Monday, July 23, 2012


Just over 11 years ago, I attended my sister's high school graduation. While I was there, I ran into a good friend. We were talking about our own high school experiences (15 years ago, now!) and our conversation naturally turned to music. We were both musicians and had spent many hours performing together. She knew I had not been able to major in music as I had wanted --mostly because of my university choice and because I had gotten married rather young (when I was talking with her, I had introduced her to my brand new daughter as well). In complete confidence in our friendship, she mentioned something she and her sister had said about me just a little while earlier: "Cheryl had such promise as a musician, but she's probably just the Relief Society pianist, now!"

I hold no ill feelings towards my friend for what she said. Ironically, it was true --I was, indeed, at that moment, fulfilling my calling as the Relief Society pianist! I was also not the musician that had shown such promise leaving high school (with a couple of local scholarships in hand, with the hopes of my music teachers behind me). My friend said what she said for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because our friendship has always been solid enough to withstand brutal honesty.

Now, here I am, 11 years later, thinking hard about what she said. What she had meant. And I'm grateful for the chance to think about it.

When I think about the amazing things my friends have accomplished in their lives, I have to stop myself from becoming envious. I see bloggers turned authors, law students, musicians, entrepreneurs, self-made athletes, and each seems to be "living up to the promise" they had as individual, talented women. I'm happy for them (truly), but I wonder why I'm not one of them.

But, stop! Before you think I'm having a pity-party, I want to show you what I mean. Dear reader, you already know the story of why I am not a professional musician. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt sometimes (deep, deep, deep in my heart), but I'm at peace with it. Six years ago, I had shown promise of becoming an author --but then, as well as now, it was not meant to happen. Not yet, anyway. I had the chance to build up a piano studio, hone my writing craft, pursue other interests (where I found I had other talents), but it was not supposed to happen. I have no doubt that some will call me a quitter and claim I say all of this as a cop-out, but they will be so very, very wrong.

Just yesterday I was thinking about my situation. I told Brandon that I felt I must have been blessed to have faith and believe because even when things never work out the way I want them to, I still believe. I'm still right there. And you know, it's in the little things, really. My homebirth did not turn out how I had always envisioned. My career as a piano teacher didn't pan out. My garden didn't get planted this year (mostly because of time). My cat allergies are getting worse. Our financial situation (although better) has taken longer than I wanted to get better. They seem trivial and stupid (now that I'm typing them out), but they meant something to me. And they weren't supposed to be the way I wanted it to be.

Why? What is the link between what happened 11 years ago and yesterday?

Unequivocally, it's been the Holy Ghost. In each step I have taken in my life, I have tried to keep the Spirit with me. I want to do what Heavenly Father wants me to do --because I know, sincerely, that He knows what I need more than I do. I may not always get what I want, and in some ways, I may have disappointed myself (and others) spectacularly. But it makes me stop and look at my life and try to draw some important conclusions from those choices I've made --and from listening to the Spirit when He told me "No."

First --I have an eternal marriage to an incredible man. Is he perfect? Nope. But he loves the Lord, he loves me, he loves our kids, and he truly "protects and provides."

Second --I have children. Six amazing, beautiful, talented, wonderful children. They are the cause of much of my frustration and lack of sleep --but they are also the cause of much of my joy.

Third --What would I have given up to be more than just a Relief Society pianist? I'm not sure. "What if" games are just silly --"what ifs" don't exist. I'm grateful for the chance I've had to serve in the Church. I may not be playing in Carnegie Hall, but I have accompanied many choirs and congregations, conducted choirs and played organs in tabernacles and churches. I've been blessed to bring music to children, too. Giving up my other chances at worldly success has also given me opportunities to be a more involved mother --I'm there at all of the crossroads, I'm available all of the time. I know many women who can make careers and families work (they are amazing!) and I am not judging them for their lives, because honestly? I wanted to be one of them! Or want. But for some reason, I can't do both. I've been asked, through the Spirit, to simply be their mother. I am to serve in the Church, support and love my husband, and raise my children "at my knee" (quote from my Patriarchal Blessing).

Fourth --What matters most? My testimony in Jesus Christ and in the Plan of Salvation means everything to me. If I truly believe in it, then I have no reason to be sad. Heavenly Father never told me not to use my talents; He told me not to use them all right now. He told me to shift focus for a while. If I believe in His will and His love for me, then losing the praise of the world should mean nothing, eh? When I focus on the big picture, on what I am doing daily for the betterment of eternity, it feels amazing, to be honest. Why, then, should I shrink from trusting in Him?

I thank my friend, deeply, for mocking my situation 11 years ago. It has given me the experience of reflecting on my agency and how I've been guided by Heavenly Father all of these years. And you know what? I truly have been guided. It's humbled me profoundly.


Amanda D said...

I love this post. I think it is interesting how people are guided to different things. Love your positive attitude!

Amy said...

I have been having similar thoughts lately. I have been frustrated that the world view of success so often creeps into even the most devout LDS hearts. I hate feeling like I have not amounted to much when, in the Lord's eyes, I am at least on the right track for success. But few people give awards for staying on budget, raising happy kids, or magnifying even the "smallest" church callings.

Anonymous said...

I don't like to play the "what if" game. Too painful. Also, too much I'd have to regret in the "what if" scenario.

Rachel Holtkamp said...

Ah, the "what if" game. My husband and I ask ourselves constantly, "What if we had met 10 years ago?". Yet I have to remind myself (and him) that we both had experiences we needed to have in order to be the people we are today. Believe me when I say that it would be a whole lot easier if the two boys we have now were truly mine, but somehow, that was not what needed to happen. You are and always have been an amazing musician, Cheryl, and "just being the Relief Society pianist" is something to be truly proud of. ALL callings in the Church are valuable and necessary to the functioning of the ward. OK, there's my two cents...