For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Evening With The Nelons

She's got her father's eyes!
Last night I had the opportunity to see The Nelons in concert at Harleyville Southern Methodist Church in Harleyville, SC.  I drove almost an hour and a half to get there because I had been anticipating this concert for almost 5 months and it was worth the trip.

I got to see The Nelons back in November but never got around to posting a blog so this time I'm going to be more diligent.  Forgive me in advance if I talk more about Kelly but she's the one I feel I really connect with because I've "known" her for so long.

I first met Kelly when she was singing with The Rex Nelon Singers in the '90s.  The group came to my church in Tennessee and I will never forget the evening I met her and her dad, Rex Nelon.  My preacher's daughters and I were practicing special music for a revival and in walks a group of people to set up for a show.  I was new to Southern Gospel music so I didn't recognize anyone until I saw the white-haired man and said, "Oh my goodness...that's Rex Nelon!"  I knew who The Rex Nelon Singers and Gold City were and I was face to face with the Nelons.  I continued to follow The Rex Nelon Singers...I cried when I heard Rex had passed away.  He passed away on the 11th anniversary of the death of my boyfriend (1-24-00) so the date would always be embedded in my head. I told Kelly I always admired the father/daughter relationship they had and when I looked at him it was like looking into the kind and loving eyes of a grandfather I never knew.  Click here to read a wonderful tribute to a wonderful legend in the southern gospel industry.  After his passing I continued to follow the ministry of The Nelons, they changed the name after he died.   Honestly, I didn't think they would be as good because I missed Rex so much but they have done exceedingly well.  They're still about the father's business...both Kelly's earthly father and her Heavenly father.

Kelly is the alto of the group.  I'm a mezzo-soprano who is more comfortable singing soprano and when I hear Kelly sing I think she has a range that can pull in some soprano parts.  Kelly is a down-to-earth person who can captivate an audience just by speaking to them.  I was sitting on the third row, center section, without anyone in front of me so I had a wonderful view of the stage.  As Kelly spoke I could look into her eyes and feel the heart of her message...she conveys one of love and compassion...hope to a lost and dying world.  When she says she loves doing what she does she means it. 

Kelly's oldest daughter Amber is the soprano of the group.  Amber is following in her mother and grandfather's footsteps...I believe both of them joined the group around age 13.  It's such a wonderful sight to see mother and daughter on stage together and the rapport they have with one another.   I have a friend who performed arias in beauty pageants all the way to the Miss America level and when I hear Amber sing I think she can do that.  Amber has a beautiful powerful voice.  When she hits those high notes it's as if her voice is raising you up toward Heaven.  When they performed Amazing Grace a capella I felt as if I was being carried on angels' wings straight to my heavenly father.  And who didn't enjoy it when Jason kept speeding up Walk Right Out Of This Valley and Amber kept singing it faster and faster and never stumbled or missed a note.

Speaking of Jason, he's Kelly's husband and he sings bass...Jason also writes and produces a lot of their music.  Both times I heard him speak I felt like I was listening to a missionary sound the battle cry.  He will tell you how he got into southern gospel music and he presents the gospel in a way that you don't feel as if you are being rebuked.  I once heard it said that the Bible is deep enough for the smartest theologian to dive in and never touch bottom yet shallow enough for the newest believer to dive in and never drown.  That's how Jason presents the gospel...he puts it on a level that no matter what state you are in in your walk with the Lord that you can understand the need for a Savior.

Last night was an evening to remember.  Kelly did a wonderful tribute to her dad and gave some the history of The Nelons.  I teared up as she talked because I knew what we were going to be doing after the show.  I like that they include old and new music in their lineup.  Because I collected the music back when they were The Rex Nelon Singers I really enjoy the older stuff.  And they bring down the house when they perform I'm Going Home With Jesus. Amber is usually the one that belts out the high notes but in this song all three hit and hold their notes for what seems like forever.  I get out of breath just listening because I'm wondering how much longer they can hold it before they run out of air.  I always think this is going to be their encore song but it's not.

Another part of their concert is sharing with you their latest concept video Excuse Me Are You Jesus, which by the way won a Telly Award for best gospel music video on YouTube.  When I went to the concert in November my preacher's wife was with me and I kept telling Sandy that I hoped they would sing this song because it has an awesome message about how someone can share the love of God to another individual through a simple act of kindness.  The video is available on iTunes and if you would like to see The Nelons perform it you can do so by clicking here.   I told Sandy that this video encourages Christians to be the light of the be the word of God some may never read or a Jesus some may never see.

Last night's concert was a little different as they did a Good Friday/Easter show.  So we were able to watch videos depicting the death, burial and resurrection of Christ while they performed.  Many times I found myself looking past them to the video behind them.  They do a 2-hour show and I would be perfectly content if it went on and on...I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the wide range of music they perform.  I'll keep watching and waiting for the day they put I'll Talk To The Father and I'll Have Faith in their lineup.

After the concert the evening just continued to get better.  I had been working on a cross-stitch project of Kelly's dad.  I finished it in December and had to keep it a secret until I could see her.  She thought I was cross-stitching her now famous dog Sam thru videos the family posts on Social Cam and YouTube.  Kelly has been dubbed the queen of Social Cam!  She is holding the picture I did.  We met after the concert and I can't fully describe in words what it was like to see the look in her eyes as she came face-to-face with an image of her dad.  The moment was priceless and I would do it all over again to see the smile it brought to her face.

Kelly went above and beyond being a performer last night.  She could have accepted my gift and went about her merry way but she stayed in the auditorium with me and we talked for about 30 minutes while Jason talked with the preacher and others gathered up everything.  Kelly let me pour my heart out to her about a friend that was in a tragic accident.  She allowed me to tell her what up to that point I wasn't able to tell thoughts and fears about the possibility of God taking another friend from me in a tragic way and she shared with me a little about how she dealt with the loss of her dad to help me see that she understood how I was feeling.  She helped me understand that God has a reason for everything and once again she shed some light on a dark subject and gave me hope because she reminded me of all that I am in and through Christ.  

I have known Kelly through their ministry for more than two decades but during the past year God has allowed me to get to know her as one would know a friend.  If you meet her you won't forget her...she is going to make a lasting impression on your heart.  If you have an opportunity to see The Nelons you need to go.  You won't have any regrets and when you leave you will be saying, "It was good to be in the house of the Lord."  Heaven will come down and glory will fill your matter what your lot in life is they have something for everyone...they will point you to the cross of Calvary...Jason gives a simple message of salvation and an altar call.  If he wasn't singing I think he could be a preacher!  This is a very talented group that could probably be a greater success if they were to sing secular music but they have chosen to serve our Lord and Savior and to use their talents for the glory of God.

I set out on my road trip worried about going to a concert by myself and traveling alone at the end it was worth it all and I left saying, "To God be the glory great things He hath done and will continue to do."  If  I'm on cloud nine right now I probably won't come down for a while.  I have been on Twitter talking about it and I spent the day with my sister and told her all about it.  She said I have become a Nelons groupie.  My preacher's wife wasn't able to attend with me because she got sick unexpectedly...well, I am already planning the next concert and hopefully Sandy will be able to go with me then.

You can see The Nelons tour schedule and check out their line of merchandise by going to their website  Kelly also has her own personal blog at WordPress and if you want to read some of her entries or follow her you can do so by clicking here.  If you are on Twitter you can follow them:

The Nelons @TheNelons
Kelly is @KellyNelon
Jason is @JasonClarkMusic
Amber is @Ambie328

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Aquarium...A Whole New World

My aquarium adventures began Wednesday when I took my younger sister, niece and nephew out to lunch and shopping.  While at lunch Shay gave Marcus and Katie permission to get some fish so they asked me if I would take them to Walmart.   I bought them 3 fish because I was going to let each of them have one and I wanted to put one in the tank so they could call it Gigi.  We bought different colors so that if one died (yeah, we didn't have too much faith in our ability to care for fish) we would know whose it was.  Marcus bought a starter tank and other supplies.

Thursday after work I decided I really wanted an aquarium.  I went by and got Marcus and Katie so they could go with me.  We went to Walmart and I bought a 5 gallon starter tank with some sample supplies, 6 lbs of rainbow gravel, some colorful plants, food and 5 fish.  I wanted different types/colors so that I could name them and keep up with them.  I got 2 Neon GloFish; the Green was Ping and the Pink, Pong.  I got 2 Guppies; the larger one with a Cheetah tail is Liberty and the smaller one is Patriot and I got a Tiger Barb and to be funny I named it Turtle because that is the nickname I gave my preacher's wife.  

We stopped at Sonic for milkshakes and then headed to my house to set up the aquarium.  Okay, first of all, I am clinically diagnosed OCD and my obsessive compulsive behaviors are not safety or health related but rather mine are all about cleanliness, organization, schedule and routine.  I say this because if I was at home setting up the aquarium by myself I would have been doing it all by the book but with the kids there we were all doing various tasks and trying to get it all done.  Hindsight's 20/20 and less than 48 hours later I have already learned from some mistakes.

Marcus supposedly installed the power filter/pump and since it was pumping the water I thought it worked.  I was a bit frustrated to see tiny bubbles that looked like dust all over the glass but thought that was just the water stabilizing.  Because my starter kit only had sample packages I headed to Petsmart to buy some more supplies and while there I decided to get 2 more fish because my favorite number is 7 and in the Bible it means perfect and complete so I thought it would be cool to have 7 in the tank because it would be "complete."  I chose a GloGreen Tetra and named it Green Tea and I got a Neon Blue Glofish and named it Blueberry.  The employee that helped me said I could mix my fish as long as they were all Tropicals and as long as I didn't have a long-tailed fish because of my Tiger Barb.

Throughout the evening I had the best time watching the fish swim and play.  Within an hour or so I had figured out some the personalities and who liked who, where they liked to swim, etc.  

Pong wouldn't swim...he merely drifted across the surface.  I thought he was just timid due to new surroundings but would acclimate.  His brother Ping was all around the aquarium as were the rest of them.  Turtle (Tiger Barb) had a fascination with the Tuna tablet that I stuck to the glass.  He would circle around it in a frenzy, zoom off and come back.  Green Tea (Tetra) loved Turtle and would either follow him everywhere or would linger inside the castle.  Liberty, my Cheetah-tailed Guppy was all over the tank.  We were picking and saying she should have been an Olympic swimmer.  The funniest thing that night was what happened to Blueberry.

Blueberry, the blue GloFish had a fascination with the ripples from the filter.  She would literally get right within the walls of the ripple like she was in a jacuzzi and she would go in and out, spin around like a whirlpool, drift away and return for more fun.  Well, she continued to do this and keep in mind I am sitting on the floor and watching these fish like I would a movie.  Blueberry gets into the whirlpool and I hear this squeak and she is gone!  She has gotten sucked up by the filter, no lie!  I thought I was going to cry because I was going to lose my first fish but then poof...she was spit out and there she was floating near the ripples.  It was quite funny because she hovered on the outer parameter of the whirlpool like she dared to go back into that thing.  Finally, she realized she needed to swim deeper to get away from the current and to get to the other side.

Friday morning I wake up and go to tank to feed them.  I should have 7 fish but I can only account for 6.  I take a closer look and realize Pong (the slow pink Neon) is missing.  Well, I thought maybe because he wouldn't swim he got sucked up into the filter.  Then I noticed him belly up in a pink plant.  I didn't know there was a 3-day refund policy on fish from Walmart so I had my first burial at sea and flushed him down the toilet in the guest room.  I won't be using that bathroom for a while! Remember the turtle on "Growing Pains?"

I was happy to see all the dust-like bubbles had cleared on the glass and the water was as clear as bottled water.  Nice, all is clean and calm again in my OCD world.

After work I headed back to Walmart to replace Pong.  I chalked his death up to him already being sick since he wouldn't swim.  While there I saw a beautiful Purple Tetra so I got another pink Neon and the Tetra.  The lady even let me "fish" for my own fish so I could get the ones I wanted.  I took home Pongo and Grape Ape.  I now had 8 fish...In the Bible 7 means perfect and complete and 8 means new beginnings, so it was a new day dawning for me and my aquarium!

Got home and aquarium was a little hazy...was told that was because a fish died and the Ph balance was off.  This morning I woke up bright and early to check on my fish.  Well, 2 were dead!  Ping, Pong's brother and my beautiful Grape Ape.  The water had a slight stench and was not green but very cloudy.  This time I put deadfish in Ziploc bag and I headed to Walmart and got a refund; not going to replace any more fish 'til I figure out what's killing them.  I thought it could be my well water so I took a small sample to Petsmart.

A guy at Petsmart tested the Ph levels and "Smartboy" said that the levels were high enough to be stressful for fish.  What did that mean in layman's terms?  My tank had a higher concentration of Nitrite (not Nitrate) and ammonia.  Smartboy said that could be because of fish dying.  He told me to buy a gravel vacuum and empty about 50-75% of the water, pretreat the same amount of water and fill tank again.  He also told me that I should have washed all decorations, plants and gravel with warm water to rid them of dust and debris before placing them in aquarium and that I should have let the tank full of water sit for at least 24 hours to stabilize the water before adding the fish.  I'm beginning to see several important factors that may have led to the early demise of my precious fish.

So, I get home and much to my amazement I was able to operate the gravel vac without much difficulty.  But then I couldn't get the filter pump to work.  I took filter apart and much to my dismay I realized Marcus didn't put the filter in the box when he installed the pump.  He thought the filter in the starter kit was an extra one.  I guess we both assumed the pump would have the first filter in it.  So, now I'm wondering if that may have been my main problem.  Without the filter there was nothing removing the waste, ammonia, etc. from the water.  The pump was only recycling the water from pump to tank.  So, I get the filter in place but then can't get the pump to work.  I'm at my wits end, bag it all up and head back to Walmart.  They allow me to get a new pump.

I get home and still can't get the new pump to work and by the way: The pump did have filter installed when it was purchased as just a pump.  I guess in the starter kit they want you to learn how to install the filter so they don't have it in the pump box.  Well, every time I plugged it in I got a grinding sound.  So, I googled this problem and duh...I didn't know to fill the pump with water so that it can prime itself.  Marcus obviously did that with the first pump.  Prime pump and all is well.  Hopefully in the day or so I will see a difference in the water quality.

The fish are now swimming deeper since the tank has been cleaned and it seems like the pump isn't producing as strong a ripple effect now that the filter is in the box.  

This is all a learning experience for me.  I'm the teacher to a school of fish.  Update on my students:
  • Blueberry still loves to play in the whirlpool and is zipping around the tank.
  • Green Tea and Turtle still follow closely beside each other.
  • Pongo harasses Liberty.  I'm wondering if he has a fascination with her tail.
  • Patriot is the smallest and very calm...she swims around but not in a fast-paced motion.
  • Pongo, Turtle, Green Tea and Liberty all love to swim at the bottom.
  • I added a Julii Cory Catfish named Black Magic on Aug. 18th and he zips all over the place!
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know another part of my world.  I have always been known as the little girl in a bubble.  Well, now I'm in a whole new world as my bubble has extended to the realms of a fish tank.  The fish produce a very calming effect as I watch them swim around and get to know them.  It may seem funny that I can hone in on their personalities but I'm a deep thinker and that's just me.  

Written in memory of:
Pong (August 9-10th)
Ping (August 9-11th)
Grape Ape (August 10-11th)
Pongo (August 10-11th)
Blueberry (August 9-12th)
Turtle (August 9-12th) 
Liberty (August 9-16th)
Patriot (August 9-19th) 
Itty Bitty (September 2-7th)