Friday, May 19, 2017

Sing Anyway

Sing Anyway is a song on my newest CD project and is based on the book of Psalms. David seems to frequently challenge us to "sing" in the midst of the ups and downs of life. When I started writing it, I really liked where the song was headed but got stuck part way through.

After many tries and re-writes, I started praying for help to finish it and wouldn't you know, one day I happened to do an event for speakers and authors where award-winning singer-songwriter Babbie Mason was in the crowd.  We started talking afterwards and didn't really stop until we parted ways in the Atlanta airport. Somehow, we were both scheduled on the same flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta even though we had never met before that day. The airport and airplane became our writing room and she helped me finish the song.

The icing on the cake was having her record it with me in Nashville.

when the way is dark and you lose your song
sing anyway
when the faith you have is almost gone
sing anyway

light will come and the pain will ease
hope will rise with a melody
with a joyful heart
even if off-key
sing anyway, sing anyway

sing, sing out loud
find your voice 
though you don't know how
you'll be alright take a leap of faith
sing anyway, sing anyway

when you're in the fire and you feel it burn
sing anyway
when you hit a wall at every turn
sing anyway

lift your voice let the courage flow
mercy comes in the afterglow
and grace will make your weak heart grow
sing anyway, sing anyway

sing, sing out loud
find your voice 
though you don't know how
you'll be alright take a leap of faith
sing anyway, sing anyway

when you feel afraid of what lies ahead
sing anyway
and you start to doubt what God has said
sing anyway

faith will grow when you start to sing
praise will conquer anything
let the heavens hear your music ring
sing anyway, sing anyway

sing, sing out loud
find your voice 
though you don't know how
you'll be alright take a leap of faith
sing anyway, sing anyway

by Frances Drost and Babbie Mason

Babbie, Frances, Eric and Ronnie working on "Sing Anyway".

Saturday, May 13, 2017

When You Don't Have Your Mother.

It was very hard to say goodbye to my father when he passed away sixteen years ago. People told me that when your second parent dies it's even more difficult. I heard that piece of information but tried not to think about it. 

Once my mother took her last breath, I knew what they meant. "You feel like an orphan", some people say.  You can't really prepare for that feeling, even though people tried to tell me how it feels.


Celebrating my 16th birthday with my mother.
Unlike my father's death (which happened rather suddenly) there didn't seem to be one specific day when I said goodbye to my mother. In fact, every time I left her little room in the nursing facility, I felt like I was saying goodbye. I cried almost every time we parted. I knew the day was coming and I absolutely dreaded it.

Whether you've lost your mother physically or emotionally, (there are some who have a tumultuous relationship and feel "motherless"), Mother's Day can be a challenge. I passed by a rack of Mother's Day cards in the store this week and I could feel that lump in my throat and concrete block on my heart. 

But if there's anything I've learned from the many different deaths our family has experienced, it's that the sooner you can appreciate who you DO have left, the sooner you can heal from grief, and it's no different when it comes to your mother.

By definition, a mother is someone who gives birth to a child; to be or act as a mother to someone or to care for or protect someone like a mother. This means that any woman, whether younger or older, can actually be like a mother to you.  Look around you. 

I am thinking of a speaker and author, living in Florida, who has become like a mother to me in my ministry. I can talk to her about things that others would never understand because of the road she's traveled. She's given me wonderful advice for my own ministry. She's helped me understand what having a career in music and/or speaking ministry can do to your "normal" life and how to navigate. I always come home wanting to be more like her.

I am thinking of another woman, living in Texas, also a speaker and author, who became like a mother to me when my own mother was aging and starting to not be herself. I met Carole when I was beginning to feel the strains of caring for an aging parent and all the emotional upheaval that brings. Her words of encouragement were soothing to my tired soul.

Carole is no spring chicken herself and though she lost her mother and recently became a widow, she still travels, speaks, writes AND models caring for your body by keeping a regimented work-out schedule. What an example! She has been an inspiration to me and I come home wanting to be more like her.

There's another woman, living in Nashville, who is not an author or speaker, at least you won't find a 'book' in print, but she is writing a life that's worth studying.  She prepares the most delightful meals, keeps an immaculate home and models the beauty of a home-maker and wife, warming my soul with her example every time I'm there.

She loves spending time being a grandmother to her grandchildren and I often see her reading books, watching a movie or playing a board game with them. She reminds me that above and beyond my call to ministry, being a wife and home-maker is still at the top of the list of what women can offer their families. I always come home wanting to be more like her.

Sarah is younger than me, has three delightful children (at least when I'm there, ha!), serves as a Pastor's wife, runs a restaurant....and oh yeah, is helping her husband renovate the three story apartment building they live in. When I'm with her, I adore the way she mothers her children and models frugality and creativity. She inspires me with her calm spirit - which seems to be able to manage a hundred things at once. I always want to be more like her when I get home.

I could keep raving about the other "mothers" in my life, because I am blessed with a lot of women friends in my life who inspire me, but I'm sure you get the point. They come in the form of sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, cousins, employers, teachers, etc.

This Mother's Day, if you don't have a mother, this could be a day you'd rather skip over. I get it! But there are plenty of other women to celebrate; women who nurture our souls, our careers, our lives. In their own way, they contribute to our growth and vibrancy.

As you stop to remember the one who gave birth to you physically, celebrate the mothers around you who have helped to give birth to your soul - the ones who make you want to "be more like them when you get home".  Perhaps you could let them know how much they have impacted you.

You could even take this one step further and ask, how can I be a "mother" to someone else in my life? Each of us have plenty to share with others and we too can nurture the soul of other women. 



There are so many 'mothers' to celebrate this Mother's Day - even when you don't have your mother.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Seamstress or Songstress?

How do you figure out who you were created to be? It's a hard question to answer when you're young and even when you're old.

Recently I found an autobiography I wrote back in high school. Now that I'm 51 years old, I see life so differently than the teenage girl who wrote that. This excerpt from it evoked a sudden, deep belly laugh.

"I am not good at door to door witnessing, but if I could have my own home and bake things for the hungry and sew things for the needy people, and concentrate on one group of people for the sake of Jesus; my children, I would be happy. I would have my children with me and could concentrate on raising them to love God."

My mother and her bread!
Mother & I in the kitchen.
I can see the influence of my mother all over that paragraph. She loved making a home for us children. That's the picture she painted for me out of her own giftedness. She was a grand cook, seamstress, gardener and mother.

But when I'd slice my mother's freshly baked bread, I'd cut the slices into deformed shapes and mess up the rest of the loaf. (You have to cut a second slice to straighten the first.) I couldn't even do it right the second time. I still smile and think of her when I cut a crooked slice and can feel her smiling at my inability to slice bread.

A rabbit I made.
I don't know how I did it!
I tried to sew but I wasn't nearly as good as she was and I'd quickly get frustrated. 

That idealistic description of my high-school-self was a direct reflection of who my mother was and what she was good at. Not who I am.

Recently I spent some time with a friend who just turned 70. I've started asking my older friends what reflections they'd have for younger folks. This particular friend paused for a moment and then spoke thoughtfully: "you start to become comfortable with who you are and you don't have to try to be anything or anyone else."

I spent much of my life trying to be all that my mother was and that's not all bad, but it took me a long time to figure out who I really am, apart from her. I finally discovered something; I DO sew and cook.

I sew lyrics and melodies together providing garments of joy and laughter for people when they listen to the tunes. I marinate thoughts and truths in my slow-cooker brain and serve up hope in creative ways for people to sit and partake of food for their soul. So I guess you could say that I have the same gifts as my mother - they just express themselves in different ways.

It can take a long time to figure out who you really are and what you're really good at, but the journey is worth it and it's part of the pleasure of growing older. If you still find yourself trying to be what others are (or think you should be), hang in there. Life and time have a way of helping you figure out who you really are.

  • Pray often - asking God to lead you on this journey - spend time listening for His leading
  • Look for clues from your childhood - what did you love to do when you were young
  • What did other people tell you that you were good at? (maybe they still tell you)
  • Experiment - try new things

As you age, you'll see clues from childhood that point you in the right direction. Through years of living and hours of prayer, you begin to find a groove and rhythm to who you are as a person, and then you can sit back, enjoy the creation God made you to be and not care about anything else.

And when you reach that point, you feel very free.








Friday, April 28, 2017

What is a CD Release Party?

So what's the big deal about a CD release party and exactly what can you expect when you go to one?

I don't know what other people do, but I can tell you what I'm planning.....minus the surprises. (I don't want to reveal too much and spoil the fun for those who will come). 

By the way, everyone is invited.

Basically, it's like a baby shower, AFTER the baby has been born. You invite all your friends and family so you can show off the baby pictures and eat cake. People may get tired of seeing all the posts about the new music and invites to the party, but from the mother's perspective, you are over-the-top-excited because your baby is finally out of the womb and ready to start growing up. But for a short moment in time, everyone will pause, ooh and aah over the dear-to-you but maybe not-so-much-to-others creation you hold in your arms.


Since the music has no printed sheet music anywhere, these musicians pictured above have learned the music from the CD and simple charts. The project "Brand New Me" was recorded in Nashville, but these local musicians have come together to play it live and we range in age from early 20's to late 50's. We've had a lot of fun preparing.

Instrumental chart for "Out of My Box".
A party gives the artist a chance to share some behind-the-scenes trivia that you might not normally hear any other time and I've worked very hard to make this special. There is quite a story behind the title track and new theme of my life, "Brand New Me" and though only a book could reveal it all, here's some excerpts from a press release that went out recently.

"Musician Frances Drost had never had a figure skating lesson in her life when in 2014, at age 47, a serious case of debilitating depression landed her on the ice. Drost’s latest CD, Brand New Me, is a celebration of overcoming obstacles, learning to fly when life has tried to clip your wings and living on the edge — in a good way. She will be sharing her new music on April 29, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. at Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, Pa., to celebrate the CD’s release and her 50th birthday — though she just turned 51 on April 26, 2017.

Frances Drost — creator of the increasingly popular annual Portraits of White Winter Concert — began writing the title track, “Brand New Me,” while on the ice. “Every weekday morning I would get up at 4 a.m., pull myself together, jump in the van and drive for 45 minutes to skate from 6 to 8 a.m.,” Drost recalls. “I had done plenty of ice skating on our farm pond outside of Newville, but I had never had the opportunity to learn to figure skate. Now I was having the time of my life and subconsciously gaining some emotional ground as I glided across the ice.”

Finding inspiration from the intricacy of the art as she watched the young skaters whirl and fly around her, she began to fall in love with skating — in between falls. “But as I kept getting back up and trying again, a brand new me was emerging,” Drost says. “One day while skating and pondering the effects this childhood resurgence was having on me, I began composing ‘Brand New Me’:


Living on the verge of something just begun
I don’t have to do what I’ve always done
Feeling my heart pound a brand new theme
I’m pressing on to a bigger dream

I want to run to the edges
leap off of ledges
feel what it’s like to fly
I’m letting go of the old way
saying, hey, it’s a good day
look what I get to be
a brand new me

“I believe that no matter how hopeless a person might feel, there is always hope, and it often comes to us in the softest whispers, if we pay attention,” Drost says.

So if you're reading this and it's before April 29, 2017, you are more than welcome to come and see what it's like to release a CD.  Since we are serving birthday cake, please reserve a ticket.


If you can't make it, but want to hear more about the project itself you can watch the electronic press kit here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Shhhh.

I've been practicing a verse from the Psalms for 10 to 15 minutes early in the morning.

"For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation."
Psalm 62:1 

It can be challenging to quiet your mind and heart these days! Imagine banning ideas, worry, creativity, goals, anxiety and demands completely from your mind. After doing this over an extended period of time, I'm finding that there is so much more to this verse than what I originally read.

If you're like me, I feed on ideas, creativity, goals and yes, sometimes thoughts of worry. Silencing your soul is also not just being quiet, but not allowing your soul to feed on anything but God for it's strength.

In the process, I have discovered that silence is not just a set time of day where we try and think about nothing, but it is a state of being within our souls, and the more you practice it for a set amount of time each day, the more it becomes a part of your natural rhythm, all day.

Silence then becomes a way of "being", not something you take time to "do" and it's quite powerful.







Friday, April 14, 2017

Upheaval

I woke up in the middle of the night and the word upheaval reverberated in my spirit.

Somehow, it brought a sense of relief. Not because I like upheaval, but because I finally had a word to assign to the feelings I've been experiencing for months. Everything feels like it is shifting and I have moments of sheer delight AND panic.  Most upheaval comes to us without our request but I brought this on myself.

Recently I was digging in my flower beds and hitting the dirt pretty hard with sharp edged tools; shovel, hoe, rake. Have you ever noticed that most heavy-duty garden tools come with sharp metal edges or points? 



I realized, as I was digging, that I was causing upheaval to the earth. I know from years of experience that it's all for a good cause. In a few months we'll enjoy fresh vegetables on our plates and flowers on the table.

I haven't heard much complaining from the dirt as I hack away at it with my hard-edged tools. I wonder if it cringes at the agitation? Maybe it enjoys the process? I do know that when you finally insert the seeds, watch the rain fall and feel the sun bake the ground that you can almost hear the earth cheering as the seed pops up from the hacked up ground.

And so it is with my life. Last September I felt I needed to make a choice between staying with my church position as Worship Director (which I greatly enjoyed) or going for the gusto and jumping into my songwriting, concerts and Portraits of White extravaganza full time. The decision to lose the security is what brought on the feelings of upheaval. I'm cutting ties with a steady stream of income, a set schedule and the joy of having co-workers to share a vision with. 

According to webster's dictionary, upheaval means: 

1 : the action or an instance of upheaving especially of part of the earth's crust. 
2 : extreme agitation or disorder : radical change; also : an instance of this.

Radical change. Disorder. That's exactly what it feels like.

However, upheaval can be a good thing. I hang on to that promise because of the peace I originally felt when the word came to me as clearly as my husband speaking to me.

Whether you choose upheaval, like I have, or it comes to you un-welcomed, you must hold on to hope while you're in the midst of it. The best gardens come from lots of work and wounded soil created by unrelenting upheaval for a season. And so it is with life.

Are you feeling the sharp edges of change cutting through your soul? Hold on. It will be worth it if you embrace the season and look forward to the time when the work is done and new seeds are planted. A harvest will come.


My flower bed before upheaval.
Getting rid of weeds.
My flower bed post upheaval.
Ready for seeds.




Friday, December 23, 2016

The Story Behind "Little Drummer Boy".

From the very first time I heard the arrangement, I was hooked. So was Ed, the conductor. We knew we wanted it to be part of the Portraits of White concert experience and Ed was sure it would be the showstopper of the night, if we could find a local high school drum line to perform it.

It took us all summer to find the right one, but it really paid off when we found George Clements and the West Shore Drum Line - a combination of two schools put together: Cedar Cliff and Red Land. We didn't know they'd end up placing 3rd in 2015 and 4th in 2016 at the US Bands National Championships @ MetLife Stadium in NJ.

West Shore Drum Line in Portraits of White 2015.
But this post isn't really about finding the drum line or my concert. It's my reflections after watching them perform the song at their own high school this week - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - for their holiday program.

West Shore Drum Line performs "Little Drummer Boy" at Red Land High School with school chorus.
I don't know what goes on in other performer's minds when they are on stage. I can only write from my own experience.  Perhaps it would be different if we performed the same concert over and over, night after night all across the U.S. Maybe I could stand on stage and become totally wrapped up in the moment and just enjoy all the surroundings. But for the most part, I do that when I'm practicing at home. That's when I enjoy the music; every note, every lyric, every little nuance that many people might miss the night of the show.

When I step out on stage I go into a very different mode. I challenge every brain cell in my head with the ultimate multi-tasking job. The pitch, the dynamics, the lyrics, the sound surrounding me, the lights, the little girl smiling up at me from the first row and noticing others seated in the audience so I can smile at them and acknowledge their presence.

When you amplify all of that by adding in a drum line marching up to you on the stage and feel the power of their presence and tight rhythms and couple that with a year's worth of rehearsing, soaking in the song and listening for every little cue in the music to keep you on track AND try to deliver with poise and power, you have one incredible task on your hands.  To say that I can sit back and "enjoy" that performance is a stretch, not because I don't love it, but because I MUST stay focused. As soon as I start "sitting back in my musical easy-chair" to recline, my brain can go into sleep mode and then I'm in trouble.

But last night, I got to sit in the audience and not think about the loops, the pitch, the timing, the mic, the monitor, the lights or anything else. I just sat in anticipation knowing what was coming and I was still blown away and totally mesmerized by the West Shore Drum Line. I got to sit beside a few of the moms and they too knew what was coming and one of them even squealed when the auditorium doors flew open and in walked her son at the head of the line.

My eyes filled with tears and my heart pounded. I knew I was reacting to months of rehearsals and hearing that first piano riff that starts it off. I was squirming over the memory of the big glitch from the concert of 2015 that forever sealed that song in the audience's memory (in a good way) and then I was momentarily carried away by the overall power of the song. Now, I didn't have to think about anything but watching them and they were truly amazing.

The cherry on top came when one of the mothers told me that the drummers were very excited that I had come to see them and wanted their picture with me afterwards. Since I don't have children of my own, going to see others perform is such a special treat and for one short moment, I get to beam with pride just like I think a mother must do when her kids perform something so well.


There's no deep point to this blog post, I simply indulged in expressing my thoughts so that some day I can look back and smile again at this amazing dream that is starting to connect me with other people in ways I never thought possible.

I'll end with a quote from a book that's carried me through this elephant-sized dream.

"By definition, a God-sized dream is beyond your ability, beyond your resources. 
If a dream is from God, it will require divine intervention. 
But I've also learned that sometimes a dream feels as if it's too big for us because it's not just for us!" 

- Mark Batterson, "Chase the Lion".
Aidan Connor (drummer)
who is quite proud of how well he tied his bow tie!
Caleb Fratangeli (drummer)

Credits to Bradley Knight who arranged this song and to George Clements (Drum Line Director) who wrote the parts that the drummers play when they line up in formation.