Riding bikes and summer reading at the library...these are the two most vivid memories of my childhood summers. I did both with my kids today. I can't quite explain how much doing that with my kids today brought me back to being a kid myself. I love summer and I'm glad it's here!


40

Images  The number scares me a little. I knew today was coming but now that I have "officially" left my 30's... wow.  I spent sometime on my sabbatical in January wrapping my mind around this birthday. Honestly, I have seen too many friends and acquaintances not handle this one very well and I didn't want to presume I was immune to it.  

It's weird to think I have entered another decade...so much happened in my thirties.  I became a mom twice, our family moved to two different cities,  we helped plant two churches...I'm tired just thinking about it.  I look forward to enjoying the "fruits" of my 30's in my 40's.   Not that I expect life to slow down with a nine year old and a six year old, but there has been a lot of "planting" the last few years.   I look forward to the blossoms.

The one emotion that keeps coming to the surface today is gratefulness. Through all the highs and lows of my life, I am overwhelmed when I really think about all that God has done in my life and blessed me with through the years.  Two great parents, sisters, extended family...we actually enjoy spending time together still! My husband, my children, my ministry, my home and yes... I live at the beach.  The amazing friendships that I have through the years and the wonderful memories that I have.  God has provided for me every step of the way in so many ways...I'm spoiled and I know it.

I have a few things still on my "list."  Since Todd and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this week, we talked about our 20, 25 and 30th aniversary trips. That got me excited.  I have a passion to continue to create opportunities for artists to be "reconciled" back to the church and God.  I have some tangible ways I want to see that happen on the Island. My songwriting is something I want to look back at my 40's and say that I really went for it. I've written more this year than in the last 10 years and I just want to keep at it. I want to see my kids continue to pursue lives that make a difference. Make choices that count. I want to take them on their first mission trip outside of this country in the next few years. I want to live it more than I tell them "how" to live it.

I want my marriage to not be something I take for granted. I want Todd and I to fall more in love each and everyday and extend grace to each other more than we ever have in the last 20 years.

I want to play more and work less. Trust God more and stop trying to figure it out. Let circumstances unfold and see what God is teaching me that day. I really feel that I'm starting to find such beauty in the quiet, simple, marginal life that I have really tried to live since January.  The "not so fun" things I need to do... eat less sugar, walk three times a week without excuses, use my eye cream twice a day without fail...yeah.  That's enough.

So, I'm going eat cupcakes (thanks, Donna!) and enjoy my family today. Take a nice long walk with my huband.  Enjoy dinner tonight with the family at my favorite restaurant. And be grateful.

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;  You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared  before I’d even lived one day." - Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)


Breaking the rules

 Todd and I completed a 40-Day Daniel Fast this weekend. If you are not familiar with a Daniel Fast, CLICK HERE. The spiritual discipline of fasting is something that, I admit,was not a part of my spiritual journey until the last four years.  I had friends who did 40 days fasts from all food and frankly, that scared me. I go a few hours without food and I turn into a...well, not a very nice person.

The first time I fasted, I did a Daniel Fast. Water only and food must be from a seed or from the ground...basically, if God made it, I can eat it.  Todd, being the gourmet chef that he is, loved the challenge of cooking all naturally and trying different foods. We had done two, 21-day fasts before at different times, but never 40 days.

Honestly, we weren't prepared as much as we should have been when we started, so we got off to a little bit of a rough start.  We got into and the road of 40 days seemed impossible. We chose different times to break the fast for a meal because life happens, but we remained true to the intent of the fast. That was to break free from the bondage of "I got to have..." in our physical appetites and turn that energy and desire toward God and what He can provide.  

The main purpose of a fast is to learn that you CAN resist temptation. By learning to control your appetite, it gives you the tools to do that in every area of your life and how to stay away from behaivors and poor decisions. You learn that you "CAN" help yourself and through prayer and relying on God, you can say no to things that you should.

One thing I love about doing a Daniel Fast is that you are encouraged not to fixate on the boundaries of the fast but the rather the purpose or person that you need to be focused on during the fast.  It is wonderful detox for your body to just be eating such healthy, nourishing foods as well.  There is weight loss although a Daniel Fast is not a low-calorie fast. It's about eating what God has made for us to eat - fruit, nuts, vegetables, rice...you get it.

As we ended our fast and "broke the rules," I discovered something this time that I did not before. Yes, my first cup of coffee in many weeks was something I looked for to and the first sip did taste good.  Yes, the chips and cheese dip at La Parilla were great, too. But, I felt an absence. A sense of loss is some ways. I had grown used to not eating these things and praying through the smell of breadsticks at Olive Garden.  Breaking the rules was fun for a moment and then, well, it was just...over.

Reflecting on that today, I was reminded of the faith chapter and this decription of Moses, "24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26

It was not sin that I ate cheese dip. The fast was over. The truth that I got from breaking the rules was exactly what the verse meant. Eating the cheese dip was such a  fleeting pleasure.  There were so many times during the fast that I thought about how WONDERFUL it would be when it was over to eat the things I love so much again. Sadly, it really wasn't that great.

I learned so much during the fast about my faith in God and my weaknesses, oh yes, my ridiculous obsession with being satisfied instantaneously.  But, now that it's over, I have to say I learned more in breaking the rules. I don't want my life to consist of fleeting pleasures. I want to resist those things and look toward the reward like Moses did. The best things God has for me in my life, not the fleeting ones.

I'll do a fast again. Don't know if it will be for 40 days...this was tough. But, I see the power and the transformational process that occurs in my life in every area when I practice this discipline.

Okay, now I want some cheese dip...


A first step

 IMG_5953IMG_5951 IMG_5955 IMG_5958 IMG_5954
IMG_5957  Sunday night, we had the opportunity to sponsor a Global Missions Benefit Concert for our four missions partners at HHICC. All the bands performed for free, the food was provided by Harold's Diner, and we accepted donations for all our partners throughout the night.

I've been giddy since Sunday night for so many reasons.  I was so thrilled with the turnout for the event.  Because we have never done anything like this before, we had NO idea what the turnout would be for this.  It was the first time we have hosted a concert in our new facility since we moved in last July. We invited the "Voted Best Band of 2012" on the Island, Cranford and Sons (who Randy, one of our drummers, is a founding member), and a singer-songwriter friend of Cranford, Angel Snow to join our HHICC artists (who opened the night's concert). Brandon and Kim Smith also performed and shared about their ministry, No Hungry Children.

I have a sincere passion to create avenues for artists to engage with the church. I feel very strongly that the "Church at Large" needs to do a better job of this.  Last night was a first step for us at HHICC.  Doing events like this allows the walls to come down  in every way.  We find what we can do together and create opportunitues for partnership and new relationships are formed.  Oh..and it was like a giant party!

I am so thankful for our team who served, most of them since 7am that morning for services.  It was an amazing expereience to see people from all over our Island community, not just our church community, come and support these artists as well as projects to build schools in Belize, feed kids in Africa, and send Islanders on mission trips.

Sometimes as a church, we don't do a very good job bringing the community together. I recognize that. Last night, we DID! It was such a privilege to host it, to participate in the concert with other artists, and share our music together. All of it...to benefit people all over the world who need our help...and we made new friends in the process.

This is not the end...I can't wait to do this again!  I look forward to MORE opportunities for us to create avenues for artists and the community to come together here on the Island.


Reset

IMG_5651  Driftwood Beach - Jekyll Island, GA

If I had one word to describe what my 30-day sabbatical was for me, that's the word. In every area of my life, I feel that I have a "inner button" switched from where I was before my time away and where I am now.  I truly went into this time with no expectation. As a highly-driven person, I probably had more fear than anything heading into 30 days of no responsibilities.  Everything I did for that time was from my heart - a true desire to do it. Whether it was sitting in a lounge chair somewhere in the Carribean or sitting with my son after school to help him read...I did what I enjoyed doing. 

The interesting thing is that I wasn't sure what I enjoyed doing in ministry and in a lot of areas of my life before my sabbatical.  I couldn't separate what I was responsble for from what I really loved doing.  I found myself just bursting with new songs I wanted to share, some I had written, and others that I was worshipping with alone. I started to "feel" again. I think I had become numb to a lot of the day-to-day of my life.  I didn't realize how far I had gone down that road.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the power of sleep can never be underestimated. For the most part, I've been consistently going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time. My new mantra my first week back has been,"Cynthia, that's enough for today." I feel like I'm treating myself like my own kids sometimes, but I have alot of unhealthy margins to correct.

Spiritually, I'm so thankful for the large amounts of time that I had alone with God.  I filled the pages of my sabbatical journal and I practiced what Lance Witt refers to as "spiritual loitering." I spent alot of time wasting time with God and being quiet.  I know that is why my songwriting was so rich and plentiful during my sabbatical.

Before my sabbatical, I had become disconnected to some of my life-long friends. I made plans with almost everyone of them either in person or phone during my 30-days. I am so thankful for the love, grace, and prayers they poured over me and the encouragement they were to me during this time. You know who you are...thank you for being fresh water to my soul.

I wasn't sure if I would be coming back to ministry after this time way.  My exhaustion level was at my core.  I laid everything on the line with God and told Him that if I needed to be done, I was fine with that. Twenty years is a long time and if my season was done, I was willing to be done. I was pleasantly suprised.  Not only did God clearly reveal to me in my time with Him that I am NOT done, He renewed my heart and passion for His people in the local church.  He refined my calling as I begin this next season of ministry. For the first time in a LONG time, I have a more clear understanding of how my days should be spent as a pastor's wife and a Worship Arts Director.

IMG_5756  There were also some areas in my life that I realized were not as "jumbled" as I thought they were. Having a clear head helped me to see what was going well in my life and celebrate that!   Our family vacation on a Disney Cruise just put a BIG exclamation point on my time away. Since we were not able to have a fmaily vacation in 2012 (it was scheduled for the week we moved into our new facility!), it was a wonderful treat to spend that time with them. Todd and I had great conversations during my sabbatical and we sense a true refreshment in our marriage and in our family.

I sensed anxiety and worry trying to creep in this week as I returned to normal life and then it as if the Holy Spirit just speaks to me and says, "No, we aren't going there." and it passes before it has a hold on me.  I know there will be days when it wins. I'm celebrating it didn't this week!

I couldn't get this song out of my head during my time away. I think it became my heart's cry and how I want to move forward in my life...

"I need you more...more than yesterday / I need you more...more than words can say / I need you more...than ever before/ I need you more...I need you, Lord/ More than the air I breathe/ More than the song I sing/ More than the next heartbeat/ More than anything/ And Lord, as time goes by/I will be by Your side/ 'Cause I never want to go back to my old life." Written by Bruce Haynes and Lindell Cooley ©1996 CCLI #2061678

It's the last line of that song that I think has just stuck with me. That's what reset means. And that's what I'm leaning into each day. 


Halfway


It's a little more than halfway through my sabbatical. This time has been more refreshment than I imagined it would be. I've spent time with friends, time alone, time with my family, and most importantly, a great deal of time with God. Here are some things I've realized halfway through this time of rest:

1. Never underestimate the power of solid and extended times of sleep at night. I have not rested like this since before we had children. I have definitely fallen into some bad habits of random sleep habits in the past few years. I have been consistently going to bed around the same time and I'm waking up so much more refreshed.
2. Never take for granted the lifelong friendships you have in your life. I am so blessed with some tremendous friends that have taken the time to connect with me during my sabbatical. You know who you are. Thank you for pouring into me in a way that nothing else in the world can!
3. I had no idea how overextended I was before my sabbatical began. I knew that I had been working a lot the past 18 months, but I was astonished at how much I was trying to squeeze into each day.
4. Powerful creativity is directly connected to having space everyday in life to be creative. I finished a song I began five years ago last weekend. I tweaked a song that needed it so I can finally introduce it to our church. I wrote a brand new song-music and lyrics-based on things God revealed to me during this time and finished it yesterday. As any songwriter will tell you, writing can sometimes be like giving birth. We labor over every line, every word. I cannot believe how easily these came together. My mind and my heart were so clear. I'm still in shock about it.
5. My body, mind, and soul have all been reconnected. I feel as if I have hit a "reset button" in the innermost part of my soul. I definitely have not been living a life where all three were in harmony. It's a little hard to explain, but I was starting to feel numb in certain areas of my life. The numbness is gone. I have a refreshment that is deeper than just physical.
6. God and I had a lot to talk about. He had a lot to say to me and in true "Cynthia" form, I had a lot to say to Him. As in any relationship, there has to be time to just get everything out there and be as gut-level honest as you can. I feel that I've had that time and that God has shown me grace, mercy, conviction of sin, and restoration. I've been doing a prayer book journal called "Thirty Days with Wesley." It's been a wonderful guide during this time for me to record everything God is saying and what I'm learning during this sabbatical. I'm reading a lot of books and doing some "Spiritual Loitering" as Lance Witt calls it.

I know it will difficult to actually rejoin the human race and put into action the "reset" habits I know must happen. That's my greatest prayer request right now. I look forward to sharing some things at the end that I'm still in process about right now.

I'm so thankful for my team and my church for their prayers and their leadership in my absence. You know who you are and I love you all. See you soon!

Until then, back to some loitering...


20

I am celebrating 20 years this year of being a part of Worship Arts Ministry through the local church. No, I'm not that old...ok maybe.

As a gift for me, our HHICC Elders have given me a 3o-day sabbatical that begins Friday, January 11. It will be spent on rest, vacation, connecting with close family and friends, and visiting a few churches and being a part of their worship experiences.

I dont' feel like I have been doing this for 20 years, but when I think back to what was going on in the church 2o years ago with regard to music, it hits me. We have come A LONG WAY, baby!

I grew up as a Pastor's kid, playing and singing in church, but I "techinically" start counting when I became a part of the Sounds of Liberty at LU and Thomas Road Baptist Church. As one of the keyboard players at the time, I had weekly responsibilities to prepare for services - rehearsals, serving planning - all of those things. We didn't have email, we didn't have Planning Center, and we kept LARGE NOTEBOOKS with all our music and charts that I made endless copies for the players (legally, of course!)

I was a part of the transition in churches where we gave people every option you could imagine in the span of seven days. At one of my first churches,  I played piano for a traditional service with an organist - hymns only. The 2nd service was a mix of hymns and some worship choruses. The 3rd service was contemporary which meant all worship choruses. I had three Sunday services to help rehearse the team, write charts, and prepare musicians. We had a Wednesday night service that was a mixture and we did a college service on Thursday nights that was totally Christian rock.  I'm exhausted just typing all of that! 

I was "a keyboard player who sang" for most of the first 7 years of my ministry life. Then one of my Worship Pastors asked me to lead a song in our services that he wanted to introduce..."Shout to the Lord." This was the first song I led as a worship leader.  I was so nervous and not very confident about my voice. I had been around some amazing singers my WHOLE life and I knew my skill level.  I'm so thankful for different amazing women artists - Jen Carrozza, Trace Balin, Paula Dunn and Lisa Jones - who came alongside me and encouraged me to use what God had given me. They helped me to recognize I WAS a singer and to lead as God provided opportunities.  I became the Worship Leader at NorthStar Church in 2000 and God has continued to open doors for me to lead Woship and invest in other worship artists within every church I have served.

About five years ago, I realized I was not going to be able to conect with the musical landscape that was taking shape in churches if I did not learn how to play the guitar as a worship leader. I had been given a beautiful parlor size acoustic years ago by an amazing  guitar player who challlenged me to learn to play.  I started watching videos and connecting with all my Worship Leader friends to learn their "cheat chords"  (Thank you Daniel, Will and Eric!) I was totally suprised by my team at LCC in March 2011 when they gave me a Telecaster and an amp.  I'm happy to say that our Guitar Section Leader (BP) says I'm now the best Electric 3 player we have at our church! This just means I do 8th notes really well and in time :-)

It has been a privilege to watch the Modern Worship movement be birthed and develop to what it is today. As I watched the Live Stream of Passion 2013 last week, I recognized clearly that I was witnessing the next generation of Worship Leaders.  Not on stage...in the crowd. They will be our future leaders in the local church.

I think about my future and what God has for me and who I will be investing in to come alongside me in my local church in this next season of ministry. I look forward to seeing the 13 and 15 year olds we have been blessed with in our team and what God is going to do with them in the future.

I know I've not been the perfect leader.  I've made some poor choices along the way in so many areas. I'm going to blog during my sabbatical about the lessons I have learned through my journey. But today, as my sabbatical is within three days of starting, I am reflecting on the journey and the blessings of it.  I'm thinking of the many people that I have had the privilege to create with and do life with every day and I am blessed...truly blessed.


Looking back


TG4A6087 2012 was a year of such highs and lows. When I look back, I have very mixed  feelings about this year. It is so important to take the time and be thankful for all the wonderful blessings of the past year. I've tried to take some time over the holidays to do that...personally and with my family. However, I also don't want to think about the suffering of people around me this past year and the tragedies we all faced. In light of that, I'm ready for a new year...a fresh start.

In some ways, there were some "firsts" for our family...

We saw God do amazing things in the life of our church through 24 plus people meeting Jesus for the first time. We saw relationships restored and we experienced such great community in our own Life Group this Fall. We saw God provide every dime for the renovations for our new facility and the resources to take on the new responsibilities of our new facility.

 Photo12 As a family, we lost our precious Watson, a maltese of 13 years, but were blessed with a new member of the family, Kokomo, a two year old Malti-poo. We saw our kids learn the importance of prayer more this year than ever before. We are far from the parents that we want to be sometimes, but we were able to spend more time this year as family in prayer than ever before. We had some amazing times together as a family just having fun, eating at our favorite restaurants, being at home together, watching movies...just being a family.

We are so thankful that our brother-in-law, Jonathan, is cancer-free and had his liver port removed successful this December. Thanks be to God!

Looking back, I have so much to be thankful for in my life...so blessed beyond measure.  At the same time, my heart is heavy for those who are hurting right now...Newtown, CT and other places in the world where tragedy has struck. I'm also praying for my friends who I know need a fresh start in 2013...praying that God gives them the strength and grace for the days ahead.

Tonight, we will ring in the New Year with friends from our Life Group and enjoy being together (and watching LSU whip the lesser Tigers...) I'm thankful for friends to do life with each and every day and the family God has given me.  

Putting every emotion aside of 2012, I can't imagine life without my relationship with God who sustains me through good days and tough days...HE is the constant no matter what 2013 will bring.

Happy New Year!


My Favorite Christmas Moments of 2012

As I had some time this week to reflect on our Christmas Season, I wanted to share with you all and to have as a part of my blog a "Top Ten" of my favorite Christmas moments from this year. As a Christmas card that Sydney made for me says, "Christmas is music," There are definitely musical undertones here, but also personal moments from our family. These are in no particular order:

IMG_5489 IMG_5486 1. Christmas morning with the kids...
this year, we didn't have a whole lot to "put together" the night before which marks a new chapter with our kids. They were genuinely suprised this year and so thankful for each gift. I was really blow away by that. From Taylor Swift perfume and concert tickets for Sydney to a Matchbox Car Parking Garage and an Alanta Falcons uniform for Sean. Every year is great with the kids, but I will always remember this year for the sweet spirit of my kids toward Todd and I and the gifts they received.

2. Sean riding on the back of his friend during my entire song at "An Evening in December"...yes we wanted our Christmas Concert and Dessert to be family friendly, so as Todd was filming a song I sang in the show, there is my 5 year old riding "horsey back" all through the Worship Center saying "Yeehah!" It felt just like practicing at home!

3. The debut of "Love Came Down" by John Redgrave...I was so thrilled to be able to introduce this brand new song by my friend John who is the Worship Leader at Motion Church in Tampa, FL. Such a beautiful song for Advent. Thanks, John for the great loop to use with our band. It made the song!

4. No one was sick...This is THE FIRST time I can remember since having children that no one (parents included) did not spend some part of the holiday in bed! Praise the Lord!

IMG_5430 5.  "Silent Night" during our 6pm Christmas Eve Service...I have no words to express what this felt like and looked like from the stage to see our Worship Center filled to the top with people and candles singing this song in worship to Christ our Savior...probably will be up there in all -time favorite moments.

IMG_5444 6. Syd's Christmas gift to me...an electric-guitar playing reindeer named "Clarice"...Enough said...

IMG_5353  IMG_5493  IMG_5492 7. Down time during the holidays... we started the kids Christmas break with a trip to a cabin in Asheville for three days and we spent the week AFTER Christmas at home just sleeping, laughing, eating, and playing altogether. It was SUCH a blessing to have this time with the kids to talk about what Christmas means and just learn more about each other. I feel so connected to my kids right now and where they are. It was nice for Todd and I to have time to not work and just be together with our family. AND the food! Todd cooked an amazing Christmas lunch!

8. Girl time with Sydney...We took some time as girls to do some shopping as Sydney hads grown out of everything. This is something that Sydney and I are actually JUST like when it comes to shopping. We had a nice lunch at Panera together and then we went to the one store we love, Children's Place.  We spent an hour and half... tried on a ton of clothes, chose what we thought was best , and left. It was awesome! When we got home, we cleaned out her drawers, bagged up the outgrown stuff for GoodWill, and put all her new stuff neatly in its place. As we finished, Sydney came over to me with a gift card she had been given for Christmas and said, "Hey mom, you take this.  You bought me a lot of clothes today." It was so precious. I told her it was my privilege to take care of her and that I was so thankful for her grateful heart...no, I didn't take the gift card for those of you who were wondering!

IMG_1597
9. Our Christmas Event Team...
it was the first year since we started the church that I had NOTHING to do with Christmas decorating details. Our amazing team of ladies (you know who you are!) did a fabulous job of creating such a beautiful Worship Center for the Season. Thank you!

10. Suprise moments with Todd...in the busyness of this season, there were several of those rare moments where Todd and I would find a moment just the two of us to sit and talk and enjoy our patio or the fire. It wasn't a planned thing - just would happen. Our converstations were short and simple and were primarily focused on talking about how blessed we felt this year and how thankful we were for God's provsion in our lives, our kid's lives, and our church. We had several this season and I'm so thankful for those moments.

My prayer for my family is as we enter 2013, that we will continue in our faith and steadfast hearts to pursue Jesus...sharing His love with everyone we meet in the way we live our lives and spend our days...

"Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."  - Colossians 3:16-17