Beer and Hymns Orange County

I'm excited to announce a little venture I've been working on. But first, a little back story.

A couple years ago, I saw a video online of an event held by Nadia Bolz-Weber's church in Denver. It was a group of people, in a bar, singing loudly to old church hymns. It seemed passionate and loud and FUN and instantly I wished it was local so I could go. I don't even like beer . . . I just like the idea of people getting together to enjoy these old songs.



This past summer, we went to the Wild Goose Festival, which had a Beer and Hymns event every night. Again, the premise was simple: people singing hymns at the top of their lungs, many with a brew in hand. Each night, the sing-a-long was led by a different group. As it turns out, there are quite a few Beer and Hymns events popping up all over the country, from Portland to Raleigh to Nashville.

After Wild Goose, I pondered why we didn't have something like that in Orange County, and then I decided: I just need to do it. I sing. I have friends who sing and play guitar. We can do this.

And so we are.



This Sunday evening is the inauural gathering for Beer and Hymns Orange County. We'll be meeting at Durty Nelly's Irish Pub in Costa Mesa at 8pm. Beer-drinking optional. You are the choir. Everyone is welcome. 21+ only.

Please share and invite your friends. If you are interested, please RSVP to our event page, and follow us on Instagram.  You can also go to our webpage to sign up for info about future events.

Anyone is welcome regardless of religious affiliate. No agenda, no preaching, just singing and a brew or too.


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Wednesday's Child: Tony

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.



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My nephew's summer trip to Germany

This post was sponsored by Invisalign. My nephew and mom are receiving complimentary Invisalign treatment as they share their Invisalign journey.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m excited to announce my partnership with Invisalign  this year. In addition to sharing my mom’s journey, I’m also going to be documenting my nephew’s journey with Invisalign. For those of you who are not familiar with Invisalign Teen, it’s a series of nearly invisible, removable aligners that are used to gradually (and discreetly) straighten teeth. My nephew is a theater student who really wanted to have his teeth straightened, but he wanted to avoid the look of metal braces that would effect his chances at getting certain roles. 

Austin has had his aligners in for a few months now, and wore them to his study-abroad program this summer. Today my sister picked him up from the airport after having not seen him for a few months, and she immediately sent me a text letting me know the difference she noticed with his teeth.



I caught up with Austin as well, to see how his clear aligners are doing and to talk with him about his Germany adventures.


How are the clear aligners feeling?
The aligners feel great! My mouth has definitely become used to having them in there. There is very little to no pain associated after the first day or two of putting in the new aligners for each week. They gave me so many tools to make sure that they are always clean and comfortable so I never have a problem with sharp edges in the aligners because I can just file them down or put a little wax on them, kind of like what you would do with regular braces.


How do they look?
The aligners look great! Most people that I come across do not realize that I have anything in my mouth. The ones on my top teeth fit so nicely that they can barely be seen even in up close pictures! Now because my bottom teeth have such a large gap in between them the aligners can be seen a little bit. But even with that people are always surprised when I tell them that I am actually wearing braces!

How do you feel wearing the aligners?
I feel great wearing the aligners! I have already noticed the movement in my lower row of teeth. The gap is becoming smaller and I can tell that my overbite is becoming smaller as well. It's so great to be able to actually see the progress of my teeth without having bulky braces in the way. I already feel more confident about my teeth because I can literally see and feel the progress.


What are you doing in Germany? 
I am in Germany for a 4 week Musical Theater Intensive Training program called Music Theater Bavaria. I auditioned for the program back in March and received a full ride to attend the program! We have 4 private voice lessons a week, 1 or 2 dance classes a day, lots of evening rehearsals, and a performance every week. While here, I have been able to travel on the weekends to Paris, Venice, and the real castle that Disney's Cinderella Castle is based on. In Venice I was able to ride in a Gondola and eat some really yummy Italian Ice, and a real Italian calzone. I have made so many great new friends and connections. I have been able to try so many great German foods like Wiener Schnitzel, Knodel, Wurst, and so much more!


How has it been traveling with the aligners?
Traveling with the aligners is very easy. Because of the travel sized case, travel toothbrush, and travel cleaner they gave me I can go anywhere. I can take my aligners out whenever I need to eat and place them in the case and then run to the restroom afterwards brush my teeth and put the aligners back in. Sometimes it can be difficult because I will forget to bring either the toothpaste or the brush and then I have to wait until I get back to the hotel to put them back in. But normally it is very hassle free. 


Have they gotten in your way as you've been performing?
I have had three performances while being in Germany and I have only taken them out for one performance. The first two performances were on a Friday so by that point the pain was minimal and I could stand performing with them in my mouth. However for this last performance on a Thursday night, I decided to take them out because the pain was still prevalent when I bit down. The only way that I could see the aligners effecting my performance skills in a negative way is the extra saliva it produces in my mouth. Having the aligners in sometimes causes a little extra saliva to be in my mouth which is perfectly fine on an everyday basis. However, when singing, extra saliva can get in the way of annunciation of consonants, especially when singing in a foreign language like I have been here in Germany. But the thing that is so convenient is that I can take the aligners out for an hour during a performance and then just put them back in and no harm is done! 

What are your next steps?
Next for me is going back to NYU for the start of my fall semester on September 2nd! I am actually going to be heading back two weeks early because I am going to be an RA (Resident Assistant) in one of the upperclassmen dorms and we have a very intense, yet fun training process to go through! I will most likely be in a show at NYU during my first semester, auditions will be during the first two weeks of school! And of course I will be continuing to use my aligners and work on transforming my smile into the smile I want it to be!





To learn more about Invisalign for teens, click here.



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What I Want You To Know About Drinking And Driving And Grace

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Stephanie.


I am 29 years old. My man and I just bought a house in our dream city, and my womanly heart yearns and craves a house full of babies and friends and family. I pine over Pinterest looking for the right bedding, saving millions of projects I'll never do, and drooling over well-styled rooms and furniture. I am a young woman who prays to be that much closer to God, to hear him a little bit louder. I have a job that I love that pays well and allows me to build relationship with a community I might not otherwise know. A true ministry. I have a puppy. She is a Vizsla and has more energy than this girl after Americano number three. We run together and she loves nothing more than to come in the bathroom when I need to go. Pleasant. I have more friends than I could count, I have the love of my family, and my in-laws are wonderful people. I love a good book club (read: group of friends who talk about the book for all of 5 minutes...if they finished it) and when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I bake. I'm a woman with a spectacular, God-seeking life, and one night I had too many glasses of wine and I drove home.

I want to write the details. I want to justify and pitch my case. I went to a wedding, I danced with friends I had not seen in ages, I enjoyed the Malbec, we had dinner, we said our goodbyes. The owner of the house I was to stay at did not answer her phone- I had no idea how to get there. I called my man. We decided I would drive home.

76 in a 70 is why he stopped me. After the surreal walking of the line in the bitter cold, the lights in my eyes, the 416 questions, I had handcuffs on my wrists and was watching my car as it was towed away. Never. Never in my wildest dreams.

What I want you to know is that when they take you to jail, they take all of your clothes and they frisk you just like the movies. You are just as wrong and bad as the woman sitting next to you who beat her children unconscious. The one who just stole your food. They give you a jumpsuit and they take your picture. Don't worry. It can be found on the internet by your friends and family. When they let you call your husband, and he doesn't pick up because it's 1am, that's the only chance you get. By the grace of God, they let me have 2 chances. And then, you wait. You wait for hours to see a Judge and all you can think about as you lay on the concrete floor watching sets of feet walk back and forth is, "This. Cannot. Be. Real". I thought of my husband. I thought of my dog. I thought of my bed. I thought of Cheetos.

And I prayed. No, I begged. I begged God to meet me there on that cold floor. I pleaded with crocodile tears for Him to show me He was there, and He did. After seventeen hours, my name was called and I was escorted to the small office where I would meet my Judge to determine my bail (between $2-5,000). And He waived it. There, in the middle of the county jail, is where I learned what freedom truly feels like. What grace must be.

And that is where the story begins. Here, I sit, sobbing as I write, 10 months after my arrest date. We have spent more money, time, conversation, tears, and worry onthis...and what if? What if I hadn't? In 3 weeks I will face a jury for 3 days, and there in a courtroom, a group of 6 people will decide my fate. They will decide if I will have to check "yes" under "Have you ever been convicted..." on a job application. They will decide if I visit a probation officer monthly or have my license revoked or am qualified to volunteer for Legacy House Austin. They will decide if I will be approved for adoption.

What I want you to know is that I do, without a doubt, know I have seen God's grace thus far. I was not hurt. No one was. I could have killed someone, and I know that. But there is a grace needed in our world for people like me. For the ones looking for a second chance. The ones who know, repent, and wait. There is a need to remove the judgment from our eyes, our expressions, and when someone is vulnerable enough to share a mistake that may have ruined their life, we need figure out a way to help them through it. I want you to know that Christian men and women who are God-seeking, people-loving individuals make life-altering mistakes, and they are ashamed. The shame is so heavy and real. They need people like you to tell them it will be okay. They need people like you to hold their hand through the process and to check in with them. They need you to share your mistakes, too. They need you to remind them they are loved and forgiven and washed clean. They need you to pray. I need you to pray.

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What a warrior mom looks like

I know many warrior moms . . . women who have had to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles as they seek the best for their kids. I know moms who fight for services for their special needs children or advocate for research for childhood illnesses. I know moms who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and who make great sacrifices to ensure their family’s well-being.

I’ve been astounded by the strength of the mothers I have met this week with Help One Now. We have visited with several families in the Gunchire region who are a part of their unique sponsorship program designed to prevent poverty orphans. These are mothers who were at the end of their rope . . . who faced the difficult possibility of having to take their child to an orphanage in order to help them survive.

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What a warrior mom looks like: How you can make a difference and help at-risk families survive

I met Birkenesh and Saiga and Marta and Seada Nesa, who shared their stories of survival with us. They were eager to tell of how their lives had been changed. So eager, in fact, that Saiga came running to find us on the road, greeting each of us with a bear hug and showering us with kisses as she led us to her home.

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Their narratives were so similar and unfortunately all too common in this region. They had all been widowed . . . most of them losing their husband to AIDS and dealing with their own HIV+ status. In addition to dealing with the loss of a husband – a life-shattering blow by itself, they then had to face being ostracized by their own community. There is still a huge social stigma in regards to HIV, and these mothers and their children were shunned in their darkest hour. As they’ve lost their spouse and community in one fell swoop, they also found themselves in a precarious economic crisis, with no job and no way to earn money. They each described a painful season in which their survival hung in the balance . . . often going days without food, and wondering how to feed their children. Some of them made the difficult decision to take their kids to a nearby orphanage. All of them felt great despair. As we listened, it was hard to even fathom facing such great obstacles. We told the women they were brave, and we meant it. We also fought back tears as we contemplated the love and pain and loss these women have experienced.

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But their was some redemption to their stories. Each of them shared the difference that Help One Now has made in their lives. They are now able to feed their children . . . every meal. Marta is opening a shop in her home. Saiga is selling vegetables. Seada Nesa received training and now sells traditional clothing at a nearby market. All of the women received agricultural training and assistant with planting their own farm, as well as livestock, and each of them showed off their garden and cows as we visited.

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We also got to meet the children of these brave women, and see the strong bonds shared between this moms and their kids. All of these children were at risk of being orphaned, by either poverty or death. Now, these moms are receiving the medications they need to survive and thrive, and the community is receiving education to reduce the stigma around HIV. Through the help of sponsorship these families are intact and the kids are benefitting from the love and attention of their mothers, instead of growing up in an orphanage. They are also receiving an education to ensure a brighter future.

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$42 a month can be the difference between surviving and thriving for families in Ethiopia. Sponsorship provides daily food, school fees, uniforms and supplies, and medical resources for the entire family.  It also helps develop the family economically: teaching modern farming techniques (most Ethiopians have extraordinarily large lots which can be entirely cultivated for food), providing cows, goats, and chickens and the training to raise and resource them, identifying existing gifts, skills, and assets of the parents to harness into income-producing outlets, and equip the HIV+ parents to address and overcome social stigma and regain solid footing in their community.

I was so moved by the warrior moms we met. Their before-and-after stories were dramatic, and each of them were so grateful and also eager for other women to experience this assistance. My hope, as you are reading this, is that you will be moved to partner with another family, to keep them together. This is life-saving work, and such a small sacrifice for those of us living in privilege to provide to women who are struggling to survive.

Please click here to sponsor a family.

Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope

Photos by Ty Clark, Jacob Combs, and Scott Wade.


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