Trampling Over Death by Death

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExdrZGQVeI]

Christ Is Risen
Matt Maher

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign
Forever let your church proclaim

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Oh, death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!

Oh, death! Where is your sting?
Oh, hell! Where is your victory?
Oh, Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, He’s alive! He’s alive!

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Subscribe.

Lead Me to the Cross, Lord Jesus

On this Good Friday, steep your heart in the message of this song, recounting the willingness, the obedience, the great sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lead Me to the Cross
by Hillsong United

Savior, I come,
Quiet my soul,
Remember Redemption’s Hill
Where Your blood was spilled for my ransom

Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost.
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out.
Bring me to my knees
Lord, I lay me down.
Rid me of myself,
I belong to You.
Lead me, lead me to the cross.

You were as I,
Tempted and trialed, human
The Word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you’re risen!

Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost.
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out.
Bring me to my knees
Lord, I lay me down.
Rid me of myself,
I belong to You.
Lead me, lead me to the cross.

Subscribe.

Eleven Lessons Learned in 11 Days of Parenting

From Tuesday evening, March 11th to Friday evening, March 22nd, we were entrusted with the care of 3 children while their parents went on their first-ever private vacation (to Hawaii!). Their kids are Catherine-13, Jacob-10, and Sarah-6. We moved ourselves into their house, which helped keep their lives relatively similar to when Mommy and Daddy are home. I was fully confident that Kevin and I could handle this task, but I was a bit overwhelmed with the time demand, wasn’t sure how my husband would manage while I had pit orchestra practice from 4-8pm every day during the second school week, and was praying these children wouldn’t suffer from overwhelming mommy-missing.

IMG_2707

Praise the Lord, all went wonderfully. No, that doesn’t mean the kids were angels for their special long-term caregivers. In fact, there were daily discipline issues. But Kevin and I learned a lot during these weeks. We learned how to communicate and stay on the same page (especially when those kids are trying to pit us against each other). We learned how to discipline out of love, yet with firmness. We learned which things are important to us — like sharing meals together, praying before we eat each meal, respecting the one who cooks a meal, having children honor the authority of whichever parent is handling the situation.

Besides those important lessons here are just 
{Eleven Lessons Learned in 11 Days of Parenting}
1) Six year old girls really REALLY hate having their hair brushed. It’s like you’re trying to torture them within an inch of their lives
2) I now understand why some moms despise school vacations so much. Having those kids, particularly the young ones, at your feet all. day. long. asking for this and that and the other thing is just draining. 
IMG_1393[1]
popcorn and SkipBo together before bedtime.
3) It’s amazing how much you can get done by 8:25 in the morning. I would wake up at 5:50am. Work out for a half hour. Shower. Kids were up by 6:15, eating breakfast on their own/with Kevin’s help. I would force Sarah to brush her hair, say goodbye to Catherine as she headed to the Middle School bus at 7:15, make sure Jacob and Sarah had brushed their teeth, help Sarah get on a reasonable outfit for the day (it’s outstanding how much convincing was necessary to put on a clean pair of underwear every morning), do a load or two of laundry, eat my own breakfast while playing 4 rounds of the Matching Game with the two kids, clean up the kitchen from breakfast, bundle everyone up, and head out to the bus at 8:20. Not too shabby. 
4) It’s possible to do everything we need to do AND do everything the kids need AND have a bit of down time just-the-two-of-us at the end of the evening. Even during the week of my pit orchestra rehearsals until 8:00pm, when we still had to get the kids home, un-wound, teeth brushed, tucked in, tickled, and prayed with, we managed to have fun times with those three and with just each other. I was genuinely shocked. 
5) Those big, beautiful child eyes are insanely hard to say, “No” to sometimes. 
IMG_1407[1]
Sarah Bug as we called her.
6) Whenever possible, don’t take the kids shopping with you. You will inevitably buy more than you wanted to or be forced to deal with I didn’t get what I want temper tantrums. 
7) My husband astounded me with his fatherly capabilities. I knew he would be a good dad, but man-o-man, he’s going to be a fantastic father! He had this incredible capacity to discipline the children with definitive firmness (but not harshness), and be back to snuggling with them moments later. They respected him, responded to his discipline, and still loved him. 
8) We will always prefer driving our awesome little 5-speed ’98 Honda Civic over a spacious mini-van (even with the cd player, leg room, and air conditioning). I don’t look forward to the day it’s a necessary commodity. 
9) It’s important to incorporate those little hands in your daily tasks. Giving them responsibilities, telling them, “I need you to be in charge of this for me,” empowers them to be awesome and even exceed your expectations. 
10) You can have genuine FUN with your children. It’s a huge chore and a constant demand, for sure, but it’s a wonderful, joyous gift to spend time with them. The toughest part is balancing saying, “Yes, I’ll play with you”  with needing a) time to yourself or b) time to accomplish x, y, and z. Playing with them brings so much joy and connection for both of you, but it’s ok to send them off on their own and teaching them how to entertain themselves. 
IMG_1397[1]
Kevin constructing the awesome blanket fort Friday night
11) We have WAY more time in our days than we ever realized. It’s amazing how many more hours open up when you’re suddenly filled up with responsibilities. Priorities are made, a goal-focused mind is set, and you still have time for devotions and a bit of Dr. Who with your husband before bed. :) 
Though we’re happy to be back to our just-the-two-of-us routine, we’re now confident that one day we will be able to handle the responsibility of parenthood and still make time for ministry, community service, personal fitness, and husband and wife time. I am thankful to Tara and Cliff for entrusting us with their babies for this amount of time and for empowering us to discover what we’re truly capable of.

Early Morning #YouthMin

At 6:30 this morning, in the midst of the busy week of musical dress rehearsals, taking care of 3 kids for 11 days, and being busy with my normal responsibilities, I drove around the village picking up a van load of middle school girls to take out to breakfast. I’m Melanie, I’m crazy, I love teenagers, and I do insane things like treating them to McDonald’s before school one morning. Love my life.

Subscribe.

The Preview of Beauty and the Beast

It’s show week again for the local high school’s spring musical. I can hardly believe it’s been an entire year since my first experience in the pit orchestra. (Last year was The Sound of Music, remember?) I was honored to be asked to participate as one of 4 adult instrumentalists in a 25 member orchestra. The connection I have with the band director and show director has been awesome. They are fantastic leaders and a lot of fun to work with. Because of these weeks and months of practicing, I also have great relationships with many of the students, which, you may imagine, is definitely a focus for Melanie-the-youth-leader. Now, when I attend other school functions (sporting events, concerts, etc), I can point out many students by name. What a gift!
 
The music in my synth strings score is much easier than last year’s Sound of Music parts, so I have put in far less practice time. This is partially laziness, I admit, and partially because I have learned the unique art of playing one small part in the mix of a large ensemble. My music just doesn’t work without all the other instruments. It’s actually quite boring to play all by itself, but man, put it with the full orchestra and suddenly it’s a beautiful thing!
 
Awww the joys of band.
 
This week includes nightly rehearsals from 4-8pm and a midweek “preview” for the students in the elementary, middle and high school. Tomorrow’s preview will go in 30 minute increments – we will perform straight through the show, pausing every 30 minutes for a new class to fill the auditorium.
 
AND, my mom is driving in for a visit and to see the show! It’s going to be a busy, awesome weekend!
 
 

The Husband of a Runner

If you’ve read the updated version of the blog’s “About K & M” page, you will know two facts – 

a) I am a runner.

b) Kevin is not. Despite my greatest wishes. 

For as long as we’ve been a couple (going on nine years!), one of my biggest hopes is that Kevin would become my running partner. Typically, about once a year, I catch him on a good day and he agrees to run with me. This run normally ends after about 10 minutes me soaring with glee, and him being frustrated that he’s not in the same fitness bracket as I am. Understandable. 
I never give up asking (mostly because he’s told me it doesn’t hurt to ask, just don’t nag). Every month or two, I say, “Will you come on a run with me today?” And he inevitably responds with, “No.” If there is even the slightest hesitation on his part, I latch on with the most unreasonable amount of excitement only to be let down shortly thereafter, when he admits he was never considering it to begin with. 
Last fall he endeavored to start down the path of overall health and fitness. On his own volition we bought him a pair of minimalist New Balance shoes and my parents gifted him some UnderArmour pants for Christmas. He was faithful for a month, getting up before dawn two or three mornings a week and heading out for a mile or two all on his own. (You see, we finally figured out that he needed to work through this without my coaching or exaggerated thrill.) But then the weather changed and the runner* came to a screeching halt. 
*him not me. I have run all winter thankyouverymuch. 

And now it’s time for the new session of our church’s Run for God program to begin. (You may remember my stories from last year – Fairy Running and the Strawberry Race.) I talked with Kevin about the possibility of becoming the ambassador/coach/recruiter of teenagers for this program, hoping to grow the number of students involved. He jumped on board to my complete and utter amazement, saying that is the only way he’d want to participate–as a co-leader for the teens. He would be the newbie (“If I can do this you can do this“) leader and I would be the veteran. 
I hadn’t broached the subject with him after this initial interaction. You see, this subject is a fragile one, a tight rope walk, waiting for my own wrong move to push him off the oh-so-narrow bandwagon.
But then this happened: 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-j9FSB3oC8]
I’m going to leave my excitement unstated. You’ll just have to imagine how I’m feeling about my husband running. 
The program starts this Sunday! Wish us luck!! 

{A Night of Choral Music is} Good for the Soul

Monday evening was the fruition of many months of planning. The Spring Arbor University Chamber Choir — of which I am an alum — came to our cute little village to put on a concert in our historic church sanctuary. It was a fantastic success! 
My beloved choir director, Dr. Livesay, contacted Kevin and me after receiving our Christmas letter and realizing we were in the area of the choir’s spring tour. We emailed back and forth for the subsequent months, filling in details. I worked hard recruiting gracious hosts to house the 40 students overnight and cooks who would bring dishes for the pre-concert student potluck. The meal was fantastic, filling us all to the brim with a wonderful assortment. (Special thanks to the Smiths for helping me clean up and make coffee in that new-fangled coffee maker from the 70s.) Dear friends of mine who own the local Bed and Breakfast generously offered to house the choir director and the bus driver as a “home stay,” and so many church and piano studio families made for great hotels for the rest of the crew. 
It was my job to find a set of choir risers, as the touring bus didn’t have room for them to bring their own. Thanks to my connections with the local music teachers, I received permission straight from the superintendent to borrow the primary-colored elementary school risers. I am so grateful for their willingness to trust us with school property and for the help I received from my husband, Greg, Tom and Mike in loading and unloading, loading and unloading the risers.  
My marketing skills were tested as I attempted to fill our sanctuary with an expectant audience for a choral concert on a Monday evening. It was a wonderful turnout of 90-100, doubling my estimations! Every single attendant – young and old – only had positive remarks to make after the soul-stirring hour of music. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqWj59eZFFE]

This song, In Remembrance by Jeffery Ames, was one we sang when I was in the choir from 2004-2008. It’s quite moving, expressing the grief and prayers of one dealing with death.

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine (Let eternal light shine upon them, Lord). O God, my God, why hast thou forsaken? My tears linger at night, but joy comes in the morning light. Lord, in your infinite mercy, grant them rest. Rest forevermore. 

—–

I heard endless stories from students and hosts alike detailing their time together from 8pm to 9am Tuesday morning. Many of us were up way past our bedtimes, enjoying good conversation, spontaneous singalongs, and rowdy board games. Kevin and I were blessed with time to rekindle relationships with the wonderful Renee Runyon, choir accompanist and personal friend, and two students who have been Eccles family friends for 2 decades. Dr. Livesay was wonderful to talk with, asking about my sister and honestly caring about my life. SAU is truly a community not just an institution of higher education. The professors are invested in our lives, not just for those 4 years, for all these years (5) later. 
I am SO thrilled with the outcome of the SAU Chamber Choir Concert I hosted at Albion Free Methodist Church last night, and so proud that, onceuponatime, I was a part of that group of vocal musicians. The Music Department at Spring Arbor is truly remarkable, and though I was a Philosophy/Religion major, I spent many hours in that building, practicing piano for my lessons with Mrs. Heydenburg, rehearsing with the choir, worshiping with the Wellspring team, and auditioning for scholarships and solos. I cherish those times.  

Pinning in Spring

As much as I love winter, and I loved the chilly run I got to go one today, it’s March, friends, and I’m ready for warmer weather and bluer skies. In tribute to my happy thoughts, here are some Favorite Finds and Pretty Pins.

scarf
Lisa Leonard’s new hope[full] line of jewelry and scarves, with proceeds benefiting Jungle Kids organization in Ecuador.
pinned onto Femine Style Lover
PEEPS S’mores! pinned onto Baker of Sweets.
Best Peanut Butter Cookies!
(seriously, I made them already!) 
Pinned on Baker of Sweets
pink
I would LOVE to wear this dress.
Pinned onto Feminine Style Lover. 
IMG_4476
these Apple Bars are so stinking delicious and super easy!written on my blog
And a little reminder for Today.
pinned onto Lover of Words

Subscribe.

Bringing “Hostess” to a Different Level

Sometimes I feel like I’m not really an adult because 90% of my life is spent with teenagers. And quite frankly, dear friends, I love it that way. It’s hard not to compare my life to other adult friends, to see how many real-live-grown-ups they have over for dinner on a regular basis. I convince myself that I’m missing the mark. After all, we don’t have adults over very often – definitely not as often as a ministry couple should. 
Or should we? 
Who am I to try to rearrange the life God has called me to live? The one where I have 12 teenagers over for 2 hours every Monday afternoon, for a thing called Book Club, but where it becomes a time to laugh and love and be together. Or the one where I look forward to my Thursday nights, when a group of 5 dear high school girls cozy up on my couches, drink tea together, and share the deeper aspects of life as a godly girl. Or the spur of the moment mornings when we invite the whole slew of teens to come over for pancakes. Or how every Sunday morning, right after church, I fly out the door to unlock my house so our teen Sunday School class can pile in and enjoy learning and eating and listening in a more comfortable environment? (My house is NOT big people. It’s actually quite tiny. But I’ve had as many 18 teens squeeze into the living room and dining room.) Oh, right! And every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I have student after student (and sometimes their friends and a lot of times their families) filing in and out of my living room for piano lessons. And let me tell you that my job as a piano teacher is SO MUCH MORE than a job. It’s a joy, a ministry. 
Am I more comfortable hosting teenagers in my home than adults? Yes. Does that mean I’m behind in my duty as pastor’s wife? No. Am I strange for having honest-to-goodness inhibitions about having “grown ups” over versus teens? Perhaps. Do I need to get over that? Maybe. 
But I’m gonna go ahead and say with absolute freedom and conviction that I am proudly fulfilling the role Christ has called me to – which, for now, is ministering to teenagers. And call me crazy, but I love ’em.