Monday, December 21, 2015

The Second Half of the Story

"You know the material, you've just mis-applied it". 

I traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to Tennessee just to hear that??? 

Working with Live Music Producer, Tom Jackson.
I couldn't believe what he was saying to me. I had studied his material for over ten years and was sure I had a handle on it.

I guess I must have been visibly shaken (I know I was on the inside) because he began to spend the next hour encouraging me, but it didn't seem to penetrate my disappointed soul. 

I remember a similar feeling when I was in high school and thought I did really well on my math test only to find out I failed it. But this was much more important to me than a math test!

For over ten years I studied Tom Jackson's methods for live performance.  I bought his tapes, DVDs, signed up for his seminars and studied with his assistants. When he started writing a blog, I read that. I'd drive to my concerts while listening to his teaching just to keep his wisdom fresh in my mind and soul. I began to see pre-concert nervousness and anxiety disappear as I applied his techniques.

Many performers usually have multiple layers of fears. At the bottom of all our anxiety lies a fear that no one will like us. The next layer comes from fear that if we don't perform perfectly, we are a failure.  We think about the perfect notes, trills, pitches and how we are perceived and rarely ever think about the audience and what they might be feeling and thinking.  As I've begun to focus more on my audience and less on me everywhere I go, I have gone from being nervous to having complete peace before each event, thanks to Tom.

So when I finally got to work with Live Music Producer, Tom Jackson, over a year ago, I was pretty sure that we could skip the basics, cut right to the intricate details and really cover some deep territory because I already had a handle on his basic methods. Boy, was I ever wrong. But that's the first half of the story.

I learned a lot more as I spent the rest of the afternoon working with Tom, but I never fully recovered from feeling like I was a failure. I probably mis-applied his encouragement too. He told me that I knew more than about 90% of the artists out there because of my diligent study, but by then, I couldn't seem to hear that part.

Last week, in my blog post, I shared a very big answer to prayer. The answer was having Tom come to my Portraits of White concert last weekend to see me apply his methods....or at least try. 

Enjoying ice cream with Ed Kee (Conductor) and Tom Jackson after the concert.
Hearing the initial words from Tom was a wake up call for me because it called attention to an underlying feeling I've struggled with for years, but could never put my finger on, until he said "you've mis-applied the information." I realize now that it is a thread of fear stitched into the core of who I am, but thankfully, that thread is starting to come unraveled.

You see, I have a crippling fear when it comes to God. I am afraid I'll spend my whole life trying to please Him and then one day, He'll tell me "sorry, you mis-applied everything".  FAILURE.

I'm the kind of person who tries hard to do everything right. Just tell me how to be perfect and I'll give it my best shot.  I even apply this to my spiritual life. Just tell me how to act right so God will love me and I'll do it.

But there always seemed to be a low-grade fear inside. That fear was brought to the surface by an innocent conversation with Tom J. I never fully recovered from my first session with Tom. It hung over me like a faint wisp of smoke, clouding my vision AND my faith.

The morning of my Portraits of White concert, I was walking the grounds of Messiah College and pondering all that was unfolding. The fact that Tom was willing to come all the way to Pennsylvania and invest his time and wisdom in my life was a sort of redemption that I greatly needed.  He hadn't given up on me, in fact, he was coming to help me grow and improve. His words spoken almost two years ago were never meant to hurt or discourage. He was trying to help me. I knew that in my head, but my heart needed to feel it. His presence at my concert moved it 12 inches from my head to my heart.

The more I press in to understand God and allow Him to love me, the more He seems to stir up my bad streams of thought that affect every area of my life. He brings them to light and I'm learning that He does so, not to condemn me, but to lead me into greater freedom.

After the Portraits of White concert, I heard that Tom gave me a 10 out of 10 on my performance. Many people have asked me what he thought. My big sister apparently asked him (thanks big sister!) I know that he'll have some tips for me that will only make me better and I look forward to hearing them after the post-concert dust settles! I'm not afraid to hear what he has to say - even if I'm still mis-applying knowledge, because I know that he has my best interest at heart and over time, I will not only learn his techniques but learn how to apply them.

Having him come to my concert was a picture of God coming to my rescue to help me learn to apply His ways and thoughts to my life. He, after all, is the greatest producer there is.  He loves creativity and He loves a great show!

Just watch the lightening.

The sunsets.

The male cardinal.

I'm learning that even if I mis-apply knowledge, the Great Producer will come and sit with me and help me learn not only how to know Him better, but to apply His wisdom and become a better artist.

That's the second half of the story.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

That One Unanswered Prayer

Heart to heart talk with Live Music Producer, Tom Jackson.
Tom Jackson is a world renown Live Music Producer who has worked with singers like Taylor Swift, Jars of Clay, etc.  I first heard him over ten years ago at a conference in Nashville, TN and the moment I heard him, I set a goal to work with him in person.  His methods were unlike anything I had ever heard, but they resonated with me.  He teaches artists how to build special moments into their concerts - with the audience as the most important aspect of the night.

Working on some rhythm ideas. Yep - we try anything!
I have worked with his assistants and have steadily been growing and stretching in every way as an artist.  I've studied his book, listened to his tapes and DVDs over and over and have applied his techniques diligently. But I still found myself wanting to work specifically with Tom.

It took me over 10 years, but on April 24, 2014, I did it.  I traveled to TN with my big sister and for two days, I got to see my dream come true. I shared my vision for a Christmas concert and as he caught the vision, he encouraged me in my dream and said he'd be willing to work with me over the years to build it into something amazing.

But Tom is in demand all over the world and because I live in PA, it's hard to coordinate our schedules to work together.

Tom's sarcastic humor
and my dry wit go together well.
Fast forward to the spring of 2015 and my conductor, Ed Kee, said there were two things I needed to have in place this year. A videographer to record the concert and a show producer who would help me take everything to another level.  He encouraged me to find someone from NY, Baltimore or Philadelphia who could come and observe this year's show and give me pointers in growing it to the level I dream about.

I knew in my heart that I really wanted that person to be Tom Jackson, but the prospect of getting him here on the night of my concert felt hopeless.  Cost would be one big factor, not to mention schedules.

For the past year I have been diligently planning the Portraits of White 2015 concert. I have spent hours praying over the concert trusting God to bring all the details together. I've had moments of panic and anxiety but have sensed His reassuring hand and voice telling me that this will happen not by MY might or power, but by His Spirit.  I have prayed over details and left the connectivity of them to Him.

A prayer group has been meeting for the past month, once a week, praying for every aspect of the evening. We have seen one prayer after another answered. But this one eluded me.  I don't think I even mentioned this need to them because I had prayed all summer about it and to no avail, trying to find producers in the area, but not having much luck.  It has to be the right kind of person.  I still wanted Tom but didn't even dare mention it to anyone or the prayer group.  It was just too big of a request. I would continually mention this in my own prayers: "I need a producer and if there is someone You can bring to me, please do so. I certainly don't know how to do this."

It's not easy to share your heart
and soul with someone and be critiqued.
But the laughter kept it fun.
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, (this week) I was flying home from a Christmas event I did in Madison, Mississippi and received word that the one prayer I thought was going to be unanswered is NOW answered and I haven't done a thing to make it happen.

I got an e-mail Monday from Tom Jackson's wife saying he knew that my show was coming up on the 12th and had his calendar open if I wanted him to come see the show and give his input.

So here it is, Thursday, before the big event on Saturday and Tom is coming Friday for the rehearsal and will stay for the concert on Saturday and give me his critiques, later, when the dust has settled.

Thank you God for knowing the desire of my heart without me even speaking it out loud and making it all come together without me doing anything but praying.  Why do I doubt you.....ever????

One last prayer that we are all praying for....

A SOLD OUT show!

There are still some seats left.  I'd LOVE to have you there.  It's going to be very, very special. Watch the promo video here and then click the link below the video to buy your tickets.

Help me sell out the show.

Can't wait to welcome Tom to PA and Portraits of White.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Festival Of The Soul

It's Thanksgiving Day and I'm enjoying a day of rest.   Most of us are starting to gear up for the holidays and after the festivities of the day, will rush right into Black Friday.  I have friends who have already decided to put up their christmas tree.

I almost did.

I've been preparing for my Portraits of White concert for so long now that I feel like putting up a tree is too miniscule.  My insides have dug so deep into reflection that the little plastic tree I normally put up seems fake and trite. The makeover of my soul through this process seems to call for a complete makeover of my decorations too....but that won't be happening. I wouldn't even know how to express my soul in the way of ornaments and trees.

My decorations will show up in every note, lyric and thought presented on the night of December 12. It will be a festivity of the soul guised in the garb of music.

I've been practicing for months, but mistakes never disappear it seems. They are like little gophers that pop up out of their hole at the most unexpected times. As soon as I get one conquered, another appears. My mode of retaliation is to "hammer down" - a pun that fits the grand piano well.

It always puzzles me how a person can work so hard and long on something and still have it go awry. Like a skater who's jumped perfectly thousands of times but falls during a competition.

I experienced that recently at one of my concerts. In the midst of a piece I've played countless times, I completely lost my way.  The only payoff in practicing, in that moment, was that I pulled myself together and kept going.  The ability to keep going was my only success in that moment. Or at least it felt like it.

I walked away feeling like a complete failure. One hour of music - lyrics remembered and all, but all I could think about was the 5 seconds of faltering.

I'm reading a book right now that a singer friend recommended.  I knew the instant she told me about it that I needed to read it...and SOON.  It arrived last week. Today I'm reading it and I feel like I've visited a doctor who has been able to prescribe medicine that will relieve my pain and I thought you might like it too.

It doesn't matter if you are a musician or not - the tendency to remember the ONE mistake you made over any successes you had is common to all of us.  The writer tells of a cello student she had who was quick to point out his own mistakes but never mentioned when he did well. He considered any good performance an "accident".

She encouraged him to speak his successes out loud, not just his mistakes.   He went on to tell his teacher, "I guess I feel that way about a lot of stuff in my life. I sort of shrug off all my successes but get preoccupied with possible failures. Pretty dumb, isn't it?"

I stopped right at that paragraph and put my book down. I reflected on the recent "failure" where I lost my way in a song. All I could remember from that night was the 5 seconds of disarray. I gave about an hour concert and everything else went very well.  In fact, there were moments when I felt like I was giving some of the best delivery ever.  But I don't remember those moments now...or at least I didn't until I read of another human being's struggle to remember the successes.

I'm thankful for this reminder to focus in on the good things. The successes, the opportunities, the blessings we have been given. I suppose that's what this day is really all about.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

She's Still Standing!

I was jump roping along the road one morning 
and came upon this cornstalk.  

She was determined to grow no matter what. 

Busy traffic.

Dry weather.

Rainy weather.


Gawking strangers.

Only one ear to show for all her effort.

She didn't seem to care.

She was still standing.

I want to be like her.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How Cancer Has Shaped My Faith

Diana Focht (left) has become such a support to me at my concerts and in my music.
I received an e-mail this week from my friend, Diana Focht, who has become a support to my life and my music in so many ways.  She oversees the product table at my concerts as often as possible (which you see her doing in the picture above).  

However, Diana has her own story to tell and when she sent me this article, written for another blog, I asked her if I could share it with you. 

How Cancer Has Shaped My Faith

by Diana Focht

No one wants to hear the word, cancer, associated with them, but when it comes, you have a choice to make. Do you give in to the hopelessness and despair of a cancer diagnosis, or do you look upward, and cling to a God who has promised to never leave you nor forsake you!   

A verse I've known most of my life, but one that became extremely important to me not only while undergoing treatment for cancer, but more so in the "lost days" after treatment, is Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! 

Can we hope for an end to our cancer and be sure about it?! Can we really be certain that God not only sees us in our times of trouble, but that He loves us enough to carry us through it?! In faith, can I trust that God has a plan and purpose for my cancer?!

Faith. Sometimes it's a hard word to define, and often times, it's an even harder word to live out! We talk of a faith in God. We hear of a saving faith. But when I was going through my cancer, I wanted a healing faith! I wanted a faith that could believe that God would physically heal me of my cancer. I prayed for it. My family and friends prayed for it. A multitude of strangers from around the country prayed for it. I was anointed and prayed for not once, or twice, or three times, but four times. 

My faith was riddled with doubt, because nine years earlier, I watched my Dad take his final breath, after battling cancer for three short, agonizing months. I wanted a healing faith for him, but it didn't come. At least not the way I wanted it to. My faith was shaken for the longest time.

Three months and four chemo rounds into my cancer treatment, my doctor ordered a CAT scan to check the progress of the chemo. The results were not the results she was expecting, and she was ecstatic! The CAT scan results showed no evidence of disease. When I asked her if these results were normal or abnormal for an individual battling stage 3 endometrial cancer, who had only undergone 4 rounds of chemo, without hesitation, she said it was abnormal. At that point, I acknowledged what I had been sharing with her from the beginning…that God had healed me of the cancer! It was a tremendous time of rejoicing and celebration! My faith meter was sky high!

Two days later, I was called into the HR Director's office at work. My company had experienced a downturn in business and had been laying people off weekly. I knew what this visit meant, but even after being told my employment would end in two weeks, my faith was still soaring. 

I still had one more chemo treatment, which was scheduled to take place after my employment, and my health insurance, ended. The Lord prompted me to ask the company to extend my health insurance to cover the last chemo treatment, and through a chance encounter with our company's COO, I believe the Lord softened their hearts to show me mercy and they extended the health insurance for 30 days. I was still on a "faith high"!

Little did I know at that time, it would be 12 long months before I was once again employed full-time. 

What followed was a move back to my home state of Pennsylvania and a roller coaster ride of emotions, disappointments, discouragement, fear, doubts, uncertainty, indecision, name it. I entered a phase where I just felt lost. The cancer was behind me, but I wasn't the same person, in many ways. I couldn't find my "new normal". I was scarred physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually from the battle I had waged for six months. 

My faith took a tumble.

God in His mercy and grace, placed individuals in my life to carry me through these lost days. They encouraged me and lovingly nursed me back to spiritual health. 

One individual just loved on me and showed me what compassion looks like in human form. 

Another individual, who had gifted me with a Compassion Bag, became a trusted friend and a spiritual mentor. 

An individual, whom the Lord had brought back into my life right before the cancer diagnosis, modeled for me an authentic faith that lives out the peaks and valleys in our Christian walk. 

And finally, He brought an individual whose music brought to me peace and hope, and it raised me up.

God had a plan and a purpose for my cancer, and that was to draw me into a closer walk with Him. The testing of our faith is to result in us looking more and more like Jesus. I am not the same person I was before the cancer diagnosis. Not because the cancer changed me, but because God changed me!   

My musical friend sings a song that has become an anthem to me about faith. Read the words she sings:

It’s believing the impossible 
Seeing the invisible
Dreaming bigger than you’ve ever dreamed
It’s listening to His still small voice 
It’s letting your heart make the choice
It’s standing at the edge of what could be
It’s reaching through the shadow of a doubt
That’s what faith is all about

Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! That is what faith is all about!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Portraits of White Winter Concert is filling up fast.  Get your tickets soon.

Go HERE to "like" my Frances Drost Solo Artist music page so you can participate in the contest on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 9:00 a.m.

Want more info about the concert itself or buy tickets?

See the video HERE.

December 12, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Messiah College
Parmer Hall
The Calvin and Janet High Center For Worship And Performing Arts
Mechanicsburg, PA 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Bucket Life

Every time someone asks me if I have a bucket list, I cringe.

I finally figured out why.

I don't have one because I feel like it implies that I'm living a dull life and the only way I'd change it is if I got some really bad news and realized my time was short, so I'd suddenly throw caution to the wind and go do everything I ever wanted to do. Maybe that's a harsh way to look at it...but that's me.

I'm not sure how much the movie "The Bucket List" contributed to my feelings, but I do know I had this reaction long before I saw the movie.

"Billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) are complete strangers, until fate lands them in the same hospital room. The men find they have two things in common: a need to come to terms with who they are and what they have done with their lives, and a desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die. Against their doctor's advice, the men leave the hospital and set out on the adventure of a lifetime."

I don't have a problem with this part of their story: "a desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die"

But here is where they lost me: "a need to come to terms with who they are and what they have done with their lives"

I don't like the idea of waiting until something serious comes along and threatens your identity causing you to scramble for your pen and paper and totally change your life's trajectory. 

I want to live my life in the now and decide now who I want to be and what I want to do and then spend my days doing and being. No line between what I am now and what I would do if I ran out of time.  I call it 'the bucket life'. I grab hold of all that I can right now and put it in my current bucket.

For instance.  Say I wanted to take a trip across the U.S. on my motorcycle. I think doing that would bring about a certain feeling of satisfaction and freedom. It would be 'out of the norm' of my current path, so therefore, it would feel amazing.  There is a sense of "I can't do this until certain things are in place" in that 'bucket list' mentality. If it's on the bucket list, I am waiting until something serious catapults me into the wherewithal to make my wish happen.

After all, I would need extra time, money and who knows what else to be able to travel all the way to CA on my motorcycle.  I might not ever have all those pieces in one place at the right time. I'd have to be retired, but then I might not be in good health. 

But in the 'bucket life' analogy, I take a ride in the evenings, through the valley where I call home.  I see the changing seasons, I get to stop and talk to friends out in the fields, I go for ice cream and I spend time with my husband. I experience the feelings in my current reality that I would have if I rode across the U.S.  

Having a bucket life mentality instead of a bucket list mentality has more to do with attitude. Embracing each moment you have right now and making the most of it. Bringing the 'list' items into your current 'life' as much as possible.

IF I had a bucket list, one item might be to do Christmas concerts all across North America - a Portraits of White Christmas tour.  But the truth is, I am getting so much enjoyment out of doing just one that I'd feel completely satisfied if I 'kicked the bucket' tomorrow because the bigger list is already a part of my present reality in a small way.

So I say, fill your bucket with all that you can and embrace each moment fully, right now.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Tunneling" Your Fears

I've somehow grown to be afraid of tunnels.  Growing up in Pennsylvania, living right near the turnpike meant we would travel through the tunnels of the Blue Mountain ridge of PA.  As a child I thought they were really neat...but as I have grown older and have a better comprehension of what they really are, I have to fight fear when I go through them.

I spent part of my week in Franklin, TN working on the upcoming Portraits of White concert, overcoming other fears.  I recorded short video clips as a way to "journal" my trip and share it with my friends.  Overcoming my fears about this upcoming concert has made many other fears in my life begin to appear small.  If I can do this concert.....I can do just about anything.

One morning I was out walking and decided to walk through a tunnel that I've known existed but was a little nervous about entering.

It was an 'enlightening' experience.

Click here to experience the tunnel with me.

If you want to experience the whole TN trip with me, head over to my Frances Drost Solo Artist page and "like" it and then you can go with me - virtually.

When it comes to pursuing your dreams.....

What are you afraid of?
What holds you back from pursuing them or conquering your fears?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Got A Light?

It's that time of year. The sun sleeps in later and goes to bed early. It throws my routine and rhythm out of whack and I don't like it.  I have to change my quiet time, my exercise time and even my diet.

Basically, I have to readjust my schedule to fit the sunlight. Shorter motorcycle rides in the evening (if any) and no early morning jogs. No more fresh watermelon and cantaloupe. My tomatoes are still with me but they are slowly fading and don't ripen as well in the crisp air.

During the summer I crave fruit and there is plenty to satisfy me so I make better food choices. In the fall I crave pumpkin pie, apple pie...dumplings...all the stuff I really shouldn't have. So now my temptation list is a little longer and stronger.

Every year I experience this upheaval, but every year I learn to adjust a little more quickly. I can't change the daylight, but I can guard my attitude.

There's one thing that I find helpful and though it's very small, I appreciate the hope it brings:
I simply light a candle on our table when we eat breakfast and dinner. The tardy sun in the morning and the approaching darkness outside in the evening are softened by the light of the candle. It flickers and makes me feel warm and peaceful.

It's funny how the smallest things can make a big difference. Like lighting a candle or choosing to embrace the change of seasons instead of dreading them. How about enjoying the fact that I can soon uproot my flowers and be done with outside work. There is a sense of rest from those labors. By the time spring comes, I'll be more than ready to start in on the garden again but I welcome the break from outside upkeep.

So if you, like me, struggle with the fading summer and coming winter, here's a few tips:

1.) Find creative ways to embrace the change (like candlelight on the table)

2.) Adjust your mental attitude from dread to embrace (be thankful for a break from outside work)

3.) Change your normal routine and realize that with it may come some benefits (it can keep you from getting too set in your ways)

Got a light? Put it to use!

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Getting Old - Do Not Disturb"

I feel like I have two girls living inside.

One is about 7 years old and has big ideas. Her dreams are bigger than her shoes but she doesn't care.

She's pretty clear about what she wants and there is nothing that can stop her because her imagination is the force within that drives her.  She would never tell you that because she's too young to know better. Dreaming is as natural as breathing. She doesn't give it a second thought. Decisions are easy. She does what pops into her head without thought of the future. It's all about the NOW.

The second girl is about 70 years old.

She's been through more things than you should ever take time to hear about. She has stepped out and taken some risks. Though most things have turned out ok, she's still sure that as she gets older, risks are too....well, um.....risky. Experience and fears (usually unfounded) make her less apt to dream. She could easily close up shop and hang a sign on the door:

"Getting Old - Do Not Disturb"

Yesterday I told my husband that the little girl in me seems to know exactly what to do, but the old woman in me rebukes me and starts talking me out of everything.

The older I get, the more I am trying to listen to the little girl inside. I think you reach a certain age where you start realizing that what you might lose is worth risking. (Please remind me of this the next time you see me freaking out).

I recently found myself wishing for a way to bring the two generations together - not just my two girls on the inside, but in society.

I was in Canada on a mini tour and one of the events I did was very small, but very rich. I'd go back again in a heartbeat. A group of mostly elderly gathered to sing hymns for a couple of hours. They were invited to pick their favorite songs and boy did we sing! When we weren't crying, that is. We ate a tasty lunch and then I did a concert for them. They laughed at "Silver Hair", my new parody of "Silver Bells".  It's not too early for Christmas these days.  It's all I think about as my big concert draws near.

I watched as they started blowing noses and wiping tears. I choked up. Some of them don't get to sing the old hymns any more. But they've lived life long enough that when they sing, they know from experience how true the words are. I found myself wishing the young people could experience this moment. I found myself wondering what I could do to join the vitality of youth, faith and zeal with the deep endurance of those who have lived long enough to be touched by the simplicity of faith.

The song leader and I are not yet fifty. We still have some youth left in us but we have been dancing with the symptoms of aging and we're getting a bit clumsy in our 'jig' as we navigate our forties. We can learn from those who have been there.

And likewise, I wish there was a way that the little girl in me could keep the old woman from caving in to ease and comfort. There must be a way for the old woman in me to nurture and guide the little girl who loves to dream.

Just like there must be a way for the younger generation to help the older ones remember how to dream. There must be a way for the older generation to speak wisdom and experience to the youth and catch them when they fall.

I think I'll keep my shop open for a while yet and I think I will change the sign:

"Getting Old - MOVE Out Of My Way"

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Dream Map

One of my readers posted this on my Facebook page recently and I laughed out loud in response.

It's so true and it says everything I could ever try to say in a million posts.

This is a map showing you the reality of dreaming!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Voices Inside Your Head

If you are a human, you come built with voices inside your head.  They can be as quiet as a passing thought or as loud as someone shouting at you. We either listen to them or we silence them.  They can be replaced with new voices or we can simply give in to the negative ones we seem to be born with.

I'm not sure when they actually materialize, but it seems like they can actually get louder as we get older. After all, as we age we accumulate more experiences that threaten to validate the voices of fear and doubt we've heard.

"You didn't lose weight the last time you tried. Why try again? It's hopeless."

"You know what happened when you spoke up the last time!"

"You are such a loser. You'll never be able to pull this off!"

I recently created a little video for a project I'm working on with RocketHub.  It was meant to be funny and when I posted it on Facebook, it was obvious that it did make people laugh.

The truth is, there really is a "dream killer" in my head. It announces it's presence at the strangest times.

If voices in your head had a face, they might look like this.....

Click here to 'see the voices' in your head.

Portraits of White is a very big dream and I've had plenty of experience fighting off voices in my head that haunt me with doubt and fear. It's a very expensive endeavor - and not just financially. It's an emotional investment as I make myself vulnerable to the public. "The Tip Jar" RocketHub campaign is one way to let others know what I'm up to and have a chance to contribute toward this BIG dream!

When I stand on the stage December 12, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. to begin the concert, you will know that the voices in my head have been conquered.

Here's a tip I use:


Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Invisible Runner Inside You

She offered me her bike one day so that we could go cycling together.  I was elated because I had been praying for a bicycle for months and now she was offering one of hers for my use AND a chance to ride with a friend. That was the start of a new friendship.

Every Friday we started riding together.  Sometimes there were 3 or 4 of us gals and we had a blast! Newville, PA may be small, but it offers a wonderful bike trail right near my house.  I was enjoying this new friend and our exercise times together at 6:00 in the mornings, until.....

I got a text asking if I wanted to run together in the morning. That was different. I'm new to long distance running and I feel very shy about it. It's taken me all summer to build up enough endurance to run 35 minutes without stopping. I knew that she has been running a long time and is much more experienced.

I had so many fears, would I be able to keep up? Would I slow her down? What if she wanted to talk and expected me to participate? I can barely breathe, let alone talk!

I sweat buckets of rain when I run and I really didn't want her to see that.

It reminded of an experience years ago at a gym. I was getting tired of a young college guy who kept coming in and asking me if I wanted the fan on (it was mounted above us on the wall and I had turned it on earlier).  The mean side of me wanted to say "no, I just have it on to bug you - I really don't want the fan on, I just turn it on out of obligation". Then I pictured myself yelling...OF COURSE I WANT THE FAN ON!"  But I merely said, yes...I want the fan on.

After this kept happening, I went to the girl in charge at the gym and mentioned this to her.  She told me men don't want the fan on because they WANT to sweat - thinking they will lose more weight if they sweat.  If that's the case, I should be the size of a petite toothpick. I have them all beat with the way I I didn't really relish running with a friend.

At first, I said, no.  But since I'm already living on the edge with the big winter concert I'm planning, why not just keep trying new things in other areas of my life and be adventurous, I thought to myself. So I said, "sure - why not".

So I found myself running with a friend. I finally told her halfway through that I felt like I was going to die and asked if that was normal. Her hesitation made me nervous. But once she knew how I was feeling, she gave me some pointers. And they helped!

Immediately I thought about how much this experience felt like my walk with the Holy Spirit. He has been given to us to help us on our journey. We get shy about letting Him be a part of it sometimes because He will see and know everything embarrassing about us. But if we listen closely, He will give us tips along the way to help.

For instance, recently I was beginning to feel like my Portraits of White concert dream was becoming an avalanche, about to snow me under. One day I felt a gentle whisper: "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit" and with it came a sense of peace. I latched on to that and have been quoting it over and over to myself when I start feeling overwhelmed.

I smiled as I said to my new friend running easily beside me. You remind me of the Holy Spirit. Someone to run along side of us and help sustain us.

I lived through that run and here I am writing about it.

You may not be able to see the runner beside you, but He is there. Listen for Him. Respond to Him. He's not only beside you, He is INSIDE you.

What do you have in front of you that requires strength and power that you don't have? Ask for the Spirit to help you!

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