What do a seven year old boy… a very special uncle… Chris Tomlin… and a night out with Mom all have to do with a pair of shoes?

On October 15th, Mike and I went to see my brother Jeff in Spartanburg SC.  He works with Chris Tomlin, and the night of worship was like water to my soul.  After the concert ended, we went backstage to visit with some friends from Atlanta.  We were talking with Matt, Tim and Kristian about something significant that happened to our son J. Michael over the summer:

Mike and he were in the car one day, when J. Michael said, “Dad, I don’t think that God has called me to be a gymnast.”  (With his basketball-player build, we pretty much already knew that! haha.)

Mike was smiling huge on the inside, and kept a very sincere tone with him, “Really, J. Michael?  Well, what do you think about that?”
J. Michael replied, “Well actually, I’ve been talking to God about it, and I think He wants me to write songs… so I would really like to learn to play piano and guitar this year.”
Done!  I mean, seriously – how else can you POSSIBLY respond to that, right?  So J. Michael is taking piano now, and loving it!  It’s a very progressive approach to learning, and in just the third lesson, he came home playing a 12-bar blues chord progression and a blues scale, using both hands.
Some of the guys in the band now have kids of their own, and Matt (who plays keys) immediately said, “What a cool kid!  I want to meet him!”  Tim and Kristian said, “Yes!  Bring him to us… We will totally pump him up!!!”
So Mike decided that J. Michael and I should go to Salem VA, just us, so that he could meet these guys, see his beloved Uncle Jeff, and experience something extremely special – a dialing-in of outside influencers that will mean the world to our little boy.

Thursday morning came.  We woke up and I took JMan to get his hair cut, Sadiella watching on.  We told Dana, the stylist, all that we were about to do, and she immediately joined in, talking to JM about having a journal, writing down his thoughts… And as she shaped his hair, I could hear the shaping of his ideas, even through her respect and encouragement.

He walked a little taller and we went to a local diner for a big brunch, spent the next few hours at home doing school work, and then joined other home-school friends for a fall hayride.  Sadie went home with friends, and from there, J. Michael and I hit the road for Salem VA!

Two and a half hours.  No DS.  No DVDs.  We talked.  We listened to music.  We talked some more.  When we got into town, near the Civic Arena, I had the sudden urgency to take him to Target and buy him a new pair of shoes.
After we got the shoes, we were in the car for our final few minutes before arriving at the venue.  I said, “J. Michael… this is a very special night.  You may want to take a minute and pray about it before we get there.” 

I had expected an internal response, but without hesitation, he just started to pray out loud. “Dear God… Thank you for tonight.  Thank you that I get to see Uncle Jeff.  Help the worship tonight to be great, and please… if there is anything that You want to say to me… I just hope that I can hear You.”

Not “I hope I get to meet the band and get autographs.”  Not “Please give us great seats so that I can see over all the tall people.”  
Wow, JMan.  And Amen.  Inside, I knew we were in for something really really special.
We were on Chris’ guest list and while that was super cool for J. Michael, his responses were quiet and subdued. The camera we borrowed from Mr. Andy was confiscated until after the concert, though, and it took us a while to get in.  I wondered why stopping to get shoes was so important, and hoped that I hadn’t blown it for J. Michael by getting us in AFTER the “meet and greet.”  We went to see Uncle Jeff first, of course.  Then we took our seats.
Kristian Stanfill started.  Standing beside a son who has so much love for God within him, I was quite happy at this point that I had never made time in MY day to put even an ounce of makeup on my face.  It would have been a mess by the night’s end anyway!!!
Kristian’s words took on new meaning to me in light of my son, “Say say, Say you believe it.  Sing for the whole world to hear it.  We know and we declare it – Jesus is King…”
my iphone pic attempt in the dark

During the break, we talked with Uncle Jeff some more, and before my eyes, J. Michael’s mannerisms were… well… growing up.

He watched the men on stage with such intensity.  Soon, and for the rest of the concert, he was singing out, often putting an arm around me, clapping, shouting, and at times raising his hands to God – his growing arms that have existed for seven years were outstretched in praise and not because I was leading him.  This was his reaction tonight.  His expression.  This night was all his own.

Jeffrey Sandstrom and Jeffrey Michael

Afterward, we were backstage, and J. Michael got to meet the band and talk  more with Uncle Jeff.  With the camera back, I took these pictures.  The guys treated JMan like one of them.  He found out what each of their first live concert experiences were, and asked when they started playing their instruments.

He BEAMED when his Uncle Jeff made EVERYONE well aware that his name is JEFFREY Michael, emphasizing the Jeffrey! 

Jesse, Jeffrey, Daniel, Travis, Matt, and Jeffrey Michael

Their encouragement poured on him.  Jesse said, “Jeffrey Michael… I wish I had started this when I was seven.  Keep your focus, and you will save yourself from a LOT of trouble, man.”

Matt told him to play all of the instruments he can, to write often, and shared how thankful he is for every opportunity he has been given to use his gifts.  He also asked J. Michael, “Do you think you’ll be accompanying your Mom soon?” to which *I* said, “Nah… I will be sitting in the heart of the crowd, cheering him on.”

Many things were said, and he was just soaking it all in.  Then Jesse said, “Wait right here, J. Michael.”

Chris Tomlin with J. Michael Fox

Then… “Mr. Chris” came up the stairs, and J Michael’s face was beaming.  They talked… and talked.  J. Michael asked him when he started writing.  He said “I wrote my first song when I was sixteen.  Man, you’ve got me beat by ten years!”  Later he said, “Let me just make one request… Do you think we can open for you someday?” and one of JMan’s favorite moments of the night was when Chris said, “See you later J. Michael Fox!”

There are so many other meaningful words and moments that I will take with me; I will treasure all of these things in my heart.
But, what did all of this have to do with the pair of shoes???
For a few weeks now, Jeffrey Michael has been wearing an old pair of MY shoes — a pair of Nike runners that I purchased off of a BOYS rack several years ago.  He hasn’t minded, and he actually really likes them.  But after we walked into the condo at nearly 2am, I was cleaning up the trail of shoes and clothes that my seven year old son had left behind him when he walked his very tired body to his bunk bed… and it was then that I realized…

Tonight, my son walked in his own shoes.

The strong urgency to stop at Target and get new shoes was merely a symbol of something far greater.  Tonight, it was NOT about my worship or my singing, or about anything that his Mom and Dad, Aunts or Uncles desire for him.  It was not even about having a God-glorifying role model or the great opportunity to meet incredible and respectful musicians.  Jeffrey Michael, the tenderhearted child who asked God to speak to him so that he might hear it… this kid experienced the night of his life… 

Walking in his own shoes.

Staring at his empty shoes reminded me that there will come a day when we will all leave our shoes behind.  I pray that as a Mom, I will help my children walk well … on their OWN spiritual journeys … to make the most of the things eternal, things that actually matter … so that when they leave their shoes behind, their paths were taken on love well-traveled… while  having traveled in such a way that they were not relying on my feet to walk for them.
I hope that you are doing all you can do to teach your eternally beautiful children how to stand with the Lord on their own two feet.
(And really, that is why we are doing Cre8.  So we look forward to Wednesday…  and we hope you will wear your walking shoes!)

HillBilly is the Lighting Director, so I will let them turn the lights off on this one. Peace out, and Rock… no WALK on!

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