Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beating The "Waiting" Blues

After yesterday's news that our adoption process has been delayed by another month, we became very thankful for some of the things that we've been doing lately in an effort to combat the "waiting" blues.

  1. Along with two other couples, we purchased ballroom dancing lessons and will start attending classes soon. We've always wanted to do it and when we received a great deal via Groupon, we just couldn't resist. We're probably not the most graceful people on the planet, but we'll have a great time laughing at and with one another as we cut the rug together.  Look out Fred and Ginger!
  2. I'm finally learning to play the guitar. After years of SAYING I'm going to do it, I traded in the electric that I never played for a Martin acoustic and have actually been practicing regularly. I've got a long way to go but it's fun to have a distraction with a purpose - hopefully I'll be playing in church before too long!
  3. Angie's taking some Ethiopian cooking classes with a good friend (who also has two Ethiopian sons).  They start on Friday .... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ...
  4. Some of Angie's dearest friends threw her (us) two wonderful baby showers. Even though it's sometimes been hard to think about baby stuff, it's been fun to get things that we know are for Tate. We've received lots of beautiful gifts as well as several gift cards to Target (where we're registered) and in the last few days, we've gone shopping for lots of things which we still needed ... a high chair, car seat, etc. Thanks to those of you who've blessed us with these gifts!
  5. We're probably going to join a gym tomorrow. With a discount from our health insurance it'll be pretty affordable and we need a constructive way to convert all of our internal emotional angst into calorie-burning energy!
  6. Last March (when we received the news that our process was delayed quite significantly), we packed up the car and took a spontaneous two-week long road-trip vacation to "escape." It was just what the doctor ordered and if our budget allows, we just might try to slip away for a special weekend getaway sometime this February.
  7. Oh - and Angie ordered a bunch of cheap Jane Austen movies from amazon.com. She's been watching them over and over and over and over and over ... and over ... that weekend getaway might be moving up the priority list.
Any suggestions for other ways we can beat the blues?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adoption Update

Today was another long-awaited day. After an unfortunate paperwork hiccup last month when we were in Africa, our documents were re-reviewed in the Ethiopian court today. Sadly, the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) still hasn't submitted their approval for 14 of the families from our travel group - including us.  We received the difficult news this morning that a THIRD court date has been set.

Wait for it.

February 21.

This hurts.  Deeply.  We are parents without our child and we're now forced to wait another month before our son can come home to his forever family.  In spite of the pain, however, we remain optimistic.  We also learned today of some new embassy policies that MAY move the process forward faster once our case finally clears court.  As we have learned so many times already, there are no guarantees, but we choose to remain hopeful about the possibility.

Tonight, we wallowed in our sadness and self-medicated with pizza and DQ Blizzards.  Hopefully, after a good night's sleep, well wake up tomorrow with fresh perspective.  It's cliche and honestly we hate hearing it, but God's timing really is perfect.  We just have to remain faithful in believing it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Music Set | January 22/23

Everyone (Praises) | Desperation Band | From The Rooftops album
- - - - -
How To Worship A King | Gateway Worship | God Be Praised album
God Is Alive | Fee | Hope Rising album
Our God | Chris Tomlin | Passion: Awakening album
Glorify You Alone | Gateway Worship | God Be Praised album
- - - - -
More Than Amazing | Lincoln Brewster | Real Life album
- - - - -
The Saving One | Starfield | The Saving One album

What a fun weekend!  Our choir sang as part of our worship gatherings on Sunday morning and introduced two great new worship songs to our church (How To Worship A King and Glorify You Alone).  Aside from conducting the choir, I got to "relax" and play keys in the band while Scott Campbell led worship.

Today's question from our continuing series of messages was "are all sins equal?" and we chose to use several songs with phrases/lyrics that talk about sin.  We closed with one of our church's current favorites, which reminds us of the great promise that The Saving One offers salvation to anyone who calls on His name.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why I Love Ethiopian Culture

I'm on my annual ministry planning retreat and decided to hang out at Perkins this morning.  I was seated at a comfortable booth and a lovely (presumably) African woman stopped by my table as my server.

"Please don't take offense to this, but do you mind if I ask your ethnic background?" I questioned.

She smiled brightly and replied, "How about if you guess."

Smiling back at her I said, "I'm wondering if you're Ethiopian?"

"YES," she said, signaling me to give her a double high five.

I told her that we are adopting a little boy from Ethiopia and this wonderfully kind woman who I had never met before screamed for joy (in the middle of Perkins mind you) and gave me a HUGE hug.  She asked what his name was and when I told her his given African name, she put her hands to her mouth as tears formed in her eyes.

"Do you know what it means?" she asked.

"Yes - thanks be to You God." I replied.

She nodded deliberately and we began to talk about how meaningful the name was.  I learned that she attends an evangelical Ethiopian church here in the Twin Cities and helps lead a ministry to adoptive families called Ethiopians for Ethiopians.  As I enjoyed my breakfast, I checked out the website and it definitely seems like something that Angie and I will take advantage of.

I love the brightness and warmth of Ethiopian culture.  I love the pure, genuine, uncontaminated joy that my server exuded when I shared our story with her.  I love that Ethiopians here in America (at least those we've met here in the Cities) are so accepting of caucasian Americans adopting their children.  I can't wait to see what the future holds and am so excited to help our son learn about his Ethiopian heritage as a part of our family.

What a beautiful start to my day - only God could have planned that one.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Music Set | January 15/16

Here's the music set from January 15/16 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded from the iTunes Music Store

The Loveliest Sound | Starfield | I Will Go album
- - - - -
All Together | watchword:truth | All Together album
Our God | Chris Tomlin | Passion: Awakening album
Reign In Us | Starfield | I Will Go album
- - - - -
All To Us | Chris Tomlin | And If Our God Is For Us album
- - - - -
Freedom Is Here | Hillsong United | A_CROSS // The_ EARTH album

This weekend we asked the question "can I have a spiritual life without the church?" and came to understand how incredibly difficult it would be to find fulfillment in our spiritual journeys without the body of Christ.  Pastor Randy's message was excellent and if you didn't get a chance to hear it, you can listen online.

Because we were talking about the importance of the church, community, etc, I chose songs that used very little "I" and "me" language and much more "we" and "us" language.  As a worship leader, I've often found myself appreciating songs that talk about the Church worshipping together and as a songwriter it's a theme that tends to come out fairly often in my writing (there's a reason why All Together is the title track of our album!).

All To Us was a new worship song that we introduced while elements for communion were being distributed and it has quickly become one of my top 10 current favorite worship songs.  It's a beautiful song about what Christ means to us, the Church.  I would recommend it (and all of Chris Tomlin's new album) highly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pieces Of Africa In My Office

In addition to the things we purchased for our home, I picked up a couple of items from Ethiopia for my office.

This is a Bible I picked up at one of the stores in the market. It's made of goat skin and written in Ge'ez, an ancient language that is now used solely for the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church.


Because of the language barrier we experienced when purchasing it, we're not entirely sure if this Bible is as old as it looks or if it's simply made to look that way. Either way, it's a beautiful addition to my hymnal collection (even though it's not a hymnal - I wasn't able to find one of those).


This is a sistrum - an instrument used in the Orthodox Christian Church. It's from the percussion family and is shaken like a maraca. It's brass and has a metallic sound - perfect trinket for the shelf of a church musician.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Music Set | January 8/9

Here's the music set from January 8/9 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded through the iTunes music store

Majestic | Lincoln Brewster | All To You Live album
- - - - -
Today Is The Day | Lincoln Brewster | Today Is The Day album
With One Voice | watchword:truth | All Together album
Revelation Song | Gateway Worship | Living For You album
- - - - -
The Word Is Alive | Casting Crowns | The Altar & The Door album
- - - - -
Remain | Starfield | I Will Go album

Not that it isn't usually, but everything about this weekend's worship gatherings was extremely intentional.  Our "question" (week two of our "I Have A Question" series) was "Can I Trust The Bible?" and Pastor Randy shared some compelling evidence that the Bible is entirely trustworthy.  All of the songs in the worship set were inspired by passages of scripture and during the intro to each song, we displayed the verses from which the songs were derived.  Additionally, we prayed through six passages of scripture (see my earlier post) which seemed to be very meaningful to our church.

The Word Is Alive was a perfect fit for setting up the message and speaks to the fact that this world and all of it's glories will fade but the truth of God's word will never pass away.  We closed the service by singing Remain - the chorus speaks for itself:

You are God with us, You're victorious
You are strong and mighty to save
For your WORD STANDS TRUE
There is none like You
And when all else fades, You remain

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our African Memorabilia

On our trip to Ethiopia, we picked up several things for our home (in addition to gifts for others and our little man).  We thought you might enjoy seeing some photos of where they all ended up ...

This is a rug (approximately 2' x 6') that's hanging at the landing in our stairwell.

We found several pieces of artwork that were made on banana leaves (like this one).  We used them all to redecorate our upstairs guest bathroom.  We liked this piece in particular because it portrays dancing and music.

Here's our little family! (Also in the upstairs guest bathroom.)

Some additional banana leaf artwork in the upstairs guest bathroom.

We found this embroidered quilt in the first store we visited.  It's similar to the one that was on the bed in our room at the CHSFS Guest House.  This is our upstairs guest bedroom.
I bought this keychain for myself so that I'd always have something with me to remind me of our time in Africa.
Three orthodox Christian crosses that hang next to our front door.
Our treasured possession - the candle we received from a member of our son's birth family in a candlestick we purchased at the market in Addis Ababa.  This candle sits atop the fireplace mantle in our living room.


Praying Scripture

During this weekend's worship gatherings, we prayed through some passages of scripture and several people asked me for the passage references.  Here are the passages we used for prayer (clicking the links will redirect you to the specific passage on biblegateway.com):






Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Encouragement

To all of the music team members at Constance Free Church who follow my blog.  I received a really encouraging email this week and wanted to share a portion of it with each of you.  Thanks so much for all you do and for making our worship experiences meaningful to those who attend CFC!

I visited CFC on Sunday and wanted to tell you that I was very blessed by the worship music. It's Tuesday and the music is still on my mind and heart so that speaks pretty clearly about how God used it and your team ... each member of the team conveyed a genuine love for the Lord and His people. I was especially moved by the final song "What Faith Can Do." The lyrics encouraged and challenged me to walk by faith in Him moment by moment because He's the only one I can trust completely no matter what life brings.

One of my 2011 resolutions is to try to hear and follow God's promptings more throughout my day, so when I sensed Him prompting me today to pause and send this email I thought I'd better do it!

Thank you and God bless you and your team.

Keep up the great work team!  Your efforts make a difference for eternity and I will always consider it one of my life's greatest privileges to serve with each of you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Music Set | January 1/2

Here's the music set from December 1/2 at Constance Free Church //
All songs can be downloaded from the iTunes music store

God On High | watchword:truth | All Together album
- - - - -
Everlasting God | Lincoln Brewster | Let The Praises Ring album
Alive | Pocket Full of Rocks | More Than Noise album
My Faith Has Found A Resting Place | Traditional hymn | n/a
The Greatness Of Our God | One Sonic Society | One album
- - - - -
What Faith Can Do | Kutless | It Is Well album

This week, we began a series this week called "I Have A Question."  Over five weekends, we'll answer common (and important) questions that people have about Christianity.  To begin the series, Sean McDowell answered the question "Can Faith and Science Coexist?"  It was a powerful and informative message and is available on our church's website in case you missed it.

I chose songs that I hoped would accomplish two things this weekend:

  1. I wanted songs that would be familiar to those who may be "re-engaging" church after an absence.  At the start of the new year, many people feel that it's time to get back to church and I generally like to use a song or two that we've had in our repertoire for a good while.  I've learned that this helps everyone feel a bit more comfortable during post-holiday seasons as we're all getting re-acclimated.
  2. I wanted to use songs that spoke of faith.  We don't generally use a lot of hymns in our main venues, but My Faith Has Found A Resting Place was a perfect fit for this weekend's message.  Lyrically, it's rich and helped set up the message that Pastor Sean would preach.  Before we sang it together, the band played an instrumental version of it while scriptures about faith and trust in God played on the media screens.
Overall, it was a great weekend and we're looking forward to four more weeks of powerful messages from our teaching team.

Music Set | December 26

Here's the music set from December 26 at Constance Free Church //
Most songs (except Break The Night) can be downloaded from the iTunes music store

Today Is The Day | Lincoln Brewster | Today Is The Day album
- - - - -
Happy Day | Tim Hughes | Holding Nothing Back album
Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy) | Chris Tomlin | Glory In The Highest album
The Greatness Of Our God | One Sonic Society | One album
O Come Let Us Adore Him | Traditional | n/a
- - - - -
Break The Night | Dan Leverence | n/a