An Evening in December turns 7

An evening in december-2015 design
I never imagined when I decided in the Fall of 2009 to do a Christmas concert with some desserts that it would become an annual event on Hilton Head Island. I had only lived here for a couple of years and had just started to meet some musicians and thought, "Hey, this could be fun! Let's perform some great Christmas classics and have some dessert for an hour!" The response the first year was overwhelming and has been every year. Every show has been different but the core of the team of artists that began together to do this show has remained unchanged. That blows we away!

We sold out of both shows a week before the event this year. First time ever. The work it takes for this team of artists to gather together each year to make this happen is amazing. None of us have time to do this show. We try to fit rehearsals in as best we can but really don't have enough time to work everything out...yet, somehow, we pull it together at the show! Everyone does what they have to do to make this a part of their year each year. I am so grateful for the artists who give so much, who enjoy the process almost more than the product, and for the relationships that have developed and been brought back together again...because of a little, simple, Christmas concert.

Now in its 7th year, we have an entire team of event directors, dessert coordinators, cookie and dessert bakers, and an ARMY of adult and student volunteers who serve at the concerts each year. I am so thankful for this team and how they come together once a year to create such a magical night for our Islanders and their families.

We have had Buddy the Elf (really!), ballet, "Grandma Getting Run over by Reindeer", and "Carol of the Bells "(like no other) to name a few elements.  I am so excited about Sunday night because of what it has represented through the years AND the new artists that have joined this event this year...some of our school music teachers and professionals singers on the Island. 

Never underestimate the power of a musical community coming together to be a part of something greater than anything they could ever do on their own. I know I never will. Here's an audio sample of some great performances through the years...

Evening in December Sampler

 

DSCF8625 Our first year - 2009

 
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 2013 

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 2014  

 


Re-tooling

Toolbox-primaryI shared a couple of days ago on our HHICC blog about changes in my ministry life. Honestly, the last two years have been an intense time of soul-searching, frustration, reflection, and wondering, "What is up with me?"

I took a sabbatical in January 2013 fully expecting that at the end of that 5 weeks that God was going to release me from worship ministry. I was exhausted, depleted, felt old and tired, not effective...fill in the blank. To my surprise, he didn't release me. Instead, he "tweaked" my calling in a way that gave me a renewed passion.  He showed me how much I love process. He showed me how much I love every aspect of the worship experience on Sundays from video to lighting to music to the high schooler playing guitar to the message to the temperature of our room to the social media and web presence that brought people there for the first time. I had no idea how passionate I was about all that until that time. I have always led that effort for our team out of necessity but I had no idea how much that was "my thing."

I had the privilege of coordinating the  IF: LOCAL Gathering at our church in February and had scheduled a different team from our ministry to lead on Sunday since I knew I would be pretty exhausted. The IF: Gathering was a life-changing experience for me. That Sunday, as I worshipped NEXT to my husband (yeah, that never happens) in the congregation, I truly sensed the Holy Spirit saying, "You don't have to be up there every week anymore." I felt such a release from that part of my ministry immediately. Not because I initiated it. Because God said I was done.

I shared this with Todd and he has been so supportive about what God has been doing in my life in this area. For us personally, with the "unique" relationship we have as husband and wife and Lead Pastor and Worship Leader, he has seen how God has brought new people into our team to make this change a possibility. I'm not a clique person, but this has been so true. "God does not guide where He does not provide."

I am re-tooling. For many of our church family, they may not even notice a significant change. But for me, it is completely different in the way I am organizing my life, my time, my responsibilities, and my focus. I start in a couple of weeks leading a mentoring group of worship leaders in our church from age 16 to well...I will be sharing a lot of what we talk about here at cheval glass

Philippians 1:6 says ,"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)  So here's to the "new" good work ahead and learning how to use these different tools in my toolbox.


God is real...now what?

If local HHI  I've waited a few days to process what I wanted to share about my experience attending the IF:Gathering last weekend at our IF:Local HHI.

I'm not an "event" person. Frankly, because I have been a part of the behind-the-scenes of putting on events for more years than I can count, I'm kind of a cynic.   There is so much work involved and a lot of people don't want to commit the time to do what it takes to do an event with excellence. Right out of the gate, the prep of doing the IF:Gathering was VERY enticing to me. Not too much prep...Graphics and slides pre-made...(great looking stuff!) Event materials...pre-done.

Our team went into the weekend with NO one worn out or over worked. We were able to all play to our strengths with not a lot on one person. The communication from IF:Gathering BEFORE the event was outstanding. The Tumblr page, the FB page...all of it. The forums to ask questions...awesome.

So for this cynic, I already started ahead of where I usually am with events. A lot of prayer went into the tech because of the internet thing - we did everything we could on our end, and thank God, it worked great. So then, I got to be a part of the event...

I showed up at this event very desperate. 2014 was not the greatest year for me personally or my family. I showed up very empty and really had no idea what to expect from this experience. I've been a Christ-follower for many years, but I was showing up pretty tired, hurt, hopeless about certain things in my life, wondering if I REALLY was going to be able to make it...seriously make it...

From the first sessions, I realized that this was NOT like any event I had ever been a part of before. It was not about personalties, it was well done but not slick, it was honest and transparent, and it was not pulling any punches. They didn't waste my time. They got right to it (thank you for that.)

As Friday night and Saturday unfolded, there was a peace that overwhelmed me in my spirit that I cannot explain other than "God is real, He loves me, and I can trust Him" being presented by women that actually believed that.  I appreciated the realness and the respect that each presenter had for us as women. We needed time to process, to worship God freely through music, to talk with each other, to confess, to just be...they gave us plenty of time for ALL of that. My soul needed that desperately.

There wasn't one thing about the IF:Gathering...one presenter...one element. It was the whole thing that filled me with a freshness and awakening that I needed in every area of my life. I left the weekend experience with specific things that I need to deal with in my life. I left with specific areas that I know I need to trust God. I left with new friendships that would never have happened without that experience. I left knowing and feeling God's love me and that he has not abandoned me. I am embarrassed to say I thought that in some areas of my life.

It wasn't an event...it was move of God through the best use of technology I have ever seen. To do something in one place and create it in such a way that a room of 25 women over 1100 miles away felt connected and a part of something greater? To still have the elements of what is happening in our room, in our church, and in our community as much a part of the experience? 

To give women the opportunity to face whether we believe God is real and if He is, can we trust Him? If we trust Him, what are we gonna do in our lives to life that out? A clear message yet so much room for God to work individually in the hearts and minds of women. That is next step. I CANNOT wait to see what God does in my life and the lives of HHICC women as a result of the movement of the IF:Gathering...get ready.


It's time, women

Being a women in ministry for the past...oK...many years... twenty something...has been a privilege and yet a lonely experience. Granted, I have enjoyed being a part of the "early days" of women who were hired at the executive level of churches. Honestly. Had it not been for certain male leaders who were not afraid to let "a woman" lead, I would not be where I am today. You know who you are :-)

I've been praying for our church (and for me) to have an awakening to the importance of community among women around the principles of God's Word, our value to God as women, and living life with all the hats we wear. I have great expectation about the future and movements that are getting traction in our world for women like me and women who are in need of community (like me!)

There are two movements that I am excited to get connected and be a part of in 2015! I call them movements because they are driven by a COMMUNITY of women and not just one person (I love that!)

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IF:Gathering

We are now an IF: Local chapter and will be partnering with ALL aspects of the IF movement at HHICC. We are a LOCAL gathering for the IF:Gathering event on Friday-Saturday, February 6-7. If you live in the HHI area, please join us! Register here.

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Propel Women

This is launching TODAY at my Alma Mater with a week of activies. If you are a woman in leadership, get connected to this on Facebook, Twitter, and their magazine. Can't wait to see what happens with this! Excited to see how this will impact the NEXT generation of women (including my daughter).

It's time, women...let's go!


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."


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)


A first step

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IMG_5957  Sunday night, we had the opportunity to sponsor a Global Missions Benefit Concert for our four missions partners at HHICC. All the bands performed for free, the food was provided by Harold's Diner, and we accepted donations for all our partners throughout the night.

I've been giddy since Sunday night for so many reasons.  I was so thrilled with the turnout for the event.  Because we have never done anything like this before, we had NO idea what the turnout would be for this.  It was the first time we have hosted a concert in our new facility since we moved in last July. We invited the "Voted Best Band of 2012" on the Island, Cranford and Sons (who Randy, one of our drummers, is a founding member), and a singer-songwriter friend of Cranford, Angel Snow to join our HHICC artists (who opened the night's concert). Brandon and Kim Smith also performed and shared about their ministry, No Hungry Children.

I have a sincere passion to create avenues for artists to engage with the church. I feel very strongly that the "Church at Large" needs to do a better job of this.  Last night was a first step for us at HHICC.  Doing events like this allows the walls to come down  in every way.  We find what we can do together and create opportunitues for partnership and new relationships are formed.  Oh..and it was like a giant party!

I am so thankful for our team who served, most of them since 7am that morning for services.  It was an amazing expereience to see people from all over our Island community, not just our church community, come and support these artists as well as projects to build schools in Belize, feed kids in Africa, and send Islanders on mission trips.

Sometimes as a church, we don't do a very good job bringing the community together. I recognize that. Last night, we DID! It was such a privilege to host it, to participate in the concert with other artists, and share our music together. All of it...to benefit people all over the world who need our help...and we made new friends in the process.

This is not the end...I can't wait to do this again!  I look forward to MORE opportunities for us to create avenues for artists and the community to come together here on the Island.


Reset

IMG_5651  Driftwood Beach - Jekyll Island, GA

If I had one word to describe what my 30-day sabbatical was for me, that's the word. In every area of my life, I feel that I have a "inner button" switched from where I was before my time away and where I am now.  I truly went into this time with no expectation. As a highly-driven person, I probably had more fear than anything heading into 30 days of no responsibilities.  Everything I did for that time was from my heart - a true desire to do it. Whether it was sitting in a lounge chair somewhere in the Carribean or sitting with my son after school to help him read...I did what I enjoyed doing. 

The interesting thing is that I wasn't sure what I enjoyed doing in ministry and in a lot of areas of my life before my sabbatical.  I couldn't separate what I was responsble for from what I really loved doing.  I found myself just bursting with new songs I wanted to share, some I had written, and others that I was worshipping with alone. I started to "feel" again. I think I had become numb to a lot of the day-to-day of my life.  I didn't realize how far I had gone down that road.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the power of sleep can never be underestimated. For the most part, I've been consistently going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time. My new mantra my first week back has been,"Cynthia, that's enough for today." I feel like I'm treating myself like my own kids sometimes, but I have alot of unhealthy margins to correct.

Spiritually, I'm so thankful for the large amounts of time that I had alone with God.  I filled the pages of my sabbatical journal and I practiced what Lance Witt refers to as "spiritual loitering." I spent alot of time wasting time with God and being quiet.  I know that is why my songwriting was so rich and plentiful during my sabbatical.

Before my sabbatical, I had become disconnected to some of my life-long friends. I made plans with almost everyone of them either in person or phone during my 30-days. I am so thankful for the love, grace, and prayers they poured over me and the encouragement they were to me during this time. You know who you are...thank you for being fresh water to my soul.

I wasn't sure if I would be coming back to ministry after this time way.  My exhaustion level was at my core.  I laid everything on the line with God and told Him that if I needed to be done, I was fine with that. Twenty years is a long time and if my season was done, I was willing to be done. I was pleasantly suprised.  Not only did God clearly reveal to me in my time with Him that I am NOT done, He renewed my heart and passion for His people in the local church.  He refined my calling as I begin this next season of ministry. For the first time in a LONG time, I have a more clear understanding of how my days should be spent as a pastor's wife and a Worship Arts Director.

IMG_5756  There were also some areas in my life that I realized were not as "jumbled" as I thought they were. Having a clear head helped me to see what was going well in my life and celebrate that!   Our family vacation on a Disney Cruise just put a BIG exclamation point on my time away. Since we were not able to have a fmaily vacation in 2012 (it was scheduled for the week we moved into our new facility!), it was a wonderful treat to spend that time with them. Todd and I had great conversations during my sabbatical and we sense a true refreshment in our marriage and in our family.

I sensed anxiety and worry trying to creep in this week as I returned to normal life and then it as if the Holy Spirit just speaks to me and says, "No, we aren't going there." and it passes before it has a hold on me.  I know there will be days when it wins. I'm celebrating it didn't this week!

I couldn't get this song out of my head during my time away. I think it became my heart's cry and how I want to move forward in my life...

"I need you more...more than yesterday / I need you more...more than words can say / I need you more...than ever before/ I need you more...I need you, Lord/ More than the air I breathe/ More than the song I sing/ More than the next heartbeat/ More than anything/ And Lord, as time goes by/I will be by Your side/ 'Cause I never want to go back to my old life." Written by Bruce Haynes and Lindell Cooley ©1996 CCLI #2061678

It's the last line of that song that I think has just stuck with me. That's what reset means. And that's what I'm leaning into each day. 


Sunday Recap...with a twist

Here I am–247  This week, I had the privilege to share my story with our church in context with our 24/7 Series on Worship.  It was a great experience on the message preparation side of learning how to manuscript (thank you, @toddcullen!) and create an outline for our message notes.  Although  I serve on our Message Prep team here @hhichurch, it was definitely a twist to be playing and singing in the band and then communicate right after that! I think Todd enjoyed the tables being turned this week in our Thursday evaluation time...I'm usually the one DOING the evaluation!

The coolest thing for me as a Service Programming Director was to weave the songs I chose into the context of my outline. Todd and Cody do a great job connecting with that already, but it was cool to see how to pull the ENTIRE service together with what I said and what we sang.

Thank you SO much to my @hhichurch family for all your prayers before and your encouraging words after each service.  It was DEFINITELY something I was nervous about doing (mainly because I didn't want to say anything that Todd would have to clean up the next week!) Stephanie led worship SO well and the band just played AMAZINGLY! Here was our service order:

"Rise and Sing"

Welcome/Announcements

"Glory to God Forever"

Prayer

"Our God"

MESSAGE (You can listen on our podcast! "24/7:Here I am")

"Awakening"

My prayer was that as I shared my story that the concept of worship being an outward expression of an inward faith would really sink into people's minds. I struggled for SO many years with looking good on the outside but not really living it on the inside. I know I will always have the struggle, but I'm so thankful that I have "given up" on what I want in life in general and have decided to surrender to God's plan for my life.

Read more recaps here