Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

The Making of the New Album

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Final cover image for the new album

Me with Jeff Kubach and the Trevecca guys, Collin, Tyler, and Elijah during the video shoot. These are all pictures from the videos, but really, watching people write a song is not super photogenic!

Setting up for A Greater Love

Sometimes four cameras pointed at you at once is intimidating, especially when there’s one just for your hands. Don’t miss any notes!!


A rooftop shot for How Far Love Goes

Shooting Forever Family

Piano scenes for Porch Swing

And, what else? Porch swing scenes for Porch Swing.

Given all that is going on around here, I know you will believe me when I say the fact that we have completed a new album is a miracle of God! Here’s the rundown of the making of the new album:

Earlier this year after much prayer, Nathan and I decided to commit to another album. This is a very expensive and time-consuming process, but it had become clear that I needed new songs given the shift in my speaking topics in the last several years. Basically, we had to decide if it was time to hang it up completely, or do another album. I do not feel any sense at all that God is done with our ministry, so an album it had to be. This was pretty daunting in a year when we knew we’d also be completing two adoptions from both a time and money perspective, but we knew if God wanted it to happen, He would make a way.

I had already written several songs, and I also started gathering song ideas and praying over what we needed in this new “toolkit” for ministry. I made an album plan and a writing plan for the songs that weren’t written yet.

In June, I went down to Nashville to write a few songs with my producer, Paul Marino. We’ve written many of my favorite songs together, and it was another challenging and fun artistic endeavor. I love the creative process, and to say, “I need a song about adoption, let’s make that” and then sit down and create something out of nothing is pretty darn fun. By the end of that trip, I had the album plan, the songs all written, arrangements done, and everything in place for them to start the recording sessions without me. In the past I’ve been super hands on, and have even co-produced or produced some of my past projects, but I’ve worked with Paul so much that I knew what I would be getting. He’s absolutely amazing, and I totally trust him, and we were leaving for China so I gave him the go-ahead to do the band and string sessions without me.

We got the initial rough mixes from the band literally as we were leaving for China. Nathan was trying to download them on my phone in the airport for me so I could listen on the long flight. I knew if I wasn’t able to get them listened to and give feedback the minute we got to China, there was no way it was happening because once we got the kids it would be non-stop for the foreseeable future. I listened and took notes most of the way to China, and fortunately we had a decent internet connection in Hong Kong to send feedback. Paul as usual exceeded my expectations, and I was really happy overall with the direction this went.

We had initially planned that I would head down to Nashville again at the end of September to do the vocals, but that didn’t end up happening. I got sick and also, it was just too early to leave the new kiddos. They were doing really well, but when you’ve lost everything and you’re in a new country and literally your whole world has changed, having your new parent leave even for a few days can be really frightening. We decided to wait until October to give them a few more weeks, and have the string sessions done first.

While we waited, I put together all the text for the CD insert and proofed it 800 times and sent it to Royce, the graphic designer and photographer working on the project. That way he could do an initial layout just to get ideas for spacing, etc. I also researched and picked a new manufacturer because the one I’ve used for years closed shop and Royce needed their specific templates. And I worked on getting the mechanical and digital licenses for the couple of songs that needed them. AND, I did something I truly hate – I shopped for clothing for the photo shoot. I’m a jeans and t-shirt gal and I hate, hate (did I mention I hate it?!) to shop for clothing. It is way too much pressure to figure out how to look cute etc, etc. I brought my mom just to make me get it done.

I got the string session rough mixes just before I went to Nashville, and holy cannoli, this is why you work in Nashville. Phillip Keveren who is an amazing arranger, orchestrator, and pianist did the string arrangements, and they are incredible. Again. He did the arrangements on my last two albums as well. The man is a genius. And also incredibly nice – that’s a rare combo. And the string players are all from the Nashville symphony and knocked it out of the park. The cello solo at the beginning of “In Christ Alone?” Mic drop. I don’t even need to sing the song now. Close your eyes and you’re in Ireland.

I drove into Nashville, about six hours from my house, and went immediately to the photographer’s studio. My publicist, Gina Adams, who is not just a great publicist, but also a friend after all these years met me there and we proceeded with another of my least favorite parts of these things – the photo shoot. This business is not kind to women, and I can be really hard on myself. Nothing fun about it, but she kept making me laugh which helped and the photographer, Royce was super nice and easy to work with. And he got some great shots which I am very relieved to have done. He got me proofs and some ideas for the cover layouts over the next couple of weeks.

The next three days I spent with Paul and also with Jeremy Johnson. Jeremy is Paul’s writing partner and they produce tons of things for Lifeway and are great friends. Paul is a good friend, and I’ve known Jeremy for years and we’ve written a bit together too. He engineered the vocal sessions at his studio and did a bunch of the programming and the keys and mixing and all kinds of fun stuff. It was so fun to see him again and catch up with his family and see how his kids are growing. It’s a really lovely thing when you can work with people who are just amazing at what they do, and are also stellar people. Doing vocals can be kind of mentally grueling since you have to be on your game for literally every second of the sessions, but it is also really fun. I love communicating through sound, always have, and it’s super fun to collaborate with these guys.

A couple weeks after that trip, I got the initial mixes and was giving feedback and changes. Jeremy did an outstanding job with the mix. Then, after going back and forth and listening in several difference places (things sound different in your car than they do in your stereo, than they do in your headphones, etc.), I gave final approval and it headed over to Kent Hooper for mastering. Then another round of listening and feedback and changes and final approvals. All this time as well, we were doing the same thing with the graphic design for the artwork on the CD and case. At the beginning of November it all went to manufacturing, and we got them just before Thanksgiving.

But wait, there’s more! Even though we have the album, the official release won’t be until February of 2018 because you need lead time for the PR campaign and we also realized we needed videos to support the release.

So, I headed down to Nashville for one last long weekend. I flew Jeff Kubach in from Philadelphia. He’s been my director on several music videos and is outstanding. Gina, my publicist, about killed herself getting together shoot locations that seemed to change their available times every time we turned around, so the shoot schedule changed almost daily at the end. It was very nerve wracking.

So, to be clear, in the past we’ve taken anywhere from 3-5 days to shoot a single music video. They are like mini-movies. There was no way that could really happen this time. First of all, there simply wasn’t time, either before the release or in my life – even getting away this extra weekend was killer. And secondly, to be blunt, there’s no money for that approach this time. Our adoptions have drained all our resources and we’re stepping out on a limb with this album as is. So we did something I would have said was impossible – we scaled back and simplified tremendously and shot everything we needed for four music videos and an interview in a single long weekend. They won’t have the story lines of our other videos, but they will work, and we needed to be practical this time.

It was like trying to coordinate a major military campaign. We used film students from Trevecca University to help carry stuff and set up lights and have multiple cameras running for each take which shortened our time considerably. We planned all the outside shots on Saturday only to find out there were thunderstorms all day and we even had a tornado at one point. I only ended up shooting one scene in the rain, and that was hilarious watching everyone running with umbrellas trying to protect the cameras and lights and get the shot before I looked too wet and we had to give up. We lost our guitarist and had to find another on the fly. I had to literally write notes to myself about which clothes and jewelry I was wearing in each video so I wouldn’t mess it up since we switched back and forth between videos every time we switched locations. I did my hair 13 times. That’s only interesting if you know me, I guess, but let’s just say I’m not a hair-doing girl either. It was nuts. But somehow, by the grace of God, we got it done. Now, I’m still in the middle of watching the initial editing for those as they are put together.

So, even though this album isn’t officially released until next year, if you’re reading this, you are connected with us and we are selling the album in our store already – it’s not available anywhere else until that release date. So I hope you will pick up your copy and one for your best friends, and help support our ministry! And hopefully it’s interesting to know what goes into putting an album together too. 🙂

Finally, we named the album “Nothing to Fear” from the lyric, “For You are for me and there is nothing to fear.”

Songs are:

1. Nothing to Fear
2. A Greater Love
3. How Far Love Goes
4. Forever Family
5. Porch Swing
6. Patient with Me (Hello Again)
7. It Is Well with My Soul
8. Living Abundantly
9. Love in Action
10. In Christ Alone

Adopting again!

Friday, December 9th, 2016
Our new son's agency pictures - his advocacy name is Carter but we still haven't chosen a name

Our new son’s agency pictures – his advocacy name is Carter but we still haven’t chosen a name

A more recent photo

A more recent photo

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Columbus

Part of learning the culture - dumpling making party! Everyone helped!

Part of learning the culture – dumpling making party! Everyone helped!

It’s hard for me to believe that it was just about two years ago now that Nathan and I started talking seriously about adoption. At the beginning of our search, we were really open to going anywhere in the world. We were just praying. The one thing we both felt, though, was that we wanted to adopt older kids who would have difficulty being placed.

At first we were looking for a sibling pair. We felt it would be easier not to be the only child in your family who was adopted or a different ethnicity. We were actually looking for a healthy, older sibling pair in Uganda when I first saw Noah’s posting. That’s a beautiful story that you can read here, but the end of it was that we switched from looking for a healthy, older sibling pair in Africa, and instead adopted a very sick, single boy from Asia.

From the moment we decided to pursue Noah, we both felt he was not going to be the only one. Again, we feel like it would be very hard to be the only adopted kid in your family and we also had already prepared our hearts for more than one child. With Noah’s heart situation and all the unknowns about his health and future, it wasn’t practical to think about adopting two at once. But I knew that if his heart was still operable, we’d be moving forward fairly soon.

There are some real advantages to moving on to another adoption within a year as you can reuse some of your paperwork and update your homestudy rather than doing an entirely new one. So after Noah’s heart surgery, I started looking again on the boards that list waiting children. These are the special needs kids and the older kids – the ones who have a hard time getting placed. One major difference for us this time was that we knew we were going back to China. I thought culture would be a huge issue for us since Noah was older, and I was right! Noah misses his food, his TV shows, his holidays, and we have learned a ton about Chinese culture. I feel very strongly that he should get to keep that – he has had an incredible amount of loss in his life. So I’ve learned to make a lot of Chinese food, we’ve celebrated Chinese holidays, and I’ve learned to navigate a lot of Chinese websites. We can do this with two cultures, but I just didn’t think I could manage to do justice to three. So unless God told us otherwise, we planned to go back to China.

There’s a Facebook page where people advocate for waiting children in China. I am on it and it moves really fast, meaning that if you see a posting, it may be pushed so far down the page an hour later that you can’t really find it again. Some of the kids show up over and over again as their advocates work hard to find them a family, and some appear once and then are gone.

One day I was on Facebook and I saw a posting for a little boy whose agency name was Carter. I really couldn’t believe what a perfect fit he looked like for us. He was two years younger than Noah so he fit in birth order, he likes the same things the boys like, and he was just adorable! I clicked on his video link, praying even as I did so. There’s always that thought: we want the child God wants us to have, but Lord, you will have to help me recognize him! There are so many kids waiting. How will we know which one God means for our family?!

Well, as I was praying that very thing and his video came up, I noticed something immediately. He was wearing a name tag that said “Carter” but it also said his Chinese name. Chinese names have three parts usually, and this boy shared two names with Noah. I could hardly believe it! What are the chances?! It was like God was giving me a confirmation right there. Noah’s Chinese name means “precious dragon” and this boy’s name means “serene dragon” or “peaceful dragon.” His last name was the same as Noah’s first – “precious.” His personality in the video was just amazing – such a perfect fit for our family.

He was waiting because he was older and had had physical delays as a baby. I have no idea why, but his orphanage never did his paperwork, so he didn’t even have a chance to be matched until he was 7, making him an older boy which is one of the hardest matches there is. Well, we fell in love, but he was with another agency. I decided to send an email just in case, but we never thought we’d hear anything. He disappeared from that board in about 10 minutes and I never saw him again.

Fast forward two months. We had not seen any children we felt fit with our family well considering ages and needs, and we had just decided to tell our agency what we were looking for and leave it in God’s hands. If it happened, it happened, and if not, we would wait until we got Rinnah settled in college (she leaves fall of 2017) and then try again. I even said to Nathan, “We should just stay with our agency because of the paperwork. Unless by some miracle we heard about that boy Carter, but I’m sure he’s matched by now.” The next day I got an email. Another family had been matched with Carter, but they had had a family emergency and couldn’t proceed. Carter’s agency had several interested families, but they thought ours was the perfect fit. Were we still interested? We had 24 hours to decide.

My goodness, that was crazy! We made an emergency call to our pediatrician to try to have someone look over his medical report. We asked for one more day, and they gave it to us. We prayed hard and decided that even though the paperwork was going to be overwhelming yet again, this was our boy. We submitted our letter of intent to China for him, and after 4 long weeks, we got the official pre-approval!

So, now we are in process again. We’ve almost completed our home study update, but it was complicated by the fact that Rinnah turned 18 this fall, so she now has to be treated as an adult in our home and get all the background clearances, etc, too (lucky girl!). Our next step will be to apply to the US government for permission to adopt from overseas again. There are many other steps after that, but we hope to keep things moving and be traveling to get him in the summer. Even though his hometown and Noah’s home town are 1200 miles apart, they speak the same dialect which is amazing, and it will be so different to have a built in translator this time in Noah!

We don’t know what American name we will give him. We like Carter, but all our other kids have Biblical names with big meanings so we may need to go another route. With Noah, we gave him his American name and kept his Chinese name as his middle name so he could choose. These kids have lost so much, we didn’t want him to have to lose his name too! Noah chose to go by his American name because he likes it and because he realized no one except our Chinese friends can say his name correctly here. We will give “Carter” an American name too and keep his Chinese name and let him choose.

Everyone is asking if we’ll all go again, and the answer is, we have no idea. 🙂 It depends on what time of year we get permission to travel and how expensive the tickets are, etc. With Noah, it was the most amazing blessing to have us all there to bond, but his province required us to be in country for 3 weeks. We didn’t want to leave our other kids that long, and we wanted them to know their new brother’s culture. “Carter’s” province only requires a 9 day stay (praise God!) which will save us so much money, and makes it possible to think about both bringing the kids and leaving them here. So we don’t know, but we’d love your prayers for wisdom! Noah will almost certainly come, though, because he is longing to see China again (and eat the food!!!!) and because he can translate for us which will help “Carter’s” fear tremendously I would think.

Back when we were in the hospital with Noah, he said to me, “Our van has eight seats, mom, and we only have six people in our family.” And I said, “That’s true, hon.” And he said, “There are so many more kids in China who need families.” Oh, my heart! When we asked Noah what he would tell his new brother when they met, he said, “I will tell him this family is crazy and funny and very good and he shouldn’t be afraid because we are good. And I will tell him the food is good too.” That about sums it up for a boy, I guess!

“Why Has My Congregation Stopped Singing?” published

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

The American Church Magazine just published an article I wrote called “Why Has My Congregation Stopped Singing?” It’s a practical article about things churches can do to increase participation in worship. I visit so many churches every year, and I see the same things over and over again – I just felt compelled to write it. Now that I have, the response has been tremendous! It was a real struggle for me to keep it to the length the magazine asked for. Maybe I should make it a book?

You can find it here – let me know what you think and what your church does well or could improve in the comments!

Telly Award for “Your Child”

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

My Telly Award for our music video

Apparently I didn’t blog about this before, but getting the award today has reminded me.

Our music video for “Your Child” was nominated for a Telly Award earlier this year, but I never thought much about it. The Telly are basically the awards for anything in the realm of film, television, or internet that wouldn’t qualify for an Oscar or an Emmy. So you can have regional programming or internet programming or advertising, anything like that. Well, you could knock me over with a feather, but we ended up winning a Bronze Telly for our piece! Several people did articles about it – you can read the one from Music News Nashville here.

I have to say, now that I have the statuette which weighs a ton, I actually believe it. I just don’t know exactly where to put it…

Have you seen the video yet? You can check it out here.