Jenny Phillips understands well the message of Ecclesiastes: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
"I'm entering a new season in my life," says the singer/songwriter/wife/mother/fireside producer/author.
She released her first CD in 1999, and she married her husband, Daniel, two weeks later. Since then, there have been 10 more albums. She has performed more than 1,000 concerts for more than 100,000 people throughout the United States and in 13 countries. Her music has been translated into 14 different languages and has been performed by church groups in more than 24 countries. And she and Daniel now have three children, ages 8, 6 and 1.
"Now that the kids are getting into school, it's harder to be gone so much," she says. "It used to be that they followed me wherever I went, but now I follow them to lessons, to sports, to church activities."
What that means, Phillips says, is that "we were doing about 200 programs a year. This year, we only did 80. Next year, I'm only doing 10, and they are already all booked up." Her choir will still perform her music, but she won't be with it as much.
"I always promised myself that my family would come first," she says. "As they grow and their needs change, I'm finding different ways to do things instead of going and doing them myself. As life changes, my seasons of music change."
One way she is marking this change is with the release of a "greatest hits" CD of sorts. "Every Breath: The Jenny Phillips Collection" features some of her all-time favorites, some of the songs she's gotten the most feedback from her listeners on and a few new songs written just for the CD.
One of those new songs, "He Is the Way," pretty much sums up everything she's done and why she's done it, Phillips says. "That was the scripture I read when I started, and I've kept it as my motto for the past nine years."
Other songs include ones she has written for Young Women's themes, EFY albums and tributes to pioneers.
It has been "an incredible experience to go and do the things we've done," she says. "And my mission is still to spread music to the world." But she doesn't regret cutting back some of her traveling and performing.
She does a lot of workshops on writing and being in the record business, and a lot of mothers wonder about the time commitment required and how they can do it all. They can't, she says. "Sometimes you have to give up some dreams." Or, maybe find some new definitions. "My dreams never were to travel the world and have No. 1 hit records. They were to affect people's lives in whatever sphere I'm in. I don't have to have CDs on the record shelves to develop my talents. I can still find ways to do that."
Another change is coming to Phillips' life. "We're hoping to adopt a 4-year-old girl I met in South Africa." When she took her choir to Africa earlier this year, "we raised money to help one of the orphanages. We spent the day there, and I fell in love with a little girl. We hope to have her here by November."
Phillips has also ventured into writing books. "The Parable of the Princesses," with illustrations by Dan Burr and a CD of related songs, has recently been published by Deseret Book.
It's a story she wrote after her last daughter was born. "When I first looked into her eyes, I had such a powerful feeling about where she had come from and who she was. I wanted to remember what I felt like. I wanted her to know. So I wrote the story."
It tells of three daughters of a king, who are asked by their father to build castles. They all have different challenges to overcome.
As an English major at Brigham Young University, Phillips has "always had a passion for writing, too." When the story was finished, she tried it out at a fireside.
"I didn't tell anyone I wrote it," she says. "But it got a huge response. People came up afterward to find out where they could get a copy, so I had to admit that I wrote it. Deseret Book heard about it and wanted to publish it."
So, she says, as she enters this new season, there is still plenty to do. But music will always be a part of her. From the time she was a little girl, and her mom brought home some tapes of gospel music to listen to, music has found a place in her soul. "I would sit at the piano and try to re-create the songs," she says. "I loved that sound."
She came from a "completely nonmusical family," she says, but she knew it had to be part of her life.
"Music touches a part of our minds and spirits that is not touched in any other way," she says. "A song can make you feel a certain way without anyone telling you to feel that way. That's especially important with our youth. Music is a way to get a message across without preaching. It speaks to the feelings rather than the mind, and it's more powerful because of that."
Phillips looks back at the past nine years, "and I think how beautiful this experience has been. The process. The blessings. The memories. I stand back and think, wow!"She will keep writing. She will keep singing. And who knows what will happen next? "I just know that as long as you keep your priorities right, the Lord will bless and prosper you; it doesn't matter who you are."
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