I once wrote a song called "Fear Followed Me" that had a refrain of "fear followed me, fear followed me here".
It had a verse about a soldier who had come home from war, and although he was safe now, fear followed him and he couldn't feel safe.
Fear has followed me to the church choir.
I have nearly fainted both times I've been in the front of the sanctuary with them for the hour long service.
It doesn't happen at all during rehearsals.
I'm scared to death of this whole experience.
Follow the fear.
And fear followed me here.
I've written before how my life disintegrated before my eyes when I was in my early teens and how I let the choir director down by not coming in on my big important solo in the middle of a huge church production with two choirs and an orchestra.
I've written about how I walked out of the only home I had ever loved, that big beautiful Lutheran church with the stained glass Jesus who was the only person who ever looked down on me with abiding love on his face that way.
I walked out that day, said nothing to anyone, and never went back.
Later I sang in college choir with Dale Warland, but my face was broken out, I was punishing myself enough, I was lonely and frightened, at school on a wonderful scholarship that kept me there, grateful, but penniless and not a part of the other kids at all.
I hid in that choir.
The audiences were huge but there was never anyone there to see me.
I adored the music, I loved my God, I was invisible.
I sang again when I was a young mother, in the same choir I'm in now.
I had turned into a doctor's wife, unhappily married because he and I were both branded with shame and cynicism.
I was a hotshot, bravado pushing past everything else I had inside.
I had disdain for many people.
I was mocking and uncaring, I was aloof and dismissive.
I had too much to say.
I was flirtatious and inappropriate.
I was like a person half crazy, doing everything out of all sorts of wrong places.
Just think, I had three little children then.
I was a good mother, but I was wrestling with many things inside.
I'm so sorry for what I didn't bring them, for what I couldn't focus on them because my insides were roiling.
How do I come back to the church, with my tail between my legs, with my hat in my hand, with my heart on my sleeve?
How do I stand there before them all and sing in the choir as if the world can accept me for who I was and who I am now?
During the church service I feel like I'm going to start crying or screaming, like I'm going to burst into flames, like I'm going to faint and fall down to the floor.
It's not the specific people.
Even if some people actually have bad stories or bad memories of me, it's not really that.
It's a battle with my self.
Am I going to embarrass myself?
Am I going to let myself down?
Am I really able to be the person who can assimilate?
Can I be there in that room full of people and not draw attention to myself?
Can I be simple and quiet and calm in a room full of people?
By always being the one with the microphone in every room I go to, I have found a way to hide in plain sight.
I can hide behind singing songs and being important.
I don't go to many rooms full of people and just be a participant and observer.
I think it scares me to be a part of the whole.
It's because I have to single myself out and put my scarlet letter on and stand up and sing about pain and loss and shame and suffering.
Or stand up and be edgy and slightly inappropriate, like they all owe me something, like they just have to take it, have to accept me for all my ugly failings, because we're in some bar in the middle of nowhere anyway, so what does it matter.
This month of December is about me learning to drop all my pretense that is propping up a wall between myself and the people I want to connect with.
There are so many things I've done to tell the world I'm important.
There are so many things I've done to tell the world I'm worthy.
There are so many things I've done to tell the world I'm worth their time.
But I feel unworthy.
That's what has to change.
"I approve of myself" is a mantra that has lead me to this Advent of choir and meditation class instead of more enactments of false power through my own musical performances.
I have turned the mirror around somehow and now it's shining a light into my own darkest places.
If the mirror catches the brightest light of God it may turn into the spark that will catch my insides on fire and burn away what's left of the pile of old brush that is my shame, my bad deeds, my bad words, my bad thoughts, my bad memories.
I hope that I can set it all on fire with this magic mirror and burn it all sky high.
Cleanse my soul so I'm ready for all the gorgeous gifts of Heaven to rain down upon me in the new year.
I want to be ready and worthy and prepared.
For the best is yet to come.
I've always known this.
All my life I've known that it's coming.
And I'm finally going to be ready.
These are gifts and they are ours.
Love to you today and every day.