I Sang for an Apostle of the Lord Today!
A few hours ago I found myself sitting in a sacrament meeting held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with my cousin Mary. As the bishop stood up to welcome the congregation the side doors opened up and in slipped Elder M. Russell Ballard. I had been half hoping for and half dreading this for weeks. I knew the ward had two apostles in it, but I also knew that they traveled A LOT and were not often there. How wonderful to sing for an apostle! At the same time, I do not always perform well with increased nerves, and I also am famous, or infamous, for feeling the Spirit too strongly, getting overwhelmed and crying my way through songs. I dreaded either of these things happening and so felt that it would be a relief if the Apostles were NOT there. When those tall, tall doors opened, I started to pray--believe me!
I prayed from that moment all the way through the sacrament and as the choir sang and the speaker spoke. I did also try to pause and listen and enjoy the beautiful choir number and the amazing speaker but the back of mind was still praying! "Please help us not to mess up. Please help me not to be so nervouse that my voice is extra shaky. Please please help us to feel the Spirit and bring/add to the spirit of the meeting. Please please PLEASE don't let me feel the Spirit so strongly that I start to cry and am unable to sing." This was the loop that was on repeat in my head.
Can I take a minute to explain what singing means to me? All my life I have loved to sing. I sang an entire song, solo, in church when I was 5 years old. It was not part of the primary program, it was just the musical number in a regular sacrament meeting. I sang at my mother's wedding when I was 6, though I cried through the second half because I looked at my mother and saw that she was crying. Crying has always been a contagious thing in my family. I have always felt that Heavenly Father blessed me with this gift for my sake more than for anybody else, though singing is generally something you do for other people. When I was going through some very tough things as a child and teenager I often felt that the only thing keeping me from flying into a million jagged, depressed, pieces was my ability to sing and the pure joy it always brought me. When my testimony was weak it was strengthened by how I felt as I sang sacred music in church. When I am sad it always helps me to sing, sort of like whistling in the dark: it convinced me that there was nothing to be afraid of. The music and the sheer bliss of it can chase away overanxious thoughts, of which I have always had an abundant supply. So believe me when I say that I love singing more than almost anything in the world.
Years ago, though, in college, as I contemplated studying and working hard and taking up singing as a career choice I realized something. I wanted to sing for people and feel that joy often and live IN music, if possible, but I did not really want to sell it for money or acclaim, nor did I want to be out at nights all dressed up at concerts or jazz clubs or what have you. I wanted a homelife. I wanted to be home in the evening and go to bed embarrassingly early after a long day of tending little ones of my very own. As much as I loved singing jazz standards and arias I wanted to sing lullabies much, much more.
It all took years but I got my family. I have two little boys who I hope someday will realize just how much they were prayed for and longed for. I hope they know they were not the thing I had to do instead of possibly singing for the world. I hope they know I wanted to sing for them MORE than I wanted to sing for the world.
I sang for an apostle of the Lord today. My dear cousin and I did NOT make any silly mistakes. I felt the Spirit strongly but I did NOT cry. There was a moment there when I was doing my smiling-gently-at-the-congregation-while-singing-thing and I saw someone else crying and had a split-second panic attack and felt the tears coming on but I lifted up my eyes to the beautifully engraved ceiling and sang my heart out instead. For that moment it felt a bit like I was flying. There is no clapping during sacrament meetings but just as we finished our song I heard a voice behind me say quietly, but succinctly: "Beautiful." I thought it was the bishop but I found out later that it was Elder Ballard himself who said that. He was sitting on the stand too.
Mary and I sat down. My hands were shaking, as they always do after I'm finished singing. The rest of the meeting was absolutely beautiful, near professional quality. We were both surprised when we got there that we would be part of the ward's Christmas program. We thought we would just be a musical number during a regular meeting. The speaker was amazing as he narrated the story of our dear Savior's birth, mingling in thoughtful quotes and explanations with the oh so familiar and beloved tale written by Luke. Every song performed seemed to be one of my very favorite Christmas songs. Did they design this program just for me? A woman played Oh Holy Night on the violin and I think maybe she was a professional. I finally started crying during her performance because it was so very lovely and that song is the most meaningful Christmas song of all for me. I had a moment, during that song, where out of the blue came the feeling that if I had pursued music more I may have been able to participate in experiences like this more often, but it was not a regretful thought at all; instead it was one of deep gratitude. Just for today I had both: a beautiful family and a simple homelife and a wonderful musical experience like this. I felt filled with my Heavenly Father and my Savior's love, as though this were a gift just for me, a moment out of time, like they had planned all this so that I could have this experience in the midst of my days of potty-training accidents and kissing booboos and calming tantrums and singing lullabies. I could have the memory of that one beautiful hour and fifteen minutes to sustain me, that feeling of being loved, noticed, remembered by my Savior as my thank-you-for-now for choosing motherhood and homemaking.
I sang for an Apostle of the Lord today, and afterward he came up and shook our hands and spoke to us. We were told that the congregation was absolutely transfixed as was Elder Ballard, who we couldn't see because he was sitting behind us. The Spirit was so strong that I'm not even sure that it was me singing. I felt surrounded by the joy and love and goodwill of the Christmas season and of Christ himself and I hope I never forget it. It was just a little thing; singing in a sacrament meeting with my dear cousin who is moving across the country tomorrow. But the Spirit held us all in Love and placed a precious Christmas gift in my heart. Yet the gift was not that I sang for an Apostle of the Lord today, as wonderful as that was, but that I was reminded that I get to sing for my husband and my little boys every day and that every song I sing, and will ever sing, I sing for my Savior. I need no other gift this Christmas season.
Here is an audio recording of one of our rehearsals. It is not a recording of the sacrament meeting. We did better there!
P.S. The song we sang was called, "Christmas Alleluia" and is offered free on this website.
It is so beautiful. Its a great duet and is also written in SATB style for a choir!