Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! SO grateful for you and
your faithful, fabulous support throughout 2017. Thank you for your
encouragement that keeps me inspired to create new music! YOU bless me more
than you could possibly know!
Thanks so much to each person who has already purchased CDs, DVDs and books for themselves and for gift-giving for hostess gifts, teachers, Bible Study leaders, Secret Santa and other exchange events, for friends and for families! A dear customer from Paris, Maine called this morning to purchase CDs of our new project, Nature's Song, for members of her Grief Group. How thoughtful! Our holiday sale prices are effective through Dec. 31st. We mail out your orders within 24 hours or less. THANK YOU for sharing the gift of music!!
And another thank you ... to so many who contributed "Joy Stories" to be shared at the concert and in this newsletter! Several guests commented about how meaningful it was to read them on the screens before the concert and during intermission. Each "Joy Story" is posted at the end of this newsletter. Please take time to read them and be blessed as I was!
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible this year at places I perform. It's so exciting to receive calls and e-mails from those of you who invite me to speak and play the piano at venues in your community, thank you!! We're booking a variety of events for 2018 and 2019; concerts, women's events, retreats and conferences, fund raisers, church worship services, etc. Please visit our bookings page which provides information about what to expect during a concert, contact info and endorsements from previous event hosts. I'd greatly enjoy coming to your area for a special occasion!
Several inquire if we could ship CDs to friends and relatives for holiday gifts, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events. Include a note if you'd like me to personalize your gifts with autographed CDs and a special greeting. Please be sure to include the recipients' names and addresses along with titles of recordings you wish for them to have. If requested, we will ship your gift anywhere within the continental United States. Your product will be sent within 48 hours of receiving your order.
My joy story is a Garrett story. For many years, especially when I was struggling so much with my alcohol addiction, Garrett's main prayer for me was always "Dear Jesus, I pray for joy and laughter for my mom." I welcomed that prayer of course, but only in the last couple years as I've seen victory in my life, have I realized the importance of that prayer. Because I drank to cover up pain and sorrow and grief. The cure for those things has been ... you guessed it ... much joy and laughter. The more I have, the stronger I become.
I think most addicts could be cured with love, mercy, lots of joy and laughter. (and music)!
Sheryl, Naples, FL
Geri, Minneapolis, MN
This isn't what I would call a tradition because it occurred randomly, but it did occur often. Jean and I did not have family in the Twin Cities. My family lived in Los Angeles and Jean's family lived on a farm in the very SW corner of Minnesota. It did not always work for us to travel to either home for the Holidays. When we did not travel, it was the four of us at home. When we were at home we would do our family Christmas on Christmas Eve. A light dinner, open presents and end the evening with a candle light service at our church. On Christmas Day, however, we would share our home with others ... others like us with no extended family around. Not always, but usually our time was with a single mom and her children. A family that had limited options for the day. It wasn't always easy. Sometimes it was difficult, even awkward. But, we did our best to include our guests in dinner preparation, dinner clean up and especially inclusion in all conversations. We wanted them to be a part of our family to celebrate the birth of our Savior. On these days, as the day concluded, I was always struck by how blessed I was to be able to share our home with a family we did not really know.
Becky, Cambridge, MN
Have been enjoying the DVD "Nature Song" and had it playing while a friend was visiting. She has attended the church where you hold your concerts and plans to attend the concert with me. I love sharing your music with friends and love playing your CD's at the Wild Birds Unlimited Store where I work. Since I'm a "closer" I'm there on my own and that's when I hear the music the most and the customers really enjoy it and ask me all the time what CD I have playing. This is my way of spreading the joy of your music which in turn brings me great joy as well.
Marilyn, Minneapolis, MN
Joy......it is looking, at the end of your hand, and seeing Jesus, seeing others 'in' Jesus, and lastly, reflecting on how others 'see' you "in" Him. When you are seeking Him, following Him, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, contagious, infectious joy radiates within you from the inside out. Joy is a state of BEing - an outward and visible sign of the Christmas present we tore open, paper and bows going everywhere, and with unabashed delight, the radiance of the gift envelopes each us, and we will never, ever be the same ... just contagious and infectious.
Joy is the candy aisle in Target with a friend God knew we would meet, years before we ever did, for the exact reasons we did ... with the love of chocolate oozing all over us.
Joy is literally 'hearing' His voice through the fingertips of one who has been so gifted, so annointed, to seep into the very cracks and crevasses that hurt....but are healed - all because two people, joined in eternal matrimony work together, as a team, for the grace, glory and adoration of our Lord.....(aka Kent and MBC)
Joy is the gleam you see in Jody's eyes when family surrounds her. Words need not be spoken or expressed. She knows she is loved. She knows she is safe.
Joy is the burden of the heaviest of crosses, carried with love, with the ultimate joy.......knowing Friday is hard, but Sunday is coming ... forever.
Care, Wasilla, AK
My Testimony Related to the ministry with "My Girls". Looking back on my life, I so thankful that I was raised in a wonderful secure Godly home. Finding that same kind of security was certainly necessary when I got married and I am grateful that my husband will not put our family in jeopardy in any way. Being involved with criminals, prisoners and anyone associated with them was way off my radar.
In 2000 we moved to Castaic California which is a suburb north of Los Angeles. Finding a house on a hill with a panorama view of mountains and the valley below was exactly what I loved. Below I could see over 50 one story structures that I had heard housed inmates most likely involved in some kind of crime. Most were waiting for their court date and would not be there for many years, like a typical prison. My feeling was that as long as they were secure we were also. Plus, if any of them did escape they would probably head into Los Angeles right away and not stick around our small valley.
Each morning as I opened the window blinds I would look across at the facility and think how awful it would be to be confined on a gorgeous sunshiny day. I started praying a simple prayer and because I did not have names I would pray for "My Boys".
I pray every day for peace to consume their facility and that somehow they would be introduced to their only hope for change, Jesus Christ. Oh yes, once released they could start out with good intentions to do the right thing, but back in their home community and jobless, they would soon find themselves back in the jail system. Their only real hope was a personal relationship with Christ and the knowledge that they are loved by Him but also accountable to Him. My church was involved with the detention facility (jail) by supporting the lead Chaplin.
News of a major spiritual revival and changed hearts at a prison in Angola Louisiana spread throughout all prison systems. The lead warden of that prison saw the devastation and rage that gave Angola the reputation of being the most violent prison in the country. He, being a Godly man, tried to figure out what could bring about change. He then approached the AWANA ministry focused on children. He approached them about what it would take to bring the children of the fathers into his prison for a day of fun with their dad. Prior to that day the fathers awarded the privilege of having time with their children were trained on how to be a good, responsible and Godly father. God, in the very last verse in Bible's Old Testament Malachi 4:6 "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers." Using that verse as a guide a training program began, the children spent a fun day at the prison with their dads and hearts were changed. The beginning of "The Returning Hearts" program.
My church made the decision to give The Returning Hearts program a try at the jail across the valley from my house. After having prayed for nine years for a revival at the jail and hearing about the program, many tears followed. God had heard my prayers. Of course I had to be involved and because I love being "silly" my perfect roll was to be a clown, dancing around welcoming the children as they arrived and enjoying time having fun. It was a bit hard when the dads and children were united for the first time at the park like area. Yes it was fenced in complete with circled barb wire, but the bouncers and tents that offered a fun day shined brighter then any of the fences. My clown makeup ran a bit as I watched the dads and children hugging and clinging together throughout the day.
Being more aware of what the facility looked like from being on the "inside" ... I was even more aware of other activity going on. The temperature being over 100 on a hot sunny Saturday made me feel sad for the women that I would see walking down the road lined with dirt to climb up a very steep slope to cross over a bridge and stand in line to visit the man that they love. I didn't really know what the women were doing, so I decided to pull over and ask they would like a ride up to the check-in area of the jail. A surprise and look of wonderment filled their face, like "You are willing to drive me up there?" ... I smiled and said "Come in".
While I had them in my car I was able to ask questions about the process and then give them some encouraging words. At home I decided to research what the women were going through to make the visit. Many take a train from their area in Los Angeles, to the main train station, out 30 miles to the Newhall Train Station in Valencia and then a bus over to the central bus area. Get on another bus that came out to Castaic and once at the bus drop-off they would walk 1.2 miles down dirt paths, climb incredibly beat up dirt paths and over to the check-in area where they would wait in a long line for their turn to finally get checked in and able to see the man they adore for 30 minutes.
The Lord has laid on my heart these dear women. I meet the bus every hour from 8 AM to 1 PM and drive them to a drop-off point and while in the car I encourage them, give them Gospel tracts and remind them that the Lord loves them and their man. I tell them that I pray for "My Boys" daily and I get the first name of the man they love and I add it to my prayer list which I pray for every night.
Since all of this, the Lord has answered so many prayers of so many people. There is a revival going on in the LA County jail system as well as the State Prison system. Hearts are changing, men have accepted Christ and have even been baptized (in a flip top trash can) inside the jail and men are even being educated to become pastors through a program called TUMI. That's another whole story I reserve for a time in the future.
The greatest sign of the Lord's approval of my "EWE-HAUL" (a ewe being a female sheep) ... was when I finally told my husband what I was doing. I had made a few pickup trips without him knowing it. With tears in my eyes I said "I have to tell you what I am doing which you probably won't approve of ..." That got his attention! I explained how the Lord had put it on my heart to help these women get from the bus to the drop off point. There was a long pause and then he looked at me in the eyes and said "Just be careful!" That has become his last words to me each time I walk out the door to meet the next bus. I love "My Girls" and am so thankful that I am able to be used to witness about the Lord's Saving Grace, while I am giving them my loving grace. Pray that the "EWE-HAUL" continues to be an effective ministry winning hearts for Christ. Amen.
Betty, Castaic, CA
My husband and I moved to Carver on September 11, 2014 from Fargo/Moorhead area. We had lived there me 50 years my husband over 70 years. We moved because of our children and 8 grandchildren. We were encouraged to not wait for things to happen when you move but to make things happen. We prayed for God to give us an idea to help us get to know others. We were missing our friends in FM. So we decided that we were desperate to get to know our new neighbors so we started the tradition of inviting neighbors to our home for a Christmas buffet open house the first Sunday of Dec. from 4 - 8 pm each year. The first year we invited neighbors from 9 houses and then add new ones each year. We got invitations and mailed some and hand delivered others and joyfully welcomed people to our home selfishly so we could have guests at Christmas beyond family. I know we had more fun than our guests. People seemed to really enjoy it as well. We are preparing this year Dec. 3 to invite more neighbors. We are praying that we might have even more guests and more new people as well. We are also suggesting that the past guests bring a neighbor who has not come to our home yet. Praise the Lord for His love and the joy we have in getting to know others.
Arne and Karen, Carver, MN
My Joy Story relates to my enjoyment of sewing.
Sewing has always been my "outlet" and my way of relaxing.
But I also enjoy sewing something special for someone, just to let them know
they are special to me and that they have been on my mind. While I am
sewing an item for a special person, I think of that person, what they have
meant in my life and I pray for them while I am sewing that special item.
Kathy, Meridian, ID
Almost 5 years ago we moved to a new community and we are very thankful for the warm welcome we have been given and wonderful new friendships. I am also thankful for our family's good health and safety especially when a tragedy arises in a friend's family or people you don't even know makes you cherish everything you have no matter what and you realize your problems are so minimal.
Merry & Gary, Blaine, MN
I find my joy in working as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) through the Juvenile Justice System here in the TriCities. I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children and assist professionals in determining what is best for each one. My role is getting to know the kids and helping them as they deal with trauma in their life. For the most part I also have contact with the biological parents and encourage them to take part in services that can bring unification with their child. I look forward to my times with each child and get to know them on an intimate level. After spending 30 years working in education as a teacher it has been wonderful to continue using my love for children but in a different capacity. I plan to continue volunteering in this role as long as I have the mental capacity to deal with the various aspects of the program.
Hope you've enjoyed these touching and creative "Joy Stories" as much as I did, Friends!! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and blessings always,