What I learned from 2010

As I reflect on this New Year's Eve on the past year, I have several things that I learned that I think are worth sharing here at cheval glass. I know that we all look at the beginning of a new year as the opportunity for a fresh start and new challenges. But I think there is a lot to be learned by reflecting on the past - good and bad - and taking those lessons into your future.  As Socrates said, " The unexamined life is not worth living." So with that, here we go..

1. Time is the greatest healer...the more time that passes from hurtful circumstances and situations that have occured in my life, I truly feel healing and restoration growing in my heart and mind. The memory is there, the scar may always be visible, the wound closes as time passes. I am thankful for what I am forgetting now more than ever!

2. I control my time and priorities...I allow things to "take over" and consume me - no one else does this to me - it is my decision what I allow to be the priorities in my life everyday. It's my choice.

3. Who I am in Christ will always be the measurement of my worth.  The longer I am in full-time ministry  (16 years so far!), the more I find peace and affirmation in my heart from this and this alone. As a worship leader, people like the songs I choose or people don't like the songs I choose. They have strong feelings about which campus I lead worship each week ( it's very sweet when I am missed...thank you!) I change my hair and people like or don't like that I changed my hair. I gain weight, I lose weight...all of this is SO unpredictable - it never lands anywhere. I am SO thankful that my God never changes and my worth to Him is not wrapped up in song selections, hair color, weight gain or loss, or meeting expectations. I am HIS child and that's where I am safe and secure.

4. There is nothing better than a good night's sleep. I have struggled with panic anxiety disorder for years and sleeping through the night is a luxury in different seasons of my life. I have had four or five great nights of sleep this past week on vacation and I feel like a new person! I need to do less in the evenings so that I can wind down sooner...that definitely made a difference this week!

5. Treasure every moment with those that mean the most to you. I have watched my sister and her family battle cancer with my brother-in-law and she has done this to the best of her ability. I have watched her make the most of moments at cancer treatments in NYC with her children and with her husband. It has made me more grateful and appreciative of those I love.

6. Have fun even if you don't have time.  I took a few trips with my sister,  family and friends at different times this year and I am so glad that I did. It was difficult with my job and the responsibilities I have, but I am glad I didn't allow that to keep me from being with them and making some great memories.

7. I love to blog and I'm ready to jump back in this year. I started blogging in 2006 and I have had good years and not so good years. This was one of those years that I let it sit on the back burner for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that I love doing it. I have truly missed sharing moments of my life here. Honestly, some of it was intentional because I truly needed a year to be unplugged. Some of it was just not making it a priority. However, I know that this is vital part of my journey and a discipline that I need to embrace again in 2011.

8. Watching my children grow up is the greatest gift to me as a mother. Sean was riding his brand new bike this afternoon and I can't believe he will be four in a few weeks. I am so thankful that I have the privilege to remember giving birth to him and now watch him ride a bike. Sydney has been journaling so much the past couple of months. I am so thankful I have the privilege of remembering when she couldn't write her name and now she is writing pages and pages of her thoughts. Some moms and dads do not have the privilege to see it happen.  I am so thankful that I can.

9. It takes two, baby. Marvin Gaye was right. My life does not work without Todd. We are a team in every aspect of the word. For those of us parents that both work outside the home, it's the only way to survive. We each have our strengths and weaknesses that we bring to our relationship, but we are truly confident in what we bring to our marriage and to our family. It works for us and I am so thankful for the partner that God sent me 15 years ago. We are not the typical family with typical roles. We are different and I am so thankful that God chose the perfect man to live with me! One of my favorite memories this year is when I picked Sydney up from school on a Monday (as that is one of my days to pick up) and three cars behind me was Todd...to pick up Sydney...yeah, he thought he told me he was getting her that day "to help me out." But it all works out...I'm sure there will be a day that neither of us picks her up...thank goodnes for Amy Cunningham who helps us out!

Well that's about it. I don't want to ramble. I hope your 2010 has taught you some things that you can take with you into 2011.  I leave with you a quote from one of my favorite authors as you leave this year behind and embrace the future.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”  

- C.S. Lewis

Day Two Reflections @ NWLC

IMG_9090  The highlight of today was Chris Tomlin's songwriting session after lunch. The room was packed, of course. He shared with us his story of how he met Louie Giglio and began as a worship leader and songwriter. Here were some of his bullet points.

  • The Word of God is His inspiration.
  • Write from life circumstances, themes of your community of faith, and in community with others.
  • You are writing the songs that teach people about God.
  • I want to write the songs people can sing, want to sing, and need to sing

I appreciated his sincerity and his ability to be very transparent about how he never thought when he wrote songs like "We Fall Down" and "Holy is the Lord" that they would be sung all over the world. He was just expressing his heart to God. He really emphasized that our writing has to be God-inspired and from a place where we are worshiping Him.

The most interesting thing that happened today actually had nothing to do with the conference.  Chris took some time for Q & A  at the end of his session and a girl asked him something like " I know this maybe inappropriate, but why aren't you married?" Everyone laughed, Chris laughed and drank water and kept looking around the back of the room. It was about 30-45 seconds of this kind awkward moment and then he said." It's interesting you asked that question, because I just got engaged yesterday." Well, you can imagine...the room went nuts! It was quite a moment!

Jonathan Lee, Laura Story, and Chris Tomlin led our night of worship. It was probably my favorite so far - mainly because Laura and Chris led us in songs that we sing on a regular basis at LowCountry. The place was so alive and people were singing at the top of their lungs! When Chris was leading, I was overwhelmed with what happened in the room. To gather such a diverse group of worship leaders from ALL over the world and then to hear us all singing the same songs, one after another - it may be realize even more how much Chris Tomlin has written the songs of this generation of churches  all over the world.

I didn't film really anything this week because I just wanted to be in the moment an worship, but I had to grab the last 45 seconds of "Sing, Sing,Sing." so that you could see what is it like to get a room full of worship leaders together worshiping God!

Day One Reflections @ NWLC10

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I chose the songwriting track for Day One - Keith Getty, Laura Story, and Matt Redman. I felt as if the three of them got together (which they didn't) and talked about how they would connect their talks to one another!

Songwriting is a sincere passion in my life. I had my first song recorded by a Southern Gospel group at the age of 18. I've written songs for Christian artists. I've had the amazing privilege of writing arranging, and producing a record for our church in Atlanta with original songs from our church. I do not share all this as an accolade to myself. I share it as a testimony to how much songwriting has been a part of my life.

The last line of that paragraph is the point I'm trying to make...has been. I've allowed the busy schedule of raising kids, doing ministry, and pure laziness to invade this creative passion that God placed in my heart many years ago.  Here are some things that I learned.

  • At its essence, Christianity is a story. Hymns show us how to sing our faith. - Keith Getty
  • As songwriters, God uses the normal things in our lives to write the soundtrack for the church. - Laura Story.
  • What is in God's Kingdom that is about being the BEST at something? Being the best should not be the goal of songwriting. -Laura Story
  • What are the themes for your church right now? Ask you Lead Pastor what God is saying to him about the future of our church. This is visionary songwriting. - Matt Redman

I feel in some ways that God is rebuking me this week for not embracing this gift in my life. I feel the Holy Spirit telling me that it's time to not be a " former" songwriter anymore and embrace this calling on my life in this new season of my life at LowCountry.

The heart of these three worship leaders/songwriters was very exposed. They all have a passion for the local church which so resonates with my heart. They believe strongly in writing FOR the local church and writing songs for our own communities of faith. I know this is what God is calling me to do at LCC. Pastor Jeff has been reading my updates and has ALREADY affirmed me in doing this. I am processing this and asking God for the strength to do what I feel He is calling me to and being faithful to do it - regardless of what others think or whether these songs every leave the lowcountry. These will be OUR songs of faith as a community of believers.

The night of worship was tremendous. One Sonic Society opened (who I heard live earlier this year and LOVE), Tenth Avenue North performed, and then Matt Redman. The thing that struck me is that Matt has written SO many amazing songs that he could have lead us in only songs that he has written and WE would have known them all! But, he chose songs from others as well to lead us in worship. He lead us in worship and encouraged us as leaders to bring truth to our congregations..to teach the truth of God's Word...to sing the truth of the redeeming power of Jesus in our lives. 

More updates to come...follow me on twitter or facebook.


Straight_as_an_arrow_sticker-p217645205628483388tdcj_210 My absence from Cheval Glass on a regular basis here is not because of lack of interest in blogging. I've been on another track. These last few months as I have embraced my new role at LowCountry as the Programming Director have been amazing. There have been days of hard work, learning brand new things, sharing new ideas, involving new people, but most of all...a huge investment of time. Now, as I look forward to a great week of vacation unplugged from my daily routine and ministry life, it is time to realign. Some big rocks have been moved over the last few months.  Here are just a few things our team has accomplished.

  • We moved our website to a web-based platform (Thanks to Luke at Hunger and Thirst Design).
  • We have trained and equipped an entire volunteer technical staff at the Bluffton Campus.
  • We are rotating players and singers between two campuses.
  • We are operating Pro4 as our video presentation software at both campuses.
  • Our most recent set design and logo were designed and implemented by volunteers.

I am so thrilled about our team and the journey ahead for us. I am so blessed to have the team of volunteers to serve with at LCC. However, the time has come for some personal realignment.  Realignment is defined as "to change the position or direction of (something) slightly usually in relation to something else." The something else for me is focused and scheduled personal development time. I hope to begin this week with some new things that I want to make a part of my life routine. I will be sharing about them over the next week here at cheval glass.

Would you pray for me? If you are a follower of Christ and are reading this, just say a prayer for me for the next seven days. I have great expectations for a tremendous week of realignment.

Recreate 2010 Recap

The 10th Anniverary of cre:ate was ALL that and a bag of chips! By the time I leave every year, I am brimming over with ideas and a replenished soul...this year was no different. The word for the week was "authenticity." I was so struck by that character trait in SO many of our speakers and musicians. There were SO many amazing moments that I cannot recount them all.

I will fail to mention in this post all the details of the wonderful conversations at meals, at our tables, and at late night gatherings with friends and new friends. That is THE BEST part of recreate. So for me, here were some highlights during the conference:

  • IMG_1152  Our morning worship times with Ian Cron, Audrey Assad, and Matt Maher were the most spiritually enriching moments of the week. Look for a new song written by Audry and Matt called "Restless." It's not out yet, but look for it...I can't stop singing it!
  • I was overwhelmed by Stephen Mansfield and Dan Cathy...these men had SO much to say to us as church leaders, I was inspired by their authenticity and challenged by their ideas.
  • Sheila Walsh and Luci Swindoll shared amazing testimonies with us that inspired me and brought such perspective to being in ministry and living life in general.

IMG_8876  However, the most amazing and...well, the only word that I can use to describe it is "transcendent...was hearing Gungor perform their entire new album from start to finish with no talking or transition. What you hear on the recording, we saw and experienced live (including a string section) with amazing video elements that enhanced the musical experience. I haven't experienced any musical event that was as fresh, musical, worshipful, artistic, and as excellent as their performance. GO SEE THEM! It is amazing...I really have no words to describe it. Buy this record.

The founder of this conference, Randy Elrod, released his new book this week. I blogged about it here. It was so meaningful to hear Randy share his personal journey of writing this book. Randy and his wife Chris are life-long mentors and amazing people. They also have a 10 year old Maltese like me so that REALLY makes them special!

I feel so blessed that I have a such a safe place to go every year for 4 days and be encouraged, challenged, convicted, harassed :), to laugh, and to cry...all of this with friends!

I'm ready for what God has for me this year...and I know it is because He had my attention in a big way last week in Franklin, TN...

We got it

I showed up tonight at VIBE with a confident spirit, but wondering how this was going to go. Todd is out of town and I am no longer in a leadership role in our Student Ministry (read hear about that that.) Everything that would be happening tonight would be executed by volunteers - no paid staff.I arrived a little later than I wanted to and was a little stressed. I drove up and people were arriving. I walked in and the band was waiting on me! Everyone was on stage and ready to go. The room was set-up for the night, games were out, food was ready in the hallway. I tweaked a couple of sound things at the board and we ran through our songs. I walked off stage and grabbed some pizza and talked to kids and parents for about 40 minutes. About 30 kids showed up tonight. I helped Randy get his countrymen mic on and showed him how it worked. This was his first time speaking tonight. Everything started. I was signaled to the stage for our songs. Every cue was tight - lights, video, transitions. It was perfect. Then Randy got up to talk. He taught from the book of Job about the testing of your faith. He used the story of Bethany Hamilton in 3 parts using video clips from wingclips. It was amazing. He dismissed the students to small groups after his talk and that was it. I was so blown away by the entire evening, I really didn't have words to describe how I was so ministered to personally by the whole experience.

You have moments in ministry when working with volunteer leaders takes so much more time than if you had just done it yourself. I've been there. But when you sit back and watch developed leaders execute with the same level of excellence that YOU would have if you had been leading it? It is a humbling and exciting experience all at the same time. I don't mention names a whole lot but I told these guys that I HAD to blog about this tonight. Maire, you knocked it OUT of the park. Great producing, organization, and leadership to everyone on your team. Randy, I really don't have the words to express how God is shinning so brightly through your life. Luke, even though people mistake you for one of the students :), you are becoming a great worship leader for them and our church as a whole.

BTW - I mentioned to a small group leader that Todd was out of town. She said, "Oh, yeah, I didn't realize he wasn't here." Yeah, that made his night when I told him :)

Forgive me if this entry comes across as a vain or self-absorbed offering. That is not my intention. Todd and I are OCD about everything. Church planting made us realize how bad it really is with us. We LOVE what we do. But in doing it ourselves, we can rob others of the blessing of leading and doing it as well.  I write this to encourage those of you who are like Todd and I that it CAN happen. Things can be done well and with excellence and you do not have to be in charge. Church planters, you will kill yourselves if you don't get this. Business leaders, you will lose good people in your organization if you do not give your team opportunities to run with the ball. I left tonight when it was over. I didn't lock a door or clean up a thing. I was told, "We got it." I think those are my new favorite words.

The greatest complement of a leader

In 2004, I got pregnant with our 1st child, Sydney. I was working full-time at NorthStar Church as the Programming Director and had grown with that ministry since it's first few months of existence in 1996-97. By then, I had been blessed with a great volunteer team of worship leaders (2 of the 6 were paid - I was one of them) and a great staff (part-time media director and a full-time administrator).  But the true test was coming. I would take my maternity leave and I really didn't know how this was going to go with being gone for 6-8 weeks and then moving back into that role as a new mom. I prepared my team, delegated, planned, and then Sydney came 4 weeks earlier than she was due. I will never forget what a volunteer in my ministry told me when I returned. "Have you really been gone for six weeks? I don't want to hurt your feelings, Cynthia, but it didn't even seem like you were gone." It was the greatest complement that I could have ever received as a leader. In the early days of church planting, there is a lot YOU have to do. It has taken me two years with this church plant to be ready to hand off big things with a qualified team.  I handed off a huge programming piece to my programming leadership team last week. What exactly?  Every aspect of the programming elements of our student program on Wednesday nights called VIBE . Todd came home last night and said, (because he knows it makes me feel good) "Your team did great. You weren't even missed." I'm just a musician in the band on Wednesdays now (as needed). You may be thinking., "I don't know where to start to give leadership away?" Here are some thoughts that have worked for me. If you are not a leader who likes other people being able to do your job, you should stop reading this now.

1. Everything in your job could be done by someone else.  If you are the only one that can do your job at your organization, you are crippling the future of your ministry and the overall organization.

2. There is a HUGE difference between empowering a leader and abandoning a leader. Empowering means that you walk the ropes with them. You do it together for awhile. You discuss the 40,000 foot view of why, how, when, and where of all of it. You give them the opportunity to do it with you, but you are still there. You let them ask every dumb question. You are patient. You let them make choices different than what you would have done and you stand by their choices.  Abandoning a leader? well, it's the opposite of everything I just mentioned.

3. Affirm, affirm, affirm. They need to know that you approve. Debrief after big things. Ask them how they felt it went. What went well? What didn't go well? What do they need from me moving forward? Are you having a good time? 

4. Be ready when they quit or can't do the job. Not every leader is able to rise to the occasion after the baton has been passed. It's ok. Love them through it and help them refocus. They feel worse about it than you could ever imagine.

5. Other people won't like it that you are not leading everything. Every time I hand off something to a another team or leader, people assume something is wrong. I've had perfectly wonderful church members tell me that they didn't give their tithe money to hear "other people" sing. They came to hear me. Yeah, I had to count to 10 to respond to that one.

None of this is possible if you as a leader are so consumed in the fact that you have earned the right to do this.  I take what I do very seriously, but I know that it is God's grace that I have the privilege to be leading anything. Great leaders in my life (who were probably a little crazy) thought it was worth their time and frustration to let a 13-year-old lead a vocal group, a 19-year-old lead a entire rhythm section, and a 26-year-old lead an entire Worship Ministry at a church of 1500 people. Working myself out of my job is my goal. I love being a part of a team and giving away opportunity to others so they can do things they never dreamed they could do. So tell me you don't miss me when I'm not around...that makes me really happy.

The power of the passionate volunteer

It's the eve of our 2nd year anniversary celebration as a church campus. I just printed the order of service (for the 3rd time since I keep changing it!) We're having one service at Hilton Head High School, complete with Jumpy House games for the kids, Free food afterwards - just a huge party! This week has been a lot of coordination and getting stuff from our permanent facility to the High School....oh, and I learned the basics of Final Cut Pro Express this week to edit a video I produced with John from our Bluffton Campus. Whirlwind is the only word to describe it! However, I spent today with the family, riding bikes, did a little clothes shopping, grilled out for dinner...just enjoying this wonderful Island weather (see my previous post on margins!)  As I reflected today on this past 2 years, a conversation I had this week really sums up the level of excitement and in some ways true joy about the way I feel about where we are as a church.  I was talking with 2 volunteer leaders over pizza and grape soda at VIBE (there names have been kept secret, but they know who they are!). They were expressing to me their frustration that we (mainly me!) do not ask them to serve enough. They were half-kidding about the fact that they want to help more, but we don't let them. The irony of this is that both of these leaders serve 1 maybe 2 days a week in different roles. They are passionate and with that passion comes the need for the "pace-yourself enforcer" which is me.  I am estatic that I am getting grief from leaders about THIS!  These 2 leaders were not involved at LCC two years ago. One of them didn't even live here. You cannot bottle and sell the passion that they have. Without the passionate volunteer, your ministry will not flourish. As a staff member, you can only take it so far and then you are just wore out. Todd and I have had seasons when we have tried to do too much. Don't want to go there again. This story is just a snapshot of the passion that runs deep in the hearts of our team. This is their church...their investment...their community. It's bigger than all of us and isn't that what we all truly desire? To be a part of something that is SO much larger than we can conceive?  I end this night with so much thankfulness for the journey thus far...all of the moments that I wanted to quit (yes folks, there were moments!), all the moments of utter joy when someone accepted Christ as their Savior or re-dedicated their life to following Jesus, and especially my "altercation" with my 2 friends this week.  I will sleep with great expectations of celebrating this with our church family tomorrow, but also with great anticipation for the days ahead.



I like to live full throttle. Keep going till you just drop dead of exhaustion. I enjoy the rush of a deadline, pulling an all-niter to record music or edit a video, and all the coffee that goes with doing these things. Todd and I were married for 9 years before we had our 1st child. It was our choice. We married very young and wanted to enjoy our 20's as a couple. I love to work. I am a strange woman, I know. Having a job is such a fulfilling thing to me. I have been blessed to be able to do such creative stuff in my 15 years of ministry thus far. I am energized by the "What if we did..." Then STOP THE TRAIN!!!! We had our 1st child. I was ready to to be a mom...SO ready. It was SO worth the wait!  Sydney was the text book perfect child...good sleeper, good eater, good napper... SO go with the flow! I worked from home, still full time, the first 15 months of her life. We didn't really miss a beat. Then we moved to NYC. We talked about a 2nd child, but we had just moved to NYC and I was working part-time now. Then I got pregnant... and miscarried a month later. That was tough and we had only been in NYC for about 4 months when that happened. We really knew that we wanted another child and God blessed us with another pregnancy and our son, Sean David. HELLO! Welcome to having 2 kids and a new word entered our lives...MARGINS. I don't care if you are planting a church, starting a business, or just living your life... without margins, it will kill you...oh, yes it will. Without margins, you will go insane. Todd and I have never done anything have-way or "that's good enough." We are OCD about things being done well. We are both first-born and very driven. I realized  very quickly that in order for us to maintain any sanity, raise our children the way we wanted to raise them, and to plant this church, we were going to have to have some SERIOUS margins in every area of our lives. We plan the work and work the plan. If we get off and decide to have a "non-margin" week, we feel the stress and our family doesn't function. I know my kids, my husband, and myself very well. So, I am now "officially" the MARGIN MASTER. I take the temperature of our family on a regular basis and draw the margins when I see one of us (including myself) going outside the lines. You have to have this person in a family. This has not been easy for me as I already mentioned. I like to go full steam all the time. This is a huge learning experience and spiritual discipline that I am enjoying. I'm not perfect at it, and I get frustrated when I get outside the lines, but the responsibility that I know I have as a Christ-follower, the wife, the mom, and the staff member is ever before me. If you are feeling stress, my guess is that the margins are not clear. You will never get everything done at your job. You will never get everything done if you are a church planter. You will never get everything done at home. The margins are the only thing that keep you sane and allow you to enjoy the 5 minutes that I just spent blowing bubbles with my 2 year old. Find the margins and grip them with all you've got.

Timing is everything

VIBE-2web We are a week away from launching our Student Ministry (middle and high school) on the Island Campus. I've neglected my own personal blog this last week as I have been setting up twitter, facebook, and texting services for it (in the words of Doug Fields, "Email is for old people"). At this point, my job on launch night is to run audio. I am really looking forward to being behind the scenes with this ministry. Since I have been sharing church planting thoughts lately, my activities this past week have made me realize a great lesson in church planting...timing is everything. I would love to tell you that everything with lauching this ministry was perfectly planned and thought through and precise...yeah, right. It has been a 100 percent, God- infused, here's-the-people-right-in-your-lap-to do-it launch. God decided it was time to do this...seriously. We tried to do this in the first six month...didn't work. The key there? WE TRIED to do it. It wasn't the right time...it wasn't God's time. We have been praying for this to happen and God has brought the right people with the right gifts with servant hearts to do it. We do not have a staff member over this area...all volunteers. What did we do? Pray... we prayed and asked other to pray with us. Over the last 6 months, parents began stepping up and talking about getting involved. Students musicians began to come out of the shadows. Randy and Maria said they would handle the elements in the student service. The final "Oh my gosh" moment? 3 weeks ago, a young guy right out of college named Luke showed up at our church with gifts in leading worship...yeah, our student worship leader. I almost had a real fit when I met Luke and he auditioned! Could it be that when we actually pray for something specific (I prayed for a young guy to lead worship...honestly!) that God answers our prayers? Why am I so shocked? But I am...every time. As a church planter, we want to do everything the day we open the doors. I have been a part of church plants where we were able to do that for the most part. But this time, we have not had the staff, resources, or personnel to do that. Above all that? It wasn't God's plan for this church campus plant. This was exactly when he wanted us to do this...not a minute before. I know that now. So I encourage you to pray for His timing, not yours. Just sit back and watch...you are in for the time of your life.