“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is in full swing. My mind is dancing, not with sugar plums, but with lists of things that need to be done; including presents to wrap, cookies to bake, cards to write, people to visit and traditions to keep. One of my favorite parts of the season, unlike the Grinch, is the noise, all the Christmas music playing endlessly in my home. Next to setting up our Nativity scene, I love to gather all the CDs (I know, I’m old school), and place them in the special box under the tree. Daily, I pick out a few CDs and savor the music as I am going about my daily business. Even now, I am listening to the Rat Pack croon “Baby, Its Cold Outside” and “It’s a Marshmallow World”.
I love to sing! I love to belt out tunes and sing to music playing. I love to sing to children and sing to the radio. I love show tunes and worship music. I love to sing in the car and in the shower. I especially love Christmas music, singing along with Amy Grant’s “Sleigh Ride” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. Unfortunately, I came to a realization years ago that, despite my love for singing, I have a terrible ear and I am completely tone deaf. What may sound pleasant to my ears can cause others to cringe, cats to yowl and dogs to howl.
Now, for those of you who have never heard me sing, you might be saying to yourselves, “Sherry, don’t be so hard on yourself, I am sure you are not as bad as you make yourself out to be.” I will be the first to argue with you and offer anecdotal evidence that will prove to you exactly how awful I am.
The first piece of evidence I want to share is from when I was nine years old in a Sunday school class taught by my Aunt Brenda. She had put together a beautiful Christmas program climaxing with an incredibly talented group of young girls angelically harmonizing the song “O, Holy Night”. I can imagine my aunt being inspired by the virtuous voices vocalizing “O, night divine” and then hearing one voice croaking the same words to a totally different tune. I can imagine that each time we practiced the song she secretly winced because one voice was ruining the ethereal effect. After a few times, my aunt asked me to maybe sing a little softer. As hard as I tried to oblige, I kept getting caught up in the lyrics, gradually getting more zealous and sounding more unpleasant with each note. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore, and asked if I wouldn’t mind mouthing the words to the song. This was my first clue I couldn’t sing. Please don’t think badly of my aunt, she encouraged me in so many other ways. She just recognized I couldn’t sing.
Amazingly, this didn’t discourage me and I continued my ill-fated vocal journey. I joined chorus in Junior High School. I was so excited after my failure to learn the clarinet, and I had such a desire to perform that I thought choir was going to be a place I could shine. I was assigned to the alto section and often my chorus teacher would stand next to me trying to teach me the alto part, eventually also remarking that I should sing softer. I sort of recognized that I couldn’t sing, enough to know I shouldn’t try out for Swing Choir, but I still believed I was improving. Then came the school Christmas program, you know the one that you practice for weeks and invite parents to see. The chorus teacher approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind doing the speaking part between the songs. I felt so honored and I was excited! I would be acknowledged in the program as the speaker and would wear a special elf hat to distinguish me from the rest of my classmates. She then told me that since I was speaking, I would just stay in my spot and not sing. My enthusiasm blinded me to what my teacher was trying not to say. Years later, I had an epiphany that the real reason she gave me the speaking part was to stop me from singing. I am sure she winced just as my aunt had years earlier.
By the time I became a mother, I had recognized that I couldn’t sing. Other evidence I can present includes my talented husband, who happened to be the church choir director, didn’t encourage me to join the choir, but instead asked me to be the choir babysitter. Probably the strongest evidence was when my five-year-old son admonished me saying, “Mama, I don’t think that’s how the song goes”.
I have presented my case, and now you can agree with me that I can’t carry a tune. Despite my love for music, I have accepted this fact and it has not harmed my self-image. I truly believe we all have different gifts and talents. I might not be able to sing or play an instrument, but I do have other talents. It is my responsibility to develop my talents and gifts and use them to benefit my family, my church and my community.
At the same time, I also think it’s important to work on developing new talents and skills, even in the middle of your life. The old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, is just an excuse to be stagnant. Lately, I have read a lot about brain development and I believe it is important for me to be constantly exploring and developing new skills at my age. I can still create new neural pathways in my brain by learning and practicing new skills. This will help me stay sharp as I age and lessen the risk of developing dementia.
A few years ago, I attended the annual Pennsylvania Ladies’ Conference. After almost nineteen years of being a stay-at-home mother and home educator, I was struggling with what my new role in life should be. I was incredibly blessed to hear the wise Sis. Janet Trout speak. If you’ve never heard her speak, I challenge you to find her on YouTube and listen to her. She is a classy, dynamic woman who is driven to bless the kingdom of God. She was around eighty years old at the time of the conference and was sharing with us her vision for ministry. She said as you get older, you need to choose how to use your time more wisely, but still be growing. She practiced this in her own life by going back to school and earning her PHD in her seventies. Her message resonated in my life, breathing direction and fresh ideas for me to explore. Writing this blog was only one idea that was birthed by her message.
As the year 2020 approaches, I want to continue to grow as a person. I want to continue to improve my writing and I am currently working on a book about restoration from my childhood abuse. I want to explore sketching and try my hand at embroidery. I may find that my embroidery skills rank in the same category as my vocal talent, but it doesn’t hurt for me to attempt.
I still cannot sing, and will never be asked to be a praise singer in my church. Nor should I ever volunteer to sing a solo for a Christmas program. I will continue to sing Christmas music unabashedly in the privacy of my home, even if my husband secretly winces. More importantly, I will remember that I am “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”, and I will develop the gifts God has ordained in me!
Sherry, sing your heart out . But, maybe in the comforts of your home.
Fellow non-gifted singers unite!