Spotlight on PJ Anderson and New Album RISE

27 Sep

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For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know by now that I love sharing about people who are using their talents and living God’s will for their life. I also love meaningful music and catchy melodies. Today I get to combine these passions by sharing about Catholic artist, PJ Anderson!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to PJ’s yet-to-be released fourth album, RISE. What I kept coming back to while listening to each track was that these songs come from such an authentic, truthful, and passionate place. It’s a combination that can be rare to find, even among Christian artists. I love how the album kicks off with the anthem title track, “Rise”. It really sets the tone for the rest of the songs to follow. I’m excited for PJ, because I think this album is going to launch him to another level in the music world!

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to get to know a little more about PJ and what inspires his music. He generously answered some questions for me, but, first of all, I must share that he’s a fellow midwestern native and Notre Dame fan! (GO IRISH!) He and his wife and two children also reside in Nashville, so I look forward to hopefully meeting them soon!

1. Your 4th album, RISE, will be released soon, so the fall is going to be a pretty busy time for you! What does the rest of 2014 have in store?

2013-2014 has been such a blessing! I started writing a song a week last year and that is where the songs for RISE and my last album, Let Your Light Shine have come. I played a mega-workshop at NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference) in November where 25,000 come to grow in faith and spent the year traveling for concerts, youth conferences and retreats.

This past summer I lead worship and music at Catholic Heart Work Camp for 7 weeks. I’ve spent the last 6 summers working with CHWC leading music at mission trips across the country. This fall has been packed with logistics and promoting RISE. 1400 copies have pre-sold prior to the official release mainly through pre-sales at CHWC, an exclusive release with http://www.lovegoodmusic.com. The first single, “Beautiful Mess” debuted at #40 on iTunes Christian Charts.

The album releases October 7 and is currently on iTunes Pre-Order for special pricing of $7.99. The album release show will happen in Nashville at The Axis Church in Germantown (1423 2nd Avenue North) on October 10 with doors at 6p and show at 7p. Perfect opportunity for people to come listen and praise and then head over to Germantown’s Oktoberfest.

After the album officially releases, my year consists of traveling the country for youth conferences, concerts and retreats.

My wife, Rachel, and I also lead pilgrimages to Rome and Assisi for youth and adult church groups. I studied in Rome for a semester and returned for a year to work as a Resident Assistant at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center. Since then, my love for Rome has led us to take others and hopefully encourage a love for Rome in others. Here is a link to a video from our last trip! Spoiler alert, our two kiddos were kissed by Pope Francis!!!! It was AMAZING! Here’s the video.

We will return to Rome in April and then Catholic Heart Work Camp will start again in June.

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2. How did you experience God’s call for you to pursue music? Any significant obstacles or “God moments” on your journey so far?

God was laying seeds to write and pursue music, but I wasn’t always listening. I was actually the kid who got in trouble with my Mom for not singing at Mass! I started playing guitar when I was in 5th grade where I learned from a nun, Sister Charita. I played from 5-8 grade at school Masses but stopped playing in high school to pursue my dream of being in the NBA! I put all my eggs in the basket of playing basketball. I’m not exactly built for the NBA, but I thought I was! But, I picked the guitar back up in college and started writing songs then. Many of my first songs came while I was studying abroad in Rome. I didn’t start out exclusively writing worship music, but God was always a part of my music. I have now found a musical home in writing worship songs that lead the listener, the worshipper, into a close, personal space with our loving God. I am thankful for where God has led me. The path wasn’t always easy, but he equipped me with the faith, inspiration and relationships to create an album that will lead others to closer to Him.

I was a Youth Minister for 6 years near Chicago with my wife, Rachel. Long story short, but when we were expecting our first child, Rachel had some serious pregnancy issues and had to be rushed to the hospital and she was put on hospital bedrest for 3.5 weeks. Trey (Paul John III) was born 6 weeks early and was in the NICU for 2.5 weeks. It was a very difficult season filled with fear and joy at the same time. I also lost my job as a Youth Minister because I was not able to be in the office as I was staying in the hospital with my wife. As difficult as it was, God led us through the darkness of that season and opened up many doors in music, especially in Nashville. Phone calls started coming in from groups that I had met at CHWC mission trips and they started asking me to come to their parishes and youth groups for concerts and retreats. Relationships with producers, musicians and youth ministers started blooming and gave us the courage to make the big move to Nashville. God made it obvious that my time as a Youth Minister at one parish was done, but that He wanted me sharing music with many people across the country, if that makes sense. So, I now joke that I get to be like the uncle that comes in and riles up the kids before they go to bed. I’m now the traveling “Youth Minister” who comes in plays music, shares stories and talks and then I go home! No paperwork here! Ha!

We are so blessed with the life we have in Nashville and thankful that God led us here to continue to minister and lead others into relationship with Him. I mean, I get to write and sing songs, travel the country sharing those, take care of my kiddos during the week and call that work. It’s awesome!

3. What draws you to working with, and motivating, teenagers and young adults?

I love working with high schoolers and young adults! It’s the way God built me! He created me as an outgoing, extrovert that loves to interact, build relationships and laugh and love. Part of what draws me is the desperate need for hope amongst teenagers and young adults. There is a great sense of hopelessness at times in our world, especially at those ages. I was at a retreat where 3 witness talks in a row by 3 high school girls were all attempted suicide stories. That breaks my heart! That emptiness, that brokenness says there is no hope and that is the biggest lie of our generation. There is ALWAYS hope. And my goal and prayer is to make sure those that I minister with and to truly realize that. That “God loves you” isn’t some cheesy thing your youth minister says, but that it’s truth. He loves us so much that He has given and continues to give us everything. And we are called to give Him our everything. And that no matter how dark things get, how broken we are, God doesn’t love us any less. One of the songs from RISE called “Grace Is Hope” says, “No sin is more hopeless than my Savior has grace. My Savior is grace.” There is no sin, no brokenness, no pain that is too great for God to conquer. He is our grace. He is our hope. That is what draws me to working youth and young adults.

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4. Do you have any favorite songs, books, Bible verses, etc., that you find inspiring?

Ooooh! Tough one. Favorite songs right now are:

“Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. This song is just a great reminder of our need for God, for the Lord. In a world that tells us that independence makes us strong, I think we forget that our dependence on God makes us even stronger.
“All The Poor and Powerless” by All Sons and Daughters. Oh man, this song! It’s been making me cry listening in the car! Ha! The need and calling for all of us to rise to God’s call to love and serve. That’s the theme of RISE and this song articulates that perfectly. “All will sing out hallelujah, We will cry out hallelujah” We serve and love the poor and powerless because that’s what Jesus did and calls us to do.
“Losing” by Tenth Avenue North – This song has helped me get through those dark seasons.
“Closer” by Bethel Music – Our desire and love Him more and to be closer to Him. That’s always my prayer. I stray from Him but want to be close.

Favorite bible verse is John 3:30. “He must increase. I must decrease.” This verse keeps my desire to serve the Lord close.This verse keeps me humble. This verse is how I try to live my life, not for myself, but for Him. Now, do I always do that? I fail everyday. That is why I need Him. That is why He must increase.

Thanks so much to PJ for answering some questions! I’m looking forward to attending his album release show in a couple weeks! Maybe I’ll see some fellow Nashvillians there, as well!

If you want to keep up with PJ’s music, check out his website and be sure follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

Freak-outs and Faith: Learning to Trust in Uncertain Times

8 Sep

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Hello, family and friends! It’s good to be getting back into the blogging world! I kind of took an unplanned break for most of the summer, so I figured I’d catch everyone up on a little bit of what’s been going on…

The following paragraphs were actually written about two months ago and I never clicked the ol’ “publish” button. I think it’s worth sharing to see the mental roller coaster I’ve been riding in my head!

Every 2-3 months, I tend to get stressed and overwhelmed about finances and other circumstances. About 90 percent of the time, I’m genuinely feeling like, “Life is good. I’m blessed. Things are great,” and then I have a few days or more when my mind goes into overdrive. I’m suddenly aware of ways that I’m “not enough.” The house isn’t clean enough, my face isn’t clear enough, I don’t make enough money, I don’t have enough time, etc. My jaw sets into a semi-permanent clench for a couple days and my neck and shoulder muscles tighten. It’s no wonder that I have a history of TMJ and migraines.

These short-lived, usually minor, quarterly freak-outs have resulted in various outcomes ranging from the start of my coupon obsession to pre-term labor. Yes, I actually started bleeding and had contractions the very next morning after a teary-eyed Sunday stressing about our family’s financial situation with a new baby on the way. Fortunately, my early labor was stopped during a 3-day stay in the hospital, but it resulted in over two months of bed rest in 2011. I can’t help but think that the two were related.

This stressful patch is lasting a little longer than usual, although I’m learning to try be patient, trust, and sit in the “uncomfortable.” I really feel that God is using this time of transition for a purpose, as He often does! We’ve made it through many times before, so I know this time will be no different. With our oldest starting Kindergarten this fall at a Catholic school (as if tuition isn’t already outrageous, the darn cost of uniforms is going to put me over the edge), looking at our futures career-wise, and brainstorming opportunities for additional income, there doesn’t seem to be a quick solution. I do kind of feel that Adam and I are at a crossroad moment in our lives. There’s no way we can continue much longer the way things are right now. Coupons aren’t cutting it anymore.

I do have to take a time-out for a minute, to recognize that we really have been blessed with our current work-family situation. I work at a faith-based agency with a lot of great people. Adam has been able to work second shift and partial weekends to be with our girls during the day. While this has been amazing during this phase of our lives, we’re starting to look towards the near future and how we need to adapt to the next phase that includes a Catholic school education for our girls. I understand that this is our choice, but after much prayer and discussion we feel it is the best one for our family and we are willing to look at what we can do to make this happen long-term.

My mind has been swirling with ideas and possibilities. Pursue grant-writing? Take classes to get a paralegal certificate? Start one of the website concepts I’ve been pondering? Find a higher paying job in my field? I don’t just want to make money, though – I want to do something that’s meaningful. Adam is looking into getting more jingle work and waiting on a possible promotion and shift-change in a year or two at his job. What direction is the right way to go?

Now you may know why I’ve been a little quiet on the blog the past month or so… Most of my time in the evenings has been spent brainstorming, researching, and tv-watching to reduce stress. I didn’t even fill out a monthly goal sheet for June! :( I started out the year so full of intention and I have accomplished a lot of the goals I set for myself for 2014, but sometimes, er, maybe often times, I have to let go of my plans! And, I’m trying to be okay with where I am. God does have a plan, and right here, right now is part of it.

Although, I must say I can’t wait to be able to look back and say, “Ah, that’s what that time was for!” But for now, I’m listening! God, my ears and eyes are open! Holy Spirit please show me the path to follow and give me the courage to do your will!

Well, fast forward another couple months and I’m brimming with excitement and joy over a new project passion that I’ve been wanting to jump into but kept finding reasons to prolong (time, money, lack of experience, doubt, fear, insecurity, etc.). After reading Dr. Gregory Popcak’s book, The Life God Wants You to Have: Discovering the Divine Plan When Human Plans Fail and starting Holley Gerth’s book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has For You, I feel re-energized and confident to take some steps in faith. Take that, fear and doubt! A good rule-of-thumb that both authors point out to keep in mind when considering a dream, is to contemplate if it is helping others. (I highly, highly recommend both of these books by the way!)

What’s the project, you may ask? I don’t want to give too much away yet, but it has to do with music. And let’s just say, many things have been falling into place ever since I made up my mind to take this path that I feel called to pursue. Things like, Catholic artists contacting me to review their music, Adam being given a professional recording desk for free and getting a great deal on the recording gear that he needs and paying for it all from ebay profits (nothing out of our bank account)! Also, a Catholic father, who stumbled upon my blog, just reached out to us a few days ago about Adam possibly recording a song that was written about his beautiful 4-year-old daughter who died last year. (More to come on this family’s tragic and touching story at a later date.) There are some other things that have had the Holy Spirit’s “fingerprints” all over them, as well, and I’m absolutely overwhelmed with it all – in a good way!

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am looking for opportunities, not excuses! There’s just no way that I can’t not do it! I’ve waited a long time to truly find a passion and a niche. I think I’ve found it and the best thing is that it overlaps with my husband’s gifts and calling. I have no idea where exactly this is all going to go or what’s going to blossom, but with God leading us, I know it’s the best thing. I hope to be unveiling the start of this journey very soon!

It’s good to be back to writing again. Please fill me in on what you’ve been up to this summer! I have a lot of catching up to do and I’d love to hear from you!

Music, Illness, and a Wedding! (7 Quick Takes #13)

6 Jun

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This has been a pretty full week, so much so that I have enough random stuff that I can actually link up with Jennifer and crew at Conversion Diary.

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My younger brother, Jeff, got married last weekend! He married someone whom readers of this blog may be familiar with – my very first Dreamer in the Spotlight, Abby! To most everyone’s surprise, she did not make her own wedding cake, but Jeni’s gourmet ice cream was served all afternoon! It was perfect for a hot day!

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I’ve let my Dreamer in the Spotlight series kind of go by the wayside for the past several months, but another person who I featured last year, Catholic musician Tori Harris, is releasing a new EP this summer. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to it prior to it’s release this week. I love her sound! Pre-sale copies will be out on iTunes this Sunday! Be sure to check back in the next few weeks for an update post on what Tori’s been doing!

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After a busy wedding weekend, my oldest came down with a cough that turned into a sinus/throat infection complete with conjuctivitis. I’m praying that no one else gets sick since she has been pretty contagious the past few days. Thanks to my mom for taking care of her! Work has been so crazy busy this week that there was no way I could stay home. :(

When I got home from work on Wednesday, after C was taken to the doctor, it was kind of a funny scene in my front yard. I was on the phone with my mom talking about what the doctor said,  juggling some groceries, calling for my dog that had escaped from the backyard, and walking up to the front door with only one shoe on because the other broke! Wow…

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It’s CMA Fest again in Nashville this week. Adam is the lead tech at LP Field where all the nightly concerts are being held. He had a little scare with the storm that came through Wednesday night, but the tarps held up and all the gear was dry! Hopefully everything runs smoothly the rest of the weekend! He just sent me this pic of Eric Church’s performance! I guess he crept out from behind backstage. It’s as close as I’m going to get to downtown right now! No thank you, crazy traffic!

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I’ve been looking at ways to expand my skills and grow career-wise, so I’m kind of interested in pursuing grant writing. There are a couple workshops coming up later this year in Nashville that I’m considering attending. Anybody out there have experience with writing grants? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

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This weekend, I plan to figure out what project/craft the girls and I will be doing for Adam for Father’s Day. If you have any fun ideas, please share! Last year I posted about 5 free printables. I’m going to go back and check those out or maybe find something different… C said that she’s going to “make the best card that Daddy’s ever seen,” so we probably can’t top that!

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Maybe I spoke too soon about having seven things to talk about…. It’s getting late and my brain can’t think! TGIF! Have a good weekend everyone!

 

 

Be a Sheep

14 May

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Last Tuesday, Adam excitedly called me about a Catholic Answers Live podcast episode he was in the middle of listening to. Host Patrick Coffin was interviewing Catholic country artist, Collin Raye, about his new book, A Voice Undefeated, and the state of the music industry in Nashville right now. It was so refreshing to hear him speak on a lot of the same things that Adam has expressed frustration about, like how hard it is to get any songs of substance cut right now!

To listen to this podcast with Collin Raye that originally aired May 12th, click here.

Later that night, after I had an opportunity to listen to it myself we talked on the phone about it and, again, about figuring out what steps God wants us to pursue… It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the big picture and the work and time a music ministry would take, especially when we work opposite schedules and have two young children. Things seem impossible to even think about. We ended with the conclusion that we need to keep bringing our fears honestly before the Lord and continue to pray and be open to God’s will. We need to focus on one step at a time. Listening to this podcast, though, was definitely some sort of step on the journey.

Before I went to bed, I read the gospel reading (John 10:22-30) and meditation for the day in The Word Among Us. No surprise – it totally went along with what we had just been discussing. Here’s a little snippet of the meditation for May 13:

…he wants you to become more sheeplike: more single-minded in faith, more reliant on him, more “helpless.” He wants you to learn to rest in his salvation and trust him more fully…

Spend some time today thinking about being a sheep. Watch and listen for messages from the world and from your own heart that urge you to be independent, to take care of yourself. Are you listening to those messages more than to the messages that come from the Good Shepherd? He truly does love and care for you so let him make you more and more like one of his trusting, obedient sheep.

Often times, I think we feel like we need to do something- anything- to make our dreams happen. Yes, we need to put forth a lot of effort, but sometimes we are just spinning our wheels. Being busy makes us feel like we are making progress, but it is just wasted energy if we’re not following and trusting God’s path for us.

I love the image of being a sheep! It can be so hard to let go of the illusion of control, but there is so much peace and freedom in letting our Good Shepherd lead us! He wants what is best for us and will not lead us astray!

We are working on knowing when to wait for God’s hand and when it may be fear that is holding us back. I pray that the Lord will lead these two aspiring sheep to what he has called us to do and that we may follow! I also pray for any of you sheep who are reading this! I’m so inspired by the commitment and example of so many who are responding to God’s will for their lives! Thank you for your courage!

Adventures in Gardening {Part 3: Planting a Square Foot Garden}

14 May

Square Foot Gardening

To catch up on my gardening experiment, read Part 1: Starting Seeds Indoors and Part 2: Building a Raised Bed.

Fortunately, last weekend I had time to transplant my seedlings into the raised bed! My grids for the square foot garden were already laid out, so it made spacing very easy. Mel Bartholomew came up with this method of garden and I’ve done so much research on square foot gardening, I feel like I’ve read his books, even though I haven’t!

20140514-220303.jpgMy precious little plants waiting to move to their new home!

One of the things that everyone says to do in advance is chart out where you want to place your plants in the box. Taller plants should go on the north-side of the garden and smaller plants on the south-side so they aren’t competing for sunshine. I also found that certain plants are “companion” plants and others don’t like to be near each other. For example, I had to be sure to plant my basil away from my cucumbers, because apparently they don’t like strong smelling herbs. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds all do really well together.

Here is my plan on paper:

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I planted extra tomato and pepper plants in case squirrels try to be sneaky with my food!

20140514-215622.jpgWow, I majorly need some sun! Sorry if my arm is blinding you!

I put in stakes and cages prior to planting, as recommended online so as not to damage the roots.

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20140514-215751.jpgMy pepper plants have been doing so well so far. I hope they continue on like this!! Grow, grow!

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My girls helped me directly sow the zucchini, squash, and cucumber seeds. We had a good bit of rain on Wednesday and most of the cucumber plants have sprouted already! Now, I’m going to have to figure out how to trellis these guys to grow vertically so they don’t take over my garden!

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And here is my plan made 100% reality in my little 4×4 square foot garden:

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Hopefully, my guardian owl will scare little critters away!

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I can’t wait for these plants to start producing fruit and vegetables! Now I need to research how to harvest!

 Anybody else out there gardening this year (or has in the past)? What vegetables or fruits have you had the most success growing?

Adventures in Gardening {Part 2: Building a Raised Bed}

8 May

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The last official frost date for Tennessee was April 30th, so that means that my little seedlings that I started indoors need to be transplanted! Last Sunday, my husband built the 4 x 4 raised bed and I prepared the soil. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to actually plant the seeds and seedlings but I’m trying to work on that this weekend as long as it doesn’t storm the whole time!

Please note: I am a first-time gardener! I’ve done a lot of research, but I’m obviously learning quite a bit as I go along. If you have any tips, feel free to share!

Here is a little overview of this step in my gardening adventure:

20140508-211130.jpgAdam bought some non-treated lumber to build my 6″ high bed. It cost about $16 for the materials.

20140508-211147.jpgThis is what I used for my soil. (WARNING – Don’t buy the red bags… read on for why.) Mel Bartholomew, the creator of Square Foot Gardening, advises a mix of 1/3 Coarse Vermiculite, 1/3 Sphagnum Peat Moss, and 1/3 Blended Compost.  I didn’t pay attention to the grade of vermiculite and was just happy that I found some at Lowe’s, so these red bags actually consist of fine-grade vermiculite. I had already mixed it before realizing the necessity of coarse vermiculite. We’ll see what happens this summer with the plants… I spent about $60 to create the soil mix. (Oh, and there is a special square foot gardening soil available, but I would have had to spend double just to ship the darn bags because they weren’t available in any of the Home Depot stores in Middle Tennessee. You may be one of the lucky ones that lives near a store that carries it, though! The cost of the pre-made soil is about the same as mixing it yourself.)

 

20140508-211205.jpgIt was such a beautiful day! The girls played in the sprinkler while we worked!

 

20140508-211230.jpgI read somewhere online that newspapers could be laid down in the yard as opposed to clearing out all of the grass first. (Can you tell we live in Nashville by the newspaper photos – Titans coach, David Nail, Dierks Bentley?) One of the strong points of building a raised bed is that it is supposed to be free of weeds! I’m all about less hassle gardening!

 

20140508-211251.jpgTo help minimize the chance of weeds, I put down some weed block over the newspaper. It cost about $10 for a roll. Also pictured above, are the three types of soil needed for a successful square foot garden! The only thing that will need to be replaced each year is the compost (as long as my fine vermiculite works out okay – fingers crossed)! Oh, and if anyone needs organic peat moss let me know! It was compressed and doubled in size once opened, so I have a ton left over!

 

20140508-211322.jpgHere is all of the soil mixed together! My youngest wanted to help too! It basically looks like a big sandbox, so what kid wouldn’t?!

A 4×4 bed is supposed to hold about 7.5 cubic feet (2.5 cubic ft of each potting soil element). I still have some room in my box, so I’m thinking about trying to find some coarse vermiculite and to add with a little more compost and peat moss.

 

20140508-211418.jpgI nailed plywood down to make 12″ grids, which is a highly recommended part of square foot gardening. I purposely left one marker off, because two of my squash plants will take up the space of two squares instead of one.

 

20140508-211434.jpgHere are my seedlings hardening off outside and patiently waiting to be planted… they’re still waiting! I had too many long days at work this week and not enough time to plant! My tomato plants, especially, are dying to be transplanted!

 

20140508-211446.jpgI did manage to transplant a basil plant and a tiny mint plant to these two front containers. As you can see it’s dark outside in this photo! I finished with a few minutes of daylight left Sunday night! I planted parsley in the back green pot. It’s supposedly really hard to germinate and grow from seed, so we’ll see. It doesn’t hurt to try!

I’ll be posting Part 3 of this series soon! If you missed the first step in this adventure, read Part 1: Starting Seeds Indoors.

Adam Shick at Nashville Catholic Underground: Recap

1 May

20140501-210701.jpgAdam accompanied by Jon Conley (Guitarist for Kenny Chesney)

This past Saturday, Adam played a set at Saint Mary of the Seven Sorrows for the monthly Catholic Underground event in downtown Nashville! He hadn’t played a show for awhile and was a little concerned about whether or not his voice would last for an hour-long set, especially after doing an afternoon rehearsal with amazing guitar player, Jon Conley. (Adam played with him while on the road in Emma Jacob’s band a few years ago.) Fortunately, his voice was just fine! I’m certain the Holy Spirit was helping him out! :)

20140501-210722.jpgBustin’ out a note… and, yes, he got to sign the backdrop! :)

Adam sang mostly originals, but mixed in a Coldplay cover and a NEEDTOBREATHE cover. He wrapped up the night with a Lean on Me/This Little Light of Mine/You are My Sunshine Medley! Everybody was singing and clapping along, so it was a great way to end! Here’s the link to the video! Oh, and you have to hear what he did with the last note, because it totally caught me by surprise. Dude is awesome!

20140501-210711.jpgSitting on Grandpa’s lap, watching Daddy sing one of her favorite songs (with favorite stuffed animal “Monkey”)!

We let our almost-five-year-old stay up that night to watch her daddy perform! She loved it, although she was exhausted! We’re so excited that a good number of our family and friends could come out! Even one of our high school friends who was in town for a bachelor party stopped by!

As usual, we’re contemplating how God wants Adam to move forward with his music… first thing is to get his record done!!! At least we have the website up-and-going: adamshickmusic.com! It’s a start!

Woohoo! Almost TGIF! Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

Travel Diary No. 5

21 Apr

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It has definitely been a Monday today! Anybody else feel the same way?! I’m linking up with Jenny and ladies tonight! Even though the site changed again, I found the new one so I can update my online “Travel Diary” day book (formerly Moments of Grace and Catholic Woman’s Almanac)!!!

Thanking God for…

  • beautiful spring weather
  • being a mommy to two sweet, silly girls
  • Jesus’ death and Resurrection
  • bedtime cuddles

I am praying for…

  • the souls in purgatory
  • to be a holy wife and mother
  • the ending of abortion
  • the intentions of family members, friends, and co-workers

I am pondering…

  • How in the heck do people find time to write?! I’m hard-pressed to find time to squeeze it in each week between the long, stressful work days, house chores, grocery shopping, and mommy duties. Oh how I long to be on a deserted island for a weekend with just a computer and a good book!! :)

I am reading…

  • Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel.  I’m now about a fifth of the way through! I haven’t spent much time on it lately, but I definitely want to read more especially with soon-to-be Saint John Paul’s canonization coming up next week!
  • 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas. I just read the chapter on Eric Liddell. The way he used running as a means to get speaking gigs to spread the gospel is inspiring. I haven’t watched Chariots of Fire, but it sounds like his life as a missionary in China after his Olympic days was even more amazing and movie-worthy.

I am creating…

  • Uh….this post? Not much mental space right now for inspiration and creativity, but life is full and filled with blessings!

I’m learning…

  • More about gardening. It’s almost time to transplant my tomato, pepper, and basil plants outside! I have a feeling the hard part is just getting started! I need to harden them off outside but scared the delicate leaves will get destroyed from the wind!

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A 4-5 week update on my plants!

Around the house…

  •  My Little Ponies have taken over! The girls received a total of 6 of them for Easter from us and my parents! We’ll see how long this phase lasts, but they are obsessed right now!

Look what I found…

  • An amazing whole wheat soft-pretzel recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction! I wanted to make them during lent and finally knocked them out on Good Friday. They turned out so well. I’ll definitely be making them again!

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I am looking forward to…

Catholic Underground this weekend! I can’t wait to see Adam sing. It’s been quite the stretch since I’ve seen him perform around town. If you’re in Nashville be sure to head over to St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows! It sounds like we have a good crowd coming! Adoration starts at 7:00 pm.

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A favorite quote for today…

~

Have a great Easter week!

Also, linking up here….

A Mama Collective

A Look Back: Our Wedding Song!

17 Apr

While finally catching up on my blogroll the other night, I noticed tons of peeps linking up with Grace to talk about the songs they first danced to at their wedding receptions, so of course I have to get in on this action! I can’t pass up an opportunity to talk about music and marriage at the same time!

If you’ve stopped by this blog before, it’s no secret that music is kind of a big part of our lives, considering my husband is a musician and we live in Nashville. I mean, even our girls’ names are music-related!

Pretty early in our dating relationship, Adam introduced Bryan White’s How Lucky I Am CD to me and the whole thing became our, well, CD. Forget having a special song, we had 11 of them! Not including the ones he wrote for me (Man, it’s funny to hear those now)!

Adam and Stef Dancing

Anyway, we chose one of the songs on that CD to be our first dance song, You’ll Always Be Loved (By Me). Aside from the perfect (for us) lyrics, it has an amazing symphony sound that gives the song a great energy!

Here’s the chorus:

When everything is moving fast
It’s hard to stay together
I know that we can make it last
We’ll find a way to weather

Any storm heaven sends
We’ll see it through to the end
We’ll find a way if you can just believe
You’ll always be loved by me

We didn’t have any special dancing skills – we basically swayed and turned around in circles high school-dance style! (Cut us some slack! We lived 400 miles apart for three years before we got married!)

Before we even started our first dance, though, Adam surprised me with a song he had written especially for our wedding. And, yes, I really was completely surprised because he kept telling me that he didn’t want to sing a song because he wanted to focus on us and not his music, so when his groomsman handed him an acoustic guitar and two chairs were brought out to the dance floor I was genuinely caught a little off-guard!

Adam Singing to Stefanie

Adam and Stefanie

I still love this special song so much, and it’s amazing how many of these things actually came true in our life! The song is called Here’s to Me and You. (I planned to share the mp3 of this song, but due to some stupid technical difficulties and formatting issues it has became way more trouble than I ever thought it would be! If I can get it figured out, I’ll come back and update this post with the song!)

Oh, and I can’t talk about the reception without mentioning that I had Adam surprise my dad by singing Butterfly Kisses during our father-daughter dance! Tears!

Father Daughter Dance

What a fun night shared with precious family and friends! I’m excited that my brother’s wedding is less than two months away! I can’t wait to catch up with everyone and celebrate such a great occasion!

I’ve really enjoyed reading about other bloggers’ wedding songs and stories. What a fun link-up idea! So many great songs and moments!

All photos by Dejan Photography

Learning How to Pray {5 Helpful Resources}

11 Apr

St. Louis de Montfort Prayer Quote

I’ve wanted to write a post about prayer for awhile, but it just seems like such an overwhelming subject to tackle! There are so many different ways to pray and so many books on the topic! I’m not going to let that stop me, though!

Since it’s such a popular subject, prayer is clearly important. It is one of the most vital things that we can do to grow closer to God and be molded into who He wants us to be. It’s essential in order to discover His will for us. Praying must be more than just a few petitions tossed up throughout the day or a quick “thank you” when things work out our way. Prayer needs to be a priority so that everything else is rightly ordered and our “paths are made straight” (Proverbs 3:6). Just as a couple needs to continuously communicate and sacrifice daily in order to cultivate a healthy marriage, the same must be done to grow deeper in a relationship with Christ.

Improving my prayer life is something that I’ve personally been focusing on the past several months. Even though I’m a full-time working mother, I try to find moments in my day that I can dedicate consistently to prayer. This idea of making a point to set aside a specific time to pray each day has been a recurring theme that I have come across often in my reading.

I use my drive to work in the morning to pray and prepare for the day. I’ve been trying to get back into praying the rosary consistently, too. (It helps that my radio is broken, too – no distractions!) I also spend a little time reading the Bible after tucking my girls in at night. I’m not spending hours in prayer, but I have found that I feel much more at peace when I stick to my new routine, however short it is.

I do have to say, though, that the more I am aware of the blessings in my daily life and promptings to do God’s will, the more I feel like my actions and special moments are like little prayers. Sometimes I find myself soaking in a genuine smile from one of my daughters and I feel it’s God showing me His love and allowing me to experience true joy that only comes from Him. I can feel God in the moment. No words even need to be said.

Pray Without Ceasing Quote

In doing my research on prayer, I have come across some very helpful and inspiring resources. Instead of trying to quote and paraphrase, I think it’d be best to just share and link, because they each deserve to be read in their entirety!

Recommended Resources on Prayer:

1. The Prayer Process as shared in The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly. This 7-step process is a great daily way to pray. It helps me reflect on the accomplishments and failures of the day, how God is speaking to me, and what I can do for others.

2. Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. This book really is a must-read on prayer. There were many great insights in this book. Not only did it address the various types of prayer and their value, but it discussed how to help children pray and how to pray even when we are busy. I know that this is a book I could re-read over and over again and continuously learn more.

3. Lesson One in Prayer by Peter Kreeft. I love how Kreeft writes – so visual and direct. This brief article on why to pray and how to get started is definitely a kick in the pants! Kreeft has also written Prayer for Beginners, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s definitely on my list and is actually available from Lighthouse Catholic Media for $5.

4. Meditation Stuff: The Laudate app is free and has daily readings and meditations. I also like Word Among Us for their daily meditations on the readings. I recently discovered The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering daily email. At first, I was like, “I don’t need another thing to read and meditate on,” but I have discovered that I really like the saint quotes that they share! Each day they feature that day’s saint, Liturgy of the Hours, and more. I highly recommend it!

5. St. Josemaria Escriva. One of my favorite bloggers, Erin of Humble Handmaid, has mentioned this saint’s writings often on her blog. She recently shared this post, “Making Every Breath a Prayer,” where she again shared some more of his wisdom. I definitely need to get to know this saint more!

How do you fit prayer into your daily life?  Do you have any favorite resources or tips?

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