I have managed to fill the past few weeks with some really HARD stuff. Stuff that I normally would never have even considered doing. Stuff that normally NO ONE would have even considered asking me to do.
On March 3, I sang a solo in a Stake production of Women at the Well.
On March 4, I ran a 5K with TCD.
That night, I sang in the second performance of Women at the Well.
On March 7, I was in charge of the combined youth service activity in the ward.
Today, I did another one of those hard things...I played the organ for Stake Conference.
A few weeks ago, when I knew all those things were coming up, I felt strongly that I was supposed to do all of them. I also felt pretty certain that there was some big thing I was going to learn. I was sure I was going to have so much more confidence after all of these hard things were behind me. I was sure that after doing all of them, I would be able to move them over to the "not so hard things" list.
Well, the hard things are over (at least the ones on that list) and I definitely learned some things, but not exactly the things I thought I'd learn. That Saturday performance of Women at the Well came during the first official day of allergy season (at least for me.) I made every attempt to take meds, carry tissues, and drink lots of lemon-y water to get rid of the phlegm. But it didn't work. I was not at my best during that performance, and I was pretty torn up about it afterward.
Then today, after practicing for hours this week on both the organ at the church and my piano at home, I made it to the meeting 20 minutes before it started, and played about 700 of my favorite hymns. The prelude music went well, I felt fairly comfortable sitting there, and the Stake President timed his move up to the stand perfectly (that's always the most unnerving part for me...waiting for them to stand up and hoping that I won't be in the middle of a hymn when that happens.) He made the opening announcements, and then introduced the opening hymn and prayer, and then it was my turn. The chorister stood up and I started playing. I made it through the introduction (sort of) and then the congregation started...
Eek!! I hadn't even looked to see exactly how many people there were, but apparently it was A LOT! I could hear all of them singing, but all of a sudden I couldn't hear ME playing. EEK! I kicked up the volume and kept going (sort of) and hoped I was playing at least a few of the right notes. (I'm not sure I was.) The hymn ended (finally) and the prayer ended, and then I realized I didn't have anywhere to sit. I couldn't sit up on that organ bench for two whole hours! And I had put my kids in the overflow. Every seat on the stand was taken up by members of the 5th ward Choir or upcoming speakers, and I couldn't see a single empty seat in the pews. So, I put on my shoes, and quietly slipped out the side door. Fortunately, the kids had an empty seat beside them and I sat with them about halfway into the gym. That was the first chance I had had to breathe since getting there at 8:30, so I decided to just be comfortable with my kids, take out my notebook, and try to concentrate on the talks and not the closing hymn I would have to play in a couple of hours. The hardest part was over, right?
At 10:00am, I got a text from the Scout Master in Utah giving me an update on the meeting he had gone to, and asking how prelude went for me. I was deeply involved in my response back to him when I heard the Stake President say, "We would now like to stand and sing a congregational rest hymn." HOLY CRAP! It turns out that I was playing the REST HYMN at 10:00am, not the CLOSING HYMN at 11:00am. Great...! I threw the phone down, jumped up, and RAN down the foyer. As I got to the door, I regained composure, walked calmly up to the organ and sat down just in time to start the introduction. Remarkably, I played the hymn perfectly but that's probably because I was running on adrenaline and it was only one verse long!
After the rest hymn, I was much calmer and already knew where I was going to sit, so I walked back out the side door and back to my seat with the kids. I thoroughly enjoyed both the final talks and at 11:00am made it back to play postlude with plenty of time to spare. Needless to say it wasn't exactly the ideal way to make my Stake Organist debut, but I did it and I'm still alive (and so is everyone else...including the people I trampled in the foyer.)
But here's what I learned...
1. Heavenly Father wanted me to do all those hard things. But just because I was willing to do them, and prepared, and showed up, didn't guarantee that I was going to do them WELL. I might have to do them a couple more times before I can add "WELL" to that statement. (And I'm ok with that.)
2. People mean what they say. I'm not exactly the most secure person on the planet, so over the years, I've often questioned whether the compliments you get at church are genuine or if people are just trained to be kind no matter how giant the disaster. It turns out that they are kind, but they're also genuine. On Friday night, when I sang beautifully, a billion people said some very nice things. On Saturday night, when I wasn't that great, only three or four people said moderately kind things. Today, people complimented my prelude music, my willingness to show up, and my outfit. After all of these hard things are now over and after having had a minute to weigh the different kinds of compliments I've received for the different levels of performance, I trust people more. No one is forcing them to say nice things. People mean what they say. I need to believe them.
3. It's nice to have people compliment you on the things you can do, but it's way more important to feel good about them yourself. I know how hard I've worked to sing, to play the organ, and to run in the past few months. I might not be the fastest runner or the most accomplished singer or organist, but I know that I'm better at those things than I was in December. And I know that it feels really good to be able to say I've done all that hard stuff.
and the most important thing I learned was...
4. "Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if the only birds that sang were those who sang best..."
- Henry David Thoreau
The Stake Music Director said that yesterday in the evening session of Stake Conference. I loved that. I'm definitely not the best singer in the forest, but I realized this week that I don't have to be. I love to do all that stuff. And I love to be able to say YES when people ask me to participate. And that's so much more important than being the best.
I have had some amazing experiences over the last few weeks. I've met wonderful, talented, beautiful people. And I've been able to do things I never thought were possible. Even though not all of them were stellar, I'm so grateful to have had each one of those opportunities, and look forward to many, many more hard things in my future.