Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Album Update

Sorry I haven't written much lately. Honestly, I don't think my brain can take it. Ha! I write A LOT for my job (mostly things that never make an official appearance on the web) and lately I've found myself avoiding the blog and anything related to being on my computer/using brain power. My mind and eyes just need a break!

However, some exciting stuff has been happening in our life that I want to document. And it relates to Zach's upcoming worship album. As previously mentioned, Zach has been blazing ahead on his worship album. I seriously get more excited about this body of work everyday and cannot wait for it to be available for purchase!

This album-making process has been an educational one for me. I wasn't in Zach's life when he released his last one (a secular album called Only Chance released in 2008). The single Marry Me was produced in secret in 2010 while we were dating and made it's debut when Zach proposed. I honestly had very little concept of what goes into making an album until now and some areas are still a little gray to me. Ha!

Things I've learned about making an album include:

1. It takes a lot of money.
2. It takes a lot of time.
3. It takes a lot of talent from an array of people from writers to musicians to producers to mixers/masterers to photographers to graphic designers to videographers.
4. It takes a lot of patience from all involved and their wives. LOL.
5. It is stressful.
6. It is a labor of love.
7. Music magic happens everywhere (primarily people's homes) and not just in fancy music studios you see on tv.
8. Pro Tools (software used for making music) speaks a language I don't care to ever understand. LOL.
9. Making music is a skill I do not have, but respect more and more each day.

But all this time and effort is well worth it for the truth about Jesus to enter people's lives/ influence people's lives in a greater way.

I seriously am so beyond proud of Zach for this album and how everything about it points to Jesus. It's so humbling to see God use my husband in this way.

SPOILER ALERT!
The title of the album is called "One", which comes from his song titled "One" which is all about Jesus and how He is THE one who came to save the world.

Some updates on how things are progressing include:

Drums have been fully recorded by Jacob Arnold.
Bass has been fully recorded Jon Duke.
Electric guitar has been fully recorded James Duke.

It's been so cool to see the amazing talent that has been brought together on this project. These are some seriously amazing musicians and I'm so happy Zach was able to work with them.

Also, Zach did a live recording of a few songs a week or two ago to get some corporate voices captured. A huge thank you to everyone who showed up to sing and be a part of this project! From what I've heard so far it turned out awesome!

At the recording

Zach with his biggest fan, Miles.
Yesterday was Zach's photo shoot with Kent Smith. I had a fabulous time being his stylist for the day, even though Zach selects all his clothing on his own. My main job was arranging his wild hair. Ha! Here are a few pics I snapped while Kent was working his magic.



My husband is the coolest. :)


Next week Zach goes to Atlanta to record his vocals. By that time, tracks, acoustic guitar, and some BGVs will be done so everything can be sent to Nashville for mixing/mastering- the final step!

We are getting so close! Eek!! I cannot wait until this thing is available! Please continue to pray for Zach and all involved in this project that it can truly be a testimony of Christ Jesus' incredible love and sacrifice to all who hear it.

Stay tuned for more updates as the weeks fly by. November will be here so soon!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lydia

Our friends Ashley and Taylor had a baby girl last month. Zach and I love our friends and their growing family!

I took a few pics of Ashley with Lydia. Love these girls. :)
Welcome to the world Lydia!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Allie the Explorer

Zach and I just sent Allie another care package. We often send her love via UPS. Ha! Anyways, this care package was actually an adventure kit full of all sorts of things to help Allie explore the world and use her imagination/creativity.
Allie's Adventure Kit contents
 Keri Smith's activity book called "How to be an Explorer of the World" and magnifying glass.
A compass
A secret market kit to write invisible, secret messages!
A piece of treasure from Camp Rock
And 3 Choose Your Own Adventure books, one real one, and two we've created for the Exploratorium at FHC. Allie loves the online computer game called Poptropica and the Island of Nabooti from this CYOA book is in the game!
I hope Allie really enjoys all these things and starts looking at the world in a whole new way!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Leadership, Love and How to Live

So many thoughts lately. Not sure where to begin. I hope this somehow makes sense and brings life to your life like it has to mine.

So, for a while now I've had this guilt growing in my heart. Ugly, ungodly, guilt and shame about not wanting a baby. Zach and I love our life. We love our Allie with every ounce of our beings, but we do not have a desire for more children.

Fact: This has not been my plan for most of my life.

For 24 or so years my plan was to be a mom, specifically a stay-at-home mom. That just was always my goal and ambition. But a few years back that desire slowly started to fade like a colorful quilt that's been in a sunny bedroom too long. At first, I didn't notice my desire diminishing, but then one day, all of a sudden, the colors in that dream for my life were washed out.

I'm not sure why this happened and if it's permanent or temporary, but it did, and I feel guilty. I feel guilty because practically everyone I know has children, is having children, wants children, and wants us to have new, small, baby versions of ourselves too. It seems like the natural thing to do, the thing everyone does, so then... why don't we want that for our life?

I don't know. And I wrestle with this. And the only conclusion I have come to is that... it is not God's plan for our life right now. He wants something else. And like I've written before it's very probable that our life is more about birthing songs than babies and that is ok.

IT IS OK.

And that doesn't mean I don't love kids. It doesn't mean I don't adore all the children I know and am overjoyed when a friend is expecting. It doesn't mean I have abandoned God's plan. It just means... his plan for us is different.

Anyways, recently these thoughts, as well as a lot more about my job/purpose/influence in this world were bouncing around my head and I came across another great post on The Resurgence. It really encouraged me that God designed us to work and that is not limited to the home. If you are someone who works in your home, caring for children and training them up to be independent kingdom builders, that is awesome. God is using you. If you aren't (because you can't have kids or don't feel called to have children), God is using you too, wherever you are working.

On top of this, last week I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit with my team at FHC.
It was so encouraging to me to see a number of women who spent their lives in business, in ministry, working for non-profits, and really making a difference in the world outside their home.

Listening to Sheryl WuDunna Chinese American business executive, author, lecturer, and the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Other speakers included Bill Hybels (Willow Creek), Condoleezza Rice, Jim Collins, Marc Kielburger, Patrick Lencioni, William Ury, Pranitha Timothy, Mario Vega, John Ortberg, and Geoffrey Canada.

In addition to just being encouraged by the speakers, I was inspired. A few quotes from the 2-day summit include:

"Stay curious... stay courageous... and stay experimental."
This was a charge by Bill Hybels, founder and pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. This is how I want to live/work/and do ministry.

"Chronic inconsistency = mediocrity." 
This is true in all areas of life and I so desire consistency and excellence.

"Creativity is the human condition. Discipline is not." 
I love this quote. And those of you who don't feel creative because you aren't artsy or crafty or Queen/King of Pinterest Land should love this quote too. You are born to be creative and creativity doesn't just take shape in the physical realm. Creativity can be the way you approach problems to how you organize a project. Since we are made in the image of the most incredible creator ever, it's only natural that we would all be creative in different ways.

"The local church is the hope of the world."
In Bill Hybels' closing statements he said this and it really addressed the importance of my work at FHC. It's not just a job, it's not just cool stuff for kids, it's not even just so they would come to know the truth about Jesus. It's so that they want to go out in the world and make a difference in the name of Christ because of Christ. Bill also challenged everyone to start their days reading this prayer.
I encourage you to do the same, dedicating whatever you do wherever you do it to God.

And lastly...
"We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love."
Marc Kielburger said this, re-quoting Mother Teresa and I LOVE it. I am trying so hard to live this way and just do small things - each day, each week, each month with great love.

For me, it started with having two girls who are involved in student ministry and volunteer in children's ministry over to my house. Brisa and Emily were both in the student LifeGroup I co-led last year. They also both went with our student ministry to Haiti this summer and I wanted to hear all about their first international mission experience.

Sadly, I did not take pics of any of our food or even of us, but here's the table!
(By the way, I think I want to eat all meals with taper candles on the table. I just love them. :)

Em took this of me
Our sweet treats
Following on the coattails of this Mother Teresa quote, I read Bob Goff's new book called Love Does.
OMG do I love this book! (Thanks Lindsay Knuckles for the rec!) I tore through this book in less than 24 hours and loved every second. The stories, the spiritual significance, the life lived in the moment with influence and meaning reached out from the pages and grabbed my soul. It seriously just reignited my passion for adventure, spontaneity, and set ablaze my desire to live each day with great love.

Now I know we don't have quite the same resources as Bob. I can't jump on a plane tomorrow to go celebrate our daughter's 12th birthday with high tea in London or rush off to India in a moments notice to save enslaved children, but I can love extravagantly even if my resources are measured and modest.

That's the beauty of love. It knows no socioeconomic boundaries. It is not a luxury. It is not earned.

Love is for all and it's free.

I'm not sure what God is doing in my heart and what he has planned for me, but I'm excited to see what rises up and to see the legacy of love that is left behind from small things done with extravagant love.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lindsay sans tumor

So I know it's been awhile since I updated the blog regarding my sister. For those of you know don't know, last spring Lindsay was diagnosed with brain cancer. You can read the deets here on my post from her surgery weekend. 

First off, a massive, extremely sincere, and heart-felt thank you to all of you who have been praying for Lindsay and our family. It's been a very surreal experience, but we could not have made it this far without Jesus Christ and the community of believers and prayers around us.

On April 13th Lindsay had a craniotomy to remove a tumor from her cerebellum. Surgery went fantastic and afterwards we found out it was a GBM (very aggressive, very sneaky, and usually very deadly type of cancer.) Major thumbs down to the GBM.

On May 21st, Lindsay started 6 weeks of oral chemo and radiation. Due to her chemo being oral, it had a lot less side effects than traditional chemo. In addition, her radiation was directed only at the location where her tumor was (back of her head), so she only lost hair in this place. The rest of her hair remains and it covers up the bald spot when her hair is worn down. Towards the end of those 6 weeks and a bit after, Lindsay got the icks (feeling sicky, fatique, food tasting like metal, etc), but other than that she has been doing fantastic. So good I often forget she even has cancer.

Lindsay and her husband Steve came to our annual family reunion this summer and, with the exception of Lindsay timing her medication/meals, she was totally normal. We hiked, swam, did all our normal activities together. It was great.

On July 23, Lindsay had her first MRI since surgery. The scan revealed no new tumor growth, just pseudo progression (radiation damage). This is great news and we were all very relieved! Praise God!

Lindsay will return back to teaching music next week at two elementary schools near her home (much different from the middle school she was at last year.) This is also a great answer to prayer and hopefully something that will not only be a lot easier on her, but something she enjoys.

Please continue to pray for Lindsay.... that the cancer is gone completely and that it will not come back.... that she has the strength and endurance to return to teaching, and that God will continue to use her story to tell the world of his abundant love and grace.

If you'd like to follow Lindsay's story more closely and know all the ins and outs, you can check out her site on Caring Bridge. Thanks again for all your prayers!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mission: Live album sound

Hey friends! This is a big shout out/request to all our friends in the Charlotte area! As many of you know, Zach has been working tirelessly on his new worship album. I seriously cannot wait for #1- you all to hear what God has been creating through him and #2 - to get my husband back after all this hard work is over! Haha!

Anyways, Zach is planning a live album recording this Sunday night, 7:30 pm, at Forest Hill Church- South Park campus. We would love love LOVE for as many people as possible to learn his new songs and come ready to sing. Don't worry, we won't ask you to do a solo. And you don't even have to be good. :)

Rough acoustic recordings of 6 songs are on Sound Cloud. Listen and learn!

The last track, Greater Than All, can be heard on Vimeo. Listen and learn!

Thank you guys so much (and even those of you who can't make it in person, but are there in spirit) for supporting us through this project. I can't wait to see what God does through this music!

If you are planning to come and need additional details, email, call or text! Come one, come all!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Author obsessed

While shopping this summer, Allie and I stumbled across the most creative/ quirky/ inspiring activity book author of all time.

Keri Smith.

Keri, you really know how to get our creative juices flowing! Allie and I only originally saw her book, "Wreck this Journal," but her uniquely inspired genius encouraged me to do some investigating. Turns out, she has a whole slew of crazy, crafty, outside the box books... books that can make something like a ratty cardboard box seem like the most exciting adventure...and I'm getting them ALL for Allie. Ha!

Here's just a small peek into a few of these awesome books for any creative cat out there.

Wreck Journal

"Mess"



"Finish This Book"

"How to be an explorer of the world" (first book I'm giving Allie)

If you are someone who is drawn to the weird and loves to look at the world in new, interesting, and inspiring ways, I highly recommend Keri's books. They will not disappoint. 

(Personal note: Bucket list item #102: Have lunch with Keri Smith and find out why she is so creative. Oh, and what her favorite animal is. And what her super hero name and power would be if she was said super hero.) 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A pie, a cupcake, and a turnover

Lately I have been cooking/baking again. You know, the good stuff. Not gluten-free, dairy-free stuff, but real (fake) food. And it hasn't been for me. Ha!

A few special occasions (new baby, birthday, graduation) have re-ignited my looove for cooking/baking and it has been so fun. Oh I miss making beautiful, tasty, terrible food. HAHA. 


Anyways, here are a few of the latest recipes I have tried and enjoyed.


Butternut Squash Turnovers

This recipe is from Food&Wine magazine and turned out really good. Instead of puff pasty I used crescent rolls I made in the shape of a turnover. I think when I make these again I will just roll the crescent roll in it's normal shape so it stays prettier than the triangle shape. Or use actual puff pastry.


Recipe Ingredients:
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch dice
2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, and caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (see cooking notes)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One small 1 1/2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
14 ounces all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (see cooking notes)
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese (chèvre)1 large egg, lightly beaten


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment. On the sheet, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Discard used parchment and reline pan with a fresh piece.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil. Add the diced leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the shiitake and cook, stirring often, until their liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the roasted squash to the leeks and mushrooms and toss.

On a lightly floured work surface, gently roll out the puff pastry to eliminate any seams. Cut the pastry into equal squares depending on your desired size for turnover. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the shiitake-squash mixture onto each square and top with 2 tablespoons of the goat cheese. Lightly brush the edge of the squares with some of the beaten egg. Fold the squares over to form triangles and crimp the edges decoratively with a fork.


Arrange the turnovers on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the remaining beaten egg. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooking notes
Shiitake mushrooms provide a unique earthy and woodsy flavor that cannot be achieved by using white button mushrooms. The are most often found dried in the produce section of the store. Re-hydrate them by soaking in warm water for 20-30 minutes.

I used one package of Peppridge Farm Puff Pastry sheets and gently rolled out each to make four equal squares per sheet for a total of 8 large turnovers to serve as a main course. If you want smaller, bite-size turnovers as an hors d'oeuvre, cut them further, into eighths and adjust the amount of filling per turnover accordingly.



Frozen Strawberry Pie
I remember my mom making this when I lived at home many moons ago and I just made it for myself for the first time. It's a great, cold, low calorie summer dessert.

Recipe ingredients:

2 containers (8 oz. each) strawberry yogurt
1 container (8 oz) Cool Whip
2 cups sweetened, pureed strawberries
1 9 inch graham cracker crumb crust
 


Directions:

Fold yogurt into whipped topping, blending well.  Fold in strawberries.  Spoon into crust.  Freeze until firm, 4 hours or overnight.  Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving and keep chilled in refrigerator.  Garnish with additional strawberries.


Oreo Cupcakes



Thanks to Pinterest, I made these incredibly yummy cupcakes this Sunday. OMG are they so sweet and addictive! I did not include the marshmellow filling included in the recipe because I'm not really into cream fillings. I also just used store-bought icing instead of making from scratch (to be cheaper) and mixed in the crushed oreos. 

Recipe Ingredients:



Cupcakes:
1 box Duncan Hines White Cake Mix
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup water
3 eggs
24 whole Oreos

Filling (optional):
13 oz jar Marshmallow Creme
1 stick salted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Frosting:
4 sticks salted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 cups powdered sugar
15 Oreos, crushed VERY FINELY


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins with liners. Place an Oreo in the bottom of each liner.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine cake mix, eggs, melted butter, and water. Mix on low speed for one minute. Increase speed to high and beat for a minute more. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.

While cupcakes are baking, make your filling.

In a large bowl, beat Marshmallow Creme, butter, heavy cream and vanilla on medium low until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and increase speed to medium high and beat for about a minute. Refrigerate filling until cupcakes are done baking and cooled.


Once cupcakes are cooled completely, remove filling from the refrigerator and fill the cupcakes. You can do this by cutting a small hole in the top of the cupcake and spooning the filling in, or putting the filling in a pastry bag with a bismarck tip and piping it in through the top of the cupcake.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter, cream, and vanilla on medium-low until smooth and well-combined. Slowly add powdered sugar. Once powdered sugar is barely mixed in, increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. Fold in crushed Oreos.

Generously frost or pipe frosting on cupcakes and top with a mini Oreo if desired.




I am sooo craving all things fall and can't wait for the weather to change so I can bust out coats, cider, and fall recipes! 


Monday, August 6, 2012

Camp Rock (and post refresh)

Two weeks ago our children's ministry hosted our kids camp, called Camp Rock, up in the Blue Ridge mountains. This is like the 18th year Forest Hill has done an off-site kids camp and it has evolved and changed over the years to now be a pretty elaborate operation.

I seriously hate that Allie was not able to come this year. I didn't go away to camp when I was growing up, but I worked at one in college. I think it's such a fun and important thing for kids to be away from home with some sense of independence and having the time of their life with friends and trustworthy leaders. Even though Allie is officially now too old for Camp Rock, I hope we can somehow work out a way for her to do camp sometime in the future so she can have the camp experience. Since it's all about being outside, in nature, and doing fun/creative activities, I know camp is right up her alley.

Anyways... so this year's Camp Rock was tied into The Exploratorium back home (our elementary large group teaching environment) and the theme was "One makes the difference."

The quick synopsis is that our two chief explorers, Uncle Bill and Sam,
Photo by Yoshi James
had stumbled across this incredible cave while out looking for lost treasure. In the cave, they found some sort of existing outpost from a previous treasure hunter.

(here's the before picture of the room we meet in)
(and the after with the cave set.)

Artifacts
 Queen Esther's crown
This previous treasure hunter, may they now rest in peace (LOL), was trying to solve the mystery in the cave (identified by some strange carvings and impressions surrounding a wheel) and open the secret door hidden in the cave wall. The deceased explorer left behind clues for the next explorer in case he was never able to return.

Insert Uncle Bill and Sam.... and all the kids at camp.
Each day we would send out all the cabins (kids with their group of peers and counselors) on treasure hunts all over camp. Real treasure hunts, with real clues, and eventually they would find the 7 artifacts we needed in the evening to tell our Bible story. One artifact from each story fit into the unusual carvings in the cave wall and eventually, on the last day after the last artifact was put in place, the big wheel turned, and the secret door opened to reveal a giant treasure chest!

Each set of artifacts retrieved from the previous day would be inspected during club (large group) time and then a storyteller would explain how they fit with a particular Bible story, a story of how one person made a huge difference, stories like Esther, David and Goliath, the boy who gave up his lunch so Jesus could make enough for everyone, and the widow who gave everything she had.

All of this was building upon the bottom line/camp memory verse that "man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart."That God wants us to make a difference in the world and share his love with everyone we meet. To know that he is the ONE hope, ONE love, ONE faith, ONE truth, and ONE God. Once the kids opened the giant chest on the last night, they found REAL treasure - coins with the camp logo on front side and the camp memory verse "Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart" on the back side. Each camper got a coin to take home to remember camp and what ultimately matters in life.
Didn't I tell you this was elaborate? :) Yes, we can't do anything small and yes we created every single thing about the camp experience from the stage set to the large group and small group lessons to the treasure hunts and to the "ancient" artifacts and coins. Isn't my job crazy? :)

At camp, my primary job was to help club time run smoothly and be the primary storyteller/artifact expert Tuesday night, the David and Goliath story. I had such a fun time sharing this story with the campers and helping them understand that there is only ONE true God.
Photo by Yoshi James
Anyways, I could type forever about all the camp activities we did and games and songs/worship, and cool creative elements I've barely mentioned, but the coolest thing (in my opinion) we did at camp was a few service projects to really help kids start making a difference today.

On Tuesday the kids were engaged in a few service projects around camp to serve the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly staff and property. On Wednesday, the kids participated in a Stop Hunger Now service project where they packed 20,000 meals to send to starving people all over the world. The kids were seriously so into this and loved helping. They wanted to pack 40,000 meals!

We all had to wear these really stylish hair nets. :)



This sealed bag holds 6 meals. I don't know about you, but this doesn't look like 6 meals to me! It really puts our American abundance in perspective.
Finished! Bags are boxed up and ready to ship!
On Thursday, the rising 6th graders did a pretty serious hike to the top of the mountain. This was a huge element of camp that really had a lasting impact on everyone involved. To know more about what happened on the hike, read my friend/co-worker Lindsay's blog.

All in all, camp was a huge success and many children came to know Jesus better or accept him into their heart for the first time. Even though we love to create incredible experiences and adventures and tell amazing stories from the Bible, the whole point is so kids know God better and trust him to lead their lives.

You can read about/see photos/watch videos from Camp Rock on the Camp Rock Facebook page. Check it out!

Even though camp was a huge success, I need A LOT of post camp TLC. Ha!

When I got home, I found fresh flowers from Zach. Yay. He had also made me a pedicure appointment for the next day which I SO needed.
At Polished. Love this little salon.
After I got my nails did and relaxed on the sofa for a bit, I went with my friend Laura and her parents to the Alison Krauss and Union Station concert over at The Music Factory. I haven't been to a concert in forever so this was a huge treat and we had a blast!
Mango Italian ice. SO refreshing on a hot night.
Alison Krauss is ridiculous!

They were seriously amazing. Thanks Howell's for taking me! You guys are the best!

The pedicure, concert, and being clean and comfy in my own home was definitely a great way to relax post camp, but nothing made me feel more at home than being back with my husband. Zach and I hate being apart so 5 days of camp was a little... miserable. Ha! It definitely made me appreciate him even more and recognize the incredible blessing God has placed in my life. I love you Z!