A Smiling Six

Abby Mae turned six on Friday.

Her smile says it all.  I have zillions of pictures of her, but this one makes the top ten without question.  Sheer joy encompassed her in the Chuckie Cheese ticket blaster as she frantically grabbed at colored scraps swirling all around, shrieking with delight.

And to think I almost didn’t get to write this.

Nothing short of miraculous is her life.  Even her birthdate, 3-16, symbolizes the hand of God upon her soul.  I tell the whole story in one of my favorite blog posts titled 3-16, linked below.

https://drinkingfromthewell.com/2017/03/16/3-16/

 

Never Stop Singing

Have you ever had a dream crushed in an instant?

The aftermath can last long.  Like 25 years.

As a child, I loved to play outside.  My favorite was the swing.  I could swing for hours and hours, cherishing the rocking motion that moved my wiggly body high into the sky.  But better still was what I did while I swung.

Sing.

Oh, how I loved to sing!  I dreamt constantly of being a worship leader at church someday, writing my own songs, and leading others in praise to God.  Most of the time, I sang just for Him.  Songs I knew from church and school.  Songs I’d heard on the record player.  Even songs I made up as I went along, belting them out at the top of my lungs, arms extended and free, smiling and twirling all around, shining before my Best Friend.

Until one chilly winter day.

Sixth grade came with many changes in my life.  My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, so my family moved closer to help during her illness.  I switched schools (as I had the previous year), and within the first week of attending, I encountered a difficult situation in, of all things, music class.

The teacher, whom I happened to like very much, asked the class of about 20 to go around the room and sing two lines of a common song so that she could hear the sound of each voice.  Everyone complied as did I when my turn arrived around child 16 or so, but as I finished, something horrible happened.

Everyone laughed.  Even the teacher smothered a grin.

At first, I thought something silly had happened, like a poster falling off the wall and sticking to the bushy, well-plastered hairdo seated behind me.  But as I glanced around, reality struck hard and fast as tears filled my eyes.  I sunk lower in my seat.  The teacher held up her hands and motioned for the kids to settle down.

“Now, now,” she said with too big of a smile, “we are all different and have different sounds.  That’s why I want to hear all of you.  Next, please.”  And just like that, she moved onto number 17 but not before the damage was done.

Two short lines had broken my heart.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t really given much thought to how I sounded.  Ever.  I had always sung for an audience of One, enjoying the sheer joy of the experience simply for “the doing” of it.  Comparison and competition weren’t on my radar.

Not until the moment when I thought others labeled me “horrible”.

In retrospect, I think I totally misread the reason for their laughter that day.  My father had affectionately and appropriately nicknamed me Little Mouse during my toddler years because my voice was high and squeaky.  When I’d sung the two lines, I now believe neither my teacher nor the other students expected such a high pitch to come out of me, hence their surprised response.

But for years, I’d thought they laughed at me and my singing, so, unfortunately, I believed “them”.  I bore my wound in silence until many years later.  I could’ve ended the pain that day, that miserable moment in sixth grade, by quitting.  Tossed my records and tapes, lyrics and chords, background vocal tracks and piano music into the trash, determining once and for all to never succumb to such ridicule again.

However, there was one ginormous complication to this would-be arrangement.

I couldn’t stop singing.

Tunes kept popping out when I least expected.  I sang while playing in my room, riding my bike, taking a shower, unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog, riding in the car.  So I adjusted to my perceived reality, hiding behind powerful voices in choirs and groups but never attempting a solo.  Over time, I sang more and more, joining various worship teams, deciding the risk was worth it.  More and more contemporary Christian worship music kept coming out, and as it did, I couldn’t keep my song in.

I’m grateful I didn’t.

Today, I’m the Children’s Ministry Worship Leader at my church.  I’ve written and directed a children’s Christmas musical, and I recorded my first song with Nat Jenkins Music last week.  Not to mention all of the FUN my family has singing in our home!

No bragging here.  God gets all the glory for everything good in my life.  I’m well aware that apart from a lot of heart-healing and by His grace, all of these things (and countless others) would never have happened.

I simply share my story to encourage you to never stop using and developing the gifts God’s given you.  No matter the criticism, no matter the struggle.  Hide in the choir for awhile if need be, that’s okay, but don’t give up.  Never, never give in and allow your wounds to define who you are.  He can give you the courage to face your fears, His love to heal your hurting heart, and the strength to rise and try once again.

And sing.

Looking at Me

My husband recently returned from a much-needed getaway to California with some friends, and while he was away, my little Abby Mae fantasized continually about his return.  She drew an adorable picture of the two of them.

“We’re looking at each other,” she said with a faraway look in her eye, head tilted slightly to one side.  She taped the picture to the front door and chatted endlessly about his return.  This went on for the entire four days.

“I can’t wait for him to sit next to me at supper!”

“Do you think he is thinking about me?”

“I just want to kiss him right now!”

Upon his return, Christian found his ardent admirer asleep in bed with visions of Daddy dancing through her head.  A smile graced her lips, and she wore the pajamas she thought he would most like.  He kissed her brow and set a souvenir t-shirt bedside the lavender butterfly lamp, taking a minute to watch her sleep, gurgling and snoring softly, unable to be roused.

When she woke in the morning, she wept when she realized he’d gone again until she saw the shirt.  This consoled her a bit, to know he’d been near, and in a few long hours, she would once again bask in his presence.  She donned the shirt with happy giggles and spun around all pink and pretty.

“I want him to see me in my new shirt that he picked out just for me when he gets home tonight.”  Her little brow furrowed.  “Mommy, what was Daddy wearing when he came home?”

Then at long last, the moment arrived.  She squealed and ran to his open arms, vying for her spot among the others, savoring every second of Daddy’s homecoming.  He took a moment to properly greet everyone, and then he swooped Abby into his arms again.  She stared at him, breathless, cupping his scratchy chin in her hand, smiling all the while.

“Oh, I missed you, Daddy!  You were gone forever!”  She rubbed her palm over his black wool coat, savoring the scratchy cool feeling under her skin.  He held her close, beaming as he spoke gently to her.  Her eyes shone as she quietly nodded and offered brief responses peppered with giggles.

The older two lumbered into the kitchen, heading straight for him, so he carefully set her down with a parting smile.  Knowing they needed him, she gladly stepped aside and could contain her joy no longer.

“Daddy’s home!  Daddy’s home!”  She twirled around the kitchen, arms outstretched, shrieking with delight, singing and soaring all at once.  He glanced over and smiled at her.  “My daddy’s home, and he’s looking at me!”

All was now right with the world.  Daddy was home.

I’m grateful that my husband has taken care to cultivate a loving, attentive relationship with her.  In the midst of all his pursuits and opportunities, he has made family a priority, and we are grateful.  He daily strives to show us the love of Christ in the way he leads our home, moment by moment, step by step.

The name Abigail means, “My Father is joy,” referring specifically to God.  I think the reciprocal way she and Christian adore each other is a beautiful picture of our relationship with God.  He delights in us because he sees us through the blood of Jesus, and in turn, we can freely let ourselves love Him with everything that we are.

Abby does.  She sings to Him all the time:

“God makes the trees so tall

He grows the grass so high

He makes the flowers grow

And puts the clouds in the sky.”

She thinks He’s GREAT and compares everything to Him.  “Is our house bigger than God?” “Was Samson stronger than God?”  “Is a tornado more powerful than God?”

In the same way she adores her daddy, Abby loves a God she has never seen but knows is real.  He made her and died for her and saved her . . . He’s her Superhero “forever and ever!”  She even made a special drawing (above) of she and God, saying, “we are looking at each other with love.”

Even though she’s only four, it’s evident to all who know her that little Abby feels deeply loved and forever cherished by her Heavenly Father.  May we all experience the same, knowing He delights in us, thrilling in His presence,  our hearts exclaiming, “He’s looking at me!”