A Good “God-Idea”
I want to share a bit of my journey recently—a journey that I’ve found to be quite new and exciting. It all started about a month ago before I left for Taiwan on a ministry trip (my third one in the last five months). In revival group, many people were sharing their struggle of fundraising for Azusa Now in LA (April 9th, 2016—Revival is going to break out, guys!). I heard their dilemma, and I wanted to be able to help them somehow.
Giving them money seemed like a direct and possible solution, but I am also a “poor student” and technically the money I have is not my money but given to me by my parents and other supporters.
I thought about my talents and resources and came up with an idea. One thing I know about my revival group is that many of us are singer-songwriters and musicians. Personally, besides my parents and other generous supporters, one of my sources of income is through selling my music. So I know, music sells.
“That’s what I can do. I can help my fellow classmates record their original music, which they can then sell online to raise money for Azusa!”
I went to ask Kalley (my revival group pastor—yes, the Kalley Heiligenthal! I am so lucky to have her as my pastor this year) about my idea, and she fully supported it. So I went ahead and posted about it on our Revival Group Facebook page.
When I got back from Taiwan a week later, I began scheduling recording sessions with the classmates who contacted me. On the first weekend (three weeks ago) I recorded two songs—one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Both days, we were in my bedroom studio from at least 1-4:30pm. After they left, I kept working on their song (editing, tuning and mixing) until well past midnight, stopping only to eat dinner.
The next weekend, I recorded my first spoken word ever (Yay for first’s!) and also helped with songwriting for the Bethel School of Creativity conference taking place in May.
Then, this past weekend, I spent loads of time in the studio again, the majority of my weekend, polishing up on the arrangement for one of the songs we had recorded last week and helping another girl record and produce a song that she had written.
Next week, I will be recording two more artists, and I just made a connection (literally, while I was writing this post) with another singer-songwriter who heard some of the music I had been producing for these people and asked if I could produce a song for her.
Am I a Music Producer?
I say all of this to highlight this point: God has been taking me on a new journey, and it’s really exciting.
Why is it new and exciting, you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you. First of all, it’s “new” for me in the sense that I have always produced music in my little home studio for myself. I’ve done this for the past eight years, but I had never, once, helped produce someone else’s music, as a “music producer.” I just didn’t identify as one. I did help my church with their latest studio album as a vocal producer, e.g. recording, editing and tuning vocals (and that is how I met Luke Hendrickson), but I had never done anything outside of producing vocals, professionally-speaking.
I always considered music production as a “necessity” that I had to learn, because I was a songwriter. Producing “demos” is must-have for songwriters who want their songs to be heard. That’s all I thought it was good for: to get my songs out there.
However, if I were to compare myself with amazing talented music producers like Luke Hendrickson… well, then, I am definitely not one. I just make “demos,” I would always say.
But one day, all of that changed. It was when I went to visit Luke in the studio, and he took a look at one of the ProTools sessions of a “demo” I had made. After listening to it, he said to me, “Melody, you are a producer!” That sentence has rocked my life ever since. I just never had the courage to look at myself that way… I didn’t think I was good enough or skilled enough. But if Luke Hendrickson said it, then maybe it was true! Maybe I was a producer! (Or at least I could be!)
Then, I had another challenge to face, when it came to believing that I was a music producer. And it was the idea that I don’t want to be a producer. That’s not me. I look at someone like Luke who is so excellent at what he does… but he spends hours and hours in the studio. I don’t want to do that. I want to write and compose songs, not spend hours focusing on minute details, like tweaking EQ or nudging decibels of compression.
I felt like, that’s not me. I’m a songwriter, not a producer.
This idea has always been stuck inside of me up until about a week ago.
The Vision: Planting a Garden
A week ago, I went to my first “Fathering Artists” class with Eric Allen (who is currently pastoring the Bethel Music team). In this class, he shared with us a vision that a woman had. It spoke to me very deeply. This was the vision:
The woman was standing in a large field covered with soil. Suddenly, thousands of seeds rained down from heaven. Each seed represented a dream of hers. Some dreams were big dreams (like the “if you fulfilled this dream, your whole life would be complete” sort of dream), and some dreams were small. Each seed would take a different amount of time to germinate. Some would take six weeks; some ten years.
The woman asked God, “I have so many dreams, but I have no idea which seed to plant first.”
Immediately, God’s hands reached down toward a seed that had fallen onto the ground near her. It didn’t seem like any particular seed, but God covered it with soil and said to her, “Now, water it, and tend to it so that it grows.”
The principle of this vision is this: It doesn’t matter which seed you plant first, as long as you plant something.
So many of us are waiting for that “perfect seed,” the perfect opportunity that leads to our perfect dream, to come along. In the meantime, we refuse to plant anything.
On the other side of that, is the reality that if we start planting now, no matter how big or small the seed is, in five years, we will have a garden.
But if you plant nothing, in five years, you will have nothing.
Eric Allen said something in class that really resonated with me. He said:
“Many of us are afraid to do things that we think don’t fully represent us. We don’t want to take that class, or we don’t want to take that job, because we think that it has nothing to do with our calling or dreams. But I can tell you this: God never wastes anything. Some of the things I’m doing now (which is literally a dream come true), I wouldn’t be doing them if I didn’t have the history that I have, going through seasons of doing something that I thought had absolutely nothing to do with my destiny or dream. Some of the things you think have nothing to with your destiny may be the very stepping stones to your destiny.”
The Joy of Giving
When I heard that word, I immediately felt a huge “Amen!” in my spirit. Throughout the rest of the week, that vision echoed in my mind. I shared it with my mom and talked about it with my friends and intern. I knew that I was a season of planting… it may not be the seed that I think fully represents me, but it is a seed nonetheless. And it may very much have something to do with my destiny.
Also, if I am honest, the more I do it, the more I enjoy it. Editing used to be a tedious chore for me, but because I am a high D personality (dominant, task-oriented) I’d usually get it done anyways. Contrastingly, for the last three weeks while I have been helping others record and produce their songs, I’ve found a new sense of joy doing tasks that I used to think were boring and taxing.
I think the joy comes from giving.
I used to do all of this for myself. It was all for me, to pursue my dream of becoming a singer-songwriter, to promote myself. But now I was using my gifts and talents to benefit others.
That’s different. I’ve begun to experience the joy of giving. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The word “blessed” means “happy”! Jesus said that giving makes us happier!
Boy, that’s different from how I used to think. Although I knew this principle in my head, my actions told a whole different story. If this were a year ago, when people requested me to do something for them, I’d almost always try to come up with an excuse why I couldn’t do it. “Oh, sorry, I’m too busy.” Or I’d go a step further and come up with a reason why their request was invalid or wrong. Even though I knew that I had the capability to do it and I would be good at it too… I’d still find a way to wiggle myself out of commitments that I felt required too much of my personal time and energy (like producing music for others).
This year, God has seriously started to challenge me in that area. I’ll share more about this in a later blog post (about my recent song “Love Looks Like Something”), but to put it briefly, the Gospel is about Christ’s sacrifice for us so that we may have eternal life and intimacy with the Father. If we don’t live lives of practical love and sacrifice for those around us, it’s questionable whether or not we really understand and have a revelation of the Gospel. Because love looks like something; it’s not just words, not just a feeling. It’s action. It’s practical. You can say, “I care about you,” all you want, but if it’s not followed through with action… is that really love?
Now, I don’t mean, chocolates and roses (although, those are both great things and make women very happy), but I mean in terms of our resources. Love can be seen in the way we spend our time and energy, not just our money.
For me, this season has been an experimental experience of stepping out in greater, truer love. I’m challenging myself to love the people around me with my time and energy, not being stingy and selfish with the resources God has given me—and that incudes my skills and talents.
Conclusion: Plant a garden NOW!
So, there you go. This is the journey that I am on. Hopefully, one day, I will look back on this time and be able to say, “That’s when I planted those first couple of seeds. And look, now it’s a garden!”
Everyday, every week, I am discovering more about myself and about the people around me, because I am willing to step out and try things that are outside of my comfort zone.
I’m discovering more about God, as I rely on Him to readjust and enlarge my boundaries. My capacity is expanding, and I can honestly say, I’m enjoying the process. It was scary at first, but when I focus on the goal—to plant a garden—it becomes bearable and worth every minute.
(I decided to include this song, because I feel like it’s quite appropriate for this post. This is the hope that we have: Romans 5:3-5. We are building for our future. Today’s decisions determine the Tomorrow we’ll have. “Suddenly, He points and it’s your turn! All the pain that you endured is now worth something more! Are you ready? Did you learn? Did you grow in suffering? Did you choose to live your life for eternity?” )