Leadership, My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

Perfection to Praise – Part 2

Perfection to Praise

A wise friend said to me, ‘Leading praise and worship is not about perfection (self-focus), but about bringing people into the presence of God (God-focus).’ When I first heard this it jarred me. Was she saying that she didn’t think I could lead worship from a heart of praise, but that I’d be longing for perfection and the affirmations from people instead? Whoa! Time out! I had to think about this. I dearly loved my friend and knew that she was not saying this to hurt me, but rather to challenge me. Since I also dearly loved God, I didn’t want to do this worship stuff ‘wrong.’ But even that response was self-focused. My mindset was so focused on the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ way to do things that even in this, I was using a perfectionistic mindset.

Praise of Man or Praise to God…

Because of my friend’s caution to study my heart before jumping on the church stage, I paused and considered my motives. I still participated in the praise choir weekends and even co-led them. I really enjoyed doing this. I also led a group of carolers in the Christmas season for multiple years and this group had the opportunity to join up with a local music store and carol around at area businesses! Finally, I served on the kids worship team, but I still didn’t move forward with trying out for the worship team because I just couldn’t figure out if my motives were to perform and hear praises from people or to truly lead a congregation with a heart turned fully towards God.


I also had a hidden insecurity. What if I wasn’t good enough? I was asked once, just once, to do background vocals at a leader’s meeting many years ago. It didn’t go well. In my defense, I had barely any practice, not a lot of feedback or input, and I wasn’t confident in harmonizing since all of my experience was in singing the melody! But this realization, that if I was going to be on the worship team I’d have to begin with harmonizing, was terrifying. For me, it was SO MUCH EASIER to sing the melody than come up with harmonies on my own. So, I practiced in the audience for many years. When it was time to sing, I’d turn my heart to God and also try out some harmonizing in the safety of a thousand voices.

Where am I now?

Today, I trust my heart enough to sing with purity of praise to my wonderful Heavenly Father. I can even harmonize much more confidently and accurately. But the stage of life that I’m in makes being a regular member of a worship team a very difficult task. I don’t feel like God is calling me to sing on-stage right now. Instead, I have the privilege to teach on-stage vocalists and see them improve and go further because of proper voice use! My heart bursts into praise as I lift my voice with my students and the congregants around me. But, God’s stirring something else. He’s been talking to me about honing this skill and being self-led in worship. So, I’m learning to play piano chords and sing at the same time in the private space of my home. Jesus and me… and my little kiddos, playing in the swirl of music, voice, and praise.

Check out my earlier post leading up to this time: Perfection to Praise – Part 1

My Story, Praise and Worship, Voice

Perfection to Praise – Part 1

Worship Thread

Years ago, God challenged me to reconsider my motives for leading worship on stage. Some might be surprised that I would write on worship because outwardly, it doesn’t look like I have much to do with the worship community. However, I’ve been connected to it here and there throughout the years since high school. More recently, I’ve been involved through teaching voice lessons to many worship leaders.

So, as I reflect on my past , I see the connections woven throughout. I’ve been on the church stage my entire life. My earliest known solo was when I was a pre-schooler! From there, I’ve been involved in as many weekend services and special events as children and teens are welcome to participate in. Those were all fun and I loved being on the stage. But, my true ‘praise & worship’ participation began in high school. I was already a performer at heart and so it was natural to join the youth worship team as one of the singers. I LOVED singing with this group. When we went on our mission trip, I got to sing with the band there too! What a thrill. Truly, I would be happy to sing anywhere and at any time.

Singing onstage at church as a pre-schooler

Studying Music…

When I got to college, I didn’t sing on a praise team anymore, but I was constantly on-stage. Most of my time was spent studying music and performing with my academic groups rather than doing music recreationally or with my church. I spent hours practicing solo and chorus songs. I applied technique and really got to know my voice and how to manage it and make it go where it needed to go. I thoroughly enjoyed this process, but my performance mindset was shifting. The world of musical study is often associated with working towards perfection. I still experienced great joy in singing, but a lot of it was filled with being constantly aware of how ‘on target’ I was in my tonality. Of course, I didn’t notice the subtle shift happening inwardly, but I did know that every day I wanted to work towards improvement and get better and better.

My college choir singing in Europe! (I’m in the middle front)

Life After College…

When I graduated, I received my Bachelor’s of Music in Applied Performance: Vocal Emphasis. After my choir toured in Europe, I got married and moved to a new state to prepare for my next stage of life: being the wife to a Physics PhD student! I had already been teaching voice lessons during college, but stopped for the first year of marriage as I adjusted to what my new life would be like. I worked full time in a non-music job for the next four years. After a year of not teaching, I had to get back into it. A part of me really was missing without it. So, I started teaching again and little by little grew my voice studio to a part-time business. At the same time, I got involved in my local worship community by co-leading the praise choir at our worship leader’s invitation.

Perfection to Praise…

During this time, I became good friends with a worship background vocalist. I talked with her about being on the worship team as a background vocalist and what that would be like. The only thing I remember from that conversation was her remark that ‘leading praise and worship is not about perfection (self-focus), but about bringing people into the presence of God (God-focus).’ This really got me thinking about my heart behind wanting to be on the team. Was it for worship and praise to God or for perfection and praise from people?

more to come on my heart journey of worship…

My Story

Braids, Gospel, and Connection

Braids, Gospel, and Connection

Sometimes I wonder if a part of me was born black, and when I say that I mean, a part of me relates to a part of the African American culture. As a child I saw all the amazing things about the African American culture around me; awesome braids and hair extensions, amazing music, cool dance moves, a strong religious community, and a close extended family. But, as I got older, I learned about some of the hard aspects of that culture too. Truth be told, I still learn things all the time! I didn’t really know what to do with those hard things. So, while I continued to admire the good, I pushed the hard aside. My excuse… I was young. I love how children see the good, the gold, and the hope, and rarely see the struggle. They build their initial worldview on the positive first and after that’s been formed, they move forward in understanding the hard things too.

Sometimes I Wished I was Black…

There were times that I wanted to be black. I wanted to wear my hair in amazing braids with beads! I wanted to attend the high spirited gospel churches portrayed in the movies, but mostly, I wanted to sing gospel music. One time when I was a teenager, I was singing to myself while outside on a walk. An older African American friend/mentor of mine called out to me, ‘Girl, you could be a black woman!’ I hadn’t seen her walking behind me and my heart soared as I thought that surely she was referring to my singing voice. As I turned around and said hello, she said, ‘Those hips are black woman hips!’ Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to hear, but it’s a precious memory of a woman from another American culture accepting me.

Getting Wiser…

I now know, that every culture has so much more to it than the small parts we see. I have learned that every culture has a history marked by achievements and progress along with pain and tragedy . To say that you want someone else’s heritage to be your own means accepting not just the parts that you like, but also the parts that you don’t like. It means entering into the whole of that culture and maybe even setting yours aside.

Acceptance and Relationship…

As an adult, I realized that I didn’t actually want to be from another culture and leave all that I came from behind. What I was really longing for in this case, was a connection to the black community. I wanted to be accepted by this community, to learn from the people, and to grow in relationship with them. I’m still growing and learning all the time. It’ll be a process for my entire life – one where I’ll likely make mistakes that hurt others (I’m sorry in advance) and make mistakes that embarrass me (oops!), but also hopefully make relationships that’ll change my heart forever.

Sweet Sophia and me. I loved how she called me, ‘My Love.’

Post Script:In talking with an African American friend, whose thoughts and opinions I highly value, he applauded me for my openness and also suggested that some people might ask me the following questions:

  1. Why can’t you be white and sing gospel?
  2.  Is there a rule somewhere that enforces that white people can’t have braids, cornrows, or any other hair style that originated with black and brown people?

These two questions have been rolling around in my mind and really challenging me on how I would answer them. I hope to write a post or two addressing these questions in the future!

Adoption, My Story

Playing Orphanage

Playing Orphanage

Most kids I know play ‘house’ or ‘family’. Me? I played ‘orphanage.’ I’m not sure why exactly. It probably came out of my sister’s wonderful imagination. She, being 7 years older than me, had a very developed creative play world. Or.. maybe it came from our favorite stories, The Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables or Annie.

How it Went…

The game went like this: Dressed in ‘rags’, my sister would leave me on the ‘doorstep’ of our bedroom door. Then she’d come out of the door and ‘discover’ that someone had left a baby – me! She’d gather me in her arms and take me in. She dressed me, fed me, and played with me. She cared for all my needs and the life of ‘little orphan Brittany’ was secure.

Influencing Now…

Safe Surrender

This childhood game fanned the flame of adoption in me. Oddly enough, it’s not an altogether absurd idea – people leaving babies on doorsteps. In my research on adoption, I came across a lot of stories, mostly international, about children being left in open-air places to be purposely found and cared for. I imagine that these birth parents gave up their children with a hope that they would be found and provided for in a way that they couldn’t provide at that time. We don’t see babies left on doorsteps a lot in the US, but there are places for parents to relinquish their babies. These are safe places where they will be taken care of and moved into a system to help find them permanent care. These places are designated with a sign like the one above.

What’s This Mean for Us?

Since we’re probably going to adopt domestically, it’s unrealistic that we’ll run into this situation and be the parents that bring home a baby ‘left on a doorstep.’ But many babies and children today need families that are in a position to take them in and care for them. There are so many stories out there of why children need adoptive families. There are as many unique stories as there are children. I know my future adoptive child will have a story that’s full of both love & heartache and I will be honored to be the one to walk through it with him or her.