Bold? Me? Not.

Was reading someone else’s blog about making bold moves. (I’ll link it in a moment.) Does anyone ever truly feel bold? I wonder. There are those, for example, who think I was bold to embark on a journey of Ace Hardware ownership with my husband…but I assured them that I was dragged kicking and screaming into that phase of my life. Bold? Hardly.

We’re approaching three years now. We’ve made incredible progress. At the same time, we’ve faced challenges and pure TERROR that we never expected. This “turning a profit” thing is harder than it looks. So I tend to become anxious, and I try to solve things on my own instead of leaving them in God’s hands, and I worry. Pure and simple. I worry! Our children know this about me. It isn’t something I’m proud of. I’ve made progress from time to time, but it’s just something I will probably always battle in life.

And in the midst of all that, I’m finding it hard to find time to write. This frightens me. This depresses me. This drags me into a mire of self-pity that is mucky and murky. I hate it. I get to write on occasion, but not nearly as much as I used to. I miss it! But here’s the question: Do I miss it enough to DO something about it? No, no, no…I’m not talking about abandoning my responsibilities at Ace, or at home for that matter. But isn’t there a way to carve out quality, productive time to write “in the margins” of my life? There must be. I just can’t imagine God brought me this far to simply leave me with deep longings to write, without the time or opportunity to do so.

And I guess a disclaimer is in order. It’s not that I never get to write. In fact, a co-write from last year was released by The Talleys this past May (“Broken World”). This is a big deal for me! I’m deeply grateful! … And yet, I guess I would be the classic example of the famous question, “Which song that you’ve written is your favorite?” And without question, I would agree with this answer, “The next one.” Why? Because there just never seems to be a song that fully reaches what seemed to be its potential when the idea first surfaced. Does that make sense? Everything falls short. And yet my heart longs for the chase. I suppose that’s due in part to a longing for things unseen. A longing for Heaven (where I plan to write my very best songs EVER!!)

Back to the subject of doing something bold. What does it mean for me to take my next “bold” step? I’m not sure. But a blog like this one (below) certainly makes me wonder. And brainstorm. And, yes, worry. But better yet, it causes me to pray.

If you’ve bothered to read this far, would you say a quick prayer for me? And THEN…..go forth and do something bold for God in YOUR life! We’re all in this together. 🙂

Joyn Mee Pleaz?

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Make ’em cry

This is from Focus on the Family and the Wall Street Journal. Fascinating stuff! Read on….

There are few people who know less about music than me, but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about music and emotion grabbed my attention. The piece attempted to answer an interesting question:

Why is some music more likely to make people cry?

Is it a matter of nostalgia, a tune tied to a specific time or event in our lives? Or is it the strength, power and message within the song’s lyrics?

Not according to some experts. Writes the Wall Street Journal’s Michaeleen Doucleff: “Twenty years ago, the British psychologist John Sloboda conducted a simple experiment. He asked music lovers to identify passages of songs that reliably set off a physical reaction, such as tears or goose bumps. Participants identified 20 tear-triggering passages, and when Dr. Sloboda analyzed their properties, a trend emerged: 18 contained a musical device called an ‘appoggiatura.'”

He continued: An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. “This generates tension in the listener,” said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. “When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.”

Chills often descend on listeners at these moments of resolution. When several appoggiaturas occur next to each other in a melody, it generates a cycle of tension and release. This provokes an even stronger reaction, and that is when the tears start to flow.

The article’s author suggested that a current pop hit, “Someone Like You”, by the singer Adele, is filled with notes that resemble appoggiaturas. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 was also identified as piece likely to elicit tears.

The anatomy of the human brain is incredibly complicated and fascinating, isn’t it? Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

…. For more, check out Focus on the Family. But here’s a teaser of the “drug” part of the article!! “…..emotionally intense music releases dopamine in the pleasure and reward centers of the brain, similar to the effects of food, sex and drugs. This makes us feel good and motivates us to repeat the behavior.”

Luv this stuff! Makes perfect sense to me. And BELIEVE YOU ME – it’s gonna make me an even better songwriter!

Theez druhggz R guhd!

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Music Missionary?

Wow. Didn’t see that comin’….

One of my songs randomly made its way into a recent church service. Totally not my doing. I was gratified, and especially excited that my daughter just “happened” to be the background singer that day, along with her proud momma on keys. (Miracle moment.)

Anyway, the words and music really “spoke” to someone at church in a powerful way, and she emailed her thoughts and her thanks. Always humbling. We corresponded. Next thing I know, she and her husband email to say they believe my role as a Christian songwriter is as valid as any missionary’s. They would like to contribute funds to help cover some of my expenses! (You have got to be kidding me!)

A check, another encouraging note (with a synchronicity moment I won’t go into right now), a HEARTFELT THANK YOU, and I find myself on the other side of a small miracle.

You and I both know I would never have been able to orchestrate that. But guess what!! These are the kinds of things God is doing all the time…in my life, and in your life! We don’t always get to see it, but nevertheless He is busy-busy-busy!! Nudging hearts! And when His people listen and respond? Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

(Reminder to SELF: Work at being a better “listener of nudges”.)

Yes, I was surprised. But I know my God was not! In fact, He’s still got all kinds of things up His sleeve. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…..”

Mouwth Hahngeen Oh-Penn

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Frantic Waves

I’ve never had trouble finding something that makes me wanna write a song. A rhyme. A phrase. A melodic leap. A movie. Hearing a great song. A headline. A joke. A photo. …. It takes very little to get my creative juices flowing! …. One song I recently finished (with co-writer extraordinaire – Marcy Each!) actually began as an exercise in trying NOT to use a list of 25 words. (Specifically, 25 words that are the MOST-used words in praise & worship tunes.) Okaaaayyyyy. Ready, set, GO!!  That’s a rather intellectual exercise, right? Completely devoid of emotional connection. Especially when you’re given a whopping 20 minutes to write something and then share it with the class.

But you just never know. And now, several months later, it has turned into a song that will always speak to my heart of hearts. (So, uhh, thanks Joel for the class exercise!) And special thanks to Marcy for the way she connected with what I had begun and helped make it into something better than I could ever have imagined.

Emotional connection? Oh yeah, baby. I sometimes wake up early and start stressing (a bad habit, I know) ….and then I turn to this song to get me back on track. Especially lately.

And guess what? Surprise of surprises, we’re going to use this song in church tomorrow! I didn’t expect that. At all. In fact, I hadn’t even shared it with our worship pastor – but it reached him anyway. (Funny how those things happen.) So I’m praying it will speak to the hearts of some in the congregation. But even if it doesn’t, it has spoken to MY heart and to MARCY’s heart – and sometimes that’s simply all God has in mind. And when it is? Then it’s enough.

I’ll post the lyric below. And if you’d like to hear Marcy sing it, go to this link and check out Song #8. I highly recommend you do! This gal is SPECIAL! (And thanks for listening.) …  Oh. Simply click right on the song title when you get there. 🙂

Kallm Doun!!


Come invade this chaos
Quiet hearts that race
Calm the panicked moments
Soothe us face to face

Whisper beauty, whisper mercy
Whisper healing in the noise
In the uproar that distracts us
Whisper joy
Send your goodness, sing of gladness
Dance a promise, strong and sweet
To the weary and the hopeless
Whisper peace, whisper peace

Winds of doubt distract us
Frantic waves crash cold
We are drifting helpless
But we’re not alone

A still, small voice is all it takes
To speak a miracle
To stir up faith

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It’s Hard Work

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass

Or if you need something a bit more succinct to kick you in gear…

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Brett Beavers, songwriter

I needed those reminders today! Well, maybe more than just today. … And the thing is, once I’m buckled down and actually writing, I love it with all my heart! Kinda like Chariots of Fire where he says something about “And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Yes! So why is it so hard to get started? I don’t know. But it’s something I’m willing to fight through, again and again and again. Whatever it takes.

Hey, if any of you has a favorite quote, or discipline, or trick that spurs you on, I’d love for you to share it!

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men….”


B. Ginn Uh-gehn

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Just read a friend’s blog. She recently resolved to “do one thing” every single day with her songwriting, and it’s making a difference. I used to do exactly that! But I’ll admit it – I’ve allowed things to get in the way. Yes, I’m working longer hours at Ace. Yes, my husband has had two cancer diagnoses in the last year. Yes, we still have 2 of our 4 children at home. But those are just excuses. I can do better.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed some successes in the past year. I have! That’s not to say I never write. I do! Am I working on stuff with co-writers? Yep. And the big question – do I still feel called to writing? Yes, oh YES! … But like I said, I can do better.

Btw, I’m especially gratified to be published in the new “Psalms For All Seasons” hymnal – for all kinds of “life comes full circle” reasons. Maybe I’ll blog about that sometime! Meanwhile, here’s a link:


Hear Goze

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Mary, Ann and me

I’m re-posting something from Mary DeMuth. It’s extra special to me because she references Ann Voskamp, who is another kindred spirit (whether they know it or not!). So…just “who” are “you“?


Pathway #5: Be blessedly yourself. Don’t try to be someone else.

After a beautifully icy day, I decided to brave it alongside my daughter Sophie and her friend Shannon. The result was a little photo essay inspired by Ann Voskamp who always has amazing pictures and pithy, yet poetic words alongside her masterpieces. Ann is amazing. She’s written a beautiful, breathtaking book called One Thousand Gifts. If you haven’t read it, you really ought to.

A few hours after I posted my Ann-esque photo essay, my daughter laughed. And her friend too. My little poetic scribblings under the pictures struck them as funny. Sophie said something like, “It just sounded silly. It didn’t seem like you.” She laughed again.

Now before you think Sophie is a mean child who mocks her mother, I must assure you she is lovely and sweet and encouraging. So this made me look back at the post.

I laughed.


I’m not Ann Voskamp. There’s only one amazing Ann. And I’m not her. I’m Mary. Although I would love to live on a farm like Ann, or view the world the hopeful, sweet way she does, I don’t do either. (I live in the suburbs. I’m often pessimistic, unfortunately.)

What I learned: Be yourself. Be all you. It’s okay to try on another’s style, but don’t morph into someone you admire so much so that it’s like you’re wearing an itchy coat in summer. Wear what is you. Be who you are. Rejoice in the difference of others.

When have you tried to be like someone else? What happened? Learn anything?

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