At the age of 8, I wrote my first song…and little did I know of the journey music would soon take me on. At age 11, I performed my song, “Lost In My Future”, for the first time ever in a school talent show, and it was after I came off of the stage that night, hands still shaking and face still red with a rush of nervous excitement, that I knew I was called to be a performing artist and songwriter.
Although the dream came early and the music came passionately, stage fright and the fear of being misunderstood still gripped me. During my first few years of pursuing music, I experienced bullying in school like I never had before. I sat alone at the lunch table, was uninvited to gatherings of my peers, and was set apart for being “different” and “weird” because I was “too” focused on my music career. Still, amid all of the pain, I found solace in my songwriting, my family, my growing faith, and a few close friends.
As the years passed by and I grew in age as well as artistry, playing more and more shows and meeting many unique people along the way, I began to realize that what I had found in music was truly a gift from God.
The moment I realized the impact and beauty that music, words, and sharing your heart could have was after playing a show at Due South Coffee Roasters in Taylors, South Carolina. One of the baristas came up to me and said that he had been listening to one of my songs, “Promised Myself”, and that it was the first time he’d ever truly felt like someone understood him. He didn’t feel so alone after listening to my song. This inspired me in such a deep way that I wanted to connect with and help more people. I started a school program called “Dare To Dream”, sharing my story of being bullied, pursuing my dream, and hoping to inspire other young people in middle school and high school to embrace their uniqueness.
On New Year’s Day in 2016, as I was watching a sermon online from Elevation Church, I felt the intense desire to know God more take root in my heart. I had been baptized two years previous and believed in God my whole life, but for the first time I decided to take up my own cross. Not only was a whole new heart being revealed in me, His love growing in my spirit, but I was being prepared to face one of my biggest battles yet.
As 2016 came to a close, 2017 opened up a difficult chapter for me. It started out with an exciting new album, a budding new relationship, and a string of trips planned to write and tour. These were all things that should have and could have brought joy to my life, yet I found myself growing anxious. I repeated that this was just a “busy season” to people when they asked how I was doing as I tried to remain calm in the midst of an increasing amount of stress. The behind the scenes toll of the day-to-day checklists that weren’t being completed, the pressure of perfectionism I put on myself, the lack of rest, the hours of traveling, the relationship that was suffering, the intrusive negative thoughts that seemed consuming, all added to my depleting strength. In July of 2017 I found myself at an all-time-low.
For months my cry out was a beg to God that my mind could return to the confident, strong, faith-filled, passionate woman I knew I used to be. My cry out was that I would just make it through the day without being consumed by sadness. My cry out was that He would fill me with his strength, and my declaration was that He did not give me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and sound mind. At first these moments of anguish stripped my confidence and tainted my belief in myself and my talent, but I would gladly endure the trials again for the joy that was set before me in Jesus.
To this day I am currently being rebuilt by God stronger and more resilient than before.
In the past few weeks alone, God has given me new freedom and a new vision for my future in my career and personal life. It is because of Him that I have been inspired again, have forgiven myself, and am able to love so much deeper.
I am a singer, writer, speaker, pianist, and believer…running after Jesus. My story will not be defined by bullies, setbacks, anxiety, stress, or depression. When I trip, as I will, Jesus is right there lifting me up and helping me continue running. So to whoever is reading this, wherever you are at on your dream journey, I encourage you…the darkness doesn’t even stand a chance as long as we are running after God with Jesus at our side.