Ten years ago, North Carolina native Alisa Turner was preparing for a performance at a small-town Ohio coffee shop. On her own and frail from health issues, she'd been sleeping in parking lots and showering in truck stops while crisscrossing the country for shows. As she set up her keyboard, she realized the last customers had filed out, leaving only her and the barista.
Should she just pack up and go home? Many would have, but not Alisa. "I knew that was a turning point," she recalls. "So, I sang and poured everything out to an empty room full of the Holy Spirit... because you can sink or swim and I've always been a swimmer."
That strong heart and a knowledge that she is unconditionally loved by God have kept Alisa, a worship leader and songwriter based in Tennessee, in the fight of her life through two decades riddled with loss. As a teen, she lost her health to Lyme disease. At 20, she lost her father. Newly married, she lost her baby boy. Even now, Alisa struggles daily with pain and the debilitating effects of Lyme. No wonder she has the word "FIGHT" permanently inked on her left arm as a reminder not to give up on herself or the God she has trusted through it all.
Alisa pours these experiences into her music, modern laments and psalms filled with hope. And it is with great hope that she releases her debut album, Miracle Or Not, a follow-up to a critically-acclaimed, self-titled EP released last year. Hope for more progress, fewer setbacks and complete healing. But as so often happens, hope has to survive the waiting.
"I am walking through one of the hardest seasons in my life right now, probably harder than I am making it appear and I am having to find peace with that and yet fight like crazy," she says. "Not only fight for my life, but fight for the things that I know the Lord is saying... what He shows you in the light, you hold tight to in the dark."
Produced by Dove Award winning producer and Grammy nominated songwriter Michael Farren - and including co-writes with Farren, Tony Wood, Benji Cowart and Leslie Jordan (All Sons & Daughters) - Miracle Or Not explores the depth of what it means to worship in the dark, to fight one's way back into the light, day after day.
From church favorites "Lift My Eyes" and "Miracles" to the bluegrass-tinged hymn "Only My Jesus," and modern lament "Loved," Miracle Or Not declares the steadfast faithfulness and goodness of God, no matter the circumstances. "This album is for everyone, but especially people who are suffering," Alisa says. "It's for those people who, at 2am, are at their wit's end and need something to pull them through."
Thundering over the ache of my sin / You just keep saying again and again
That nowhere I've run to / And nothing I've been / Changes who You say I am... I am loved
"Loved," one of Alisa's favorites on the album, leaves a permanent mark, almost as visible as the "FIGHT" tattoo. "If I can just let people know they are still loved, they have value and they still have reason to fight, that is what I have to do with every song, every word, every hug," she says.
"And I'm a hugger," she adds with a smile. "I hug you 'til it gets uncomfortable and you just have to give in, settle and breathe."
With whom shall I walk through these troubles / With whom shall I stand in the dark
Oh let it be only my Jesus / And only the strength in His arms
"Only My Jesus," co-written with Leslie Jordan who also sings on the track, captures the essence of hope and the promise of joy found only in complete dependence. "Jesus just wants to be in your life, remembered, included," says Alisa. "There will be days that you show up and days you don't. But He will always be waiting for you. The deepest peace, steadiest hope and truest joy will ever always come from 'Only My Jesus'."
Drawing all the lyrical threads together is her hope-filled radio single "Miracles" and its counterbalance, title track "Miracle or Not," which was directly inspired by Alisa's struggle and penned only months ago at a songwriters' retreat hosted by her label, Integrity Music. As she sat fevered and weeping nearby, her fellow songwriters, Farren, Lou Fellingham and Mark Alan, prayed for Alisa and wrote the song for their friend.
I will sing till my broken heart believes it...
'Til hope is finally louder than the ache...
I know that you love me, miracle or not
"Songwriting is so connective," Alisa says of the plaintive ballad. "I know they wrote it for me, to help send me a message at such a horrifically low point in this past six months, and so it was a gift... a reminder that just because He doesn't heal me, it doesn't mean He doesn't love me. Whether God heals me or not, He will not abandon me on this journey. He will not abandon you on your journey. He is always for you, miracle or not."
In this and every song, the refrain is the same: Don't give up the fight to trust, to believe, to hope... miracle or not.
"I want this record and these songs to remind people that everything He has ever dreamed for you is still in the works," says Alisa. "This is a moment. Hopefully, it will pass while we are on this side of eternity. Just put one foot in front of the other, however that looks, however small of a step it may be, and you just keep going. You keep going, and that is part of being hopeful, and having faith, and believing and trusting that He is who He says He is."