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Winners - BEYOND ME by Melinda Doolittle

The winners of BEYOND ME by Melinda Doolittle are:
Everyone who entered won!
Congratulations! (I've emailed you. Please email me at camy {at] camytang[dot}com if you didn’t get the email message.)

I know that all of you who didn’t win are now crying in your butternut squash. Cheer up and order the book!

Back cover blurb:

In Beyond Me, American Idol star Melinda Doolittle shares the surprising truth that her own success and personal joy were directly proportional to her investment in encouraging and nurturing others.

Through poignant, often humorous stories, you will discover the secrets to Melinda’s success, finding practical help to overcome your own obstacles to achieve the next level in any area of life.

Because she was tone deaf as a child, Doolittle’s choir director would plead with her to just move her mouth and not let any sound come out. Undaunted, her love of singing drove her to enter a contest in the 7th grade and, miraculously, she won. Melinda began to realize that success in life was something bigger than her---or, as she puts it, “It’s beyond me!”

She began setting and systematically reaching her goals, such as singing background vocals for her many of her favorite music artists. Then by an amazing turn of events, she burst onto the music scene with her flawless vocal performances on American Idol – becoming the clear favorite of the show’s most difficult judge, Simon Cowell.

Beyond Me also provides you a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of America’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, American Idol, and how she turned that stress-filled environment into a springboard from which she could soar.

Excerpt of chapter one:

Chapter One: Dream Big!

According to all the statistics, I am not supposed to succeed, and I am definitely not supposed to be happy. You see, I started my life as a shy, only child in a single-parent family; my mom and dad divorced when I was not quite one year old.

So how have I beaten the odds and defied the statistics? Why am I happy? Why do I feel like I have been blessed with success beyond my wildest dreams? To be truthful, it’s beyond me.

I do know, however, that I haven’t just sat back and let life throw at me whatever it will. Instead—and this has been key— I’ve always worked to find my way to life’s next level. Hopefully, in the pages ahead, I’ll be able to show you not only how to do the same but also why I believe success and happiness are more of a choice than merely a result of your circumstances.

Both my mom and dad are absolutely wonderful people. When I was growing up, I got to see my dad twice a year, and I spent the rest of the time with my mom. As she did for most things in my early life, Mom made me feel that having a single parent all to myself was the coolest thing ever!

Mom was my best friend. We had “girls’ night” and slumber parties together, times when the two of us simply hung out and talked about life, big issues and small, and all that was going on in our world. One of our favorite activities was to put on our pajamas and have an Anne of Green Gables party, during which we watched the video for the umpteenth time and enjoyed it every bit as much as the first time. Mom also encouraged me to have my girlfriends over to our home, and she was quick to allow one or more of my friends to sleep over. She wanted to know my friends. Mom never allowed me to sleep over at the home of a friend unless she knew that the parents’ lifestyle was consistent with her morals and values. Mom was always so innovative and creative when it came to our parties, too, coming up with all sorts of fun things to do. Although she never complained, I now realize that she had to be creative, since we lived on a very limited budget.
Nevertheless, not only did I get to have girls’ nights with Mom and my friends on a regular basis at home, but I was also a jet-setter. Well, sort of. I got to fly—by myself—to visit my dad.

That was the way I was raised: Figure out the best thing about a situation and run with it. So, not surprisingly, that life principle has stuck with me—and come in very handy over the years.

I was also raised to believe I could be or do anything I put my mind to. And how do children figure out what they want to do or be? They try everything! Thankfully, my mom was up for the challenge, and she let me try almost any sport, instrument, or childhood activity at least once.

So What Were My Options?

As I considered those things that I enjoyed, I started with my closest role model.


Option 1: Be a Teacher


My mom has worked in schools all of my life. Mom has taught elementary, middle, and high school. She worked mainly in special education. She even worked in school administration for a while. School was Mom’s life, so I figured it might be mine as well. I remember getting home from school before my mom, lining up my stuffed animals, and teaching them all the subjects. That’s how I did my homework a lot of the time. I quickly realized, however, that I did not have the patience for teaching. Every time a stuffed animal got an answer wrong, I got so frustrated! Then I suspended the offending critter, and pretty soon, I would be down to one student. Teaching was out.


Option 2: Be an Ice-Skater


I loved watching ice-skating on television with my mom. I tried gliding and jumping around the room to show Mom my triple lutz, and she applauded and gave me my score. I probably should have figured out that ice-skating was not for me, considering the fact that she never gave me a perfect 10. But I asked to take skating lessons anyway. That dream faded as fast as it started. I quickly discovered that I had a fundamental problem with being an ice-skater: I can’t stand to be cold. Ice-skating was out.


Option 3: Be a Dancer or a Gymnast


I should probably preface this with the fact that words really matter to my mom. She believes that words are powerful, that you receive what you say. Mom nicknamed me “Grace” in hopes that one day the name would stick and I would actually be graceful. Unfortunately, I was the kid who ran into everything, tripped over my own feet, and always found some new way to fall. Why I thought dancing or gymnastics would work is beyond me, but I tried. During the first dance class my mom observed, my fellow dancers and I were dancing around some kind of large column in the middle of the room. Of course, I was the only one to run into it— several times. Similarly, in my first gymnastics meet, I fell off the balance beam at least twice; my highest score was a 6.3 out of a possible 10. Dancing and gymnastics were out.

Option 4: Be a Singer

After I had stumbled through bunches of activities, the one thing I absolutely could not get enough of at the end of the day was music. First, I tried playing instruments. The only time Mom ever flinched about me taking lessons was when I wanted to play the saxophone: “You know, Melinda, the flute is a little more delicate. The saxophone is really loud.”

I tried the saxophone, and not only was it really loud, but I was really bad.

I later switched to the flute and did fairly well, landing a first-chair position in our school band. I finally found something I was good at, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t my passion.

Now, my mom and dad had very different views about the kind of music I should listen to. My mom played only Christian music in our home. My dad, on the other hand, wanted me to hear the reason he had started playing drums so many years ago—when Motown was in its prime. I immediately fell in love with Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and so many more. A new dream blossomed within me. I wanted to be a singer!

There was only one problem with that. I was tone-deaf. As much as I loved music, it did not love me. It wasn’t that I didn’t try; I tried my best. I remember how excited I was when I finally got into a choir. Come to find out, they loved my charisma, so they put me in the middle of the group, but they specifically requested that I not sing, that I simply lip sync. “Just move your lips, Melinda,” the director would say. “Stand there in the middle of the group and mouth the words, but please don’t let any sound come out.”

I was happy to do it, though, because I was still considered a member of the choir, and I loved every second! However, as far as my choir directors were concerned, for me, singing was out.

I did not see it that way. As any tone-deaf person knows, I was not the problem. When I sang alone and a cappella, I thought I was pretty good. The problems started when people and music were added. For some reason, their voices and instruments did not want to adapt to my pitch. So I quickly learned that if I were going to be part of a choir, I would have to sacrifice singing out loud. That was okay with me. I was the best at the “hand-ography,” and my huge smile contributed to performances that were loved by our parents and friends in the audience. I was content . . . for a while.

I remember the day everything changed for me. It was the summer before seventh grade, and I was shopping for shoes with my mom. Neither of us really liked to shop, so it wasn’t fun at all, and I was looking for any distraction. Just then, a Whitney Houston song came on over the store’s speaker system, and not only did we stop shopping, but everyone in the store stopped to listen. Whitney’s voice was so commanding and beautiful. The moment lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed like forever.

As everyone went back to shopping, I started imagining and dreaming. I don’t even recall the rest of the shopping trip. All I remember is getting home and telling my mom that I wanted to sing for real! I wanted a voice to come out of me that made people stop and listen.

My mom searched to find words that would not discourage me from my dream, but still be honest. I believe her exact reply was “Baby, you’re going to have to pray—HARD!”

So I did. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed. I promised God that when He did this for me, if people stopped and listened, I would represent Him well. Then I set a goal. I decided I wanted to be able to sing with music at the Fusion talent show. Fusion was the name of my youth group at Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I learned so much at church about having strong faith and dreaming big, so what better place to debut my new voice?

I had the dream, I had the faith, I had the venue. Now, I needed the song. My mom and I have always loved the song “Oh, the Blood of Jesus.” So we went to the store to find the soundtrack for my favorite version, one I had heard on Gospel Bill, a television show I loved as a child. Once the song was picked, the only thing left to do was practice, practice, practice! I practiced for a full month to get ready. I was living and breathing that song.

Then the day came. My youth pastor, Kent Booth, and the staff were kind enough to let me be a part of the show even though they had heard me sing in the past and knew the potential for disaster. It was so great to have them believe me when I said, “I can do it this time.”

All I remember about that event is stepping onto the stage and hearing the music start. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and began to sing. I don’t recall anything about the actual performance, but when it was over, I opened my eyes and saw all of Fusion on their feet, clapping and cheering. My mom was in the back of the room, crying tears of joy.

When I got home later that evening, my mom told me that some of the youth leaders had gone to Kent and expressed their concern that I had been allowed to lip sync in the talent show. He had just laughed and explained to them that the quiet girl with the big smile had been singing for real! I haven’t stopped smiling or singing since.

Because I have had some dreams come true, I love encouraging other people to dream, to open their hearts and minds and see what they can do and what God can do in and through them. Nowadays I like to tell people that I meet after my concerts, “Dream big!” That’s how I sign my photos and my albums, usually adding a reference to my favorite Bible verse, Ephesians 3:20. I quote it to anyone who will listen:

Now to Him Who, by . . . [the action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to . . . do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]. (amp)

Let me tell you why I know this verse is absolutely true. After that talent show, not only could I sing with other people and musicians, but I could hear harmonies, I could make them up on my own, and the sound of my voice was more powerful than I could have ever imagined.
Years later, I walked into a recording session in Nashville, Tennessee, to sing background vocals for a project Israel Houghton was producing. The songs were for a church in Texas that had just hired a new worship leader. My mouth dropped open when he came into the studio.

It was Kent Booth. We hugged, and Kent said, “Melinda, what in the world are you doing here?”

“I’m singing background on your album.” Kent wasn’t aware of it, but by that time in my career, I had already sung on dozens of albums.

“Wow! Did you ever dream in a million years that you’d be doing this for a living?”

Of course I did! I’d dreamed it over and over again.

Order:
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Comments

  1. Not sure if you got my emails. Thanks so much!

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete

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