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

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.)