Tag: branson gmc

My Oscar speech

Our trophy sits next to the GPS  on our mobile mantel.

Lately, Miranda has been talking into the mirror a lot, making up stories and talking to her ‘kids.’ It’s adorable 3 year old weirdness, the kind that her mother occasionally dabbles in still.

To say I have fantasized throughout my life about winning is not a stretch. It was never clear to me what I might win (I thought perhaps an Oscar for Best Screenplay, in a movie in which I would also star, opposite Kiefer Sutherland or [RIP] Patrick Swayze), but who hasn’t had a moment or 116,000 moments when you’ve thought about getting a shiny trophy for your efforts?

When we (meaning Rod and me under one of our pseudonyms: Branson Gospel Music Convention) were nominated for an SGN Music Award, I was beyond excited. I was doubly beyond excited because the magazine I edit was nominated as well – both in the Pacesetter Category. And so, obviously, I did some speech practicing…mostly when it came to Scoops, because that one was just easier. (For the record, I’d have thanked Rob, Rod, the writers, the readers, the people we’ve featured so far…)

Branson GMC, however, –‘our baby Branson’ – is too close to my heart to put sensible words to at times. (It has become the work of our life and has changed our lives, you know?) On the way to Nashville/Smyrna yesterday, Rod and I tried to come up with something, and he vetoed my idea of just getting on stage and making out. (How memorable would THAT have been? Plus, because of the convention, we so rarely get to make out anymore…)

We finally decided that IF we won, Rod would talk about the vision of the convention, and I would thank some people.

The show itself was such a great time for us. For one, we didn’t have to do anything but sit there. We had friends there we don’t get to see often, and several of them were singing and nominated for other awards. It was friends of ours who put on the show, and they did a great job. The Pacesetter category was toward the end, so eventually, I Tweeted my way out of nervousness and told myself we were not winning anything, and it was all good.

And then we won.

Due to a technical mishap, the Pacesetter category was not explained prior to the nominees being announced. What it is: an award to honor an organization, company, event, artist, entity, fill-in-the-blank that has made a new mark in southern gospel music. The other nominees were 2 record companies, Scoops magazine, and a radio-prep newsfeed.

When ‘Branson Gospel Music Convention’ was called, I had to tap (slap) Rod to get him out of the seat – he later said he didn’t even realize it was us. We hugged, we made the long walk across the stage (I did not trip, FTW!), and then Rod said some stuff that I really cannot remember.

And then, he turned it to me.

Everything that I had in the back of my mind to say disappeared, of course. I don’t even remember what exactly I said. I know I thanked my parents for watching the kids (and it made multi-winner, co-host, and favorite-singer-in-the-world-of-mine Sonya Isaacs laugh behind me, which was so cool). I know I said I didn’t know anyone in SG 4 years ago (totally true). I know I thanked God for big dreams. I know I thanked everyone who supported us in our first year. But…I don’t remember the rest.

Immediately after exiting the stage, I was sad to have not thanked our kids, especially Paige, who was watching…and who is such a mature and helpful and all-around wonderful 16 year old daughter.

So anyway, today, basking in the afterglow and in the morning mid-Tennessee Starbucks sunshine, here is the rest of my speech~

–          Thank you Burton girls for going with our adventurous flow, being patient with us, and loving us in spite of the demanding chaos that has become our (wonderful) life.

–          Thank you Branson GMC advisory board – Dusty, Bobby (and Sharona), Brenda (and 2nd G), Kenny, Johnathan, Rob, and Jimmy (and Liz), for your circle of protection, guidance, prayer, and friendship.

–          Thank you to the general circle of support that came on board from year one – including SoGospelNews.com (now AbsolutelyGospel.com), Southern Spin Entertainment (namely, the Unthank family), Morningside/Jim Bakker Show/Charles & Veeda Smith, Christian Voice Magazine, Chapel Valley & The Roarks, Branson Tourism Center, Sky Angel TV, Family Friendly Entertainment, Bud & Lynda Lynn, Wayne and Wanda Deering, Ron Blackwood, Dino, and of course~

–          Our friends who are fellow artists and workers in this industry and MINISTRY, who make us laugh and pray for us and help us to mellow when we get so clenched about things. There are too many to name even here, but amidst all the artists of Branson GMC (some of whom just happened to say or send what I needed at just the right time!), there is a circle of armor bearers we can call/Tweet in the middle of the night for whatever validation or guidance we need. It means the world

–          Our friends – in particular MY friends, who don’t have ANYthing to do with southern gospel, who support me and my kids with playdates and Easter eggs and crazy park outings and babysitting and Monday night getaways and listening to my long stories with lots of background and general cheering and love… YOU are my anchors in LIFE. You know who you are. I am proud, grateful, relieved to have you in my corner.

–          Our extended family and our church families for the extensions of help and kindness you give.

–          My Twitter friends…who laugh at my meaningless comments and point me toward levity when I am in need.

–          Every single person who has ever told me I look pretty, because seriously? I never feel less attractive then when I have to stand in the front of a room!

–          The naysayers. It makes me feel cool to have some. So thanks.

–          My husband. I think perhaps I did thank him in my actual remarks, but not enough. I could never thank him enough for the depth and color and fun and completeness he has and does bring to my life. In my wildest notions I never thought I would get to work and live with my best friend every day, and I do. And I’m crazy in love with him through every second of it (even while I might happen to be snapping at him for how he empties the dishwasher…)

So, there you go. Looking over this, it isn’t much more coherent than whatever I might have said last night, but at least (I think) I didn’t leave anyone out. And if I did, please insert your name here _____, because seriously, today, I love everybody!

600 cups of butter and other tales from Branson

Rod and me at Dino’s Christmas show Tuesday night

There is something about us and Branson. We’ve been there three times this year – and three times total in our lives. The first time was to smooth the way for the convention we’d planned that had almost been sabotaged. The second time was to hold the actual convention, which was a mind-blowing, life-changing experience. The third time was delayed due to our baby being in the hospital, and now that it’s occurring, has been to start paving the way for the next convention, and apparently, also for God to show us for the third time that He has called us to fulfill our dreams and His plans in this town.

This is the list of people* we met with this week: (in 2.5 days)

–          The operators of the sweetest, smallest 90-room inn we have ever seen

–          The co-owners of a refurbished local bakery and deli, which donates 40% of their baked goods – at the beginning of the day – to local shelters

–          One of the most amazing and celebrated piano players alive, his wife, and his staff

–          A publicist who previously photographed Johnny Cash and Mel Torme

–          A radio DJ who hosts a show at a Branson Café.. where Rod was asked to sing live on her show!

–          A hotel manager of three local properties

–          The pastor of a 12,000 member church

–          A singing family consisting of 10 beautiful children adopted from 3 different countries

–          A celebrated songwriter and her husband, both Branson entertainers and total warriors in God’s army, who have been given materials to build a chapel

–          A pastor and his wife who work with Branson shows, Morningside, and publishing, and wish to minister specifically to us

–          A magazine marketer who also attends the 12,000 member church

–          Executives at the hotel that hosts the convention

–          The general manager of Branson’s #1 tourist center

–          Tonight, we are apparently meeting Neil McCoy, and 2 nights ago, we (inadvertently) stood up Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys
*Almost all of these people are Christians!

My mind is shot. This morning our flight was cancelled because of the nationwide aviation computer problems. We scrambled all day to get home tonight.. tomorrow I have Moms and More, and we had front row tickets to see my friend Rick star in The Producers, and I have a castle cake to figure out how to bake for a certain girl who is turning 3 on Sunday.

It just wasn’t meant to be. We could fly home from Springfield directly.. for $600 per ticket. We could drive our rental car home for $1 per mile, for almost 600 miles. Or we can take our original flight, 20 hours later at the same fare.

Since our front yard tree does not grow money, and since my parents are amazing and awesome and taking care of the kids, we opted for the last option.

I want to be home tonight and keep our plans tomorrow. But now I believe we are supposed to be here. Who am I to argue with God?


We have heard some amazing stories this week from the people we have met. There is such synergy surrounding us in the skill set, dreams, and attitudes of the people we’ve encountered.

One that blares to me is from my new friend Julia. I met here during the convention in July, and she had, unbelievably, just relocated to Branson with her husband and three teenagers from Orland Park – 20 minutes from our home.

What I didn’t know then, I found out today. Julia had a very successful international gourmet food business (cheese, sausage, butter) and stable life in the Chicago south suburbs when she came to visit her mom in the Ozarks and felt a call to move there. To make a long story short, Julia’s house was sold in record time and she and her husband were making plans to relocate even before they knew where they were going to work or live once in Branson. Julia was obedient but very distressed, and went a week without sleeping as she worried about what their family’s place was in Branson. One night she decided she needed to tune out all the distractions in her life and drive to Branson. She took the battery from her cell phone, left her computer at home, kept the radio off, and even wore shabby clothes and no make-up so she wouldn’t decide she had to stop in this or that place (She, like me, does not ‘do’ the public without make-up!). She had her husband and kids follow her so that she could be alone in the car. They stopped at pre-determined destinations to touch base. In St. Louis, her husband told her he had just gotten a phone call, and she wouldn’t listen to what it was about. She wanted to be totally tuned in to God’s voice.

At their next stop, she picked out a gas station and walked sans make-up, in paint-splattered cut-offs and flip flops toward the bathroom. There she ran into previously mentioned world-renowned piano player and his wife, who operate a Christmas show and a bakery/café in Branson. They began to talk, and he started to tell Julia that he was going to be blessing people with free bread. She felt strongly that this man was the connection, the answer that she was looking for. So she kept the conversation going about what her business entailed, and he said he could sure use some gourmet butter to compliment his bread the following day.. did she happen to have any?

Of course, the only thing Julia had in her car was her battery-less cell phone, but then her husband chimed in. He said, “I have 600 cups of butter in the trunk.” Turned out the call he had gotten was from a distributer, there was a shipping error, blahblahblah. There were 600 cups of butter sitting on dry ice in his trunk at that moment, and the connection was made.

Their family moved to Branson, managed operations in the café, met hundreds of people – including us – and have now moved on to their own businesses.. catering, a deli/bakery, event planning, and promotions. They attend the 12,000 member church. They have made a home and a life here they could not have mapped out or imagined.


That was just one of such stories I’ve heard in all these encounters this week.

Earlier today, in my aggravation over changed plans, I tweeted, “I don’t know what it is with us and Branson.” There is always, always an obstacle to our being here.

The truth is, I do know what it is. Whether we ever live here or not, we’re called to this place for a purpose. And no matter what is thrown in our path to distract, discourage, or destroy, God has our 600 cups of butter waiting in the trunk, for He never starts a work in us that He will not see through.

Be it unto me

Luke 4: 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

I heard that verse in a devotion this morning that I was not ‘supposed’ to hear.

This week and last were all about a few things: getting through 2 business trips for Rod, getting Scoops published on time, and getting to Branson yesterday for our press conference and several concerts, including the first of our Give the Gospel series.

It wasn’t meant to be that way.

Kaity got sick Tuesday. Scary sick. Her breathing was all of a sudden troubled again, and this time, I took her in to the ER right away (where we waited for a long time, and during that wait, she cried so hard she threw up twice..) and we ended up being sent by ambulance to University of Chicago’s Komer’s Children Hospital, at least 25 miles from home. We went around 3am. Rod was on his way back to us from Lousiville. The other kids were at the house with no car (because the family car was at the hospital, and Josh’s Jeep is dead…) My phone battery had died.

I am a warrior. It’s my name. Kelly = ‘warrior maiden, loyal and brave.’

I was not scared.


Here is what scared me. Me. Because up until we got in that ambulance, up until I saw my little tiny 20 month old strapped to a big gurney and lifted into a space where I could not be with her, I was trying to figure out HOW Rod and I could still make it to Branson for the press conference. And the fact that I was thinking that way scared me. How ambitious do I need to be? How much do I need to ‘get done?’ How much sacrifice is too much for our ‘calling?’

Are we not called first by God to serve our family?

Don’t get me wrong. Had we decided to go anyway, Kaity would have been with my parents, whom I absolutely trust with her life. But I know that would not have been fair to anyone. I know we made the right decision in staying.

But oh.. those are the times when the doubts and the anxiety and the insecurities – what we also call a Spiritual Attack – come rushing in.

( I twittered about it).

Anyway, we were rescued over and over again during this ordeal (In fact, the song that goes, “I need You, Jesus, to be my rescue. Where else can I go?’ kept going through my head).

We have some pretty amazing friends who put the finishing touches on the press conference and pulled it off. About 40 members of the local Branson press and business community showed up, as did the Mayor, who spoke about her excitement and support of the convention.

Meanwhile, we had, I believe, hundreds of people praying for our baby daughter and for us. And it worked.

Kaity does not have pneumonia or the flu or bronchitis or even asthma. Right now, her diagnosis is Reactive Airway Disease, which essentially means she experienced wheezing and respiratory distress with an unknown cause. Monday we will see her doctor, whom we know very well and trust, and hopefully we will find out more.

But, one of the many fine doctors we saw at Komer’s said plainly, “It could very well just be bad luck.” I almost laughed when she said it. Because honestly, I started thinking this whole episode was yet another spiritual attack on the convention, but now the only thing I know for sure is that it was a time of testing for Rod and me.

We were supposed to choose to stay here with our kids. We were supposed to loosen the control of the events in Branson today.

The test did not end with that. Rod is sitting across from me dealing with one more right now. (Dear Ikea – Did you sell us a haunted office unit? So many Critical Moments have taken place as we sit here…) He is dealing with it in a way that, frankly, takes some sacrifice and faith on his part. But it’s what we both know is right.

One of the ways I know is because of where I was this morning when the press conference was taking place. I was at Moms and More, the group I’ve belonged to for just over a year that has made such an enormous difference in my life. The women I have befriended in this group do not care which of us is back in her pre-pregnancy jeans, which of us lets our kids watch TV, which of us lives on a bus during the weekends, which of us is Catholic vs. Pentecostal vs. married vs. single. I have never seen such a supportive community of women before. We love each other. We love each other’s kids. We agree in prayer. We laugh and cry and struggle and celebrate together.

This community is my touchstone, and once I knew we and Kaity would be home today, it was automatic that I would be there.

So it was good to see my mommy friends and hear their words of empathy and drink coffee. But I was not expecting what else I got.

It came in the form of today’s speaker, Dorothy Caldwell. There are so many cool things about this, I might have to make a list. Yeah… a list:

1. Dorothy was introduced by my friend Deanna. Deanna has become so important to me because she is also a driven work at home mom.. and we can talk quite plainly about finding the balance between our driven selves and our nurturing selves. Deanna differs from me in that she is not a big sap (she says she is, but she rarely shows it). Today as Deanna introduced Dorothy, she cried. I mean, really cried. Dorothy gave Deanna the advice to ‘Just trust’ when Deanna was struggling with her family’s then-situation. Deanna has recently seen movement and peace in their lives where she needed it. This into.. was awesome.

2. Dorothy began with a typical impressive list of qualifications for a ‘Keynote Mommy Speaker.’ She had 6 kids in a row. She home schooled all of them. She is now helping to raise her baby grandson. She has been married for over 20 years and clearly still adores her husband. She is smart, well read, well spoken, and of strong Christian faith.

3. Dorothy then became very transparent about her struggles as a stay-at-home mom, and some of her wisdom was:

  • We do not have to keep trying to do more or to force things to happen.
  • God does not let us skip a beat. If we are focused on nurturing our children and our homes, He will still be using that time to pour into and prepare us for ways He will use us in the future.
  • We are to be ready for MOMENTS (‘times such as this’) when God will use us.
  • God may also prune us – ask us for sacrifices.
  • We are to be real.. we don’t have to try to keep up with other women, other moms, and their ideas of what is necessary. We can have peace and comfort with who and where we are.

Do you see where this went for me? I could feel some of my friends looking at me during some of these points. Dorothy was speaking these truths directly to where I was this morning.

4. Toward the end of all this, Dorothy called the leaders of Moms and More to the front. (I became a leader readily when I was asked. I work publicity for the group and am also the unofficial social chairwoman. I really love everything about this community). Dorothy began speaking prophetically over us. She said Moms and More is destined to be an international community, something that will reach women who need this particular kind of ministry. And then she specifically mentioned that God will raise WRITERS from this group to create books and curriculum, that will find favor with publishing houses.

Interestingly enough, earlier this week, the man who has been my writing mentor since I was 14 years old sent me an email out of nowhere. He has been reading my columns and believes the time, the MOMENT, is now for me to put together a book proposal.

Finally. I mean, seriously.. I was *9* years old when I completed my first novel. Do I think maybe God put that calling on my life even before motherhood and gospel events and editing? Hmm?

It’s been an exciting week, to say the least. In the midst of all this, Miranda started dance class, Josh got a job, and Paige carried on as a high school student who can take care of her junk when her parents are occupied in the PICU. God bless those kids.

We rescheduled our Branson trip.. Rod and I will be flying there week after next for 2 1/2 days. There will be no hoopla or concerts or press events, fewer friends around, but plenty of time to meet with people and eat at Dino’s.

Be it unto me.. whatever God has next.. I know He will equip me. And I know if I take care of this family first, He will continue to be faithful in the efforts to which HE called us.

Whew. Amen.

Happy Hallo-whine

So far today, Kaity has knocked over the coat rack, broken a canister full of sugar, peed all over me, pulled Miranda’s hair, crushed crackers on the couch (but in fairness, she does this every day), and has been put down for an early nap. She is currently rebelling against that last notion with some bellowing.

We were supposed to go play this morning.. I canceled. Too much.

We are supposed to go to a Halloween/Birthday party this afternoon, 45 minutes away. Don’t have gifts for the birthday boys yet. It’s raining. I have made headway on collecting contacts for our press conference – one week from TODAY – but it’s hard to compile distrubution lists and faxes or to call town official and media contacts – with someone screaming in the background for lipstick/pumpkins/necklace/outside/’hold that.’ I also ‘only’ have about 6 more pages of the magazine to complete by Sunday night-ish.. we have a full weekend until then, and Rod leaves to go back to Louisville Sunday night, returning Wednesday, before we leave for Branson Thursday morning (& leave our kids for 4 days, which in spite of how this post sounds, I’m not overly thrilled about).

So.. biding a little time. Going to get them in their princess best soon, go through McD’s for fries and birthday gift cards (#mommyfail), and make our way to Crown Point in hopes the Hallo-whines will end. I think Rod is meeting us out there. I hope he’s on his way home.

Single parents on your own.. I salute you once again. What. A. Week.

In the spotlight

Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ August 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com

When I think back to my wedding, almost 6 years ago today, I cringe a little. It was a beautiful day, a perfect ceremony, a fun reception, the start of a life I would not trade for anything. But on August 8, 2003, I still didn’t really understand grace. On that day, I was still thinking about whom I had let down, hadn’t pleased, lost forever. I was thinking too much about who wasn’t there and wondering who didn’t want to be there. I was still worried that I would never be good enough to live the dreams I’d always had.

I was the Bride, made-up, tiara-wearing, in love, and yet I was worried about being the center of attention. Surely, there were people watching us in that spotlight, wanting us to fail. See, though our wedding day felt like a fairy tale, from my ‘angel wings’ dress to our vows set to song to the prayer said over our new family to the Mexican fiesta dinner for 100 of our friends, our beginning was not that of a fairy tale, and the cloud of judgment and guilt followed me down the aisle. Sometimes it still follows me.

I have watched with some interest and also some dread as a Christian couple in the media spotlight recently decided to go their separate ways. I find myself defensive in light of the criticism around them. I try putting myself in their shoes and wondering how it is they cope with so much unsolicited feedback. On one hand, when people live their lives in the spotlight, public response should be expected. On the other hand, when you’re a Christian in the spotlight, you hope feedback from other Christians is more Christ-like than cutting, even when you are clearly struggling to live out your faith.

I tried to keep all of these thoughts far from the front of my mind as my husband and I, with our far-less-than-perfect past and our abundance of grace, headed to Missouri for the first Branson Gospel Music Convention. Seemingly out of nowhere, God gave us the vision of this event and the passion and… insane ambition!.. to carry it out. As we drew closer, I tried to ignore the thoughts of ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘What do you think are trying to do?’ and “People are going to figure you out and turn on you.” In my own strength, I always fail to keep those thoughts at bay. I have what Joyce Meyer has termed ‘approval addiction,’ and on the cusp of the biggest undertaking in my professional and certainly in my ministerial life, I could only rely on the unwavering arms of God to keep me above that fray.

On the subject of those arms, don’t you wish you could feel the hand that gently wipes your tears or the arms that embrace you when you want to fall down? Do you ever wish that you could physically see the loving smile of Jesus? Do you ever wish He was tangibly sitting in the passenger seat of your car giving you directions, or that He was at the back of the auditorium nodding His head while you were at the front singing His praises, or that He was seated at your kitchen table calmly chatting while you were trying to fix dinner and keep the kids from tearing the door off the refrigerator? Sometimes I feel a bit envious of the disciples, who walked and talked and ate late-night nachos (you know what I mean), with the Lord. Even though they did not have some of our advantages – such as comfort, freedom, the book of Revelation – they got to touch Jesus, hear His voice, even know the scent of Him. We have our faith to rely on, but what I wouldn’t give in times such as Branson-eve to simply be in the presence of His kind eyes and loving voice and real-time wisdom!

Turns out, though, that once again, Jesus was waiting for me with a miracle. I didn’t share with anyone – not my husband, not my closest friends, not my parents, how I was feeling, how I was waiting for someone to basically come and throw me out of my own convention for not being good enough. In fact, I don’t think I even told God or myself. But He knew, and He showed up for me in ways so big, I am pretty sure I saw and felt Him in the most real sense possible.

On the first morning we were in Branson, the early arrivers gathered in an upper room, just above the exhibit hall floor, to pray. They looked at Rod and me with a bit of expectation, so Rod spoke from his place of confidence and excitement, and I started to speak out of my emotion… and I couldn’t! I looked into a crowd of 40 or so faces that were smiling at me, supporting me, and in it with me, and I was overcome. Jesus was there on those faces and in the hands that joined in a circle to lift His name. In those opening moments, before any tickets were checked or matching outfits were donned, before the stage or the sound equipment was set, before there was an audience beyond ourselves, God spoke to me, and He spoke through those of like precious faith that surrounded me, and He said, “I am here, and this is where I want you to be.”

One week later, I am still trying to put together all the thoughts and feelings and memories and plans that have sprung forth from Branson GMC. I am trying to explain to those around me, be it in person or on Facebook, that the ‘convention’ was not only a ‘success’ because of tickets sold or blessings working in other people’s lives, but because God used that week to write His grace on the walls for me. He gave people words to share with me (Thank you Roger, Kenny, Eddie, Cheryl, Julia, Ron, Bobby, Sharona, Brenda, Jimmy, Wayne, Annette, Stacey, Anthony, Lynda, and that radio lady who prayed with me, and so many more!) He gave people to take over at times so I could soak in the spirit in the music, particularly when my husband was on the platform, and I was able to resume my role as his Southern Gospel Wife. He gave people to care for my babies in such a way that I did not once have to worry or even feel too guilty about going days at a time without changing diapers (thank you Mom and Dad!).

I learned so much about God’s favor during Branson GMC. I heard it through the testimonies of others, and those are being captured in the press and on blogs and in the ministries of the artists who were there. But I want to tell the world for one moment, one page, about MY JESUS, and how He came through for me… how he assured me that grace reaches the depths of any pit, that He has in fact ordained my marriage for the good of His kingdom, and that He will use me for His glory and gain, not because of my skills or ideas or even my humility, but simply because of my willingness to be used.

Friend, if you read this and you are afraid of the call of God on your life, afraid of the spotlight that might be cast on your past, let me tell you: God has forgiven you and that alone means He wants to use you. At 32 years of age, I find myself in a very different light than I did at 22, or even 30. Being in His light, in His will, is where you will find Him in a real way. Don’t worry that the light is too bright and too many eyes will be upon you. When your heart is right before Him, all you have to do in the spotlight is hold up His message for all to see.