She Changed Her Music, but Not Her Heart

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I’ve felt for a while that I should say a few words about my daughter, whose current artist name is Nosila, changed from Alison Brook. Many of you have supported Alison Brook’s ministry in years past and may wonder where she went and why she went there. This is my take on it.

First, a little background- In 2017 Alison and her husband John moved from Berrien Springs, Michigan where she’d attended Andrews University, to Portland, Oregon. She’d done folk-style music in churches for several years, and had reached a point of burnout—not uncommon in that line of work. Shortly after arriving in Portland, Alison decided to do something new. She changed her artist name to “Nosila” (“Alison” backwards) and her music from folk to what she calls “sad girl electro-pop.” Her songs, though spiritual, were not as overtly religious. Her creativity extended into her fashion choices and hairstyle. She sounded and looked different, and anticipated that this shift would garner some criticism and worry from her support base. It did. Being disinclined to create drama, she felt uncomfortable with this. At the same time, she honestly sensed God’s leading.

You’d think the one who’d taught her to hear God’s voice for herself would take that gracefully, but I didn’t. The two of us wrestled through many intense conversations about music, Adventism, the gospel, culture and all the rest. Mostly I expressed worry and she expressed exasperation at my worry.

Why did I worry? So much had changed! Beyond the music, she started a new job when she moved to Portland and with her still moonlighting as an artist, we had a lot less time to talk on the phone. Navigating new time zones, schedules, and social habits was difficult. I wondered if she was abandoning me along with everything else.

But this turned out to be more about my fear than anything.

I had a problem.

I didn’t trust God with my child.

I was a deeply religious mom and raised my children with many prayers that they’d embrace faith. Part of being that soul-winning kind of mom involved fear for their well-being, not only temporally but spiritually. This is a good thing, to a point! But I think the blinding flashes of fear coming off my motherly my-child-is-in-danger antenna blinded me more than enlightened me. Many conversations and prayers after the Nosila shift, I began to understand her better, and when I did, I learned some very interesting things.

First of all, she loved Jesus and His gospel, as much if not more than ever. Road testing her faith outside of the religious “bubble” had reinforced it rather than destroying it. In addition, she still wanted to share the love of God with the world through her gift of music. She’d grown as much as she felt she could in the safety-bubble of her religious upbringing, but the time had come to step outside and grow in new ways. This wasn’t stepping outside of the bubble for bitterness reasons, but rather the pursuit of growth. I could finally see that this path was uniquely hers.

And I must admit–Alison/Nosila had lived in my shadow, found support through my network, and followed in my footsteps as a singer/songwriter. She needed to individuate, and her life needed to resemble mine less. It’s flattering to have a clone but not all that healthy.

I must also admit that our church can be quite hard on artistic, free-spirited types. Built right into the DNA of a creative is a certain amount of boundary-pushing. But built into the DNA of religious organizations is the need to have boundaries. I don’t know how to fix this, really. But I’d say we can start with fairness. We give medical people a pass for working on Sabbath, but as soon as an artist steps outside the classic behaviors, we assume the worst. Let’s at least freak out consistently.

Every believer bears the light, but we hang it on different lampstands. I taught my children the danger of caring more about human approval than God’s approval. Well, it turns out that the ensnaring human approval can be church members. It can even be moms. Many a goody-goody will be lost while making an idol out of the approbation of religious people. I always said, “I don’t want conservative kids. I want converted kids.” Well, I think that’s what I got.

While our kids thrash out their unique expression of the gospel, we need to back off and let them work out the kinks, suspending judgment and praying for our own souls just as vigorously as we pray for theirs.

If you want to check out more of what Nosila is doing click here.

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5 thoughts on “She Changed Her Music, but Not Her Heart

  1. Jeremy Morada Reply

    I just want to say I really appreciated this post! As a singer that has been in conservative SDA circles, it has been REALLY tough to say the least to navigate “appropriateness”. I’ve learned there is absolutely no way to please people. When getting rebuked for my music and singing being “worldly”, I would sincerely ask, “what specific musical elements did you consider worldly?” They would reply “well…. we just have to be in prayer and to ask that there isn’t any taint of worldliness in our music.” Uhhh… okay? As a musician getting a doctorate in music, that just isn’t gonna fly with me. I’ve listened to MANY presentations on music in worship and read literally EVERYTHING EGW has to say about music multiple times, and EVERY Bible verse that refers to music, so I would love to reason together!

    I have since come to my own balance, but honestly even at 36 years old – I still struggle to find the balance between making music that is edifying to others and being able to express freely my own praise to God (resulting in a bunch of recorded tracks that I only share with close friends/family). Anyway, in short- this post was inspiring for me and I love the concept for her EP about addiction.

    Blessings

  2. Barbara Bolton Reply

    Jennifer, you spoke so deeply into this mother’s heart with your latest blog! My prayer from now on will be, “Father, help me to trust You with my children.” I think it’s the true illustration of loving family more than loving God. We have to have faith that He will do everything to reach the hearts of our children and we can trust His wisdom and grace. Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerability and your journey with us!

  3. Adrian Reply

    Firstly, I had not made the connection with Alison / Nosila being your daughter. I have been blessed by her music.
    Secondly, thank you for sharing that rather open and vulnerable journey that you’ve gone on wrestling with the fears around your child’s growth and development. This is not an uncommon struggle. I find myself facing this right now as the eldest of my children has recently become a teenager and moved out of SDA eduction into the sphere of large, public high school education (we don’t have an SDA high school in our area in New Zealand). I’m finding that my best intents and my fears for her well being, spiritually, are arousing unprofitable parenting techniques that are only enabling the fears to become self-fulfilling prophecies. But I’m also simply too scared to let my child be and find her own way. I haven’t emerged out the other side with the answers yet… but truly identify with what you shared!

  4. Mark Mirek Reply

    This is really good. I pray for John and Alison every day since she sang here. You know I appreciate the concept of taking the gospel to the secular world through music. It’s dangerous for sure. It may even be a dead end. But it seems to me a great opportunity along the lines of Jesus’ parables.

    You know I’m much more a folk guy than sad girl electro pop, but I’ll give it a try.

    Hey, I am just starting a new career as a booking agent for a totally secular band. They are a couple we’ve been good friends with for a long time. They could never afford an agent of any kind and thus do everything themselves. You know what that’s like. In a conversation about burn out, I offered to help. Now I’m being taught the ropes of booking gigs around the country. I’ve got the time. Pray for them and me. I get paid in hugs.

    Rejoice always,
    Mark

  5. cathy desmond Reply

    Jennifer I loved what you wrote. I so agree with you. As it is a process for our kids it is a process for us as well. But so often we treat our kids so much harder than we would treat a new convert or “interested” visitor. It is time that we realize that our kids and us have the same God. He has no grandchildren. To learn to trust our God with our kids and to be willing to let them go through our prayers and the promises God gives us for them and with joy will make our ministries with them so much more effective and powerful. Over and over again God keeps showing me that He truly came here to give us liberty- His liberty. I am still learning the many facets of this liberty. But oh what peace it brings. The closer I get to Him the more surprised I am in finding some of my inner motives clothed in my righteousness have no use in His world and ministry. So much I wish I could say but these days God has me more silent than ever.lol
    love how well He communicates through you.
    lots of love from the Desmonds

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