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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

This Is My Father's World

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, February 27, 2015

Do you really want that prayer answered?

Frances at her mother's piano.
I did a concert recently where I incorporated an arrangement on the piano that I probably haven't played since high school.  It's the old song "My Tribute" by Andrae Crouch.  It was Dino Kartsinokis' arrangement and has always been one of my favorites.  It pretty much uses every key on the keyboard - maybe that's why I like it. I got the feeling people really enjoyed it.  I think it was partly due to the fact that I dedicated it to my mother who passed away in September of 2014.  In fact, it was a poignant moment for me when I got a standing ovation and I could feel the tears wanting to rush out of my heart into my eyes.  It was a special moment.

You see, my mother had always prayed for a piano player.  Apparently, she longed to have live music in the house and she was especially fond of piano music.  I learned to play on the piano she purchased for herself as a young woman.  I still have that piano and now that she's gone, I don't want to part with it.

I was the final child of five and I think by the time I came along, life was so busy that it must not have crossed her mind to have me take piano lessons like the other children did.  In fact, between 1966-1976, she lost 2 sons and both of her parents.  In that same decade, she got spinal meningitis and that set her health on a course of many tough years.  She had to have a shunt put in her head and every time that didn't work, she couldn't function.

One day while staying at an Aunt's house because my mother was ill, my Aunt overheard me playing the piano (by ear) and called my mother.  "Bertha, you must have Frances take piano lessons - I think she has a gift".  Fortunately, my mother took her advice and started me on piano lessons.  I was in sixth grade.  I loved it.  I practiced by the hour...always working toward perfection.

This week as I was reflecting, I realized something.  My mother prayed for years and finally got an answer to her prayer.  But that meant some sacrifice on her part.  She had to pay for my lessons, take me there every week, sit out in the car and wait while I had my lesson and allow me time to practice. I remember many times later in life she would tell me that she felt it was her place to cook for the family and therefore, she would do most of the cooking and let me go practice.

To this day I'd rather practice than cook, clean, read or do anything else (....well...except maybe ride my motorcycle).

She gave up a lot for many years (and more) to see this through.  When I begged to do a recital and invite my friends - she made sure we had a nice reception with special foods and beautiful flowers to grace the table.  That was her contribution.

Not only do I believe she prayed my gift into existence, but I believe she gave her prayers "feet" when she was willing to do everything it took to make sure she had a piano player.

It makes me wonder about some of the things I pray for.  How might it change my life if I received the answers I'm hoping for?  Am I willing to sacrifice things to see those answers happen?

This was the last time I played for her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Almost every child has a blanket they adore when they are little.

They drag it around with them everywhere they go.

They eat with it, sleep with it and must take it with them when they ride in the car.

Don't you dare take it away! It becomes their security.  It makes them feel at ease.  In fact, oftentimes they suck their thumb on one hand and lug the blanket around with the other.

Snow was my blanket.  It still is.

The music on the video.

One day, I sat down at the piano and wrote this song after a long winter's walk.  It was a dreary January day complete with grey skies.  Except for the blue mountains in the background, a few evergreen trees and various colored boxes (houses), the land was brown and black.  It seemed to amplify my longing for snow and cry aloud with me.  I was missing my winter blanket.

Though I originally had lyrics, I decided to record it as an instrumental.  It seems to allow more space for the listener's interpretation.

The photographs in the video.

A few years ago I was doing the music at an event in Canon Beach, Oregon - a most gorgeous place - and became acquainted with a woman who does photography as a hobby.  Weeks after the event, I was so delighted to receive some of her beautiful cards in the mail featuring her pictures.  I sent a few to friends and kept two for myself as a keepsake.

I forgot all about her work until last year when I went searching for snow pictures to use.  I contacted several photographers about their images but to no avail.

Her name popped into my mind one day and I went searching through my closet for her cards. Fortunately I had kept two of them and found her e-mail.  We made contact again after all these years and I am pleased to share her work with you.

Sharon Gordon - Photographer

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rings, dings and other obnoxious things!

The buzzer on my oven went off and it never even registered with my brain that my cookies were done.  The truth is, the noise sounded like all the other 'dings' that I hear all day long so I had tuned it out thinking it was just my phone. But the most alarming thing to me (pun intended) about this was the fact that I didn't even register the sound of the timer in my brain. This could have cost me my precious chocolate chip cookies!

Now this wouldn't be the first hazardous mistake in my kitchen.  I have burned bacon so badly that even my pan was fried.  Sheds new meaning on the term 'pan fried'. The bacon was like black powder.  I pitched the pan and the ashes.

Here's the thing about 'dings':

My phone dings when I get a facebook message, a text, an e-mail, a follower on twitter....

My phone dings telling me to start walking for 5 minutes and then dings to tell me to start running for 1 minute.   (I like my 5K app.  It's helping me train for a 5K).

Ding.  "Slow down and walk".
Ding.  "You're doing great runner!"
Ding.  "Time to walk for 5 minutes and cool down."

My iPad dings too.

My husband's phone vibrates.  We sit and smile as our electronic gadgets communicate. Ding, beep, pop, boom.

I share an office with a co-worker and her phone vibrates when she gets a text....or at least I think it's a text.

My phone dings in the office too.  It's part of office life.

We have a cool app at work called 'slack' and so I get dings when anyone is using slack...making them a 'slacker'...we joke.

My phone dings with a slack message and my desktop computer dings too. I get dings at home when someone 'slacks' so I can keep up with the conversation at work, even though I'm at home.

Ding, ding, ding.

I've tried using different ring tones for various friends. One friend has been assigned the sound of a dog barking. My husband's ring sounds like a motorcycle revving.

One night I was working at the church all alone and heard a dog barking and it spooked the spooks right out of me.  How did a dog get in the church anyway?  Finally, I realized it was my phone barking.

I decided it had gone too far.

I've finally learned how to turn that stuff off and not be notified about every little thing.  But I think the damage is already done and I could have had burnt cookies to prove it!

When I no longer hear the alarm of the oven telling me to check my cookies because I've learned to tune out all the rings, dings and other obnoxious things, I begin to wonder what other things in my life I've been starting to 'tune out' because I take in too much?  There are things that are much more important than cookies.  Like the voice of the Spirit. Does His voice get lost in the crowd? Has He lost His distinction?

I hope not!

Ding.........sorry...gotta go.