Three Mondays ago, Kyle, Andrew, and I packed up our van and headed home from our last summer festival, LifeLight in Worthing, SD. Six states, fourteen hours, one new song composed on the ukulele, four Seinfeld episodes, and a thousand fits of laughter later, we arrived in Nashville, thankful and exhausted. This trip marked the end of an intense summer of touring—twenty-five festivals and concerts since June—and without a doubt, it has been the most rewarding summer of my adult life.
Everything felt new, whether the familiar experience of playing a show or unfamiliar adventures of van travel. I don’t mean the “new” was always easy or comfortable, but because I was playing music with an amazing group of guys and meeting wonderful people all over the country, I enjoyed every moment.
These days, I’ve exchanged a comfy tour bus for crowded airplanes, over-packed SUV’s, and 15-passenger vans that smell of the bands they previously carried. And I’ve expanded my list of concerts to include both small house shows and large festivals more suited for rock bands than singer/songwriters. But this season of change has felt like a gift from God, with a card that read, “Welcome to the new! Go share your song and your heart again. Remember who gave you both.”
It may surprise you to learn how often in my career I’ve taken for granted the opportunity to play music and share it with others. I’ve always worked hard at music, but until this year, I rarely took the time to soak it in; to relish the unbelievable blessing of relating to others through song.
My early career brought with it an unexpected season of radio and sales success, but I was nearly always stressed by the details. Songs needed to be written. Concert promoters and fans needed to be pleased with my work. Flights needed to be booked. Band members needed a ride to the local coffee shop as soon as possible. I was moving at a frantic pace, caught up in the chaos that often accompanies a career in music. If my older self could have only taught my younger self she was missing the point entirely.
Then there was the season where music took a backseat. I found myself burned out and exhausted by the business, so I traded Nashville for NYC. I continued playing concerts on the weekends, but most of my new friends had no idea what I did for a living. As I was contemplating a permanent move to the big city, my mom was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, so instead I moved to Jackson, Mississippi to help take care of her.
Talk about conquering something new. Taking care of my parent stretched and challenged me in ways I would have never anticipated, and witnessing first-hand the physical and emotional war cancer wages was downright discouraging. Though many weekends still held music, I was preoccupied with more immediate, life-and-death circumstances. Mom is now cancer-free; praise God! As her treatment neared its end, I moved back to Nashville and began teaching songwriting at Belmont University, my alma mater.
I never stopped making music; I was still producing albums, but my heart wasn’t quite in it. Then in 2013, a dear friend who is also a brilliant businessman—posed a simple question, as we discussed my long-term goals: “What do you believe God has placed you here to do?” Something “new” within me instantly clicked. The time had come to pour my heart into songwriting again, with the sole purpose of pouring hope into the hearts of others.
This season of music has been a whirlwind of new learning and new experiences. No longer is writing and performing music enough. I now use visuals on screens during concerts and post more photos and videos than music on social media. I’m not sure where I fit into all this new yet, but I’m choosing to enjoy my season of figuring it out.
I have a new perspective, too. I now step away from the details and planning to enjoy the experience of making and playing music. Where I once fretted over the time spent with fans, I am now thankful for the time to pause and meet folks at concerts and hear their stories. Instead of absently passing time on the road, eagerly awaiting our return home, I love making memories with my friends in the band. Each day, I understand a bit more of the powerful, beautiful gift music is, and what a blessing it is to possess that gift.
There’s a Scripture that comes to mind: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Is. 43:18-19)
This passage in Isaiah speaks to the Israelites of coming hope, but it speaks to me, too. Isn’t every day of our life’s journey about trusting God to do a new thing? If our vision is constantly clouded by the details and circumstances of our present and the weight of our past—all things we can’t change—we will fail to see how His faithfulness and promises invite us to throw ourselves headlong into the adventures He has laid out for us. His new is always waiting. Look for it. Embrace it. Relish it. Stepping into the “new” is often uncomfortable—at least it is for me—but it’s so worth the risk.
After years of feeling like my music—and my life—were on hold, I’m unwrapping both those gifts again. And I am so thankful. As God leads me through this season of “new,” He is replacing my old self, piece by piece. He is giving me a new lens through which to view my career, new ears to hear the stories of those I meet, a new sense of fearless adventure, and a new heart that longs to know more of Him.
What “new” is God working into your life?