"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

She Chose Joy

I've been meaning to blog about this for awhile, but there's been no time.

I've been meaning to write about this for weeks, but I was waiting and then I was busy.

I finally made the time today.

I read days ago about how she had gone home on Saturday,

How she quietly slipped away to a better place,

And how the rest of us are left here to remember,

To be sore,

And to think about how her story changed us.

I'd been meaning to write about her ever since,

About how she chose joy.

I finally had the time today to do it

And just a few minutes to blog about it.

I'm going to post the lyrics here,

A small, imperfect rough draft

Of something written to pay tribute

To a wonderful example of one who loved Jesus,

Who lived in hope,

And who chose joy.

Joy (She Chose to See)
for Sara Frankl (a.k.a. "Gitzen Girl")

When it's hard to breathe
And it's hard to stand,
It's hard to trust
We're in Your hands. 

When it's hard to find
The strength to try,
It's hard to remember
It's worth the fight. 

When the whole world
Is falling down,
It's hard to know
Hope can be found. 

And when it's all
Out of our hands,
It's hard to see
You have a plan. 

Well, I've read a story of faith
About someone who walked that long, hard way. 

It was hard to breathe,
It was hard to stand,
But she trusted
She was in Your hands.

It was hard to find
The strength to try,
But, through the pain,
She fought that fight.

Her whole world was
But she still managed
To find hope all around.

Life had come
And spoiled her plans,
But she always believed that
She was in Your hands.

For she saw the blessings each day,
Counted every one that came her way,
And, even when life was wearying,
It was joy she chose to see.

Even when life was wearying,
Even when it was hard to breathe,
She had faith that someday she'd be free,
And it was joy she chose to see.

It was joy she chose to see.

Related post:  Grace and Joy

The bold, italicized words are the lyrics to the song "Joy (She Chose to See)" by Mary Schieferstein, ©2011 Mary Schieferstein.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Choice

I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long, and that this one will be pretty short.  I've been very busy lately and have been having troubles keeping up with my art, much less my blog.

I made a choice today.

Not a big one,

Not an unexpected one,

Not a difficult one,

But a slightly scary one.

I decided to try two paths instead of just one.

Maybe just for awhile,

Maybe for the next three years.

I don't know,

But I'm going to try two for now.

I've realized I can't do what I've been doing,

I've realized that things I thought would make me a better artist aren't helping me at all,

I've realized that I've been sticking too closely to my plans and not opening myself up to other possibilities like I should be.

So I changed that.

I'm walking two paths now.

This time, I know that one will make me a better indie artist,

Will help me to create better visual art.

The other doesn't help at all,

But maybe it's where I should be?

Honestly, I don't think I've believed that for a long time.

Maybe it's like the first couple of sentences of this post,

That I need a transition,

Something to make the decision less bipolar.

I need something in between I'm doing this and I'm not doing this.

I need the middle step,

The I might be doing this, but, then again, I might not be.

I'm leaning towards the not,

But is that where I should be?

Is that where I'm meant to be?

Is that where He wants me to be?

I feel like He's been hinting lately that change is okay,

That His plan is better than mine,

And that I don't have to know His plan for Him to work it out.

Maybe this change is in the right direction.

If not, at least I'm still walking the first path, too.

Small changes.

Slow changes.






Monday, September 19, 2011

Grace and Joy

It's been crazy lately.

My weekend was so busy I barely had a minute to spare -

Or sleep, for that matter.

My homework is currently next to me on my bed,

Twenty-five of fifty words phonetically transcribed (I hope),

Not counting the fact that I need to practice my guitar,

And study for a quiz tomorrow,

And study for a quiz on Wednesday,

And work on two papers,

And that's not counting the other things I know will be assigned during the week.

There'll probably be a couple tomorrow.

There'll definitely be a few on Wednesday.

And I'm going to a Bible study in less than three hours.

And I still have to eat dinner.

(If it sounds like I'm complaining, I promise I'm not.  I don't really mind - although it'd be nice if I could find a moment or two to turn my keyboard on this week.  There's just so much going on and not really any time for anything else.  That said, I need to get back to why it was important - at least in my mind - that I talk about why I have so much going on.)

Somehow, in the midst of everything that needs to get done, I took a couple of minutes to check my daily websites.

Now, there are six websites I check every day.

Three are Star Trek.

Two belong to singer-songwriters I like.

One is a blog.

A really, really good blog.

Well, once I got to reading Ann Voskamp's blog

And clicked on a couple of links,

I ended up spending about half an hour online,

Much more than the few minutes I intended.

I had read bits of her story after clicking the link in the margin a few days ago,

It amazed me to read about the pain she's lived with for years,

And that, in spite of it, she sees the grace and she chooses joy.

Even now, as she nears the end of her life,




Here, on this dreary, rainy day, nothing around me seems very joyful.

The people walk looking down at the wet sidewalk,

Hiding under hoods and umbrellas.

This morning, I was doing it, too,

Knowing plans for later,

Knowing what the wet would do to my hair.

After my plans were over

I walked outside again,

Five minutes to get a chai latte and five minutes back,

This time with hood down,

For the hour for presentable hair had passed

And all that was left was to be in the moment,

To live in the moment,

To stand in the rain

And call it grace.

Walking outside in the constant drizzle,

The kind of weather I love,

Soaking in the rain,

Praising God for grace,

Did something else in my heart.

It brought the deep-hidden joy to the surface.

It made me feel happy and blessed in spite of the stacks of homework,

In spite of dreary skies and people whose moods reflect the weather,

In spite of not enough time and unannounced cancellations,

In spite of sore knees and slow walking,

I found joy in the wet sidewalks,

Joy in the cloudy sky,

Joy in the rain making darkened spots on my sweatshirt,

Joy in feeling the water on my skin,

And joy in knowing that this is grace,

And it really is a choice,

For how else could we find one thing to be thankful for when there are a hundred other things going wrong?

More importantly, how else could we learn to be thankful for not only the one thing going right, but also the hundred other things we just wish would go away?

We have to choose to look.

We have to choose to see.

We have to choose a different perspective,

To choose to accept His perspective

Because we only see a tiny bit

And He sees the whole picture.

In choosing, we manage to see,

To see that, even when the world's just been turned upside down,

It's still grace,

For every moment might not have been given,

Every breath might not have been taken,

And if it weren't, that still would have been grace,

And it's crazy and radical and it seems slightly insane until you take the time to really try to understand it,

Take the time to start to see it,

For in learning to give thanks for the "good",

We become ready to give thanks for the "bad",

And in learning to give thanks for the "bad",

We begin to see that the "bad" isn't really bad in the way we thought it was after all,

For there was something good happening in the midst of it,

And sometimes that takes years,

But once we learn to see it all starts to make sense,

It all starts to fit together,

And everything really is abundant, relentless grace.

I thought about the grace walking to and from the café,

And I thought about the joy filling up my soul to know that it was grace,

For grace and joy are two separate things,

But they are interconnected.

It's hard to have joy without choosing to see the grace,

And it's hard to see the grace when a heart does not choose joy.

(At least, it makes sense that way in my head.)

I walked back to my room,

To my bed and my homework,

Thinking about grace

And about joy

And about the inspiring story of a woman named Sara who chooses to see both.

As usual, thinking involved words

And words started to rhyme

And include melody

And maybe a little accompaniment (Yes, I'm starting to hear the accompaniment, too!  Such grace!).

I got back to my room and decided to ignore the other twenty-five phonetic transcriptions for a while longer

While I wrote.

I don't know if I like it or not,

If it went where I intended it to go,

Whether or not it sounds too cliché,

But I wanted to share this early (and very imperfect) draft with you

In light of what I just talked for far too long about,

In the hopes that maybe, somehow, it will help you to see more of the grace,

To feel more of the joy.


The grey clouds have been hiding
The beautiful blue sky
For a long time.

The sun has not been shining
On this face of mine.
I am ready to break down and cry.

And as dreary days
Fade to dreary nights
I contemplate giving up the fight,
But then I remember it'll be alright.

I woke up this morning
And I could have sworn
That the weather has never been this bad before.

It's been constantly raining
And I've heard people say
That it will not be going away.

And as rainy days
Fade to rainy nights
I manage to swallow my pride
And let go of what I'd held so tight
'Cause it's not my life.

And somehow I will learn
That sometimes life just hurts
And that there's still a story
Just starting to unfold.
Maybe it'll be a good one
By the time it's told
If only I can learn to hold

And somehow I will change
How I look at this pain
And I will learn to see
That it's part of the play,
That each act has its troubles
But the end will be okay,
And it's all grace.
It's all grace.

For He might not have given
These breaths that I take,
Might not have made beauty to
Take my breath away,
And He must see a thirst
Or He would not have sent the rain,
So, although I can't see it,
I'll trust this is grace.

And if I choose to see grace,
I'll choose to live joy,

Even if I don't like the rain,
Even if I struggle with the pain,
His promise still remains,
And grace is a reason for joy
And it's all grace.

Grace is a reason for joy
And it's all grace.

Just f.y.i., it is no longer drizzling.  It is now pouring - and it sounds beautiful and the air feels cool and smells sweet and it really, really is all grace!
Also, sorry there aren't more pictures!  I don't have my camera right now.

The bold, italicized words are lyrics to the song "Grace" by Mary Schieferstein, ©2011 Mary Schieferstein.


Monday, September 12, 2011

God Who Sees

It was a nice weekend.

Quiet, peaceful, relaxing.

Too quiet, actually.

I came here seeking answers.

I didn't find any.

It's probably because I'm trying to rush things,

Because I want answers now.

I want answers now because I want to be in control.

Maybe I'm not supposed to be in control.

I should have learned that lesson a thousand times by now,

That I shouldn't be in control,

That I can't be in control,

That, really, it's so much better when I'm not in control,

Because He is in control.

I guess I needed to learn that lesson again.

Of course, the weekend wasn't a total waste.

Time spent with God never is.

He showed me that He is listening,

Really listening,

That he hears me,

Hears the cries of my heart,

My selfish, controlling heart

That's hurting because it doesn't know what the next step is.

He is listening.

He also showed me,

As He once showed another wandering, lost young woman long ago,

(Though much, much more quietly in my case,)

That He is the God Who Sees,

That He sees my hurting heart,

He sees the tears I cry,

He sees me face-down on the floor,



For direction,

Because I can't do this alone.

He sees.

Apparently, I'm not supposed to have all the answers yet.

Apparently, I'll have to learn again how to trust,

How to fully believe what I already know:

That His timing is so much better than mine,

That He knows what would happen if I had the answers right now,

And He knows that's not what He wants,

That it would be so much better for me to wait.

It's not easy to wait.

Especially for someone as impatient as me.

Especially for someone as controlling as me.

(Well, that probably covers quite a few people, so let's just say it's not easy to wait.  For anyone.)

Still, it's something we all have to do,

And it's something that He wants me to do right now.

It's not going to be easy,

It's not going to feel "safe",

But I will wait,

And as I listen,

As I seek,

The answers will come.

Maybe they're coming already,

Like tiny drops of rain slowly filling an empty glass,

Hints that the path I'm thinking about taking might be okay.

I'm not sure.

I don't know.

Though I see the raindrops falling, I don't know if they're falling for me,

But I will trust,

Even though it is a struggle,

Even though it is a fight,

I will trust.

I will trust that He will get me where He wants me to be,


For He is listening,

And He sees.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The lies have been whispered in my ear for as long as I can remember.

"This is what's real.  This, right here in front of you.  Nothing else."

"These momentary pleasures are all there is to life, so enjoy as many of them as you can."

"This is what you're looking for.  Focus on this, not that intangible thing over there."

"Money is very important.  You need to make a lot of money to be happy."

"You should always feel safe and live inside your comfort zone."

"You need a college education and a steady, secure job to be happy and successful in your life."

"This career is safe.  Choose this one."

It's the last one that's really been getting to me lately.

Maybe the last two.

The world keeps whispering its lies in my ear,

And they sound so good,

They sound so true,

Yet something in my heart says something different,

Something in my heart says I'm following the world and not my Savior.

I've heard it a lot recently -

That the idea that the center of God's will is the safest place to be is a(nother) lie,

That God really calls us to the places where we aren't safe,

The places where we have to take risks,

The places where we have to depend on Him.

Maybe that's part of why I'm wondering,

Why I'm really struggling to see and understand,

Because I feel like the education and career I've been chasing

Are safe.

I feel like maybe that's not what I want anymore,

That maybe that's not where I should be,

That maybe God's been calling me somewhere else,




For a long time

And I just haven't listened,

That I've been so caught up in the world and its lies

That I believed where I was going was really where He wanted me

When it wasn't

Because I just wasn't listening,

Or I just wasn't sure,

Or I was still searching,

Or . . .

I don't know why I've been walking this path.

Probably because my family thought it was good,

Because my family thought it was safe,

Because I felt like God wasn't calling me anywhere else,

So I thought that this was where He wanted me.

It's lies and assumptions that have brought me here,

But I've never stopped searching,

Never stopped seeking the place He's really called me to be.

I've been hearing the whispers of truth for almost two years now,

But my attachment to the world's promises of safety

And security

Has kept me from following that path.

Sure, I've made myself believe that the reason wasn't worldliness,

That, instead, I just wanted to be sure,

After all, it's a big decision.

These thoughts,

These reasons have kept me here,

In this place of searching,


Not knowing.

Maybe that's because that's the way it's supposed to be,

Maybe I'm not supposed to know,

Maybe I'm supposed to go this way and not realize what an idiot I've been until years down the road,

Or maybe this really is the way I'm supposed to go,

And I've spent so long just lost in this confusion and uncertainty,

Trying to put my faith in the only One who doesn't move,

Trying to seek the only Truth,

Trying to listen to the only One whose voice really matters.

Of course, the problem with trying to listen is that I'm bad at it.

Worse than bad, really,


I am not good at listening to God.

Sure, I've heard Him before,

Once or twice,

Maybe three times,

Or maybe I've heard Him more than that but I've just ignored Him,

Not understood that it was His voice,

Or understood and didn't want to admit.

I try.

Really, I do.

It's just so hard for me.

I decided to take today,

This weekend, really,

To seek,

To sacrifice in the hopes that I might better listen,

To put time with God above time spent doing homework,

To pour out my heart to the only One who really, truly understands,

Who loves me more than I can imagine,

Whose plan for me is better than any I've ever come up with.

My prayer today is the same as it has been for a while now,

Expanded and sifted into poetry just yesterday (was it only yesterday?) when the workbook I've been going through prompted me to write a prayer of contrition,

Tweaked so that the syllables of the poem fit the melody that had been in my head as I scribbled the words onto the paper.

Really, the ending's the part I've been saying for the longest,

The part of the workbook-prompted prayer that I've been praying unprompted for almost two years, 

"A . . . resolve . . . to seek God's vision for you . . . and to trust in His ability to help you achieve that vision."
     The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer, page 66

It doesn't sound like so much of a resolve when I write it . . .

Or when I say it,

More like a desprate hope,

A plea,

An urgent desire to be allowed to seek,

To be allowed to see,

To learn to truly believe.


Father of the heavenly lights,
Maker of the stars,
Lord of all the universe,
Holder of my heart,

I confess that I have made up dreams,
That I have come up with my plans,
That I have lacked the trust to seek
The future that comes from Your hands.

I confess that I have believed
That these dreams came from You
When they really came from my own fears,
When they weren't what You called me to.

I confess that the dreams You gave me
I pushed roughly aside
And I refused to acknowledge them
When You brought them to the light.

I confess that, though I follow
In the simple, everyday things,
I lack the faith to obey,
To really go where You lead.

I confess that I'm not trusting,
That I don't believe enough.
I confess that I'm more willing

To accept a lie than Your love.

I confess I don't know why that is,
Why I'm drawn to worldly things,
Why I'd rather rest on the safety net
Than walk the tightrope of my dreams.

Could You please forgive me
For making my own plans,
For not really believing
That my future's in Your hands?

And could You please reveal
The path that's made for me
Just enough to tell the difference
Between "safety" and my dreams?

Could You teach me to believe?

I need to believe.

The bold, italicized words are the lyrics to the song "Believe" by Mary Schieferstein, ©2011 Mary Schieferstein.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Familiar Places & Seeing Changes

It's been busy lately,


But the days have also been full of joy,

Of happiness,

Of blessings.

It's been great to see old friends,

Wonderful to spend time with them,

To catch up.

It's been difficult getting out of bed in the morning,

Finding enough time for a decent amount of sleep

While still making time for other things,

Other people,

Building relationships.

It's been great to sit and eat together,

To sit and talk together,

To sit and pray together,

To come together again,



Sisters and brothers in Christ.

It's been hard to adjust to heavy loads,

Walking outside on hot summer days,

Feeling the stickiness of "unnaturally humid" nights.

It's been wonderful to meet new people,

To sit with and get to know those I have never seen before,

To care about them,

Genuinely care about them,

And focus on them rather than myself.

Most amazing of all has been the change in me,

The expansion of my comfort zone,

How I am now comfortable reaching out to people I don't know,

Talking more openly with people I do know,

And handing out copies of my EP to many of my friends,

Yes, handing out copies of the EP that has two tracks I'm not very happy with,



Without hesitation,

And not realizing until later exactly what I'd just done.

I'm getting more used to this,



Offering my work in spite of all of my insecurities about it,

All of my doubts,

All of the disclaimers I would like to make . . .

“It's not very good.”

“I was trying new things, so I'm not sure two of the songs came out that well.”

“I was having some problems with my breath support, so it might not sound quite right. I'm doing a lot better now, but it was too late for the project.”

“It wasn't recorded in a studio, so it doesn't sound so great.”

“I don't really like some of these songs. I don't even know why I record them and give them out to people. I guess I write them because it's my passion and record them because it seems like the next logical step.”

It's not easy for me.

I'm shy.

It's hard for me to get to know people,

Hard for me to talk to people,

Hard for me to make friends,

And really hard for me to offer my art to others when I don't think it's any good.

I've learned to accept the fact that I'm my worst critic,

Appreciate the encouragement I get from others,

Allow my friends' comments to uplift me and help me to keep writing,

And refrain from listing the disclaimers when I hand out my work -

To restrain myself in the hopes that I will get honest feedback -

. . . Most of the time.

I've learned a lot.

I'm still learning,

And it's still hard,

But it is getting easier.

I can see it in the way that I act,

Feel it in my heart,

The resistance lessening,

A slow process.

I didn't even notice before,

But I've been shown again that it's not noticeable until I come to a familiar place,

A place I've been before,

And start to compare . . .

What was it like last time?

What was I like back then?

Who am I now?

And that's when I see the change.

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