Caroline Cobb: I’m not great at limits, so my husband, he’s in the other room actually, he’s probably listening to this and laughing, [chuckle] but he is better at limits. And so in our relationship, he has been such a faithful reminder to me of what it means to be faithful, what success really means, Hey, that’s an amazing dream, but if you wanna put that into reality like, you can’t do that by yourself, you can’t do this, this and this, which ones do you really wanna do?
David Zimmer: Welcome to Sound Plus Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music where we explore what the Bible has to say about music and worship in the church and encourage those who plan, lead, and participate in their Sunday gatherings each week.
DZ: Hello, welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. My name is David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: Mine’s Bob Kauflin, hasn’t changed since the last Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast episode.
DZ: Never has.
BK: Never has, and never will. And we are so excited to have back with us.
BK: Caroline Cobb. Some people know her as Caroline Cobb Smith.
DZ: Which you corrected me last episode, I appreciated that.
BK: I’m sorry. You’re welcome. Caroline, it’s so good to have you back.
CC: Thank you. Thanks guys. Thanks a lot.
BK: And if you haven’t heard the other episode we did, you should listen to it.
DZ: Yes, it was so great.
BK: If not right now, later. Because it was great. So in that episode, we talked a lot about… Well, first, how are you doing?
CC: I’m doing great.
CC: Yeah, I’m doing good. This is fun. I love talking to people on podcasts, it’s one of my favorite aspects of this part of the job.
BK: Do you think you can get a full-time job doing this?
CC: Man, if only, right? [laughter] You guys just need to teach me all your ways.
BK: Well, we’re…
DZ: We’re in season six and still have no idea what we’re doing.
BK: But we’re selling a book that you can buy. [laughter] We talked a lot the last time about your music and about your writing, it was so good, you said so many helpful things about how to think about being an artist, about being faithful to God’s Word, to the Gospel. In this episode, we wanna talk about just the tension of doing what you do while being married to Nick and being a mom of an 11-year-old, a faithful mom 13-year-old, 11-year-old, nine-year-old, right? You’re not just a mom. You’re a faithful mom. Although, thank you for taking the time out to do this podcast with us. Kids are at school. So first question, how did you know that God was calling you to pursue being something of an artist while having so much on your plate already, I mean, so many moms would say, “no way!”
DZ: Yeah, I don’t have the time for that.
BK: Yeah, and that’s always affected me, Caroline, when I follow you on Instagram, and I don’t follow many people on Instagram, but I saw you just loving your kids and it wasn’t all about, Hey, look what I’m doing, look what I’m doing, right? In between a story about, Hey, I’m doing this with these people is, Yeah, I did this with my kids or my favorite were when, you know, you’d be writing a song, and then one of your kids would come, Mom! Mom! Here’s my life. [chuckle] And I just was so encouraged by that and thought that here’s a woman who’s being faithful, she’s being fully engaged in what God has called her to do, but also feels God’s call to her to do this artist thing, so yeah, how did you know that? How did you and Nick walk through that or come to that conclusion?
CC: Yeah, I think it’s been a really slow burn and a slow process, for sure.
BK: Which is great.
CC: Because even in high school, I started writing songs. My mom had taught me a few chords on the guitar, and I actually went out on a date with a boy from another school who sang a song for me that he had written, not for me.
BK: Wait a minute.
CC: But he sang for me a song he had written.
DZ: And was it good?
BK: Wait a minute.
CC: I think it was. It was good. [laughter] I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember thinking, Hey, maybe I could do that ’cause I play guitar.
BK: Did he write the song for you?
CC: It was a first date.
BK: Okay. So that’s what I used to do in high school, write songs for girls. And ask them out. Okay, but he wrote songs…
CC: It was impressive. It was impressive. I have told my son, I’m like, keep that piano up because it was impressive.
BK: You really never know.
CC: You never know. So anyway, I did go home and think Maybe I could do that, and I had just become a Christian, so my music and my faith kind of started at the same time, and I just wrote a lot of songs, but I never had in my mind, I wanna be a song writer, that was just not a path that anyone around me did, that wasn’t what I thought I would do. It was just more of a way that I expressed myself and thing that I got to do. And then through college, I just wrote a ton of songs, I was always writing, but as I mentioned in the last podcast, it was just really expensive scrapbooking of like, it was journaling, very expensive to produce those songs and put them out into the world. So a very expensive journal or a scrapbook, and it was more of a hobby, but I kept that up, even as I got married and had kids and all of that. But it was just in my own time, but when I started to write songs that told God’s story, when I started to write songs from Scripture at that same time, that’s when Nick had that conversation with me that said, “Hey, this is a really expensive hobby. Do you wanna do this?” And I also found in that moment, my mission statement, really this, I wanna tell the story, this is why I wanna do music. And that made all these other things fall into place.
BK: Define the story again. I never wanna say the story without reminding ourselves what the story is.
CC: I mean, a big story of Scripture that tell the story of God’s Word, really from Creation, from Genesis, all the way to Revelation. That’s what I love to do, and just to parachute into different moments of Scripture and weave together the whole thing. So I think having that mission, having my husband say, I do want you to do this, and also I would use my time that the kids were busy, say my daughter was in mother’s day out, just one day a week, when it was just Elliot home. And instead of using that day to clean my house or go to the grocery store alone, which is so relaxing when you’re a young mom, I would actually use that time for music. Because I knew that I didn’t really need to clean the bath tub, right?
BK: It’s overrated.
CC: Nobody will come over to my house.
BK: Definitely overrated.
CC: Or I didn’t really need to go alone to the grocery, and so it was the importance of carving that time out and having that goal. The second thing that I…
BK: For what it’s worth, Caroline, your house looks good right now, behind you just…
CC: Well, now my kids are all in school, so it’s a little bit different of a story.
BK: Okay. Okay, I just wanted to let you know, you’re doing a good job.
DZ: But you go through seasons of life where you have to carve out time.
CC: Thank you.
BK: Oh, I know.
DZ: In so many different ways.
CC: Yes, for sure. And that’s what I would say too, is that there are different seasons, and right now I’m in a season where all my kids are in school, but I’ve been in seasons where I only had five hours a week, I’ve been in seasons where I only had two hours a week. When we lived in California, I had to pay a friend to keep my kids and it’s just for two hours ’cause we couldn’t afford the preschool out there, it was just too much. And then I’ve seasons where a friend of mine who was a photographer and she had a business and I was doing music and we would switch kids once a week, and the idea behind that was just, does this matter? You have to kind of remember, does this matter? And now I’m in a new season where I have all day while they’re at school, but I still have to struggle with that question of, does this matter? This is really hard work, and now it’s gone beyond just writing songs for my church or for the joy of just me and God, now it’s gone into more of a career or something that I love to do all across the country, or writing songs with other people, and continue to put out music, so it’s definitely changed, but God has been really sustaining me, and I think I’m propelled because I don’t really want it to be about me, I want it to be about him.
CC: And I’m also propelled by this mission, and then I also have to remind myself that creativity and art does matter in God’s kingdom. So those are some things that kind of center me.
BK: Yes. Well, we can see that just from the way God gave us Scripture. He didn’t give us this line after line of data, He gave us narratives, He gave us prophecies, He gave us apocalyptic writings, He gave us first person accounts, He gave us just poetry and all kinds of things to communicate. This one grand story as you were referencing earlier about his redeeming of people for His glory through the incarnation of the Son of God who would just filling in the details, hang on a cross in our place to endure the punishment that we deserved and rise from the dead so that we could have the hope of spending eternity with God in Heaven, experiencing eternal joys at His right hand, it’s just a great story.
CC: That’s right.
BK: And we want to never tire of hearing that story or telling that story, and it is a tough decision. You have to value, as you said, the fact that this story is worth singing about, and God’s gifted you to do it creatively, so there’s somewhat of a responsibility that stewardship to, Okay, I wanna do this. So you and Nick basically came to a place where you said, You know what? If I’m gonna do this, I need to go for it and make it real.
CC: Yes, and that said, I do have limitations that other people don’t have.
BK: So talk about those. That’s one of the things we wanted to ask you, what limitations do you have, what restrictions have you placed on yourself for doing both and how have you arrived at those?
CC: Yeah, I have searched a long time for the formula, the way I can.
BK: Wait, you’re on the podcast, so you can tell us the formula.
CC: I know. I wish I could. I think what God has taught me is that there’s not a formula, a perfect rhythm or a perfect balance, balance is sort of a myth anyway, and it’s more of depending on Him and walking in the Spirit and talking through all of the decisions. I do kind of have ideas, big picture decisions, so this year, I really felt like I wanted to pull back a little bit on playing shows, even though I love playing shows, I wish I could just snap my fingers and be there and it’s the lead up and getting out of town and all the work to get there. That’s hard with kids. I’m still playing a ton of shows, but not as many as I was before, but the problem was that I needed the financial aspect of playing those shows in order to keep making music, and I just prayed about that and talk to people about that, and God’s really provided through Patreon, I started a Patreon, which was scary.
BK: Wow. Great.
DZ: That’s great.
CC: But it really has been sweet, and then our church too has supported me recently, almost like a missionary, and just that little has enabled me to sort of pull the lever down on playing shows or playing the shows that really not having to feel like a hustle, like I have to.
CC: Playing more from a Spirit-led place, and I hope people that are listening that might host me know that I actually really like playing the shows. That’s one of my favorite parts.
BK: Yeah, that’s coming across.
CC: You know, I know I can’t do as many as maybe someone else could that this is their full-time job and this is part of what they’ve talked through, so I think that’s one limit. I also try to keep my work within school days and be careful about the summer, but I’m not great at limits, so my husband, he’s in the other room actually, he’s probably listening to this and laughing, [chuckle] but he is better at limits. And so in our relationship, he has been such a faithful reminder to me of what it means to be faithful, what success really means, Hey, that’s an amazing dream, but if you wanna put that into reality like, you can’t do that by yourself, you can’t do this, this and this, which ones do you really wanna do?
BK: Oh, that’s so good.
CC: Those questions are really good, hard but good. And I think that’s been really helpful for me along the way to figure out to live within my limits, to know that God made us with limits,
CC: We are meant to rest, we can’t go, go go all the time, or we’ll burn out, but He’s God and we’re not. And I don’t have to keep all the plates spinning. So all of those things really are things that I continue to wrestle through. But it’s not a formula, I have some rhythms, but it’s always asking the Lord and always re-thinking through everything, and even talking to Nick when a new opportunity comes up and how to do this or should I? And it’s a lot of leaning into the Lord.
BK: Yes, so great, and it seems clear from what you’re saying that you have these priorities of being a wife to Nick, a mom to your kids, those are scriptural priorities that God says. You want to relate to Nick as The Church relates Christ, you wanna care for your children as God cares for us. And those are scriptural priorities, doing your music is something you feel God has called you to do, but it doesn’t rise to the same level of, Oh, I know, this has gotta take priority in every situation, and that’s what I hear coming from you. Would that be accurate to some degree?
CC: Yeah, that’s true. I think one thing that I’ve learned a lot about is, that I have a tendency to want to be enough for everyone, for every role, for every relationship, and I have to do a lot of discerning about what that actually means, A, I can’t ever be enough because only Christ is enough and that’s the thing that’s really freed me, but I’m beloved like before I perform and I’m never gonna be enough. But at the same time, there are some things that it’s like, What does it mean to be a good faithful mom? And sometimes we confuse and conflate maybe what the world says it means to be a great mom as what school we choose, how much we volunteer at that school, or there’s so many ways that I can put in my own head of what is the standard of good mom, but we have to listen to Christ on that, or what is the standard of good wife? What does it mean? And sometimes we put the world’s idea or other voices that we hear on social media or even from the church are people’s convictions, and we put that on Scripture and it’s not actually there. And so I have found myself putting pressure on myself to meet a standard that’s not actually from God, and so we have to ask, What does faithfulness actually look like? And that does free us up when we take away some of those cultural expectations or maybe the expectations we put on ourselves that are not of the Lord, about whatever.
DZ: That’s excellent.
CC: Or whatever it is in the domestic world or in the church world, we’re leaders at our church, Nick is an elder, and I do a lot with the women’s ministry and stuff, so I have to ask and discern, Is this something that I feel God is calling me to do or that I should do, or is this something that I’m putting on myself because I want to meet that standard? So listening to God’s voice, again, is the answer, and I haven’t figured it out yet. But I’m trying, I’m trying to walk faithfully.
BK: Well, no. I think you have figured it out. I think of Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the wellsprings of life.” And you’re talking about, Why am I doing this? What’s the reason? I wanna be a good mom, or a good artist, or a good wife, or a good whatever, good women’s ministry person or whatever, Why am I doing this? And if it’s not to bring glory to Christ and please the Lord, yeah, you better check there [chuckle] and see what’s going on. Do you have any limits like in terms of weekly or monthly or yearly, where you’d say, How many concerts I’m gonna do? Or is there anything like that, or do you do that on a more ad hoc basis?
CC: Nick and I, every year we have a little planning time in January where we talk about some things, and I do think through that a lot, I think a lot about my rhythms, and also I took a sabbatical recently and I felt like there were some clear takeaways from that time. And one of them is, right now I’m trying out, I actually don’t know if I’m actually doing this, but I was thinking, I think I could do 12 shows a year and continue to make music, and now that I have some other provision from these other places, so I’m aiming for that. But then as I’ve done that, then I get so many other ideas and then my time fills up with a bunch of creative things, and then in terms of creative rhythms during the week, I’m trying to, Tuesday and Thursday make them creative days. So if I need to write an article or I wanna write songs or just carve those out because the whole week could be filled with manager-type things or publicity or managing, What should I put on social media or putting together an agreement for this show that I’m playing and sound needs and a set list and all of that stuff. So I think I do try to be careful about not wearing the manager hat so much that I end up draining my artist part, which is really my heart and really where I thrive.
CC: So those are some rhythms that I’ve put in place, and then I do try to schedule some fasts from social media, even if it’s like three days here, three days there, a month here. There’s a lot of things that we kind of tried to implement to continue to walk faithfully with God, but those are the ones that come to my mind right now.
BK: That is so helpful. It just seems that if you don’t think about these things, life’s gonna take over?
BK: And have you had those times when life was taking over and you realize this is overwhelming? Like you mentioned 12 shows a year. Do you know what the most you’ve done in a year is? Have you ever counted them up?
CC: Oh, I think I was more at a pace of 25-30.
CC: But some of those were multiple days, so that wasn’t just one day away. Another thing I think is interesting is like sometimes I’ll go for one weekend and then two weekends later I’d go again, and I do like to pair them all together if I can, like a tour so that I can be on and just do it and be in that mode. But yeah, there’s definitely been a lot of seasons where I felt really overwhelmed, and a lot of times when I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s because I’m trying to be enough for everybody and everything, and I’m not relying on Christ, who is enough, and being in Christ, and remembering the Gospel and functioning as if I really believe it’s true, and I also maybe taking on some standards that aren’t of God, so if I wanna be a good musician and a good steward of this work, that means I should look like that person, rather than asking the Lord, what does that mean for me? Or that means I should post on social media like that person, or I should tour like that person, or I should try to get the opportunity that that person has, and I think that God always brings me back to just walking in my lane, and that’s when I get stressed, is when I’m not walking in my lane and just like looking at Him, when I’m trying to be enough for everybody in every role, and when I’m putting standards on myself that are not of the Lord.
BK: Yes. I forget, I heard someone say comparison is the thief of joy.
BK: You talking about, well, I’m not doing what that person’s doing or that, it just robs us of…
CC: Yeah, we say that to our kids a lot.
BK: Oh, excellent. [chuckle]
CC: That’s a common phrase in our house.
BK: So are you doing anything with your kids that involves them in what you’re doing artistically, as an artist?
CC: I’m trying to integrate them more into things, so recently I played a show in Washington DC and it was a women’s conference, I brought my daughter, that was like wonderful.
BK: Wow, excellent.
DZ: That’s awesome.
CC: I’ve been integrating them and asking them, hey, this is my new song, What do you think about it? You know, just simple things like that, and then when we sit and do our devotions in the morning, then we all talk, and I do wanna present God’s Word as exciting and interesting, and how can you put yourself in that story, just in the same way that I wanna do with my music, telling this story. That’s a beautiful story. So it comes out in a lot of different ways.
BK: That is so good. Okay, you’ve already said stuff that addresses this, but what would you say to a mom with young kids, and we found that this podcast is for, basically those who plan lead, participate in the Sunday gatherings of the church, but we find…
DZ: All the time.
BK: We’ve heard back from a lot of moms who said, Yeah, well, I’m cleaning the bathroom, I’m listen to your podcast, and you know?
DZ: Yeah, I’m just driving the kids to school, and yeah, I love that.
BK: So, Moms listening to this podcast, what would you say to them who feel this bug, feel this call like I’m supposed to be doing more with my gifts. I mean, you’ve said a lot already, but is there anything, like if you’re sitting across the table from someone and just they’re saying, Yeah, I feel like songs are coming, or yeah, I’m a songwriter, and I’m doing so much with my family. What would you say to encourage them or what counsel would you give them?
CC: I think a lot of times with younger songwriters, there’s an all-or-nothing thinking that happens, and it comes from comparison, they think, Well, I can’t really do it until I do it all the way, or until I do it like them and I can go on tour, or I can do it like you. And I’m sitting there thinking like, Well, I’m not doing it all, I’m not doing it like that person. No, no one’s doing it. There is no it. Just be faithful to sow into that little plot of land that’s right in front of you, and so I think, A, like knowing that it does matter in God’s kingdom and it’s okay to carve out time to do it, whether that’s trading kids with your friend or while they’re in school instead of doing these other things, like going to the grocery. I mean, you should go to the grocery, everyone should go to the grocery, but you can take your kids there.
BK: I think someone in the house should go to the grocery.
CC: Yes, [laughter] yes, it’s important, but music is also, it matters, and I think we’re stuck sometimes in this utilitarian way of thinking where it only matters if I can see the fruit right away, so if I’m sitting across the table from someone discipling them a program or if I’m checking this box or this box and I can see from start to finish that something new happened here, and God obviously used it right away. And I think that that’s sort of the a utilitarian machine kind of way of thinking, where God shows us that He creates beauty for beauty’s sake, but also it can be like a seed that they plant that can grow in due time over time, and it’s important and it’s good to carve out that time to do that, and even if just one, even if you’re just writing a song for that one friend that is hurting and that needs to hear that song, and you’re the only one that can really write that song, that matters in God’s kingdom, because success isn’t doing it like that person or getting this many streams, like you don’t just jump into getting a million streams on Spotify for a song, that’s not the point, the point is that you’re sowing God’s word into people and that you’re sowing truth and beauty and goodness into people.
CC: And so anyone can do that. Even if you just have two hours, you can sit down and try, and the more you carve out time, the more your margin time is what I call when you’re in the bathtub or driving your kids or playing outside with your kid, that margin time can actually serve a song as well, you can write in the margins all the time, if you have sort of that deep work time set aside, so that’s what I would say, just do it. That’s what I would say.
DZ: Well, and you are living proof of that steady plotting and planting seeds, like you said, in that tiny garden you have in front of you, it’s like you’ve written seven, eight records in the amount of since college of writing songs, it’s just that faithful plodding. It’s that faithful planting? That’s so great.
BK: But I wanna point out too that this is so enjoyable, you’re really good at this because you have good things to say. [laughter] Just your humility, Caroline, is I think a big part of why the Lord blesses what you do, again, not in terms of, now, I’ve got three million streams on this or three million views.
DZ: Right. Right. Right. Right.
BK: But in terms of really being material that serves people’s soul and it strengthens them and that points them to Christ, and not just your songs but the way you’re doing it, which is so important, the message we have defines the way we do what we do across the Cross, a book years ago called “The Cross and Christian Ministry,” which is a little book, but boy, what a…
BK: Yes, just in terms of, you can’t reclaim the message of the gospel and be proud about it, or do it in a way that tries to impress.
DZ: Or put you at the center?
BK: Yes, yeah, yeah.
DZ: So true.
BK: Which you’ve mentioned the things of, I don’t wanna be at the center of this, and so thank you for just modeling that, and it’s just been a joy to talk with you about these things, there’s plenty more we could talk with you about, but we’ll have to do at another time. I just wanna thank you for being faithful to what God has called you to, and thank Nick for his faithfulness in protecting you, leading you, covering you and just giving you that encouragement to pursue the things that God has put in your heart, but again, without sacrificing the things that the other things that God has called you to, and you do them all well and beautifully and for His glory. And we are just grateful, so thanks for…
CC: Thank you, guys. Thanks for having me.
BK: Oh, it’s been a joy. And again, the album that’s coming out is, I feel like a talk show just right now.
BK: The album that’s coming out is, “Psalms: The Poetry of Prayer” But I think we’ve heard four songs on it and they’re just great and we can’t wait for the whole thing to come out. So, thank you.
DZ: Thank you, Caroline.
BK: And we hope to have you on this again. Thanks.
CC: Thank you. Thanks, guys.
CC: Thanks for having me.