Even when… {And interview with Taya Smith, of Hillsong United}

This is a collection of really awesome people who have a real passion for God, for loving people and for living lives that both honor God and share tremendous love with people. You can find them on twitter, you can find them on Instagram and you can get to know them a little better in Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, a documentary (being released on blu-ray/dvd tomorrow) which chronicles their journey as a group, as well as their life journey’s individually, which led them to this place.



There are several members, so an hour and a half movie sort of only touches on bits and pieces of their stories. It is really lovely, and moving. (So not the point, but I had to say it because it’s true.)

As I mentioned yesterday, earlier this week I had the chance to sit down and talk with Taya Smith, of Hillsong United. While I could have taken a few minutes to share with her my own Hillsong journey/experience, I really wanted our time to be about what she felt led to share and say. I prayed so much about what to ask her and for our call.

(A little back story, if you haven’t seen the film. Taya left home and moved to Sydney on a total leap of faith. She went to church at Hillsong and knew that was where she needed to be.)

I considered weaving our call into an entire post all creatively, but in the end decided to share the interview, as is… (And also, to point out my flaw as an interviewer. I like to say “absolutely” way too much.)

So, if you haven’t already, meet Taya:


Hi Taya, thank you so much talking to me today. I am such a big fan and am grateful for this chance.

Oh, thank you so much. That’s very kind of you. I am so happy to get to talk with you.

Thank you! I would love to ask you a few questions.

Of course, go ahead!

Like my own, Hillsong experiences, so many fans have some really personal moments. I was wondering what have been some of your favorite fan stories or moments that people have shared?

It’s really special when someone shares that through what you’ve got to be a part of, like through the music that our church produces that it just draws people closer to Jesus and that they have even felt like they’ve been given words to sing in a really hard season when they haven’t known how to express things to God. They’re wanting to continue to believe him and believe that he has good things for them, but they might be in a really hard season. So getting a chance to, as in the latest United record Empires telling someone that sometimes things in life hurt actually so bad that it’s like hell, but yet we still get a chance to praise God and we still get to choose that He is good that He is faithful. It has been really encouraging to hear people’s personal stories about what it has meant for them, and maybe for them it’s a confession that they’ve needed to sing for the season that they’re in. That’s always so encouraging because you know, you’re obviously writing for everyone, but you’re also writing for the ones- for the people- that are actually facing real things. You don’t want to just write songs for people to just swath over and say ‘that’s a really pretty melody’, but you know, the real seasons that give people opportunity to say the things that they need to say to God, and to maybe remind themselves in that season.

Absolutely! In the movie, several different people (other United members) talked about their WORST days and how God really moved in them and met them in those places. Do you have a WORST day where God really held you together and moved you forward, when you didn’t think you could do it?

Yeah, I feel like you’ve just got to live life long enough for life to happen and for things out of your control to happen. You know, God is so kind in those moments because, I mean I can think, of the top of my head, it would have been when I was seventeen and we were coming into the final year of our high school. After that first week of our final week, five of my high school friends were in a car accident and four of them passed away. I had grown up in church and grown up knowing about Jesus and loving worship music and music in general, I kind of really saw the sovereignty of God and how he brought two friends from a different school. One who wasn’t really walking with God but had before but maybe kind of walked away, and then a friend who was super strong in what she believed and in her relationship with Jesus and I just saw how, at the time where it felt like nothing made sense and I didn’t understand it and I was completely broken because I had lost my best friend and other friends as well. I saw how God had, the year previous, brought along a friend and planted these two people in my life, to the point where when everything went to crap, I had someone further along in the journey who was encouraging me to keep pressing in to God and then I had the other friend who wasn’t really in a right relationship with God but I got to encourage and I guess, like, and ask the hard questions of ok, this is really showing me that I needed to have my relationship right with God because we’re not promised tomorrow. We’re given today and you just never know what’s going to happen.

There have been many times that really hard times have happened. Like, I had something that was very hard in my personal life two weeks before we were in studio to record Empires and when we’re in the studio two weeks later Joel (Houston) hands me these lyrics for this song called Even When It Hurts and I’m looking at him going ‘I feel like you’ve read my diary and you’ve written everything that I want to say to God. This is so hard right now, how do you expect me to sing this without crying?’ and he says ‘It’s okay, you can just cry.’ There’s something so nice in just being real with God, He is God and he knows all of the little thoughts that come into your mind anyway, so you may as well just be honest before Him. I feel like when you are honest with Him, and you’re honest with yourself, I feel like that gives Him room to then speak. You’re like ‘ok, this is real and this is crazy’, but again I wish to see the sovereignty and goodness of God in all of those moments, nothing is a surprise to Him. For me, He has always put people around me before anything has ever happened so that if something does go crazily wrong or completely out of my control, He’s been so kind and has put people around me that are going to speak into my life at that crazy time. They’re going to be a voice of reason or they’re going to be a voice that encourages me to press into God and encourage me to know that I can’t control this but what I can control is my attitude and response. Just bring and be people that speak life, no matter what else is going on. I just think if you look hard enough, you can see God in anything, even in the worst situations, He is still God.

Absolutely (ugh!), In the movie you talked about your leap of faith and how you came to be a part of Hillsong. I was curious, before you felt like you were being led there, where did you see (or plan for) your life heading?

Well, I was at a youth camp when I was younger, I went to them a lot because I grew up in a Christian home and it was awesome.  I just remember calling out to God when I was like sixteen, and seventeen and eighteen and just going, ‘God, use me, use me, use me and I love to sing!’ and I’m pretty sure that’s all I said. I didn’t put anything on it. I didn’t say it had to be secular, or that it had to be ministry or anything like that, I just said ‘God, use me, use me, use me, and i love to sing!’ Yeah, and- I’m sorry, what was the question again? I feel so bad.

No, it’s fine.

I’ve only had one coffee, I probably should have another one. 

That’s funny! No, I just wondered where you thought you would be before God intervened with Hillsong?

Right! Well, I always knew it was music. I always knew that my heart was in singing. And I’ve probably said it too many times, but it’s so important the people you have around you. I remember when I was younger, I had said to my parents- and I’m going to warn all of the children if they say it, and for parents just to hold lightly to it and not too tightly- I said I wanted to be a doctor, and my parents held on to that like nobody’s business. They were thinking ‘she is going to go to medical school and she is going to be the doctor of the family.’ I wasn’t like, well, I did pretty well in school through quite a few years, but I just, well we had that crazy car accident with some of my friends and that final year of high school I just really struggled to study and to keep my focus. It was just a horrible year, kind of. When it got to the end of the year, the fact that I even passed- you know, I did pretty well in some subjects, but not all subjects- the fact that I passed was amazing. I just didn’t want to apply to go into medicine or anything like that. One, i didn’t have the marks that I needed, but two, I didn’t want to get into debt when I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to do that. I had a friend, and that’s what I was saying about how it’s so important to have the people that speak into your life, and she just said to me ‘hey, if you don’t sing in some shape or form, something inside is going to die, you just need to do it!’ It was kind of hard-hitting at the time because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do you mean by that?’ but I realize that there is something about music and there is something about being able to sing and to express that, even if it’s just to God and I forget about any one else being in the room. There is just something so special about that, and I feel like it is how I was created and it’s how I am a creative. Having someone call that out in you, I just feel like it kind of gave me strength to be able to say to my parents ‘I’m not going to apply to go to University or College, I want to sing.’ It was hard for quite a couple of years because I was staying at home and I guess my parents were like ‘what are you doing with your life if you’re not going to uni? You should at least get a degree behind you.’ And I do see the reason for that and my parents are lovely and they never had some of the opportunities that I’ve been given, even to study, so I can see why and where they were coming from and everything. When I moved out of home, to move to Sydney, it was one to kind of look like I knew what I was doing and also to get out from under there and just kind of breathe and go ‘okay, so now how do we do this?’ but I always knew that I would sing, it has been in the kindness of God that it has been in the way that it has happened and the people I’ve had around me. Also, I feel like in an industry that can so easily pick up and chew, and spit out, even like young men and young women who are trying to figure out who they are, in an industry like the music industry in general, it can be pretty harsh, I feel like I’ve been a little bit protected in a really lovely way with the fact that now I’m in ministry in a way that I never imagined. It’s pretty special and I feel the kindness of God in that. 


It was here that I said Absolutely a few more unnecessary times and we said our good byes. It is also, at this point, once the call had ended, that I exclaimed how adorable Taya is. Yes, this is on recording and my awkwardness is there forever to remember. Even as I have dissected our conversation, while typing it out for you to read, I am once again struck by the humility and the ordinary relevance in everything Taya said.  There is not one aspect of her life, feelings or journey which she discussed that we can not nestle into and admit we know exactly what that feels like. (Can I get an Absolutely!?)

I am also struck, just now, with how my word for 2016 was CONNECT. All along this journey, this year, I have learned lessons on Connecting (and what it means) in ways that I could never have dreamed up. To be so near the end of the year, and for me to get the opportunity to personally connect with a voice and member behind music that has meant so much to me, is not lost on me. Taya is right, when we really look we can see God in everything. Even when…

(If you haven’t entered my awesome Christmas giveaway, I hope you’ll go do that right now because time is winding down, and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I really encourage you to.)

Touch the sky…


I am going to talk a little bit about worship, but first-  I am pretty in touch with my readers and I am aware that this may turn a few of you off. I hope not. I hope that, in the way you have all been so amazing over the most tumultuous year of my life, you will stick this post out with an open mind. Even if it’s not your thing, please try to understand that I am sharing something personal and not (in any way) trying to preach to you…

Before November 23, of last year, I’d had a lifetime of loving God. That had always been something present and life defining in my adult life. I went through various stages of Christianity. Some of the earlier days looked a lot like the stereotypically shallow version, which seems far more judgmental than loving. I have always (and will continue to be) a work in progress.  I caught on, in my early twenties, to stepping out and thinking for myself rather than following the church current. Due to my history of infertility and sexual abuse, there were a lot of ideas and Christianese sentiments which did not nestle well with the heart I had developed for God. I am not saying a lot of these things don’t work well for others, but in a moment of unabashed frankness I will say that many of those I knew early on who did walk that line are pretty cold people now. It is my personal opinion that being cold and judgmental is not the plan.

Up until the summer of 2015 I really believed I had the God thing figured out. Adoptive parenting, maybe not so much. Being a writer professionally, definitely not. The two things that I was most confident in were my marriage and my faith. If you have been reading here for any amount of time at all, you are well aware that my marriage started to rapidly crumble last fall and fell apart in November.

Rock bottom is sometimes where we need to hit, to grow and be. When I say rock bottom, I want to clarify: when you slam unexpectedly, and life shatteringly hard against the hardest ground imaginable and know in the depths of your being that you cannot pick yourself up. This, for me, was November 23rd. And it looked ugly, and it felt worse. Indescribably worse.

I have, as a Believer in God, never been a fan of Christian music or films. Call me cynical, because that’s really what it was. Prior to my fall, I believed worship music was meant for Sunday service. In that “appropriate” place, I loved me some good worship music. I loved the feeling of getting caught up in praising God. And, at various times in the week, like the good girl I was, I was known to play a worship playlist and spend time with God. Worship music had a time and a place. And then, after months of contemplating suicide, I found myself at my splattered-rock-bottom place and everything I knew and believed was shaken. How does a Godly marriage fall apart? How does a woman who loves Jesus and tries to love others selflessly end up broken and alone? How could I end up in such a place at my age (39)? What could I have done differently? Layers and layers of film were removed from the eyes of my heart. I began to see things as I had never seen them before. Myself. My preconceived notions of what a woman, a wife and a mother should be like. I began to see my motivations in all of their earnestness. It was rough. I did not know how to exist outside of my wifehood and my motherhood, because in those moments I had neither. I had to admit, for the first time, that I was completely incapable of being anything for anyone. This was a hard, hard thing when I had spent my life being that rock for everyone I loved. My rock quality had become slime and I could not allow that mess to stick to others.

Worship is NOT standing in church with others and singing songs. Authentic worship was, I am not kidding, one of the biggest lessons I learned in my climb from my rock bottom hell. It can fit in church singing, at times. It can also be found in the shower, sitting in traffic, shopping, sitting on the beach, listening to music. Worship is NOT singing. Sure, it can be. It can be singing a Christian song, a non-Christian song, your own in-the-moment string of words. It can also come about in meditation, in conversationally talking to God, in writing, in working out, in washing dishes… Worship is stepping outside of self, in gratitude and love (and sometimes various other things) to focus on God. Worship is easily the most personal thing we can do, and debatably one of the most vulnerable. In that way, as a parent, where you can choose whether to think of your huge to-do list while your kids ramble on, or to tune out everything and listen to them. Tuning out everything and focussing on God- THIS is worship. And it took laying there in my metaphorical chalk outline to realize I had never really planted myself in that place. Sure, I’d had snapshots of moments like that. The worship service, Bible study or personal devotion time moments… But to LIVE that way? At the supermarket, at the gym, folding the laundry… This I had never done. Suddenly though, as I processed through these realizations, I knew that I ached to.

You know how I said Christian music hadn’t really been my thing? I LOVE music and have pretty vast taste. If it’s trendy, it’s not usually my taste. And I avoided most Christian music because honestly, the majority of it sounded the same. And then, one morning I am tearfully broken and utterly alone at church (also something new to me, as I had never done the alone-in-church thing*) and we sang this song . The lyrics of this song literally reached inside of my emotional gut and scraped it clean. It was agonizing and healing all rolled into one. Come to find out, it was by Hillsong. Sure, I knew Hillsong. They did Oceans and nearly every American Christian is overly familiar with Oceans and it’s dangerously alluring lyrics. I started listening, and listening, and listening. Praise and Worship music had never been on my music-of-choice radar and suddenly all I wanted, all of the time, was to have Hillsong in my ears. They were the balm my heart was needing as it began to heal. That original song which ripped me apart, to make me better, on that January Sunday morning is called Touch the Sky. It hit me right where I was and gave me the courage to rise and live. In that place I learned what worship would be, for me. I hit the ground, and I found a relationship with God I had never known possible. I am not perfect, I am no better than anyone else. What I am is honest and real. There is no pretense, there is no “putting on a good front” so others remain comfortable and there is no condemnation towards another soul. I’ve had a few Christians whom I respected criticize me for such transparency. I have had more people open up to me, however, (especially through this blog) because I’ve been real.

I know that I’ve talked a fair amount about Hillsong here. I was fortunate to see them twice, this year, and it was life affirming both times. I am now convinced that, if I could have a Hillsong concert, an afternoon on the pacific coast, a girl’s weekend and a night in the city every year, I would be the most well-rounded and peaceful person alive. Since that is not likely to happen, however, I can admit that I am beyond excited for the  film HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE, releasing this Thursday! Though it wouldn’t be the same, when it’s out on DVD I will be able to watch it every time I need that boost. Also,  I really love this video where Hillsong’s Taya Smith talks about worship… (Also, I TOTALLY dig her retro jacket. #80’s!) Here’s the other reason I really love them… They are authentic. Their lyrics are raw and honest, and their persons are too. Christian or not, that deserves respect in this world.

My Hillsong projects and giveaways have been really personal to me, for the story I’ve shared above. It is on that note that I want to share another! I will be giving away two separate items. One is the soundtrack, and other is a pair of tickets to see HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE in the theater. To enter to win, simply leave a comment in response to this post OR what worship means to you. (Comments on the Facebook post will also count, alternating in number, with one being here, two there, three here, etc…)

(*during my journey I had a single girlfriend tell me that she was so used to going to church alone that when someone went with her it bothered her. This seemed INSANE to me. I ached for my family and felt their absence screamed loudly at church. Then, the first few Sundays when I went back to church with them beside me I realized I was so distracted. Moral of that story, I guess is, every situation is only ever what we choose to make of it.)

Hillsong Giveaway…


After attending a Hillsong show, in May, I knew that I’d maybe never be the same. It’s ok if you read that and think I’m a little nuts. I might be, but I also realize we are all on our own journeys. (There are literally thousands of people who know exactly what I’m talking about.) When I learned I was actually coming back to Michigan, the very first thing I did was search the Hillsong tour to see when they would be here too. (no exaggeration, it was the first thing.) The tour was not scheduled to come here, but they were coming a few hours around us. One of these shows was Chicago. When my daughter confessed really wishing she could have gone with me, I knew I needed to get her to that show. I began praying that God make a way. Not only was it not in our tragically obliterated budget, but suddenly Chicago felt about as attainable as Ireland. My husband was not on board and so, with all of the odds against me, I began praying. I knew we needed to go- but I couldn’t create howHillsong

On the 30th guess who is going to Hillsong in Chicago? This girl… Gen is thrilled. Not only are the three of us going, but Gen is bringing a friend. And here is the very best part of all, (because, you guys… When you pray, God does stuff. Be bold. Dare.)

I happen to have two tickets to giveaway to a reader. IN CHICAGO. July 30th. HILLSONG. Let’s recap, shall we?

Misty went to Hillsong in May, in Boise. AMAZING.

Misty prayed to take Gen to Hillsong in July, in Chicago. BAM. ANSWERED.

Misty has EXTRA TICKETS to giveaway, to Hillsong, in Chicago.

How to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post.
  • tweet this Giveaway for an extra entry and come back and comment with the time stamp OR tag me (@rainydayinmay) in your tweet and come back here to let me know.
  • like my Facebook page and leave a comment here that you just liked it and then SHARE the giveaway post (on my page), tagging me.

Giveaway starts TODAY and will end Saturday the 23rd at midnight. (Exactly one week before HILLSONG!!!) You guys… Though I know this is geographically vital, but I encourage you to spread the word because it’s so worth it!

Somethings that I love…

Over the weekend my beautiful daughter gave birth to an amazing baby boy. My heart could not be any fuller than it is when I hold that sweet baby, surrounded by my family.

Amidst my journey of infertility, adoption, marital issues, and other heartaches, I try desperately hard to hold tight to the beautiful bits of something. The way my beaming, pig tailed daughter would giggle and play on warm summer days; that crisp flavor of the a fresh picked autumn apple as it tickles the tongue; the lazy Saturday mornings of streaming sunlight and sheet chaperoned laughter and dreams spoken aloud with my husband; crazy late Idaho-summer sunsets… My mind has stored up thousands upon thousands of these moments in which life simply feels.  Every time that I am caught in one, something in my soul tells me to carve that moment into me. Those moments are gone and all that remains are the bits I’ve sewn deep into my grasp. I look for more, and my supply gets me through the ugly dark.

If I were to take the culmination of thousands of those moments and put them all together to get one giant amazing feeling, that feeling might begin to compare to how I felt one evening in early May.  My 17-year-old daughter had nearly died a few days before. My life was in the climaxing stage of seven months of turmoil and stress had taken its toll to the point that my body had stopped working the way it was supposed to. My mind was full and as a friend and I went to dinner that particular Thursday evening I found myself so overwhelmed by life and all of its hopeless details…

I do believe in Jesus. I love God with all of my heart, but a lot of people I care deeply for do not share these feelings and that has never stopped me from loving them, laughing with them or building our own leg of our life-journeys together. I can’t speak for them and how the events of that Thursday evening would have felt. I can only share of my experience… I went into that Hillsong concert in Boise, after dinner, with no expectations but this deeply burning knowledge that I needed to be there. As the hours played out, I lived an incredible experience that balmed my soul in a truly unexplainable way. Within the crowds of people I witnessed many extraordinary, beautiful and deeply human things. My daughter texted in the middle and said that she really wished she could go, that she felt like she needed it. This is the girl who had tried to take her own life a few days before… This is the girl whom I had said nothing to other than that I was going, because I felt guilty being 2000 miles away from her and I didn’t know how to say what my spirit was feeling because I could not understand her frame of mind. Still, she told me she knew she was broken and that she really wished she could have gone with me, to Hillsong. After the evening ended, I knew I needed to take her, and in a few weeks I am. Chicago, here we come…

When talk of the Hillsong movie Let Hope Rise was first surfacing, I viewed the trailer with a skepticism which turned to a soul-deep-ache. I wanted to crawl inside the movie and live. I am a lover of concerts, but not typically this genre. Something about that trailer stirred me and I wondered… When I attended, in May, I lived it. That same something was there, it was touchable and real.

Like I said, I can’t speak for someone with different God/heart choices than mine. As deeply personal as I can muster, I’m just going to state that I would spend every day in that moment, if I could. I would share that something with anyone I could, anyone hurting, lonely, broken or weary… I am powerless to do such things, but I can share with you this trailer… Because I believe Hope will Rise, and if you’re wanting that something, then you understand how this movie excites me as much as it does…