
it's my heart
all the inside things
it's not the outside things 
that keep me from your love
it's my doubt
all the inside things

The outside only mirrors what's inside of me
a true reflection of the grace I truly need

Words & Music by Frances Drost

"I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." Romans 8:39 The Message

Friday, April 10, 2015

Never By Accident

I watched her fingers tremble as she pressed the strings against the wood, but they weren't trembling from nerves.  They were adding the rich vibrato that makes the cello sing.  Combined with her bow techniques, her poise and confidence, the little black notes on the page jumped off and brought my weary soul back to life.  Even the 'rests' were part of the moments.

I asked her if I could sit beside her and watch her play.  Her music has always touched me deep down in my soul and often makes me emotional.  When we play together, it becomes even more powerful.

How can inanimate objects like wood strung with catgut melt a person's heart? Like water that changes the shape of a hard rock over years of time.  Only my heart melts within just a few measures. A few seconds.

As I sat and beheld this amazing player on her well-worn instrument, I got new inspiration. The page she was playing from was written with piano and choir in mind.  It wasn't just for cello. Without the other members of the music performance, it would have sounded incomplete, albeit beautiful.  But it was written to go with other parts.

One page. That's all she had.  She couldn't see anything else. No choir music, no piano accompaniment.  Just her part. She had to trust that what she had would fit into the whole.

You might feel as if you are a tuba in a spa, but believe me, there is a spot for the tuba.  It adds incredible rich bass tones in the context of the whole. The gifts you have, the special wiring you came with, have a purpose and a place.

If everyone plays their individual part to the best of their ability, when it all comes together it will sound amazing, but you have to trust the person who wrote the arrangement.  You have to trust that he knew what all the other players would be doing and how your part fits in context.

Focus. Trust.  Faith.

I first wrote the piano piece called "Never By Accident" from a few simple notes. It happened by accident. But my producer wanted to add other players to what I originally thought would be a solo piano piece.  I couldn't quite catch his vision until the piece was completed.

I changed the original title from "By Accident" to the new name: "Never By Accident".  It was too beautiful to be an accident and it was now going on my CD.

You were not an accident.  You, like the piano in this song, are meant to be part of a bigger piece.

You are beautiful.  Don't shy away from letting yourself become part of something larger than you.

You weren't meant to play alone.

You were never an accident.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Settled or Unsettled?

It's the week of Easter and I've been asked to sing a solo with the choir. 

Musically, it's very simple.  But the words are very, very difficult for me.

Here's the first verse:
How I love to read
the book you wrote for me
you loved the world so much
you gave your son
written there in crimson
you told me I'm forgiven
it is done
it is done

I relate to those words.  

It's the lyrics of the chorus that I find a little 'unsettling':

So if you never speak another word of blessing

and the silence leaves me with a sense of loss
I'll remember when my heart begins to question
any doubt that you love me was settled at the cross

By Phil Mehrens & Lyn Rowell Lee Black

When I sing a song I take the delivery of the lyrics just as seriously as the delivery of the musical notes.

When I can't reach some of the notes, I work at it.  I practice it over and over.  I approach it from various angles and techniques until I find something that works.  I use the tools from my toolbox that I've accumulated over the years from various vocal coaches.  

But when the lyrics are hard to live, that's another story. A different set of tools  are required.

I think these songwriters must have a much stronger faith than I.  To promise that "I'll remember God's love for me if he NEVER speaks another word of blessing and when that kind of silence leaves me with a sense of loss," is quite a commitment.  I don't know about you, but there are so many times when I still doubt God's love for me.  

As I've been rehearsing this song, I've been letting the challenge of it sink deep into my soul.  Like Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14; "Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed." The Voice.

I relate.  I haven't yet arrived at the point where I can say ....if you NEVER speak another word of blessing..I'll be ok.  But I'm aiming for that.  I want to have such strong faith that I never doubt the power of the cross in my life. This is a walk of faith.  

When my husband gives me his word about something - I never have to question him on it.  There are times I need reassurance, but I've learned over time that I can count on his word to me.  Any doubt is usually because of my own insecurities - not his lapse in commitment to follow through.

I need to be that way with God.  I thrive on hearing from God.  His voice is my life-source.  If I think he's not speaking to me, I stop and ask him why, just to make sure I haven't closed my ears in some way, because I believe he delights in talking to us.

This song takes everything to another level.  It's Easter.  I want to have the kind of faith that really believes it was all settled at the cross, even when I am unsettled.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The CSD Diet

I was sitting in the pew at church, listening to the speaker.

I had been praying about my inability to say 'no' to food.

I think God answered my prayer that day.

It was a message on 'gluttony' - of all things.

Gluttony:  Excessive eating and drinking

Five forms of gluttony:
1.  Too soon
2.  Too expensive
3.  Too much
4.  Too eagerly
5.  Too delicately  - J.R. Briggs

I'm like most women in their 40's.  I struggle to maintain a desirable weight.  It's been almost a year since I injured my ankle and I am just now beginning to exercise regularly again without pain in my foot. I've gained between 15-20 pounds since that day in April last year.  Bummer.

Even though I have been trying to replace the snack foods I enjoy - my homemade cookies, cakes and pies - with nuts, grapes, oranges and apples, I began to realize that I just couldn't say no to eating, whether the food was healthy or not so healthy. Especially in the evenings.

I became even more alarmed when clothes that normally fit, were too tight.  That usually leads to self-hatred and frustration.  Many women know the cycle.  And it gets harder to break as we get older.  When it comes to losing weight, things that worked in our 30's don't work as easily in our 40's.

I think the thing that 'cut through the calories' as I was listening to the speaker was this statement:

Don't ask: How much is too much?
Ask: How dominated by the desire for this pleasure am I?

That's what I needed to hear.  See, I was thinking he'd address my portions and the truth is, I don't eat very big portions....but I AM dominated by the desire for the pleasure of eating.  That's where he got me.

I realize that even though I am learning to eat more healthily, I am still letting my flesh dictate my decisions.  Eating when it isn't necessary.  Eating just because I want to.  I think that's the excessive part.

"A glutton is one who raids the refrigerator in search of something to meet a spiritual need." - another quote by Briggs who could put away 6 baskets of fries at Red Robin.  He had his own struggles.  I appreciated his transparency.

I've made some changes since that message.  It's just what I needed.  It wasn't condemning.  It was freeing.

I want to be a singer/songwriter who is skilled and upright in every area of my life and I believe a part of that is self-control.  Discipline.  The ability to say 'no' to my flesh when it screams to have its way, in any area of my life.  Hopefully, as I practice discipline in every area of my life, when the big battle comes (whatever that may be) I will be well suited to fight.

So what is the CSD diet?  It stands for "Christmas Show Dress".  You can come up with your own special outfit. MOTBD - Mother Of The Bride Dress.  LCD - Leather Chaps Diet. Whatever works.

If I am tempted to eat when or what I don't need, I simply say to myself, "christmas show dress".   It gives a visual to my goal.  It's the reverse of waiting until you try on new clothes at the store and yell "I need to lose more weight".  Now I think about that dress before I eat the thing I don't need.  It's just a creative way to help me stay focused.

So there you have it.  Will I fail?  I hope not, but probably. That's what prayer is for.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Putting Feet To Your Dreams

It seemed so simple at the time.

Finish writing christmas songs, make a CD and then hire an orchestra and do a show. Oh, I knew it would be challenging, but the truth is, I had no idea HOW challenging. I didn't know it would take every ounce of creativity, faith and resource I had, plus generosity and support from others on so many levels.

Now that I'm on the other side of that dream, I realize that I've crossed over into a new season. I have woken up from the dream and can sort out what is reality and what is probably unrealistic.  My steps are much more decisive and my senses are sharply tuned into the seriousness of the dream.

On the day of the Portraits of White show last December, I did a concert over lunch for hundreds of women at a church in York and the following weekend I had three smaller events to do, and when I came home from that mini-tour in Northern PA, I found myself completely wiped out. There are many days that I am still feeling the affects of it. I carried this vision in my soul for years. I did not anticipate such a long recovery period after 'waking up'.

Friends of mine began to sheepishly ask (or else it seemed so) how I was doing 'after the show'. Those who know me well know that the 'after show' affects can be pretty monumental for creativity of this magnitude.  I appreciated their concern.  It was totally proper for them to check in on me and make sure I was ok. There is such excitement leading up to the moment and it's quite normal for a big let down to show up afterward.

The let down never came.  The overwhelming feeling that stayed with me and frankly, has never left, was a sense of soberness.

I think what has transpired is a shift from dreaming to walking.  My original dream was to do the show annually and build it to be something that folks would look forward to attending every year.  A night of music and inspiration to welcome them into the rush of the season in a gentle way. I still hope for that.

After having gone through it once, though, I now have a much more realistic picture of what will have to happen to see this come true.  I have taken months to ponder, pray, meet with others to evaluate last year's show and gather new information about this year's possibilities. It is a full time job. It is no longer a dream as such.  It is a walk that takes commitment almost every day with every breath that I have. The mystique of the dream has vanished.

When I met with the conductor in February, he cautioned me to make this decision carefully.  I have heeded his warning.

Part of my walk is to start blogging about it again.  I've rested from that for a season and have enjoyed blogging about other 'inside things'.  I think it's time to start putting my thoughts out there again.  I want to include you in my thought process again.  I found such support by doing that last year.

It also serves as a way of mentoring others who may be waking up from a dream and wondering what to do about it.

All I know is that there comes a time when you must put feet to your dreams and sometimes, your feet may get sore.  Make sure you're ready.

Anyone can dream.  Not everyone can find the wherewithal to see it through.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Shatter The Glass

Shatter the glass.  Don't just open it and let some fresh air in.  I need HELP - not just a little change here and there.  I need a NEW perspective.  A completely different view!

Do you ever feel that way?

A friend of mine had her life turned upside down when she moved to FL for a job opening, lost the job and then found out she had cancer.  Her world was shattered and not in a good way.  At first.

She moved back to PA and somehow found my music and we have become friends as a result.  One thing has led to another and she asked me to do a concert to help her raise money for an organization that took her by the hand and helped her to see a whole new world as a result of her journey with cancer.

We met at a coffee shop to talk about prayer, life and the concert.  When she told me some of the songs she wanted me to do, I said to her " you want all the dark songs?"  (I have a tendency to write on the dark side, although my most recent CD "Portraits of White" wouldn't agree with that - thank God!)  But left to my own devices, I do tend to write introspectively because frankly, that's the window from which I tend to sit and peer into life.  Slowly, over time, sunlight is starting to break through my window.

As we sipped our coffee, she pulled out an old song of mine - "Shatter The Glass" and asked me about it. As I began to share with her, I was reminded of how the song does seem to touch something deep inside people who have walked through tough seasons.  I went home and began working on a video of images to go with the song.  I was shocked to receive the following words in an e-mail from her.

"So I've been thinking about something you said Thursday, when I made known to you my 3 song requests for the concert. I don't recall your exact words, but I think you said something about them being dark songs.

For those of us like you, who have experienced death of loved ones too much, and for me, who has experienced a life-threatening illness (and my Dad's death), we see life differently. We see the darkness in life. Life is raw! Life is hard! Life isn't always fun! From my own experience, there were so many things I faced for the first time physically, as I was battling the cancer, that were just downright raw, and very humbling! I was not one to get sick. The worst I would get was a cold, stomach bugs, and maybe a touch of the flu every so often, but other than the day I was born, I had never spent time in a hospital. Had never been operated on. I didn't like taking medication, even over the counter. I was happy to keep the doctor away!

Your songs speak to the "rawness" of life! They are honest and they are authentic! They don't apologize...they just tell it like it is! I relate to that and I so appreciate that type of honesty and vulnerability.

But here's the don't leave your listeners in the "dumps", wallowing in that rawness. You bring your listeners up and you give them hope! You lift them up to Jesus!

For instance, in Nobody Sees...

"Nobody sees all those places I've been,
All the mistakes and my secret sins.
All of the tears when I fall on my face,
All of the times I'm in need of Your grace.
But You love me,
And forgive me"

I mean come on, how powerful are those words! The rawness is seen in the mistakes we have made and those secret sins that we hide from the world. But then look, there's a way out...God's grace, God's love, God's forgiveness! It doesn't get any better than that, does it?!

Those are not dark songs Frances! You don't write dark songs! Those are songs of love, and hope, and forgiveness, and second chances, and on and on...

To use a musical term that I have no idea what it is...your music has struck a chord with me. Your music speaks into my life and draws me closer to God! How can I not thank God for you and share it with the world!"

Thank you, my dear friend. Thanks for encouraging me to keep writing authentically.  May the music continue to help you 'see the view from heaven' as we work together to help shatter the glass and pull others from dark places.