Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday night surprise

I just got a phone call from Tara - apparently, I'm getting radio play on XM's Southern Gospel station, Enlighten. Whoo-hoo!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pajama Worship

So first, a little inside information: I am a hint-o'-Type-A personality. I really don't think I'm full-fledged Type A, but I do like to know what's going on. What time are we starting? What's the order? What is expected of me?

Tonight was amazing and special and wonderful. We met at FAM around 7:00 as they were getting ready for their first ever women's retreat. The idea was to encourage comfort and community. Women and young girls were invited to come in their pajamas and spend the whole night in the sanctuary. Everyone brought pillows and blankets and found their own cozy spot on the pews. We were just there for the evening, but yes, Gerald and I wore our pajamas too!

Before the event began, Gerald and I met with Pastor Glenda to find out more about the church and the community. As with most inner city ministries, the needs are great and the resources are few. But FAM is approaching their work with passion and focus, and lives are being changed.

Here is where my Type-A-ness comes into play: I knew that we were going to be involved in the candlelight worship, but I really didn't know what that meant. Gerald and I had some songs prepared, but I didn't have an order for the evening. Was there a speaker? Did they want song and prayer? If so, who would lead the prayers? (add several more similar questions...)

I asked my list of questions. Pastor Glenda said, "We're just going to worship." I shifted a little in my chair, and asked my questions again. Pastor Glenda smiled and said, "We're just going to worship." Gerald looked at me with that you-need-to-go-with-the-flow look in his eyes. I took a deep breath, and found a quiet place to pray.

It was in that quiet place that I realized, "It's okay to step outside my comfort zone, because God is there too."

With that, the evening began. And we worshipped!

We sang great songs like "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" and "Blessed Be the Name". The ladies sang and clapped and waved their flags. The little girls danced and smiled. We had prayer, and after more song, I opened the mic for testimonies. We heard brave and honest stories of struggles and redemption. And we had a beautiful moment when each of the little girls took her turn to share a blessing or story from her week.

Pastor Glenda and I have been talking for a few months about having me at one of their services, but I was completely honoured that they would trust us with such an important event. It was humbling and inspiring, and I can't wait to go back.

My new CD is official!

I've mentioned that I'm working on a new hymns CD, but I feel I can 'officially' announce it today, as the last major piece of the puzzle has landed in place.

This morning, Gerald and I met with Teri Reid to discuss her involvement in the project. Teri is the daughter of Miss Mary Tom (Speer) Reid, and an awesome singer and pianist in her own right. I met Teri at Stamps-Baxter where she bravely teaches our children's class. Teri has done some amazing things in her career, but what caught my ear was her jazz piano.

For this CD, I want to do 12 classic hymns in intimate piano-vocal arrangements. Teri and I both love Gospel, both love Jazz, and we really get along well, so she was an easy choice for this project.

We met today and talked about the music and the purpose of the album. We batted around song titles and thoughts on the musical direction. And we planned out our next few steps.

I've been planning this project for a few months, but as of today, it feels like we're really on the path to making it happen! Sooo excited!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Latte, Stamps, and Tea

Today was a day of wonderful details, like the friendly teenage cashiers at Kroger, and the wonderfully funny lady who sold me my iced latte. But that was just the start of today's great blessings...

I found out today that I'll be working an extra day a week for Stamps-Baxter, which is not only a financial plus for us, but with our new change of venue, it also means I'll be able to do a lot more work for the school. Yay!

Gerald and I will be playing and singing at the Family Affair Ministry Fellowship (FAM) women's retreat this weekend, so I called the church today and arranged a visit there tomorrow. We're going to lead worship on Friday and sing at the service on Sunday, so we want to see the space and find out how we can best serve the retreat. I've been talking to the pastor about singing there for a few months now, so I'm very excited about this.

Tonight, I joined my first women's Bible study group. We're doing Beth Moore's "Esther" study, and I'm really excited about the whole thing. It's kind of like Alpha in that you have a DVD of Beth speaking and a discussion, but there's also a workbook and weekly homework.

Most of the group members attend BCC, which sponsored the Women's Tea that I sang at last October. After we finished tonight's session, one of the women asked where she could buy my CD. (my purse is always well stocked!) Apparently, her daughter has been singing "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland" since last October. Did you catch that detail? She doesn't have the CD, yet she's still been singing the song since October! Talk about a great way to end an awesome day!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let's Dance

I just read this awesome quote and had to share:

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~ Japanese Proverb

Made me smile!

Things have been busy. I'm continuing to book dates for our May/June visit to Ontario, as well as some local gigs here in Nashville. This weekend, we're going to play for the Family Affair Ministry's women's retreat. It's a last minute thing, so it's a little crazy pulling it all together, but we're also very excited about working with this awesome church.

Last Thursday, Gerald had an amazing mentoring session. They're just weeks away from going in the studio to record some demos and start the 'shopping' process. Originally, we were going to do full band demos, which you can also call very-expensive-and-therefore-stressful demos. But apparently, a lot of cuts these days are coming from great guitar-vocal demos. Still done in a studio with killer musicians, but having fewer people in the studio means less money and less stress. Big yay on both accounts! This change will cut our budget in half and will also mean Gerald can probably record 5 songs instead of 3. More yay!

I sang on the praise team Sunday. It was one of those mornings when nothing quite felt rehearsed by the time the first service started. But God still had His way, and it was awesome. I was the cantor for the beautiful Psalm 30 which contains the lines, "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning." For those that know my experience with grief, you can imagine how much it meant to me to sing this message. It was one of those things that was both difficult and amazingly satisfying. In the second service, at the end of the song, someone from the audience spoke out in the silence and said, "Amen." That just shook me. I know it had nothing to do with me or Jenna or the tune, but that God was using all of these things to express His peace and comfort to someone who needed it. Amen, indeed!

Today is a writing day. Gerald is upstairs having a (very long) co-writing session. I finished a Song U course earlier, and I just finished working on a few new lyrics using my free 30 day trial of Masterwriter. This is an amazing songwriting program that allows you to organize your lyrics and music, while also putting a whole bunch of tools right in front of you - rhyming dictionary, thesaurus, word families, and a complete Bible, to name a few. I've been working non-stop all day, and I've reached the point where nothing good is coming out anymore. My brain is now like vanilla pudding, and I feel it's probably time for an afternoon espresso!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Three Years Ago Today...

... we gathered in the church on the hill.

... there was a perfect layer of snow on the ground.

... friends sang, family cried, lots of people took photos.

... we took the next step in our Adventure together, exchanging vows and feeling the love of family and friends.

... we danced and partied 'til they kicked us out, and then met again the next morning to tell stories about it all.

Most people get married to settle down.

Today, Gerald and I are celebrating three years of travel, adventure, and joy!

Happy Anniversary, My Love!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Elvis Cake

Redeemer has started a new monthly service of praise and testimony. Last night was our first time doing it, and I was thrilled to see such a large crowd! Redeemer has chairs instead of pews, so they'd taken the back rows and arranged them in a semi-circle in the back of the church, still facing the altar, for an intimate and informal setting. Jenna had her keyboard set up at the end of the semi-circle, and as soon as I walked in, she motioned for me to sit with her and help lead the singing.

The service was lead by one of our laypeople (I'm assuming she's layperson), and it was awesome! There was no set program, but the evening flowed between times of singing and prayer and testimony. It was all very relaxed and encouraging. There was no pressure to speak or sing, but the atmosphere was so comfortable that several people shared a brief testimony or prayer request.

And as a reminder that we are never the ones in charge, halfway through the opening songs, the keyboard lost power. We all kept singing, and I thought, "Well, we can lead acapella if we have to," but Jenna, being the pro that she is, grabbed her guitar and started strumming away without missing a beat. Very cool moment, and definitely made everyone smile!

After the service, they had a small reception with tea, coffee, lemonade and snacks, and you could tell everyone had enjoyed themselves by the long lingering conversations. After helping with the clean-up, Jenna and I went to a local favourite where I tried Elvis cake.

Yes, Elvis cake - rich banana cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese icing. Mercy! Only in the South...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hunting for Hymns

My SoGospelNews article this month is called Hunting for Hymns.

I'm about to start work on a new hymns CD, and this article is kind of my love song to hymns (appropriate for Valentine's month, n'es pas?)

I'm asking people to suggest some of their favourite hymns for the project, so please feel free to read the article, and suggest your faves in either the comments section or via email.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wonderful, beautiful worship

Despite last night's sniffing and sneezing, we were still up at 6 am for praise team this morning. Luckily, the weather was pleasant, so that kind of made things easier.

We had a great team this morning, with me on vocals, Gerald on guitar, Jenna on keys, Roy on bass, Jeff on percussion, and Betty on organ. Jenna had chosen some great songs, with a healthy mix of classic, triumphant hymns and beautiful, gentle praise songs.

The team gelled quickly, with vocal harmonies and good chemistry. You could tell there was something wonderful going on in the rehearsal. The first service (which, on a rough morning, feels like dress rehearsal) was fantastic. The music flowed, the sermon was great, and the energy in the church was very moving.

But in the second service, we shifted gears. I was starting to feel the effects of my lack of sleep, so I said, "God, you've got to take control of this for me." I guess everyone else said the same thing, because when we hit Communion, you could feel the electricity in the air.

Our first Communion song was Darlene Zschech's "Worthy is the Lamb". People started singing right away, and a few people closed their eyes and raised their hands. But by the time we got to Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei", the Spirit was really moving. People started to stand, and raise their hands, and worship with abandon. By the end of the song, almost everyone in the church was on their feet. From our position in the front of the sanctuary, I could see everyone - their beautiful faces, their absolute love. It was so incredibly beautiful! I had to close my eyes to keep from crying. It was just so overwhelming. I tried to keep eye contact with Jenna so I could follow her cues, but it was so hard to look at anyone without crying. I eventually closed my eyes and thought, "God, if Jenna needs me to do something, please let me know." I could feel her direction, and the whole song ended beautifully, seamlessly.

The last hymn was joyful and vibrant. We all lingered and chatted long after the service. My headache had returned from last night, which was the only thing that drove me to go home. In the car, Gerald and I talked in hushed tones about what we had just experienced. It was humbling, and just so incredibly beautiful. I'm sure I'm babbling, because I know my words can't accurately describe what I saw or felt this morning. All I hope is that you'll experience it some time soon...

Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!
(Psalm 66:2 NIV)