Sunday, August 27, 2006

Working for the Dream...

This morning was wonderful! I returned to St. John's West for another service of great prayer, preaching, and (at the risk of bragging!) great music!

As has become our practice, I chose the hymns for the service and then got the approval of Rev. Gary. This time, I really tried to base all my song choices on the Biblical passages. I used those indexes at the back of the hymnal to choose pieces that would really sing the stories of the Gospel and other readings. I think it worked well. People really sang out, and "To God Be the Glory" was a great way to end the service.

For my solo, I did one of my newer songs, "Infinitely More". It's really uptempo and fun, and just talks about the great things God does for us. I love bopping around while I sing it. Makes me feel like a total rock star!

This morning was a real blessing, because music has shifted over to the side burner as of late. Not the back burner; I'm still keeping things going. But the real focus has been doing the un-glamorous, often frustrating work, of getting ready to move to Nashville. This is the gross stuff that never makes it onto people's websites and photo galleries.

Be forewarned: This next section may delve into ranting, but it will all work out in the end.

First, there is preparing for the Visa. I'm applying for an O1 Visa through a lawyer. I need to collect a lot of 'evidence' of my professional status, including letters of reference, newspaper articles, posters that have featured my name or photo. Suffice to say, it is a huge amount of work. The most frustrating part is waiting for the letters of reference to arrive. Most people are awesome about getting it to me quickly. Some people... not so quick. It's also wickedly expensive. It doesn't cost too much to actually apply for the Visa, but you can probably guess that my lawyer ain't so cheap.

Next, there is getting the house ready for the market. We really don't want to move very much stuff to Nashville. Just our guitars, our computers, a keyboard, some clothes, a bit of business stuff, back-up tracks, and my car. So, anything that doesn't fit into that short list gets one of three fates: It is either to be sold, given away, or put in storage. Selling is our favourite choice, as it helps feed the cost of moving. And we're really picky about what is being stored. Basically, it's just family stuff, antiques, and art.

The house is taking some work. Mostly, it's just the moving of stuff. But we have to do some refacing in the kitchen, so there's some small renovations that need to be done there. And we're repainting a fair bit of the house. Nothing too hard. Just a lot of work.

I'm a real pack-rat and total homebody. All of this is just torturous for me! I'm going through everything I've even owned and having to ask "Is it worth keeping? Would I rather have this book/pillow/chair/sweater, or a CD recorded in Nashville?" Yes, the answer is obvious, but still, very hard to do.

I've always dreamed of owning my own home, so selling is very hard for me. We will be renting in Nashville, so I won't have another house for a while. We really debated keeping the house and renting it out. But after weighing it all out, this just works better for us. It will give us the nest egg we will need to help float us while we get set up, and it will help us make our CDs.

I did say I would rant and that it would get better, and here's the better: This is just such an insane amount of work, but we have no doubts at all that it will be worth it! No one can ever doubt our dedication to moving to Nashville to develop our craft and pursue our dreams. And when we're in our nineties and sitting in our rocking chairs, we can listen to our CDs and reminisce about the time we sold everything to move to Nashville and make music.

Who wouldn't want that?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Singing at Holy Trinity

This morning, Gerald and I were guest musicians at the Church of the Holy Trinity. For those in Toronto, it's that gorgeous little old church that's tucked in behind the Eaton Centre. It's the same church where I did my Sing of Eve concert this summer.

This week, Toronto is host to the ginormously huge International AIDS Conference. As a city, we are welcoming doctors, politicians, and activists from all around the world. Holy Trinity has some involvement in the conference, so this morning's service was a wonderful way for delegates and parishioners to start the week with praise and prayer.

The hymns and prayers were full of themes of hope, healing, and God's unconditional love. Our homily was given by a Canadian who's just returned from Africa. He was there with the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (the Anglican branch of Third World relief). His focus was to encourage the church to get involved in the fight on AIDS, and to encourage those with the disease to lean on their faith. In his time in Africa, he met people whose entire families had been killed by AIDS. But the thing that amazed him the most was their unwavering faith in God. He met people who were dirt poor, ravaged by a disease with no medicine in sight, grandmothers raising orphaned children, and yet they were full of hope. Pure hope! When he asked the source of their hope, they had one simple answer - Our faith comes from God. How can we argue that? Here in North America, we are wealthy, with all the best medical resources available, yet every day, we find reason to doubt God. Funny, huh?

I had attended services at Holy Trinity several times, so musically, I knew what to expect. Because they are a social justice church, they would never invest large funds in an orchestra and a huge sound system. Because of that, their music is earthy and acoustic. Lots of instruments and an international mix of music. It's always very creative and inspiring, so we really tried to bring our best stuff.

We were asked to perform a prelude based on 'hope', so I sang "Farther Along" and Gerald did our song, "God is There". The rest of the hymns were chosen by the music committee from the Voices United hymnal. We opened with "This Ancient Love" which is just gorgeous! I took a copy so I can sing it again. Gerald played guitar, and I sang harmonies and played the rain stick. The next hymn was new words to the Joyful, Joyful tune; again with Gerald on guitar and me leading the singing.

The rest of the hymns were scheduled to be sung acapella. Our voice teacher, Sue, is the interim music director at the church, so she offered to lead the singing on these. But you know, we couldn't just sit back and listen... So Gerald picked up his djembe, I grabbed my shakers, and we just improvised. It was awesome. It's a real singing congregation, so voices were raised and God's name was lifted up!

I just feel so blessed to be getting these kinds of opportunities. It feels strange to be moving when so many opportunities are coming my way, but I continue to just follow the plan that God is laying out for me. I can feel all my Stamps-Baxter skills working their way into my music and especially in my ability to communicate the Gospel. I am also reminded of Andy Piercy's advice that we are to be shepherds and servants all at the same time. I don't really know how to describe what I'm feeling tonight. I feel my focus tightening in a way that's never happened before. I'm feeling more and more open to God's will. It's a huge trust to 'let go and let God', but I'm feeling His support beneath me, and that's pretty awesome. I just want to trust it all to Him. I'm praying for continued strength...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Home at last!

I'm home! I'm home! My luggage is still in Atlanta, but I'm home!

I had a gorgeous little direct flight booked that would get me to Toronto in a mere 90 minutes. Unfortunately, even though I arrived at the airport on time, my plane did not. It was cancelled!

The lovely Air Canada dude informed me I could wait around 12 hours in the airport. I informed him that was not the best plan. He re-routed me through Atlanta. But guess what?

That was cancelled too!

In this case, it delayed just enough to mess up my connecting flight, so at the very last minute (truly not an exaggeration!) I was re-routed once again. I actually made a phone call that sounded like this:

"Hi, guess where I am?"
"No! Cincinnati!"
"Cincin...What the???"

Yes, I went through Cincinnati. Never been there before. Can't tell you anything more than they have a Starbucks and a MacDonalds. Stunning.

After a mere 11 hours of travel time, I made it home. As stated earlier, I am luggageless, but I am home and in one piece, and we must always be thankful for that.

I am also thankful that I was allowed to bring my guitar on the flight with me each time. It actually sat on the seat next to me! Imagine if I'd had to put it in with the luggage - It would be in Atlanta!

Everyone is happy to have me here, especially Sebastian. I'm glad to be here too, surrounded by love and good comfort. Home! *sigh*