“Turn on ‘Ever Lifting’!” 9-year-old Molly calls from the van seat behind me.
“Here,” I say, handing my iPhone back to her. “Can you find it? I can’t look while I drive.”
She scrolls through my music and gasps at the album cover of Into the Glorious. “Mom! Christy Nockels is so pretty!”
“She is, isn’t she?” I smile. “Look at her beautiful hair!”
The song begins, and we worship at the top of our lungs all the way to ballet class.
“You’re lifting my head so I know You’re near me! You’re lifting my eyes so I see You clearly. Where I belong … You are where I belong!”
I’ve been a fan of Christy Nockels ever since a friend gave me her song “Glory Baby” after my miscarriage several years ago. Nockels and her husband, Nathan, recorded “Glory Baby” with their duo, Watermark, in 2000. Into the Glorious is Christy’s second solo album. The first, Life Light Up, released in 2009.
When Into the Glorious released in April, it debuted at No. 2 on the iTunes Christian and Gospel Charts. But Christy’s music, to me, goes beyond the rave reviews and her three Dove Award nominations. Something in the way Christy writes — heartfelt lyrics rich with scripture — and in the way she sings — with authenticity and depth — makes me feel as though she “gets” me. She understands my struggles, my love for God, and my soul’s desire to worship in the middle of life — even in a minivan, on the way to ballet class.
Christy Nockels, to put it simply, is the real deal.
And … she has fabulous hair.
Christy and I share a few things in common. We are both pastors’ daughters, and we were both raised in Oklahoma. Christy now lives in Atlanta with her husband/producer Nathan and their three kids. As one of the founding families of the Passion City Church there, Nathan and Christy lead worship at the Passion Conferences with Louie Giglio. Recently, I had the chance to ask Christy about it all … music, ministry, and even her great hair.
Into the Glorious is personal, worshipful. It feels as though you let us peek into your prayer journal — or that you’ve been peeking into ours. Talk about the journey of the album. What did God teach you as you wrote?
Well, I had a few stops and starts in the writing and recording process which at the time felt really discouraging, but now in hindsight it makes perfect sense to me. I initially started the writing process because it was technically time to start a new record, but the Lord quickly had me realize that He wanted to take me much deeper. I discovered that I was going to have to lay down my entire agenda and even give up the idea of releasing a record in order to go deeper with Him. Now I see His love and faithfulness through it all, but at the time it was a bit scary and painful.
I basically took about 3 months to just focus on my relationship with the Lord and to remember my original identity in Jesus Christ. I shed lots of tears, did a lot of journaling, discovering, and praying. I saw places in my heart where there was sin, that I didn’t even really know to call sin, and confessed it and laid it down. It was one of the sweetest times of my life.
Towards the end of that process, I couldn’t stop the songs, they were literally pouring out! One of the greatest things that God taught me through this writing process was that I could pray for the songs in their infancy. As soon as I would get an idea, concept, or theme for a song, I would begin praying, usually just while I was driving and going about my day, and asking God to use it to deeply minister and heal people when they hear the song. What was really sweet was that later, while I was singing the vocals for the songs, I would remember the prayers I had prayed before the song was even finished and I would just start weeping! We would have to stop recording for a minute, I’d gather my composure and then lift my hands and sing, believing with all my might that God would answer the prayers I had sown into the songs. I don’t think I’ll ever write and record the same after this album. It set the bar for me spiritually as one of the sweetest experiences of my life.
One of my favorite songs, “For Your Splendor,” references the Book of Ezekiel. Can you share the story behind it?
This song has been rolling around on my tongue for a few years, but it wasn’t until after that “pruning process” of having to lay every bit of my agenda and my heart down that I was able to finish it. It does have some Ezekiel 47 in it and some Isaiah 61, it’s the beautiful picture of our lives as trees, planted by streams of water … the water that flows from the Sanctuary. The first part of the song is the realization that it’s the roots, not the blooms, that grow the branch and bear the fruit … so it matters where we’re planted. Then it moves to the pruning. You’re bare and cold, but you know that the One who knows best has seen fit to cut away what doesn’t need to be there. It’s painful, but ultimately it’s His loving protection over us. You know His way is the best way, but it’s hard because everyone’s watching and it’s hard when people find out you don’t really have it all together. Then it moves to that joy when you first feel yourself sprouting new growth again … you get the visual of limbs growing out strong and bearing the best fruit you’ve ever tasted. This song is just about His process of growing us. His way truly is the best way, especially when we surrender to it. We truly become a display for His glory and His splender.
At Ungrind, we’re working women, wives, and moms like you. How do you balance everything, and still find time and motivation to be with the Lord — to come “out from the ordinary, into extraordinary?”
Isn’t this the question that we all secretly hope that some woman out there knows the answer to? I will say, it is a fight, the good fight that is. We have had to be as intentional as possible with the moments that we have. I think I’ve realized most of all that I cannot compartmentalize my life with three growing children. They are 11, 9, and 4 now and are moving into a place of truly needing to be mentored on top of being fed, clothed, and loved. I’ve also discovered that I can invite my children into my ministry more than I think I can. When I do, they absolutely light up! Before I wrote this record, I knew the task before me was going to be difficult to balance, so I sat all three kids down and just told them my predicament. I said, “Mommy has to write 12 songs.” They looked at me with blank stares at first. Then I asked them, “What are some ways you could help Mommy write songs?” Before I knew it, they were spouting off all these ideas about helping around the house, loving each other, giving me some alone time, etc. It sounds simple, but it was the sweetest moment. When we got the artwork for the record it was so fun to sit down with them and look at it together and they were so proud of it, which meant the world to me. They felt a part of it.
Most of the songs were written right in the mini-van, with them in tow, lifting up to God the very ordinary moments that I had and asking Him to make them extraordinary somehow. He was faithful to answer the prayers that I prayed. I think we can let the mundane absolutely suffocate us. I admit, sometimes I surrender to it … but it’s nothing short of miraculous what God can do when we hold up those moments to Him! This record is proof of that in my little world.
Last January’s Passion Conference raised over $3 million to fight human trafficking. As a worship leader for Passion, talk about this incredible ministry, and how we can “sing along” in our own areas of influence.
Being a part of the Passion Movement for the past 15 years is hands down one of the greatest joys of my life. What I love the most is that the heartbeat of Passion has not changed through the years, which is Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in Your way of truth, we wait for You, for Your name and Your renown is the desire of our souls.” Through the years we have watched God unfold that truth even more in our hearts. If His name and His glory is our desire, that means we are about what He is about. We ask Him to break our hearts for what breaks His … we have come to believe that worship and justice must be wed together.
The privilege of worshiping Jesus comes with the tremendous calling of caring for those who cannot care for themselves. I wrote the song “Sing Along” not knowing that it would be woven into the Passion 2012 moment for students to rise up and stand against human trafficking in their lifetime. It was a prayer I was praying that became a song in the night, like a little lullaby. I’m always amazed how God can take our little songs in the night and turn them into anthems. Songs are one of the ways that I can embrace the responsibility of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. For others, it might be making jewelry or baking goods to raise money or maybe starting a non-profit to benefit those in great need. Whatever it looks like, our lives can “sing along” with His song that is rising up all over the world.
On a recent webstream, you quoted Louie Giglio as saying, “Lead from who you are.” What does that look like?
This is something that God has really been teaching me lately, and Louie taught on it at our worship leader collective called “LIFT” at Passion City Church this past Spring. It was so good!
That concept really collided with this vision that God periodically has given me while leading people in worship. I see myself and it’s as if I’m leading people as a 7-year-old little girl, which is actually when I first gave my heart to Jesus. I feel like it’s God’s way of saying to me that my credibility to lead people comes from being His daughter and to always lead from that place and that identity. I think by saying, “lead from who you are,” it means that you are leading from that original place of being found in Him … that You are His daughter.
If God has you in a position of leadership, it’s so beautiful to lead from this place because you are able to identify that it’s nothing in and of yourself that got you there … it’s all about who you are in Him. I think that’s the importance of renewing our minds and our hearts of who we are in Him so that we can lead from that place all the time. I find it so loving of the Lord, particularly when I’m standing before 45,000 people leading them in worship, that He will give me that picture of me leading as a little girl. It’s like I’m standing there before all the people with my boyish haircut and my 7-year-old chubby cheeks, just completely vulnerable and humbled. It frees me though, in the sweetest way, to just be thankful I’m His and that He has allowed me to lead from that precious place.
Who are the biggest influences — musical and non-musical — on your life?
My parents have been really strong influences in my life. Although certainly flawed like me, they made some really great choices with me that I truly feel shaped my life in the sweetest way. From my earliest memories, I remember understanding that when I open my mouth to sing, it’s for Jesus. They instilled in me a love for God’s Word and a love for music that eventually would form this songwriting habit I have and love. They never forced singing or music on me, but rather just gave me amazing influences and great Christian music to fall in love with. My earliest influences were Sandy Patti, Amy Grant, Honeytree, Evie, The Imperials, and The Cruise Family … all musically and spiritually shaping me into the writer and singer I’ve become.
When my husband and I met, it might sound strange, but Nathan himself became one of the greatest influences in my life. I look up to him in so many ways … his integrity, his musicality, his creativity, and his work ethic. He is an amazing Dad to our children and continues to make such wise choices in life.
Beth Moore has also been a sweet friend to me throughout the years. I always say “I knew Beth Moore before she was Beth Moore.” I met Beth in my early 20’s, just fresh into music ministry, and she continues to be someone who inspires me and encourages me deeply. Of course, Louie and Shelley Giglio, founders of the Passion Movement and pastor of our church, Passion City Church … our lives have not been the same since the day we first met! It is such a joy to be on this journey with them.
Describe the perfect afternoon.
I love that you asked this … a Latte at a little cafe, then maybe hit a couple of antique flea markets … then meet up with Nathan for dinner and a movie.
What’s your favorite meal, and with whom would you share it?
Definitely “Lupe Tortilla” in Houston, Texas, with our kids and close family. I heart Tex Mex! We lived in Houston for a while and fell in love with it!
And most importantly, what’s the secret behind your fabulous hair?
Ha ha! The secret, I guess is genetics! I truly believe that God gave me good hair because He knew I’d never have time to deal with bad hair! Literally there are times I’ve rolled out of my bunk on the bus and have thrown a bit of make-up on and walked on stage! It’s naturally curly, but I do sometimes use a curling iron to define the curl … listen to me, I’m totally getting into styling procedures now! You were probably just being nice, so thanks!
For more on Christy and her album, Into the Glorious, visit her website.
Enter Our Giveaway!
We have one copy of Christy’s CD Into the Glorious to give away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment.
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This contest closes on Monday, May 30th, 2012, at 12 a.m. Our apologies to our international readers, but it’s only open to those residing in the United States.
This contest is now closed. We chose our winner using Random.org’s Integer Generator. Congratulations to our winner, Janice Barnard!