Florida and Adoption Update

June 7th, 2015
Presenting at Anastasia Baptist Church

Presenting at Anastasia Baptist Church

This has been another very emotional couple of weeks for us – just a lot of ups and downs.

I had a couple of ministry events in Florida, so we decided to take the whole family and make it our family vacation for the summer. We had planned to spend the first several days at St. Augustine Beach because I had some ministry events there at Anastasia Baptist Church, and then we were going to go over to Disney World for several days and head home.

Sadly, we heard just before we were leaving that our dear family friend, Ralph, had passed away. I’ve known Ralph and his wife, Nancy, my entire life – they are like family to me. Ralph had been battling cancer for a year, and my mom and I went down to Florida to visit them a couple of months ago because we knew it was getting toward the end. I had even recorded a special version of one of Ralph’s favorite songs of mine for his funeral at his request. When we realized the service was going to be on that first weekend we were in Florida, we knew we needed to try to get there, even though it was on the other side of the state. Nancy was really wanting me to sing at the service, and told me that was what Ralph had wanted too, but they hadn’t wanted to pressure me to come and didn’t know my schedule.

The kids had to miss the last two days of school, so that was a little rough with our oldest – she had to move up her finals, but she was willing. We literally picked her up from her last final and hit the road, driving 7 hours to Charlotte, NC in one shot. The next day we were up bright and early to get to St. Augustine because I had a concert that night and we were supposed to sound check about 4 in the afternoon. We were so relieved to have no problems at all with traffic – in 1000 miles, we probably only lost about 15 minutes total for traffic, and that is a miracle!

We were able to check into our condo and actually left the kids there because they are old enough and were exhausted, and they’ve heard my concerts a few times. :) Anastasia Baptist was only a couple miles from this condo, so we got the kids dinner and headed back. They were just a lovely bunch of people to work with! It was a great night, and even though we were very tired at the end of the show, it’s always wonderful to hear how God is working in people’s lives – I think talking to people afterward is one of my favorite parts!

After that we went home and crashed, and the next day we just took a day off and played on the beach together and saw a bit of St. Augustine which has some fascinating history. The next day was Friday and we spent the morning getting organized and then headed out for another almost 6 hour drive across the state. We reconnected with a few family friends and the next day was Ralph’s funeral. I had to go early for a sound check, but that was fine – his whole family was there and I just love them. It hurts to be together because you’ve lost someone, but it’s also a comfort. Ralph was an amazing man, a loving father and loyal friend, a man of faith and dignity, and it was a pretty inspiring service. And God was so good to me – I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to sing because I would be choked up, but God got me through it, and I know it was what Ralph wanted, so that was sweet.

After the service we had lunch with everyone and then went with the family for the smaller graveside service. It was also beautiful, and I was thinking it would be a pretty place for Nancy to visit, but we know that Ralph is somewhere so much better!

Then we headed back across the state because I was singing again at Anastasia in the morning. The services went well, and I would love to be back here another time! What a sweet church. We were by this time pretty worn out, though, and happy to head to Disney, if only to cheer up. When we go to Disney, we vacation hard – this is not a time to relax and rest! That’s what the beach was for! But since we missed that time, we tried to take it just a bit easier. Sadly, we also had to cut that time short because the girls had to be back for a training at the zoo where they volunteer.

In the end, we’re glad we went, and so glad that we were able to be there for Nancy, but we need a vacation after our vacation. Now that we’re back, we’re full steam ahead into adoption paperwork, and hoping to finish our homestudy in the next 4 or 6 weeks. There’s an overwhelming amount of paperwork, but we’re just going to do our best to plow through. Thanks for your prayers for our little guy!

Our Soon-To-Be New Son

May 24th, 2015
Our soon-to-be new son!

Our soon-to-be new son!

Well, this has been one of the best and one of the hardest and most emotional weeks I’ve had in a long, long time – talk about a roller-coaster.

We have been working on an adoption for quite some time now, but didn’t want to make it public until we were reasonably sure it would go through. Many of you know that we do a lot of work with orphans around the world, and our goal was to adopt a child who would have a hard time finding a family. We had been pursuing a little boy from China whom we felt strongly we were supposed to have. He is eight and has a pretty complicated heart condition. He was abandoned at 40 days old by his parents, likely because of his condition. It looked like we weren’t going to get him, but then we found out that we had, and a few days ago we got our official match from the government of China. We were over the moon!

We were told that his heart had been fixed but he would not be able to be as active as other children. Then we were told, yes, he’d had a heart surgery, but he would certainly need another, and his future was less certain. We have prayed continually about this boy, and our whole family feels that he is absolutely supposed to be part of our family. We accepted the placement with great joy last Wednesday, and then on Thursday night we met with a cardiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital here to go over a new echocardiogram they had sent us. We had received it in Chinese, so it had taken a while to find someone who could translate it and get it over to the hospital.

The information we got was pretty devastating actually. We posted this on facebook:

How to express going from elated to heartbroken to peaceful in such a short time? We are so excited to welcome our new little guy into the family, but the consult with the cardiologist did not go the way we’d hoped. The short version is that he has had one surgery and needed another, but he needed it about six years ago, and now there is a good chance that it is just too late – the damage may be too great to risk it. We all feel very strongly that the Lord wants us to have this boy in our family, whether his life is short or long, and so we are proceeding, and asking that you please pray with us for his protection, for speed in the process so we don’t lose more time, and for a miracle for his heart. I feel such an overwhelming peace that this is the path, and that God will take us through it, and I know he loves this little guy more than anyone can express. We just want him to be loved by a family and have the best chance he can. Thanks for your prayers.

I can’t tell you what that first night was like. We’ve never met this boy, but God has already given us a love for him, and it felt like one of our children had been given a death sentence. With time to pray it through, we are feeling peaceful about it, and we know God holds him in His hands!

The doctors have told us that they is no way to know if he will be able to have the surgery until we get him here. They give it 30-40%. We are asking people to pray for a miracle for his heart, and that it is not too late, and that he will not be afraid and will know the love we have for him and the love God has for him. We’re also asking for prayer for our children and our family as we transition.

It’s been a really hard week, but these are the times we are privileged to see God show up in a way that we never would have without difficulty. He loves this boy! We are not allowed yet to release his name or the province he is in, but we would love your prayers for him even so – God definitely knows his name!

Thanks from our family. We are feeling blessed. And I will keep blogging the journey here. Soli Deo Gloria.

Scripture Memory Songs update

May 14th, 2015
Receiving fan mail from the post-girl at Polaris Christian Academy

Receiving fan mail from the post-girl at Polaris Christian Academy

Just a quick catch up. The Scripture Memory Songs album is officially being released next Tuesday, but we’ve already been shipping all the pre-orders, and we’ve been hearing about it from all sorts of places. Here’s one blogger’s review. And here’s another one. :)

Also, I got to go this afternoon to my friend Patti’s school and do some of the songs with them. Their school uses my songs as part of their Scripture memory curriculum, and I always feel like a rock star when I go – the kids are so excited and they know all the songs and motions. I sing with them and one year we even wrote a song together. This year they surprised me with an entire stack of “fan mail” that they had written, and it was even delivered very officially by the “post-girl” – so cute!

Ugandans, Archery, Long Island, and the In-Laws

May 12th, 2015
With Harriett, Javura, and Millie from the Ugandan Children's Choir

With Harriett, Javura, and Millie from the Ugandan Children’s Choir

Rachel with a perfect 50.

Rachel with a perfect 50.

The beautiful tea at Island Christian for Mother's Day

The beautiful tea at Island Christian for Mother’s Day

Some of the worship dancers with me leading worship at Island Christian

Some of the worship dancers with me leading worship at Island Christian

What a very interesting and strange week I’ve been having. Never thought that would be the collection in a title!

A little over a week ago, our family went to a special welcoming party for a traveling choir of Ugandan orphans. We were housing some of them during their time in Columbus, and we got to meet and take home our three teen girls, Millie, Javura, and Harriett. We weren’t at all sure what to expect from the time, but it was such a blessing. There were definitely uncomfortable moments, like when all three of the girls at different times got lost in our house (they’d never been in a multi-story house and could not find the rec-room in the basement where they were sleeping), or when they didn’t know why anyone would keep a dog in the house on purpose and our schnauzers just kept barking at them, or when we had a hard time understanding them (even though their English was great), but we were shocked by how quickly they made their way into our hearts. They were with us about 5 days, and we had a good bit of family time together, visiting the zoo and eating dinner together, and going to several gatherings at different host homes between their concert events. Their concerts were amazing too!

Their last morning was absolutely wrenching. I had no idea I could fall in love so quickly. They all started crying at breakfast and had written us letters to thank us for our hospitality, and all expressed that they wished they could stay with our family forever. I wish they could too, and I’m not just saying that. Only about 2% of the world’s orphans are actually legally free for adoption – the system is so complicated. And none of these girls were. But I can say honestly, we would have welcomed any of them into our family. The have touched my heart, and I will be praying for them!

After they left for their next stop in Michigan, my daughter Rachel and I also left along with my mom and drove to Louisville, KY, about 4 hours from our home so Rachel could compete in the Nationals for archery. We sort of stumbled onto archery as a sport several years ago (it’s not common in our hometown!) and Rachel has a serious knack for it. She is not remotely phased by the huge crowds of watchers or archers. Last year she placed 8th in the country for her division! This year was not as good, she was in the 20s, but she still shot well, and her team did great, placing in the top 5. I watched her shoot and then I ran across the street to the airport and flew to NY and my mom drove her home.

The next morning I was at Island Christian Church for a Mother’s Day brunch and also stayed with them to do the worship services on Sunday morning. This is such a dear church! The first time I was with them was right after Hurricane Sandy and I went out to do a disabilities conference. They have a huge heart and I just love the lead pastor and his wife! There is a huge disabilities ministry there which says so much about the heart of their church, and we had a beautiful tea with several hundred women. The next day I sang at all of their services, and had the fun surprise that there was a team of teen girls who did worship dance during my worship leading as a special thing for Mother’s Day, so that was fun to coordinate with all of them! Wish I’d gotten to watch more – it was hard for me to see around the piano!

I also got to visit with some of my dear friends while I was there (we used to live in NY when Nathan and I were in graduate school and afterwards) and then I flew home that night. My in-laws had come to visit while I was gone and were staying a few more days, so we had a great visit too. And NOW, sigh, it’s all over and I can return to a little bit more of the normal. Whatever that is!

Fixing Toilets for Jesus…

April 27th, 2015
At Kent Christian Life Center speaking at their women's brunch

At Kent Christian Life Center speaking at their women’s brunch

Speaking at The Crossing Community Church

Speaking at The Crossing Community Church

Just got back from another weekend of ministry, and fixed my first toilet for Jesus. :) Seriously, funny story, I was actually staying at the pastor’s house and we had noticed overnight that the toilet was dripping on the floor a bit. The pastor left early because the men were serving the brunch, and I noticed that the leak had gotten a lot worse – something in the supply line let go or something and I thought they were going to flood their bathroom during the brunch so I turned off the line and drained the tank. When I told Cheryl, the women’s ministry director and pastor’s wife, she was so embarrassed that I would do that and then when she introduced me, she said, “Jennifer Shaw is FULL-SERVICE. She does worship, she speaks, she writes songs and books, and this morning she fixed my toilet.” Hilarious! I’m sure one day God will show me how to use that as a sermon illustration…

Anyway, it was a lovely brunch at Kent Christian Life Center and so good to meet everyone there. The pastor and his wife were wonderful, and we had a great time with them.

The next day I was back in my hometown of Columbus and did the entire morning service for The Crossing Community Church in Hilliard. I was there last year, and it was great to be back! They have a wonderful heart for missions and also for the special needs community, two things that are very near and dear to my heart. So overall, a great weekend with new friends and old.

Amazing Weekend and New Article

April 20th, 2015
Speaking to the women at the Ladies in Faith Together Conference in Michigan

Speaking to the women at the Ladies in Faith Together Conference in Michigan

Doing guest worship and special music at Grace Church in Ohio

Doing guest worship and special music at Grace Church in Ohio

A new article about my Scripture Memory Songs has come out in a number of places, talking about Biblical illiteracy, and our hope to plant the Word of God into kids’ hearts. You can see it here from the Christian Telegraph.

This past weekend, I had the wonderful privilege of being the speaker for an event up in Sterling Heights, Michigan which brings together women from over 50 churches. It was so fun to see the body of Christ come together in that way! I spoke on the life of Esther and also led the worship, and had an amazing day. It was especially lovely to get to know all the women on the team who planned and put together the event – they were wonderful and so dedicated. And to top it off, we got so many Compassion children sponsored, and that is one of my favorite things about what I do!

The next day I was down in Toledo at Grace Church to do special music and guest worship. What an interesting morning! There was a pastor there from Poland who was visiting and giving the message, and he was updating the church on all that the Lord had been doing with their ministry in Poland. He was an amazing man, literally building a church from the people he and his wife and team were rescuing from the streets. It was so encouraging and a great reminder of the power of the grace of our God!

More ministry coming up this next week, and it’s been a busy spring. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the people of God I get to meet – heaven is going to be an awesome place!

Our New Scripture Memory album is here!

April 8th, 2015
The cover for the new album!

The cover for the new album!

I am so excited to announce that my new CD “Scripture Memory Songs For Kids and Families” is almost here!

We have just opened the pre-orders on my site. You can hear clips and see lyrics there as well. The official release for the project is May 19th, but we will be shipping all pre-orders as early as next week, more than a month before you will be able to get them anywhere else! Also, I will be signing any pre-orders from my site (unless you get a digital download – I’m not that good!!). Please note, I do have to unwrap and open the CDs to sign them, so if you don’t want that, just let us know when you order. :)

I’m so excited to see how God will use this new project. It’s very different from my mainstream albums, but I’ve just loved working on it, and it’s huge! It has 30 word-for-word Scripture memory songs from the NIV on it that even include the references; we sing them right in. It also has 9 other bonus Christian kid’s songs on it for 39 songs total. Even though it’s so many songs and twice the length of a regular album, we wanted to keep it affordable, so they are only $20 each.

These were designed for use with a VBS curriculum, but over the years, we’ve gotten emails from people who have used our Scripture songs in all kinds of ways – homeschooling, Sunday school, Christian school classes, and just popping it into the car stereo and learning Scripture together. I’ve even had adults tell me they use it all the time. It’s aimed at grade-school aged kids and has fun songs, and silly songs, and cool songs, and pretty songs. We really hope that it is a blessing to you and your family and the kids in your life!

Is the Bible valuable?

April 8th, 2015

Is the Bible valuable?

Most people would say, “Of course.” Even if they don’t believe it or agree with it, they might value it for historical purposes or it’s cultural weight. But is the Bible valuable to you? Christians are supposed to value the Bible as the Word of God Himself.

And yet, a study by LifeWay Research states that only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over a third only read it once or twice a month. Eighteen percent of church attenders say they never read the Bible at all.

That makes me so sad. I wonder if they know what they are missing.

Have you ever thought about what an amazing thing it is that we have access to the very Word of God? That He has told us all about Himself and all about us and human nature? That He has given us instructions to have “life and life to the full” (John 10:10)? It’s sitting there waiting, but sometimes I think the very fact that it is so accessible makes us treat it very casually.

So, practically, how do we start reading and learning from the Bible if we haven’t been doing that before? I will tell you, I have struggled in this area for a long time. I am not a morning person, and I’m not super organized, so trying to follow the standard of getting up before dawn and spending hours in a quiet time before my family was awake was never going to work for me – in fact, thinking that people were doing that was discouraging to me. How could I measure up?

Eugene Peterson says that we need “a long obedience in the same direction.” My undergraduate degree is in piano performance. When my kids started piano lessons, their first teacher was excited that I would surely be super intense about it and told them they needed to practice for an hour a day. I told her I was going to require 15 minutes from them, and she was not very happy with me. But I required 15 focused minutes. No messing around, it had to be 15 concentrated minutes and it had to be every single day. After that they could play around, play whatever they wanted or not play at all. I didn’t care. You see, I’d already taught piano for years. Most kids their age couldn’t concentrate for much longer than that anyway, and they might play an hour, but they weren’t really working on anything. When it was that long, they were discouraged and got bored and it took the fun out of it. What we found was that my kids learned fast. And they played a lot more than that 15 minutes because they were getting it and playing for the enjoyment of it. It’s amazing what 15 focused minutes can do. (Disclaimer – my kids were little and their practice time increased as they got older. Please do not hit your piano teacher over the head with this article when he or she tells you your child needs to do more!)

This principle can be applied to so many things. Five minutes at something every day of your life can change your life. Small things add up. It’s so easy to say, “Well, what’s five minutes?” but five minutes times 365 days can turn into quite a skill or knowledge set.

So with the Bible, I tried to get my kids in a daily habit, and they tied it to something to help them remember. Rinnah reads right when she wakes up. Rachel reads while she’s doing her hair (she has a lot of hair, and has this magical ability to do it without looking while sitting cross-legged in the middle of her floor with a Bible in her lap). Toby reads his while eating his breakfast every day. You are going to wake up every day. You will eat food at some point in every day. If you have hair like Rachel’s you will need to spend time doing it every day. Pick something as your mnemonic, and use that. My kids probably read the Bible for 5-10 minutes every day. That’s it. We talk about what they are reading at dinner and it’s casual. They might ask me a question about it while we’re putting shoes on for school or when we’re in the car. But they have read a tremendous amount over time because they do it every day, and I hope they are setting habits that will last their entire lives.

It is still a struggle for me personally. I love the Bible, but I know my tendency to be lazy about it. So for me, I make sure I’m always in an organized Bible study. That way I have built in accountability – someone is going to know (other than me and God!) whether I did my study at the end of the week, and that really helps me be motivated. Some people do not need that outside help, but I know I do, so I sign up and I ask God to help me be faithful, and He does!

There’s an old hymn that has a line that reads, “There’s a famine for the Word.” It’s true. How are we to represent God in this world if we don’t know what He’s telling us to do or who He is? The more I read and study my Bible, the more excited I get, the more connections I make, the more the Holy Spirit reveals Himself through the pages. It’s changed my life and my entire world view. Just like my kids playing for fun after their practice time, that long obedience has gotten me excited to dig into the Bible at all times, not just when I “have to.”

Don’t miss that blessing! Don’t miss out on one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us; the ability to know Him through His Word!

One of the Scripture songs on the new album is a great ending and reminder:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteous so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17

Let’s dig in to the Word so we can give out to our world!

Teaching at the Music Tech Conference

March 30th, 2015
Setting up for one of the sessions on Evolution of a Song

Setting up for one of the sessions on Evolution of a Song

This past weekend I got to go back to Capital University as part of their Music Tech Conference. I was teaching a session called “Evolution of a Song: From Writing, Through Recording, to Billboard.” The blurb was “Follow the life of a song from concept and writing through production to radio. We will look at aspects of songwriting, co-writing, radio writing, various methods of production used in Nashville, budgeting, radio promotion, marketing, and the charting process through real song examples from the presenter’s catalog.”

Again, I love teaching, and these students had the greatest questions! It was fun to be with them, and looking forward to being back again sometime.

Weekend on Science Hill

March 23rd, 2015
At Science Hill Community Church

At Science Hill Community Church

I just got back from a packed weekend in Northeast Ohio. I did a concert on Friday night, and women’s retreat on Saturday, and then worship service on Sunday for a church called Science Hill Community Church. I asked the pastor about the name because I’d heard the church was located “on Science Hill”, and I wondered if there used to be a lab or a university or something – I was curious about the name. Well, it turns out that when the Mennonites came a long time ago, they called it “Zion’s Hill” but their accent was so thick people thought they were calling it “Science Hill” and the name just stuck. Hilarious! Apparently there’s never been anything remotely science related there.

I had a great time with them. It was such a warm congregation, and I especially loved getting to know the pastor and his wife and our host, Marilyn. Just lovely people. The coordinator, Lori, worked so hard to make everything beautiful, and it was fun to see her plan come together.

Thanks for having me!