A Tiny Piece of Heaven

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Kathy Trocolli

by Carla Archuletta

With her most personal album to date, Kathy Troccoli reflects on glimpses of God’s grace and mercy we can find if we know where to look.

In just over 10 years, Kathy Troccoli has garnered more than two dozen solid hits on Christian and general market radio combined. She’s received two Grammy nominations, several Billboard Awards and 19 career Dove Award nominations (including taking home the "Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year" Dove this year for "A Baby’s Prayer").

But the artist/songwriter put all those accomplishments aside to make a more personal statement with her ninth album, Corner of Eden. Musically, the album takes on a new dimension for this multi-faceted artist. "This record is different from the others in the sense that the musicianship is different," she says.

"Everything on this project is completely live, so the musicianship is a caliber I haven’t experienced before.

"Don’t get me wrong, I love my last several records. This is just more of an extension of who I am and what I want to say at this time in my life. I’ve co-written on all of the records since ’91, but on this record I wrote all the lyrics and co-wrote all the music. That’s what makes it more representative of me in that it comes from my own soul."

Producer Nathan DiGesare pulled out all the stops, calling in such high-stakes collaborators as Steve Winwood, Michael Omartian, Steve Cropper, Chester Thompson and Jackie Street. Despite all the fuss—great sounding records, great producers, great songs, great musicians—Troccoli says what sets Corner of Eden apart from her previous album is one simple principle: "A great song is a great song."

"If I can own it or have lived it or want to say it, I can sing it from my heart and I’m happy to do that," she says. "But when you sing a song lyric or melody that is written from your own life experience, that’s special."

As a teenager, Troccoli lost her father to cancer. In 1991, she lost her mother to breast cancer. One song on Corner of Eden, "Psalm 23," was penned from those intimate moments Troccoli spent with her family as life passed from mortality to immortality. "When my mother was dying, it took her about six to eight hours to finally have all of the life drain from her body. She talked to my sister and I for a while and then kind of was out of it for the last two or three hours," Troccoli reminisces, her voice trailing off.

"Scripture is filled with words of life," she affirms, "so I’d always try to speak those over my mother. I used to read her Scripture all the time in the hospital. During those last hours when my mother was breathing, gasping for air, I turned to Psalm 23 and started reading.

"I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced being with someone in the dying process, but they are literally gasping for air. I started reading, The Lord is my Shepherd and my mother, in between gasps, responded as she exhaled, I shall not want. In between her gasping for air, and as she exhaled, she recited with me the whole Psalm.

"My mother wasn’t a memorizer of Scripture, so this was incredible—a miracle," Troccoli beams. "She led some family and friends that had gathered in the room in the Lord’s prayer, and then that was it. I felt like angels were there; the Lord was there. That experience gave me even more of an absolute knowing that we go from life to life and not life to death. Psalm 23 will always be so very special to me."

Life’s experiences and their lessons are abundantly evident throughout the 10 songs in Corner of Eden, from songs of encouragement to prayers set to music to songs written from life as it happens.

By way of example, Troccoli elaborates on the song "When I Look At You." She laughs, "How I got that title is kind of interesting. I was going for my annual mammogram check-up, because of the cancer that runs in my family. I was waiting for my test results. A few moments go by, I got this incredible fear. I thought, Wow, what if they tell me I have cancer today?"

"I was sitting there amid several women. One woman said they had just discovered a tumor and they were in the process of checking it out. The physician from another hospital across the street had sent her here, and she was a little afraid. I was just sitting there and I saw myself get this overwhelming fear. All I did was start saying the name of Jesus. I kept whispering the name of Jesus and putting my focus on what I know Him to be and all the things He has told me. This unbelievable peace came over me. At that moment, I felt I had the grace to hear anything. The lyrics and title ‘When I Look At You’ came out from that experience."

Grace and peace are woven throughout Corner of Eden like tiny threads in a tapestry. "We glimpse pieces of Eden through life, through people or experiences," Troccoli says. "If we look at our lives we can see those pieces, those corners of Eden, of what God originally intended for us—peace, love, joy, etc.—yet through the fall we can’t have them in total until we see Him face to face. I get glimpses of Eden when I visit my friend Allison and the thrill it gives my heart as her little boys run up to squeeze me so tight, calling me Coli.

"Another glimpse of Eden is when I’ve spent time with friends. The incredible honesty, the grace and just the ability to forgive that’s exchanged in an intimate moment. To me those are glimpses of Eden. To sing a song and have someone come up to me and say, You’ve absolutely turned my life around, that’s another piece of Eden.

"I just think if we examine our days when we hit the pillow at night, we would see that God has actually been in the moment of the day. I want to be in the Garden, don’t you?"

She’s thankful some of the things that have happened throughout her life have caused her to trust God more. "I’ve honestly challenged myself through the last several years about how real is Jesus to me? I met the Lord at 20, and since then I’ve prayed I would remain desperate for Him, that I wouldn’t lose sight of Him."

Communicating with such honest abandon is refreshing as Troccoli elaborates on the harder questions of life and faith as a true believer. She finds her deepest longings and hopes fulfilled in the hands of her Lord and Savior. "I think I live soberly between wretched woman that I am and beautiful Bride of Christ," she says. "I think that is what Paul spoke about: I do the things I don’t want to do and the things I want to do, I don’t do.

"Our souls are trapped in these flesh bodies. Until we meet Him face to face, we are going to struggle. I think that is why you could come to a place where even Paul—this is a man who served God vehemently—says of himself, I’m the chief of sinners. He knew who he was with Christ, but he also knew who he was without Christ."

Honesty and vulnerability are evident throughout Troccoli’s lyrical outpourings, as well as her life. "I strive to remain honest with the few people in my life that do not allow me to go through seasons where I’m just kind of out there and I’m on the road doing my own thing. I use this phrase a lot, We are as sick as our secrets. I think that the more secrets you have, it can tend to make you sick. Therefore, you will deliver a message that’s not coming from places that are good. That phrase has helped me through the years to remain on this journey with Jesus."

Reprinted by permission, Profile Magazine.