If there’s one thing Kierra Sheard-Kelly knows how to do very well, it’s minister to people. The gospel singer and daughter of the legendary Karen Clark-Sheard can encourage people and set an atmosphere through song. But the 36-year-old also seeks to do that with her words as she releases her second book.
Kierra’s latest work, The Vibes You Feel: What I’ve Learned About Life and Relationships through the Holy Spirit, is available now through Harper Collins Publishing. In it, the Grammy-nominated artist helps young people of faith better understand what it means to listen to the voice of God and how doing so can help them as they navigate relationships, from the romantic to the platonic.
ESSENCE spoke with Kierra about what it took for her to follow that inner voice, her faith walk, and how it’s helped her as she sees her way through an infertility journey.
ESSENCE: Congratulations on your new book, The Vibes You Feel. What I love about the concept of it is it’s kind of like discussing how the feelings that we have about certain circumstances and things that go on in our life, what is you just thinking that versus the Holy Spirit speaking to you? What inspired this work?
Kierra Sheard-Kelly: For a long time I thought the Lord wasn’t talking to me and then I would go to church and I would hear, “God is speaking to you!” And it’s like well, when is he speaking? So really trying to figure out and learn His voice was very important to me at a season in my life.
And then, because I began making a lot of adult decisions, whether it was dating, career choices, what to do next with albums and just work, even work relationships, I wanted to say okay, God is our creator and he knows our purpose. That’s like an invention going to its inventor to say hey, what am I supposed to do in this space? And so, I really wanted to learn that and learn when he’s talking to me so that I can make the right choices so that I wasn’t always bumping my head.
In a particular relationship, when I was dating, it was a prophet who kept coming to my church and she was like, this is not it. This ain’t the one and I kept trying to figure it out. I’m like why? How come I can’t hear what you’re hearing? And then, my mom and my dad, they were like, I think you already know your answer and now it’s just confirmation that you’ve been ignoring it. It was just a whole bunch of red flags that I was ignoring.
So this body of work was really me wanting to encourage other teens and young adults that God is talking to you. It’s just whether or not we want to hear him. And then, I was inspired by growing in relationships. I’m 36 now and I thought transitioning in relationships was going to end in high school and then maybe mid-20s, but it’s still happening. After marriage, I’m learning. I’m sure when I become a mother things will change too.
So just discerning what are lifetime steps versus seasonal steps in your life because for a long time I’ve been very committed to seasonal relationships in a way that I was only supposed to be committed to lifetime relationships, or just simply misplacing them. So that’s why I wanted to do this body of work because God will direct you if you talk to Him and if you actually follow the vibes that you’re feeling and stop thinking you’re overthinking.
There are so many people who are younger who are kind of flip-floppy with the church because of negative experiences, and so, in some ways they’re also flip-floppy with their faith. So if they feel like they’re not hearing Him because they don’t hear a specific voice, then they’re feeling like well, God doesn’t really speak to me. How do you encourage those people?
In my way, if I call it what it is, sometimes I’ll say, “Excuse me, but that was God. You may call it whatever you call it but I’m going to go ahead and call it. I know that that was a God moment. That was a divine moment.” A lot of us have kind of downplayed our God moments into female intuition or “something told me,” and it’s like, no.
That was your heavenly Father the whole time trying to tell you don’t go down that road. So I definitely have that and I just call it what it is and I say that was the Holy Spirit. That was God. I try to make sure I stay warm and approachable and practical as well because sometimes as believers and people who have really cultivated their relationship with the Lord and are still cultivating it, sometimes we can kind of be out of touch. It’s important to remember that you were once upon a time in that space. The point of you, even as you mature in your faith, is to help others who are in that space. It’s not to leave them. It’s to carry them with you if you can. I’m going to have my standard but I’m not going to act like I’ve not gone through anything.
I also wanted to ask you, being the child of a gospel legend and a well-known pastor, sometimes pastor’s kids, preacher’s kids, etc., they can grow weary of going to church and that can impact their faith walk. But you said you have your own relationship with God. Why was it important for you to have that and do it in your own way as opposed to hearing about the Lord and having this relationship with him through what you know from your family, including your aunts?
Because I had to see it work for me. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to only depend on mom and dad’s faith and what they told me and they also were sticklers for me digging in the word myself and going to Him myself. I have to give it to my parents. They didn’t enable me to be a brat in the faith. They didn’t enable me to be a brat in any other part of my life. They made me work for it. And also, my father always says, “Don’t try me. Try God. Don’t try what I’m telling you. Try God’s principle.” And so, I’ve been hearing that through my life for years and yeah. I had to get it for myself.
And then, I really had to get it for myself because I started having real-life situations that were knocking me over my head. I was getting sick. I was depressed. I was nearly losing my mind in certain relationships and I’m like how did I get here? You just get so frustrated. How did I get here? It didn’t just have to be with relationships. It could have been with financial literacy. It could have been with planning. It could have been with my timing. Why am I always all over the place? It’s not just the vibes I felt from people. It then was vibes that I was getting from myself just through self-discovery and the Holy Spirit started showing me a lot of the stuff that you’re seeing on the natural side are the signals that I’ve been trying to get you to see on the spiritual side.
So it’s almost like your natural is mirroring what’s happening in the spiritual realm because you are not giving the spiritual time that you need. So you miss the signals and God is like, let me just get them the memo however way I need to. I wanted to understand the scriptures on my own. I think, too, that’s why a lot of people, like you were saying, flip-flop. Go and come. Do the church thing, do it not because they’ve not given it enough time or they’ve simply been turned off by church people and as a lot of people call it, theatrics, and it’s like well, that doesn’t have to be your way of praising him.
This is the same way we do in our workplace. I’m not going to let church folk run me away from my salvation just like you wouldn’t let your colleagues run you away from your check. You’re going to sit there and figure out how to make it work. So that was my motto and the other stuff just didn’t work for me. I literally saw miracles happen in my life. I saw myself in a car accident. The car was turning and flipping over. I was still sane. I didn’t have a seatbelt on. I called Jesus. That car went flat so I said this is what works for me. I don’t know what works for y’all but this is what works for me.
You have this book, and I know that you have your new album, also, All Yours. The messages are very much about letting go and trusting God. I wanted to ask you about the idea of letting go and trusting God because I know you’ve opened up about experiences with infertility as you and your husband [Jordan Kelly] have sought to expand your family.
You said recently that you experienced a couple of miscarriages. Why was it important to open up about your experiences? I know you did it in front of a large crowd. What did those experiences also tell you about the importance of rest? That was the message that you were trying to send to the women that you were speaking with.
I know we’re in like a boss babe era or a shepreneur era and it’s like “Go girl!” Girl, do this, do that, and I think it’s beautiful. What women can do is powerful and it’s so inspiring the way we can empower each other. We like to get stuff done. The Bible says she’ll build her home so it’s in me to do that and I believe, too, that a lot of us are called to build other things. You got women like Queen Esther who built a whole queendom. But I’m saying that to say we can get lost in the stars and forget to rest and I think God put it in the initial, in the ultimate itinerary, rest on the Sabbath day, because He knew His children would go crazy and forget to rest sometimes.
And for me, because I wasn’t resting, literally my seed was not going into the right place and that’s how the Lord spoke to me. He said Kierra, your seed is going to travel wherever you go until you sit down. And once I sat down, I haven’t miscarried. I’ve just been all right. But I was on the road when I miscarried too and that was another way of confirmation of what the Lord told me. So that may not be for everyone but I did learn in that season that rest was imperative for me to conceive and carry and I think that’s for any spiritual thing that we’re called to carry. If you’re going to carry it well, you have to have sustaining tools and the womb to carry it. You can’t give it to everybody. So those were the lessons that I got from that.
And how are you letting go and trusting God in this process of awaiting the opportunity to expand your family?
It’s an easy answer. The Lord told me that I’ll have children so I really trust the Lord and I trust His word. So that’s how I’m letting go because I know His timing is perfect.
The Vibes You Feel: What I’ve Learned About Life and Relationships through the Holy Spirit is available wherever books are sold. Her latest album, All Yours, is also available on all streaming platforms.