Have you ever been so nervous you feel like you might have a panic attack right there on the spot? Maybe you have been so nervous you felt like you might be sick. I have been there on all accounts. Sometimes, the feeling of nervousness is expected. Perhaps I will be giving a presentation or playing a new song. Sometimes, a wave of fear washes over me before I make an important phone call or come face-to-face with a challenging situation. To be nervous before events such as these is warranted or even expected, but what if the nervousness, panic, and stress hits out of nowhere for no apparent reason?
I contemplated this idea recently as I was reading about someone else’s encounter with nerves. It brought me back to a time when I battled a sudden onset of nervousness, and it didn’t make any sense at all. It was late in 2007, and I was getting ready to participate in a church Christmas cantata. I would be opening the concert with a solo, and the orchestration behind me required a great deal of attention and concentration since the time signature wasn’t typical. I really had to count to make sure I had my entrance right on the beat. If I started to sing a moment too early or a moment too late, I would throw off the rest of the choir and the pre-recorded track would be out of sync. Naturally, I was nervous about the song and a little anxious about the concert itself, but what didn’t make sense was the near-panic I was experiencing.
I had been singing for years; being on the stage was nothing new to me. Why did this concert make me want to hide in my bedroom and forget about the whole thing? I wanted to avoid the upcoming evening more than anything. I wondered if I could call in sick, but that thought was quickly abolished. I couldn’t do that to the choir and director. Everyone had worked so hard. I knew I had to come through for the group and put forward my contribution. So I took a deep breath, prayed for confidence and that my nerves would be calmed, and I left for the concert.
A similar attack of nervousness occurred as I was preparing to direct YLF last summer. I was packing and organizing when I encountered an unpleasant surprise in my bathroom. I won’t get into all of the details, but needless to say, the unfortunate incident caused me to doubt my competency as a director. I stared to wonder if I would ever succeed in that capacity. If I couldn’t handle certain domestic tasks around the house, how could I possibly be responsible for 25 other people at a camp. I started to panic; my nerves were out of control.
And then there was the time I planned to travel home from a conference. I tried to arrange a ride from the airport, and it didn’t seem like anyone would be free to come and pick me up. Someone suggested to me that I call the airport shuttle service. I immediately balked at the idea. There was no way I was going to take on the task of navigating the gigantic MSP airport, somehow find ground transportation, and then get on the airport shuttle. That was just too much for a visually impaired girl to handle! There was no way I could ever accomplish something like that! I held out for a ride, and in the end, my parents traveled out of their way to come and pick me up from the airport.
So what do these three instances have in common? Well, in each case, I gave in to panic instead of reaching out to the One who could help me. I let fear of the unknown and perhaps an attack from the Enemy slip in and derail my confidence. I have always believed that there is no such thing as self-confidence. In fact, in my work at YLF, I even try to shy away from that term. I have always considered my independence and success a direct correlation to where God has brought me and how He is working in my life. With the knowledge of His presence in my life comes a sense of confidence in His protection and provision. But in the times mentioned above, my confidence in His divine presence was largely diminished.
It pains me to recount my lack of trust toward Him as I endured the above circumstances. As I look back though, I have seen how He came through for me even in the face of my doubt. I sang the best I could the night of the concert, and I managed to stay on beat. People were blessed that night through our performance. As for YLF, our week went pretty well. Yes, we had some minor issues and concerns, but overall, God protected us and gave us great success in our endeavors. And as for the airport shuttle, I can now report that I have managed to take the shuttle twice now in different trips back and forth from MSP. The first time was definitely overwhelming, but God paved the path in front of me through a wonderful airport employee named Roosevelt.
In the end, I have learned that fear and anxiety are not from God; both are a result of the world’s negative view of success and the manipulation of the Enemy. I need to remember to seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him for the strength I need to endure each challenge on the horizon. Only then can I truly leave irrational fears behind and relinquish the nerves that are holding me captive. Forget about self-confidence; I have God-confidence!


I was thinking about Paul’s ministry recently. For those of you who are not as familiar with this biblical leader, Paul was a Jewish Pharisee who was zealously persecuting Christians in the early church until one day, Jesus stopped Him along the road to Damascus and Paul’s life was changed forever. In the months and years to come, Paul faced the challenge of proving to Christians and Jesus’s disciples that he had truly changed and was not the man he used to be. At first, he was not received well among the brothers until a man named Barnabas intervened.
The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement,” and encourage is exactly what he did. He took Paul under his wing and gave him the motivation to keep serving even when the road ahead was difficult. The two became partners in the ministry: one who was passionate about evangelism and the other who was passionate about encouraging the one whom God had called to serve.
As I was thinking about Barnabas, I considered the people in my life who have Barnabas-like characteristics. I thought of the woman I affectionately call Mama Dori. Dori is a sweet lady in our congregation who exudes peace, joy, and seemingly limitless energy. She claims that she can’t sing a note but that she loves to worship. She often approaches me or Vanessa after a service and thanks us for our ministry. She can sometimes sense when we need a little lift…. when things get stressful or after we’ve just played a difficult song. She often suggests new worship songs that we should play and then she is the first to give positive feedback once we play it live. Mama Dori is my worship and music Barnabas.
Paul, Vanessa’s husband, has also been a Barnabas to me in worship ministry. Since his wife, Vanessa, is active in OneVoice and worship in general, Paul has taken an active role in supporting everything we do. He is also passionate about worship within the church, so he is often one of the first to share a kind word of encouragement before or after a service. I can’t put words to what his encouragement has meant to me over the past few months. Just a few words from him in passing is all it takes to bring a smile to my face and put a spring in my step. To know that he supports what we do has been a huge motivator for me.
Joe and Greg have been my YLF Barnabas figures. When I first took over as director, it was a difficult transition. Joe had passed along to me what I would need to set things in motion, but the transition did not come without setbacks. I faced a great deal of adversity that came through the form of two challenging staff members. Over the first few months of my time in leadership, I endured harsh criticism from these individuals, and one even had the audacity to tell me that I wouldn’t make a good director at all and that it was only a matter of time before I crumpled under the pressure. At one point, I was ready to resign, and I shared my concerns and stress over email with Joe. But Joe wasn’t about to let me give up the fight. He assured me that I had the training and skills to move forward and that I shouldn’t give those naysayers a foothold over my drive for success.
Joe is no longer available to me as frequently now, but Greg has stepped up and become an encourager of sorts. Whenever times get rocky in the YLF camp, Greg is quick to offer a kind or comforting word. I can remember one such instance when I had just endured a confrontation with one of the naysayers. Tears were running down my face and I could barely speak, but Greg sat across the table from me and offered his silent support. It was one memorable time when his encouragement didn’t come in the form of words but in a tangible, unspoken form.
In thinking about my Bananas encouragers, I stopped to consider how I might offer similar encouragement to others. I must admit that encouragement is not my strong suit. I am a leader, yes, but I am often so self-driven that I don’t stop to think that the people under my leadership might need some guidance and support. At the risk of sounding like an excuse, I think this stems from the fact that I am fiercely independent. Yes, I have thrived from the encouragement from others, but once I am motivated, I am driven to finish. That’s why I said I am self-driven. This can be good for me but also negative in many ways. I need to remember that I am not alone in this journey forward and that others need my encouragement and support. I need to reach out to others like Greg, Joe, Paul, and Dori have done for me. Perhaps someone needs me to be a Barnabas to them. So I am moving forward now with a self-prescribed challenge. It is time to encourage others, and I have one of the best examples in Barnabas as I move forward.

Playing the Part

When I was a teenager, my aunt Jenifer began directing a production called “Celebrating a Savior.” The drama was a unique presentation in that it was set to music and each of the cast members wore the white makeup that is commonly associated with clowns. But the cast members were not true clowns; their performance was not comedic in any nature but more of a dramatic portrayal. The production tells the story of Jesus from His birth, life and ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
As a fifteen-year-old, I was cast as one of the ten lepers healed by Jesus during His ministry. It was a challenging role for me to play because I had to dance and leap off the stage upon being healed, and since I am visually impaired, I was always concerned that the blinding spotlight would play tricks on my eyes and I would go tumbling off the stage and seriously get hurt. I was so stressed out by the part that I enlisted the help of the other cast members.
“Make sure I don’t get too close to the edge of the stage,” I would tell the others. “Someone, please grab my hand so we can run off stage together. Please, don’t forget about me!”
At one point, I asked Jenifer why she hadn’t cast me as the blind man who is healed by Jesus. “I could play that part so well,” I told her. She responded that she didn’t want to type cast, and although I could see her point, I was still frustrated with the role I had to play. There was only one role that I felt I could portray well in the show and that was immediately after the intermission/ offering.
Since I wasn’t needed onstage during the crucifixion scene, I joined a few other cast members in sitting sporadically through the audience as the scene began. At the appropriate time, the cast members rose to their feet in the crowd, raised their hands, and portrayed the outcry: “Crucify Him!” Oh, how easy it was for me to follow the cue in the music and respond with that one simple action! You see, the cast prayed before each show and we gave our voices up to God. So for a blind girl who relies on auditory cues, a production such as this was challenging for me. But “Crucify Him!” was uncomplicated and only took about five seconds.
I happened to catch a performance of this same production just last week, and memories of that Spring in my freshman year of high school came back to me. I watched the cast members in the roles I used to play and one line from a scene leapt into my consciousness:
“Forced to play in this drama a part I did not wish to play…”
This line from the crucifixion scene and “Watch the Lamb” suddenly had new meaning for me. I heard a child crying in the row behind me, and I turned my head slightly to make sure he or she was okay. The sanctuary was dark, but I could see the child’s head turned and their eyes directed toward the Jesus figure making His way down the center aisle with the cross upon His back. My eyes misted with tears when I through about the child’s tender heart. He or she must have come to terms with the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and it forced me to come full circle.
I thought about the lepers healed by Jesus earlier in the show and how only one of those lepers had come back to thank Him. I remembered how stressful playing that role had been for me, and how in real life, it was just as hard. Sometimes, I don’t stop to thank the Lord for everything He has given to me. I go about my day, from here to there, hardly pausing to talk to Him unless I have some urgent need. Thankfulness is not always on my lips or at the center of my heart, and it pained me to come to that realization that night as I sat and watched the show.
I found it was still far too easy to raise my hand up, point toward Jesus, and cry out “Crucify Him!” No, I have not actually said those words, but I found I crucify Him a little each day with the careless words I say, my sinful deeds, and oftentimes hiding the knowledge that I know Him at all. I thought about the people in Jerusalem who praised and honored Him on Palm Sunday, only to turn their backs on Him on Friday as He was led to be crucified. Some authors and commentators have said that maybe this was due to the fact that expectations were unfulfilled. Instead of coming as an earthly king to deliver the people from taxation and government rule, Christ came as a King not of this world. The people were confused and longing for the Messiah. He had come, only many chose not to believe.
I thought about how easy it can be to walk away when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations today. Maybe our prayers seem to go unanswered or His plan doesn’t make any sense. It can be so easy to love and praise Him when things are going well, but when hard times come, we can tend to walk away because it seems He isn’t coming through for us. Depending on the situation, we can also tend to respond like Peter and deny His presence in our lives.
I don’t want to play the part of a townsperson anymore. I don’t want to be a Peter. I want to be the thankful leper instead— the only leper who came running back to Jesus with a grateful heart just to say “thank you.” I want to enter into this resurrection season, and every day, with the knowledge that Jesus paid the ultimate price for me. It is a sacrifice beyond any I could ever comprehend in earthly terms. But even though I will never understand fully, I can still believe and hold to the greatest promise of all: He is risen and has given His life for me that I might have eternal life!

In the Gray

I share this story from the stage quite often. It is the story behind my song “Footsteps.” I wrote the song in parts; the inspiration struck me on the day I was graduating from college, but I didn’t actually write the song until nine months later.
It was a foggy and dreary December morning in northwest Iowa. It was cold enough and the right time of year that it should have been snowing. The fog and mist was thick and my English major brain immediately compared the weather that morning to the state of my life. Just like the fog that hung over our college campus, there was a fog draped over my life’s journey. I would be graduating later that day with no real plan for my future. I didn’t have a ring on my finger so there would be no Mrs. Degree. I didn’t have any job prospects, and I would be moving in with my parents. I couldn’t help but cry out to Jesus in that moment in time. “What comes next, Jesus?” I practically said out loud. ‘Where do I go from here?” The confusion and uncertainty for my future was so great that I couldn’t process much else at that time. I told myself, however, that some day I would write a song about the emotions screaming through me on that pivotal morning.
As my life and career unfolded in the coming months and years, I thought that the fog and uncertainty stage was long in the past. But I soon realized that the fog would roll in again. I faced deep soul-searching as I contemplated going back to school to pursue my Masters in Ministry Leadership. Although there was no physical fog present, I was in the midst of painful depression and overwhelming sickness. Nothing seemed to be panning out in the way I had hoped, and I could only pray that I was making the right decisions as I pursued my education. Eventually, my plan for ministry became clear, but it took some time for the proverbial fog to dissipate.
At least I know that there is promise on the horizon and that eventually God clears away the doubt and fear to reveal His plan. But once more, the fog has rolled in and covered my professional life. I am in the process of planning for YLF this summer, and while things are progressing pretty well, I am still not certain of my role. I have been director for about two years now. I am comfortable with the program and know how everything works, but there is a small part of me that wonders about my purpose. There have been times when my involvement just doesn’t seem right. YLF is not a Christian organization, but still, I feel that I can be a light for Jesus in that environment. But at other times, my zest for ministry is squelched in that environment, and I wonder if I should be putting more work and energy into church-based ministry that would enhance my worship leading capacities.
I have always prayed that God would show me the road I must take in regards to YLF. I have asked Him to make it clear when or if I am suppose to move on. But day by day, week by week, He has kept the door open for me to serve. So even though the fog is thick, dense, and very gray at times, I have to look at the circumstances as if they are in black and white. God knows the path I must take in my future endeavors, I just need to trust Him when I can’t exactly see what’s ahead. In the meantime, I will keep serving until it is time to go.