Last Sunday I attended a reunion of sorts at the small church in which Spouse and I raised our kids. It felt like a passage back into time. Very little had changed in the 25 years we’d been away – same warm blue walls, identical sweet spirit of the welcoming people who currently worship there, the very same wooden pulpit from which biblical preaching had inspired me to a deeper relationship with Jesus, and … would you believe it? The same off-brand spinet piano that taught me to sing my songs and share a little Jesus-joy in front of an audience without wetting my pants.
Well, most of the time, anyway.
Memories of my music-writing phase lingered in my mind as refreshing as fresh mint on the palate. My music-writing phase lasted about ten years (you’ve gone through creative phases too, right?) and oddly enough, occurred during the busiest time of my life while my kids were newborns and fledglings. It was followed by ten years of desperate survival (which by necessity was creative in its own way) as the kids found their wings and then finally by my book writing phase when the chicks finally evacuated the nest.
I’m still in that phase today and looking forward to the next one Papa God springs on me.
It was all I could do not to rush up front during the reunion service and hug that sweet old piano. I remembered Sunday after Sunday, me standing up there, usually shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, before the same beloved and longsuffering group of believers, sharing the myriad of songs that Papa God popped unbidden into my head – some good, some not so good – but all were from my heart. My best attempt to intimately worship my Creator through the creative outlets He provided me.
(A side note here: My gift was song writing but I had no one else to sing them but me, so in order to share them, I had to do both. I only became comfortable singing in public when one day years later I ran across an old cassette tape of my then two-year-old Matthew singing “Jesus Loves Me” in his drastically off-key toddler voice and to me, it was the most beautiful sound in the world. I then realized that Papa God feels the same way about my singing, and THUD, the embarrassment wall came a tumblin’ down. I have not been ashamed to sing my songs in public ever since, and in fact, I almost always include one as a singalong at the end of my speaking engagements. Go figure – people love them!)
I learned so much at that little church. I learned how to perform in front of a crowd (which I know now was training in becoming the professional public speaker I am today). I learned not to try to liberate your wedgie while on a platform. I learned to paint pictures with words. I learned how to draw other people into worship alongside me. And I learned to watch Sarah Beach.
Sarah Beach was a dear, soft-spoken woman about a decade older than me. She taught the church preschoolers for many, many years and helped bring up both my kids to know the sweet, sweet love of Jesus. Sarah was an encourager. Not only did she encourage the wiggly, too-energetic toddlers in her care, she regularly encouraged their chronically drooping parents.
And she took on a special ministry of encouraging me in a very special way.
Every time I gathered all the courage I could muster and stood quivering in front of that small congregation, attempting to share one of my newly written songs, Sarah’s was the face I sought. Because she took it upon herself to encourage me while I cut my teeth doing something completely foreign and frightening to me at the time. I could count on Sarah’s smile beaming at me from her seat in the audience, her head nodding, her gentle shoulders swaying to the beat of the music from the first note to the last. She was right there alongside me – my biggest (and sometimes only) supporter. At least that was my perception from the platform.
When I feared I would faint, I sang to Sarah.
When I made epic blunders and choked up with tears and thought I’d never make it to the end of the song, I sang to Sarah.
When I couldn’t remember the words to the song I had written, I made up words for Sarah.
Hers was often the only smiling, encouraging face in the room. I don’t know if it was because everyone else hated my songs or if blank, emotionless, serious faces are just a byproduct of going to the church of the frozen chosen, but I’ll tell you one thing. My experience there taught me to ALWAYS react when someone is putting themselves out there on the line, sharing something meaningful from their heart.
Encouragement via engagement is such a small thing. It doesn’t hurt to smile; it only helps. Them. You. It costs us nothing to give but may mean the world to the person receiving it. It might even change their life. It did mine.
I feel sure that I would have not have had the guts to pursue a public speaking career if it hadn’t been for those broad smiles of encouragement from Sarah Beach. And I really mean that. Little bits of honest encouragement at the right time can help someone more than any sermon or Bible Study or well meaning self-help book.
So to this day I make it a point to emulate Sarah’s smile whenever someone is sharing from their heart – whether it be preaching, singing, sharing their testimony, or juggling pot-bellied pigs. If they are tying to honor Papa God by it, I’m right there alongside them and I make sure they know it by my body language.
Everyone can have a ministry of countenance encouragement like this. Even you. It’s such a small thing but truly has such an ENORMOUS impact. Won’t you join me as a smile minister, dear BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever)?
*Hey, I’ve got a new giveaway brewing and it’s a doozy. I’ll be posting the details later today at my website www.DeboraCoty.com – just hop over there and click on Freebies then the Sizzling Summer Giveaway. And while you’re there, be sure to sign up for my FREE e-newsletter to be on the cutting edge of all my news. An exciting announcement is just around the bend!
Katie Beach says
This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I know my momma would be so proud of all you have done!!!!
Katie, your sweet mama – the very Sarah in my post – will always have a special warm and fuzzy place in my heart. Love you, dearest Katie!
Beautiful tribute, Debbie! Thank you for reminding us that God works through the small things! ?
I believe that with all my heart. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Cathi. Have a Jesus-filled day!
Julie Blackmore says
Thank you sharing Debora. It is the simplest things in life that matter…”smiles are contagious”….as Ms. Sarah was encouraging you…you were encouraging Ms. Sarah…we need more Sarahs in our lives…Many continuous blessings.
I hope you are a Sarah to someone this week, Julie. That’s what I aspire to be too. Hugs, dear BFF!
Deb B says
Sarah was such an encourager in so many ways… as were you singing your songs ~ or any song of praise! I’m definitely going to work on thawing the frozen chosen expression, though. :^)
You, Deb, were never one of the frozen chosen! Love and encouragement always poured off you like hot fudge. Love you, girlfriend!
Tricia Kennedy says
Beautifully written and describes my Aunt Sarah to a tee! Thank you for reminding me how sweet & kind she was, with such a wonderful infectious spirit & soul. She loved the Lord with her whole heart. She had a way about her, I will miss forever. ??
Me too, Tricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Hugs!!!
Cheryl Johnston says
Loved this post, Deb. Everyone needs a Sarah Beach in their life. I’m sure she’d be proud to see how much you are Sarah to others.
You are so right, Cheryl – everybody needs a Sarah. I want to be a Sarah when I grow up.
Thanks for this beautiful reminder and picture of encouragement! Sarah was a person everyone loved to be around as she made you join in her smile. Somehow, smiling always makes you feel better inside!!
Sandi, you are most definitely a Sarah! Without your constant, affirming encouragement, there is no way Deb would be where she is both personally and in her writing ministry. At every step of the way, you have been there, smiling and every so supportive. We can’t thank you enough for your undying love! Friends for eternity.
I totally agree, Chuck – Sandi D. is most definitely my current-day Sarah and I can’t thank her enough for her faithful support of my writing and speaking ministry through the years. You’re the best, Sandi and Bob!
Penny Cooke says
I love this, Debora. Encouragement through engagement…ministry of countenance encouragement – a ministry all of us can do. Thanks for sharing and giving us all a new ministry to be part of.
Penny – thanks so much for taking the time to write. You may not realize it, but that’s part of your encouragement through engagement to me! I don’t hear from my readers/BFFs very often and when I do, it sends my spirit soaring. Hugs to you, sweet gal!
Betty Combee says
So glad Sarah encouraged you in your music because we were all so blessed by it, including our children, in the early days of our church. Loved how you put Scriptures to music. It helped me remember them, and I can still sing them today! Like “Call on the Lord and He will answer you…”
Also grateful that you encouraged me to sing even though I didn’t have any confidence in my voice. You made a big difference! I’m no super star by any means, but I love to sing now and even rapped a song in front of 100 ladies to whom I spoke at a Christmas Breakfast last year. Thanks, Debbie!
Wow – hat’s off to you, Betty. I haven’t attempted rapping yet, and with my sense of rhythm, I probably shouldn’t. Ever. I was the kid in the helmet that Richard Dreyfuss was trying to teach rhythm by beating on his head with drumsticks in “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Guess I’ll stick to the piano.
Frances Ledford says
I love this. Sometimes it’s really hard to find someone in a congregation with a pleasant expression, much less a smile! After years of traveling singing in different churches, I sure learned how much a smile means to others. I love being a “smile minister”!
P.S. I’m looking forward to hearing you speak at First Methodist Church here in Franklin, NC!
Frances, my goodness! How are you feeling? I heard about your horrible fall and was praying for you. Are you up and about now? (I’m looking forward to coming to the Fraklin First UMC on Aug 19 at 6:30 pm – please help us spread the word!!)