"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Strength in Weakness

Sorry this didn't quite get posted yesterday.

I had it written, but ran into technical difficulties.

I don't get the opportunity to sing for others very often

(Excluding singing along with the radio while I'm driving),

But, when I do, I always take it.

It's kind of amazing that I do, really,

Because when I perform for others,

I always get very nervous -

So nervous that I'm amazed I can even keep playing,

That there isn't a tremor in my voice.

It was especially bad when I accompanied myself with my guitar once.

I was sure that I wouldn't be able to push down on the strings hard enough,

That the chords wouldn't sound right,

Or that my trembling fingers might drop the pick.

I don't have to worry about these things when I'm playing the piano,

Though the butterflies in my stomach may contribute to missed keys and wrong notes.

Somehow, though,

Whatever the difficulty,

I always manage to do okay.

I'm never perfect,

I always mess up,

But most people don't notice.

They hear no tremor in my voice,

The wrong notes are quickly forgotten,

And when it's over, they compliment me -

Me, still shaking.

Last year, I sang a song in church.

Going into one of the verses, I was suddenly gripped with the thought that I had forgotten the lyrics.

I hadn't.

I got through the entire song without forgetting a word,

But I will never forget that fraction of a second

When I believed I'd forgotten,

And I was just terrified.

Why do I get so nervous?

Is it that,

As all artists know,

So much of one's heart goes into one's work,

Until it feels as though all is laid bear,

And, if people reject your work -

And some certainly will -

In a sense, it feels as though they are rejecting you?


I'm certainly insecure enough,

But I don't want to run away from criticism,

Because people telling me, "That was great," doesn't help me get better.

I need someone to tell me what I did wrong.

Maybe it's just stage fright,

Just that I'm not used to being all alone,

That knowledge that, if I mess up, everyone will be able to hear,

Everyone will know it was me.

It certainly isn't like singing in a choir.

Maybe it's looking at all those people,

And just knowing they're there,

Judging every note I play,

Every word that comes out of my mouth . . .

I don't know.

All I know is that I get nervous.

Terribly nervous.

Still, I practice for days,

Get things set up,

And, on Sunday morning, I get up early,

Read my Bible,

Put on a nice dress,


Watch Dad load a microphone boom and cameras into the car,

Open the car door,

Sit down,

Put my seatbelt on,

And go to the church for some last-minute practice and a sound check.

I go over it in my head as I walk in,

Isaiah 41:9-10,

The verses I learned last time I did something like this:

Isaiah 41:9-10

New Living Translation (NLT)
I have called you back from the ends of the earth,
    saying, ‘You are my servant.’
For I have chosen you
    and will not throw you away.
10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
I remember another one, too,

Philippians 4:6-7,

Remember saying it to myself in a pew a year ago,

Shaking in anticipation of what was to come:

Philippians 4:6-7

New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And, for the billionth time, I think that I don't know why He would choose someone so weak,

Someone so utterly incapable,

Who is terrified at the thought of giving a concert,

Who shakes like a leaf every time she steps out of her comfort zone and does this . . .

Unless I was wrong?

Unless this isn't what I'm supposed to be doing?

Then I remind myself of it again,

Such a big reason why I was so sure this was the right thing in the first place:

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (emphasis added)

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. 10 Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.

People start coming in and I have to stop,

Go somewhere else to play it just a few more times,

Somehow believing that if I go over it enough I might actually survive,

And I was interrupted,

And I ran out of time,

And that piano felt different,

Had a faster reaction than the one upstairs,

Wasn't as loud,

And I just worried.

I don't worry much,

But this -

This I always worry about.

People talk,

Make announcements.

Someone mentions me,

And I look up and try to smile and nod politely,

Thinking about whether or not he'd feel the same way about my performance after it was over,

Then I go back to gazing in the general direction of the floor again,

Closing my eyes,

And praying the kinds of things I usually pray before doing something like this:

God, be glorified.

Glorify Yourself.

If You will be glorified if I perform well, then let me perform well.

If You will get more glory if I screw up completely, then I will be okay with that.

If You will be glorified if I'm so nervous that I can barely get a word out,

If that is how You want to showcase Your strength,

Then let it be.


If You can be glorified if I'm not nervous,

Please, Lord, I don't want to be nervous.

I really don't want to be nervous.


Whatever it means,

Bring Yourself glory.

I just want You to get the glory.

I pray it in spurts,

Through all the different people talking,

As we stand up and as we sit down,

As I sit on the piano bench,

Waiting for everyone to finish shaking hands,

Stop chatting.

I pray it in the final moments,

As I look over,

Waiting for the pastor to sit down.

He does.

My fingers are on the keys.

I play the first chord,

The second (oh, that was the wrong note!),

The third,

And all the rest is a blur.

I can't remember singing all the words,

But I must have.

I can't remember playing the last chord,

Lifting my feet off the pedals,

But I suppose I did.

I went back to my seat thinking of all the things I was trying to pay attention to during that song,

Unable to recall if I'd done a single one correct,

But of this one solid fact I was absolutely certain:

I had not been the slightest bit nervous.

You can blame it on a lot of factors -

The music stand the pianist had had up,

Blocking my view of the audience;

The fact that I'd performed there before,

And the last time I'd received many compliments on what a wonderful job I did,

How talented I was

(And, sure enough, I got those same compliments this time -

Even had a couple of people ask if the song was published,

Tell me it should me);

But whether or not those things contributed is anyone's guess.

I'd guess they didn't.

I was making a real effort to look up at the audience periodically

(Or, at least, I vaguely remember looking at the audience periodically . . .),

And I've worried before that I would get criticism from those who had complimented me in the past.

Really, though, it doesn't make a difference,

Because one reason I am sure of,

Because I'm sure that only one thing could have taken away all of my fear:

God answered my prayers.

He did what I could not,

Kept me from feeling even just a little bit nervous,

And let me actually enjoy performing in front of people.

(Yes, enjoy!  I hadn't known it was possible!)

And, when I rushed up to sing the second song I would be performing,

My second-favorite hymn of all time,

This reminder of the truth of the words was right there,

This warm peace nestled up inside of me,

Right where all those butterflies used to be.

As I said, it still wasn't perfect.

I discovered that it is incredibly difficult to hear one's voice over a baby grand piano.

It was fun, though.

Care to listen in?

This, a sneak peek,

One of the songs going on the new CD:

And this,

My second-favorite hymn:

(Unfortunately, the camera didn't catch the first couple of lines,

So we had to patch them in from a different audio file.)

Reasons 1794-1866 today,

This beautiful reminder of who He is,

This Gracious God who answers prayers,

And the only true Source of strength:
  1. There is no one like Him to help the powerless against the mighty (2 Chronicles 14:11)
  2. He strikes down (2 Chronicles 14:12)
  3. He allows those who seek Him to find Him (2 Chronicles 15:2)
  4. He forsakes those who forsake Him (2 Chronicles 15:2)
  5. He allows those who seek Him eagerly to find Him (2 Chronicles 15:15)
  6. He gives those who seek Him rest on every side (2 Chronicles 15:15)
  7. His eyes range throughout the earth (2 Chronicles 16:9)
  8. His eyes range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9)
  9. He establishes kingdoms (2 Chronicles 17:5)
  10. He establishes kingdoms under the control of those whom He chooses (2 Chronicles 17:5)
  11. He causes the fear of Him to fall on all the surrounding kingdoms (2 Chronicles 17:10)
  12. His wrath comes upon those who sin (2 Chronicles 19:10)
  13. His wrath comes upon those who sin against Him (2 Chronicles 19:10)
  14. His wrath comes upon those who sin in the judging of cases (2 Chronicles 19:10)
  15. He is the God who is in heaven (2 Chronicles 20:5)
  16. He is the God of our ancestors (2 Chronicles 20:6)
  17. He rules over all the kingdoms of the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6)
  18. Power is in His hand (2 Chronicles 20:6)
  19. Might is in His hand (2 Chronicles 20:6)
  20. No one can withstand Him (2 Chronicles 20:6)
  21. He drove out the inhabitants of the land before His people (2 Chronicles 20:7)
  22. He gave the land forever to the descendants of His friend (2 Chronicles 20:7)
  23. He hears those who stand in His presence (2 Chronicles 20:9)
  24. He hears those who stand in His presence before His temple (2 Chronicles 20:9)
  25. He tells His people not to be afraid or discouraged (2 Chronicles 20:15)
  26. He fights some battles for His people (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)
  27. He tells His people to stand firm (2 Chronicles 20:17)
  28. He gives deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:17)
  29. He tells His people to see His deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:17)
  30. Those who have faith in Him are upheld (2 Chronicles 20:20)
  31. Those who have faith in Him will be successful (2 Chronicles 20:20)
  32. He is to be praised for the splendor of His Holiness (2 Chronicles 20:21)
  33. He gives people cause to rejoice (2 Chronicles 20:27)
  34. He gives people cause to rejoice over their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:27)
  35. His fear comes on surrounding kingdoms (2 Chronicles 20:29)
  36. He fights against the enemies of Israel (2 Chronicles 20:29)
  37. He strikes those who follow evil ways with a heavy blow (2 Chronicles 21:13-14)
  38. He arouses the hostility of enemy nations against the people of His nation because they have followed evil ways (2 Chronicles 21:13-16)
  39. He inflicts those who follow evil ways with incurable disease (2 Chronicles 21:13-18)
  40. He causes those who follow evil ways to die in great pain (2 Chronicles 21:13-18)
  41. He brings about the downfall of those who do evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 22:4-7)
  42. He plans events so that those who do evil in His eyes will be destroyed (2 Chronicles 22:4-7)
  43. He anoints people to destroy the houses of those who do evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 22:4-7)
  44. He anoints people to execute judgment on the houses of those who do evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 22:4-7)
  45. Those who disobey His commands will not prosper (2 Chronicles 24:20)
  46. Because His people forsake Him, He forsakes them (2 Chronicles 24:20)
  47. He executes judgment on the king of the people who forsake Him (2 Chronicles 24:24)
  48. He executes judgment on the king because His people have forsaken Him (2 Chronicles 24:24)
  49. He is not always with those who march into battle (2 Chronicles 25:7)
  50. He overthrows (2 Chronicles 25:8)
  51. He overthrows people before their enemies (2 Chronicles 25:8)
  52. He overthrows even those who go and fight courageously in battle before their enemies (2 Chronicles 25:8)
  53. He has the power to help (2 Chronicles 25:8)
  54. He has the power to overthrow (2 Chronicles 25:8)
  55. He can give much more than a hundred talents (2 Chronicles 25:9)
  56. He determines to destroy those who consult other people's gods (2 Chronicles 25:14-16)
  57. He determines to destroy those who consult other people's gods, which could not save their own people from God's people (2 Chronicles 25:14-16)
  58. He determines to destroy those who do not listen to His counsel (2 Chronicles 25:14-16)
  59. He works so that He might deliver those who have sought other gods into the hands of other nations (2 Chronicles 25:20)
  60. He works so that He might deliver those who have sought other gods into the hands of other nations, because they sought other gods (2 Chronicles 25:20)
  61. He gives success to those who seek Him (2 Chronicles 26:5)
  62. He helps (2 Chronicles 26:7)
  63. He helps those who seek Him when they fight against their enemies (2 Chronicles 26:5-7)
  64. He does not honor those who are unfaithful to Him (2 Chronicles 26:18)
  65. He causes leprosy to break out on the foreheads of those who are unfaithful to Him (2 Chronicles 26:18-19)
  66. He afflicts those who are unfaithful to Him (2 Chronicles 26:18-20)
  67. He grants power to those who walk steadfastly before Him (2 Chronicles 27:6)
  68. He delivers those who engage in detestable practices into the hands of their enemies (2 Chronicles 28:3-5)
  69. His fierce anger rests upon those who slaughter in a rage that reaches to heaven (2 Chronicles 28:9-11)
  70. His fierce anger rests upon those of His people who intend to make others of His people their slaves (2 Chronicles 28:9-11)
  71. His fierce anger rests upon those who are guilty of sins against Him (2 Chronicles 28:9-11)
  72. He humbles His people because of kings who promote wickedness (2 Chronicles 28:19)
  73. He humbles His people because of kings who are most unfaithful to Him (2 Chronicles 28:19)

(Take the challenge with us!)
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Counting in community:


CynthiaJSwenson said...

I love this story Mary, & I love seeing you sing! This is an awesome testimony how God answers prayers & glorifies Himself! I struggle with fear as well & I KNOW God uses it to help me stay close to Him! I love how you prayed for God to get the glory! I love how God not only took away the fear but gave you enjoyment as well. He answers our prayers like that; Eph. 3:20,"..."above all that we ask or think!" Keep singing for Him Mary! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

Mary said...

Oh, thank you so much, Cynthia! It was a wonderful story - and I so love how He answers prayers and glorifies Himself!

Yes, my fear does help me stay close to Him, but there are also times when it would be nice not to be afraid. Sunday was one of them.

Thank you for saying that about my prayer. I learned so much about God and His Glory last year that I started to pray like that. I love it because it keeps things in perspective, but I was a little worried someone might find it odd.

Yes, it was nice to enjoy for once! Sharing is so much better when my insecurities don't get in the way.

Thank you for the verse! Yes, He does answer our prayers like that!

Oh, and thank you so much for the encouragement! I worried a little that my singing wasn't that good, that people might not like it. You have no idea what those few words mean to me. Thank you so much, friend!

Love and prayers for you, too!

Christina said...

He did what you could not. Isn't that the way He works? He empties us completely until there is nothing left, then He fills us with Himself and His strength. His glory is great when He works through us. I can relate to feeling nervous and exposed when presenting what I have created, most specifically words. Thanks for sharing your heart!

Mary said...

Hello, Christina!

Oh, yes, it is the way He works - and it's so wonderful! It can be terrifying to be be emptied like that, but when we see His strength working when ours cannot, it's just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart, and reassuring me that I'm not the only one who struggles with this.

Deena said...

Mary, you are an amazing young woman. A special gift of God and wise beyond your years.
Thanks you for commenting on my blog. People hardly ever do. I post on my Facebook that I have made a blog post,but they just don't seem to notice. Thank you for taking the time. I will be looking into your music too.

Mary said...

Oh, hello, Deena! Thank you so much for stopping by! And thank you for the compliments. It's really all Him. I'd be such a mess on my own.

You're so very welcome. It was my pleasure. I try to comment on others' posts when I read them because I know how much people's comments bless me. It's hard, though, especially when you're first starting out. It probably took about six months before I got the first comment on my blog. It just takes some time for people to find you and appreciate what you're saying. Sometimes, too, people will like what they read but won't leave a comment. They might not know what to say. Sometimes I don't, either. Just don't get discouraged. Even if no one ever comments on one of your posts, know that God sees, and that He has put blogging in your life for a reason. You may have reached people in ways you'll never know! Really, though, His eyes are enough.

Oh, thank you! I know it doesn't always sound very good, since I record it at home, and a lot of what's online is old, but it's all special to me. I'm really looking forward to the new CD (probably coming out sometime in October), though even those songs are a year old. I hope someday I'll be able to make a CD of newer songs, but right now I need the time to get things ready. I hope it blesses you, though, imperfect as it is.

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