Living in between

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This week marked one month of being in quarantine for COVID-19 for our family. I asked myself at least 5 times today, "What is today?" and I'm sure I'm not alone in that confusion. I find myself living in between. There is the joy of having time to enjoy my family, my home, my Island. We are so blessed to live on Hilton Head Island. And then at the same time knowing all the suffering of those dying from this virus, those who have lost loved ones with no funeral allowed, those who are unemployed, and all those that are working so hard in our health care system to fight this thing.

I'm asking myself a lot these days, "How do I live in between?"

I love having this time with my almost 16 year old daughter to talk, laugh, look at my old yearbooks (she wanted to!), and eat ice cream. But my heart just breaks about her 5 week summer dance intensive being canceled because she worked so hard for it. I love it and I hate it.

I love "overhearing" my 13 year old son on ZOOM with his friends in what I call the "ZOOM After Party" when the online class is over. Precious moments I treasure but he lost his soccer season for both of the teams he plays for each year. I miss the soccer field so much and so does he.

I miss seeing our church family. It's so hard to sing and lead worship to a camera. I want to feel worship with our community together so desperately. 

And then "Seriously, Cynthia? People are dying, people are homeless, people are going without food - stop whining! Be thankful you do have the ability to sing and lead worship because of technology!" Then the guilt sets in and I hate it.

My heart is breaking for my friends in NYC that their street has refrigerated box trucks that serve as temporary morgues. I just weep. I sat on my back porch one Friday morning and just cried for a few hours. I know I'm not alone in that as well.  But then I look at my precious family and I'm so thankful for the laughter, the new "inside" jokes, the bickering between the kids (at times!), the family meals, the beautiful bike rides, the long walks and then I'm filled with gratitude and thankfulness...I'm so happy.

Now we are faced with when to start leaving our homes. Just because we can, should we? Am I being held back by fear or caution?

This is living in between.

I find myself in the book of Ecclesiastes which was written by Solomon toward the end of his life. It was said that he was the wisest man who ever lived so being that he wrote this at that point in his life, he had seen and experienced quite a bit. The first few lines really grab you..."Everything is meaningless." Yeah, I'm sure we all feel that right now in many ways! Interesting he would say that at the end of his life, right? But it is chapter 3 that I truly find great words for living in between.

A Time for Everything

   "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate,, a time for war and a time for peace." - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 

This is a time to live in between and I am starting to lean into that. I am going to have days that I cry a lot and days that are super joyful. I'm going to have days when I feel very productive cleaning out closets and organizing and then others, I just want to watch movies. It's ok. There is a time for everything.

Shared experience is so important and none of us are alone in living in between. Please share your comments below. I'd love to hear how you are facing the in between.


Will it fit in my bag?

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, but with some nice time to reflect this week, I came back for a visit.

In my college years, I spent a lot of time in the health clinic with doctors trying to figure out why I couldn’t sleep and why I had internal bleeding for no reason. In fact, it was in the hospital getting x-rays that I truly saw Todd’s tender heart and care for me as we were dating. (Side note... we celebrate 25 years married in 2020!) Later in my late 20s, I was diagnosed with panic anxiety disorder and with a condition known as overstimulated adrenaline. Basically. my body makes so much adrenaline that if I don’t get rid of it daily, yeah...I’m kinda tough to be around & my body doesn’t know what to do with it.

Through the years, the doctors have told me this is a wonderful thing as I get older and I’ll be thankful for it. Yippee! 🤔 So as I faced being a victim of a car accident this year, part of my recovery was “Cynthia you just need to lie down a lot & you can’t do as much as you think.” As I share this with you today, I am happy to report that my weekly treatment has wrapped up and I’m returning back to life ”in moderation” as Dr. Ken says.

One of my favorite phrases from my dad was “Cynthia, don’t put a 10 pound turkey in a 5 pound bag.” Gotta love the south.  I’m not gonna blame it completely on my condition —(although it is confusing to me at times what my mind tells me I can do versus what I can actually do) but that’s what I do. The creative mind is a beautiful thing but the combination of that and too much adrenaline is why so many times I live a life of desperation trying to get out all the things in my mind I want to accomplish. This is not a pity party for me, but if you know creative people around you who are artists, give them a break. They probably have a lot they’re dealing with inside.

As the dawn of a new decade is here and 2020 begins, I’m starting it with a real picture of the size of MY bag. It’s been that size all along but I want to embrace it. Everybody has a different size bag because God made us all unique. (Psalm 139:14) But in 2020, if you see less output from me, I’m fine & I’m sorry if you are disappointed. If you think I’m not as involved as I used to be, that’s probably true. If you don’t see me as much, it’s all good. I’m here and I’m ok. 

”My strength is made perfect in your weakness, Cynthia.” These are the words I have clearly heard in my time with God this year. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I’m not weak because I have a smaller bag than I think. In identifying truly how God has uniquely made me and recognizing my own limitations within that, my “weakness” is how I am strong.

At the core of our Christian faith is living like Jesus & modeling his life and the way He lived. Jesus fully gave of himself to others but He also knew when he needed to pull away. He regularly got away from the crowds & even those closest to Him to be with His Father.  This is why we model a Sabbath lifestyle at our church with taking Fridays off as ministry staff. This has been vital in my life & I’m so thankful for it. But for me, it’s more than that.

I truly desire to serve & love people and be available. I love being a part of community with others and working hard to see amazing things happen! I love the local church and our HHI Community & being fully involved! However, this year I’m gonna ask a new question in 2020..”Will it fit in my bag, God?” 

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” - Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭(The Message)

Bring it on 2020...my bag can take it. 👍


Reason Not Ritual

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I used this phrase a couple of weeks ago when I was leading worship to describe WHY we should gather each week on Sundays together. As I think about this past week, Holy Week - a week I look forward to so much as a Christ-follower.. it was not the week I had hoped it would be. From our main water pipe busting outside of our home on Tuesday to me coming down AGAIN with some flu-like thing...yeah. But there is a REASON why this weekend is SO important. It's the moment in time we celebrate that death was defeated....we celebrate that Jesus conquered death to prove HE is the Savior of the world. 

No matter what kind of HOLY WEEK you have had...whether it looked like mine or it was fabulous - This weekend, there is REASON for our gathering together. Don't gather out of RITUAL this weekend just to check it off your list. Bring yourself fully wherever you attend services this weekend. Celebrate for a REASON...Jesus is alive. He is our advocate with God the Father. He is FOR US. He is WITH US. He has conquered death. No one has ever done that in history. He is the King of Kings and He loves you with a love that He was willing to give HIS life for you.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.." - John 3:16-17

He is Risen INDEED! Happy Easter!


Consider IT

There is no coincidence that when I posted a couple of weeks ago about my desire to embrace pain that within days of that...

  • My sweet friend Kris lost her son to liver cancer on January 2. So glad Andrew is in no more physical pain living his new life with God.
  • My first full-time hire at HHICC in the Worship Arts Ministry resigned on January 3 after being here 5 months.

Let's just say that within the first few days of 2019, I was NOT feeling like this was gonna be the greatest year! But I have to say, writing that post and sharing about my commitment to run toward the hard stuff this year has really given me the strength to lean into what God has placed in front one me. He is NEVER surprised...we are.

We are studying the book of James this quarter in my women's group on Wednesdays and when James was writing this letter, these people were running for their lives because of their faith in Jesus. There are places in our world where this is happening right now, but here in the US, we are not facing that everyday. Here's how he starts it off...

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. - James 1:2-4 (MSG)

As 2019 is now here, I ask you to consider IT. If you are a person of faith, it's only through hard things that we REALLY discover if our faith is TRULY grounded in the belief that God is for us and He has our best in mind.  I have been humbled by friends who do not share my faith that have questioned when I'm nervous or worried because they have said "Don't you Christians trust God in everything?" WOW. Let that sink in. Our response to difficulties is either an encouragement to others or it confuses people.

I want to encourage others with my responses. I want to consider IT a positive thing when the rug gets pulled out. I want to be someone that doesn't just TALK about my faith in God. 

Here we go.


Embrace IT

The age of microblogging has definitely pulled me away from cheval glass over the past few years. It is so much easier to share a thought or two and maybe a pic. However, I have felt over the last few months a sense of being drawn back to visit and share in this place more frequently with you as the new year - 2019- is upon us.

There is a freedom and a sense of true fulfillment that will never be achieved without experiencing pain and suffering to get there. This may not seem to be a profound statement at all. However, for someone like me who was raised with the mindset of " If you make all the right decisions, you will have a pain-free life" this is a complete departure from that thinking. I am no different than anyone else. I don't like pain. I don't like sadness. I don't like suffering. I want to run away from it. I want to hide from it. I want to ignore that it is happening. I want to believe if you work hard, you can avoid pain. I always thought if I strived to always do my best, somehow all these great strategic decisions would create a pain-free life for me. Yeah...

When God created us, we were perfect. The world was perfect.  No matter where you fall on the theological spectrum, we must recognize that we live in a broken world and we as humans need to take responsibility for our part in that brokenness. We can't live a part from the pain. It is all around us.

Sometimes pain finds us and we didn't do anything. We didn't cause it. We are hit with the shrapnel of other's choices and we are in pain. This has been the toughest one for me.

However, this is what I have noticed:

I look at my daughter's feet. A dancer's feet are not something to be viewed if you have a weak stomach. It's amazing to watch her perform with her talented dance family and create beautiful performances. But they don't happen without the sore muscles, injuries, blisters, the pain, the broken toe nails, etc... love you, Syd.

I watch my friend Kris. Her presence at her son's bedside the last few months as he struggles with cancer is more than any of us can imagine. I have seen the struggle on all sides with her faith in God literally growing right before my eyes and yet being challenged. The impact is unbelievable that it has had on so many people...including me. Love you, Kris.

I look at my mom. Being a widow now for 18 months and the new life she has embraced. She was the caregiver to my Dad who suffered with cancer for 3 years. She was with him every moment of every day during his cancer. Now, she's a children's book author, continues to teach piano, and share what she has with her church in a way that she has never been able to do over the past few years. Love you, Mom.

I think about my dad. I was with my Dad when he took his last breath. He died in his living room in a hospice bed. He suffered for three years with a rare form of kidney cancer. I know certain things would have never been said between me and my father if it had not been for cancer. We had time to talk and there was a lot of redemptive work that happened between us because of his cancer. Miss you Dad.

I look at the #metoo movement.  No verbal male chauvinism that I have experienced in the "church-world" can compare to what so many have physically endured. It has been painful for us to see and hear but I believe that this movement is bringing conversation and and a new reality that will ultimately lead to a better world for my daughter and especially the "church-world" (who needs this transparency more than ever.)

I look at our personal finances. Todd and I have made a lot of dumb decisions. We caused a lot of our pain but some of it, just happened. I don't think we would have the trust and dependence in God to provide for our family OR the contentment and gratitude with what we have without the pain.

I look at our church. There is no greater test to your own walk with God than being a church-planter or being on a church staff team. You can quote me on that. The greatest moments of seeing life-change in our church have been through the greatest moments of suffering, pain and loss. Whether death within our church family, cancer or prolonged sickness, moving forward on what God is calling you to do even when it's not popular, one family LEAVING your church for a reason that a new family starting COMING to your church (this really happens!) and even multiple hurricanes to your Island that actually unite you as a community much more than ever before the storms.

Jesus made a promise to us when He came to earth. " I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33 MSG) As a Christ-follower, I know that my ultimate peace is found in my relationship with God through Jesus. That is where my inner peace truly lies when I see or experience pain. I cling to this truth. But I sometimes, I just want it all to stop. God knows and He listens.

So as 2019 is upon us, I ask the question to myself and to you... Will you embrace the pain this year? I want to embrace it. I don't want to try to hide from it. That desire will always be there I know, but I do truly want to embrace it. I do know what fulfillment comes from getting to the other side of it.

Thanks for making it this far in this post. I would like to share my verses for 2019 with you and I hope they encourage you to embrace IT as well.

Happy New Year...

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought." James 1:2-8 (MSG)


Falling

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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.


Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Finding the words

IMG_3846 It seems I have been in a season of life that finding the words to express here on a traditional blog has been very difficult. When I began blogging in 2006, it was such new art form and the microblogging that we all do now had not taken off. Saying what I need to say in 140 characters has become a lifestyle, but at times, the real conversation needs more words.

I have more to say and more questions to ask you all but finding the words...so much pain in our world...so much suffering. In losing Todd's mom to cancer last year and walking the cancer journey now with my Dad...these things have made me speechless in some ways to express my heart and mind...I don't really know how to say it (nice run-on sentence!)

But as Thanksgiving is upon us, I have found these words...thank you, Father God.

Thank you for the suffering...because it made me turn to You. Thank you for the pain...because it made me recognize more personally what you actually did for us in sending Your Son, Jesus, to this painful place.

Thank you for the sweet moments with my daughter, watching her dance and seeing the joy it brings her (and You!)

Thank you for my playful son, who randomly hands me a "make believe" sword and says "En garde!"

Thank you for my husband who continues to be by my side even though this season is not a lot of fun for either of us.

Thank you for another day to say thank you.

What are you thankful for? 


My report card

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

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

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

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


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.