I was invited/asked/hired to play piano for one of the many choirs at our local Catholic church. That in itself is a long story, but the short of it: we have a strong ecumenical community here and so I've played piano for several joint Ecumenical services at the Catholic church. I was asked by the director who had heard me play at those services if I would accompany one of the choirs that tends to be more Ecumenical in nature (three of my parishioners are part of the choir) and that usually sings for memorial services (the Catholic church here is huge, so memorial services are common occurrences). I debated about taking on a second job, but frankly needed the money to help pay for college for my daughter. David had been out of work, too, and that was putting a huge strain on all of us. Also, I haven't been playing piano regularly and the reality is if you don't use it you lose it. And finally, for me playing the piano is part of my soul, part of my being, it feeds me, so it feels important. Having a place to play regularly felt like a gift to me. I ran it by our session and they were okay with my taking this on. Still, I've continued to struggle with this decision, in part because I was already working more hours than I probably should and to add in another job, even a small one...
That was all before last night. This choir that I accompany is putting on a concert this Saturday evening, and last night we had our first full rehearsal with the orchestra. For the first time in a very long time, I was playing with a 14 member full orchestra (including full piano - my part, and full organ - my congregation's organist, Dale, playing that part), as well as the 33 member choir. I cannot articulate how it felt for me. I was transported, as I haven't been in a long time, into a place that was beyond this world. The thin veil between here and eternity (which for me is not about 'forever' but is something that happens when we are moved outside of time and space into the place of Holy, of Spirit, of … well, again, words fail me) was absolutely torn apart. To be able to be a living, breathing part of that music was suddenly and unexpectedly a gift so deeply received into my being that I felt moved beyond the physical completely and utterly. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of making this incredible sound, to be creating music that was beautiful and meaningful and heavenly (in the non-hokey, best sense of that word).
And, as gratitude often does, it carried through to a fuller look at my life right now as well. I have the gift of serving a congregation that is doing good things in this community, that is loving and caring and focused strongly on justice and compassion work. I've been extremely busy at work lately, but it is all good things, work that feels like it has meaning and purpose and value. My parishioners join me in amazing commitments to service and love to one another and the larger community and world. I have three incredible children, the eldest of whom will be coming back for Christmas break in just fourteen days (not that I'm counting). I am about to be married (four weeks from today) to a man who is incredibly kind and good to me and my kids. I have an amazing group of friends in my life who add depth and wealth to each and every day. The rain has cleared the air and the hills are becoming green with new life. And then there is this gift of music...
We are given gifts; training, education, talents, opportunities, people, invitations, resources, etc. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the gifts that have come my way. Today the gift that overwhelms me is this chance to play piano and the opportunities for concerts such as Saturday's.
But it also leads me to reflect at a much deeper level on the concept of grace. I look at the list of things for which I was grateful last night, and I realize that all of it came through grace. I didn't ask to be invited to accompany this choir. I didn't seek out this position. It came to me, unexpectedly and unsought. Frankly, I never asked to take piano lessons in the first place: that too was a gift of grace that came to me in an unexpected and strange way. I was terribly sick in first grade: missed several months of school as a result. The neighbor offered to come into our home and teach me piano so that I'd be doing something when I couldn't be up for more than a half hour at a time for so long. I didn't want to take piano, but I did. When David first reached out to speak to me, I hesitated about whether or not to engage him. If I'd walked away... well, I wouldn't have what I have now! Over the course of my life, many of my closest friends were people I initially wasn't sure I wanted to know more fully. My children... well, let's just say that they didn't come into our lives when we expected. And the list goes on.
The gifts are there, always. Always there are new moments of grace, opportunities being offered, invitations being put forth, possibilities that arise. Sometimes we say "yes" with hesitation, sometimes we don't say "yes" at all, and sometimes we dive in. All of those things: all of those unexpected twists and turns that change our lives, that invite us into new blessings: all of that is grace. In the same way it was grace that helped me to SEE the depth and gift of what last night's rehearsal was for me, despite the struggle I've had internally about whether or not I should take it on.
What I'm left with is the reflection that perhaps I am being called once again to be more open to seeing where the unexpected invitations and opportunities and gifts lead, and to be less hesitating about accepting the invitations when they come. But that is for tomorrow. For today, I am sitting in the grace, soaking in the experience, deeply grateful for what I've been given.