Standing by the ocean is where I encounter the Creator of the Universe in the most real of ways. Something about the vastness, the surety of the next wave, the raw power, the wild wind that carries with it the history of nations, the hope of adventure, the majestic mystery and a force to be reckoned with. God reaches my soul through the poetry He’s hidden in creation. As a child building forts in His forests and gazing upon Lake Erie’s hazel waves, I’ve been romanced into his heart through His world. It gives ink to my pen and awe to my thirsty heart.
We wrote “Ocean Wild” through experiences of trust that my husband Nick and I have encountered in our time together. Tied to that our love for the ocean. And It basically wrote itself (I love when songs do that)!
One line in the song repeats as a mantra “I lay my heart, into your tide…” I think that’s my favorite line in the whole song. It’s about laying our hearts into HIS tide, HIS direction, even when we’re scared or confused or lost. Trust is a precious gift we can choose to give to our Maker and those we love. It’s also something extremely fragile – which is what makes it such a beautiful gift to give.
Trust has always eluded me. From a very young age, I learned that things were not as they appeared. I approached the world guarded, but still hopeful in seeing the best in humanity. It was a grace, I think, that I saw beauty and poetry around me despite my naturally cynical side. God kept my heart from hardening too much. He kept the magic in a world where far too easily the mystery and reverence of things could have been squelched. But trust has always been something I’ve struggled to fully embrace. Like, how do we DO it? I can say I trust, but how do I know where I stop and God begins? I’m still trying to figure out the answers. Especially now that my husband and I are self-employed musicians. Every day is a new ocean of trust we’re stepping into. But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be a Catholic musician, married to the man of my dreams with 3 amazing kids, I would have laughed you off the face of the planet. Cuz that would NEVER happen in a million years.
I accepted Christ when I was 6 and was baptised when I was 12. The protestant church was where I first fell in love with Jesus. The hymns, the Sunday services, Sunday school lessons, I loved it all. And I loved the God I was taught about. He was a central part in my life growing up and I’m forever grateful to my parents for introducing me to my Savior during such formative years. I was content and rather sheltered, growing up. Because of that, I hadn’t truly been given a lot of opportunities to flex my “trust” muscles. I was incredibly proud and sure of myself. Sure of my faith. Sure of being right, and quite prejudiced against other denominations, specifically Catholics. My family had taught me that Catholics were not Christian. I remember in 4th grade, there was a boy I liked a lot, but when I found out he was Catholic, I instantly concluded I could not like him anymore because I would never be able to marry him. Oh my gosh, does God have a sense of humor or what!
Fast forward to me at 16. Nick and I met our Junior year of high school at a talent show. He was singing Josh Groban’s “si volvieras” (uh, swoon!) and I was playing fiddle in my bluegrass band. Needless to say, when I first shook his hand I basically fell in love. He was captivating! His talent was extraordinary. And he was easy to talk to and genuinely a beautiful soul inside and out. But then I found out that he was Catholic. Nominally Catholic, at least. He professed to me early on that he wasn’t really sure what he believed. So, I assumed he’d be easy to convert and thus safe to date. God’s plan was unfolding. God knew it would take an excessive amount of charm to overcome my years of good sense and prejudice. Oh And did I mention that Nick is Cuban-American and can speak fluent Spanish? #Dreamy! So, I succumbed to dating this not-so-catholic boy, who I quickly had attending my protestant church.
We had a starry, story-book yet tumultuous dating relationship from our senior year of highschool and for the following 7 years after that. It was riddled with movie-esque moments of beauty, but also those tragic break-ups that leave you totally decimated. Much of the time our breakups were caused by disagreements on religion. Nick swayed from protestant to atheist to protestant. And I kept breaking up with him as he tried to sort out the truth.
Finally, God reached out to Nick through Theology of Body at a Christopher West talk in college. That was NOT what I had bargained for! God was bringing Nick back to the Catholic church? The one place I truly could not go? To me, Atheism was even preferable to that!
And so we broke up again. This time for a whole year. I’ve never cried more in my life. Not just because of our breakup, but because the doctrines of my protestant faith were shaken to the core. They were not enough to argue Nick back from Catholic church. How could that be? He chose this heathen Church over me – the one he had wanted to marry. Devastated, I spent that year researching and arguing and vowing to prove the Catholic church wrong. I didn’t know who to trust, what to trust, or where to turn to for truth. I was completely lost at sea and the dark clouds of an existential crisis were breaking on my horizon. What WAS the truth, then? (Suddenly Pontius Pilot and I could’ve been best friends). I thought I’d known truth all my life with surety. I remember weeping to God, feeling completely abandoned. It was a paradigm shift I never saw coming. What would I trust if all I thought I’d known was not true?
My boat was capsized and I thought for certain I’d drown. But It turns out that I fell into a riptide. If you know anything about riptides, it’s commonly told that to survive them it’s important NOT to fight against them, but to let the tide carry you along until you reach shore eventually.
One of the lines in the song says:
“You’ve carried me Into your wide open seas Where freedom sings”
When we fully rest in God’s direction and cooperate with His grace, a new freedom breaks over us. The tides of His love were leading me deeper and to a brighter shore. I had to lose my SELF to find God. I had to trust his tide. Trust His goodness. Let go of my own understanding and my own strength Because it was not enough to fight the waves.
After that year, I realized Catholics were not the anti-christ. Nick and I started dating again. I still wasn’t willing to convert, but at least my openness to raise children in the Catholic faith allowed us to consider marriage again. Gradually, I started seeing the shore. I learned that I could trust this Catholic Church. I learned I could trust God even when my own abilities and understanding failed me. I was a VERY stubborn convert though and I refused to go down without a really long and arduous fight. It took me entering and dropping out of 2 different RCIA classes before the third one stuck and I officially joined the Catholic Church in 2011. Nick and I were married in 2012 and with marriage and raising 3 children has come a whole new ocean of trust to swim in. This last April, Nick and I were called to pursue music together full-time . Nick left his secure full-time job (with benefits) at the Diocese of Toledo and we’ve been riding the tides of God’s providence like never before. It’s both awesome and terrifying. Kind of Like what I imagine surfing would be like (which I’m certain would kill me if I ever tried it). But God has proven himself over and over again. Every month when I’m terrified we won’t make ends meet, God works, He provides. And he’s brought me personally to life in ways I never thought possible.
God has taken the things that bring the most passion and purpose in my life–my faith, my husband, and our music– and has healed them to the extreme. They say that the things that often bring us the most trials also bring us the most joy. And that’s so, so true. I was drowning and God resurrected me. He took dreams I’ve harbored in my heart since childhood of becoming a musician, and ushered me into living that out after years of believing I’d never do music again. The crushing weight of not knowing who God was anymore has turned into knowing Him deeper than I ever thought possible. The lost boy I met in highschool fell in love with Jesus and changed into the man of my dreams – a man of great virtue and strength. Every river we go down leads us to where God’s trying to take us. To His wild Ocean. It’s untamed. It’s dangerous. But it’s oh so worth the breathtaking experiences He has in store.
The song “Ocean Wild” is our proclamation of trust in the One who loved us into existence. We just have to let go of the wreckage… Lay back into the riptide of His grace and His love…And be led into a beautiful horizon where new freedom awaits.
Alina has been playing fiddle/violin since she was 7 and has been singing and songwriting since before she can remember. Her performance experiences range from worship conferences, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, sacred liturgies, bluegrass and country music on national stages, and in-studio work for all genres. Alina is a convert to Catholicism, having come from a staunch anti-catholic evangelical background, and is passionate about uniting the Body of Christ. Nick and Alina are a husband and wife duo who have been performing together for over 14 years. They are parents to 3 beautiful kiddos and are also full-time evangelists and musicians with a mission to point hearts to Truth through Beauty. For more about Nick and Alina’s music, please visit NickandAlina.com.