kalley went through layers of surrender as the 6th largest fire in California history climbed over a hill and into her neighborhood. Finding her town in debris and ruins, kalley was deeply moved to write songs of redemption for her city and for anyone finding themselves in need of the God who gives “beauty for ashes.” Faultlines Vol. I & II marks kalley’s first studio album and solo project with Bethel Music. This two-part collection gives expression to the multi-dimensional experiences of life: the highs and lows, the soft and razor-edged, the beauty and the pain, the comfort and the questions. In this article, kalley shares her experience that led to finding God in the midst of the rubble.
I was back at that all too familiar place again. “I think I might quit songwriting,” I divulged to Rita Springer while, ironically, a guest speaker at her Dive Creative songwriting school. I had gone back and forth for years searching for my voice in it all, mostly writing because Jesus asked me to. I didn’t have a vision for my voice as a songwriter and my raw obedience was wearing thin.
We were giving songwriting feedback to students at Rita’s school when I got the first text: Redding’s beloved lake, Whiskeytown, is engulfed in flames. Unfortunately, wildfires aren’t out of the summer usual, but this was close to home in every regard. I texted my husband and asked if we were in the line of fire. He said no, it would have to travel far and jump the river beside our house. Impossible.
I didn’t think much about songwriting or fires until I received a phone call from Andrew hours later. “There’s no time to talk, our electricity is out, I can see fire at the end of our street, what do I grab?” He rushed off the phone and my mind slipped into shock. The fire had grown its own weather system, generated a tornado inside and jumped across the river. Through spotty news coverage, I watched as the fire moved street by street closer to our home. I had also heard the fire was moving faster than traffic, and I knew my family was on the road.
I went into Rita’s backyard to try to collect myself again. I sat blankly and didn’t know where to start.
That’s when I heard Jesus say, “Your city and your neighborhood are burning but your songs will be a vengeance. They’ll be firey arrows thrown back at those enemies.”
We heard that our house was gone. For twelve hours I processed this news with Rita, oscillating from grief to crystal clear hope; from pain for my city to recalling how thoroughly God restores. I sat in the news all through the night and cried thinking about losing the piano I wrote “Ever Be” on, and I felt more certain than ever that His praise would always be on my lips, no matter what. I cried over my city and neighborhood while feeling the undeniable passion to write songs that work in the rubble as well as the rebuild.
We found out the next morning that our house was still standing, eliciting a rush of gratitude and guilt. We felt overwhelming thankfulness that it was spared and an equal pain for everyone whose story was different. On the drive home to our house, we passed pain and wreckage—unavoidable questions. I had nightmares hanging on every night. It began to trigger a lot in me, throwing me back to seemingly unrelated experiences where I felt that I wasn’t in control. My own unresolved questions rose up from the woodwork—I wondered if I really was safe, taken care of, protected, and wondered how far from harm my family and I were at any given moment. The fire exposed what had been buried there this whole time, and by the mercy of God, its time of hiding was up.
It was in this moment that I began to know Jesus in a way I hadn’t before—Emmanuel, God with us—to a whole new closeness.
Jesus the hero who moves into the neighborhood when everyone else is running away. The first responder God, the Savior with grit in His fingernails, grease in His smile lines. He’s unafraid of the mess, the unresolve, the questions. The Jesus who brings beauty from ashes but isn’t scared of the ashes or trying to hurry past it. The God who rushes right in the middle of it, who’s very presence is the answer we need the very most. He’s not afraid of our questions, doubts, or pain. I had to face my own formerly suppressed and distant pain and come to terms with the fact that all my sense of safety or security doesn’t work unless Jesus himself is my fence and safety net, and He’s well capable and willing to be that if I let Him.
I began to feel this passion rise up to write songs that work in my neighborhood before the testimony is finished, songs that work in the middle of the process before we have the happy resolve and the 20/20 vision.
I wrote out of my journals, unfolding before God and seeing if there were melodies that could match it, but only secondary to the important process of healing. Each song has an intensive, personal story attached. My songs of surrender; surrendering wounds, pain, guilt, questions. I had to trust Him when He said those things were a worthy offering as much as the bold declarations and springtime faith. I realized “You can have it all, Lord,” also includes the places you’ve avoided looking at, the pain you thought maybe would never change, and the disappointment you thought would disappoint Him. I surrendered to His comfort and His healing.
My hope is that my process will open up a pathway for you to walk forward into the holy valleys we face and tap into the respite and oasis He provides for us in any dry space that is calming water for any burns. I hope my songs give the courage to stand and declare that good is coming our way and not calamity, all because Jesus is with us. We’re multi-dimensional—so are experiences. They’re not just one note, especially the moments that shape us most. Highs, lows, soft, razor-edged, beauty, pain, comfort, questions, resolve. Both/and
When the plates underneath us move, when the fire blows through and the waters rise, layers are unearthed in us, but He will be found in it all. Right in the Middle of It.