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Be Still My Beating Heart

Stage Fright is both emotional and physical. You feel fear. Your mind screams at you not to walk up on stage, open your mouth, try something new and scary, humiliate yourself. But if all that noise stayed in your mind, you’d be okay. You could press on, no one would know, right?

But no. It’s not just in your mind. Your heart races. Your mouth gets dry. Your hands shake. Heck, maybe your whole body shakes! And when you’re singing, even worse, your voice quavers. In fact, to your horror, it might quaver so much it falls off the note you meant to sing, the one you know you’re supposed to sing, the one you sang just fine in your car on the way over.

Fortunately, there are things you can do for both your mind and body to help you get past that.

Let me start with the physical. Number one, eliminate caffeine. If you have stage fright, your body is already in panic mode, pumping adrenaline into your system. The very last thing you need is caffeine. You do not want energy drinks, coffee, tea, dark chocolate, or any other stimulant in the hours before you sing. Even if you feel sleepy one minute before setting foot on stage, you’ll wake up the second you do, and you’ll be glad you don’t have any caffeine.

There are other physical elements to keeping your voice strong. Long term, it’s a good idea to get physical exercise. The stronger your lungs, the easier it is to sing. Being fit also tends to slow your heart rate, which you desperately want when you are battling fear. If you have allergies, an antihistamine will help keep your throat open. Avoid anything which irritates your throat before singing, especially sweets, baked goods, citrus or dairy. Drink plenty of water, and if you can get your hands on some licorice tea, even better. When you’re physically fit and your throat is strong and clear, you will feel calm as soon as you hear the first note.

Hopefully these steps will allow you to start to enjoy the process, because why else would you be going to all this trouble? The more you start to enjoy it, the more you will start to relax.

Singing in Public When You’re Afraid – Where do I start?

1. Try something new.

If you have never done any singing in front of anyone at all, there are many ways to start. One of the easiest things to do is join a choir. Most churches and schools have a choir, and you may find a community based one in your town or local area. For some choirs it helps to read music, others will hand out rehearsal CDs to help you learn the music by ear. Your own skill level will influence where you feel comfortable starting, but make sure you always look for ways to challenge yourself to learn new skills. If you’re a beginner, look for someone who is experienced and get right next to them. Listen to what they do, and do the same. Make sure they are actually good at singing, though! The choir director can point you in the right direction if you ask.

Taking voice lessons is a great option, but do your research. Make sure you find a teacher who understands your preferred style of singing. If you aspire to pop singing, then classical or opera style lessons will actually teach you the opposite of what you need! I’m not saying you can’t try other singing styles later, but focus your efforts to start with.

The best thing about voice lessons is you will have to force yourself to sing in front of someone. If you keep at it, you’ll get used to singing in front of at least one person. That may seem like a small step, but it’s actually the biggest one. Singing in front of a handful of people is almost the same as singing in front of one. Singing in front of a roomful of people is only a bit harder than singing in front of a handful. And singing on stage is only a little bit harder yet.

One voice teacher I’ve learned a lot from is Seth Riggs. He has a stable of instructors all over the world who teach his methods. I’ve also been intrigued by Ken Tamplin’s rock ‘n roll singing academy. He also has some free videos posted on Youtube. There’s nothing magical about finding the one perfect instructor, the point is to try something that will move you in the direction of your goal.

2. Keep at it.

If you don’t like the first choir or voice teacher you try, then try something else. Join a Toastmasters group to get used to standing up in front of people and talking. One of the side benefits I found to getting over my fear of singing in public is that I no longer fear speaking in public. Anything you do to get out there, beyond your comfort zone, will help you.

3. Start small.

Don’t feel you have to be fabulous right out of the gate. You’ll only make yourself feel bad, and talk yourself out of doing it at all. Take one step, and keep doing it until it’s easier, and then before you start feeling too comfortable, try something a little harder. If you keep on that way, you’ll be a amazed at what you can accomplish.

Next week: Be still, my racing heart!

Someone else sings better. Why should I? Why me? Part 2 – Singing in Public – How to Get Over Your Fear

If you watch American Idol, you’ve probably seen the auditions everyone loves to hate, the ones we laugh at. They are so sure they’re fabulous, but they are really bad. It’s hilarious, unless it’s you.

If you’re afraid, deep down, that you are that bad, there are ways to find out before you publicly humiliate yourself. I don’t think that type of singer is actually likely to engage in deep self-analysis. So if you’re worried about it, it probably doesn’t apply to you!

But just in case, ask a musician or singer if you can carry a tune. Or record yourself singing a song, and listen to it. Do you wander up and down into slightly different keys? Does the musician you asked wince a little, before answering your question? Then you may have a point. Your best option at that point is to work hard, taking lessons from someone who can help you. Just make sure it isn’t a polite soul who nods at you and takes your money without being honest about what you need to work on.

Most likely, you can sing, but you doubt yourself. Of course you can improve, and you should never stop working at it. But each person has strengths and weaknesses. Each person has a unique style, perspective, and a story to tell. If you value others, make sure you value yourself too. There are people out there waiting to hear your story, told through music.

For the timid soul, you may be so hard on yourself, you never let anyone else have the chance to even hear you. You second guess yourself, and may even convince yourself you could never contribute anything others wouldn’t do better. But deep down, you want to try, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

Maybe you have tried, and you’ve been slapped down. Sometimes bolder personalities will tear you down, just because they can. They might feel it leaves more room for them if they climb on top of you. Don’t cooperate with any bully! Be courageous, and find a way to shine at the things you do best. Keep practicing both your strengths and your weaknesses, and your steady climb will get you much further than you can ever imagine.

I have a Bible verse for you too, from the second chapter of Titus, verse 15: “Do not let anyone despise you.”

I’ve worked alongside a lot of very talented singers, and I’ve noticed some of the very best are quite humble. They don’t really act as if they are anything special. They just go ahead and do what they can, and keep at it. If you aren’t sure you’re really good enough to put yourself out there, you may just be one of the humble ones. Good for you, and don’t let it stop you!

Next week: First steps, when you don’t know how to get started

Singing in Public – How to Get Over Your Fear (by someone who has done it)


No fear when my brother is near!

I’ve sung all my life. For a long time, I assumed everyone did. We all sang in my family. We sang hiking songs on the trail. We sang Christmas carols from door to door. My mom burst into song while we were shopping. (Oh, the humiliation.) My brother and I would sing rounds in the sandbox and try to throw each other off by singing our parts louder and faster until we collapsed laughing.

I have a mental image of myself standing in front of our church at 4 or 5, wearing a white choir robe with a giant red collar, my eyes huge and my face pale. Singing in public. Ugh! That was my first taste of stage fright. I loved the singing, hated doing it in public.

I had the same experience of stage fright in ballet, and gave it up after completely devoting myself to it for many years. I loved the classes, the dancing, the costumes, but absolutely hated the performances. Our recitals were held in a large city community theater which sat thousands. My teacher must have been really well known to have so many people coming to her recitals, but I wished we were in a tiny room with just our immediate families. I was not born to do anything in public.

But one day, I got sick of being so scared. I was in a small Bible study and the leader asked if we had anything to say or to share. My heart pounded so loudly I was sure everyone could hear it. I was terrified to make a sound. I was sitting in the living room of perfectly safe people, surrounded by just a few people I knew. Yet I couldn’t open my mouth.

This would happen every week. The leaders of my small group persisted. They would not let up. The expectation of “performance” completely threw me. They would ask if someone in the group would start a song. I could always think of about five different songs to choose from, I knew how to sing them, but I couldn’t get a sound to come out of my mouth. I started to think this was ridiculous. How could I be so scared of such a simple thing?

By then I had started to notice lots of people couldn’t even sing, but they still did it! Why couldn’t I sing even a few words until everyone joined in? What was I so afraid of? I remembered giving up ballet even though I loved it so much, just because of my stage fright. I decided I would get over my fears no matter what it took.

And I did.

I didn’t have anyone to teach me how, so it took me a very long time to learn the tricks I know today. I thought I’d start a series of articles and share them with you. If I help even one person avoid years and years of being so scared of doing something they love, it will be worth it!

Next week:  Someone else sings better. Why should I? Why me?

You are Beautiful

summer blog

A day of change.

I’ve been reading a lot in this blog devoted to those hurting from abuse.

I went through some dark periods as a young woman, and I wish these writers and their wisdom had been available to me then. If you are suffering, or are still scarred from your past, get thee to this blog! It’s a very healing place.

I was remembering today how hard it was, many years ago, to go overnight from a beautiful bride to a flawed, not-quite-right burden to the man I had just married. He had plenty to say about what was wrong with me, and proclaimed he was simply not attracted to me. I was devastated. I was too young and naive to call B.S. and I twisted myself into pretzels trying to make it right.

I remember going on a long walk to burn off calories and wondering how it was possible to be so “flabby” when I was tall and wore a size three. I was part angry at the sting of those words in my ear, part defensive and trying to fix it.

Now that I am older and wiser and no longer being abused and lied to, I realize there is no fixing that nonsense. Here is what I would say to my younger self:

Baloney! Why was he attracted enough to marry you and suddenly you’re all wrong??? Flabby??? Maybe he should take a look in the mirror!!! Who has been eating too much of your fine cooking, after all? Not you!!!!

Dear Reader, if you are being told you are not enough, here is what I say to you:

You are beautiful. You are enough. God made you just right. He didn’t make a mistake when He designed you. You are lovable. You are worth loving. You are just fine.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Inspiration Board, Old Sign

I love James Busvlogger’s videos! Here he shares a great idea for an inspiration board made from an old sign.

Codependence at the Movies

I was sitting in a movie theater last night watching the latest Brad Pitt movie, Moneyball. (Excellent baseball move, by the way!) Hubby Don and I had gotten there early and the theater was half empty. I thought I would get away with my purse and our jackets piled up in the empty seat next to me. But then just before the movie started, a lady squeezed past us, plunked down on the other side of our loaded-up chair, and asked if the seat were saved. Sigh. You know how that goes.

Normally I don’t pay attention to what the people around me say, but because of all the shuffling just as the movie was starting, I heard the lady say to her robust male companion, now seated right next to me, “Is this seat all right?” He murmured that it was. Pause. Pause. “Are you sure it’s all right?”

Oh no. I don’t know what their story is, but the self-abasing self-doubt, the tentative questioning, as if she were a blank space next to him, instead of a fellow human being perfectly capable of having her own opinion about where they sat . . . she was a People Pleaser.

The reason this sounded so familiar is that I have worked hard for years, as a mature follower of Christ, to move away from the shackles of that kind of thinking. People pleasers think we are loving, giving, and quite possibly the best Christian you can be. We are deluded.

The man sounded perfectly nice. He didn’t demand anything, he didn’t let her stew about whether she had pleased him. These urges to gain his approval were coming from inside her, not from his demanding behavior. I sensed they were in the early, polite stages of a relationship. But if they remain together a long time, her continual urges to check in with him like that will either push him to start considering himself to be above her (if he is prone to that sort of sinful pride), or he will become uncomfortable with her consistently childlike behavior.

What is her best option? Grow up. Grow up!

Paul tells us via the Colossians:

And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,

and not holding fast to the head, [that’s Christ] from whom the whole body, [that’s us] nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

We need to grow up.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.

These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value, serving only to indulge the flesh. Colossians 2:13-23

If you are getting the impression, from the scripture I have chosen, that I am not in favor of such fawning, codependent behavior, you are right. As followers of Christ, we are taught in many different ways to choose a better, more grownup path.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called . . .

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints . . .

That’s you and me, if we are believers.

for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

Don’t let anyone, not even the voices inside your head from the past, talk you out of this maturity in Christ!

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:1,11-16.

As we who are more comfortable serving learn to grow in maturity (and backbone!) and in having an opinion, we allow opportunity for others to grow in learning to love and to serve. All of these are what we see in Christ and learn from His example.

May we grow together in Him!

Great Grandma was a Cherokee

Great Grandmother Rose Wood was one quarter Cherokee. The Cherokees had a written language and lived in cottages when they were moved out from their original lands in the South. Now they are mostly in Oklahoma, but Great Grandma Rose wound up in Denver, Colorado.

I wish I knew more about her. All we have are a few photos with names and dates on the back. I think I got her eyes, though!

Latest homemade salsa

More salsa for our grilled chicken and salad dinner. I put in:

1 peach

1 pluot (half plum, half apricot, yum!)

1 small mild pepper from our garden

some sprigs of lime thyme from our garden

a couple of splashes Extreme Heat Mustard

Tomboy at Heart

I was pretty much a tomboy growing up. I went camping for the first time when I was three months old. (Okay, I realize my parents had a lot to do with that!) I spent 95 percent of my time outside unless it was raining hard, and sometimes even then I put on my raincoat and rubber boots and stomped around in puddles. The only thing I regularly got in trouble for was coming home late for dinner. I would climb trees, jump the fence to wade in the creek, and play hide and seek, coming home only after it was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

My brother and I would tear around the neighborhood on our bikes doing wheelies and riding with no hands. Sometimes he got tired of hanging around his little sister, so I’d have to go find some girls to play with. When I was lucky, I’d find other girls who were tomboys and we’d rope my brother back in because lots of games are fun with more people.

Learning to “speak girl” was a slow and difficult process. Even freshman year of high school, well after hormones kicked in, I still went around looking like a cross between hippie and Seattle grunge, buying engineer’s overalls and painter’s paints from a uniform store and wearing my hair long and straight, parted right down the middle.

My two best friends bought me a Seventeen magazine one summer and ordered me to read it. My eyes were opened to a whole new world–makeup, grooming and fashion. I still liked to go hiking and camping, but I started to look like a girl while I did it.

Right around the same time frame, I became a Christian. Because I did a good job of disguising myself as a girly girl, I fit right in with some of the conservative teachings about how to be feminine, at least on the surface. But I was very uncomfortable. I felt like a fraud.

I would hear lectures about how women like do all the talking in relationships and feel mannish because I am less talkative than most people, less than a lot of the men in my life. I would go to church parties and get pulled into the kitchen where ladies wanted to talk to me about recipes. What? I could barely boil water. I did know how to fix barbed wire fencing on my uncle’s ranch, but that didn’t really come up in conversation.

I loved the Bible stories about King David. He was small and cute, and a lot tougher than he looked. He wasn’t taken seriously at first. But of course he was God’s chosen, and I was really just a girl.

I remember once hearing God speak to me about all the books I was reading about proper behavior for a Christian woman. I was really stressing out about it, I felt completely miserable and unable to “do the right thing.” I’m sure I was crying about it, one of the girly things I do quite freely from time to time. I heard a still, quiet voice cut through all my emotions and tell me, “Throw all those books away. Get rid of them!”

What a relief that was, but I still felt at odds with the church world around me. I loved my church world, I loved learning from the Bible, I loved singing worship songs, I loved being part of the community. But I still felt like a fraud. A pretender. A fake girly girl.

Thirty odd years later I’d like to say I’ve figured it all out, but I haven’t. I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. I have figured out a couple of things though. It’s perfectly all right for me to passionately pursue being a disciple of Christ. And I don’t need to take a class to learn how to be a woman. God made me a woman, and that’s what I am. He didn’t make a mistake, and I don’t have to correct any errors. (As if! I can’t believe I was ridiculous enough to think I had to make up for His “mistakes.”)

I wonder if there are others out there who have felt the same way?