My entire life I have been known as “the girl who sings”.
At the age of 6 I was featured in the school Christmas play. My chubby face was poked through a wreath hung on the stage curtain and I sang, “I’m a little holly berry, people think that I look merry, so they put me in this great big wreath!" I was hooked. I had found my place. My voice continued to find a place for me throughout school, college, marriage, and ministry. Even though I have struggled with my weight my entire life, I had a strong confidence that I was wanted and needed because I had this gift. As the wife of a Worship Pastor, my gift was very valuable. I could sing solos in the choir, fill in for rehearsals at the last minute, cover needed parts on the worship team, coach vocalists, lead teams… it was just who I was, what I did. However, a few years back that all changed.
It was just who I was, what I did. However, a few years back that all changed.
For years I suffered with neck pain and the debilitating effects of a reverse curve and nerve damage. I literally could no longer hold my head up for extended periods. I drove my three kids around with a small pillow propped under my chin because the force of motion while driving made me feel like I was choking. I couldn’t wear a necklace or shirt with a collar because the nerves were so sensitive that it also gave the sensation of choking.
My left hand would tingle and several of my fingers would go numb. I had a headache and dizzy spells everyday. Not a fun way to raise your family. Over the counter pain medicines were my constant companion. When a consult with a surgeon showed me that my spinal cord was so compressed that a fall would leave me paralyzed, surgery was scheduled. Fear of the surgery set in, but the fear of not having the surgery was greater.
My surgeon attends our church and he talked to us about his concern with moving my vocal chords. He was sitting in the congregation the Sunday before my surgery and I sang a solo. Even though I was in pain, I did my thing. I was not sure what the surgery might do to my voice and I wanted to sing. My surgeon shared with us that he felt the weight of trying to preserve my voice.
The surgery itself was a success. They went in from the front, moved my vocal cords to the side, pulled my neck into a better curve, removed the bulging disks, fused vertebrae, and a plate was put in to hold it all together! (I apologize to any medical professionals reading this as I am sure I haven’t used the proper terminology.)
At first I had to be super careful as I went through weeks of therapy, but very quickly I could see that I had my life given back to me. It was glorious! I had energy. Dizzy spells subsided. The fog of chronic pain was lifting. However, there was one issue that appeared and has not gone away. My singing voice is no longer consistent. As someone who has studied the art of singing for years, the inconsistency is beyond frustrating. No matter how much support I use or how relaxed I keep my throat, my voice will crack without warning. My mid-range is almost non-existent. Every note must be carefully placed in order to be heard. No longer is there freedom in singing. It is a chore.
So, I stopped. Or at least I have tried to stop. Every now and then my husband will ask me to sing for something. He is so used to depending on me. He and others assume that I really want to keep singing. Funny thing is, I don’t. My voice was a gift that I was given for a season. I don’t really understand why it is no longer part of me. The first few years after my surgery I really struggled with not being “the girl who sings”. Thankfully the Lord delivered me from those feelings. I came to realize that I am not my gift. I am not what I can do for others. I am a child of God.
I came to realize that I am not my gift.
I am not what I can do for others.
I am a child of God.
Last week my husband and I had a heart-to-heart and I think he finally gets it. I played him a recording of me singing before the surgery. Tears welled up in his eyes as he told me that he had forgotten how beautiful my voice was. It was a time of letting go for both of us. That gift is gone, but oh my, the Lord has given me so much more!
I hope that none of this sounds conceited; I am just being real and raw. I want to convey that my voice was my identity and that was not healthy. Now I truly see that my identity in Christ and my value comes from being His. I have learned that
lots of people can sing on the worship team, but I am the only wife and mother my family has. I am at peace with my new season. I am excited about doors that the Lord is opening for me. I am finding my “voice” is now a voice of encouragement and mentorship. What a joy!
Finding a New Song to Sing is Entry Four of our June blog series, Share Your Story. Do you have a story to share? One of God's faithfulness through a difficult time? Or one of victory over a personal battle you've fought? We are looking for stories to share for our fall blog series. Contact us with your information and include a single paragraph overview. Let's connect!
Denise Erway and her husband, Greg, have been married and in full-time ministry for 30 years, currently on staff at First Assembly of God (Lawton, OK). She acknowledged a call into ministry at the age of 13. "I knew I was called to be a pastor’s wife. I watched the women around me who were serving as pastor’s wives and the way they lived their lives helped to form my ministry philosophy. I was blessed to learn from the best." Free time is a new concept in her life as she is now an empty nester after 18 years of homeschooling! "Right now I enjoy hanging out with my family, coffee dates, reading, and teaching about essential oils!" Denise's greatest passion in ministry is mentoring. "It is such an honor to come alongside younger women and speak into their lives. I am passionate about seeing them embrace the life God has given them. I also have the unique opportunity to work with teens and young adults in worship arts ministry. I find myself often saying, 'You’re only young once, why not try it now? Go, soar, explore, and find God’s best for you.'" Denise will be relaunching her blog soon. You can follow her on Instagram @denerway