I was shaking as we neared the address where we were all supposed to meet. What if I froze up? What if they overlooked my ideas? Or worst of all, what if I had nothing to contribute? I was heading into my very first team songwriting experience and I had no idea what to expect.
How did I get here? Well, back in 2019, before Covid-19 hit, my worship leader was talking about how our church was going to start writing their own songs. This got my attention. I loved music, writing, and playing the keys on my worship team. As usual, I blurted out my thoughts without thinking too much first. “Can I write with you guys too?” I asked excitedly. He just shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know, maybe someday.”
He most likely forgot all about this conversation. But I didn’t. He said maybe someday and I took this as fact. I held onto it.
Then the start of 2020 came, and with it, the pandemic. The whole world shut down and I was terrified and alone. Separated from my family and church friends I was confined to the residential facility in Florida in which I reside. No one in or out. That was the rule. I went from spending at least three days a week at church or with friends to nothing.
I was crying and depressed. Feeling sorry for myself. But then I felt a gentle tugging at my heart, and I knew what I needed to do. Pray.
After I prayed, I gathered myself and picked up my guitar. I began playing some chords and a tune immediately came into my mind. The words followed and came so quickly I could barely write them down fast enough. It was like I had always known that song.
My staff got my phone and recorded me playing it. I posted it on Facebook, hoping it would bring encouragement to others during such a hard and scary time. That song, called Father, Watch Over Us ended up spreading far and wide and even was seen by my head pastor and worship leaders. My pastor contacted me and asked if he could share it on the church’s page. I was honored.
Fast forward to the end of 2020, and the state of Florida had started to lift restrictions on the quarantine. My church was able to gather again, and I got to attend a live recording of their first album of worship songs. It was a beautiful experience. After the event, I was running around trying to find all of my friends that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. That’s when I got introduced to the worship director. And I asked again if I could write songs with them. “Sure!” He said.
Wow! It was actually going to happen! It took a few months, but the day was finally set up that I would go write a song with three other worship leaders.
It had been such a long time coming but it finally was happening. If I hadn’t simply came out and asked, I may have never gotten the chance.
Now I was so nervous pulling into the driveway. Everyone was inside waiting for me. I knew them, and they knew me, but I was worried I would let them down. We chatted for a few minutes and then we prayed. After that the leader asked if anyone had any song starts. I pulled out my worn composition book where I wrote down every lyric or line that ever came to me. I began reading a piece of a song I had started, and he stopped me at the first line.
“I can hear it.” He said. And he started playing some chords on his guitar as I shyly sang the melody I had been thinking of. From there we took off! Verse and chorus ideas were flowing. I was contributing even more lines from my book and other new lines right on the spot! We were smiling and laughing and singing. When it came time to write the bridge, the melody and phrasing came up through me and we wrote the lines in minutes! What a beautiful moment in time.
The ending result was a praise and worship anthem that moves the soul. We sang it together and recorded a video which I keep watching over and over, reliving that moment. I wish I could share it right now, but the song has to go through many more steps before it can be released. But as soon as it is I will let you know.
What I learned from this experience is, even if you have autism or are/feel different in some way, don’t count yourself out. And don’t accept for others to count you out either. Speak up and let people know your wishes, goals and skills. The answer might be yes or it might be no, but don’t give up. If one way does not work out, find another way. If it is something you really want. Do not let even a pandemic come between you accomplishing your goals. Things might have to be on pause, but keep working on your skills in the meantime. This goes for music, art or any other skill set you may have.
Having autism may get in my way sometimes. But I try not to let it keep me from accomplishing what I want to do in my life. Through the years I have learned on my own how to adapt to situations and to communicate effectively (often blunt, but it gets the job done).
This took me many years to teach myself, but I hope I can educate and inspire the next generation of musical autists to reach for their goals even sooner than I did. This is our time, let’s do it!