Archive for November, 2013

Exceeding Great Joy



There are 35 days until Christmas and generally; while Tom and I try to focus on one holiday celebration at a time, this year the visions of Thanksgiving Turduckins dancing in our heads are being chased on their little webbed heels by reindeer hooves; and our hearts are more inclined than normal toward the #1 busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.

Now that I have tangled your tinsel and sent you into a panic wondering how to coordinate cleaning, decorating, baking, cooking, shopping and wrapping in a year that the Gregorian calendar has cheated us out of an entire week of retail therapy, let me ask you;

 What brings you joy?

 For me, there are two things: giving –  be it a smile, a hug, time or the products of my culinary creativity and music. Music is like the time machine of my life – able to lift me up and through difficult times, take me back to revisit a wonderful memory or transport me to a new place not yet experienced, on the wings of rhythm and harmony.

So in the spirit of the season, it gives me much pleasure to share with you friends, the fantastic premier album from The 8:30 Band

Exceeding Great Joy

and an exclusive interview with the leader/front man Jeff Higgins.

Tom and I have followed the band since it’s inception on October 1st, 2003 when several church members, (included our youngest son), were brought together to lead the 8:30 worship services at our home church, Faith Baptist in Glen Burnie, MD; hence the name for the band, Jeff told me in our e-mail interview. Here’s what else Jeff shared…

How would you describe the band’s genre?

J.H. That’s kind of a tough (but interesting) question due to the different natures of what we do.  For the most part, our identity/existence/purpose has been tied to leading contemporary, Gen-X style worship for Faith Baptist.  In that regard, our style is very similar to David Crowder, Kristian Stanfill, Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham – guitar driven worship rock.  However, we’ve also had opportunities to branch out and do other musical events like concerts – particularly our annual Christmas With The 8:30 Band show.  This will be our 9th year putting on this event and we get to really branch out and do some different things stylistically.  We tried to incorporate these styles into the album.  The band members all have different musical backgrounds, and yet, they are super talented and can pull off a lot of different genres.  So, on the album you’ll hear our standard Christian rock stuff, but also some blues, reggae and even some Celtic rock.  We still fall pretty squarely in the guitar-driven worship rock, but we really like to bring in other styles when we have the opportunity.
Why did you guys choose a Christmas theme for your premier CD?

J.H. This was an obvious decision to make, but not an easy decision to make.  So much of our creative energy throughout the year is geared towards coming up with some interesting things to do to help mix up the Christmas show.  Over the years, we’ve rearranged a number of popular Christmas carols and songs, even to the point of kind of neglecting our own original work.  We always intended to put together our own worship tunes (and we have a few), but when we looked at ourselves and said, “What do we do?”, pretty quickly we realized that a big part of what we do and a big part of our identity is Christmas.  The problem is, NOBODY makes a Christmas album their first album.  Usually, an artist/band puts out a Christmas CD in between “real” albums because 1) it requires less writing and work (so many good songs to choose from and almost all of them are Public Domain) and 2) people love Christmas music.  It’s a way for an artist to put something out while still buying time for their next project.  We were really hesitant to make our first album a Christmas album because, again, who does that?  But then we realized, over the years, most of the work was already done since we had together a number of solid arrangements that we are really proud of – enough that we could put together a full CD, even if we didn’t want to include originals (but, we did want to).  So, late last year we decided that, if we were ever going to put something out soon, this made the most sense.  So, for us, the challenge became, “If a Christmas album is going to be our first album, we need to really do it right.”

With so many holiday songs to choose from, how did the band select the ones for this CD? 

J.H. This was another really hard call…but then a call that became really obvious.  After eight years of Christmas shows, we have TONS of music to pull from.  Our Christmas show isn’t just a worship experience.  At the front end, we do a lot of fun, secular Christmas songs and have put a lot of time into arranging those in some really fun ways.  We “8:30’d” them, as we’d say (rock them out, turn them reggae/latin/bluesy, etc.).  One day, we sat down and made a list of all of the potential songs we could put on. The list was around 25-30 songs (secular and worship).  We knew we couldn’t do all of those and the conversation turned to, “Ultimately, who are we?”.  The answer was very clear.  As much as we LOVE the fun, secular Christmas music (and we do…to NO end), we are ultimately a worship band with the goal of exalting Christ and telling His story.  So, we eliminated anything that didn’t fall into that category.  That cut the list in about half.  We then had to make some hard choices on what to cut and what to keep in because we also knew that we didn’t want to do just an album of covers – we wanted to add our own contribution to the genre of music we love so much.  We whittled it down to 6 arrangements of carols and 4 originals.  At the time, only one original had been composed, so we knew that, if we came down to the wire, we could fill the empty spaces, but we wanted to do everything we could to meet our goal (and we did!).  As far as how did we pick the 6 arrangements that made it on? It was basically a matter of which arrangements were we most proud of and were the strongest musically. 

How did the band choose the name for the album?

J.H. Of all of the decisions that were made, this was one of the last ones…and again, it ended up being obvious.  Initially, a lot of people close to the band suggested we tie it in to our Christmas show and just call it, “Christmas With The 8:30 Band”.  Made sense.  But something felt off.  At some point, though, we took a step back and looked at the tracks and realized that every track pointed to the joy we have because of Christ’s birth.  That, and our style is pretty upbeat and energetic.  I like to think we’re a generally happy, upbeat, joyful band and the music is pretty “up” in terms of style.  We have a song or two on the album that falls into the more contemplative side, but most of the tunes really communicate joy, not just in the lyrics, but also through the music.  We really hope that when people listen to the album, they’ll get pumped up and excited thinking about what life means now because Jesus has come into it.

            Also, it’s a silly (and probably totally missed) attempt at being clever.  In the Bible it talks about how, when the wise men saw the star, they rejoiced with “exceeding great joy”.  “Exceeding great” is an adjective in this way.  For us, we look at as a verb (it even sounds more “right” as a verb).  There’s joy…there’s great joy…but because of Christ and what He’s done for us, we’re EXCEEDING great joy.  The joy we have in Christ is beyond anything else…ever.  So, great joy is in our rearview mirror – we’re exceeding it…going beyond that.  We even allude to it in “It’s Christmas”, hoping someone will hear it and go, “OH, so THAT’S what the title means!”

Are there plans for another CD? 

J.H. No immediate plans in the sense of what and when.  However, after going through this whole process, we are so pumped to start it all over again and work with our producer, Greg Parker.  Somehow, we found him (God’s direction, I totally believe that) and he caught the vision for what we wanted to do and added his own brand of insanity to the music.  He brought out the best (and kept some of our insane ideas reined in).  I’m trying to convince the band to do another Christmas album now :).

Is The 8:30 Band available for concerts, revivals or worship services?

J.H. We would love to do this.  Our hearts, first and foremost, is to experience worship with as many people as possible.  Young, old…wherever people want to worship, we want to provide the soundtrack.

Can you describe for readers what attendees can expect from a worship experience with The 8:30 Band?

J.H. That depends a little on the purpose. If it’s a Christmas show, it’ll be a pretty good-sized production with some fun elements, some serious elements
– everything to celebrate Christmas.  But in a regular, typical 8:30 Band worship experience, we really strive to put together a worship journey that will take us into His presence and into a deeper communion with Him.  We can get big and we can pull back, but it’s all about striving for a deep connection with God in worship.

How can the band be reached to schedule an appearance? 

J.H. The best way would be to hit us up on email,, visit our web site:, like us on Face book, or call Faith Baptist Church 410.761.5346

The 8:30 Band will be putting together two Christmas With The 8:30 Band performances: 

                        -Sunday, December 15th, 6 p.m.

                        -Wednesday, December 18th, 7 p.m.

The FREE shows will be at least 90 minutes, with a time of observing a candle-lighting worship experience. 

 Having been privileged to see many of their rehearsals and performances, including one as the opening band for Remedy Drive; I can attest to the energy The 8:30 Band to brings to each of their worship experiences, engaging and capitvating the audience with their ability to creatively marry contemporary rock and traditional hymns without dishonoring beloved classics, which is a testimony to the bands versatility. This vitality flows throughout their CD, Exceeding Great Joy as well, which includes four original songs:Crowns, O Great Light, It’s Christmas, and Hallelujah, God With Us; MP3s of these are available on their web site.

Despite the chaos that often accompanies the holidays, keep moving in the right direction. Pick up a copy of Exceeding Great Joy, listen while you decorate or drive to the mall; which ever way you choose to enjoy it remember to stay focused don’t loose sight, the wonder of this time is more than you realize, in all this festive business, there’s no way you’ll want to miss this, after all – It’s Christmas!

**Are you local??**

The 8:30 Band will have a special acoustic in-store appearance at the His Way Christian Bookstore in Glen Burnie, MD, Tuesday, November 26th, 6:30-8 p.m. to promote their album.

 Exceeding Great Joy  available now through the following links:


For the Record

michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

 An Interview with Caregivers

According to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Partnership for Solutions,[i] 1 in 2 people have a chronic condition. That’s a staggering 133 million people! Of those polled, 60% were between the ages of 18 and 64 years of age. Approximately 96% of these people had Invisible Illnesses, chronic conditions that were not readily apparent.

Chronic Pain, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis,

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, and Multiple Sclerosis

 These are just a few of the 47 documented Invisible Illnesses. Now I would like you to consider that these diseases affect far more than 133 million people. Would 266 million surprise you, what about 399 million people? It is possible that Invisible Illnesses affect even more than triple the amount of the population statistics indicate, considering that studies did not include those people who spend their lives caring for patients with chronic conditions. Husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, sons, grandparents; no doubt all these wonderful, unselfish caregivers feel the lasting effects of our chronic conditions as they attempt to help us navigate the difficulties of lives devastated by Invisible Illnesses.

My objective for The Write Direction is to provide those suffering from chronic conditions with a feeling of camaraderie. To offer support and encouragement from a fellow patient who understands the difficulties of daily living with an invisible illness. However, I would be remiss if I did not share with you from a different perspective: from that of the caregiver. I interviewed several caregivers I know, including my own husband. I asked questions that I thought you might want to know, what I thought you should know, and what I wanted to know. Below are their answers: unedited, thought provoking, candid, and very touching.  Here’s what they have to say about how they help keep us going in the right direction.

What is the relationship to the person for whom you are caring?

JG: Husband

CB: Step-Daughter

SG: Grandma

DL: Parent

TH: (author’s) Husband

How long have you been in the role of caregiver?

JG: This has been an evolutionary process. There was a decline in activities like preparing holiday dinners in 2008, I helped with showers sooner and more often than needed – but I liked that part, she was pretty much totally dependent on me by the end of 2011.

CB: I have been the caregiver for four years.

SG: On and off since he was born (7 years) I’m a long distance Grandma.

DL: The first thing that came to mind with this question is – since becoming a parent, have I ever not been a caregiver? But I suppose it is the nature of care giving that changed significantly nearly 9 years ago. It went from being the caregiver/nurturer of children who were making their way to independence, to being the caregiver of severely disabled adolescents, teen and now young adults.

TH: 20+ years

How has your relationship with your loved one changed since you became his/her caregiver?

JG:  My love for her has become stronger than ever, but it is not always reciprocated.

CB: The best way I can describe it is now I am like the mother taking care of her child.

SG: Our relationship has always been this way, but I am somewhat endeared more toward this grandchild because of what he faces on a daily basis and how much I have prayed for him. On the other hand, I am somewhat relieved when his brother comes to visit without him. I feel guilty at this emotion.

DL: Those I care for are my role models. They have shown me that frustration (while sometimes inevitable) is a waste of energy – energy that they don’t have. They have helped me understand that it is far better to channel my frustration/anger/emotion into action and advocacy that to be mired in frustration. I think it is remarkable that they learned these lessons as young teens, when most teens appear to have an abundance of energy that goes in many different directions. Those I care for had to learn to budget very limited energy and at a younger age than most, they became skilled in the management of time and resources.

TH: It’s brought us closer.

 How does being a caregiver affect you emotionally?

JG: It’s tiring. I’ve learned patience. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m thankful for new friends that understand and offer assistance. I am far more compassionate and understanding of people/friends who are, or have gone through life changing events of their own.

CB: It is very stressful. The thing that makes it harder, (although it has gotten better) is a lack of communication between my dad and me when there are changes with my step-mom. One time my dad went on a business trip and didn’t tell me that my step-mom could no longer wash her hair or body. Sometimes this stress roles over to my child and I take it out on her. There are good days and bad days, it’s like a roller coaster ride.

SG: It is exhausting sometimes. Especially after a long day.

DL: Care giving affects all emotions – positive, negative and everything in between. Validating my emotions is important. It allows me to refocus and reframe my perspective.

TH: TH has evaded this question despite my asking it in a variety of ways. The last time I asked, TH left the room; he REALLY does not want to answer this question.**

What additional responsibilities have you assumed as a caregiver?

JG: Provide meals, personal hygiene, bathe, clothe, supplement/medication administration, physical therapy, laundry when needed and cleaning the $@#! cat box, that was always her job!

CB: Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry. Then when my dad is on a business trip it also includes yard work and paying the bills.

SG: I carry enormous amounts of medical equipment through the airports when he visits. He lives several states away and we fly over to get him; meet him at the airport, and fly with him to our house. This equipment cannot be checked, so there is quite a bit of hassle every time we fly.

DL: I am not sure how to answer this other than the tasks that used to be the responsibilities of those I care for, reverted to me when they became disabled.

TH: During peak care giving times, like when she is recuperating from a surgery, I assume all the household roles of meals and cleaning, laundry, dishes, vacuuming. In the interim, when she is able to do a little more, but I am busy at work, I pay for a house cleaner. Recently I bought a robot vacuum cleaner that helps with upkeep.

 How do you rejuvenate from care giving?

JG: That’s becoming easier now with a schedule of help. Adult Day Care gives me two days a week to work, and in-home care gives me an evening to myself. My wife is always ready to go with me in the car or on our bike. That way I get to care for her and do something I enjoy at the same time.

CB: By visiting family when it’s just my daughter and me. Taking family vacations, like this November, during Thanksgiving break, we are going to Disneyworld for a week; or little things like going to the zoo or other day trips just to get away and enjoy being a family.

SG: It takes me a couple of days after he leaves to sort of wind down.

DL: I spend time with people I care about, I belong to a book group, I read, I learn, I take photos.

TH: I withdraw – I spend time playing on the computer or my phone. I don’t belong to any support groups or share with others.

 What advice would you give other caregivers?

JG: The obvious is to make time for yourself. Ask for help, don’t expect it to come spontaneously. Attending a support group was difficult to initiate, but it’s a big mistake not take advantage of that assistance.

CB: Being a caregiver takes a lot of patience. The most important thing is understanding that it takes time to do things with them and for them. Be patient. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver, depending on who are giving care to, and always make sure they are in a safe environment.

SG: Because I am taking care of a child, I think that it is easier to have compassion on them. I usually think about what he goes through every day and what his parents go through daily. Day in and day out, year in and year out.

DL: The following is easier said than done so don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a while to find ways to accommodate the following: Keep in touch with people from beyond your care giving life. Work at maintaining non-care giving interests. Encourage independence as much as possible. Encourage open communication – about positives, negatives ,wishful thinking, dreaming…everything. Develop a support network, it can take quite a bit of time to do and quite a bit of effort, yet it will help you in immeasurable ways. Find special moments in each day, they can be anything from, “How nice. The scheduled service took place on time!” to enjoying a quiet moments to breathe deeply, sharing an unexpected smile, time with a friend…Stand up for yourself. Don’t whine. Take care of yourself. You are important!

TH: Keep up the good work

 What do you want the person that you are caring for to know about your role as their caregiver?

JG: I just wish she knew that I am caring for her.

CB: That I love her and only want the best for her.

SG: I love being his grandmother. This child has a seemingly innate ability to appreciate being alive. He seems to live life to the fullest every day. It is a joy to see him grow through his struggles. I see his character strengthening as he presses through his inabilities and struggles.

DL: I wouldn’t wish that anyone be thrust into the role of caregiver, but my role as caregiver is one I am proud of. My role as caregiver is one I am honored to have, though I wish I did not have to be in it. I fervently wish those that I care for were able to live independent lives.

TH: I love her. I don’t mind, it’s just everyday life for me.


To our Caregiversour first line of defense; our burden bearers and often our emotional dumping grounds, those people who do not merely watch from the sidelines, but who roll up their sleeves and get into the game with us every day, on behalf of all of us with invisible illnesses we want to say a heartfelt



**Author note: TH has commented on many occasions that it hurts him to see me hurting. Having nursed me through 15 of the 18 surgeries I have had during our 20-year relationship, I know he struggles with the fact that I experience pain every day of my life. I have seen him cry occasionally, but in general he is an emotional rock; tender and loving in his care giving and always supportive.

[i] Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 2004 update