The song “My Jesus” introduced me to the other “Anne Wilson” in the music industry. The only Ann Wilson I knew then was the lead singer of Heart. This is Anne with an “E,” just like “Anne of Green Gables.” I listened to this song on repeat. I originally thought Carrie Underwood or Jenn Johnson had been singing. Anne has this great country-folksinger sound, and her songs tell a story.
Anne’s journey into Christian music began after and through a time of intense suffering. A talent scout saw this video of her singing the song, “What a Beautiful Name,” on YouTube. The story behind that captured moment is the topic of Anne’s memoir “My Jesus: From Heartache to Hope.” She had been just 15 years old when her brother, Jacob, 23, died from a car accident. Her mother wanted someone to sing at Jacob’s funeral. She could not find anyone who felt up to the challenge of singing. Anne’s mom and dad prayed together for God’s will in this desire to have someone sing and glorify God. Her Dad asked God to remove the desire if it wasn’t in His will.
Not long after, Anne told her parents she would sing…despite knocking knees and nerves. People at the funeral were so moved by Anne’s performance they asked for a recording of the song. She, her sister Elizabeth, and friends Carson on violin and Hayes on guitar would perform the song once more with friends Paxton and Josh working on recording and uploading the song onto YouTube. That way everyone who wanted to worship with them could do so once again.
Anne grew up in “the great outdoors” of Lexington, Kentucky, a place I can only describe as gorgeous countryside with lush green scenery and these beautiful bluest of blue skies. (If you go to see the Ark Encounter, in Williamstown, you will see what I mean.) Anne begins her story with times she enjoyed alongside her brother Jacob. The two would go to Wilson Farm, a more-than 500-acre farm owned by her paternal granddad and his wife Jan. They would ride horses, go shooting, and enjoy the beauty of this place together. Anne had wanted to explore space when she grew up. She thought she would work for NASA; in fact, she and her mom visited the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla., because Anne had this dream.
But with Jacob’s death, Anne no longer felt the same exhilaration she once had about space travel. Her memoir details the devastating effects the loss of her older brother had on her and her family. She presented pictures of God showing up in the midst of each of her family members while they grieved over the next five years. I liked how she talked about when they would turn their faces to look into God’s face, a heart attitude, a shift from agony to comfort in His presence. She and Liz had moved their mattresses into their parents’ room at first, and then Anne had people stay over with her. She didn’t want to be alone. Her sister grieved on her own behind closed doors. Liz had a clothing company she worked on from age 16 on and had been flourishing and would continue to do so, eventually having her Dad as an employee.
And Anne thought she needed to hold everyone else up, while she unconsciously stuffed down her own pain. The Wilson siblings all learned piano, so Anne turned to hymns to try to release pain while worshipping God. Before this time, she said she wouldn’t have considered life as a music artist. In fact, until she started playing the piano in her grief, her family didn’t know she sang. She gave God her heartache and found comfort during those times. And she also wrote in her journal as she studied God’s word.
Anne said she noticed she first called Jesus – “my Jesus”— in her journal after she lost her brother. And down the road, she and Matthew West would write the song with that name, but I don’t want to spoil the journey for you. Just know that this is a memoir about love and loss, about giving God your pain and trusting that He will not waste a moment, but create something beautiful out of the ashes.
I learned details about what it is like to become a Christian music artist from Anne. She had voice lessons, her granddad and sister would help pay for a manager early on, and her mom took her to Nashville for song-writing trips. Her journey in Christian music has been a family affair. She would gain experience singing in front of large groups of people at summer festivals before then going on a fall tour with Big Daddy Weave (2021) and then with Zach Williams for a Christmas tour.
I think I loved most how she ends each chapter with “A Note from Anne.” She provided these deep spiritual insights based on the story told in each chapter. I could see how much her faith grew during her times in the valley with Jesus. Anne said she will never completely heal from the loss of Jacob, but she has been in counseling and has learned how to express her emotions without letting them control her. God has been faithful to her and her family through it all. She wanted to glorify Him, honor Jacob’s life, and introduce others to Jesus and show what He’s done in her life, as she sang in the chorus of “My Jesus”:
He makes a way where there ain’t no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain’t no sinner that He can’t save
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Can do for you what He’s done for me
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
I want to thank Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Books for the opportunity to read and review this memoir.
1 Peter 5:10-11 “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”NASB Version