April 28, 2009


My dear friends- I once had this great idea that I would blog every week...well, I am afraid to check on the date of my last entry but I know it has been awhile since I caught you up on where I'm at. This past month has been a whirwind for me- in the past week I've shaken hands with probably 20 celebrities, conducted a choir on 2 songs for a cd recording, taken 7 planes, crossed over to Canada, slept in my bed for one night, saw friends and family for the first time in almost 9 months, and learned and taught 6 new songs to a different choir in 3 days! What a reminder of just how quickly life can change and how flexible your direction, course, and ideas are in it all!

One giant surreal blur of an incredible opportunity and adventure later I am "settled" back with my choir in Georgia and surrounded by the familiar faces of my team and smiles and relationships with my children. A week ago I was in Nashville with choir 31 to help them learn 6 new songs for a large country music benefit called Nashville4 Africa with (for a country music fan) an incredible line up of artists: Big Kenny (save a horse ride a cowboy anyone?), Damien Horne (an artist who has done a lot of work forming partnerships with the Sudan), Keith Urban (who we opened with!), Faith Hill, Dierks Bentley, Brad Arnold, Ashley Cleveland, and the SteelDrivers. I met up with the choir 31 team in Monreal and from there travelled with them to Cambridge ON- I never thought I'd see the day when I cheered for the 401 and took 6 pictures of the Canadian flag- all poor quality taken from the bus window and really not worth posting- but it felt so good to be home! It is funny how just being near home an in a familiar place has such a feeling of comfort attached. Between being in Montreal and Cambridge I ran rehearsals with the kids for probably 10 hours and they learned 6 new songs! I felt so happily relieved by the end of our second rehearsal that everything had come together so well, especially with so many people counting on me for the event. After rehearsals my parents picked me up, and from there I got to see my sister again and my close friends for dinner too.

The best part about it? It felt like it was just the other day since I'd seen them and we were all enjoying dinner together and talking. Nothing felt strange about being surrounded by the people dearest to me from home- it was so natural to all be talking at the dinner table and comfortable and relaxed. What a comforting reminder that distance doesn't change the depths of good relationships. Not even 24 hours later I was back in Cambridge with choir 31 boarding the bus for a 2 day long trip to Nashville. When we finally got there we spent our first day in Oceanway recording studios- a studio set in an old church with such beautiful acoustics! From here on there are so many good stories to tell but I will highlight my favourtie moments. I don't remember a lot of details from the best memories, but how I felt in the moment is what remains...

1. At the recording studio recording with Dierks Bently. I was lucky enough to conduct with his manager for the cd recording. I hope amidst my nervous energy and excitement I did some justice to my conducting classes! My lasting memory is the creative energy of his manager- and his excitement in working with me. In any doubt of why I studied music- that feeling of how the music just stirred something within me when I conducted with him is the answer.

2. Conducting solo our third recording song and having the studio manager come out to the children after the first take- with no words, but a smile and tears. Every hour of rehearsal was completely worth it just for watching how their work and singing could then move someone.

3. Sound checking with Keith Urban for his hit single somebody like you- was I really on the same stage as him just last week?

4. Seeing how genuine Faith Hill is- she had the house band cover one of the chilren's songs from concert. I overheard her saying to her producer "this night is for the kids- it's about the African Childrens Choir- not about me. I'll sing off to the side- but I want the focus to be the kids. I'm not about to try and be the star for a song they've done for 25 years!" She left soundcheck after introducing herself to each of the children and the chaperones. The next day before the show she gave each of the children silver bracelets with the love verse from Corinthians engraved on it, and her daughter (maggie who's 10) donated all her money to the children that she'd been saving for the past year. At intermission she even came to the children's green room just to get more time in to play with them!

I had a lot of fun working with the team of 31, and leading their children in rehearsals. I also left after seeing the influence that fame has on our generation. In a society that idolizes celebrities I can say that I saw first hand the impact someone of such stature and wealth can choose to have on this world. How encouraging to see it be used for the positive!

April 1, 2009


There are few greater things in life than the simplest of things. Listening to the rain beat on the roof as you sit warmly and safely tucked inside- good conversation-laughing...

That's where I'm at right now. Listening to a good storm as I sit cozy in bed in Florence Alabama- suitcase looking much neater than it did earlier today as I get packed up again to move on to Birmingham tomorrow. I have spent the past three nights with a widowed woman by the name of Carolyn- upon hearing it was my day off today she quickly could not stop laughing in excitement. That is the way that Carolyn approaches everything- something so simple as fixing us breakfast in the morning finds her laughing, driving us to the church for the day, hugging us goodnight- her genuine joy for life has grabbed hold of me and touched me.

Smiling- this morning she pulls herself a cup of coffee and sits down to keep me company as I eat breakfast. She asks me lots of questions about my family, myself, my life- not because she has too fill space or silence, but because she genuinely wants to know me. We continue to talk and she tells me about how she fills her time now that she is retired. Carolyn is a very active woman. She fills her time with being a spokesperson for the Breast cancer society, after battling breast cancer herself and loosing her husband who was terminally ill and whose life was taken by the struggles of cancer. She tells me that she cannot be sad or worried that she is not cancer free, but happy for what it has given her- for the speaker she now is to encourage many, and for the friends she has been blessed with who share a similar story as herself. "It is the only thing to do- to be positive" she tells me happily- "that's all there is to it!" She knows that an attitude like that will serve her well to battle through any struggles, and I can only imagine how many more lives she has touched because of her outlook- beyond the life of her husband and my own.

I leave here now encouraged. It has been so wonderful- if only for a mere couple days to be truly included and feel so apart of her family. Her friends, who knew only of my work with the choir and that I am Canadian fought over who would pay for my lunch, and then when Carolyn found out I needed new concert shoes, she sent her daughter shopping with me tonight to find some. Her daughter bought me new shoes for concerts (whoever is reading this from my team I know you are very happy indeed!) and another just for fun because she "wanted to help me out!"

I just finished reading the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (go read it! It's one of my favourites now. But I will warn you that if you read it you will often find yourself laughing outloud, so I caution reading in public) At the end of the book she concludes by saying that too often we try to excuse the blessings of other people- we try not to take them, that we feel guilty- and instead we should learn to accept and just be so grateful and thankful in moments of blessing." Today these people who had just started to come to know me hugged me at the end of the day- thanking me, asking if they could call me from time to time, telling me that I was inspiring, and hugged me saying they loved me. Those are powerful words. Hosts often tell me that because of what I've done I will indeed be richly blessed at the end of the journey and in the future...the thing is? I already have. Many, many times over- and in trying to heed Elizabeth Gilbert's advice tonight I just want to share with you that I am so thankful.