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Passion Meets Purpose #6: She Said She’d Never Do It And Then It Become Her Calling with Ellie Holcomb

She didn’t want to marry a musician or do music and look where she is now. You’ll love this honest journey with Ellie Holcomb as she explores the idea of embracing your calling when your calling becomes the thing you said you’d never do.

Special thanks to Northwest University for sponsoring the Passion Meets Purpose Podcast!

Interview Links:

Transcription:

Ellie Holcomb: We did a Kickstarter campaign. So I was like, okay, I guess we’ll do this. And you know how that works? It’s crowdsource funding so if you don’t hit it, we are trying to raise $40,000 in 50 days. And I just was like, oh man, God, okay. I, if we hit, go on this, I’m potentially gonna fail in front of everyone.

That was so scary. And it felt like that scene from Indiana Jones of when he’s taking that step out. And, and it looks like he is going to fall to its death, but then the ground rises up underneath them. We hit go on that. And I remember crying. I felt like I was going to throw up the night before. And Judah said, do you feel called to this?

Do you feel like God has put this calling on your life? Do you feel like this is maybe part of the purpose of why he has you here? And I was like, I do.

Sarah Taylor: Uh, that is this week’s guest Ellie Holcomb. Get ready for such a wonderful conversation about all of these gifts and talents for her musical career that were actually started at a very young age.

That’s how we begin our conversation, which drifts into motherhood as well as what she has learned along the way, having one of her mentors, Amy Grant, uh, very close by, for decades and she shares three beautiful pieces of wisdom that you’ll probably want to write down. So maybe grab a pen, let’s begin our conversation.

As we begin in childhood with Ellie Holcomb,

I always to start the way that Krista Tippett does with, on being, if you’ve ever heard that, how she takes you back to your childhood. It’s just so fascinating. And what I found is that a lot of people are living in their talents and their giftings now saw buds of that in childhood. So why don’t you take me back to that?

Ellie Holcomb: Oh, well, I grew up in a home with five kids, so I’m the oldest of five and I loved our household. We, it was musical, my dad’s a producer. So I also grew up in Nashville, which anyway, lots of people move here now. So I’m called a unicorn. Apparently those of us who live here and we’re born and raised here, but I grew up in the studios of Nashville, learning how to sing background vocals from the age of six and in studios, uh, when budgets ran low, honestly, dad would be like, Hey, come on in and sing some background vocals, but we had a very musical

family, a very vibrant family. Our home was one of those homes with the open door. Like any everybody. I mean, I think when I was in high school, we lived really near to my school and so we would come home and like, my friends would be taking showers in my parents’ shower. Cause they had a really good shower.

Like, Hey, sorry. Don’t come in the bathroom. We’re here. We’ll be out in a second. So it was just an open door. And then I would say, faith wise, vibrant, vibrant faith from, from both of my parents, but my mom, especially, I was just thinking about how to teach. I was thinking about teaching my kids, how to pray,

and my mom never sat me down and said, this is how you pray. She just prayed. She prayed when things were hard. She prayed to thank God for beauty. She prayed. Anytime we left the house, you bread to any meal, anybody going through a hard time, she’d launched into a prayer. And so, and then she loved God’s word.

She always loved God’s words. And so I learned to treasure God’s word, and I learned that I learned how to talk to God from a really, from a really young age. And I also learned that music was a very powerful tool to connect people to their stories. So that’s sort of what home was like. There was lots of dancing and creativity and singing all the time.

And then in the same breath, my dad, and if he was here, he would say this, he was gone making that music a lot. And so when my mom very much, so I don’t know about, I guess I was in college. So like they’ve been married for about. 20 years. I don’t know, 18 years somewhere around there. He, my mom was really got my dad’s attention and just said, you’ve got to come home more.

You’ve been gone a lot. He would call himself a workaholic. And so I had this beautiful opportunity to see my dad have an about face moment in his life and say, I am so sorry. I’ve gotten this. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed it. I’ve been gone for so much. And I love y’all and I am so sorry. And I can offer you Jesus and I can offer you repentance.

And that has been a powerful, anyway, there’s, we’ve been on a continued healing journey of that. But it has been, I felt like I got all these beautiful lived out examples of like, I dunno, beauty and truth, kind of meeting the rubber rubber meeting the road with beauty and truth.

Sarah Taylor: What a great lead into a pretty big question for anyone that’s listening.

Um, for that balance of passion, right. Your dad is passionate. And by the way, legendary producer, like you were just kind of like my dad is this, Brown Bannister, Google it, and then come back. Okay. Um, so here he is just a legendary producer right. And making this incredible music, but then he hears what your mom says, and he has a choice to make.

And clearly he made the one that chooses family. But that, that in that story is buried of a question. How do you know how not to let your passions take you too far when you know, you lose the main thing? I mean, you have to answer this yourself with your husband, being a musician and being the mother of three small kids.

Ellie Holcomb: A hundred percent, Sarah and I honestly,

I did not want to do music. This is, this is so great. This is so intersects with the whole point of this podcast. But I was, I saw as a young kid, how powerful music could be. And I always sang, I was singing from, I was singing scripture from the time I was, that’s just how I processed heartache. It’s how I process my faith from a really young age.

And so it’s so funny, you go back to the beginning and I see that. There’s a song on my first DP that I wrote as a high school kid, I was just reading the Psalms and I was like, oh, I just want to sing this to help my heart believe it. And I’m like, well, that’s, it’s just what I’m still doing now. I didn’t know that that was going to be my job back then, but that was in me back then.

And, um, in the same breath, I think because there was some wounding from that with my dad, I saw how music and, and how maybe pursuing, uh, uh, a life that could potentially be more public and with music you’re on the road all the time. And I was just like, Ooh, I am never going to do the music for my job.

I’m never going to marry a musician. Like I am I, and then I said, I also was never going to marry my best guy friend Drew, who is my husband, and who is a musician and so God has a sense of humor. But it’s so, because I do think that there is something so gracious of the Lord to allow me to see the costs that can happen in mom and dad

very much talk to us about that. Even when we were little before dad kind of have his about face moment, they would say, look, if you want to do music, there is a cost to it. There’s a cost to having success in music and having fame. Everybody recognizes you, you know, there’s a little bit of privacy that’s lost.

And so if that’s something that you want to do, We bless you in it, but let it be a calling on your life. Let it be a true passion. You have to wake up in the morning saying, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to go do. And if you’re going to say yes to that. And so I’m very grateful. I feel like I walked into the music thing with my eyes wide open, and it’s funny actually went and got, I was literally trying to avoid music at all at all costs

cause I knew it was hard and I just, I guess I don’t like pain, but it’s so interesting because when I look back at my story, When I was even a teacher, so I got my master’s in education, but even when I was doing that, my whole senior project was all about how song could help children memorize things and learn things and learn life lessons.

I was singing in my classroom all the time. I was rapping in my classroom. And so it’s so exciting. Interesting to me that there was always this thread of music running, even when I was running away from it, because I was scared of how to manage that passion and that purpose. And so it’s been really beautiful have that experience with my family and to know I’m not always going to get that balance

right, but the important thing is when things are off balance is the way that his bond. And I’m so grateful that I got to see my mom and dad model that out for me.

Sarah Taylor: I’m going to put you on the spot a tiny bit, because I’ve heard you in other podcasts do it. So I know you can do it here. One of the ways that you help your three kids, uh, memorize scripture is you put them to little songs

cause you know that that’s just, you know, it helps us memorize. So what’s one of the latest that pops into your mind, the way that you’ve turned a scripture into a song for your kids.

Ellie Holcomb: Oh, easy. Cause we’re just, we’re memorizing it right now. Um, I need to write the references in I’m the worst at that. So I’m not sure where this comes from

but promise it’s in the Bible. Okay. So it’s for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

Sarah Taylor: Well, I would like to subscribe to the scripture memorization package. So how helpful is that?

Ellie Holcomb: It is honestly, it’s why that’s the whole reason I started

actually writing music. And this is so interesting. I was in my husband’s band forever. And, uh, w you know, we kinda decided to quit my teaching job so we could be together on the road and then felt kind of called home to my little girl once she started walking. We had another car seat for, I don’t know, six or seven hours a day

cause we were traveling. And she’d been to 32 states and Canada by the time she was six months. And so we were on the road with her. And so when she started walking, I was like, I got to get this girl home. And we had had a lot of success in music. It was growing, but I just really felt like I needed to be home with her at this point.

And so I quit music to be a stay at home. Mom. I had started writing scripture into song because I was memorizing with a friend of mine who battles depression, and it was grounding us. It was changing us. It wasn’t changing our circumstances, but was changing um, it was just giving us solid ground to stand on when the shame storms rolled in and helping us kind of kick it

back at the shadows with the light. So I just thought, man, I’m so bad at this memorizing scripture thing, but we started it and we call them our fighting words. And so we were like, we are going to use God’s word. He says, it’s a sword. So we’re going to use it to like kick back against the lies. And it was really hard.

That’s what made me start wanting to write it into song because I was like, I can remember a thousand songs easy. And so it’s so interesting because that’s why I started ever writing my own music. I just was trying to help myself memorize scripture. And then as it turns out, I ended up accidentally launching another music career in the process.

And I’m so grateful. I love it. I love it so much. I’m so glad as I started to sense God saying, uh, would you be willing to share these songs with others? I was in counseling at the time. God bless counselors. Kind of dealing with some, really with some of the pain from my dad being gone and that, and the ramifications from that, just working through that and talking through that, but in counseling, I realized I could come as I am.

It was okay to not be okay. Which you and I’ve talked about a lot before Sarah, but I just, it was freeing in a way that I wanted other people in the church because I grew up in the church and I just didn’t, I just was a liar. I didn’t know. I wasn’t trying to lie, but I lied to myself first. I’m like, I’m fine.

I’m fine. I lied to God. I didn’t tell him where I really was. And then there was this invitation that Jesus gives all of us that where there’s truth, there’s freedom. And that was bringing me so much life. And I felt like God was saying, would you be willing to go be broken in front of others? Would you be willing to go back into the church and be a mess?

And I was like, no. A, that means I have to leave my kids, which is the thing that I was scared of in the first place. B that means that I am going to have to go in front of people who I grew up in the church. I know that I could be judgmental. And so people are going to judge me and I don’t want to do that.

And then, and, and then there was this quiet invitation still, but think of the freedom you’ve experienced. But think of how my word has brought my refreshment. And so there was this kind of moment of having to decide, am I going to let the fear that are just saying about for God, hasn’t given us a spirit of fear that the fear of all those unknowns of how I’m going to manage being a mom and doing this thing that God’s given me the, I love. Talking about counseling and being vulnerable and real, which I love, but I was scared to go do it, but I, the choice to kind of call and lean into that calling,

and lean into that kind of purpose, and I was, I was scared to death. I was scared to death to do it, but I just felt like, man, I don’t think I want to miss, I don’t want to miss the freedom or the hope that maybe God would give somebody else. I don’t want to miss it the calling that he’s put on my life. I do want to say a surrendered yes.

To that, even though I’m scared. So it felt, we did a Kickstarter campaign. So I was like, okay, I guess we’ll do this. And you know how that works? It’s crowdsource funding. So if you don’t hit it, we are trying to raise $40,000 in 50 days. And I just was like, oh man, God, okay. I, if we hit go on this. I’m potentially going to fail in front of everyone.

That was so scary. And it felt like that scene from Indiana Jones of when he’s taking them that step out and, and it looks like he is going to fall to his death, but then the ground rises up underneath him. We hit go on that. And I remember crying. I felt like I was gonna throw up the night before and Drew just said, Do you feel called to this?

Do you feel like God has put this calling on your life? Do you feel like this is maybe part of the purpose of why he has you here? And I was like, I do, but I’m scared. He was like, well, don’t you want to kind of lean into that. And I was like, I do. And ultimately the freedom that God has brought in my life, if I can be a mess in front of people, And help people get freed up,

I do want that. I want that from my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want that for people who don’t know Christ, I want people to know that it’s okay, that they, they can be beloved even at their most broken place. And so, and I do want people to hear God’s word because it has brought me such hope and he was like, I think you got to press go.

And I was like, Okay, here we go. Press go. And I mean, it was, I think when I hit go it just one little return, you know, button on the computer to hit the hit, go and start running the Kickstarter thing live. That I feel like ever since then, I’ve been on a journey of taking steps into areas that I am like, oh my goodness, what am I doing here?

I am not the girl for this job. I, no, this is not me, but I’m going to go ahead because here I am in here, God has opened this door and I’m going to show up and take a deep breath and, and go scared. And, and man, Sarah, I have watched the ground rise up underneath my feet over and over and over again. And that Kickstarter, I still see, we gave, uh, T-shirts to anyone who backed the project.

I think we hit our goal of $40,000 in two days, and I was a pile of tears and snot on the floor. And still to this day, when I see people come to a signing line or at shows, and a lot of times they will wear that, we made a t-shirt that said I made music with Ellie Holcomb, and I, I look at them and I’m like, you are a living Ebeneezer for me.

You were one of the people who showed me that when God calls us into something, usually it’s not just all by yourselves. It actually gets to be a communal effort. Amy Grant says a lot, she says, Plant a garden that’s too big for you to tend on yourself and then you’ll have to invite all your friends to help you tend it and to help you grow it.

And then to enjoy the meal and the, and the feast that comes from it. And that is what I feel like. I’ve been on a journey on for this whole time.

Sarah Taylor: Give us some more that Amy Grant life lessons. Cause you’ve got like so many of them having grown up with your dad, helping with production of her music. So it’s like, here you are

as a little girl, there’s Amy again is one in the, your open welcome household. What else has she given you that you just love to quote with the rest of us so that we can glean the wisdom?

Ellie Holcomb: I love that so much. Okay. There’s a couple of things that come to mind. Um, one of them would happen when I was a little girl.

Uh, well, cause every little girl, my age wanted to be Amy Grant. She was like, she’s so awesome. She was like the coolest, I always tell her I’m like you were my hairbrush microphone songs, like as a kid, like I had, I choreographed dances to all of the songs, even though dad was recording them with her, I was like every other little kid, like just thought she was the coolest.

So we would be backstage watching her in a signing line. And my mom would always say, watch her, watch how she interacts with other people, because people are going to, I’m just so grateful for this perspective, she was like, people maybe think she’s famous or whatever. Like they’re like looking at her like, oh my gosh, I’m so excited to meet you.

And you watch her. Every single person she meets, she will turn it around because she knows it’s not about her. It’s about what God is doing through her in their lives. And so she’s just going to ask about them and that’s the beautiful thing that you can do with the platform is turn it around and make it about other people.

So what a privilege to see that modeled out before me. So that’s just an action. Two of the things that come to mind, there’s a way there’s a different kinds of listening. She says that there’s the kind of listening that you can, can do in a room where you’re kind of talking to one person, but you’re sizing up the rest of the room.

And you’re kind of looking around and trying to see what other conversations are happening and what you can be a part of, what you don’t want to miss out on who you want to make sure you say hello to. Then there’s the kind of listening when you’re talking to just one person, but you’re sizing them up.

Like, you’re kind of like, okay, do we agree on the same things? Are we on the same page? Are we not? Are they going to think this of me? And you’re kind of trying to find your place. She said, then there’s a way of listening so intentionally to someone’s story, uh, and to someone speak that you could sing their life back to them in a song.

And I just thought that is the, that’s the kind of listener that she is as well. And so she can say that and, and she lives it out and that is the kind of listener that I want to be. Um, and I, and I think almost, especially with my kids, I think about that. I mean, I want to be that with strangers and everything too, but sometimes things get so chaotic and crazy with the kids

and so it’s been a beautiful, it’s a, it’s a beautiful thing to me, uh, to listen with that intentionality, my kids. Cause a lot of times they’re just like, boom, and I can kind of tune it out. You know? I don’t know that it’s easy to be like, huh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And actually my little girl will call me out on it.

She’ll be like, mom, all you’re saying is yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Like what did I just say to you? And I’m like, oh baby. Okay. So I try to, eye contact like, listen, I want to practice more and more listening like that with my kids. I’m like laundry can happen later. You are the thing, you know, you are the most important thing.

Um, I do have to feed you, so I might have to cook dinner and listen to you at the same time. The clothes can be dirty. That’s fine. But you do have to eat food. The other thing that she said to me just the other day, These are just the three that come to mind. She said, I was, I couldn’t post. I was, I was late on something and I wasn’t able to share, we were part of this faithful project together.

And there was some, I guess the date that it released, I had some like radius clauses. I couldn’t share about this project that I loved so much because I’ve been a part of another project and they asked me not to share it quite yet cause they wanted more space. And so I sent messages to all the women and I was like, I am so sorry.

There was a miscommunication and I can’t share about this, but it’s not because I don’t care. And she literally just said, Nature, never hurries. It’s a quote from her teabag. She was like, I read this on my tea bag today and I feel that it might apply. And I’m so not sure who could, who, whose quote this is, but it was on her teabag and it said, um, nature never hurries

and yet everything is accomplished. I just thought, oh man, thank you for permission to just show up and do the next right thing that I can do. She’s got lots of women wisdom, that woman.

Sarah Taylor: I feel like I just want to give her a box of tea and each day have her just like read me a teabag in her voice.

Ellie Holcomb: I know that’s the other thing she does say.

And this is her mother-in-law that says this. And she said this on many podcasts and VIP Q and A’s. But the prayer that she prays every day is God leave me to those that I need today and then lead me to those that need me. And I just think what a beautiful way to live her life in that surrendered place of like who, who needs me today.

And then who do I need to hear from today? And I don’t know, it kind of turns every day into a little bit of an adventure.

Sarah Taylor: I love how so often throughout this whole conversation you weave in your motherhood. One of the things that I love, not only do you teach your kids scriptures through song, but you’ve been inspired by them to write two children’s books.

Ellie Holcomb: Yes.

Sarah Taylor: Recently when we chatted before you quoted just like align or maybe it was two pages, but it was the perfect quote. Do you remember what section of the book that you said out loud from memory?

Ellie Holcomb: Yeah. This is from, Don’t Forget To Remember, because I think our work as believers is is to remember what’s true.

And so, um, I was talking about the, I think we were talking about the way that creation declares the glory of God. So if that’s true, how does the chorus go? And so the beginning of that book is, did, you know creation is talking to you wherever you go and whatever you do, the earth will keep giving you clue after clue

so you won’t forget to remember what’s true.

Sarah Taylor: It’s my favorite kind of children’s book where you’re reading it to kids, but you’re getting choked up as a parent because it’s talking to you too.

Ellie Holcomb: It’s true. I thought, you know, I actually wrote that book because there are so many things as a parent that you’re trying to teach your kids. How to tie their shoes, to wash their hands, reminding that there’s so many things you’re reminding them of say, please say, thank you.

Oh, we’re going to be patient. We’re going to practice patience right here. We don’t just grab toys. We ask if we can, you know, I mean, there’s so many things we’re teaching them. And then I get to the end of the day and everybody’s alive and fed and bathed and clean, you know, like we’re like, whew, we made it.

But like the very, most important things that I actually want them to know. So often I don’t get to in the midst of the day, like every single night we always gather around and we read books and we cuddle and we sing and we pray. And so I just thought, man, if I could write a book that would carry some of the truths that would, that we could circle around as a family.

Cause I needed to, by the end of a long day, I’m like, woo, mama’s tired. And I lost my patience with you, and I need to be reminded that there’s mercy and there’s love. So I thought, man, could I just write a book that would be like a little campfire that the family could gather around and warm their hearts and their minds by the light of God’s love for us.

And so that’s what my the hope is for, for the Don’t Forget To Remember book.

Sarah Taylor: And I feel like I asked you, like, because the two children’s books, that one, and then, um, who sang the first song? They’re both so excellent. You got to go for at least the trilogy. And I feel like you said you were sort of working on one.

Can you talk about it?

Ellie Holcomb: Yes, absolutely. It’s it’s going to be a Christmas, a Christmas book, which I’m really excited about. I cannot wait. Um, but I think I started thinking about, uh, yeah, this is very much in process so if this changes later up, you know, you’ll know you heard it first here. But I have been thinking about the song that we sing and heaven and nature sing, and that is very much connected to the, my heartbeat that the earth and heaven and nature are all singing of, of God’s glory.

And that is very much what happened when Jesus was born. Like there are lots of animals and angels and stars in that story and so I think for me, what I want to explore in the Christmas book as what does joy sound like? And I think of that joy to the world song, we were, we are called to repeat the sounding joy of the song that the angel  saying that song that night, and it’s the song that we get to keep repeating.

And so what does that sound like? And what does that look like? That’s sort of, but what I’ll be exploring in the Christmas book and I can’t wait.

Sarah Taylor: We can’t wait. Either Lau are like beyond delight. There needs to be a new word for delight. Thank you so much for your time.

Ellie Holcomb: Absolutely. It is a joy to be here with you and, and to talk about this beautiful thing that we

each of us have on our life, we have gifts and calling, good works that God’s prepared ahead of time for us to do. And so I just thank you for drawing me into the story of that he was writing this. He’s already written it in you. We don’t, I have to there’s work in there showing up for sure, but it’s, it’s just the invitation that he gives all of us to participate in writing the story of his kingdom

that’s coming, and being the folks of righteousness who display his splendor and a myriad of a thousand different ways with color and light and truth and beauty and action. And so I just encourage all of you listening today to, to lean in. And so much of the beauty in my life, I’ve seen on the other side of a surrender yes

to where he’s calling me. And so keep your eyes open, as you say yes to his purpose and his calling on your life.

Sarah Taylor: Isn’t she a dream boat? That’s what I said to her as we were hanging up, I’m like Ellie, you’re a dream boat. I am so thankful for her time in this conversation. And for just, you know, you listening along, thanks to Northwest University, also for sponsoring the Passion Meets Purpose podcast.

I think I get to say this now. We started out with just five episodes and evidently they loved the partnership and so we are now on for the next dah, dah, dah dah, year. Yes, the next year. These are going to come to you from our friends at Northwest University in Kirkland. I’m just so thankful. As always, please let us know who you would like to hear featured on the podcast, because I like a good challenge, so you can let me know and I’ll go after them.

You can subscribe or follow. Those are all the things that I forget to say and the producers tell me too. We’ll put it in the show notes as well as the link for Ellie’s books. Thank you. We’ll see you in two weeks.