One of my favorite Bible passages is Proverbs 3:5-6, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”. As a believer, I know that God is directing my way, but since the definition of faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, many times it can feel like a guessing game. Am I on the right path? Is this where I am supposed to be?
The week before the IMEA awards ceremony, these verses became very real to me. I had decided to go and look for something to wear to the program. Those of you who know me know that going to buy clothes is not my favorite thing to do. I avoid it as much as possible. Part of the reason for this is that it is hard to find good customer service. It takes me a long time to figure out what I want, and having someone who knows what he or she is doing can be a great help.
So, reluctantly, I decided to try anyway. After not finding my size at the store closest to me, I went to Atlanta. After entering the first store there, I was greeted by a gentleman named David who asked if he could help me. I told him I was just looking, and he said that if I needed anything to let him know–”I have been doing this for 20 years, so you will be in good hands.” David had a great talent for engaging me in conversation. He asked if I was looking for something for a special occasion, and I told him I would be attending a music awards show next week. We found a jacket, tie, and shirt, and while I was getting ready to try them on, he asked where the show was being held. When I told him Ashland, Kentucky, he dropped the hangers he was holding and said, “Did you say Ashland, Kentucky?” He then told me that he had spent much of his childhood in Ashland, that his mother had grown up there, and that of the seven million people in Atlanta, he had never met anyone who had even heard of Ashland. He then told me of all the great places to eat, especially Chimney Corner Cafe, about the historic bridges that connect Kentucky with Ohio, and his memories of the landmark Paramount Theater where the show was to be held.
Later, as I was trying on a shirt, he asked me what kind of music I wrote and performed, and I described the music and said the lyrics are Christian and faith-based. Without skipping a beat, David showed me a hand-carved, wooden cross that he had with him. Not only did he know everything about the town I was planning to visit, but he also shared the same faith.
As I was making my purchase before leaving the store, I told him I liked the cross and its craftsmanship, and he told me that a friend of his had made it for him, and that it was a reminder that God is with him everyday. Three days later, I received a cross just like it in the mail! David explained to me that it belonged to his wife, but that they both wanted me to have it when I went to Kentucky. His friend was going to make her another cross.
David also sent me the Bible verse from Psalm 118:24 that says “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”, and told me to remember this on my big night. Before I was ready to perform, I said the verse to myself, and it really brought me into the moment and made me so aware that God, the Maker of the Universe, had also made this night, and I was blessed enough to be part of it.
As I mentioned in earlier posts, the IMEA nomination came out of nowhere. It was a complete surprise. After the meeting with David, it became clear to me why it was happening. For a few days, it was as if the veil had been lifted, and I was seeing firsthand that, yes, God is directing my paths. The connection I had made that day in Atlanta went beyond coincidence. In fact, it was so powerful, I felt I had already received my “award”, and considered not even making the trip to the ceremony.
Of course, I am very happy I went. Colt Chambers and his group from IMEA and the Paramount Players were so kind to me. For example, the soundcheck went quicker than expected, and even though I had arrived before mine was scheduled, it had already concluded. Nevertheless, everyone in the theater came together to hear me practice and were cheering me on the entire time. What a great group of people! I also had the privilege of presenting the Female Vocalist of the Year Award in Christian Music to Katelyn McCarter, and I was honored that she presented me with my award for Male Vocalist of the Year in the same category. When you have a chance, please listen to her song “Free from Me”. She is an amazing talent.
I have kept the cross I carried to Kentucky with me everyday since I received it. It is a reminder of the gifts I was given through this experience: (1) the assurance that God is putting it all together by making seemingly impossible connections and giving unexpected honors; (2) a lifelong friend in David, who is now like family to me; (3) new friends, who not only give their all to their own talents, but also appreciate the talent in others; (4) the best group of family and friends who support me every step of the way, (and even though the votes only counted one-fifth of the results, still voted enough to crash the server!) and (6) a heart that is still glad and rejoicing.