Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BIG NEWS: Our New House!

Gerald and I married on February 10, 2006.
Our first year of marriage, we sold everything we owned, tied the dogs to the roof of the car, 
and moved to Nashville!

We often tell this abbreviated story in our concerts, but most people don't realize that when we say 'everything', we actually mean - our house.

We literally sold our house, and almost everything in it, to move to Nashville.

It was a bold choice, but we had no doubts about the decision, and we have never regretted it.

Owning a home had been a long held dream of mine. When we sold our little townhouse, I told Gerald, "One day, I'll want to buy a house again."

Well, today, that dream has come true!

We are thrilled to announce that we have bought a new home! 

Our new home! 

Front porch, ready for a glass of sweet tea!

It's a beautiful century home built in 1913. It has the perfect mix of original character with fully updated wiring, plumbing, and appliances.

Front rooms with 10-foot ceilings, fire place, and original woodwork.

Original stained glass, in all my favourite colours!

The sellers had painted a forest in the nursery. This is my new creative space!

We even have pillars in the master bedroom!

Perfect size for a Newfoundland kitchen party! 

Why yes, that is a clawfoot tub...

Gerald scoured hundreds of listings searching for my perfect dream home. We spent the summer visiting open houses and touring homes. Because we're a freelance ministry, we're not locked into any location, so we actually looked at several different towns and cities. We finally settled on beautiful St. Catharines - The Garden City!

Can't wait to see our puppies running around here! 

Hydrangeas in the yard...

We're so excited to share this news with you! We wanted you to join in the celebrations, but I also wanted to share this thought with you:

Throughout this whole process, I've been reminded of God's faithfulness. These words keep running through my mind:

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

If you know our story, you'll know that we've faced some significant challenges in the days since we first sold that house. Perhaps you've also had to put aside a dream to pursue something else. But remember, God knows the desires of your heart.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
C.S. Lewis

The timing or the results might not be quite what you had in mind. Maybe the dream will look different in reality than in your imagination. Or perhaps as your life changes, you discover dreams you didn't even know you wanted.

On this day, I encourage you to pursue your dreams. 

Big dreams, small dreams, impossible dreams. 

They may come true. They may not. 

But in pursuing them, we make the world a better place. 

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - 7 Essentials Bands Often Forget to Bring on Their First Tour

Sonicbids has fantastic articles for indie musicians. They offer inspiring, practical tips for booking tours, promoting your music, and surviving the industry. Last week, they posted an article that caught my eye: 7 Essentials Bands Often Forget to Bring on Their First Tour. Being a touring musician myself, I clicked the article. I'm such a fan of their advice, but this was pretty much useless. A skateboard? A solar-powered shower? Seriously? Since when are these things considered 'essential' to touring?

In response, I started writing my own list.

Here are my 
7 Essentials Bands Often Forget to Bring on Their First Tour:

#1. Contracts in Triplicate

We never leave for tour without well-organized contracts. I have copies online, copies on my computer, and a binder with printed copies. It gives me all the practical info about time, place, and contacts. The printed copies are handy to pull out when you arrive at the gig and there are disagreements about fees, etc.

#2. Non-Perscription Drugs

Obviously you need your prescriptions, but I also bring a stash of antihistamines, aspirins, and vitamins. I've been known to put a thermometer and cold medication in my bag during cold/flu season. To save space, I pack our pills in small baggies (one baggie for each pill type). Write the name, dose, and instructions for each pill on the baggie with a sharpie. You never know when a headache or sniffle will hit, and Murphy's Law tells you the closest Walmart will be an hour away.

#3. GPS - Online & Offline

We love the ease of using Google Maps on our iPhones. However, on our first few tours, we found ourselves in rural areas with no signal. Since then, we've added an offline GPS to our phones. They take up a bit of space as you need to download the maps to your phone, but they're worth it. If space is an issue, just add the ones you need before the tour and delete them after.

#4. Car Care

In the rush before the tour, your car can be overlooked, but on the tour itself, a healthy car is vital. Before leaving, get an oil change, ideally at a garage that includes an overall safety check. Make sure your CAA/AAA membership is up to date. And depending on season and area, consider purchasing new windshield wipers or snow tires.

#5. Change of Season Clothes

Before leaving for tour, check out the general weather reports for your tour area, and be aware of changing seasons. In our first tours, we packed for fall, but winter came early. We found ourselves shopping for winter coats and mittens. It was annoying to have to buy items we already had at home, not to mention the added time, and trying to find space for big coats in an already full car. Now, we pack a bag for our daily clothes, and store anything extra in vacuum-packed bags under the seats.

#6. Your Smart Phone

Okay, I know you're not going to forget your phone, but taking advantage of apps will save you a tonne of space when packing. In addition to being our phone, my iPhone is also my camera, video camera, alarm clock, tuner, metronome, voice recorder, GPS, and e-book reader. We use songwriting apps to turn hours of driving into creative time. My phone contains my vocal warm-up, my Bible, and my morning devotional. And one of the most valuable tools: my phone takes credit card payments! How, you ask? Read on...

#7. Square

If you sell CDs or any kind of product, you need Square! Perfect for the indie musician, Square is a free app that allows you to take credit card payments. I could write an entire blogpost about how much I love Square. It's easy to use with lots of free resources. They take a small percentage (which you can write off) and handle the full transaction for you. The money is literally deposited into your bank account, so you're not responsible for handling anyone's credit info. And you'll find a huge increase in sales. People without cash will be able to purchase CDs, but also, folks with only a $10 in their pocket will sometimes choose credit cards so they can make a larger purchase. Seriously, I could talk all day about Square...

BONUS: #8. Paper Towels

Poke a roll of paper towels and/or wet wipes in the back seat. At some point, a drink will spill or mud will get on the speaker or some other type of mess will happen. At that moment, you'll be so glad you thought to pack them!

So, these are my 8 essentials for your tour. It should go without saying, but remember extra cords, batteries, chargers, and any other small tech thing you might need. Have a backup of any midi programs, tracks, etc, on a hard drive.

Our motto: It's better to have it than wish we did!

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the Comments section.

Happy Touring!!!! 

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - Where Does The Music Go?

When you arrive at our concert, you'll notice a long green table covered with our CDs. Our 'product table'. We believe strongly in the ministry of recorded music. Not only do you get to take our music home with you, but at the table, we also have the chance to meet people and exchange stories.

At the product table, after our recent concert at St. John's Ida.
Meeting with Darrin Gaudreau, director of Street Hope Peterborough. 

At the end of the night, we pack up, and move on to the next venue. As our travels continue, we often talk about the church, the event, the community, or someone special who really touched our hearts. But you know what we never used to think about? The CDs.

Yes, the CDs.

We would lay them on the table, sell them, and never think of them again.

That was, until this spring in Trinity, Newfoundland. Partway through the first half of the show, I introduced our original song, "Every Church Is A Small Town." I heard a woman gasp, "Oh, I love this song!" It caught my ear, but by then Gerald was playing the opening chords and singing the first verse. The chorus arrived and I added my harmony. But what was I hearing? Was there some kind of feedback, or echo? Why was I hearing other voices?

Because they were singing along! 

A number of audience members who had bought CDs on our last visit had listened to them so much they had learned to sing along on their favourite songs.

Gerald and I were humbled and thrilled. We'd heard stories over the years of people sharing their favourite songs, or letting us know how a particular CD had encouraged them during a rough time, but this was something different. It's already pretty awesome when you lead a group in a song you wrote, but when they start singing along uninvited, well, I just have no words for that.

After that moment, we started to become very aware of what was happening to our CDs when they leave our possession. We imagined people playing the discs in living rooms or loading the mp3s on their iPod. They might listen on their drive to work, or while making dinner. Maybe it's their exam soundtrack, or perhaps they choose a favourite song when they need some encouragement.

It was brought home to us again this past Sunday at a church in Toronto. A woman told us that she uses our CDs in an exercise class that she teaches! It's not a 'Christian exercise class', but the group loves the songs, so she includes them in her playlist. A use for our music we never imagined on our own!

I once heard Gloria Gaither speak about her and Bill's classic song, "Because He Lives." She talked about the third verse and its powerful message of passing from this world to the next. She said she chose that topic for the verse because she felt it was the strongest songwriting choice. A few years later, when struggling with the death of a family member, that was the verse that gave her the most comfort. She told us, "Write great songs, because you never know when you'll need them to minister to you."

I would also add, "Write great songs, because you never know where they'll end up."

Write great songs. 
Use amazing craft. 
Be intentional with your message. 
Make beautiful recordings. 
Then, send them out into the world.

You may never know where they land, but if you've created something meaningful, 
it may just change someone's life.

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - 10 Years Ago Today...

... everything changed.

All summer long, I'd been praying for direction. What should I do with my life, my art, my passions?

"Dear Lord. Smack me over the head!"

And then, 10 years ago tonight, it happened.

I could have happened a hundred different ways, but there in the heart of Nashville, it happened.

Last winter, I told the story as part of our Musical Residency in 
St. Andrews By-the-Sea, New Brunswick:

The past 10 years have been an extraordinary journey. Gerald and I married, moved to Nashville, and began the greatest adventure of our lives. I pursued a solo Gospel career that brought me into Music Row studios and the National Quartet Convention. Gerald wrote hundreds of songs, some with Grammy winners and Hall of Fame songwriters. 

And in a twist no one saw coming (or at least, that we didn't see coming), all our hopes, dreams and talents came together in the birth of Infinitely More. Since our 2013 debut album, we've toured thousands of kilometres, recorded 4 CDs, received 6 national music award nominations, and were recently honoured with a Stonebridge Guitar artist deal.

On this day, I'm filled with memories of that awesome summer, and overwhelmed with gratitude for this journey. I'm humbled beyond thought that God would see fit to call Me - broken, faulty, messy Me - to spread His message. I'm honoured by the countless people who have brought our Infinitely More music into their homes and churches. I'm thankful for the many talented and supportive friends we've met along the way. 

And I'm lost for words in this one fact: I get to share this all with my creative, amazing, generous husband. Gerald, I can't imagine this adventure without you. 
Thank you for being my partner in all things good and true.

So today, I look to the future with great anticipation and excitement. We're planning a radio release, new concerts, and our first Prairies Road Trip. We have new songs bubbling up every day, and we find endless inspiration in the incredible people we meet on musical adventures.

And the thing that continues to amaze me the most: every day, I get to make music that shares God's unfailing mercy, grace, and love. I can't imagine a better way to spend a life.

Here's to the next 10 years! 

Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do 
Infinitely More than we can ask or imagine. 
Eph. 3:20

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - Booking the Prairies Road Trip!

This fall, we take on a new Adventure:

Our first Prairies Road Trip!

For the last five years, we've toured East, but for the first time, we're heading West.

We'll leave Burlington, Ontario, in the final days of September. Throughout October, we'll sing concerts, lead worship, and teach workshops in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

By the first weekend of November, we'll hit Edmonton, Alberta, for GMA Canada Week! We'll have 4 days of workshops, showcases, and other great events with our fellow GMA artists.

From there, we'll drive home to Burlington with just enough time to take a little break before jumping into the Christmas season.

To summarize: 6 weeks. 4 provinces. 7200 kilometres. 

Our tour route! 

Booking a tour of this size is always a challenge, but booking a tour this size when we've never sung in any of these areas is a particular challenge! We need a huge number of events to make this happen. My days are currently filled with reaching out to churches across our tour route, introducing our Infinitely More ministry, and asking the all-important question, "Would you like to host a concert?"

How can you help?

- If you're in the any of these areas, or you know friends in the area, we'd love to sing for you! We'll be performing church, community, and house concerts. Please contact me for more information.

- Please keep us in prayer that we'll book the number of events that we need.

- Please feel free to share this post with anyone who might be interested!

- Join our mailing list or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most recent news.

Thank you! We're so excited about this new adventure, and this opportunity to share our music and message with a whole new audience.

I'll keep you updated on how things shape up!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Concert Tomorrow Night!

We're looking forward to our return visit to St. John's Ida tomorrow night!

This special concert will be a fundraiser for Threshold Ministries, 
which provides outreach to people in the Peterborough area.

Please come join us!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Book Review: Aloof, by Tony Kriz

I first fell in love with the writing of Tony Kriz when I reviewed Neighbors and Wise Men. I jumped at the chance to review Aloof, with its intriguing subtitle: Figuring Out Life With A God Who Hides.

What do we do with a God who says He wants to be in relationship with us, yet so often seems distant and silent? Through stories, memories, and theological wrestling, Kriz takes on this most difficult and ultimately unanswerable question. Throughout the book, I found myself drifting away to ponder the ideas and possibilities raised in his vibrant and engaging stories. I turned down page corners and wrote my own thoughts in the margins. I circled my favourite chapters in the table of contents.

This is a book for anyone who has straddled the thin line between doubt and wonder. It's a book for people who understand that recognizing how far we are from God is our first step towards intimacy with God.

I highly recommend it.

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."