Fearlessness propelled ascent to Canyon Worship
Second of a series
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
She had been so focused on her future during high school, she didn’t remember much about those years. So as she prepared to graduate, Kyleigh Almich decided to shake things up.
“I challenged myself to live the next five years of my life in discomfort and do things that scared me – in a healthy way,” she said. “I was sick and tired of being fearful of every single thing that was happening in my life. I was letting my fear control how I operated.”
The figurative climb started in a very tangible way with her senior year pictures. She’s terrified of heights, so she did what she felt she had to do: She sat on the edge of a cliff.
“I wasn’t dancing. I scooted up, I sat there and I left,” she said. “Who am I to sit back and say my fear is too big for God to take care of me?”
Then, when it came time to choose a college, GCU was fifth on her list. The other four schools all were in Colorado, close to Thornton, her hometown. She wanted to stay close to home.
But the more she looked at it, she came to the realization that GCU was the only one that met all of her criteria, starting with a school spirit that her high school didn’t have.
“I like being ‘school-spirity,’” she said. “I try to go to every single basketball game. I even go to the baseball games. I don’t play sports, but I like watching them. I don’t know a lot about sports; I just think they’re fun to watch.”
GCU’s Christian community was another key factor.
“I had never been in an environment with a lot of Christians. At first I was like, ‘Oo, this feels a little sheltered.’ But now that I’m here, I’m like, ‘No, this is just a place where God’s preparing us for the world.’
“It’s really interesting to look at this version of me. People from two years ago would have said I’m a Bible thumper, and I would have been ashamed of it. But now it’s like, ‘Yeah, I am.’”
That spiritual evolution is reflected in “Heaven Is Here.” It’s the first song she ever wrote.
“Over the past six months, I’ve watched this song really working in my life,” she said. “It’s like my story.”
The story almost turned out very differently, even after she chose GCU. Almich was trained as a classical cellist and planned to make that her area of study if she had gone to one of those other colleges.
Then the pandemic wiped out public performances. She picked another major but then switched to worship ministry a week before arriving on campus.
“I’d always wanted to be a musician,” she said.
She had never been a songwriter, though. She borrowed a roommate’s keyboard to write the song, then needed help to record it.
When the song was chosen for the album near the end of her freshman year, it came at the perfect time.
“I was having doubts, like, ‘Maybe I did this on a whim. Maybe I’m not supposed to be in this program.’ I was just having the normal insecurity about, ‘Everybody else is so good.’”
And it further forged her faith.
“The fact that it got picked and I’m a freshman, this is not just an accident. I’ve really been able to recognize, ‘Wow, nothing is a coincidence.’”
Like many of the songs on Canyon Worship 2022, “Heaven Is Here” focuses on the transformation that comes with turning your life over to God.
“It struck me as a coming-of-age story,” Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson said. “It had that vibe of discovery and growth. There’s a lot of imagery in the song – imagery of God’s creation. And then what really struck me about the song was gratitude, heartfelt gratitude.”
Dr. Randall Downs, Coordinator of the Worship Arts program, noted the power of Almich’s voice in delivering this message: “It comes across as an anthem, but I love that idea that heaven is here right now. We see it in Scripture when Jesus talks about abundant life – He talks about that happening here now. No matter what we’re going through, we can have a joyful life and live in a Kingdom-minded way.”
Indeed, Almich said when she first started writing the song she had a heavy heart. Then things were going great. Soon after, there was another not-so-great patch.
There was only one way to handle all of it, in her mind.
“The song has transformed into this praise through every season,” she said. “I recognize that, previously, I’ve gone to God only when things are bad instead of praising Him for things that are good as well.
“The song went through a story of ‘This is not a good season of life, but I’ll still praise you anyway.’ Then it goes to ‘This is a great season of life, and I’ll still praise You.’ The final verse is about how regardless of what I’m going through, the glory that He has on the cross is greater than anything I could give.”
It has helped Almich find joy in all the things that happened in her freshman year. She used to try to control her life. Now that she has put it in God’s hands, she can’t get over how much she has grown spiritually in her short time on a campus she loves.
“Now, there still are stressful things. It’s normal human life. But I can breathe,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been able to breathe in my life. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about how good life could be. I was so focused on, ‘OK, I have this, this, this and this to do.’”
The future can wait. Heaven is already here.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
GCU Today: Students make their voices heard in Showcase