The terrifying joy of taking risks

fear growth vulnerability

Hello from Antigua, Guatemala!

I’m out of the country on a service and learning trip to El Salvador and a little tourist stop in Antigua, Guatemala. 

It’s been an incredible trip with my husband and our two daughters. We’ve spent the last week building schools and improving septic systems, handing out medical supplies and medicine, and working with children. The days have been long, unbearably hot, and transformative.

I’ll share much more of my lessons and learning from our trip, but for now, I wanted to share something powerful that happened to me this past weekend. 

As many of you know, one of my random talents is playing the piano and church organ. I’ve been playing piano since I was five years old and organ since I was 11. Being a church organist helped me pay my way through college, graduate school, and law school. I still sub on the organ at area churches because, let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of trained organists out there. So I like to help out when I can. 

This past weekend in El Salvador, the members of our church who were on the trip with us participated in two Salvadoran church services. The pastor of the Salvadoran church was our host in El Salvador, and he organized the services. So when he needed someone on the keyboard to support the congregational singing with the song leaders and guitarist, he asked me. 


I couldn’t say “no”, even though it made me very, very nervous to say “yes”. Why? 

I’m a solid pianist and organist, but I had never seen the music before.

I’m classically trained. Rhythm is not really my gift. And these Salvadoran songs had rhythm with a capital “R”.

I’m good at sight-reading (reading music I haven’t seen before), but I’m not good at reading chords or playing by ear. And all of the music only had chords (not all of the notes written out). Yikes! 

I didn’t know the songs. They were all from a Salvadoran hymnal, not my straightlaced Lutheran hymnal that I knew inside and out.

I don’t speak Spanish so I couldn’t read the song words or the bulletin, and I could barely tell where we were in the music if I got lost. I couldn’t really communicate with the singers and musicians to even know which song we were singing at which time. 

I was so nervous, but I also wanted to support what they were doing and I had the skills. I knew this would be a “stretch” opportunity. Of course, there was also a chance I would publicly humiliate myself, so that was definitely in the back of my mind!

The outcome? While I wasn’t perfect, I did my best, and it was what was needed. I learned the songs. I figured out the rhythms and chords. I even played tambourine with my foot on one song (because it just really needed some tambourine, and I’m a wild woman with a tambourine!). 

I proved to myself I could do something I didn’t think I could do.

I built a skillset and confidence for the next time another opportunity like this comes along.

And, maybe most importantly, I made new friends and connections that I wouldn’t have made if I didn’t stretch into this opportunity. We (the other musicians and I) had a blast. The singers and guitarist said we should form a touring band. The flute/recorder player was so touched by the music we made together that he friended me on Facebook and made the sweetest post about it being such a special moment for him (and it was an incredibly special moment for me, too.) 

We didn’t need words to communicate. We had music. We enjoyed laughter. We made something incredible together - a group of strangers with a shared passion for creating the best music we could.

So here are my questions for you - because I was thinking about YOU, too, during this experience:

Where do you have the opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone? 

What skills could you learn if you were brave enough to possibly fail (or even just not get it perfect)?

What are you afraid to do that’s holding you back from a new ability, connection, relationship, or experience that you know could be transformative for you? 

What confidence could you build in yourself if you stretched into your next level rather than shrinking back because you don’t feel ready?

The next time a “stretch” opportunity comes up, I encourage you to take it. Step up and in. Push yourself out of your comfort zone into your growth zone.

That’s where the transformation happens. That’s where the growth happens. That’s where the magic happens.

Let me know where you are stretching yourself -  can’t wait to cheer you on!

Hasta luego, mi amigos! (See you later, my friends!)