This past summer marked 20 years since I graduated from Middle School.  Usually people don’t make a big deal about graduating from MS, or even remember it really, but for some reason I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.  I still remember the rockin 90’s flower dress, big poofy hair, and pink eye shadow that I wore the day of the ceremony, and my fourteen-year-old self felt so pretty walking across the stage to sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings”.  I was the musical entertainment, or so my teachers told me, happening just before the diploma ceremony. 

I remember that my Dad played Pomp and Circumstance on the piano as all the graduates processed into the gym that day.  My principal had asked him to play the day before the ceremony because no one was available and I had volunteered my Dad to play.  “Oh I’m sure he can play for us, Mr. McGriffin. My Dad can play anything”. Sorry, Dad. Sure enough, my Dad sat down at the clunky upright piano in the stinky, musty gym of Scotts Valley Middle School and played it beautifully. Thanks, Dad! You’re the WBMW! I look back on that day now and can’t help but laugh at the cheesy song choice; but then again, it had to have been one of the Top 40 songs that summer so at the time, it might not have been considered AS cheesy.  But the whole point of the song is actually pretty true and has definitely been true in my life.  There are so many amazing experiences and adventures for me in the 20 years since that day that have been possible because of the support, prayer, investment, and friendship of so many people. 

I think back to Jim Keller and Ron Revier at Fairview HS in Boulder, CO.  They were the first ones to encourage me to consider choosing music and more specifically, music education, as a career choice.  Mr. Revier selected me to be the student conductor my senior year and I had never before even given it a thought, much less knew what to do with a conducting pattern and baton.  Thanks, JK and RR. WBMW!

Darrel Johnson, Mark Hulse, Kathy Adkins, Don Adkins, and June Barber are the five that stand out in my mind when I think of my music education at Bethany University.  Their vision for teaching quality music coupled with a passionate love for Jesus showed me that it’s definitely possible to mix the two.  Thanks, guys. WBMW.

Jason Garcia and the amazing CLC family trusted me enough to let me revive and direct the adult choir at age 21 (what were y’all thinking?!) After a year of rehearsals (that the five people in the above paragraph taught me how to lead), I had the incredible opportunity to conduct Handel’s “Messiah” with full choir and orchestra. Still one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date; if I close my eyes, I can still hear and feel the choir and orchestra and feel the baton in my hand as I gave the final cut-off for the Hallelujah chorus. Happy chills. WBMW.

Doug and Margie Lawrence, Heidi Fisher, Debbie Shaeffer, Brent James, Leanne Benton, Kent Reed, Brian Mann, Anton Nel, Jesse Rice, Christian Elliott, Jane Stone, Sue Leaf, and the unforgettable members of the Chancel and Voce choirs.  The five years with you at MPPC taught me how to reach for musical, God-honoring excellence in a way that I never knew was possible. WBMW. And don’t forget the cheesy white fish.

And then we moved to Houston and surprisingly, my song-writing journey began.  Out of no place familiar to me, songs began to flow.  First for our women’s Bible study, then for a sermon series or a program for our Family Ministries team, or a crazy random song that had nothing to do with anything.  Two years went by and I had written 15 songs. And then to my utter astonishment and amazement, people  at Grace wanted to hear them. And then hear them again.  And then record them.  What?!? Dear friends like Angela Wade Simpson, Matt Hammon, and Michael Elliott brought some of these songs to life in the studio and have encouraged me every step of the way.  WBMW. Huge, massive, tons of glittery feathers that smell like Jimmy John’s sandwiches on them WBMW.

Because I was able to record some of my songs, friends like Reggie Joiner, Sue Miller, John Delich, and the First Look curriculum team in Atlanta gave me yet another chance to write and have musical opportunities I’d never dare to dream of. Georgia-peach-colored WBMW.

Then there’s my family. My parents and brothers who have put up with my singing since I was playing with Barbies, who encouraged me every time I’d step up onto the platform to sing a solo in church, who attended those hideously-long choir concerts. Their belief in me is what keeps me going every time I begin to doubt myself. Thanks so much Mom, Dad, Josh, and Jeremy! WBMW. And Ben Kuykendall. Is he for real?!? Can so much wisdom, vision, and Jesus-loving character be contained in one person?  Yes and yes. He’s my most favorite person to sing with, and the best worship leader I know.  He’s forced to hear my songs in their infancy, and usually offers some cool chord ideas. My forever WBMW.

I’m heading to Atlanta in early February to record two new songs with the incredible Jason Hoard at Black Cat Studios.  I’ve been preparing and praying for these few days that Ben, Angela, and I will spend in his studio.  During my preparation I haven’t been able to get away from this huge list of people that God has blessed me with, and how their impact in my life has all become the grand sum of what’s happened so far.  I’m so grateful that God uses us in our brokenness to help shape each other into the image of what He wants us to be. I couldn’t be the choir director, worship leader, or song-writer that I am today without the investment these people have made in my life. If only that 14 year old singing “WBMW” could fast forward to now.  She’d for sure laugh at the hairstyle and dress choice, but she’d be oh so grateful for the rest.