Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thank you, Dr. Sowers!

It is amazing, isn’t it, my friends? Tracing the hand of the Lord in our lives? Think about it … Where were you 10 years ago? Where are you now? Are you where you thought you would be? Has the path, the road, been what you thought it would be?

About seven years ago Chad and I wrote a song about this very concept. We were marveling at the path our life had taken . . . a path that we never expected. We marveled at how many curves, dips, valleys, and yes . . . even mountain tops had been placed along our paths. We chuckled as we looked BACK . . . knowing that if God had given us a map when we first became believers . . . a map that showed EVERYTHING . . . all those dips, bends in the road, the sharp curves . . . that it would have been our human nature to try to find the short cut! In our humanity we would have searched for the way around the hard parts. And yet, we knew on that day all those years ago, that each of those twists and turns had been allowed along our path because of the character, perseverance, and spiritual growth that would spring forth. In that moment we penned the words :

You know me better than I know myself,
You know what I need more than anyone else,
You know my heart more than anyone can,
So I lay down my life and give you all that I am.

Now, jump forward seven years. Suffice it to say that my life has not taken the path I thought it would. Duh! I would like to tell you the story of a very sweet and wonderful man in my life . . . and let YOU marvel WITH me at the sweet hand of the Lord and His nudging along my journey . . . and may it cause you to trace His fingerprints in your life!

I graduated from Traverse City High School back in 1992. That summer I came down with Mono and spent the entire summer on the couch trying to recover and be well enough to head off to college in the fall. I had grown up Wesleyan and was planning to attend Indiana Wesleyan University. I had my books all bought, knew my schedule, had corresponded with my roommate, etc . . . I was set! IWU was starting classes the Tuesday after Labor Day.

I was already ‘singing concerts’ by this point and one Sunday the middle of August I did a concert at a church in Traverse City. The next day, as I lay on my couch resting, I received a call from the Anderson University Admissions Department. The man introduced himself to me and said that he understood that I had applied to their school (uh, yeah, NINE months ago!) and that somehow I had fallen through the cracks. He was wondering what they could do to get me to come to their school. I very kindly replied that I was going to IWU and no thank you. SIX CALLS LATER the man would NOT leave me alone! He kept offering to meet whatever money IWU was giving me and I kept telling him NO! My mom was at work that day, and finally she called me and said “Sarah, I think maybe we need to check this out. Maybe God is trying to tell you something and we can’t know until we go visit the school.” Now, the kicker in all of this is that this is Monday . . . I am PLANNING to leave for college in three weeks . . . . and Anderson University starts ONE WEEK from today!

I called that man who kept calling me and told him that my mom and I would be down the next day. She took a couple days off work and we left for this college that we knew nothing about . . . other than they had a great music program. We drove down on Tuesday and spent Wednesday touring the campus and auditioning for the head of the music dept and another professor. I sang a couple songs that I regularly performed in concert (southern gospel) and they then informed me that they don’t sing that kind of music there . . . they only teach classical music because if you can sing classical you can sing anything. I was thinking, “wait a minute . . . the Gaithers are on the board here . . . this is where you come to become a Christian singer and you are telling me you don’t sing that music here?” Hmmmm. But, I did my audition and left.

I will never forget sitting in the Motel Six that night . . . knowing that Anderson University was the place I needed to be. It was so clear. I looked at my mom and said, “this is it . . . this is where I need to be.” She knew it, too. So, Thursday morning we went back to the campus, told them I was switching schools, they called IWU to let them know and we drove the eight hours back to Traverse City. I now had TWO days to pack for school, say my goodbyes, finish recuperating from Mono, and leave for a university and city where I knew NOONE!!!!!!! I was terrified! On top of all that – Chad and I were madly in love and I was about to move eight hours away!!!! Oh my!

Remember that audition I did for the head of the music dept.? Well, his name was Dr. Richard Sowers. On Monday morning I began the rounds heading to all my classes and discovered that not only had I ‘made’ it into private voice . . . .but, Dr. Sowers got to hand pick who he would have in his voice studio and I had made his list! What a privilege!

At this point in my life I was a very broken, hurting, wounded young woman. My parents had split up when I was eleven, and I had had VERY little contact with my dad since then, and I was truly broken and wounded. Loving and being loved by Chad was so hard . . . I lived in constant fear that he would leave me, too. And now enters into my life this wonderful, father-like figure ~ Dr. Sowers. We spent MANY, MANY hours together just by virtue of me being in his studio and ALL the hours of rehearsals, tours, classes, etc . . . Over the next few years Dr. Sowers became one of the sweetest persons who would ever weave their way through my twisty, tourney path. He was always wise, loving, kind, and willing to listen. He knew I was broken and very quietly offered wisdom and gently loved a young woman who really didn’t know what it was to have a father. I will never forget the night that Chad proposed to me . . . .without me knowing, of course, he took that ring in and showed Dr. Sowers before he popped the question to me.

Chad and I soon got married, and l left college a year sooner than I had planned and finished my degree in Midland where Chad had secured his position with the Midland Police Department. I lost touch with Dr. Sowers and many of my college friends (thank goodness for Facebook, huh?.) Over the next twelve years I saw Dr. Sowers a couple times – just very briefly. I always held him near to my heart, though, and thought of him often. I had become a voice teacher myself and I taught my students the vocal techniques that Dr. Sowers had taught me on a weekly basis.

About five weeks after Chad died it occurred to me that in the constant flurry of activity – the unending press attention, the non-stop ring of both the phone and the doorbell, and the constant watch of family and friends – that I had not been alone with my children since before Chad died! I needed to get 200 CD’s to Nashville, and rather than ship them I decided to drive with one of my best friends down to Nashville and get the kids and I OUT of Midland. I needed a break, I needed to be with my babies, and I needed to be somewhere where nobody knew who we were for a while!

I had received cards from several special people at Anderson University, and we decided to pop in on our way to Nashville. I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Sowers. We hugged and talked and then I will never forget what happened next. Dr. Sowers sat all three of my kids down and told them the story of the day that he turned sixteen. It was Father’s Day . . . AND his birthday . . . AND the day his daddy went home to be with Jesus . . . very unexpectedly . . . just like Chad. He then told my kids that it was going to be very hard but that they would be o.k. . . . AND that even though it didn’t seem like it at times . . . that their mama would be o.k. eventually, too. Once again, this kind and wise man who had spoken into my life SO many times SO many years before, was speaking into my life again . . . and even more special . . . into the lives of my precious babies.

Last week Dr. Sowers surfaced again. He found me on Facebook and made his way to my blog and once again his words and wisdom encouraged and uplifted me.

And it occurs to me, that in August of 1992, sitting in a mobile home in Traverse City, Michigan, when that first phone call from Anderson University came . . . there was no way I could have known that a man named Dr. Richard Sowers was about to enter into the journey of my life and be the hands and mouth and mind of God reaching into my life. Never could I have known that Dr. Sowers would gently help to shape the woman that I was becoming and therefore leave an indelible print on a marriage that was going to end far too soon. Never could I have known that he would speak into my children’s lives one day and minister that same grace and wisdom to them that he had to me on so many occasions. Never . . . . could I have imagined . . . the path that just that one relationship in my life would take.

My friends – God IS so very good! In Matthew 10:29 He tells us “Are not two sparrows sold for just one penny? Yet, not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of our Heavenly Father.” You see, those sparrows aren’t worth much . . . yet the Word tells us that NOT ONE OF THEM is out of the faithful keeping of our Heavenly Father.

I don’t understand the course of my life. I AM NOT where I thought I would be ten years ago. I will never, this side of Heaven, understand why Chad had to die. I will never understand why my babies have had to bury their daddy and why we have all had to endure this horrible, horrible grief! There is SO MUCH that we will never understand! But remember how I said that Chad and I were in awe of the dips and valleys and mountains and curves and that if God told us they were coming, our human nature would be to try and avoid them? This is certainly one that I would have done everything in my power to avoid . . . EVERYTHING!

But one thing I do understand is that God is in control. And, back in August of 1992, He chose to weave a wonderful man into the complex, wonderful, horrible, delightful, painful, lovely tapestry that would become my life. There is a purpose in ALL of that. It would boggle my mind to sit and try to figure that out . . . so I must simply rest in knowing that God is SO big, and SO loving, and SO all-knowing that I can trust the ‘weaving’ of that tapestry even as it is constantly going on around me. Really, what that does, is free me up to know that no matter what comes my way God already has the tapestry being woven and I can rest in Him.

And so I wonder, my friends, what part are you playing in the tapestry of other people’s lives? Are you speaking life and love and encouragement into those around you? Are you being the Hands of God, the mouth of God, and the mind of God ministering to those around you? Does your heart beat with the love of God? In all honesty . . . those were traits that did not come easily to me and I prayed for years that God would help me to be an encourager! Are you praying that God would do that in your heart as well?

And on the flip side of that . . . today, in the midst of your struggle, perhaps as you mourn a loss, or maybe as you question where your job went, or maybe as you wrestle with a marriage that is falling apart around you . . . are you trusting that God is big enough to care about the weaving of the tapestry of your life? Are you able to rest in the fact that God is good? Period! You don’t have to figure that one out . . . you just have to trust it! My friends, Matthew goes on to say in verse 31, “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to Him than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Rest in Him, today. Know that the dips and valleys and curves all serve a plan and a greater purpose and that truly, even when we hate it or question it or wonder about it, God sees the entire map and is directing you down the perfect path for where He needs to take you. Romans 8:28 tells us that He can make ALL those tough roads work together for good in your life . . . and that is exactly what He will do! He is so faithful!

And, Dr. Sowers, when you read this . . . please know that I love you dearly and am so thankful for the indelible mark you have left on my life! Thank you!!!!!!


Theresa said...

You have a gift with words, Sarah. God truly works through you. I am new 2 u'r blog, but really love it. Thank you - keep up God's work.

Ginger said...

You are such a talented writer. What a neat story, I never knew any of that. It was great to talk to you this week. Thanks for calling!
Love, Ginger

Carrie said...

Being here (in Nashville) has made me think of you often. I thought I would check your blog so I could catch up on all I have been missing.

What do you know...you talked about our trip! I will point out you failed to mention driving all the way here and back without directions. Only a couple 'near death' experiences! And our exciting adventure horseback riding, again, only a couple near death experiences:) Wonder if Noah has recovered?

I remember visiting the university but I thought his name was Fritz, or something like that? Or am I totally confused???

Tell me again why you are not here at this conference? Mercy Me, Michael W Smith, Paul Beloche, Selah, Sonic Flood, Integrity Records. Plus (this is what you need to get Wendell on for next year) there is a new artist spotlight tomorrow night. People attending this conference are radio/TV guru's. It's killing me that you are not here!!! That's it, I'm calling Wendell myself. OK, that's a stretch, that would require me to actually pick up a phone...I'll have Michael do it :)

Next year, we will all drive down together. Yes, you can drive!

Missing you from Nashville,

Anonymous said...

Boy did I need tissues for that one. I cannot even imagine how many lives Dr. Sowers has ministered to in his lifetime. He is an amazing man. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been in AU Chorale and experience his LOVE/Passion with music and treasure how spiritually connected I felt when singing with our group. I'm so glad that AU was the place God chose for you to attend. Those Chorale tour days are cherished moments for me.
Lisa ( Jackson) Bowden