Where it all started.
I grew up in a small town outside of Tampa, Florida called Riverview. I have two older brothers, Richard and Jimmy. My mother worked for Hillsborough County Public Schools and my father worked for both the U.S. Postal Service and was also an ordained, Baptist minister. He pastored his own church for several years and then served as youth pastor at the church we all grew up attending. Music, for me, was always a part of my life although I didn’t begin to take it seriously until I was in high school. Singing at both church and school, It wasn’t long before I realized that not only was music, in particular, singing – something that I loved…but I felt like it was something that maybe I was good at as well. Little did I realize – God had MUCH bigger plans for my music than I ever could have imagined.
The Next Steps.
After high school I wanted nothing more than to go to The University of Florida and be a part of the Gator Nation. My entire family were Gators and I wanted to follow suit. However, late into my senior year of high school, I made contact with the music and arts department at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. After an impromptu audition, I was offered a full scholarship and the chance to sing with a group on a regular basis. Needless to say, as much as my father wanted me to be a Gator, he liked the idea of FREE COLLEGE even more. So, I went to Liberty. It was there that I not only honed my musical and vocal abilities but also realized that I wanted to sing full time. I left college and immediately became a part of the popular christian touring group know as, TRUTH. Both TRUTH and it’s director, Roger Breland would prove to be very significant throughout my musical career. As a matter of fact, the influence of both TRUTH and Roger Breland are still have a huge and lasting impact on what I do, today.
The Now and the Not Yet.
I traveled with TRUTH for almost 2 years when I decided to leave and move to Southern California. There, I worked several different places doing music including Disney and Friends Church in Yorba Linda. After being in California for a little more than 2 years, I knew that if I didn’t get back on the road, I’d never be able to fulfill my dreams of signing a record deal. I returned to TRUTH and traveled for two more years. During that time, another singer with the group TRUTH was offered a record deal with a major, Christian Label. Janna (Potter) Long left the group to be a part of new mixed Christian pop group. Shortly after she left, she called and asked me if I would be interested in joining her in this new group. So, after a couple of flights to Nashville and a few, nerve-racking interviews – I became a charter member of the group, Avalon along with Michael Passons, Nikki Hassman Anders and Janna Potter Long. Cherie Paliotta Adams and Melissa Greene also took turns filling the soprano position in the group, as well.
Dreams come true, mostly.
Avalon was a dream come true, for me. During my 12 years with the group we recorded nearly 10 albums – three of which were RIAA Certified Gold. We had 21, number one songs, won 6 Dove Awards, were nominated 3 times for a Grammy and won the American Music Award for Pop/Contemporary Inspirational Group of the Year. So many amazing experiences and opportunities…all for which we were extremely grateful. However, all that glitters is not gold.
Reality Steps Back In.
In 2006 – after being with the group for nearly 11 years – I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. A disease that effects the size and function of the heart muscle. I had also completely lost sight of both my calling and even my relationship with Christ. I left Avalon in 2007 at the behest of both my doctor and my family. With my “career” gone, my marriage hanging by a very thin thread and my health at high risk – I had completely given up on just about everything and everyone. I sat behind a desk at a family business and resigned myself to the fact that God was finished with me. Convinced that, because I hadn’t been a good steward of what I had been given, that He would never use me again to sing.
God is Never Finished.
In 2012, my phone rang and Roger Breland was on the other end. I remember like it was yesterday…it was a Wednesday and Roger said, “Jody, it’s JRB, can you be in Uganda by Friday?” First of all, I didn’t even know if that was physically possible and secondly, why? Roger was serving on the board for an evangelist at the time and had recommended me to be a guest soloist for one of their International Crusades. I flew to Uganda and never looked back. Over the next few years, God would use the experiences of traveling the world to change my life in a truly, significant way. By 2013, I was traveling full time with this ministry and seeing God work in a way that I had never experienced before. I witnessed miracles take place with my own eyes and met people that have become some of the best friends I’ve ever had. However, the most important thing God taught me that the gifts He has blessed me with are meant for so much more than just singing a pretty song. They were and always have been meant to change people’s lives.
Purpose in the Pain
Over the last 10 years I’ve had my share of difficulty. I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve dealt with having a difficult heart condition, I’ve almost lost my marriage and my family, I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression and so many other things that have proven to be challenging for me. I know there are people who have much more difficult circumstances in their lives that they have to navigate, everyday. However, for me, God has truly used my heartache and mistakes to get my attention and help me realize just how important I am to Him and how much He truly loves me. I spent the better part of 7 years thinking that I was unworthy, irrelevant and damaged. I allowed the enemy to speak lies into my mind and heart – telling me that I had no place in ministry anymore and that I needed to let the “perfect” people handle that. I really had given up….for a while.
Now, more than ever I know I have a purpose. All of the things that I’ve been through and experienced have shaped and prepared me for such a time as this. I have a responsibility to not only use my musical gifts for God’s glory but to also use all of the scars and heartache in my life to help others know, there truly is a purpose in the pain and that God really is The God of a second chance. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would not only be making solo records again someday but also that I’d be part of a new group, I would have assured you that you were wrong. But, as we all know, God’s plans are always different…and for that, I am extremely grateful and humbled to be a small part of what He is doing.
Thank you to everyone for believing in me. Thank you for your prayers and your support. I hope that something I sing or say makes a difference in your life and encourages you to live it with all the fulness that God intended.