Sunday’s Music on Monday: “Soon”

We sang this one yesterday. Much like my Sandi Patty experience with “We Shall Behold Him,” this one reminds me of the reality we’re longing for.

I have unexplained cravings and longings in this life. Most of us do. When we’re single we think getting married will fulfill the longing. But then we think maybe a baby will do it. Then, maybe if we could just get these kids grown and out of the house! We’re always looking for more. It’s the feeling that what we’re experiencing is not all there is. There must be more.

Marilyn Meberg says this is actually our longing for God that won’t be fulfilled until we are with Him in eternity. And that can sound lame or too easy unless you’ve tasted a bit of it when someone sings a song or you read a verse in the Bible or a friend speaks just the right word of encouragement. Once in a while we feel satisfied. That’s a taste of Heaven. It goes away quickly, but you can’t forget how good it tasted even if it only lasted a moment.

I know this is true when I hear and sing songs like this one from Brooke Fraser. It reminds me of a good time I haven’t even had yet but one that will define me forever. I can’t explain it, of course, but it feels like relief. It feels like truth, and so I sing it strong and will it to memory. Because I never want to forget . . .

Swans Walking

You’ve heard the one about the ugly duckling, right? Only he wasn’t an ugly duckling at all; he was a swan. It was just that no one knew that until he went through puberty and sprouted bright white feathers. Oh, and when he finally found other birds who looked like him. There’s a lot a person could learn from a story like that.

But when considering a follow-up to the you were Made To Do This post, I couldn’t help but think of a slightly different swan analogy.

This one I’ve seen for myself.

Everyday I drive by a lake that is home to more than one pair of mated-for-life swans. And they are beautiful. Even when they sleep, they gingerly toss their long slender necks onto the top of their fluffy backsides and turn themselves into a floating nap. I try to imagine their black webbed feet paddling furiously underneath the water, but on the surface the motion is calm and efficient. Smooth. Graceful.

A swan gliding across a lake is what you look like when you are doing what you were made to do. It looks effortless and natural.

But have you ever seen a swan walk on land?

It isn’t pretty or graceful. In fact, it is kind of awkward. Tiny feet and short legs compared to those substantial bodies and long necks? It just seems out of proportion.

But you don’t notice the awkward when the swan is in the water, doing what swans do best. You only notice it when the swan is on land, outside of her usual occupations.

This is why I think it’s important to spend time considering what you were made to do. When you do that thing (or things, depending on the seasons), then it looks right. It fits. You are covered with grace. When you step out of those waters, though, walking in a land that might be someone else’s gifiting, you are likely to look and feel a little out of place.

I don’t mean to imply that we don’t sometimes have to do things that are new to us or ocassionally fill positions that don’t seem to put us at our best. Those seasons happen also. But I think those seasons should be fewer and farther between as we mature and figure ourselves out a bit.

Afterall, everyone wants to see the swans swimming; few people care about seeing the swans walking.

You are a swan. Swim.

Made To Do This

It is a gift when people identify your strengths for you. This happened to me last week when someone I admire described me as a “great communicator” to someone else. Perhaps it resonated so sweetly because it was something I had recently identified for myself. I enjoy singing, I like to write, but I LOVE speaking to groups of people. I especially love communicating truths intended to inspire hope, change, or action.

Tonight after returning from teaching my Monday night Bible college class, I realized I’ve been compiling a little list lately about this subject. So, here it is.

How Do You Know You Were Made For This?

1. Others recognize it, too. For me it wasn’t just that nice email from last week. It was also the comments I had been hearing more and more often. Not praise for my singing (which I do often) or accolades for my writing (another thing I work on), but friends and family members affirming that they especially enjoyed it when I spoke.

2. It makes you better. Even if you’re tired before, you’re energized afterwards. I usually go into my Monday night classes thinking something along the lines of WHY DO I TEACH ON MONDAY NIGHTS?! But it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for the life to start pumping back into my veins. By the time I finish 3 hours later, I’m so wound up I can’t go to bed.

3. It makes you stronger. Speaking makes me nervous in a useful kind of way. A professional once told me that being nervous was good because you could use it as fuel for a great performance. If you are made to do something, you’ll feel this kind of nervousness. It is almost more of an anticipation.

4. It just works. This is how Dan knows he was made to do live music. He enjoys writing and recording, but he is at his best when he’s playing live. It’s what separates him from other musicians. He’s at the top of his game during a live music set. Other people choke when the pressure is on to play live. Some can’t even imagine having the courage to try it. That’s how Dan knows it’s for him – because he isn’t frozen by those fears. He knows he can do it and do it well.

I don’t think figuring out what you were made to do solves all your identity problems. For example, it still might not pay the bills. But it can point you in the right direction. It can be a go-to in your arsenal of gifts to the world.

Have you identified something you were made to do? What would you add to my list of ways to know?

 

What He Remembers

Jesse recently read Though My Eyes, the Tim Tebow memoir, for his first fifth grade book report. He drafted the report in his near-perfect left-handed penmanship onto notebook paper and then asked to type it up on the computer. He worked diligently for several days.

At one point in his editing, he told me he took out a sentence about Tebow playing baseball as a kid because it just “didn’t have the same idea” as the paragraph where he had put it that was about Tebow’s years playing Pop Warner football. Another time he came dashing up the stairs and lifted the lid of the computer, “I forgot about the John 3:16 story – I have to put that part in!”

I’ve never loved Tim Tebow more. His book has encouraged Jesse’s faith and given him an understanding of the perseverance and hard work required to see dreams come true. It’s been a great book for him to read as his first grown-up selection.

A week or so ago over lunch, my Uncle Rees asked Jesse a great question, “What was your favorite story from the book?” This forced Jess to be specific about what he had read. His answer surprised me.

The stories he had been mentioning to me were exciting. Tebow’s mother had been encouraged to abort him because it appeared that he would have severe birth defects. She wouldn’t do it. (“I think an abortion is when someone kills the baby before it’s born. Why would a mom do that?”) As a high schooler, Tebow, now an NFL quarterback, played defense for two of his four years. During a bowl game in his college career, Tebow painted “John 3:16” on his eye black. 92 million people googled it afterwards.

But when faced with the question, “What was your favorite story?”, Jesse answered his Uncle Rees like this:

One time Tebow had a bad game and his mom came to him after the game and cheered him up. She always gave him pep talks and encouraged him. His dad taught him how to play the games and how to be tough, but his mom always made him feel better.

That was his favorite story? Be still my beating mother’s heart!

And yet it makes me wonder: Is this the role I take on in his sporting career? I know a lot about football. I love sports in general. I can be that mom shouting out plays and technical advice. But maybe I should be something else. Maybe I should just cheer him on. Just smile and clap and remind him that there is more to life than sports. Maybe with his heart-felt answer, he’s asking me to be something different than what he sees me becoming. (I can get a little intense.)

If you’ve been to a kids’ sporting event lately, you know what I’m talking about.

I’m thankful someone else asked him what his favorite story was from the book and that I was there to hear his answer. It has me re-evaluating my role in his life. In our culture, women are expected to do it all, but maybe that’s not really what our kids want.

Now I’m off to draft my next pep talk. I want to make sure all the sentences fit.

 

Women of Faith: The Highlight

So – to catch you up – I have chosen my sponsor child; I’ve basked in Patsy Clairmont’s sensibility and Andy Andrews’ wisdom; I’ve shouted with Mandisa; What more could I possibly ask for from this Women of Faith event in Omaha, Nebraska?

How about a complete emotional outburst? Yeah, that ought to do it.

It happened when Sandi Patty sang. But let me catch you up.

When I was 8 or 9 years old my parents took me and my sister to a Sandi Patty concert for my birthday. The concert was held in a big auditorium (very likely not as large in reality as it is in my memory). At some point in the concert, Sandi Patty invited all the children in the room to come to the stage and sing with her. Now, this should have been a dream come true. Instead, it was a nightmare realized. I wanted more than anything to go, and yet everything inside of me was glued to my chair. My little sister Serenity pulled at my arms and my parents pushed at my back and somehow I made it down the concrete steps toward the stage. I cried all the way.

Once on stage, I was fine. I have no idea what we sang, but at some point my skin was brushed with the royal blue satin of Sandi Patty’s dress. I was almost touched by Sandi Patty. Life would probably never be the same.

With this memory only growing within our family’s folklore over the years – in fact, my brother swears he was there, which isn’t true at all; he’s just heard the story a million times – imagine my thrill when I saw Sandi Patty on the list of Women of Faith personalities at the Omaha event.

And she was everything I had hoped for: full of life, joyful, and as talented as ever.

She sang several songs at the event, but when the opening bars of “We Shall Behold Him” played through the giant speakers, you could almost feel the air settle into the seats for a better view. I didn’t remember the words, so it was kind of like hearing a hall-of-fame song for the first time – only coming from one of my childhood idols. The combination was potent.

I couldn’t be sure how others were responding, so I tried to hold it together. A few tears. I knew I shouldn’t make eye contact with anyone; that would be the end. Unfortunately at about the same time she sang about the resurrection of the dead, she also invited the section of hearing impaired guests to stand and join her in signing. It was too much. What happened to me was not the pretty tears-streaming-hands-lifted-gracefully-to-the-heavens kind of response. Nope. All I could do was sit and cry and let it all sink in: This is real – this faith we’re practicing – and someday it is all going to make sense. We SHALL behold Him. It’s real.

More crying. Tissue dabbing. Sandi Patty’s notes are soaring. The end is coming and by now I just sort of want to lay down on the floor and sob. I realize I’m not alone. We’re all teary-eyed, probably for various reasons. But this information does not calm me down; it only makes me want to cry more.

I tweeted: “Well, it happened. The ugly cry moment. @SandiPattyP singing “We Shall Behold Him” – No words. #WomenofFaith #wofott

And the really fun part was that later in the afternoon the event staff read that tweet (among a few others) to the whole room and the cameras panned to Sandi Patty’s face. I watched her smile and nod and laugh in response to the tweet and it was like blue satin all over again. Only grown-up.

 

Booksneeze bloggers at Women of Faith (Omaha)

Thanks, Booksneeze for the great opportunity. Thanks, Women of Faith for the valuable experience.

Now, who among you can tell me how to pronounce Silindokuhle?

Because he’s still my favorite part. : )

 

 

 

 

Women of Faith: First Impressions

Me (second from left) with most of the Booksneeze Bloggers

I had never attended a Women of Faith event before, so this weekend’s “Over the Top” program in Omaha, Nebraska was all new to me. In many ways, it was just what I expected; in other ways, I was surprised and challenged. It was, of course, a perfect excuse for a short road trip with my husband. He was able to spend time with his family in the area while his mom and I took in the conference in the Qwest Center downtown.

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I loved the stage – feminine, professional, modern. I wasn’t sure I’d like the round style, open to all sides, but it grew on me.

I was still assessing the atmosphere during the opening prayer. I glanced over toward two women we had met briefly when we first took our seats. The older of them had grabbed her friend’s hand, grasping it tightly in both of her own and bowing her head with tightly closed eyes. I saw fervency and sincerity in that action. I realized this event meant a lot to some people. It wasn’t just a chance to escape for the weekend or hear some good music; it was a chance for God to move on her friend, to do something new and real. My own expectation level went up after seeing that.

MUSIC

If you have to use a worship team of pre-recorded music, this was a successful model. The four leaders were dressed in coordinating clothes and their intentional movements criss-crossing and circling the stage worked well to keep our attention. I knew all of the songs and enjoyed the women-only arrangements. Each of the four leaders was engaging in her own way. Again, I’m a live band kind of girl, but this was the next best option and it was executed well.

OPENING DAY SPEAKERS

Patsy Clairmont was the perfect choice for the first session and my general favorite all weekend. She came onto the stage carrying a simple journal and somehow that made her appear prepared but not canned. Her age, humor, and humilty all worked together to engage us, challenge us, and still make us smile. I loved her. By the end of the second day I had tweeted: “New plan: BE @PatsyClairmont when I grow up. : ) Actually, she makes me want to be my best me. Well deserved standing O.”

The biggest surprise for me in the speakers department was Andy Andrews. He bounced onto the stage and then over and across it several times before he settled down and said some really direct and poignant things to the crowd of thousands of women. I realized then that he had us in the palm of his hand. He had acted silly and told jokes and introduced himself to the security team and all the while he was winning us over, story by story, smile by smile.

His closing message on Friday night was masterful. Telling us that every decision in our life was a chance to change the world, he proved it through his storytelling. The material is from his new book The Final Summit but in person he mesmerized us with his theatrical reenactment of individual stories from American history that had impact on the entire world. Again, we were putty in his hands and he was faithful with that power.

BEST TAKE-AWAY

This might have also been my biggest surprise. I have listened to hundreds of Compassion and World Vision style child sponsorship presentations before. Because I have friends who are missionaries and plenty of opportunities to give, I can usually resist the sales pitch and move on. (Not to mention that those missionaries often remind me of the money wasted by big organizations on salaries and marketing.)

But I couldn’t resist anymore. This weekend I was sick of my excuse that if I’m going to give, I should give in this or that other particular way. The fact was, I wasn’t doing that giving either and this opportunity was at my fingertips. I was gripped with a pull toward that orange World Vision sponsorship table. Once there, I couldn’t help but notice how small the line was in front of the table with all the photos of children in need while the product tables nearby were backed up and blending together with the other long lines at the concession stands – in fact, it looked like one line where you got Parmesan fries at one end and patterned tote bags at the other. I walked right up to the World Vision table, no line and no waiting.

During that first break one picture caught my eye immediately: A five year-old boy with chubby cheeks and a smart red and white jacket. He wasn’t smiling or frowning, just sort of looking out of his photo with low expectations. I noticed he was from South Africa and I thought I’d keep looking to see if they had any countries that were a little more hip – you know, Uganda or Malawi kind of countries. Looked over more faces. Decided to talk to Dan and ask before making the jump. I went back to my seat.

Dan approved immediately. We could choose to sponsor a child instead of coming home with sugary treats or stickers. I thought the kids would love the chance to exchange letters and photos with a “brother” through the years. I tried to decide where I wanted him to be from or what age he should be . . . I started constructing the perfect sponsored child in my imagination.

But when I went back to the table, the first thing I did was check for that first boy. He was still there, so I rifled through some more profiles. Surely I shouldn’t pick the first photo that caught my eye; I have to make sure this is the one I want. The volunteers offered to find me a child with a particular birth date or country of origin. They had a special pack of babies, maybe I would prefer that? In the meantime, I saw a small group of women looking over the profiles near my boy. I hope they don’t take him, I thought. And then I knew he was mine. I told the volunteer I didn’t need to keep looking. I had found my match.

I was so satisfied with this move that I felt Friday night could have been the end of the conference. I couldn’t wait to show Dan and the kids.

 

 

But there was more to come . . . And Saturday was full of its own joys.

To be continued . . . .

UPDATE: Serenity says I should mention Claire’s question to me in the bathroom this morning (found in the comments section), “Mom, when are you going to bring that boy home?” What a brave and loving girl she is – no thought of how a new member of our family might need to be planned for or arranged for in anyway, no worries about how it would affect her, just an open heart.

Countdown: Women of Faith (Omaha)

Work for the week completed.

House cleaned picked up.

Bags packed.

Road trip taken.

Last-minute emails sent.

 

Time to rest and enjoy a couple days of new experiences at the Women of Faith “Over the Top” Event in Omaha, Nebraska.

Two* of my favorite things!

I’ll report back here as soon as possible after all the fun.

 

 

*OK, maybe three. There will also be dinner out that includes thin-sliced and toasted rustic bread, locally made ricotta cheese, and farm-fresh strawberry balsamic jam. This may or may not be yet another important ingredient in a fantastic weekend in my husband’s hometown!