“Oh no you don’t!” was my mantra as I tried to hold my breath. I was 5 minutes away from taking the stage at the World Vision headquarters in Federal Way, where I was to share my story of my passion for protecting children. For the life of me, I could not control my coughing. The last two weeks were a complete fog filled with night sweats, chills, and a brutal whaling cough. It was only a few days earlier that I had coughed up a couple of ribs and a kidney! (okay, not really but it felt that way!)
I couldn’t help but to think of what the great Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I’d been here before; it was a recognizable place for me. The moment when external and internal factors start to take over and prematurely make excuses for ourselves so we won’t be disappointed if our outcome is only sub par. I think we all have a tendency to want an out or a safety net, something that pads our fall if we bomb… a justifiable excuse for not being our best. It never ceases to amaze me how often our insecurities will undermine and betray us if we allow it. This was one of those moments for me.
I’ve never been one to talk for the sake of talking. I truly believe that our words are meant to be precise, valuable and faith-building for the receiver. Even though I have spoken hundreds of times in front of an audience, I am certain that every message is important and should be specific for the listener. Speaking engagements are an honor and deserve time, attention and the best efforts of the speaker.
In this situation – that speaker was me, however, just 18 hours earlier, I found myself struggling to execute my message. My head cold made it almost impossible for me to give adequate time for preparing over the prior two weeks. Frustrated with the constant sneezing and coughing, I started getting ready for bed thinking that I would finish my speech on my drive to the World Vision campus the next morning.
It’s not uncommon during my nightly routine for me to break out in song while brushing my teeth. I find that my electronic toothbrush makes a great microphone for an audience of one. My throat quickly reassured me that I was not yet completely well to sing this night, but I gave it my best effort. Before I knew it I was singing: “Strumming my pain with this sickness, sneezing the life out of me, killing me softly with this virus, killing me softly…” Suddenly it hits me, the karaoke machine! I always believe you should practice like you play and up to this point, I had felt physically incapable of making something meaningful out of my notes.
Three minutes later, I’m standing on my coffee table with my 2 year old daughter’s karaoke machine. I turned the volume to high and I started speaking to my couch as if it were an auditorium full of listeners. Something clicked in my brain. All of the fog lifted and I had clarity of mind, precision in my words and passion in my voice.
Sometimes all it takes is an unexpected idea. With God’s help I solidified my story using the unique mockup of a “Karaoke Princess” microphone while standing on my family coffee table to simulate a stage.
My thoughts were quickly interrupted by applause when my introduction was over and it was my turn to take the stage. “Oh no you don’t!” I said again, this time speaking to my cough as I walked up the steps to the chapel platform. I knew in that moment, I was ready. I was prepared. I was going to give it my all. Sometimes it comes down to a simple choice. A choice to be our best and to accept nothing less.
~ Christine Gibbs