(Photo courtesy of Story House Collective)
Truth She’s Standing On
An Interview On Identity in Christ and Uniqueness with Leanna Crawford
By Sarah Komisky
Leanna Crawford is Contemporary Christian Music’s “it” girl at the moment. Just ask anyone under the age of 25. However, this small town girl from Washington State grew up with quite a different story than the one she is living now. Without friends in youth group, she decided to join the worship team in hopes of changing that situation. In the process, she was changed. Falling deeper in love with music, she also developed a passion for songwriting. Eventually, this passion led her down the path of studying music business in college where Crawford attended a songwriting conference. This conference held an open mic where Matthew West was a surprise attendee. On a borrowed ukulele, her destiny was wielded as she played a song that surprisingly West happened to record on his phone. Little did she know, Crawford would be getting her big music break as West was looking to giveback as a musical mentor. This followed with an invite from West to song write, which led to a tour, producing an EP (“Crazy Beautiful You”), being signed, and releasing another EP of which the hit song co-wrote by West, “The Truth I’m Standing On” was born.
While the journey has been amazing and certainly unique, Crawford has not forgotten where she came from. This includes remembering what God has brought her out of. While most of her songs center on the topic of wrestling with insecurity and elevating our value in Christ, Crawford is not ashamed to share her past which included being labeled as “overweight” at a young age. Today, as the songstress has come to understand her own uniqueness, she invites others to embrace who they are and to let go of their insecurities through the songs she writes. As Marked Ministry celebrates “Uniqueness” this month, Editor in Chief, Sarah Komisky caught up with Crawford to talk about the stories behind her songs, how her past currently intersects with her present to be used for a greater cause, the subject of coming into her own, and how she hopes others can do the same. Here is what she had to say.
Sarah: I love all your music. Since our theme this month is “uniqueness” I thought that we could dive into the stories behind the songs together. I wanted to look at “Mean Girls” off your new EP. I know it is a personal song, so I thought you could share a little of your story behind that one.
Leanna: For sure. I think songwriting can be a very vulnerable thing, and I think that’s what I aim for when I write songs; I want to be real in any songs that I sing or share, I just want them to be me and authentic, and this is probably the most vulnerable that I have ever had been. A lot of the Nashville writing and LA too is like co-writing, and it’s usually me and my two co-writers, and this has probably been the most vulnerable. I was super nervous to bring them the idea because it’s sharing my heart and a part of my story that I don’t really want to talk about––because who wants to say they’re wounded or still hurt by words? We all are, and we’ve all experienced that, and my first memory of words that were painful was when I was, I think eight years old.
My sister and I were super close, and we were with my little friend at the time, and my friend made a comment. She had called me “fat.” We were eight, and I had no idea…I wasn’t fat necessarily, but I had chubby cheeks. But even if I wasn’t, it wrecked me. I remember crying to my mom and was like, ‘What…? I don’t understand.’ And that’s kind of my first memory. We all say things that are hurtful, and it’s like, ‘What words should we be listening to?’ Even the true part of the song “As I’m Older It Just Gets Worse,” you think, when you’re an adult––when you grow up a little bit–– that it will all be fine. That’s not the case necessarily, and sometimes, the words have more weight. That’s something I’m continually working through and that’s why it’s a part of my story and probably always will be. I hope it’s an encouragement to people; to know that one ,we are not alone and that we are all in this together; we’ve all dealt with words that have been hurtful but at the same time, whose words are the most important to listen to? That’s the Word of God.
I just was listening to Matthew West’s new podcast with Mark Hall (from Casting Crowns), who was saying “When we look at ourselves in the mirror of scripture, we look at ourselves at the eyes of everybody else, but if we looked at ourselves in the mirror of scripture and that’s what we looked at we would see something totally different,” and that’s really the most important thing: that we look at ourselves through the eyes of what God says about us and I just love it. It’s just not looking through the lens of what everybody else says, because everyone is going to have an opinion whether they’re right or wrong, but it really just matters what God says, and that’s where that song came from.
Sarah: That’s so good and so true. Like you were saying, you were talking about words and being defined by them. So, I thought, what do you think in terms of how people are defining themselves by words today and how can they begin to let God shed light on them? Because, sometimes, we don’t even know that those words are there with those that haven’t heard us. How can we get started in that process, and what do you think are the biggest struggles people have with words?
Leanna: I think that the biggest struggle, at least for me, is social media. These are words that we’re constantly consuming and we’re completely unaware––and a lot of those words are negative, and there is self- talk that we don’t realize that were doing, like, ‘Their life was so great; why am I a failure? Why am I not enough when everybody else is doing this?’ and self-talk is something we don’t even realize that we might be doing in comparing ourselves to others, and maybe no one has spoken over us, but it’s what we’ve just decided that’s who we are. So something that I do that is write down affirmations of what God says about me. I know it’s really hard, but I have to physically write those things, like “I am loved.” Things that are so simple, and sometimes it’s so hard to do because we don’t realize it, and sometimes we don’t believe it. Sometimes you need to say that [affirmations]––and God doesn’t think of you as a failure or these things, but we sometimes think we’re not doing enough and we’re comparing to everybody’s highlight reel, and people are probably comparing themselves to our highlight reel. It’s not bad, but it’s just the reality of it. Sometimes I take a break from scrolling and take a minute to take time to spend in the Word. Sometimes, another thing I do is focusing on other people and not what they do, but sending someone a text like ‘this is something specific that I love about you.’ Sometimes, getting off of ourselves can just help us; that’s just what helps me. There’s a lot of Scriptures that help with that too, and one of my favorites is Zephaniah 3:17. I just love that one: “The Lord your God is in your midst, He is mighty to save, He will rejoice over you with singing,” and I just love that picture. But there’s so many affirmations and encouraging promises in Scripture.
Sarah: I think that’s so key, especially with words that stick with us through adulthood that we need to sometimes, like you said, physically write down. Those things that we can look at and self-reflect, and right now is a perfect time where some of us have a little more time to be able to do that. It’s a perfect exercise that sometimes we don’t even think about doing––to write messages to ourselves saying “this is who I am and who God says I am.” Thank you for sharing that.
“Photoshop,” I want to talk about that song because it’s so fun and has such a relevant message, so what inspired that one?
Leanna: That one is just so fun. I have a song called “Crazy Beautiful You,” and I don’t think there are enough reminders of ‘Hey, you’re beautiful, and you don’t need to be photoshopped.’ There’s nothing wrong with it, and I think it’s fun, and I use a filter on my Lightroom app because I think it’s fun. But it’s just like being able to look in the mirror and saying, ‘God designed every part of me, and I may not look like the models I see in a magazine, but I have been fearfully and wonderfully made and am knitted together in his womb and I’m his creation.’
You think about the Mona Lisa, and I think about how Da Vinci literally was commissioned to paint her and never gave the painting because he loved it so much. You would never think about painting over her, and that’s how God thinks about us. He loves us so much, and He thinks we are the most wonderful masterpiece and most beautiful and wonderful thing. It sounds like so simple, but yet it’s so profound in that He’s created every detail. He thought even beyond our physical things about the way we are and our emotions, and I just think that’s the coolest thing.
Sarah: Yeah, I love that because we don’t think about that and how we’re unique. We kind of gloss over those things and wish we were somebody else, and when we think about how important that is, I think it really does change our perspective.
Leanna: Yeah, we are like ‘Oh if I could only lose 10 pounds, oh if I had this haircut, and you’re like, ‘no, wait, hold on a second…’
Sarah: Yeah, it’s so true. I want to go to the song “Funeral.” I think it was such a good message of moving forward in our faith when it comes to shame-shedding as well and our insecurities, not-enoughness, and our fears. What are some practical ways we can have a funeral and bury those things that hold us back from being all that God has called us to be?
Leanna: It’s a fun take on a really real thing too, and I became a believer at a really young age, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always had it together. And I definitely do not right now, and I think the more that I know––and my pastor at my home church said this years ago, but it’s like stuck with me––the more that I learn about Jesus, the more I realize my need for Him and the more I realize how much I need Him. I thought it would be the opposite; that I more that I knew, the better I thought I’d be (or the more spiritual). But the more I realized my desperate need for Him and throwing a funeral, you can take it as the one moment you asked Jesus to come into your heart and you throw a funeral for your past. But I think as believers, all the time, we need to throw a funeral and start fresh.
I think I’m someone that looks in the past a lot, it’s really to learn from your mistakes, but then to dwell on them is so different than learning from them. Saying, ‘No, God’s delivered me.’ Something I love to do is writing, and sometimes journaling. Which, I journal every day, but looking back at my prayer requests and my journal entries and seeing how God has taken me from point A to point B and how He has answered my prayers, it’s like, ‘No, I am throwing a funeral for my past, and God is continuing to renew me, and He doesn’t want me to stay the same.’ He wants me to be more like Jesus. That’s the wonderful thing of getting through a funeral and a practical way––which I love the picture is if you haven’t been baptized––I think that’s another great way to throw a funeral, and it’s just a public display of wanting to follow Jesus and wanting everyone to know. I just love the imagery of throwing a funeral. I just think it’s beautiful.
Sarah: So, “Truth I’m Standing On,” the awesome single that’s out right now. It’s so powerful and so inspiring and I know for so many people, it’s standing on God’s truth. In terms of when you think about truth you can stand on, what did you discover when God began to show you who you were in Him? What was that truth you stood on?
Leanna: I wrote the song pre-COVID, before 2020, and then at the time when I wrote this song, I was experiencing anxiety––and I never experienced anxiety before––and didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it. I struggled with not being able to sleep a lot. I know a lot of people struggle with that, but it was super weird for me, and I felt the words people said about me or words I was speaking over myself kept me up overnight. So writing this song became my anthem and my victory that God is faithful and obviously, He’s good. It became real when 2020 happened; everything I thought I knew was stable––like doing live shows and getting to do things that people think are normal––are all of a sudden not happening, and it took on this new meaning, and it was like, “I need to practice what I preach and stand on His truth and on firm foundation. And not to use biblical words, but He truly is a solid rock, and it became truer and more real this year. My life verse for years has been Joshua 1:9,
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
That verse, the promise that He is with me wherever I go, has been something that’s stuck with me. I think I relate to that verse so much because I want to be strong and courageous, but I’m not all the time, and I really relate with being afraid. But, He commands me to be strong and courageous. Not do it alone, but like ‘I am going to be with you every single step of the way.’ So I think that’s been the biggest truth––is so many times over and over again, He is faithful and He is with me and He doesn’t leave my side in anything. So that’s been my truth, and there’s so many truths, but He has been with me. That’s what He promises.
Find out more about Leanna by visiting leannacrawford.com