Category Archives: Music

cute, but no.



From the official scrapbook of my life: Birth-High School. Melody is standing at the podium in the middle picture. And please notice Janine and my matching dresses as well as my amazingly sporty watch in the bottom picture. 


I was the quintessential copycat child, much to the chagrin of my sister. My sister had been playing piano for quite a while, which meant I, of course, decided that I must play as well. Mom ran me through the usual responsibility questions: “Will you practice regularly? Are you sure you want to do this? Will you obey what your instructor says?” My answer was yes. So begins the adventure we put our wonderful piano teacher on.
Her name was Melody. She was an amazing teacher who valued punctuality, short fingernails, proper counting and timing, and excellence. At that point in my life I, in contrast, valued doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, not practicing if I didn’t like a piece, and having my free will go unchallenged. You can see where this took us.

Melody’s house was nestled in a nice neighborhood about 15 minutes away from our house in Kansas. Her front door was unlocked during lesson times. We would walk in, and quietly wait for her current students to leave before we walked in. She was ever so cheery on a regular basis. Positivity was her ally…which came in handy with frustrating students who wouldn’t practice…like me. There were so many times where I’d sit down at the piano in her studio and eek out my version of “close enough” on an assigned song. She’d gently lean in and with a chuckle say, “Cute, but no.” Then in the next moment, i’d be writing in the counts and counting out loud.

The subject of my practicing, or lack thereof, came up often in the parent/teacher conferences Melody had with my mom (or I’m at least assuming it did…). I’m guessing it was more of a widespread issue than just me, because at one point, Melody told parents that if their practice-averse students didn’t start working a little harder, she was going to drop them. I knew that I was in that category.
But then my secret weapon kicked in.
Melody didn’t drop me – for one reason: I was funny. So there’s that. 🙂

Beautiful Things

Me and my guitar…a few years ago
Photo Credit: Sharon Swing Photography

This morning, I did something that I haven’t done in a long, long time.

I co-led worship in front of about 80 people, alongside my friend Mel on the keys, and Sue and HannaMarie on vocals.

The events of the past day or so have been oddly connected on one topic: Identity.
Last night at Student Impact, Pat talked about the importance of having our identity rooted in Christ, and Christ alone.  Through listening to his talk and leading small group, I came to realize that not everything I do is rooted in Christ…and that came to a head when I co-led this morning.  I realized afterwards that I was waiting for people to come tell me how wonderful I did, like I needed to hear every word and eat it for dinner…then I caught myself.

How often do I rely on the praise of others instead of being secure in who God has told me I am?

More often than not, I fall into this rut.  It is frustrating, to be sure.  But, there is comfort in knowing that even though I am imperfect and frequently place my identity in things, positions, or traits, God still loves me.  I told my small group girls last night that finding identity in Christ is never a process that one simply “arrives” at the finish line.

This is wonderful, yet terrible.  It is wonderful in that I can know that there is always something new to find or work on – there is always a new adventure to be had and new traits to discover.  It is terrible in that it isn’t a process where I can check off progress on a neat to-do list.

But through it all, I can take comfort in knowing that God is with me through it all.  He doesn’t expect me to be perfect, he just expects me to come…just as I am.

It reminds me of one of the songs we sang today:

“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.”
– Gungor, “Beautiful Things”


Pizza and a Jam

Last Friday night, I embarked on a “first.”  I hosted a jam session. You may say, “But Joy, you’re a musician!  Surely you have had jam sessions before!” Well, yes…but always in the awkward in-between moments at rehearsals for services.  That’s different.  We are talking about a stripped-down, no-plan, just-us-and-a-few-guitars type of jam session.

Before we get into all of that, let’s back up a few hours.

In order to have a good jam session, pizza is a must.  I’ve been perfecting a conglomeration of recipes that I found online…and this time, it all came together perfectly.  Here’s what I did:

Crust: Takes 2 hours to rise
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil (and some extra for later)
1 1/2 tsp salt (2 tsp also works well)
(string cheese for stuffed crust option)

Mix together yeast and salt
Add in 2 tbsp of honey
Add 1 cup warm water to it (warm, but still comfortable to the touch)
combine all the ingredients, let sit for 5 minutes to let the yeast activate
Add oil and 1 cup of flour.  Wait to add the last cup until the last cup is fully mixed in.  Add the next cup.  Then add the last 1/4 cup.  Mix until it is a “supple dough”
If desired, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and knead.
Lightly oil a big bowl, put the dough in it.  Spray a little oil on top, put plastic wrap over the bowl, and put it in a draft-free place for two hours
The dough should make 2 medium or 1 large pizza.
Punch it down and transfer it to a floured board. Make sure there’s flour on both sides of the dough and then only use more flour if the dough starts sticking to your hands.
Use the sides of your hands to create the border, push it down in the center and use your hand or finger tips to gently stretch the dough while turning it around.
For stuffed crust:
Stretch the crust larger than the pan.
Put in rolls of string cheese, fold crust over and spray with oil.
Pre-bake for 5 minutes on 475.
Put on toppings,
bake at 475 for around 15 minutes
Crushed tomatoes – one 28 Oz can
Olive oil – 1/4 cup (Extra virgin preferred)
Garlic – 4 cloves chopped fine
Dried oregano – 1 tsp
Dried Basil – 1 tsp (use fresh about 1 TBSP if available)
Salt – to taste
Black Pepper – crushed to taste
Lemon juice – about 3 TBSP from half of a big lemon or 3TBSP of vinegar
Cayenne – 1/2 tsp
In a sauce pan, heat olive oil. It need not get too hot. Add the chopped garlic. Don’t let it toast and get brown. Add the crushed tomatoes. Stir. Add salt, crushed pepper, cayanne if using, lemon juice and the dried herbs. Rub the herbs on your palm and then add it to the pot. Stir occasionally and bring it to a simmer. Adjust the seasonings and switch off the heat.This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Sounds delicious, right?  That’s because it is!  Usually I make two large pizzas, each of which have two sets of toppings – Pepperoni, sausage and onion, hawaiian, and an “everything” section that has all of the leftover toppings from the other parts all mixed together.  Trust me – this is a winning recipe!
So I set the stage for the epic jam session with pizza.  Then the party began.  Over dinner, we talked about odd family quirks, “therapy fund” moments, and we shared many laughs.  One of the biggest laughs came from one of my family’s favorite YouTube clips of Joe Cocker singing at Woodstock…and the translation of what it sounds like he is saying.  Just for you – “A Little Help From My [Fred]”
Inspired by this, and aching from uproarious laughter, we began the jamming…and it was AWESOME.  John pulled out his 12 string and banjo, I played my acoustic and a little bass. Our vocal section was strongly representing as Tom, Sharon, Kristen and Suzie rocked it out.
In conclusion, I think this concept of jam sessions may continue.  Stay posted.

Jammin’ like rockstars – Photo Credit: Kristen