Monday, December 27, 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter: Blizzards, Solos and Double Chocolate Cookies

I skitter up to the praise band equipment as the Peace is ending (where we greet one another in our church and say, "the Peace of the Lord be always with you"). I am singing a solo at the Offertory and my knees are knocking together under my corduroy skirt that I've kept since sophomore year of high school. It isn't that I'm singing, or that I am singing alone (which is usually pretty intimidating) - it's just my age-old, gut reaction to standing in front of people and performing. 

It goes back to theater my junior year when I was Cinderella in a production of Cinderella. I knew all my lines at least a month before the curtain came up - but I remember my stomach tying itself into sailor's knots before my every entrance. Or when I gave a presentation in an all-school meeting about Hurricane Katrina. I knew my facts, knew which slides to press and when, and still felt fear rise up into my throat and tickle my vocal chords until ten minutes had passed and I was able to croak out the words about failed levy systems and where breaches were strategically placed.

I know the time is arriving as Fr. Roberts opens his mouth and out come the words, "Let us walk in love as Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us in offering and sacrifice to God." And I look over at the pianist, and she smiles and presses the first few notes on the keyboard - and the song has begun. 

And then grace.

I am amazed to find that, rather than warbling through my first verse, my voice rings clear and echoing through the congregation. I close my eyes. These words are not ones to be read off a sheet of paper like statistics reports, but they should be sung with a full heart that's waiting to receive God into her. And so I sing, and sing and sing. And I realize it's not just my mezzo-soprano voice that's reaching into the pews, and sitting among the fuzzy sweaters and wool mittens. It's the voice of Someone inside me, ringing out much clearer and on key, strengthening my knocking knees and my feeble voice and helping me sing to Him all the things I most want to say and never have the words to say. 

There is a blizzard howling outside our windows on Sunday evening and I can hear the wind rattle windows all around our house. I sit on the couch with my mom, drinking Earl Grey tea, talking about life. My brother is baking Double Chocolate cookies from a Betty Crocker mix and the sounds of soccer waft from the living room into the fireplace room where I sit. Life is filled with simple things: infinite cups of tea around the wood stove, the black lab snoozing and the grey cat surveying the scene from her perch on the arm of the red chair, baking from a mix, snow whirling through the night sky, family. I most want to give thanks for these things. I most want to sing about these things, these deceptively small things, that in turn are the greatest things. 

And so grace

What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. But what I can, I give him, give my heart. 

These are the words He helps me sing - and in turn I give Him our double chocolate cookies, our tea, our moments of fire and warmth and family. I give my heart. 


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