"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing." ~William James
Since my childhood years of going to mass every Sunday, I have always wanted to sing in a church choir. I know that is not exactly a very common ambition or goal for many people, but it has been for me. So many obstacles got in the way. First and foremost, if you want to sing in a church choir, you have to well, go to church. As an adult, I never attended a church on a regular basis until about five years ago when I made that oh so radical change from being a Catholic to becoming a member of the United Church of Christ. Also other things got in the way. I worked a lot of weekends as a nurse, I had stage fright (that was a big obstacle as a child/teenager!), I didn’t think I was good enough; the list goes on and on. That didn’t stop me from singing from my personal, safe little spot in the pew though on Sunday mornings.
Then I lost my job due to a medical illness and I was at church almost every Sunday morning. However part of my medical issues were problems with my breathing (asthma) and voice (vocal cord dysfunction) due to an autoimmune disorder. There was no way I could sing. Some days I couldn’t even talk on the phone it was so bad. As time went on and I finally got hooked up with a great pulmonologist, speech therapist, and acupuncturist, the breathing issues got more under control. Then I started to think (especially since I had so much speech therapy!) that maybe, just maybe I could pull it together enough to do some singing at church.
Around the same time, I was approached by my friend Kathy, who spent many years singing in our church choir and she assured me that the choir would love to have me whenever I could sing. There was a Christmas concert coming up and I figured what the heck, I had nothing to lose by trying. I have to admit, I did struggle quite a bit at first during the rehearsals last December. Between the Sunday morning church rehearsals and the Sunday evening hour long practices, I knew there was a possibility of backsliding. I was quite determined though. I worked hard on my speech therapy exercises to strengthen my vocal cords and was meticulous about doing everything my pulmonologist and acupuncturist instructed me to do. Sure enough, as the weeks went by, it gradually got easier and easier. The Christmas concert came and went. By February, it felt like the singing was actually making my breathing better and my vocal cords stronger. My pulmonologist was overjoyed and to be honest, so was I.
It is now April and we just had our Easter Cantata yesterday; approximately 4 ½ months since I joined the choir. It was a momentous morning for me. I sang through more than six songs and actually lived to tell about it! Not only did I sing, but I sang well. The day brought back memories from November 2008 and onward of multiple hospitalizations, weekly doctor’s visits, and the uncertainty of not knowing when my next emergency room visit would be. Funny how much can change in 2 ½ years.
It is so hard to try and put into words what singing with my church choir has done for me. It provides a more intimate way for me to worship God. It lifts my spirit and my soul when I struggle just with getting through the day. It has taught me patience, especially with myself (I can be my harshest critic). Singing with my choir has given me the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. I have formed more cherished friendships. Every week I get to work with an incredible group of people to achieve a common goal: to lift up our voices in worship. And for that, I am quite grateful.