Michelle James Artical!
My earliest memory of my Cousin Michelle was circa 1985. I was in the 4th grade and she loaned me her Melodica the one that came in the baby blue case with 2 latches on the side – yep, that one; so that I could play in my school’s orchestra. I thought it was so cool that she allowed me to use it. After all, she was my big cousin Michelle. Sadly, due to a series of unfortunate events, I damaged it. Words cannot begin to describe the feelings of fear and dread that engulfed my mind when I contemplated having to explain this tragedy to her. What was I going to say? She would be so upset! I would be cast back into the insignificant pickney pile that I had just emerged from. Discussing all things Melodica was my only shot at having a meaningful conversation with my super cool cousin. So I did the only thing that made any sense to me. When she arrived at the house to pick up the Melodica, I ran and hid. At first in the closet, then behind my grandmother’s Singer sewing machine – the one with the foot pedal and the hand wheel – yep that one. Now, Michelle had stopped by with a friend and they were on their way to hang out and surf the internet. Goodness me! Surf the internet? What was that? It sounded sooo cool, so hip, so artical! (If you are a child of the 80’s you know what that means). Well, that was Michelle. Artical!
I watched with bated breath as my Aunt explained the situation to her. I was half expecting the earth to open up and swallow me alive when I heard her chuckle. Through the slit of a half-opened eye, I saw her examining the Melodica. Then both my eyes, my mouth, and my young heart flew wide open when I saw her close the case, flash her hand dismissively, and light-heartedly tell my Aunt that it was ok. By now, my head had boldly rounded the side of the sewing machine, directly in her line of sight. She looked in my direction, laughed, and with a gentle flourish, she turned and seemed to float on out of there. Into the night. To surf the internet. In 1985. Artical!
Fast forward to 1998. Michelle was migrating to Florida and I was tasked with picking her up from the airport. We had not had much interaction in the 10 or so years since the “Incident”, but I knew enough to keep me in my decade-old state of awe. There was no Singer sewing machine to hide behind in Miami International Airport, so I had to be enough. She was a Corporate Computer trainer now and an accomplished vocalist. Was she still going to be cool? Would she be kind? Was I cool enough? Oh, brother! The things I put myself through. Well, she was cool and warm and kind and she talked to me like I was an old friend. Still Artical!
In the years that followed, I watched her prayerfully navigate her professional life as she pursued advanced studies and launch into her career as an Instructional Designer. I didn’t even know that was a thing. She also pursued her passion for music. On a few occasions. I asked her whether or not she would go pro and record an album, go on tour, and get us front-row tickets to the Grammy’s. Her simple answer was no. Her heart was for ministry. She was content offering her talent in the service of her King in the church community. She threw herself into ministering consistently here at MBC, serving on the Choir as well as the Praise & Worship Team, to this day. For decades, Michelle graciously blessed our hearts in song at almost every concert, funeral, banquet, wedding, and festival sponsored by our church. From time to time, I still ask her to sing the Tramaine Hawkins classic “What Shall I Do.” That was my song!
He called her to serve as Co-Choir Director, Leader of the Praise & Worship Team, and then Music Director. Michelle will tell you that she is a shy introvert, but there was nothing shy or introverted about the way in which she rose to the challenges that these roles required. With great prayer, thought, and preparation, she diligently led her teams through the process of planning, practice, implementation, and execution. She was and still is an inspiration to all those who have had the opportunity to serve with her. Over the years, I have watched in admiration as Michelle has grown and matured in Christ. She never brought up the “Incident” and she’s even cooler now than she was all those years ago. (If that’s even possible) I’m not sure what God has planned for this new phase of her life, but if it’s anything like surfing the internet in 1985, I know it’s going to be ARTICAL! 🙂