Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm Like My Cat

This week I made salt dough ornaments for my music students.  I'd love to give them more for Christmas, but funds are really tight right now.  I decided to get creative and make them something for a change.

In the midst of the floury mess, with rolling pin in hand, and socks on my feet, I noticed my cat seemed to be getting a bit playful on the kitchen floor.  Couldn't be that I was making ornaments.  This could only mean one thing:  a mouse!

Sure enough.  She had a dead mouse.  At least I think it was dead.  I didn't want to get too close to confirm it.  I'm not real fond of mice to say the least.

Since I was pretty sure it was dead, I resumed working on my ornaments.  Next thing I knew, that mouse came flying across the floor right into my stocking feet.  I screamed out loud and jumped away. 

So that I could finish working on my ornaments and deal with the mouse later, I put my empty laundry basket upside down on top of the mouse to keep my cat from flinging it at me again.

While talking on the phone with my big sister, (I couldn't get the ornaments to roll out right - so I called for advice) I happened to see my cat playing in another part of the house.  Sure enough, somehow she had managed to remove the mouse from under the basket and was now flinging it around in the living room.

That's it.  I couldn't take the pressure of not knowing where that thing would fly to next. 

I went to the basement and grabbed my husband's big leather gloves, picked up the mouse by his/her tail (how do you know which it is?) and went outside. 

I'm still not sure if the mouse was alive or not, but it bumped against my glove and once again I screamed and flung it across the yard. 

When I came back in, heart pounding out of my chest, I noticed my cat lounging by the window as if she could care less that I had just removed her pride and joy from her.

Everyone says that she was proud of her mouse and wanted me to see it and to notice her.  Whatever.

I got to thinking though.  I'm not much different than her. 

I have a new project coming out soon. It's called "Hand Painted".  It has eleven contemporary worship tunes painted on the piano (and other instruments).  Every time I post my progress about it on facebook or twitter, I wonder if others are feeling turned off by my 'flinging' it around.  But I can't help it.  I'm quite fond of it. 

This is my catch.  My hard work is now finished and soon to be released to the world. 

This project is a canvas of musical colors created out of sheer joy with my hands and heart.

Playing the piano is where my musical journey all began, so doing this was like going home in a sense.  Leading worship has been a part of my musical journey too for many years.  Now the portrait is complete with some of my favorite tunes played on my favorite instrument. 

Thanks for listening, thanks for enjoying and thanks for continuing to support my music. 

And if it feels like a dead mouse to you that you personally have no interest in, that's ok.  That's the beauty of art.  Whether the beholder enjoys the art or not, I've had a great time 'capturing my mouse'. 

Hopefully others will notice and enjoy it too.  Does that mean I'm like my cat?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Relationship Versus Religion

I struggle sometimes.  Caught between religion and relationship.

At church over the weekend, my Pastor shared an amazing message about this very thing.

His points were worth sharing:

*  Religion seeks to replace the work of the Holy Spirit with our performance

*  Religion makes you miserable and mechanical
*  Religion will get you racking up points and keeping score

Religion is:

*  Trying to earn what is already ours
*  Trying to manufacture what only God can produce
*  Striving FOR acceptance instead of living FROM acceptance

Religion =

1)  You become performance focused or performance based
2)  You become competitive with someone else and do a lot of comparison with others in general
3)  You become a fault finder and critical
4)  You become defensive
5)  You live with an unresolved sense of guilt because you base your relationship with God on what you DO instead of   what Jesus did FOR you.

Trade in every 'religious' act for His love.
Trade in criticism for prayer.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Weepy Worship Leaders?"

I was privileged to lead about 500 women in worship through music this past weekend.  It's something that I frequently do and I find it a very enjoyable privilege.

I prefer to maintain some sort of professionalism when I lead and though I can be quite emotional off the stage, I find it hard to sing well and cry at the same time, so I prefer to maintain some sort of composure.  But this past weekend was so full of little kisses from heaven upon my own heart, that I couldn't hold back the tears very well.

In discussing this with some friends, I discovered that they much prefer to see a worship leader who isn't afraid to cry and let their true emotions show.

I held it together until the other singer, Bonnie Keen, sang a most beautiful arrangement of the "untitled hymn".  The last time I sang that song was at the funeral of a 13 year old son of a deacon family at my previous church.

I've never handled death very well, not sure if it's due to so much death in my own family or what, but whatever the case, I couldn't get through that song at his funeral and I wasn't getting through listening to it this past weekend either.  I was doing ok until the last verse......'fly to Jesus'.  My tears began to fly too.

It was my turn to lead an upbeat version of "I Am Free" right after Bonnie moved us with her song and all I could do was cry.  Since I had just had a discussion about showing your emotions when you lead worship, I decided to do something different and let the tears flow freely.  After I was able to pull myself together enough to speak, I just told the women that I was so moved by that song and could not hear that song without thinking of the family who lost their teenage son.  His name was Nathan.  The brother I lost in our farm pond was named Nathan also.

On the way home from the conference, I got up the courage to ask my friends what they thought of letting my emotions show in that instance.  I was quite shocked at their answers.  They wanted to see a worship leader who was 'touchable' and somehow my transparency made me relatable to them.  If these were my good friends feeling this, how much more must people you've never met need to feel this.

This hit home when a new found friend on facebook sent me the following message:

"thanks 4 ur friend acceptance 2 fb. i say again how awesome ur leadership was in our worship music this past weekend @ sandy cove. luv'd 2 ur open emotion, i think that shows a true heart & i forgot any thankgoodness for sleeves!! lol."

I don't mind being transparent, but I always feel that hesitancy when it comes to being on the platform and being in front of people.  Why do we need to be so prim and proper?

I welcome the thought of being a 'weepy' worship leader.

How do you feel when someone on the platform weeps?  Would love to hear your comments.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No egg in this 'face' book today

It took a lot of persuasion for me to join myspace years ago.  A teenage friend of mine finally convinced me that I need to get with the program if I was going to communicate with her generation.  That's all it took.  I joined myspace.  After all, she even offered to set up my page for me.

Later when she told me 'facebook' was the new way to go, though I was a bit frustrated with having to join yet ANOTHER social network to keep up with her, I joined facebook and again, she set up the page for me.  (She's now in her twenties).

I have to say that I have fallen completely head over heels for facebook now.   I love communicating with people in this way.

But recently, I saw a new side to the face of facebook when I posted a link to a blog I wrote about having to take my mother's car away from her.  She's 86 and ready to give up driving, but it was a hard task for me.  (see earlier blog post)

She seems to be doing well with it, so that's not my reason for this blog.

The 'egg farm' from which my mother would go and buy delicious home-laid eggs posted a comment on facebook that they were aware that she was no longer going to be driving because she sent them a note in the mail to tell them she would no longer be able to come buy their eggs.

Another FB friend read the egg-farm comment and offered to pick up eggs from this farm for my now 'grounded' mother and drop them off right at her front door.

I just talked with her yesterday on the phone.  The FB friend had located her home, stopped to visit her and offered in person to pick up and deliver eggs right to her front door.  (They have been a long time family friend, so don't be spooked by this.  It's just that we have reconnected recently thanks to FB).

Those of us who grew up on a farm where we had fresh eggs understand that there's just nothing like fresh, home-laid eggs.

Thanks facebook for providing a way to show random acts of kindness just by a post on the wall.  No eggs in your face today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I thought it was cool when I was little and missionaries came to our church and told of how they had to live by faith and trust God for every single need they had.  They'd tell of amazing miracles God did in providing for them supernaturally and I wanted to live like them.

That was then.  This is now.

Over a year and a half ago I left my 'day job' to pursue songwriting and performing full time.  It's a vision I had for a long time and was thrilled to see it finally come to pass.  Though it was a big step of faith, I have seen God provide for me and have always been able to not only pay all my bills, but pay them on time.  My bookings have increased and doors continue to open.

Lately however, I've been sensing the call to step out in even greater ways.  To trust more fully.  To let go of one of my last sources of 'steady' income.  Teaching private lessons in my studio.

I was reading Matt. 6:31-33 recently where God asks us why we worry about clothes and food?  If He cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, surely He'll care for us, He promises.

My exact words to Him in response were "I'm not worried about food and clothes...I know I have enough of those things....I'm worried about paying my monthly obligations as a result of this ministry that I've given myself to."

So me and God have been working on this part of my faith.  I'm still working through the 'whys' of my lack of faith and asking God to help me trust Him more.  Why am I so afraid He won't care for me???

This morning as I was reading in Psalm 78, I got hit between the eyes.....or 'busted' as some folks might say.  Guess I still have more work to do in this new season of trust.

"They even spoke against God himself, saying, "God can't give us food in the desert. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can't give his people bread and meat."  When the Lord heard them, he was angry.  The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob.  Yes, his anger rose against Israel, for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them."

Ya know - I truly believe that it must hurt my heavenly Father when I don't believe he can supply all my needs or can't trust him to care for me.  I can believe that we'll have enough food and clothes...but like the children of Israel I doubt that He can go beyond the daily needs to the bigger things.

Yep - I've been busted.  Again.

"Lord, I believe.  Now help my unbelief".

How have you seen God meeting your needs?  I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The final list of songs on my new CD

Since May of 2009 I have been working on this new CD and I am so happy to see it come to completion.  I have really enjoyed getting back into being creative in a different way these past 6 months.  Normally, I'm writing new songs, practicing for concerts, preparing topics for speaking and writing songs for terminally ill children and youth.

It's been a nice change to sit and play the piano and be creative with songs I usually lead for worship.  Now my fans will be able to enjoy some of their favorite worship choruses in an instrumental version.

Here's the final list of 11 songs:

Blessed Be Your Name
The Wonderful Cross
How Great is Our God
Here I Am To Worship
In Christ Alone
Holy is The Lord
Beautiful One
You're Worthy of My Praise

We are planning for a pre-Christmas release.  So consider ordering for Christmas gifts too!

You can help move the process along by pre-ordering this new CD.  Visit and click on "buy music".

Friday, November 6, 2009

When The Flowers Fade

I like to wog around our block.  Somedays.  On beautiful sunny days like today.

Wog is my term for the combination of walk/jog that I do.  I walk until I feel energized, then jog until I feel like I'm going to die, then I walk again.

There's a beautiful home on the road that I walk.  They've had a beautiful showcase of petunias all summer long and I've admired them on every walk!

But recently I noticed the flowers were gone.  Before I had time to feel sad because winter is coming for sure, I saw some aspects of the landscape I had not seen before because I was always sidetracked by the flowers.

Without the flowers, the grey stone walls of the house show up more.  The black shutters are strikingly black, which show off the remaining flowers with their big red dinosaur-size blooms.

I had to think.  There are days when I feel like the flowers in my life are gone.  News of the death of a friend's baby, or a friend losing their job and having trouble finding a new one.

Over time though, from experience in my own life, I've observed that when one aspect of landscape is gone in our life, we somehow see some other parts more clearly. Things we took for granted before become really special.

Not everything fades when the flowers fade.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"I Took My Mother's Car Away"

I don't have children.  Been married 20 years, have 2 cats and sometimes joke that they are my children, but I have enough friends with children to know that realistically, cats are NOT children.  Though they take a lot of love and attention (play time, litter boxes, discipline not jumping on the counter for the millionth time, etc.) they still are NOT children.

I do have a mother.  Every person has one.  I am half the age of my mother.  She had me when she was 43.  Quite a job for someone at 43 I'd say, since that is exactly my age now.

I don't know what it's like to take away something a child loves for the sake of their well-being or put up boundaries 'for their protection', but I do know what it's like to take away my mother's car.

She's 86 and has been a widow for 8 1/2 years (for the second time).  Her first husband died after 2 years of marriage and one little boy, who later died at the age of 26.  And oh yeah, did I mention she lost another child of hers who drowned when he was just 2 years old.  She knows what it is to give up something she loves.  So taking her car should be an easy thing for both she and I - right?


I have this huge crushing weight in my heart and torrential rains threaten to pour out of my eyes if I but open the dam.  Fortunately I was able to hold them back.  Just some scattered showers.

For the past couple of years she has been saying that she needs to quit driving.  I always agreed.  But I was determined not to force this on her.  I felt she should make her own decision.

A few weeks ago she called my cell phone and left a message (though prompted by my sister) and said she was ready to give up her car .  I called her back to make sure she had not been forced into this phone call (as if my sweet sister could even do such a thing).

I have to admit I've been dreading this day.  I went through all the arguments in my mind - ya know - the "she could have an accident and kill someone" kind of thing, but it never helped.  I know that she is crossing a new threshold in life when she releases her car.  She now depends on everyone else for just about everything.  Doctor, dentist, groceries, church, holidays....oh my, the holidays.  We will now need to pick her up for everything from Thanksgiving to Memorial who knows what else.  Okay, so some of my feelings are selfish.

But right now, I feel really, really sad.  In fact, as we were talking tonight (before the rude car removal ritual) she mentioned that she heard some messages on TV today that helped prepare her for "her car being taken away from her".  I politely tried to let her know that the last thing I want her to feel is that her car is being taken away.  She gave permission.  She made this decision weeks ago.  Now I feel like the bad mother who is disciplining her child.  Is this hurting me worse than it is her?  Probably not - though it feels that way.

When I finally left her house, she said, "well, I guess this is goodbye" - to her car, not me.  That did it.  I had to make my way quickly to the car, her car that is.  If she showed any emotion whatsoever, the torrential rains would begin.

Yes, I guess I've become the mother now.  It's happened gradually.   I just hope I can be as good of a mother to her as she has been to me.
I was rendered speechless recently when a long time piano student of mine plopped down on the bench for her lesson and challenged me to guess what she just learned to do.

Now this is a girl who started back when her feet couldn't even touch the floor. Though she has always worked hard, she is quite shy and has little to say. I was shocked at both her outburst and her pride at her newly discovered accomplishment.

When she offered to demonstrate, I watched in sheer delight as this reserved young lady proceeded to lay down ON the piano bench with her head UNDER the piano keys and her hands reaching up from underneath to play UPSIDE DOWN!

All she needed to get started was for me to orient her back to middle C (a hard thing to do from the upside down position) and away she went with a few little elementary tunes made complicated by her 'reverse' position. (Halfway through I realized that this was indeed a kodak moment and grabbed the camera).

Don't be surprised if you see this new technique next time you see me in concert. I just hope I can get back up afterward.

The only thing to which I can attribute this new found boldness is the recent removal of her braces. A few weeks ago, she announced in another shocking outburst that she was finally getting her braces off. She has been like a different person. It's almost as if the braces made her feel inhibited in every way. Now she is talking and laughing and coming out of her shell......and playing upside down.

I think many of us walk around with restrictive braces on our hearts that keep us from living fully and abundantly. Sometimes it's someone elses words that inhibit us, sometimes it's as simple as our own self-doubt that causes lack of confidence.

It's fun to be a part of someone's life and watch them grow and become confident in who they are. That's a big reason why I do what I do. I hope it will create in others the courage to be all they were created to be....even if it appears upside down to my way of thinking.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marching Music

What have you always been good at?
What needs do you care about most?
Who do you admire most?
What makes you feel most fulfilled?
What do you love to do most?
What have you felt called to do?
What do you most want to be remembered for?

We were standing on the Gettysburg battlefield watching a re-enactment of the little band that marched ahead of the soldiers in battle. Their uniforms looked a bit warm to me.....but our outfits weren't much better. We were on our motorcycles so we were wearing our leather jackets and chaps.

The drummers and pipers had specific pieces of music they were assigned to play for various events in the battle. I was especially interested in their breakfast call. (I like food).

They had all kinds of tunes for all kinds of orders and assignments. The last statement of the leader particularly caught my ear. "Soldiers march a little faster when there is music." As a musician I was inspired by this statement.

We have music at funerals, weddings, gyms, restaurants, parades, graduations and music at church where we gather to worship with our friends and family. Music can brighten any occasion!

Every soldier had their part in the battle. They were much more successful when everyone did their part. I am so happy to have the part of 'musician' in this life. If music helps us step a little faster, feel a bit more victorious and keep us attentive to our roles and assignments, than I am honored to be one of those that contributes in this way.

Finding your place is so crucial - especially in these times. An organization of any kind that does not have people functioning in their gifts will never reach its full potential.

Consider asking yourself this question - it's one that changed my life forever and got me on this road of music. "What is your place?"

I had to do a lot of soul searching and praying to find that answer, but when I did - it changed my path forever.

I'm so glad someone challenged me with that question. I hope that as a result, the 'soldiers' I serve among march a little easier and happier because I'm playing my role of musician.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I love rocky road ice cream.  I don't care for rocky roads however (especially on my motorcycle).  Neither do I care for rocky soil.  

I distinctly remember having to help pick up rocks on our PA farm when I was little and I didn't care for that either.  We had beautiful limestone soil on the farm, though it was rocky in some places.  It produced a bountiful garden (which I didn't enjoy having to help with at the time).  Now I treasure those memories.

The house where we live now is only about 4 miles from the farm where I grew up, but the soil is completely different!  I've had trouble for 20 years trying to grow ANYTHING on this property.  Now I know why.

Recently we had to dig a trench around our house complete with tile so we won't have a flooded basement anymore....which of course meant  uprooting all the flowers I had planted.  After seeing what's below the surface where I've tried to grow gardens and flowers, I'm not sure I'll EVER re-plant anything now.  About 6 inches below the soil (or less) is an unwelcome foundation of rock - as far as you can dig.    Rocky soil

The scripture tells the story of a farmer who went out and planted seeds and though at first they appeared to be growing, they soon hit rocks and couldn't take root.  It describes the rocks as problems and cares.  

Have you ever felt like you had a seed from God in the form of a promise or a dream perhaps?  You receive it and jump up and down because it's something really special and you know it will grow into something big.  But not too long after that, your car breaks down, you experience alarming physical symptoms and end up at the doctor's office for the next few weeks with tests and bills following you home.  Next thing you know, discouragement has taken hold, you're anxious about many things and you let go of the promise and the dream.

That's exactly what problems and cares do.  They come to steal our dreams and promises.  They come and test us.  If we're not careful, we will begin to develop a heart that simply functions with no feelings.  We enter survival mode.  We try to plant beautiful things, only to find that they just don't grow and flourish.  Underneath the hope we have are some rocks that won't let anything take root.

This describes me for the past month.  I feel like I'm being challenged to take more steps of faith.  I can't see the end result, but I feel the pull to let go and jump in with both feet.  Car problems, illness, fear - it all amounts to one word.  "Problems".  They wear you down and steal your joy.  So here's what I've been doing to help!

In the mornings when I read the Word of God, I have been writing down specific verses on a separate sheet of paper.  Verses that speak to me and fill me with hope and faith.  Then I take that piece of paper with me to my studio and put it on my keyboard where I can see it all day long.  I look at them throughout the day and remind myself of them.  I say them aloud and soak in all their meaning.  They have a way of chipping away the rocks.

Problems and cares may keep coming - but I'm not going to let them steal my dreams.  I wish the same for you!  Get out that jack hammer (the Word) and start breaking away the rocks!  Hold on to those promises!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sitting through a Tornado in the car!

"There are tornado warnings in our area right now. You need to vacate this building because it is NOT a safe structure for weather like this. It would be safer for you to go to your car or go to a restaurant with a basement."

This was the announcement made at the recent seminar I attended in Nashville, TN. Now as you can imagine, I began visualizing sitting through a tornado in my car. I guess it's not a big deal. The seat backs could become a floatation device, the air bag could pop out of the steering wheel and provide oxygen for me (if I could pop it and get it to deflate into my mouth so I would have clean air to breathe) and the seat belt securely fastened would certainly protect me from turbulence. I wasn't sure what to do about a tray table, but maybe the restaurant with the basement could make provisions for that.......but, like I know restaurants in town that have basements.....hmmm.

Everywhere I go, I seem to have quite the adventure and this past weekend in Nashville was no different. I went for a 2-day seminar called the CIA Summit. (stands for Christian Independent Artists - don't worry, I'm not working for the government). It was full of great resources, topics and networking.

One of the most moving statements I heard over the weekend was this: The one thing we still have in America that the world respects is in the area of the arts. They don't respect our politics, our government and now our economy - but they do still respect music and the arts. What a great time to be a musician and an artist. We have the capability to impact the world like never before. I went away so happy to be a part of music!

As for the tornado?...we did find a restaurant, but no basement. The tornado never formed as far as I know and we were able to continue our seminar a couple hours later.

Though the toilets at the TN airport seemed to work well, (read my NY toilet experience under I Love NY in the 3/16/09 blog) I somehow managed to book my flight for p.m. instead of a.m. and didn't realize that until I got to the airport Sunday morning to fly home and was told by the customer service agent that I was there 12 hours early.   I love Nashville but did not relish the idea of spending 12 hours in the airport. Fortunately, though it cost me, I was able to get on the next flight out that morning. Alas, I'm home safe and sound again and still happy over my trip to TN!

And by the way - forgot to mention - I was so thrilled to receive the "Female Artist of the Year" 2009 Momentum Award at this Summit (pictured above).

Monday, March 16, 2009

I love NY!

What an amazing trip to NY I had this weekend.   

Even though the toilet in the Albany, NY airport kept automatically flushing before I even had a chance to really lock the door and though it kept spraying me from across the stall and I ended up deserting it and deciding I could wait until I got to my hotel to use the bathroom, and even though my hairspray can (which I had in a plastic bag for protection) exploded in my suitcase and spotted a brand new outfit I intended to wear for the weekend, which my host so kindly took to the dry cleaners for me and learned that they couldn't easily get the spots out in the time we needed it, so her daughter ended up taking it home and working on it for me so I could have it Sunday, and even though I arrived home late Sunday night in Harrisburg safe and some-what sound, my luggage is still out there somewhere between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. But all in all, I had an AMAZING weekend.  

It was an incredible experience to lead 800 + women in worship.  They were such a responsive group and I was so touched by their worship.  Carol Kent moved me to tears, as she always does, with her incredible heart-wrenching story and how she has learned to choose hope and joy in spite of those circumstances.  

As far as we know at least 20 women gave their lives to Christ on Saturday and so many were specifically touched by God in a special way. 

I got to stay over for the Sunday morning services at the Loudonville Community Church and co-lead with their worship team (pictured above).  What a wonderful experience that was to finish off the weekend.  They have a great worship band with the basic rhythm section, but also a beautiful addition of flute and violin.

My heart is overwhelmed by the opportunities I have been given to share Him through music with people all over this country.   "I Love NY" as the T-shirts say.  : )

Oh, and by the way - I found a toilet in the Albany Airport on my way home that doesn't spray continuously.   Nice end to my trip!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Loved just the way we are???

Recently I did the music at a Women's Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, MI at Cornerstone University/Seminary. The keynote speaker was Dee Brestin and wow what a great speaker! One of the things she kept saying over and over that really challenged me was "God loves us just the way we are and too much to let us stay that way".

It's so nice to be loved and accepted just as I am - no strings attached. But I like the thought of being loved enough to be moved on to be all I can be - not just what I am now.