Nine Weeks and New Songs

Nine weeks ago, I signed into a Zoom call to interact with six strangers. I had enrolled in Worship Songwriter Mentorship with Krissy Nordhoff, and although I was excited for the opportunity, I was really nervous. Although I have been writing songs since I was seventeen years old, I have rarely pursued my songwriting craft with such intention. After releasing my album in 2018, I gave myself permission to rest a bit from the creative process of writing and recording. I focused my energy on leading worship, memorizing and crafting arrangements, and just simply taking time to reflect and unwind.

But when I learned about WSM, something resonated deeply with me and I couldn’t quite put it into words. All I knew is that if my friend John were still alive, he would practically be begging me to enroll. In the seven years John and I knew each other, John was not only my dear friend but also my songwriting cheerleader. Whenever I made excuses as to why I wasn’t writing or expressed that I felt inferior as a songwriter, he would simply say, “You’re a songwriter; go write a song.”

Well, after graduating and completing this course, I am amazed and filled with gratitude to be able to say that I completed seven full songs and was able to engage with other writers throughout this journey. Today, I wanted to tell you a little about my experiences so you might be able to rejoice with me and celebrate God’s faithfulness.

Week 1: I was introduced to my small group members: our leader Amanda and course-mates Karen, Lara, Mac, Matt, and Suzanne. We learned about Psalming, which is basically singing a Psalm off the page instead of just simply reading it. I composed a Psalming of Psalm 13, which I called “Good to me.” I shared it on Facebook with my small group and my Facebook friends. I also shared it in worship one Sunday morning and received great feedback on my composition.

Week 2: This was a hard week. A dear loved one was really sick and I was really worried about this person’s health. I was trying to do a Psalming, but I was feeling uninspired. I asked God to help me complete my assignment, because I truly didn’t have the energy or focus to do it on my own. I opened up my Bible to Psalm 25, and it was like God conveyed to me unwaveringly that I needed His hope and strength. I wrote “My Hope” in less than an hour, but it took a full day before my ideas and the structure were fleshed out to make the song complete.

Week 3: There was a snow storm in Wisconsin and I spent a rare Sunday morning at home instead of attending worship at my church. But I wasn’t alone that morning, because I spent two-and-a-half hours on Facebook Messenger call with my course-mate Lara. We had been assigned to co-write a song, and we made the best of our seven-hour time difference to make this happen. Something interesting to note is that Lara is from Germany; she speaks English fluently, so we had no problem communicating verbally. I was grateful that Lara didn’t press me to do a video call. Being on video is challenging to someone who is visually impaired because I can’t really see who I’m talking to and I have no idea if the camera is lined up properly so the other person can see me. In the end, I didn’t have to worry about that because our phone call was really effective. We crafted “I Need You,” and just two weeks later, my OneVoice girls and I were able to introduce it to our congregation.

Week 4: I wrote a Biblical truth song, focusing on the idea of connecting with God through solitude, in community, and in mission. I called it “Quiet Place.” It is a modern-day hymn with three stanzas, and the first stanza is repeated at the end of the song, so in all, the melody repeats four times (four stanzas). My course-mates and some of my early listeners called it the “Lullaby Hymn” because of its peaceful and reflective content. But yet, it’s a call-to-action song, so it’s definitely something special, and I don’t think I would have written this song if it weren’t for the course.

Week 5: I wrote “Meet us here,” a song exhibiting space and contrast. I was inspired to write the song while standing in a crazy, busy bowling alley. I was anxious that day, and the crowded building certainly wasn’t helping to bring calm. I knew that I had to take a breath and step back for a moment in order to find perspective. What resulted is a song that calls the listener to set aside the hustle and chaos of life and simply meet God with open hands and willing heart.

Week 6: I wrote a warrior song. This song was challenging because I wasn’t inspired in the way I thought I should be working through the assignment. I was actually worried I wouldn’t have anything to say. Then, as I was preparing for our Ash Wednesday service, I began to consider the idea of being refined. Our Ash Wednesday service further cemented these ideas on my heart, so I went home and wrote “Again and Again.” It’s a song that speaks of God’s faithfulness and provision even in the midst of being held to God’s refiner’s flame.

Week 7: We were tasked with re-writing a song or editing something we had created during the course. I had completed two Psalmings earlier in the course, one from Psalm 40 and the other from Psalm 62, and the similarities in theme and melodic structure led me to explore what it might look like to combine these two Psalm-songs and create one new song. Interestingly, I ended up calling it “New Song,” because the chorus is based on Psalm 40:3: “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” I couldn’t think of a better song to mark my last week in this course. God had been so faithful to inspire so many new songs, giving me probably the most fruitful time as a songwriter. I wrote “New Song” to celebrate His goodness and kindness.

Week 8: We met together in our Zoom call to celebrate the completion of the course. We were encouraged to play our re-written song live, but because of time constraints, we were not required to share. I opted not to share my song initially. I had been using my desktop computer during our Zoom calls over the past eight weeks, and I don’t have a webcam on that computer. I also couldn’t get close enough to play my piano while logged on to my desktop. So even though I prayerfully considered setting up my phone or tablet and figuring out a way to be on camera, I eventually decided to enjoy our last call and listen to my course-mates play live. But about halfway through our meeting, our small group leader essentially quoted the lyrics to “New Song,” and my course-mate Matt typed into the chat that I should sing it. I expressed my situation and reluctance to play live but that if there was time remaining I would try to make it work. So with trembling hands and having no idea how to sign into Zoom on my phone, I logged off my desktop and signed in on my phone. Although I couldn’t see anything, I took a leap of faith and just went with it. I didn’t know it at the time, but about halfway through my song, Krissy Nordhoff logged onto the call, and she heard me playing and singing. She was so kind and generous in her comments on my song following my performance, and I was blessed to be able to share my song, not only with her, but my course-mates. Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes. But was it worth it? Yes! I didn’t realize that I needed that sense of completion to bring the course to a close. There was something about playing live that day that put everything into perspective. On our first day of class, I never would have imagined doing something like that. God truly worked in my heart throughout this course, for I am not the same girl who logged onto our call nine weeks ago.

In closing, I would like to share my Story of Thankfulness Reflection that I wrote during week 8 of the course. I am beyond grateful and humbled that I was able to be a part of this journey.

Story of Thankfulness

“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

This verse from Psalm 40 essentially gives voice to my heart of gratitude. Nine weeks ago, I signed into a Zoom call with trembling hands and heart beating wildly with nervousness. I had enrolled in Worship Songwriter Mentorship back in December when I was making purchases on Cyber Monday. My head told me that it was time to pursue my songwriting with this endeavor, but my heart was overwhelmed with uncertainty.

In the brief time that I knew about WSM, I knew it was something I wanted to explore, but a few things held me back; finances were tight and I wasn’t sure I was willing to fully invest my time into such an intensive experience. I have often said that I don’t like the messiness of songwriting. Since I play by ear and memorize during the songwriting process, it is time-consuming and sometimes not very fruitful, especially when a great deal of my time is dedicated to learning and memorizing songs to lead in worship. Often, songwriting gets shoved to the back burner because I just don’t have the energy to process and make the effort.

Once I committed to WSM, I knew I had to follow through. From my first Psalming attempt with Psalm 5, which I never shared with anyone to my final assignment, “New Song,” I gave this process my all. There were days when the creativity wasn’t flowing and I wanted to give up, but I kept going because there were more creative days than there were days when I struggled. In all, I wrote seven full songs, and in looking back at the songs I’ve written since I was seventeen, this has been my most fruitful songwriting period in my entire life. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways in which God has worked in my songwriting and my personal relationship with Him. It’s remarkable how strongly you can retain the Word of God when you are memorizing and singing it every day. I am so grateful that I now know about the process of Psalming, for it has given my songwriting new life and purpose.

Now nine weeks have passed, and although I battled some fear and insecurity while taking the course, I can definitely say I am not the same girl who logged onto that call on January 15. I took the leap and played “New Song” during our final session, and when the course started, I never would have imagined doing that unless it was required in order to graduate. I don’t perform live very often unless you count leading worship, so being on camera was something foreign to me. But I wanted to sing that day for two reasons: 1)_I was so grateful for the opportunity and doors God had opened over the past nine weeks and 2) for my friend John.

Ten years ago, I met John in a small church in Arvada, Colorado, and it was music that brought us together. John always encouraged me to write music because I was a songwriter. When I tried to give excuses like, “John, I don’t have time to write songs with all of the memorizing and new music to learn for church” or “I don’t have anything new to say,” he would simply say once again, “You’re a songwriter. Go write a song.”

In 2017, John passed away unexpectedly, and I feel a profound void every day I go about making music without him here. In 2018, I released my album “The Dawn,” and I dedicated it to his memory. When I learned about this mentorship, I knew immediately that this was something that John would want me to do. In fact, if he were still alive today, I would have sent him all of my recorded demos and song ideas so he could listen and critique them. When I printed my certificate of completion at work today, I had to wipe away a tear because in that moment I wanted to call him and say, “Hey, John, guess what? I wrote seven songs.” I think he would say, “Good! It’s about time!”

God has given me a new song, or rather, several songs through this process, and I am truly amazed at what He has done.

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