Hope

HOPE1 

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 My word for 2016 was HOPE. Circumstances and age itself can sometimes rob us of HOPE. To be honest, this was the first time in my life that I can remember that I really struggled to sense that there was hope in some specific areas of my life. I truly claimed these verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Joel 2:25-26  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. 26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you..."

As I reflect today on the past 12 months, I prayed for that word to be realized in some very specific areas of my life...and it did happen. I think I learned that I have to come to the end of myself so that I can truly see God work in areas I know I have exhausted what I CAN DO. That's where He wants to me camp out and pitch my tent. Some were very personal experiences for me,  but let me share a few "hope-filled" highlights from 2016 (in no particular order.)

  • Our family was able to take a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation together to beautiful Turks and Caicos last May. We had an amazing and memory-filled experience that I will treasure forever. My Dad felt well the entire week and he and mom were finally able to go to the Caribbean together. Todd and I enjoyed an anniversary breakfast together overlooking the ocean and enjoyed some meaningful time with my sister Christie and her family as well.
  • My father is still courageously fighting cancer and survived a very dangerous surgery this month and is home at last. I am hopeful of his recovery and more days ahead with him.
  • We did a Facebook LIVE service in the midst of our Hurricane Matthew evacuation to ATL in October with Andrea and Geno Miller (who evacuated there as well) None of us new what we would be coming home to and doing that service from my sister's living room (Thank you Christie and Bruce!) was the most worshipful service I did this year. I can truly say I worshiped from a place of totally reliance that God was in control because none of us were at all! Click here to check it out.
  • Early pictures Post-Hurricane Matthew looked as if our home was completely underwater. We were blessed to return to no significant damage to our home at all. Just trees and debris everywhere. Survivor guilt is a real thing as we walk this journey with so many friends who experienced significant damage and still continue to recover. We are still hopeful that our beautiful Island will return to life before Matthew. We are #HHISTRONG.
  • I took on a new role at HHICC as Ministry Operations Director. My task this year was to streamline our efforts as a staff-team in the areas of finances, ministry, and member development and help remove as much from Todd's plate as possible so that he could truly PASTOR and LEAD our staff team and congregation. The "hope"moment is that Todd and are actually STILL married (LOL!) Seriously, I am so proud of Todd, our staff team, Elders, and Stewarship Team for their support and for their patience with me in this new role and as we continue to learn together how we can all be our best in our unique roles at HHICC.
  • Sydney saw her dream realized of having a lead role as Fritz in The Nutcracker. She was "hopeful" for this experience and danced it beautifully this year. It was such a great two weeks having family come to HHI to support her.  I loved being a part as a volunteer and being in "her world." She is embarking on this form of art being her life's devotion and God continues to open doors for her to use it for Him. Click here to see what she choreographed and danced in this year's "An Evening in December." She got braces this year and is not "a little girl" anymore - Dad is in denial. I am really enjoying our "talks" and observing her choices and choosing her friendships. I love this! (I know, enjoy it while I can!)
  • Sean grew up this year. Too quick for my taste. His love for math and science has developed into a passion. He asked his teacher for more math homework! (yeah, weird kid...) He got a drum set this year and started learning to play. I'm loving it! He continues to thrive with Tormenta Soccer and we have grown to love our team and parents this year. We prayed that God would put us together with great parents and kids and HE DID. We love our #07BlackHHI boys! I love verbally hearing how Sean processes life. He has this cute way of using big words in the wrong context? It's hilarious. Todd and Sean love flying their drones, wrestling in the living room (help me!) and playing golf together. I love seeing "my men" spend time together and have fun.
  • Todd and I are learning and growing a lot right now as we embark on almost 22 years of marriage. We both have learned a lot from the past few years about ourselves and what lies ahead for us. It is so different with the kids growing up and already being so independent (which I highly recommend raising kids to be that way!) Date nights and daily meaningful conversations are not luxuries...they are a lifelines to us staying connected and a being a vital part of each other's lives. You take vows for a reason, right? The good, the bad, the scarry, the frustrating, the win, the loss...it's the TOTALITY of it all that makes a marriage. We are learning that and expecting God to continue to shape us for His purpose as we grow together in Him.
  • We purchased our HHICC campus...Finally! This was a big one. We were hopeful that this contract would close before the end of 2016, saving us thousands of dollars and on the last business day of 2016, Todd signed the papers and we purchased our 2 buildings and 3 acres. Todd had the best night of sleep all year last night! We are so blessed to have such an amazing group of leaders at HHICC who led this effort to GET IT DONE.

As I wrap this blog up on New Year's Eve 2016, I can't help but think this: I'm here. My kids and my husband are here with me. Thank you, God. There was so much uncertainty this year in our personal lives, in our country, our world, and in our community. But for me, hope was realized in so many beautiful ways throughout this year and I am indeed, so thankful.

My New Year's Eve Prayer..."Father God, our Provider and Sustainer, thank you for your faithfulness in 2016 and that it never ends.  Even when I lose heart...even when I feel that I am without hope...you are constant. Thank you that you prove over and over again that YOU are Faithful and that You will provide HOPE in YOUR time, in YOUR way...You are God and I am not. I need to be reminded of that way too often, Father! In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, AMEN."


My report card

Report_card_for_mom-e1307729536282I began to pick up on signals with Sydney toward the end of 3rd grade that made me nervous about how she viewed the learning experience. Our 1st year of homeschool - her 4th grade year - was a lot of me "untangling" what was a mess in her head about learning. She was honest with me about how she would "hide' with "I don't know" when asked a question in class so she didn't have to figure it out. Everything was exposed in our one-on-one environment. I realized how much she had missed with vowels and consonants in K-1st (due to ENT issues later solved). I could tell how much she struggled in our daily reading time and her vocabulary and listening skills were below level. I chose a curriculum for 5th grade for Language Arts that targeted working on these skills. It paid off.

IMG_2455 2  IMG_2368 This year, she has turned a huge corner in her listening skills and ability to process information. She gained confidence in her ability to assess information and communicate it verbally. Her math scores were high and her overall confidence this year has grown by leaps and bounds!  She has had more time to devote to art, ballet and music and I strongly believe allowing her time to explore in the areas that come easier to her has helped her gain confidence in EVERY area of her life. 

Sydney wants to return to an in-school environment next year and we are allowing her to do that. I see that she has really grown in her ability to view learning in a positive way and I feel so much more connected to how she learns and what she needs in order to be successful. We will take it one year at a time, but I am so thankful for the two years we have had to "right the ship" of learning in her life.

I'm giving myself a hard-earned B+ (I missed the A because of disrupting class sometimes with my poor attitude and lack of patience..:-)


2014 rewind

RewindWow, it's been awhile since I have been here. It feels like walking into an old family cabin that's been closed up for awhile. But then, as you start looking around, all the memories start coming back about how much you enjoyed spending time here...

I'm not someone that enjoys looking back. I'm not really a "live in the past" person. However, I am a "what did I learn from that" kind of person so there can be great value in looking back. This year was not that great. I'll just put it out there. Todd and I faced alot of challenges personally and in ministry this year and truth be told, I'm ready for 2015! I'm ready for a fresh start and a new year. That is not to say that there were not some good moments (which I will share later) but it was one of those years that I see Todd and I looking back and saying, "Remember 2014? yeah..."

Rather than unpack all the "stuff" of the year, I want to share some things that I learned from this past year that have greatly influenced my life and future choices. I wanted to make sure I wrote these down, but I'm also wiling to share them with you if in anyway this will help you in 2015:

1. Never underestimate the power of small, daily choices in any area of your life. 

  • This is a season of lfe of "maintaining" and "routine." I'm not frustrated with that, but I do see the power of the daily choice in every area of life and how after time, it compounds into maybe a good or bad habit in your life. I've learned this year to be vigilant in daily choices in every area of my life and to not be dismissive of those choices as they will one day become a lifestyle - whether I like it or not.

2. Never dismiss the specific, God-given design of your life and the influence you have.

  • Todd and I experienced spiritual warfare more intensely this year than ANY YEAR we have been married. If you don't know what that is, read Ephesians 6:10-18 . At one point, I asked Todd, "Why are we worth this? Are our lives so important that it is worth the all-out assault on our marriage, family, and ministry that we have experienced this year?" I'm not afraid of a fight. I don't look for them, but if I need to gear up, I do. This year was different. I lost my will to do it. I lost sight of the value of my worth in God's eyes. I'm on the road back and I see the glimmer of hope once again in this...

3. Be aware that the passion and calling God has given you for your life can only be purified through trials and difficult circumstances.

  • Todd and I faced this year strong spiritual warfare that challenged what we know God called us to at HHICC. The process that we experienced this year has made us more vigilant, committed, and passionate about being the church that God wants us to be. I firmly believe that we could not have learned this about ourselves without the purfication of that calling this year in our lives. 

4. When you feel like everything is "out of control..."  This might be the first time that God has the opportunity to fully be "in control" of your life.

  • This was the most personal lesson for me this year. I experienced some amazing moments of feeling so "out of control" and watching how God put people and things into my life that confirmed HE'S GOT IT. I can honestly say that this one will be a lifelong struggle for me. However, this year, more than any other year, I saw God at work in my life, in my husband's life, in my kids, and in my church and I had nothing to do with "making it happen."

Here are some highlights from 2014...

  • I was honored to be featured in our local paper about being a mom...you can read it here.
  • Here is a video from Syd's performance at "An Evening in December" this month.

  • Here's a video I created from Sean's soccer games this year...

2015, here we come! I'm ready!

Isaiah 43:19 (MSG) "This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me."


The two meet

IMG_5129  IMG_5181 As much as I love to create music and engaging environments for people to experience, when I saw my daughter Sydney for the first time, everything changed. I've been blessed to always be in a creative environment throughout the entire experience of becoming a mother of two.  There were days that it was extremely difficult to be fully present in my efforts with worship and arts especially when Sydney and Sean were very young. But, I'm so thankful that I have always been able to have these worlds co-exist.

Many times, I have mentally "separated" myself from the creative world to focus on being a mom and vice versa. That happens multiple times on a daily basis! I've learned how the two worlds can co-exist and the boundaries that it requires for these worlds not to turn on each other.  I cannot think of my life without both of these worlds existing together. But, I've come to realize that they have to be separate and I have been totally fine with that reality...until Saturday afternoon.

I was the "Cloud Fairy" volunteer for Sydney's class for the 2:30 performance of The Nutcracker. These six beautiful third graders were an absolute delight. We had fun getting dressed and then doing warm-ups which consisted of jumping jacks (their idea, not mine!) We were led to the stage during intermission to get ready for the 2nd Act which they were to open. I sat there in the wings and watched my daughter perform the dance that she has worked so hard on for the last few months. All that time, effort, energy - coming down to this final dance. It was then that the two worlds met for me.

I have never had a moment like this as a mom and a creative where I fully experienced that sense of joy and excitement of the two worlds coming together. My precious daughter that I would give my life for and my love for the arts coming together in this beautiful dance. I truly consider it one of the top five moments of my life...really.

Sydney loves to dance and there is no doubt that she has been given a body that was made to dance. However, whether Sydney dances for the rest of her life or decides in a few years to be done, I'm so thankful for that moment in time that I experienced. It will forever be etched there and I will treasure it always...


Monopoly

Monopoly2  Sydney and I have been playing monopoly for about the last year. Just recently, she has really started to understand it and it has been a lot of fun.  I was thinking as we were playing this weekend how she buys property every time she lands on it until I have to tell her, she doesn't have enough money. She doesn't care about holding on to her money or if she runs out, she just loves the game. I, on the other hand, am very careful with my purchases and pretty much worry through the whole game if I am going to go bankrupt.

Now I know the point of monopoly is to OWN everything and take everything from the other players. However, watching her play and just enjoy the game, regardless if she won or lost was so refreshing. Just pure enjoyment. I was thinking about how much as I get older, I forget to just enjoy and not worry. I know that with age comes responsibility, but as I watch my children, I see so much more of how Christ wants me to respond to Him as His child. I thought about this passage in Matthew 6...

 30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." 9 (MSG)

Our kids teach us truths just by being kids. I'm so thankful for the monopoly lesson. So who was teaching who to play?