Thursday, February 15, 2018

My Handy-Dandy Notebook

Two months ago, my husband and I were in California, staying with his parents during our Christmas break.

And I was bored.

Totally bored.

Bored and without direction and purpose in my day-to-day life.

While talking with Megan via phone one day, she suggested using a calendar and schedule, but not in the old, traditional way that I had given up after graduating from Bible school. She pointed me to bullet journals, habit trackers, and other methods of making my planner fit my needs. I fell in love with this new system and began filling it up right away! I had purpose and direction in my long, lonely days.

Fast-forward two months into the present, and I am now on the opposite end of bored! I don't have time in a day to get bored, and where does my scheduling fall in these days? It saves me so much time and anguish! I write down everything, and when (yes, when) I forget, I don't have to fret about it.

To spark ideas in your mind, whether you are in a stay-at-home-long-days stage or a not-enough-time-in-a-day stage, I'd like to share some pages of my notebook with you, along with some helpful hints!


I ordered my notebook from Amazon for around $8.00. It fits pages that are 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (what you get if you cut regular copy paper in half), so it's conventional. It's big enough to fit everything I need it to, and yet small enough to carry around and use on my lap. I always keep good sticky notes in the front and note cards in the zippered pouch, and I'm ready for anything!


When I first started keeping a notebook back in school, I thought it was silly to come up with goals for everything. I never looked at them, and I knew what I needed to do just fine. But I've learned a lot since then, and I include goals everywhere. I have goals for the year. I have goals on my month-in-a-glance page. I have goals on my weekly spread. They remind me to build a To-do list that will lead toward accomplishing my goals rather than distract me from where I want to go and what I want to be.


These pages both include a panoramic view of the year we're living in, each with a different function. The left page is a simple calendar,telling me what dates fall on what days. I scatter these mini-calendars all over my notebook for quick reference!
The right page is an open block for each month, and as I have big events scheduled, I write them into their block. I don't use the right page that much, and when I come around to next year, I might not include that page. This is the real fun of this kind of scheduling-- you can tailor the pages to fit your personal needs, and you have no obligation to fill out pages that don't fit your style.


I made one of these pages for each month of the year, and I make sure that if I write an event into the yearly spread, I also write it into the monthly spread! No forgetting appointments for me, please! On the right side, I write out goals for February, tasks, info for the retreat this month, and whatever else is applicable. That is why the right page for November is blank.... I want to leave room for trips I don't know about yet, and things of that nature. I want to make my notebook work for me!


This is my spread for this week, and I made it on Saturday night so that it would be fresh and ready on Sunday morning. Even if it's a little off as the week goes on, I look up the weather forecast to get an idea of what to expect. I mark the days I'm going to work, I write in what cleaning I should do each day too keep up with my housework, and I leave lots of open space for additions!
On the right side, I have my goals for the week, tasks, a small habit tracker, a section for people I need to communicate with, and notes. On the bottom, I have a small square titled "Next Week", as a heads up for what is coming.


This section is my most flexible section. It is my daily log/ to-do list/ journal/ schedule/ whatever I need it to be. I write down what I've been eating (if I have a problem, I can trace it down easier), how much water I'm drinking, what the weather was like, thoughts about what happened or what I need to do.... Sometimes I write recipes here to try later.... Sometimes I schedule out every task in my day and try to follow that.
I take up as much room as I like, then when the day is over, I write in tomorrow's name and number and do it all over again tomorrow. I make it work for my day and try not to fret about it if I miss something.


 This is why I can't call it a journal or a calendar.... I call it a notebook, and that's the best I can come up with! I keep pages that are for special applications, and I'd like to share some of those with you to open up new ideas to you.
This page says " Think about it". Whenever I have a thought of something that I want to think through later, I write it down at the top of one of these pages. Later, when I have time, I'll spend some time thinking about it and trying to solve the issue. I write down pertinent verses and keep it in my notebook to flip back and remember what I've thought through when the issue comes up again. I have found this to be so helpful, and I commend it to you, as well!

Another special page I have is my cleaning schedule page. I divided up cleaning tasks according to days, weeks, and months, and spread them out. This way, I don't have to clean the whole house in one day and fail; I maintain it little by little. Maybe sometime in a future post I'll explore that page with you all!

I have several pages devoted to lists of people to pray for. I have a page for family, a page for friends, a page for church folks, and this is my missionary page. I work my way down the page each day and pray for a few names on each list.

Another important section of my notebook contains my sermon notes. I do have a post to share with you about that, if my laptop ever goes to internet land again..... When this section gets too full, I will transfer the notes elsewhere so that they're not just cluttering up my notebook. 


Other pages that I keep include, but are not limited to:

A list of foods to make as I think of them, including chocolate, pesto, and croissants.

Quotes and poems as I come across good ones.

A list of ideas for devotionals, blog posts, dramas, and stories. Someday, I will have time to write them all!

A vocabulary list containing words I am not familiar with, but want to learn.

A list of books that I would like to get and a list of good radio stations (have I mentioned the to love listening to the radio?).

....And other things that I find useful! The key is to get your notebook to do a lot of your work for you! Of course, to get work out of it, you have to program it, a lot like when you use your crock pot!

It saves you work.
It keeps you mindful of your goals.
It guides you in your choices.
Overall, a notebook is a highly useful tool! I hope giving you a tour of mine gave you fresh ideas for yours! If you keep a notebook, how do you like to do it? I'd love to hear how you use yours!

All for God's glory~

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What To Do With My Music

           At the end of this series, I hope you have a true desire to write a good, God-honouring song (or songs!), and I hope you have tried your hand at it by now. I hope you have picked up some ideas for inspiration, instruction to help you actually carry it out, and tools to make it useful and good. The last thing we need to talk about is the essential “Now what?”

          We have a pretty little song with perfect words and rhymes, but what are we supposed to do with this song?

          The answer to that question depends a lot on you and your circumstances. Consider the purpose of the song: Why did you write it in the first place? I could spend paragraphs discussing what you could and should do with it and why, but I will spare you that and make an easy-to-read list for you:

ü  Keep it personal. Use your music in your own personal worship to voice your individual praise to God or to teach yourself some truth.

ü  Perform it. Sing the song in front of the person for whom it is written. If it is a general application for Christians, sing it at church. If it is an encouragement for teens, sing it at youth group. If it is for your children, sing it at their graduation or wedding.

ü  Publish it. Give a copy of your music to your church worship leader, choir director, or send it to a publishing company to share with the widespread church.

There is one extremely important thing that you are not allowed to use your music for: pride. The point of writing it is not to shun everyone else’s music as if it’s not good enough. The point of performing it is not to show off your skills. The point of publishing it is not to give yourself a name. Remember the two purposes of writing music:

To glorify God

To edify the Church

Nowhere in that list of purposes does it include pride, so if that’s why you’re writing, stop and get your heart right with the Lord before you continue.

          So, do something with your music that glorifies God and edifies the Church. Be creative! Music is a beautiful and wonderful tool in helping us focus on the Lord and grow.

          Thank you for going through this series with me! I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Monday, January 8, 2018

Where to Write Music

          By this, I mean primarily “On what medium”, but let’s discuss the physical location while we’re at it! What is the appropriate place to write a song? Surely you remember Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham”, where he says you can eat it in a house, with a mouse, on a train, in the rain, etc., etc., etc. It’s the same with writing music! There is no mystical prayer closet or pipe-organ or study-dedicated desk that you must have in order to write great music. If you are sitting in the DMV when a stroke of poetic brilliance hits you, grab a post-it or receipt from your purse and jot down your idea. Of course, you will probably transfer your idea to a more appropriate medium when you get home, but for now, you have that idea captured! Besides, what else are you going to do at the DMV while you wait? You can always play the “try not to make eye contact” game. That’s lots of fun.

          So, now let’s talk about the medium. Any scrap of paper will do for a little while, but I like to have a whole piece of 8x11” paper dedicated to one song. In writing the tune, the best way to write it is to use staves and notes, and a little practice and a lot of grace can fix the fact that the five lines you drew were not parallel. Writing music is often a lot like writing a story or an essay: there are several drafts to it. Your first draft *more than likely* will not be your final draft, so if you mess up or have to rewrite parts, don’t be afraid to scratch and scribble all over the page (as long as you can figure out how the music is supposed to sound).

      When you are satisfied with the piece that you’ve written, it’s time to transfer it to a clean, easy-to-read format, and that will be your final draft.

          Maybe the idea of writing and scribbling is not appealing to you; the good news is, you are not limited to that method. There are many music-writing software programs available for use on your computer. Do some research and find one that fits your desires; while some are free, others come with a price tag that gives you access to more tools than the free versions. Some can plug in to your electric keyboard or other instruments, if that is what would help you the most. The program I use is called Noteflight (introduced to me by Megan), which gives me a variety of tools that I find useful in my methods of writing music. So, look around and find a program that works for you!

Side note: Since I write most of my music on a physical sheet of paper, I usually use the program for playback (since I’m not the best pianist) and printing (it just looks so much nicer than my drawings!). I have written songs only on the program, as well. Do what works for you!

          Again, there is no magical place or way to write music; be creative, and don’t let your desire to praise God in this way be limited. Use what you have to the best of your ability! And have fun with it. J

BONUS QUESTION: When/how often to write music? Any time a song hits you, write! Obviously, there are times that it is not appropriate (when your number finally gets called at the DMV, no one will be happy with you if you say “Hang on, I’m composing a wonderful song!”) My only warning would be this: Don’t force it! If you’re not cranking out a new song every three days, that’s okay; you don’t have to be the next Fanny Crosby.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

How to Write Music (Pt. III, Agreement)


Finally, we are at the final part of the “How” question of making music! Here we are talking about agreement, which involves putting together the words and the tune. It seems as if that would be easy, but there are three main points that we need to be aware of when combining the tune with its words.

1.   Agreement of Meter
Remember back to the section on “meter” in part one of the “How” posts; maybe it would be good for you to just pull it up and read it again quickly. Of course, when we put our words to music, we must fit the number of words in with the number of notes in the tune’s melody. But there is something else about meter that I did not tell you before.

There are different kinds of meter, basically represented by these two: “Iambic” and “Trochaic”. Iambic meter means that the stress is on the even-numbered syllables, while Trochaic means that the stress in on the odd syllables. I will use examples to help you understand clearly. Think of the song “What Child is This?” Think of where the stress lies when you speak it: 

“what CHILD is THIS, who, LAID to REST on MAR-y’s LAP is SLEEP-ing?” 

That is an Iambic meter, because the natural stress is on the even-numbered syllables. Take our previous song, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, which has the same number of syllables as “What Child”. 

“THERE’S a WIDE-ness IN God’s MERC-y, LIKE the WIDE-ness OF the SEA”.

The stress is on the odd-numbered syllables, so it is a Trochaic meter. Even though they have the same meter numbers, 87.87. (ignoring the refrain, or chorus, on “What Child”), the stress is different. If you tried to sing “There’s a Wideness” to the tune of “What Child”, you would end up putting the stresses in very awkward places! Try it: 
“there’s A wide-NESS in GOD’S merc-Y….” You can’t even stand to finish, can you?

So, when you are matching words to a tune, make sure that the tune supports the natural placement of stresses; otherwise, you will be telling people to sing stresses on words that should not be stressed, and to not stress the words that should be.

2.   Agreement of Rhythm
Similar to the agreement of meter, this is an important aspect of our matching game here. Remember that rhythm has to do with the duration of notes. When we put words inside of those notes, we need to make sure that we balance them well and don’t put too much or too little word for the duration of the note.

More examples will help me to demonstrate this point: Think of the tune for “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” again. We’re going to focus on the duration of the notes for the words “What a”. If we were to draw the words proportionately to the sounds we sing, it might look like this:

Whaaaat a friend we have in Jeeee-suuus….

You feel the rhythm there, which was well-chosen for the duration of the words themselves. What if we dropped in the words to “Amazing Grace”?

Aaaaaaa- maz-ing grace how sweet theeee sooound….

The length of the first note and last two notes indicates that those words are important and that the emphasis is on those syllables, whereas in our “Amazing Grace” version, that is certainly a poor choice of rhythm for the words. Let’s make sure our syllables and emphases and rhythms agree with one another and make for a natural-sounding song.

3.   Agreement of Mood
I have mentioned this point before, but it deserves to be repeated with a little more emphasis. If you need a reminder of what mood has to do with, go back to part one of the “How” question posts and find the section on mood. There is a certain mood that is produced by choosing specific words, and when we match a tune to those words, we need to be careful that they complement each other. If you know the deep, mature words to “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”, can you imagine singing them to the giddy tune of “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship”? They agree in meter and in rhythm, but they most certainly do not agree in mood! For such deep words (haha), a slow, swelling tune that sounds like ocean waves is very appropriate.

Well, that was certainly a shorter one that the previous two, but there was so much to talk about in each section! However, there is more out there than what I wrote in these posts on writing music; so look around for great authors who express what they have learned about making music. Everyone brings a little something else to the discussion, and I’m not going to pretend that I can equip you for this noble (yet fun!) task on my own. Even so, I hope that you realize that, while there are a lot of parts to it, much of it comes naturally or is not that difficult… especially once you start doing it!

          Perhaps you are thinking that you’d like to write music now, but you’re not sure what medium to use in writing it down. In the next post, I’d like to share with you “where” I write music, so stay tuned! (Get it? We’re talking about music, and I said….. Oh, never mind.)

Soli Deo Gloria!