In October of 2014, you may have read this post on my blog. In it, I write about going on a business trip to Nashville and, at the last minute, calling up Nicole Hendley, an acquaintance with whom I’d never really shared more than a sentence or two. It worked for us to meet for coffee, and we became fast friends. During our conversation, we happened to talk a lot about pursuing goals, one of my favorite subjects. When I heard that Nicole’s goal was to write and record a five-song EP, I was elated for her.
“I’ll pray about that with you!” I told her. “To me, the hardest thing about writing is getting used to the vulnerability. Putting your work out there is difficult, but it gets easier every time you do it. So why don’t you start getting used to it by sending me what you are working on every now and then. I’ll be an early listener you can trust.”
Nicole agreed. A few weeks later, she sent me a song, recorded on her iPhone. I opened the file, breathing deeply and smiling. I felt privileged to hear the first attempt of a new songwriter. I prayed for words of encouragement for what I was guessing was probably a rough song that needed plenty of revision.
Then I pressed play.
I was sitting in a public place with headphones in my ears, and I had a hard time holding back the ugly cry. People turned to me and stared. This was no amateur songwriting effort from Nicole. I wept my way through the recording, listening to it again and again. It was spectacular in its honesty and beauty. She sent me another song a few weeks later, and it was just as good as the first. Later, she sent me a third. I prayed over all of these songs and for Nicole as she continued to write.
The Body of Christ needed these songs, I could feel it deeply. I even asked her if I could use one of her new and unpublished songs as part of one of my speaking engagements. When I played it at the event, everyone in the audience was in tears.
Then in June of 2015, eight months after we had met for coffee for the first time, I flew to Nashville and met with Nicole again. This time, I had more than just encouragement for her songwriting. I had a heartfelt request.
I asked her if she would put a deadline of April 2016 on her dream goal of recording a five-song EP. I asked her to read the manuscript of Hunting Hope and continue filling out the 5-song EP with music inspired by what she read. My desire was to offer her new EP as a pre-order bonus for my readers for a limited time only.
To my surprise, she said she would love to. We both squealed with joy as we sat at the dinner table in Puckett’s Grocery. Her calm, intelligent husband looked on, shaking his head and smiling.
Then Nicole gave me a gift she didn’t know she was giving me. As I continued to pray for the future readers of Hunting Hope and worked on the manuscript, I held onto something wonderful: someone else’s dream. I prayed for Nicole’s work as much as I prayed for my own. I prayed for her listeners as much as I prayed for my readers. I prayed for the Lord to work in and through both of us.
Why was this a gift?
Because if I had spent the last nine months thinking only about myself and my own dream, I would have crumbled into a nervous heap of rubble or exploded into the shrapnel of expectations and pride. Either way, I would have fallen apart. The more I prayed about Nicole, though, the more I felt I was on a team, and the more I felt I was on a team, the more I felt confident about what we were creating together.
That is the part that makes me dizzy: I have been creating the wrong way for most of my life. It has taken me this long– this long!– to realize that the best way we create is in community. In my twenties, it was a fun challenge to create all alone. In my thirties, it was a driving mission to create all alone. But it wasn’t until my forties that I realized it was a mistake to create all alone. Our Father is the Creator, and He has passed on the family business. It is wisdom to pattern the way we create after the One who created all things.
God did not create alone.
John 1:3-4 tells of the Father creating through the Son,
“God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.”
I regret having resisted this truth so many years. In the days since I partnered with Nicole, sincerely asking God to bless both of us, my creativity and success and the joyful feeling of reward in my projects have soared. God is pouring out an abundant anointing because I have begun doing things His way.
In the last few months, I have not only joined Nicole in co-creation, I have gotten behind other friends’ projects that relate to my personal mission statement: I encourage people to keep going through Bible-centered, written and spoken messages. Some of these projects are surprises. I am having more fun than I know how to have!
What Nicole and I have created is beautiful. The day she told me she had begun official production of the EP, I texted her that one of my dreams had come true, and I meant it. Nicole’s EP was one of my dreams, and now it is here. If we let Him, God can make us as much for our brothers’ and sisters’ successes as we are for our own.
I cannot wait for you to read what I have written in Hunting Hope. I cannot wait for you to listen to what she has written in Practice. For a limited time, you will receive Practice as a free gift if you order Hunting Hope before April 19, 2016 and then fill out this form with your information. If you already pre-ordered this also applies to you; just fill out the form.
And there’s more good news! For a limited time, you can purchase Hunting Hope at Shop Better Books for only $10. Click the link to buy now.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my friend, Nicole Hendley.
She’s about to be your favorite.