Saturday, May 16, 2020

Sunrise Meditations

Monday, March 16, 2020, I woke up feeling anxious. 

All my gigs were being cancelled.

Our state senator ordered everyone to “stay home” due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Oblivious to the situation, the birds sang happily outside my bedroom window. I lay there soaking in their songs. 

Peace began to wash over me.

I thought to myself, “what if I’d offer to play my grand piano for the world, online? I’ll select some of the old hymns that mention birds, such as His Eye is on the Sparrow. We can “sing” each other through the global storm.”

I started daily sessions of “Hit Pause” from my studio. Thanks Facebook LIVE! My online community responded with joy and support.

Soon we were into Holy Week so we transitioned to Easter hymns. “Hey—why not do an online Easter sunrise concert and tell the Easter story “on the ivories”, I thought.”

So with the iPhone propped in my open window, a robin singing along with my piano music and the sun rising, we celebrated Easter on our devices at 6:00 am! A listener posted a comment that day…”you should do an Easter album!” An inspiration that caught my attention. And so it came to be…. Sunrise Meditations. 

Nature sounds came in from the Hit Pause community around the world (and our homes), rallying around the idea of hymns, piano and nature joining together.

Necessity (a pandemic) is the mother of (invention) inspiration. Sunrise Meditations is proof.

We are planning for a June 7, 2020 release!

Click HERE to watch "Hit Pause" and hear from the artist who was commissioned to paint the cover of the new album.

Artist, Diane Nadolny's painting of the new album cover.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Rain Gauge

In an effort to help me stay positive, I finished an unposted blog post I wrote a long time ago. It feels like this is a good time to share it since it's cloudy and raining a lot these days here in Pennsylvania where I live. Plus, we're under orders from the Governor to "stay home" due to COVID-19. It's been a good time for me to do more writing.

I went to Lowe's one day to buy bird seed but the next thing I knew I was looking at rain gauges. I'm SO easily distracted. Overtaken by a sudden wave of nostalgia, I just stood there and studied the numerous selections I could choose from. My mind wandered back to the farm where I grew up. I reminisced the pleasure I'd experience just from checking the rain gauge.  Looking back, it almost feels like it was a special farm ritual. Check the rain gauge.

Without any hesitation, I chose the gauge that looked like a test tube from back in high school chemistry days. I always loved the feel of those thin glass tubes in my hand, though I didn't really care for the class itself. Chemical formulas just weren't my thing. Donald Miller says "formulas are simply the summation of best practices". I've since learned that I DO love formulas...but only the kind that relate to helping me succeed in life.

With my new rain gauge in my cart, I went back to shopping for the sunflower seeds. As soon as I got home, I put the glass tube in the ground and magically, rain fell from the sky. Well, not exactly, but it almost felt like having a rain gauge would bring rain.

In my mind, as a child, a rain gauge not only measured rain, but it seemed like it was a way to measure answered prayer since we'd often pray for rain as a regular part of our family prayer time. In fact, prayer was a normal part of life on the farm.  We'd pray for the cows to come back home when they got out. We prayed for rain for our garden and crops. When the dreadful hot days of August came, we were usually starting to see the ground crack and the flowers wilt for lack of rain. Gardening became even more of a chore!

The first two weeks of August was also camp meeting time. Our local church camp had the reputation for bringing on the rain, if you know what I mean. I was never sure if it rained at camp because of all the prayer warriors (and farmers) gathered in one place for ten days or if it was the fact that for years everyone walked around saying, "It always rains during Roxbury Camp". Either way, the rain gauge was a way for us to specifically measure how our prayers were being heard.

I think as I grow older I've realized that I thrive best on having ways to "measure" things. That's probably part of why I like lists, goals and organizational containers. And rain gauges. They help me "gauge" how I'm doing when it comes to life.

There are certainly more than three things I use to measure how I'm doing, but these are at the top of my list:

1) Journaling

For some reason, journaling makes it easier to navigate daily life. It enables me to express my emotions, thoughts and prayers. It provides a way for me to gauge how I'm doing in all areas of my life and organize my inner world—on paper.

2) Budget

A budget is a practical way to measure how my dreams are doing in reality.

3) The "Big Three" List

Keep a weekly "big three" to-do list.

There are always lots of things to be done, but I can easily get wrapped up in the urgent and lose sight of what's important. So when I create my "to-do" list, I put the three most important items at the top for the week and it helps me stay on track.

What are some gauges you use to help you live a healthy and fulfilling life? Maybe this season of quarantine is a good time to examine your gauges. Like I recently heard Donald Miller say, "Don't waste your quarantine".

A few resources that might help you:

Dave Ramsey has great resources for budgeting.

Michael Hyatt helped me learn the "big three" formula for getting things done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"Shoestring Budgets" Offer BIG Bonuses

If you have a dream (or an idea) but you don't have a big budget, try getting creative with what you DO have! Along the way, you'll discover a few bonuses that prove to be very valuable. (And just so you know, I wrote this post long before the COVID-19 virus was in full force but I still feel like these thoughts are relevant—especially now.) 

Believe me, I've had to follow my own advice and wouldn't you know, I'm already re-experiencing these bonuses. 

Shoestring budget bonus # 1:

1) You cultivate creativity.

My first attempt at a public concert was over 20 years ago. I was operating on a very tiny budget. In fact, I'm not even sure I had a budget. I don't know that I had much of a dream either. I just happened to have some songs that seemed to resonate with people and an opportunity to record those songs. So I decided to put on a concert to help pay for the recording.

I picked a venue, date and name: "A Journey Through Seasons" since that seemed to correlate with the songs I was planning to share.

Since I'm a visual person, I wanted some "props" to go with my themed concert. When I found a cow skull along the road on my walk one day, I brought it home thinking it would be the perfect prop for the "desert scene" in my concert.

My husband was horrified that I was now collecting skulls from along the roadside.😂  I simply viewed it as getting creative.
You can see the skull in the picture on the right.
I borrowed the other props from the church venue.
I discovered that I really enjoyed planning a concert, so I kept cultivating creativity over the years and paying attention to the desires of my heart. After recording my Christmas album, I started wanting to step things up a notch...well, more like, quite a few notches.

Portraits of White 2018
The fourth year into my Portraits of White concerts my stage props were a bit of an upgrade from the cow skull days—I didn't find them alongside the road either. They were gorgeous white trees (made of shower curtains) and snowflakes (made of styrofoam) hand-crafted just for the Christmas concert. After the concerts, people wanted to buy those trees. I wonder why no one ever wanted to buy the cow skull?! LOL!

Yes, my stage props have changed but having to use my creativity and ingenuity has not. The need to limit what I spend always forces me to be creative and it's a BIG bonus, though sometimes a challenge too.

Now that I am facing the cancellation and postponement of concerts, I've had to get REALLY creative.

Thanks Facebook. Now I'm able to give a concert every afternoon if I want and I can still share my music with people. It's just a different format.

Shoestring budget bonus # 2:

2) You get motivated.

When I went into full-time songwriting and concert performance, I found it to be an incredible motivator to sharpen my skills and find new ways to share my music. Loss of income, whether planned or unplanned, can be a huge motivator.

I am still learning that there is a fine line between planning something that serves as motivation and being completely overtaken by something. Like my virtual mentor, Jim Rohn, once warned: you might start out in control of your dream, but your dream can start to control you. So be careful not to plan more than you can manage. Only you know where that line is and you'll find that it might change over time as your dream grows.

Flexibility comes in real handy as things change and motivation never seems to disappear from the list of tools needed when working away at your plans.

Last but not least: one of the biggest bonuses from a shoestring budget is one that kind of snuck up on me.

Shoestring budget bonus #3:

3) You learn to cultivate contentment.

At first, it seemed like achieving my goals didn't allow room for contentment. But that's probably because I thought contentment would come once I accomplished my dream. And there IS a sense of accomplishment, but contentment goes deeper than accomplishment. In fact, cultivating contentment is the most fulfilling thing I've done while working toward my goals and dreams.

I often feel a deep satisfaction because I have attempted to do what was in my heart. It still might not look exactly like what I envisioned, but as I learn to cultivate contentment I feel at peace. Now that's a bonus I can use every day!

Don't worry, I still have my days of emotional upheaval as it relates to my dreams and goals. But I've learned that while my concerts are over within a couple of hours, contentment can be a constant companion and I'm embracing it more as I get older—both in age and in experience.

Contentment starts with changing your thinking patterns and can be cultivated AS you walk toward your dream. I've come to realize that it's a posture of the heart and mind. Its dividends are priceless.

I wish you well as you cultivate creativity, get motivated and cultivate contentment, especially during this tough season we are all facing.

Stay connected with me on Facebook and watch for the "LIVE" concert events.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Announcing the 2020 Spring Concert Series—Let's Get Together!

Over the years, after the Portraits of White concerts in December, people have suggested that I do a spring event. It's a long stretch between Decembers, so let's get together in April...May...and June! I've invited a couple of other music guests to join me. 

Join me for a relaxing, casual atmosphere.

  • Four Sundays
  • Four Locations (with a lovely grand piano)
  • One hour of music (with Frances and other musical guests)
  • FREE (Donations appreciated—give online or at the concert)
  • Attend as many as you want

If you want to reserve your seat HERE for dates, locations and times.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Shoestring Budgets

What do you do when you have big dreams and a small piggy bank? 

Maybe you have a budget, but it's only the size of a "shoestring". The other day it occurred to me that shoestrings may be small and short, but they hold my shoes together!

It's been over six years since I gathered a group of volunteers, offered to buy them breakfast and asked them if they would help me 'fill the seats' if I pursued my vision for an annual Christmas concert—using an orchestra. 

I really didn't know how I was going to pull it off, but I just kept taking one step at a time. 

These days, when I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself of that magical discipline of simply taking the next step. It's worked all these years.

In those days, I didn't even have the money to buy everyone breakfast but I went ahead and sent out the invitations and reserved the room at Momma Spriggs.  I'd find a way to earn the money to buy their breakfast. I really believed in the dream! Well, most days I did. Other days, I was terrified. 

Portraits of White was just an idea at that point and I knew I'd need help to make it happen. I gathered about 10 people who said they had been touched by my music ministry and told them of my vision while we enjoyed breakfast together. When the day came for our breakfast meeting, I had the money. I said I'd put on the show if they'd spread the word about it and they did. 

After breakfast someone else picked up the tab without me knowing it. They used the excuse that they were going to the bathroom but had actually paid the bill. That was just the start of so many blessings I've experienced along the way as I've walked this road of following my dreams.

So here's a few things you'll need to get started (that don't cost you any money):

1) Clarity 
  • Get very clear on what your dream is. (I wanted to offer hope during the holidays using an orchestra).
  • Write out ALL your thoughts. On paper. If you had the resources you need, what would your dream look like? (I'm still working at producing what I envisioned years ago. It's ok that it's not ALL of what I envisioned—yet. At least I'm on my way and I'm learning a lot as I go.) 
  • If you made a bumper sticker of your dream, what would it say? 
  • What's the first (or next) step you need to take toward seeing it come to pass?
2) Ask good questions
  • Find a few people (or even just one) who are walking a similar path but are further along than you and ask them good questions. Treat them to coffee or lunch at least. Ok, so that costs a little bit of money, but it's well worth it!
The first year I started Portraits of White, I reached out to Kurt Bestor (via Facebook). Kurt is a musician in Utah with a 25 year track record in doing local Christmas shows with an orchestra. My brother-in-law told me about this event because he had attended a few of the shows and said I should reach out to him. So I did. I sent him one question and wouldn't you know, he answered me! 

That proved to be some of the best advice I have received and it didn't cost me any money. I simply asked him what 5 things he wishes he had known when he started his Christmas show.

As I continue building my dream, I ask more questions.

3) Pray - This is the best thing you can do toward your dream and it doesn't cost a dime.
  • Start with setting a timer for 5 minutes a day and take that time to pray about the desires of your heart. You'll need to increase that time as you grow. 
  • Ask for divine appointments, resources and wisdom. I often pray: "Father, may your Kingdom come, in my life, in your time, in your way, with your resources."
  • This morning I prayed for a box truck. Maybe someday I'll share why.  ;-)

"My child, never drift off course from these two goals for your life:
to walk in wisdom 
and to discover discretion. 
Don't ever forget how they empower you."
Proverbs 3:21 TPT

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Favorite Flannel Shirt

Isn't it funny how you remember certain pieces of clothing so clearly? Like in this poem I wrote for my father, the year following his death (over 18 years ago). I normally don't write poems, but for some reason I wrote a few in my journal that year. It was a therapeutic way of processing my grief in that season.

I woke up early this morning thinking about him, Henry Orville Heisey, because today would be his 90th birthday. I pulled out a journal containing some of those post-death poems and decided to share one with you in honor of him. The songwriter in me wants to do a "re-write", but then it wouldn't be in its original form. The day I wrote it I had simply picked up my pen and started writing until I felt like stopping.

My Favorite Shirt

It hangs on the line
my favorite shirt
colors of blue, green and pink
that brought you to life

I wear it often
and snuggle it tight
a small piece of my daddy
I feel like I wear

The blue, cream and gray
of a sweater you wore—
I think now it's Aspen's
I can't be real sure

It made you look healthy
stroked the blue in your eyes
even though your custom
was to wear a tieless shirt underneath

The ugly gray suit
you used to wear
seemed to have been your favorite
though for it, no one else cared

It made you look sickly
the color was drained
but it makes me smile
to remember you in it  

The night of the viewing
I wasn't prepared
to see you look different
in the casket lying there

Everyone else always looks so nice
until it's YOUR daddy
looking cold, dead and still

I think you would have been pretty
if instead you could wear
the pastel colored flannel—
my favorite shirt

But then I couldn't wear it
that soft, warm cover
and I guess it doesn't matter
because I can't even remember
what it was that you did have on

But whether or not
you were dressed in this or that
one thing is for sure
my daddy's in there

for it's not the outside
that I remember best
but what's on the inside
that will never lay to rest

White coat—in those days, he was a chemistry professor.

Black coat—Father of the bride.
My brother, Adriel, taking a picture of my parents. Love that plaid shirt, Daddy!
Ah yes...that navy blue suit (without a tie).

This was after the concert I did to raise funds for my very first CD—Under the Big Blue Sky.
My father gave me the money to have nice invitations made so I could invite my friends.
No one knew I was writing music in those days, so that concert was a big step for me.

I love you Daddy.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Practice Makes You...Prepared For Mistakes.

I've been working on my own piano arrangement of "O Holy Night" since last spring—which simply means I'm inventing my own version of it. There are plenty of great renditions of the song, but I want something that's my own.  

If you're not musical, it's kind of like having your mom bake your favorite birthday cake from scratch. It has a special quality about it. I'm VERY excited (and almost ready) to share my arrangement with the Portraits of White audience. I've added a special ingredient into the mix, but I can't give that away—it's a surprise.

There are so many things about a song that need to be "practiced"; soft, loud, speed, structure, get the idea. That's in addition to deciding the overall "feel" of the piece within each section of the song. Like you, I've probably heard this a thousand times: "Practice Makes Perfect." 

I disagree.

In my opinion, you can practice the wrong thing over and over. I DO think practice can help you prepare for imperfection. But I can only speak for myself.

For instance, in spite of all my hours and hours of practice, things can go awry. 
  • fingers slip off the keys 
  • feet slide off the pedals
  • hands get caught under the lip of a piano key
  • the mic stand (if I'm singing) swings around and hits me in the mouth (yep—that's really happened)
  • my nose begins to run

Anyone have a handkerchief?
Portraits of White 2018
After years of practicing so I could be "perfect" and learning that it just isn't possible, my focus has changed from getting everything "right" to learning how to respond when things go wrong. And THAT has changed so much for me as a performer. 

If you only knew how hard I work to make sure nothing goes wrong... Is there some kind of reward for THAT? Probably not, but I can tell you this, I have had more fun performing in the past decade than any other time in my life because of shifting my focus from perfection to peace, poise...and humor. Just have fun with it!

So last year, when I had a chance to go up on stage with The Piano Guys and play the piano with them at one of their concerts, I actually thought I might be able to do it. Not because I'd be perfect, but because I knew that if I wasn't perfect, we could create a moment out of it.

Here's how it went...

A cellist and I went to see this phenomenal duo. I was a curious to see if a pianist and cellist could keep my attention for two hours. They exceeded my expectations. 

During their concert, they asked if there were any piano players in the audience. They wanted a pianist from the audience to come up on stage and play a song with them and specified that you had to be a jazz pianist who had played in a jazz band. I'm not a jazz pianist and I've never played in a jazz band so I didn't raise my hand. Neither did anyone else. 

I was sitting there with my legs and feet shaking, thinking to myself—MAN...I WANT to go up there and take this opportunity but I'm not a jazz pianist and I've never played in a jazz band, though I can play by ear and improvise. I  feel like jazz is a whole different world and they were making it clear that you needed to have experience in that world.

As if she knew what I was thinking, my cellist friend leaned over and said, "YOU could do that!!" She's been on stage with me since the beginning of Portraits of White and knows I'm not a jazz pianist, but I was honored that she believed in me. That's all I needed...a word of affirmation. I decided that if no one stepped up, I would. 

At the prospect of "making something up on the fly" with The Piano Guys, I now felt like my whole body was an earthquake. But I was determined to take a chance and I quickly decided it would be worth the experience just to play with them. I was willing to make a fool of myself (if that happened) because I've learned that these kinds of moments are usually the ones people remember the most, even if I wish it weren't so.

As I was processing all this (in milliseconds), a young man raised his hand and was called to the stage. He was a jazz pianist for sure and he almost stole the show.

They were having a blast on stage and I was having an epiphany in my seat. I realized that though it does take hours of practice to develop proficiency at anything, (so yes, you MUST put in the practice time), the sooner you begin to practice being okay with imperfection, the sooner you will experience (and radiate) absolute delight, even when things don't go "perfectly".

I left that concert feeling so grateful for all the years of "mishaps" on the stage. They've led me to a place where I was willing to jump up on stage and do something fun, even if I failed. 

The inner work to reach this freedom takes as much practice as the outer work of playing the piano.

Yep....I say practice makes you....prepared for mistakes.

P.S. If you've never heard of The Piano Guys, visit their website and watch their videos or better yet, support live music, buy a ticket and go see them.