From time to time I am given the opportunity to try and contribute what I can to our Sunday worship services. Sometimes it may be through a few spoken words that hopefully help others along their path as I work my way along my own. Sometimes I try to share a message and feelings through music.
Yesterday I had just such an opportunity.
A wonderful family friend is preparing to leave for 18 months to serve a mission, giving of herself completely to doing all she can to bring happiness and peace to our earthly brothers and sisters. I felt that perhaps the hymn “God Be with You ‘Till We Meet Again” would be the right message.
After the meeting was over, I immediately left the chapel and with pen and paper began a letter to our son Nick. There had been some pretty powerful lessons taught and learned that I wanted to share with him.
Maybe I’ll share them with you as well.
I had kind of an interesting experience today. I sang in sacrament meeting when Whitney spoke before leaving on her mission. I had several songs that I thought may be appropriate, but felt calm and peaceful about trying “God Be with You.”
I practiced pretty hard for several weeks. You know I’m kind of weird and like to play the piano for myself when I sing. Must be an OCD thing. Anyway, I started with the piano arrangement and worked for several days just on it. I had some discouraging periods where my hands just wouldn’t agree with my brain, or my eyes just couldn’t translate correctly to my head the difference between an A or a G. I just stared at the pages pretty confused.
I was filled with doubts that perhaps my time at playing and singing had come and gone.
But I persisted. After a while things started to come together and it began to sound like real music and not just a string of notes.
Then I started to work on the vocal part. My horror continued when my voice struggled to land squarely on the correct pitch and I was either flat or sharp, froggy or squeaky.
I will admit that I started to think “Really, are you kidding me?”
But then after working and working and working it all started to come together like it used to. I felt a bit more alive as things long familiar but only in the past came back to me.
You know how I like to go over the day before to get the microphone and stand and practice on the different piano. You know, get the levels right between instrument and voice. But I don’t have a key anymore to let myself in.
So I thought that I’d just work hard at home, and then on Sunday slip over before the meeting started and become familiar again with that piano and the microphone.
However, Mom suggested that I call and borrow a key and still go over on Saturday. You and I both have learned that if Mom makes a suggestion, we are always better off to not question it but just to follow it.
The practice went really well. I was feeling calm about the whole thing. There was a pretty good chance that things would go as planned.
Sunday morning came and my first few practice runs at home were scary. My voice was more froggy than usual and the piano notes confused me again.
My prayer was that I wouldn’t detract from the meeting, but would somehow help others to feel our Heavenly Father’s spirit and have a true worship experience. I had to, as you so often tell me, put it into His hands and trust.
I slipped over before the meeting to run through again with that piano and try out the microphone, but discovered that the chapel was being used, and would be used until right before our meeting started.
I know what you are thinking. Knowing me as you do, you can see my anxiety level shoot through the rafters and I’d be spinning out of control. I thought I would have done that too. (Source: LDS Media Library)
But I didn’t.
I got the stand and microphone and put them right outside the chapel so I could quickly grab them when the other group finished in the chapel, and went back home to practice a few more times.
I offered a prayer of gratitude that your Mom had the wisdom and inspiration to have me go to the effort to practice there the day before. As always, she was right.
The practices back at home actually went really well. I felt my voice was hitting the notes and my fingers were finding the chords.
Through it all I felt really peaceful and calm. I didn’t feel alone, but that I was already receiving the help that each of us needs, always.
Mom and I went back, set up the microphone at the piano and then sat down while the prelude music played.
The meeting was wonderful and I wasn’t really focused on my part coming up, but rather on what was happening currently. That in itself for me is progress.
When my time came, I walked up, sat at the piano and began.
But nothing sounded right to me. My confusion on which notes to play on the piano seemed to freeze me in time. The pitches in my head were off and I didn’t feel the confidence to try to find them again. Somehow I made it to the end.
I walked back to sit by Mom with my head down and my fingers kind of twitching. That oh-so familiar sensation of sobbing inside welled up pretty quickly. I felt so bad that I had spoiled a meeting that had been going so well.
For a fraction of a second the thought raced through my mind “But I practiced so hard! I prayed for help. I felt so peaceful. I didn’t freak out when I couldn’t rehearse before the meeting, but just took it in stride. I really had made progress this time on some of my personal weaknesses. I had turned it over to the Lord.”
In the past, there had always been heavenly help to make up for my inadequacies and I was usually pleased with how it had turned out.
But not today.
And this is the moment I want to share with you: I had been operating under the notion that if I did all that I could, and worked as hard as I could, that I would be blessed with the outcome I desired. And truthfully, that has happened many, many times.
But this time, after doing all that I could do, it still wasn’t what I thought it should be.
I didn’t get my desired result.
In the next fraction of a second, after all these thoughts somehow were squeezed into less than a breath, I felt an overwhelming peace and the thought “But it is still okay.”
My testimony isn’t in the result.
It’s in the whole thing.
I had felt God’s help all through the preparation. I had grown personally in rolling with the last minute change of not practicing in the chapel and not being upset by it. And right now I felt the calming, comforting spiritual companionship that was the real reason we were there in the first place.
I closed my eyes and thanked our Father in Heaven. I thanked him for teaching me the difference between humiliation and humility.
That makes all the difference.