Lifest is a large Christian music festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I've written about it before. I have gone there every year for the past nine years with my best friend Gayle. Together, we minister to teens - asking them questions about their faith, providing tickets for them, counseling them as they tell us their stories of life. Deep, personal relationships are formed during this time. Relationships based in faith.
I don't remember the first time I met this soon to be 15-year old kid who is the subject of my blog this morning. It was definitely at church. That's a good place for relationships to begin - based in faith. I really never knew her until a recent series of events brought us together and now we are good friends and we both have proof in our lives about just how amazing God is. This is Maddy's story.
Each year I buy a bunch of tickets ahead of time I give them away to kids in our church's youth group or to other people I know. We get a bunch of camp sites together and we have a great time hanging out with each other and going to hear all the concerts.
This year I bought ten tickets and gave them all away. I ordered the campsites. We were all ready to go. Then, just one week before Lifest, God began His plan for building into Maddy's life through a series of incredible blessings. Join me in looking back on the past few days and see just how our amazing God works!
- I received an e-mail from a friend of mine named Cheri. She works down the street from the company I work at. I had met Cheri several years earlier at a previous Lifest. Hmm, maybe THAT was step number one in this whole series of events! Cheri also volunteers as a Compassion Advocate for Compassion International. Cheri had an extra ticket which she had purchased a year earlier, specifically to give away to someone else. She offered it to me so I could give it away to one of the kids I know. Yes, you're right. She IS awesome! :)
- I was about to offer the ticket on Facebook, randomly, to anyone who was willing to take it but before I did I just "happened" to glance at the chat window on the right side of the page and noticed Maddy's name. "She likes music," I thought. So I sent her a message and offered her the ticket.
- Maddy accepted the offer. Although she didn't really know me that well, she knew some of the other teens that were in our group. She always wanted to go, she later told me. She just never could afford it.
- The morning we left for Lifest I picked up Maddy and met her mom. That's when I learned that Maddy had never been to a concert event like this before. I also learned she had what she called "social anxiety" - feeling awkward in social situations and uncomfortable in large crowds. Camping with a bunch of people and attending concerts with thousands of people makes perfect sense right? Keep that in mind.
- The afternoon of our arriving, Maddy and one of our adult leaders went to hear one of the artists speak - John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet. There, in front of hundreds of Skillet fans, Maddy stepped up to the microphone and asked Mr. Cooper a question. This is from one of Maddy's posts on Facebook:
|(Photo by Maddy)|
Later that evening at the Skillet concert . . . more from Maddy. Remember her anxiety in social situations and large crowds when you read this.
"I finally realized that I had been at the wrong stage for where Skillet was playing, so I bolted out of there when War of Ages was over and by the grace of God, I got almost the front row of the GRAND stage. That thing has like thousands of people. THOUSANDS. And I managed to get up in the front. After a couple of songs John, the lead singer, started naming people he'd like to thank, and finally he said, "I'd like to make a shout out to Maddy. Where is she?" He was looking for ME. But some other Maddy must have thought he was talking about her because he was pointing in the wrong direction xD But I got his attention and he recognized me and pointed at ME. "This one's for Maddy and her boyfriend" He said. "I don't remember what it was for again...Some playlist or something, haha," He continued. I tried to get it on film but my camera was being stupid xC "Are you going to sing your heart out, Maddy?" He shouted. I was still messing with my camera so I was nervous and didn't hear. "Hey! I'm talking to you! Are you going to sing your heart out?!" Skip this, I'm done with this camera, I thought. "YEAHHHHHHHH" I shouted back at him. The music started and I sang along to it. It was amazing he played that for me and Jonathan. Truly amazing."
What an incredible example of how God places us in situations for our good and His glory. He took this teenage girl and placed her with a group of people where she could overcome some of her fears, where He knew she would feel safe. He got her a Lifest ticket, He even worked through the lead singer of Skillet to pour His love into this young girls life. What a blessing it was to watch this all unfold!
God works in each of our lives, often without our even knowing it. Sometimes we go through pain. Sometimes we experience great blessings. But no matter what, God has promised that He would always be with us, He would never leave us or forsake us. He can make "Those Nights" we share with our God SO memorable, so life changing, that we can all learn to lean on Him and trust Him, and remove all of our fears, whatever they may be.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28
Those Nights - Skillet