Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back to the Bridge

I was back at the Bridge Ministry again tonight. Thunder storms were in the forecast, so the volunteer turnout was much smaller than last time.

I was put to work tonight, singing with the praise team. I didn't know most of the songs, but praise songs are meant to be singable, so it was pretty easy to pick them up as we went along. After the music, we had the message from a preacher who is also on the city's Homeless Commission (I think I have that right?). He spoke on Jeremiah 29:11 - "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." He was great in speaking to the homeless about how this passage applies to them; how even in this time of difficulty and brokenness, God still has a plan, and is watching over each of them.

To be honest, it was a message I needed to hear too. As we enter 2008, we are facing some financial challenges. The limits of our visa are making it very hard to support ourselves. Don't get me wrong - We are incredibly thankful for our visa! But it's difficult to support a family on one income, especially while also paying for studio time, demos, songwriting workshops, etc. I know God brought us here to Nashville, and I know He didn't bring us here to abandon us. And again, I don't want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities we're being given. It's just difficult. If things don't change soon, it may limit our time here, and I hate that thought. It's also difficult, and a little embarrassing, to admit that we're having financial difficulties. (When I started this blog, I promised myself I'd always be honest in it. Some days, that's easier said than done. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I should delete this whole entry!) We're far from bankrupt, and when I see the people I saw tonight, I know we're very blessed indeed. We're not seeking riches, just stability. It would take so much pressure off my head.

In light of those thoughts ... Positive blessings of the day:

- Today was a day off, and it was too rainy to go outside, so Gerald, the puppies, and I got to spend some much needed family time together.

- I'm putting my CDs up for sale on Today, I got all the info loaded on the site, and I've mailed them product, so it should be up and running very soon.

- I had great conversations with my parents and my father-in-law.

- I learned about DPD licenses, which are required to sell songs digitally.

- Kara and I got feedback on "Diamond Horizon", the song we wrote over the phone. The feedback was very positive, and suggested that, after a few tweaks, we should demo and pitch it.

- I am 99% finished booking and collecting grant info for Music on the Hill.

- I'm working Gordon Mote's table next week at a Homecoming concert.

- Tara may have a possible booking for me.

When people attend the Bridge, they receive a meal and clothes, and if they stay til the end, they are entered into a drawing to win a large item, like a bike or tent. But the focus of the night is the worship service. There's lots of inspiring music, a short but Biblical message, an altar call, and prayer. They feed the body, but it is also a reminder that, more than anything, we need to feed the soul. Instead of dieting to starve ourselves, we need to stuff ourselves full with music, love, and Jesus!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Getting things done...

It's been a mixed kind of weekend - My first real quiet days in ages, while also trying to catch up on a backlog of administrative stuff.

I'm sending out copies of Real Big Fan to all our songwriters, as well as to some people who've been very supportive of me since coming to Nashville. Still have a few more addresses to collect, but I got most of that done.

I've been asked to write an article about the Stamps-Baxter School for It was due today, so this weekend was about getting the opinions of the 'trusted few' and making all those final tweaks. I think it might be out next month?

I'm still on as Artistic Director of Music on the Hill, the lunchtime concert series at St. John's York Mills Church. Our grant application is due a month earlier than expected, so I'm having to rush things a little. I have 18 concerts to book. Most of them are in place, but it's always finicky having to balance the different shows, and then collecting all the info needed for the grant application. I love doing this; it just requires a lot of work.

The Christian DIVAs are taking on a group project: a compilation CD. We each gave in 2 songs, and we're each paying a little for mastering and manufacturing. It's the first time the group has done anything like this, and I'm so happy my new songs were done in time to be included.

This week, I have a few large goals (including finishing the Music on the Hill booking):
- I need to set up Real Big Fan for online sales.
- Gerald and I need to have a meeting so we can decide how we're going to approach booking.
- I need to set up the large run of 1000 CDs.

I also want to start sending out press releases about the new CD. I've compiled a list of Southern Gospel news websites, so now I'll just need to work on the content of the actual release. I've been studying different articles, etc, for several months, and I have some people I can go to for advice.

The other thing I need to start working on is finding some creative time! In the last few months, every second of creativity went into the CD (as it should!). But now, I want to make time for writing and painting and all that good stuff that will 'fill the well'. I want to take Song U courses and visit the Frist and paint the living room. Very excited about all of it!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Steve Seskin, in concert.

Gerald is doing a workshop this weekend with country songwriter, Steve Seskin. I think this is going to be great for him. Gerald is too advanced for most workshops. He doesn't need to hear the basics of rhyme schemes and song structures. He needs mentoring. This weekend will be a small group, and, on Monday, he'll have a one-on-one with Steve Seskin himself. Awesome!

Tonight, Steve did a solo show at Douglas Corner, a small club just south of downtown. (At least, I think that's where it is. I'm still trying to navigate this city!) You usually only see rounds in songwriter clubs, so this was a real treat. He did 2 60-minute sets, with nothing but a guitar. He took requests from the audience, and told the story behind each song.

There were 2 things that I loved about tonight:

#1. The songs were very positive, very encouraging. He has this one song called "Use Mine" - A little boy wants a bike; the Dad can't afford it so he gives his bike to his son saying "Use mine"; later, the Dad is ill and has no strength, so the son says, "Use mine". Oh! Just broke my heart. And other great song was about how everyone has mountains to climb, but some people's mountains "are steeper than mine". And then were was "Don't Laugh at Me", which has become an anti-bullying anthem. Loved it!

And #2. Every time Steve sang a song, he just opened his heart to the audience. He sang like his life depended on it - passionate, immediate, generous. He doesn't have a perfect voice, but he was just so authentic you couldn't help but listen to the stories he sang.

Tonight was great! We've made a New Year's Resolution to go out and hear live music at least once a week. We were doing it for a while, but then I started working and making the CD, so staying in at night became a better option.

Now that our first year has flown by, I am more conscious than ever of our very short visa. "Green cards" is also on that list of Resolutions. Start praying for us!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Catching Up, and the Bridge Ministry

Yes, we're back in Nashville! I have a bit of back-blogging to do. I had this great intention of writing every day of the 12 days of Christmas. Then, on January 2nd, we lost our internet! Dad and Gerald spent hours and hours trying to fix it, but it didn't get restored til after we got back to Nashville. (I'm sure those points aren't related.) I came home to over 325 emails in my inbox. Needless to say, it's taking me a while to catch up.

Since getting back, I'm back to working for Ben. We're gearing up for the 20th anniversary year of the Stamps-Baxter School, and it's going to be a great.

This afternoon, Kara and I finished our long distance, Song U co-write. We still want to do a bit of tweaking on the song, but we finished enough of a draft to submit to the site. If we posted our song by today, we won 25 points. Those points are collected, and can eventually be turned in for free song evaluations.

My friend, Tara, listened to my CD today. I was sort of freaking out - this was the first time a SG peer has listened to it. She loved it! I was very excited! She really loves the mix of jazz with Southern Gospel, so that was all very satisfying.

Gerald and I are planning on sitting down soon and making up our New Year's goals and resolutions. I really don't want to rush this process. There's a lot for us to do in 2008. Now that we're one year into our visa, I'm becoming aware that our time is very limited. We're still interested in green cards, so that may be a goal for the year. I'm also looking at making resolutions around spending more time and energy on outreach and charity work, and that lead to tonight's activity...

Tonight, I visited the Bridge Ministry. Tara, is very involved in it, and I've been interested in visiting for a while. Every Tuesday night, a group of people gather under a downtown bridge to minister to Nashville's homeless. They serve a hot meal, give out clothing, and lead an informal, but spirit-filled, worship service.

Tonight was close to freezing, but there was still a crowd of people, both on the giving and receiving end of things. In some ways, it was what I expected - great people doing great work. And in other ways, it was all a little surreal. Volunteers set up chairs, lights and a sound system. Professional singers give their gifts of song. A crowd forms an orderly line to accept a hot meal, and then receive food for the soul. The whole thing is like the warm, generous oasis, pitched against the chilling backdrop of a concrete bridge and freezing temperatures.

Two things really jumped out at me tonight: One: Candy Christmas (the Gaither artist who founded the Bridge) welcomed the crowd by saying, "I love you. If no one has said it to you today, let me be the first. I love you." Isn't this something most of us take for granted? I am never very far away from someone who is willing to tell me they love me. But there were people gathered tonight who probably only hear "I love you" on Tuesday nights. Such a simple thing, but it's like breath to our souls.

And two: Tonight was freezing, but I got to go home to a warm house with happy puppies and extra blankets for my bed. For some of these people, the Bridge was probably the warmest part of their night.

I know I'm not saying anything profound or new. But I think we lose perspective. It's one thing to see homeless people on TV, or to give them a nod as a political issue. It's another thing to look into some one's eyes, and realize that you are looking into the eyes of another child of God.

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it's needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!
(Hebrews 13:1-2, The Message)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The 12 Blogs of Christmas - Day 7

HAPPY 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We all started the year on a quiet note. There are now 6 of us in the house, and 2 of us are healthy. Colds, stomach bugs, coughing, sneezing ... you name it, someone has it. So the day was somewhat lazy and very, very soft.

The afternoon was spent watching "Flags of Our Fathers" - fantastic, but disturbing. Meals took hours, as we'd sit around the table taking in long courses and even longer conversations. There were many cups of tea, and a few cat naps as well.

I spent an hour working on my Song U co-write. I'm finding it a bit of a struggle, but given the strangeness of writing with someone you've never met in person, I guess that's kind of normal. We're scheduled for our next phone call tomorrow, so I'm hoping that goes okay.

Last New Year's Eve, we all wrote predictions for 2007. Tonight, we opened the sealed envelopes and read them aloud. Most were very silly, but a few were interesting. For my "outlandish" sports prediction, I said Steve Nash would win his third MVP award, and this year, he was second in the running. Dad predicted he would start working as a writer and photographer, and that came true. Gerald predicted his first Nashville cut, and he received 2 indie cuts last year. I predicted Mom would win Longo's Most Valuable Customer... no word on that one yet.

But Dad and I both predicted that, in 2007, I would record my first Nashville CD, and that indeed came true!

I think all the family, and most of our close friends (at least here in Canada) have heard the CD, and their reviews are very positive. Yes, they are biased. But after a while, you learn to decipher "That sounds like my daughter/niece/cousin singing" from "I'm going to play this on my next road trip". Gerald and I are so excited about how things turned out, and it's great to hear that excitement from other people now too.

I haven't written any resolutions yet for 2008. I have lots of goals in mind, but I need a few quiet moments to really set things down. We've been so lucky to have worked so much in the last month, but with the exception of the odd day off, I really feel like I haven't had much of a break yet. There's been no feeling of 'vacation'. Maybe a-week-in-Mexico should be on that list of resolutions?