Hope for the Journey
JANUARY 2007 "I am privileged to have grown up with some of the greatest music influences and such a deep love for music," claims Marie. "Only God could have known through those years of growing pains what would become of the admiration and training." Influenced by musical greats of the era such as the Beatles, the Carpenters, the Beach Boys and Toni Tennille, Marie recalls literally listening to different singers for hours and hours in her room. "I have always wanted to sing, even though so untrained," she recalls. "I wanted to be Karen Carpenter in the worst way!" Teased by her family as not being able to hold a straight note, it was suggested by her parents that she take up an instrument and practice. She practiced the guitar and then the piano for a little while, but never really developed a desire to play either instrument. "As shy as I was, I wanted to be heard in some way." She settled on the drums, and settled on them well. Born with a talent in art, mostly portrait sketching and cartooning, she spent most of her high school education in the art field. "I was in a quandary," she reports. "My dad had high hopes for me being this great artist-to paint portraits in the streets of France. I took instruction as much as I could, but I didn't have the heart to tell him I still wanted to sing." In 1985 at the age of 21, Marie accepted Christ as her personal savior. "I remember immediately being called into the Evangelism field, but not really knowing in what. I remember being so disappointed with my Pastor at the time who insisted that I was called to do sideline work in the church and never be out in front." She recalls that the best thing that happened to her was to move to Renton, Washington for a period of two years and be given the role of intern in Evangelism at Calvary Baptist Church. The calling became stronger through the experience, though God had not yet made it clear that this calling would be in music. Feeling she needed to be equipped in the evangelism field, she made the decision in 1988 to attend Grand Canyon University, a Christian Liberal Arts College in Phoenix, Arizona. Boldly, she made the move to the college campus, older than most of her fellow students. "I almost dropped out at one point," she reveals, "because I was known as the old woman on campus...an old woman of 25." Still determined to please her father, in her first semester, she took courses in art and photography and was incredibly disoriented. Claiming she hated every moment of those classes, she decided to focus on the interest of psychology. "My mom claimed you needed a 'fall back' career." So she changed her major from Art to Clinical Psychology and pursued this interest up to the PhD program of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, at the extension campus in Phoenix. However, God didn't stop calling. This nagging feeling in her stomach, she decided to make music her elective past time. She breezed through music theory, all four semesters, with straight A's. "I sort of sneaked in to my parents' conversations that I was taking voice lessons. I don't know why I was so ashamed to tell them that I felt that I was supposed to sing." Beginning her first semester as an Alto, it was discovered halfway through the semester that she was indeed a Soprano with a three octave voice range. Her music repertoire was changed mid-stream and she was trained for the Opera arena, doing musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Cats and The Mikado. During vocal jury exams, she was questioned over and over again by her music professors about her desire to be a psychologist rather than a singer. "I really felt pressured during that first exam. They claimed that I had one of the strongest voices they had ever heard and it was HIGHLY suggested that I change my major. I was scared to change my major. Scared to fail and not be good enough." So, she changed her minor to vocal performance. Despite hearing her family's voices in her head about singing, and never feeling good enough to pursue vocal performance, by the time of graduation from undergraduate studies, Marie was already singing the special music at various churches across the state of Arizona, as well as leading music and worship at a small mission in South Phoenix. Though she remained in graduate studies in psychology after graduation, on the side, she pursued her dream of singing. "What I didn't know, however, was that it was God's dream too." By this time, Christian music influences had come into Marie's life. Sandi Patty mostly, but also Keith Green, Carman, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Steve Green. She was enamored with the life and ministry of Keith Green. "To be a servant like him in the highest capacity would be the best calling of all." Being up on stage across the state, she now knew what God had called her to do. Music Evangelism. She quickly signed up and auditioned for the traveling portion of the Billy Graham Crusade and became a worship team member. Sharing that those years between 1991 and 1994 were some of the greatest experiences, Marie stepped down from music altogether when the sole responsibility of raising a child with special needs became hers. "My world came crashing down in an instant when Emma was hospitalized with traumatic brain injury. I knew things would never been the same." By that time, she had already begun work on a solo album in Oklahoma City titled Ebb Tide. After her divorce, she moved to Texas, knowing that she was more able to be a single parent in Texas' economy. Shortly after her move, she lost both of her parents, seven months apart of each other. "All of a sudden, I was an orphan. A 35 year old orphan. My parents, despite all of their faults, were a source of my strength as a single parent. All of a sudden, they were gone. I felt alone, fell into depression and didn't know how to handle life in general." Her church in Texas at the time was no help through this ordeal and she felt such a dissatisfaction with God's people. "Though I never really stopped having a relationship with God, it became distant and I was resistant to being around God's people and being in church. If this had happened yesterday, I would have done the smart thing and just found another body of believers." She struggled with money, relationships, sometimes the law, and her daughter's progress and potential. "I told God 'thank you very much, I don't need Your help anymore' and that I would handle my life on my own, but I was at rock bottom with nowhere to go. I didn't know how to depend on Him." Marie ashamedly admits that she sought the help of a local psychic. "Hey, it was $40 and I was curious," she admits, "but what she told me was profound. She said she wasn't worried about Emma, my finances, my job, etc. She said she was worried that I wasn't doing what I was meant to do. The most profound statement was telling me that if I 'just came back into the light, I could be doing great things and travel all over the world.'" That session with the psychic in 2002 was just the first in a series of events that would lead Marie back to a congregation. She recalls that Emma would point to Firewheel Fellowship every time they drove by. She told Emma that they'd try it one day, but the pivotal point in this re-conversion was when Emma dug out Marie's Sandi Patty tapes. "When I auditioned for the College in the music department in 1988, I sang 'Almighty God'. Hearing the song again brought a wave of emotions I could not control and I remember dropping to my knees and asking God to forgive me for my years of silence in our relationship." A friend named Brian, who was pastoring a church in Oklahoma City at the time, became a key player in bringing Marie back to the stage. "He told me it was time," she says, and in October of 2002, nervous as a scared cat, she returned to the stage in Oklahoma City for her first concert after 8 years. Nearly fifty people in a congregation of close to 500 came forward during the invitation that night. God had called, one more time. "Though I still don't think my voice compares to those who have influenced me, there is not a doubt in my mind that God has called me to share His message with others through song. I've been told that I'm not star quality, but it's not about that. It's about communicating God's love and hope through redemption for the world. It's called trusting God and knowing Who to listen to. How many people in their lifetime get to do what they love most and know they are serving God?" Her concerts confirm that. Marie's focus remains on sharing Christ with a thirsty world. Though overwhelmed by the support of friends and congregations in this project, she strives to keep focused on the reason for Hope for the Journey. "If it all ends tomorrow and I'm taken into His glory, I'll still be doing what I love doing the most...singing."