MEET MARY JAMES
If there's one thing that Mary understands, it's the transforming work of Christ. One to whom grace abounds, she is a testimony of the new life that is given to the sinner who repents and to the prodigal who returns. "I was a dead man walking," she says of her life before Christ. Now Mary is a new creation, empowered to bring a message of hope, renewal, and faith through the songs and story God has given her to share with the world.
From the very beginning, Mary's' life has not been ordinary. Born to a teenager who was not ready to be a parent, she was given up for adoption to a Minister and his wife. Life was fine for season, but things became increasingly complicated as her adoptive Mother suffered from alcoholism and eventually died of Breast cancer when Mary was only 13. Her Father spent his life dedicated to serving his congregation and was unable to spend much time with the family. The knowledge of being adopted coupled with her difficult home environment sparked in her a certain insecurity that she struggled with for years to come. "I believed that I was unloved, unwanted and an obvious mistake. I came to the place where I not only gave up on people, but on myself." This giving up was what led Mary to drugs, alcohol, and finally to life as a teenage runaway. Mary says, "As a child I was taught that I needed Jesus, but I didn't understand why. He wasn't doing anything to fix my broken family and life, so why would I turn to Him? Instead I turned to what the world offered."
THE CHANCE TO LIVE
Mary's first feeling of belonging came at 21 when she met her biological mother and finally understood how she had fought for her unborn baby's right to live. "Since abortions were illegal in the United States at that time, my Grandmother offered to send my Mother to Europe to end her pregnancy. In spite of the pressure, my Mom was willing to go through the pregnancy and all of the social stigmas related to being a pregnant teenager in order to give me a chance to live. She did not want me to pay the price for her bad decision." Even though Mary did not know it yet, God had a special plan for her.
For as long as Mary can remember, music has been a part of her life. Raised in a musical family, her talents were recognized at an early age when she began to sing solos in church and in school. Her teachers encouraged the budding talent, and Mary was given the opportunity to pursue vocal training and perform publicly at a young age. She went on to be a part of several active show choirs, win college scholarships and then major in Theatre at San Diego State University. Through this time, Mary was being trained as a Classical vocalist. After a break from music, she returned knowing she wanted to use her musical gifts, but did not want to perform classically. Mary began to experiment with her unique sound and found a home in Country Music. She went on to perform in clubs, join the NSAI and hone her craft as a songwriter, but she recalls that it was "all very empty".
REASON TO LIVE
Even though Mary grew up in church, she did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In spite of her separation from God, He was drawing her to Himself through the circumstances in her life. Strong Christian co-workers who were a witness to Mary invited her and her family to a play that shared the truth about sin and salvation. That night, Mary, her two children and fiancé accepted Christ. Mary's daughter, Jessica, remembers it as the day that they were "washed clean." And with that new life, Mary began to experience the fullness of what God had planned for her.
MUSIC WITH MEANING
After Mary gave her life to Christ; a passion was born in her for worship music and Christian songs. She began to serve in her local church as a worship leader and was given numerous opportunities to share her gifts at churches, women's retreats and other similar venues. But, it did not seem that God was through with Mary as an artist and songwriter.
Mary received a phone call one day from Steve Wetherbee, a friend and producer who had been helping her pursue a Country music career. He approached her with an offer to record a CD, but he wanted it to be Christian project. This was the confirmation that Mary needed, and it was the beginning of the journey that has led her to the production of "Little Things", "Truth Cries Out", “Beautiful Savior” and her upcoming live worship CD "At His Feet."
TRUTH CRIES OUT
After long hours in the studio and even longer hours of faith lessons that inspired the songs on the album, Mary released her first full-length CD. Did she feel adequate to be the one bringing such a message? "No. God has a unique way of using the most damaged vessels and unlikely candidates for His kingdom work. The trials were so intense that I did not think I could keep going. My battle with stage fright was relentless. But God continued nudging me and I moved forward each day trusting that I was in His will, refusing to be a prisoner to fear and insecurity. I decided to just do it afraid and God always showed up." It is her obedience to God and encouragement from fellow believers that has given Mary the courage to take the stage and share the message that is on her heart.
And just what is that message? "A life led by Christ is sweet success - a life lived without Him is emptiness. I want to reach people who are seeking answers or are discouraged and remind them that God is a god of second chances. Not only has He poured out His love on us through His Son Jesus, he has gifted each of us in our own unique way. I allowed lies to get in the way of truth for a long time, but not anymore. God's plan for each of us is one of a kind. He can use our past to impact the future...if we let Him."
JOURNEY WITH THE SAVIOR
God has opened many doors since Mary’s journey began, with a singing and speaking schedule now ranging from 70-100 dates per year. In addition, she released her third full length CD in September of 2008, titled after the old hymn “Beautiful Savior”. Mary says, “As I sat down to pull all the pieces of this project together, I could not seem to settle on an appropriate title. The trend among many Christian artists is to be as original as possible and avoid “Christian-ese”. So, I bought into the myth that less Christian language would somehow be more attractive or have more impact on my audience. In my devotional time, God directed me to 1 Peter 2:9, which brought wonderful clarity to our charge in Christ. Paraphrased it says, “You have been saved to proclaim the excellence of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light”. And that is what I do through music, plain and simple. The songs of the new project focus on the One who gives us victory in the valleys or a song to sing even when the walls are falling down around us. No other title was more fitting than the one I chose, for Christ is the source of all joy, our “Beautiful Savior”. More than ever before, I am in love with the one who understands sacrifice, humility, and the power that love has over sorrows. I have met countless people who have faced, or are facing great trials, and they are still able to find joy because of the deep satisfaction they have found in knowing Jesus. I want the world to know Him and as long as He allows me to sing His praises, I will continue.