Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stage Mama

I was the kind of stage mother that got more nervous than the performer.

I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about a 4th grade talent show. Katherine dressed up like Eliza Doolittle and sang (a capella) “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” in a cockney accent before a tough audience of her peers.

After a somewhat stunned silence, the crowd burst into supportive applause.

But it could have gone the other way.

Throughout the years, there were many, many opportunities for me to learn to trust God in similar situations with my three girls.

Dear God, please don’t let her be frozen with stage fright… forget her lines… trip on stage… mess up her speech… screw up the cheerleading jump… miss the basket… fall during the dance… break her neck in the flip… lose the game for the team…

In some ways, our children are extensions of ourselves, times 100. We get to relive our own fears and insecurities, with the added intensity of a parent’s heart that is wired to protect and defend.

How did I ever live through three female adolescences? (Four, counting my own.)

Only grace, only grace.

Of the three girls, I worried most about Katherine.  That was because: a.) she constantly put herself in more frightening situations; b.) she was the most accident-prone; and c.) she was the most sensitive.

We realize now that the “accident prone” issues most likely had to do with the lurking AVM in her cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance.  Also, stuff just happened to her. For instance, in the final state high school theatre competition, Katherine’s skirt fell off in the middle of a line. She’s standing there in her bloomers in front of hundreds of people. She calmly knelt down and and pulled it back up while continuing her monologue. I don’t know whether the judges thought it was part of the play or if they just admired her chutzpa, but she was awarded the Best Actress honor in spite of the mishap.

I prayed our way through plays and speeches and fashion shows and even a sermon or two.  Through Miss Alabama and auditions and acting gigs. 

But no matter how many times I sat in an audience watching my daughter, I never learned to fully relax.

Katherine had a strong voice. An electric presence. A passionate commitment to use her gifts for good purpose. During her college years, her focus changed from acting as an art form to public speaking as a force for change. She got involved in an inner-city ministry and worked with underprivileged adolescent girls. She changed her major to Speech Communication. She became deeply involved with the Christian Women’s Leadership Program at Samford.

Ultimately, the desire of her heart was to speak for God.

Being a citizen of Fantasy Land, I imagined her giving God the glory in her Academy Award acceptance speech.


It’s been many years since I’ve experienced those stage mama butterflies.

But this Wednesday, I felt a little flutter.

Katherine had been asked to speak to a group of moms at Bel Air Presbyterian preschool. It was a crazy day in a crazy week, so I didn’t ask much about it… just tried to get everybody where they needed to be when they needed to be there.

After dropping James off at his school, I drove like a Nascar driver through intense traffic on the 405 to get us there on time.

For some reason, I’d assumed she’d probably be speaking to a small group of Christian moms meeting in a classroom. As we pulled into the parking lot, she told me that the venue was to be a large outdoor tented area behind the school. The exact same place where their beloved Sunday School class, Young Marrieds, met for much of the time that she and Jay were leaders.

We rushed in (as much as we could rush) just in the nick of time to the designated area…

to find rows and rows of chairs set up, but no people.

Hmmm. What if you gave a party and nobody came?

Being in that space invited flashbacks of pre-AVM-Katherine at the microphone, leading the prayer or making announcements. We’d visited there many times in those good old days. I thought, “Well, at least we’re on anointed ground.”

We waited around awkwardly for a while until a few very chic young Bel Air moms drifted over, chatting and drinking coffee. They glanced at us curiously. I felt the first flutter.

Thankfully, our dear friend Syd, came in and made us feel at ease.

As she encouraged Katherine, I went to get coffee at the table set up outside the area. When I came back, that big tent was almost full of chic young moms. Andrea*, the preschool director who’d invited Katherine to speak, came to welcome us. She told us that almost 70% of the families whose children attended the preschool were unchurched or of different faiths.


How will these beautiful, young, healthy women respond to Katherine’s message? Will they be able to identify with an existence so very different from their own? Will it be a downer for them? An unwelcome reminder that life may not always be so picture-perfect?

I said a silent prayer as my little girl slowly made her way up the podium. As I have done every time she’s ever stepped on stage or grabbed a mike.

And her words came out in a voice not perfect… through a slightly twisted mouth… and touched the hearts of those young mothers.

The sound of soft crying was the background music of her story.

Even I cried, and I’ve lived the story with her.

Yet they were also tears of joy, because the reality pierced me:

Katherine’s prayers have been answered. Her dreams have come true.

The desire of her heart was to speak for God.

And no force in the universe could keep that purpose from being fulfilled.

Katherine, you made this stage mama very, very proud.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I am so glad that James has you.

Katherine's first Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful moms!


*Andrea and Katherine have a special bond. After hearing the story of Katherine's rupture, Andrea was led to get a brain scan because of some headaches.... and discovered that she, too, had an AVM. She underwent a successful 13-hour brain surgery at UCLA to remove it before it had a chance to rupture. Thankfully, she's doing great and expecting her second child now.


The Mom said...

What a lovely and poignant post. I have followed your blog and am on Katherine's mailing list as well. I do believe that the Lord is using what she might consider her "flawed beauty" so much more powerfully that the beauty that she possessed before. I think her very "flaws" allow the light and life of Christ to shine through her even more vividly and powerfully. Her walk through the valley of the shadow has transformed her into a translucent and vulnerable yet very tender vessel of the Lord's ...I am mindful of that scripture in Lamentations: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed..." Happy Mother's Day to you and your daughter.

Kim said...


Thank you for these beautiful words. Your insightful comments always bless me. Mother's heart to mother's heart.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day, too!

Marielle said...

Hi Kim! It was so nice to meet you today at Bel Air Pres!!! I knew it was you and just had to introduce myself. Your blog is so wonderful. Happy Mother's Day to you and Katherine!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day to you and Katherine! I wish I could've made it out to that speaking engagement...


Cheri said...

His ways are definitely better and higher than ours but boy they sure can hurt while they are being put into place. It's wonderful to be reminded that there is the other side. I'm sure, even though you didn't share it, that much of Katherine's story has to do with her mother. What a joy it must be to be a part of "that voice that speaks for God."

~from my front porch in the mountains~ said...

Your last little paragraph took my breath away. Yes. katherine is where she is supposed to be.
God is so darn good!
xo, misha