**Author's note: This blog series is a year-long installment which will chronicle the year that I turn 40 with some comical moments, retrospective insights and empowering calls to action.
I was about three or four-years-old when I took the stage to sing for my first audience. That stage was the brick hearth of my grandparents' fireplace and my audience was comprised of adoring parents and family members. I sang God only knows what, but that became the beginning of my years spent singing.
As I grew up my house was always full of music. From my grandmother singing old hymns and made-up silly songs at her kitchen sink to my dad strumming his guitar and singing some gospel favorites, there was always a tune to be heard in my house. I remember spending many evenings propped up next to my dad singing along with him. At a very young age I started singing at church and I held the main solo in my Kindergarten graduation program. Although my junior high and high school time was structured around band, I logged many hours in my church choir singing solos and special numbers on Sunday mornings. It didn't come to anyone's surprise when I dropped out of college to join a Christian music tour, ready to devote my voice to the One who'd blessed me with it.
After some time on the road, I brought my talent home to Indiana and went back to singing on Sunday mornings, now with a praise team since churches had long since put aside the hymnals. I picked up the guitar and played with a few bands and even scored a soprano spot in our local Philharmonic organization. It was my vocal director that took an interest in my talent and saw my soprano range as a natural asset that could be cultivated. After a few months of working together, he coaxed me into recording a demo to submit to an open call for the Boston Opera chamber music series. Only eight vocalists would be selected to join the nationwide tour, but my director thought I had a real chance at landing a spot on the tour.
I'll never forget the day he called me to tell me I was a front runner for one of two soprano spots. I couldn't believe it! I was so shocked, you could've knocked me over with a half note. Well, fast-forward a few weeks and I had to submit another taped demonstration of my abilities, but as I prepared for that recording session, there was a voice that kept telling me all the reasons why I wouldn't make it, couldn't make it, was wasting my time, would just embarrass myself... and so on. This was not self-doubt talking. This was an actual person in my life who belittled my God-given talent so much that I actually bought into the lies, backed out of the audition and within two years, I had quit singing altogether.
Believe me when I say I quit singing... I mean I quit singing... on a stage, in the shower, in the car. I went through some of the hardest times in my life without a single note being sung. For five years I didn't sing.
Once I met and married Mat, a music lover as well, he began to slowly coax a little sing-song out of me. He applauded my talent and encouraged me to use it. Of course, it took more than a little singing around the house to overwrite the hurt and fear that had taken root for those silent years. But... last year at Christmas it happened... I sang.
It was Christmas morning, on a Sunday, and the church I had just joined that spring had a choir pulled together for Christmas service. It was just a few weeks of rehearsal leading up to the big day, but in that time, I had been asked to sing the solo for one of the choral pieces we were to present. The sanctuary was packed and for the first time in a long time, I was very nervous to sing. The song was being played and my time had come to sing. I took a breath and the first several notes came out. The sound of the instruments and other voices supporting me mixed with my own voice and I was overwhelmed with emotion. It felt so good to be doing something I had loved so much.
I don't plan to join a tour and hit the road at all. But in the past year, I've slowly allowed myself to be vulnerable in that talent of mine. I fill my car with music in the morning, singing as I commute to work. I look forward to the hymns we sing on Sunday and the choir practice that follows church. I was recently asked to prepare a solo for an upcoming Sunday service. I don't expect any fame or glory to come from my vocal endeavors, in fact, that's not my motivation in the slightest. No, my reason is to glorify God - to take something He gave me and offer it back to Him in a form or adoration and love that just happens to come with an accompaniment. Looking back on my 40 years of life, my fondest most precious memories are rooted in music. I am so thankful that Heavenly Father finds ways to soften our hearts and call us out of hiding so that we can live in the talents, gifts and abilities He has given us. It's not a Grammy... but it feels good just to be singing.