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.

Friday, February 6, 2015

She Would Have Been 92

Today, February 6, 2015, my mother would have turned 92.

Bertha Mae Sollenberger Crider Heisey
February 6, 1923 - September 24, 2014
The day after her memorial service, I was driving home from the Baltimore airport after dropping off my brother and his wife.  I felt this overwhelming sense of loneliness and finality.  My mind began to walk through the events of the past week.  While my mind was walking, my heart began to sing a new song.....

5 yellow roses for mother

ninety-one birthdays
five adored babies
'Bert' (her nickname in high school)
two breathed their last so early
trials and sorrow
unsure tomorrows
still she lived life sincerely

sisters and brother
huddle together
blue mountain range in the distance
dirt, grass and shovel 
soft velvet covers
weary eyes water and glisten

three children saying goodbye
two children saying hello
heaven and earth joined together
by 5 yellow roses for mother

hero to neighbors
wife and homemaker
woman of faith, tears and passion
what do you give her?
simple, yet honored
what can a child imagine?
Each child places a rose on the wooden box
she was laid to rest in.  A granddaughter placed
one in memory of her deceased son, Nathan Carl and
her daughter-in-law placed one in memory of her
first-born, Douglas Paul.

three children saying goodbye
two children saying hello
heaven and earth joined together
by 5 yellow roses for mother

death and life pause for one moment
rain in the heart and the skies
simple wood box, earth is opened
but now she is free she can fly

three children saying goodbye
two children saying hello
heaven and earth join together
by 5 yellow roses for mother

It still needs some work, but I thought today might be an appropriate day to share what I have so far.

The idea for this song came from a blog post the day before we buried her.  So far, it has been the second top post of my blog read by readers.

I will be working in Nashville today as a way to celebrate her life and give me something to focus on as I continue to grieve.  The conductor and I will be working on reviewing the Dec. 6, 2014 Portraits of White concert.  Reviewing the past, looking at the present and planning for the future.  

I find that coming to Nashville on special days is becoming a tradition and one that I hope to keep for years to come.  Today, I remember my mother's life with a new song.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

God's Hyperlinks

Spending time at The Gideons International Office Nashville, TN
How does a little girl from Newville, PA get invited to lead worship in Nashville, TN?  A city where they say every waiter/waitress is a great guitar player?  That's what ran through my mind after boarding the plane in Harrisburg, PA to fly to Nashville, TN this past weekend.

The short answer?  Only God!

The long answer.......

I took my seat on the airplane next to the window and I wasn't seated very long when a memory flashed through my mind.  It's as if the action of sitting down on the plane lit up the memory and made it active in my mind again. I forgot about my present trip to Nashville and recalled a conversation with my mother in my parents' house many years ago.

At that time, I was working part time for a company based in Canada called Eagle's Flight.  I would fly to various destinations and serve as part of a support team to a facilitator who took cooperate companies through experiential training in team-building exercises.  Though the experience stretched me, I loved doing it.  I remember sensing in my heart that one day I would be stretched in another capacity, but it would have more to do with my music than the Eagle's Flight company I was currently working for at that time.  It was just a vanishing thought, but it was very vivid.

Back in my parents' living room, I was having a discussion with my mother.  She had the regular fears I guess any mother would have when their child is flying all over the U.S. 

"What if something happens to you" she asked out of the blue one day.

From somewhere deep inside of me, a protective attitude arose and I found myself saying something to her that surprised even me. "Mother, some day I will be flying even more and I don't want to dwell on fear, so if you don't mind, we're not going to discuss this."

I know she was shocked and frankly, so was I. But there's something you need to understand. I never dealt with fear of flying until one day a well meaning friend knew I was flying the following day and said to me, "aren't you afraid something will happen to you?"  It never occurred to me to be afraid until that moment when her statement planted a seed of fear.

The next day when I flew, we encountered a thunderstorm on our flight and such fear grabbed hold of my heart that I went into panic mode.  When we landed to catch our connecting flight, I vowed I would never get on an airplane again.  I called my parents from the airport to tell them I needed to find another mode of transportation to get me the rest of the way but they weren't home. That was before the days of cell phones, so I felt stranded. I was hoping they would offer to buy me a bus ticket or something to take the place of my final leg of the flights.  That's how strong fear can become!

Reluctantly and very full of fear, I boarded the final flight to my destination and sat down in my seat absolutely convinced that this would be my last moment on earth and that we would crash to the ground taking all my fears with me.

Of course, that didn't happen, but for the next few years I had a terrible battle with fear every time I flew.  It took years to overcome that fear and when I finally did conquer it, I had no interest in activating it again through a discussion with my mother.  You can now understand why I was so defensive when my mother opened a can of worms that she didn't know existed.  It was only meant to protect my freedom from another battle with fear.

So here's where the hyperlink comes in. It's God's hyperlinks. We go about our daily activities doing our best to listen for His whispers, act on what we think we hear Him saying and all of a sudden, He activates something in our life and transports us to divine connections.

I had a distinct feeling in my spirit that someday I would need to fly for what would become my own music ministry - and though there was nothing in the natural realm from which to prove my statement to my mother, I knew that it was coming down the road.  Sometimes God gives us an advance notice of what is to come.  I think that's what happened to me that day I had the conversation with my mother. Jesus did it with his band of believers.  He would say to them things like: “I’m telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am.."  I wish he'd tell us more things ahead of time and maybe He is if we would listen.

So now it's January 2015 and I am seated on US Airways, traveling to Nashville, TN, not for some other company, but for my own music ministry, just as I sensed would happen years ago. Now, sitting on the plane, I realized that after many years of praying, being faithful and sharpening my tools, God made the link active and here I was heading to Nashville to lead worship for The Gideons International at the 2015 Auxiliary President's Conference.

So how do you click on God's hyperlinks?

1.)  Pray - talk to God and also listen for His voice - when he speaks make a note of it for future reference
2.)  Obey - whatever steps He tells you to take, walk in them and trust Him for the outcome

There are probably whispers and glimpses you have in your spirit of things God wants to do in your life and places He wants to take you.  Let Him do the activating!  Your job is to pray in a receptive mode and obey when you think He is telling you to act.

It's amazing the sites you will take in when He activates the hyperlinks.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Me & Dr. Robitussin

This doctor doesn't wear a white coat, though he has a white cap. This doctor comes in a plastic bottle and I've had a lot of meetings with him this week, thanks to what my husband unaffectionately calls "the Newville crud".  I understand that it's not limited to my town, however.  Apparently people all over the U.S. have it.  Fever, chills, some nausea and a bad cough.  Thus, Dr. Robitussin. (or Dr. R).

No matter that the bottle expired 10 years ago, I was desperate and decided to use what I already had in my cupboard.  It tastes as bad as it ever did so it must be legit.  By the way, how is it that you can't taste anything else when you're sick, but you can still taste that old Robitussin?

I smile when I take it (well, sort of) because it wasn't too long ago that my husband and I had a joke between us about my mother who would offer us medicine from "Columbus".  That simply meant that it was medicine she had from back before I was born when my family lived in Columbus, OH - like, the early 1960's!  Now here I am, using medicine that is 10 years old.  I guess I'm gonna be like her.

I knew things were bad when my cat, Missy (who is very nervous anyway) came over to me on my bed, took one look at the white kleenex in my hand, heard my abnormal very deep bass voice call her name and with big wide eyes, turned around and ran off the bed in a hurry. This was NOT the owner she was used to.  Some alien was lying in her bed.  I sighed.

I discovered this week that it's much more effective to be consistent with taking your medicine when they say you should.  Every 4 hours.  Yuck! But at one point I thought I was feeling better so I stopped taking the medicine.  That's when things got worse and I realized that I wasn't really getting better, I had simply been consistent with meeting with Dr. Robitussin and therefore, I thought I was getting better.  When I quit, it revealed my need to continue on my path of consistency.

There's a few things in life that I've discovered I need to be consistent with in order for them to really work.


Yep - and it goes down just about as easy as Dr. R. sometimes.  But I always feel great afterwards and the more I do it, the better I feel.

Prayer and scripture meditation

The more consistent I am with it, the better the results for me.  I can tell when I haven't been as faithful.  My soul and my mind need it.

Healthy Eating

It doesn't do much good to exercise if you aren't going to eat healthy at the same time.  The two go hand in hand.  I'm certainly not a health expert and I'm not promoting any diet or exercise program - just promoting eating well as a life style.

Adequate Sleep

Everyone is different, but we all need sleep.  I try hard to go to bed at the same time every day and make sure I get adequate rest.

So there you have it, my prescription for life.  And oh yes, sometimes we are thrown off that routine and a little bit of Dr. R becomes necessary.  But I'm glad that's not the norm!