Love Letters: The Story Behind "You Are Safe"

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YOU ARE SAFE

“You Are Safe” is the first song on my new EP “Love Letters,” and it is also the first song that I wrote while I was a student at the Radiant School of Worship.

Sometime within the first month of school, we had a 2-day retreat where our leaders taught us how to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, write down what we heard, and make sure it lines up with scripture. They worked with us individually and guided us through it so well. By the end of the 2 days, I had heard the loving voice of God for the first time, and had a whole journal page to show for it. It changed the way I prayed, journaled, and spent time with God in general, which ultimately was a game-changer in my daily life.

One day, about a week after this retreat, I was spending time with the Lord in my loft early in the morning, and he clearly spoke words of love and identity over me. I wrote them all down in my journal. I remember crying a lot because I had never thought of God as a kind & attentive Father before, but the words he said were so full of gentleness and kindness.

I closed my journal and began to go about my day. While I was folding laundry and listening to instrumental music, a new melody popped into my head, and I found myself singing the words I had written down. I thought, “whoa, I think God is giving me a song.” I rushed to my guitar, opened my journal to the words I had just written down, and began to sing the words out loud.

Within an hour or two, the majority of “You Are Safe” was written. It happened SO naturally that I almost don’t remember the process I went through to write it. I jokingly tell people that I blacked out while writing it, and in a way I think that’s kind of true, haha. I quickly recorded it into a voice memo on my phone, and then spent a few hours that afternoon recording a real demo of the song. It was important to me to have a recording of the song so I could go listen to it whenever I struggled with identity or insecurity.

The song became a monument that I continually went back to, for months after I wrote it. I listened to the recording constantly, sometimes just having it on repeat in my car whenever I drove anywhere. It put me at ease every time I was anxious. Besides a few exceptions, I didn’t show it to anyone because it felt like a special gift from God to me, and I told myself I’d never release it publicly unless God told me to (which he later did; I’ll explain that in a second). But once in a while, he’d put it on my heart to share with specific individual people. I fondly remember one particular instance where my friend Audrey and I laid on the floor in her living room on a rainy fall day as I played the recording of the song for her, and it was such a wonderful peaceful moment.

On Thanksgiving, Cory Asbury and his wife Anna invited me and a couple other RSW students over to eat dinner with them (which is SO KIND and I still can’t get over that). After we ate, Cory took us to his piano and showed us a song he was working on. I ended up showing him and Anna my song, You Are Safe. Cory made some really great suggestions that I ended up using, like adding the word “here” in the last lines of the choruses and using that same line in the bridge. So, of course, I sometimes take advantage of the opportunity to tell people “I co-wrote with Cory Asbury once.” :)

The final stage of developing this song was recording it for real, which I did sometime in March or April. I made the decision to change the instrumentation to just piano, unlike the guitar-based demo. The soft felt piano sound that I used in the final recording was almost exactly the way Cory’s piano sounded when I played the song for him and Anna.

Deciding to publicly release this song was surprisingly difficult for me. At the time, it was the most intimate song I had ever written, and it truly did feel like a sweet little secret that the Lord and I got to share together. But after about 5 or 6 months of enjoying the secret, I felt the Lord start to put on my heart that a time is coming when the words of this song are meant to be shared. The thing that finally convinced me to do it was seeing the positive impact it had on every friend I showed it to. The song already had a few testimonies attached to it by the time I even considered releasing it - God was already using the song to speak to my friends on a deep level, which is so cool. It makes me excited to see how it might speak to others too.

You Are Safe will always remind me of those first few months of RSW - a time when my whole life was being turned upside down and I was experiencing the very real love of God for the first time. It’ll always remind me of the special moments with friends when I shared the song with them, and the moment with Cory and Anna when I played it for them. Most of all, it’ll always remind me of the first few times that I heard the voice of God, and how much it changed my life.


Love Letters is a 3-song EP consisting of songs I wrote during my time in the Radiant School of Worship. Each song is written from the perspective of God.

New Colors, New Freedom

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Recently, I was at a coffee shop with my amazing artist friend Payton, and we were discussing ideas for my next EP’s album art. She pulled a set of watercolors out of her bag and began to paint in order to show me some possible colors, and for some reason, I found myself so drawn to what she was doing.

“Watercolors look so fun and relaxing. I kind of want to try it,” I found myself saying, even though I have tried painting with watercolors before, and it never went well.

Payton got very excited, and she drove me to Hobby Lobby that afternoon and bought me my own set of watercolors, a brush, and a little pad of watercolor paper. We then went to another coffee shop (we really like coffee around here, okay?) and painted together, and for some reason, my experience painting this time was very different from every other time I’ve tried to paint in my life - instead of getting all stressed out or perfectionistic, it felt like a release. I was hooked. It was so fun. All I painted that day was a bunch of colorful lines and blobby flowers that didn’t even look good, but I loved it.

The next morning, I was at ANOTHER coffee shop (don’t judge me) with another friend of mine, and I painted the sunflowers that you see in the photo above. It came so naturally. No frustration or perfectionism, no nitpicking, nothing like that. I couldn’t believe it. Since then, I can’t stop painting with my new watercolors, and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.

This is so significant to me because for the longest time, especially this past year, I have been feeling like there is something in me that I’ve been wanting to communicate, but I just couldn’t figure out how. I have so many creative tools at my fingertips, including state-of-the-art music production software and a bunch of musical instruments, but I could never quite hit the nail on the head with music or writing. But as soon as Payton and I sat down and painted together that day, my heart screamed “THIS IS IT.”

To put it simply: I’m finding new freedom with this new form of expression, and I LOVE it.

If you like my paintings, you can head over to my shop and get yourself a print. There’s also shirts, stickers, mugs, and more. Thanks so much for your support!

Post-RSW Life Update

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Somehow, it has already been almost 2 months since I graduated the Radiant School of Worship. When I graduated, I knew things would be different, but I really had no idea the extent of things that would soon change in my life. As I’m writing this, it’s pretty late on a mid-July night, and I can’t sleep because of everything going on. I’m definitely right smack in the middle of one of those “transition seasons,” and it’s a whole lot to deal with and process.

For those of you keeping up with my life on social media, here’s a somewhat detailed update on how things are going for me :)

The first and most exciting change is that I’ll be staying here in Kalamazoo long-term. My original plan was to move back home upon graduating, but God made it clear that this new city is my home for a while. However, I will not be staying in the loft I lived in during RSW; I’ll be moving into a cute house closer to downtown with a couple of friends. I’m very excited to live with roommates for the first time and be within walking distance of my work and my favorite coffee shop.

Speaking of work, I recently got a part-time job at a cool piano store downtown called the Kalamazoo Piano Company. My boss is an experienced piano technician who is also one of the kindest and most helpful humans I’ve ever met, and I’ve spent the past month helping her out in the shop and learning all kinds of things from her on the job. For instance, last week she taught me how to fix a broken piano string without replacing the string altogether. I’ve always loved fixing things and working with my hands, so it’s a really fun job so far! I just started helping her out with their social media as well, and I’ll be helping with piano sales starting this week too.
I really have no idea what my career goals are at this point in my life (I mean, I was working on building marketing experience for 3 years, and then God suddenly took me to a worship school, and now I’m learning how to be a piano technician… so who knows), but for now, I’m really enjoying what I do.
On top of this, I am still tuning pianos independently, and I’m also thinking about starting to teach piano/keys lessons after I move into the new house. I’ve never taught lessons before, but I already have a few friends interested in learning from me, so I'm excited to give it a shot.

In the fall, I will be working with the next Radiant School of Worship class as the Lead Prayer Coach, which means I’ll be scheduling student-led worship teams for the prayer room, and working alongside RSW staff to critique students after each set and help them grow as musicians/worship leaders. This is my first serious leadership role that involves teaching and discipling, and I’m both excited and a little nervous. It’s an honor to work with the school, though, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

In addition to everything, I’m serving regularly on Radiant Church’s worship team as a keyboardist, bassist, and worship leader. It’s such a privilege to be able to serve here, surrounded by such incredibly talented people. Thanks to being on this team, I’m still growing so much as a musician and worship leader, even though I’m done with the worship school. I love being around people who are always pushing me to get better.
I have been leading worship a lot more these days too, mostly in the prayer room, but I also had the awesome opportunity to be a guest worship leader at Radiant Bay City. I never thought of myself as a worship leader before, so it’s interesting to see leadership opportunities come my way like this. It’s both exciting and kind of terrifying, haha.

To be honest, things have been messy in my personal life and mental health lately, but through it all, I find it so helpful to remember moments from my year at RSW: my baptism, getting miraculously healed, deep conversations with friends, transformative moments in worship, stuff like that. Those moments serve as great reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness no matter what’s happening around me. It’s making me extra thankful for all the journals I kept, photos I took, and songs I wrote throughout my time at school.

That about sums it up, I think, at least for now. Thank you guys for continuing to love on me and support me, even if it’s from afar. I’m so thankful for each and every one of you!

RSW Blog #7: From Death to Life

It’s official: I am a 2019 graduate of the Radiant School of Worship.

This past weekend, on the day after I graduated, my friends took me out to Gull Lake and baptized me. Baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old life and the resurrection of new life in Christ, and I can’t think of a better way to sum up what God did in me at RSW this past year.

When I arrived in Kalamazoo 8 months ago, I was a completely different person. I wasn’t interested in opening up to anyone. I actually prided myself in my cynical sense of humor and excessive sarcasm. I used my introversion as an excuse to intentionally isolate myself. I humble-bragged on social media constantly. I recorded and released music just to prove to the world that I could. I was obsessed with my image. I could go on… I was extremely selfish and prideful, to say the least. My expectations going into RSW were to get better at studio production (so I could release more music, of course), learn from Cory Asbury how to write really great songs, and make connections that would move me forward and get me noticed in my music career. That’s it.

God’s plans for the year were vastly different. Right off the bat, he started revealing ugly stuff in my heart. I began to realize how much of a sinner I am and how much I truly need Jesus. He started showing me how much he loves me like a kind father. He allowed a lot of stuff to go wrong in my life, which forced me to lean into him for strength and peace - and because of that, through every tough circumstance I experienced his love and goodness so much more than I ever have before. He taught me that I am infinitely loved, regardless of how well I’m performing or how good my music sounds or what I do. As a bonus, through it all, he surrounded me with people who became like family. I was supported, encouraged, and prayed for all year. I learned how to open up to people, ask for help, and receive love. I also learned how to love selflessly, pour myself out, and serve others wholeheartedly.

Above all, I got to know a God who has been the greatest Father and friend. I learned his voice and heard him speak to me over and over again. I felt a love and a grace that I could never earn or deserve. And what blows my mind the most is that He orchestrated things perfectly to break chains and strongholds that I assumed I’d have to struggle with for the rest of my life. He is so worthy of everything I have, because he gave everything to set me free. He is so good, so kind, so incredibly personal and loving.

Getting baptized this weekend was my proclamation that the old Alanah is truly dead, and the new Alanah has been raised to life in Christ Jesus. The cynical, insecure, depressed, anxious, isolated, hopeless Alanah has passed away, and a confident, joyful, free, colorful Alanah has come to life.

———

As this season comes to a close and I step into a new one, I look back on the past 8 months with tears in my eyes (literally, I can’t stop tearing up as I write this). I never expected any of this to happen, but it ended up being better than anything I could’ve asked for or imagined. I’m so, so in love with Jesus, and I’m so excited to walk hand-in-hand with him into whatever the next chapter of my life holds.

“When I was at my lowest, You still were on your throne.
When I was still a long way off, You ran to bring me home.”

- “Egypt” by Cory Asbury

New Song "Sun" Available Now!

Album art by Micaela Frakes-Zieger

Album art by Micaela Frakes-Zieger

This song is massively different than any song I’ve ever released before, not just in terms of its sound, but the heart and story behind the song also. It’s a monument and testament to everything God has done in my life during this incredible season of my life.

In the past 7 months, I learned how to love and pour into others, I discovered what it’s like to walk in real joy and freedom, I found my voice and my confidence, I was miraculously healed from debilitating daily headaches, I walked through some really tough circumstances and discovered whole new levels of God’s love in the process, I found freedom from deeply-rooted issues and childhood wounds that I always thought I’d struggle with for the rest of my life, and most importantly, I entered into a very real friendship with Jesus, which has been the greatest thing ever. This song reflects and represents all of this, and that’s why it means so much to me. Every word was squeezed out of a season of very real growing pains, learning curves, and new revelation.

Friends, it would mean the world to me if you played this song and really listened hard to the lyrics. “Sun” by Alanah Sabatini can be found on iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, and wherever else you get your music online.


“The Lord God is a sun.” - Psalm 84:11

“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things.” - Psalm 103:2-5

RSW Blog #6: Happy birthday 2 me

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This blog post is gonna be a video, because writing is exhausting sometimes. Lol

So listen, I’ve been wanting to update this blog for a while because there has been a TON going on on my life that I’d love to tell you guys about. I tried sitting down to write on multiple occasions. But every time I try to get my thoughts out, I can’t formulate it in a way that would make sense to anyone, and then I get tired and give up. Lol, it’s a struggle.

Instead, I made this video on my YouTube channel this past weekend, and I’d say it does a pretty good job of bringing you up to speed on what has been happening over the past 4 months. Enjoy!

RSW Blog #5: Delight

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Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
— Psalm 37:4 ESV

Psalm 37:4 is a verse that I always interpreted wrong as a teenager. My mindset was “I want x and y to happen, so I have to seek God in order for him to give it to me.” Looking back on that time of spiritual immaturity makes me laugh now, but I remember being incredibly frustrated as a young Christian, never seeing prayers answered and wondering what I was doing wrong.

I’d always be asking, “Aren’t you supposed to give me the desires of my heart, God? Am I not seeking you correctly? Worship in church yesterday was really good, and I feel like I really connected with you. What else do I need to do for you to make this happen?” It led to years of anger, doubt, and discouragement.

The truth is, my focus was all wrong (which should have been obvious, lol), and I removed delight from the process altogether. While I was so busy focusing on how to attain the “desires of my heart,” I didn’t realize that the joy of spending time with my loving Father was right there in front of me the whole time.

This is something that I learned embarrassingly recently, after I started school here at RSW. In just these 2 months of school so far, my understanding of God (and of myself) has been flipped on its head. The God who I once saw as distant and forgetful keeps proving himself to be fiercely loving, kind, and attentive.

Allow me to illustrate this in a story. Yesterday (Friday), I went grocery shopping in the morning, and my car randomly started making a very loud & scary rattle sound. I reacted in a panic because I’m planning on driving two hours away for a Julien Baker concert on Sunday, and so I needed a working car to get me there safely. On top of that, because I moved here less than 2 months ago, I had NO idea where to take the car to get it fixed. I took a deep breath, asked my landlord for advice, and began looking up phone numbers for local car repair places. The first place I called was completely booked for weeks. I called the nearest dealership next, which also told me they were completely booked this weekend and couldn’t schedule an appointment for me. They told me to bring the car in anyway, and they might be able to keep the car overnight and look at it when they have a spare moment between appointments. That seemed like my only option, so I rushed to put my groceries away, said a frantic “God, please let this go smoothly” prayer, and carefully drove my noisy car to the dealership 20 minutes away.

The whole time I was driving there, I was in a constant state of anxiety. My thoughts went like this: “please God, don’t let something fall off the bottom of my car on the way there.” “God why would you let a car problem happen just DAYS before a road trip?” “God, I’m choosing to trust in your goodness even though I’m really annoyed at you right now and this is stupid and scary AF.” “WHY IS MY CAR SO LOUD?” “omg I might die today. My car will explode and someone will have to clean up my dead body. God, please don’t let that happen.”

Talk about messy prayers, right? Well, God listened and cared about ALL of those poorly-worded panicky prayers. I got to the dealership safely and was greeted by the most helpful and friendly staff member who chatted with me about my upcoming road trip. Turns out he used to be a concert promoter, and he likes Julien Baker too! When we got into the service garage, they happened to have a technician available, so they took my car back right away. As soon as I handed them the key and signed the estimate, my sweet friend Gretchen pulled into the garage with her car (what are the chances??) and she sat with me for a half hour or so. We got to talk and laugh, and it completely took my mind off of the stress of the morning. My car ended up getting fixed in just over an hour, the issue was minor, and the final cost was almost 20% less than the estimate they gave me.

I drove home with a huge smile on my face, thanking God out loud the entire way home. Not only was I thankful for the smoothness of the morning—I was thankful that the whole stressful ordeal was just a way for God to prove his trustworthiness. My messy “God, I’m choosing to trust in your goodness even though I’m really annoyed at you right now and this is stupid and scary AF” prayer was a pivotal moment in my heart… a moment of honesty with the Father that he was able to honor and use to actually build my trust in him.

My time at RSW has been full of these kinds of stories. Stories where I pray a messy, angry, poorly-worded, honest prayer, and God answers in a way that reveals he’s listening intently and loves to help.

That’s how the delight started happening. Once I began to see that he listens and cares about every word I say to him, I found myself starting to enjoy talking to him about everything. Once I looked back on the past year and realized that he held every moment and orchestrated everything to bring me to where I am now, I found myself getting excited about trusting him with things. Once I realized that he literally smiles at me and sits with me when I choose to spend time with him, I found myself loving every moment I get to spend in his presence.

And it’s a chain reaction—The more I delight in him, the more he reveals his delight in me. The joy just keeps on increasing. Last night, I was in tears as I talked to him in the shower, because I was overwhelmed by the fact that the God of the universe actually loves listening to me and isn’t annoyed with me.

So then, there’s the part of the verse that says “…and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I’ve found that when you truly delight in the Lord, you kind of completely forget about the stuff you want for a bit. I think, when I was a teenager, I sort of knew that, and I didn’t want to forget about the desires of my heart for fear that God would never give them to me. I believed that it worked this way: you delight in God so that HE becomes the desire of your heart, and then the promise of that verse is fulfilled already, so he doesn’t have to give you anything else.

But that’s not how God works at all. As I fix my eyes on my loving Father and my little human desires seem less and less important in comparison, he takes such great care of my heart. I look around at my life once in a while and realize that, the whole time I was busy looking at him, he sneakily and generously surrounded me with blessings and answered prayers.

Here’s a specific (and personal) example: I used to wish all the time for a friend who was around my age, truly understood my weird brain, was on my same musical skill level and could make music with me, enjoyed spending quality time with me, and gave me a safe place to be 100% myself. I had a really hard time making friends as a teenager; it was a really tough and lonely season of my life, so I thought about this constantly. It never seemed to happen though, so eventually I gave up on praying for it, and I forced it into the back of my mind where I eventually forgot about it. Fast forward to now; RSW helped me discover God’s kindness and love for me, and as he became my main focus and I began to really enjoy every moment I spent with Him, I looked around at my life a few weeks later and realized that I had become surrounded by an incredible group of friends that felt like family, and one of those new friends has already checked off every single thing I wished for in a friend. That particular friendship has felt so God-chosen and anointed from the beginning, and it seems like a PERFECT example of the Father giving me one of the desires of my heart while I was busy delighting in him.

When I was younger, that friendship was the goal, and my relationship with God was essentially just a means to an end. But now, the Father has become my goal. That friend is just additional joy on top of it all. It’s like the dessert after a delicious meal.

I’m also realizing that my delight and dependence on the Father has given me the maturity and strength necessary to even handle having the desires of my heart. Viewing my relationship with God as a means to an end was like begging for the dessert before eating the actual meal; if he gave in to my plea and gave me what I wanted before I entrusted him with my heart first, all it would’ve done is make me sick and cause me to expect nutrition from something that has none. Not healthy.

Bottom line: the Father is so good. The joy that comes from an intimate relationship with him far surpasses anything else, but at the same time, he loves us so much that once we entrust him with our hearts, he takes such good care of us and gladly pours out blessing. It’s amazing.

I’m so thankful for this season of my life, where I’m discovering his realness and kindness for the first time.

RSW Blog #4: Feels like home already

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It has been 2 weeks since I moved to Kalamazoo, and 1 week since I started school. So much has happened during that time. I won’t be able to go into all of it, but I’ll tell you about the most important part: the people.

I’ve always had a hard time making friends and connecting with people, so naturally, one of my biggest fears about moving was the possibility of not fitting in here at all. But from the moment I arrived here 2 weeks ago, I have been making deep connections with everyone. That’s not an exaggeration— every classmate, every staff member, and even my landlords and I have shared some really great conversations and moments.

  • My landlords are the sweetest and most helpful people alive. They occasionally texted me to make sure I was doing okay during the few days after I moved in, and they were kind enough to invite me over and make me dinner last week. They have also been extremely helpful with recommending places to eat and stuff to do around town. It’s really cool that I can call these people my friends. :)

  • The RSW staff members are all so genuine, humble, and caring. I have been prayed over so many times since starting school, and every word prayed has been prophetic and life-giving. I already feel seen, valued, and loved here.

  • My classmates already feel like my best friends. Never before have I experienced true unity in Christ like I have with these people. At our fall retreat this past week, we came as 21 strangers with very different backgrounds, interests, and stages of life—but we prayed together, worshiped together, studied the Bible together, and enthusiastically supported each other for 3 days, and we came out of it feeling like family. I am genuinely so excited to do life with them and grow together over the next 8 months.

This is clearly where God wants me to be, and if I had any doubt about that before moving here, all of that doubt is gone. Sterling Heights, MI was a great place to grow up, but Kalamazoo has already given me a feeling of “home” that I have never experienced before. Not at all what I was expecting to happen :)