Keep Calm. And Focus.
I have been blessed with an innate ability to effectively convey my thoughts and feelings to others through writing. Growing up, my mother (who I deem as “verbally gifted”) encouraged me to put pen to paper. She always said, ‘Tiffany, if you can’t say it, write it’ and I’ve been doing that ever since. From writing essays to love letters to journaling to blogging to writing short stories and now a novel, I know that words – more importantly, my words – matter.
“…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
John 6:63 (KJV)
A few years back, our Pastor led us through a message series titled “God Has A Plan For You”. During that series, we learned that God has put a special gift inside us all. Although not all choose to use their gifts and talents for it, God put them there so He can be glorified. Some may have the gift of organization; others may have the gift of teaching our youth; others may have a special knack for baking or rapping or dancing or hitting three pointers and baskets without much effort or public speaking or… As you can see, the lists are endless.
Through the series we were given practical steps for identifying these special gifts and were told to ask God how He wanted us to use them. Even a talent or gift that someone may deem silly or minute should be used for God. You just have to ask Him to lead you in it. For example, who would have thought that I could use the erotica in my short stories to motivate married couples? God did.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above…”
James 1:17 (NIV)
During this series, I recognized and it was confirmed by the Holy Spirit that I have a God-given “writing assignment”. I am to reach people using my words. Hence, the reason you are reading this WHOAment!
In 2008 a series of life changing events occurred for me and it was during that time that an insatiable desire to write blogs, short stories and a novel began to brew inside me and it was somewhere between then and now that I have developed the longing to write full time at home while taking care of our household. Although I am not sure of exactly how that looks, my husband and I have begun preparing for the transition.
My now husband was one of the first people to encourage me to use my writing as more than just a hobby. With his support, I have dreamed of the day when my first book deal is made; when my name reaches multitudes who want to learn more about developing their relationship with Christ because they read a chapter of my book that sparked their curiosity; or receiving an encouraging message from a wife or married couple who read one of my blog entries and were encouraged and motivated to keep the sexual spark in their marriage; or meeting someone in person who saw me online and found that I am what I write about. One day it is going to happen. After all, God promised me!
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
Genesis 12:2 (NIV)
Even as I write this WHOAment, I can reflect back to countless times that God placed me in the right situations at the right times and used the right people to unknowingly open doors for me that lead directly to His plan for me. Although I don’t know how it will all happen, I can see God’s plan unfurling and I like what I see!
He led our former CEO to give me an unexpected, unrequested raise with management benefits (without having to formally manage anyone but myself) so that my Former Director could notice my new title and select me to transfer to a new position working directly with her with lots more flexibility, which will, ultimately, make transitioning from work to home seamless! In my current position, when God gives me the green light, I will be able to walk away with nothing and no one holding me back.
Wait. You did hear me say “Former”, as in these two people (unknowingly) played vital roles in my life’s plan and now they have moved on. It’s ironic because when they left, I was not happy to see either of them go and I even had the nerve to “feel some kind of way” about them leaving. But God…
Yet, even as I make these acknowledgements and declarations, if I am not faithful to guard my destiny and lose focus, even for a minute, I can give the adversary room to creep in and blur my vision. There are times when I can see his attempts coming from miles away. When this happens, I am able to side step them, redirect and keep it moving. Then there are times when they come in nice looking packages with sparkles and bows!
This WHOAment is about how I almost swayed from God’s plan in an attempt to create my own.
Last year before she left, my Former Director approached me with an offer to become a Supervisor for her staff. Without batting an eyelash, I quickly let her know that supervising others was not something I wanted to do. Yes, I had the experience and skills to do it, but, ultimately, my goal was to write full time – from home. “Surprisingly” (or not), she agreed that I should be doing that as well. Although every once in a while, she would do a “check in” and ask me, just to make sure that I hadn’t changed my mind. I never swayed and always declined.
Shortly after the Former Director left, our CEO also abruptly left the organization. Her sudden departure began a shakeup that has led to large scale reorganizations throughout and left many employees feeling insecure and uncertain about their jobs. I, too, wasn’t comfortable with the new system of things and felt that it would be the perfect opportunity to, like they did, jump ship because I didn’t think that I should stick around and find out what would come next. It came out of the clear blue and was a reactionary emotion to the circumstances around me. I approached my husband and, being the wise one that he is, he advised me not to leave while I was emotional or because it was the “easy” thing to do. He also reminded me that the world is filled with “unknowns”, which is why we are to walk by faith and not by sight. He was right.
Fast forward about a month later and I was approached by upper management, once again, to become a Supervisor, emphasizing the urgency and need for a strong management team to be in place during this time. This time the plea began from a friend who is a Manager. I’ll call her “Sarah” for the sake of this story. She said that because of my skillset and work ethic, I would be a perfect candidate for the position. Because she and I work closely together, I felt that she was coming from a good place and that her plea was sincere.
Soon after, others approached me, wanting me to become a Supervisor. I have to confess that with the increased uncertainties, the better their offers seemed. Maybe I was the voice of stability that the staff needed. Once I began to entertain the possibility of accepting the position, the more sparkly the package became. The box seemed to turn the perfect hue of “Tiffany blue”. Even the staff, who had been reactive to the all of the changes before seemed more positive and calm. Maybe the change in their attitudes was because I was “supposed” to lead them?
I went to my husband with this “wonderful news” and no matter how many times we talked about it, our conversations always seemed to go something like this:
TC: “Babe! So I’ve been talking to “Sarah” about the possibility of becoming a Supervisor. I think it may be a great opportunity.
LT: [Puzzled] “What happened to wanting to stay home? We’ve began to set things in motion for making that happen. I thought that you didn’t want to be a Supervisor.”
TC: “Well...um… Staying at home is still something that I want to do. But this would just be in the meantime. Besides, I could do this until it’s time to transition. The new position would also offer more money.”
LT: [Still puzzled] “I’m not sure what has changed in your desires. But it sounds like a distraction to me to get you off what you know to do… Have you prayed about it?”
TC: “Well, yes and I haven’t gotten an answer yet. But I wanted to talk to you about it because I think that it is a great opportunity”.
(Side note: Did I really say that I had prayed but hadn’t gotten an answer yet?! Then why were we even having this conversation?? Sounds like I was off-task to me…But back to the WHOAment.)
LT: “You should start there and then let’s talk.”
After about a week, I met with management about the position, once again. Although I was unsettled about the decision I’d make, I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into. They questioned me. I questioned them. I answered their questions. They answered mine. After this meeting, I now had a clearer picture of what my role as a supervisor would be. Although I didn’t verbalize it then, it would mean more money, more work, more responsibilities, less flexibility and less chances of making a clean break.
Yet, in all that I still ignored God’s voice – my answered prayer – and tried to justify why it would be ok to change the course and take this scenic route to my destination, rather than the clear way of God’s leading.
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)
This time, I went to my husband armed with more information. I was sure that once he heard all of the perks, he would see that my latest “desire” was doable. Yet, once again, our conversation went something like the others:
TC: “I have more information about the position. I would have a staff of 20 employees. There is more pay. I won’t have to work weekends or late….”
LT: [Not convinced] “I still think it’s a distraction. Right now, you have all of the flexibility without complications. Money isn’t an issue for us and you shouldn’t use it to judge whether or not you should accept the position. It is your decision, but I think it’s a distraction from doing what you know to do. You shouldn’t be doing something just because they asked you to. You say it’s in the meantime of doing what you really want to do. But think of all the people we know who should be doing something else, but they are stuck doing something they don’t need to be doing “in the meantime”…”
Now, I have to mention that my husband is very, very supportive of me. He is one of my biggest fans and encouragers. I wholeheartedly believe that if I approached him one day and said that I want to count all the stars in the night sky, he would make sure I had the warmest blanket, comfiest chair and best telescope so that I could be the best star counter ever. So it kind of threw me for a loop that he wasn’t supporting me in this effort. However, as much as he loves and supports me, God has given him wisdom and knowledge to lead our family. I love him because he does not take his assignment as the head of our household lightly. He is led by the Holy Spirit and counsels me wisely.
Looking past everything he advised, I decided that if the position was really for me they would accept me, on my terms. So I counter-offered their salary proposal by requesting even more money. Maybe I thought that if I was going to accept a position that may not have been “right”, it would be justified if it was “worth it”.
Well, you already know what happened. They accepted. That was on a Friday. (Un)surprisingly when they accepted, instead of feeling excited, I felt uneasy. I could only hear my husband’s words in my head, ‘You are not doing what you know to do’…’Have you asked God?’…’Seems like a distraction to me’. Because I also remember him saying that it was my decision to make, I accepted the position. But still feeling unsettled, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the acceptance with my husband. I figured that I would wait until the “right time” over the weekend to broach the subject with him.
That Sunday, just a day and half later, during our new message series titled “Living Blessed”, Pastor Rick by leading of the Holy Spirit seemed to go off script to make an admonishment. Although he was not speaking directly to me, he was speaking to me! The points he made could have only been from God because he confirmed every single thing that my husband had. Here are some of the things Pastor Rick said:
‘I’m the one given by God to step on your toes.’ (Ouch! I felt "it" coming).
‘He’s ordered your steps. He said ‘I’ve freely given you everything and you chose not to seek my counsel. Take heed and beware’.’
'People uproot themselves from where God has planted them for all the wrong reasons. They choose to move for stuff and things. God does not plant you and then haphazardly uproot you.'
'Are you a cheap prostitute…choosing to sell out for a couple thousand dollars? Or a job? Or a position? Or for esteem? Because of peer pressure?'
‘When you are busy working on your own plan, you can’t hear God telling you His.’
‘People are easily distracted. They say they are going to do something that God hasn’t instructed them to do “for a short time”. How do you know how long your “meantime/in between time” will last?”
As tears fell from my eyes, I knew. I knew that I couldn’t go against God’s explicate directions for my life. I knew that I was not to do anything until I heard from Him. Yet, I disobeyed. I knew that He used my husband’s voice to “whisper” directions to me. I knew he used my Pastor’s voice to “yell” the cautions to me. I knew that if I decided to take the job, surely I wouldn’t be in line with God’s plans for my life. That is why I had such an uneasy feeling about accepting the position. I was not led by God to accept. I was working out my own plan and not allowing God to work His plan through me.
It was abundantly clear what I had to do. It was so clear that I could barely contain the excitement of getting back on track and on the road to success. I asked for forgiveness from God for not following Him or my husband. I knew it would be an uncomfortable conversation to have with the Management Team because they were excited when I accepted the position. To have to go back and retract my acceptance was humbling, to say the least. But what I love about my Savior is that even those times when I stumble and get off task, He allows room for course corrections.
“…though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”
Psalm 37:24 (NIV)
Although I didn’t know going into the meeting how I would break the news to them that I couldn’t take the job, I met with both “Sarah” and my Director to let them know that I had to rescind my acceptance. I was out of order for accepting it in the first place. 1) I heard God’s voice and direction and was tempted to not heed to it. 2) I made a decision without being in total agreement with my husband.
"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?"
Amos 3:3 (NKJV)
After our meetings, both “Sarah” and my Director, said they understood completely and respected me even more for making such a “tough decision” and coming to them about it. In the words of my Director, ‘Sucks for us... but I know you have to do what’s right for you.’ In the words of “Sarah”, ‘who do we get to replace the irreplaceable?!’
I laughed but in all seriousness, I don’t even want to find out. God is truly irreplaceable and I would be a fool to act otherwise.
”For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.”
“But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Luke 12:31-32 (NKJV)
Note from TC: Now that you've read my testimony and confession, you need to ask yourself these questions:
1. Has God given me instructions for my life that I know I am not following?
2. Am I on my assignment or am I deceiving myself in thinking that I can make my own plan work?
3. What is my special gift? How can I use it to glorify God?
4. Have I uprooted myself from God's plan chasing after my own desires, esteem, etc?
Remember: God allows us to make course corrections. It's never too late to get back on your task...until it is too late!