The Kids Worship Club

During my very first job as a music teacher/worship leader at a Christian school and church 16 years ago, I was sometimes stressed out when a new experience was put before me.

There were many things that I had never done before: lead worship from a piano with a band, write out music for orchestral instruments, write songs for the youth that would help them connect to God in worship…

…and during this first “real” season of my life is when I recorded and released my first cd. (Shameless plug… you can find it here.)

Through that amazing time of growth, one of my mentors, Ken Reynolds, would always encourage me with something HIS mentor, Gary J. Blanchard would tell him…

Whenever you’re faced with something new, simply say “Well, I’ve never done that before!”, and go for it!
We would often laugh and say that phrase to each other as a lot of transition happened in our church, and we were often called upon to step out of our comfort zones!
I am so grateful that through the various seasons of my life, I’ve had incredible people encouraging me to face the new challenges with my gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.
Here’s the deal:  my heart is creating space where KIDS can lead KIDS in worship.
I think there’s something powerful about adults stepping out of the way and letting the kids’ voices be heard.
Now, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for how to let KIDS lead.  There aren’t many schools that teach how to play chords on a piano and follow a chord chart, how to recognize chord patterns, how to play band or orchestra instruments with worship songs (using the limited notes that beginners know), how kids can hear the Holy Spirit when they are painting and drawing, how kids need to live lives of worship and not just sing or play pretty… and songwriting courses for kids are not usually something that parents have an option of signing their kids up for.
So, my heart for this was to start something, building on things Leo and I had done in the past.
But this was totally new.
And it would take a team of creatives who “got it”.
This past Worship Club (the ninth one we’d done) was no exception.
We had around 75 kids- 2nd to 8th grade.  17 teachers and 10 helpers for the 7 classes we were offering.
Our band and orchestra class alone was a challenge:  there’s a reason that violins and trumpets usually don’t play together… there are completely different notes that the kids learn on their specific instruments when they begin, let alone that they really only know a few notes!
So, either the string section would be struggling with a specific key, or the horn/woodwind section. Last year, I had incredibly talented people teach each group separately and the strings played on 2 songs, and the band played on 2 others.
This year however, those teachers weren’t available, so it fell onto me to teach them combined.  5 violins and a viola (who didn’t know how to read alto staff), 3 trumpets, 2 saxophones, 2 clarinets and 3 flutes.
It was a huge undertaking…
I’d never done this before!
The kids struggled a bit, but were so willing (and ABLE!) to overcome their obstacles.  It was amazing to watch them progress from the first week to the last, growing not only in their skill sets, but in their friendships and encouragement of each other.
In addition to my class, we had singing, dance, keyboards, media arts, guitar and percussion.
As the Lord brought the various teachers we needed to pour into the kids, He fulfilled another deep desire of my heart:
Every class had at least one minority teacher.  Some classes were even taught by gifted high-school students.
This was truly the nations worshipping together, in many different expressions of worship!
The 3rd week of the club, there was an incredible moment after our devotions.
I got up on our little stage in front of the group to practice with them as they ate their snacks.  The kids joyously sang, danced or beat on the tables as we sang “You are Good”, and “The Good Life”.
Then, as we started into the 3rd song of the set, “Good, Good Father”, the kids really “entered in”.  Hands were raised and eyes were closed as they sang their hearts out to their Father.
During that song, instead of singing the 3rd verse (which is, in my opinion,  a little hard for little minds to understand), I felt led to have people say “You’re a Good Father” in whichever language they wanted.
Around the room, like popcorn, teachers and students alike spoke… French, Spanish, Russian, Tamil, Sign language, Swahili, Kukuyu… it was absolutely beautiful!  I started tearing up in front of them, as my heart filled up with many emotions all at once!  Then, we started back into the chorus… “You’re a good, good Father… it’s who You are… and I am loved by You, it’s who I am….”.
Kids singing in full force, completely swept up in their Father’s love.
At that point, I don’t think a single teacher had a dry eye, and my face and neck were noticeably wet from my tears.  I had no voice to sing with as I was completely choked up, but it wasn’t needed because the kids just continued to sing those phrases over and over while I played my guitar.
This is why we step into un-chartered territory.
The long nights, the stressing over computer/music-writing software issues, the juggling demands of The Club with the rest of our lives and work, the “can we try this instead”‘s, the “I’ve never done this before”‘s that we uttered many times over the 5 weeks…
We do it to raise up THIS generation’s worshippers who aren’t afraid to try something new; because in taking a risk, they learn how to lead worship with their gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.

The blessing of receiving pt. 2

When we moved back to the States 3 years ago, we had some clothes, our instruments, and other random things (like a 70 lb bag full of beads and accessories for our “Colombia to the World” project… lol!).

We had to sell everything that didn’t fit into 8 suitcases.

We arrived to my parent’s house in Sunbury with nothing… no jobs, no cars, no insurance, no certificates that were valid in Ohio to get professional jobs… nothing.

Slowly as the months passed, the Lord opened up doors for everything we needed.  We were able to start working, making friends, and finally got to the point where we could make a budget.

As we were praying about where we could live, we knew 3 things: 1) we needed a house- Leo’s dreams for a recording studio wouldn’t be able to happen in an apartment setting.  2) we needed 3 bedrooms- we have people over all the time, and having space for them to sleep was a priority. 3) we could only afford 1,000/month, utilities included.

It was like we spoke those things into existence, and said “Ok God… GO!”.

People thought we were crazy.

As we waited for the right place to show up, I would buy simple things with our little bit of surplus each month.  One month it was a set of towels on sale.  The next month, it was a comforter set that was on sale.  I stocked these little things up, knowing that we would eventually be able to move out of my parent’s basement.

One day, as I was driving my usual route around the city for work, I had the Zillow app open.  Most of the houses in this particular area were renting for $1300, but one stuck out at $895. I immediately contacted the owner, and he agreed to meet with us the following day.

We had seen other houses, and upon entering the owners would kind of look Leo up and down, ask him a few questions and just hurry us through the house.  Leo never felt peace about those places…

However, when we walked through the door of this particular house, the owner was playing Salsa music, and greeted us in Spanish.  Turns out, he had lived in Puerto Rico for 5 years as a teacher… loved Spanish and the Latino culture!  We walked through the house and fell in love with it!  As we stood in the kitchen and continued conversation, the owner asked us if we were serious about living in this place.  We said YES… but we had 2 issues…

This was just mid-February, and we wouldn’t be able to move in until April. Also, we only felt comfortable signing a 6-month lease because we still weren’t confident that Leo’s immigration status would get renewed.

He said yes to both conditions… and then went on to say,
“So, would you mind if I leave some furniture here for you?  Where I’m going, I don’t need all of it. I will probably take all the living room and master bedroom furniture at least, but it would be great to be able to leave the guest rooms furnished.”

Leo and I looked at each other in disbelief, and said “of course!  Whatever you leave in the house is what we don’t have!”.

So, April 1st rolled around (Easter Sunday that year), and my family all piled their cars up and drove us to our new house.

As we walked in, the owner had a simple trash bag in his hand and said “I just need to pick up a few things”.  I looked in disbelief at the fully-furnished house and said “Um, are you sure? It looks like you have a lot to take!”.

“No, as it turns out, I only needed the coffee table and some lamps”.  He said.

I couldn’t believe it!  The only furniture that we had brought with us was a coffee table and lamps!

My mom happily brought in our comforter set and said “I’ll go make your bed, then!”.  (we were honestly thinking that we’d be sleeping in the guest room on a futon).

Each and every person who has come through our doors has heard this God story.  We know that we have been entrusted with a house that only the Lord could’ve given, and in response, we share it with anyone and everyone.

We have received a beautiful gift… one that will be OURS on paper later this week! But at the end of the day this is God’s house, and it will always be open to anyone who needs a place to stay, a warm meal, and who wants to hear a lot of crazy stories!

We give because we have received.

Blessings in the journey

Last week I was given an incredible gift.  A 4-day worship retreat in the mountains of North Carolina.  It was very unexpected, last-minute, and I honestly didn’t think I deserved to go; however, Leo encouraged me and all the pieces came together to work it out.  I mean, it just “happened” to be Fall break for the other therapist that works with my kiddo, so she could cover me at school for the 4 days I would miss.  Crazy!

From the outset of the trip, I was excited.  It turns out that I’m a faster driver than most (big shocker, I know), so the folk I went with wanted me to drive.  No problem.  Driving is like breathing for me… especially when it’s driving through the mountains of West Virginia all the way to Asheville, NC.  I was giddy the whole drive!  The colors, the hills, the curves….  it was amazing!

Now, I’ve had some major health issues the past few years that have kinda all come to a head here in the US; so I am on a VERY strict diet (it’s easier to tell you what I CAN eat than what I shouldn’t).  When traveling with a group over a long distance, it’s pretty much a given that there will be crap food eaten along the way.  We stopped at a Bob Evans, and I looked in disbelief that I couldn’t eat ANYTHING on the breakfast menu.  I was the girl who ordered a no-cheese, no-egg omelet.  Crazy.  I was a bit overwhelmed and disheartened thinking what the rest of the week would look like, to say the least!

Blessing #2 came when we sat down to eat our first meal at the retreat center.  They had food I could eat!!!  I filled up 2 plates with salad, veggies and fish… and was SO relieved.  Throughout the week I could eat at every.single.meal, and not just salad!  It was amazing!

I could go on and on about how amazing the week was… music, food, beer, conversations, laughter, rest, the mountains…

But, there was one experience that stands out above all the rest.

A group of us decided to hike up a “mountain” during our freetime one afternoon.  We called a friend of mine who used to live in the area to see what he recommended, and we set out-  hiking up the road to the trailhead.  We heard that this trail was “moderate”, but that the view was incredible.  Upon getting to the trailhead, there were warnings of bears, so we quickly decided that we should just make noise the whole time up… which wasn’t really a problem for us VERY talkative women!  Ha!

The trail started uphill pretty easily.  Left foot, right foot.  About 1/3 up, it started getting steeper, with steps laid out in front of us.  We’d go up one set, and then the trail would curve around a bit just to reveal another set of stairs.  This.kept.happening. I started to just get frustrated.  We could see through the trees enough to know that we were in a cloud forest, and the folk coming down the trail warned us of rain…. but they all said that if we could make it up before the rain hit, the view would be worth it.

About 4/5ths of the way up, with a bad knee and a current struggle with anemia, I was slowing down.  I’d turn another curve, see another set of stairs and just get more and more frustrated.  I just wanted to get to the top!  I used to walk all.the.time., and had no idea why this was such a hard hike.  I used to love hiking!

As I stood and paused at different points to catch my breath, I caught myself thinking,
“I’m tired of the struggle.  I don’t know if I can keep going”.

I wasn’t talking about the hike anymore.

“Why does this always have to be so hard.  Why can’t I have the strength I used to?  Why does every turn reveal another #$*&%$%* set of obstacles?”

The girls up ahead would call down to me to make sure I was still coming.

I’d go up another set of stairs.

Frustration.

They’d call out.

Up another set…

The difference came, however, when I heard them yell out “OH MY GOSH!!! THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!  We made it!”

I knew I was only 2-3 climbs away from the top.

They then yelled down “Lilia, it IS worth it!  You gotta get up here!”.

As I rounded the last bend, I saw a rock face that was standing between me and the top.  One girl was there, talking me through how to climb it.  We walked together to the summit.

I then realized that I need to find more people in my life who aren’t just experiencing my struggles alongside of me, but who have been on my journey, with my struggles, and can yell down at me from a higher vantage point than I have right now. Who have struggled up to the top, possibly swearing as they go; and through blood, sweat and tears can proclaim that it really IS worth it.

As we all stood there, looking out at the beauty, we could see the retreat center way below us.  We had no idea how far we’d come until we saw that landmark.  Later on, at dinner, we were able to look out the windows from our table to the top of the mountain we’d climbed, and with absolute joy (and exhaustion) we told of our journey.

We made it.  Together. 1780755_10152322503470841_921857032589956806_n

That night we sang songs of mountaintops and valleys.  Each time, we glanced at each other and giggled under our breaths “we climbed one today!”.

Jesus is enough for me… and I am so grateful that He allows trips like this one to remind me that I still have yet to fully grasp that.  He put people around me to comfort, encourage and love on me so that I am less likely to forget that He really does love me.  He will work all these struggles out for my good… someday.

Reflection

My first year living in Colombia, I had to learn how NOT to remember things by seasons. I never realized how important seasons had been to my midwestern mind, heart and body; but I quickly found myself trying to break the school year into Fall and Spring Semesters, and I was met with quizzical looks from my Colombian friends.

I remember walking home with Beth one day, talking about how much I missed Fall. She looked at me, and said that she loved the 65-80 degree weather year-round. I didn’t think I’d ever get to that point. I’m not from California. I’m from Ohio. Seasons are in my blood.

I remember as the first “fall” was passing in the US. I was glued to Facebook, taking in everyone’s comments about the colder weather, grieving that I couldn’t experience it for myself. I tried to explain the phenomena of the changing smells, colors, foods and scenery to Leo; he smiled but didn’t really understand.

And, as much as I never thought I’d get used to the seasons NOT changing, I DID get used to it. I liked the simplicity of not needing a change of wardrobe for each season. I liked the monotony of the sun rising and setting within the same 30-minute window each day. There were always flowers blooming, always fresh fruits and veggies, and I could walk outside every day. Even “rainy season” was predictable: for the most part, if it was sunny in the morning, you’d get a downpour sometime in the afternoon/evening, and if it was rainy in the morning, vice versa. I got used to life without seasons.

But along with gaining the contentment in that, I think I lost the idea that seasons DO change. Each day kinda rolled into the next with only school breaks or service trips to count time with, and I think I forgot that the season would someday come to an end. I forgot to take in each day for what it was. The monotony of the familiar lulled me into forgetting that time passes quickly, opportunities might never come again, and things really were changing whether the weather marked it or not.

Coming back to the US was a hard transition in many ways, and I remember getting angry that the seasons were changing so quickly. It seemed like just as we’d finally have what we needed for one season, we’d need something for the next one and be behind again. I felt so out of place. Again, I was met with quizzical looks. I’d lived in the land of seasons for 28 years of my life… but the during the 5 seasons of living without them I’d so adopted a new way of living that I couldn’t remember how to go back.

However, I did eventually adjust. I had to remind my husband who wanted to give away all of his winter clothes halfway through summer (he looked at me and said… I haven’t used that in MONTHS), that winter would be back, and we were finally prepared.

Somewhere around December last year, shortly before Leo’s family came to visit us for Christmas, it hit me. There are certain things we can count on:

The sun will rise tomorrow to a brand new day.

Seasons will change.

We aren’t guaranteed to see any of it.

It allowed me to sink into the Truth that each day, conversation, opportunity, experience has its purpose, and most likely will never be repeated.

I am learning to savor everything, knowing that it might never happen again.

I am trying not to take anything for granted, because
this season, too, will change.