(Photo by Bree Marie Fish)
The Planting: An Instagram Journey Part 1
* Interview based on posts from @iamhollyn
By Sarah Komisky
I love when God moments happen. When you meet a kindred spirit. Holly (AKA Hollyn) is the artist who has top radio hits, sings for an audience of hundreds, and has 173K followers on Instagram, yet Holly is the one who greets me on the phone with “guuuurl.” It seems to roll off the tongue freely, as if it this hadn’t been our first conversation. That’s a good thing because I do not treat interviewees like celebrities. My goal is to treat them like human beings, and Holly wants it that way. Both of us seemed to it hit it off from the get-go with similar passions, a desire to break the “generic” Christian conversation and an appreciation for artistry. But the commonality that rang even truer was that there is no pretense. When that happens, you’re able to be you. Holly was that. A year-and-a-half removed from a dark season of broken trust, relationships severed, and emotional upheaval, Holly is ready to speak out about it. After admiring her posts that read as a poetic diary of her raw thoughts, which talk about using her “voice,” I knew Holly was someone I had to talk to. The theme for this issue confirmed she was the right fit, and this article confirmed the pairing was meant to be. Just as a seed is planted, watered, grown, buds, and then matures into full bloom, this article is a documentation of that maturity with Holly via Instagram. Here is our part one of a piece documenting the “planting portion” of the journey.
“…This time last year I was broken beyond repair in my mind, very confused, and honestly at my lowest. Just wanted to post this to say, “it gets more than better. The darkness was a place of planting, not death. He will vindicate you. He will restore what was taken from you. He will bless what you were asked to ‘give up.’” – Holly (9/10/18)
Sarah: Last year was a different difficult season that you talked about, so how would you say God restored your voice––being in this new season––and how did you learn that it was meant for something good, not bad?
Holly: Genuinely as I’m sitting here, the past year-and-a-half for me, I could say through my own human flesh––like my flesh was tormented because my spirit was being put in this place where God was saying, ‘Okay OK Holly, like you have been in the process for three years of trusting me, you’ve went along with what other have people advised you to do, you’ve walked in it through wisdom, you’ve been acting in humility,’ like doing all the right things. I started off in music professionally, and especially doing signed to a label and all that stuff and trying to find my voice at a very early age, and I trusted people. And in that season, I knew I was supposed to be with a certain label, a certain management company, a certain booking agency, all these things. And for a certain season, it was great, and then I could feel the Lord talking to me even early on. I would notice things about myself when people would come against my vision and my voice that I’ve always had, but I was afraid to defend myself or maybe even speak out on things.
For for example, if we are writing a song and I didn’t like what was being said, instead of saying, ‘hey I don’t like this part of the song,’ I would just kind of cower back, and that voice inside my head would say, ‘well you know you don’t really know what you’re talking about because you haven’t have been in the industry that long.’ These people have been writing longer than you, and if I had an idea about something that normally wouldn’t take place on the business side of things, I would immediately shut myself down because I was so used to being told ‘no.’ Like, oh no, no that’s different, that’s not how we do things. No, this is the box you have to fit. No, we can’t go do club shows because you’re Christian and I’m like, that doesn’t make any sense to me. So for me, I’ve always known my vision and what I wanted to do, but some of the people around me were so toxic and I didn’t even know, until I encountered last year. I was in a really terrible relationship with this guy, and I didn’t know it was terrible until a few months in it, and then I started noticing patterns that, whatever he would do, would trigger things in me and then I noticed, oh gosh, the same feelings that I get in the pit of my stomach that makes me want to throw up around this guy when he says this stuff, is the same feeling I get when my passion, my vision, and my call in my life is being questioned by the people around me.
So I said, ‘oh man I have to start speaking up for myself,’ so that’s where really what started this whole year for me to say no to voices in my life that didn’t have a right to tell me no because ultimately, God is the one who puts vision and dream inside of us and when God starts something, it can’t be stopped until He says stop. So, I know that’s very vague, but I just really had to come to a point where I trusted the voice of God in my life, and I had to come in agreement with, ‘I’m a daughter of God and I do hear His voice and I’m not a child. I know what He’s placed inside of me. And then kind of acting out of that. So, for me, it did look like death. It looked like, ‘man I’m going to have to let go of a lot of these people in my business and personal life that have truly been there for me, that have cared for me. But that season has expired because they can’t go with me where I’m going because they, one, I don’t think they’re supposed to, and two, they don’t understand it. Like God hasn’t show them this is where Holly is going, it just doesn’t make sense to them because that’s not their calling and everyone has a different calling on their life.
So at the end of the day, it’s not about what this person was means to me or I’m better than this person, none of that. I honor and respect every person has had a part in my story, but at that the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for carrying somebody else when I know they’re not supposed to come with me. So, it’s been just a maturing season for me I’m just saying, ‘OK what’s worth me partnering with, and what’s not?’ What’s the healthy thing for me to do, and then handling all that with maturity and wisdom. Asking God and people around me, wise counsel that are outside of the situation, ‘Hey, what would you do?’ So, really, finding my voice has been…it’s been hard. It’s not an Instagram post that just I say, ‘Well, you know you’re gonna make it out of it. I didn’t know if I was gonna make it out, and I know what it’s like to be in literally in the worst depression and anxiety ever, for months and maybe a year at time. And getting up on stage and people thinking I’m fine, when in reality I don’t believe in what I’m saying singing. I’m like, ‘I hate half of the songs that I put out.’ I was like, ‘I don’t understand why this has to be my voice.’ For me, I had to ask God to forgive me and give me an unjaded heart and actually start to find out who I really was.
Sarah: That’s great. I love the boldness and the courage to be able to do something like that. That is so difficult, so I commend you just for being able to do that.
Holly: Oh, girl, thank you. Honestly, it’s the grace of God.
“I knew a girl who had completely lost hope for ever having a voice. A girl who was wiped out on religion and was struggling to know her identity in Christ. It broke my own heart to watch this girl go to work, meet people, and act like she knew what she was doing, when in reality it was all falling apart in her soul. I know because that girl was me…” – Holly (8/25/18)
Sarah: So, this next one that I wanted to read with talking about religion––because I think that was really important because we actually welcome a lot of the unchurched, so I wanted to talk about this. For those who are unchurched, maybe talk about what religion meant to you and why the burnout occurred from that?
Holly: So to me, religion is striving. To me, when I hear the word “Religion,” I think I’ve gotta be something that I’m not. I think of, ‘I’ve got to work to get to this point so that God will love me. I have to talk the talk the talk so that people think I’m spiritual. I have to look a certain way at church because I want people to think I don’t have any sin in my life. I’ve got to follow the Bible so intensely that there is no room for error.’
Basically, it’s a misrepresentation representation of who God is and His character. It’s a lie. Religion is investing in yourself instead of believing that you’re already enough because of who God says you are. So for me, I think that is not the church as a whole. But for me, growing up in a beautiful Christian family, my parents, they didn’t teach me that way. My parents are like, ‘Holly, God loves you regardless. You are a daughter of God.’ That doesn’t mean that I go out and I’m being disobedient in how I think and how I process and all this stuff on purpose. I’m a human being, but God kindly corrects me. That’s how my parents taught me. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about a relationship with Jesus rather than religion. But, growing up, obviously, I was inundated, like a lot of people are, with a wrong view of who God is.
So, for me, I carried pieces of that, and still carry pieces I’m sure of, ‘OK God is always mad at me,’ or when I mess up, I know that he’s thinking, ‘Oh man now I gotta rewrite this girl’s story.’ Or, ‘Oh man, now we gotta work through all this Holly.’ Or like, ‘Now we gotta do this now, we gotta do that. One, I’m already really hard on myself. So, some people might not view God that way, back to me, I thought ‘The more I do, the more I sing, the more people that I reach, the more effort that I put into because religion is all performance, the more I look a certain way, the more I do this, this whole thing, that that will somehow make me more important, and then, when I put all my identity in that, when I have season of ‘I am not OK,’ then my spiritual worth goes down. It’s just like I’m a complete mess. God doesn’t love me. God’s mad at me, He doesn’t want to talk to me. He’s gonna shut up for five months and not talk to me and let me know what’s going on go.
So, for me, even if I wasn’t a Christian, that doesn’t sound appealing to me. Right? That’s terrible! So I went through this whole season of going, ‘Alright God, I need you to rewire my brain, I need you to rewire my heart, even if it is painful, even if nothing I believe is true, I need you to tell me who You are and why You made me, and what I’m doing, because I do not want to be an artist or a person. I just don’t wanna be a human being that’s caught up in performing on the stage. I don’t wanna be performing on or off the stage. I’m not a performer, I’m just a realist. Like, I just want to be Holly in all aspects of my life.’ So, I had to learn what grace was. For me, knowing grace was knowing my identity and resting in my identity as a daughter. First and foremost, I’m a daughter of Jesus. Well if I’m a daughter of Jesus, then who is Jesus, and what is His character? So basically, I had to go into this whole thing of just slowly learning. Asking God questions, reading the Word, asking people around me what grace was. For me, I had to understand who I am right now is all that I can be. And there’s a Sleeping at Last song that says, “Grace requires nothing of me.” And really to grab ahold of that is almost impossible for me to do that without God.
I have to be reminded of that EVERY day, especially in the season I’m in. Grace requires nothing of me! It’s my job to yield to what God wants to do. And I have to trust that at the end of the day, I’m a daughter, I’m a co-heir with Christ, which means me and Jesus are brother and sister. God has given everything to Jesus, so He’s given everything to me! Like, that’s wild! So, I had to just basically ask all these questions and just start really start learning from through my own life. Not through other people’s words of advice and all this stuff. I had to really dig deep and go, “OK when this person comes at me and questions my character, what do I think of in my head? ‘Oh yeah, that’s true of me’ or ‘What does God say mean?’” I really had to re-learn the identity of myself and then I had to apologize to God for believing lies about him that I didn’t know that I was believing. Basically, it’s just, you have to know who you are and to know who you are is to know who God is and any lie you felt like you’ve believed or you may not know you’ve believed about God. I didn’t even know I was believing all these lies, but I was living my life in a place of striving and I just got real burned out. So, for me I just had to learn basically what grace is and how that applies to my life.
“Two years ago, Katie Haskell followed the voice of the Holy Spirit and decided to hop on a tour bus to simply be my friend. To meet me in my weakest state. To speak truth and declare God’s promises over my life. Until then, I had never had someone do that. I had a radical encounter with Jesus in a small dressing room last April and since then have witnessed accelerated growth and depth in knowing Him as my Comforter and Father…” – Holly (8/25/18)
Sarah: I love you how we talked about somebody named Katie and she obviously showed grace to you, so I thought we would talk about that. Let’s talk about that. It’s so important to have somebody else come alongside you, especially in dark seasons, hard seasons, so what did that mean to you, having Katie in your life?
Holly: Yeah man, it means the world to me to have somebody not only spiritually but to just be available. I believe that for everybody, there are certain times where God says, Alright, this person is going to be in your life.’ For that season in my life, Katie was and is so influential to me. I was listening to her pray over me because I didn’t know who I was in those moments, and God I sent her to speak over me. And I’ve had other people in my life as well like my parents and other spiritual mentors that come on alongside me and prayed over me and told me who I was instead of what I should do. So, it was very important for me to one, encounter the Lord in that way and the fact that the Lord chose to use Katie in that situation is just awesome. She’s a great friend, and she follows the voice of God. So, I think for me, honestly, it’s just beautiful because I think God wants to use who He needs to use in certain seasons to awaken us to say, ‘Oh man, that person spoke strength to my character, to my identity, and then just trusting people to have that voice in your life is so monumental. For me, community is the biggest thing in my life. For me, I need different facets of it––I need a mentor in my life, I need a counselor in my life. I need a pastoral voice in my life. I need friends, trusted friends, maybe even if it’s only like two people. I need different sources of all that, and God has shifted and moved that was for me because I am like a nomad. I’m like a modern-day nomad. I feel like where I don’t have a rooted home, I have different coverings and I have different places where I can go and I know I’m going to be loved and supported. So, for me, Katie was one of those people in that time.
“If you’re afraid to speak: speak. if you’re afraid to say no: say no. You can do all things. you are adequate. You are not stupid. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that. Be the friend, sibling, and person who chooses to build people UP. We all are fighting a battle inside for our true identity, and the last thing we need are critics who project their own insecurities into the mix…” – Holly (7/18/18)
Sarah: I appreciated that because it just encourages other people to seek out other people like that in their lives because that’s so important. So, this next quote, you can talk about building people up. So sometimes when people go through hard times, we often go to people and say, ‘I’m hurting or I’m having a hard time,’ and get this response back that isn’t so great or isn’t so compassionate and a little judgmental and critical. Then you feel guilty for actually having the struggle or the imperfection. Speak into that situation for a moment. How have you dealt with that, and how would you encourage people who are in that place today who feel like, ‘Why share, because I’m going to be criticized?’
Holly: I absolutely hate conflict because to me, it’s just an indication that the world is not perfect. It’s like heartbreaking to me. Every time I have to face conflict, it’s like this smack in my face like man, peace is like something that you have to have in your core, it can’t just be an emotion. It’s convicting because every time I confront something, I realize ok, there’s still good that needs to be done in the world. We still gotta work through stuff. We still have got to fight for, we still gotta claim peace because peace is not a feeling. It’s a person, and that person is Jesus. If I have Jesus, I have peace, and if I have Jesus, I have all the things that He is. So whenever I have to have to any sort of conflict, one, I have to remember that whatever this person says back to me might not even be that person speaking. It might be their insecurity, things that they walked through before, rejections of last time that someone came at them. You have to think of all these reasons why to not take it personally.
So for me, over the last couple of months and year, I’ve had to say, OK I’m sorry, I’m gonna severe this tie with you, whether that’s relationally, personally, business-wise, anything like that. So with me, when I get attacked and things come at me and my character gets destroyed, I had one conversation with a person who has known me for a long time, she literally ripped me apart and destroyed my character and I knew the Holy Spirit. I believe I didn’t hear half of it. Like I heard it, but then I forgot it. And I’m so glad that I don’t remember a lot of what was said because to me, I don’t wanna want to remember that because I’m so hard, I’ll already just cling to that.
So for me, one, I have to grieve. I had to let myself be like, ‘Man, that sucked. I’m disappointed. I put a lot of faith and trust in that person. Oh, my goodness, like what’s going on? Like even if you don’t know the person who said something to you, it still sucks, it hurt. It’s like, ‘That’s not who I am, why would you say something like that?’ So for me, I had to go to trusted people and say, ‘Hey this is what happened, will you please pray with me?’ And I didn’t even know this was a thing, but a lot of people that I told, they were like, ‘Well, we’re just gonna pray that off of you. We’re gonna pray that anything that was spoken against you, we’re going to pray that it doesn’t settle in your heart. That you don’t think about it, we’re gonna pray against it.’
For me, to have my community again, go to even one person and say, ‘Hey this happened to me, will you please just tell me the truth of who I am? Please remind me of who I am’ because sometimes, the only thing that you can hear is the junk that someone just said. You’ve gotta push through that in a healthy way. For me, a lot of that stuff that I’ve had to walk through is still fresh, and I am still trying to process through that and how it made me feel. But for the most part, I think I am healed of that. And really, I think you just have to go through the process of, ‘Ok that happened,’ and ‘God, remind me who I am and help me to not focus on that,’ so that’s the best advice I can give. I’m still trying to lean. I try to honor and respect those people and not match their abrasiveness or their voice of insecurity or yelling back at them. Sometimes you need to stand up and yell, sometimes you need to stand up for ourselves. Sometimes I wish I would’ve done that in a loving way (laughs) but sometimes you just need to stand up and say, ‘No, you can’t talk to me that way. My personality is to take on things that are not my own so that others will feel better, and that’s not ok. But a lot of the time, it’s like ‘OK, leave them feeling loved and respected, even if they didn’t do that to you,’ like ‘What would Jesus do honestly in that situation?’ So, I just have to take it day-by-day.
First comes planting, then comes Harvest. Stay with us for our second part of this series, out in November, at markedministry.com and find more on Hollyn at iamhollyn.com