A Little Bit About Me

Recently, a friend asked me a few questions. So, I thought I would share my answers with you…

1. Tell me about yourself: 
I am a worship pastor at my home church, CCV. Beyond that, I am the first full-time female worship pastor that my church has encountered. This has shaped my journey in a very meaningful way and I wouldn’t have it any different. My journey as a believer has always been about stretching myself through uncomfortable moments. God calls me out of my comfort to do His work, and it is in those moments that I grow the most. My goal as an artist/songwriter/worship-leader is to point people to God and his Word through passionate and refreshing music.

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2.  What brings you inspiration when writing songs?
Inspiration is found all around and can vary from song to song, but for the most part I feel that I am inspired by SCRIPTURE and STORY. Through scripture, I am able to take the actual word of God and put it into song. This is my favorite way to write! I love the beauty of God’s word. It is refreshing and deep and full of wisdom. It makes my job that much easier because God is already so creative. Story is another inspiration; this could be my own story and how God is teaching me and shaping my own life, or it could be the stories of others and the amazing testimony that God has given them. I also love writing from the perspective of my church’s story. This could come from the pastor’s messages or the overall joy/struggle of the church at the time. There is so much to a story and I love capturing that in a song.

3.  Why did you dive into songwriting?  What pushed you past leading worship into creating songs for people to worship to?
Well, I first started writing in high-school when I was sad about a break-up or so in love that I couldn’t stand it. My writing revolved around my emotions. I used it as a journal of sorts and it helped heal my own heart. When I started leading worship in church, I realized that I could use that same energy to write for God. So I began writing worship songs. They were not very good at first, and it took me a while to understand the difference between writing for a secular venue and writing for the church. I will always be growing in that area! But the first time I sang one of my original worship songs for a service, the feeling was indescribable. Seeing people take the lyrics that I wrote in my quiet room and use them as a prayer to God was amazing. It is because of those moments and experiences that I continue to write congregational worship music.

4.  Can you remember a song that sparked a love for worship within you?  What was it about the lyrics or song that moved you?
When I first started leading worship, Hillsong was the powerhouse of all worship music. We played so many of their songs every week! I remember getting to lead out on Brooke Fraser’s songs, “Hosanna” and “Lead Me To The Cross”. Those two songs were instrumental in my development as a worship leader, especially being a female worship leader. I loved (still love!) Brooke Fraser and wanted to be just like her when I grew up! Her melodies were beautiful and her lyrics were powerful. My favorite part of “Hosanna” that I still sing today is the bridge: “Heal my heart and make it clean, Open up my eyes to the things unseen, Show me how to love like You have loved me, Break my heart for what breaks Yours, Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause, As I walk from earth into eternity.” Those lyrics still inspire me today, and point me into a deeper relationship with God.

5.  Out of the songs you have written, which one reflects your heart for God right now?
Out of the songs I have written, I would say that my song “Heart After You” reflects my heart the best. The lyrics of the chorus say: “Create in my a heart that’s clean, A heart that’s after You”. This song is based off of Psalm 51:10 and has been my prayer for a very long time. Whatever I do in my life or wherever I am, I want it to be because God has taken me there. I want my desires to be His desires. This is hard to do unless you have a heart after God’s own heart. So I choose to give him all of me, every part.

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Songwriting Goodness

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Today I leave on a songwriting retreat with Valley Worship. For those of you that don’t know, Valley Worship is the songwriting community I am a part of at my home church, CCV. I am super excited about this retreat! We have these trips about twice a year. We go far away (well an hour away, if that counts) and escape the business of our everyday lives, so we can solely focus on writing and being inspired.

I love our team because everyone has such a genuine heart and a passion to write songs that will touch people in a really deep and meaningful way. We start our retreats off with a few things… the first being prayer. Prayer is essential to these retreats because it is God who inspires our writing and if we are in tune with His spirit, we will be able to hear where he is leading us. The second thing we do is discuss. We discuss the state of our church… the stories of our people… the messages of our pastor… the DNA of our staff… anything and everything that will inspire us to write “from the church, for the church”. Our goal is that every song that we write for our church would be extremely relatable to everyone in our congregation. And that they would know exactly why we wrote the song and even in what season this song came from. After much prayer and discussion, we split off into our own individual writing time. During that time, we hope and pray for inspiration to write a song. And even if the inspiration doesn’t come, we write anyways! This helps us develop the discipline of writing. To start, I like to choose a scripture or a story from our church or a message from my Pastor and develop a song from there.
Usually one of those topics will always get my creative thoughts running.

After we have all had a few hours to work on our own, we present the songs to one another. This is the most vulnerable place because you are taking the song from private to public. And you hear critique. Ugh. And again I say… Ugh. But this is where the song takes life. And that is why I love co-writing so much. Songs are better when they are worked on over and over and over again, and they are worked on by different points of view and frames of reference. Once we critique songs… we repeat the process. And when we feel like we have good material, we record record record!! It is so easy to forget all of the ideas you came up with, so this is a crucial part of the process.

Songwriting is challenging and fun and creative and personal and lovely. So I ask for your prayers over the next few days. Specifically that God would inspire us all and we would be keen to hear His voice. Thank you from the bottom of our Valley Worship hearts. 🙂 Talk to you soon!

-Ashley