Today, I’m excited to introduce you to a 17-year-old young woman named Jessica Joy. She’s an incredibly gifted singer, songwriter and Christian recording artist. Jessica just recorded and released her first CD, Nothing Wasted. She’ll be performing her CD release concert on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at Plymouth Covenant Church in Plymouth, Minnesota. The concert is FREE, so come one, come all! If my intuition is right, Jessica is going to have a long career in the Christian music industry. Come witness this treasure of a young woman live out her life’s calling right in front of your eyes. Because years from now? You might have to pay big bucks to see her in concert.
I’ve had the incredible privilege of connecting with Jessica on several occasions. I met with Jessica and her mom in January 2014 to chat about Jessica’s call to music and ministry. Then, I had the great honor of joining Jessica in the recording studio in March. We met again last month for extended conversation about the events that led her to record and release an album.
This is the first of three blog posts I’ll be writing about Jessica. Today, we’re going to look back and dig deep into the call on Jessica’s life to become a singer and songwriter. On September 22nd, I’m going to share my experience with Jessica Joy in the recording studio. And on September 29th, I’m going to share insights and photographs from Jessica’s CD release concert. I hope you’ll catch all three posts. I guarantee it’ll be a joy to meet Jessica Joy.
Without further ado, let’s move right along!
When I sat down to talk with Jessica in January 2014, I’d prepared a whole series of questions for her…
“Do you ever doubt your gift?”
“What obstacles have gotten in the way of you recording this CD? How have those obstacles helped you grow?”
“This feels big, unknown, all about faith. How does it feel to know it’s in God’s hands? Do you ever just want to plan it out or change course to something more predictable?”
This is just a sampling of the questions I had for Jessica. But even this sampling makes me realize that perhaps my questions were more about my fears than Jessica’s. Hmmm…maybe this 38 year old has something to learn from a 17 year old?
I should’ve just started with these and left it at that…
“Tell me more about how God’s prompted you in the quiet to follow your dreams.”
“Do you believe this is God’s call on your life?”
It was then, when I put away all the fears and what ifs, that Jessica was able to lay out for me, very clearly, God’s call on her life to become a Christian singer and songwriter.
A CHILDHOOD DREAM
Jessica grew up in a household that was filled with music. Both of her parents are licensed ministers of music, so she heard her parents tell lots of stories about their music ministry. Jessica had a whole host of opportunities to perform and lead worship from a young age. In fact, she knew early on that her future was going to be in music and ministry. When Jessica was eight years old, she wrote an entry in her journal titled “Goals for my Music.” The third goal? “Record my original album by the time I am 17.” It was around this time that Jessica also began writing songs in her journal.
From then on, there was a “continual calling” on Jessica’s life to become a singer and songwriter. Jessica explained all the “little signs along the way” that were an affirmation of the calling. As each event unfolded, Jessica knew. God was calling. This is what she was meant to do with her life.
LEARNING TO PLAY GUITAR
When Jessica was approximately 12 years old, she wanted to learn how to play the guitar. She kept telling her parents she wanted to play guitar, but her parents had been insisting for years that she learn piano first. So she learned some basic piano and chords, and then found an old guitar in the basement and taught herself enough so she could start putting chords to the songs she was writing. It was then that Jessica’s parents realized how serious she was about guitar. They got her a guitar for Christmas and signed her up for guitar lessons, which very quickly morphed into songwriting lessons as well.
In May of 2012, Jessica suddenly got very sick. That summer, she often used a wheelchair to get around because of all the pain and fatigue. After a year of many doctor visits and extensive tests, she was finally diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease.
Jessica continues to battle this illness, so she’s had to learn how to manage her chronic Lyme. It has impacted her physical strength and support for singing and performing. She has pain in her hands, which makes it harder to play guitar. And pain in her feet, which makes it hard to stand for lengths of time or walk long distances. But as Jessica reminds us, God wastes nothing. Many of the songs she’s written have come from her battle with chronic Lyme disease. If you listen closely to some of her songs, you can, in fact, hear her pain and all the ways God’s helped her overcome it.
A PROPHETIC WORD
The week Jessica began treatment for chronic Lyme disease, she received a prophetic word from a friend’s mom. She prophesied many things God was speaking over Jessica Joy’s life, including this: “Worship is your weapon…I am giving you the ability and authority to prophetically sing over people – the enemy will release his grip on those I call you to sing over…I have given you an open door to usher in My Kingdom to the Nations.” She also wrote “You are chosen, anointed for such a time as this. I will waste nothing in your life.” This was before Jessica wrote the song “You Waste Nothing,” before she knew she’d record her first CD and it would be titled “Nothing Wasted.” God was speaking blessing into Jessica Joy’s life long before she knew what was to come.
BEAUTY FOR ASHES
Jessica wrote her song, Beauty for Ashes, and recorded it as her first single in the summer of 2012. She was 15 years old. Remember, when Jessica was eight years old and wrote the journal entry titled “Goals for My Music,” her second goal was “Professionally record a single by the time I am 15.” On a whim, she decided to enter Beauty for Ashes in the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival Music and Songwriting Competition, an annual national conference for professionals in the film, writing and music industry. She submitted the song in the last five days entries were accepted.
PAIN AND DREAMS COMING TRUE IN TENNESSEE
Jessica traveled to Tennessee to attend a youth convention with her church youth group in July 2012. She was experiencing a lot of pain due to her chronic Lyme disease, which at that time was still undiagnosed. Jessica had spent a lot of time in the wheelchair that summer, and the convention was no exception. In fact, Jessica says her “worst time managing [the chronic Lyme disease] emotionally” was during that Tennessee trip. Every night during the convention, she’d sing herself to sleep with one of her original songs, “Do You Hear Me?” Her singing was a way to cry out to God. “Do you hear me? Do you see my aching heart? Can you feel the pain that’s tearing me apart? This trial feels so long. Oh where have you gone? Do you hear me?” Then, by the grace of God, while Jessica was still in Tennessee, she got word from her mom that her song, Beauty For Ashes, had gotten her in to the Gideon Festival’s Top 10 for songwriting and performing! This was yet another confirmation of the call on Jessica’s life to use her gifts of singing and songwriting.
THE GIDEON FESTIVAL
When Jessica got home from Tennessee, the clock was ticking. The Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival was in just two weeks! Jessica didn’t have the funds to make the big trip to North Carolina, so her friends started a secret Facebook page to help raise support for her to make the trip. Funds were raised for Jessica’s travels. Someone even donated their frequent flyer miles so Jessica could book a flight at no cost.
At Gideon, she was still suffering and in her wheelchair the whole time. But she decided and felt assured that whether she won or not, she was going because God clearly had someone there who needed to hear her song. It turns out, there were several people who were greatly ministered to by “Beauty for Ashes.” Fears and pain aside, Jessica played her heart out. She won 1st place in the songwriting category and 3rd place in the artist performance category.
AN ALBUM COMING TO LIFE
In the summer of 2013, Jessica’s guitar and songwriting teacher, Andre Rodriguez, suggested she should consider recording an EP. An Extended Play (EP) is a professional recording that includes more than a single, but doesn’t contain enough songs to be considered a full studio album. It’s usually comprised of five or six songs. So Jessica began putting together a portfolio of songs she could record for an EP. Keep in mind, Jessica was still 16 years old at this point. What were you doing when you were 16? Is this girl special or what?
GARNERING SUPPORT FOR A DREAM COME TRUE
Jessica knew that if she was ever going to record an EP, she’d need to raise funds. Because she was an unknown in the music industry and didn’t have a label or agent, it’d be up to her to fund the project. So in September 2013, she drafted a letter to family, close friends, and people who knew her well at church. In the letter, Jessica stated her goal to record the EP album, which made her feel particularly vulnerable since her dreams were now public. The first week, there was no response. Then, she received her first check in the mail. It was $600! Within a week or two, support was, according to Jessica, “insane.” It was then that she knew. She wanted to press forward and try to fund a full album. But God would need even more supporters to step forward for that dream to be accomplished.
KICKSTARTING THIS CALLING
With the EP funded, and a full album now a possibility, Jessica launched a Kickstarter Campaign in November 2013. Her goal? To raise an extra $5,000.00 to completely cover the costs of recording a full album. This was an all or nothing proposition. She’d meet her Kickstarter goal within the 30-day timeframe and receive the funds, or she wouldn’t meet the goal and wouldn’t receive any funds at all. So Jessica shared her Kickstarter page with hundreds, and asked family, friends and church members to spread the word. The Lord spoke. He continued to open doors for Jessica Joy. By the end of the 30-day time frame, her Kickstarter account was fully funded, thanks to the generous financial donations of her supporters. She exceeded her goal by over $1,000.00!
Jessica was well on her way to making another dream become reality. Her calling had been confirmed, yet again. And this time, in a big, big way. A full album, her first professionally recorded album, was now fully funded.
MOVING IN TO THE STUDIO
While Jessica was raising funds, God was putting together an incredible team of studio musicians. Her producer is from Nashville, and is guitarist for Christian artist, Natalie Grant. The rest of her band all tour professionally with renowned artists such as Owl City, Jeff Deyo, Jeremy Messersmith and Natalie Grant.
Everything was in place. Jessica was ready to record.
In February 2014, Jessica and her mother stepped foot into the recording studio for the first time.
She was just days from her 17th birthday.
She’d written this nine years prior…“Record my original album by the time I am 17.”
A friend’s mom had prophesied this a year and a half prior…“I will waste nothing in your life. You will bring down strongholds by your heart for worshipping me.”
Jessica’s album would be called Nothing Wasted.
Among the 11 original songs on the album? One of my favorites, You Waste Nothing.
God wasted nothing. Nothing. Jessica Joy’s journey was ordained from the beginning. And the journey’s just begun.
Will you join me next Monday, September 22, as I write about my day with Jessica in studio? It was one of the most amazing, incredible and inspiring days I’ve ever experienced. I’m so excited to share a bit of it with all of you. You’re invited, right here, to witness dreams come to life. God’s call on one young woman’s life has become reality, is becoming reality. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.