77: The Musical Mom

77: The Musical Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

The Musical Mom

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

~Dale Carnegie

It was the second Sunday that the teen pianist for my daughter Michelle’s children’s choir hadn’t shown up. I watched as their leader Bill accompanied the children on his guitar. “I wonder what happened to Greg?” I thought, sitting in a row toward the back of the church.

After the service, Michelle came running up to me.

“Mom, I told Bill that you would take Greg’s place.”

My mouth dropped. “What?”

“I volunteered you.”

“Me?” I was in shock.



“He’s waiting up there to hear you play.”

I looked toward the front of the church where Bill waited patiently.

“But I haven’t played in front of anyone in years.”

“Mom, you play fine. We really need you. There’s no one else.”

“But, I’m just… a mom.” I was the full-time mother of four children, ages fourteen, twelve, eleven and six, and I hadn’t played the piano in front of anyone besides my children since before they were born. I wrote songs at home, where nobody but my family and two cats heard them, and tried sending out some demos to publishers that never published them. I entered songwriting contests that I never won. The best I ever did was win a couple of Honorable Mentions. Since I’d become a full-time mom, I never had the courage to play in front of anyone except my family.

Bill was still waiting for me.

Michelle led me to the piano in front of the church. I felt awkward and embarrassed.

“I don’t know what to play,” I said.

“Play anything you want,” said Bill.

I started performing something by Beethoven, so nervous my hands were trembling on the keys.

When I finished, Bill smiled. “That’s great,” he said. “Welcome to the choir.”

I had no idea what I was in for. Frequent rehearsals took me away from home to learn new music. The rehearsals were fun for everyone, and I grew more confident.

Yet, the first time I played for an actual service I found myself frozen in my seat, staring out at a sea of faces. It was an entirely different world sitting at the front of the church instead of my safe anonymous pew. I was convinced that my mind would go blank and I would forget the music. But with Bill standing beside me directing us, I felt safe. After a couple of weeks, I thought maybe I could handle it. Little did I know what was in store.

“You’re on your own next Sunday,” Bill said. “I’m going on vacation.”

My mouth dropped open.

“You’ll be fine,” he said, as he left me with detailed instructions.

I wasn’t even used to playing in front of people yet, and now he was asking me to do it alone. I wanted to run away and hide. Michelle encouraged me. “It’s no big deal, Mom, you can do it.”

Every day I read Bill’s instructions for the service. I practiced every song until I could play them in my sleep. Still I panicked, afraid my mind would blank and I would ruin the entire service. By the time Sunday arrived, I was a nervous wreck.

I trembled at the piano while frantically reviewing Bill’s instructions. I hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t mess up and let down the choir. The pressure mounted. Everyone was counting on me. The children stared at me with solemn faces. My nervous demeanor was negatively affecting them; you could feel the tension everywhere. My heart was pounding as we launched into the first song. The people rose from their seats and started singing along with the children. The first song went well. Michelle gave me an encouraging smile.

I had to wait for the priest to finish speaking before I played my parts during the service. My heart’s hammering was almost drowning out their voices. Had the priest paused for the music? There was a deafening silence as I hesitated too long. To everyone’s relief I played my part and the service went on. Despite my panic, we made it through without any more dramatic mistakes. I didn’t relax until the last song was over and the congregation politely clapped for the choir.

Michelle was pleased. “See, Mom, that wasn’t so bad. I knew you could do it.”

Her confidence in me was wonderful, but I was still immensely relieved when Bill came back from vacation and took control of the group again. We played faithfully every Sunday and began composing songs together. As time went on, I calmed down and began to thrive in the ministry. My younger daughter Ann joined the choir and harmonized with Michelle.

Playing piano at church opened an entirely new world to me. My volunteer commitment led to many musical opportunities for my family. It gave me confidence and touched people’s hearts in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

I discovered this five years later. The girls and I had returned after an absence to play a Sunday evening service. An elderly couple approached us after the service was over.

“We are so glad you’re back,” they said. “We’ve missed you so much. We’re both afraid to fly and have been dreading a flight we’re taking tomorrow to Florida. We prayed about it. When we came to the service tonight and saw you playing and singing again, we knew everything would be okay. We asked God for a sign, and you were the answer.”

~L.A. Strucke

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