Today is my birthday. I’ve always liked having a birthday on this day, because it is the only date that is a command to go forward: March 4th! And forth I intend to go. But how? And to where?
This is not the only time I have paused in mid-journey to listen to the urgings of my soul and to ask God for wisdom in re-aligning priorities. Over the years Bill and I have had to focus and re-focus on our main calling and the demands it might make for this time in our lives.
There were the years when we were new at being a couple and new at being parents of young children; we were new at being writers and had to sing our own songs if they were going to be heard. Bill had sung with his brother and sister through high school and college, but by the time we were married, his siblings had taken another path, and he was directing the music at a local church, putting small groups together to sing with the choir. We were both teaching high school and writing our songs; he would try them out on the choir at church.
As the songs began to have impact, calls began to come in from churches where Bill, Danny, and Mary Ann had sung as kids, asking if he would come and sing the new songs. He tried putting together various combinations, but finally said to me, “You need to sing; I’m just used to a family group, and we are writing these songs together.” Like all preachers’ kids I had sung in our local churches, but never considered myself a “singer” in the professional sense of the word. I was confident writing and speaking; those were my comfort zones. Vocal performance was not my strong suit.
But priorities shifted. To sing our songs enough to let people hear them, I had to balance that with keeping our little children our priority. Between our two youngest babies, my pastor parents retired from the ministry and moved to Indiana to take over with the children on week-ends when we sang. We knew this was not an accident, and we began to write our travelling/familying life in new songs.
Singing and traveling seemed to spawn other necessities if our concerts were to be effective: our own publishing company, a choral division so church choirs could sing our songs, a recording studio so we wouldn’t have to be away from our kids during the week when we were recording, decent sound/lights/instruments, a road crew. Still we were home during the week being a family, running a publishing company, and writing songs. On week-ends we took the child with us who seemed to need special attention that week. I was writing books, too, and at first Bill was still teaching, but soon his night job took over his day job. Prioritizing again.
For more than twenty years we traveled and sang, first with Bill’s brother Danny (when he moved back to our home town) and then with Gary McSpadden. But when our first daughter graduated from college and our other two were in high school and college, I felt God stirring around in my soul again, and I knew it was time for another chapter—to quit traveling so much to concentrate on finishing my Master’s Degree in English and to be available to “launch” our beautiful emerging young adults. Suzanne and I took our Master classes together, another delightful mile on my journey.
I began speaking more and writing more books. The Vocal Band had continued traveling and felt as if maybe their tenure might be coming to an end; they decided before they “hung it up” to do a Southern Gospel flavored project to honor and thank the aging heroes who had drawn them to gospel music as kids. Pretty much by accident, Bill discovered a television camera (we had avoided television to protect our children and private lives), and another chapter of our journey began: The Homecoming Videos.
Out of that holy accident came a new traveling chapter of Homecoming Concerts, the Homecoming Magazine, and creating a place to enjoy the people who started to travel to our home town studio to see where the videos were being taped and recorded. We started what we called Gaither Family Resources and the Pure & Simple Restaurant.
We remembered when our little sheet music business was in our garage. Song evangelists and traveling groups would stop by our house to get music for the road. I would fix them lunch, Bill would show them new songs, and after a sweet time of fellowship and stories, they would get sheet music and be on their way. When we outgrew the garage and moved to a real office with a warehouse, we always missed seeing and praying with the artists. So when the need arose again, we created a homey place with food, music, great books, and all kinds of resources for home and family where people could find much needed solitude and real community. For 23 years Gaither Family Resources and Gaither Studios have welcomed people from every state and scores of foreign countries.
Now we find ourselves in another season of prioritizing. We are assessing our time and energy for what may prove to be our final miles of the journey. Again we have asked ourselves the question: With the time and energy we have left ahead, what is to be our focus, our main calling? We have come full circle, perhaps. Now we feel it is time to simplify our lives down to our first and consistently central calling. As someone has so aptly said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Our main thing for the days ahead is to love God, treasure our marriage and home, enjoy and encourage our three grown children and their children (ages 9-26), and to make music. Bill will continue to travel with the Vocal Band with a doable and enjoyable schedule, working with young artists, and writing and recording great songs. I will write—all the kinds of writing that I love the most, including this blog. Thank you all for not only reading it yourselves but sending it on for others to enjoy and for sending back your comments. I read them and they give me more ideas.
If we’ve learned anything over time it is that simple is better and less is more. (Sorry for the length of the blog this time!) We’ve learned that keeping our private lives central keeps our public lives true. To tell you the truth we’re more excited about life than we’ve ever been. And to the next miles of our journey, I say, “Bring it on!”