Letting wild things grow…. and some music news

I knew this was significant. I knew this summer was more than a metaphor. My whole being needing to step out into the heat, the sweat, the perfect scene that God has created and LET IT BE.

When did I stop letting the wild things grow?

How did I reach a point of despising the raw natural beauty of things? Too much to do. Turn up the AC already. The bugs, the heat, the sweat, the layer of damaged skin, the stench. But the bugs maintain the habitat;  the sweat is our detox;  the smell is the toxins leaving our body; the natural bronzing of a little sun gives natural highlights … you get it.

And when my friend posted this, I could have cried, because it was exactly what I had been thinking about and feeling about my life. In my efforts to tidy up what is productive and profitable, I risk pulling up all the good things that need to be left alone so that they can grow in their wild and natural element.  (One of those things I’ve been thinking about is my music.)

I love her caption.

I think I have tasted this truth before….  in a poem I wrote when I was recovering from what doctors called “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” at the time.

If you can let the day be new when you are not.

And let the sun be joy when you have none.

You know you’re gonna be alright.

That’s about how I’m feeling again.

I asked her to take pictures. (She is an incredible photographer…)  and then I couldn’t help myself.

See, I started with all of these home recordings years ago, making music for NO ONE. Just because I wanted to. When it caught some attention, I left that and sought to improve it…to be “legitimate.” And I let Nashville tell me I was not a real musician anymore. I’m telling you, these realizations did not come overnight. I’m not going on about this because it’s about me…. it’s about all of us and the natural element of the expression of who God made us to be and how he made us to function in the world.

People tried to tell me this, but I wasn’t ready, and I’m telling you when I began to desire to return to my natural element, encouragement began to come from strange places.

So in a sort of personal moment of reckoning, I’m just going to see what happens when I send a friend some recordings of my piano and me at home.  My songs in their raw and natural element with my not-perfectly-tuned piano and its squeaky broken pedal….. yeah, that. It’s not going to be glamorous or perfect….but to be COMPLETELY transparent, a decade is about to pass without me making more music since tons of recording and “In the Dark” in my 20s, and I’ve GOT to produce SOMETHING in my 30s.

When I asked some friends, “how do I do this without making a fool of myself,” they all said, “We loved your old raw recordings best anyway.” HUH?! Well then, it’s official. It’s a wild and natural theme. It means these recordings will have some heat, burn, and bugs. And they may smell a little. I’m gonna have to let it be.

Some new songs and rough demos of mine are on SoundCloud from these last few years, and more people than I realized have downloaded them, but you have to have an account, etc, and …… …..and….and iTunes already, ok. Here are two old hymns below….

I’ll keep you posted if you want to follow:

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To Launch Something, You Leave Something…

Having the cd in my hands and passing it along to friends pushed this new cd project beyond theory into a reality that
looked different up close. To be blunt, I’d gotten in a rut.

I had lost sight of things ahead. I know better than to believe the lie that we simply follow “open doors” and people’s applause, but Zach says I had begun to walk around the house saying, “I can’t do anything… I can’t… I can’t…I can’t…I can’t.” It’s the stuff of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “Truth.” I had receded into a comfortable survival mode in which the world couldn’t blow through my tightly closed windows. I was adopting a mindset that had no room for Joni the creative music-maker and writer. Sure, we are working on our next 2 projects; sure, those projects are in my hands and I am actively working on them…but somewhere in the last 2 years I had taken some turns that had led me to a dead end in my mind.

To move forward with my work, I had to leave something behind, and I had no idea what this was going to mean for me. I had no idea it meant untangling my mind from a settled mess.

“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE??” –the voice kept booming in my head, ending in a tearful meltdown in my kitchen. You’ve got the music, the poetry, the half-written books and blogs… and a booming house that is desperate for a focused wife and mother.

I had come to one of those awful stand stills where I thought, “Maybe I’ll never know.
Maybe I’ll just do the best I can and plod along and always wonder if I’m off on some
tangent or not.” It’s the way I felt before my move to California when I couldn’t possibly
know which decision was best..until the next morning when more news hit the table.

That’s what happened this time.

The next morning, we left the house early to return a rental car and get our car out of the shop.

Zach and I were talking about some  projects we have on the table that involve music
opportunities with other musicians and writers. We get excited talking about music with the timid budding theme of, “We’ve got to stop looking at
everybody else’s box and be who God made us to be.” We are eating breakfast, letting the kids play.

I go up to get a refill.

Behind the counter, a lady/employee says to me, “Are you ..a writer, poet…” and I said yes,
and a musician.” And she beamed, “Yes, I saw you and felt that you were 3 things–a writer,
poet, and musician…Are you ….going for it?” I said I was, and that I had just been having
a little crisis about it, and that I knew that this was a ‘divine appointment.” She was really
excited then. (We high fived a few times..and I am known to be quite a high fiver!)

Then she encouraged me, grabbed my hand, and quickly prayed for me [right there from BEHIND the counter.] I felt bad for the onlookers because they must have thought we were crazy.   Then she handed me my refill.


When we were about to leave, ‘breakfast was over’, so they passed out leftover breakfast
sandwiches … my favorite. A spicy chicken biscuit.

Now, I’ve been going to Chic-Fil-A for many years and have never walked out with a free
sandwich…much less my favorite menu item!


Identity crisis over!


This was how it all started for me and Zach–small steps in one direction with no one chanting my name, no one caring or understanding.  Just a conviction of sharing what has made my life worth living. It flourished into a wonderful era.

Now that we have a family, it will look different. I have several friends who are busting their butts to do the music thing .. at the cost of children and/or marriage.  It is a real trade-off it seems to me.  But “one step is all you can TAKE!!! [there’s terror involved here!]

THE WORST PART: I didn’t even know any of this until this Germany Version hit my door.

What an inspiration I have received. And what a mess I have been in.

Yeah, yeah, they say a mother forgets who she is when her children are born… so, ok, much ado about nothing; this is common to man.  But suddenly to live it ..is HUGE!

Thank God for the Launch that helped me LEAVE!

Sheer Drapes on My Windows

“I keep sheer drapes on my windows. It seems I cannot decide whether they reveal or obscure.” –Ruth Simons, artist and creator of Gracelaced


All of us walk a fine line as we decide what to reveal what to hide.  We want to be known, yet we know we must be protected.  We know we must share, but we must be careful.  No pearls to swine; no wasted breath.  No useless boasting; no pompous fluff. But then we sideline ourselves and wither in self-criticism which we then super-impose on others who ARE sharing. (We’d rather share nothing than be criticized for over-sharing.  We’d rather sit in a corner than face the possibility of being misread, misheard, misinterpreted, mistaken for arrogant.) We push through, however, when we see that eventually we must take a turn, a stab at it in this conversation.  For better or worse, we have an instrument to play in the orchestra.  The sooner we start squeaking something out, the better.

Because Ruth’s “Drapes” represent so accurately  my own dilemma as a writer,  and because she is a friend whose words I am delighted to borrow and share, “Sheer Drapes on My Windows”  was the title of my first published book of poetry. Later, my music became published under this as its separate, official name for bookkeeping, tax purposes.  Now as my passion has grown for helping others I continue to grow as a self-publisher and self-publishing consultant.


Why we do what we do….{house builders}


Some housebuilders build because their daddy did. Some for the job security that there’s always gonna be some house building going on. Some do it for the masculine challenge of making stuff. Some for the artistic expression. Some to just be the best and make a name for themselves.

Some are known for outstanding materials. Some are known for cool floor plans. Some for far out artistic stuff. Some for practical tricks that make life easier in their designs. Some for keeping up with the mainstream tastes and trends.

Some housebuilders have a whole philosophy of why housebuilding contributes to society. Some analyze why this plan “works” and this one “doesn’t” in a non-engineering sense. Some just build houses and then go eat the potatoes their wife fixed them and stop thinking when 5:00 pm comes.

I’m thinking there are that many types of chefs and cooks and that many types of songwriters. Every minute I spend of my life doing this, when I could be doing smething else in the world, I spend thinking about what I’m doing and why. Because no one has to cook or build or write a thing. I could go learn sign language and get to sit in the front row of auditoriums backwards or something for a living. But why would I do that?


Everything is a process. One thing always leads to another. There are backroads and detours and changes of plans. And ah! there’s the chutes and ladders. Thank god for chutes and ladders even when we curse them both… hmmm… another blog I guess. We detest the fall and sometimes the climb, don’t we. And darn it, why didn’t we get to make the game ourselves?

Sing Me a Fruit Plate… (Thoughts on being UNRELATABLE)

Sing Me a Fruit Plate

So a metaphor has been circling me, helping me see some things about music in a new light. When I liken a “performance” to a restaurant, I suddenly get some things that I otherwise have missed over the years. See, I understand what it is that I’m offering people when they come to hear me play. I get the music, and I get the comparisons to other types. Like all music, of course it’s not for everyone. And sometimes it’s acquired: (I hated Tori Amos the first time I heard her–she is now in my top 3, and I have everything she’s ever done. Then there was Sarah McLachlan’s second record Building a Mystery which made me want to sleep the first time I heard it and I couldn’t believe she’d done so many blah songs that just sounded the same–when I love the album now!) Now certaily these realities cause artists to just sort of buckle down and do their thing knowing that all of these responses are coming and going and changing over time, and so you sort of mentally check out from thinking about your audience to protect you from their momentary (and sometimes permanent) disregard. So in that sheltering, I’ve missed some important more precise details from the audience’s perspective which I can see clearly when I think of them as coming to ….my restaurant. (My friend Ruth is going to love this.) And really, this was one of those huge realizations that had me talking rapid fire to my calmly nodding husband one evening as we took an adventurous stroll to … our pool across the street at our apartment complex in Franklin. (a big night on the town you see)

People like a new kind of restaurant; it doesn’t have to be their decor or their style to love a meal outside themselves, and because of hunger and because people like to try new things, they’re intrigued by a menu full of things they’ve never heard of before. That’s fine. So, no, there’s no alarm that my restaurant just ain’t the all-amerian Chili’s. HOWEVER, 2 out of 3 at that smiling table of chatty ladies is secretly looking for the a la carte menu hoping for a burrito, a club sandwhich, a fruit plate…SOMETHING they recognize. Because just in case they’re not ready to fork out some money to try something they might not like, they appreciate the option to order something they do recognize.

Do you think some of the top chefs in the world WANTED to put that blah fruit plate on their menu?

People need fruit plates.

Today I stumbled across the quote on Rancho Loma’s website: “Food is not about impressing people, it’s about making people feel comfortable.” –Ina Garten And though I hear some artists say they’ve always felt their job was to wake people up, I’m gonna side with Ina. Without common ground with someone, your wake up call won’t even reach their ears.

So at my last show at The Hot Spot… I took comfort in this metaphor when I ended up playing a huge variety… from the folky to the rockin’ to the ballad to the CCMish. I felt like a horrible buffet, but I’m breaking in some new thoughts here. I care about my step-dad, Mike, who would be looking for the burger.

So am I writing things to please others? No. I’m just making sure I get one of my fruit plate songs every 20 minutes or so.

I recently heard that the Guns and Roses song “Livin on a Prayer” (oohh we’re halfway there, oh oh! LIVIN ON A PRAYER! Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear… you know it) almost didn’t make the record because lead singer didn’t think it was strong enough. It became like the 80s theme song and is hailed as one of the top 10 songs of the decade. Similarly, without Dolf and Brad’s insistence, I never would have put “on a bus” on my album. Lots of people tell me it’s their favorite.

People need fruit plates.

What Good is an Artist?

What Good is an Artist?

So they can whip up a rendition of something to make us think about it. They can present us with an idea hidden to our sluggish minds, bring it to the front again, so we can come in contact with something deeper than our fears. They give and re-give us the gifts of being alive, help us grow through stupors, slapping us awake, or slap us back from stupidity and rearrange our eyes to what’s important to notice. They make us reflect.

They absorb the things that aren’t said, the things we don’t know how to express, or how to deal with, and they deliver them to our eyes, ears, and minds, so that we can reconnect with our own selves. We recognize their offerings because they are within us as well. We need to see them outside ourselves, made into material, defined, so that we can discern what it is that we have and what we need.