As I mentioned at the inception of this blog, I recently answered a request from Jon Acuff (NYT best-selling author of Stuff Christians Like, Quitter and Start) to join him on a secret adventure. Little did I know it would have the potential to rock my world, change my life, and hopefully reach someone else as well. Maybe a lot of someones? That would truly blow my mind.
So what has happened in 11 short days? I joined a family of dreamers in the first ever incarnation of The Start Experiment. You can read a bit more about it here. Some people were taking huge risks from the start with dreams of world change, picking up and moving for a life of missions, quitting jobs to answer other callings. Others started smaller at home with incredibly important steps like getting healthier, spending more time with family, taking up a hobby.
I jumped into this thing with a fervor that was absolutely inexplicable. Sure I could pursue a few interests for fun, but my life – particularly as a stay-at-home-mom, wife, and worship leader at my local church – was pretty great. Still, a funny thing happened…
I didn’t say, “Oh, this adventure isn’t for me after all.” Instead, I bought Start. I stumbled quickly on the encouragement to start somewhere – with anything that you’re passionate about – even if it isn’t your one path or your “destiny”. For the perfectionist in me, that was hard to grasp. What did Jon mean, I should jump into something without knowing whether it was “the right thing”? Whether it was going to end with success or failure?
But community is a powerful thing. Armed with the world’s greatest support system, I chose to pursue one passion with intentionality, regardless of the outcome. I started taking what felt like huge risks – recording and sharing tracks, reaching out to local musicians to begin networking as someone actually looking for, and worthy of, real work outside my current project; I started building an online presence.
As I set up the site, I thought, “Hey! This can also be home to my photo work. And my rambling thoughts on life. And…”. I was very content to create a website with little vision – and little purpose for anyone other than myself. It was hardly the stuff of which destiny is made.
Then a funny thing happened…. again.
Out of the blue, I jumped on an opportunity to speak with an incredible woman who was offering advice on branding. The conversation started essentially like this: “Um, I have nothing to ‘sell’, so I have no idea what I want out of this little chat.” It was kind of ridiculous, actually, that I called… but then it took some unexpected turns.
She started with the age-old question, “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?” My answer required a bit of unpacking. See, the short reply to that is always, “record an album.” Or “buy a new camera body and some sweet L-class glass.” But I know, and told her right away, that those things aren’t my end goal. I don’t intend to write worship songs that top church charts, I don’t intend to tour with Matchbox 20 or be a staff photographer for National Geographic or Time Magazine. That’s not my “life that matters”, however much I love doing those things (and still intend to, with vigor) and despite that other people can make those things matter in earth-shattering capacities.
I was stuck. So we moved to another question: “Aside from your family and your faith, what most fulfills you?”
I qualified my answer (again) saying, “I’m going to answer this where ‘fulfill’ means to give my life lasting meaning, not just do something that makes me happy.” We were on the same page, so I paused a second to think then continued with thoughts that had never actually materialized previously.
“I love when people – especially other women – can open up to and be real with me.”
“I love being able to share my brokenness at the right time, in the right place, so that women know they aren’t alone.”
“I hate that women feel guilty for things they shouldn’t, pressure to be someone other than themselves, and to live a life that others expect of them (or often, they simply feel others expect of them).”
I kept talking. I went on to tell her about a relationship I had with a woman that led to pain and more vile interactions than I ever care to relive – but how I can’t stop thinking about one conversation at the end where we were real with one another, open about our hearts, even truly supportive of one another despite bitterness and distrust. It’s that conversation that breathed life into my soul and allowed for so much more healing than I ever thought possible.
I explained that I had done direct sales for a while, but quit because I was hitting some obstacles from the company that prevented me from focusing on my team. It turns out that even then, all I ever really wanted to do was speak into the lives of other women, help them succeed, help them grow in confidence. I cared so little about selling a product.
By this point I felt I had a few more honest things to say. First, all this was serving to do was confuse me more. All I had done was add yet another “hobby”, right? And second, WOMEN. Ugh, amIright? I love you all but I’ve been friends with guys most of my life because… WOMEN. My gosh, we can be awful to one another.
I felt like I had just had a bit of a therapy session but had mostly wasted each of our time.
She quickly turned the tables though saying, “No – you’ve just come up with your ‘Why?’ – Why you would exist in this space online.” We talked a bit about how women and men alike are longing for a safe place to be real. To be understood. To let go of the fear of judgment.
We talked about how it’s ok to value being a wife, sister, mom, friend, daughter – beyond a shadow of a doubt and beyond anything words can describe – but still want to be “Me”. To be “You”. We talked about how my music and my photography (and anything else I pick up along the way – I’m telling you, I’m fickle) can share stories of hope and grace and encouragement for people around the world. How the very act of pursuing them can be encouraging to someone afraid to share their deepest desires for fear of seeming discontent – when in fact, I believe God places these burning desires in our hearts because we can be more.
As she continued discussing logistics, I dreamt of a place where people could open up. Find community. Find encouragement. Be reminded of their intrinsic value.
The voices of doubt are strong. You’ll get to know me better around here (because someone has to open up first, right?) but let me say this most important thing to start: I’m not qualified to do anything spectacular. I’m regularly quick to anger with my family; I’ve got a dangerously low self-esteem when I take my eyes off of my creator; I often compare myself to others and have to work hard to combat my own feelings of discontent or inferiority; I battle depression and have a history of a whole slew of other neuroses. Who am I to reach out to anyone?, I find myself thinking. But you know what? I’m me.
And I bet in some ways, I’m a lot like you.