All Photos by Mariko Kay Photography
For as long as I can remember, I've been the "piano girl". I started lessons at 6, accompanied for my first choir concert at 12, went on to earn several awards throughout my growing up years... then in high school became rehearsal accompanist for musicals, exclusive accompanist for multiple choirs... and ultimately would major in piano in college. Somewhere along the way I also learned how to play the organ: a rare skill these days.
Along with all this academic approach to music, I've always been asked to play in church for various things. I vividly remember the first day of seminary every year. I enjoyed playing in those classes and was never one to hide my ability, but on the first day, when the teacher would inevitably ask "who can play the piano?" I would purposely keep my hand down for a moment. I genuinely wanted to give others the opportunity! It was always me, and it shouldn't be, right? But, before anyone else even got the chance to raise their hands, 5 or 6 of my friends (or even acquaintances) would point at me and say, "Ashley does!" Ha. I don't say this to toot my own horn, just to illustrate my point. It's always me.
For the most part, I've loved these opportunities and callings. Because I've played the hymns for so long now, this is easy for me. I don't even have to practice or prepare for a Sunday filled with church-music-playing. But after being Ward Organist, Ward Choir Accompanist, Ward Pianist... etc., etc. for almost 10 years now, part of me starts to grumble sometimes when I get these callings again and again.
Last year, when we moved into our first family ward after 5 years of being in singles' wards, I got the delightful opportunity to be the primary pianist. This was a new take on the normal music calling for me and I absolutely LOVED IT. The kids love that music, and it's so genuine and sweet it often brought tears to my eyes. Plus, kids are hilarious. It's just the best thing ever!
I was also shocked when I slipped under the radar for Ward Organist last year, but there were already two women in our ward who could play and I only filled in once or twice. :)
Sadly, two weeks ago, our ward got split. It needed to happen; our ward was so large we had classes meeting in hallways and kitchens, 8+ nursery classes, and over 180 children in the primary. As soon as the changes were announced, though, I had this little nagging feeling in my gut... those other two organists were no longer in the same ward as me. I knew almost instantly what was coming.
Fast forward to Tuesday when the bishopric asked Jim and I to meet with them. As we sat in that little room, the 1st counselor said to me, "I bet you can guess what your calling is..." And before he said "we'd like you to be the ward organist", I knew.
SIGH. I hate to admit it, but my heart dropped a little. I had even been totally anticipating this calling, but I still didn't want it. First of all, I had grown to love my primary calling so much, and I wasn't quite ready to give it up. It was such a huge blessing in my life and brought me so much joy. And secondly, hadn't I done this enough already? Couldn't I serve in some other capacity? But of course, I accepted. Not many people can play the organ, and how could I refuse?
The rest of the week leading up to Sunday, I was pretty grumpy, to say the least. I kept whining (the only proper term for it, ha) "I don't want to be the organist! Why is it always me?!"
And then came sacrament meeting. With our ward being completely new, our bishopric was under a lot of pressure to get presidencies and other callings organized before today so our Sunday could run smoothly. Our new bishop got up, and started talking about feeling inadequate for his call. He described himself as an introvert and was concerned about being in this position, but that he'd also felt an added measure of the spirit lifting him to rise to the challenge. He counseled us as a ward that most of us may feel inadequate at one time or another, but the Lord lifts those he calls, and he calls us for a reason.
And then it hit me.
Clear as day, the spirit whispered (felt more like a yell, to be honest) to my heart today "Ashley, The Lord needs you in this calling. He gave you this talent for a reason: so you could USE IT. So use it, and enjoy it, and remember that your talents are needed and important." Tears welled up in my eyes as I was chastised and reminded of this important truth.
With all the humility in my heart, I can say that I no longer feel inadequate in the calling of Ward Organist (again, not tooting the horn. Just stating the truth). But gosh, I needed that reminder. My sweet aunt Brenda is in the same boat as me and has been Ward Organist off and on her entire life... And I need to come to terms with the fact that that will likely be me too :). But more than anything, it was an all-important reminder that the Lord gives us all talents to help lift and further His work.
I think of my mom who is a gentle yet powerful teacher, and has been serving as Gospel Doctrine teacher in her ward for some time now. People tell me often how wonderful her lessons are.
I also think of my husband, who has a deep knowledge of the gospel and a large well of patience :) and is serving with the young men. Those boys love him and that calling blesses him and them.
The Lord uses us where we are needed - that testimony was reaffirmed to me today. And although some of us may always have the same callings, it's because that's how we can uplift and help others! It doesn't mean we don't have other talents, but goodness, if we have them, we should use them.
I'm thankful for the opportunity I have, time and time again, to contribute to the music at church. It certainly uplifts me and allows me quiet reflection time as I play. Music is a powerful way to bring the spirit, and I know it's important. I hope as Jim and I move around to different wards, and I inevitably get this calling in some form or another, I will look back on this and remember. The Lord needs me here, and He needs us all, wherever we are asked to serve.