Everyone who knows me, and I mean really knows me, knows that I am rather old-fashioned. It’s in my blood. My mother is old-fashioned; my father is old-fashioned, grandparents, Uncle KD, most of my family. Frankly, I didn’t stand a chance. I say this with pride because I believe it is one of my finer qualities. I tried once to rebel against all things “old and outdated,” but the truth is that I couldn’t get away from it. It captured me when I was around 14 or 15. My parents had moved me away from all of my friends in Arkansas and relocated me to the Texas panhandle. In my dramatic mind, it was the end of the world. It was years before I truly admitted how much I despised the place those first two years. However, as we were riding along the highway on our way back to Texas from visiting my grandmother, my mother was listening to one of the Gaither Homecoming cassette tapes. I had my headphones in my ears and I was pretending not to listen, because I had recently declared that “that music was boring and stuffy.” As we were going along there was a pause between the songs on my CD and I heard the beginning of a song I’d never heard before. It was a song by Jeff & Sherri Easter called “Thread of Hope”. I started to listen because it was about one of my favorite Bible stories, and as I heard the words of the chorus something happened in my heart:
When you’re hanging by a thread,
Still you can climb life’s mountain.
Though the cliffs are rough and jagged,
You can cope.
If you should slip and reach rope’s end,
You’ll find the hem of His garment.
So, don’t let go of that last thread of hope.
Now, I realize that moving isn’t really a big deal. I’ve moved about five or six times since I turned 18, but to a 14 year-old hormonal teenage girl, it was the worst thing that could have ever happened. (Plus, let’s not forget that I can be a tad dramatic at times. Oh, the woes of being a performer.) So, for me this song rang true. I had no friends, my family didn’t understand (actually they probably did, but adults adjust better than kids because they know that change is part of life), and I thought that no one cared. The words of this song reminded me that Someone did care, and more importantly He understood the thousands of tears I had cried over the whole situation. It also helped me to see that my circumstances weren’t the end of the world, but that they could become a new beginning.
It was at this time in my young life that I turned back to the music of my childhood. I started watching the Gaither Homecoming videos with my parents. When I looked for soundtracks to sing in church, I looked first to the songs I had grown up hearing. The “old-fashioned” blood in me began to flow through my veins and revive me. (As for my new “western” home, I developed a love for Texas that has not diminished to this day.)
That is why, as I sat around my grandmother’s living room on Sunday afternoon singing hymns with family and friends around the piano, I felt a surge of joy rise up in me. I caught a glimpse of what happened when the Homecoming friends first gathered in that cabin of Bill’s to sing “Where Could I Go?” I shed a few tears when I heard my grandmother and uncle sing together for the first time in many years. I longed for the days when Sunday afternoons were filled with music and laughter, like the stories my parents tell about their childhood. I searched my mind to see if I could think of any group of friends with whom I could share such an experience. But most of all, I just enjoyed the moment. I just let every second of those precious minutes permeate my inner spirit. I relished the privilege of having been allowed to participate in such a timeless tradition. And when the day was done, I felt a little more content with the lot I’d been dealt in life. My grandmother made the statement, “The Gaither Homecoming Series has brought many young people into Southern Gospel music that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.” I agreed. I know. I’m one of them. Who knows where I’d be if it hadn’t been for the resurgence of the Southern Gospel legacy? (Now, don’t everyone get upset. Southern Gospel is what brought me back. I realize that different types of music minster to different people in different ways.) Oh, I think I’d have still turned out okay. I’d be less “old-fashioned,” but okay. The fact is, I had a choice. I could have listened to the voice of the world and believed that my parent’s music was outdated and stuffy or I could embrace their music and let it teach me what it taught them. I chose the latter. I chose to be like them. I chose to follow their lead. I chose to be different than my peers. I chose their music, and in a small way that helped me to choose their teaching, and their teaching is what made me who I am today, and for that I have no regrets. I guess Robert Frost said it best when he wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”