What My Tree Told Me Today about Easter

Some of you may remember what I wrote in August about the dying tree in my yard. (If not, it is here.) As you can see from the current picture, the pruned tree is now sprouting new branches. I was beginning to wonder if this was going to happen since the tree looked completely dead for months.

The time it took to see these signs of life has been a great reminder to me about resurrection. We have all had experiences that seemed to take the life out of us. This happens when we lose someone through death or separation, when unwanted changes occur, when we are wronged by others for no reason, and in many other ways.

I know that a lot of this has been happening around me lately, and as this Easter weekend approached, God’s promise of hope was getting lost in the mix. Then I saw the tree, and I was reminded about resurrection: Life is on the other side of what appears to be death. The photo also shows the dark skies that are hovering above the tree, but blue, sunny skies are behind all of this and will soon be there again.

An even bigger lesson for me is understanding the time it can take between the experience of loss and death and the reemergence of life. I think one reason Christ died in such a violent way was so we would know that there will be periods that are unbearable, but we can get through these times. I imagine the day of the crucifixion felt like it would never end. We hear this through Christ’s words found in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”?

During those times when we ask ourselves how long we have to endure such dark days, I find there is peace in knowing that this is a necessary part of the process of coming to life again, of being reborn, of experiencing resurrection. Just ask my tree.

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Music News

I received great news today about the song “Chains” from the album Leap. The Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) Network International selected five songs from CCM members to be featured and reviewed in Nashville tomorrow as part of a songwriters showcase, and “Chains” made the list! I am honored and thankful! (If you want to hear “Chains”, the link to ReverbNation is here. It is the first song on the list.)

I also wanted to let you know that the new music project is very close to being finished. (It has only been four years in the making, which is half the time it took between the last two!) The photos were made this weekend, and Swaff and I have one more studio session left before all my vocals are recorded. If all goes according to schedule, you may be receiving an invitation to the release party sometime this summer! I am looking forward to sharing the new songs with you.

Thank you for your interest in my music. I will send more updates soon…

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Song for Valentine’s Day

Several people close to me are experiencing broken hearts from relationships that did not work out as planned. It is interesting how we often discount the internal brokenness of a person. For example, when we see someone with a broken leg, we do not expect them to run a race, but we often expect those who have been emotionally hurt to get over it and move on. The only real peace that can be found during these times is knowing that God loves us and comforts us when we are hurting. As we have heard many times, He provides peace in the midst of the storm. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” What a great promise! His love is pure, and there is strength in knowing that when we fully experience this, everything else will eventually fall into place. Linked below is a song from Leap that talks about God’s love. I hope you enjoy it!

Love Divine

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Mama’s Hippopotamus Music!

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Christmas Thank You

As this Christmas approaches, I am thankful for the unexpected gifts I have received related to my music this year. You have already read about the IMEA award, and I have described it as something that just fell from the sky. It has led to many other blessings, including an outpouring of support by all of you who are constantly cheering me on; new friendships and connections; and a wonderful article in the Times-Georgian:

Carrollton gospel singer honored by IMEA – Times-Georgian: Faith & Values.

The newspaper even put a picture from the ceremony on the front page, and devoted the front of the Faith & Values section to my music. What an honor!

Since that time, the song “Chains” has started receiving some nice attention from radio and listeners. Like the IMEA award, this has been a complete surprise. The link to the song on ReverbNation is here. And speaking of ReverbNation, my music has been at #1 on the local charts for a full week! Again, thank you for making this happen. God has blessed me beyond measure this year, and a big part of this has been your support and encouragement.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Kentucky Cross and What I Really Won at the IMEA Awards

One of my favorite Bible passages is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”. As a believer, I know that God is directing my way, but since the definition of faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, many times it can feel like a guessing game. Am I on the right path? Is this where I am supposed to be?

The week before the IMEA awards ceremony, these verses became very real to me. I had decided to go and look for something to wear to the program. Those of you who know me know that going to buy clothes is not my favorite thing to do. I avoid it as much as possible. Part of the reason for this is that it is hard to find good customer service. It takes me a long time to figure out what I want, and having someone who knows what he or she is doing can be a great help.

So, reluctantly, I decided to try anyway. After not finding my size at the store closest to me, I went to Atlanta. After entering the first store there, I was greeted by a gentleman named David who asked if he could help me. I told him I was just looking, and he said that if I needed anything to let him know–”I have been doing this for 20 years, so you will be in good hands.” David had a great talent for engaging me in conversation. He asked if I was looking for something for a special occasion, and I told him I would be attending a music awards show next week. We found a jacket, tie, and shirt, and while I was getting ready to try them on, he asked where the show was being held. When I told him Ashland, Kentucky, he dropped the hangers he was holding and said, “Did you say Ashland, Kentucky?” He then told me that he had spent much of his childhood in Ashland, that his mother had grown up there, and that of the seven million people in Atlanta, he had never met anyone who had even heard of Ashland. He then told me of all the great places to eat, especially Chimney Corner Cafe, about the historic bridges that connect Kentucky with Ohio, and his memories of the landmark Paramount Theater where the show was to be held.

Later, as I was trying on a shirt, he asked me what kind of music I wrote and performed, and I described the music and said the lyrics are Christian and faith-based. Without skipping a beat, David showed me a hand-carved, wooden cross that he had with him. Not only did he know everything about the town I was planning to visit, but he also shared the same faith.

As I was making my purchase before leaving the store, I told him I liked the cross and its craftsmanship, and he told me that a friend of his had made it for him, and that it was a reminder that God is with him everyday. Three days later, I received a cross just like it in the mail! David explained to me that it belonged to his wife, but that they both wanted me to have it when I went to Kentucky. His friend was going to make her another cross.

David also sent me the Bible verse from Psalm 118:24 that says “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”, and told me to remember this on my big night. Before I was ready to perform, I said the verse to myself, and it really brought me into the moment and made me so aware that God, the Maker of the Universe, had also made this night, and I was blessed enough to be part of it.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, the IMEA nomination came out of nowhere. It was a complete surprise. After the meeting with David, it became clear to me why it was happening. For a few days, it was as if the veil had been lifted, and I was seeing firsthand that, yes, God is directing my paths. The connection I had made that day in Atlanta went beyond coincidence. In fact, it was so powerful, I felt I had already received my “award”, and considered not even making the trip to the ceremony.

Of course, I am very happy I went. Colt Chambers and his group from IMEA and the Paramount Players were so kind to me. For example, the soundcheck went quicker than expected, and even though I had arrived before mine was scheduled, it had already concluded. Nevertheless, everyone in the theater came together to hear me practice and were cheering me on the entire time. What a great group of people! I also had the privilege of presenting the Female Vocalist of the Year Award in Christian Music to Katelyn McCarter, and I was honored that she presented me with my award for Male Vocalist of the Year in the same category. When you have a chance, please listen to her song “Free from Me”. She is an amazing talent.

I have kept the cross I carried to Kentucky with me everyday since I received it. It is a reminder of the gifts I was given through this experience: (1) the assurance that God is putting it all together by making seemingly impossible connections and giving unexpected honors; (2) a lifelong friend in David, who is now like family to me; (3) new friends, who not only give their all to their own talents, but also appreciate the talent in others; (4) the best group of family and friends who support me every step of the way, (and even though the votes only counted one-fifth of the results, still voted enough to crash the server!) and (6) a heart that is still glad and rejoicing.

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IMEA Christian Male Vocalist of the Year Winner!

As some of you already know, I received the 2013 International Music and Entertainment Association’s (IMEA) Male Vocalist of the Year in Christian Music! What an honor! I will send details later, but wanted to share the news. Thank you for your support!

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More IMEA Nomination News!

As I mentioned last week, I was somehow nominated for the Christian and Gospel Male Vocalist of the Year in by the International Music and Entertainment Awards (IMEA) Program! IMEA is giving everyone an opportunity to vote for the nominees before the upcoming ceremony. Voting will count 1/5 of the total score.  Please click below on the picture of the Paramount Theater where the awards ceremony will be held if you would like to vote for me. It takes less than a minute to vote. I am listed on Page 5 under the Christian and Gospel Male Vocalist of the Year category. After clicking next to my name, to go to Page 6 and hit the Submit button.  Voting ends on October 1. Thank you for your support of my music!

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IMEA Award Nomination!

I am still trying to figure out how it happened, but I have been nominated as Male Vocalist of the Year by the International Music and Entertainment Association (IMEA) Awards! Many thanks to those who thought of me and made this possible! The press release from the Nashville Music News is below. More information will follow soon…

http://www.musicnewsnashville.com/inaugural-imea-awards-official-nominees-announced-tickets-now-sale

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