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!

IMG_1597
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...


Something Amazing

Watch this clip from one of our favorite family movies, The Incredibles.

 

There is something inside of that desires to break out of the predictable, mundane, and planned part of our existence. We long for an unexpected windfall, a suprise, even a miracle. Francis Chan, in his book Forgotten God, says this about miracles...

"Miracles are never an end in themselves;they are always a means to point to and accomplish something greater."

That is what we want...to be a part of something amazing...to say we were there when"it" happened...to play a part in something greater than ourselves and our time...to leave a legacy.

Church planting is miracle territory. As think back over the last four years that Todd and I have been on Hilton Head Island, there have been a lot of miracles...experiences and situations that fit all of those things I mentioned.  However, this Sunday at the Island Campus, we are stepping into some major miracle territory. I do not want to diminish any of the amazing things that God has done over the last four years - they are all miracles! From locating our first temporary facility to finding our first permanent facility to where we are today...embarking on purchasing our first permanent facility. These are just examples in one category!

There are the people miracles...changed lives...people who were far from God who are now in a daily relationship with Him...these are miracles.

There are personal miracles in the life of my family... a brother-in-law who is cancer free, the ability to purchase a home for our family on the Island, and financial recovery from some tough days in our past.

I long for the miraculous. I desire to see the unpredictable and the unplanned happen. I am an organized person  in my job and with my family life because it is out of necessity (trust me!). However, I feel the most alive when the unexplained becomes reality -when common sense says, "That's impossible."

Mothers are required to be realists (I think it's in a handbook somewhere.) It's my job in our home to be "the dose of reality" when it comes to our family schedule, chores, budget...you get the picture. I think it is because of that role that I play in our family, that I long for any opportunity to dream and say "Wouldn't it be great if..."  That is what I love about church planting. Yes, you have to have a dose of reality in the mix, but for the most part, this is ALL unchartered territory! You can't put a formula to every part and in fact, I think God probably gets a chuckle at all our stats, strategies, and formulas for church planting!

Maybe this whole idea of wanting something amazing paralyzes you as a person. You are ok without being a part of miracles. Maybe you have never seen one and so you don't understand what all the buzz is all about. Maybe you have seen a miracle, but you have forgotten what it felt like to experience it.  Are you afraid to dream because "God might not come through?" Read this quote from Forgotten God...

"I think the fear of God failing us leads us to "cover for God." This means we ask for less, expect less, and are satisfied with less because we are afraid to ask for or expect more. We even convince ourselves that we don't want more - that we have all the "God" we need or could want." - Francis Chan, Forgotten God, pg. 47

I want to see more, be a part of more, experience more, and be blown away by the Creator God who by very definition is creative...unpredictable, original...and wants to do something amazing in me and through me.

"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree."For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think . Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed.They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them. "So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song.  All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines—Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God." - Isaiah 55:8-13 (MSG)


What I've learned from Fasting

Daniel_Fast_Book We completed 40 days of prayer and fasting as a church on Easter Sunday. Todd and I decided to do the Daniel Fast for 21 days of that time. I had never done a structured fast like this before. I knew doing it together with Todd would help me with accountability, but I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to stick with it. Here's what I learned:

I never thought I had a food issue till I started fasting. I was shocked at how much I would think of eating or drinking something in response to a circumstance or as a diversion.

I've learned to view food as something I need and not as a hobby. I grew up in the Deep South. Food is a way of life. When you are eating lunch, you are talking about what you are having for dinner. It's just the way it is.

Our family ate more meals together and enjoyed grocery shopping like never before. Todd is an amazing cook. He loves to cook and experiment with recipes. I can cook, but it is not something that I enjoy like Todd does. It was fun to plan meals together and shop and really talk about what we were going to eat each week. My favorite thing was his sweet potato fries. The book has amazing recipes and Todd did some "tweaking" on his own!

I learned to replace my thoughts for food with prayer.  When I would had those moments of really "wanting" something in the first week, I would turn my thoughts to God. After a week on the fast, my cravings for things not on the fast went away almost 90 percent. I began to not think about food in relation to my day and I had so much more "thought energy" to focus on God and my priorities.

It brought Todd and I closer to each other. We spent more time together and encouraged each other throughout the day. Doing this together gave us the opportunity to share what we were learning through it and prompted great converstation that I don't think would have happened without the fast.

We were able to teach our kids about fasting. We had the kids do the fast with us without some of the rigidness of no dairy. However, we did eliminate sweets and we cooked the same meal at night for them that we ate. It was a great learning experience for our family.

I'm going to make parts of it a lifestyle now. I made choices as best as I could on the fast in every environment.  Not everything I had was "perfectly" in line with the fast, but I did the best I could. The Daniel Fast is not about legalism and following rules. It's about learning how to eat, making good choices, and focusing on God. I saw how I could live my life better, feel better, and have so much more of a focused lifestyle. I don't want to go back to my old way of eating and thinking about food. It changed my life and the way I think about food forever.

That's not to say I'm never going to have a cookie, candy, or dessert ever again. I just want to have the right perspective moving forward that I learned from this period of fasting.

This was a life-changing experience for me. I naturally lost some weight which was a nice bi-product, but it was never about weight loss for me. It was about surrender. It was about being willing to do something totally different in response to my desire to seek God.  If you have never tried a fast, I would encourage you to do this one. Do it with a friend or a spouse. Be ready for your eyes to be opened to new things about yourself and new truths that God will be able to speak into your life. Spiritually, it was the best thing I have done to deepen my walk with God.


Monopoly

Monopoly2  Sydney and I have been playing monopoly for about the last year. Just recently, she has really started to understand it and it has been a lot of fun.  I was thinking as we were playing this weekend how she buys property every time she lands on it until I have to tell her, she doesn't have enough money. She doesn't care about holding on to her money or if she runs out, she just loves the game. I, on the other hand, am very careful with my purchases and pretty much worry through the whole game if I am going to go bankrupt.

Now I know the point of monopoly is to OWN everything and take everything from the other players. However, watching her play and just enjoy the game, regardless if she won or lost was so refreshing. Just pure enjoyment. I was thinking about how much as I get older, I forget to just enjoy and not worry. I know that with age comes responsibility, but as I watch my children, I see so much more of how Christ wants me to respond to Him as His child. I thought about this passage in Matthew 6...

 30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." 9 (MSG)

Our kids teach us truths just by being kids. I'm so thankful for the monopoly lesson. So who was teaching who to play?