Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Christmas is our favorite holiday! There are so many things to be thankful for. We have had a great week in preparation. One of the big surprises of the morning was introducing our kids to the newest member of our family...Cisco. Or as Sam says, "Cisco Scott Thomas". All the kids decided that his full name should be FRANCISCO...because we love the movie "Elf" and as Elf says, "Francisco?! THAT'S fun to say!!"

Francisco Scott Thomas


Our Christmas tradition is to go to Nonnie's house and do gift exchange with her. The kids were ready to go at 8am. Maddie kept giving us the countdown... "Only 8 more hours!!"


My mom at her house with Sam and Maddie


Sam at Nonnie's


Maddie and Ella at Nonnie's


Nonnie gave Sam this AWESOME Star Wars helmet.

We came back to our house and everyone got settled in and waited for Santa to come. The house always feels so warm at Christmas time. I like to just sit in the quiet and watch the Christmas lights.

Our living room


Thanks to my mom, I have a cool collection of Santas from over the years



In the den we have a Santa tree full of only Santa ornaments


The Christmas village on the table in the living room


I snapped this of Cisco waiting with all the goodies from Santa


All is quiet now, but not for long!!


The kids were already up and all piled in Maddie's bed. I brought Cisco in to see them and they were so excited. In true dad fashion I made them stop on the stairs for a photo opp. on the way down to see what Santa left.


The kids on Christmas morning 2009.


Nonnie


Sam is loving his new drum


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Sam at Nonnie's


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The girls at Nonnie's


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Maddie reading the Christmas story from Luke

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'Twas the Night Before Christmas read by Ella

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The kids discover Santa on Christmas morning 2009

Thank you, God, for your gracious gifts. We thank you for the best gifts in life that aren't bought or acquired. The love of Jesus in our lives and the beauty of each new day with family and friends...for these things we are most thankful! Merry Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Sounds of Christmas

I was going through some boxes and transferring some video to DVD. In doing so, I came across several Christmas musicals and concerts that I directed while at Otter Creek. Wow...such great memories and some very special moments. It was so fun to see Bud Arnold. I uploaded some to YouTube. Check them out if you can...it's guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit! Please forgive the quality...I had to record from playback.

JOY--I took the music from Avalon's Christmas CD and turned it into a concert with our worship choir and some special guests. It was such a blast learning that music. The choir rocked it! My buddy Victor Wynn brought his ensemble from Temple Church and joined us. That totally brought down the house! Check out these links.
"Jesus Born on This Day"--Sheryl, the children's choir and the OC worship choir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z08exYKWrU

"We Are the Reason"--Jon Lawrence and a singer from Temple with the OC worship choir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nqFoccVks4

"Shout to the Lord"--congregational...but the kids are so cute singing this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zclMzaL4BjM

"For Unto Us a Child Is Born"--George Rowe and the Temple Church Ensemble brought the house down! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihi6LoI7qQg

"We Will Worship the Lamb of Glory"--we led this as we ended that night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jq9UVxbo7k




"Two From Galilee"--this might be my all-time favorite musical that we did at Otter Creek. It's a wonderful show that tells the back story of Mary and imagines what it might have been like to be called to walk such a difficult road. I had the cast all read Marjorie Holmes book by the same title and we discussed it. It was such a sweet process. This was a bear to tackle--a full 2 act musical. We had such incredible talent and it was an amazing experience. Bud Arnold was in it too which was extra special for me. We all miss you, Bud!

"Mary's Song and Gabriel's Announcement"--We needed a "Mary". Laura Posey (now Troup) was a college student attending Otter Creek. She was perfect for the role. This was before she and Chad married and had kids. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4go5NUBagk

"Gloria"-- The angels announce the birth of Christ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9khjSNaVws8

"The Marriage of Mary and Joseph"-- Bud Arnold was so awesome! I love, love, LOVE this scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-khxePRNpRc

"The Marriage of Mary and Joseph pt2"-- the rest of the song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBl84Nb-jIg

"Finale"--the end of the show (there are so many other great moments...just haven't had time to tape them yet...like the hilarious 3 wise men) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-AeFbTkLgQ




"Christmas Musical 2004" this was the year of Katrina, Bud Arnold dying, Shanon Dickerson dying (both very special Otter Creekers) and a world of other crazy things. It was a difficult year. We began the concert with this song... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNlWUfU2YeU
Here's another clip from that night..."Here I Am To Worship" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M98kgom_G6w




"The Power of His Love" --while Two From Galilee was my favorite Christmas musical, this was easily my favorite Easter musical. Korey Risley played Jesus. He was awesome. The cast sounded incredible, the music was good. It was a moving play.
"This is My Body"-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97_wvE5idjY

"Worthy is the Lamb"-- the crucifixion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-wBY6407rg



"He is the King"-- This was the last Christmas concert I did at Otter Creek in 2007. It was an emotional night. The video and sound quality on these two is really awful. Sorry!
"Glory in the Highest"-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYGKxJRoiDo

"Hallelujah, Christ Jesus is Born"-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF1a4Uxgluw


There were other years and other shows..."The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" (which was hilarious and the kids ROCKED on!), and a couple of years worth of "Sanders Family Christmas". If I have time I'll post more. But these brought back some wonderful memories. Thank you to all who gave so much time and energy to make them so fun to be a part of!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trip to Texas

Last weekend Sheryl and I flew to Abilene to lead worship for the Community Christmas Service at the Abilene Civic Center sponsored by Southern Hills. (We were sad to miss baby Gracie's first birthday party. Check out Kevin and Kiki's blog link for pictures.) It was a crazy whirlwind weekend. For starters, we were sick...and I mean REALLY sick. God is the only one who could have gotten us through the weekend feeling that terrible. But, in spite of that, it was so awesome to be with the Southern Hills team. They were so welcoming and so fun.

The service went well...even with a live donkey (no...not me) and some sheep on stage. Phil Ware did a great job. George Pendergrass sang "O Come O Come Emanuel". Sheryl sang "Breath of Heaven". Mark Perkins and a small group of us sang "Mary Did You Know". The kids sang "Away in a Manger"...it was all so sweet!

One of the best parts was getting to see old friends. We got to visit with my buddy and former college roommate, Craig Fisher and his family. We had lunch at Harold's with Craig and Amy and Grant Boone. Sunday morning I got to see a couple of high school friends (Shannon Crowe Zachary and Matt Moore).

Even though we were in Abilene less than 48 hours, it was jam packed. Here are some pictures...


Sunday morning at the Civic Center.

Lunch at Harold's...the best BBQ in existence.


Riley and Owen Fisher...they're so big now and such great kids!


Beth Ann and Craig Fisher had us over for dinner Saturday night. It was such a great time of sweet fellowship,

We made it home without incident...although feeling terrible. Thank you to Vann and Susan Conwell for allowing us to stay at their Bed and Breakfast. Check out their website. It was a COOL place! http://journeysinn-escape.com/
And thank you to all those who helped with our kids while we were away--my mom, Kevin and Kiki, and the Batsons. (It takes a village!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I've always loved Christmas...the songs, the decorations, the smells, the excitement! Our kids are at that perfect age for enjoying this holiday. It's so fun to watch them. We took a trip to Macy's last weekend so they could mail their letters to Santa. I love seeing the excitement in their eyes!

Sam had his school Christmas program and party today. It was so fun! He did a great job. He is the one on the back row in the plaid shirt below... (and the girl in front of him in green is Murray Sanderson's daughter!)







Santa and Mrs Claus stopped by Sam's class after the program.



Sam and his buddy Max

Love this smile!


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This cracks me up because Sam is obviously so proud of his triangle playing skills!


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Love it!

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Santa's Coming

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Jingle Bells

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We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Decorations

This email forward has gone viral...but it's so funny. The text below is the text from the email. The reason this made me laugh so hard is because it's exactly something that my father would have done if he'd thought of it.



“Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after two days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn’t realize that it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of the many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn’t take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.”

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Singing Santas

Thursday morning I took some of our awesome performers up to Clarksville to the new and gorgeous F&M bank high rise. The guys did 6 sets over the course of the day. Russ Davis played keys. Sam Levine played sax. The singers were Rodney Williams, Gabriel Myers, Kyle Henry, and Paul Vann. They completely rocked and were a huge hit! No surprise! Seriously, they sounded amazing together..all 4 so gifted.

Rodney's wife Claire is one of our choreographers at Gary Musick. I've blogged about her a lot over the last few years. She and I work together on several of our ships. Claire is also the dear friend who came last January and did Ella's ballerina birthday party. They are special friends. Rodney and Claire have their first Christmas this year with baby Jack. Merry Christmas, Jack! He's so cute! Rodney is doing guest artist spots now on ships and other places. His promo is awesome. I truly love his voice. Click here and watch a bit of his promo... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uf4hsxfyCBc

Paul continues his work out on the General Jackson...check out their show this season. check the G-Jack website for more info http://www.generaljackson.com/site/cruises-evening.aspx

Kyle leaves next week to go to the NCL Gem. He's going out to replace one of our singers. Thank you, Kyle! He's done that gig before and knows all the shows. He'll be awesome!

Gabriel just got back from shooting a movie with John Schneider. Check out a promo clip of the movie here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV4cKt9lV60 Gabe has worked for us on Celebrity Cruise Line and he and I go way back. His dad is Gary Myers. Gary and I worked together on some of the Max Lucado recordings ages ago with Jeff Nelson. Jeff Nelson is truly the Kevin Bacon of the Christan world...3-4 degrees of separation from ANYONE! :)

Here are some pics and video clips from Thursday--










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"White Christmas"



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"Jingle Bells"

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Rodney strolled through the crowd singing "Winter Wonderland"

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Paul performs on the General Jackson (the riverboat/showboat that sails out of Opryland). He is an awesome singer and does a great Elvis impression. Paul KILLED it with this crowd doing his Elvis stuff. They ate it up!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ella Claus

Ella auditioned for her first part in the Christmas play at her school and was so excited to have some lines and a little solo part last night. It was fun to watch her. She did a great job! Go Ella!!


Here are some pictures and video clips from "A Penguin Christmas"


Ella and Bode Reeves (Bode's big brother Austin is at ACU. He pledged Gamma Sigs this year. Yes, I feel ancient.)

Ella is ready!


Mrs. Spiller directed the program. She is the P.E. teacher but she does this for the first grade at Granbery every year. She is a pretty special woman.



Ella as Mrs. Claus


Ella's class--Mrs. Stark rocks!



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Penguin March


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Some of Ella's lines

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Little duet part

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Big finish!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sheryl Thomas Florals

Hey everyone...check Sheryl's blog for pics of her newest stuff. http://www.sherylthomasflorals.blogspot.com She's taking orders for Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankfulness

We had a great Thanksgiving! For many years we have spent holidays with Byron and Beth Williamson and their family...Ryan and Sarah and their kids and Shelly and Adrian and their kids. Our lives are interwoven and we are so thankful for our friendship. Our feast was more than food...it was laughter, stories, and love.

My mom, Sheryl and Beth


Sam riding his bike on a very cold Thanksgiving Day.


Maddie and Jack Williamson


Evy and Ella...and Vinnie.

Maddie has been torturing herself for weeks over one of her front teeth that needed to come out over a month ago. It was literally dangling. I told her yesterday that the time was UP! Sydney Williamson, Maddie's best buddy, came over after our T-Giving festivities and cheered her on as she faced the reality that her tooth was coming out--one way or another. After about 30 minutes of high drama, I tied a string to it and it was out in 1 second. She was so proud to have it out. I snapped this picture below...and it's one of those moments captured in time. I LOVE IT! It tells its own story. Maddie looks completely traumatized. Everyone else is so excited for her--especially Sam. :)



Sam, Sydney, Maddie and Ella. YAY, MADDIE!!

Today Sheryl and I spent most of the day in the studio working for Eric Wyse. We were doing background vocals for several recordings for Christian Book Distributors. http://www.christianbook.com/ We recorded several Christmas songs today including a version of "Hark the Herald Angels", "Mary Did You Know" and the old Sandi Patti song "Merry Christmas With Love". I used to love that song. It was fun singing that one. These are the accompaniment tracks that people order and sing with...so for each song we recorded 3 versions in 3 different keys. We'll finish sometime next week.

Tonight we were exhausted and stayed in and watched "Elf". It's OUR holiday classic. ) I'm so glad we have two more days off!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

On this Thanksgiving day we give thanks for all the gifts of grace in our lives...our friends, family, and God's love that covers us.

Ella had a class program this week...it's the perfect way to say Happy Thanksgiving today.



Every boy and girl in Ella's class was given an assignment to create part of the pilgrim village. It was quite impressive. Definitely some help from the moms and dads! :) There was also an Indian tee pee village but I didn't grab a picture of it.


I loved this picture she drew...it says "I'm thankful for the earth"


Ella's drawing of our family


I love that she wrote "Grandmol". We're thankful for Nonnie and MeeMaw!


Sweet Ella!



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"Welcome"



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"We Give Thanks"

Our Thanksgiving holiday began last night with an evening of hilarity. Bobby and Sonya Colvert treated us to the "Doyle and Debbie Show". It was so hilarious. Steve and Karen Speake, Keely and Melissa Hall, and my mom were with us. We laughed until we cried at songs like "Blue Stretch Pants", "Stock Car Love", and "Snowbanks of Life" ("I wrote your name in gold on the snowbanks of life"). Crazy and hilarious.

This morning we woke up ready to all pile on the couch and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We're watching for all of our NYC friends. Good luck!

This afternoon we are having the traditional T-Giving meal at Byron and Beth Williamson's with Ryan and Sarah and their kids and my mom. We've spent holiday meals together for many years. We're excited to be with them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! We have so many things to be thankful for this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

American Music Awards

Lynnea Brown on the NCL Gem


Naples, Italy

Sunday night I cheered on one of our performers on the American Music Awards. Lynnea Brown danced with the hip hop artists and rocked it! GO LYNNEA!! Lynnea danced in our cast on the NCL Gem this year. I went to see the cast while they were in the Mediterranean last summer. Lynnea is pictured above (in front in the top picture and to the far right in the bottom picture). She is a great dancer and awesome on stage.

There were some other ok moments during the AMAs. Mostly it paled in comparison to the CMA Awards in my opinion. Adam Lambert was a complete wreck. Interesting career choice there, Adam. What the HECK? UGH.

We spent the weekend in Atlanta with ZOE. It was a great weekend at the North Atlanta Church. A member had given 1.5 million dollars to the church with strict instructions that it be dispersed to all the members of the church in vouchers so that they could go and give it away in acts of service through the community. Last weekend marked the end of that 40 day journey. We sang Saturday night and Sunday morning. There were lots of testimonies and incredible, INCREDIBLE stories of service. We stayed with Don and Susan McLaughlin. It was such a special time with them. We love them so much! Thanks to everyone there...Don, Susan, Melanie Chumley, Ken Snell and all the others who made last weekend so great.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who Is That Old Person In The Mirror??

Um...that would be ME. Ugh. I feel like in a way I have been running up a "down" escalator for months...running away from November 15th. You know what? Time marches on, people. Time marches on. (Sometimes all over your body and face...but that's another blog.) To be honest, I don't feel 40. FORTY? I mean...I remember when I was in Junior High and High School and thinking the people on that TV show, "Thirty Something" were so old. Now I'm not even thirty SOMETHING! FORTYYYYYYYYYYYY. OK. Turn the page, Brandon. Turn the page.

Whew...ok, I am so grateful for the years of love I have experienced with an amazing family and friends. I am a blessed man. Thank you, God for that.

Sheryl, in her incredible way, created an evening to remember at the Williams Grove Farm House. I was surrounded by some of my most favorite friends who spoke words of blessing into my life. What an amazing gift. THANK YOU, SHERYL!

My good buddy Jill Batson--a wonderful photographer--took some pictures of the evening. (Some of these I took--the not-so-good ones). Thanks, Jill!


Sheryl and I pose with Eve and Ben English


Grant and Jill Batson


Cory and Elizabeth Davis. Elizabeth and I have been friends since 1987. Whew! Cory and I met a couple of years after that...many years of friendship.

Sheryl and me...warming ourselves BY THE FIRE.

I love the sound of fun fellowship!


Jill Batson--Jill and Grant and their kids have been such a great blessing in our lives



Grant Batson, Mark and Holly Whaley, and David and Sharon Shaub. Hilarious.



Sweet friends--Mark and Holly Whaley


My dear mother. Without her I wouldn't be here! She is one of the coolest people I know!


Sheryl making last minute preparations...



Kevin and Kiki



Nathan Slingluff and Cory Davis


Sheryl did this awesome arrangement



Such a perfect setting!

Amy Westerman (We missed you, Scott!!)


Ryan and Sarah Williamson and Geof and Amanda Vickers. Ryan and I have been friends since 8th grade. His family is so deeply woven into my own it's hard to remember a time when I didn't know them.


Bobby and Sonya Colvert and my mom, Judy


My mom!

Yum! What a night! I will never forget it. Thank you to my sweet friends for being there and loving me!