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A Practice Story To Make Donald Miller Proud

I had the opportunity to go on the KLOVE cruise last February with my husband and some friends to the Bahamas. I was looking forward to not only getting away from my mothering responsibilities and going somewhere tropical, but I was excited to meet the musicians and go to their concerts.

A few weeks before the trip, an email crosses my desk that advertises a “Cruise Got Talent” competition. Like American Idol, cruisers can try out before a panel of judges, and the Top 10 sing onstage. Now, I’ve dreamt of being a superstar since I first heard Amy Grant, but I’m 40ish now. That ship has sailed. But when I get this email, I think, “But I’m going to be ON that ship!” But I quickly dismiss the thought. I don’t want to humiliate myself! That competition is for the 20something crowd. I need to enjoy my vacation and not stress about trying to impress some judges with my over 40 voice.

The night before the competition, I’m sitting in the Newsboys concert thinking about the auditions I’m NOT going to. I start praying, “God, I don’t want to embarrass myself. Why am I still thinking about it? Am I supposed to be trying out for this?” As I’m praying, I remember something my son Ethan told me 2 months before. He woke up one morning and said, “Mom, last night I dreamt you sang for KLOVE.” At the time, I thought, “Aw. That’s so sweet! My son thinks I’m good enough to sing on KLOVE!” I felt encouraged and left it at that, until now.

Crap. I have to try out, I think. My son actually dreamt I sang on KLOVE, and now here I sit praying about it, and that’s what comes to my mind. God? Are you responsible for this little situation here? For the past several months before that, I had been planning our church’s women’s retreat on how to live a better story with your life. My favorite author Donald Miller wrote a book about it. How we need to start doing those things that make us fully alive. And I had been searching for those stories. I knew that if I was going to get up and teach about living a better story, I had to do it first. Double crap.

And so the next morning I find myself standing in line for the audition.

When it is my turn, I am led into a room with a panel of judges from KLOVE. 3 of them work for the station, and one of them sings on it: Mandisa is one of the judges. Seriously? I’m singing for Mandisa? This is funny stuff. She actually was ON American Idol and now has an amazing music career. Wow. How did I get here? Oh yeah, I prayed and God reminded me of a dream my son had that I sang for KLOVE. Good grief.

Mandisa is all smiles, and all I can think is “please God don’t let me be that person who thinks she can totally sing and all the judges are freaking out wondering who told this girl she could sing.” But as I sing away, there’s Mandisa bouncing along with the biggest grin like I am the most amazing singer she has ever heard. And I am beaming. “I am AMAZING!” I think. “Forget the Top 10! I’m gonna WIN this thing! Mandisa thinks I ROCK!” I leave the audition pretty proud of myself.

Imagine my surprise when I don’t even make the top 10! I just might be that girl who thinks she can totally sing. After a few minutes of pouting, I am okay, but my husband uncharacteristically loses it. “What?!? You didn’t make Top 10? This is a sham. No way. Those judges don’t know what they are talking about.” My husband Jeff, whose name means “eternally peaceful” and lives up to that meaning ALWAYS, suddenly is not eternally peaceful. This is funny and suddenly not about me. I let him throw his fit and try to encourage him that it will be okay. Our lives will go on without my being a super star.

Before the Top 10 Competition, one of the KLOVE directors comes over to me and says, “You look familiar. Did you try out for the singing competition?” Yes, I confess. The KLOVE guy complements me on how great I did, and then my eternally peaceful husband pipes in. “Ok, so come on. What number was she? How did she do?” Seriously Jeff? The poor guy is just trying to be nice here! But the guy answers, saying how the judges went back and forth about whether or not to put me through, and I ended up number 11.

I don’t know if I feel better or worse. As we watch the Top 10 compete, I am relieved that everyone is fantastic. My biggest fear was that someone would be horrible, and I’d have to realize I lost to them.

And then number 10 gets up. With a puppet. And makes the top 3. With a puppet. A whiny doll puppet singing, “I am a friend of God.” I lost to a puppet. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. How do you lose to a singing puppet with your dignity intact? A puppet made the Top 10, and I did not.

God and I have a talk. I set out to tell a better story with my life and that better story is losing to a puppet? Seriously? I was okay with the story being about a Caribbean cruise with me in a chair and a drink in my hand. But now it’s about losing to a puppet from Las Vegas. A puppet between me and my dreams.

On the last night of the cruise right before the Mandisa concert- the one Jeff boycotts ESPECIALLY because I lost to a puppet- I talk with my friend Kathy. As funny as it is, there is a part of me asking those deeper questions about why I felt like God was telling me to audition. And Kathy says, “If for no other reason, maybe it was just an opportunity for you to be obedient to God in what you thought He was telling you to do.”

And that was it for me. I could leave my cruise satisfied knowing I had lived a better story. I overcame some fears. I met Mandisa. I obeyed God. I stepped out in faith. Because faith is believing what you can’t see, and I can’t see why God would have me lose to a puppet. I may never know why, but God will use it in my life. He already has. And hey, I got to go home and tell my son I made his dream come true. I sang for KLOVE.

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