Tuesday, May 28 2024 - 6:53 PM

Sharing Christ Through the Arts

A woman holding a guitar
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When Alison Became Nosila

I’ve felt for awhile 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’s 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 many 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 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 lamp stands. 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.

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About Jennifer Jill Schwirzer

Jennifer Jill Schwirzer

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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