Whatever happened to a passion I could live for? What became of the flame that made me feel more? And when did I forget that…

“What are you listening to?”

My teammate’s voice cut through the song, interrupting my daydream. I turned away from the window of the school bus to turn towards her.

“Sorry, what did you say?” I asked as I pulled out one of my earbuds.

“I asked what you’re listening to,” she said.

I looked down at my iPod Nano and my face flushed. There was no way she’d recognize the name.

“Um, it’s TobyMac… He’s a, um, Christian artist,” I stuttered.

“Oh… That’s cool,” said my teammate, her silent judgment all too familiar.

I often heard things like, “Why don’t you listen to our music?” and “Don’t let Karina choose a song, she listens to boring music.”

After brushing off the conversation, I turned back to the window of the bus and hit play.

As I listened to my music, I dreamt of what it’d be like to play guitar and sing with a worship band. I dreamt of a life of music, but I never imagined those dreams would become a reality.

Now, eight years later, standing on a platform taking deep breaths, I utter a prayer to God and ask for confidence and strength. I hold on tightly to a microphone, walk out onto the platform with the 1721 band, and I sing.

Hundreds of young people fill the church and begin to clap their hands. I feel the heat from the stage lights on my skin,  and the bass drum syncs with my quickened heartbeat. I take one last look beyond the stage lights, I raise the microphone to my lips. Then, I sing.

I never imagined my life would unfold like this, but by grace, I found myself here.

My first memories of music come from when my dad would play cassettes from Hispanic Christian singers. The music would fill our apartment and sink through the walls, leaving a lingering tune in the space for days.

Even as a 4-year-old, I knew enough of the words to sing along at the top of my lungs. I received my first CD player in elementary school. It had a Barlowgirl CD inside of it, and I would listen to the Christian girl band and dream of being one of them. I loved to sing, but I was too shy to sing around my family.

However, I was good at one instrument: piano. My babysitter, Barbara Miller, owned a large, acoustic piano. I remember admiring the dark, polished wood and itching to press the keys. One day, I gathered up the courage to ask my sitter for permission to play the piano.

“If you’re going to play the piano, you need to learn how first,” she said to me.

She pulled out a beginner’s piano book and opened it up to the first page. She set it on the piano’s stand and began to show me the names of the keys. I learned where to find the notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Then they repeat. She taught me how to play the first song in the book. After a half hour, I felt I had mastered it.

I performed it for her, and then I said, “I got it! Can I please learn the next one now?”

“Play it again,” she would tell me, and I would keep practicing the first song, anxious to please my sitter so that she would teach me a new one.

For the next seven years, I took private lessons from a local teacher, Ms. Robinson, working my way to the highest levels of instruction she offered. By the time I stopped taking piano lessons, I had joined the orchestra at school and played the violin for eight years.

During all that, something changed the course of my life. When I was 15 years old, I accepted Christ as my personal savior and began to get more involved in church activities. I felt drawn to church and to reading the Bible on my own time, which is something I had never done before. It was then that I started to ponder joining the worship team. I would go to their practices to see what it was like.

The pianist was playing one of my favorite songs, and I decided to join in the singing. Melissa, a friend of mine looked at me stunned and said, “Girl, you can sing!”

While this moment was not one of grandeur, it changed everything for me. I could sing? I knew I could play instruments like the piano and violin, but I never thought that I would  be considered a good singer. I began to get inspiration from world-famous worship leaders like Kim Walker from Jesus Culture, Steffany Gretzinger from Bethel Music and Taya Smith from Hillsong.

Before I knew it, I was leading worship sets at my church.

Leaders from other churches would come up to me and invite me to lead at other events or team up with other worship teams. It was at one of these events that my fiancé, Luis Lopez first saw me and introduced himself. And it’s while I was dating Luis that I was invited to become a part of 1721, a worship band led by Roxann Cervantes.

So here I stand on stage, with both hands lifted as all the voices sing thanks to God. I believe that everyone has a calling, that it’s the purpose behind every life. I am thankful that I have found mine, and as long as I have breath in my lungs, I will sing.