A woman with a mission, Stacie Orrico grapples with the desires of her heart.

New beginnings stir your soul with hope. Fortunately, in the euphoria, we’re naie to the inevitable cost. Yet, in our conviction, we’re buoyed to press on, even while enveloped in cacophonous surroundings?.

Garbled information blurts from an unseen overhead speaker at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport breaking into the phone conversation like adult-speak in a “Peanuts” animation. The alleged instructions met with an extended pause on the line’s noisy end as savvy traveler Stacie Orrico apparently replays the message in her head, unraveling its meaning before continuing with a rapid-fire review of her 2003. It was a year spent taking her music career into new territory and artistically shaking loose her teen-pop sheen for a more mature sound. Further, it was an advance on — her record labels hope — bona fide pop stardom.

Last March, as Christian music fans embraced Orrico’s self-titled, R&B-laden sophomore record, executives at ForeFront Records, her Christian label, and at mainstream partner Virgin Records were taking the nation’s — check that, the world’s — temperature to see if Orrico’s music could generate new interest. Grassroots popularity of “Stuck” (a song about unhealthy relationships) earlier in the year suggested the timing was right. Besides, such a market presence was foreshadowed in 2001 when Orrico shared a handful of concerts with Destiny’s Child.

Always with a heart to reach out to her generation, which she says has strayed from lifestyles of promise and hope, Stacie was energized by to the mainstream vision. Good thing. By summer, the 17-year-old, Denver-raised vocalist was ensconced in hectic schedule of music business politicking and a massive, daily travel routine that usually included only three or fours hours of sleep.

“It’s been really good,” Orrico says of the promotional tour, speaking rapidly as she changes planes in the sprawling Dallas/Fort Worth airport on this November day. “Honestly, it’s been completely and utterly exhausting,” too, she quickly adds, almost without a period between sentences.

“It’s the excitement of it all, like, wow, I never dreamed I could have been this excited about doing something. But also I never knew I could be this tired and this maxed out,” she counters. “But I think that’s OK. I think that’s how you learn and grow.”

Typically, with considerably less ground to cover, a Christian music promotional tour anticipates the release of an album and comprises of two to four weeks of cheerleading visits to radio stations and retail outlets across the country. Orrico’s Virgin-backed promotional tour contrasts markedly, designed to make her a household name worldwide via mainstream pop radio stations and retail giants like Best Buy and Target. It’s a unique, but not unprecedented opportunity. Before her have gone the likes of dc talk and Newsboys, each with debatable success.

Orrico’s performed her schtick — singing a handful of songs and answering a few questions — in Japan, England, France, Australia and Holland and has placed her infectious charm and fashionable image via satellite in Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. Stateside, she has crisscrossed the country, and among her opportunities are several appearances on MTV’s “TRL,” performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and participating the annual tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza.

Crowds at public events tend to be split 50-50 between those who know her career, starting with 2000’s Genuine, and those new fans clamoring for her “Stuck.” She says this massive effort unquestionably compliments her unwavering commitment to Christian music. She works with the dedication of a missionary, framing all she does in the Great Commission, the task of communicating Christianity’s core message to all.

Of course, there’s a price attached to her dedication.

“It’s fun to share the history with new people,” she says of her career. Yet it’s difficult, for example, when she notices what she’s missed sharing with her parents and four siblings. Orrico heaps praise on them for ardently supporting her. Still, she concedes, “I have not seen them much at all” this year. Her parents moved last summer to Seattle, Wash., the place of Orrico’s birth, but she can count on one hand the number of days she has spent in their new home.

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“It’s so, so, so difficult to find a balance,” she says. “I’m going around the world encouraging people with a song called ‘(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life,’ encouraging them to get their priorities straight and to live their lives in a way so that they are not filling [them] with temporary things?. At the same time, I’ve got a little 13-year-old brother and sister who look up to me ? and I’m missing their football games and dance recitals.

“It’s so hard. I know God has called me here. I know this is where I’m supposed to be. But it does cost a lot, especially for a girl who could truly care less about how many records I sell or what my chart position is or if I ever make a dime,” she says.

“99 percent of the time I love it. But there are days when you go, ‘Is this really my whole life? Do I really answer the same five questions every single day and talk about the same five things and sing the same five songs?'” she says.

That missionary’s heart, values instilled in Orrico by family mission trips to Ukraine and Mexico, urges her onward.

“We’re living in a time now where kids are so confused — they’re confused because their parents aren’t together or because they don’t know what healthy relationships are supposed to look like,” she observes, “let alone being able to build their character or their spirituality and all those things.” The message she shares contrasts sharply with prevailing ones.

“I’ve been able to share with girls that I feel modesty is a real important thing,” she says, providing an example. That’s not out of prudish behavior, she explains, but because she desires respect. “As a woman, I don’t want to end up with a guy only because of my body and because of my physical appearance. I think you can be funky and beautiful and attractive and fashionable without being trashy.” Orrico says she gets feedback often from girls who say no one has ever said that to them before. “They actually find there’s something positive in dressing modestly!”

With more than 1.5 millions copies of Stacie Orrico sold worldwide, according to her label, and her album achieving gold status in various countries (in the United States, that means more than 500,000 copies sold), there’s enough buzz to suggest interest in Stacie’s positive message won’t wane soon. She’ll put that notion to the test in January when she starts rehearsals for an upcoming international tour, tentatively slated for Japan, Europe, Mexico, Australia, Canada and, of course, several venues in the United States.

“I hope for more contact with people,” she says, contrasting the impersonal, go, go, go pace of promo tours to show days, which have a rhythm typically more amenable to meeting fans. “It’s one of the things I like doing best. I hope to accomplish more of that, especially with the fans being such a new group. [There are] so many more kids who don’t know the Lord. I really wish for that contact.”

Copyright © 2004 Christian Music Planet, used with permission.

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Gregory Rumburg is a Nashville-based freelance writer and director of the worship project at United Methodist Publishing House.