Music surrounds many of my life moments. From my daily consumption of multiple hours a day across all genres to vivid memories of poignant melodies marking epochs of my life, music infuses the very way I think. I sing songs to remember scriptures, and I am pretty sure I can sing every single word on the Spice Girls’ “Spice Album”… still. I have cassette tapes of me and my neighbor Natasha creating our own DJ radio shows where we would listen to the radio to catch the exact song we needed and then record that segment onto the tape in the middle of our 8-year old rantings. My mom tells stories that I would sing at the top of my lungs all throughout the grocery store, singing “Gory! Halle-uah! To the King!” when I was only a few years old.
I’m not sure I can even estimate the impact music has had on my life. I know so many Broadway songs, and Disney songs, and jazz songs and pop songs and oldies. Through all of my life, music has offered me rhythms for each season.
The best account I can give, though, is how my heart is stirred through worship music. Turning 13 marked quite a time in my spiritual walk. I remember our youth leader, Dee, at the Church of God in Grand Junction, encouraging me to try leading worship for our youth group. I had just started working on chord charts on the piano, and I definitely loved to sing. Over the next few years, her influence of intimacy with God, falling in love with the Word of God and showing me how God’s faithfulness would steady me through all of my teenage years completely changed my perspective on worship. From that time, I began to see vivid pictures of who God is, and I began to experience His steadying peace. I definitely could be a very dumb teenager. I definitely hurt people along the way. But overall, I remember feeling so protected by my relationship with God. I would write songs, pour over His Word, and I would find shelter in times of worship with Him.
The second youth group I was a part of expanded my connections and challenged me very much as a musician. We had a bigger band, we worked on more modern music, and we were encouraged to keep going deeper with God. I learned a lot about music, and leading a band with Matt Voss at the First Assembly of God youth group, and the whole band we had together. Remember going to Washington D.C. to play for Nationals?
My family moved in the middle of my senior year of high school. This was really hard at first. I remember listening to the radio A LOT and being somewhat moody. It was hard to be re-planted. We came back to the church I had gone to in Longmont when I was in elementary school. I joined the youth group and began playing with Lori and Jesse. I also joined the college team… and ended up meeting Matt… (although at the time, I would have never considered dating him. We laugh over this a lot now. I had a lot of growing up to do. I am very glad we didn’t date until much later.) Here, Mark Lopez pushed me to grow as an encourager in worship leadership.
When I moved to Tulsa to go to ORU in the spring of 2006, a huge relationship with God shift happened in me. I was on my own in a lot of ways, but still very much a part of a community bent on finding Jesus. Yep, there was a lot of hypocrisy, and some crazy “spiritual” experiences that I wish to not repeat again. But I also found the anchor of God’s Word and many rich friendships. Even though I tried out for all of the “official ORU worship” avenues and never made the cut, I kept singing. And leading. And offering peace. My dorm room eventually had a piano set up in it, or I would play with my friend Rachel. And by my last few years, I would lead worship for the group of girls I helped lead in our dorms. Even in the midst of being crazy with school, the tumultuous ocean of my heart being broken, and then not knowing where I should go after graduation (BIG World changer has never been my path)… I can still look back and thank God for healing my heart over and over again, and giving me peace. I was also introduced to the concepts of liturgy and growth through worshipful contemplation at my church in Tulsa (Saturday Night Community Church), where “sacred” blended with “secular,” and a depth of the Word brought worship to light for me in many new ways. I also became passionate about the Burn movement and 24/7 worship… I remember pounding away many late night sets at different churches with either no one or maybe 1-2 people in the world, experimenting with singing spontaneous prayers and scriptures. And I also remember many homey nights at house church with Kelbert and Symon. They always offered up genuine examples of personal, spontaneous worship and encouragement.
When I moved back to Longmont after graduating from college, I had to be redefined… yet again. I worked with Mary Jean for a year of the Tent Longmont. We hosted quarterly worship nights, and helped network the church of Longmont. Ultimately I was very sad when this did not continue, but God set a new tone for me through that experience. He gave me a heart for connection with all types of Christian faiths in worship, and He really began to open doors for us to guest lead at different churches all around the Front Range. We always seemed to come in when other worship leaders (or churches) just needed a break. And God’s peace flowed through us. He continues to use us in this capacity, and I love it!
A few months after college, Matt and I started dating. We began to play music together, and found such an amazing connection as musicians (and…well… as lovers too). I can honestly say that worshipping with Matt flows naturally. We are united. We flow so well together. And I wish we would step back and do this more. When we struggle with peace in our home, it is so easy to get caught up in the stress and “logic” of fixing situations. I long for my desires to change… that I would remember the simplicity of sitting at the feet of Jesus and resting in Him, instead of being consumed by the weights on my heart. Adulthood can do some strange things to me.
We ended up leading worship at Summit Foursquare church here in Longmont with Ted Vail and Jeremy Girard. And then after we were married, we decided to help Ted with a church re-plant in Boulder… Hope Boulder. For the past (nearly) five years, we have helped lead worship in Boulder. I have fond memories of candlelight Christmas services, and of branching out a lot in integrating the Word into worship. I have become bolder in how to encourage people during a worship service, and in how to hear what God says about how He wants to connect with people. Thanks, Lisa, for mentoring me through what it really means to commit to a group of people, and contend for their understanding of the Father… day in and day out. Thanks, Shane, for your passionate heart and willingness to believe yet again that God will move.
Enter motherhood. The sleepless nights, the incongruity of rhythm and schedule… nearly two years later, I am still trying to figure out worship… again. I often feel distracted and disappointed in myself for not finding more time to spend on my own in worship. Even in the midst of this time, where I don’t often “feel” the presence of God, I have received startling reminders of His grace. As I come out of my teens and 20s, such emotionally charged times marked with possibilities and wondering “Who am I?” I can now say I have entered into more of a time where God has steadied me and has shown me who I am both through experience and His Word. And yet at times… I still wonder who I am… in the middle of being a mom, and a wife, and a graduate student, and a writer, and a worship leader… and just plain me, in the middle of all of those roles. May I continue to seek grace over harsh self-inflictions. May I continue to let God speak to me and guide me through all seasons, even if that speaking isn’t as passionate as my 15-year-old self writing my own songs of passion and love. May I learn how to write songs again from where (and who) I am now. May I remember that God is still close to me.
Through all of my seasons of worship leading, I have newly defined what God means when He asks us to worship (and ultimately what it means to lead in worship). He calls me to surrender to Him, to acknowledge who He is and praise Him for all He has done. To be worshipful means to be thankful. I lay down the all-consuming thoughts of life and mediate on who He is. He speaks truth to me and my lens of this world changes. I’ve lead for hundreds and empty rooms. In leading, He calls me to bless and pour out His truth, through scriptures and prayers and songs that lead people to know Him more, and to honor Him.
It hit me this month – 15 years ago was the first time I led worship. Thank you to all who have mentored me and walked along side me. God has used you to cultivate me as someone who honors the King of the Universe in a genuine, heart-felt way. For this, I am humbled and grateful.
15 years later, my heart still sings.