Over the course of this long, hot Louisiana summer, finding time to collect my thoughts was like trying to tie the shoe of a preschooler while nursing a baby. Pretty tricky business.
I laughed out loud when Jen Fulwiler’s producer emailed me to be a guest on her show on The Catholic Channel (Sirius XM) first, because I became a true fan girl of hers in the carpool line last year and second, because they wanted to talk to me about my music.
My music? “Well, yes,” I said, “but just so you know: my current claim to fame is that I recently lead the band for Vacation Bible School.”
My music? Hmm. Yes, I spent a few years of my life writing and recording music. I was beyond blessed to see God’s hand moving in the Church throughout the world and to work alongside some of the coolest, holiest, abundant-life-Jesus-seekers you could ever know. They were years that opened doors for me and produced relationships in my life that have proven to be pretty indispensable (you know, like the one I have with the father of my kids).
But right now? Right now I don’t have any shows on the calendar, no albums in the works, no merchandise I could put my hands on anywhere that isn’t a closet at my parents’ house.
What I do have is a freedom in this gift like I’ve never known before and it just happened upon me, I guess, while I was walking the winding road that is following Jesus.
So I decided to tell Jen Fulwiler the story of finding it.
I grew up singing. At fourteen, I fell in love with God basically because He found me in the scriptures. Like…reached off the pages of Isaiah and just grabbed me. I started writing music about what I was coming to know about Him and the course of my life seemed to be taking shape. At twenty-one I signed a record deal with a major label. I toured, recorded, did fancy things like photo shoots and radio something-or-others. And after two years the label decided to drop me because they couldn’t quite figure out how to market me as an artist.
Hurt pride. Deep questions. Self doubt. Resentment. Bitterness. Without writing a book for you here, I’ll just say that it was a tough fall.
Sometimes you’re more attached to a thing, or an idea, or an idea of yourself than you realize. But there was a reason beyond all of that baggage that my songs can be heard at VBS and not on the radio and it’s simply this: the Lord led me to some place different.
Because sometimes He does that. Sometimes He just takes you by the hand and leads you to someplace totally different: a complete change of scenery by way of a winding road. I went with Him kicking and screaming, simultaneously overwhelmed with abundant pride and eye-twitching-jealous-rage towards friends I watched continue down the road I thought I was on.
Yes there were some dark days in there when I was struggling to understand the real meaning of a gift.
Because music has always been this gift in my life—it’s just that I got confused somewhere along the way about what our gifts are really for. I believe that God will use our gifts to build up His kingdom on earth. But, really, I think our gifts are meant to draw us deeper into life with Him. And that’s what we are actually called to share—this life that we’ve found.
It was grace that saved me from myself when I was wallowing in a pit of hurt pride; this grace God gave me to look around at my life and grab onto what was there. That’s how I discovered this freedom: by investing in my own life, the one He was trying to give me. I looked around and saw a fiancé I was preparing to marry, a ministry to inner-city teenagers he was working for (www.dirtyvagabond.com), a music job at a school.
I thought I was meant to find Him on a great, big stage and He was leading me deeper into hiding. But it was like uncovering this secret: He uses our gifts, everything really, to lead us to a place where we can have a real communion with Him, the source of true freedom. That’s what the gift was really always about.
It’s the way that Jesus approached each of His disciples with that simple invitation: follow me. I haven’t had a clear idea for most of my life of where I was going in agreeing to follow the Lord, but I’ve come to see that the deeper the road winds, the deeper the freedom that I find.
Because real freedom comes when you embrace the place you are in, when you dig deep into the work at your hands. And make no mistake, moms—the work at your hands is the brood at your feet. There isn’t a job or a ministry or a talent that matters more than the little ones entrusted to you here.
But I know how it is. I know how it feels to be good at something, to love something, to look around at others doing that thing and free fall into despair about why you aren’t doing it and should be doing it and could be doing it and why-don’t-I-just-buy-the-domain-name-in-case-I-decide-to-do-it.
And maybe you will. Who knows what’s down the road. Maybe I’ll write some songs again one day when I’m not harmonizing to the theme for The Magic School Bus. Or maybe I won’t.
I could cry happy tears, though, trying to tell you about this freedom that I’ve found that makes me not really care either way. I love this gift that God has given me and I know I’ll be using it all my life because it brings me joy. My friend and I started playing cover songs once a month at a local restaurant. People are talking, eating, drinking, not totally listening and I have so much fun singing Sheryl Crow I feel like I’m going to float away on a cloud.
See, the gifts that God has given you are real whether you’re paid for them or not, whether you are celebrated for them or not. The gifts that God has given you are meant to lead you deeper into the freedom of His presence and that’s what you find when you dig into the reality of your own life, when you look around and grab onto what’s there. You come to see that you already have everything you’ve always been after. Jesus.
When I realized the beauty of the winding road Jesus has me on, it became impossible not to see Him everywhere, especially in the faces of these little babies—my biggest fans—who aren’t super impressed with any music I’ve ever done, but make lots of requests for the hits of the Chipmunks. And you know I play them all.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Pease