Monday, August 1, 2016

When Life Re-writes Your Song.

"Sorry folks, we missed the gap and will have to take you back to the terminal."  It's not what any weary traveler wants to hear - especially when you've already been sitting in the airplane for 3 hours waiting to take off.

I ended up spending the night in the O'Hare airport in Chicago. I found a booth in Chili's restaurant and used my purse for a pillow and spent my first night sleeping in a terminal. I was awakened by a woman yelling at all of us at 4:00 a.m. to get up and get our laptops out for security check. WHAT? What happened to "Good morning sunshine - time to rise. Sorry you had to spend the night here"?

My intended song lyric for the trip home had been "What a Delight, I Caught My Flight". Now a bad thunderstorm was re-writing my lyric to say "No Flight, it's a Chili Night."

So what do you do when life changes your lyrics?

I woke up to find others who had joined me at Chili's!
All summer, I've been crafting the lyrics for my new music project, "Brand New Me". I've even started with one title and ended up with something completely different on a song or two. For instance, "Help Me God" has turned into "Just Like Me".

Writing the lyrics, hard as it may be, is not as hard as living the lyric. "Brand New Me" comes from my escapades while learning to figure skate. Somehow, taking the risk of learning something so challenging in my 40's started a new work on the inside of me and this new album will reflect the growth.

In some ways, the lyrics of my life are being re-written. Sometimes it's been wonderful and sometimes it's been extremely difficult. I've even wondered if that's a good title because sometimes I still feel like "Same Old Me".

I've been thinking that as unpleasant as it is to have someone critique your writing and make you sit down and write to a higher standard, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Even as I lock myself away in my writing room to find the best words to express my thoughts and even though sometimes I want to throw the rhyming dictionary across the room, I always seem to come out with something better than what I originally started with.

It crossed my mind the other day, as I was weeding my flower beds (yes, it's amazing when and where new blog ideas strike me) that this process isn't much different than life. I think we all have a certain script or lyric that we want our lives to say or we don't really want to change and we are quite happy with status quo most of the time. But trials come, pressures increase and we start to have to change our tune, our attitude and sometimes, even the title.

Maybe it's not such a bad idea to not only re-write my songs, but to re-write my thoughts, my behaviors and my attitudes. After all, re-writing usually leads to something much better than when I first started.

I didn't like the new title I was receiving at the O'Hare airport that night, but by morning, I decided to embrace the experience and meet some new people and try to have some fun. I met a family of four who had spent two weeks in Rome and had a great time but were happy to get back to Texas where "they have laws" - those were their exact words! That led to a very interesting conversation.

I got to hear the opinions of three youngsters about Instagram, medicinal drugs and listen to some of their music. I flew home in white puffy clouds - a much better view than we would have had going home the night before with bolts of lightening surrounding us.

My window view on the flight home from Chicago.
If your life was made into an album (that's what some of us still call it in the studio) what would the project title be?

Don't just settle for status quo, pick up your pen and start writing the lyric of who you want to be. In fact, do it while you have control of the pen. Sometimes, life picks up the pen and starts writing for you. If so, embracing the new script with a good attitude could lead you to a better song.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Can God Really Change Me?

Do you wish that you could make some changes in your life? Would you like to see some transformation? Less anger, less anxiety, more discipline, more joy?

Last week I posted song lyrics suggesting that you can try to clean yourself up on the outside, but it's really an "Inside Job". God has to do the work, starting with your heart.

But can He really change us?

If so, how?
"All you need is confidence 
He can make adjustments"

How do you go about letting God make adjustments?

I can't explain how it happens, but I do know from past experience that the best way to let God change you from the inside out is to sit still for long periods of time, in silence.

I don't understand how it works. It seems counterproductive but it comes from the law of sowing and reaping. Somehow, when we sow seeds of listening through quietness and waiting, we reap a crop of hearing which leads to change.

You would think that the best way to change your behavior is to set goals, rid yourself of bad habits, replace them with good habits and put your whole being into changing! Now don't get me wrong, I do believe in setting goals, replacing bad habits with good ones, etc., but long-lasting, true life change is still an "inside job". It must start in your soul and God has to do the work.

So how do you go about practicing silence and being still in God's presence?

If you'd like to incorporate this practice into your life, here are some tips that I find useful.

1.) Set a timer.

I know this seems odd, but it works for me. Choose one that makes noise. If you use an hour glass, you'll become distracted by looking to see if time is up. 

If I don't set a timer, my mind begins to wander and I start thinking about how long it's been since I started, when I'll be done and next thing you know I'm wishing that I had copied down a recipe from the Facebook post someone shared yesterday...and on it goes. If I set a timer, my brain seems to know that it must behave for the next 15 minutes. (I think 15 minutes is a good place to start.) It sets my heart free to concentrate on being quiet. After doing this for a season, I find I don't need the timer.

2.) Be quiet!

Truly, just sit and be still. No talking, writing, selfies, tweeting or posting of any kind!

3.) No pets.

Can you tell I'm an animal lover? My cat becomes extremely affectionate when I'm trying to practice a spiritual discipline of some kind. I know they are adorable, but even pets can be a distraction. Choose somewhere that's free of people and pets.

4.) Do it frequently.

I have found that it's like gardening. It can take a long time before you see results, so it's not enough to just try it one day and then give up. Consistency and frequency are key!

"When you're waiting, you're not doing nothing. 
You're doing the most important something there is. 
You're allowing your soul to grow up. 
If you can't be still and wait, 
you can't become what God created you to be." 

From "When The Heart Waits"
Sue Monk Kidd

So if you're feeling the need for change in your life, I encourage you to embrace the discipline of being quiet. Yes, God CAN really change you. Though you may not hear anything during this time of silence, there is a work that is being done. Taking time to be quiet is a way of nodding in assent to God and the power with which He transforms us.

Friday, July 15, 2016

It's an Inside Job

"It's an Inside Job"

You can clean yourself with soap
and scrub until you shine
it's all a downward slope
'cause here's the bottom line
it's an inside job
it's an inside job

It can't be you
yeah, it has to be God
the changing of your heart
I know it sounds odd
it's an inside job
it's an inside job

All you need is confidence
He will make adjustments
He will start
inside your heart
then you'll see the outside
looking like the inside
oh, oh, oh
it's an inside job

Want to hear the tune for this little song devotional? 

Click here or watch the video above.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Go Ahead - Eat That Pie!

"Some people dig a fork into the pie 
but are too lazy to raise it to their mouth."  

Proverbs 19:24 (The Message)

I consider myself a pretty good pie maker. But it's taken me years to figure out what makes a good pie. There were times I wanted to throw the rolling pin across the room and give up. My husband loves pie and I was determined to figure it all out. I can't imagine going to all the work of making a pie and then being too lazy to finally sit down and eat it like the Proverb suggests.

In my early twenties, I learned my first important lesson about making pies when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was living in Oklahoma at the time and offered to make Thanksgiving dinner for my friends since I couldn't go home for the holiday. I had no idea what I was getting into.

I couldn't believe there would be that much difference between home-made pumpkin pie and the filling in a can. So in my laziness (and stupidity) I bought pumpkin pie in a can. It tasted terrible.

My Mother was THE best pie maker in the world and there is a reason she didn't use store-bought filling.  I think that was the day I decided that I would never make a pie with store-bought filling again. Why hadn't I paid more attention to what my Mother did?

Once I've made a pie, my husband finds all kinds of creative ways to hurry up the process of cooling it. Snow banks, freezer, van, whatever he can find that is cold enough! (If you cut into a pie before it cools completely, the filling is a runny mess.) A runny mess is ok if you want a delicious topping for your scoop of ice cream and don't mind the flakey pie crust as part of your ice cream, but my husband is a purist and wants his pie without anything else on it. I, on the other hand, try to find that perfect temperature when it's cool enough that it won't run, but it's still warm enough that it comforts your digestive tract all the way to your stomach.

So when I read this Proverb recently, I started pondered the meaning of it and Tom and I have had some interesting discussion as we reflect on our upbringing and our love of pie-consumption. How could anyone not eat the pie they made?

Take for instance my concord grape pie - my personal favorite. Years ago we planted our own concord grape vine so that I could harvest the grapes and make fresh grape pie. There's nothing else like it! It takes a lot of work to grow them yourself. If I'm going to go to the work of planting, growing, pruning and maintaining the grape vine, why on earth would I dig my fork into the final masterpiece and then NOT put it into my mouth?

Tom and I were not raised to be lazy. But we both realize that there are days we could choose to be lazy. In fact, just last weekend, I told him I just wanted to lay in bed and eat a big bag of peanut M&M's. I laughed when he responded, "Come on now, you're a motivational speaker, now motivate yourself."

All that is to say, I have times when I am too tired to keep going. I juggle a lot of things, just like you. Sometimes, if one of those things drops or goes awry, I can feel like giving up on everything.

So whether you struggle with laziness all the time or just once in a while, we concluded that laziness can overtake anyone for various reasons. I've chosen two that seem to be my biggest culprits.

1.) Discouragement.

For myself, I find that laziness can set in when I am discouraged. Once I've worked through the root of my discouragement, I am on my way to becoming productive again.

2.) Resistance.

Resistance can come at you from the outside or it can come from within your own soul. Either way, it's amazing how you can be so close to the final step of your dream and then encounter one last big battle of resistance.
  • The night before your wedding, you suddenly panic and fear you're making a mistake. 
  • You tear up your resignation letter and decide to keep your old job because it's more comfortable than looking for something more suited to your skills and personality.
Up until the final moments before I walked on to the stage for my first Portraits of White concert, I encountered resistance. In fact, I was in my hotel room with diarrhea about an hour before I had to head over to the venue. I was terrified. I wanted to hide from everyone. I questioned my own sanity in planning such an event. I had overcome many obstacles to get that far, but the biggest resistance now came from my own deep dark pit of self-doubt. Fortunately, I pressed through and the moment I stepped on stage, I experienced amazing confidence.

Like they say,

"Don't doubt in the dark what you heard in the light."

So if you find yourself digging into the pie, but unable to follow through to the last bite, take heart. Ask yourself what is really bothering you? 

If I would have not followed through on my Portraits of White concert, it would have most likely been because I was afraid I would fail. So for me, it's often rooted in fear.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” - Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art"

Or perhaps you are simply encountering resistance.

“To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.” - Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art"

Once you've identified the root of your trouble, stick your fork in the pie and then go ahead - eat it!

It's the 4th of July
go ahead and eat your pie!

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