Video of the Week: Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson Sing "Winter Song"

 "Is love alive?"  That is the question that this song asks us to ponder.  It keeps repeating in your head like a mantra.  It's just beautiful.  So many songs of the season have this artificial happiness about them.  I really appreciate the feeling of authenticity that this song brings as you listen.  Enjoy! 

Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson - Winter Song

Looking for the sheet music?  Check out Musicnotes.com


Christ the Light of the World: Devotional First Week of Christmas

Welcome to Christmas! I have put together a series of musical devotionals that take us on a journey from Advent to Epiphany. Each devotional in the series will include a visual word cloud that I hope aides in your reflection time, a Scripture passage, a music video, and a prayer. If you missed last week's devotion or are just joining us, click Week One, Week Two, Week Three or Week Four to see the Advent devotionals that you missed.

So take a minute to light a candle and reflect on today's message of Light.

Scripture:  Isaiah 9:2-6 (New Living Translation)

Isaiah 9

Hope in the Messiah
 2 [b] The people who walk in darkness
      will see a great light.
   For those who live in a land of deep darkness,[c]
      a light will shine.
 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
      and its people will rejoice.
   They will rejoice before you
      as people rejoice at the harvest
      and like warriors dividing the plunder.
 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery
      and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
   You will break the oppressor’s rod,
      just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
 5 The boots of the warrior
      and the uniforms bloodstained by war
   will all be burned.
      They will be fuel for the fire.
 6 For a child is born to us,
      a son is given to us.
   The government will rest on his shoulders.
      And he will be called:
   Wonderful Counselor,[d] Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Prayer:  God of Love, protector of all, you have brought us out of darkness and given us a great light.  We are drawn to you and to your Son.  Please make me a person of your light.  Make me faithful to your word that I may be a bearer of this great gift to the world.  Amen.

*Special thanks to these online resources who helped me pull this together.


Quote of the Week: "There are two kinds of..."

"There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures." 

~James Thurber


Merry Christmas!

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." 
~Burton Hillis

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!


I Want to Learn to Play "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay for Christmas

So, here is a cool way to help you play some of your favorite popular songs on the piano.  Check out the The Piano Podcast with Mario Ajero.  I have been watching Mario's tutorials for some time now and have really enjoyed how he breaks things down and helps you put the music back together.  He also is using his iPad  to view the sheet music instead of printing it out.  One more reason why I might want to get one someday.

The most recent Piano Podcast was a tutorial for "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay.  I'm on this listening kick lately where I enjoy listening to new and different songs for the Christmas season and this fit the bill nicely.  I also really like the piano part and wouldn't mind learning it myself.  So, first let's listen to "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay.     

Here's Mario Ajero's piano tutorial.  Enjoy!

How to play Christmas Lights by Coldplay on piano
Piano tutorial on how to play some of the opening measures of the song "Christmas Lights" by Coldplay.


The Story of Christmas: "Love Came Down at Christmas"

"It happened one night near Bethlehem town. As prayers went up, God's love came down. Yes, love came down at Christmas."  Enjoy!

Written by Tim Wesemann
Illustrated by Jeff France
Art Direction by Buz Phelan
Read by Nicolaus Braun


Video of the Week: "Peace On Earth" / "Little Drummer Boy"

An awesome performance with a little Christmas humor mixed in.  Enjoy!


"Peace On Earth" / "Little Drummer Boy" 2010 (with Jack Black and Jason Segel)


My Very Merry Music Wish List

I saw yesterday on Amazon.com that shipping is still available for Christmas gifts if you act fast.  So, I figured there was still time to share my very merry musical wish list.  Who knows, maybe Santa shops amazon? 

  • Amazon.com $50 Gift Card - Can't fail with this one.  I'm new to shopping with Amazon but the selection and deals are wonderful so far.  
  • De-Lovely - Cole Porter is fantastic and the new arrangements of his songs for this movie are stunning.  
  • Rhythm Heaven - My husband got me a Nintendo DS some time ago but I still haven't gotten a music games for it.  I do play Animal Crossing when I have the time.  Rhythm Heaven looks like a lot of fun especially for long car rides.   
  • Gaiam Balance Ball Chair (Black) -  I love exercising on a balance ball and tried using it as my desk chair for a day but realized that I needed a little bit more height and I missed my wheels.  This fits the bill nicely.
  • Gift Card to Musicnotes.com - My favorite place online to order sheet music at the last minute.
So that's my musical gift list for 2010.  What are some of your favorite musical must-haves this holiday season?


Love: Advent Devotional - Week Four

Welcome to week four of this Advent season!  I have put together a series of musical devotionals that take us on a journey from Advent to Epiphany.  Each devotional in the series will include a visual word cloud that I hope aides in your reflection time, a Scripture passage, a music video, and a prayer.  If you missed last week's devotion or are just joining us, click Week One, Week Two and Week Three.

So take a minute to light a candle and reflect on today's message of Love.

Scripture:  Isaiah 52:7-10 (New International Version, ©2010)
 7 How beautiful on the mountains
   are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
   who bring good tidings,
   who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
   “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
   together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
   they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
   you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
   he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm
   in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
   the salvation of our God.

Song:  "Love Came Down At Christmas" by Jars Of Clay from "Christmas Songs"

Prayer: You know us, O Christ and still you love us.  You know our strengths and our weaknesses but you remain close, guiding us on our way.  May the peace that you bring, which is beyond our knowing, keep our hearts and minds in you, Christ Jesus.  Amen.

*Special thanks to these online resources who helped me pull this together.


Quote of the Week: "I have always thought of Christmas time..."

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." 

~Charles Dickens


Do You Know Your Christmas Carols?

Let's test your Christmas Carol knowledge!

And to make it a bit more tricky the correct answers include twenty-nine different titles with one title used twice.  Go through the list once, seeing if a carol comes to mind. Then when you get stumped click the link at the bottom for the answers.  Let us know how you did by sharing your score in the comments. 

   1. Born a child and yet a King
   2. Mild He lays his glory by
   3. Ye who sang creation’s story
   4. And wonders of His love
   5. O how lovely, O how pure
   6. And still their heavenly music floats
   7. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing
   8. On a cold winter's night that was so deep
   9. He come from the glorious kingdom
  10. Lie the ages impearled
  11. Where meek souls will receive Him still
  12. Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
  13. You'll forget your flocks, you'll forget your herds
  14. Radiant beams from Thy holy face
  15. Such a Babe in such a place
  16. Haste, haste to bring Him laud
  17. That mourns in lonely exile here
  18. Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow
  19. Love for plea and gift and sign
  20. I gave him hay to pillow his head

  21. Ox and ass before him bow
  22. Our God, heaven cannot hold him
  23. True man yet very God
  24. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
  25. He came down to earth from heaven
  26. God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn
  27. And thus that manger poor became a throne
  28. God's stupendous sign
  29. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
  30. This gift of God we'll cherish well


A Music Director's Search

I have been without a choir for almost four years.  I fill in behind the conductor’s stand every once in awhile as a substitute but I miss the weekly rhythm of score prep and practicing pieces for rehearsal, designing a music plan and working with the choir that week for performance.  

I guess I feel I need to put this into words because lately the music I have been making has been far from a satisfactory experience.  I feel like the leadership that I currently sing under is uninspiring and quite frustrating.  Maybe this is coming from a place of bitterness.  I’m just not sure.  But I do know that a change is needed.  I feel that I am being held back and a little voice inside me wonders why I am still putting up with this mess.    

I am struggling with the fact that I am good at what I do and I am dedicated to making myself better every step of the way.  I have a God given talent to interpret music and work with a group of people to make it come to life.  I hold myself to a very high level of excellence but I am still not taken seriously because I don’t have “35 years of experience” or maybe because I am a woman or because I don’t hold tons of music degrees.  I am 28 years old.  How long is it going to take before someone finally gives me a chance to truly succeed?

There is a reason that in 2001 I opened my mail and found a flyer for a church music director position at my home church with an invitation to apply.  I have been called to this from the very beginning.  Every music experience I have had, every conductor I have sung with, every music class I have attended has prepared me for this.  That pastor could see my potential and that interviewing panel took a leap of faith and said yes to a 19 year old, freshman music student.  

I had an amazing time learning and growing as a musician and serving my church.  I was the closest to God that I have ever been bringing music to worship each week.  That chapter of my life ended after five and a half years simply because of life and the changes it brings.  I got married, had my first child and we moved to Kansas City to be closer to my husband’s employment.  I had to say goodbye.  One of the hardest things I have had to do.    

I have had my hopes up a few times since then when job openings would come up in the area and I would apply, each time praying that my application would be considered.  I got really close last year when I applied for the music director position at my new church home.  I was even told that I was the number one pick but that they wanted to widen their search before making a final decision.  I really wish that they hadn’t said anything because now I have to deal with that knowledge wondering why not me?  What made them the better choice?  What’s even more frustrating is that I have continued to stay on and sing knowing what I know.  

As 2010 draws to a close, I am reminded of my goals for the year and what things I would like to accomplish in 2011.  Can I spend another year on this path?  Do I even want to?  Do I need to start looking for another church that will better use me?  It is looking even more like I am going to have to create my own way if I want to really use my musical gifts.  I do have options and they will take a lot of energy on my part to get them going and the success rate is unknown.  I will be embarking on uncharted territory. 

Have you ever felt like you were at a major cross road in your life and were really unsure about your next steps?  How did you handle it?  I would love to hear your stories.    


Video of the Week: "Silent Night" Arranged by Priscilla Ahn

This is my absolute favorite arrangement of "Silent Night" that I have ever come across.  I would love to find the sheet music to this one.  I first heard it when my mom gave me a copy of the CD "The Hotel Cafe presents - Winter Song".  That album was played so many times last year and was a wonderful gift.  I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!

Silent Night -- Priscilla Ahn  The Hotel Cafe presents - Winter Songs


Joy: Advent Devotional - Week Three

Welcome to week three of this Advent season!  I have put together a series of musical devotionals that take us on a journey from Advent to Epiphany.  Each devotional in the series will include a visual word cloud that I hope aides in your reflection time, a Scripture passage, a music video, and a prayer.  If you missed last week's devotion or need to start at the beginning, click Week One or Week Two.

So take a minute to light a candle and reflect on today's message of Joy.

Scripture:  Isaiah 9:6-7 (The Message)

 2-7The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
   light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
   you expanded its joy.
Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
   Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
   sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
   all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
   as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
   along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
   a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
   the gift of a son—for us!
He'll take over
   the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
   Strong God,
Eternal Father,
   Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
   and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
   over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
   and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
   beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
   will do all this.

Song: "Joy To The World" by Third Day found on their "Christmas Offerings" album.


Prayer:  Bless us, O God; help us to keep joy in our hearts this Advent season.  We desire your presence in our life and long for the inner harmony that comes when we are present with you.  Amen.

*Special thanks to these online resources who helped me pull this together.


Quote of the Week: "Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest..."

"Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year - and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority." 
~W.J. Cameron


A Christmas Prayer: A Modern Day Prodigal Son Story for the Family

We are trying something a little bit different this year during the Advent and Christmas season at One Spirit United Methodist Church in Kansas City.  Instead of a traditional Christmas Cantata our Music & Drama ministries will be sharing a Musical Drama.  I will be singing in the choir, sharing a solo and with the help of your prayers playing the part of "Rita".  It's been awhile since I have had to memorize dialogue.  I hope you can join us!

One Spirit UMC
Christmas Musical Drama

"A Christmas Prayer"

A modern day prodigal son story for the family

Friday, December 17th at 7:00 pm
Saturday, December 18th at 7:00pm

Homemade Holiday Treats After each Performance


Video of the Week: Hallelujah Chorus Food Court Flash Mob

Don't you love a good flash mob?  I know I do!  On November 13, 2010 unsuspecting shoppers in a mall food court got a big surprise.  Over 100 participants joined in singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" in this awesome Christmas Flash Mob organized by http://www.AlphabetPhotography.com to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!  This is a must see!  Enjoy!

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!


The Simple Woman's Daybook - Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Outside my window...Today was a much needed PJ day so I have no idea what was going on outside my window.  

Madi at the Table

I am thinking...about how proud I am of my daughter, Madi who is progressing fantastically in her home preschool materials.  She has begun to read and write and it's a delight.  (hey, that rhymed.)

I am thankful for...good friends, food and fellowship.

I am wearing...My PJ's of course!

I am remembering...Our first Christmas' as the Elliott family.  I was going down memory lane while uploading new pictures of this holiday season.   

I am currently reading...a ton of email and a couple new Christmas books on my Kindle
I am hoping....for a fantastic holiday season and a house for Christmas.  (fingers crossed)

On my mind...Holiday baking and crafting, gift-giving, not getting overwhelmed by all there is to do in a day. 

Noticing that...exercise can really be fun.  The kids and I tried out an exercise show I had set to record on the DVR the other day.  The show is called "Shimmy" and you really do as you work through a simple routine of belly-dancing moves.  Madi and I are already discussing costume ideas so we can shimmy and jingle like the ladies on TV.  I had taken lessons way back when so it was fun to dust off what I remembered and try something different.  We will be back at it tomorrow for sure.

Pondering these words...
"Lord, may we entertain joy during this Advent season regardless of our circumstances. Empower us to sing and shout out of our sickness, to dance in the midst of disability, to praise you through our pain, and to expect that you will turn our wilderness to fruitfulness for your glory. Amen."
Laura Bachman, The King’s Closet - Burlington,... WI

From the kitchen...fantastic food!  A few nights ago I got a little help from the store and made pizza.  It was so marvelous I took a picture of it.

My Yummy Pizza Creation

My mother came over on Monday and helped cook a holiday feast of green bean casserole, deviled eggs, sage dressing, southwest corn casserole, turkey breast with vegetables, veggie cutlets and pumpkin pie.  I am still eating on the leftovers but they are going fast. 

Our Beautiful Christmas Tree
Around the house...Christmas decorating has begun and is in full force.  My little tree is looking quite fantastic.  I am practicing more Christmas music on the piano and really enjoying myself.  I just love enjoyable practice time. 

One of my favorite things...my homemade pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream.   

From my camera...a few early pictures of the holidays.  Enjoy!

Beautiful Poinsettias on the Kitchen Table

Oli & Madi Under the Christmas Tree

Dazzling Christmas Tree

Would you like to linger on the simple things...then join me and many others at "The Simple Woman's Daybook" in taking a little look into the day plans and thoughts of those who are focusing on simplicity...beauty of the 'everyday moments'. I will be posting a weekly update using this unique and simple format.


Peace: Advent Devotional - Week Two

Welcome to week two of this Advent season!  I have put together a series of musical devotionals that take us on a journey from Advent to Epiphany.  Each devotional in the series will include a visual word cloud that I hope aides in your reflection time, a Scripture passage, a music video, and a prayer.  If you missed last week's devotion, click Week One.

So take a minute to light a candle and reflect on today's message of Peace.

Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5 (New Living Translation)

Isaiah 2

The Lord’s Future Reign
 1 This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
 2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
      will be the highest of all—
      the most important place on earth.
   It will be raised above the other hills,
      and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
 3 People from many nations will come and say,
   “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
      to the house of Jacob’s God.
   There he will teach us his ways,
      and we will walk in his paths.”
   For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
      his word will go out from Jerusalem.
 4 The Lord will mediate between nations
      and will settle international disputes.
   They will hammer their swords into plowshares
      and their spears into pruning hooks.
   Nation will no longer fight against nation,
      nor train for war anymore.
 5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
      let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Song:  Casting Crowns - "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day"

Prayer: O, Lord help us to find comfort in the quiet so that we may hear your voice and feel your peace.  Amen. 

*Special thanks to these online resources who helped me pull this together.


Quote of the Week: "Christmas is a necessity. There has..."

"Christmas is a necessity.  There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves."

~Eric Sevareid


Emily Elliott and Friends Sing

Some time in October I was approached by Paul, one of the Vice Presidents for our District United Methodist's Men here in Kansas City about sharing some music during their next Prayer Breakfast.  I was honored by the request and was even more excited when I learned that Rev. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II was going to be the keynote speaker and it was going to be held at my church.  How could anyone pass that opportunity up?

When asked about specifics not too many parameters were given.  There was no theme for the day and the only songs that were requested were "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan and they wanted me to finish with "Amazing Grace".  The total music time did have to add up to at least 15 minutes.  Easily doable in my book.  Now I just had to pick out the songs and line up some friends to help.

I am quite lucky when it comes to having great friends in music.  I enlisted the help of Sharon on piano and Roger on guitar.  We have been playing together for the last year in One Spirit UMC's praise band so it wasn't a stretch for us to collaborate on another church music project. 

It took me a few weeks to narrow down the music selections.  I wanted to make sure that everything worked well together and would show our strengths as musicians.  I finally decided on this list of songs:

I always over plan for this type of performance.  I believe it is better to have too much music than not enough.  You never know when someone is going to come up and ask you to stretch things a bit because the speaker hasn't arrived yet, etc.  Well, we didn't have to worry because they actually had to cut us off before we were to sing "Amazing Grace" due to the fact that Rev. Congressman Cleaver had another obligation that day and couldn't stay much longer than his talk.  

Rev. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II was very complimentary and even offered to take me with him to sing at his church when he left that day.  He spoke about our community and about our nation and how much we are in debt.  How our young people's values have shifted from the values of our older generations.  He charged us to be responsible with our money and not to be afraid to work hard to make a better life for ourselves and our children.  It was a very empowering message.

If I were to mention a downside to the day I would say that it was the fact we had to be there so early in the morning to set up and practice before breakfast was served.  I am not a morning person especially since I have had children.  No one seems to sleep when you want them to.  On a positive note I was able to put together a program of songs that I have always wanted to perform and that are some of my all time favorites.  I look forward to sharing more performances like that in the future.   


Video of the Week: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This traditional carol has been arranged in both English and Latin by Enya and Nicky Ryan and was a part of the 2008 album "And Winter Came..."

Enjoy this song of expectation for the Advent season!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Enya 


Song Lyrics:

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
To free your captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, oh Israel
To you shall come Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel
Qui gemit in exilio
Privates Dei Filio
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel

Gaude, gaude
Gaude, gaude
Gaude, gaude
Gaude, gaude

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel


The Simple Woman's Daybook - Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Outside my window...a cold sunny day in the midwest.  I stepped outside to put the trash out and I got a face full of a bitter cold breeze.  Next time I will be wearing a coat that's for sure. 

I am thinking...about how cuddly both my children are but especially my little Oli.  He's even curled up on me while I type this.

I am thankful for...my ability to be patient.

I am wearing...comfy but nice clothes.  I teach a piano lesson today so I can't be too casual.

I am remembering...Christmas traditions of years past

I am currently reading...not much at the moment but I did just update my book list on Goodreads.com.  I love being able to track what I have read, what I am reading and what I would like to read all in one place.  You also can share your book list with friends and get ideas.  Now I just have to decide what I want to read next. 
I am hoping...for a peaceful holiday season full of meaningful moments and wonderful memories.

On my mind...There are so many choices of cool things to do with your family for the holidays.  I am also quite overwhelmed by all the neat craft ideas out there to do with your kids.  Here is just a list of a few websites I have been looking at.
Noticing that...December 1st will be here before I know it.  Tomorrow even!  I think I better get cracking on my advent calendar print out and start cranking out some paper chains. 
Pondering these words... 

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

From the kitchen...I did some bulk cooking last week so I haven't cooked a whole lot this week.  I just popped a casserole in the oven every couple days.  This might seem strange to some but I haven't cooked my big Thanksgiving meal yet.  Several factors have made it necessary to postpone it until next week.  So I am still looking forward to mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and my famous pumpkin pie. 

Around the house...the usual cleaning and tidying up today.  I am also preparing to decorate a little for Christmas.  House hunting is also on my mind.

One of my favorite things...getting to make my Christmas wish list.  I'm working on it now and will share it in a future post. 

From my camera...I thought I would share a couple pictures today.  The first one is our first attempt at a box guitar.  So far it has held up pretty well to the beating my children have given it.  But yesterday my husband found a shoe box with sturdier cardboard that has turned out to be a better alternative to a cereal box. 

My second picture was taken on Thanksgiving last week while we waited for our table at Cracker Barrel in Independence, MO.  We had a lunch with friends before they set off to visit family for the holiday.  The gift shop was so full of people waiting that we couldn't move around very well but we did enjoy looking at all the new ornaments and Christmas decorations. 

Would you like to linger on the simple things...then join me and many others at "The Simple Woman's Daybook" in taking a little look into the day plans and thoughts of those who are focusing on simplicity...beauty of the 'everyday moments'. I will be posting a weekly update using this unique and simple format.


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