Christy Nockels, a Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter, shares how God led her to spend a year studying the beauty of Advent and how she has found “The Thrill of Hope” in every season of her life.
The Thrill of Hope: Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 23
Christy Nockels: When the Bible talks about hope, it’s through perseverance that hope comes. It’s often through just the everyday things of pushing through. Even sometimes the hardest of circumstances, when you think the door is not going to open, you press through and it opens, and it opens up to something you never thought was imaginable. So I think that what we experience and what we’re going through; it’s for the sharing.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with Dove Award winning singer-songwriter Christy Nockels. Christy shares how God led her through different seasons of her life as a musician and how also she spent a year walking through the advent season to create her brand new Christmas record “The Thrill of Hope.”
Finding the Song that Speaks to You
Christy: My name is Christy Nockels and I’m a wife, of Nathan Nockels, and a mother of three amazing children. Singer, songwriter, storyteller.
Well, I was raised in Oklahoma, and so we always joke that there wasn’t much to do. I was the youngest of three children. So you either get in trouble, which a lot of my friends did, or you become a musician. And that was me. I spent many hours out in our garage. Actually, I remember, that was the place that had great acoustics to me. And we always had cats and dogs; cats and dogs that were having kittens and puppies, so I was usually found outside singing and playing some kind of an accompaniment track on some big boom box kind of thing. While I’m out there playing with kittens, I’m practicing a song that I’m going to sing at church.
…it was always about finding the right song that spoke to me first.
My dad was a pastor my whole life and still is. I sang at church maybe once every couple of months and starting from the age of seven, he would kind of employ me to go find a song that, “…speaks to your heart first. I want you to find a song that speaks to you and something that you love. And then I want you to practice it. And then I want you to share it with our people.” So even thinking back on that, it wasn’t ever about my voice, it was always about finding the right song that spoke to me first.
My dad, still to this day, he loves the word of God and he prays the Word of God. He speaks to us with Scripture. He said that to me in his later years, you know just still growing, and I think that really inspires me; that even a pastor, after all this time, still loves the Word of God and incorporates it into everything. So I think that really taught me at an early age to weave the Word of God into my songs, and so there’s just this love of melody and Scripture.
The Start of Something More: Breaking Into the Music Scene
What started our career, if you want to call it that, or just our ministry days, was meeting my husband. That was such a huge pivotal moment of my life and I do feel like God was training me up to that point. When I met Nathan, it was like He saved this whole other part of my musical life, and many parts of my life, for that time for us to meet and to develop together as musicians and songwriters. This might sound cheesy, but I feel like there’s just a special anointing that He saved for when the two of us worked together.
So I thought, “Wow, what an amazing thing to be able to be a part of helping people communicate with a living God.”
We formed the group Watermark in ‘98 and signed with Rocketown Records. Of course, it was very grassroots the way that Rocketown even found out about us. Before we made a Watermark record, we made an independent record with our mutual friend Charlie Hall and we were called at that time “Sons and Daughters.” We were just thinking we’re just going to make some songs for our church here in Oklahoma. But little did we know, that’s back when people just made bootleg copies of things, and that CD was being passed around.
We had no idea, but it got to this guy, who we had never heard of, named Louie Giglio. We remember getting an email from him, back when email was a new thing, and seeing his name and we were like “Who is Louie Giglio?”
And he said, “Hey I wanted to let you know that I got a hold of your record and I had to pull over on the side of the road because the songs you’re singing are the prayers that my wife and I are praying for this movement called Passion, and we’re having the first meeting.” It was 1997 and it was going to be in Austin, Texas in January of that year. He said, “Will you come?” and we were like “OK, I guess, yeah!” So we were a part of the very first Passion which was ‘97 and really Louie was so influential in all these 20 years. It’s going to be the 20th anniversary coming up this January.
I remember people coming up to us and saying, “You helped me say to God what I really want to say to Him and I just didn’t know how.” And to us, as songwriters, we have obviously the best songwriter, which is David the Psalmist, as this example that we’ve all drawn from. You realize that not everyone has that ability to say to God what their heart was longing to say and they just didn’t know how to say it. So I thought, “Wow, what an amazing thing to be able to be a part of helping people communicate with a living God.”
Finding Priorities: Coming Back to Family
We toured and made about four or five records with Rocketown and loved that whole Watermark season. Our kids were really tiny. We had two at the time when we were still with Rocketown. And you know it was busy. I was a young mom and several things kind of began to happen. The Lord was really working on my heart at the time. I kind of fought motherhood a little bit in the very, very beginning. It rounds off your edges like nothing else can. And the Lord was really just teaching me in that moment to be present and teaching me to see the glorious in the everyday things of life and in the mundane moments and that those are just as glorious as being on a stage somewhere. So the Lord was really getting at my heart with wanting to prioritize my family in a real, practical way.
So in 2005 we recorded our last album with Rocketown and really just asked to be released after that, after we had fulfilled our record deal. You know how God prepares you in every season of your life for the next season. And I feel like that’s what was happening, He was setting us up during that time for a new season. For me, I had no idea if I’d ever really have a platform again so it was really scary. I remember that first Christmas I just cried to my parents, “What have I done? Will I ever get to sing again and make a record again?” But really, it was just this time of the Lord kind of refocusing my heart and my priorities. Then we had Amy Rose. We had our third during that time as well, she was born in 2007 and so really special. Then we heard that Six Steps was to start a church in Atlanta called Passion City Church.
And at that time in our lives, because there was not much on the table, we were willing to go. We were like, “Hey let’s go be a part of that. Let’s go help plant this church in Atlanta, Georgia.” So in 2008, that summer we just up and moved and went to Atlanta, Georgia and were part of the first beginnings of what is now a really great established church. So it’s neat. You have no idea what God’s doing when he’s asking you to clear some things and making you available for other things. That was such a sweet season in our lives. We spent seven years in Atlanta helping just plant that church so we were able to say we were one of the founding families for that church. Then that season came to an end and here we are back in Franklin, Tennessee, and you know it’s just amazing looking back on how He connects it all.
Narrator: As chapters of Christy’s life closed and opened, the desire to share stories through music never went away. She discusses how she was moved to create a project centered around the greatest story of all—Christ’s birth, resurrection and promise of His return.
The Spirit of Christmas and the Meaning of Advent: Making the Christmas Album
Christy: Nathan and I just looked around and we were like you know what, if there’s ever a reason for us to do some things that have been in our heart for a really long time, it’s now. We’re not getting any younger. There’s probably a list of three or four records that I’ve wanted to do for a really long time and the first one was making a Christmas record.
I think the timing of it was actually really beautiful, and even as we’ve looked back on this last month or so with the release of it, where we’re at with the climate of our world and our nation to have a record released called “The Thrill of Hope” was really good timing. And so when we think on those things, it gives me chills just to think about God’s timing of it all and I’m just so thankful. The beginning of January of this year, we put all the Christmas decorations away, but I kept all my Christmas studies and my Advent books out and I kind of started over. I started with the lineage of Jesus again in January. It’s been like a year of Christmas for me of really studying Jesus and his birth and the Incarnation and what it looks like to look at Christmas from the spirit of Advent, which I learned a lot about. Advent is looking at Incarnation, but it’s also looking at Christmas from the point of “He is coming again. He’s gonna return.”
So the very first thing you hear is this prelude that I wrote as we were driving in a car as a family. We were actually in Orlando the week that the shootings happened and we were there vacationing which was just so crazy, looking back, but also in the moment. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. It was like I knew we were there for a reason even though I was like, “Really?” I mean we’re trying to go to amusement parks and you literally don’t feel like doing anything. You’re heartbroken, and of course three different tragedies happened that week in Orlando. I was, just the whole time, so heavy hearted. The next week that we got home we were going to be recording these songs.
And so as I was walking around, that’s actually where the title “The Thrill of Hope” came to me as I was just walking around and in feeling the heaviness of the climate that we’re living in right now. All of course, as the election is leading up and all these things are heated. I just started singing this prelude. It was “The King is coming. Open up your eyes to see it, open up your ears to hear it. The King is coming. Open up your minds, believe it. Open up your heart, receive Him.” That concept of “make my room in Your heart. Make space. Be still and know.” I wanted people’s pace to be slowed as they listened to this record and I wanted them to make room in their heart.
Amaryllis: The Flower that Blooms in the Bleak of Winter
Amaryllis is the cover art and there’s a song called “Amaryllis” on the record. And that one has a sweet story. My sister in law, a couple of years ago for my birthday (my birthday is in late November and I just had it), she gave me this potted Amaryllis and it was actually during that time that we knew we were going to be moving from Atlanta back to Nashville. It was just a really, really hard season and she gave me this Amaryllis with this letter called “Amaryllis Prayers” that she had written. And it was beautiful. And it was all about how an Amaryllis flower blooms in the bleak of winter and like the poinsettia, it’s known as a Christmas flower. She wrote this beautiful poetic thing and I made her a songwriter on the record because I pulled direct lines straight from her letter, which was so meaningful to me. She talked about not waiting for the warmth of spring, but blooming in the winter.
The whole first verse I’m looking at Jesus saying that Amaryllis like, He came in the bleak midwinter that the world had never known. The imagery of that and a silence that we were sitting in; 400 years of silence. And He came and broke through. And one of the lines says, “And when it seemed like we’d never see Spring, Heaven gave a King,” and talks about how “He broke through and with the brilliance of summer, right in the middle of winter. He came surprising the night like a Christmas Amaryllis.”
We forget the power of our stories and how even in the hardest of times, how God shows up in those things and that there’s beauty in those hard places. Even in the darkest of times, like the Amaryllis, you push through that soil and the hardness. When you think you can’t, you push through because He did it first. Jesus–His life–He pushed through first and He went the distance for us. And I think just really helping people through your own struggle and your own story is the beauty of it.
Narrator: Christy draws much of her inspiration for writing and sharing stories through the scriptures. She also looks toward other books to find inspiration; including Jesus Calling.
Weaving the Inspiration of Jesus Calling into Everyday Life
Christy: I had a few friends that owned one and I just bought it for myself. I’m always looking for ways to be inspired through songwriting. And so it caused me to buy one for myself just to have around and to look at here and there, because I love being able to take Scripture and make it weave into my everyday life.
Lead yourself in worship all day long. Start it in the morning, if you have five minutes before you wake up. Have your Bible right next to your bed or just pick up Jesus Calling. Whatever it is; start the conversation and then continue the conversation all day long. Often when I’m driving in my car I say “Jesus I’ve got 30 minutes. I invite you into this moment right now. And I pray that you’ll speak to me. And Jesus, here’s what’s on my mind right now. This is the heaviest thing on my heart right now. I just gave You that right now.” I’ll just talk to Him, and even my kids look at me funny but I talk to Him out loud. Your life becomes the quiet time when you’re able to say, “Jesus this whole day is a conversation and I’m inviting you in.”
I love being able to take Scripture and make it weave into my everyday life.
Next time on the Experience Jesus Calling podcast, we speak with twin brothers David and Jason Benham, and what it means to them to live out their faith through actions that help and serve others. They also discuss their new book “Living Among the Lions.”
Today’s featured passage comes from the November 13th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook:
I am Christ in you, the hope of Glory. The One who walks beside you, holding you by your hand, is the same One who lives within you. This is a deep, unfathomable mystery. You and I are intertwined in an intimacy involving every fiber of your being. The Light of My Presence shines within you, as well as upon you. I am in you, and you are in Me; therefore, nothing in heaven or on earth can separate you from Me!
As you sit quietly in My Presence, your awareness of My Life within you is heightened. This produces the Joy of the Lord, which is your strength. I, the God of hope, fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust in Me, so that you may bubble over with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.