It was uncomfortable, it was painful, and it was the most enlightening thing I’d ever done in terms of God’s calling on my life.
In my last post, I gave you an introduction to my commitment of taking on a zero-expense year of writing. I had determined that not a single dollar would be spent on writing endeavors, particularly toward my “next step” (an up-and-going novel-writing career I was forever clawing for). I had written four novels, endless short stories, essays and articles all hidden away in my computer. That’s when God got real with me.
This zero-expense commitment had shifted something inside of me. It forced me to look at what I already had, instead of what I “needed”.
I felt led to simply open my computer and take an inventory of my work. I had saved everything for the last twenty years, from the time I was about fifteen years old to the present. Every scrap, every sentence, every note, every character profile had all been carefully filed away so that it was easily reached and used, should God decide to make use of my efforts.
I scrolled through file after file of all my work … All my hard, selfish work, and in my heart, I presented it at Christ’s feet.
I was suddenly ashamed of it. My intention had been to ask God what to do with it. How can He use it? What is it good for? I had spent years reaching back into past work, trying to make something of it all. Trying to make something of myself. Trying to make it all count. So there I was, dozens of open folders before me, whispering prayers for God to show me what to do. I breathed and waited, knowing that whatever God directed, my answer would be YES.
I got nothing.
I got nothing but word-by-word reminders of how I had failed Him. How can He use anything that was written with selfish motive? I was tired of reaching back into the recesses of my past work, and it was preventing me from moving forward. So I deleted one file. To my surprise, my heart felt an ounce lighter. I deleted another. My heart lifted just an inch.
I right-clicked an entire folder and deleted the whole thing. Then was struck with a rush of freedom.
I took a deep breath and whispered, “Here we go.”
Folder by folder, I deleted everything. Every single note, character photo, story, chapter … everything.
I didn’t shed a tear. Not a single one. In fact, when I saw the recycle bin on its second round of final dumping, I laughed as I saw 2,533 files erased into oblivion.
My cursor hovered over the last file. It was a completed novel manuscript titled “The House of Oak and Ivy”, and I’d written it for my Aunt Dianne, who had cancer at the time. I’d chosen a plot I knew she’d find delicious, complete with a haunted house laced with romance. It’s hard to put into words what/who Aunt Dianne was to me then. An encourager. A cheerleader. An occasional brainstorming partner. As a kid, my sisters and I received a box of books for Christmas from her. It was the spark that ignited a heavily-fueled passion for words. “The House of Oak and Ivy” had taken nearly a year to write. I had determined that it would be my first published novel, written for her, and dedicated to her. Then, about two weeks before it reached completion, Aunt Dianne passed away, having no idea about the project.
The cursor hovered. I right-clicked, hesitated, and burst into tears. What if I’d made a mistake? What if I’d just deleted twenty years worth of work based on an emotional impulse? What would Aunt Dianne say right now if she knew I was about to delete something that I’d written specifically for her?
I suddenly knew … She’d say it didn’t matter. She would appreciate the effort that anyone made for her, but especially considering her Heavenly perspective at that moment, I knew exactly what she’d say. She’d tell me to obey God’s call, at all costs. She’d tell me not to doubt. She’d assure me that choosing God over self-doubt was always the right choice.
So I clicked delete.
Just like that, every word I’d written and saved since my teenage years was gone.
I was finally free.
My zero-expense year of writing was now in full-swing. My only spending allowance would strictly come from the money I’d make with freelance writing, after taxes and tithe.
Then a funny thing happened … All of my freelance writing work suddenly dried up. No more clients. There were no prospects. There was no work to be found.
Ok, God. I hear you, I prayed. I decided to take a long break from writing entirely, including blogging. I had a shiny, pretty website that wasn’t getting any traffic, anyway, and for a long time, my heart had been dry of ideas.
Focusing on Christ’s will for my life, I began to ask Him questions that made me feel sick. Had I missed my calling, then? What if, all these years, I’d had it wrong? Or what if I’d messed it all up so badly, He was now taking it from me? Nausea, wave by wave, overtook me at the very thought. God wouldn’t use a prideful heart, I knew, except to show what it looked like to fall. HARD. So I peeled back a new layer, and began asking God deeper questions … beginning with What now? What do you want me to do, God?
God answered that question definitively and immediately on a Sunday morning as I dropped my sons off for Sunday School. When I was approached by Allison, the associate children’s minister, I had no idea what chain of events God was setting into motion.
“Natalie!” Allison said in her usual, bright spirit. “I could really use a favor. Would you mind teaching Sunday School for second graders next week?”
I hated teaching. I wasn’t good at it. I found myself to be boring, which means it was a dead-certainty the kids would hate me.
But, I loved helping. So I shrugged and said, “Sure!”
I spent the entire next week worrying about how quickly the kids would fall asleep while I fumbled through a Bible lesson. I was certain Allison would, after that next week, never ask me to teach again.
But God had other plans … Plans that involved a new, accidental passion that would change our entire family dynamic.