On the stage and behind the scenes

The NarroWay Blog

Chapter 8: What We Didn't Want to Do


What we didn’t want to do is what landed us exactly where we had to be.

college graduationBIRIDE –
We graduated college. Our parents loaded their cars and drove us nine hours from home to Louisville, Kentucky to start seminary. As they prepared to leave, we cried so hard that it embarrassed even them.

Before that, we went down to register. There were no rooms available. We would have to pull out. We were leaving when the phone rang. “Two places just opened up,” the gentleman said. “Because you’re here, I’ll give them to you.”

However, we were no longer roommates.



seminary doors
seminary bench

Pastor Joe and my sister, Tessie, started seminary, too, and took their first full-time church. Tessie began a youth ministry called the King’s Children.

first youth team

One day Tessie said: “Would you be willing to travel to our church on weekends? I’ll write a musical. You direct it and we’ll take them on a tour.”

church pewsBIRDIE –
We did. It was a five-hour drive – each way!

Tessie wrote “Esther,” and we compiled contemporary tunes. The King’s Children grew!

That was A FIRST!
With Tessie’s and Joe’s support, Rebecca and I directed our first musical as a team, took the youth on tour, and established a ministry centered on theatrical performances.

tour busREBECCA –
Then Tessie wrote “Sandcastles.” Another FIRST - we wrote all the music! The church couldn’t hold the people who came. They sat on the floor, even on the piano and organ benches.

All the while, we made that ten-hour journey every weekend. We had little money. Joe and Tessie gave us enough to pay for gas. Eventually the church gave us a small stipend.

It was a terrible winter. Record snow-falls! seminary snow

Several late nights as we traveled, the weather was so bad we couldn't see. I had to open the car door to find the road.

Interstates closed. We maneuvered around jack-knifed tractor-trailers. We communicated via CB radios – the original push-to-talk!

Tessie gave everyone a “handle.” I was “Sleepy Beaver.”

I was “Big Bird.” Joe was “Gravy Train” with “Travelin’ Tessy.” Their thumb-sucking firstborn was “Some Thumb!”

Our calling was godly. Our schedule was not!

  • Monday-Friday:  Master classes and studying
  • Friday, 5pm:  Travel five hours to church field after last class finished
  • Saturday, 8am:  Work time at the church office
  • Sunday:  Service preparations. Youth and Children’s rehearsals. Meetings.
  • Sunday, 6pm:  Travel five hours back to Louisville.
  • Repeat!

Rebecca was selected to intern for the state Baptist publication. That brought in enough money to buy Fayo sodas, Kool-Aid, Ramen noodles, and popcorn. For special occasions we fried chicken livers in the hall kitchenette and ate pork-n-beans.

Ohhhhh, God is faithful!
One day we soooo wanted Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Chocolate Chip Mint! We had enough for one dip and two spoons. Birdie went to order. Something said to me: “Look inside your wallet.” I did. There were three twenty-dollar bills!!! I grabbed my purse and caught Birdie as she ordered: “WAIT! ... Make that two cones ... double dips, please!”

Another time, two envelopes were under Tessie and Joe’s door. One had their names. The other said: "Birdie and Rebecca."

We bought jeans!!

We looooved extra-crispy, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I've always been a fan of fried chicken!birdie fried chicken
Once we counted out all our change to the cashier. To the penny, we had just enough to buy two dinners! It was heaven-on-earth!

Then there was the room situation.

The seminary charged $50 a person to request a room change. Might as well have been $10,000! None of us had extra money.

That Christmas we got a bag of popcorn from Tessie and Joe. An envelope was taped to it with two $50 bills!

Roommates re-united!

We had many "on-the-job" learning experiences in those formative years. Example: every church has an unspoken, non-elected “church boss.”

She’s not talking about the pastor or the receptionist; although I’ve known a few church secretaries who assumed the position. (I’m smiling!)

As a proudly-educated seminary student, I met with the “church boss” to discuss how the children’s church program "could really use some improvement...” only to find out that his daughter ran the program.... It was sweet. (I’m lying!)

Yes, we learned some hard lessons they don’t teach you in seminary!

Nearing graduation we had another FIRST! For my Master’s thesis we team-wrote, directed and performed our first adult musical: “The Cross.”

That same year, Birdie was named “Outstanding Instrumentalist” by the seminary.

seminary music awardNotice the date on this award letter - May 22, 1980. Little did any of us know that exactly 17 years later, on May 22, 1997, we would be opening the doors to our very first show ever as NarroWay!

After that two-and-a-half years, we graduated seminary saying:

“One thing I know I NEVER want to do is be Church Staff.”

God was laughing out loud! He spent the next sixteen years showing us that He uses the things you NEVER want to do, to get you to the place where you were ALWAYS meant to be!

music scoreWhen we started writing, every music score had to be written by hand. hand written music scoreThe only way to correct mistakes or make changes, was white-out... or re-do the whole score!
music scores boundEvery vocal part was hand-written... instrument music scoresalong with all the instrumentation!
birdie unpackingBirdie unloads after our first tour. That expression is called, "After shock!" youth tours 11Travel excitement!
church stepsWaitng to greet the audience, or, as we called them then - the congregation. travel tour busTraveling to our first tour performance.
dress rehearsalThe King’s Children dress rehearsal. Far right - Tessie performed, too. Boys in the back? Well, let’s just say these teens trained us how to be mean! Just kidding! They were brilliant, loving and a pure joy in our lives.
kings kidsThese were The King’s Kids, the younger generation. “Some Thumb” is first row, third from the left!
cassettesSome of the first cassette tracks we made for performances. music score tapedThis was one score, hand-written and taped together so the pianist could see it all without trying to turn the pages!


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Chapter 9: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Chapter 7: Listen for Lottie

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