Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Christian New Year!

Happy Christian New Year! Today marks the Sunday known as Advent 1, which is the start of the Christian year. We have only four Sundays til Christmas, and it's gonna fly by!

This was the one Sunday this trip that I couldn't book us anywhere, and it really worked out okay.

Last night, we sang for the Christmas dinner for Bethany Evangelical Missionary Church in Kitchener. I didn't know all these details til last night, but the pastor, who has a radio show, discovered me on Radioactive Airplay! You never know where people will find you! The dinner was held on the campus of U. of Waterloo, where Gerald attend school in his younger days. The world became smaller when we realized that, years ago, one of the men at the table had attended a theatre production at U. of W., starring Gerald!

The food for the meal was prepared by the Mennonite cooks who run the cafeteria, and it was awesome! After each course, Gerald and I would lead the crowd in a few carols. After dessert (huge pieces of homemade pie and ice-cream!), we did a 45 minute concert. I did some songs from Real Big Fan, and then Gerald joined me for some Christmas songs. We ended with a duet version of Gerald's "My Heart is the Manger." How much do I love singing this song?

It was a great night, we were well received, and we've already been invited back! No complaints here.

We were pretty tired this morning, so I was just as happy to have the chance to visit Dad's new church in Guelph. He just started this interim position a few weeks ago. The church is huge and old and gorgeous! This morning was the Advent Carol Service of hymns and readings, and it was beautiful. At the end of the service, we all gathered in the chancel to sing for the Amazing Grace Project. To hear everyone singing in that tight little gathering just gave me shivers! I've been in touch with one of their wardens about singing there next spring, so it was good to see the place and meet some of the people face to face.

The rest of the day was spent eating sushi and celebrating my birthday with friends. Lovely!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas begins tomorrow!

Okay, not Christmas proper!

Tomorrow is the first Christmas gig of the season for us! We're going to be in Kitchener, Ontario to sing a concert at a Christmas dinner. We haven't been to this particular church before, so we're excited about meeting a whole new group of people.

As you've guessed by now, we arrived safely in Ontario on Tuesday night. Wednesday was Recovery Day, and Thursday was my birthday! Yay!!! It's the first time I've been home for my birthday in a few years, so that was awesome! I had breakfast in bed, a pedicure with Mom, a fantastic dinner with la familia, and then on Sunday, it'll be a nice gathering with a few friends. Awesome!

As I've probably mentioned, we have 20 gigs booked for December (including Nov. 29). It's going to be a lot of work, and probably a little stress, but mostly, I'm really excited about the whole thing.

In the middle of crazy Christmas shopping and politically correct 'holiday' greetings, 20 gigs means 20 times to sing the Gospel in public! Whoo-hoo! Bring it on!

On my site, I've only posted the gigs that are open to the public, but I think next week I'm going to put them all up, including seniors' centers, etc. Please pray for Gerald and me that we will make the most of these opportunities to love God's people and to share the Gospel story.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday prayers, please...

We're heading home to Toronto tomorrow. Fourteen hours in the car is never really 'fun', but we usually have a pretty good time of it.

Tomorrow, however, there are snow warnings for most of our trip. We're leaving early to get as much daylight driving as possible, and we're also hoping we'll keep ahead of the weather.

We'll do it in two days, if we have to, but my preference is to do it in one.

Please keep us in prayer for a safe, uneventful drive...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dad and The Shack

So this September, I lent my parents my copy of The Shack. I was hoping they'd read it so we could chat about it. Dad not only read it, but it served as the inspiration for his December article for the Niagara Anglican paper. It's called "All I Want For Christmas is Forgiveness" and you can read it here. Unfortunately, they didn't print the photo he used, but that just allows you to use your imagination.

Dad writes every month, and you can find links to his articles here.

We are soooo talented in our family :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The wilds of Nashville!

Lots of cool stuff going on!

My press release about "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbor in Gloryland" was printed in the November issue of Power Source magazine! I'm on page 65, along with the Booth Brothers and Daywind. It's on the top of the page, along with my photo, so it all looks very cool.

Also, I recently did an interview with Scott Evans at, and it's airing this weekend and next. You can find out more details here.

I started a new newsletter this week too. I'm now using Constant Contact, and I'm really happy with them. I sent out my first one yesterday, and I've had over a dozen people contact me with really positive feedback. The program allows you to use really colourful templates, and you can add photos and links and stuff. Looks great, easy to use, love it!

We're in the getting-ready-to-go-home mode right now. This week, I booked our 20th gig for December! It's going to be crazy, but gooood! I'm also going to be home for my birthday (next Thursday!!!) which hasn't happened for a few years, so that's all cool.

What else? Oh, getting lots of reaction to my new hair cut. I haven't had it this short in eons. I was washing it today and realized "I don't know how much shampoo to use!"

Also, I spoke with a musician friend yesterday about doing a new CD together in the New Year. Not a full band CD, but something more intimate, probably a hymns album. Soooo excited about this possibility!

Tonight was Redeemer in the Round, which was, obviously, a round at Church of the Redeemer. Jenna hosted it and played one of her songs. The other chairs where filled by Hunter Moore, Julie Lee, and Sally Barris. What a great night! They had the chairs in the church reconfigured so we were sitting in semi-circles facing one of the long walls of the church. They had a screen up behind the players, and after the 'round' portion, we moved into a hymn-sing. Each writer chose and lead two hymns, which was awesome! I love a good hymn! Jenna ended with "In Christ Alone" and asked me to come up and help lead the singing. I have totally fallen in love with that song! Gerald and I are thinking about working up a duet version we can use in our concerts.

Oh, and weirdest part of the day: I'm driving home from Redeemer, and I see this big dog wandering on the road. Not running away, but just wandering. I thought, "That looks odd, and big, and odd..." I think it was a coyote! Not I thought I would have had before moving to Nashville, but apparently, we have 'em, so I think I just saw my first coyote!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beautiful Lengths ... 9 inches gone!

Well, it's done - 9 inches of my hair are on their way to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths.

We met at the salon at noon and got some "before" photos. I'd been wearing my hair in ponytails for the last few months cause it was starting to get on my nerves, so I didn't realize just how long it was. Allison and Tara joined us, and Allison got some video as well. I'll post all of that stuff as soon as I get it.

I had all the hair cutting requirements printed off from the Pantene website. We measured my hair and put it in two ponytails. The elastics have to stay on the hair, so we literally just cut off the ponytails. I don't mind telling you I was a little nervous, and a little teary, when it came time to actually do the snipping. I decided to cut a full 9 inches - one inch more than the minimum, and a little more than I originally planned, but who cares? It's just going to grow back.

We took lots of photos of me holding my snipped ponytails in my hands and laughing. It was all so amazing! We then placed the hair, still in its elastics, in a ziplock bag, and then in a padded envelope. When you cut off the ponytails, your hair gets all uneven, so I treated myself to a nice cut and style. After all, I haven't had my hair cut in over a year! What a treat!

It feels good to have accomplished this. When I was sitting in the chair having my hair dried, I had one sad moment. In my early twenties, I had very long hair with no colour in it. I would often go and have 5 or 6 inches cut off just to even things up. Imagine how many times I could have cut a bit more and donated it! I could have done this half a dozen times over! I'm not one for regrets, but I do wish I'd learned about this program earlier. Maybe someone else will read this and get inspired to do it themselves.

Right now, I'm continuing to pray for my hair as it travels through the mail and into the hands of the wig maker. I prayed again today for the woman who'll receive my hair. It takes 6 donations to make one wig, so my hair will just be part of a wig. What a great example of living and giving in a community!

I just feel so blessed tonight to have had this journey. It ended up meaning so much more than I ever imagined!

I'll post photos soon! Meanwhile, I'm getting used to my much, much shorter hair!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cutting my hair for cancer - Tomorrow!

As you may recall, last winter, I decided to grow out my hair for a cancer wig. Well, it's been growing, and tomorrow is cutting day.

My hair is quite long right now - we're going to cut at least 8 inches off - and frankly, I'm ready for the cut! It's so long that it needs lots of styling to look good, and to be honest, I don't feel right styling it.

You see, a few months ago I realized something: It's not my hair anymore.

I started this whole thing as a way of honouring my aunt. She's in remission from cancer, and I'm so proud of her, and I really wanted to do this in celebration of her brave journey. It also just seemed like a cool way of giving. It really doesn't cost anything, and once cut, the hair's just going to grow right back.

But I didn't realize how emotional the whole thing would be.

I think about the woman who's going to get my hair: Is she my age? Older? Younger? Does she have a husband? Children? Does she sing? Go to church? Has she had cancer before? Is it her first time? Maybe she doesn't even know that she has it yet?

And I've been praying for her too. I don't know a thing about her, but I do know this - she's going to need God's presence. Maybe she has a strong faith already; maybe not. Either way, I pray she'll feel the loving hands of God supporting her in her treatments and healing.

So through it all, I've realized, it's not my hair. I am caring for someone else's hair. And because of that, treating my hair well has become more important to me. I don't curl it. I don't blow dry it. I deep condition it. I'm extra careful with bobby pins and elastics. My hair now has a purpose beyond complimenting my 'look' - it's going to make a woman feel good about herself, maybe even beautiful, in a time when she's going to be surrounded by disease and ugliness.

I'm excited about tomorrow, and a little nervous, and a little emotional. I have all the tools in place - hair stylist, envelope to mail the hair, friend with camera. Gerald and I will head over to the salon for noon, and the 'make-over' will begin.

Please pray for us - for my aunt, for the hair stylist, for the post office, for those making the wigs. But mostly, please pray for 'her'. I know I am...

For more information on how to donate your hair, visit Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

They're playing my song...

I have to share this cool experience - Last year, Gerald and I made friends with our mechanic. He's a great guy who loves Gospel music, so as a Thank You for some extra work he did for us, we gave him a copy of "Real Big Fan".

This weekend, he was doing some work on my car, and he started telling us how much he loved the CD. He loved it so much that he lent it to his pastor, who also fell in love with it.

Their church is a very small church in our area that uses most of it's funds to support the needs of the people in its congregation. They used to have a piano player for Sunday mornings, but he left for a bigger church, and they haven't been able to hire another musician.

They have a CD player and small sound system, and for the past month, they've been using my songs in their services! Not for the singalong portion, but for a special song during the service. Isn't that awesome!! I'm just overwhelmed. You never know where your music is going to go, or who's going to need it.

Needless to say, we're going to chat with the pastor about visiting there some Sunday...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Redeemer Women's Retreat

This is the part where I ask you to excuse any typos - Today started at 6am, and I'm feeling it right about now.

Today, Gerald and I lead music for the Redeemer Women's Retreat. About a month ago, Jenna called and offered us the opportunity, and we immediately said "yes". I've been wanting to do some work with women's ministries, and I was just thrilled for this door to open.

The event took place at the Scarritt-Bennett Center which is part of Vanderbilt campus. It looks a lot like the beautiful old parts of U. of T, but much, much smaller. It was one of the those moments where I thought, "Wow, I'd like to go back to school and get my masters". Then Gerald said, "I used to hate exams," and the fantasy was over.

We had a great crowd of about 40 women - all ages, all backgrounds. The day started with some craziness, the biggest one being that we were without a speaker! A few days ago, our guest speaker was at a conference when she experienced medical difficulties. She's been in the hospital ever since. So last night, three women from the church gathered together, studied the notes our speaker sent them, and planned today's retreat. I know they were probably very nervous this morning, but everyone was very understanding and supportive, and entered it with a we're-all-in-this-together attitude.

Gerald and I did three sets of worship music. In the morning set, we really tried to set the tone for the day with songs like "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Here I am to Worship". After lunch, we started the afternoon with "Wedding at Cana" with dueling guitars. We knew we had to do a uptempo set to prevent a post-lunch nap, so we did a few great songs, leading into "How Great is Our God". On the final chorus, I lead the group acapella and Gerald took off his guitar. He picked up the djembe and accompanied us on "Awesome God". It was great to move from guitar to acapella to djembe, and it had a strong reaction from the group. They were a great singing group (harmony too!), but they really responded to the drum. Lots of smiles and grooving and praising. The afternoon was running a little late, so we cut one song from the final set and just ended with "In Christ Alone", which was fantastic (how do you go wrong with a song like that?).

All in all, this was a great day. The women loved Gerald, and admired his bravery for being our 'token male'. The weather and campus were beautiful, with glimpses of a fall day shining through the leaded pane windows. I made new friends and shared some wonderful moments with people. Gerald and I performed well and, more importantly, people responded well. I even had one woman tell me how much she loved my interpretation of the story of the wedding at Cana. I loved being a part of this ministry today and, if God sees fit, I'd love for more doors like this to open for me.

I'm going to bed now to continue reading "If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat" by John Ortberg. Awesome! My friend, Deanna, recommended this book, and I'm just loving it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mini-Blog #2 - Lawyer Update

Just realized I didn't write about our meeting with the immigration lawyer last week.

Our visa ends in one year, three months, so we know it's time to start thinking about our next step. We've decided to work with a local lawyer, partly to save money on courier fees, and also because it just seems easier than working with someone halfway across the country. Thus, we are lawyer shopping.

Our main goal with last week's meeting was to check out our options. Should we renew the visa, or should we try for our green cards? I was leaning towards green cards as it would really open up our employment options. Having this O1 visa is great, but it's a struggle trying to get by on one income, especially a singer's income.

Long story short, we are no where close to getting green cards at this time. Basically, the O1 visa requires you to be outstanding in your field. The same category green card requires you to be at the top of your field. You must be charting regularly in the top 10, performing on large platforms, universally regarded as a leader in your field, and, bluntly put, you must make lots and lots and lots of money doing it. I mean, I know we've done well in our two years here, but no one could climb that high that quickly.

So, we're going to apply for another three year visa. We can't apply until next summer, so that gives me another few months to collect letters and other pieces of "evidence".

It's going to be so much work. I'm not looking forward to it, but at least I now know what path we're on.

Mini-Blog #1 - Mark Bishop Interview

I think today will be the day of mini-blogs. I have a lot of little things I haven't posted for the past week, so I'm probably going to add them as I think of them today.

Last month, I had the privilege of interviewing Mark Bishop for SGM In the past year or so, I've become a huge Mark Bishop fan. He's a fantastic songwriter, and has the right voice for delivering his wonderful story songs.

His new project, "The Fields of Love", is a Southern Gospel musical, so you know that caught my eye.

You can read the whole interview here.