Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Carols and Funeral Marches

I got behind in my Bible study, Jesus the One and Only, so today, just 10 days before Christmas, I am reading about the Betrayal, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion.  It's a little bit strange, and yet the news reminds me that this is life.  Christmas carols and funeral marches playing in counterpoint.  Bitter herbs and sweet wine.  Tears and thanksgiving.  Redemption and waiting.  And I feel like I've written all this before.  And I have.  But it's just becoming more and more real to me.  27 dead in Connecticut shooting, most of them children.  What a broken, crazy world we live in!  Bitter herbs reminding us of the bondage and the fall and the need for a savior.  And in some strange way, the joy of Christmas shines a little brighter against the darkness for me today.

I was singing "O Christmas Tree" to my kindergartners yesterday and we were talking about evergreens and how people began decorating these trees during the winter to remind them of hope and the fact that spring was coming.  Though it gets too cold for many of the trees to keep their leaves, the leaves of evergreen trees stay green and never fall.  They don't know the depth of it all, but someday they will.  I grieve today for families who have lost so much and children whose innocence has been so badly marred.  Yet by some miracle, I find my heart rejoicing because Christ has come and He has redeemed us.  The Lamb of God fulfilled the plan of redemption, and he has saved and is transforming and sanctifying all those who are willing to accept His gift.  No matter how bitter cold evil makes this world, that Tree stands as a reminder of hope.  Spring is coming.  Maranatha.  The Lord comes.  The Lord came on Christmas, the cross in clear view, and He is coming again.  We, His Body, live as a reminder.

And I ask the questions too.  If you are with us, God, and you heal wounds and bind up the brokenhearted, if you win, what keeps you from ending all of this?  If you came to redeem the world, why are you waiting so long to come again?  I don't have answers and I wouldn't dare try to give one, but I know God is good because He came and saved us, and He will come again.  So I cry, "Lord, come quickly.  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth and it is in Heaven."  And I cry, "How long, O Sovereign Lord?!"  But amid the cries, I hear the call: Child of God, rise up!  Live love, and live slow.  Watching all this through the eyes of one called to teach humbles me.  These precious lives God has entrusted me with!  I will have an impact on them whether I like it or not, and I pray that God will equip me and the Holy Spirit will fill me and that no matter how crazy life gets, I won't miss it.  I don't want to miss looking into the eyes of those precious little ones and loving them and nurturing them into the people they will become.  I don't want to miss it with my kids; I don't want to miss it with anyone I come in contact with!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.  Let us live pure religion by remaining unpolluted in this broken world.  Let us not forget the things these days are stirring in us, the desire to hold our children tighter and recognize the value of life, the desire to be more like Jesus.  He came.  He showed us how to Live.  He died.  He set us free to Live.  He rose again.  He showed us we would Live forever.  He is coming again.  He gave us hope to Live.  Let us Live!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent: A Celebration of Waiting

Today marks the first day of Advent, a time when we remember the wait for a coming King.  I find myself wondering what it must have been like waiting for the Messiah.  Four hundred years of silence and waiting for the Promised One who would come and save.  I think of the words of my favorite Christmas carol: O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel who mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. Oh, but Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to thee oh Israel!  And it is true.  Emmanuel, God with us, the with of God, the presence of God, the walk with you, live with you, pitch my tent among you God is here.  He has come, and we rejoice!  God is with us.  Grace is everywhere because God is with us.

And yet we still wait.  We wait for the second coming.  We wait for tears to be no more.  We wait for the full redemption of this broken world when Christ comes in a flash of power and glory.  Because life is tragic at times, frail and unpredictable.  It is that strange ugly-beautiful.  What is grace?  What is grace is a broken, waiting world?  What is grace in the passing of a 10-year-old from cancer?  In the mother of four who may live paralyzed?  What is grace in the silence, in the waiting, in the darkness, depression, and anxiety?  Where is grace in the promises yet to be fulfilled?  I wonder.  I Know of grace.  I believe in grace, but what is it?

Is it in God on the other side?  I think so.  I think it is knowing that at the end of the road of pain and sorrow God is and has been with us.  And I don't mean it in that cliche "footprints in the sand" kind of way.  Because when you walk the long, hard path of captivity, mourning in lonely exile and brokenness, it doesn't feel like grace.  Advent is not so clear, or worth celebrating.  Who celebrates the waiting, really?  But we live.  Through all of it, we live and God comes.  God is on the other side.  We have the Body and the Blood and the Resurrection and the God who dove into the mess of it all just to be with us.  Just to be with us!  Emmanuel.

So rejoice!  Rejoice!  God has come to thee.  I feel the question rising.  How?  Rejoice always.  How?  What is rejoicing wrapped in pain?  Rejoicing wrapped in pain is hope that opens the heart to a peace beyond understanding.  Rejoicing wrapped in pain looks no more like rejoicing than God wrapped in the skin of a newborn baby looks like God.  When it's time to mourn, it is time to mourn but there is still the gentle glow of a heart that can rejoice because Emmanuel has come to them and He is coming again.  God is on the other side.  And I pray it's written on my heart today for that moment when the darkness falls: rejoice, oh my soul, though the world around you crumbles and your heart with it, rejoice, for God With Us has come to thee!

Jesus said to the Pharisees in Luke 17, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."  Yes!  Our pastor said it this morning and how true it is.  Emmanuel, the with of God, did not just come for the broken, He comes through the deeply broken.  He is not just with us; He is within us.  And often, that makes the Kingdom hard to observe.  As hard as finding a King sleeping within a baby in a manger in a small town in Israel.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Blast from the Past

I saw an old friend over Thanksgiving break.  I can't believe I hadn't seen him in something like five years, but he was gracious enough to brave the traffic and pick me up from DFW airport on Sunday.  Chivalry is not dead, ladies and gentleman! :)  Anyway, I guess seeing him again got me feeling a little nostalgic, so I find myself on this Friday evening flipping through some old recordings on iTunes from my songwriting days.  (Those of you who have only known me for the last few years may be shocked that I ever wrote songs!)  The truth is that I miss those days.  It actually breaks my heart a little that I don't write like I once did.  It really breaks my heart that I don't remember how to play any of those songs anymore!  I used to have dreams of making an album.  It would have been called "Beautiful Again..."  But seasons are seasons, and there is a time for everything under the sun, I suppose.  For now, I am content with my journal musings with God, a few poems here and there, and singing "Naughty Kitty Cat" to my kiddos at school.   Maybe the seasons will change again in the future.  Maybe not.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of those old songs for your enjoyment!

I am reminded of this fact as I traverse memory lane: the path we walk with God is a path of victory and redemption.  We move from glory to glory, and God is good.

Beautiful Soul
Stephanie Frakes
November 16, 2009

Sometimes the pain is more than she can hide
Sometimes the battle raged is more than she can fight
And she cries but no one hears her
Yeah, she cries, but she won’t let you see her

But He knows and the scars on her arms tear Him apart
He knows and He wants her to know she holds His heart
He loves the tortured, beautiful soul

She can’t explain this feeling here inside
She slipping away no matter how hard she tries
And she cries but no one hears her
Yeah, she cries but she won’t let you see her

And the tears smear the ink as she pours out herself
She’s down on her knees and she's crying for help
And He says…

I know and the scars on your arms tore me apart 
Now you’re whole, and I want you to know you hold my heart
I love, I love, I love you, my beautiful soul

Beautiful Again
Lyrics by: Stephanie Frakes and Jacob Wallace
Music by: Stephanie Frakes
July 11, 2009

Broken daughter, won’t you look into My eyes?
Broken daughter, can’t you see the blood of Christ?
It came to cleanse you, and to make you new again

Beautiful again, Beautiful
Like the stars in the sky shine through the darkest night
Beautifully for you, Beautiful
Look up and remember you're Mine

Broken daughter, won’t you stand here by My side?
Broken daughter, can’t you feel the love of Christ?
It came to heal you and to make you new again 

And even behind the clouds the stars still shine
And even when you doubt, darling, you’re still Mine

Look up and remember
You'll never be called broken
You are forever Mine

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Ugly-Beautiful - Music that preaches the gospel

I just came home from the recital of a former professor and very dear friend.  I am simply trying to process it all.  There is so much.  It was so deep.  I mean the programming was exquisite.  This poignant, powerful, almost brooding music and then closing with the second movement of a Schubert sonata... Hope.  The music itself was the cross.  Sorrow and beauty colliding.  The gospel, where light meets dark and death meets life and tears meet joyful hope.  It was the beauty of the broken.  Not the beauty in the broken.  The beauty of the broken.  And there was this moment in the Chopin she played where the funeral march gives way to this poignant lyrical section, and I could sense every soul in the room reaching.  It's as if I held my heart in my hand, like I held the breath in my lungs, and just lifted it, reaching to place my broken mess in God's hands and eternity washed over me anew.  And the Schubert was the smile through the tears.  The moment when the prodigal son lays his head on the Father's chest (like the beloved disciple reclined against Jesus at the last supper) and the Father whispers, "You were dead, but now you are alive again." And the son hears the beat of a heart so full of love it aches.

Then there's the pianist and how her performance is how I long to live: given over, holding nothing back, heart laid bare on the altar, no fear of the depths.  Could we ever live every day like that, believing that God is so glorious and good and holy that the broken is beautiful in His presence, when given over completely to Him?  Let it be so, Lord!  Let it be so! And the contrast of the words I wrote in my journal yesterday ("There are no fancy words tonight.  I am simply in pain.") with what I write tonight is not lost on me.  There is so much pain, so many wounds that need healing, but the miracle of God is that, while we may need to wait for pain to be soothed and wounds to be healed, we do not need to wait for beauty and joy.  I think I'm starting to get it now: the ugly-beautiful.  It's a funeral march that captures you.  It's the longings that will never be fulfilled that stir your passion. It's a Father running to meet his filthy, straight-from-the-pig-pen son and covering him in kisses.  It's Peter denying Jesus and still be entrusted by the Savior Himself to feed His sheep.  It's the way God uses pain to shape us into who we really are: His image-bearers.  It's the unfailing love that causes a prophet to buy back a wife from prostitution.  The ugly-beautiful.  And it exists only because of the greatness of our God.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The More - Why art is a necessity

Why art?  As we place one foot before the other treading this earth, our hearts declare within us that there is More.  As a culture, we tend to respond by trying to obtain more.  We move faster to do more to earn more to spend more to gain more.  But the More to which our hearts call us cannot be obtained.  It simply is.  And if the veil of blue sky and clouds which separates us from Heaven were to be torn, we would see the More, though only for an instant before we were blinded by its brilliance... by His brilliance, for the More is His Glory. 

And so in our humanity we created ones marvel at the intricacy of the veil, Knowing in our souls the More that lies beyond this reflection.  From where I sit I can admire the golden sunlight of an autumn afternoon and listen intently to a symphony as the gentle breathing of my tiny companion plays counterpoint to the birds' chirped melodies.  My eyes linger on the blue of the sky, which is so impossible to reproduce.  My thoughts wander to the human minds which created the shelters in which we dwell, strong enough to keep us safe and warm through the storms.  And like breath fills my lungs, glory fills my heart, and in my very limited way, I imitate my creator by putting pen to page, or by lifting voice in song, or by touching fingers to keys.  Redeemed, created one meets Holy, Uncreated One and we fellowship, and the brilliance of His glory warms me rather than blinds me.  The artist in the thin place.

In the moments of creation and imagination, the More is evident and the veil between Heaven and earth is no thicker than the flesh that separates my hand from touching my own heart as it pumps life blood through my body.  The Life Source is untouchable, but oh so near!  Imagination and the act of creation remind us of this fact.  In the writing, the music, the movement, the sculpting, the painting, we realize the More, the Glory by which and for which we were created.  We then find ourselves driven to places of communal enjoyment, worship services, coffee shops, living rooms, dinner tables, concert halls, art galleries, and why?  Because in sharing art we tear down walls, open ourselves to vulnerability, and give each other wings to fly, eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to grasp the More, the Eternal.  We artists, co-creators or sub-creators with God, guide each other to the thin places.  That is why art.  It is the map, the guide, the bridge, the key to the More - the transformative Glory of God whose image we cannot grasp, and yet in which we are made.

Inspired by discussion questions in Luci Shaw's Breath for the Bones - Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Walking Psalm - The overflow of life

I don't like seeing videos of myself, but this poem is the first I have ever written that needed to be heard, not just read.  It is a simple overflow of my current place in life spiritually, emotionally, mentally.  Enjoy!

Walking Psalm

There are only wisps of clouds in the sky
Just enough to remind me
That we all need rain to grow
The moon is white
Enough to remind me
That the stars come out only at night
But for now, the sky is blue
The sun is warm
And Your faithfulness
And Your grace
Are at the forefront
In these moments between the storms
And everywhere my eyes fall
I see a thousand gifts
Gifts for my heart to grasp
Even if my mind cannot
You.  Are.  Good.
And if there was nothing else given to me
Let my spirit say
It is enough.
For today, if not for tomorrow
It.  Is.  Enough.
Because light or dark
Whispers or shouts
You are here and You are more
Than what my life's about
You.  Are.  My Life.
And every day two hundred little lives touch mine
With joy and eagerness and innocence
And I realize
Sun shine or rain fall
I have so much more than I deserve
A thousand reasons
To live and to sing and to worship
And to give You the glory and the thanks
That You deserve
For You are full of grace and
You.  Are.  Good.

Stephanie M. Frakes
(October 25, 2012)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breathing Room - Ebenezer moments and a job I love

There’s this place in life that I love.  We only find it right after we’ve been running at break neck pace for a while, trying to meet a deadline.  It’s that moment of exhalation.  Breathing room.   I take the blinders off, stand in place, arms spread wide, and turn slowly, just absorbing it all, rather than being absorbed myself by the million things I had to get done before.  Things feel a little brighter here.  A little easier.  A little lighter.  Blessings appear clearer.  God’s grace is more vibrant.  It’s a good place.

Three months ago, I was struggling, really struggling with the unknowns in life.  I wanted so badly to know where I was going and when.  I had chosen to sign a lease with some friends and stay in Abilene at what I felt at the time was God’s prompting, but as time drifted by and doors remained closed… well, I became depressed and anxious.  I believed that God had a plan – and a big one – for this coming school year.  I guess maybe I believed because I had to, not because I was really trusting.  I’d made a choice and I felt stuck, so I had to believe God was up to something… I couldn’t possibly have been wrong!  (I say that tongue in cheek, but really, perfectionists of the world, I know you can relate!)  Now I’m in that breathing room moment and I can see all God really has done.  He really did have a plan. 

Monday night I conducted my first elementary music program.  One of the songs that I conducted was actually one that I learned fourteen years ago as an elementary student myself.  I didn’t even have music for it.  I just remembered it and taught it to my kids that way.  Then they took it to the stage and I conducted as they performed it.  A dream came true.  I don’t know why it blows my mind the way it does.  I mean, God is good and faithful and true.  He is love.  He is forever gracious unto me.  And yet I stand in awe of His blessings.  I can’t believe I get to do this!  I get to wake up every morning and walk with children as they learn and grow.  I saw the light in their eyes after they saw their hard work come to fruition in a great performance.  I got to provide them that opportunity, the chance to come together and create something more.  That’s big.  I’m watching these kids discover the feel of a steady beat.  I had forgotten how neat that really is… feeling the beat in a piece of music.  I’m watching them create, and learn, and make connections.  I see the excitement in their eyes when I tell them they can share their gifts with everyone in the class.  I'm seeing myself grow too!  I am the most richly blessed woman you will ever meet.  No, I don’t get paid nearly enough.  Yes, this is an exhausting job.  Do I care?  Absolutely not.  Call me corny, but nothing can replace the light in their eyes, the hugs, the smiles, the “aha” moments.  10,000 reasons for my heart to sing!  How many people have the daily reminder of joy, the sense of purpose in life that I have?  How many people get to get this excited about their everyday get-up-and-go lives?!

And don’t get me started on when the day ends and I get to go home to the amazing roommate family I have.  Precious, precious friends!  It is love, and I see it every day in the community surrounding me.  I lack nothing.  Sure, there are things I wish were different.  Some days I act like I lack things.  But the truth is that I lack NOTHING.  My God is so good.  He is so faithful.  It’s hard to trust a plan that’s beyond even my imagination, but it’s worth every tear.  It’s worth every dry and weary day of waiting.  So “here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.”  On with the journey!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The More Things Change - Thoughts on life in transition

The More Things Change

I am not who I once was
I've seen dreams planted like seeds
Grow into reality
Then fade into memory
I've traveled across the sea
Watched You make me
Into Your vessel of ministry
I've sat in the pit and wept
Until You set me free
I've watched friends love and leave
I've loved and left as well
And on this journey
I have seen everything change
And some days I see scars when I look in the mirror
On other days I see a woman of grace
Still others reveal a child full of fear
And things change
But the more things change
The more they stay the same
Because Your love remains unfailing

Stephanie M. Frakes
(October 7, 2012)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

In the Desert with My Tears - Thoughts on brokenness

I wrote these words at the pinnacle of a season of struggle.  Today's rain reminds me of the Truth the Shepherd and I discovered in the darkness.

July 21, 2012
There are times when all we have to offer God is our tears, when the brokenness of the world becomes clear and we grow weary and we grieve.  The healing of eternity feels so far away and every joyful moment we've experienced seems to fade into distant memory.  We live in the desert.  We grow angry with God and try to carry our burdens on our own, and when they become too much, we grow angrier still.  Then we finally drop the good Christian facade that says we're fine, and we cry out to God... and He answers our pounding fist with words of love.  That is freedom.  And so we water the desert with the tears we weep and God in His sovereignty causes a harvest to abound.  Oh marvelous mystery!

In the Desert with my Tears
The dust rises
In  clouds around me
To mock the cloudless sky
As my knees hit the ground
I'd cry
If I had the strength
But my eyes stay as dry
As my parched throat
My muscles ache
As I lie
Crumpled beneath the weight
Of the pain
I carry
I'd grit my teeth
And continue on my journey
But today
I simply

The sand is coarse against my skin
The sun is hot
But the anger in my heart
Burns even hotter
As I wonder
Where You are
And why you would call me
To this place of pain
To this desert
When I can still taste paradise
And suddenly
The air grows thick with mystery

My fist hits the sand
There's so much I just
Can't understand
But You whisper to me
Words of love
And nothing more
I am angry with You, Lord!
And still You love?

The tears cannot be stopped
As they gently, quickly fall
And the weight of it all
Begins to lift
And everything I've missed
Becomes clear
I will water this desert
With my tears
And pray
That someday
A harvest will abound
From this parched and broken ground
For only You can satisfy
And bring fruit
From a land so dry
And hopeless
So here am I
In the desert with my tears.

Stephanie M. Frakes
July 21, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Remember When: Thoughts on Christian Community

Remember When

We climbed a mountain, you and I
It was a sight to behold
Such perspective we would gain
Eternal Beauties yet untold

So we built an altar
From our laughter and our tears
And those words of faith
That we’ve rehearsed throughout the years

Then there came the time
For us to journey down
Back into the valley
Where deep, deep need abounds

I confess I am reluctant
To leave these heights for what’s below
But we’re called to move from heights to depths
Just like the rivers flow

Downward, ever downward
In humility and grace
To live out our altar moments
In the everyday

We’ve spoken of eternal things
That stir us heart and soul
Now we must go live these things
We can’t describe, but Know

So you go your way, I’ll go mine
And we will meet again
Every time we need to hear
Those words:  “Remember when…”

Stephanie M. Frakes
September 18, 2012

Exhale: Why I go to church


In Your presence I find
For all my longing
My seeking
My crying out
A quiet place
Of reverence
A mystery explained
But never understood
But never grasped
Though I've tried
And failed
My heart rises
My chest falls
I exhale
To be made full
And again
And over again

Stephanie M. Frakes
September 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Peace is a Foreign Word

I’m curled up on the couch with Tiny Companion again.  A single bird chirps outside my window and the light creates shadows and designs on the back of the sofa.  I pull the sunglasses out of my hair and settle in.  Such a familiar place… and yet so foreign.  The kitchen sits empty where the table used to be.  Our first roommate has moved out.  The program from a friend’s wedding stands next to my wilting bridesmaid bouquet.  Endings and beginnings.  The framed picture from another friend is displayed close by accompanied by a card with her new address a thousand miles away.  We celebrate the new adventures to come.  The other roommate locks the door behind her as she and her fiancĂ© go to sign a lease for the home they will soon share.  Dreams coming true.

“You’re at peace,” she told me as we sipped our drinks under the tree in the middle of campus.  “I can see it in your body.”  I smiled back at this sister who has accompanied me, and nod, “I am.”  And now that I am alone, the tears fall, for in the midst of all this rapid change these tears of gratefulness, hope, joy, faith, and even a touch of fear of the unknown, these tears say it all: It is well with my soul.  And that may be the most foreign thing for me.  Peace. 

I’ve never been here before.  Waiting without a real plan.  Watching people leave, move on, and yet knowing, most assuredly, it is going to be GOOD.  And if it never gets any better than this… that’s fine with me.  Ann Voskamp, author of the book One Thousand Gifts, says it this way, “I can walk the planks from known to unknown knowing – He holds.”  And so it goes, one step at a time, gathering the manna each day, taking my nourishment from it, wishing I could call it something more than “What is it?,” yet sustained by the fact that it is beyond me.  For what feels like the first time in my life, I’m not grasping.  I’m not reaching and clinging.  I do not have “a death grip on this life that’s in transition.”  Like a child letting her toy sailboat go on the surface of the pond, I feel release.  My life will go.  Our lives will go.  Like that moment at the end of a symphony, I can feel my breath catching, suspended, the moment hanging there, and I wait for the resolution, but I am so captured, so enraptured by the sheer beauty of it, I don’t care if it never resolves.  Let us hang here, suspended, forever.  And yet the moment does come when the final sound wave dissolves and the lights come up and we stand to continue with our lives, when we hug and walk our separate ways to continue our separate journeys.  The experience, however, is written on our hearts, our lives changed forever, eyes and all senses have been awakened to Beauty and the pursuit of grace.  And I cannot limit it all to words as I would like to, but I feel my heart settle, like a bird landing gracefully on a branch, or the last leaf of autumn drifting to the ground, I feel it settle on this fact alone, words from Psalm 23: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.  His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136).  He is GOOD.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I’m unsure what these tears mean,
The silent ones
That roll down my cheeks
And they strike me
As odd,
Because my heart feels so at ease.
My mind wants to race
With thoughts of fear
And insecurity,
But my soul is quiet,
At peace.
I’m okay.
I’ll wait.
I’m content to place
My trust in You,
To wait
For Your plan to unfold,
For joys yet untold.
I will place my whole
Broken heart in Your hands
With all the things I can’t quite understand,
And all the things I know
Too well.
Like how weak I am
On my own.

And maybe that’s the point
Of tears like these.
Not so much tears of sorrow
As of surrender and release.
They are the tears of one
Who thought she was strong
And realized,
By the grace of God,
She’s not.
But weakness is worthy of Love.
And that Love
Is where strength comes from.
And she can finally
Let go.
Stephanie M. Frakes
(January 14, 2012)