Saturday, November 17, 2012

Letting Go of Never

What's up with this photo?
     It’s become so cliché it hardly warrants even a chuckle: If you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans.

      Early on in my life, I had a lot of things figured out. In addition to rising to grandeur as a missionary to Siberia, I also planned to be an author, a women’s minister, a fearless evangelist, an exceptional hostess … you get the idea.

     In addition to having so many life goals “figured out,” I also knew what I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to youth ministry with a ten-foot pole. (Yes, God has a thing for irony. My husband and I have been serving junior high and high school teens for nearly a decade.) I wasn’t going to work with little kids, either. (Since I've become a mother, i've also added to my resume the roles of preschool Sunday school teacher as well as a kids’ church leader, nursery worker, daycare provider, homeschool teacher ... and the list just seems to keep growing.)

     Yup, God was chuckling all right when I told him my plans. I’m sure many of you reading this have your own examples of things you once said you’d never do. 

     It’s probably not surprising to you to learn that my list of never’s was born out of my own personal fears. Why do you think I didn’t want to set foot in a room full of teenagers? Because I had felt so insecure during my own teen years that I figured I would never been “cool” enough to find success in youth ministry. Why couldn’t I see myself working with kids, either? Because I was so used to being teased, albeit good-naturedly, for my height (or lack thereof) that the thought of trying to control a bunch of kids who were only an inch or two shorter than I am was paralyzing.

     After nine years in youth ministry and six years as a mother and children’s teacher, I now find these roles come second-nature. They are also quite enjoyable. But I still have a stash full of never’s up my sleeve that God is just starting to deal with.

     My husband is an exceptionally ingenious man when it comes to business-mindedness. Phillip's leadership abilities and business savvy have helped him serve in church settings, in the secular workforce, and on the board of directors of two different pregnancy care centers. I, on the other hand, do not have an entrepreneurial bone in my body. At least, I always assumed I didn’t. Then last year, what began casually with some friends to joining our homeschool activities blossomed into a full-fledged business leading homeschool clubs and day camps in our city. All of a sudden I have a cabinet full of teaching supplies, a bookshelf full of tax books, a drawer full of paperwork, and a very rewarding way to supplement our family income.

     All this from the woman who said she would never start a business venture of any type.

     Turns out I love the freedom of being self-employed. This coming week is Thanksgiving, and I didn’t have to consult anybody when I decided to give my family and all our friends the whole week off. I set my own goals, track my own progress, and never have to fill out a time card.

     So, even for this married mother of three, God is still redefining my concept of never.
     As one more example, I’ve wanted to be an author since before I knew how to read. As a young adult editing my college newspaper and writing articles for Christian publications, I still couldn’t shake my dream of becoming a novelist. Eventually, I finished my first book, and then my second. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my third novel that I realized just how hard it is to make it in the publishing world. That big break I always assumed would be waiting for me once I wrote a novel or two just wasn’t showing up.

     Sometimes people asked me how I felt about self-publishing, and I’d kind of give them a sweet little smile and politely change the subject. Self-publishing, you see, was pretty high up there on my list of never’s. For one thing, I didn’t think anybody would want to buy a book written by someone who wasn’t a “real” (i.e. traditional, royalty-based) author. I also figured that I lacked the marketing skills necessary to promote my own books (remember that whole part about me lacking a single entrepreneural bone?). Thirdly, I reasoned that I could never afford the start-up costs involved with self-publishing. And even if I had the money to shell out up front, I was certain I’d never recover the expenses.

     Well (and I bet several of you know where this is all leading now), I’ve done it. I’ve published a book about my second son, Silas (which you can view here). By myself. And you know what? The first printing has already sold out. I haven’t lost money. And the whole process was easier than I though. Similar to my self-employment venture, self-publishing was surprisingly liberating. I didn’t have anybody else imposing deadlines left and right or staring over my shoulder at my work. The project was entirely mine, start to finish.

     I'm sure there are still some of those never's I'm holding on to that one day God is going to deal with. Until then, I'm grateful for the opportunities he's already given me, and I pray that you too might experience the freedom of following God's call, no matter where he leads you.

What about you? What are some things you've said you'd never do? Did God have other plans for your life? (Feel free to leave your comment below.)

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