Sara Evans: God is the same. He’s never changed. So, you know, we can be fighting about politics or worried about the coronavirus or global warming, whatever it may be, but the Lord is the same. He knows the beginning and the end, and He loves us.
Born to Fly, Not to Fear: Sara Evans & Caitlin Crosby – Episode #215
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. We’ve all had times in life where we’ve dealt with fear, anxiety, or uncertainty. In the Bible, we are told to “fear not, because God is with us.” Both our guests today have taken that message to heart when they’ve found themselves in unfamiliar and difficult situations: Country music star Sara Evans and founder of The Giving Keys, Caitlin Crosby.
Sara Evans grew up on a farm in Missouri, the third of seven children. At one point, her parents noticed that Sara had a beautiful singing voice, and by age five, she had her first paying gig. Sarah knew that God had given her a voice, and she never wavered from the dream of being a country music singer. That dream became a reality as Sara went on to a very successful career, being named Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and winning Billboard and Country Music Association awards. She’s played to millions of fans, achieved platinum sales, and performed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. She never doubted that she would achieve her dreams, but along the way, fear and anxiety would sometimes distract her from her course. In those times, Sara has learned to lean on God for the resilience to face anything that comes her way.
Sara: I’m Sara Evans. I’m a singer and songwriter and music producer. I’m also a wife and a mom of three, a stepmom of four. I grew up on a farm in Missouri. I’m one of seven kids, third oldest of seven kids. And I’ve been singing since I was four years old.
I have two older brothers, and my oldest brother is five years older than I am. And then my next brother is three years older. And so around the time I was about four years old, my parents put my brothers in guitar lessons. And both my parents are avid music lovers, so music runs in both sides of my parents’ families. They put my brothers in guitar lessons, and as they would learn the songs, then I would just kind of start singing along, and my parents just sort of did that double take, like, “Oh wow, she’s got a voice.”
I was born with this spirit of wanting to entertain people and wanting to make people laugh. I was born an optimist. And so I just knew that, like, this is what I meant to do. And I’ve always thanked God for showing me that at a young age, because a lot of people don’t really discover what they’re supposed to do with their lives until later.
I started singing onstage professionally, getting paid for a gig, when I was five. And I have pictures of myself performing on this show called Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri at six years old. So I always knew that one day I would move to Nashville, and I just never had any doubt in my mind that it would happen. It was just a matter of when. It’s just something I’ve always known in my soul.
Resilience to Achieve The Dream
I feel like my life has been a rollercoaster, just one drama-filled event after another. I’ve been through a lot, starting with when I was eight years old. I got hit by a car. I broke both my legs and both my arms, I was in the hospital for six weeks without getting out of the bed. I had something like seven surgeries on my legs. The car was going seventy-five miles an hour. And I think that was my first real [moment] dealing with something where I had to be resilient and I had to fight.
I grew up going to church, but it was sort of this small, little Christian church that had like maybe twenty people in it. I’m from the middle of nowhere in Missouri, way out in the country. But I grew up knowing about the Lord.
I remember when I was nineteen or twenty, going through a period of fear where I just had this irrational fear of nuclear war or overpopulation or just all these things flooding me. And I was traveling somewhere, and I read a Gideon’s Bible in the hotel room that I was in. And I was just like, I need something that will comfort me and help me to figure out how to not have fear in my life.
And so I started reading the Bible. And then when I got home, I went and bought my own Bible. So by the time I was twenty-one, right after I turned twenty-one, I accepted Christ. My brother was in Los Angeles going to a jazz music school for one year, and when he came home, we worked for about a year and saved money and moved to Nashville together. So after moving to Nashville, I just started knocking on doors, and I became a demo singer in town, and somebody from RCA Records met with me, heard me sing. And the rest is history.
Gratefulness For The Gifts In Life
I think over the course of my career, there have been a lot of defining moments. I mean, it would be impossible just to name one, you know, like the first time I performed at the Grand Ole Opry, the first time I performed at the Ryman Auditorium, and that was opening for George Jones. So I’ve had a lot of really special moments like that.
Dancing with the Stars was just one of those amazing opportunities that I got in, and I did gain a ton of fans from doing that. [It is] such a great show.
Family is really everything to me. We have a blended family of seven kids. And so we’re blessed beyond. You know, we just have so many people to love and so many people to take care of. That is such a blessing.
“We just have so many people to love and so many people to take care of. That is such a blessing.” – Sara Evans, on her blended family
Trying to be a mom and have this career in country music has been one of the most challenging and sometimes unbearable things that I’ve had to go through, meaning times that I’ve had to leave my kids and go on a radio tour or something where it’s just not possible for them to come with me. Nothing keeps me humble like having kids, starting with carrying them because you give your body over to what’s happening. And then when they’re born, you really don’t do anything else for the rest of your life but serve your children. At least that’s been the case for me. I had a great mom, and I wanted to be a great mom. And I also had two amazing grandmothers, my mom’s mom, Granny Floyd, and my dad’s mom, Grandma Evans. They played huge, huge roles in my life. So as much as I knew that I was born to be a singer and a musician, I knew that I was also born to be a mom, and I just couldn’t wait for it. And when I had my first child, it changed me forever.
Born to Fly
My book is called Born to Fly. There’s no way I could write a book without talking about my relationship with the Lord. I really, really, really believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I believe that God understands our hearts and He knows where we are.
“I really, really, really believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and I believe that God understands our hearts and He knows where we are.” – Sara Evans
God’s just so much smarter than we give Him credit for, and so much more than we give Him credit for. So I always look at, you know, how do I feel about my children? And there’s nothing that I wouldn’t forgive them for, nothing. I love them no matter what, all the time, so if I’m an imperfect, sinning human being, and I feel that way about my own children, then how much more perfect is God’s love for me?
I was involved in a Bible study with my girlfriends in Birmingham, and we were doing the Jesus Calling Bible study, and I remember when it first happened, and it was everybody was talking about it. And I just really thought it was miraculous. I believe it’s inspired completely, because every time you look at it, on whatever day, when I go to it, it pertains to me. And then the Bible verses to go with it, it’s just awesome. And it’s really, really helped me through times when I’m having major anxiety, if I’m having a fear of flying and leaving my children. It has really, really helped me.
I love knowing that God created me and He created me alone, and I’m special. And He knew me before I was in my mother’s womb, and He’s always known me. God is the potter and I’m the clay, so I just need to trust Him every day, and really just have no fear.
“God is the potter and I’m the clay, so I just need to trust Him every day, and really just have no fear.” – Sara Evans
Anytime that I go a while without reading the Word, or without really being in prayer and having this strong relationship with the Lord, I’ll fall into those patterns of anxiety and fear. You know, everybody has anxiety, and they’re struggling with it and fear and depression, and when you really go back to the very basics, there’s nothing to worry about, because God is in control. There’s nothing more comforting than having a relationship with Jesus.
“There’s nothing more comforting than having a relationship with Jesus.” – Sara Evans
Narrator: You can get Sara’s book, Born to Fly, anywhere books are sold.
Stay tuned to Caitlin Crosby’s story after a brief message about a brand-new Jesus Calling journal that invites you to experience a life in God’s presence.
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Narrator: Actor, singer/songwriter, and entrepreneur Caitlin Crosby knows a thing or two about inspiring others. Growing up in Hollywood and working in the entertainment industry inspired Caitlin to launch the campaign LoveYourFlawz to support people dealing with body image issues. While she was on tour for her debut album, Caitlin started a company called The Giving Keys, which employs people transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys. Today, The Giving Keys employs dozens and their products are sold at more than two thousand retailers around the world, including stores like Nordstrom and Anthropologie. Caitlin talks with us about how she overcame the fear of trying to live up to the expectations of the entertainment industry and how embracing her flaws helped her find her purpose, which she talks about in her new book called You Are the Key.
Caitlin Crosby: My name is Caitlin Crosby Benword, and I am the founder of The Giving Keys, where we employ people that are trying to transition out of homelessness to make jewelry and different products with different inspirational words like hope, love, faith, dream, believe, fearless, let go. And the whole premise [of The Giving Keys] is you get a word that you need in your life, you embrace it, you own it, but then you’re supposed to pass it on to somebody you feel needs it more than you, and tell them to pass it on to someone who needs it more than them. So it’s a whole pay it forward movement, and we’ve been able to sell over a million keys so far because of all the incredible people that are trying to help us end homelessness through our mission.
“The whole premise [of The Giving Keys] is you get a word that you need in your life, you embrace it, you own it, but then you’re supposed to pass it on to somebody you feel needs it more than you.” – Caitlin Crosby
I’m also a wife and a mother, and I have two cute babies. I have a three year old boy named Brave, and a five month old little girl named Love.
Learning How to Love Your Flaws
I grew up in Los Angeles, born and raised. And my dad manages actors and my mom was a model and actress. I graduated from Beverly Hills High School, the whole shebang. And I grew up going to youth group. My youth group band was actually Lifehouse. Remember Lifehouse?
My mother is a very compassionate and empathetic soul, and really raised me to go on missions and always take our clothes and toys and everything to all these different nonprofits. And so she really kind of taught me to care about people who weren’t lucky enough to get a lot of the things that we had. And I always grew up being really passionate about homelessness, because it just felt so unjust that so many people growing up in L.A. had so much money and power and privilege, and how it looked like a third-world country right in our backyard.
I grew up acting and doing music, and did a bunch of TV shows and a million commercials and every fast food commercial known to man, like Taco Bell, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., all the things. And then I was really passionate about the media, and what I think it was doing to girls and women and how unhealthy it is, like with all the airbrushing going on.
And so I did this one movie with Brie Larson, who is Captain Marvel, and so maybe a little over ten years ago, we were both on the movie poster, and they cut out our faces and glued them on other people’s bodies. And we thought that was not cool. So we started a website called LoveYourFlawz.com, and it was all about that issue. And so we went around and started taking thousands of pictures of people holding up signs and things like, “My cellulite is beautiful.”
And so my first album was called Flawz, and I wrote a song called Flawz one day. And I came home from an audition for acting, and felt completely scrutinized and emotional about it. And so on one of my tours, I started selling everything that said “Love Your Flawz” on it, from bags, to keychains, to t-shirts. It’s kind of like a way to give myself therapy, really working on this Love Your Flawz project. And I was passing through New York on tour, and the hotel room key was a big key. And I thought it was really cool, so I put around my necklace and started getting compliments on it.
So one day I was leaving church on Hollywood Boulevard, and they were playing this Invisible Children documentary, and I left bawling my eyes out, like, What else can I do to help people and change the world?
And right then I saw this young couple holding up a sign, they were experiencing homelessness, and their signs said “Ugly, broke, and hungry.” And I went up to them, and I said, “Why does your sign say that? What’s your story?” And fell in love with them. I canceled my plans that night, and I ended up taking them to dinner. And I wasn’t thinking about The Giving Keys at all. It just felt like a normal thing for me to do. So two hours into dinner, I said to the girl, “I really like your necklace.”
She said, “Oh, thanks, I like making jewelry.”
I had my aha moment. And I said, “Oh, you’re the missing link to The Giving Keys. Do you guys want to be my business partners?”
And they’re like, “Okay.”
And so the next day, I went to the locksmith, and I bought all the engraving equipment, and went to Pep Boys and bought hammers, and started paying them to engrave the keys. They started saving up enough money to stay in a motel. When I met them, they lived in a cardboard box in a dumpster. And then little by little, they saved up and got their own apartment.
And then they couldn’t keep up with the orders, so we started partnering up with different transitional homes and non-profits around the issue of homelessness. And so now we’ve been able to employ over 130 people that are trying to transition out of homelessness. So basically, our model [at The Giving Keys] is the more products we sell, the more jobs we can create, and the more people we can try and get off the streets.
“Our model [at The Giving Keys] is the more products we sell, the more jobs we can create, and the more people we can try and get off the streets.” – Caitlin Crosby
Our Words Turn Into Actions
One time, this girl came up to me, and she said that her mother had cancer, and she got her a custom-made Fight Giving Key, and she gave it to her. And she was wearing it at the cancer ward, wearing it every day, holding on to it through her chemo treatments. And one day, when she found out that she was cancer-free, she took off her Giving Key and went back to the cancer ward and gave it to another woman there who was fighting for her life. And then actually somebody from the cancer ward ended up ordering a bunch of Fight Giving Keys and giving it to all the people that were unfortunately experiencing and fighting through cancer on that floor. I love that they’re a little miraculous tokens for people sometimes.
When I was about to go into labor for my second child, I was so nervous and scared, and I felt so much fear. A lot of fear. And I was thinking about, What key, what word do I want to choose to wear during labor?
And I saw the Fearless key. And I was like, Mmm no, I feel like it’s just too big of a jump for me to shoot for that word. So I actually ended up choosing Faith, and instead I was just focusing on faith, faith that no matter what happens—and it is going to be scary and hard and all of the things—I’m going to have faith that I will get through it, and it will turn out the way that it’s meant to. I will get through it and I will be protected. And so I think just even focusing on that one word really helped me.
Faith to Believe He’s Real
I think for me, faith has been kind of a challenging journey, to be honest, because I grew up so Christian and I’m really grateful for how that shaped me. But I went through my dark night of the soul years on and off. And I think whenever I have gone into those, like, dark pits of despair and questioning, you know, the point of all of this, I always come back to I really believe that God answered my prayer, which was, “God, give me your heart for people, give me your heart for people. I want to feel, feel.” And I feel like he answered that prayer through The Giving Keys, because I feel like Giving Keys is such a perfect example of His heart, which is caring for people that are needing these words, whether you’re a celebrity or you’re experiencing homelessness.
Everyone needs help. Everyone needs love. Everyone needs strength. I think the model of The Giving Keys, just the fact that it exists and has lasted eleven years makes me believe in God when I have doubted.
“Everyone needs help. Everyone needs love. Everyone needs strength.” – Caitlin Crosby
Turning Imperfections Into Purpose
The title of my book is You Are the Key: Turning Imperfections into Your Purpose. And I am so excited about it and proud of it, and I feel like I don’t ever say that. I never use that phrase, like, “I’m proud of this,” but I put my heart and soul and everything into it. And I actually enjoyed the process of writing so much. It was actually really, really therapeutic for me, just kind of focusing on and reminding myself of all the wisdom that I’ve learned from other people through the years and quotes and therapy sessions that I shared. And, you know, revelations and all of that. And so I’m actually, in a really beautiful way, painfully vulnerable, and talk about things that I’ve never talked about before, kind of the real behind-the-scenes story of why I really started Love Your Flawz.
In the book, I really went there, and I’m really hoping that it’s going to make people feel not alone, and the things that they feel kind of secretive or shameful about, those are the things that really can bring your purpose alive and bring it to another level, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom and your purpose is taking care of your kids, or your purpose is wanting to start a huge movement or be the president of the United States. Whatever it is, I think it’s really in our individual stories and our imperfections and “flaws” that really maybe aren’t flaws if you look at it from a different perspective. Those are the things that make you special and unique and one of a kind, where you can really change the world and how that can really turn into your purpose.
“The things that they feel kind of secretive or shameful about, those are the things that really can bring your purpose alive and bring it to another level.” – Caitlin Crosby
Narrator: Caitlin closes our interview with a passage from Jesus Calling, from July 27th:
Hope is a golden cord connecting you to heaven. This cord helps you hold your head up high, even when multiple trials are buffeting you. I never leave your side, and I never let go of your hand. But without the cord of hope, your head may slump and your feet may shuffle as you journey uphill with Me. Hope lifts your perspective from your weary feet to the glorious view you can see from the high road. You are reminded that the road we’re traveling together is ultimately a highway to heaven. When you consider this radiant destination, the roughness or smoothness of the road ahead becomes much less significant. I am training you to hold in your heart a dual focus: My continual Presence and the hope of heaven.
If you’d like to hear more stories about transforming fear into purpose, check out our interview with the heroic Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults, and Vietnam War POW Carlyle “Smitty” Harris.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with TJ Stevens and Beth Nimmo, two people brought together through a legacy of pain and redemption. In 1982, TJ Stevens walked into his high school and began shooting. In 1999, Beth Nimmo unknowingly said a final goodbye to her daughter, Rachel Scott, before she left for her day at Columbine High School. They’ve since forged a bond and share the power of forgiveness, which Beth talks about here.
Beth Nimmo: I think even as Christians, we’re afraid that if we say, “I forgive the abuser,” we’re saying, “Well, I have to just act like it didn’t happen.” No, we can’t do that. It did happen. It’s just allowing yourself not to be . . . for that incident or that abuse or that pain and hurt, that loss [is not going] to be a life sentence.
Narrator: Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.