Looking out over an audience of hundreds of people, with a microphone in my hand, I felt time stand still. It was 6:29 PM on a Sunday night in Austin, Texas. Music playing in my earphones and the countdown began, “Krista, here we go. Three, two, one…”
My mind flashed back to the kitchen I grew up playing in- white cabinets, a modest island in the middle, and my mom patiently cooking something delicious with me at her feet. I was always at her feet. Growing up a daycare baby, I always wanted to be not only in the same room as my mom, but literally at her feet. (I still feel that way!)
On this particular day, I was asking my usual thousand questions. My chosen subject to tirelessly pursue was why I never got to sing in the microphone at church. My mother was our church’s music director, so I was at every ensemble practice, praise team practice, musical practice, and piano practice. I desperately wanted to sing, but that microphone was always out of reach.
Thousands of times I begged my mom to let me sing, only to receive lecture upon lecture about how we needed to give others the opportunity to sing and how God uses people in different ways, not just as singers. Maybe this day mom was just exhausted of giving me the same speech, maybe this day I was particularly annoying, but whatever pushed the final button, this conversation changed the course of my life.
Little Krista: “Mom, I really want to sing that special in the Christmas musical this year!”
Mom: “Krista, we have been over this. I have already assigned the parts and your part is in the choir.”
Little Krista (ever the dramatist): “But you NEVER give me a solo. ALLLLLL of the other kids get solos!”
Mom: “That isn’t true. Not all of the kids get solos. There are only a couple of solos in the musical, and there are a lot of kids who don’t have solos. I need you and the others to be in the choir.”
Little Krista (impatient and ready to guilt trip): “But ALLLLLLL of the other kids have gotten solos before. You NEVER give me a solo. You’re MY mom! Don’t you love me more than the other kids?!”
Mom (ever the logical one): “Krista, I am not going to give you a solo just because you’re my daughter. I love you, but I have to be fair with everyone and not pick favorites.”
Little Krista (increasing pressure and trying to get her way): “But WHY don’t you EVER give me a solo?”
Mom (over it): “Because you can’t sing.”
Little Krista (ego deflated): “What?!”
Mom: “Krista, you are good at a lot of things, but you don’t sing on key.”
Little Krista (in real tears now, not fake ones): “But all I’ve ever wanted to do was sing for Jesus.”
Mom (finally sympathetic, but wary of my sincerity): “Well, then you’re just going to have to pray about that.”
And I did. Fervently. All I ever wanted to do was sing for God.
Fast forward a few years to Teenage Krista. Our pianist moved away so my mom moved from organist to pianist. On a Wednesday night, she came into my room and said, “I need you to play the organ tonight.”
Um. Mother. I was kicked out of piano lessons three times growing up. I didn’t want to play, I wanted to sing. Still, “I need you to play the organ tonight.”
And I did. Slowly but surely I began playing the organ. I learned to play by ear. Not well, but I did it. My heart’s desire was to sing, but let’s be honest here, that just wasn’t happening. I recorded myself one time and came to the devastating conclusion that it was true. I couldn’t sing. “On key” was a foreign concept to my vocal cords, despite my best wishes and most sincere attempts.
I continued to pray that I would someday be able to sing for God. It seemed like a weird thing to pray. I believed that God knew the desire of my heart, but I struggled questioning why that would be my heart’s desire when I wasn’t equipped to pursue it.
When I was 14, I was FINALLY old enough to join the Louisiana All State Youth Choir. My audition was terrible, but they still accepted me. To this day I’m certain that my mother pulled strings for me to get in. Oh, how I loved being a part of that choir! My raspy, froggy voice was masked behind a hundred-plus voices of extraordinary talent. It was during those years that I felt a change in my heart – I no longer cared about having a solo. I just wanted to be a part of something that inspired others to worship, even if it was just another face in a mass choir, or as a clumsy organist.
Our youth pastor moved away when I was 18. Pastor Dad and Music Director Mom asked me to step in. Overnight, I became focused on lessons, activity planning, and, gulp, music. My first youth service to play, sing, and teach, was a completely humbling experience. It was terrible. Singing was off-key, I missed a bunch of notes on the keyboard, and had a completely scattered train of thought. But people worshipped anyway. This happened again and again … until one day I realized, God didn’t care what I sounded like or how well I played. He just basked in worship.
I knew then that the desire of my heart was never actually to sing well. It was to lead others in worship. I wasn’t a great singer – to be even more transparent, I wasn’t even an OK singer – but I knew I could worship. That was something I could do. I could worship God because He deserves it at all times, in good and bad, in sickness and in health, on-key or terribly not.
My prayer to sing began to change. Over and over again, I witnessed the move of God in our youth services and in our church services after my mom finally let me praise sing. (Not sure if she was pressured by my incessant asking, or if there just wasn’t anyone else volunteering!) It didn’t seem to matter how badly I sounded, when I would forget about that and focus on Him, He always showed up and His presence overwhelmed me. Instead of praying that I would have this amazing voice, I started just praying for God to use me, shine through me. I prayed that He would be glorified in everything I do. Whether it was playing the organ or cleaning the church bathrooms. Whether it was holding microphone or organizing the platform. I stopped longing for the door to open for me to sing, and started praying that God would open doors for me to serve – even if that meant I would never sing.
The desire of my heart was to worship Him and lead others in worship. I started seeing where leading others in worship wasn’t always from the platform. In my years as a preacher’s kid in deep south Louisiana, I cleaned the church, learned how to run media, learned a little bit about sound, learned how to play the organ (still do not well!), learned how to teach about God, and jumped in to any opportunity that presented itself. I learned that all of those things were equally important. Every detail mattered in cultivating an environment for worship.
It’s funny, looking back, how the times I thought I was standing still were the times when God was pushing me forward. Each time there was a “hole” for me to fill, I didn’t realize it was God forcing me to grow and equipping me for the road ahead. I just thought I was keeping busy in the meantime. I often thought I was only playing, singing, teaching, cleaning, because there was no one else to do it. How often did I underestimate the hand of God in my life?
That’s what I was thinking over a decade later at 6:29 PM on a Sunday night in Austin, Texas- that somewhere in the meantime, when I stopped wanting to hold that microphone and started praying for other opportunities to serve God, He orchestrated the ultimate series of events that lead to the answered prayer of a bratty 8-year-old. Each time I sing or lead in worship now, I’m overwhelmed. (Honestly, I feel dizzy and nauseated every single time!)
There are so many clichés about the nature of God. People often say, “God works in mysterious ways.” I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. God is always doing thousands of things in our lives and we may only be aware of three of them because we aren’t looking at the bigger picture.
God is very intentional in everything and He loves order. The times in my life where I’ve felt chaotic are the times in my life when I didn’t trust Him. He isn’t the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33).
One thing that I have found to be true is that if you fall in love with the process, the results will come. Trust in His timing and that He hasn’t forgotten you.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Sometimes I feel guilty posting things on social media. Pictures and goofy one-liners present a rather skewed version of my life. Between the smiles, intentionally placed camera angles, and filters, there are days when I still feel completely inadequate. There are days that aren’t good days. There are days that the accurate picture of my life is a mess.
But I am learning that God still knows the desire of my heart and He still is orchestrating each piece of it. If He took the time to answer the prayers of Little Krista, He still takes the time to answer the prayers of Adult(ish) Krista. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
The prayers I pray are often clumsy. They are often selfish and don’t even scratch the surface of what He is capable of doing in my life. But He listens to me anyway. He listens when I’m quiet (which, we all know isn’t very often!). He listens when I have emotional-hypochondria. He listens when I’m sad. He listens when I’m ecstatic. And He answers my prayers. Sometimes He answers in a mighty act of valor – sometimes He answers quietly while I’m trying to make sense of the earthquake, whirlwind, and fire all around me (I Kings 19:11-12).
And He listens to you. And He answers you. So, in the words of my girl Elsa, “Let it go!” Trust Him. Trust His timing. And fall in love with the process!