Many recollections from my past cause me to flinch with guilt. How I wish I could undo my mistakes or go back and clear the lenses of my proverbial glasses so that I could have “seen” better at particular points in time.
As I look back at my history of playing organ for church services the past 10+ years, there are many happy moments as I was blessed to be able to serve and honor God in that facet. There is also the realization that sometimes my attitude was fairly rotten as I’d get stressed out by my preparations and lose focus.
When my oldest two kids were littler, it took quite a bit of effort to get prepared for services in accordance with my standards (at the time). They were so close in age and both so dependant, so I’d haul over baby gates, bags of toys, snacks, my music (and of course the kids–one on my hip and one holding my hand). By the time we made it up all those steps to the organ in the balcony, I was already huffing and puffing and in need of a breather. As soon as the first incidence of sibling strife or rebellion (at being stuck in the pack-n-play) occurred, I’d feel my tension level rise. I know that a time or two (or more) I allowed that tension level to skyrocket, and pretty soon Mt. Mommy had erupted. My head hangs with shame.
I am soooooo grateful to be in a different place now. It has been quite a journey to get here! Several factors had to come into play to help me gain perspective. For instance, teaching last year left me much less time to practice and less time with my family, so by God’s grace I suddenly had in sharp focus the truth that, for me, playing the organ in worship was NOT the be-all and end-all. It was an important responsibility and privilege, most definitely, but it could not be allowed to be the source of stress and strife for my family. There had to be a balance, and I finally have found ways to often achieve something akin to it!
Sometimes I know that the schedule of that week just won’t allow me much time to get over to church. Then I realize that it’s best to select piano music so that I can still be well-prepared, but can do my preparations at home on our piano. You might recall me blogging about that a few weeks ago. Normally I can learn the hymns on the organ within a reasonable time frame, so if I only have a short period of time in which I can get over to church, it’s manageable and easier on everyone (in my family).
I still do like to get over to church during the day even though my husband is unable to help me and though I have little ones to bring along. What’s making the difference is, once again, my perspective. It used to overwhelm me that so much in a week was “about” organ, but now I find that a joyful realization. What a BLESSING to be able to focus on Sunday’s worship for so much of the week! How could I not have seen that before?
The other day, my four year old crawled up on the organ bench beside me and was humming along as I practiced my hymns. My heart swelled with appreciation. He was praising his Savior–and the only reason he knew those melodies was by being there with me, hearing me practice. Another bonus was when I noticed that he’s picking up on some of the nuances of music. I stopped playing, but he kept humming, and he threw in a beautiful, natural ritardando at the last measure! Too fun.
It certainly helps that so far lately I’ve been able to time my practices so that Baby was due to nap. By God’s great grace, Baby fell asleep in his car seat and stayed asleep during my practice time. This is a MAJOR blessing that I don’t take lightly.
I didn’t get over to church today because I was just feeling a little spent, but even so, I sat down at the piano with all my music, organized what I want to play where, and plunked through things on the piano to get a time estimate. This also helps.
It dawned on me that I really shouldn’t sign up to play if I’m finding myself frequently stressed by it. Sure, the butterflies always come on Sunday morning, and as Saturday rolls along I tend to just get a little fluttery…but those nerves have a role in keeping me focused, too, and from getting proud. Anyway, my point is that playing for services is such a small way that I can say “thanks” to God for my many blessings, and, ideally, I would find so much joy in being able to do so. Obviously, that requires being prepared, and so I aim to find increasingly more joy in my preparations. What a gift it was the other day to share that moment with my four-year-old and gain further insight about other ways that this facet of my life is a blessing. Our church monetarily compensates our organists, which is also a great blessing to my family.
Inevitably, there will be more times in my future where I load up everything, everyone, and huff to the top of the balcony only for someone to be inconsolable and my practice goals do not get met, but I pray that my focus will remain intact and that my feathers won’t get ruffled. I know it’s not about putting on a recital that brings me glory, so if I have to skip a practice session rather than get snippy, I hope that I’ll remember to ask for God’s grace and mercy, and for his blessing to be upon my playing. I always pray that I will play in a way that does not attract attention to myself, but so that everyone there for worship can focus on praising God.
May that also be my focus as I continue preparations for this weekend!