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."


Thankful

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I'm thankful for...

  • a life partner who is willing to hold my hand through the ebb and flow of marriage.
  • my daughter's smile which changes my mood instantly.
  • my son's laugh because it's contagious.
  • my parents for all their prayers over my life & their role as grandparents for my kids.
  • my sisters for all the drama of "our lives" that continue to create memories I cherish.
  • my friends who "totally get me" and yet, still call me a friend.
  • my church and the spiritual family we have become.
  • the privilege of living on Hilton Head Island and enjoying God's creation in its natural form.
  • my Savior, my Friend, My Comforter, my Constant who never leaves me and reveals His love for me more each day.

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)


40

Images  The number scares me a little. I knew today was coming but now that I have "officially" left my 30's... wow.  I spent sometime on my sabbatical in January wrapping my mind around this birthday. Honestly, I have seen too many friends and acquaintances not handle this one very well and I didn't want to presume I was immune to it.  

It's weird to think I have entered another decade...so much happened in my thirties.  I became a mom twice, our family moved to two different cities,  we helped plant two churches...I'm tired just thinking about it.  I look forward to enjoying the "fruits" of my 30's in my 40's.   Not that I expect life to slow down with a nine year old and a six year old, but there has been a lot of "planting" the last few years.   I look forward to the blossoms.

The one emotion that keeps coming to the surface today is gratefulness. Through all the highs and lows of my life, I am overwhelmed when I really think about all that God has done in my life and blessed me with through the years.  Two great parents, sisters, extended family...we actually enjoy spending time together still! My husband, my children, my ministry, my home and yes... I live at the beach.  The amazing friendships that I have through the years and the wonderful memories that I have.  God has provided for me every step of the way in so many ways...I'm spoiled and I know it.

I have a few things still on my "list."  Since Todd and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this week, we talked about our 20, 25 and 30th aniversary trips. That got me excited.  I have a passion to continue to create opportunities for artists to be "reconciled" back to the church and God.  I have some tangible ways I want to see that happen on the Island. My songwriting is something I want to look back at my 40's and say that I really went for it. I've written more this year than in the last 10 years and I just want to keep at it. I want to see my kids continue to pursue lives that make a difference. Make choices that count. I want to take them on their first mission trip outside of this country in the next few years. I want to live it more than I tell them "how" to live it.

I want my marriage to not be something I take for granted. I want Todd and I to fall more in love each and everyday and extend grace to each other more than we ever have in the last 20 years.

I want to play more and work less. Trust God more and stop trying to figure it out. Let circumstances unfold and see what God is teaching me that day. I really feel that I'm starting to find such beauty in the quiet, simple, marginal life that I have really tried to live since January.  The "not so fun" things I need to do... eat less sugar, walk three times a week without excuses, use my eye cream twice a day without fail...yeah.  That's enough.

So, I'm going eat cupcakes (thanks, Donna!) and enjoy my family today. Take a nice long walk with my huband.  Enjoy dinner tonight with the family at my favorite restaurant. And be grateful.

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;  You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared  before I’d even lived one day." - Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)


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. 


My Favorite Christmas Moments of 2012

As I had some time this week to reflect on our Christmas Season, I wanted to share with you all and to have as a part of my blog a "Top Ten" of my favorite Christmas moments from this year. As a Christmas card that Sydney made for me says, "Christmas is music," There are definitely musical undertones here, but also personal moments from our family. These are in no particular order:

IMG_5489 IMG_5486 1. Christmas morning with the kids...
this year, we didn't have a whole lot to "put together" the night before which marks a new chapter with our kids. They were genuinely suprised this year and so thankful for each gift. I was really blow away by that. From Taylor Swift perfume and concert tickets for Sydney to a Matchbox Car Parking Garage and an Alanta Falcons uniform for Sean. Every year is great with the kids, but I will always remember this year for the sweet spirit of my kids toward Todd and I and the gifts they received.

2. Sean riding on the back of his friend during my entire song at "An Evening in December"...yes we wanted our Christmas Concert and Dessert to be family friendly, so as Todd was filming a song I sang in the show, there is my 5 year old riding "horsey back" all through the Worship Center saying "Yeehah!" It felt just like practicing at home!

3. The debut of "Love Came Down" by John Redgrave...I was so thrilled to be able to introduce this brand new song by my friend John who is the Worship Leader at Motion Church in Tampa, FL. Such a beautiful song for Advent. Thanks, John for the great loop to use with our band. It made the song!

4. No one was sick...This is THE FIRST time I can remember since having children that no one (parents included) did not spend some part of the holiday in bed! Praise the Lord!

IMG_5430 5.  "Silent Night" during our 6pm Christmas Eve Service...I have no words to express what this felt like and looked like from the stage to see our Worship Center filled to the top with people and candles singing this song in worship to Christ our Savior...probably will be up there in all -time favorite moments.

IMG_5444 6. Syd's Christmas gift to me...an electric-guitar playing reindeer named "Clarice"...Enough said...

IMG_5353  IMG_5493  IMG_5492 7. Down time during the holidays... we started the kids Christmas break with a trip to a cabin in Asheville for three days and we spent the week AFTER Christmas at home just sleeping, laughing, eating, and playing altogether. It was SUCH a blessing to have this time with the kids to talk about what Christmas means and just learn more about each other. I feel so connected to my kids right now and where they are. It was nice for Todd and I to have time to not work and just be together with our family. AND the food! Todd cooked an amazing Christmas lunch!

8. Girl time with Sydney...We took some time as girls to do some shopping as Sydney hads grown out of everything. This is something that Sydney and I are actually JUST like when it comes to shopping. We had a nice lunch at Panera together and then we went to the one store we love, Children's Place.  We spent an hour and half... tried on a ton of clothes, chose what we thought was best , and left. It was awesome! When we got home, we cleaned out her drawers, bagged up the outgrown stuff for GoodWill, and put all her new stuff neatly in its place. As we finished, Sydney came over to me with a gift card she had been given for Christmas and said, "Hey mom, you take this.  You bought me a lot of clothes today." It was so precious. I told her it was my privilege to take care of her and that I was so thankful for her grateful heart...no, I didn't take the gift card for those of you who were wondering!

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9. Our Christmas Event Team...
it was the first year since we started the church that I had NOTHING to do with Christmas decorating details. Our amazing team of ladies (you know who you are!) did a fabulous job of creating such a beautiful Worship Center for the Season. Thank you!

10. Suprise moments with Todd...in the busyness of this season, there were several of those rare moments where Todd and I would find a moment just the two of us to sit and talk and enjoy our patio or the fire. It wasn't a planned thing - just would happen. Our converstations were short and simple and were primarily focused on talking about how blessed we felt this year and how thankful we were for God's provsion in our lives, our kid's lives, and our church. We had several this season and I'm so thankful for those moments.

My prayer for my family is as we enter 2013, that we will continue in our faith and steadfast hearts to pursue Jesus...sharing His love with everyone we meet in the way we live our lives and spend our days...

"Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."  - Colossians 3:16-17


The two meet

IMG_5129  IMG_5181 As much as I love to create music and engaging environments for people to experience, when I saw my daughter Sydney for the first time, everything changed. I've been blessed to always be in a creative environment throughout the entire experience of becoming a mother of two.  There were days that it was extremely difficult to be fully present in my efforts with worship and arts especially when Sydney and Sean were very young. But, I'm so thankful that I have always been able to have these worlds co-exist.

Many times, I have mentally "separated" myself from the creative world to focus on being a mom and vice versa. That happens multiple times on a daily basis! I've learned how the two worlds can co-exist and the boundaries that it requires for these worlds not to turn on each other.  I cannot think of my life without both of these worlds existing together. But, I've come to realize that they have to be separate and I have been totally fine with that reality...until Saturday afternoon.

I was the "Cloud Fairy" volunteer for Sydney's class for the 2:30 performance of The Nutcracker. These six beautiful third graders were an absolute delight. We had fun getting dressed and then doing warm-ups which consisted of jumping jacks (their idea, not mine!) We were led to the stage during intermission to get ready for the 2nd Act which they were to open. I sat there in the wings and watched my daughter perform the dance that she has worked so hard on for the last few months. All that time, effort, energy - coming down to this final dance. It was then that the two worlds met for me.

I have never had a moment like this as a mom and a creative where I fully experienced that sense of joy and excitement of the two worlds coming together. My precious daughter that I would give my life for and my love for the arts coming together in this beautiful dance. I truly consider it one of the top five moments of my life...really.

Sydney loves to dance and there is no doubt that she has been given a body that was made to dance. However, whether Sydney dances for the rest of her life or decides in a few years to be done, I'm so thankful for that moment in time that I experienced. It will forever be etched there and I will treasure it always...


Fresh

I love a new year. We always do a "Christmas Clean" every year around New Year's Day. We take down all our Christmas stuff, clean out our closets, get rid of stuff and clean like crazy!

I was thinking about these verses as I was cleaning out my laundry room (and yes, it really needed it!) Lamentations 3:22-24..."Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion."I'm so thankful for fresh grace everyday. I don't have to wait for a new calendar year to get a fresh start. God's mercy and compassion are new 365 days a year!

If you can, take the time to reach this message (http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols19-21/chs1122.pdf) from C.H. Spurgeon. This is an excerpt of one of my favorite parts...

"What a poor thing I am. How little Grace I have. How weak in prayer. How slow in service. How frequently depressed. How easily tossed to and fro. How shall I hope to hold on to the end? Where is the answer to it—“I shall be anointed with fresh oil.” I am poor, but I shall receive my daily pension. I am weak and I have no strength in reserve, but my strength is laid up in God!" - C.H. Spurgeon, FRESH GRACE CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED NO. 1122


38

IMG_2646  That's the number today, friends. I'm celebrating today surrounded by my family including my parents, sisters and their families.

I've said it before - my 30's have been the best. I spent my twenties working my tail off, learning life and  discovering who I really am. My thirties have been settling into that and making choices from that knowledge. I know what makes me tick and I know how I want to spend my life. When I see that sense of who I am starting to fade, I have to make changes. I want to savor every moment. I don't want to spend it trying to be something I'm not or being afraid to do something different.

I know that the fourties are knocking, but I'm ready. I've have the privilege to be a part of SO many amazing things so far. I can't imagine was God has in store for my days ahead.

My birthday prayer...I thank you, Heavenly Father, for parents who brought me into this world and introduced me to You. Thank you for the family you have given me to do life with each day. I dedicate the year ahead to making choices that honor You, spending my time wisely on things that truly matter, and not waisting a moment being someone that I am not. Thank you for trusting me with the years you have given me. I pray my days ahead bring honor to You, My Creator and My God...