I am an artist. But the funniest thing about that statement is that I never knew it until the past year or so. I have sang since I can remember but that word never crossed my mind. I was classically trained in voice and piano and flute for that matter and it honestly didn’t seem like a very artistic thing. It was more about perfecting what I was taught to match and create beautiful music in the process. I have always loved it. But here is a funny story about me.
My grandma (my dad’s mom) would pick me up after she got off work and take me home for the weekend. When I was younger she would take both my brother and I but once we got a little older we got to go by ourselves for the whole weekend. I would dig around in her car as we drove and find her snow sweeper thingy. I would pretend to play it and make up songs. It is such a sweet memory for me because she has now gone to be with Jesus. But also because I didn’t start playing the guitar until I was 25. I was the singer. That was the thing I knew how to do. The thing I could do well. I stuck to that. There were enough people who wanted to play the guitar while I sang the songs. I also knew all the words to all the songs! So we were a great team. I did not need to play the guitar. Nope. No need. So those songs from little Michelle got all locked up. My words were captured in a space of time that I could not access. But my Grandma knew. You should have seen her face when she first got to see me play and sing at the same time. She knew the little Michelle and her desire to sing her songs.
But until I was 25 it was just SO safe to sing other people’s songs. But there is another problem with that situation. God gave me a beautiful voice. It is mine to steward but it was His first. I didn’t have to take voice lessons and try really hard. I just opened my mouth. It is a gift He gave to me. So I bear that weight on my shoulders. What am I going to do with it? The summer I turned 25 I was on a outreach as a staff member with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) staffing a School of Worship (SOW). One night we need to split our team into two groups and lead worship at two different churches. I was given the task of leading one of the teams. So I sat down with our song binder and waited on the Lord. “God, what do you want me to sing tonight!” I immediately had a picture of me leading worship with a guitar in front of a lot of people. I was instantly convicted. “Okay God. I will learn to play the guitar.” The funniest part of this for me was that for years people had been asking me. “Michelle, when are you going to play an instrument while you lead worship?” I hadn’t needed to because there was always a willing person to play. And it wasn’t really that popular as it is now for the leader to have to play while they sang. But I would always say “when God tells me to learn to play I will.” Ha! Don’t worry I am not one of those miraculous people who strapped on a guitar that night on outreach and could play the guitar by divine intervention. I would have loved to have been given that gift. But no. I had to learn. Slow and steady. I would not even consider myself a good guitar player. But I get the job done almost 13 years later.
The biggest issue or maybe blessing with learning the guitar is that it gave me an avenue for my own words that had been locked up for 25 years to come spilling out. It gave me a VOICE. I started to sing my own words or add my own melodies to Scripture (one of my favorite things to do). I remember my first song was from Psalm 86.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
It was a beautiful day and I took the three chords I was taught on that outreach after I had that vision of me playing. I slowly played, struggling to transition while I sang and I sang through the Scripture and made up my own little song.
The next day we had a meeting at our YWAM base and I felt God nudge me “go up on the stage and play your song.” “WHATTTTTTT???? No way. I just learned how to play these three chords. That is not even a real song. Please God no.” “Go.” So I went. And I still remember that song to this day. I will post it on my Youtube sometime soon I promise. Then you can hear it too. Those melodies were mine. No one else wrote them. And I still didn’t see myself as an artist. But God had another thought about that. He had been waiting to hear my voice. I had been singing for years and I know it touched his heart but there is something about when we sing our song to His heart. Even if we do not consider ourselves a good singer at all. He longs to hear our voice. It’s kind of like fingerprints. There is no other voice just like yours. None. So if you don’t sing your song. No one will. It will just not ever happen. God longs for it. He beckons it to happen. I will never regret the years I spent singing His word to him in the house of prayer and part of me longs for it again. (but I also love my babies!!) But good news. You do not need a prayer room, a worship team, or even a guitar to sing to God. Just you, Him, His word, and time. Thats it. Easier said than done. Honestly its nice to just read what I am writing and be reminded myself.
Another interesting part about being an “artist” is that it is VUNERABLE. It takes guts. To do something different, new, created by you. You are unique and special, created for a specific purpose. No one can take your place. And when you do that thing it is vulnerable. People have so many opinions. Really, we have opinions about ourselves. We don’t even really need anyone else to stop us. We will stop ourselves. “No that’s dumb, I don’t need to do it, she is already doing it.” And so on and so on. But what about you? Who will sing your song? Who will release your voice, your thoughts? It is hard. I won’t pretend like it isn’t.
I remember the first time I sang on a team at the house of prayer. They threw me into “the deep end” on a set with the whole staff there. It was only about 100 people but it was still intimidating as the new person. They take a scripture and sing about it. Like a singing bible study or devotional. Instead of saying the thoughts you have about a passage or paraphrasing it for more understanding. You will sing your thoughts or interpretation in short phrases while other singers join in. There are a lot of mechanics to it too. The hardest part for me honestly was the singing. I know shocking right. Me. The singer. That was thing I was supposed to be able to do. BUT NO!!!! I opened my mouth and it was all wonky, missing notes, squawking a bit. It was crazy. I was so embarrassed. I felt set up. This was so new to me and hard. It was like learning to play the guitar all over again. Ahhh! It did not make me excited to do it again. All my years in choir, band, and singing worship songs I knew. That was safe. My happy place.
Thankfully I pushed through the initial struggle with it. It helps that each time I sang with the house of prayer it was for two hours. Gives you a lot of time to practice. And I realized that I was the only one that cared about how bad I sounded. No one was paying attention to my drama! So I grew up a bit in that too. I started growing in confidence in singing the word with other people and I grew to love it. I found out who I was in it. I found my voice. And I wrote some songs. The songs on my new CD were actually written before I even embarked on my house of prayer journey. They were two chord/three chord songs as I processed the grief of losing my mom. In fact before I showed up to the recording studio the first day of planning for my CD I was freaking out. The voices in my head said “these are not real songs, you don’t even know how to play the guitar.” But when I got there and shared them I knew they were real and they were mine. And guess what? There are more!
So there is power in being you. There is maturity in realizing that no one else can do it for you. And that God has you here, right now for a reason. A reason that no one else can fulfill. Ask Him what it is. Don’t be surprised if He answers.
My biggest awkwardness now is figuring out how to sing the word with my boys. But you know what. After writing this tonight I think its time to figure it out. I have done it. I have tried to pull out the guitar. IF you have been around 1 or 3 year olds you know exactly what happens. They wanna play it. So let it be. But I am gonna sing. The end.
Stop looking and seeing people singing, speaking, doing the thing that He asked you to do and saying “well I guess I don’t need to do it then.” That is not a reason to STOP. Its hard. I will be honest. Seeing other people doing what you feel to do. It can feel discouraging and you want to compare yourself. You don’t to stick your neck out there and be vulnerable. Ask God if you can not do what He asked you do because you can see that its already covered. I am not sure He will care for your excuses. I am not sure they will matter much to Him. He wants your voice, your songs, your thoughts, your service. What is burning on your heart. Make it known. Keep your eyes on the Lord. What else matters really. At the end of the day. Nothing else. His love is the fuel for your obedience. Then you get the peace. “Look Lord I did it. I did it all for you. I poured it all out. Even when I was scared. I did something I never knew I could do and I did it for you!” And that is what growing up is like. It’s hard. It feels awkward. But its builds history, it writes stories. God sees it all and knows it all. Nothing is wasted. Even if NO ONE understands. He knows. He sees. So do not lose heart.