He sat at the piano in that tiny practice room, stopped right in the middle of the piece and swiveled to glare at me.
"What are you doing?"
I crossed my arms defensively. "What do you mean?"
"That note - you are pulling back. What's the problem? We warmed up past it so it wouldn't be an issue. What's going on?"
I'm 17 and it's raining. The cuffs of my jeans are soaking wet from walking from the dance studio through downtown to meet my vocal coach in this University practice room.
"I don't know...it feels weird. Something about it just feels like it's in a strange spot in my range."
He raked his hand through his blond hair, studied the music for a moment and then said,
"Make the ugliest sound you can. That's what you're afraid of, right? It sounding ugly? Well, let's get it over with. Make the most hideous sound you can so we can get rid of that fear and move forward."
I'm 17 and I care what people think. I'm 17 and I'm afraid of not being perfect. I'm 17 and I worry about appearances. Not much has changed.
I wish I could say now that I did it - swallowed my fear and made that ugly noise, moved past it. But I couldn't. Even in a small room alone save for a guy who's job it was to help me be my best, I couldn't do it.
It's 12 years later and New Years Eve, the last in my 20's. I ask myself, "What are you afraid of?" and I realize - a lot.
Afraid of letting people down - my kids, my spouse, anyone who I come in contact with. I experience anxiety attacks for the first time when pregnant with my 6th. The first time I sing in church after a long hiatus, I nearly have a panic attack when I hear my voice mic-ed through the sanctuary. Afraid, afraid.
But I know that fear and anxiety - it's not how we were meant to live. What is the worst that could happen? What ugliness am I afraid of?
When I let fear grip me, I let go of my lifeline - grace. There is no failure that eclipses grace, no way to evade the goodness of God. It's New Years and there are so many things I want to do differently. So many things I want to change. With fear strangling me, it's impossible to move forward. Relying on my own merits to keep me from falling will only strengthen the grip of fear, while letting Him be enough? Sets me free.
I'm stepping down from the pedestal that once held my self worth and throwing all of my hopes and dreams at His feet. What do I have to fear?
It turns out, nothing. No failure, no slip, no mistake - none of it can keep me from His perfect goodness and grace.
After a hard year, I look toward 2014, take a deep breath - and get ready to dive in. Taking courage that can only come from one Source.
"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand."
This year - Courage.
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