It started when I was about 5 years old. I was dressed in an adorable little dress, standing in the front row of a small choir of children in my childhood church. My hands were shaking, my face was bright red, and before I could do anything to calm down, it was my time to sing. I sang my solo - my first solo - on that day. It was the beginning of me recognizing that I had a talent, something that made me unique.
I kept singing in church, and at home (probably much more than my parents would have cared to hear), and even wrote a few little songs before I was in the 6th grade.
My best friend would love to sing one for you, I keep hoping she'll forget it.
I loved music. I loved to sing. And I was good at it.
When I reached those awkward teenage years, I found myself with a few new friends. I was learning that as you grow up, the people in your life grow differently, and new people walk in to your life as ones you thought would be there forever walk out. But I was still naive.
My constant during this time was music and writing. I spent more time on the piano bench than I did with my friends, or my homework. I had found what made me feel alive.
I was 15. Young. Innocent. Impressionable. Highly sensitive. I believed the best in people. Took what they said for face value. Cared what other people thought because I believed they were only trying to help me. Never imagined that my friends wouldn't always have my best interests in mind, or that they could hurt me - intentionally or not.
So I remember vividly the day I was playing and singing a new song for one of my friends, and they said "your voice sounds whiney. Kind of like what you hear on the radio - I dunno, I just don't like whiney voices." It was said so nonchalantly I didn't even hear it as an insult. I still don't believe those words were ever meant to hurt me. But they stuck with me.
And little by little, they ate away at me. Instead of just singing my songs my way, I was trying to not be so "whiney" or "breathe-y", or "whatever."
I had started to compare.
Over time, I started to feel like my voice just wasn't good enough. That if it was good enough people would want to hear me sing - that they'd ask or encourage me to. So I figured I'd stop. They'd stopped listening, anyway. What was the point?
I quickly found other things to fill my time. Jobs, friends, relationships, some random hobbies here and there. I went off to college, tried to figure out where I belonged. Almost moved back home. I never felt like I fit in because I was trying to fit in. When people asked me what a unique fact about me was I always struggled - my singing was my unique fact, but I didn't feel like I could say it anymore, since I wasn't singing.
If it hadn't been for the kind soul whose name I never got, but that pointed me in the direction of the practice rooms in the music department that were open to anyone I probably would have forgotten altogether that I had a talent that set me apart. All because I was wearing my sweatshirt with music notes on it.
Finally, things changed. I turned back to God. I picked up a guitar and taught myself a few chords. The first night I played anything I was sitting on my balcony in my first apartment, and a neighbor walking by said my voice sounded amazing.
I kept playing. I started writing again. I met someone who wanted me to keep playing and singing. We went to church together. I answered God's call to audition to sing at the newest church campus when it opened.
I hadn't had a solo in years. I had forgotten how to sing in parts or how to find a harmony. My voice was far from ready. But I answered God's nudge and it turned my world upside down.
It's taken time, practice, and healing, but I now know that people are listening. They care. Those same friends who I thought didn't think I was good enough are impressed. They noticed. More importantly, God is using the talent He gave me to reach His people. Through music. Through song. Through singing.
Comparison is a thief. It is evil. I'm not the only singer. I'm not the best singer. I'm not the loudest, but I. AM. SINGING.
Critics are always louder than your supporters. Satan wants us to feel worthless, ordinary, unimportant. God created us with meaning, purpose, and significance.
I'm sharing this to tell you that no one else can tell you what your talent should look or sound like. Don't be someone you're not. You are created for a unique purpose, one that no one knows better than God. Trust that when you walk in his footsteps and follow Him, it doesn't matter what others are doing around you. He will provide for you immeasurably beyond your imagination.
From the bottom of my heart to yours,