Thursday, September 4, 2014

Singing for Jesus


You would think this title is a joke, but it's not.

One of the first things that tipped me off that I might have been pregnant (with Gabriel - no new baby announcement here) was not tiredness, morning sickness, or whatever symptoms most people's minds automatically jump to. Instead, it was breathlessness. At the time, I was working out at least 3 or 4 times a week doing cardio and lifting weights...but I'll never forget that time I had to climb up on the step ladder to retrieve something from the shelf in the coat closet and I stepped back down feeling completely winded. I was so short of breath that I had to take a moment to recuperate. Then, it began happening at church. Every time I tried to sing, I felt light-headed and literally had to save my breath. 

Thus began several months of not being able to sing most of the songs at church. If I was lucky I could muster enough air to perhaps sing the Responsorial Psalm or maybe even a quick Agnus Dei, but I basically had to give up on all the hymns.

I consider myself very blessed that shortness of breath was one of my most noticeable pregnancy symptoms in the first trimester (because trust me, I am well aware of the other crosses many pregnant women must carry that are far more burdensome). However, this was a difficult thing for me - spiritually - to experience. I have never been someone who identifies herself as a singer (because my years of dancing always lead me to call myself a dancer first and foremost if I must choose a label), but I do love to sing. 

My family is incredibly musical and singing in church has never been a question. In fact, as I grew older and stopped regularly playing instruments, church was the one place I could always express my love of music outside of dance. Even if I wasn't the type of person to belt out songs I was listening to on my iPod, you'd better believe you could hear me singing come Sunday. Church was the one place I always felt confident about singing because the music was intended to praise the Lord. Because of this, I volunteered to cantor for a few years in college and even joined the collegiate choir my final year at the parish that contained the Newman Center.

What I'm really trying to say is that I love singing at church more than anywhere in the world and not being able to participate in this way when I was pregnant was incredibly difficult for me. Later on in the pregnancy I was not so short of breath and I, once again, found myself able to participate fully in the musical aspect of the liturgy.

Obviously now this is not an issue, but motherhood has brought with it some other limitations when it comes to participating at mass. Sure, I am able to sing from my pew and I love every chance I get to introduce my son to song, but there's no way (at this point in time) that I could offer my time or talent to volunteer with the music ministry at mass like I used to. Breastfeeding required me to always be by my baby's side when he was young and even though he now eats plenty of solid foods and never needs to nurse during mass, I still feel the need to be with my husband and help him with Gabriel (plus I love being able to worship together as a family).

For months I had wondered if/when I could ever get involved with music ministry at church again and I had started to resign myself to the fact that this simply wasn't a way I could give back to the church now or possibly for the next several years while we (God-willing) have more little ones. Then we moved here and began to get involved with the local Catholic Young Adult group. Within a couple of months I found myself accepting a leadership position on their core planning team. Then, within a couple of months of being at the team meetings I learned that more voices would soon be needed for the monthly Praise and Worship Adoration session the group hosts.

I didn't exactly jump at the opportunity to sing at Eucharistic Adoration like one might think - because as a wife and especially a mother there were so many factors to consider.

Was this a way I could and should get involved in ministry right now? Would Michael be on board with watching Gabriel on the evenings I would be singing? Would the timing fit with Michael's work schedule even during his busy seasons? Perhaps most importantly, would it fit with our family's needs - especially regarding family dinners and Gabriel's bedtime?

Last night as I scarfed down a quick dinner, juggled getting ready while helping Michael figure out what to feed Gabriel, and rushed to the church (knowing I would be a few minutes late to practice with everyone) I felt a little dismayed. Was this wrong, Lord? Was this not something that would work for our family right now? Did I need to take a step back and reconsider getting involved in this monthly ministry? After a few moments I grew tired of questioning it all and simply told God I would let Him show me. I couldn't figure it out on my own, but surely He would point me in the right direction and let me know.

Last night was everything I could have hoped it to be and more...and oh, I am so thankful that this beautiful opportunity to sing for the Lord is currently working out so well for our family. 

Once I arrived everything flowed more smoothly than I could have imagined. For one hour I was able to focus and lift up my voice in prayer before the Lord. For one hour I did not need to worry about what Gabriel was doing or eating because my husband had it all under control. Michael even showed up with Gabriel during the last half hour, which made me even happier about it all! Gabriel didn't make a peep and had so much fun seeing some of our friends while I sang. Our entire family made it to Adoration for the first time in a few months and I was able to feel like I was giving back to the church through song for the first time in far too long to count. Additionally, the timing worked out for dinners and even getting Gabriel to bed at a decent time (it was a tad bit later than usual, but considering the weaning progress we've made I can't imagine I will be nursing him before bed for much longer - which will give me even more flexibility).

As I drove home from Adoration last night I was happier and more at peace than I have felt in awhile. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us to this place - both literally and figuratively. Moving around for my husband's job often means that we cannot get too involved or take on responsibilities at church - and even when it's a possibility we always have to evaluate whether or not it will create too much of a burden for our family before diving in. I have been so blessed to finally be involved in ministry work once again and the fact that I have found a way to be part of a music ministry (that works with our family life!) makes it all that much sweeter. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how grateful I also am to have a husband who understands and supports my desires to get involved in these ministries and helps make it possible. You're the best and I love you, Michael. :)

"He who sings, prays twice."
-St. Augustine

For more about song, prayer, and how I have managed to tie it all in with being a mom you might also be interested in this old post about praying with my baby.

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