Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Kiss of Heaven

 Journal Entry March 18, 2020 - Wednesday

"Today, after my delightful bike ride at 8:00 am and some writing time at 4:30 am, as I read Song of Songs again, my heart seems a little more able to believe you love me than it did yesterday. I so long for more of you, Father. To rest in your love. To be a nurturer of others. To be a protective wall for my family, friends and community. Come to me. Kiss me. Show me when it is that I kiss you back. Spirit-kiss Divine, kiss me.

The home of Hit Pause
Today I'll be doing Facebook LIVE again. It's been very special as we sing hymns together. What an incredible opportunity right now with social media that I can sit at my grand piano in my studio and touch others with music. It's very special and beautiful and I find myself getting very emotional at times. 

Meet with us again today, Lord!"

P.S. When I read the Song of Songs, I enjoy reading it from The Passion Translation. The term Spirit-kiss is an interesting term and appears early in the first chapter. 

At the beginning of 2020, I had been asking the Lord for a phrase for the new year. It wasn't until the end of January that I felt like I heard Him reply. I had the privilege of hearing Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion, in person. His challenge to us was to read Song of Songs and to "Let Him kiss you." God plus nothing. 

My heart reacted to that phrase and I began to pray that I would experience Divine kisses. I'm still learning what that means in my life but there are definitely moments that I sense such closeness from heaven that I would be willing to call it a "kiss". It happens most frequently on the piano keys....and I get the feeling that people in the room (or through the phone) can feel it too. In spite of the geographical distance, we somehow all connect. It's no different with God. His kisses aren't restricted by realms. 

May you somehow feel the kiss of heaven on you today.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Nothing to Lose?

 Journal entry March 17, 2020 - Tuesday

"All non-essential business are closed in Pennsylvania and 30 other states. I offered Facebook LIVE yesterday and plan to again today. Hymn sing online today using hymns that mention birds.... His Eye Is on the Sparrow... In the Garden... This Is My Father's World... 

I think I'll conclude with my Blessing Song. 

We can't get together "socially" in person, but we can online. 

[And so the daily "Hit Pause" program began. I had no idea it would continue for six months!] 

As I read Song of Songs again, Father, your love seems a tad closer and tangible today than yesterday. Sometimes it's as if these love-words bounce off my soul and I can't soak them in. But I'll keep pressing in to You my love. I long to be free and loved completely. So I pray this prayer: 

Song of Songs 4:16

Then may your awakening breath blow upon my life until I am fully yours.
Breathe upon me with your Spirit wind. 
Stir up the sweet spice of your life within me. 
Spare nothing as you make me your fruitful garden. 
Hold nothing back until I release your fragrance. 
Come walk with me as you walked with Adam in your paradise garden. 
Come taste the fruits of your life in me."

[I finished my journal entry with a quote from The Broken Road—Richard Paul Evans.] 

"It is that to which we cling that drags us to the bottom of the abyss. 
There is real power in having nothing to lose."

P.S. I had to have the attitude of "nothing to lose" when I started Hit Pause back in March. It was (and still is) such a different experience for me as a musician.  Sitting in front of my phone and sharing myself with the world, from my piano bench is challenging. It's much easier in person. 

But since that wasn't an option during this season, I kept on pressing through all the stuff that goes with using social media to connect with people. I had to set aside my own pride and fear. It turned out to be very rewarding. In fact, I think it kept many of us from the bottom of the abyss. 

As I come out of my "hibernation" (made necessary by working on Portraits of White 2020 At Home), I look forward to reconnecting with people and the week of Thanksgiving seems like a perfect time to do it. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

At Home

Are titles significant?

I believe they are!

Coming up with a subtitle for Portraits of White every year is a challenge. Even if ticket buyers never see a subtitle printed anywhere, it helps me focus and serves as a compass for the year's worth of necessary planning.

By Candlelight - 2019

For example, in 2019, once I decided on the title Portraits of White By Candlelight, I was able to imagine what the show would entail and could structure my ideas around those two words...By Candlelight. 

Ivory & Ice - 2020?

I was 95% sure that the subtitle for this year's Portraits of White would be Ivory & Ice. I was 100% determined to find a way to incorporate ice skating into the 2020 production. Since you'll see some footage of me skating in the DVD we've created, I guess you could say it sort of happened. Not quite the same but...

When I was a young girl, I had two loves...playing the piano and ice skating. The show has the potential to bring those two loves together IF I could just figure out a way to have the show at an ice rink. LOL!

You can see a mockup of our idea...a rough draft poster idea for what might have been.

When we landed on the subtitle Ivory & Ice, something else happened. All of my bells and whistles went off inside and I had the strange sensation that it could also be the title of a book...my book perhaps?!

You see, there's a much bigger story behind the show than just the loss of my two brothers and my journey with Christmas. Something powerful happened to me when I took up figure skating the same year that I started the show in 2014. It's as if I stepped into a time machine, was transported back to my childhood to a place of freedom and joy. It had such a profound affect on me that it became the seed for my 2016 album release, Brand New Me.

I don't know if I'll actually ever really finish this book, let alone allow anyone to read it. I don't know if I'd actually end up calling it Ivory & Ice either. I DO know that I sense the need to write the story down, for my own sake. Writing organizes my emotional closet. I think you've heard me say that before. I've heard others say that too.

When COVID hit, I not only wrestled with parting with this year's subtitle idea, but it looked like the show itself wouldn't be happening. In fact, by August, I had given up on the show for 2020.

At Home - 2020!

My team had played around with various subtitle ideas appropriate for everyone's new 2020 "normal" and the moment someone suggested At Home, something inside me said, YES! Then, I got the DVD idea. I poured myself into the Portraits of White At Home idea and I am delighted to have something to offer that everyone can watch while they stay home this year. 

Now, as I start to recover from trying to cram a year's project into about four weeks, I find writing is a great way to rejuvenate the creative side of me and I've picked up my pencil again.

Now that you know all of that...this journal entry will make more sense.  ;-)

Journal entry: March 16, 2020 - Monday

"Sunday morning I got up and started writing my book "Ivory and Ice". I feel compelled to write it, now that I have a title and I've finished Robert McKee's book, Story. (Due to the Corona Virus, we didn't have church, though it was online.) 

Reading the intro of Richard Paul Evan's book, The Broken Road, has inspired/compelled me for the first time to START! I had inklings before, but it never felt quite right. When we came up with Ivory & Ice for Portraits of White, something clicked inside. 

I have pretty much been forced to put Portraits of White on hold with this virus. Trying to confirm a venue just got even more complicated. So it's on hold, which somehow frees up emotional space to write...or start writing my story. I pulled out more journals yesterday to research the one big inciting incident that began to separate mother and me. [A crucial part of my story.] It appears that it happened in 1997, but so far I can't find any writings on it. 

But one thing has become clear to me as I read back through my writings. I've sown a ton of seeds of prayer and scripture. It has certainly been my life-line. Yet, I feel as if I don't see much fruit as a result of it. In fact, in the natural, things look more bleak than ever. 

Father, do you hear me? Do you hear my cries? Am I totally missing something? If so, what? I keep calling out to you. Show me great and mighty things I haven't known or seen. Please. 

Father, I'm asking for an entire, strong, powerful encounter and outpouring of Your divine love."

Order your Portraits of White At Home DVD or USB HERE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Deeper Trust

The Spring Concert Series was eventually cancelled.
Journal entry: March 14, 2020 - Saturday

"Postponed video shoot for my Spring Concert Series...

Email from Senator Bob Casey made me decide to wait. Why risk?

Did my usual housecleaning and my 1 1/2 hour bike ride along the spring. Worked in the yard after lunch—head start on the spring weeds.

Church cancelled tomorrow...virus.

Listened to an interview with Rick Bright on research for a vaccine. Fascinating. A Kansas farm kid, government chickens, eggs...the process for making a vaccine and the market needed to produce it, buy it.

For now schools are cancelled...more gigs lost. 

Oh well. 

Deeper trust."

I was reading The Broken Road, by Richard Paul Evans at the time. (I highly recommend it.) When I'm reading a book, I often copy phrases into my journal that stir me or help me express what I'm feeling. It takes me longer to finish a book when I do this, but I find that the impact of the book lingers long past the reading of it. 

The phrase I wrote in my journal on March 14 was a perfect way to describe how this unwanted virus was making me feel at the time...and I still feel this way today.

"It was a game of emotional chess."  

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Mixture of Joy and Depletion.

I feel a strong mixture of joy and depletion. It's a familiar feeling that I've grown accustomed to when it comes to sharing my music with the world. 

I have just completed the first phase of the Portraits of White 2020 At Home DVD/USB project.  It was a last-minute idea that took me by storm the day it popped into my brain the last weekend in September.

This project is a collection of all the things people have loved about the winter concert over the years, all in one package! It's really a Portraits of White musical scrapbook containing video footage from the past six years, a few new surprises and some bonus features all woven together into one delightful experience.

My hope is that you'll feel as if you are attending this year's Portraits of White, in person, while staying at home.

The video masters and project artwork are now in the hands of the manufacturer and we are planning on it being ready in time for Christmas. Once again, people have rallied around my idea and are placing their orders!

I started out in January with lots of creative ideas for Portraits of White 2020, but they were slowly swallowed up by the pandemic. I soon lost my creative spark for the beloved winter show and poured myself into my daily Hit Pause sessions on Facebook LIVE. 

The fact that I have anything to offer related to Portraits of White this year is a miracle. It has not come without a struggle, but nothing of value rarely comes struggle-free.

I have found that when we share our struggles, others often find encouragement. So for the next few weeks, I'll be sharing excerpts from my journal with you and it seems appropriate to start with that frightful day in March...

March 13, 2020 - Friday

Corona Virus has caused a lot of shutdown. 

Church, government. Encouraged to stay home and only go out as necessary. 

Concerts cancelled. Baseball. Boston Marathon. Maryland schools closed for two weeks. 

I was supposed to shoot a video for my Spring Concert Series tomorrow, but I'm not sure we should do that. I'm waiting to hear from the venue.

I'm trying to find my way through so much muck. I usually have a scripture I hold on to through seasons like this, but I feel like I'm grabbing at straws. So I go to the last time I felt the whisper of the Spirit...Song of Songs..."let Him kiss you." 

A few phrases from Song of Songs that jump out at me:

"I am at rest in this love." I want to know what that feels like. Lord, please skip over the hills that separate you and me and come to me. Gaze into my soul, peering through the portal, blossom within my heart! Draw me to your heart and lead me out. Father, help me identify the little sly foxes in my heart that hinder our relationship, for they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what you've planted within me. Help me catch them and remove them. Please, can we do it together? I give you permission.

I know for sure that this book (Song of Solomon) is calling me closer to Him as I read. I can tell He must want to love me and tell me of His love through it, but my heart has so much resistance (or maybe my soul/brain) that I can tell it will take lots of soaking time to penetrate my terrorized soul. 

To learn more about Portraits of White or to order your DVD/USB, click here

Thursday, July 30, 2020

We're in This Together?

Recently, I was waiting in line (face mask in place) at the Newville post office when I happened to glance over at a sign on the bulletin board: "We're in this together." I sighed. The small print on the sign indicated they were calling for people to donate blood, but my thoughts were running in a different vein. 

Are we REALLY in this together? I've said that exact phrase on my daily Hit Pause Facebook LIVE sessions in the past hoping to encourage listeners (and myself)!

Back in March when we first went into lockdown it was a comforting thought. I've stopped saying it because I'm weary of being "in this" and it doesn't always feel like we're together right now—in the "United" States of America. 

My meditative state was interrupted when the postmaster came out into the lobby wearing his mask as he sanitized the door handles with some kind of spray. We exchanged a friendly, "hello." I know they are stressed these days. Soon their hours will be cut back in spite of the fact that they are as busy NOW as they normally are at Christmas. Yet the employees always treat me with kindness. 

I'm there frequently these days as a result of moving my performances online. People are helping me to make it through this season by purchasing my music. I am SO blessed by the support. Though it's been a big adjustment to not perform out in public, I'm finding that I'm beginning to enjoy connecting with people all over the world and right here in my hometown in unusual ways.

The other frequent thing I'm doing these days is riding my bicycle around our country roads. It's helping me stay sane. As I pedal around, I've been getting to know my neighbors better. I've been enjoying the view of their gardens, crops and livestock.  I even stop to chat sometimes—with people and animals. I've picked berries, dangled my feet in the spring, talked to the sheep, and played my accordion by the stream. 

After the casual greeting with the postmaster that day, I said, "That sign says we're all in this together and I was thinking that maybe since we're IN this together, maybe we could get OUT of it together."  We both laughed as he replied, "That would be really nice."  

This week, I took a different route for my daily bike ride and discovered a field of "snowflakes". I stopped to take a few pictures. Between the snowflakes and the sign at the post office, I decided this little mantra was worth sharing with you. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Gloppy Day

Do you have some "glops" in your life? Unwanted gobs of gunk?

"Stir it until it's no longer gloppy", she said, as she poured purple, pink and other carefully chosen colorful paints into individual cups. I didn't know what gloppy meant but I had an immediate connection with the word and I knew it was going to be a fun day. I had been invited to spend the afternoon "playing" with my artist friend, Diane, in her art studio.

"It's gonna be a gloppy day", I posted on Facebook—right before my weekly 1:30 Hit Pause LIVE session where I normally pour out my soul on the piano. Today, I would be doing Acrylic Pouring.

We stirred individual paint colors for over an hour until it was no longer gloppy. Glops are lumps of paint that detract from the finished image. As I stirred, I could see the glops begin to disappear.

Then, Diane told me to take the paints and mix them all together, little by little into one cup.

Next step: turn the cup of mixed paints UPSIDE DOWN onto the blank, white canvas and hold it there until the paint's downward movement raises the cup from the surface.

Slowly, I lifted the cup from the canvas as the paint mixture oozed out and spread across the void.

I gasped.

"It looks like a galaxy", I said, followed by an unexpected need to weep.

"It's so beautiful. It makes me want to cry." I felt a little bit embarrassed at my reaction.

Later, as I was analyzing my sudden burst of emotion, I realized that I have been grieving. The loss of performances (for my musician friends and me) combined with the loss of creative planning for my annual Portraits of White Christmas concert has magnified the silence of "LIVE" music. It has created a sadness that I couldn't quite identify until I poured the mixed up paint on to the canvas.

Based on past experience with grief, I've learned that it's important to acknowledge the fact that you're grieving. It's been over four months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit my community. I feel as if we've all been shoved into individual cups. "Stay home. Stay six feet away. Cover your face." Though I've enjoyed aspects of the isolation, I wasn't prepared for the on-going loss of music I've experienced.

The virus has mixed up my world, and yours. It's been a "gloppy" year. There are many ways to stir up glops so we can identify them and then watch them disappear. Unfortunately, glops of life take longer to disappear than glops of paint. But things like exercise, praying, singing, listening to birds and journaling are all things that help me get rid of the gobs of junk.

So now I understand the sudden emotion when the "galaxy" appeared on the canvas. It was a moment of beauty in what feels like an upside down world. I desperately needed to experience something beautiful in the midst of my sadness.

In Acrylic Pouring, once the paint is poured onto the canvas, it moves. It changes. You can tilt the canvas and encourage the paint to move one way or another, but even if you don't touch it, the pattern evolves. And what seemed like a mixed up batch of paint turned into—a galaxy!

I'm looking forward to a new galaxy of possibility as we press on through the gloppy days. I don't know what it will look like yet, but as we continue to feel our lives tilt, I'm hanging on to the hope that something beautiful will unfold.

PS. I wish I would have snapped a picture of that first painting when it was freshly poured onto the canvas.  But this video gives you the sense of how the painting changes as you "tilt" the canvas. We decided to use up all the leftover paint at the end of our session to see what would emerge.

Here are more images from my gloppy day at the art studio.