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Emily Smailes ENC1101 July 8, 2012

Smailes1 Paper One: Creative Narrative

Going back to my seventh grade year, I remember sitting in my room staring at this beautiful acoustic Yamaha guitar that had never been touched. I wanted to take lessons, but I never sacrificed the time. So I decided to teach myself. I sat down with a chord chart in one hand and the sheet music for “Here I am to Worship” in the other. I began to play and within just a few hours I was playing a popular chord progression while singing a familiar tune. I had no clue that this was just the beginning of finding my true passion in life. Even though I explored many different genres, I always favored contemporary Christian worship music out of all of them. After my first year of practicing the guitar, I was asked to play in my youth group’s worship band at my local church, Crestview Baptist Church. All I could think about was how I continuously failed at trying to play a C chord for the first time and here I am being asked to take a position that I was clearly not ready for. “I just started playing a year ago…” I explained to my youth pastor. But his response forced me to agree as he replied, “Emily, you’re much more ready than you’ll ever be. You can’t just expect God to use your talent if you just sit there and be silent. Get up and use what the Lord gave you.” That little nudge of encouragement was all I needed to get me up on that stage. Only to find out that what I thought I wasn’t ready for ended up being what I enjoy the most. Over the next two years, I continued to play the acoustic guitar, sing lead vocals in our youth worship band, and take on other responsibilities as a student leader. Soon church became more than just a family event. It gave me an opportunity to help others by using my passion. I created relationships with people there that I called my church family and I got involved with the


Smailes2 ministry groups there at the church. Crestview started to become less of a church and more of a home. I felt comfortable. Though comfortable may seem like a great place to be, it sometimes can be a bit of a danger zone. Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights became too relaxed. I lost the groove of things and it just didn’t felt right. So I decided to switch things up a bit. One night as I was sitting in my room, practicing my set list for Wednesday night’s worship service, I stopped and thought to myself, “What am I doing? Am I really fulfilling my purpose as a worship leader? Where did that fiery flame go every time I sang and played the guitar? And why did it just disappear?” My mind continued to run on for several minutes before I paused, opened my Bible, and began to read. I came across the book of Acts and stayed for a while. Eventually Acts 20:35 struck me hard as I slowly read it over and over again in my head, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I had finally realized that I had lost the groove of things because I had lost sight of my own true purpose. This opened my eyes and gave me a new motivation. I didn’t really think it over or reason with myself before I began writing. It just happened. The lyrics just flowed from my pencil as I wrote on the back of my Wednesday night sheet music. The chorus was the first thing I wrote down: “…No one ever said that it was easy letting go of things that aren’t worth living for. Letting go is never too late….” I wanted to share something with the world. Something everyone could relate to. When reading Acts 20:35 I began to recognize how selfish and demanding our world truly is. I began to journal my thoughts, my hope, my prayers. “God, please open our eyes to the things unseen. It is so easy to be swayed by the way of the world and to fall short in your glory. Teach me Lord to let go of my old ways and


Smailes3 use me to lead others to your great love.” I took that journal entry and I held onto it as I continued writing one of my first songs, “Letting Go.” Through every word I wrote down I made sure that those lyrics spoke the truth. So that maybe, just one person could see that it is never too late to let go of the things that hold us back. When I was finished, I wrote down the chord progression that I had stuck in my head as the lyrics poured from my hand and it was done. I had just finished writing my first music composition. As I read over the lyrics I realized how much the song truly reflected my life and what I was going through at the time. Because I was in my comfort zone at church I was unable to be the worship leader that I was supposed to be. This song made a huge impact in my life and I prayed that this same message would make an impact on others. That next Wednesday night after the service was over and most of the church members had left, I pulled Steve Rippy, my youth pastor, aside and asked him if I could play him a song I had written recently. “Sure! I’d love to hear it! I had no idea you wrote!” he said. As I pulled out my old Yamaha acoustic guitar I smiled and said, “Neither did I.” When I finished playing this time, I was speechless. It was different than any other time I had played it before. This time I got lost in the lyrics and just utterly sang my heart out. “Wow…” Steve whispered to himself. “That is what worship is all about. The song was beautiful but the worship is what I am truly amazed by. Thank you so much for blessing me with such a grea..” and before he could finish his sentence, our church music director came bursting into the youth room, “Was that you Ms. Smailes?” I nodded my head as he continued. “I couldn’t help but listen in from the next room and I just had to ask if you could please share that with the congregation next Sunday morning?” Again I nodded my head, still unable to speak. “Alright


Smailes4 that’s perfect! I guess I’ll see you Sunday morning at seven then,” he concluded as he went the way he came. Still trying to comprehend what had just happened so fast, I turned back to look at Steve who was smiling more than ever. With my heart beating faster, suddenly, Brother Steve calmly gripped my shoulder and gave me a little pep talk, “You’ve got this Em. Just worship Sunday morning like you did a few minutes ago and remember, it’s not about you, it’s about Him. God has blessed you in so many ways and I hope and pray that you use these many blessings to please Him in every way possible.” By now my heart rate was finally at a normal pace so I simply smiled and said, “Thanks Brother Steve. I’ll try my very best.” Well, Sunday morning came and I, surprisingly, wasn’t nervous at all. I woke up that morning thankful for everything that God had given me, reflecting on the many blessings in my life. So when it was my time to share my piece with the congregation, I was ready to give all that had been given to me through this one song that I had written only two weeks ago. As the offertory prayer ended, I quickly picked up my guitar and took my place at the mic stand. I gave a short and sweet introductory and began playing... I began worshipping... and sooner or later the congregation was standing in worship with me. When I played my last chord I ended with a prayer and the feeling that I had as I walked off that stage was not pride or confidence, but knowing that I had given my all. Not for myself but for those people who needed to hear that message. Shortly after the service ended, I was approached by a young woman who seemed to have been crying. She grabbed my hands and began sharing with me her testimony. She spoke to me of how she had a bad family life until she came to church and made a “new” family here at Crestview. She also told me that she came to know salvation through the loss of her own sister


Smailes5 about three years ago. I could tell she had been through a lot but I still had no idea why she had chosen me to share all of this information with. She gripped my hands tighter and I listened intently as she spoke, “It’s been a year since I have quit smoking and drinking altogether but after recently losing my job and the passing of my father, it has been very hard to stay away from my old habits. I was actually thinking of going to a bar tonight with my old friends but after hearing your song I was reminded of God’s grace. I was reminded that it is never too late to say no to the things that our world offers and to say yes to being satisfied with only what He has to offer us.” She hugged me tight and told me how much she appreciated her sharing my song with her and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Before she left we sat down and sincerely prayed for each other. That was a life changing experience in which I will never forget. About a month later, my youth pastor’s wife, Katie Rippy, took me to a music convention near Indian Rocks Beach. Mrs. Katie also wrote Christian contemporary worship music and mentored me a lot as a worship leader. So here we were at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in a worship workshop class, listening to Kathryn Scott (a famous Christian artist/worship composer) speak about different composing techniques. The conference was three days straight and by the end of that last worship session I was so emotionally, spiritually, and mentally drained I seriously just wanted to crawl in my bed and sleep…in a good way of course. Overall, I took home several new worship and leadership techniques that weekend. One idea Kathryn Scott highly recommended was journaling. I always thought journaling was pretty lame and just a record of the latest rumors in high school. However, she made me realize that it’s not just some silly gossip book but instead it can actually help you reflect on your


Smailes6 thoughts and ideas. It also keeps everything together forever so you never forget that one phrase which could possibly turn out to be the new chorus to your new worship song. Since Kathryn Scott “highly recommended” it, I decided to give journaling a try. For the first few days I found it extremely hard to just sit down and write lyrics to just any song. Therefore, I began seeking for inspiration. I reached for my bible sitting on my desk, chose a random book, and began reading. This new habit never failed. No matter what book I chose, I always found a verse that stuck out to me. Quickly, I would jot in down in my journal and begin writing my thoughts which were more like prayers. Then those prayers would later be edited and transformed into lyrics. Next, I’d play around on the guitar and find a good chord progression followed by a catchy melody and after a few days or weeks of critiquing, I’d have a new worship composition ready to copyright. Ever since that Worship Convention, I’ve been writing in my prayer journal at least once a day and it’s been the greatest benefit to me as writer. Closer to the end of my junior year, Mrs. Katie and I were going out to Starbucks like we did every month just to catch up and talk about what’s new in our lives. Anyhow, I knew something was up because she ended up paying for both of our tall caramel macchiatos. As we sat down on the couch in the corner of the coffee shop, everything was normal until she said the words that everyone dreads to hear, “Emily, there’s something I want to tell you.” I casually smiled and replied, “I’m all ears.” After that she slowly told me that this was the last time we would be having Starbucks together. I thought that maybe she just wanted to start going to Panera Bread or Cold Stone right across the street instead, until she explained that Brother Steve had been offered a job as the new youth leader at a church in Maine.


Smailes7 Searching for the right words I finally said something, “Congratulations! When do you guys have to leave?” She paused before telling me, “Umm we leave in about a week…” My jaw dropped. I had known this couple for over 5 years. I was completely devastated but continued to be supportive since I knew that this was really hard for them too. “Well, no matter where the Lord leads you He will use you in great ways.” After talking for hours and sharing a few laughs and tears at our last little get together, we prayed for each other and went on our way. The next Sunday morning would be their last and they would also be announcing their departure from Crestview and their new adventure to Maine. Getting ready for church their last Sunday morning, all I could think about was trying to imagine what things will be like when they’re no longer at Crestview. I thought that it’d be much like losing your two best friends or a close aunt and uncle. However, I tried to grasp that they would still be just a phone call away. Surprisingly, I didn’t get emotional at all until I went up to gather my guitar and my sheet music from the stage. Sitting in the choir loft next to my old Yamaha acoustic was a beautiful electric/acoustic Alvarez guitar and a brand new light weight case with a big red bow and a note that read: Emily, I hope that this guitar is a blessing in your life as you have been to the Rippy family. Please know that we are behind you and the music that you play for the Lord. God is in control and has amazing plans for your life. If you ever need anything please call us. We love you! In Christ, The Rippy’s P.S. “Let us not grow weary in doing good” – Galatians 6:9

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