Nicole Nordeman
This Mystery
Nicole Nordeman is one singer/songwriter who doesn?t feel like she has to have all the answers. In fact, merely being brave enough to question is a path in itself.

"Often times exploration and seeking gets left behind because it?s interpreted as a weakness. But it feels right to write about that because that?s where I am. Questioning is such a prerequisite to growth. If you?re not asking hard questions, how can you be taking a journey to the answers?"

So it is not surprising that This Mystery, Nichole?s follow up to her successful debut, Wide Eyed, provides no easy answers. But where she has grown is in the types of question she?s asking.

"This record for me is more about who God is, as opposed to who I am. The first record was about my struggle in my relationship with the Lord. This record has become more about the mysterious, the intangibles, the question marks about the mystery of our faith that we want to skip sometimes."

This Mystery also marks a songwriter, no easy task since much of the last two years have been spent on the road. Songwriting, then, came in stolen moments when she?d lock herself away in a church?s choir room or hotel room and pour out her heart to God. And times at home, she?d stay up half the night writing. "That tends to be where I feel the most creative. And perhaps the most vulnerable."

As with her debut, Nicole lays her life bare for listeners, writing eight of This Mystery?s songs by herself and two more with producer Mark Hammond. The project showcases a deepening of her own faith experience and maturing as a vocalist and songwriter. And musically she branches out, too. While still preferring a heavy piano sound, This Mystery takes her in a stronger adult-contemporary direction as well. And, aided in part by touring with Avalon and Anointed, she?s come out of her shell onstage as well. "For so long, I was such a closet writer. To have to get out onstage every night and not only entertain people but be authentic and real at the same time has been a challenge. I?ve spent most of the last couple of years singing in churches and colleges and have really gotten my performance feet wet."

But the biggest proof of the growth comes in the songs themselves. Take the title cut, which came after a season of questions about "what am I doing and why am I doing it?" The end result was a question for God ? is He troubled by the monotony and routine with which many of us approach life? And a challenge for listeners: "It?s human nature to feel bogged down by the routine of life. But we miss out on some pretty awesome things when we?re on automatic pilot. Jesus didn?t live life like this."

And Nichole is trying hard not to live life like that, either. The biggest test comes in what she calls "the small moments, when we?re supposed to be on the bus and I?m checking my watch every five minutes listening to some young girl tell me she?s taken piano lessons since the first grade. Those are the moments I am literally trying to say, ?Stop, listen. Don?t rush. This moment could be a gift for you or for her or both.? Being open to those teeny moments, God has shown me more of Himself through people."

But not all of the moments in This Mystery revolve around the joyous discoveries; several come from heart-rending experiences. "Every Season," for instance, captured a moment at a young friend?s funeral. Singing at the funeral, Nichole realized that it had been almost four years prior, at that same piano in that same church, that she had sung at the man?s wedding. "It just struck me so hard. I was there four years earlier helping them celebrate the spring and summer in their marriage and now we gathered in the same place during a very "winter" moment. Yet God was still so present in both of those events and will continue to be so in her life. That?s hard for me to remember that God stays even when life gets cold."

Life has been anything but cold for Nichole since her first album debuted. Its frank and honest questioning, organic, piano-driven music and vivid word pictures struck a chord with the industry and fans alike. The song yielded strong sales for a debut artist and put four songs high on the charts. "To Know You" and "Who You Are" both landed at the top of the adult contemporary chart while "I Wish The Same" was No. 2. The album?s title cut, "Wide Eyed," also was a top 20 hit.

Other accolades have included two Dove nominations, for Best New Artist in 1999, which resulted in a performance on the nationally televised awards show and Best Female Vocalist in 2000. Not bad for a woman who thought her questions might be off-putting to some. "I?ve been delightfully surprised by people?s openness and willingness to be receptive to my music but also to identify with some of the questions I asked. I wasn?t sure if the Christian music community would embrace that at all."

Not a bad couple of years for a Colorado-raised waitress in Los Angeles who scraped together $200 to enter a contest sponsored by the Gospel Music Association?s Academy of Gospel Music Arts. She won the contest with "Why," the story of the crucifixion as told through the eyes of a child. A live version appears on the CD of This Mystery as a bonus cut, an appropriate inclusion since much of the discovery Nicole beckons listeners to experience, requires a child-like faith. Not bad for an entire album inspired by a Madeline L?Engel book. But it was a non-fiction work, "Walking On Water", by the noted children?s author?s that stirred much of the mysteries in This Mystery.

"I just really want to emphasize this notion that God is so much bigger than we thought or think. If we?re open to that, we can find the hand of God in so many places."

One of the mysteries in life is how a young woman finds inspiration from a children?s author, returns to a child-like faith and takes a massive step in maturing.