"Are you sure music isn't a part of your calling?"
I remember asking Adam this question over and over again when we were
teenagers. Quite frankly, he was always singing. When he came home from musical
practice, he sang. When we drove in the car, he sang. When everyone in the house
would be doing their own thing, he sang. Most people feel frustrated when people
talk over them in conversation, well, I felt frustrated when Adam would SING over
top of me in conversation. I kid you not, I would be mid thought and this grown, 6’6” male would be singing over me. But this is because music is a part of him - much a part of him as his height and brown eyes and curly hair and loud laugh. He sings because, to him, it is as important as breathing and scripture tells us that every breath we have is because of the Lord. So why would we not spend our lives singing?
Growing up, music was always around. Mom made all four of us kids take piano lessons, and although we weren’t always excited about it, I am so grateful that we had that teaching. We all sang and were a part of band, orchestra, choir and musicals. It wasn’t uncommon to yell at someone to stop practicing in our home so that we could focus. There were also quite a few moments of tension as we all tried to practice fifteen minutes before our lessons, when we really knew we should have practiced during the week.
Fast forward a few years and Adam heads to Grove City College and decides to join the Grove City College Touring Choir (no surprise there). Give it two more years, and I also go to Grove City College and join the touring choir (just to grace them with the presence of another Bannister ☺).
Though Adam was a Biology major, I always wondered where music was going to fit because when he would sit and sing at the piano, it was something of another world. I’d like to say that I was the one who called dibs on the fact that he would be doing something with music for the rest of his life, but it was Christ who called it first. All along, it was Christ who was growing and gardening within his life.
So, what’s my story? Where do I fit into all of this? Keep reading.
During Christmas break of 2019, I came downstairs one day and Adam told me that he wrote a song. He said that it was from Joseph’s point of view and it talked about going to Bethlehem. As he sang and played through this song, all I could think about was how fun it was. It told this biblical story and was engaging and upbeat and the words, oh the words, they just seemed to grab your attention and hold you there on the edge of your seat. When he was done, all I thought was “Wow, that’s neat”, even though those three words did
not do this song justice. Quite frankly, no words could (which became a common
theme for the next 19 songs he wrote). This is exactly like something that Adam
would do, pop out a couple of songs that only need some fine tuning. I remember
sitting with him on the piano bench in our house and talking about writing a song
from Mary’s point of view as she watches Christ be crucified. And then maybe
writing one from the woman at the well. At this point, they were all just ideas, nothing
A few days later he asked if I wanted to hear another song. This one was called,
Here at the Well, and it told the story in the Bible of the woman at the well. This
woman was an outcast who went to draw her water from the well at the middle of the
day, because she was not welcome to draw water with the other women in the
morning. When she goes to the well, she meets Jesus who tells her everything she
has ever done and looks at her saying that he came for people like her. The first time
he played it for me we both kind of thought that it was good, but it wasn’t super
special. It started out nothing like what it grew to become. This pattern continued
throughout our entire break. Adam would write a song, I would listen, and then we
would talk about the purpose of this song and how it would be told and received. At
this point, I had no idea what would become of them.
When we returned to Grove City for our spring semester, that first Sunday Adam and I got dinner together. I had just returned from a trip to Israel and he had just gotten back from visiting friends in Guatemala. I spent the entire dinner talking about my trip and afterwards we went back to his dorm room and what did he do? He played me another song that he had written on the plane back from Guatemala. This one was called, Arise, and was about the widow at Nain whose son had died. The song was beautiful and simple, yet that he didn’t know who was going to sing it. It needed to be someone else, someone set apart. The following day, we planned to go get coffee so that he could tell me all about his trip. After classes on Monday, we did a few errands the entire time Adam talked a mile a minute about what his time in Guatemala meant for him.
He shared how he felt called to move to Guatemala to work in the worship and prayer room in a mission based hospital instead of interning in the Middle East for two years, a program which he was already accepted to. He wanted to go sing in the mountains and pour into the lives of the missionary kids down there, kids that he had grown to love. I will admit, my first thought was skepticism. This was a whole 180 from what he had said before. In a journal entry I wrote on January 24, I said:
“I remembered before Adam left, he said that of all the places he’s traveled and experienced, the people he feels most called to right now are those kids in Guatemala.”
I wasn’t completely on board with this whole idea in the beginning, but when I thought of these words that he had said, I knew that Adam was following the Lord. When I heard the music and read the lyrics, I felt the urge to share them with others.
These songs are filled with the Holy Spirit and are meant to be shared.
I remember sitting in the apartments on Grove city Campus as Adam pulled
out his phone and played “It is Finished.” This was a song I had heard before, but this
time it was different. I listened to Katie sing this song with the crickets from
Guatemala in the background and something shifted within me. I could feel her pain
and heart and redemption through the words she was singing. They were no longer
just words on a page and notes in the song was meant to be sung by Katie.
Throughout the spring semester, I had the blessing of continuing to get to know
my sweet friend Mollie Landman. I met Mollie in the fall at an event on campus, but
soon after she left school. I wasn’t sure when I would see her again and when I heard that she was coming back, and returning to the touring choir, I knew I wanted to get
to know her more. Through meals, choir rehearsals, pizza parties, and many conversations, we began to grow closer to one another. When Adam had mentioned to me that he was thinking of asking her to sing the song, Arise, I knew it would be powerful. One day after Choir Practice, Giovanna, Mollie, Adam and I all went to a recital hall in our music building as Adam played Arise. We sat on the floor weeping together as we heard the words. That was one of the moments in which my heart was completely broken and moved to a depth I did not know I could possess.
The first time I heard Giovanna soulfully sing, Here at the Well, I had chills all over. This song that was originally just sort of okay, was now alive. It almost seemed like a dream, to hear how something could be so drastically changed, yet the words and music were the same. As we harmonized and critiqued small things, it became this moving, upbeat story of the Gospel. Giovanna added her own style to the song and I could have never imagined that it would sound like this! I wondered why I had even doubted in the first place.
Our family took a trip to Ohio to visit our Aunt and Uncle when Peter drove
over for the day to work on the music. As we sat in my cousin’s room working for
hours, we finally pieced together one of the songs that Adam, Peter and I sing.
Listening to Peter play the guitar with Adam’s piano made it feel like the music was all
starting to be pieced together. We talked about how each of us should picture and
embody the people whose stories we were telling through the song. Adam acted out
for each of us what he thought our biblical character would be doing and feeling
(all that musical acting from High School began to pay off ☺). When the day was
over we sang the song for our Aunt in her driveway. When we reached the end, she
looked at us with tears in her eyes and praised the Lord for what he had given to us through this music.
One night after church, Adam and I were driving back to campus when he played this song called, Healer of Disease. It told the story of three people from the Bible and he had said that he wanted me to sing the woman’s part. For the next 20 minutes we sat in the car and tried to figure out what key to sing it in. I wasn’t even really paying attention to the words as much as I was focusing on the pitches. We agreed that we would figure something out a little bit later; for the time being we had other things to work on.
Around that same time, one of my assignments for a class I was taking was to write out my own testimony. It was hard to sit and think through my life and all the trials I had walked through. We were challenged to pick one theme and share within that. After much processing and prayer, I wrote about my struggles with fear that I had while growing up and fears I struggle with to this day.
I know the word of the Lord calls us to not fear. I believe that in this life we have nothing to fear because God is with us always. But in my human flesh, I so often forget this truth that does not waiver. I allow my mind to become consumed with thoughts from the enemy and as a young child, teenager, and now adult, I still stumble through this valley of struggle. Some days are better than other days, but every day I must choose to surrender. And it’s the days when I choose to surrender that I am faced with the ugly truth of my weak humanity and the unsearchable, indescribable, redemptive, and restorative power of Jesus Christ. I may easily condemn myself, but my Abba does not condemn me.
My paper could only be five pages, double-spaced, so it really was the SparkNotes version of the story. But I knew that it would lead to more conversations and more questions. Here is a portion of what I shared:
“As months went on, the depth of the fear that I struggled with became clearer. I realized that one of my greatest fears was that if someone knew everything about me then they wouldn’t love me. If only they knew the thoughts in my head or the things that I had done. If only they could see how I acted when no one was looking. Surely no one would love me deeply if they saw and understood those things. This was the fear-based lie that I had built most of my life upon starting at such a young age.”
Some time later, I was listening to the song, Healer of Disease, that the Holy Spirit had written through Adam, and I had to stop for a moment.
Here is the verse that I sing in that song:
“I stood up straight with jar in hand. I know I have to see this man
But something holds me back. Is it fear, or faith I lack?
I can’t go on to live this way, I’m desperate for my life to change
Trying hard to hide the fear, I ran, and He appeared.
But I could not look him in the eyes and wiped His feet with tear stained cries
Pleading for Grace, as He looked in my face.
If He knew the many things I’d done, like the Pharisees He’d tell me run
But His voice did not condemn and as He spoke, His love rushed in.”
I was moved to tears. I sat and listened and put myself in the shoes of the woman who had a jar of ointment. Luke 7: 44-48 says “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
I began to understand that woman in a different way. All of a sudden, I started to feel like she must have felt. There are so many times when I feel like my sins are too great to carry. I feel like I need to clean myself up before I bring myself before Him. I feel like I should run in the opposite direction. I feel like all
I can do is pour my tears on his feet and plead for his grace. I feel like this woman who
desires to go before her Savior, but still holds onto the lie that He will treat her the
same way the world does. Plot twist: He doesn’t. When I truly sit with the fact that
Christ has forgiven my sins, there is not much I can do besides marvel in wonder and
deep gratitude, allowing tears to overtake me when they come. He sees me, He fully
knows me, He loves me, and He is not walking away. That, in and of itself, is a mystery
too great to understand. There is nothing my heart desires more than to sit at His and
pour my all before Him . Once again, how could I not spend the rest of my life
Throughout all of this, I consider myself to be abundantly blessed, for I have had the greatest honor and divine privilege of being a part of someone else’s journey. I have watched, I have listened, I have talked through, I have flipped many pages and scrolled many tab sheets, and yes, there were times when I didn’t want to do any of it. But it is not about me. And this music is not about Adam or anyone else. This was, and is, and always will be, for the glory of the Lord.
There were moments when I struggled with jealousy and comparison and when I was so tired and just wanted to eat some dark chocolate and take a nap. But then I would listen and process with Adam, hearing about his vision for translating the songs and taking them to unreached peoples and every self-centered thought I had would slip away. The mere sound of his voice was filled with hope and trust in the Lord. I could not sit and compare my calling to Adam’s, because the Lord has given me my own calling and relationship with Jesus Christ. I was not called to write this music, but I believe I was called to something that is even sweeter. I was called to support the one through whom God wrote all this music. Adam.
One of the greatest gifts we have in this life is to encourage and bless others. By the goodness of the Lord, I have experienced both of these gifts throughout this process. There are still moments when words fail to capture it all, and I am glad the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when words don’t come. If He didn’t, then a lot of my thoughts to God would just be jumbled and silent . But I know that He understands, even when I do not. I know that the Holy Spirit has moved within my heart and continues to change parts of me that I try to hide. It has truly been one of the greatest joys of my life to be a part of this journey. My prayer is that when these songs are listened to, nothing would be heard but the voice of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
He sees you, He fully knows you, He loves you, and He will never walk away from you.
I would love to connect and share more about what the Lord has done in my life and to hear how He has worked in yours. I seriously love to meet others and could talk for a ridiculously long amount of time (especially when food is involved). If you are struggling and need someone to be there, I would love nothing more than to listen. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I look forward to hearing from you ☺