June was a rough month for me. I think I was beginning to get depressed due to the current status of our life. I was tired and angry and not sleeping well and just plain snippy about everything. When I went away for a week on my writing retreat at the end of June, I was able to – in fact, had to – leave all my problems behind so I could focus on writing my book.
By the end of the week, I felt much more myself. Of course, driving home back to my problems felt a little less great…which only underscored the possibility that I’d let things weigh on me far too much. So I’ve been thinking about how I can get through a stressful time without letting it destroy my peace and joy.
Earlier this week, I was thinking about what I’m on this earth to do. Like everyone, I’m sure there are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of things God has planned for me to do before he brings me home. But I wanted to focus on what I’m doing for a living. Am I doing what I’m meant to do? Does not having much financial reward prove I’m doing the wrong thing or doing the right things wrong? Most business people would say yes.
Mother Theresa would likely disagree. But I’m not a good enough storyteller to concoct a believable comparison between my work and hers. 😉
But then a few days ago I was thinking about what Paul said about the parts of the body in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. – Romans 12:4-8
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. – 1 Corinthians 12:14-22
We all know we each have different gifts, but I suspect we don’t think about it consciously often enough. When I let myself get lost in a maelstrom of discontent, I’m not my usual Kitty self. The light and laughter and encouragement I normally bring to all my relationships, including my interactions with strangers, is lost, and so everyone around me loses out as well.
The same for you. When you’re temporarily lost from yourself, the gifts you normally give to the world – probably without thinking about it – also disappear. The people around you suffer from it, whether anyone realizes it or not.
So I was thinking about my writing and teaching, and I asked God if I was on the wrong path. I quickly got the distinct impression that I am not on the wrong path so much as I’m thinking about it all wrong.
Since times have been tough for us the last few years, especially financially, I started putting all of my focus into making money from my work. I have a business degree and a MA in creative writing, I’ve taken dozens of additional classes, both free and paid, and all around me I hear, “This is how you can make more money.”
I can’t speak for everyone else in the world, but when I put my focus on the money and not on the work, everything went wrong. Everything. Nothing worked for me. And I got real close to being depressed. Not good.
So I was sitting there last week talking to God and thinking – okay, maybe the hands and the eyes and the ears are super good at making money, but not, say, the bone marrow. Maybe I’m the bone marrow – indispensable, but all the work it does is invisible. Or maybe I’m a mitochondrion. When was the last time you saw and appreciated what mitochondria do? Haha!
That day – just a few days ago, remember – I tried to convince myself that I needed to focus on the work I knew I should be doing and not focus on money. I want to help people – encourage them, empower them, entertain them – and apparently I can’t do that when I’m focused on whether what I’m providing is of great enough value to pay the rent.
And you know what? Already, I’ve seen a huge increase in my creativity and joy. I’m back to being the real Kitty again! (Whew!)
Am I going to ignore money altogether? Will I put my head in the sand and try to pretend we don’t have financial problems? No. One of my teachers wrote in an email last week that he takes a day every other week to think about the big picture, come up with creative ideas, etc.
So I’m going to borrow a page from his playbook. Every other week I’m going to sit down for a couple hours and look at the money side of my work and try to come up with better ways to make a living from what I do. But for the other 13 days every fortnight, I’m going to focus on the gifts I know I’m supposed to use.
I’m going to help people, and that is going to make me so happy. Why? Because this mitochondrion will be doing the job it was meant to do, whether anyone sees it or not.
What about you? Do you feel you’re doing what you are meant to do? If not, leave a comment and tell me what you want to change. Maybe I can use my gifts to encourage you!