Hand of Heaven – Final song on “Up & Strumming”

Hand of Heaven – Final song on “Up & Strumming”

Hand of Heaven

Tears poured down my face as I wrote out the words to this song. I sang Hand of Heaven probably a hundred times before I could get all the way through without crying.

The three years following my retirement from Youth Ministry ended up being one of the most lonely and painful periods in my life. After 7 years of working so hard at my career I realized that all the relationships I had were tied to that church. (When you retire from a church staff position it is proper to leave that church. This helps the congregation adjust to the new person. It also gives the new person some breathing room without the old guard watching over their shoulder.  I have seen the dysfunction that takes place when pastors don’t leave their congregation and isn’t very pretty.)

So we left. It was like starting all over again, accept we were living in the same home.

For those three years I found myself in a friendship drought.  If it hadn’t been for a very small number of people in my life and songwriting, life would have been so much harder than it already was. The depression due to the extreme chronic pain in my hands made regular life even more difficult.

When Jessica was in first grade, Joel was offered a promotion and a move to Boise.  We had been in Yakima 10 years; we were ready for a new adventure!

Joel moved 7 weeks before we did.  So for 7 weeks I prayed that God would prepare some special ladies to become my friends.   I also prayed that He would prepare my heart to be a good friend to these new ladies.  Frankly, I was feeling pretty rusty at friendships by that point. I had come to believe that I was a pretty boring person who was no fun to be around.

In the Hand…Heaven

Well, God pulled through and multi-blessed me with friendships.  It was during that time I discovered a bunch of ladies who for some odd reason loved me to pieces and thoroughly enjoyed my company.  I had never experienced so much love from so many ladies at one time in my life ever!!  Their love really set me free from feelings from the past.  It also empowered me to open up and reach out to others.  All this became very helpful both in boosting my self-confidence and encouraging my music along.

Of course, as time has gone by some friends have moved and others our paths just don’t cross anymore. I seem to be in another drought but I have confidence that I will get through this. When I desperately needed to know I was lovable, God blessed me a rainstorm! So I am just preparing for rain once again.

I can’t thank God enough for pouring down on me so much love in the past!! He provided a hand of heaven. I can’t wait to see what God comes up with next. He has already started the process of ending the drought with one new girlfriend. Yeah!

Have you ever experienced a friendship drought?  Are you there now?

Express your thoughts here…. If you know of someone who is going through a friendship drought, give them a little TLC and then encourage them to read this blog.  Knowing that you are not alone in the experience can make a big difference!

photo credit: Alyssa L. Miller via photopin cc

 

Milestones, Transition and Living With Purpose

Milestones, Transition and Living With Purpose

~Janet’s Blog

Early Milestones…

In Washington State you cannot get your driver’s license until you are 16 years old.  I think this is a very good rule and always will.  Why?  Let me tell you a story…

Shannon was a nice friend to have at church.  She added a lot of joy to the singing quartet I led when we were in high school.  She always invited me to youth group and encouraged me to hang out with her and her friends.  And she made me feel wanted, cared about, like one of the gang.

Shannon was a social butterfly, very comfortable around boys, laughing, joking etc.  She taught me a lot about being a teenage girl, kicking back with gal pals, and flirting with the guys.  She was a fun, popular, and genuinely a nice person.

In the Spring of ’85 (yes, a long time ago), she invited me and my dear friend, Katie, to go to a Michael W. Smith concert.  I’d never gone to a concert before.  I was so excited!  That night we laughed, sang, linked arms, and swayed to the music.  I had never had so much fun with gal pals ever!  In spite of the fact I couldn’t hear worth a darn afterward, it was awesome!

Some Milestones Are Better Than Others

No sooner had this whole new world of fun and frolicking opened up to me when, “BAM!,” I was overcome by complete devastation. Some milestones aren’t welcome.

Shannon died.  She was in a car accident the night before we were to sing some special songs at church.  We were all crushed.  How could this be, God?!  She’s just a kid!  Everyone loved Shannon, so why not take me instead?!  Oh, I wrestled with that feeling of guilt and unworthiness most of the summer.

Our quartet stopped singing.  We went through a time when we really didn’t even interact with each other.  It hurt too much!

Thank God, our mom’s were watching out for us. They helped us pick up the pieces and move forward.  It was hard, at first.  Shannon’s parents stopped coming to church.  This was sad.  I felt like if I had just run over to them and hugged them that maybe they would have stayed.  I think the reality that even kids can die was so frightening that I was just emotionally frozen for a while.

It’s amazing how some of our greatest losses can have the most incredible impact on the directions of our lives.  At church, I was suddenly viewed as a leader in the youth group.  I ended up changing my career path from majoring in Music to majoring in Youth Ministry. More milestones.

Little did I know the pain I experienced as a kid would provide me with the tool of compassion.

As the years go buy I think of Shannon often, all the amazing gifts of life she has missed out on because of one mistake in a car.  I sing this song and share this story so kids can hear first-hand about the importance of taking driving seriously.   No texting, speeding, goofing around…please!!  You have so much ahead of you. Don’t miss it! Arrive at all the positive milestones you can.

What has been a significant life-shaping event in your life?

Add to the conversation! We’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like, you can listen to a sample of my song, “Milestones” on iTunes.

photo credit: Viernest via Photopin cc

Maria

Maria

Maria

This song was written for our God-daughter, Maria, who lives in Norway with her parents, Katie & Kjell Møgster, and three big brothers.  Back in 2006, the Møgsters called us from Mali, Africa (during their missionary years) and asked us to be her God-Family.  They invited us to meet them in Norway to attend Maria’s baptism.  Well, of course, we said “yes!” with great enthusiasm and immediately started the process of obtaining tickets that would eventually have us arrive in Ålesund, Norway.

Now, a baptism is always a special event. But in Norway, it is a HUGE event.  Many hours of preparation were put into decorating the house, setting up tables, making centerpieces, organizing name tags, and preparing group games.  Oh yes, then there is the never-ending supply of food!

The morning of the baptism was spent preparing for the special baptismal worship service.  The worship experience was amazing!  I couldn’t understand a word of it, but the rhythm of the liturgy and prayers felt familiar, especially the Lord’s Prayer.

There was only one part of the service that was in English, the part when I got up and sang.  The Møgsters had informed me that it is often a tradition for the God-parents to have one of their gifts be a poem or song.  So, I happily wrote Maria a song, in the weeks before our Norwegian odyssey.  The words of the chorus were projected onto the screen and I invited everyone to sing along during the last time through…which they did, in their conservative Norwegian way of doing things.

After worship, we drove back to Kjell’s mothers home with the family.  Immediately, their friends and family started arriving for the festivities.  There must have been about 40 people there, each with a name tag showing them where they were going to sit.  We heard Norwegian songs, ate Norwegian food, played group games and learned a lot about … Norwegians!!  The last visitors (who weren’t going to be sleeping at the house) finally left around 8pm that night.  Finally, it was down to just the…15 of us.  This included 7 children, 5 of them young elementary school boys!

The whole trip was an amazing adventure. Being immersed in another culture for 2 1/2 weeks gave me a much bigger understanding of our world. My family and I didn’t want to leave!

In June, 2011, during one of our reunions with the Møgsters, here in the States, Maria asked me to sing her song. I happily agreed.  Maria was 5 at this time, so I could look her in the eyes as I sang.  She would blush and turn away, but soon I found her looking at me again.  It was a precious moment.  Clearly she felt very special about having her own song.

I am so glad that my song touched Maria’s heart. It clearly made her feel loved and cherished.

Has anyone done something extra special in your life while growing up?  Have you ever told them what it meant to you?  If not, think about doing that.  It would mean a lot to them.

“Drive” Isn’t Only About Driving, It’s About Living

“Drive” Isn’t Only About Driving, It’s About Living

~Janet’s Blog

The Drive to “Drive”

Drive is a song I co-wrote with my friend, Jeff Lowery, awhile ago.  We met through a youth ministers’ local support group in Yakima, Washington.  When Jeff told me he had written songs before and was open to trying out writing together, I just about jumped out of my skin!  The week after I “retired” from youth ministry we started writing together.

Working with Jeff helped me find the confidence I needed to trust my own songwriting abilities.  He would play the guitar and we would write together. After awhile we would take turns presenting an idea of a potential song and then together we would finish it.

Our time writing and singing together was truly a great gift to me.  If you are out there in Facebook-land, thanks, Jeff!

The song “Drive” was our first song. The first verse starts off with,

Drivin’ down the road is an easy thing to do,

just jump in, turn it on and let it go. 

It gets a little harder when a fork comes in the road,

to the left or to the right, how do I know?

Life As A Journey

We often don’t know what is around the bend as we journey through life.  All we can do is pray driveand try to make good choices.  Sometimes our decisions take us further down the road we were on but other times the fork takes us on a wild goose chase.

The words to the chorus, “God is always with you, no matter where you go” I find very comforting.  Knowing that no matter who I am, what I believe or what I do, doesn’t change the fact that God is always with me!  That’s pretty cool!

You can know that throughout your journey here on earth, God is right there with you.

There is an excellent dialogue in the movie, The Stand written by Steven King that takes place between Mother Abigail and Nick, that goes like this. “What if I don’t believe in God?” In response to Nick’s question Mother Abigail gives out a hearty laugh and says, “It don’t matter whether you believe in God. God believes in you!”

If it doesn’t feel like God is with you, maybe there is a reason for that.  Have you given God a chance to be in on your life or have you kept Him at a distance?  Have you stopped your busyness for a moment and tried listening?  Could you possibly not have received the answer you wanted, so subconsciously you are angry at God? Perhaps you have withdrawn?

No matter how we feel about God it makes no impact on the reality that He is right there with you.

Spin on these ideas and see what you come up with. It’s worth it. Laughter returns. Joy bubbles. And you’ll find yourself able to “drive” again.

Add to the conversation below. We’ll be glad you did.

Too Much Caffeine

Too Much Caffeine

Ode To The Bean

“Too Much Caffeine”

Writing songs for me is like getting a buzz from too much coffee. After I wrote “Let’s Get a Latte” I was so amped up that I had to keep the caffeinated lyrics flowing!  Hence, “Too Much Caffeine.”

Being a person who loves learning the behind-the- scenes information, here is a little behind-the-scenes tid bit for you.

For some reason when I perform this song I feel like I am singing on stage in a Broadway musical.

Ever since I was in the musical Annie in 6th grade I have had a desire to bring a little drama into my music once in awhile.

I even have these hand gestures and dance moves that are acted out in my head. Due to the guitar in my hands it is a bit difficult to act them out. Instead I express my drama through my face and pregnant pauses in my guitar playing.

Anyway, speaking of drama, this song reminds me of how serious some people are about their morning coffee.

Not quite a year after moving to Boise I attended a women’s convention with a bunch of church ladies I was getting to know. We had a delightful time together.

On the final morning of the event we all gathered in the conference room at the hotel for breakfast. We had all just received our breakfast when I heard some grumbling sounds across the room. I looked up and saw that this older lady had just discovered that we had already run out of coffee. Up to this point I had not realized  how important it is for some people to have their morning cup of joe. It’s like coffee is the key to opening the door to their “smile”. No coffee. No smile.

Since I had never really witnessed this before, I almost started laughing at her behavior. But luckily I stopped myself from letting loose a giggle. The look on this ladies face told me that this was no laughing matter. Eeesh!

I had to work hard not to laugh. Don’t you hate that! It’s seems the harder I try not to laugh the funnier the situation is to me and it just gets harder to keep it under control. Hee hee!

Caffeine To Go, Please

Stressing over a small cup of coffee seemed silly to me. However, I have my own moments when I take things too seriously, also. How well I played my guitar, sang a song, shared my thoughts with the audience…yep, I get pretty serious about those things. Countless other things, too. But, when I take things too seriously I just suck all the joy right out of it.

Now back to our story. I am happy to announce that the hotel did had more coffee and peace reigned on earth once again.

What are some things that you stress about in life? Is it necessary? Anything you get just a little too serious about? How do you deal?

Comment below. Add to the conversation. We’ll be glad you did.

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