16th September 2019 marks the three year anniversary since I launched as a Christian singer/songwriter.
Each year on the same date, I release a blog looking back over the year’s highlights, and each time I’m more astounded and moved as I reflect on all that God has done for me and through me. I hope you’ll be excited and encouraged too!
Kicking off, at number 20…
My CD got onto an actual shop shelf
I’M ON A SHELF! Thanks to John and the wonderful team at Lyttelton Well, this year my CDs feature for sale on Malvern high street. ❤️ Please support your local Christian bookshop, we’re so lucky to have them.
National publications shared my story
In December I woke up next to Prince… on the front cover of The Good News Paper! 😎 It’s an honour to be a part of the hope and healing this publication spreads across the UK. Not long afterwards, I also got the opportunity to share my story in articles for HEART Christian Newspaper, UCB’s Word For Today and music & mental health magazine, MHMUK – those last two editions will be released around November. It amazes me how God keeps finding new ways to spread the word about what He did for me. He is epic. 💪
TONS of new music - and national airplay
This year I’ve had the opportunity to release a whole bunch of new music – almost a track a month over the summer! To my amazement and excitement, UCB1 added Invincible to their national playlist in February, and UCB2 accepted One More Mountain in June, Chapters in August and I Am Safe in September. I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve had for this year’s releases. Much of this success is thanks to Dave Wheeler and his cohort of collaborators. At 72, Dave is 45 years my senior, but God knew what he was doing when he orchestrated our meeting at Resound Media last year. We sort of accidentally became great friends, sharing ideas and even performing together (more on that later!)
That time a whole song learned and sang Journey On
Children at Kings Caple Primary Academy sang Journey On at their Harvest Festival, and I can’t tell you how awesome it was. The whole school had learnt it (apparently it’s their favourite out of all the songs they learnt for the service), and to hear them performing it in front of parents, peers and teachers – and ME cos I was invited as a guest – was just a breathtaking moment that I won’t forget in a hurry.
I didn't get arrested
Oh you know, that time Ab and I went up the Malverns to get some lovely “victory” shots, and kinda caused a mild emergency services panic. (How were we supposed to know a red smoke grenade on top of a hill is the international symbol for “save me, I’m dying”?!) At least the two lovely coppers who climbed the 300m elevation arrived on the scene in good spirits (albeit a little out of breath) and with their sense of humour well intact – bless you lads.
Started work on my first full album!
I’ve always felt that God has directed my steps along this journey, right back from the first moment I heard Him say, “Go”. But over the past year or so, it’s like I’ve had stepping stones to follow; a voice saying, “this is the way, walk in it”. Collaborators, co-writers, producers and friends have come into the picture, bringing with them songs like Journey On which have been catalystic in my work. So, it may not surprise you when I tell you that every song, every collaboration over the past year has been pointing to one theme – Mountains. The album brings together every God-sent song in this season; listening to it will be like taking a step back and looking at a tapestry as a whole, beautiful work of art, made up of countless unique threads woven into my year. And, just like Jesus, it’s coming VERY soon…
Beyond The Mountain was Artist of the Week on UCB2 AND Premier
Being selected as artist of the week is like having a song recognised by ‘professionals’ as outstanding amongst the others released around the same time. It feels like a huge honour, and this year One More Mountain got the distinction on both UCB2 and Unsigned on Premier Christian Radio (thanks to the marvellous Loretta Andrews who was so supportive), which was a really significant moment for Matt and I.
Bigger Than Dreams celebrated its 1st birthday 🎂
The Bigger Than Dreams tour turned one in February, and though it’s taken a back seat over the summer while Beyond The Mountain took off, I still grab every opportunity to run the uplifting shows. It turns out that along the way, we’ve shared the story and music of God’s power in my life with well over 1,000 people – and that if you plotted a route to all 16 locations it would clock up 350 miles, and take nearly 8 hours to drive 😱 Bigger Than Dreams has been bigger than I could have dreamt (I should have seen it coming, right?)! I’m so thankful to every venue that has supported the mission – from chilled out cafés of Christians re-focusing on God, to packed out school halls full of children discovering their God-given talents and passions. What a beautiful adventure.
Journey On got #9 in the UK independent Christian chart
It’s hard to find the words when amazing news like this comes along. It’s a massive achievement – my first ‘Top Ten’ (perhaps it won’t be the last?!) and I couldn’t say that without all your help. Dave Wheeler (who co-wrote the song with Andy Baker) was also thrilled to bits, so on behalf of us both, an enormous THANK YOU to A Step Fwd for the opportunity and to everyone who voted.
Ran my first church retreat day
Accompanied by both the parentals, we led a whole day of worship, workshops and teaching in a small church in Merthyr Tydfil. I sang, shared my testimony and led a Bible study that brought a fresh perspective on my experience of healing. I was so blessed by the day in April, it was an exciting stretch of my comfort zone and challenged me in loads of areas. Most excitingly, we had loads of “God conversations” where it was clear that God was speaking directly into their situations and using us to do it. ❤
Kicked off a collaboration AND a tour!
On a sunny summer’s afternoon in 2018, two Christian musicians from different areas of the UK sat with fish and chips on a bench and wrote a song. We had no idea that within 12 months we’d be touring our mountain-themed music and stories, sharing the experiences of what we’ve overcome and what God’s done in us, to national audiences. God has blessed and used the Beyond The Mountain collaboration more than we could have dreamed; I’ve lost count of the number of people who told us that our performance was exactly what they needed to hear. Collaborating has been an amazing learning experience for me too, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Matt Hurley, now someone I can call a great friend as well as a great musician.
``Let me speak to my manager about that``
Back in January I shared some pretty big news, which was that I’d felt clearly led into management (as in, being managed and mentored by a Christian expert in the industry). I was nervous about the ongoing cost – £50 per week – and knew that if God wanted to, He’d bring others in to share the journey and help offset some of that cost. I was absolutely stunned and amazed when, within a few weeks, 3 absolute heroes decided to come alongside me as regular sponsors, and two more very kindly gave one-off gifts towards the project. Thanks to their awesome, generous hearts, half that weekly cost was covered within days. This was staggering in itself, but the ways management helped and shaped me over the year is in another league of crazy. The whole process has been a miraculous blessing, and provided insight and opportunities that have fed into everything I’ve been involved in this year.
Smashing body image barriers with UCB
Back in April, UCB2 shared several testimonies of eating disorder recovery on their morning show, including mine. The different accounts all pointing to Jesus were so powerful, and I felt fresh gratitude that I was able to play a part. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, four months later I was contaced by gorgeous UCB2 presenter Chloe Wilson, who’s new to the station, inviting me to join a special Bank Holiday show discussing body image and how we cope with those pressures as Christians. I felt honoured to be invited, and of course agreed. The whole show was really profound. I came away very impacted by the conversation, and penned a few thoughts I felt particularly important to share, read them here.
I went to prison (and got let out again)
This year I got to use the phrase “Sorry I didn’t text you back, just got out of prison.” We told 45 women in HMP Peterborough that Jesus is real and loves them, that there is power in His name, and that each of them has special talents and passions purposefully designed by Him just for them. Their response was amazing. They were a diverse audience; some shouted lively responses and sang or clapped along occasionally, while others sat and closed their eyes or nodded meaningfully. The whole room engaged and made us feel so welcome. All this was made possible by my friend and musical accomplice Dave Wheeler, who has been working with the women of Peterborough Prison for years, forming a choir and being a light in that dark place. I really can’t wait to go back!
Performing at Rivercamp and Creationfest
I don’t think Matt and I had any idea at all the kind of places we’d get to play together when we first shared our passions and got excited about collaborating. Until last month, I thought things couldn’t get much more exciting than playing at the renowned Creationfest and live on national radio with UCB and Premier. Now another amazing experience joins the list as Beyond The Mountain had the honour of opening for Rivercamp‘s evening worship at the end of August. Worshipping to Least in a tent with like 1000 other Christians was massive for me. I’m really grateful for that chance, thank you Rivercamp/Jesus. ❤
Chapters got #7 in the UK independent Christian chart
Yep, as it turned out my first ‘Top 10’ was not the last! This is the most recent landmark to join the list, as I got the amazing news earlier this week, and it’s been a massive blessing in a week of massive blessings. Thank you so much to everyone who voted, and for A Step Fwd who nominated us, it’s a huge achievement and I’m truly blown away. (I say ‘us’ because, just like last time, this song was written by Dave Wheeler and Andy Baker! Talk about a dream team!)
We filmed a second EPIC music video
Work on the One More Mountain music video began in April, and after a few hurdles and the tragic passing of a little owl who stole our hearts, a powerful film started to unfold. Just like the days spent filming Journey On, God chose the perfect weather for us. Bright blue skies will bring the victory story to life, while whipping winds highlight altitude. Dark, intimate shots depict the realities of depression and anxiety; mountains that seem impossible to overcome – but nothing is impossible with God. We’ve been so blessed with the team, thanks to my extremely brilliant videographer friend Luke Sutton. The teaser dropped on Tuesday along with the announcement of the release date: October 10th; World Mental Health Day.
Beyond The Mountain's mad, hilarious day at UCB
Ruth O’Reilly-Smith (the world’s loveliest person) and Simon Tuck (the world’s most insane person) each invited Matt and I onto their UCB2 shows to play music, talk about God’s work in our lives and share our heart for Beyond The Mountain. (It was essentially a Beyond The Mountain gig – just live on national radio!) Ruth interviewed us live on her morning show, digging into the stories behind us and the songs we performed – including One More Mountain. Simon’s hilarious show aired on 24th May – One More Mountain’s release day – and was mainly a loud, mad argument about the best way to eat bacon, with songs.
My interview with CBN went global
In August, a few weeks after finishing a powerful testimony video with CBN Europe, we got the breath-taking news that CBN USA had picked it up. They are going to translate it into several other languages including Arabic and Bangla and show it in the Middle East. I was speechless. God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.
All the times God has moved
💥 I’ve met people with anorexia, or other mental health struggles, who have come and heard my story, and have had their faith strengthened that healing is possible through Jesus.
💥 At every single live event, someone asks me to put them in touch with someone who can provide prayer ministry for their own illness/challenge, and often I hear back from them that healing and deliverence has taken place and their lives have been turned around. Come on!!
💥 A new artist (LOVKN) was passed on to UCB by a supporter, who saw my journey and believed it might be possible for someone else too. His music now plays on UCB1!
💥 Occasionally I get to actually meet with people who went for prayer ministry, and see for myself how their lives have changed. This year I’ve met three, they’re all now plugged into churches and are moving forwards in life and faith! <3 It’s like they’ve woken up. Our God is so powerful guys.
💥 Time after time, I also meet people after shows whom God has been prompting into their own ministry, and the themes that came out during the evening were exactly what they needed to hear. (I had the awesome privilege to hear from one lady who acted on a prompting she felt to become a foster carer; she is now an approved carer and God is using her mightily through that obedience!)
BOOM – this is what we are achieving on this musical mission! This is why God asked me to ‘Go’ all those years ago! I can’t thank you enough for your prayers and support, it’s really having an impact for the kingdom. It’s only by God’s grace that I even know about all these miracles – how much more must happen behind the scenes that we’ll never know?! Wow, wow, wow.
WHAT A YEAR?!
I couldn’t have got to this stage without the love and support of so many people. Thank you.
If you’d like to walk the journey with me, I’d love to add you to the email catch-up club. Sign up here and I’ll send you a fun update every month – it’s a blast! See you there. 🙂