Failing from the Stage

My church had a Fine Arts competition when I was in high school called Music With a Purpose. I competed a few times, I don’t remember how many nor do I remember what year this happened, but I was probably 16 or so. We were out of town, and the competition was held at a hotel. I can picture the ballroom with a piano on the stage.

We were required to memorize our piece. I wasn’t accustomed to memorizing music. I had only taken piano lessons from my dad, so we never had recitals. This was a challenge for me, playing my piece from memory, in a competition complete with all the nerves and anxiety that comes with that situation.

I am a visual learner, and I have a memory where I can picture things I have read, where it was on the page, the font, etc. I remember being able to picture where I was in the sheet music as I was playing. It can be a real struggle for me to stay focused when I am playing. My mind wants to wander, and even with music, I find myself getting distracted and almost panicking when I realize it. I don’t really know what happened, all I know is that I could picture turning to the last page of the song and then my mind went blank. I think I hit a wrong chord and completely lost where I was.

I was frantic inside, I had no idea what to do. I kept playing chords to see if it sounded right. Finally, one of the evaluators said, “Just go back to a spot you can remember and continue on from there.”

That was brilliant advice to my teenage mind. I started from a spot I could recall and finished the song. I was so happy to walk off that stage yet also horrified that my friends and my youth pastor who I adored had all witnessed my failure.

Everyone was so kind and gracious to me, and as minutes passed, then hours, then days, I realized my world wasn’t going to end because of my mistake. I even played the song in church later (and managed to not forget any of it!). It was such a good, loving environment in which to experience this failure. I had the best youth pastor in the world and the best pastor I could have hoped for, and they continued to support me and encourage me every step of the way.

I have made a lot of mistakes on stage since I was 16. It has been 28 years of leading worship everywhere from tiny country churches to Assemblies of God Headquarters chapel. I am not perfect, but I am so grateful that I did not allow a fear of failure to keep me from doing something that brings my soul so much joy – leading others in worship.

If you are struggling to overcome a mistake or failure in your life, I encourage you to find support in your circle and be honest with them about the struggle. If you don’t have a circle of support around you, I know that is a hard place to be. Pray. Ask God to lead you to the right people, to bring you a few friends of the soul in this stage of your life.

Trust God to bring something good out of the failure. God used people who mess up because people who mess up are the only kind of people there are. This verse is a favorite of mine. I recall it often in my weak moments.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭73:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Child-like Forgiveness

I recently required my oldest daughter Isabella to write an apology to her 6 year old sister, Evangeline. When Evie received it, she turned over the paper and replied with this note shown above. It says,

“Dear Bella, I forgive you. We will always be friends. Even if we fight our friendship can get back together after. Love, Evie (We can play Roblox and slide down slides together.)”

Forgiveness, freely given. She offered kindness to her sister in spite of the way she had been treated by her. She did not withhold forgiveness, telling her she would think about it and decide later. She forgave when asked, gladly offering her friendship and even acknowledging that any future fights would not damage their friendship.

I have grown in the grace I offer others and forgiving those who have wronged me, but I will freely admit that I can do better at this. Evie’s example is a great one for me to remember.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭ESV

Oh How the Years Go By

I have read over 100 books in the last 2 years, and quite a few have been on my kindle app. I wish I could remember where I read this, but at the moment, I am not sure which book it was. This really impacted me, and I have thought about it many times since reading about it.

The author referred to a study in which elderly men and women were recorded doing regular activities in public. I specifically remember the example of paying for groceries. They followed up at a later time and played the recordings back for them.

The overwhelming response of these men and women was shock and sadness. Many cried as they were struck by the slowness of their own movements. In the moment, they were not aware of how slowly they were moving, but as they watched it played back for them, they were sad to observe how much slower they were moving than they realized.

I tested up just reading about this study. Many times as I have encountered an older person since reading this, I have paused to recall this very fact. I remind myself that this precious person is very possibly unaware of how slowly they are moving or how much of a rush I am in as I check off one more thing of the list of to-do’s for the day. Instead of frustration, annoyance, even anger, I have found compassion rushing into my heart.

We rarely like to think about aging and what it will be like as the later years of life are upon us. I think about the juxtaposition of the life of a mom with young kids, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed with a grocery cart full of food and kids, versus the elderly woman in front of me, taking the time to fill out her check or painstakingly counting out the change as I watch. I tend to have much grace for that sweet young mom because I know those feelings. I can put myself in her place, and I remember how exhausting it is to do every. single. thing. with a baby strapped to my chest or a toddler yanking on my shirt.

The compassion for the elderly does not come from personal experience. It can come from watching our loved ones struggle or working in a setting with them regularly. However, I found this view from their own perspective to be an unexpected gift. I have a feeling I will never forget it, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to show compassion and kindness where I once fought to contain my impatience.

Do What Makes You Happy?

I saw this shirt on Old Navy’s website a few months ago. I love buying kitty shirts for my 6 year old kitty lover, so this one caught my eye. I was sad when I read the words.

There is just no way I am going to encourage my child to “do what makes you happy.” I have observed the philosophy of “do what makes you happy” destroy a lot of lives. When I wake up every morning, I have to do a lot of things that do not make me happy. Namely, waking up! This night owl would gladly doze until mid-morning and drop the kids off at school when I feel like it. It definitely doesn’t make me happy to get all three kids out the door on school mornings!

Guess what? If I do what makes me happy all day, I will be a selfish, spoiled mess. I know discipline and sacrifice are not popular words in 2022, and I am not implying that I am an expert in these skills. I am a work in progress. I recognize the importance of working on both of those areas in my life. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to then communicate to my children that they should pursue whatever makes them happy when I know that philosophy will not serve them well in adulthood.

I think we should all pursue our God-given talents. We should discover the ways He has uniquely designed us. By doing so, we can find how best we add value to the lives of those around us. Pursuing joy by seeking to make an impact in the lives of others is very important to me. If you want to say that is “doing what makes me happy,” I guess it could be that. But it’s much more than what makes me happy. I want my life to matter. I want to find fulfillment in my calling. I want to encourage my kids to do the same things as they discover their unique gifts and talents.

I didn’t buy this shirt for my daughter. Being happy is short-lived. We tend to fill our desire for happiness with temporary pursuits that don’t give us long-lasting joy. When someone asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, this was His answer.

““The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:29-31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Love the Lord. Love others. I don’t see much “do what makes you happy” in those words.

It’s something to think about as we raise our kids and consider our own life’s focus.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Neurodivergent. Brain health. These are newer terms working to remove the stigma of mental health struggles, and I am grateful for them. Some of you are really familiar with this terminology, and others have never before heard it. And that is okay. I’m not convinced that we don’t all struggle with brain health at some point in life. Some just spend a lot more time with it. I know people who have ear/nose/throat issues for much of their life, and others who seem to always have digestive problems or respiratory troubles.

But mental health/brain health has struggled to be recognized as a real, physical issue. It’s been seen as something over which the sufferer has control. They can fix it. Think about something else. Just stop acting that way. If only it was that simple. We don’t tell the asthmatic to just breathe normally.

I am very grateful that in 2022, resources are greatly expanded for neurodivergent people. Kids who don’t fit into the neurotypical mode are able to receive help that meets them where they are. They can be treated according to their abilities and their struggles, not expected to fit into a typical box. It is a lot more work to understand the neurodivergent child. Once you think you get them, then they grow to puberty and you have to start all over again.

I sat in a meeting today to help define ways my child needs assistance to succeed in school. That’s a really nice way of saying that we had to list many “shortcomings” or ways in which this child is not neurotypical. I cried when it was over. These people care for my child and want to give her the best possible chance at success. At the same time, focusing on all the ways she is not typical was…well, sad. I was sad that she has so much to overcome in the school environment. I am so grateful for the people who stand with me and fight on behalf of this child. I really could not do this all alone. Their insight is valuable. Their care for her is beautiful. It takes a village. I have always embraced that, and today it was a gift once again.

Today I cried. Because we are fighting hard for this child, fighting to give her tools she needs and help to succeed. And I pray that she continues to find the niches in which she fits well, the skills she has that enrich her life and the lives of others, and the ways God has gifted her whether they fit into a typical mold or not.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When It’s Too Much

Some days, it’s just all too much for me. We took a little trip with the kids, and I now need a vacation from my vacation. I am exhausted, overwhelmed by the behavior of one child and the sickness of another. At the same time, I am filled with beautiful new memories of a 6 year old whose stomach bug made her vomit four times, and after one of them, she immediately prayed for Jesus to heal her tummy and help her feel better.

As I walked through the indoor waterpark, I was hit multiple times with grief for the best friend of my sixth grader whose mom is now in heaven. He will never have another fun trip memory with her, and my heart just can’t keep the tears from falling for him many days.

One child argued with us relentlessly in a restaurant. The sweet lady who brought us refills said, “Is she 12?” I said, “She sure is.” She said her granddaughter is the same age, and the mood swings are…well, in full swing.

Medical bills are due from all sides, and I struggle to keep up with everyone who wants money for something, to keep trusting God to provide, to find time to fill out paperwork and make all the phone calls and everything else needed.

And then the needs I don’t share. The words I can’t speak. The loneliness I don’t like to acknowledge, the many friends I miss and wonder why they must live so far away. It’s all too much for me. It’s too much for my mind to contain.

I fall to my knees. Three days with no time alone is a lot for me. Not even 10 minutes to think or pray…I feel it. So I pray and ask for fresh strength, for rest to feel refreshed tomorrow and the chance to find Him in each circumstance as they rise again.

I find myself drawn to worship songs that remind me of the truths I need tonight.

“I belong to Jesus. When the rain fell, when the floods came, when the wind blew, I was okay. You were right there, You’re in every step I take. When the night falls, when my heart aches, if I stumble, I will not break. You’ll be right there, You’re in every step I take.” (

One of my favorite chapters to read when life comes at me from all sides is Romans 8. This particular verse always brings me back to truth when lies invade my thoughts.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

He is for me. He is with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He has the answers, and He will show me in just the right time. I share my jumbled, overwhelmed thoughts tonight because I am guessing that at least a few lovely people reading this will have similar trains of thought steamrolling through your brains, too.

I happen to believe that it is really, really comforting to know we are not alone in the hardships we face and the struggles that seem to have no end. If you need a little comfort today, please know that I always have a listening ear, and I love to pray for others.

Let’s not waste one more day entertaining the (admittedly numerous) troubles of this world. He is greater, and He doesn’t want us to try to solve them all on our own. Lots of love to you, friends.