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


Sunday Recap

I'm still just settling into this new routine with worship leading. My life is so different now because I only lead worship on my own once a month now.  I look so forward to it and I really feel that I lead so much more passionately because I am so much more prepared being " a part" of the worship leading team.  This has been a great transition and I'm so thankful for Steph, Christine, Daniel and Deb - our awesome Worship Leaders at HHICC!

Here was our setlist:

"Children of the Light"

Welcome

"Salvation is Here"

Worship Video 

"It's You"

Video Bumper

Message

"Your Love so High"

Clogging/Dismiss (that's for you, JVo!)

One of my favorite moments from yesterday was during our team prayer and devotions during the first service. Our newest guitar player, Sam, had this HUGE smile on his face. I was so curious and so I asked him, "Sam, why are you smiling?" He looked at me said, "That was SO much fun. I'm having so much fun!" My heart just skipped a beat having this high school student be so excited about being a part of this. He arrived at 6:45 am yesterday morning for a 7:15 downbeat. I was moved by his enthusiasm and also humbled by his servant's heart.

People really participated yesterday. I love choosing songs that allow them to sing out with all their hearts! It was a great day of worship together!

Check out more recaps here.


Sunday Recap

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There is nothing I enjoy more as a service programming director than preparing an entire service that focuses on the beauty of the Cross of Christ. This week, we had the opportunity to do this with a more "free-form" approach to our corporate worship experience.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE SERVICE ON OUR PODCAST.

One of my MANY favorite things about having a new facility is the ability for people to easily move around the Worship Center.  We provided three worship experience stations in our service: Commuion, Prayer, and Giving. After some corporate time of focused music and prayer, we gave the congregation the freedom to "create" their worship experience by choosing which stations to visit and in whatever order they chose. We sang, offered prayers, and Scripture during this time as people moved about the room.

From a musical standpoint, having just two vocals, keys, acoustic, and upright bass was very refreshing. It was twice the amount of music we normally prepare, but it was a nice change to be off click and just play together and worship.

Here was our setlist:

"I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)"

Welcome/Announcements

"Desert Song"

"Mighty to Save"

Prayer

"Restless"

Video

Worship Station Set-up

Scripture Readings

"Breathe"

"The Wonderful Cross"

Scripture Readings

"Agnus Dei"

Video

"Bless the Lord (10,000 Reasons)"

Closing/Dismiss

We plan to do these types of services on a quarterly basis and I can't wait...

"The cross is God's truth about us, and therefore it is the only power that can make us truthful.  When we know the cross, we are no longer afraid of the truth."  - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

More setlists...


Our First CD

IMG_4817  It's been an amazing experience recording and producing our first worship CD at HHICC. After being a part of several Worship CD projects through the years, you learn so much about the process and what works. I have to say that this process of recording and bringing in a producer  was by far the best expereience I have had to date. To have 15 different volunteer musicians and singers be able to participate and record band and vocals in 5 days...it was awesome.

Tomorrow night is the CD release concert at 6p and I can't wait to have all these musicians and singers on ONE stage to perform these songs. Here's a video promo from our local TV station on HHI.


Sunday Recap

It's not often that I have the opportunity to be a participant in a worship service. For any worship leader, it is a rare and treasured experience. I planned the service, scheduled the team, created the video elements..no surprises here. In light of that, I was truly attending my church yesterday as a worshiper...and I truly worshiped.

I discovered several things that happened yesterday that I needed to truly connect with God, with others, and to leave the service ready for the day and week.

1. I needed Time to get comfortable. The first 20 minutes as we were singing, I needed that time to get settled in. The music and welcome time gave me the opportunity to speak with several people, to sing, to get my focus on the reason I was there.

2. I needed Time to be quiet. There was an opportunity between two songs and at the end of the song before the video transition to the message. I was able to quiet my thoughts before the message began.

3. I needed to hear Biblical teaching that encouraged me evaluate where I am with God. Todd's message was something I truly needed to hear. Although I may be married to the Pastor, I do not know everything about his sermons each week. This was one of those weeks I had the general idea, but the Holy Spirit definitely spoke through Him in a very real way to me.

4. It was long enough. The service was about 68 minutes. I didn't get distracted. I didn't feel that it was rushed. I was actually wanting more, which is exactly how I wanted to leave...wanting more of God.

It goes without saying that as the Worship Director I listened to the mix, evaluated the screens, the flow of the service...yeah, it was awesome. I do believe that because those things were so excellent and God-focused, it gave such an open door to the worship experience being free of distraction. Thank you, team, for doing just that!