Usually, around the sixth grade, kids start honing in on their talents. They have had a few years of dance lessons or been a part of soccer teams. Graduated from the recorder to the oboe or created at least one piece of artwork their parents deem to be revolutionary and have been upgraded to real sketch pencils.
I was not that kid.
Sixth grade rolled around and the only team sport I had ever been a part of was Bible drill. Yes- that is a real thing.
I sang along to Michael W Smith’s Go West Young Man cassette tape on my Karaoke machine at home and wrote my own family newspaper, but I was convinced those things were far less “real” than the extra-curricular activities the other kids my age were a part of.
But then one day I found a team and a talent. It all started when my sixth grade teacher at Daniel Elementary School, Mrs. Isaacs, nominated me to be in the prestigious flag corp.
Nope. Not the kind of flag corp where you dress up in cute spandex leotards and prance around with a all your dance-class-knowledge waving a flag. I was completely unqualified for that. No, she nominated me for something much better. Mrs. Isaacs nominated me to be on the team that put up the American flag each morning before school started on the towering flag pole that greeted people as they drove in to the school driveway. FLAG CORP.
I was elated.
As with all jobs in my life (And I have had taxes withheld since I was 16 years-old, so there have been many.) I took flag corp duty with every ounce of seriousness and dedication I had in my wiry-90-pound-twelve-year-old body. Some might say I was hell-bent on being the best flag corp-er that ever walked the halls of that intermediate school.
Backtrack: If you’ve been around my life stories for any length of time, you know I come from a military family. Collectively, my extended family and I are that family who will give you the God-forsaken-stink-eye if you even THINK about cracking jokes during Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American at the end of the State Fair laser light show. We will glare at you, mouths slightly aghast, if your hand is not over your heart and body facing the flag during the singing of the National Anthem and we will insist on your deportation if you don’t start Memorial Day off at a freaking MEMORIAL DAY service. Your humanity will be seriously questioned by family if you don’t get a wee bit misty-eyed when the old men come along at the end of the 4th of July parade wearing their WWII Veterans hats. Mmmmmmkay? We’re that family.
Now you can imagine the seriousness of the sheer American-patriotic duty coursing through my blood as I showed up at school one hour early to properly, perfectly adhere the flag to the flag poll.
I vigorously studied the flag code book and could beat most Eagle Scouts in my comprehension of it. Under my watch, that flag would NEVER touch the ground. It would always be briskly raised and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. It would be folded properly and perfectly. Every. Single. Time. No cutting corners. And in our hearts, everyone on my flag duty team would be asked to truly understand the importance and significance of the raising and lowering of our nations most beloved insignia. I may have been slightly made fun of for my due diligence in honoring the American flag. But whatever.
I felt a huge responsibility, honor and duty.
Today, for the first time in a really long time, I feel that same weight of responsibility, honor and duty as I set out to properly invest the $52,995 given to me by my friends, family and fans for the purpose of creating my debut book and a independent EP.
It is not lost on me, not for one second, what a truly amazing gift it is to be the receiver of such an enormous amount of funding. Ryan and I are excited and joyful, but we are also moving into the next few weeks of budget meetings knowing that we carry a tremendous responsibility to wisely steward the money we have been gifted for these projects.
I feel like that wirey-90-pound-twelve-year-old little girl who would very solemnly and seriously show up to an empty school while the lights were still dim and the hallways smelled of chlorine washed floors, in order to take the American flag out and raise it in such a way that it honored the people who gifted it to me in the first place.
With great gifts comes great responsibility.
So to those 464 people, and the bigger picture of families, friends and finances you each represent, thank you for a great gift. Please know that with every ounce of seriousness, dedication and responsibility I possess- I will honor your gifts and use them to craft words that remind people of the beauty, life, joy, HOPE, redemption and love that God has put on display for the whole world to see.