My classroom door thrusts open as my breathless daughter, 7 years old at the time, comes crashing in. Tears brimming in her eyes, short loud breaths coming from her mouth, body tense. The 5 and 6 year olds I am attempting to teach, all turn and watch the melt down that ensues.
“What is going on? What? Calm down and tell me…” I plead with her, knowing deep down she cannot even process to speak in her agitated state.
Moments later a bewildered music teacher rushes into the room, her eyes searching for Abby.
I look to her for an answer. Certain my precious daughter had been bullied and mistreated.
Mrs. Stevens, the music teacher explains, “I was just explaining the spring musical to Abby’s class. They will sing a song and there will be some speaking parts…”
“I won’t do it! No!” Abby interjects.
Mrs. Stevens continues, “The speaking parts are volunteer only. She doesn’t have to have a speaking part.”
Attempting to understand, I ask, “Is it just her class on stage singing the songs?”
“No, all 3 second grade classes will be singing together.”
I am sad. Watching my daughter overcome with fear at the thought of standing on risers in a school gym, singing with 75 other kids, my heart hurts. Why is she so fearful, panicked, and anxious?
And, how have I failed her?
Have I not complimented her enough? Given her enough opportunities to speak in front of others? Built her up? Have I become frustrated with her too many times, killing her spirit? What did I do to cause this kind of fear in my daughter?
Flash forward about 1 1/2 years…18 short months later.
Sitting in the beautiful large performing arts center, looking around at all the wired, chatty kids dressed in their white shirts and black bottoms, laughing with their friends, I wonder what my Abby will do on stage. Making no mention of nerves or fear, I wonder will it creep up just before stepping on stage? If she does go up on the stage, will she simply mouth the words? During the recorder song, will she remember which finger plays which note on her recorder?
I make no mention of the questions filling my mind. I hold back even asking, “How are you feeling?” It’s just a normal day, nothing to worry about here.
I think back to two months ago, in the car on the ride home from music class. We begin the 20 minute drive home from Granite Falls. As my mind is mulling over groceries I need to buy, what I will make for dinner, wondering about the weather for the weekend, I half hear Abby say, “Me and a couple other kids are going to say a scripture in the concert. I find out next week what I will be saying.”
Wait? What? Tune in. “What did you say?”
“Oh, Mrs. Hinman will give me the scripture I need to learn next week.”
Wake up brain. Come on. Drive and listen. Focus. Which kid is talking to me?
Trying to make sense of the words I am hearing, “Mikayla, do you have a speaking part in the concert?” I ask.
Mikayla, pulling her head away from her book, “What? Me? No. I am singing and playing the clarinet.”
“No, mom, it’s me. I do. I will have a scripture to say.”
After I ask about 100 questions, I learn that Abby voluneteered to have a speaking part, there are only a few kids that have a part like this, she is excited about it, and I am the one that needs to relax about it.
My girl diligently practices her part every day, until we realize she no longer needs to practice it. She can say it forward and backwards. She can say it at the dinner table, she can say it while on a walk, she can say it in front of her music class. In fact, I am sure she can say it in her sleep. She’s got it.
The announcements and introductions are complete and the show will begin. Mrs. Hinman, the director, explains the order for the evening and we learn Abby’s group will be performing first.
Walking up onto the risers, she sees us in the audience, a quick smile and a wave and she’s back to business. Her eyes on her director, her mouth singing. Is that her voice I hear among the 20 other kids on stage? My step-mom leans over to me, “I can even hear Abby’s voice. It’s beautiful.”
It’s her alright. Singing about our Lord’s birth. Singing with joy in her face and her voice. Singing with confidence. Letting her light and her voice shine.
Psalm 96 says, Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
The tears catch in my throat. I can’t swallow. Holding my phone, trying to capture this on video, my body shakes and I give in to the tears.
Boldly walking to the microphone, she clearly says her words, the Lord’s words, about Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem to prepare for the birth of Jesus. She speaks with clarity and certainty before returning to her singing.
Okay, I am a mess. This girl. 18 months ago, filled with debilitating fear about singing in front of her school. No evidence of fear today. Boldly proclaiming the Lord’s words. Tears streaming, I am present for the rest of the concert, but my heart is with the Lord.
Oh, He is good. He gives us a new song. His wonders never cease.
At intermission, the grandparents gush the compliments all over Abby. “Oh, you did so wonderful. We are so proud of you. You spoke so clearly.”
Abby shyly looks away, a behavior she may have learned from me.
I whisper to her, “I am so proud of you, Abby.”
“Mom, I was shivering. Just before I spoke, I was all shivery.”
“But you did it anyway, Abby. That’s true courage.”
Only the Lord can do this kind of work in a person. Only the Lord can give us this New Song. When we allow Him in, give Him permission to take up residence in our heart, our song sounds different. No longer the old fear-filled, crippling song of the past. A new song, filled with Hope, Strength and Certainty.
See one of the songs along with Abby’s speaking part here: Manger Song