If pain is meant to be a catalyst that produces strength, then Fair Trade Services recording artist Heather Williams is the strongest person on earth. Her story is every bit as incredible as the melodies she crafts on her debut record, This Time Around, due out September 27.
Williams grew up in extreme poverty with her birth mom and stepfather. Throughout her early childhood, she suffered intense abuse and was even chained to a tree for punishment in one instance. Her mother gave her away at age 11, and Williams went to live with her grandfather in Michigan and later with her aunt and uncle who eventually adopted her and are now her legal parents. Living with little guidance and the pain of past abuse and rejection, Williams turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the realities of life. As things began to spiral out of control, the young teenager began to have thoughts of suicide and even finding herself homeless.
At age 18, however, the dangerous road Williams was on took a U-turn when she gave her life to Christ. “When I was 18, I was going through a whole series of events where I was really rejecting God and blaming Him for everything that had taken place in my childhood,” says Williams. “I came to this place where it was either, OK, I’m going to give my life to God, or I just don’t know if I’m going to live. So, I walked up that aisle at that church, and I gave my life to God.”
Having grown up with a love of music, after becoming a Christian, Williams says she began to write songs from a “perspective of radical change.”
Another wave of tragedy struck the budding singer/songwriter when her first child passed away shortly after he was born. “Leading up to my son’s death, I had gone through this agonizing work of just trying to please God and be good enough, but inside, I did not have the intimacy of a relationship with God,” Williams explains. “When we lost our son, it’s like God just met me in that moment, and I knew something had to change where I had to just say, ‘OK, God, I’m all in, or I’m just going to have to walk away.’ And I made this choice where I was just going to go all in."
“I didn’t want my son’s death to be in vain. The Bible says He has a purpose for every life, for every person; and I knew that was the same for even a 6-month-old baby,” she continues. “So, I said, ‘OK, what’s the purpose here? God, just use me.’ He started to pour into me these songs of just crying out to Him. I’ve had this awakening to God and who He is in my life and who I am in Him.”
This tragedy led to William’s Top 10 AC and Top 5 INSPO debut, “Hallelujah.” “The song is very special to me,” explains Williams. “I was sitting on the floor with my guitar, and was in such a place of being broken. I wasn’t mad at God nor was I questioning Him. I had made a decision to keep an open dialogue with Him, not just inside, God coming out of my mouth because I am not fooling Him. I just started asking Jesus to show up where I was.”
Early acclaim has followed Williams since the release of her debut EP last fall. In addition to the radio success of "Hallelujah," Williams was named amongst the "Best Bets of 2011" by Billboard Magazine, one of only two Christian artists to receive this title.
For Williams, she describes her songs as “conversations,” sometimes joyful, sometimes angry, sometimes a mix of both. “This album is you getting to peek in on me sometimes having it out with God, sometimes crying to God, sometimes laughing,” she says. “But it’s always going to be a transparent look at what’s going on in my heart, because that’s who I want to be before Him. If I want Him to use me, then I have to be willing to share everything.”
“God Is Still God” is the second song from Williams to hit radio. “It’s a song that speaks so clearly into an insecurity that we can get when life just comes at us at full speed,” admits Williams. “Its very easy to try to take control of it ourselves. To let God take control of things is freeing, but it can also be scary at times. I also love that this song is a conversation with somebody. Sometimes we feel like we have to have the right things to say, but if we just offer them the comfort that God is still in control, that in and of itself can be a powerful statement.”
Today, Williams is grateful for how far grace has brought her. She and her husband, a full-time youth pastor, live in Florida with their two young children.
Her songs and her character speak of the strength of a woman well beyond her years, but Williams believes that the power of her testimony and the stories she tells through song will be used to encourage others, and that’s all she’s really concerned about. “I just want my life to be living proof that God can take anything, anyone and any situation and work it for good,” she says. “He can take it and give you purpose and meaning in your life… He did it in my life, and I know He can do it for you.”