Created on Purpose, For God’s Purpose: Erica Campbell and Crystal Paine
Erica Campbell: Right now, I’m literally living out what God promised as a little girl, how He would allow me to sing for the world. And I’m so, so grateful. Even the ups and downs of this music business, Christian business, all of it, it can be crazy. But I remember that I always wanted it and I remember who I’m doing it for.
Created on Purpose, For God’s Purpose: Erica Campbell and Crystal Paine – Episode #346
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Maybe one of the most beautiful and affirming passages in the Bible are words written by David in Psalm 139: “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all are written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:15-16)
Whenever we wonder what we’re doing with our lives or if we’re going through some new difficulty, we can know that we were lovingly created on purpose by God to live out a purpose that it could take us our whole lives to discover. Even when our lives seem to be in shambles, we can live in the truth that we’re made by Him for so much more, and He is constantly pointing us toward our ultimate destiny.
GRAMMY-winning gospel artist Erica Campbell had success from an early age as a singer, but still struggled with whether or not she was enough to carry out God’s purpose. Writer and mother of six Crystal Paine shares how a difficult period of her life influenced how she guides others to make order of their lives.
Let’s start with Erica’s story.
Erica: Hi, I’m Erica Campbell. I’m a mom, a wife, a first lady, a singer, a radio host, and a Jesus lover.
I grew up in church, in a big family, and a bigger church family that all kind of lived on the same street. It was 111th Street in Inglewood, California, and I always wanted to sing from day one. My father would have us around the bed and he would pray for us and he would read scripture. And at the end, he would say, “Erica, sing.” And I would sing for my family.
When you’re in a big family, it’s easy to kind of be quiet and shy. I won’t say I felt invisible because I didn’t. But it’s easy to kind of get lost in the shuffle. And so the special things about your personality, you don’t really discover until later in life. I had this gift, but didn’t know it was a gift. You know, it felt like it was a curse because I couldn’t go play with my friends outside. I had to go to choir rehearsal with the adults. But I really, really thank God for those formative years of just wanting to sing.
Mary, Mary and The Beginning of a New Song
Here’s what I love about my sister Tina: she’s always been bold and fearless. So we didn’t grow up as a singing group. We actually never sang together as little girls. Our family was all in the choir. We went to Evangelistic Church of God in Christ and my whole family was in the choir. So we were in the choir, but never a group.
I think I was eighteen or nineteen and she was about sixteen or seventeen. And that was the first time we ever sang together. So she started writing songs. We were still living at home with my mom. She was writing songs. Well, making up songs, and I made up a song, singing the song that I made up and we didn’t have any money to record. So we went to the bathroom–she sang one part, we recorded the other on a tape recorder and played that, and that was our three part harmony. It was just so funny, but so innocent and so wonderful to remember right now. And so when we met my husband, Warren Campbell, and played songs for him, he was like, “You guys should be a group.” We were like, “Oh, okay, maybe.”
So there were two people who wanted to sign us. It was Columbia Records, and at that time, Bad Boy. So we flew ourselves to New York. We didn’t want to feel indebted to anyone, so we flew ourselves to New York and we stayed in this small hotel room and prayed and prayed that God would show us what to do. Me, Tina, and Warren could barely sleep. Such a sweet story. We could barely sleep. And we went to the meeting at Bad Boy. And then we went to the meeting at Columbia. And we knew that Columbia was where we were supposed to be. It was just really amazing. And it was totally God orchestrated because it wasn’t something contrived, We’re going to sing and we’re going to do this and it’s going to go all over the world.
Everywhere we went at that time was amazing. We went to Germany. It was an event called The Comeback of Jesus, and they were literally beating the stage, going, Mary! Mary! Mary! I was crying, going, “Oh my God, you didn’t have to be this good to me. Oh, my gosh.”
And, you know, because Columbia’s such a big company and we had worldwide distribution, I remember being in Japan and their scheduling was insane. It was like you’re downstairs at 8:37, you’re in the car at 8:42, you go live at 9:00 AM, you stop at 9:12. It was like every few moments. Lunch is at 10:29 and you eat lunch from 10:29 to… it was just insane. So the day went all the way to 11:00 PM. Yes, 11:00 at night. And I am overwhelmed and tired and sick of talking about all this music and all of it. And I literally asked, “Could someone play ‘Can’t Give Up?’” And they were like, “Oh, just a moment.” And I was like, “No, I need someone to play it. I need them to play it now.” They played the song. I closed my eyes. I cried because I was so tired and so overwhelmed. It was so new. It was something I’d never done before in my life. So there was a lot of emotions and anxiety and all that stuff. I cried. And then I opened my eyes, I washed away my tears, and I continued with the interview. It was really interesting. It took a lot of work. And after all of that, it’s like after we went to a city and did every TV station and every radio station after that, it was like that.
So you learn a lot about yourself in this process. What you can take, what you can’t take. And I think it’s a really great lesson for us to learn. A lot of times when God gives you something amazing, the work is the tough part, but the work is where you learn who you are. The work is where you learn who God is, your ability to endure.
“A lot of times when God gives you something amazing, the work is the tough part, but the work is where you learn who you are. The work is where you learn who God is, your ability to endure.” – Erica Campbell
Pressure to Fit a Perfect Standard
When we first started, we knew that we were going to be thrust into not just gospel but mainstream. So we went on these body makeovers. We lost weight, stayed slim for a lot of years until we started having babies. And then it was up and down and up and down. But I realized it’s a lot of pressure.
I know it’s this ancient old demon that has been antagonizing people since the beginning of time about being enough, not just looking enough, having enough, singing good enough, preaching good enough, writing good enough, being a good enough mom. I wish I would have learned the lesson sooner that I was enough. I wish I would have walked with different confidence.
Once you realize that God didn’t make a mistake, that He’s not sitting in heaven going, Gosh, I wish I would have given her a little more of this, you know? I mean, I wish I would have made her a little bit more like this. Once I learned to accept who I am and make the best of who I am and what I am, He gave me everything I need to be everything I need.
“Once I learned to accept who I am and make the best of who I am and what I am, He gave me everything I need to be everything I need.” – Erica Campbell
Something I say a lot to my kids, “He gave you everything you need to be everything you need. There’s not some missing part of you somewhere in another part of the world. Just keep growing, keep living, keep developing, keep embracing who you are. Keep embracing who God has called you to be.” And you eventually walk into a place of confidence because you cannot believe that God the Creator made you fearfully and wonderfully, that there is no error in His creation. And then also there’s no error in you. If He didn’t make a mistake, then I can’t be a mistake. If He knows what He’s doing and He’s an intentional God, then there’s not something I’m missing. I don’t have to take something away to be what He wants me to be. It’s all inside. And so once you learn those lessons, your confidence begins to soar.
“There is no error in His creation. And then also there’s no error in you. If He didn’t make a mistake, then I can’t be a mistake. If He knows what He’s doing and He’s an intentional God, then there’s not something I’m missing. I don’t have to take something away to be what He wants me to be. It’s all inside.” – Erica Campbell
Don’t let the chaotic moments of life take you off course. And that’s what can happen sometimes when you are working towards something, whether it is arguing with someone, problems in your marriage, financial issues, sometimes those are just distractions to keep you from purpose, to keep you from destiny.
The Discomfort of Stepping Out on Your Own
The solo career definitely started with a bit of turbulence. Me and my sister were doing the reality show on WETV and she wanted to take a break and I was like, “Take a break for what? We’re still at the top of the charts. We’re still selling. Take a break? The show is doing great. Take a break for what?” But it was what she wanted. And I knew that I was not supposed to stop. I knew that the Lord was urging me to keep going. And so initially, I was not going to do solo music. I was just going to just sing and just do stuff until Tina got finished waiting or whatever, you know. And when I did my first song, “A Little More Jesus,” which was very different from Mary, Mary, it had like guitars and harmonica and all this stuff. I was nervous. I was so nervous. And so we put the song out. That song stayed number one for like thirteen weeks.
God was allowing me to learn how to stand on my own two feet. You know, I come from a big family. Then I went into this group with my sister, you know, my husband was involved and everything, and so standing out by myself was uncomfortable. God did it all. I just said yes. I was willing to push beyond my fear.
“God was allowing me to learn how to stand on my own two feet.” – Erica Campbell
I’ve done quite a few solo songs over the pandemic. My last album was 2015, and that album won best gospel album in 2015. My song “Positive” was my first number one. It came out last year. It is nominated for a GRAMMY.
To be positive during the pandemic year was terrifying. But I don’t believe that God changed His mind about that word, about positive, about being positive, about thinking up, about focusing on what’s good.
We have a family prayer chain that we do every morning. We get on Zoom and we pray. Oh, we get up and every morning we pray for the marriage ministries, the children, just the joy of the Lord. You know, we pray for answers and solutions. We pray God’s Word over our life. And I think it’s just so cool that we have that and we try to get together. If there’s something wrong, we don’t sweep things under the rug and ignore and act like it happened. My mom’s not that way. My sisters aren’t that way, you know? I mean, it may be uncomfortable sometimes to have those conversations, but we know that is something that we address. We address it because we want the love to flow its way. Too many families who don’t talk, way too many families who just tolerate each other. I love my sisters. They are my confidantes. They are my fighting buddies, you know, when we disagree on something. But it’s all love. And I’m just grateful for the upbringing. I’m grateful for the fact that my dad did make us get around the bed and pray and read scriptures as kids. I think those are the things that hold us together.
Narrator: You can find Erica’s song, “Positive,” and her newest song, “Feel Alright,” anywhere you buy music.
Stay tuned to Crystal Paine’s story after a brief message.
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Crystal Paine learned the thrill of a bargain growing up with a mother who made Crystal her own coupon organizing box. When Crystal grew up and married her husband who was attending law school, she had the opportunity to put her skills to the real test. After sharing her wins through her blog, it went viral and evolved into a whole career teaching others how to be financially savvy. She’s now written six books where she helps others with advice on how to parent, budget, and manage their time. Crystal draws from experiences in her daily life of parenting six children and running a successful business to help others, and shares how an unexpected fertility challenge made her look at the world a little bit differently.
Crystal Paine: My name is Crystal Paine. I’m the founder of MoneySavingMom.com, I’ve been blogging there since 2007.
So a lot of times people will look at me and they’ll say, “You have six kids with a wide age range and you work full time and you write, how are you doing all of these things?” And, “Aren’t you so busy?” One of the things for me is I don’t like to use the word busy. I try to instead replace that with the word full because I feel like when you say that you’re so busy, it’s basically indicating I’m a victim of my calendar and my circumstances, and I really feel like we have a choice. We can choose to spend our time intentionally. And so I prefer to say I have a full life because it is full, but it’s wonderful. And so having six kids has definitely challenged me to be creative with how I spend my time.
In fact, I gave a speech at my graduation and it was about time being short. And that was something that I’ve been passionate about since a young age, that we only get one life.
My grandma, who we were really close with, got sick and went into the hospital and she died four days later. They found out within 24 hours of her being in the hospital that she actually had cancer all throughout her body. And as a twelve-year-old, it was a very significant event in my life. And I think for the first time, it really hit me that we only get one life and you never know what tomorrow is going to hold. And so I just really want to use today and live in light of the future and thinking of the end of my life and thinking of eternity. And that is really what just propelled me. I can remember just that season of my life and just processing that and how it really changed me from the inside out.
And so really my passion is to help women love their life and live with intention, and to give them practical ways that you can simplify and streamline and create systems for the things that we need to do so that we have time and space and energy for the things that we want to do and the things that are going to really matter at the end of our life.
I think so often we allow worry to just take so much of our time. We waste so much time worrying and psychoanalyzing and really getting to the root of where this is coming from? For me, when I am worrying, when I am feeling stressed, when I am feeling frustrated, it’s usually an indication that I’m not resting in the Lord, that I’m trying to micromanage and control my life on my own instead of recognizing how much I have been given in Jesus.
“When I am worrying, when I am feeling stressed, when I am feeling frustrated, it’s usually an indication that I’m not resting in the Lord, that I’m trying to micromanage and control my life on my own instead of recognizing how much I have been given in Jesus.” – Crystal Paine
And so I don’t have to go through life feeling so stressed and overwhelmed and feeling like it all depends upon me because I can lean into and rely upon God. And so I think when I live from that space, then there is just so much more peace in my heart. But if I allow worry and trying to control my life and trying to win others’ approval and caring more about what other people think than what God says about me, I’m just going to take so much of my time and my energy stressing about things that truly are not going to matter at the end of my life.
Finding New Paths to Building a Family
We had ten years of secondary infertility and that was a hard season, but it was also the season of just releasing our wants, our hopes, our dreams to the Lord. We went through all the fertility testing and they said we weren’t even candidates for IVF.
We really had to grieve just that longing in our hearts for what we had hoped for. And once we grieved that and then looked and said, “You know, God has given us these three children and what a gift that is, and He’s given us the opportunity to maybe do things that we wouldn’t be able to if we were to have more biological children.”
And He just then started opening up some doors for a lot of different things. One of them was walking with some friends of ours who were getting licensed to be foster parents. And as we were just walking with them and supporting them and praying for them, they started sharing with us things that we didn’t know; that right in our area there were children sleeping in the DCS [Department of Children’s Services] offices every single night because there just weren’t enough homes for them. And we looked around and we realized–we have space in our home, we have space in our hearts. What would it look like for us to step into this?
And it was scary. It felt risky. It felt so far outside our comfort zone. But I can tell you that God has used it for so much good in our life. We’ve been able to have five different children through our home and two of them that were long term. One little boy that was with us for eight months, and then he reunified with his mom. And then the other little boy, David, that we ended up adopting. And in all of this, God has just changed our hearts so much and just broken us for the things that break His heart and just opened up our eyes to so much, given us so much empathy and compassion that we didn’t have before.
I want to live from a posture of prayer, of understanding that all I have and all I am is because of Jesus and leaning on Him and relying upon Him and looking to Him and recognizing that I cannot do this life well in my own strength. I will just white knuckle my way through life, feeling stressed and frustrated and overwhelmed if I’m trying to do it in my own strength. And so what does it look like to start our day from a posture of prayer?
“I want to live from a posture of prayer, of understanding that all I have and all I am is because of Jesus and leaning on Him and relying upon Him and looking to Him and recognizing that I cannot do this life well in my own strength.” – Crystal Paine
It changes my heart and my attitude, and it’s really me releasing to the Lord what I’m carrying and asking Him—He already knows—but asking Him to carry these things. It does something for my heart because it really changes me.
Finding Reminders of the Truth
In the morning, how I start my day, I’ve found that there are some mornings that I don’t want to get up and exercise and do the things that I know will set my day up for success. But if I do that, if I get up and happen to my day instead of letting my day happen to me and just putting out fires—right now I have three under three and three teenagers. And so there could be a lot of fires that I could spend my day putting out. But if I get up with a very simple plan, and for me that looks like getting on the treadmill and walking and getting my body moving, but then also praying over my day while I’m walking because I found for me, if my body is moving, my head can stay more focused. And so that’s when I have my prayer time, doing that, and then reading some just encouraging words from Scripture and from a devotional and just pouring into my soul.
I love the Jesus Calling devotional. I have used it for years, especially when I have little children and I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and have a quiet time or it’s not quiet at all to just have a simple thing that I can read that really focuses my heart upward, that just reminds me of the truth. And it starts my day remembering what really matters. And so for me, I think devotionals are such a great way to do that. Like I said, I actually read them while I’m on the treadmill, and usually I just hold the book up and walk pretty slow. But I found that it’s just I’m moving my body, I’m praying over my day, and I’m also just filling out my spirit with reminders of the truth.
[Jesus Listens, May 2nd]
Sometimes I hear You whispering in my heart, “I take great delight in you.” It’s hard for me to receive this blessing, but I know it’s based on the unconditional Love You have for all Your children. Please help me to relax in the Light of Your Presence— taking time to soak in Your luminous Love. I long to sit quietly with You while You renew me by Your Love.
I find it terribly challenging to live in a fallen world. There is so much brokenness all around me, as well as within me. But I can choose—moment by moment—to focus on what is wrong or to seek Your Face and enjoy your approval.
In Your wondrous Name, Jesus,
Narrator: To learn more about Crystal and to keep up with her recent work, follow her on social media, and check out her new book The Time-Saving Mom, available March 7th.
If you’d like to hear more stories about living in our purpose, check out our interview with Emily Chang.
Next week: James Patterson
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from worldwide bestselling author James Patterson, who gives us a peek into his new work of nonfiction, Walk the Thin Blue Line, and his appreciation for the danger our police officers face every day.
James Patterson: I think in general, people in the world now are looking for places where truth exists, where people seem to be trying to do the right thing, which is really important.