Instead of sitting down and writing down all of my thoughts in my journal, I feel compelled to open up about a few things on my blog.
You see I am full of all sorts of emotions right now. There is this worship conference called “Christian Musician Summit” http://www.christianmusiciansummit.com that my husband Brian and I have been attending since 2005. That was the year a friend of my parents gave me a journal that she had bought in Guatemala. She said every time she walked by that vendor, she would sense God nudging her to buy me that journal and bring it back. She pushed the thought aside over and over again, until she was very annoyed and finally bought the organic journal made of pressed flowers and handmade paper. As she gave it to me during church service, she said I think God is trying to tell you to write. I looked at her as if she was speaking in a different language. I had only written two songs, one for my grandmother’s memorial service and another one called “Embrace Me” to try and set me apart as a Christian artist. But, I really wasn’t a true songwriter I was more of a vocalist who had a passion to sing for Jesus.
I wasn’t going to forget about this gift from God, I needed to act on it somehow. So Brian and I heard about this conference coming up at Overlake Church in Redmond close by. It sounded great. Brian was excited to see Lincoln Brewster and Paul Baloche. I was intrigued to learn more about songwriting. We signed up and away we went.
There were about 2000 people who attended. I was thrilled to be surrounded by other worship leaders and songwriters and just God worshippers! It was amazing to be led in worship by Paul Baloche himself!! We had sung his songs so many times in our own worship services. Brian and I were completely renewed and refreshed and ready to get back to our church and share all that we had experienced and learned. Well, that year when we got back our enthusiasm wasn’t matched. They didn’t understand where we were coming from. It was hard to convince our team to do things differently, plus we didn’t have the resources CMS had during the conference. But we did try to make steps in the right direction and made some great improvements to our worship service and to our musicianship. By the next year we were ready for another renewal conference, and I was excited to share a song I had written for the songwriter’s bootcamp.
It is very embarrassing to admit I did this, but it is part of my journey so I don’t mind. I had been writing a bit now, and Brian and I worked on a song together (I can’t even remember the name)I think it was called, “Surrounded By Your Glory”. We sang it live, and I was excited to send in the live version to prove people connected with it. Because God had commissioned me to write I new this was probably going to be my big break. They would recognize the potential in me and someone in the industry would want to work with my talents. (oh brother). Well, a top worship leader, who was very well known, critiqued my song, inside I was super excited and ready to be mentored by him. lol However, he said the beginning was good, but he was tired of hearing another “praise” song. There were enough “praise” songs out there and my song was typical and not memorable. My balloon popped! What! I thought God had a plan. I thought He wanted me to write. Oh no no no no, this couldn’t have been happening. After that day, as I sifted my way through the crowds who gathered for the conference I saw myself, not as separated and honored, but as just another fish in the sea of worship artists/songwriters. I felt like mush. God couldn’t use me as a songwriter oh no. I guess I am just going to be a mom and wife and my friend was wrong about the journal. (sometimes these things have to happen to us in order to make us stronger or to test us)
The next year Brian and I had moved to Oregon to take a worship pastor job there, and I was writing a lot! I purchased Master Writer, a computer writers database, and I used that thing so much. By the time the next CMS conference rolled around, I had written over 100 songs. I got connected online with other Christian songwriters, God spoke again to me through a friend to continue writing, and another songwriter friend gave me a gift to have two of my songs produced and recorded in a studio. Wow, God really wants me to write? Why? I didn’t know, but that was super cool.
I decided to enter one of those songs in to have critiqued at the songwriter’s bootcamp. This time it was professionally done, people were connecting with it. I wanted to put my best foot forward. Deep down I was thinking maybe this was the time I would be recognized.
Another top, famous, worship leader listened to my song in front of about 15-20 people. After we listened to it. Either he or the other professional said, “Now, this is a great example of a great singer singing a mediocre song.” Ouch! Did I really hear that? They asked whose song that was, I sheepishly raised my hand. And after a pause they asked if that was me who sang it? I nodded my head yes. Then the back peddling began. This artist said the bookends were really good, but the meat of the song was weak. I was the last one before the break. As I was walking to the restroom, he came up and found me and asked if I was doing okay. I said yes, I was fine and thanked him for his great critique. I was still in shock. When I finally had some alone time, I got so hurt and angry with God. I was being hammered as a songwriter. Why was I putting myself in so much pain? Couldn’t I just be a singer and call it a day. Obviously, God was wrong about me. I could never write a great song.
Well, I really felt far from God, but even then, He met me during another breakout session. Something amazing happened, and He spoke through the presenter straight to me in the most personal way. If any of you are interested in hearing that story, write me. I’ll share it with you. I was completely broken and hit rock bottom, but I allowed my heart to pour everything out onto paper. Was I an amazing songwriter? No, but I really was a songwriter because it was in my blood to write. There was healing, deep healing that went on that year at CMS. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even though I wasn’t noticed by the professionals, God noticed everything and was walking me through it.
The next few years, we moved again to our current church. I met a songwriter bud from an online site at that church. He had no idea we were going to be their worship leaders. I finally gave the reigns up to God. My purpose had changed from striving to get noticed by the industry to learning how to serve and minister in my own sphere of influence. It was wonderful! I felt great fulfillment. I sang some of my songs for our church, and they embraced them. There was purpose for me here. Little by little, God grew me and healed me from the inside out. I started to understand who I was in His eyes. I felt very loved and accepted by him. Again, He spoke directly to me through some other events that took place. I knew God had a plan, but released it to Him because He hadn’t revealed what it was yet. I also had a fasting time with Him that reminded me what was most important finding peace in His Presence in all the seasons of my life and how to be disciplined in that. (I still fail, but try to pick myself up and dust myself off to try again).
This year, God provided the funding to have my first worship album released. What a journey this has been as a songwriter, during motherhood, early marriage, learning how to be a worship leader,etc… The journey hasn’t stopped. But it is not about the end game really. It’s not about being recognized anymore, even though I have had some of those reoccurring emotions bubble up since we’ve registered to go back to CMS, it is about the journey itself and being ready for anything as I follow Jesus. It is about His work and joining in on where He needs me.
I am excited to go to the 10 year anniversary of the Christian Musician Summit. It has been the catalyst of growth, of healing, of inspiration, of renewal, of so many things for me in my life’s journey. I am praying that I will get out of the way, that the fear of what others might think will fade, and I will be surrounded by God’s amazing Presence during that time. I pray I will learn more about songwriting, get inspired more and serve more while I’m there. I hope I can see my friends that I’ve made and last but definitely not least enjoy being with my wonderful husband as we experience this time together like when our journey of worship leading first began.
Here is what my journal “Jesus Calling” says for today “Try to stay conscious of Me as you go step by step through this day. My Presence with you is both a promise and a protection. My final statement just before I ascended into heaven was: Surely I am with you always. That promise was for all of My followers, without exception. The promise of My Presence is a powerful protection. As you journey through your life, there are numerous pitfalls along the way. Many voices clamor for your attention, enticing you to go their way. A few steps away from your true path are pits of self-pity and despair, plateaus of pride and self-will. If you take your eyes off Me and follow another’s way, you are in great danger. Even well-meaning friends can lead you astray if you let them usurp My place in your life. The way to stay on the path of Life is to keep your focus on Me. Awareness of My Presence is your best protection.”
Matthew 28:20 “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the righ thand of the throne of God.”
God bless ~
www.laramarriott.com & itunes