Friday, January 10, 2014

A Christmas Miracle

It's never too late to share a miracle, is it? A faith-affirming moment of glory when He reveals Himself to us and those around us?  I hope not.  Because this story was my own personal Christmas miracle. 

I got a call from one of the Young American associate producers on Friday, December 13 at noon, "Jessica has laryngitis. She's trying steam treatments right now but if she can't sing, can you go on for her tonight?"  

For those of you who have followed this blog since its inception, you may recall that the loss of my singing voice - thereby, my career - propelled me first into the pit then into the act of writing as a way to express that pain.  Either way, though, the important thing to realize from the above request is that I have not sung in public in three years.

Now that the stage is set, so to speak, I'll continue with the marvel that transpired.

The Young Americans were doing their annual "Magic of Christmas" show a full weekend in December to sold out houses. My first instinct when Tara called was to RUN!!!!! (Let me rephrase first instinct was to run SCREAMING!!!) But I've learned over the past years that when I want to run from whatever is scaring me, my response should be to lean into the fear and embrace it, as it's usually needed to make me grow. 

So instead I said, "I'm available but can you send me the audio file to see if I can even handle it?" The first number was "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," and I knew I could kind of fake that one with a bit of belting and lots of character...fine in a pinch. But the second was the "Ave Maria." No faking my way through that one.  They sent me the file and after I warmed up, I ran it a few times. It was decent...not incredible but better than no singer or a singer with laryngitis. My breath support was a joke...lots of catch breaths needed...would have to work on that part. But I said I could do it if necessary, at the same time praying for Jess's total healing before the show. At 2pm I got a text..."You're on."
I drove down at 5:30pm (throwing up in my mouth a little) with my daughter, Colleen, for the show...she was scheduled to see it with my husband's family on Friday night.  I got a brief walk-through and sound check then went on at 8pm. I had nothing to wear for "Ave Maria," - not in need of many full-length formals these days as I generally stay at home in sweatpants and write - but Jessica graciously brought four gowns for me to try on. One fit perfectly (thank you, Jesus...a miracle in itself because I've put on so much weight) so I was set.  Lots of prayer later, and it was time.  It went beautifully and was such an honor to sing with 150 choral voices behind me conducted but an old friend of almost 30 yrs.  Whew..."that was nerve-wracking but fun," I thought. "Now I can't wait to hear Jess in the show the following night." 
God had other plans.
Jess called me the next morning...she couldn't I went on again...
and again....
and again....
and again....
Five shows total. 
But here's a bit of back story you may or may not know.

There's a reason I haven't sung in public in three years. 
When I sing in the congregation at church on Sundays, my voice cracks frequently and my throat is always sore when I leave.  I can't speak without the hoarseness I've experienced for the past years for some portion of the rest of the day and beyond.  Often the next day, I don't have much of a voice at all....much less, enough to last through five shows of singing.

But this is simply the physical damage.  More profoundly, there has been the emotional heartbreak.
Last November, I had a conversation with Drew about how heartbroken I've been, though I try not to think of it often, not being on stage, not able to sing in front of an audience. I told him, "Being onstage was a precious place for me.  I felt beloved there. And I don't feel beloved anymore."
It was that glorious Sunday morning, driving to the theater, that I realized I had been experiencing a miracle.  I had been focused on picking apart my vocal performance and praying that Jessica get better so hadn't been focused on the gift I was receiving...and giving to others...through this experience.  Countless people in the audience knew of my vocal journey, and I began to realize, as people came up hugging me and crying after the show, that they may have needed proof of a miracle as much as I needed to sing.  There had been an impromptu brunch for all of the organization's board members, international booking directors and associate directors/producers the previous day, and there were overwhelming hugs, comments and tears as people told me they needed the prayer of the "Ave Maria" the way I sang it.  
I was blown away. 
I realized that God even put this particular song in my path.  
I reflected, as I drove, that I've been praying the "Hail Mary" my whole life...
first on my knees with my sisters every night when we were little...
then many, many times in the rosary with my family and alone when I was at my lowest.  
I couldn't be more intimately acquainted with it.  
I realized that my beautiful Daddy taught Latin in school and here I was getting to speak it in song...
that it was my final goodbye to my grandmother at her funeral....
oh, so many connections and oh, so many gifts.  
Most of all I realized I was being given the gift of love from so many...

I felt beloved again. 
Most of all, I felt beloved by my Beloved. He was letting me know he heard my prayers, heard my needs, heard my sorrows.  He gave me a gift that will last me forever.
Monday my throat was sore again (hilarious) and I had not gotten one thing "done" in preparation for Christmas. Not one gift bought or wrapped.  Not one Christmas card addressed or mailed. Not one food item planned or bought for our Christmas party the following weekend. But none of that mattered. 
I was given the gift of time with my dearest friends.  I was given the gift of connecting with my former voice students (many of whom were there with me when I had to stop teaching) and the students with whom I traveled to Ireland just a few short months previously. I was given the gift of singing this tender prayer for my children, my husband, and so many who lifted me up the past three years. 
Most importantly, I was given the gift of leaning on Him in my time of anxiety and need....I prayed so hard before every moment on stage, and the Holy Spirit gave me the breath I needed to deliver the message. He was my breath. 
I had forgotten this is what Christmas should be about...and what I don't focus on in the hustle, bustle and hullabaloo of shopping- that this is what it's truly always been about. 
So today as your read about this glorious miracle, 
whether you're at work, at school or at home...
Stressed or calm...
"Prepared" for what lies ahead of you or not...
I want you to know you're beloved to me...
You're beloved to Him....
And there are miracles all around us every moment of the Christmas season and beyond into this beautiful new year.
All we have to do is look for them.

{Thank you for reading.
Praying for a new year 
full of miracles
for you and yours...

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