Article by: Sarah Koontz, Founder of Living by Design Ministries
Welcome to week 2 of the #Write31Days Challenge!
I have titled my series “31 Uplifting Quote Graphics” and plan to release a beautiful image & inspirational quote every day throughout the month of October.
If you missed last week’s “Martin Luther on Marriage: 7 Quotes in 7 Days“, it was chalked full of interesting stories about the Luther family along with 7 truly inspiring marriage quotes.
Rather than overwhelming my blog with a new article each day, I plan on picking a person and a topic to explore in a single weekly article.
Come back each day this week for a freshly curated quote and story from the life of Fanny Crosby.
I have found the process of researching the life and ministry of Fanny Crosby fascinating, and I am excited to share with you what I have discovered.
I want to thank Dr. Warren Wiersbe for his book entitled, “50 People Every Christian Should Know,” which was the inspiration for this series.
I have already uploaded each day’s quote graphic to Twitter, Facebook, & Pinterest so all you have to do is click the links below the graphic to share with your friends & followers.
Thursday, October 8 2015
Fanny Crosby lived from 1820-1915.
She is widely regarded as “the most prolific and significant writer of gospel songs in American History.”
In her prime, she would write as many as 7 hymns per day and is thought to have penned more than 8,000 in her lifetime.
What you may not know about Fanny is that she lost her eyesight as a baby and spent her entire life in the dark.
It’s a tragic story, really. She had an eye infection and the family doctor was out of town, so her parents took her to a stranger to treat the infection.
He claimed to know what he was doing and covered the baby’s eyes in mustard paste, can you believe it?
Poor little Fanny screamed and screamed, but the doctor said to leave it on for a full day.
By the time the family removed the “ointment”, the damage had already been done.
When Fanny published her autobiography in 1906, she shard her thoughts on the experience.
“It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.”
She went so far as to state that if she were offered a cure for her blindness, she would not take it.
“I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all of the beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.”
I hope this story helps you see the depth of truth in today’s quote.
When Fanny Crosby penned, “All the way my Savior leads me,” she meant it both literally and figuratively.
Friday, October 9 2015
When Fanny was barely a year old, her father passed away.
Her 21-year old mother found it necessary to begin working outside the home to support her daughter.
Because of this, Fanny spent the first 5 years of her life in the care of her maternal grandparents, seeing her mom only on Sundays.
Fanny’s grandparents played a huge role in nurturing her love for words, music, and God’s creation.
Grandma often took Fanny into the woods for walks.
“Since you cannot see, we will be your eyes for you…You can see it through our eyes. Well tell you about it. You can make up pictures of it in your head.” ~ Grandma Eunice Crosby
Fanny enjoyed listening to her grandmother describe the birds to her as she memorized each of their songs.
Fanny’s grandfather read to the family each night, and as time passed, Fanny began to be able to see the stories in her mind.
When Fanny was five, her mother got another job far away and they were forced to say goodbye to her grandparents.
“Whatever your affliction is, you can bear it cheerfully. That’s because (God is) using it to lead you to something even better.” ~ Grandmother Eunice Crosby
When they arrived at their new home in Connecticut, their neighbor, Mrs. Hawley, offered to read the Bible to young Fanny.
Fanny had an amazing memory, and by the time she was 10 years old, she had memorized eight full books of the bible.
Grandma Eunice traveled to visit Fanny and her mother often until her death in 1831, when Fanny was just 11-years old.
Fanny would always remember the last words her grandmother spoke to her before she passed away.
“Tell me, my darling, will you meet Grandma in our Father’s house on high?” – Grandmother Eunice Crosby
I can’t imagine the loss Fanny felt when her grandmother died.
But she simply refused to let the trials and tribulations of life get her down.
“One of the easiest resolves that I formed in my young and joyous heart was to leave all care to yesterday and to believe that the morning would bring forth its own peculiar joy.” ~Fanny Crosby
The life of Fanny Crosby is an excellent example of how God uses trials and tribulations to refine us, to teach us to depend on Him, and to equip us for the calling He has placed on our lives.
Saturday, October 10 2015
When Fanny was 14 she received a scholarship to attend the New York Institution for the Blind.
I find it fascinating that total strangers paid for Fanny’s education; a single act of generosity with everlasting consequence.
Miss Crosby was popular at school, played many instruments, sang and made up jokes.
She could create poetry as easily as she could draw a breath and she quickly developed a reputation for her talent with words.
She was proud of her accomplishments, until the school superintendent called her aside and said these poignant words:
“Miss Crosby, do not depend on the praise of men. Thank more about what you can become rather than what people will think of you. Remember that whatever talents you have belong to God. You ought to give Him the credit for all that you do.” ~ Doctor Jones
“His words were bombshells,” she later admitted, ” but they did me an immense amount of good.”
She carried a lasting esteem for the man who had the courage to speak the words she needed to hear just as her father would have if he were still alive.
After seven years of education, Fanny graduated from the Institute.
Yet she chose to remain there and serve for an additional 11 years teaching grammar, rhetoric, and history.
The most significant occurrence in this period of her life was her conversion.
Although Fanny had always believed in God, she experienced her own personal conversion and “Blessed Assurance” at the age of 31.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Fanny had a close friend named Theodore Camp who invited her to attend the revivals at the Broadway Tabernacle with him.
One night, the congregation began to sing Isaac Watts’s consecration hymn, “Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed.”
When Franny soaked in last verse of the song, “Here, Lord, I give myself away. Tis all that I can do, ” something clicked.
She later described the moment with these moving words:
“My very soul was flooded with celestial light. For the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand, and the Lord in the other.” -Fanny Crosby
Fanny’s conversion was a turning point in her life , but it would be another 14 years before she began to focus her talents on writing hymns.
Sunday, October 11 2015
When Fanny Crosby was 38 years old, she married a fellow teacher from the New York Institute for the Blind.
Alexander Van Alstyne was also blind and was considered one of the finest organists in the New York area.
Fanny described her husband with these words:
“He was a firm trustful Christian, a man of kindly deeds and cheering words. Our tastes were congenial, and he composed the music to several of my hymns. We were happy together for many years.” ~Fanny Crosby
A year after their wedding, Fanny gave birth to a daughter and they named her Frances.
Sadly, the baby died in her sleep shortly after birth.
The Alstynes’ never had another child, and the loss of their daughter was a sorrow they both carried for the rest of their lives.
Fanny chose not to speak publicly of the experience until an she gave this reply during an interview near the end of her life:
“Now I am going to tell you of something that only my closest friends know. I became a mother and knew a mother’s love. God gave us a tender babe but the angels came down and took our infant up to God and to His throne.” ~Fanny Crosby
I believe Fanny would have made an incredible mother, and am so saddened to read of her loss.
But, God had another plan for this inspirational woman, a plan that she embraced with great passion and determination.
After spending years mourning the loss of her precious child, a major turning point occurred in her life.
On February 2, 1854 Fanny met a famous hymn-writer and publisher named William Bradbury.
When he asked her to write for him, she rushed home to her husband and said these poignant words.
“Van, I feel a hundred hymns in my head! The Lord has given me a purpose for my life. I’m the happiest creature in all the world.” ~Fanny Crosby
She did begin writing hymns immediately, and wrote more than 8,000 hymns over the next 51 years of her life.
Like many writers of her day, Fanny wrote and published her work under many different pen names.
It is estimated that her words were published under more than 200 pseudonyms.
Although Fanny was only paid an average of two dollars for each of her hymns (this was increased to ten dollars near the end of her life), she stored up for herself many treasures in heaven.
Whenever Fanny wrote a hymn she prayed it would bring people to Jesus.
In this Fanny and I would certainly agree.
If God uses my words to bring just one person to the knowledge of His Saving Grace, I have received a treasure far more valuable than anything the world has to offer.
Monday, October 12 2015
From 1864 onward, Fanny Crosby supported herself by writing hymns.
Every new hymnbook contained many of her songs, and it is estimated that books containing her lyrics sold over 100 million copies.
I simply adore the way Fanny described her hymn writing process:
“It may seem a little old-fashioned, always to begin one’s work with prayer, but I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration.” ~Fanny Crosby
This lone statement says so much about the woman behind the hymns and how she relied entirely upon the Lord for her success.
Fanny was a high energy woman, often able to compose six or even seven hymns per day in her prime.
She composed each hymn in her mind, often leaving many to “simmer” for days before she dictated them to a family member or her assistant.
In one instance, she created 40 hymns in her mind before she transcribed them.
Oh, how I wish I had even a tenth of her energy and memory!
Fellow hymn writer George Stebbins said this of Fanny’s work:
“There was probably no writer in her day who appealed more to the valid experience of the Christian life or who expressed more sympathetically the deep longings of the human heart than Fanny Crosby.” ~George Stebbins
Fanny was not without her shortcomings, though.
It is said that her handwriting was barely legible and she could write little more than her own name.
And while she had plenty of musical training, there is only one him on record that Crosby claimed to have written both the words and the lyrics for.
God saw it fit to surround Fanny with the right people to help her succeed and her hymns are impacting believers even to this day.
One of my favorite stories demonstrating Fanny’s unique talent for words involves a song she wrote in less than 30 minutes.
Fanny did a great deal of work with composer William Doane; together they wrote many wonderful Gospel songs.
One day, Doane showed up at Fanny’s house with just 40 minutes before he needed to catch a train.
He hummed the tune to her and asked if she could possibly come up with some words to go with it.
Fanny looked at him and stated that the tune was saying “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” and quickly composed the rest of the song for him.
That hymn quickly became one of the favorite songs in all of the country.
Fanny wrote these words about it in a letter to her mother in May of 1866:
“Perhaps you heard that at President Grant’s funeral the song that was played was ‘Safe in the Arms of Jesus.’ That might be my favorite of all of the songs I have written. I’ve been able to share it to comfort many sad mothers and fathers whose children have died.” ~Fanny Crosby
It has become quite obvious to me, and I hope to you also, that Fanny Crosby lived a God-centered life.
When she was not writing songs, she was working in churches and missions, nursing the sick and caring for the poor.
Tomorrow I will be sharing about all of Fanny’s other life accomplishments, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Tuesday, October 13 2015
While Crosby will probably always be best known for her hymns, she had many other talents and achievements that are worth mentioning.
Crosby wrote more than 1,000 secular poems, published four books of poetry, and authored two best-selling autobiographies.
She also helped create five cantatas and co-authored many popular secular and political songs.
While teaching at the Institution she met Presidents Van Buren and Tyler, Hon. Henry Clay, Governor Wm. H. Seward, General Winfield Scott, and other powerful influencers of her day.
Crosby was an eloquent speaker and a passionate about many political issues of her time.
She was also the first woman to speak in the United States Senate.
When Crosby appeared before the joint houses of Congress, she recited these lines:
O ye, who here from every state convene,
Illustrious band! may we not hope the scene
You now behold will prove to every mind
Instruction hath a ray to cheer the blind.
According to Keith Schwanz, “At the end of her life, Fanny’s concept of her vocation was not that of a celebrated gospel songwriter, but that of a city mission worker.”
“From the time I received my first check for my poems, I made up my mind to open my hand wide to those who needed assistance” ~ Fanny Crosby
Fanny was thought to have some sort of “horror of wealth,” often refusing payment for her time and talents and “what little she did accept she gave away almost as soon as she got it.”
On Sunday, March 26, 1905, Fanny Crosby Day was celebrated in many churches around the world in honor of Fanny’s 85th birthday.
Just a few short years later, the now widowed Crosby, had an insightful interchange with a young reporter.
When the reporter asked to speak with Mrs. Van Alstyne, Fanny quickly reminded him to “call me Aunt Fanny. Now that I am eighty-eight years old, everyone calls me that.”
To this, the reporter replied, “Aunt Fanny, you’re probably the most famous songwriter alive.”
Aunt Fanny chuckled and then said in no uncertain terms:
“God bless your dear heart! I am shut out of the world and shut in with my Lord. The Lord is the sunshine of my soul. To God be the glory!”
At the end of the interview, Fanny shared these uplifting thoughts with the reporter:
” Two of my secrets for staying happy and healthy are to control my tongue and to control my thoughts. I never want to say an unkind word. I never want to think an unkind thought. If you find anyone happier than I am, I want you to show him to me. My cup of happiness is full to overflowing.”
My dear Aunt Fanny, how you inspire people even to this day.
That you were able to utter these beautiful words even after all of the trials and tribulations life brought your way.
What a beautiful and Godly woman you were, a bright and shining example of the redeeming power of God’s love.
**Source for today’s quotes: “Fanny Crosby Queen of Gospel Songs” by: Rebecca Davis © 2003, BJU Press**
Wednesday, October 14 2015
Fanny Crosby never completely stopped writing hymns, but her productivity declined in her twilight years.
Instead, she chose to focus her energies on speaking engagements and her passion project of ministering to the poor and broken people of her city.
Fanny died in her sleep just before her 95th birthday in February of 1915.
The little money Crosby had at the end of her life was willed to “the sheltering of senior males who had no other place to live.”
She was buried at Mountain Grove Cemetery near her mother and other members of her family.
Fanny requested these simple words be placed on her tombstone:
“Aunt Fanny: She hath done what she could.”
In 1923, Fanny’s life was memorialized by the establishment of the Fanny Crosby Memorial Home for the Aged.
In March 1925, nearly 3,000 churches throughout the United States observed Fanny Crosby Day to commemorate the 105th anniversary of her birth.
I will forever remember the life and ministry of Fanny Crosby by her poignant words:
When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand!
I shall know Him, I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.
Aunt Fanny truly did know who Jesus was, and that knowledge is evident in every major event throughout her life.
She overcame many obstacles and chose to live a vibrant life of which the effects ripple even to this day.
I would have liked to see her beautiful expression when she finally did see her Lord face to face.
I am sure he did indeed welcome her with a warm embrace!
Thank you so very much for joining me for this series on the life and ministry of Fanny Crosby.
I am eagerly anticipating the next installment in this series (due to release tomorrow!).
We will be turning our attention to the man (and women) behind “My Utmost for His Highest,” Oswald Chambers and his wife “Biddy”.
You will be astounded by the important role this brave woman played in establishing her husband’s legacy.