Faith & Life

Remembering Joy

This past week, I played handbells for the first time in three years….THREE YEARS.

This is kind of a big deal.

My history with musical instruments isn’t very consistent.

I loved piano lessons in elementary school, but as I got older, other activities became priorities (and now I wish I would have stuck with it). I played the recorder in 4th grade (as everyone I ever met has done) and that was OK, but horrible for my painfully shy demeanor.

In 6th grade I was part of this percussion group and really loved that. I am not sure why I didn’t pursue this in junior high: probably because my shyness got the best of me again. I chose choir instead and was glad I did.

But in 8th grade my church started a bell choir. From the moment I joined, I loved it. I could read music (Thanks piano lessons!) and we played as a group, so I wasn’t drawing attention to myself and we all had an important part to make a song come together. We also stood in the back of the church when we played for worship, so again, I wasn’t front and center.  Oh, and it was a way to enhance my worship experience, so that was awesome!

I played all through high school and after choosing Concordia, auditioned for the college choir. I had never had to audition before, but I joined one of the three groups and eventually got to play at the Christmas concert. Those songs still play in my head each Christmas season. When I was called to my first congregation and discovered they had started a bell choir, I was overjoyed to participate.

At each new stage I learned more techniques and loved every minute.

I loved handbells so much that I had my group play at my wedding. I would have loved to play with them, but alas, I had a more important role in that particular event.

Then we moved across the country. Thankfully, my current congregation had a handbell choir, but there was a problem that I had never seen before: they had a full group. Individuals took turns at practice because there weren’t enough open spots in this three octave choir. It’s a good problem to have, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Since I had just started a new job and was trying to get the lay of the land, I decided to bow out after 15 years of playing bells.

I regret very little in my life, but that was a move I wish I hadn’t made.

For the last three years I missed playing the bells. It was an activity that brought me joy. Each time I watched and heard them play in worship, I longed to join them. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go to practice and kept putting it off.

But when 2015 neared an end and I realized I had lost some joy in my life, it was time to try again. A conversation with the director (that had come in since I tried the first time) and I headed to practice on Tuesday evening.

I was nervous. (It was a strange feeling considering it was an activity that I loved so dearly). But I was nervous about joining a group that knew one another and had been playing together for years. I didn’t want to take someone’s spot. I just wanted to participate in an activity where I wasn’t in charge and brought me enjoyment.

I was given my own set of white gloves and directed to share a spot with another. As we played, we took turns playing pieces. It was like getting back on a bike and playing as if no time had passed at all (except I had to learn new colors; handbell players understand: some of us read music, some of us don’t…we have a secret way of getting past that, but I can’t tell you!).

It was wonderful to feel included in a group again. When it ended, I wanted to keep going! I felt that specific joy I had been missing for the last three years.

2016 is the year I said I would do more activities I enjoy and I continue to check things off that list.

The moral of the story is that if you really enjoy doing something, don’t ever stop. No excuse is better than the joy of doing something you love.



  • Michelle

    Hooray! Glad to hear you are back ringing bells, Emily! And maybe, just maybe it is time for your church to consider adding an octave or two to their bell choir so more folks can participate. I believe our bell choir is 5 octaves. 🙂

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