Written by Kimi Johnson
Anointed, talented, and determined are just a few words that describe gospel artist Lisa McClendon. An overcomer, to say the least, this singer and songwriter is true to who she was created to be. Born and raised in Jacksonville, FL, Lisa began singing in the church at the age of 12. Known all over the world for her soulful, anointed tunes, she has proven herself to be more than a conqueror. With five albums under her belt and one in the making, it’s no secret that she has truly connected to her purpose. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Lisa about her career as a gospel artist and how she maintains her relationship with God. During the interview, Lisa shared how she experienced some dark moments in her life and overcame them all through her relationship with God. Check out her interview below.
PDWM: Hi Lisa, I am so excited about our interview and I have been looking forward to meeting you. This issue of Purpose Driven Women Magazine will focus on overcoming fear and stepping out on faith. When I read your story, I felt that you could empower Christian women to pursue their dreams. I realized that you are not a woman who will sacrifice your walk with God for fame, money or recognition and I love that about you. You know who you are in God. I know that the pressures of the industry can sometimes be challenging for a gospel artist. So, that brings me to my first question, can you tell the readers of PDWM who may not be familiar with you yet, how the Lord called you into the singing or music ministry?
LM: I have always been a writer and a singer so it just made sense. Even if I failed at having a regular conversation, I always succeeded when I wrote. I just knew I was supposed to be in the music industry. You know, like a fish in the water, you are just supposed to be there? I was always surrounded by music so I knew that’s where I was supposed to be. When you are surrounded by certain things it’s almost a clear indication that’s where you are supposed to be.
PDWM: Were there any gospel artists that influenced your career?
LM: Earlier I listened to a lot of Cortex music. My dad played in a cortex when I was growing up so I listened to a lot of Willie Mills, Willie Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes, the William Brothers, a lot of that stuff. I remember the A track, listening to the old Clark Sisters and Darly Coley. As I got a bit older, Yolanda Adams came on the scene and I remember singing every last song she wrote in church. So I’ve had a lot of influence with gospel music. My biggest influence was in jazz and gospel.
PDWM: Sometimes it is easy for us to not go after what God has for us because it causes us to leave our comfort zone. How did you push past this zone and take a leap of faith?
LM: I just think it’s my personality. I can be stubborn. Sometimes the negative traits in our character can work for our good. I think it’s the fact that I’m stubborn that worked in my favor. Because of the things I’ve gone through in life, a part of me is always telling me I can’t but because I am stubborn I’m going to try it anyway. You’re not going to control me, I am in control. So I think that kinda ties into the scripture that says “All things work together for the good.” It works for my good to be stubborn, to get me to do what I want to do even when it seems like a challenge. I want it, I want it so bad that I’m not going to stop until I get it and I think it just helps me out a lot. (laughing) It’s funny to say but it’s true.
PDWM: Whenever you set out on a journey to connect to God’s purpose, sometimes the road has bumps along the way. You often find out who is really for you when God’s purpose for you is not clear to others. Have you experienced this within your career?
LM: Yeah, (laughing) I have. I‘ve had several situations. For example, I’ve had friends that were with me before I was “Lisa McClendon” and then as time went by they seemed to not grow with me or they seemed to be uncomfortable with my success. They were comfortable as long as they were a part of it but when it was time for me to keep going they didn’t know how to wish me well. Then, there were other instances where people came along because I was Lisa McClendon and I genuinely thought they were there for me, they loved me as a person and appreciated what God had called me to do but then I just realized soon that they didn’t and it just reminds me of Jesus. Everybody has a purpose in your life whether their outcome is positive or negative. They played a part in me being where I am today because for a long time I was bitter and angry with those people in life. I thought how dare you betray me, how dare you not be as good of a friend to me as I was to you. But then I think about the Lisa that I am today, I’m not as naïve as I used to be. I wanted to love everybody. I wanted to let everyone into my life because I just wanted to be connected. Those situations and experiences taught me everybody doesn’t mean you well. You just can’t dive into a relationship. You have to love everyone but be wise about it. I learned that everybody doesn't get the red carpet in my life. You may get a welcome as a brother and sister in Christ, but you don’t get the VIP section to my performance, the performance of my life. Just because we are creatures that are made to connect doesn't mean we should give people positions in our lives they are not ready to handle. I’ve learned to set boundaries. I didn’t know how to do that before I had my music, so I thank God for that process.
PDWM: Has there ever been moments in your singing career that challenged your walk with God?
LM: Yeah, I was challenged more so in the place of not trusting God. I got so busy and didn't realize I was doing life on my own. You don't realize you’re doing it aside from Him until life really taps you on the shoulder and you just lose it. So a season came when I was going into depression but I didn’t realize it until I was at the bottom. That was the first morning I realized I was dealing with the spirit of depression, which is something that a lot of the women in my family have dealt with. Throughout the history of my family, some were on medication and some are still on medication. I didn’t realize it. I thought I was good, but I wasn't. The industry will keep you busy and if you’re not careful, you don't include God in your schedule. If He isn't your number one priority you will look up and feel distant.
So when I woke up that morning, I realized I was losing it. I was in a deep, deep hole. I was connected to everything else but God. I had to stop and take a step back. For the next year, I spent time just connecting with God. I got up early in the morning to focus on getting my thoughts together. From that point on, I said I didn't ever want to go back to where I was. Being distant from God reminds me of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The Bible says that He was sweating drops of blood. He was in anguish about being separated from the Father. One morning, I woke up and said, Oh God, I get it. Jesus never had been separated from God in his life. At that moment the bible talks about God turning away from him because He had taken on our sins. God can’t look at our sins and so when He had to turn away from Jesus I believe that’s what caused Jesus to break down in the garden because I experienced that. I didn’t sweat blood or whatever the scripture translated but I did experience the fear of being away from God. It’s a scary thing because you realize you can’t live without Him. So now that I understand I cannot live without Him, there is not a reason or an industry that can ever make me want to go back there again.
PDWM: Sometimes as a woman we play multiple roles, which can make us feel we have to be everywhere at the same time. Having a demanding schedule, being a mother, a wife, and handling other engagements can get challenging. How do you handle all of those things without getting overwhelmed?
LM: Absolutely, hands down. At first, my husband was not used to me not being accessible for so long because I would get up at 5 am and be before the Lord for like 2 hours. In the beginning, he felt like he was not getting the time he was used to getting from me in the mornings. I looked at him and said, “Dude, look here, you want me to be in God’s face, so you can be sane!” When my whole family realized how different I had become my daughter said to me one day, “Mom, I’m so proud of you. You have changed a lot. You’re nothing like you used to be.” I was a basket case. I was a shattered brain, I was all over the place. I had kids to deal with, I had my step kids at the time so there were a lot of kids in the house and then there was music. Plus, my husband had a church. There was so much going on. Now I hold on to the scripture that says when I’m overwhelmed you know the way that I should go. I was given that scripture one morning during my time with God and I hold on to it when a lot is going on. I can hear his voice, and I believe God is always speaking. Sometimes we just can’t hear Him but He’s always talking. When you spend time with God it makes you sensitive to His voice. I have learned that when there is a lot on my plate to tune into what He is saying to me. I can hear Him telling me what to do now, what to do later, and what to just get rid of altogether. I’m able to maintain balance because I’m connected to His voice but when I’m not connected yeah, I’m overwhelmed.
PDWM: After taking a long break from the music industry you released your new album at 5 am. Tell us a little bit about this album and what 5 AM means to you.
LM: 5 am, that’s the album I was writing when I started waking up at 5 am. This album took me 3 years to write. I started getting up early in the morning for the sake of sanity. The album is called "5 am The Sound of Waking up to Him." It's my way of showing the rest of the world what my morning sounded like waking up to Him. There was a time when God was singing to me. Every situation I was dealing with was expressed on that album. The song “You” is about me coming out of depression. I remember God telling me, "He whose mind is stayed on me would have perfect peace." That’s how the Lord gave me that song. “Fly,” that song indicates that I felt trapped. I felt like I was on the ground with pigeons but I had wings that said that I could do more but I wasn’t doing more. There were just so many songs on that album. “Hold my world,” I felt like my world was falling apart and I remember one morning the Lord said, "I’m holding your world. I’m taking everything that you feel is broken and I’m using it. I’m putting the pieces together." "Good morning,” that was a song pointing out, the first thing I do every single morning talks to God. This album is me replaying what I was going through and what I was sharing during my devotional time with the Lord. It’s my favorite album.
PDWM: What advice would you give to aspiring gospel artists?
LM: I think the greatest advice I could give an inspiring artist would be to trust God. When you don’t trust God you can get frustrated by what everybody else is doing and think that you’re not doing something right. You may think your music doesn’t matter, your voice doesn’t matter. If I’m not on the award shows I don’t matter, if I’m not winning an award I don’t matter. If I’m not being invited to churches I don’t matter. My philosophy to this for every artist is you were a singer before the industry and if you need the industry to validate who you are then you probably shouldn’t be singing. Don’t ever need the industry. You will see for yourself. If you need anybody or any outside thing to validate that you are a singer, then you need to go back and find your passion. I always watch singing shows like the Voice. I love the Voice and American Idol and I always hear them say before they go to the audition, “Oh my God, I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t make it. This is my only opportunity to be a singer.” And I’m thinking, but you’re already singing that’s why you’re here. Do you mean to tell me you’re going to stop singing if you don’t make it on the show? I understand the opportunity to be in front of more people, yeah, but to say I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get on this show. This is my dream. My question is, what is your dream? Is your dream to be a singer or to be a vessel used by God? Because you don’t need a stage to be a vessel.
PDWM: Do you have any encouraging words you would like to share with our readers?
LM: The fact that it’s for women I definitely would like to encourage everyone that is a supporter of this magazine to practice balance. I have an empowering group for women called Briefcase and Aprons where I share empowering words to the ladies to remind them how to balance their life. The most important thing in our lives, especially as moms and wives, is our family. And if anything else comes before family you are out of order. No matter what you do, you will never have peace. You could be the most successful woman in the world but you will still fail if there is no balance. Write everything down that you’re doing and see what you can continue to do and see what must be eliminated or put off for another time. Find some time to enjoy your life. Right now we’re just running after success but the main part of success is enjoying the earth that God has given us.
Kimi Johnson is the publisher and founder of Purpose Driven Women Magazine and owner of PurposePals, LLC. She helps women who want to gain clarity about their purpose by providing strategies to overcome limiting beliefs, discover their inner gifts, and build confidence.
Her clients love that she is relatable, transparent, and truly believes in their ability to evolve into their best selves.
In her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, taking trips to the beach, trying new foods (she is a foodie), and investing in ways to sharpen her mind.