It all started with a joke.

Back in January, I was at a Jon Bryant concert with my friend Nicole.  I love seeing live music… it always inspires me and reminds me why I love making music of my own.  As Jon was soundchecking, I leaned over to Nicole.  “I think I should quit my job and do music full time,” I quipped.  She said something to the effect of, “Well, it’s about time.”  We both laughed.

I was kidding.  I think.  I’ve made this comment a number of times over the last few years, but I’m not sure I ever really meant it. I don’t know what was different about that one night, but something was.

During the concert, Jon played a great song of his, called “Ontario”.  He told the story of how he wrote it, a story I hadn’t heard before even though I knew the song well.  Jon spoke of a time when he was trying to decide between taking a good job and following his music dreams, and needing to make the final call while he was on tour in Ontario.  The connection between his journey and my joke earlier that night struck me, and I shot Nicole a telling look.  She busted out with her big, beautiful laugh… I think half the place turned to look at her!

Take a few minutes and listen to Jon’s song “Ontario”… you won’t regret it.

The rest of the concert was just as lovely, though I was a bit distracted.  Afterward I greeted Jon and a few other friends who were there for the show, then Nicole and I parted ways.  I had some work to do before bed that night.

The next morning, I was heading to St. John’s Lutheran in Summerland to lead the worship music for their Sunday service, and I wanted to run the songs one more time.  I had gotten the scripture readings from Pastor Michael a few weeks prior, and had chosen my songs to fit.  The preaching text was Matthew 4:12-23, the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the calling of the disciples.  One of the songs I had picked was “I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin. As I sat on the carpeted floor of my apartment with my guitar and the chord charts, I though back to my experience earlier that evening.  I sang the song as a heartfelt prayer.

“I Will Follow” –

Then I went to bed.  After all that stuff, I was really tired!  I woke up the next morning, and spent the whole drive to Summerland trying to discern whether I was losing my mind, making things up, or really hearing messages of direction from God.  I prayed over and over for affirmation.  If I was going to step out in faith, I needed to know I was stepping in the right direction.  So I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when the first line of Pastor Michael’s sermon was, “How many of you have ever made a really difficult decision?”  Argh.  He went on to talk about how Jesus went up to these regular people, without special skills or education, and told them to follow Him.  And they DID follow.  They left everything that was known, secure, and expected and they followed.  I heard both comfort and challenge in those words.  We closed the service with “I Will Follow”, and I sang it with a deeper understanding than ever before.  I was exhilarated and terrified… was this actually happening?  I couldn’t decide yet, so what did I do?  I went home and had a nap, that’s what.  I’m hoping that sleep is a healthy coping mechanism and not some indication of deep emotional problems, because otherwise I might be in big trouble.  🙂

After the nap-of-coping, I met some friends at The House, a young adult church here in Kelowna. I got another zinger when the preacher started to discuss the Bible story of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water toward Jesus.  He challenged the group by saying that very rarely does he talk to people who regretted stepping out in faith to try something outside their comfort zone, even if it doesn’t turn out quite the way they thought it would.  Thoughts and emotions battled inside me… I wanted affirmation, and my gut was telling me these experiences were answers to my prayers.   But I didn’t stop praying.  If I was going to do something this big, I needed to be S-U-R-E.

A few mornings later, I awoke with a knot twisting deep in my stomach.  “Jennifer, you are way off base,” I told myself as I lay there.  “You are losing your mind, and it’s time to reconnect with reality.” I rolled out of bed and did what most tech savvy people do first thing in the morning… I unplugged my cell phone from the charger.  As I ran through my emails, I saw a message from a very wise and Spirit-led friend.  She wrote that she had seen me at The House, though I hadn’t seen her, and asked if there was a reason for the “heaviness” she had sensed in my direction.  She told me she was praying for me and was excited for the direction God was leading me in and calling me to.  A strange peace settled in as it finally sunk in.

This was real.  Through music, preaching, Scripture, and the words of trusted believers, God was inviting me to step out on the waters.  With my eyes focused on Him, I stepped out of the boat.

Starting that afternoon, I had some very scary and important conversations. I talked to my mom, ministry partners from my church, and good friends back home in Saskatchewan.  I was overwhelmed with the support, encouragement, and confidence that people expressed to me.  I heard comments like “I’m just surprised it took you this long”, “I am so proud of you”, and “I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with this!”  Doing music ministry full-time means I have to let go of my half-time youth ministry position at my church, a job I love.  Even when I announced to my youth group that I wouldn’t be joining them as their youth director in the fall (which just about broke my heart), they responded with incredible love and support.  I still can’t believe it.  I keep waiting for someone to tell me it was a really bad idea, but as of yet, no one has.

So, here’s the deal… starting in July, I will be a full-time musician.  I’ve never been more prepared or equipped, even though sometimes I forget that in my fear of the unknown.  But no matter how uncertain and unfamiliar this next chapter of my life is, this is what I know – God is so good.  He put music into me when He knit me together, and so much of my life’s joy is letting that music out and putting it to work serving His people and giving Him glory.

I am really excited to see what this next year will bring.  I’ve got some plans on the go, and a few great opportunities to flesh out, but I also trust that God has some surprises in store. I can’t wait to get out there and partner with churches and ministries that God is using to share His love and light around this country (and maybe even other ones)!  I’m looking forward to getting creative, asking questions, and finding the ways that God wants to use me.

It’s not surprising, considering how much God used “water” Scriptures to lead me in all this, that the worship song “Oceans” has become an anthem to me in the last few weeks:

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour”

It started with a joke.  It’s not a joke anymore, but I’m still smiling.  Off we go.  🙂