Something I have not shared on any of my posts until now is that I am a HUGE lover of quality family-friendly theater. You never would have guessed that if you knew me as a child!
It all started when I was about five years old. My family and I lived in Goldsboro, NC at the time. We attended a church where the pastor supported quality fine arts. He invited a Christian drama team to come to our church one summer. I was so excited when my parents decided to keep two of the female team members in our home. The thought of two college girls spending time with my family (and especially playing with my sister and me) was so thrilling to me as a five-year-old. I can remember going into their bedroom, sitting on the bed with my feet dangling on the side, and quietly watching them unpack. I was so excited, but scared at the same time. I was so shy that I didn’t know what to say, so I just sat there.
When we got to church the next morning, I saw something that I had never seen before: a stage with a backdrop and complete set . . . right there on my church’s platform! They were performing an excerpt from the play that was being performed later that night. The one thing I remember about the morning’s performance was that the two girls who stayed in our house were the two main characters. The evening performance played a pivotal role in my life in more ways than one. The performance was held in the fellowship hall. The church we attended also had a large Christian school (I believe over 1,000 students attended at the time). The school’s drama class met downstairs in the fellowship hall, and there was a stage set up on one end, so it was only natural for us to have the performance there. When we arrived for the performance that night, they had several rows of metal chairs set up for the audience. There was a sound and light board set up which I had never seen before. As a five-year-old, I was intrigued with all of the buttons, wires, and other contraptions that were connected. My family and I sat in the center on the end. When the play started, I was too small to see over the head of the person in front of me, so I stood up in my chair. The play they performed was a Biblical one. The main thing I remember is that there was a guy playing the part of either Satan or an evil spirit, and he ran through the audience right past me at one point!! It scared me so much that I screamed the rest of the night!! However, God used that ministry in my life in an incredible way. When I went home that night, something sparked deep inside my soul. I obviously didn’t know how it was going to happen at the time, but God used that ministry to put the desire in my heart to get involved in Christian drama. That was three years before I became a Christian!
My family and I moved out of town a few years later, and we started attending another church that offered something else I had never experienced: children’s church. One of my favorite parts of children’s church was story time. Our storyteller was also the high school Speech and Drama teacher at the new Christian school where my sister and I attended. I used to sit on the edge of my seat and soak up every character, facial expression, gesture, and everything about her narration that I could possibly grasp. I wanted so badly to be able to tell stories like that, but there was one problem: I was so shy at that time in my life that I turned inside out when anyone spoke to me! It wasn’t until I started middle school when I finally got serious about my performing arts desires. I was one of two 6th graders who represented my school in a statewide fine arts competition in poetry recitation. I came in second place behind my classmate! The very next year, I took my first Speech class . . . taught by none other than our children’s church storyteller. At that time, the Speech class was so small that the school could not justify splitting it into middle school and high school, so I was one of two 7th graders in a class with 9th through 12th graders. In all, we had about 15 students in the class. Our first assigned speech was a memorized paragraph taken from a famous speech. I think mine came from one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. I was so nervous that I was shaking uncontrollably. My skin turned a ghostly shade of white, and I had red splotches all along my arms and neck! One thing I learned from that experience is that it is much more difficult to perform in front of a class of 15 to 20 people than it is for a crowd of 1,000. In a smaller group, you can actually see each individual staring right at you! My teacher encouraged me to relax. She knew that I was not as experienced as most of the others in the class, but she saw something in me that she knew how to draw out in order to help me improve.
God used so many other circumstances and individuals in my life to help me continue to develop my gifts. It wasn’t always easy, but nothing in life ever is. I attended a Christian college in South Carolina where I studied Performing Arts. There were times when I got discouraged and came close to giving up and changing my major, but God did not allow that to happen. My Senior year of college, I won the Commencement Contest in Performance of Dramatic and Narrative Literature. God gave me numerous opportunities to perform on the university’s main stage in front of 3,000-4,000 people.
My ministry today involves the children in my church. I adapt Christian children’s novels for weekly stories. I want the children in my church today to enjoy the same things I enjoyed as a child. I want them to learn life lessons at the same time. Some of the best lessons I learned were during story time in children’s church with my Speech teacher. I even use some of the same stories with my children that she used when I was a child.
My point with all of this is that God’s work in our lives is amazing! From the beginning of time, He has shown that He will use anyone and anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to accomplish His purpose. Joseph was a shepherd boy who later became second in command under Pharoah. God used him to protect an entire nation from starvation. Ruth was a simple Moabite, but God chose her to be part of the Kingly line of Christ. Just as I have said over and over in my posts about running, my strength and confidence in performing comes from God alone. God has a specific message that He wants me to give to my children, and He has a specific method in which He wants me to do it: storytelling. Who would have thought that a shy young girl who almost fainted during one of her early speeches would perform years later in front of a crowd of thousands of people?! I am reminded of Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. My desires in performing and in running started with a spark that God placed in my heart. Every circumstance He has planted along the way has taught me that no matter how difficult the circumstance may be, I can be confident in my abilities because they were divinely placed by God Himself to accomplish His purposes in my life and in the lives of those who He wants me to reach!
Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!