Overflow

...that’s how God’s blessings work. He blesses us so that we might also be a blessing. And in blessing others, we are also blessed. It’s a continual cycle. It overflows like water being poured into a single cup stacked on top of 2 more cups...and 3 more under that…and so on...

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Why I Sing

...we all play a part in this world. We were all put here for a purpose. And when we work together and each share our gifts and talents, we make up a beautiful mosaic, fulfilling our collective purpose for existence.

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

I feel like I write this every year.

Thanksgiving wraps, I emerge from the Turkey-induced coma, do a strict, clean-eating, cleanse (for like a week), then I begin to prepare for Christmas.

I get out the plastic garland, change out the pumpkin candle for a pine scented one, and slowly let Christmas tunes permeate the space in my life (well, a few songs, here and there, in moderation).

I do all this because it’s what I’ve been taught, I suppose by society, that this is how you prepare for the coming King. ‘Cause, you know, Jesus would be disappointed if my house didn’t look “Christmasy” by the time His birthday rolled around.

So I do all these things and find myself in search of “the wonder.” I drive home from a Christmas concert, have “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year[i],” stuck in my head and I think to myself, “Is it? It doesn’t feel like it…”

And I find myself in want.

You see, the truth is, I honestly don’t know what my problem is. Like…why am I not in the Christmas spirit? Is this an issue for anyone else? What about those neighbors with Christmas lights covering every inch of their yard? Are they feeling the magic more? Maybe I should actually put up a tree…

Then it hit me as I crawled into bed and opened up to the book of Luke.

I only got a few lines in before it dawned on me that the magic I was looking for was right next to me, on my nightstand.

You see, we do this every year. We get so wrapped up with all the impossible tasks we are “supposed” to accomplish during a mere 28-day period that we don’t make time for God. It’s like throwing a birthday party for someone and never even saying hi to them or acknowledging their existence at their own party. But that’s what we do. We’re like, “Okay everyone, Jesus’ birthday is only 28 days away, so we have to buy all the presents, bake all the cookies, hang up all the decorations, send out the cards, get the proper “mood-lighting,” and throw all the pre-party parties before the 25th”. Then when Jesus arrives we’re like, “Oh, hi Jesus. Oh, I think I just heard my oven timer, hang on a sec. Hey, can someone get the door? Jesus, can you run to the store? I forgot to get eggnog.” And it’s as if Jesus is standing there like, “Is this party for me or for you?”

So, all of this has got me thinking…

Maybe we should change up our traditions. Instead of waiting to read the account of Jesus’ birth until Christmas Eve, instead of running a million errands, decorating the house from top to bottom, and getting all caught up planning a party for, well…GOD, we should ask Him how He’d like us to celebrate His birthday instead.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,…for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His Name.”

Luke 1:46-47 & 49

 

[i] Williams, Andy. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.”  By Edward Pola and George Wyle. The Andy Williams Christmas Album. 1963. LP.

All The Single Ladies (all the single fellas)

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“I don’t wanna waste my singleness,” a dear friend of mine shared, as we poured over bowls of chipotle and bared our souls to one another, catching up on the previous few months apart.

In that moment, her declaration really resonated with me, probably because, throughout my life, I’ve continuously shared that same philosophy.

Sure, I’ve always been more of an independent, focusing more on my dreams and aspirations than boys, even in grade school, but this became more of lifestyle choice a few years back.

I remember it like it was yesterday – a crisp, fall, Sunday evening. My home had just been filled with the smells of fresh baked brownies and candles, and the sounds of good friends gathered around the television, as we prayed together and encouraging one another.

A few moments later, after I had seen each guest to the door and began to clean up from the evening’s festivities, I found myself alone in my room. The keyword being “alone.”

Loneliness has never really been a struggle for me. Being the INFJ, introvert that I am, I relish the time I get to spend alone. Time spent reading, writing songs, cooking; listening to music, even doing household chores set to the soundtrack of my favorite movie or Pandora station has always been my sanctuary. But suddenly, in this moment, after having just spent the evening with my friends, I felt overwhelmed with loneliness. I immediately picked up my phone to call my good friend to pray together. I’m so thankful for these sisters in Christ that God has so generously placed in my life, women that stand on the front lines with me and intercede with me and on my behalf. Our conversation and prayer time led me to a few verses from Paul’s letter to the people of the church in Corinth:

An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord.[1]

Upon reading this scripture at that moment, God gave me a new affirmed sense of purpose in singleness, and to this day, I firmly believe this:

God’s purpose for your life is not found within your marital status. Marriage might be one of His many plans for you, but the imprint you leave on this world will not be defined by whether or not you are married.

Now before you freak out on me, I am a HUGE proponent of marriage and believe it is one of the most beautiful gifts God gave humanity. I am hopeful that the Lord will bless me with the gift of marriage someday, but just because I am single right now does NOT mean I have been forgotten. I believe I am single because that is God’s purpose for me during this season in my life. And someday, when I am married, God will have other purposes that can only be accomplished within the covenant of marriage.

I was blessed with some great friends in college – particularly some awesome, godly guy friends. When you are feeling down on yourself you can get frustrated by the sheer amount of people of the opposite sex in your life who are “just friends,” but I have chosen to view each of these guys and their friendship as another blessing from the Lord. Not only are they incredible brothers in Christ who are fun to be around, their extraordinary example has helped shape the image of the kind of man I’m waiting for.

One of these friends spoke a profound truth into my life during our senior year of college. Now, here’s a little back story: my first Alma mater was a university whose unspoken requirement was obtaining an MRS. Degree within the first two years. (Trust me, I understand the pressure). So with that in mind, he looked me square in the face and said, “Kayla, you have a purpose in Christ. We all do. If you meet someone who helps you better fulfill that purpose, and vise versa, then I would say that’s God’s plan for your life. If they are not helping, that means they are hindering, and you’d be better off single.”

I’ll never forget that and I hope you never will either.

You see, MY Bible tells me that Jesus came that we might “have life, and have it to the full,”[2] and that the Lord has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”[3] It does not say that His plans for you involve sitting at home pinning wedding dresses and watching the Notebook for the 23rd time while Sam Smith whines in the background. It also does not mean hitting up the local bar every night looking for Mrs. “okay for right now.”

I firmly, FIRMLY believe that singleness is a gift. But like any gift, it’s up to us how we use it. We can waste it, dwelling on past hurts and daydreaming about the future. Or we can get really serious about using the gift of time that God has given us and make the conscious decision to use it wisely.

So, now it’s your turn to ask yourself, “What is it that I believe God is calling me to do?”

Your single years are the best time to do that thing you’ve felt the Spirit nudging you to do your whole life. Why? Because your heart is not divided, and your time is your own.

So join that cause. Start that company. Go on that mission trip. Mentor that struggling kid. Get that masters degree. Whatever it is you’ve been telling yourself you’ll do “someday”…do that today.

And while you’re doing that thing, devote as much time as possible to growing closer to your Savior.

One of the things the Lord is revealing to me during this season in my single life is how much work He still has to do in me before I can come anywhere close to being “carried onto completion.”[4]

The older I get, the more the words of the old hymn “wretch like me”[5] ring true. I’ve got some (okay, a lot) of ugly in me that the Lord really needs to chisel and refine before I can be anybody’s better half partner in crime. So I am thankful that He is taking as much time as He needs to help make me more and more like Him. ‘Cause, ultimately, more than the kind of woman he molds me into so that I can have a lasting marriage, the most important thing in this life is my relationship with Him.

At the end of my life, no matter the final outcome of my “status,” I want to be remembered by one thing and one thing alone: Did I resemble Jesus?

So this Easter, when you are gathered together with your immediate and extended family, go ahead and congratulate your cousin on his new engagement, or your sister-in-law who is now an expecting mother. And when someone asks the dreaded, “So, are you dating anyone?” simply smile and say, “No.” :)

If they try to offer you advice or tell you about a new dating site, humor them. They think they’re helping. People never know what to talk about, so it’s either that or the weather.

[1] 1 Cor. 7:34-35, New English Translation

[2] John 10:10, New International Version

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

[4] Philippians 1:6

[5] “Amazing Grace,” by John Newton, 1779

***

For other resources/encouragement on singleness, check out these sermons from Kairos. I attended this Bible study in college and still love to listen to the podcasts when I can as I get so much from Pastor Mike’s teachings and thoroughly enjoyed the influence Amy-Jo had on my life during my time serving alongside her in the youth department.

https://vimeo.com/74873277

https://vimeo.com/74395319

Solid Ground

It’s amazing how standing in the same spot at a different place in time provides a completely different vantage point.

Standing in front of the congregation of Prairie Oak Community Church in Andover, MN on Sunday morning a few weeks ago, standing on that very ground brought that perspective for me.

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It was worlds away when I stood on that ground under a red and white striped tent and made the decision that would forever change the course of my life. Walking forward to the altar as a child symbolized the first step I took in my faith journey, and I couldn’t help but reflect on each step I’ve taken since as I took the steps up to the stage that morning to lead worship with their team and share my story.

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Pastor Steve Gahagen, his wife Jane, and their family were essential people in my early years of my walk with Christ, creating an environment that was a safe place to dream, trust God, and grow in my faith. So I couldn’t help but be moved to tears as he spoke of the dreams God gives us all, and shared his continued vision to maintain that very place as a church where dreams can be birthed and blossom.  For it was during that point in my life where God gave me the dream to sing and I was able to begin to hone that craft as Jane, my mother and I would lead the congregation in song each Sunday morning. It’s quite surreal to return at the invitation from Pastor Gahagen to share my testimony and songs and see God move in that place and amongst the hearts of the body of Christ. Hearts that are broken, hurting, and desperate for God to move…hearts just like mine. I was truly humbled to be a part of the service. Humbled mostly because I still think, “Who am I? I have in no way ‘arrived.’ But I’m willing. I’m surrendered (on my good days).  I know my life is not my own and I want God to use it however He sees fit…”

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But that’s the beauty of the Christian life. That’s the beauty of a dream. God calls us to take up our cross and follow Him[i]. He calls us to lose our life so that we might gain it.[ii] We must decrease so that He can increase[iii]. And it is the same with the dream He gives us. He plants a dream in all of us and then asks us to entrust that dream into His care, to surrender it to Him, to…give it up. It took me many years to come to that place of surrender. But what a beautiful thing it is when we give our hopes and dreams and desires to the Lord and, in return, He gives us something better. He does a new thing[iv].

I’m still trying to figure out what this new thing is. As I’ve begun this thing that is music ministry I feel like such a rookie. There’s so much I have to learn. So much refining that has to be done – most of which I wasn’t prepared for as the chiseling and refiners fire has felt too hot and too painful to bear lately.

But God is faithful. I know that after I have been tried for a time I will come forth as gold[v], and what a humbling privilege to know that I have the body of Christ standing beside me, holding my hand, and spurring me on in this dream. Steve and Jane are such vital people in that process and words cannot describe my gratitude for them and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have been and continue to be like-minded in their support of me and my dream and the vision God has given me for this ministry.

So far it hasn’t proven to be easy in the least bit. The old, cliché adage of “anything that’s worth doing won’t be easy” comes to mind as I’ve faced so many trials and uncertainties so far. Lately, it’s been enough to, at times, rock my faith, and others, make me feel like I’m just plain off my rocker.

But one thing is certain: The steps that I take from this point on can only be that which involve a steady and certain march forward toward the goal. Because the goal is clear: God has given me a sense of urgency, a heart for the broken, and eyes to see the need. It has not nor will ever be about me, but instead, about His children. So although the world and the evil forces of this world may try to shake us and knock us off course, I will continue to stand firm on His promise that He who began this work in me will carry it onto completion[vi].

So I write these words, not so much as a sermon for all of you, but as a proclamation and affirmation of my own commitment that I will continue to stand firm on this solid ground.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand[vii]



[i] “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NLT)

[ii] “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” Matthew 10:39 (NLT)

[iii] “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 (ESV)

[iv] “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NASB)

[v] “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 (NIV)

[vi] “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (HCSB)

[vii] Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less” (No. 370) in The Lutheran Hymnal  (1834, cento)

Morning Song

It was Friday, May 25th. I had arrived at my family’s cabin around 11pm the night before, after a day of work and a 5 hour drive. By the time I unloaded my car, settled in to bed, and read my last devotional for the night until my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer, it was 12:30am–time for bed!


Normally with a day like that under my belt I’d sleep a full 8 hours, but I believe God had something different in mind.

I arose before the sun at 4:45am, but not out of a groggy slumber. Rather I awoke with anticipation, excitement for the day - what did God want to say to me? Gee God, what’s so important that calls for 4:45am?

I quickly gathered my Bible and a blanket and proceeded straight to the front porch that overlooks Lake Michigan.


Stepping out into the chill of the morning air I was immediately met with a loud choir of morning song birds perched high above the pines. My ears tried desperately to track the 6 or 7 different voices all weaving in and out from one another. The dynamic level continued to grow as the sun crept up along the horizon.  The choir became, well, pretty overpowering, as if some of the song birds had a little “diva” in them, trying to out-sing each other.

Gazing out over the crystal lake, now becoming a watercolor meld of pinks, purples, greens, greys and blues, I asked God what He wanted to say to me; what poignant message was to be gleaned that required such an early morning wake up call.

You see, I went away that weekend to escape from the fray, just get quiet with God, and pray. Pray for direction and discernment and God’s leading with this upcoming album; pray for the people it will impact and that God’s Word held within those 41:59 minutes of sound would go out into the world and not return void.[1]

Now I definitely didn’t expect to receive any type of burning bush experience that weekend, but I was hoping the Lord would provide some clarity as I prayed for direction.

But instead of direction, what I got was a really good reminder in the character of God.

I came with an agenda. I came to Him for answers.

And what was God’s response?

…He sang to me.

Zephaniah 3:17 states,

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”[2]

The New Living Translation says, “He will take delight in you with gladness.”

God delights in us. He doesn’t come to us with ulterior motives, He simply wants to enjoy us. I don’t know about you, but how often can I honestly say that I come to my Heavenly Father with the soul purpose of simply enjoying Him? No grocery list prayers, no “Please God, fix this,” but just, “Hey God…You’re amazing and I love You and that’s all.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, God wants us to come to Him in every and all circumstances.

But I’m reminded of yet another verse that touches on the topic of “delight”

Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalm 37:4 NLT

I’m gonna go ahead and repeat that…

Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.

 

So what was my huge take away from my weekend away with Jesus?

As I sat there wrapped up in a blanket, staring out over this serene scene the Lord painted with His own hand, I felt the quiet Voice in my soul say, “Today I don’t have a deep, ground breaking message for you; I simply wanted to sing to you.”

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[1] Isaiah 55:11

[2] English Standard Version

A Love Song of Praise


It’s a Sunday morning. This is usually your only day of the week to get a little extra sleep, do some chores around the house, maybe even watch the game on TV.  But on this particular Sunday, you wake up before your alarm and see the sun streaming through your bedroom window. As you begin to regain consciousness, you become aware of the gentle coo of birds singing their morning song.

And on this Sunday, you decide to do something different. You get up, get dressed, and head to that church your friends have been nagging you about visiting for weeks on end. At least if you show up once, maybe they’ll leave you alone, right?

After you’ve fought the traffic, found a parking spot, walked in, and shaken hands with a bunch of strangers, you begin to follow the sound that, in your memory bank of noises brings you back to the last rock concert you attended. With your interests further piqued by this music that is nothing like the liturgy & hymns of old you remember from Sunday mornings as a small child, you make your way to where the masses have assembled in a large, dark room.

After you find your seat, you stand there (because everyone else is standing) and take in the musicians performance from the stage. They all look happy and keep clapping and smiling and encouraging you to do the same but…you’ve never even heard these songs before. Everyone around you seems to be getting into it, so, whatever, you stand and listen until you’re told to sit and the pastor comes up and gives his lecture…err speech…sermon. That’s right sermon. And afterward you’re feeling pretty inspired. You can really relate to what he was saying and it’s pretty sweet how he tied in some old Bible verses to modern day application; you’ve never heard it paralleled that way before.

So you walk away feeling pretty motivated to apply what you learned into the rest of your day and, heck, you might even carry it over into work on Monday…maybe.  Still, you think back to the beginning of the service with all the music and the people raising their hands and closing their eyes and singing and think, “Alright, the sermon part I get, that helped me want to be a better person and it feels pretty great to hear that I’m loved, but what’s the point of all that music? What’s the point of worship?”

As someone who has been singing on church worship teams and leading in that capacity since I could phonate, and someone who now teaches voice lessons and worship leading at the Parkview Worship Academy, these are questions I’ve posed to my students as well. Questions like, “Why do we worship?” “What’s the point?” and “What exactly does it mean to worship God?”

Simply put, the reason that I sing and choose to worship God in that way is this:

I believe that worship is the pure, selfless act of singing a love song to your Beloved.

If you will be so kind to indulge me further, I’d like to paint yet another picture for you as this best portrays what worship means to me.

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It’s a warm fall evening. There is a cool, crisp breeze, but the sun is still hot on your skin as it begins it’s descent. You’re walking hand in hand with the one you love toward a secret spot they have picked out. As you look ahead into the distance, the sun almost blinds your ability to see the destination, but the ripple of the river lapping onto the wet rocks is a dead giveaway. You perch up on a sandy, old tree limb nested alongside the shore. The one you love with every fiber of your being sits across from you, takes out their guitar and says, “I want to share something with you.” Then, their fingers begin to pluck note after note, perfectly woven together like a carefully crafted string of pearls. The lovely tune is soon married with a beautiful melody of  “hums” and “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.”

Then come the words. Words of adoration. Words of deep love and affection are poured into you as the washes of color from the sunset pours over the treetops and you just bask in this moment. This moment in time that the love of your life carved out of their day just for you. This moment of pure, selfless love all in an attempt to make you feel loved, valuable, and worthy. Not for their own gain, but for the simple satisfaction of knowing how wonderful it makes you feel; knowing full well that you and you alone are the only one deserving of this particular song.

And that, my friends, is worship. It is the act of complete and utter adoration for another being because you just love who they are. And that is the picture I get when I worship and sing praises to my Heavenly Father.

I get another picture too; a picture the Lord gave me during a special prayer time set aside as a sort of “Spiritual Retreat” for our worship team at Parkview. We were in a guided prayer time and were told to imagine ourselves in the safest place we could think of,  picture Jesus there, and picture what our interaction would be like; what we would say to Him and what He would say to us. Naturally, I was at home, in my piano room, seated at my baby grand, singing. And Jesus was there in the chair next to me, glass of wine in hand, laughing and smiling, saying, “play me another one Kayla,” “Now, sing this one, I want to hear this one,” as He’d sit back and close his eyes, smile, and just bask in that moment, that moment set aside just for Him.

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You see, worship is not for us. It is not about us. It has never been about us.

I always struggle when I hear people say that they didn’t get much out of the worship time. Because I want to respond with, “Great! That’s EXACTLY how it should be…cause it’s not for YOU!”

Worship is a gift. And it doesn’t have to be the gift of song. That’s just one of the many gifts we can bring.

One of the questions I posed to my students during PWA was; “can you worship God in every moment, every circumstance, & in every activity?“

I could see some of them get a bit of a sparkle in their eyes as they smiled crooked smiles with the realization of, "Yes!”

The fact of the matter is, in a human love relationship, we can show our beloved how much we love and adore them in every day life, with every spoken word and through every intentional and unintentional action. Whether we choose to or not is our choice, but the option is still there.


I believe the same is true in our relationship with our beloved Christ.
We can show our love in how we live our lives for him through the words we speak into others and the words we choose in our prayers and conversations with Him. We can honor Him and show Him our adoration in the way we love others and also by the way we marvel at his creation. But in the same way a date night is set aside to celebrate human love, there is something special about setting aside a specific time to pour out our hearts and sing a song of love and adoration; to bring a gift. And it should be a sacrifice. Not necessarily in the negative connotation of the word “sacrifice,” but yes, a sacrifice of time or resources or energy, because the best way to show someone love is through self-sacrificial love. After all, Jesus gave us this perfect example of self-sacrificial love by dying for our sins so that we could have life and have it to the full[1].

So whether you are musically inclined or not is completely irrelevant, for our Father accepts whatever we have to offer when we offer it joyfully[2]. Bring any and every gift you have to give, bring your jar of expensive perfume[3] and pour it at His feet, bring your scars and your past and your imperfect life, bring the only two copper coins[4] you have; bring the first fruits[5] of your labor, bring your frankincense, your myrrh[6], and surrendered hearts, and by all means, bring your songs of praise.

My heart will not be moved, O God. I will sing.

Yes, I will sing praises with my soul. 

Wake up, different kinds of harps.

I will wake up the new day. 

I will give thanks to You among the people, O Lord.

I will sing praises to You among the nations. 

For Your loving-kindness is great above the heavens.

Psalm 108:1-5



[1] John 10:10

[2] 2 Corinthians 9:7

[3] Matthew 26:6-13

[4] Mark 12:41-44

[5] Proverbs 3:9

[6] Matthew 2:11

The Process

Have you ever been in the midst of something…a moment in time that is so unique, so, dare I say, magical that you just know, no matter how hard you tried, you’d never be able to replicate it?


Well that is what I experienced this past week in Bentonville Arkansas just off a country dirt road at Haxton Road Studios as I recorded my very first, full-length worship album.

As I write this I am currently sitting in an airport terminal bawling as I reflect with a full heart on the events of this past week.

I’m so moved for so many reasons. Because, the truth is, when I set out on this journey almost two and half years ago, I never dreamed that I’d be where I am now, having just wrapped a week of recording my first album. I guess that’s a testament of the transforming work of Christ, that when a seed is planted and a surrendered heart is conceived, He who begins this work, will, in fact, carry it on to completion[i].

The journey has also been long. From the day I wrote my first worship song to the weeks that followed, where 2 or 3 songs were born per week, I fell more and more in love with each piece of work even more than the last. At the time, the songs were for me; prayers, essentially, and exclusive to my relationship with Christ and the struggles and hurts I was enduring, as well as the recurring theme of letting go and surrendering; the “not my will, but what You will, not my will, but what You will.” And the songs flowed, and the dreams were molded and shaped, and who I am in Christ was chiseled and refined with each new song and each new lesson encapsulated inside that song.

And then came the confirmation, as I began to share these pieces of my heart with friends and family, and the undercurrent of the harmonious theme continued to stir as words were poured into me by friends and family, words such as “anointing” and “called”. It’s quite the humbling moment when you nonchalantly say to a friend, “hey, wanna hear this song I just wrote?” and afterward you look up and that friend is bawling and affirming you with, “I just got chills…Kayla…I can sense the Spirit moving…He is at work in you.”

Then the next step of surrender came as I walked away from the security of being signed and let go of a pop EP that was on the cusp of completion to pursue this calling, followed by more months of writing, and confirmation, and “wow, maybe I should make an album…maybe these songs aren’t just for me.” And the months of planning and facing obstacles and opposition and all of the moments anyone who sets out to do something great faces that makes them want to turn back, but they keep pressing on toward the goal because something deep down inside keeps telling them to forge ahead. And the confirmation continued as I stepped out in faith to share my story and ask the biggest favor I could ask of my friends and family, to take a leap of faith with me and support me, and the overwhelming support I received through launching a kickstarter and at the single release concert.

Then after that intense momentum and the high of all of that confirmation, I settled back into the mundane and retreated back into hiding to prepare for the album through prayer and planning, making rough recordings, charting songs and all of the other things that go into preproduction, all from the quiet place where these songs were originally birthed. And the doubts arose as the enemy tried to creep back in with “did God really say that[ii]?” coupled with my own insecurities of “am I really good enough? Will people even like these songs?”

I’d like to tell you that the couple of weeks leading up to leaving home to set out to a place I’ve never been, to work with people I’ve never even met before were spirit-filled and, I don’t know, magical…but they were not.  My closest friends will tell you I was struggling because I felt like I was supposed to feel a certain way but I just felt sort of…numb. Again–more of that opposition from the Enemy.

The Monday before I left I realized that I needed more prayer support now than I probably have needed during this entire process. So I reached out to my friends and just shared the truth about what I was feeling and asked for prayer for a revived spirit.

Because it was a Monday and Mondays are always crazy, never mind it being the Monday before I was heading out of town, there were a few people I just didn’t get to reach out to for prayer support. But that didn’t matter. For “the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words”[iii]

A friend text me the next day to tell me that she had a weird experience the day before. She described it like the scene of Home Alone, where the mom wakes up out of a dead sleep & realizes she’s forgotten her son at home. She said The Spirit stirred her in a similar way & it was as if suddenly she felt an overwhelming need to pray for me.

It’s crazy how the body of Christ works like that. We are all members with one body[iv], like conjoined twins, connected & bearing each other’s burdens. That’s the beauty of the bride of Christ.

10 songs. 5 days.


So I set out to Bentonville AR, waiting to feel whatever it is I felt like I was supposed to feel but resting in the knowledge of the covering blanket of prayers being prayed over me. Although I made sure I was well stocked with books & things to occupy myself with during my flights, one of my sisters in Christ encouraged me to just be quiet before The Lord during my travels. When I found my seat on my first flight I felt an impression from The Lord, not to pray for my travels, or myself, but rather all of my kickstarter supporters & friends back home who were lifting me up simultaneously. I don’t care how spiritual you may think you are, I think if we are all being honest, most of us would struggle to just pray for three or four hours, but that’s exactly what I did & I’m so thankful The Lord impressed that upon my heart. A while back my dad encouraged me to, not just pray for the process, but to pray for those who would hear the songs and be impacted by their message; to intercede for those I’ve never even met before. That reminder rang true as I peered out the airplane window and prayed blessings over those who have gone out on a limb to support and bless me, some of whom I have yet to even meet.

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So I arrived in Bentonville Arkansas and stepped out into the sun, and, I have to admit I felt a little bit like a vampire since I’ve spent the past 5 months buried beneath mounds of snow and encased in the winter darkness; my eyes had to adjust to the light & warmth.
Within 15 minutes I was at my destination, about to meet the people I’d be making my first record with. And I’m happy to say I was received with nothing but love & acceptance as the Greenhaw family opened up their home & hearts to me. I was even greeted with a gift bag filled with goodies to get me through the week as I settled into my new living quarters. Then, after a quick meal, we settled into the studio & began the last round of preproduction, taking notes and making the final changes and decisions for the instrumentation and song direction.

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What’s interesting about this part of the process is it’s, yet again, another layer of surrendering & letting go as you place your “babies” into the hands of strangers and let them guide the direction, and trust their instincts and judgment calls. At this point in the process every artist has two choices to make:

1.)  you stubbornly stick to your guns & don’t allow room for growth & evolution, or

2.)  you trust the people you’re working with and open your mind to the way others receive your art and where they could potentially take it beyond where it has already been.

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So I relinquished control where control needed to be relinquished and gave away the reigns. One of the very valuable lessons I learned early on as a song-writer was learning which hills to die on. There will be times when you as an artist have to fight for your way because if you don’t, it will distort the vision, and other times where the same would happen if you don’t relinquish control and let someone else make the judgment call because their view of the vision isn’t skewed by your personal bias.


Now, I don’t recommend relinquishing compete control in every situation and with everyone you team up with on a creative project, because that’s just not smart, but this was special, because I wasn’t just at some random recording studio in Arkansas with a bunch of strangers. I firmly believe that God handpicked these people and preordained them to have a huge hand in this process. And what’s more, they understood the vision.

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I’m reminded of the recent movie Jobs in the scene where Steve Jobs, played by Ashton Kutcher, blows up at his staff because they created a word processor without fonts. And one could look at that and say, “wow, cool your jets, why are you getting so upset?” Or, you could look at that and clearly say, “No, he was right. They didn’t have his passion, and more importantly, didn’t understand his vision.”

Well I’m so thankful to say that that was far from what I experienced at Haxton Road Studios. My producer, Neil Greenhaw, recording engineer Ryan Ceola, drummer and co-producer Jeremy Weldon of The Jordan Howerton Band, along with all of the other musicians who played on the project put so much thought and care into their roles and contributions. They clearly saw the vision and cared about every single facet of the process. The truth is, I’ve recorded in a lot of studios, from Chicago to Nashville, and I’ve had some good experiences, but this one by far takes the cake. It is an understatement to say that the Greenhaw family put the “hospitality” in “southern hospitality,” because they took care of me and genuinely cared about the project. What’s more, they are just as invested in this album as I am. Neil & his family did everything to make sure I was taken care of this week. From home cooked meals to his constant look in my direction during tracking followed by the question, “are you happy?” to the last night, where he took Jeremy & I out to Ruth’s Chris to celebrate the completion of the album, and prayed over me and my future with this album. Again, you are not going to find another producer anywhere who would do that.

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I remember in college in my Recording Technology class we were taught that sound engineers do not comment on the music. They are to do their job and stick to the script and focus on sound and sound alone. So there’s something pretty incredible when you’re comping vocals and your recording engineer turns to you and says, “Kayla…THANK YOU for writing this song.” That tells me that this album is so much bigger than me.

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Because the fact of the matter is, anybody can write a good song. Anybody can write the right chord progressions with the cleverest lyrics, a good beat, and a catchy melody. But that wasn’t the goal here. My goal in Prayers & Songs was to make music that changed people. Music that escorts people to the throne of God where all there is left to do is sit and be silent and weep in awe of God’s goodness & majesty. And I know, without a shadow of doubt, we accomplished that this week. Each person who played a part in the process is a Believer & encouraged me in their appreciation for the music. Probably one of the most humbling compliments came from David Ervin, who played B3 & accordion, when he commented on how much he liked my chord choices and progressions and how different they are. Coming from someone who can play as well as he can, directing a comment like that toward me, and I don’t even really consider what I do “playing piano,” was pretty cool.

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Another unique part about this week was that trust was another underlying theme. Not only did I entrust this album into the hands of people I had never met before, they trusted ME. In addition to opening their home to me, they asked me to lead worship at their church, Grace Hills Church on Sunday morning! (Which was such an incredible experience in and of itself and really made the week that much more special.) There aren’t words to describe the preordination when a church begins a series on being FOUND and invites their first ever guest worship leader to sing, and asks her to sing one of her original songs, which just so happened to be called…Found. Pastor Brandon Cox even documented the way The Spirit moved in the services that day here.

And again the further confirmation came when a woman and friend of the Greenhaw family felt impressed to pray over me after the services, and there was that word again: “anointed.”

“God has anointed you,” she said, ”may these songs go out into the world and change lives.”

Afterall that is the ultimate goal.

Handel said it best when he said, “I should be sorry if I only entertain them, I wish to make them better.”

And that is my hope; that lives will be changed by this album. Because lives were changed this week. MY life was changed this week.

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The moment that really did me in was when I was recording lead vocals on “Gethsemane.” Neil, being the caring producer that he is, paid attention to every detail, and made sure that I was comfortable all week.  So that morning, he set up the vocal booth to my liking, complete with dimmed lighting, candles & hot tea. It was the first part of the day and I was really still waking up when we hit record. I began to sing through the song not really feeling much at all, like one would hope or expect, but by the time I got to the bridge I couldn’t even sing because I just lost it.


"Not what I will,
but what You will
Not what I will,
but what You will
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done”


And that is the summation of this whole process; this journey The Lord has taken me on, and really, the adventure of this life. God plants a seed, gives a dream, and then asks for it back, saying, “Do you trust Me?” And so I will continue to commit this album and my future into the hands of my loving Father, because after all, it is the desire of my heart that, no matter what happens with this album, “Thy will be done.”

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[i] Philippians 1:6

[ii] Genesis 3:1

[iii] Romans 8:26

[iv] Romans 12:5

A Debt of Gratitude

When I prayerfully decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign, I did not anticipate how it would affect me.  Blame it on naivety, but I guess I just wasn’t spiritually prepared for how my faith would be challenged and stretched, and didn’t realize that I would essentially be learning all new lessons in trust and generosity.

The concept of generosity is not foreign to me at all. I grew up in a home having THE most generous person I know as a father.  My whole life I have witnessed my dad give out of the overflow of his heart to churches, charities, missionaries, military families, strangers, & family members, all the while never asking for anything in return. He is one of THE most selfless people I know and I am so blessed to have had his example growing up. Because of my earthly dad & my relationship with the epitome of generosity, my Heavenly Father, generosity is something I’ve always had a heart for. I learned at a very young age to value people over money & possessions and, because of that, I love to give. My favorite way to show people love is to either buy them a gift, volunteer my time or talents, or just give some sort of act of service. Now, doing this Kickstarter, the roles have been reversed and, really, for the first time in my life I’ve been in the very vulnerable position of asking others for help. And, I’ve gotta say, it’s made me kind of uncomfortable :)

For those if you who know me well, you know that I am a Type-A, independent person. Admitting that I really CAN’T do this on my own and reaching out and asking for help has really turned my temperament upside down. It has stretched me beyond measure to, not only rely on my Heavenly Father, but also the body of Christ. It’s been enough of a spiritual battle for me over the years to relinquish control & surrender my life into the hands of my Maker, but now, to also step out in faith and, in a lot of ways, put the fate of this project in the hands of others has been truly humbling.

Along with this stretching of my faith I have been inspired.

When I began this journey of writing a worship album now two years ago, the work that The Lord was doing in my heart was proof enough alone that I was doing EXACTLY what He specifically called and designed me to do. However, as most of us know, the Adversary loves nothing more than to take these precious moments of sure-fire faith from The Lord and plant seeds of doubt. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of obstacles and opposition I faced or this blog would turn into a novel (as my writings have a history of doing), but I CAN tell you that the biggest obstacle I faced was fear.  One of Satan’s biggest weapons is simply repeating our own fears and insecurities back to us.

But fear is the absence of trust.

Thankfully, we serve a God who makes people from dirt, beauty from ashes, and “[i]in all things…works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

How great is it to know that we serve a God who uses what is “ intended to harm” us & “intends it all for good.” And I am so humbled to know that “[ii]He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

You see…He took my fears and turned them into a new opportunity for me to grow in my faith.

Not only has God renewed my faith and trust in Him, my friends and church family have…which is really the whole reason for this post. Everyone who has contributed to my Kickstarter, the single, and the single release concert have inspired me and touched my heart. Seeing this type of generosity displayed on such a large scale, has been a real live reenactment of Luke 21:1-4 and has blessed me in the profoundest of ways.

So, no matter the outcome. No matter the end result on December 16th, from the bottom of my heart…thank you.

This is my debt of gratitude.

I have only been able to accomplish what I have thus far with the help of the following people:

John Bretzlaff, for recording, mixing, producing, and cheering me on as what started as guitar lessons turned into writing my first worship album.

The musicians who played on the single, “at Your feet”:

John Bretzlaff - guitar

Katie Bern - violin

Miki Ivezic – drums

Jay Curatolo – bass

Daniel Sikkema – cello

Single Artwork:

Brookelyn Anhalt – Lovely Life Photography

Holley Maher – H. Maher Creative Design

Jessica McKane – Jessica McKane Makeup

Kelli Mitchell – hair =)

Melissa Knieriem – wardrobe =)

Videos:

Scott Josephs, Scott Josephs, and Scott Josephs =)

Seth Tower Hurd, for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and share my story with…the world wide web. Oh boy. =)

Even more Photography:

Holly Metesh – Holly Metesh Fotography

The musicians who played for the Single Release Concert:

Heather Follett – keys, bgvs

Ryan West – guitar

Kevin Goodwin – guitar

Jonathan Sisk – bass

Tim Michuda – violin

Joe Goetschel - drums

Concert Tech Peeps:

Bri Deuerling – lights

Trevor Rigsby – tech

Aaron Powell – sound

Scot Fritzsche – sound

Scott Gruca, Brian Hunt, Kevin West, and Parkview Christian Church Lockport for hosting the concert

Ashley Black for the Single Release Concert poster design

A huge thank you to all those who were in attendance and showed your love and support simply by your presence

And last, but most certainly not least, those who have contributed to my Kickstarter to date.  Your acts of generosity will never, ever be forgotten.

Julie Kolosta, Karen Enyart, Bill Peters, Deborah Ide, Ron Lyngen, Stephen Simpson, John Nelson, Bob & Amy Jackson, Christina Peasley, Kristen Magnusson, Nancy Olivo, J Payne, Jana Witulski, Amy Rendziak, Sue Pollow, Katie Smith, Lisa Smith, Josh D’Aubin, Carrie, Patrick & Molly Lockwood, Megan Helm, Jonathan Sisk, Allison, Elliott Michael, Mark & Brenda Michuda, Kelli Elzer, Kathleen McConnell, Naomi Chinavong, Alaina Wood, Dan Callan, Carey Ferry, Nic Higgins, Steve & Sue Lecas, John & Jenny Synal, Jorgi Calombaris, Janis Bautz, Susan Fischer, Anette Krapil, Thomas Krieger, Jodee Molitor, Mary Margaret Combs, Ann Whitcomb, Dan Shelby, Pat Mueller, Mary Wall, Marianne Bannos, Jeannie Zatarski, Kim Voss, Aaron Cantrall, Dan Johnston, Connie Carroll, Jim Gram, Val & Bob Williams, Ginette Soper, Wendi & Mark O’Brien, Melissa & Dan Knieriem, Neil Greenhaw, Connie Osburn, Bruce & Jane Arduser, Sherry Orseno, Donald Bila, Korrie Gorman & Robin Hough, Kathy & Gerald Oliver, Fiona & Mossie Walsh, Lisa Nooner, Makena Koszela, Jeanne Layden, Dan Van Slett, Dawn Drake, Cindy Calombaris, Kathy Foster, Joan & Mike San Filippo, Jonathan & Emily Martin, Dan & Rachel Metesh, Mark De Vito, Cassie West, Kayla Johnson, Amy Tillman, Tina Basinger, Chip & Robin Gardner, Jennifer Truesdale, & Charlie Parchem


[i] Romans 8:28 (New International Version)

[ii] Genesis 50:20 (New Living Translation)

Joy in the Mourning

The 12th month

The time of cheer and giving and wreaths and lights and “Fa-la-la.”

And it’s dark.

I’m supposed to feel warm and fuzzy.

And I’m sick, and I’m in pain.

Looking everywhere for a glimpse of joy, for an ounce of faith, for a spark of hope.

It’s not about getting older.

It’s not even working in an industry permeated by consumerism and greed.

There’s something different this year.

Unanswered prayers, and obstacles, and opposition from the Adversary and waiting and trusting and it’s different.

In this desperate search for joy, trying to understand what on earth Isaac Watts and Chris Tomlin are talking about, doing all that I know to do.  Uplifting melodies and words and literature on gratitude and it all only takes the edge off.

“If only it would snow,” I think, “maybe that would put me in this so-called ‘Christmas spirit.’”

But I know joy is not found in the way the precipitation falls.

Maybe if I put Christmas music on.

But I know that if I hear another song about a reindeer or a snowman, paired with an empty, “Happy Holidays,” from the politically correct, I’ll scream.

Decorations. Traditions. Empty.

And I am Solomon and everything is meaningless.[1]

And I am still on this journey, this conquest for joy.

Then it happens.  The unthinkable. This tragedy.  Their faces.  Innocence lost.

Lives lost.

And this desperate search for this elusive joy, this voyage is trivial.

And our nation is glued to the television and we have our opinions and our politicians take their platforms and their angles and the story spins and our world spins and spins and once everyone has updated their Facebook statuses with their two cents and 140 characters, and said their prayers, it’s back to life as normal and shopping and, “I just need to find the right lipstick for my Christmas party,…”

And I am Job and all I want to do is tear my robe and weep and sit among the ashes.[2]

And all I see are faces.

26 faces.

Faces of lives cut short.

20 of them, unfathomably short.

And then I am reminded of the 5,000 others that died that day.  5,000 others that die every day. Faces we’ll never see.  And our country is broken and their blood cries out from the ground and God sees all this and still looks upon us with love and mercy and compassion and grace and I’ll never comprehend it.

I think further still of faces.

The faces of my niece and nephew.

My two god-children.

Faces of the kids I’ve babysat, kids I’ve taught, all the same age, and I just can’t imagine.

And I’m going about my day and encounter a stranger with their kids, and I look into the face of a child I don’t even know and I’m brought to tears again.

And I’m brought to my knees.

And prayers for their families without ceasing until prayers turn into tears and tears turn into, “God, I don’t know what to say anymore.”

And the earth is mourning, and the heavens above have grown dark and I am Jeremiah and I am weeping.[3]

Where on earth is this joy?

 

Then I’m in church, and they’re singing.

I’m in my car, and they’re singing.

And these old familiar Christmas carols are heard with new ears and the words become the prayers of the broken…

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel that mourns[4]

And another…

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Joy to the world, the Lord is come[5]

And another still…

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother

And in his name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we[6]

Sweet hymns of joy.

In the midst of troubles, trials, pain, disease, murder, sin, and brokenness, we sing sweet hymns of joy.

And not just joy, gratitude.


And I don’t have all of the answers and I don’t understand but I believe

“His law is love and His gospel is peace”[7]

This Prince of Peace.

Yaweh.

God Almighty, whose name is so high and so great some would argue it is actually irreverent to write.

Creator God, who laid the earth’s foundations and marked off its dimensions[8] and made man from dust[9] came to us in love.  Came to us in the most humble and lowly of circumstances.  So we would know that he understands.

Jesus.

Who was born into a time where a certain ruler was so threatened by this baby, modern-day atheist claim was just a myth on New York City billboards, that he murdered every baby boy under the age of two living in Bethlehem.[10]

Jesus is born.

And we celebrate his birth at Christmas.

And we are grieving the loss of lives.

Just as Bethlehem grieved.

And I get it.

No, I don’t find a state of elatedness, but rather, find a new understanding of “consider it pure joy, […] whenever you face trials of many kinds,”[11] and “the joy of the Lord is (my) strength”[12]

…”do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”12

And I see.

We have this treasure.

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”[13]

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”[14]

And God put on flesh.

And He has rescued us from our sinful selves.

“And He will wipe every tear from our eyes.”[15]

And there will be no more cancer.

And there will be no more mental illness.

And “there will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (will) pass away.”15

And “at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord…”[16]

And we will all gather around the throne of The Almighty and say “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”[17]

And on this cold, dark, December night, I gather around this manger scene and sing “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”17

And finally “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”12

And that is “Joy…unspeakable joy.”[18]

Joy to the world.

The Lord is come.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

 

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’

 

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”[19]



[1] Ecclesiastes 1:2 (New International Version)

[2] Job 1:20 and Job 2:8 (New International Version)

[3] Jeremiah 4:28 (New International Version)

[4]  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” trans. John Mason Neale(1851)

[5] Isaac Watts, “Joy To The World” (No. 447) in Praise and Worship Hymnal (Kansas City, MS: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1960).

[6] Adolphe Adam, “O Holy Night” (1847).

[7] Adolphe Adam, “O Holy Night” (1847).

[8] Job 38:4 (New International Version)

[9] Genesis 2:7 (New International Version)

[10] Matthew 2:16 (New International Version)

[11] James 1:2 (New International Version)

[12] Nehemiah 8:10 (New International Version)

[13] 2 Cor. 4:7 (New International Version)

[14] 2 Cor. 4:6-10 (New International Version)

[15] Rev. 21:4 (New International Version) (emphasis added)

[16] Phil. 2:10-11 (New International Version)

[17] Rev. 4:8 (New International Version)

[18] Chris Tomlin, “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)”

[19] Job 1:20-22 (New International Version)