On Saturday, our girls had dance recital. Adelade is just finishing up her seventh year of dance, and Emerald her first. Dance recital is always an exciting and fun time of the year. There’s a certain feeling in the air as the parents and grandparents find their seats, flowers in hand, waiting to watch their (probably somewhat mediocre) dancers take the stage. There is something so darn sweet and cute about watching your regular girl transform into a graceful, cursty-ing, sparkly little dancer. It’s almost as if she is getting to live out the ballerina fantasy right in front of your eyes, and it’s adorable to watch.
All of us parents sit nervously, waiting to see what our child will do. Will she smile? Will she freeze up on stage? Will she remember her steps? But, over and over, the little herds of dancers come out on the big stage, and over and over, they do something close to what their teachers have taught them to do. They dance. They try. And we all walk away feeling like we got what we expected–a sweet shining moment, our girl one little dancer among many, but didn’t she show a special little something out there, we say. Wasn’t she especially poised or didn’t she smile just a little bit brighter than anyone else?
But, at our dance recital this year, one mama got something she wasn’t expecting. A group of small dancers, maybe kindergarten or first graders, had just done a pretty adorable dance in their sparkly outfits. At the end of the dances, the girls usually skip or run off the stage, blowing kisses and smiling their widest smiles. This dance was no exception. The girls hit their final pose of the number and immediately started heading for the wings, blowing kisses as they went.
All except one.
One little girl headed in the opposite direction, right up to the edge of the stage, in the vicinity of where she knew her mother was sitting in the audience. All of her fellow dancers were already off stage when she put her hand up to shield her eyes from the bright stage lights. As soon as she spotted her mom, she loudly and urgently told her, “I need my underwear!”
The whole place erupted in laughter and applause for the little girl who seemed to have no notion that she might be doing something there that would be considered slightly uncouth at a sparkly, frilly dance recital. It took us all quite a few minutes to compose ourselves before the next dancers took the stage.
After the recital was over, I went backstage to pick up Emerald, and I saw the little girl’s mother, still giggling with her hand to her forehead, shaking her head back and forth as she remembered the hilarious moment. She hadn’t ordered a DVD of the recital beforehand, but she told other mothers around her that she was definitely ordering one after her daughter’s not-so-subtle confession in front of the audience.
That mama didn’t exactly get what she expected at dance recital this year. But, in the end, what she got ended up being a much more memorable experience than just watching her daughter be a sparkly dancer in a sea of sparkly dancers.
I think I know how she feels.
The day before dance recital, I yelled like a crazy person as Chad crossed the stage at Southwestern Seminary to accept the beautiful piece of paper that showed he has earned a Master’s Degree in theology. At forty-one, he wasn’t supposed to be doing this. When I married him, he was going to be a rock star. We spent four years in Nashville waiting for the right person to come along and recognize that he should be catapulted to stardom. Before that could happen, the boy who had felt a call to ministry as a teenager applied to law schools and ended up at Texas Tech, where he ran for class president his second year on the platform that he would come to Constitutional Law class dressed as Elvis if he was elected. He won. He flourished in law school. He was on a team that won an international moot court competition. He was a Blackstone Fellow, a life-changing experience. He graduated and started working as an attorney.
He was good at it. Really good. And, I expected that he would have a long and lucrative career as a lawyer. I wasn’t expecting the near death experience one Easter Sunday, when our little SUV rolled over with four year old Adelade and eleven week old Sawyer inside. I wasn’t expecting the explosive spiritual growth that Chad would experience during that time.
And, how could I have predicted, that seventeen years after I married the future rock star, that I would be watching him, one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, walk across the stage at Southwestern Seminary, finally getting that seminary degree that he felt drawn to when he was sixteen years old?
I guess in dance recitals and in life, there really is no way to know how things are going to turn out. But, I can honestly say that the path we took to get to this point couldn’t have been more rich with incredible experiences. God knew what He was doing all along, and in the end I didn’t end up married to the typical pastor in a sea of pastors. This was his path, according to God’s great wisdom. And, if I could buy a DVD of my rock star/lawyer/preacher man walking across that stage in a most unexpected twist in this incredible life, I would definitely sign up.
God doesn’t always do things the way we expect Him to. And, sometimes in the end things turn out better than we could have ever planned.
He is good. And, we can trust Him with our past, our present, and our future. I really have no idea what tomorrow holds, and honestly, I’ve stopped trying to guess. God keeps proving Himself faithful to sustain us through all the phases of life, and He promised He won’t stop anytime soon. I’m so thankful for His leading, and for the winding paths that surprise us all. Life is a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them.
I saw the little underwear confessor after dance recital was over. She was bouncing around, completely oblivious to the fact that she was somewhat famous because of her outburst. I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever got that underwear she was after. I looked down at my two little bun-sporting girls and their oh-so-patient recital-watching brother, and I thought about how they did everything that night just as I expected they would. And, I thanked God that He can work in the conventional, in the surprising, and in the downright crazy. I can’t wait to see what He does next. Whatever it is, I know it will be for the best. And, I trust Him with our lives.