If you attend church or listen to contemporary Christian music, then you've probably know who is Meredith Andrews. Her popular worship songs "How Great is the Love" and "Not for a Moment" are sang during worship services in churches and played over the radio stations throughout the nation.
At 31 years old, Andrews has won two GMA Dove Awards in 2011 for "Praise & Worship Album of the Year" for "As Long As It Takes" and "Worship Song of the Year" for "How Great Is The Love." Her latest single "Not for a Moment" (After All) released on iTunes has been ranked in the top 20 songs of 2013.
Earlier this year, Andrews joined Mark Burnett and Roma Downey in the "The Bible - Son of God Tour 2014," and performed with other popular CCM artists Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Natalie Grant, Chris August, and Jason Grey at churches throughout the country. She has also teamed up with Big Daddy Weave and Paul Baloche in producing music and going on concert tours.
The Gospel Herald had an opportunity to interview Andrews earlier this month at the Evangelical Press Association 2014 Conference held in Los Angeles, California. In the interview, she humbly shared about her journey in becoming a worship leader and a CCM artist, and her sources of inspirations for her songs. Moreover, she talked about her personal life as a mother of two and currently pregnant with one more child, and how she manages to find a balance in her roles as a mom, wife, worship leader, and singer-artist while placing God and family as the first priorities in her life.
(Below is an edited transcript of the interview)
Q. Meredith, it is our privilege and honor to be able to interview you. Can you first share with us what you took away from winning the 2011 Dove Awards?
Thank you. The year that I won the dove awards was a very significant moment in my life. My story would be kind of different from other artists when they would win a dove award. That year, my son was eight months old, and he's now three and half. Dove Awards fell on Easter weekend and I worked at a church. When you work at a church, Easter week is the biggest week of the year, so I was unable to attend the award ceremony. I was at home in Chicago, feeding my son, living the life of a mom. I had my hair in a pony-tail, and I probably haven't taken a shower that day.
I got a call from my friend, who attended the Doves Award. She said, "Meredith, you just won 'Worship Song of the Year' and you tied with Chris Tomlin with "Our God." When I heard that, I was so shocked and surprised, "What?! How is that possible?" Around thirty minutes later, as I was giving my son a bath in preparation to go to rehearsal for Good Friday Service, she called me again and said, "Meredith, you just won again. You won "Worship Album of the Year." And I was genuinely shocked, because I thought that I would never win.
It was interesting how that morning I just had this time where I said, "God, I don't want you to be finished with me. I don't want you to be done using my life. I want you to do whatever you want to do with me. Show me what's next and keep my eyes on you and would you just move through me. I just want people to have an encounter with you through my music and my story."
That morning, I felt so broken over that, but that afternoon, it was like God's kindness over me saying, "I'm not finished with you, and I will even give you two gold birds to prove it." It just floored me.
And still to this day, I don't think I deserve those Dove Awards, and I'm not being modest. I was in category with Chris Tomlin, HIllsong, people who are amazing at writing songs for the church. I felt what God was telling me, "I'm going to remind you that your life is going to look different in different seasons and you are going to walk through hard things, but I'm using those things, which will become part of your story, and you are going to write them in your songs, so people who are walking through hard things can relate to the lyrics. I'm not finished with you."
I said, "Oh wow, Lord, you didn't have to do that, but you did and you are so kind." So that's my whole Dove Awards experience.
Q. What do you think was the reason that your song did so well?
The song that won the award was called "How Great Was the Lord." My husband and I wrote that song with Paul Baloche, who's one of the most amazing song writers for the church as well. That song is simple and it came out of a prayer when we were sitting in Paul's living room. I said, "Thank you Lord for the way you love us." That's the first line of the song, and the chorus goes, "Jesus, faithful king, with grateful heart we sing, how great is the love of our savior, the weight of the cross, the curse of our shame, carried it all, and rose from the grave, how great is the love of the savior." It has the gospel wrapped into it, and expresses the gratitude from recognizing how Jesus loved us and died for us while we were still sinners. He pursued us and went after us. What a love. There is no greater love, and I think people relate to that.
Q. Can you share with us how did you end up choosing a career as a worship leader and a Christian Contemporary Music singer-artist?
I sang my first song in church when I was six. I would sing southern gospel music with my mom in North Carolina, and we would go to different churches and sing together. When I was 12, I started singing backup and playing tambourine for our youth band, which then led to me playing keys and leading our youth band by the time I was 16 or 17.
I always knew I wanted to do music, but I wrestled with it too, because a lot of people want to do music. I went to Liberty University, and I majored in family and child development, because I grew up in a home where my parents took in foster children that came from broken homes or difficult situations. I have three adopted brothers, and that was a big part of my heart. I started doing work in orphanages. That is what I wanted to do. I thought that maybe I will sing too. I don't know. But that will all fall into place if I'm supposed to, you know.
But there was one night when I was leading worship at Liberty. And for some reason, the song came alive to me like it had never before, and I just knew that when I sing songs of worship to the Lord and call people to worship God with me, I feel most alive and closest to the Lord. I couldn't get away from that.
And I thought maybe that's what I'm supposed to be doing. Sure enough, the Lord opened the door for me to be worship leader at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago soon after I graduated. Shortly after, I started going to Nashville writing songs with people, and was introduced to my record label. I signed a record deal in 2007. It's just been the Lord, who opened the doors and he did it.
When I was 17, I remember going to Rebecca St. James' concert, and just prayed, "God I want you to use me. I surrender this gift, my life, to you." And I felt the Lord just said to me, "Meredith, be faithful where I've placed you. Faithful in the little things and I will open the doors. And you won't even have to go knocking on doors. I will show you where you need to go. I will put you where you need to be." And that's what he's done.
Q. You were born and raised in a Christian family, and your parents have adopted three children, who you've mentioned had become inspirations for some of your songs. Can you tell us more about this?
The one that I sang couple days ago was for my youngest brother. I watched him wrestle with his identity. If we're honest we all do it sometimes. What's my purpose and who am I? If we don't answer those questions with the truth of God's word, then we're going to find it somewhere else. And usually those become our idols or our false identity. I kind of watched him find his acceptance in his friends, doing what they would do, making choices that were destructive. Even if we place our identity in good things like work, family, it is not true if it is not Jesus. I've wrestled with that in my own life, too. I think I came to grips with this when I wrote this song.
While I wrote this with my brother in mind, I also wrote it because I felt at times that I needed to prove myself. I walked into the room wandering if anybody is going to like me for who I am. I think you just have to go, "Lord, I just want to be free from those insecurities and free from the pressure of trying to prove myself and just walk in who you call me to be and not think about myself too much. Instead, think about how can I minister to other people, how I can love others, because they may be dealing with something like that, too.
When we take our eyes off ourselves and get them onto the Lord. He gives us his heart for people. That is when we discover who God is, the one who restores, heals, and take the broken pieces and make them beautiful.
He's done that in my life and I believe that he's going to do it in my brothers' and others' lives.
Q. In your career thus far, what is your most memorable moment?
It might be different than what you think. First of all, the amazing thing to me is hearing people come up and say, "The Lord has used your song to help me get through the darkest time in the night. Or I was driving on the road and your song came on the radio, and I had to pull over and just start worshipping the Lord. It was like singing over me." That just blows my mind. It is so amazing to me.
I went on a Christmas Tour with Christian music stars Big Daddy Weave, who are good friends of mine. Every night we would pray for people at the end of the concert. We wouldn't do a big song, receive standing ovation, stand and bow, but we spent some time praying for the fans, asking them their needs, laid hands on them and pray. We prayed for their healing, for directions in life, for their loves ones. Some were dealing with depression and anxieties.
The simplicity of getting to pray for my brothers and sisters that I've never met before is what we're supposed to be in the body of Christ. I don't want to just sing at people and go home, but I want to minister to people. I want to hear people say, "Hey, you've made the difference in my life. God met me and what you've said and prayed really encouraged my heart and spurred me on to keep after Jesus."
That tour was so significant for me and stretched my faith, because people were coming up to ask for prayers for hard things. I just prayed, "Lord, you can, and you want to." If you look at Jesus in the Gospel, he didn't turn anybody away. He might have said, "Do you believe that I am the Son of God?" or he might have said, "Do you have faith?" But he healed them on the spot. And he's still the same today. To get to pray for them for healing in their lives and see God do miraculous things... I will never forget those people and those faces.
Q. As a musician, you probably had to be on a constant lookout for inspirations. What are some of those sources?
It is more of just a mindset of keeping your eyes opened to what's going on around you and looking for God everywhere. Like yesterday when I was at Laguna Beach, I saw whales breaching the surface of the water, and it took my breath away. I didn't expect that nor was I looking for it, but all of a sudden there were some whales, and I've never seen whales before. I was just like, "wow, that's amazing."
I'm probably not going to write a song about whales, but I think it portrays the concept that God is everywhere and He wants to be seen and He wants to open our eyes.
I get a lot of inspiration from scriptures. I recently wrote this song that I haven't recorded yet, based on Isiah 41, "Wait upon the Lord, I will renew their strength, they shall mount on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faith." Many of my songs are based on scriptures, and unpacking them.
That's another Dove Award right there...
We'll see, maybe so.
I also have my family life. I have two little precious boys. Even just being with them and things that I learn from them are inspirations. I just need to get better at writing them down! I think there are inspirations everywhere, but it is just a matter of do we open our eyes to see it. It is easy to get bogged down by the daily and mundane routines, tasks and check lists. Sometimes we just need to get our head above all that and just breathe and say, "God, where are you?"
There was this time that I was washing dishes and I had on this worship station on Pandora. And one of my favorite songs called "Jesus, You Are More Than a Friend' came on, and I just started singing to the Lord. And it was like how Jesus just walked into my kitchen and my kids were sitting at the kitchen table and I'm washing dishes and there he was... just singing to him... "Jesus, you're more than a friend, Jesus, you're more than my heart could ever express"... you know.
You should have had a camera setup somewhere to record these moments...
Ha! Probably not, because I'm usually in my sweats and I don't have makeup on, so nobody wants to see me like that...
Q. You are happily married with two kids and one more is on the way. Congratulations! When is your due date? What are your plans before and after pregnancy?
My due date is November 2, and as far as plans go, it is kind of like learning a new normal. With my second, I decided beforehand what it will look like, how much can I travel, how much can I be at home. With my second, I took him with me many times, and my oldest would stay home with my husband. We've tried that for a season, so it might look something like that.
I wouldn't mind taking couple months off after my due date just to recover. But I am doing a number of women's conferences, leading up to the fall and also in the Spring. Those are my favorite things to do. I'm still leading worship at church in Chicago. I'm just taking things one day at a time.
Q. Is there anything that you would like us and our readers to pray for?
For any of us in ministry, many times the enemy will come against us very strongly. We've experienced that in the last few months. It seems that what he attacks the most in our family is our marriage and our health. It was a hard season. But you have to see the attack for what it is and we're not fighting against flesh and blood. God is on our side and he's bigger, and we just have to trust him and keep our eyes on him.
I would love prayers for our family and for our health. I'm trying every day to find a balance in being a wife, mom, worship leader, song-writer. I would ask God to help me to be faithful in those things as one of those roles might take precedence today, but ultimately I want to be faithful to the Lord. And my family comes first. I would really appreciate any prayers directed our way for strength and health.
Please pray that the Lord would continue to take us deeper in our walk with him. Just want to hear his voice more clearly and be satisfied with his presence, because he is going to take care of us. It is praying that the Lord would keep our hearts lock in to his and our eyes fixed onto him.
Q. If you don't mind, can you share with us more specifically about your marriage and health?
When we're on the road, it is very stressful for my husband and I, especially when you have kids. When we're stressed out or tired, there's a temptation to take it out on the other person, and the enemy can get a foothold on that. I think it is just learning to be gracious to one another and balancing things well.
I think it is just asking, "Is this too much for us? God, where are you in this? What are you trying to teach us through this?" I think God allows us to go through things where he stretches and squeezes us in order to prune and refine us - he's trying to get things out in our hearts that are buried deep. And most often times, those things don't come out unless you walk through something hard. So I'm grateful to the Lord for that. I want him to continue to sanctify and purify me, and he's doing that. I'm so thankful.
I think with marriage it is learning every day to die to ourselves, to serve one another, to become one and to be unified in the decision that we make and the ways that we raise our kids. And the Lord is teaching us and He is so good. Sometimes we revert to old habits and selfish ways, but God is patient and he is faithful.
With our health, we just had a lot of sickness. Our family has been sick this whole year. We had, one after the other, respiratory problems, stomach viruses, and it just seemed it wouldn't let up. We were on a tour and we all got virus, and it was just awful. "God, please, when is it enough?" While sicknesses is not from the Lord, and obviously he can use anything to grow us, but we felt we were under attack as it wouldn't let up.
We feel like that we're kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now.
Meredith Andrews official website: http://www.meredithandrews.com/
[Editor's note: Edward Shih contributed to the report.]