I sat down at my piano once more. The house was quiet; I was alone. I stared at the keys for a moment, breathing in and out. That’s when I felt the words.
At eighteen years old, I can honestly say I’ve had things pretty easy for much of my life. Even the greatest of my struggles pale in comparison to some of others. But I am learning that no experience in life is trivial. All joy, all pain, all confidence and all doubt, however great or small, is meant to shape us into who we must become. And man, has this past year been shaping me.
Enter seventeen-year-old Cassidy. It was June of 2013, and I had just finished my Junior year of high-school and begun the college application process. For years, I had dreamed of studying at Belmont University in Nashville, so I applied there at my earliest opportunity and was accepted. I didn’t even consider looking anywhere else. But (luckily) my parents did. So I applied to another, much smaller Christian college in Tennessee (which was a weird situation, but that’s a story for another time), where I was also accepted. I was determined to study in Tennessee. But then I got my financial aid award letters. Both schools were very generous by their standards, but it simply wasn’t enough. My parents began discussing backup options. The idea of Community College was tossed around more than a few times. This was particularly upsetting to me because from elementary age, I had been told by my parents and grandparents that I had to get good grades so that I could get scholarships, or I wouldn’t be able to go to college. So I had always striven to do my absolute best in all things academic. I’d had no more than a handful of B’s in my life. Such a clean academic record was supposed to be the answer to all my college doubts, right? Wrong. That’s when I began to have a realization that I wouldn’t become fully aware of until later on. Reality check No. 1: You cannot depend only on yourself, no matter how good you think you are. You will never be in control.
After I had taken time to absorb reality and reflect on what I already knew, that life goes on, I began to look at my local options. I calmed down, thanked God and tried to let go of my own plans in favor of a new, uncertain future. It was then that my mom discovered Liberty University. Everything about Liberty seemed to scream “CASSIDY YOU NEED TO APPLY HERE.” They were the only Christian school I found that offered a full-tuition scholarship for students who had received a Commendation from National Merit (as opposed to semi-final or finalists), which I had. They offered degrees similar to the ones I had been looking at for Belmont. They had worship Ministry Teams which students could audition to be a part of. So I applied and was accepted on full-tuition. I also got into their Honors College and onto a Ministry Team. Reality check No. 2: When you let God be the controller of your life and don’t let your own ideas cloud your judgement, amazing things happen.
It seemed like everything was finally set and ready to go. I could sail into my new-found sunset without a second thought…or not. Suddenly, people in Nashville began to have interest in my music. I met with folks and talked with pros who encouraged me to go the music route (which I already planned to do) by forgoing the whole college thing (which I had never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever even considered. Remember that whole thing about me prepping for college since elementary school?). Apparently going to college takes away from years that could otherwise be formative in the career of a music artist. Ever since eighth grade (another story for another time), I’ve felt that God has called me to music ministry, both in church and out of it. So as someone who hoped to someday be a recording artist, this troubled me. I had never thought that something as beneficial as a college education could actually hinder a career. I began to doubt everything. At first I doubted that I was called to minister through music as a recording artist. Then I doubted that I was really meant to go to college. I tried so hard to figure it out, but then I became consciously aware of what I had already learned- remember reality check no. 1? So instead I prayed. As a musician, sometimes my most “beautiful” prayers (though all prayers are beautiful to God) are those I write to music. I would sit at my piano and try to write, but the right words wouldn’t come. So I just played piano. (I don’t think God minds that at all, though. Sometimes the heart speaks more freely when the voice is silent.)
After weeks of discussions with my parents (who had also been given pause) and much prayer, it became apparent to me that all signs were pointing me to Liberty. I got back into the swing of college-planning. During that time, I decided to audition for a tri-state vocal contest on The JOY FM, a Christian radio station. The contest was called Cellphone Superstar, and it was something I had heard every year on the station and thought, “oh, I should do that next year,” which I would inevitably forget to do. This time, I found out about it during the last two days of auditions. In-light of upcoming departure, I decided that I needed to at least give it a shot and submitted mine the very last day. I didn’t believe that I would qualify, since the competition was among worship leaders (who can already surely sing) from three states. So when I was informed a few days later that I had made it into the top 16, I was overwhelmed. I sat down at my piano once more. The house was quiet; I was alone. I stared at the keys for a moment, breathing in and out. That’s when I felt the words. I finally had the words that I had long been trying to write. Within an hour, “Give Me Rest” was born.
I turned eighteen and went on to win Cellphone Superstar. I’m still overwhelmed when I think about it. The grand prize was an opportunity to have one song mixed, mastered, and recorded by Conrad Johnson (of the Christian band Chris and Conrad) at Inertia Sound Studio in Lakeland, FL. When I went into the studio for the first time, I intended to record another song of mine, due to some perfectionism-related skepticism I had about “Give Me Rest.” But Conrad insisted, and after some small lyrical revisions, my skepticism was replaced with excitement (verging on giddiness. I mean, come on. I was about to professionally record an original song. I was really, really happy.)
At the time I’m writing this, “Give Me Rest” is three days from release. It still echoes in my life. Even as busy as I am between last-minute preparations for college and seemingly endless social media promotion for the song, I still feel at rest. I feel like a work has been completed in my life, however small it may be. “Give Me Rest” is the musical verbalization of a prayer that’s been in my heart for a while. And through joy, pain, doubt, and confidence, it’s a prayer that God continues to answer.
I really hope you enjoy it!
Love in Christ,
And feel free to head over to http://www.cassidyclaire.net to find out what’s going on with my music and in my fascinating (*wink*) life, as well as to connect with me via social media. 🙂 I’d love to hear from you! Thanks, and God bless!