"A lot of times you think when you become a Christian that everything's going to be just peachy keen, and life is going to go smoothly for you. And it's not always like that - you're going to have trials, you're going to run across sickness and death, or breakup - whatever."
--Krista Darin

by Rachel Murphy exclusively for the Music Channel at crosswalk.com

"We played soccer all the time," says Rachelle Darin, the third oldest member of Pamplin's new four-sister act, {{The Darins}}. "Sometimes we played in the front yard, or we got yelled at by my mom for practicing against the garage - we actually had to replace the garage door one time!" she recalls, as her sisters, Krista, Stacy and Heather, laughingly agree.

Trophies, tennis shoes and pony tails made up much of childhood for these young women, who sit before me tamed and quite genteel in a downtown Nashville coffee shop. No sweat, no mud - life changed a bit for the Southern California natives a few short years back when they were asked to take a break from the soccer field and lend their home-bred harmonies to a tribute for a mutually-beloved high school teacher.

"We were all in the same high school, and were in the same performing arts program," says second eldest sibling, Stacy. "When the youngest [of us], Heather, was leaving school, they asked us to come do a tribute to our choir director who'd been there all four years. We said, 'Sure,' and sang "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," from "Sister Act II." It was our first time to sing togetherand we [discovered that we] really liked doing that!"

It seems the Darins enjoyed music and singing even during their tomboy years, as they learned to sing harmony together in the family station wagon and put on "private" concerts for their parents, even providing them with home-made tickets. The soul-influenced Motown parodies of "Sister Act" made a fitting choice of musical material for the girls, who loved everything Motown growing up, as well as other powerhouse pop acts like Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men and their Christian contemporaries, {{Be Be & Ce Ce Winans}}, {{Take 6}} and others. The two older sisters, Krista and Stacy, even entertained a record deal with the famous Motown label for a while before God led them to pursue Christian music.

A year after their first performance together, the Darins' church music minister arranged for the sisters to meet Dino Elfante, vice president of A&R at Pamplin Music. It's taken two years for the girls to go from signing a contract with the record company to where they sit now, telling me about their self-titled first project for the label, set to release on July 27th.

"It's been difficult [to wait so long]," Stacy says, reflecting back over two years of artist development, song selection and recording that have birthed a mature, polished project and singing group. "But what God's taught all of us in harmony is patience, and how to trust Him. We've learned that His timing is perfect, and His timing was for us to sign [two years ago] - every single step we've taken [in the process] has been a learning experience."

"Our song selection was a really big deal, and something we prayed about," Krista chimes in. "We were very picky in the songs that we chose for the album, and [after recording several], we went back and picked the best ten that we felt lyrically and melodically fit us best and represented who the Darins were."

Although they are still only dabbling at writing songs themselves, the Darins' debut doesn't suffer from a lack of talented pens. The album reflects the skill of several noteworthy songwriters, among them Regie Hamm, Chris Eaton, Jim Cooper and Chris Omartian.

"[We chose songs that] we would listen to and think, this is something that really relates to us, or we feel very strongly about," Stacy says, "[Something we] can imagine ourselves singing up on stage and put 150% into it every time we sing the song."

They were excited to have the opportunity to chat with two of the songwriters personally when in Nashville recently. "We got to meet Regie Hamm and Jim Cooper, who wrote our first single, 'All Along the Road,'" Stacy relates.

"We knew where we were at with that song and what we try to portray to our audience, but we weren't quite sure, never talking with them, where they were coming from writing the song. So we got to talk to Regie who did the song's lyrics, and he explained it to us, and it was exactly what we were feeling! About the day to day [struggles], and you wake up sometimes and don't want to get out of bed and just go through the motions, but rather to remain faithful. As the song says, "I live above my condition, I press on with conviction, all along the road I'm walking."

One song that the girls all concede hits particularly close to home is the last cut on the album, "He Carries Those (Who Carry the Cross)," a song about the struggle to understand why a loving God would let the pain endure in the lives of His children. The song's second verse brings resolution with the words, "I've been blessed enough to witness grace from both sides of the painno storm can reach me that hasn't come through Him."

Krista explains what the song means to them: "A lot of times you think when you become a Christian that everything's going to be just peachy keen, and life is going to go smoothly for you. And it's not always like that - you're going to have trials, you're going to run across sickness and death, or breakup - whatever. 'He Carries Those' is a great song because it brings home that God will carry us through those trials and circumstances if we let Him."

The Darin girls have had to learn a lot about letting God carry them through suffering, as in recent years Rachelle and Heather have struggled with uncontrollable seizures, which have made life difficult for the whole family at times. Rachelle has had grand mal seizures (major seizures with uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness) for the last four years, while Heather has experienced similar symptoms more frequently for over six years. One particularly frightening episode left Heather sitting in a wrecked car smashed against a telephone pole when she blacked out while driving to work. God spared her from serious injury though, guiding her car safely and slowly through an intersection of oncoming traffic to a gentle landing against the pole.

Though there is no type or level of medication which can prevent the girls' seizures entirely, they have found a deep place of peaceful acceptance, and trust their heavenly Father to get them through the worst. "It's difficult sometimesthe way He's intertwined this in our lives," says Rachelle of how she and her sister have had to fight through this disorder together. "[But where I used] to look at it as a negative thinggrowing up, because I wasn't like all the other kidsGod's now said, 'You can use this as a positive thing. I've given this to you as a blessing.' I think over time He's taught me that He will never give me anything I can't handle."

The four sisters now hope to use Heather and Rachelle's experiences to encourage others that life is not over for someone who struggles with this disorder - to let them know that God has a tremendous plan for everyone's life, and will use even their weaknesses to bring glory to Himself. "I think He's going to use this as a tool both for them [Heather and Rachelle] and for us as a group, to help people who may be struggling with any kind of disorder. There are so many things that people struggle with," Stacy says. "But I think we're going to be used to touch their lives - maybe help, in whatever way we can."

The depth that all this has added to the Darins' music and to their relationship as sisters is undeniable, too, and they wouldn't exchange it at this point. The four laughingly reminisce about their early high school days, when the four paired off into sets - the fourteen-months -apart older two wanting to keep the one-year-apart younger set from interfering with their "cool" status at junior high.

"That's the only time that we weren't as close as we are now," says Krista, with a twinkle in her eyes. "But I think we learned as we got to be adults that each one of us are individuals, and I need to respect what Heather believes and what she thinks and her needs and wants -- the same for Rachelle or Stacy. I think when you get to be an adult, you get to where you can understand thatit just creates a little more harmony."

Harmony is something the girls seems to have plenty of, as they head off to begin touring in support of their new release, now from a new home base in Nashville, TN.

Their old team trophies are put away. The sweat and mud are rarely seen. The soccer balls and tennis shoes don't get used quite as often as they used to. The games of childhood may have grown into concerns and experiences of adulthood, but for these sisters, their sense of teamwork comes through loud and clear.


The debut album from The Darins is out July 27th -- get your copy right here and have it sent to your door -- also check out: www.pamplinmusic.com