Am I Playing My Drum for Jesus or Myself?


Former President George W. Bush recently sat in the guest seat on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and talked about his newfound love for painting. “I do take painting seriously. It’s changed my life,” he told Leno.

It’s that last statement, “It’s changed my life,” that really has me thinking. Is there a hobby, a gift, or talent, which has changed my life? What about you? Ponder it with me for a bit, please, and we’ll come back to it by the end of this post. 

Four years ago my husband and I embarked on a remarkable journey. If it be God’s will, that journey will experience a pit stop of sorts come August 2014 when Joel will be ordained to the permanent diaconate. This current road to ordination, like any call, has experienced many bumps, bends, detours, sudden stops, and starts. Because of the intensity of the formation process, many of the activities I once volunteered for have been pushed to the back burner, if not altogether put down. 

At times I’ve been downright bitter about that and hosted plenty a pity party. Why is Joel’s call greater than mine? How many times must I say no? I don’t like sitting in the passenger seat! I often feel smothered by the collective demands of formation and motherhood. It hasn’t been easy. But no call is, is it?

When I completed a Called & Gifted workshop eight years ago, the gift of music dominated my charisms list. No surprise. It’s a rather public charism, and the people I took the class with all assumed it would be at the top, too. Just as President Bush mentioned painting has changed his life, music has changed mine. I’ve been cantoring at Mass for nearly twenty-five years, and I have undergone a deeper conversion through music.

But for now, all of my formal music involvement has been set aside; the demands of Joel’s formation take higher priority. Because we have three children ages five years and under, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to formally pick up music again. Joel’s called to serve at the altar. I’m called to serve in the pew. 

Am I Playing My Drum for Jesus or Myself?

During Mass recently the woman sitting in front of us turned around at the sign of peace and pulled me in for a hug. “You have a beautiful voice,” she said. “Boy did I hit the jackpot by sitting in front of you!”

For the rest of the Mass, I pondered her compliment. And I cried a bit when realizing my ongoing pity party was blinding me from seeing the other ways, perhaps more interpersonal yet equally powerful, to share the gift He has given me.

The moment reminded me of the Christmas carol, “The Little Drummer Boy,” where we sing of a boy who thinks he has nothing to give the Christ child and it is Mary who encourages him to give the simple gift of himself and his music. The boy then plays his drum remembering, “I played my best for Him,” and “He smiled at me”.

Really? All that work, all those hours of practice, just to play in a smelly stable for one little baby? Yes, precisely.

With a similar nod from Mother Mary, I must also offer my gift, however simple, however private, for Him and not for me. As St. Jerome wrote, “It is our part to offer what we can, His to finish what we cannot.” As much as music HAS changed my life, the charisms we are gifted with must be for the benefit of others. We are called to develop them and give them away, to use them together with our natural talents to serve God and our neighbor. 

A deacon once advised Joel that he must become comfortable with the following: he may be asked to start a ministry, see it flourish, and then be asked to put it down and watch it die when he’s needed to serve somewhere else. And that’s okay; Joel is not being ordained for himself, he is being ordained for others.

If you subscribe to the idea that your gifts are meant to be given away in service to God and others, it will allow you to bloom where you’re planted. Otherwise you’re always going to be frustrated by the growing conditions. 

Let’s chat!

Is there a gift that has changed your life? Ever had to let go of it only to discover God was calling you to share the gift differently? What’s your bloom-where-you’re-planted moment?

Copyright 2014 Lisa Schmidt


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  1. Lisa, it was so nice to read this post because it affirmed what I learned when I took the Called and Gifted workshop thirteen years ago. I scored highest on the charism of writing, which wasn’t a surprise; I’d kept a diary since age ten and wrote often. What I didn’t do was share that writing with others … and, as the workshop teaches, a charism is always given for others, not ourselves. I knew my writing was important to me, but I wasn’t sure if it would speak to others.

    A writer friend of mine heard about the workshop and invited me to do an informal writing group with her, just so I could share my writing with someone beyond myself. I leapt at the chance.

    Long story short, I’m now a blogger and have written three books. I guess it really is a charism of mine. 🙂

    But would I ever have shared the writing beyond myself if it weren’t for the workshop? I’m honestly not sure. One thing I can say with certainty is that the workshop changed my life. I’m so grateful for it, and for the wonderful friend who encouraged me to share beyond myself.

    Thanks so much for writing this, and for spreading the word about this amazing workshop. Many blessings on you, your family, and your charisms!

    • Hi Ginny! Thanks for your lovely comment. Don’t you just dig charisms? That workshop was transformative for my husband and I, too. Sherry actually led ours – talk about a blessing! Thank you for receiving the call and sharing your writing gifts with us here at CatholicMom and beyond. May the Holy Spirit continue to strengthen you and your gifts.

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  3. You had me in tears with your story about the woman embracing you at Mass and reminding you that your gifts bless others when you allow them to. If the drummer boy played “just to play in a smelly stable for one little baby,” then it’s a blessing that my gifts can be used *just* to help our family from home. Thank you for this much-needed encouragement and reminder, friend. 🙂

    • I’m glad I can return the favor of tears. You’ve made me cry several times you know! Thanks for your support. Blessed to call you an IRL friend now, too! 🙂

  4. Thank you for writing this. I knew I was going to be a church musician when I started volunteering in the choir in middle school. Participating in the music of liturgy is so intricately entwined in my life that I can’t even separate it out. I am now the Director of Music at our Cathedral. When I took the position I did so on the condition that I could still go to at least one Mass sitting in the pews with my family at the smaller parish where my four kids go to school. Whether I am in the loft conducting a large diocesan choir or sitting in the pews helping my kids find the right number in the hymnal I know I am in the right spot. This past weekend my five year old sat in the pews and sang out the most beautiful Away in a Manger. If I had been in the loft I would have missed it. Our role as a mother teaching our kids how to sing and pray in the pews cannot be underestimated. Sooner than you can imagine your kids will be old enough to sit in the pews and perhaps you will go back to cantoring. Right now you just might be teaching the little cantors of our future and what a gift to Jesus that will be! Plus, there is nothing so wonderful as the sound of everyone in the pews singing.

    • Meg,
      Thank you kindly for taking the time to comment and providing such wisdom here. And you know what? I actually had one of those mom moments in the pew just this past Sunday. We sang “What Child is This” during the preparation of the gifts and my 5-yo turned to me and said, “Whoa. That song took my breath away. It was so beautiful.” I was so touched by her sweet comment.

      I am pinching myself as it appears my husband will be assigned at our Basilica where the music is worthy to be professionally recorded. I’ll sit in the pews all day long and listen to the choirs there!

      Thanks again for sharing your experiences and knowledge. Blessings and peace to you (and I hope you get to experience a break of sorts prior to Lent!)

  5. I love your honesty! I have many different art forms that I enjoy, but they come up against my primary and secondary vocations (marriage and Lay Dominican). It is hard not to get discouraged. God gives us talents and the desire to share them, but I guess we have to learn that it is in His time not our own. I completely understand! Great post.

  6. I’m a longtime musician with 33 years of music ministry at church. I’ve seen ensembles I participated in (and led, in one case) come and go–and been through plenty of “music politics.” And I’ve said time and again that I need to do this–for me.
    But while I may be happiest when I have an opportunity to serve as a musician at Mass, the fact that I get SO unhappy and take it as a personal insult when I cannot do this speaks to the fact that I am doing it more “for me” than “for God.”
    I’ve got a lot to work on, clearly.

    • I feel ya, Barb. My ego has been bruised a whole lot when it comes to liturgical music. And as you write, when I step back and evaluate the scenario, more often than not, the focus was/is on me and not Him. Thanks for sharing your honesty.

  7. Still praying about my answer to your question, but I wanted to thank you for writing this amazing reflection. As someone who is a bit farther along the mothering journey than you are, I can tell you that your focus is where it should be for now. There will be much time later to explore new gifts… but your babies are only little once. Hugs and thanks!

  8. I guess I first realized my gift and love of public speaking the first year I was the music dierctor at out parishes VBS program. I realized then that God could give me the words to bring others closer to Him. When I share my gift, I feel His joy inside me. I can almost hear Him saying “That’s what I’m talking about!”

    Thanks for the post LIsa. I need to check into the Called & Gifted workshop. It sounds wonderful!

    • Thanks, Laura, for your comment! Please do look into the Called and Gifted workshop. I think you’ll find it of great benefit to your continued public speaking endeavors.

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  10. Several weeks ago, I felt like writing something very similar to this on my blog and I pondered it during Advent and Christmas. I never did write it, I rarely find the time to write anymore but I share the same feelings that you do and for many of the same reasons.

    I likewise have seen my role decrease as my husband has increased. My time spent in catechesis, faith formation, and writing for the diocese has diminished and I know that the talents that I had must be used in other ways. But that’s not a bad thing! God will guide me.

    For us, I didn’t notice any issues during my husband’s diaconate formation, but once he was ordained three years ago, I really had to readjust and I had a very difficult time with that and like you after the birth of our sixth child last summer, I’ve further had to humble myself.

    God has very special plans for us and I know that He likewise has special plans for your family. I’ll be praying for you during your husband’s formation.

  11. My mother has always said you can perform many ministries consecutively but not concurrently. This is something I struggle mightily with, and I only share to say your post is food for thought.

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