Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there! ~ Psalm 77:19
Have you ever felt like God slammed a door in your face—a door you thought would lead to your life’s purpose and passion—destroying your dream?
My daughter, Elise, thought she had her entire college career mapped out. Her dream was to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and pursue a career in country music. She worked hard for that dream for six years, investing every spare moment preparing for her future.
You may read this and think she’s just another American Idol wannabe. What kid hasn’t dreamed of being rich and famous?
But Elise isn’t like that. She’s a shy young lady who hates being the center of attention. For her high school graduation she didn’t even tell me she needed money to purchase the yellow honor society tassel to include on her robe. She didn’t want the recognition.
Only a handful of students at her school even knew she could sing. The big reveal came when she sang two solos in front of her entire class during graduation. Most of the kids sat there with their mouths agape. Who knew this shy girl could sing?
But that’s all she’s ever wanted to do. Paraphrasing the Olympic runner, Eric Liddel, Elise says when she sings “she feels God’s pleasure.”
That’s why she wanted to attend Belmont. She believed she could make a difference in the country music industry by introducing more Christian-themed music into the mainstream.
After being accepted into Belmont, the only step left was to try out for their music program. Once she auditioned we just needed to wait a few weeks for official news of her acceptance into the program. We had no doubt she would make it.
Several weeks later she received a letter stating that she, unfortunately, did not make it into their music program. But they were still looking forward to having her as a student in another capacity.
At first I thought she was kidding. But the sobs that punctuated each sentence she read confirmed the truth. Belmont was not to be part of her future. She’d hung all of her hopes on her acceptance into their program, and now they’re saying she’s welcome to come and try something else??
Thud! I think I heard Elise’s heart drop to the floor as she read me the letter.
Our family was devastated by the news—confused and grieving over the death of her dream. We’d prayed fervently over this decision and believed it was what God wanted.
What was she supposed to do now?
Because she was nearing graduation, we quickly came up with another plan. Vocal tryouts were being held at a great school nearby, so she auditioned and was immediately accepted. She decided to pursue a degree in Music Education since she’d enjoyed being a teacher cadet in high school.
But halfway through her first semester there, she called begging me to let her drop two classes—music theory and voice.
I could understand her wanting to drop the difficult music theory class—but voice lessons? She’d always excelled and loved those in the past.
“What’s going on Elise?”
She started crying, spilling out the whole sordid tale of the unprofessional manner of her teacher. He constantly told her that she wasn’t pretty enough to be a singer and that her voice wasn’t very good anyway. She’d sunk into a state of depression due to his harsh words. Her self-esteem had already been destroyed, and now this guy was driving another nail in the coffin.
Even though I allowed Elise to drop the classes, by the end of that semester she was ready to drop out of school altogether. Teaching was not her heart’s desire and she had no idea which direction to go. Fortunately, she was able to move back home for her second semester, only needing one class that met two days a week to complete her freshman year.
But once home, she became more depressed. Not knowing how to help, we continued praying for direction.
Then I remembered Cathy Baker from my writers group, whose husband and sons are musicians, and knew she would not make light of Elise’s situation. The next time I saw her I asked what she’d do if she were in my position.
“Has she ever considered applying to North Greenville University?” she asked. “Both of my boys went there and they had a great experience. The school has an awesome gospel group that travels around the area singing every weekend and the scholarship is great. Maybe she should audition for that.”
I cringed a little when she said the name of the school. We’d asked Elise about applying there when we first started looking at colleges, but she wouldn’t hear of it.
The next day I invited Elise to lunch to discuss this new possibility, hoping she’d be responsive.
After we sat down, I quickly sent up a prayer and began sharing what Cathy told me about NGU. When I finished, I sat quietly, waiting for her response.
“Mom,” Elise looked me right in the eye. “If God wants me to go to Africa at this point, I’ll go. Sign me up for the auditions.”
I couldn’t believe the work God had done in her heart over the course of the last year. Even though it was difficult for her to face the possibility of another rejection, she signed up to audition for Joyful Sound at North Greenville University and was accepted.
She has been blessed beyond measure being a part of their team, making great, godly friends and witnessing the power of God to impact people through music. Her voice has grown even richer and more powerful than it was before. More importantly, her relationship with God is stronger than it’s ever been.
A few weekends ago she gave her last performance ever with Joyful Sound. Her three years in their ministry have impacted her more than I believe Belmont University ever could. As I sat there listening to her sing, I thought back to all the events that had brought her to this place. And I remembered Cathy Baker, the reason we’d even considered North Greenville University. I’m amazed how a prompting from God led to a conversation that brought so much good into Elise’s life.
If you ask Elise about all of the pain she endured getting to North Greenville University, she’d tell you it was worth it all; every heartache, tear and disappointment was worth the reward of where she is today. She’ll graduate in December with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and a stronger faith in God.
I share this story because I wish someone had told me during our time of pain and confusion it was going to be ok. God’s plan is greater than anything we can envision for our children and we need to boldly trust Him with their future.
Now that her time in Joyful Sound is over, I know God wants Elise to continue using her voice to glorify Him. I don’t know what the next step is, but we trust Him to lead her in the right direction. After all, He made a path for her none of us knew was even there.
Are you struggling through a difficult time of rejection or confusion? Don’t give up, keep pressing into God and He’ll reveal His plan to you.