Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Blog Location

Hey all! Sorry I've been M.I.A here. I forgot to tell you that I've moved my blog to my website. From now on you can view any further blogs there! Click here to be directed to my website now.

P.S. My latest blog is an encouragement to anyone facing a difficult time right now. It's called "At the End of My Rope"!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Matthew West - The Story of Your Life

Last night I attended Matthew West's "The Story of Your Life" tour in Murfreesboro, TN. I've known Matty for about 3 years. We had the same management and began writing songs together (if you have my albums he wrote on Only the World, Voice of a Savior, Freedom Song, Not Guilty, Christmas Makes Me Cry, and more). I tease that when we write together he transforms from a White boy to a Black woman so he deserved a "Black girl name": Matthwesta!

When Matthew first told me about what he was doing for his new album I knew God was going to use it in a big way. Boy was I right! After seeing his tour last night and listening to his new album "The Story of Your Life", I just HAD to tell you about how amazing it is!

Matthew asked people to send him their stories. Thousands came in from all over the world and he spent 2 months in a cabin turning these stories into songs. The result is one of the most moving, personal, powerful albums I've ever heard in my life. I believe that everyone will be able to identify with these songs. A teenage boy being picked on in school, a grown woman coming to terms with the sexual abuse from her childhood, a family changed by the blessing of adoption...all wrapped up into songs of grace, honesty, and hope. I firmly believe that God will use these songs to tear down strongholds, usher in seasons of change, and restore hope to those who have almost given up.

But beyond getting the CD (which releases tomorrow October 5), if Matthew is coming to a town near you it is so worth seeing the live concert. First of all, Jonny Diaz, whose sings the all-important song for any woman, "More Beautiful You", kicks off the tour with touching songs and great humor! He is followed by Josh Wilson who does something on that stage that I can't even begin to describe. He's a brilliant songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and performer. Just trust me, he's phenomenal (and his song "Savior, Please" is one of my absolute favorites of all time). Then Matty takes the stage with a string of his hits that we all know and love: "The Motions", "Only Grace", "You Are Everything", the crowd worshiping and singing every word with him.

During the second half of the concert Matthew takes us inside his cabin and shares the stories and songs that make up "The Story of Your Life". By the end of the night I felt challenged, hopeful, and thankful I was able to experience such a creative expression of God.

You can find tour dates & locations, get the stories, photos, and videos behind the songs, and order a copy of the album here! I encourage you to do so!


P.S. When you get the album I'd love to hear about what you think! Currently, my favorites are "Strong Enough" and "Broken Girl"...I personally identify the most with them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gifts from God

I'm in a group Bible study with a few friends. The study we've chosen is Beth Moore's "A Woman's Heart - God's Dwelling Place". I traveled on Beth's worship team (led by Travis Cottrell) for 5 years right before auditioning for American Idol . I've done several of her studies but never her very first one. It is a study relating the Old Testament tabernacle that God dwelled in to our very own hearts. It has been updated with new material and videos and I highly recommend it!

A few hours ago I completed the homework for week 3, day 4 which focused on a man named Bezalel (Exodus 31:1-11). I was struck by how God gifted him with the skill of artistic design and how God used that gift to build His dwelling place. It got me thinking about how He had gifted me.

Most people know me as a singer and it is a gift I am very thankful for. As a little child I would lock myself in the bathroom, crank up my Whitney Houston cassette tapes (yes, I'm old), use my curling iron as a microphone, and pretend to be a singer on stage before thousands of screaming fans. I don't ever remember wanting to be anything else when I grew up. (Thank you Jesus for dreams coming true!!!)

But another memory came to mind as I meditated on the passages of scripture in my Bible study lesson today. I was in 4th grade at a school assembly sitting all the way in the back of the auditorium at a table with my class. The purpose of the assembly was to announce the winners of the school-wide writing contest. I had submitted a poem that if memory serves me correctly, had something to do with rainbows and flowers. As the winners for each grade were announced I remember feeling a twinge of disappointment when my name never came up during the 4th grade finalists. I had spent a lot of time working on that poem. I thought I'd at least land a 3rd place prize. Then the principal announced that there were 3 winners in the overall category. These winners were selected based solely on the merit of the entry, NOT the grade the contestants were in. I didn't even think twice about this prize. Surely it would go to 5th and 6th graders. After all, they were smarter and had a wider vocabulary. Sure enough, as the winners of 3rd and 2nd place were announced, I recognized them to be upper classmen. The principal continued, "I'd like to read the poem the committee has selected for the overall 1st place prize." As Mr. Boone's voice bellowed out across the auditorium my face got flush and my breath quickened. HE WAS READING MY POEM!!! He concluded with "Please give a round of applause to 1st place winner, from Mrs. Johnston's 4th grade class, Mandisa Hundley!" The whole auditorium stood and applauded as Mrs. Johnston motioned for me to go forward. I walked forward all the way from the back of the auditorium soaking up the applause, and received my big blue ribbon (that I'm sure my mom has to this day). I was known as the singer. Not the smart one. Maybe there was more to me after all! That memory is so vivid for me, like it happened yesterday.

After that day I would sit in my room creating stories of fantasy and wonder. My whole life I'd always remembered pretending to be a star in the bathroom. How had this childhood memory of enjoying writing been lost? I can now remember people showering me with compliments when I would write them a letter or card. And in English class I would always dread reading Shakespeare but love the writing assignments.

And today? Well, yes, I am a singer by profession but you know what? I'm an author too! It hadn't even dawned on me as I wrote my first book "Idoleyes - My New Perspective on Faith, Fat, and Fame"? And in a few minutes I'll continue writing 5 devotionals to be part of the next Women of Faith Devotional book.

My favorite Psalm is Psalm 139. When I read it I feel that I am intimately known by my Father. Verse 13 says, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb". I believe (and scripture backs up) that God took great care in creating us. Not only did He plan how we would look, He also mapped out our personality and equipped us with gifts and skills we would use for His glory. Furthermore, when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, also depositing spiritual gifts within us (1 Corinthians 12).

When you think about yourself as a child, how do you think God gifted you? Do you see those gifts still at work in your life today? If not, pray about how God may want you to use those gifts.

If you are a parent or have children in your life, what gifts do you see at work in your children? How can you encourage your child in those gifts?

If you are a Christian, what gifts do see the Holy Spirit producing? Are you using those gifts to build the Body of Christ?

If you are confused as to how God has gifted you I recommend reading "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren.

It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ,...he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Scallop Pasta Recipe

Well who would've thunk my blog has become a cookbook? Trust me. If you ask anyone who knows me you would know that 5 years ago my idea of cooking was putting my restaurant leftovers in the oven! That is why I am so happy that I am finally learning to make healthy food on my own. Today's concoction: Scallop Pasta. Several of my tweeps asked for the recipe so here you go!

6 oz whole grain pasta
1/2 lbs fresh scallops
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
8 oz chopped green, yellow, & red peppers (I bought this already chopped at Publix)
2 oz chopped sun dried tomatoes
onion powder
olive oil
peanut oil
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray
1 lemon

Boil water, salt, and basil then add pasta. Cook until tender.
While pasta is cooking, heat skillet and peanut oil to really hot. Rinse scallops & pat dry with paper towel (chop scallops if desired...I did). Lower heat on skillet and add scallops (watch out for popping oil...ouch!) Cook about 7 mins on medium heat. Once cooked, lower heat to medium low and add peppers, garlic, basil, parsley, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Once peppers are cooked, drain pasta and add to mixture. Top with sun dried tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and butter spray. Mix together and serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Yummo! This is the perfect pre-workout meal! Carbs=energy!
Let me know if you make it!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Waffles Recipe

I made some whole wheat waffles from scratch today (with the help of a few of my tweeps who taught me how to separate an egg and fold them into the batter)! I simply followed a recipe from The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with a few adjustments. Some of you asked for the recipe. Here you go!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 egg whites

1. In medium mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside

2. In another medium mixing bowl beat egg yolks-slightly. stir in milk and oil. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir till moistened (batter should be lumpy).

3. In a small mixing bowl beat egg whites till stiff peaks form (tips stand straight)...after my arm was about to fall off I finally decided to use an electronic mixer! Gently fold beaten egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white. Do not overmix.

4. Pour 1 to 1 1/4 cups batter onto grids of a pre-heated lightly greased waffle baker. Close lid quickly; do not open til done. Bake according to manufacterer's directions. When done, use a fork to life waffle off grid. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm (I topped mine with butter, lite syrup, and bananas...mmmm). Makes 12-16 (4-inch) waffles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not Guilty email

Many of you who have seen me sing "Not Guilty" live have asked me for a copy of the following story. Matthew West, Sam Mizell, and I wrote "Not Guilty" after I shared this email I had received with them. I was so moved by the grace and forgiveness of God that I wanted to put this very moving story to music. That writing session was so powerful it left one of us in tears (hint: it wasn't me)! Hope you enjoy!

My Attorney

After living what I felt was a 'decent' life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table. As I looked around I saw the 'prosecutor.' He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen. I sat down and looked to my left and there sat My Attorney, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him. The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence and as He moved across the room I couldn't take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, 'Let us begin.' The prosecutor rose and said, 'My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this woman belongs in hell.' He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, even my own Attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about. As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life - couldn't that at least equal out part of the harm I'd done? Satan finished with a fury and said, 'This woman belongs in hell, she is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise. When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior. He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, 'Hi, Dad,' and then He turned to address the court. 'Satan was correct in saying that this woman had sinned, I won't deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this woman deserves to be punished.' Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, 'However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and she has accepted Me as her Savior, so she is Mine. Her name is written in the book of life and no one can snatch her from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This woman is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.' As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, 'There is nothing else that needs to be done. I've done it all.' The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips... “The penalty for this woman has already been paid in full. Case dismissed. This woman is free.”

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fat Camp

Ok, wasn't exactly fat camp, but that is how I jokingly referred to it among my friends. I'll explain, but first, let me back up and give you a little history.

I love the holidays. Family, friends, and FOOD!!! Well needless to say, the food did me in. I gained so much weight during November and December it was ridiculous! I didn't weigh myself but knew that I packed on at least 15lbs. With the Grammy's coming up January 31 I was desperate to shed them. But there was something else. I felt out of balance. Distant from the Lord. No desire to spend time in His word or to pray. I needed to refocus my priorities and get away.

I called The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge...booked til June! I figured surely there were other places like this elsewhere so I took to my trusty friend google. When I googled "Fat camp" I quickly discovered that that expression was a bit outdated and mainly catered to children (I always did want to go to fat camp as a kid). I searched instead for "Fitness retreat" and several websites appeared. Utah, Texas, Florida...hmmmm January...SIGN ME UP! 

Vita Vie Retreat appeared to be just what I was looking for. Beach environment, tasty menu, vigorous exercise, and ZUMBA!!! I was sold. I made my reservation online, booked my flight, and was headed to Florida.

I landed in Palm Beach sluggish from my extra pounds but excited about the step I was taking to shed them. I was also looking forward to shutting out the world for 6 days and spending concentrated time with Jesus. No twitter, no email, no television.

After checking in to the Marriott Monday I made my way down to the workout room for our first session. There I met Margot and Mark (the retreat directors), and my fellow sojourners Shannon and Kimberly. (The next day we met Noreen who had been there a week already.) Our first session was right up my alley. I know I'm a big girl but I know my way around an elliptical and a treadmill. Still what Mark brought was out of my box so I knew it would be a challenging week. I had no idea....

For the next 5 days I heaved, grunted, and sweat my way through line drills, Pilate's (yuck), looooong walks on the beach sand (which is no easy task for a girl my size) for a total of 5 hours per day. These were Biggest Loser style workouts. The only thing missing was a cussing Jillian yelling in my face!

After the first day I called a couple of my friends and asked "What have I gotten myself into?" I didn't think I was gonna make it. I even proclaimed a few times during my beach workouts that Mark was trying to kill me. I told him that all of the people out on the beach were gonna get him because there would soon be a pile of Black Woman lying in the sand. He didn't seem to believe me...and I survived...barely!

With all of my sore muscles, defeated attitude, and raging hormones, I was desperate for the Lord. That certainly made reconnecting with him in the evenings a little easier. I begged Him to help me get through this week. Pleaded to help me return to the first love we shared when we first met. And eventually, I started to recognize His voice again. He even blessed me during my last full day of workouts. On Friday night I didn't know how I was going to get through a 2-hour beach hike the next morning. And I certainly could not imagine repeating the 1-hour Sports Conditioning on the beach again. The thought of that made me want to call the airline and change my flight to leave early. But as I shared my concerns with my Father Friday I felt a sense of peace that whatever happened the next and final day of my retreat, I would be able to endure it. I woke up the next morning, open my curtains, I beheld the loveliest sight these brown eyes have ever seen.....RAIN!!! He is faithful!!!

Margot and Mark knew I would be so happy to learn that the schedule had been changed. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't easy. But I could handle it. And I did!

As I type this blog, I am in the Palm Beach airport on my way back home. I have joy, peace, a healthy relationship with my Lord, and am 12.5lbs healthier than I was Monday!

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Philippians 4:13


P.S. If your are looking for a similar get away, I HIGHLY recommend Vita Vie. For more information click here. Tell them I sent ya!