With an exuberance that only a child could display, a young boy, with his finger pointed up at me and a smile lighting up his angel face, shouted “Mom, it’s the church Singing Lady!” With a warmth in my heart, at that moment, I realized just how much of an impact even the smallest of giving of one’s time can have on others, especially children. Even more so, realizing how much more of a gift you get in return. So much more. Through my love of music, my love of God and my love of working with the youngest members of Zion, I have spent years nurturing the young in song and praise during Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and co-directing the Christmas program, and will continue to find an immense joy in what I get to do.
In 1978, at the age of four, I moved to Buffalo with my father, mother and three brothers. Immediately, my mother set out to find us a church home, and found Zion. We were welcomed with open arms into a faithful and loving family. At that time Zion was located downtown Buffalo, across the street from the elementary junior high schools. It was led by co-pastors, Ed Blair and John Folkerds, who swiftly became mentors and family. Without these pastors and their leadership and guidance, I would certainly not be the person I am today. Many wonderful and life-long connections were made, as it was customary to invite new families to homes after worship for donuts, coffee and fellowship.
My immediate family already knew my intense love for music, a lesson learned at the expense of my brothers’ ears as I sang every chance I could, often while they were trapped in a vehicle with me and my voice. Their pleas for it to stop were met with an encouragement to be patient with me. My mother soon put me in the SONshine choir and shortly after I joined the first ever children’s handbell choir at Zion. Zion was my second home as I spent many hours a week at various different activities, music practices, confirmation, outings, Sunday school and Sunday worship.
My mother was a practicing Christian, instilling and insisting that her children also grow in God’s love and mercy. My father was not raised this way and was absent from our church pew on Sunday mornings. But soon, that began to change. My father made a life changing decision to embark on his own journey and relationship with God, starting with joining his family at Sunday morning worship. I will never forget the day my father, my wonderful, supportive and amazing father was baptized, by his choice, into the Lord’s family. Being a child and because I had only seen tiny babies be baptized, I harbored a deep worry that Sunday, that the pastor would not have the strength and be unable to lift and cradle my dad in his arms, and hold his head over the baptismal font to perform the ceremony. My worries were put to rest when my dad was able to hold his own head over the bowl, as they poured the water over his forehead. Not for a moment since has God ever been absent from our household.
I graduated from Buffalo High School in 1992, and took my passion for music to St. Cloud State University, as a vocal music and music education student. After college, life’s path did not lead me to a career in music, however. I found a job at Prudential Insurance and worked there for several years. After the birth of my third child, and realizing just how many disabilities my oldest son had to overcome, I took the advice of my son’s medical specialists, left my job and stayed home. What a huge blessing from God that turned out to be. My initial reaction was desperation and fear, worries of how we would provide and put food on the table. After many prayers, having “God will not give me more than I can handle” on constant replay in my head, and reading the comforting words of Footprints in the Sand, I realized that He was certainly listening, as God always does, and He gave me peace in my heart and my life.
With that peace he also gave me the gift of time, time to become an avid volunteer in my children’s schools, community and church. I was now able to use my musical gifts and my love of teaching children in so many different avenues … leading music during Sunday school and VBS, singing my heart out with them, singing for the congregation, accompanying soloists and choirs as they sing their child songs of praise. My most recent endeavor was to co-direct last year’s Christmas program, overseeing the music direction and I am back to co-direct this year’s program. The most fulfilling thing in my life is being able to look into the eyes of the most innocent, the eyes of a child and know I’m helping them in the most tender time of their journey, their first walks with God. For that, I am forever thankful to him for this precious gift.
Outside the church doors, I enjoy cooking and baking and consider myself a sort of connoisseur of comfort foods. I participate in triathlons, and in 2014 competed and finished what many consider to be the pinnacle, an Ironman. It may not have been pretty, but it was life changing, and gave me the realization that with God’s help we can accomplish something that seems humanly impossible. I found myself talking to God over the many, many miles I traveled that day. I enjoy running for fun and truly love raising my family. I pray and pray hard for clarity, especially in those really tough mommy moments that make me want to pull my hair out. With my husband’s encouragement, I have also found an outlet for my need to sing and perform on the local karaoke circuit. My favorite songs to sing are “How Great Thou Art” and, during the Christmas season, “O Holy Night.”
Being called “The Church Singing Lady” will remain the most heartwarming nickname I’ve ever received. I will forever cherish that young boy’s words and strive to make myself worthy of the title as I continue to teach and lead Zion’s children, including my own, in our Zion home.