Not a number

MMC tag We recently finished our first college search, admissions, auditions, and final acceptance process with our eldest, Sydney (Whew!) There is SO much more to share about the red line of God's guidance in her final choice, but I want to process that more before I share that here.

Something struck me about what Sydney shared with me about her final choice. She said to me, " Mom, I wasn't a number. They used my name." I just thought about that. All these years of auditions for summer dance programs and for college auditions, she was always given a number. For her, it was one of the major deciding factors for her in choosing where to be in her first season of life living on her own. It was vital for her to be somewhere that from the beginning, she is a name, not a number.

Our name is the most personal thing we have. Whether we "like" the name we were given at birth or have adopted a nickname we like, what we go by is deeply personal. I am Cynthia, not Cindy. I don't like being called Cindy, It doesn't even feel remotely close to Cynthia to me! And for those of my lovely friends who think it will be funny to call me that after reading this, I don't answer to Cindy! However, I have a very good friend whose name is Cindy. She is NOT Cynthia!

For many of us, it may be hard to accept that God would consider us by our name. How could the God of the universe REALLY have the time or the bandwidth to handle all of us? By name?

Isaiah 43 (MSG) says “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God..." 

Psalm 139:15 says ,"You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made..." (MSG) This is a verse that I have always loved as an artist.  It speaks to me of my originality... my uniqueness... that God sees me as as Cynthia.  The whole chapter really speaks to God truly knowing us.

I just wanted to share this because I am so encouraged and thankful that God knows me by name. When I pray, God knows Cynthia and knows my innermost thoughts. He knows ALL of it - good and bad. Yes, I am His and He is mine. I am not a number. I have a name and God knows it.

As we begin our 40-day preparation for Easter Sunday, begin this journey with that truth and say this affirmation to yourself daily as needed.

(Insert your name here,) God knows your name. You are His. He is always with you.

Share your comments below and P.S. - Thank you, Sydney, for letting me share this here.


My daughter started a vlog when she turned 13 a couple of weeks ago. She has been wanting to do this for about two years but thank you, YouTube for making the official age "13" so she had to wait! I've been involved in social media since 2007 so I am coaching and very involved in talking with her about her content but I am really allowing her to explore this on her own.

I don't think I would have shared with the world a vlog titled "How I Fell on Stage" when I was her age. But I can't tell you how proud I am that she did. One of the most important lessons I want her to learn in life is the importance of falling. No, I don't want her to fall as a dancer on stage at ANYTIME, but we learn so much more in life when we fall than when we succeed.

Here is a link to her vlog in her own words...

and here's a link to the dance she performed in the first service today.

Roots and Soil

Tree-roots  It's been strange for me to be away from cheval glass as much as I have been this past year. It's not that life has not been full of so many things I've learned and observed. I find myself microblogging now so much more through facebook and twitter...saying what I need to say in 140 characters and moving on.

Post-sabbatical, I find myself still refreshed from that time away last January. So much of what I learned about myself as well as my need for "spiritual loittering" still influence my decisions and my time.  This is the first "Pre-Christmas" season in a few years that I'm waking up NOW with excitement about our creative endeavors as a team and the musical offerings we will be sharing throughout the season. 

IMG_7333  I entered the world of homeschool this past August with my 4th grader. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I am, truthfully.  I thought by now I would be thinking something very different! The time with Sydney has been magical.  The conversation, the learning experiences, the weekend "field trip" to Atlanta to visit the Fernbank Museum, etc... I have learned SO much about my daughter that I know I would never have learned without this experience. She told me her favorite part of homeschool is her piano and voice lessons we do together. The joy of sharing music with her is hard to put into words. There is just something as an artist about enjoying music with your kids.  Sean also is taking piano lessons and is growing up fast into a "little Cynthia" as Todd says. His passion for soccer has opened the door for him to become a part of STORM Soccer Academy this year. He is learning so much skill and is a great team player.  

I see this new season of life as one of watching our roots going into good soil.  I see it in my marriage, my kids, in our ministry at HHICC, and in our community as we get involved on a much more committed basis.  I realized the other day that we have lived in the house we live in now longer than any other home in our 18 years of marriage! This is different and new - not boring or predictable. It is rich with experiences that come from roots gaining nutrients and good soil.

When I think of this season, I'm drawn to Paul's words to the church at Ephesus...

"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."  - Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)

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...

Family Fridays...SAY YES!

Today, I'm kicking off a new series here at Cheval Glass. There are so many challenges facing ministry leaders and none greater than raising children. Family Fridays will discuss our personal struggles, victories, and best practices. Please dialogue here with me and share your insights on family issues as it relates to being ministry leaders.

I feel like I say "NO" a lot as a parent. It really bugs me. I provide the structure and schedule for our family as a lot of moms do and the creative in me gets REALLY tired of having to always be the margin and boundary policeman for the Cullens!

Todd and I have Fridays off since our Sundays are so long.  We try to keep this day as free from routine and a schedule as possible so that we can just take a breath and truly have a Sabaath experience. So with my issues with saying "No" so much, I started a thing called "Say Yes Fridays." I make a conscious attempt to "say yes" to as much as I can on Fridays.  Being that my kids are seven and a half and almost five, they have not quite "caught-on" to this.  I don't make a big deal that it's "Say Yes Friday." I just have made a mental decision to do this on specific Fridays.

For example, I am headed to pick Sydney up from school very soon. It she gets in the car and asks me," Mom, can we get a Starbucks hot chocolcate?." My answer wil be YES! If Sean asks me for another cookie after he has already had two, I'm going to say YES!  This has made me feel so much more effective as parent to give myself permission to do this.

What is something that you do to give yourself permission to say yes? What is something you do to create "yes" moments as a parent?

It's not about us

I'm reading "Teaching Kids Authentic Worship" by Kathleen Chapman and I couldn't wait to do a book review on this.  There are WAY too many nuggets as I am reading that I have to share!

She talks in the first couple of chapters about how the post modern world is "indoctrinating our children into believing everything is about them." As a parent, I confess that there are times that I contribute to this problem. In my attempt as a parent to "connect" to my children with their unique personalities and passions, I go overboard at times. It's very important to be in tune with our kids, but at the same time, we have to help them understand that the entire world does not revolve around their happiness, life being fair, or getting everything they desire.

In context to worship, we have to teach our kids that worship is about God and not about them. "Worship is one-directional. Worship is focusing on God and giving all glory to Him only, alone, singulary, totally - just Him," she writes. Even as an adult, there are time that I forget that when I worship, I am focusing my heart and mind on God and Him alone...not what I need or want...just Him. To really teach our kids to worship God, it has to start with them understanding it is not about them.

Kathleen quotes Ken Hughes, Senior Pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois saying...

"The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today's Christendom is that worship is primarily for us - to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment-focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who silently grade the performance...Taken to the nth degree,this instills a tragic self-centerdness."

Wow. That hit me. How many times do we do this? We rate our corporate worship experience on how much WE liked the worship leader, the song choices, the message...the stuff. Our kids are listening and learning what worship is by the way we talk about it. Are we teaching them that we worship because worship is really about them? or about God?

More to come...

Leave it to Pixar

Image They can't make a bad movie. Even if you don't love them all, none of them come close to even being a bad movie. Toy Story came out the year I was married.  I remember seeing it with my family in Florida where we lived at the time. I've seen everyone of them, but nothing was as special as seeing Toy Story 3 with BOTH of my kids. Sean is finally old enough to sit through a two-hour movie and actually stay with it (as long as there is plenty of popcorn, candy, and drink flowing!) We watched Toy Story 1 & 2 all week in anticipation for going to see it today, As they clung to their Buzz Lightyear and Jessie Cowgirl action figures (recent purchases from Walmart), they watched with wide eyes and laughed all the way through.

SPOILER ALERT!  Mom and Dad, on the other hand, were not always laughing (although "Ken"-voiced by Michael Keaton-was my favorite character-he was awesome!) I could have done without the ending. As Todd and I quietly sniffled through Andy's mom looking at his boxed up room and as Andy said goodbye to his toys, they got us. They made the grownups cry like babies.

We were not home five minutes and Sydney and Sean had assembled baby dolls, stuffed animals, trains, and other of their toys in the living room. They started acting out their own stories with them. I just sat and watched.

I read EW and I hardly ever agree with the reviews they do on movies. However, Owen Gleiberman did a great piece on Toy Story 3 about how HE cried during the movie. I loved the last paragraph of his article...

"...the spirit of imagination hasn't gone out of our world - it's there every time a child picks up an inanimate object of fun and sees, feels, experiences the hidden life in it...It says that they-and we-are going to be okay. As long as we remember that our inner child isn't what we're told, but what we invent."   - Owen Gleiberman, EW, 7.2.10 - pg. 24

I hate picking up toys...I really do. But Owen is right. The ability to play and invent is a priceless value. So, I'm going to be a little less frustrated when I see the towns and cities my kids have built all over the house and enjoy the invention of their creativity and imaginations a whole lot more than I do.

We've only just begun

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I thought I would have kids one day, but the longer I was married and the more I enjoyed doing all I was doing, I thought," Maybe that's not for me." So I lived my life and enjoyed all the wonderful musical things that I was able to do.  And then it happened on a day in September. I was doing my normal "power walk" up and down the hills of Bentwater in North Atlanta and it hit me. I wanted to share my love and passion for the arts with more than just those I minister with and to each week. I wanted a part of me to experience it. I wanted to have a child and share every bit of my life with them.I wanted to play a part, but not THE part.

So, Sydney comes into my life and we have enjoyed her first 5 years to the max. Our almost 2 years in NYC allowed us to do SO many artistic things together at museum and preschool music classes. It was amazing. But now, school fills her days. And I make every effort to weave arts and music into her life as much as I can. Sydney decided this fall to start playing the piano. Since she has started to read in school, it all clicked for her.  I can't tell you the joy of being able to sit and play the duet part on Christmas songs with her. Probably just like my mom felt when she did it with me!

Sydney joined The Hilton Head Dance School this year after having two great years at Bluffton School of Dance. We made the move for several reasons, but mainly because of Sydney's love of ballet. Every year for the past 24 years, The Hilton Head Dance Theatre has presented The Nutcracker on Hilton Head Island. It is in every way, an Island tradition. The 5 yr-old classes were cooks. Yes, Sydney was thrilled since that it was she has told us 2 years ago that she wants to be when she grows up (Todd is already planning to open a restaurant with her one day!) I was the class mom for one of the two performances that she was in last week. Todd and I attended the other one. For three hours, I helped corral 10 five year-olds to be ready for their 5 minutes in the show. Now, you may be thinking, "All of that for 5 minutes?"  The entire process is what is important. Getting dressed, make-up, hair, getting into character, getting your props (she has a spoon!), the excitement of being around great dancers of all ages, and then having that moment to be out there. Sydney came alive. Her smile was non-stop even when she was so tired in the green room waiting for the curtain call. I was merely a spectator that night - adjusting costumes and saying "SHHHH" a thousand times when we were back stage. But for me, I got so much more joy out of watching Sydney be an artist in her own 5-year old way than any gig I've played, song I have sung, or song I have written.

We took her to dinner at Eastern Restuarant.  Her choice...she wanted fried rice. We all got dressed up. Sydney asked Todd to wear a tie so he would be "handsome." Sydney's ballet teacher, Katie Girardi, was also having dinner at Eastern with Karena and John Carlyle, the founders of the Dance School, and others. We walked over to say hello and everyone at the table made Sydney feel as if the night was entirely for her. Katie has been so patient with Sydney as she had a few tough classes in the beginning of the year. The gratitude that I felt in that moment toward these fellow artists and how they were encouraging my daughter - more than words can express.

Sydney did great once again as we watched from the audience. Her daddy met her at the stage door after she had changed with 12 beautiful pink roses. The show closed the next day for this year, but the greatest part for me? We've only just begun...


Being a mom means...


1. That my personal priorities are always filtered through what I desire for my children.
2. That I have to be ok with house work not getting done because sometimes they just want me to sit with them and watch a movie.
3.  That my kids "need" a new outfit before I really ever think about the fact that I have been wearing the same pair of pants for 4 years.
4. My heart breaks anytime I hear about a child being hurt.
5. That I have 4 eyes watching my every move.
6. That I can have one day that I feel like "Mom of the Year" and the next day feel like an unfit parent.
7.  That I truly believe my mom was crazy to have 3 kids.
8.  That my kids give me the greatest joys in life and the deepest sorrow - sometimes in the same hour.
9.  That I will always feel guilty that I am not doing enough to raise them right.
10. That I will never grow tired of bedtime prayers and songs.
11.  That I will never grow tired of mealtimes together.
12. That I will never grow tired of their hugs and kisses.
13. That I maybe understand now that my Heavenly Father truly only wants what is best for me.
14. That I cannot fathom God's love for me to give up His only Son's life for someone like me.
15. That I am able to give my kids the legacy of faith that my mom gave to me. I love you, mom!

To all mothers out there, enjoy your day. You deserve it.

Teaching children about God

Sydney looked at me the other day while we were having lunch and asked me "Mommy, what is sin?" She's been hearing the Easter story at preschool and at church and she had a big question. My greatest struggle as a worship leader/church leader/mom is balancing how much I tell them about God and giving them the opportunity to ask and discover on their own. This post by Piper really helped me to understand what I am feeling about how I want my kids to learn about God (and if you know his story with his kids, you DEFINITELY know that He gets it). This one as well really hits on what kids need to understand first.  I have spent most of Sydney's preschool years discussing Creation and God's design for it and for her as an individual.  This has sparked great conversation about God and how the universe works.  Certain concepts make her afraid right now like Heaven - she doesn't want to go up in the clouds because it is too high! So, we are sticking to creation right now :)

What are some things you do to teach the basics about God to your kids?