How did the vision for the CD, Mosaic Stories & Songs, begin and progress to where you all are now?
Linda Ryan Puffer
It really started as an inspired idea. I was sitting at my home office, thinking about four women God has put in my life — Diane, my sister; Randi, Barb and Cathy — dear friends of mine. I was thinking about their music, I was thinking about their hearts and what wonderful, authentic walks they have with the Lord.
They’ve been through some tough stuff. We’re all in our early forties, so we’ve lived some life. And I was thinking about their music — I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t this make a great CD; A compilation of these four songwriters on a CD!”
And the next thought I had was, “I can’t do that!” I’d never done anything like that before.
I made a phone call to a dear friend of mine, Phil Madeira, who’s in the music business in Nashville. He’s a recording artist, prolific songwriter, producer and good friend. I called him and said, “Phil, I have this crazy idea.” Initially, I wasn’t thinking of asking him to produce the project, I was just looking for guidance. But after describing the idea to him, I asked if he’d consider producing for us.
He said “yes”. I knew then, this might be a God Idea.
When I first envisioned the project, I prayed, “Lord, if this is truly something you’re in, move it forward. But if this is just one of my many ideas, let it fall and let nothing move forward.
At that point, I called the four women and told them about my idea. They said, “Of course, sounds great!”, none of us taking the idea very seriously.
But we began to pray and talk about it and meet about it. And God began to present people to us who filled needs. There was so much for me to learn, I’d never done this before. God brought together a team of incredible people, a mosaic of people, with different giftings — talent, management, legal, financial, production — who shared the vision.
We were able to produce, record and release a CD last Fall. Since then we’ve presented five concerts; By God’s hand and people catching the vision, wonderful doors are opening. It’s been an incredible journey.
I think too, as we age, we tend to have this idea of how life is supposed to look. It was so clear to me that this was God’s idea; I really had thought that at this point in my life, I was just going to serve my church and raise my family. God had a different idea. It’s when I totally gave up the idea of writing and making a CD that I met Linda and this process began. It’s always about personal demotion and God taking over and pushing you where He wants you. You have to be pliant. It’s so hard when we get older.
A wonderfully, delightful part of this project is that we’re all “forty something”. In our entertainment culture, women of our age are seen as the outcasts. And here we are, entering this journey and I think it should be the opposite — It’s now that we have experience to share, as opposed to being twenty. I didn’t have nearly as much to share at twenty as I do now. I think it’s wonderful that God has taken women at this time and in His time, to share with other women.
Linda Ryan Puffer
When we were talking about letting go, relinquishment of our hopes and dreams and trusting God with His timing — that’s really what it comes down to. Randi’s song talks about, “Why would I not trust Jesus?”
There’s a tag on that song that says, “When I let it go, when I lay it down, I receive His peace, I receive His power.”
So much of allowing God to work in our lives is laying down those things that we think should look a certain way; happen in a certain time; or things we feel we need for our purpose — it’s really about laying that down and letting Him do things His way in His time. Hopefully we’re a reflection of women who have done that.
Why do you feel the stories are so important to this project?
Linda Ryan Puffer
I feel you really can’t argue with someone’s story; you can really see God at work in people’s lives and the reality of that. I heard someone say, “People’s stories are today’s apologetics”. They really are.
We have included their inspirational stories about the songs in the CD liner. These women are so willing to be vulnerable, transparent and authentic with the pain and struggles in their lives. So many different issues are addressed through their stories that I think relateability and inspirational doors will be opened; People will say, “Hey, I’ve struggled with that. I don’t need to hide that anymore. I can bring this before God. I don’t need to be perfect; we’re all in process.” I think when we’re transparent with our struggles it gives others the inspiration and even the permission to stop hiding their pain and to walk into it with Christ. That’s very freeing for people.
That’s my hope, that not only through the music and lyrics, but through the stories, people will be freed to further their journey with Christ.
I think the tendency for most people is to look at musicians as “having it all together”, sometimes music people are put on a pedestal. I think telling the stories makes the ground very level; No matter what our gifts are, we are all sinners and we all fall short. The stories are very real.
Tell us about the feedback you’ve received about Mosaic.
Linda Ryan Puffer
What we hear often are the words, “thank you”. Thank you for being transparent. People have said through the sharing of the stories, they’ve been able to identify issues, and now they feel freer and have brought those things before God.
We’ve had a huge response from a song my sister Diane does called “Bind Me”. I think it’s because that song is about a struggle, perseverance. It’s about not having the end in sight. She’s still in the midst of this struggle. She’s had men and women from similar situations approach her and say, “you’ve put words to my hurt, words to my journey; thank you for sharing that.”
I think one of the advantages of having the four of us is that someone is bound to relate to one of the experiences we’re sharing. That’s why I love this so much more than a solo project. There are four of us who have come together to tell a bigger story than we could tell on our own.
I just met a woman this morning who heard us in concert and wants to meet me for coffee. She had heard me talk about my eating disorder and said, “I’ve never found anybody who’s living in the freedom from it. Could I meet with you?”
People love the music, but it’s the sharing of the stories — that’s the ministry of our project. We each have an individual struggle that connects with people on different levels.
Cathy, Cinderella was written out of a painful time in your life when you were dealing with the aftermath of your first marriage ending in divorce. I’d like to ask you a couple questions regarding that time.
What was the most difficult part for you, experiencing a divorce?
I’d have to say there were a couple parts that were unbelievable for me.
One was the shame of being a divorced person, because honestly Jim if you had asked me if I would even get a divorce — I would have said to you, “It’s not an option, it’s not a possibility.”
No one in my family had ever been divorced — literally no one — I felt like I was this marked woman. Getting over that and forgiving myself for the weakness and mistakes in my life was a huge thing to overcome. God had to do that in me.
Another thing was letting go of the “death of the dream” of the ideal marriage. That’s why I called it the Cinderella fantasy that somehow, there would be some man and some situation that would somehow fulfill me in every way. I think it was about releasing expectations and learning that the only true way to have a spiritual void filled in a material world is not from something material, but something from God — and from Jesus and the Holy Spirit living in me.
He’s had to teach me, and still does every day, that anytime I have a longing or a weakness I have to turn to Him. I cannot be looking to someone else, particularly my marriage partner, for everything in my life. I can get a lot there; I can get comfort, love, support and encouragement. But I cannot have this spiritual void, that we all have, filled through my marriage.
Cathy, what are you doing in your marriage now that you’re doing differently as a result of going through a divorce?
I’ve learned to put God at the center of my marriage. I remember I stopped dating for six months and just said, “Lord, give me a clear vision of who I need in a partner.” I got really clear on that and gave it to Him. I thanked Him in advance. One of the things He put on my heart was to have a marriage with Him in the center, I would thank Him for putting this partner in my life someday. I released my expectations. I said, “Lord, you need to take care of this.”
And He did. Once I stepped back and He saw I had done a lot of work on myself, He provided my husband Jeff. It was clear from the very beginning that this was a very different deal. I had to learn the difference between sex and love; I had some really distorted views on that.
Jeff has really taught me to be “real”. I was afraid in a marriage to fully show who I was to someone for fear that if they saw my ugly side, they would abandon me. Jeff has said, “I want to know YOU. I want to love YOU. I want you to be real”. He has said you are the most beautiful to me when you are real, which I can’t get over.
Now I know the difference between being in love and being committed in a marriage. I feel now that I have staying power, because I know the power of God in me, and it’s a decision I make on a daily basis.
So, staying power is different than the “I’ll never get divorced” feelings in your first marriage…
Right. I think that was more about me and my pride and my will. I’ve said one of the things I’ve learned in life is that anything I’ve ever judged, unfortunately I’ve had to live through myself! [laughter] God really, really showed me, more than anything else — humility. A facedown, on the ground sense of powerlessness. I am such a sinner and without God I am incapable of being committed to anything. I had to own that sense of powerlessness without God.
Barb, Mosaic’s message is about brokenness and the hope we have in Christ’s redemptive power. How has brokenness — your own or others — affected your life and marriage?
I was the youngest of five children in a home that can only be characterized by the word “unstable”. My folk’s marriage was very difficult.
I was either running from the instability of my home or running from a heritage that I thought could never propel me toward my dreams. I didn’t get much affirmation about who I was, other than through my mother, who loved me with an incredible depth. Her belief and love in me was one of the single things that kept me going.
I studied music in college; I knew at a young age that God spoke through me with music. I thought, “If I can do this, maybe I’ll get noticed”. It was that vicious affirmation cycle. At that time, my faith was not foundational, like it is now. I didn’t know that feeding my ego was not the solution.
I ended up in groups that traveled the country, I entered Miss Wisconsin pageants, I did things that fed part of me that said, “I am successful. I can do this. It doesn’t matter how I was raised — I can accomplish something of greater value”.
At the height of these achievement activities, I was invited to a Pentecostal church, which was the direct opposite of the faith I grew up in. I remember sitting in this church, being accepted and loved by these people; I thought, “Wow”, this is so different from the picture I had of my faith.” I decided to get my own bible and started reading it. God began softening my heart.
I had compartmentalized who God was.
I remember when I started reading the book of John. That was such an incredible experience for me. I thought here’s a break I’m going to make from my past experiences — for God. This is no longer about pursuing things that will elevate myself. It’s about discovering who God is at the deepest level of who I am.
So, you became a Christian. Then you married?
When Tony and I were married, I knew I didn’t have a healthy picture of what that should look like. Whenever there was confrontation, I would run for the hills, I would hide. I blamed Tony for the problems in our marriage.
I connected with an older woman and began a mentoring relationship that showed me what I needed to do to make our marriage what God wanted it to be. I couldn’t change my husband; I couldn’t make him into another person; the reality was no matter how hard I tried, there would be disappointment.
I started to work on the things I could change. I began to encourage him and focus less on myself. I began to pour myself into the marriage and consider the things about him I adored. That unlocked our relationship. God began to form this new picture of what my marriage could be like.
Things aren’t perfect now, but I have stable ground. I have a stable foundation. One thing about God I’ve always clung to is “He never changes” — That’s what I’ve needed most in my life. God will never run out on me; His relentless love will never change. God is in this marriage; He’s the third cord.
Barb, you talk about God’s relentless love for us in both of your songs, Love Unfailing and Tears of Joy, how do you experience God’s unfailing love in relationship to your own marriage?
He is so patient with me. As I said earlier, I still feel my toolbox is a few tools short of having the right stuff to make a “successful” marriage. But I feel whenever I fail, I can return to the throne of God and He gives me a fresh start. He’s shown His love for me through mercy, forgiveness and constant new starts. He’s given me grace to fail and get up again.
What impact has the Mosaic project had on your marriages?
Linda Ryan Puffer
This project has been consuming on many levels — time schedule, emotional, spiritual — we’ve realized that with our busy lives, we need to schedule private time. I used to resist that structure, but I’ve found structure brings freedom. I’m thankful to have David to help me grow in that area and to have the husband who wants that time with his family.
My heart is, “Send me God”. And my life is, “Where can I fit it in?” [laughs] We’ve learned to go forward, but forward carefully.
Our friendships have increased; we’re in a small group with these people! I can tell you, Tony would not be in any other group. These people are such a right fit for us, it’s amazing. That’s an added benefit.
My husband has been totally supportive of the project, and I think the project has touched his heart. He told me the night he came to the CD release party, seeing the lyrics along with hearing the music, made the stories register with him. He is so “for” what we’re saying. And he is so in support of being real. He loves the fact that we’re taking the masks off.
He believes the project will impact men as well. He’s said, “Trust me on this. Get the word out to men. I think it will really impact men and their marriages.”
Linda, Tell us a little about the vision for the next CD.
Linda Ryan Puffer
Our concerts have been done in the context of retreats; we’ve been asked to lead worship. The Mosaic project actually sprung from a heart of worship. Almost immediately I began thinking about the next CD. I said, “Okay Lord, if you want us to do a worship CD, you’ll have to let this unfold in your time.”
It feels like that is happening. We’ve had excited people ask us about it. We’ve already blocked a week for recording. The vision is to express how we’re called to worship in spite of our circumstances. Psalms 42 and 43 really sums it up…
Why are you so downcast oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God.
That’s really what this CD will be about — the power that is released in the midst of barren seasons in our lives. There’s fullness in Him we can depend on. God is always good, even when we don’t feel good, or when we don’t understand our circumstances. Our goal is a fall 2003 release, but we’re holding loosely.
Copyright © 2003 Growthtrac
“Mosaic” is more than an entertaining CD — We hope Pastors and lay leaders will recognize it is a tool they can use when counseling persons struggling to overcome the pains and pressures of life. Embedded within the lyrics and the music is the call and compassion of the One in whom we can find strength to do all things.”
Phil & Carol Miglioratti
National Pastors’ Prayer Network