Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Let the Bells Keep Ringing

"'What will this day be like?' I wonder.  
'What will my future be?' I wonder. 
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free. 

My heart should be wildly rejoicing.
Oh, what's the matter with me?...."

Last week, I had to face a day that I had hardly pondered becoming a reality: I announced that I was stepping down from directing the New Hanover JuBELLees--the bell choir that I have directed for seven seasons.

A week later, there's a part of me that's still throwing up inside over having made that decision, even though I know it was the decision that I was supposed to make.

I had come to the determination a number of weeks ago. It was a troubling feeling. I had felt I lost my passion for what I was doing. Not that I didn't love handbells. This is my lifelong instrument--the only one I've been able to play with any real success. Not that I didn't want a handbell ministry to continue through my church. As a ministry, our group has seen individually, collectively and in the community what God can do through a handbell choir! Far more than all we had asked, thought or imagined!! (Ephesians 3:20)

I had been fulfilling multiple roles--conducting, playing in the smaller ensemble that was an offshoot of the JuBELLees, arranging contemporary music for the bells to play with our Praise Team, and directing in every other sense of the word as we navigated our busiest season ever. Was I just burned out? Or was there something else?

A couple of years ago, I had tried to launch a daytime group. I thought there might be other people available during the day who would like to come forward and ring. It would give us the opportunity to broaden the reach of the handbell ministry to more places--more senior communities or other audiences--while bringing on new people to learn the art of ringing. I handled the publicity. I planned music, organized resources and made myself available. The newspaper never ran my press releases (which was very odd for our small town paper not to do). I was never contacted. I was always alone in the room each week in which I had tried to have a rehearsal. Clearly, it was not to be!

Not that the thought left. And this is what came to settle within me as a new focus--a calling whose time had come.

In recognizing that, I had to share the news with the administrative director of the JuBELLees. One of the great blessings of this venture has been the growth in the relationship that I have with her. Early growing pains in knowing how to run this group and figuring out how to work together are long since gone, as we have become true friends and ministry complements. What I hadn't expected was that she was having her own struggle with calling and moment of focus epiphany. This would make our next steps all the more difficult, even as we were both shown such clarity.

We still had a season to lead and play through to completion, which we did. We received amazing tangible and prayerful support from our Minister of Worship and Arts (though he wasn't expecting this turn of events either). All we had left to do was to share the word with the group.


A dear friend posted this Facebook reply to me last week, as I was saying how hard it is to say no.

"You have to say YES to what GOD calls you to....not what PEOPLE want YOU to do! For years HE has been knocking at your heart."

She was surely affirming me in what I knew to be true. But to come before the people who have now become my sisters and brother and say, "I'm moving here. Go and may God be with you...." It felt like Major Tom had made his last communication before drifting off into space, or I was singing "The Breakup Song" for Greg Kihn.

This stinks! Change stinks!

I have been where they sat, and I knew the pain, the sadness, the loss, the confusion, the indecision, the ________. I didn't want to be the cause of that, and yet.... It gave me perspective on those who had "done it to me," yet whose purposes were similar to mine now. It's not a leaving; it's a change of focus. We are committed to keep meeting together; we have grown too close--we're family--we're not letting go of that. But....

(Sigh! And tears....)

*          *          *

Sometimes, I think we change things to make things easier for ourselves. Simplify our lives so we can enjoy the blessings of what we have. This change was not about that. I admit to doing a lot of (i.e.,too many!) good things at once--a longtime habit of mine with which I haven't successfully dealt. But this change will not make things any easier.

Obedience to a calling is an effort in itself--joyful and fulfilling, but they don't call it "works" for no reason. Within a couple days of the announcement to the JuBELLees, I had a meeting with a senior community. It was a new assisted living facility on our list for whom we played for Christmas and again just a couple weeks ago. I came in to ask if they were interested in having bells as part of their schedule of activities. The residents decided that they'd like to start a bell group, with weekly 30-minute rehearsals! I now find myself back to finding resources, planning music and taking on a new outreach challenge--"which God prepared beforehand" [in advance of my knowing the perfect time]. (Ephesians 2:10) And, at this time, there is the potential for two other groups.

But with that calling also comes being obedient to the words of Hebrews Chapter 10: "...And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another...." (Hebrews 10: 24 and 25a) Staying in leadership in this ministry, and encouraging and meeting together with those involved is a greater task, as there will not be a Monday night rehearsal for me. But how I long for all those with whom I have served to continue on!

Maria, the postulate, tries to sing her way into confidence through her long trip from the abbey to the Von Trapp residence. I chuckled to the activities director at the senior community that I looked like her on Friday, with bell cases, foam bag and music in tow. The prospects for new and fruitful service are great. But "leaving behind" my sisters and brother in the safety and security of where we have come up and served together is not a picture I want to leave frozen in time.

I am hopeful that as He has led me, that He will lead the rest of us to "climb every mountain." And as we COME BACK TOGETHER to share of where we are--the great things He has done--and that all the bells will ring in the steeple towers!


KelliGirl said...

Sue J.,
What a wonderful post. Having recently "changed my focus" and pulled back from several ministries, I understand the tug and discomfort in making such a decision. I sense that bells are an integral part of who you are and how you worship, so to make the decision you did must have been especially difficult. How amazing that God already had "the next thing" ready for you. The picture of you with the seniors, leading them from a rag tag team into a finely tuned choir, makes me smile. I'm praying that God overwhelms you...and your new choir... with His blessings. Looking forward to amazing things that will come from this!

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may RING for joy and be glad all our days." (Psalm 90:14)

God bless you my friend!
Love and prayers,

Niki said...

Great talk today, Sue! You are a true friend to those around you and My kids and I are blessed to know you! Thanks for encouraging and inspiring me to be a better friend.