Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19.

A funny thing happened while I was studying in my college dormitory room during my freshman year. The loud speaker blared, “Retha Butcher—telephone.” I questioned, Who could be calling me? Nevertheless, I raced four floors down to the lobby phone and breathlessly answered, “Hello, this is Retha.” When the person on the line asked if I would sing special music for church, my mind ran the gamut of emotions: shock, perplexity, and disbelief. I regained my composure and replied, “You must have the wrong Retha.”

Though Retha isn’t a common name, another individual by that name, a junior in college, was talented enough to fulfill that request. Not knowing the reason for the call, the front desk receptionist had assumed the call was for me, attached my last name, and summoned me. I could not stifle my chuckling on the way back to my room as I pondered that hilarious request for me to sing a solo. At the same time, the caller had no way of knowing about trauma from my childhood. It probably started when someone told my guardian aunt, who was within my earshot, “Retha will never amount to anything.” Although those words were hurtful, they did not need to rule my life. Another traumatic event during adolescence was when the choir director of our small youth group stopped us in the middle of a hymn that we were practicing and yelled, “Someone is singing off key.” I knew it must be me as the others were more musical than I. Both those incidents played havoc with my wannabe-singer confidence level. I began lowering my volume almost to the point of lip-syncing to spare people from hearing me sing off key.

Later I became passionate about providing piano and instrument lessons for my two daughters so they could be of service in their respective churches. My confidence level has risen over the years and I no longer lip-sync the hymns that I love. “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).

Now, realizing that I am a child of many prayers, my motto is “The task ahead of me is never as great as the Power behind me.” I wake up each morning exclaiming, “This is the day which the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Retha McCarty

First published in Notes of Joy (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press), 2018.
Carolyn R. Sutton, editor