Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Dream House

Larry Moshell and Kecia Jones at ACT International, Nashville, TN
Kecia Jones has a vision to change the public education system in America.  I heard her speak in Nashville, TN last week while I was there. I'm not in public education, but I soon felt like I wanted to be, just because of her passion. She has a BIG dream and she's going after it with every bone in her body.

Lynn Brown, another passionate dreamer, stepped on to the stage and shared her vision to use arts as a way to help people in prison.  She didn't even know anyone in prison, yet she began to have a vision and has made it happen! Cellblock Creations was started to bring attention to the critical nature of conditions surrounding re-entry citizens that largely affect and may even determine the success or failure of their return to society. Cellblock Creations exists to address those critical needs.

Mary Gwyn Bowen wanted to combine her nursing, teaching and arts gifts into one and has started the Art To Heart project encouraging art as a way to help patients heal during their stay in hospitals.

Every afternoon we sat as various people with a love for art and a dream to make something happen shared their journey and what they are doing to change the world through music, dance, art, drama, painting, film, storytelling, theatre, etc. I felt like I was in a green house but it was actually a dream house.  

ACT International exists because one man had a vision to see the arts unleashed in the earth. I went to their seminar hoping to learn more about their organization but I came home reminded of the power of what happens when one person has a vision to use their gifts and abilities to dream and change the world.

It only fueled my passion to see others identify their passion/dream and take steps to see it through.

Is there a dream in your heart?

What is one thing you could do today toward stepping out and taking action?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When God Turns Out The Light

Have you ever woken up to complete darkness?

I'm in Nashville attending a conference and this morning when I got up, it was dark. I got up early to attend a breakfast meeting before the conference.

"Chocolate Sin" from The Pancake Pantry in Nashville.
When I got up, an old song was running through my mind, so I began to sing it out loud.

"He touched me
oh, he touched me
and oh the joy that fills my soul
something happened and now I know
he touched me and made me whole"

I stopped mid-song and questioned why such an old song would come to my mind. It would be more appropriate for me to wake up singing Christmas songs since another reason I'm here is to work on the upcoming Christmas concert. I listened to much of the concert music on my way down here, making notes to review with the conductor as I drove.

I felt a gentle whisper say, "sing the verse".

"Shackled by a heavy burden
'neath a load of guilt and shame
then the hand of Jesus touched me
and now I am no longer the same"

The first two lines were a good description of some of the feelings I've been having these days....well, at least the 'shackled by a heavy burden' part.

I left the home where I'm staying and headed out for my day.  I had a feeling this song might be an indicator of what I might experience today, but I shrugged it off thinking I was a little too assuming.

Today I'm attending an event where I am doing nothing and no one knows who I am. I'm not introduced as the speaker or musician.  In fact, I can just say, "hi, I'm Frances" and be like everyone else. I'm taking time to sit and listen to others speak, sing and lead worship. A treat I rarely get!

You see, I've been desperately crying out to God about some things.  Some of them for years. My heart has been growing weary even though on many levels, I have much to be excited about - and I TRULY am!

But today, this Frances was a mess.  The first speaker of the day was supposed to be Dr. Neil Anderson. I figured he would be intellectual in his approach, or give a long list of ways to walk in freedom (just click on his name and you'll see the long, long list of books he has authored).

However, this gentle, elderly man stepped to the platform and began to tell us stories from his life. The first tear strolled unhurriedly down my cheek, determined not to leave, when he said there came a time when he felt as if "God turned out the light".  What?  This man who has written extensively on freedom, bondage breaking, etc., etc., feels like God turns out the light on him? But alas, instead of giving us 20 steps to freedom, he pulled on a loose thread in my soul and I was coming unraveled.  

Neil continued..... "Right now, the light has been turned out again". Seems like God flips the switch often for him. His wife has dementia and now has to stay in skilled care in a nursing center.  Many days he goes to sit beside her and just 'be' with her.  He feels like her light will never come back on, in this life. It's a new season for him.

My husband and I need a miracle.  Due to a genetic condition (that he seemed to acquire a most severe case of) our lives feel a bit dark at times. It affects his hands to the point where holding small tools are becoming increasingly difficult for him. This isn't good for someone who is self-employed and uses those tools daily. 

We wonder what the future holds for us as he notices deterioration that seems to be speeding up these days. I've cried out to God many times on his behalf and I know that our voices harmonize together as we ask God to change our circumstances and guide us through this time. 

It felt good to hear from someone else today who is further down the road as he stopped to share some of his struggles along the way due to his seasons of darkness. I cried for him and I cried for me. 

I cry for you because I know what some of your struggles are from talking to you. Your's are different, but we can all relate to feeling like the light has been turned off. 

Here are a few key phrases he shared this morning that might be helpful:

God turns out the light

Never doubt in darkness what God has shown you in the light

Never make a big decision when you are down

Don’t create your own light

Don’t instruct those who weep......just weep with them

Morning comes

Isaiah 21:11-12 The Message (MSG)

A Message concerning Edom:

A voice calls to me
    from the Seir mountains in Edom,
“Night watchman! How long till daybreak?
    How long will this night last?”
The night watchman calls back,
    “Morning’s coming,
But for now it’s still night.
    If you ask me again, I’ll give the same answer.”

God turns on the light

Frothy Monkey, Franklin, TN
I'm sitting here at the Frothy Monkey in Franklin, TN as I write this blog.  

The first time I was here was to meet my performance coach whom I had a dream of working with for over ten years. I was terribly excited to actually see that dream come true.

The last time I was here, my husband was with me and we were sitting on this very porch enjoying coffee together after riding our motorcycles to TN for our 25th wedding anniversary. Then my phone rang and it was my brother calling to let me know that our mother was in the hospital with a perforated ulcer.  This began her decline and she died over a week later.  We cut our trip short so we could be with her before she died.

I have mixed feelings when I come to this little cafe now.  Joy from seeing a dream come true. Joy because my husband got to come and experience my favorite town with me. Sadness as I recall the sinking feeling in my stomach when my brother called. Was God turning the light out on us again?




Whether the light is on or off, we must hold steady to what we know and believe. Morning comes.

I don't know what you might be facing today.  I hope that this has given you some encouragement. May you have faith and courage until the light shines again. May you stand strong, even in the darkness. May you wake up with a song, in the morning.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dreams Are Like Clouds

Personally, I think dreams are like clouds.  You look up and gasp at their beauty and their ominous presence. You wonder what it would be like to reach them.  To touch them. Experience them up close. It would be like walking on air, you think! 

Then you get up close and personal with them and they no longer feel like clouds....more like fog. They are ominous alright!  What were you thinking?

I've experienced that in an airplane. Up ahead I'd see some amazing cloud formations but once we'd enter into them, it was more like fog and we couldn't see anything. We had to trust the pilot to lead us through them. Sometimes we even encountered turbulence. No one likes turbulence, at least none that I know of. 

I'm experiencing the same thing as I pursue my dreams. They looked great from a distance. But sometimes I have to fly through the fog.  It's the passion that keeps me going.

Fill in the blank and answer this question (to yourself). "If I could just _________ then I would know I have reached my dream."  That's the white, puffy cloud you are viewing from a distance.  Once you start out to pursue that dream, remember there will be times you encounter fog and turbulence.  Financial setbacks, illness and fear are just the starters for turbulence.

The machine you built on the ground, before you took off for the clouds, must be built to sustain the journey through the bumpy, foggy times.  What is your plane built out of?

Here are a few things I'd suggest for materials to sustain you through the hard, less passionate times.

1.) Patience....there's no way to avoid it. You'll need lots of it.

2.) Prayer.....especially lots of 'listening' time.  

3.) Pictures....keep the pictures of the end result (the beautiful clouds) in front of you - it will help you remember why you're building the plane in the first place.

4.) People.....make sure you have surrounded yourself with people who believe in you.

5.) have to keep going. No matter what.

6.) better have a good dose of this toward your dream!

I dream of having a red convertible corvette with white or tan leather seats. But it's not something I'm so passionate about that it's taking up brain space like the Christmas concert is. I'm really passionate about music and audiences.  Therefore, I make my decisions based on that priority. 

If I want a red corvette, then I'd need to set goals and work toward saving for one, but it's not a dream that matters that much to me. In fact, pursuing the dream I'm most passionate about means giving up some of the this one....
So when you are reaching for the clouds, just know that though the sky is the limit, even the sky has some difficulties.  

Build your dream to last.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How do you know your dream is from God?

When we start talking about pursuing our dreams, sometimes we are afraid that we'll do the 'wrong' thing.  

I'm often dreaming and coming up with ideas, but I'm not always sure if they are of my own making or if God has placed them in me. As with most things on our journey, it's not like we always get a big neon sign that makes a distinction.

So here's another question I was asked recently about pursuing dreams.

How do you know that Portraits of White is a dream from God?  

As I get older, I actually try not to analyze this too much.  I think the underlying concern driving this question might be - what if my dreams aren't from God and they are just my own? 

Here's how I've come to look at it:
  • Did you have any part in deciding you would be born?  
  • Did you decide if you were a girl or boy?  
  • Did you have control over which century you were born into?
  • Did you have a say in the family in which you were born?
  • Did you choose the country? get the idea.

Being afraid our dreams might be selfish is partially based on thinking we have control over our dreams. That is almost ludicrous.  On one hand, we can make choices and choices lead to consequences. Therefore, now that we are in existence, we do have some control. And yet, we don't have control over the big picture. It's paradoxical.

For instance, one of the big factors that led me toward doing the Christmas show was not something I dreamt of or could have manufactured. I currently serve at a church where I never intended to serve.  In fact, it wasn't until after three phone calls from them that I said I would consider it.  

I did not seek this position. It wasn't even one of my goals or dreams. However, because the opportunity fit my gift set and did resonate with some of my musical desires, I said yes. 

It has turned out to be a significant factor in my growth, both as a musician and as a person. I didn't see that one coming.  What seemed to have little correlation with my dreams, turned out to open up a whole new world that unleashed bigger dreams. Something about playing with an orchestra there stirred up something deep down inside me.

Am I in charge of my dreams?  Not really.  And yet I am.  That's why I say it's paradoxical. Once I have an opportunity that resonates with me, I go at it with everything I have.

Here's another angle from which to approach this.  
  • Is a car created to move down the highway? 
  • Is it ok to use the accelerator in the car?
  • Maybe we shouldn't use the brakes even though they were created to make us stop.
  • Should the car be concerned that it's pursuing the wrong thing by driving?
  • Is a flower created to bloom and be fragrant?
  • Should a corn stalk produce corn?
  • Does an apple tree get concerned it will produces apples? Maybe it should produce cherries now that it has strong branches and roots?
If God created me with music inside, why wouldn't I pursue music?  As I keep my heart turned toward Him, is He not leading me and giving me opportunities to apply the gifts He gave me?  Do I have to always ask if a dream is from Him?  

Do you ask God every day when you go to your job is this is the thing you should do today?  I think your boss hopes you'll show up.

Back to the original question. Is my dream to do "Portraits of White" from God? 

I don't know for sure somedays (it's become a very big undertaking) but I do know this:

  • I was born with music in me before I had any control over my skills and desires.  I naturally gravitated to the piano, singing and performing. 
  • I have chosen to develop those skills and pursue the inklings inside of me.
  • In 1988, I felt a strong whisper in my heart that said 'music is your place in the body of Christ'.  I did NOT hear any "you will do a big Christmas show".  
  • Sometimes I do hear something specific, but generally, I spend time in prayer and then move forward with my ideas.  Once in a while, I'll sense a strong leading one way or another, and then I try to follow that.

I keep my senses open for signals (on the inside of me in my spirit):

  • green (go for it) 
  • yellow (caution - timing might not be right)
  • red (don't proceed)

It's like the ancient missionary Paul, who knew he was called to a specific group of people and took trips to find those people.  Once in a while though, the Spirit would tell him not to go to a certain place or city and then he obeyed those specific instructions, but other than that, it seems to me that he spent his life pursuing his calling and dream wherever he went. Unless otherwise instructed, he kept going.

I believe that God created us all with certain abilities and gifts.  They can be deserted or increased, that is our choice. Sometimes we get a little over spiritual about this stuff (me included) and we make it so complicated.  

So with all that being said, yes, I believe my dream for "Portraits of White" is from God. Simply because He is my creator and He built me with music inside. He is big enough to let me know when I start moving in a less desirable direction within those abilities and desires.

So here's a few pointers to help you.

1.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discover your dreams.
2.  Spend time listening for the Spirit's voice.
3.  Use any opportunities that come your way and use your abilities well.
4.  Talk to someone who knows you well, believes in you, and see if they confirm what you sense.
5.  Keep moving forward in faith!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Dream Clue From The '80s

Recently, I came across this poem I wrote when I was 14.

I smiled as I read it.  

Dream Clue of Portraits of White I wonder?

My Love For Snowflakes

I love the snowflakes
so pretty and white
what a touch they do add 
on a cold winter's night

Each one is different
no pattern the same
each one is special
it's from God that they came

God wants us to be different
just as the snow
no pattern the same
but each heart will glow

For when snowflakes come together
they all become one
when Christians come together
the whole world is won

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In What Ways Does God Give You Dream Clues?

This was one of the questions asked by a reader from my recent post Dream Clues. I thought you might benefit from the answers. I find a new passion is developing in me - to see others fulfill their dreams.  Is there such a thing as a dream coach? This blog is the start of something else unfolding.

I am certainly not an expert in these things, but I have learned a few helpful points along the way and I'm still learning. I'll share what I know so far.  

When I was as a child, I could sometimes feel the electricity of my dreams. 

For instance, I would sing on the door step looking out over the landscape of our buckeye tree, the swing in that tree and the lane going past the barn down to the road. I could sense that I was tapping into something futuristic, though ominous. There were no distinct lines or clues defining what it would be exactly. It's only in looking back that I can see how significant those moments really were because of how my life has unfolded. They were very connected to what I do now, without me realizing it.

So back to the first question the reader asked.  Since this was a personal question, I'll use mostly personal examples. 

In what ways does God give you dream clues?

1) Other people:

  • Someone else points out your abilities.  
Everyone in my immediate family seems to remember that I had a gift for picking things up by ear on the piano, but it was an Aunt who actually spoke it out loud and encouraged my mother to have me study with a teacher.

2) Your desires:

  • A desire that just doesn't go away.  
I was too young to voice or know my desires for doing shows or playing the piano. I simply did what felt natural to me. However, someone from the outside saw it and identified it. 

But as I've grown older, many things I'm doing now have stemmed from a growing desire and unfading longing. As a result, I've taken private lessons/coaching for voice, guitar, drums, songwriting, performance, etc. and loved every single lesson. I use those tools now.

More recently, I took up figure skating. Still pondering the significance of that, but I know if I would not have suffered an injury that , I would still be pursuing it.

3) Childhood interests:

  • What fascinated you as a child?
  • I didn't play chess when I was little.  I lined up the chess pieces like a choir and had them sing. 
  • I didn't just ice skate, I took my boom box out to the pond and made up routines to the music. 
  • I didn't just take piano lessons and participate in recitals, I wanted to do my own music recitals which included inviting my friends and having snacks afterward.  It became a concert AND a social event.

4) Your Soul Stirs Within You When:

  • You see someone else doing something similar to your dream.
One of the biggest motivators in deciding to do the Portraits of White Christmas concert was watching a documentary of the early years in Taylor Swifts's career. Her story so impacted me that I remember getting up off the couch that night, after watching it, and determining that if Taylor could make her own way and follow her heart, after she was turned away by the music industry, then so could I. 

And so can you! 

Sometimes our clues are that simple. 

Reflect on your childhood and things you did that weren't the typical way a child would act or think. 

A friend of mine told me recently that her daughter was unique in her preferences as a child....always putting things in order; did not like things getting scratched or messed up. If she took things out, they would go back in the same order and not just thrown in the box. Things were ordered by color, size, or shape when she played.  She also would create plots with her Barbies, as if they were in a story! Even her bookshelf in her room is categorized by either author or genre. 

Clues are simply sign posts along the way. Stop and take note of them as often as you can.

Do you have questions or comments about dreams and the pursuit of them?  I'd love to hear from you in the comment box below!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dream Clues

Dreams were meant to grow up and mature.

Explode with excitement.

Come to fruition.

But they don't all make it to the end or turn out exactly like we first envisioned them.

However, it's in the dreaming, trying and working that we grow and mature, no matter the outcome of the original dream.

I loved putting on shows when I was little.  My family was my audience and the living room was my stage.  I loved playing the piano. It's easy to dream when you are little.

Frances at age 3.
But how do you go from being the little 3 year old with an imagination to actually doing what you always dreamed of doing or even just getting in touch with the dreams you had as a child when life has taken over and controls your time?

Frances at age 48.
Ask yourself these questions and you will discover some clues:
  • What causes you to lose all sense of time and fear?  Listen to your heart in those moments.
  • What would you do for free just because you love it? Do it so well for free that others pay you to do it.
  • Who are you when no one is looking and you are totally unencumbered with doubt and timidity? That's a clue!
  • Use every present opportunity to practice at what you dream of doing.
So here I go again - doing another Portraits of White winter concert. A dream in the making. 

Please share it with your friends.

Then come and dream with me.

Buy your tickets here.