Friday, October 10, 2008

What a week on our blog...

...and how to finish it out? I’ve decided to share a personal story with you, and I hesitate because I don’t want to exalt myself by telling it. All praise to God for giving me this story, and I only want to share it if it might encourage some to stand strong in God’s Word and the convictions His Spirit leads you to. This will be long, so bear with me.

Fresh out of college with my TPC degree, I just wanted a job to gain experience and start paying off school bills. I figured it might take awhile to find my dream job as an editor for a Christian publishing company. My first “real” job was a marketing assistant for an accounting firm. I had little responsibility and was bored out of my mind, but I sure looked nice in my required business suits. :) I started looking for a new job after three weeks, and it took six months to find something worth quitting for. And boy was it worth quitting for! At 21 years old, I would be an associate editor for a well-established, successful Christian publishing company with plenty of room for career growth. The only drawback was that I’d have to move far away from my beloved home and family in Ohio.

But the process to get the offer had been grueling--a huge application, a couple of phone interviews, and then a flight to the company for a whole days’ worth of personal interviews. Having survived all that and receiving the offer made me sure that this was God’s plan for me. So I gave a two-week notice, said lots of goodbyes, packed up, and began the trip with my parents who would help me move and settle in.

I started the new job on a Monday morning with stars in my eyes, but by Wednesday afternoon I wanted to quit. Thursday morning I did quit. That makes it sound so simple, but it’s so hard to express the emotional and spiritual turmoil I went through to make that decision. I knew it would seem irresponsible, downright idiotic even! But what mattered more was this: In just three days’ time on the inside of the company, God showed me that I would be brought right up to the lines I had drawn for many of my biblical convictions. And if I stayed, I would likely have to cross them.

There’s more to the story that I can’t go into, but here was the hardest part: Once I realized I should quit, I kinda had it in my head that the moment I did, the moment I honored God by sticking to my convictions, He was instantly going to send me a jackpot of blessings. But it didn’t happen that way. I felt relief and peace, but I also had these huge, heavy question marks weighing on my mind. I knew deep down I had done the right thing, but I also felt so confused and so. . .low. I had just given up my dream job! The one I’d hoped for since middle school! Now what? And why in the world had God brought me through all this just to show me it wasn’t right?

But I thought maybe He was testing me, and I clung to the story of Abraham and Isaac during that time. First I felt like God had asked me to give up my home and family to follow Him and accept the dream job. Then in an unexpected twist, I felt like He asked me to stand for what I believe and give up the dream itself to follow Him somewhere new and uncertain. In that dark, low time right after I quit, I could just slightly feel God’s hand, but I trusted that if I held on tight He would lead me out of that darkness and into something more amazing—even if it took awhile to get there.

And it did take awhile, but over time God has blessed me in huge ways since that big test of faith. Here I am almost six years later with a loving husband, precious daughter, and a dream job I get to do from home for a company I am proud to work for. I am nowhere near perfect and I have failed God again and again. But I know I am blessed “immeasurably more…(Ephesians 3:20).” And I truly believe that those blessings have at least a little something to do with standing strong in my convictions. I pray that God helps me to continue to stand strong in Him because I’m sure there are plenty more tests to come.

Again, though, I don’t tell you all this to praise myself in any way, and I hate to think that some might take it that way regardless. I just felt led to share it as a real example of how standing strong for the convictions God has given you can result in much better blessings than you ever thought possible. I’d love to hear examples from your lives as well.

If you feel called by God to write, do it for His glory alone. Prayerfully determine what your convictions are in regard to your writing and the publishing world. Test those convictions over and over against God’s Word and constantly pray the words of David in Psalm 51.

10 comments:

Myra Johnson said...

What an inspiring testimony, JoAnne! (And I heard nothing but humility and faith in your words.)

I don't have a personal story that comes anywhere close, but I do know that every day of our lives we confront opportunities to stand by our convictions. When the supermarket clerk undercharges us. When a friend starts to tell an off-color joke. When we find ourselves a party to gossip.

Going against the world's way of operating is never easy. Your story shows that God honors such decisions, even if we don't see the results right away.

Debby Mayne said...

Wow! What an amazing career journey! Thanks for sharing, JoAnne.

When I first started writing, I knew what lines I wouldn't cross, but it never occurred to me then that the publisher would have that much say in what I wrote. After I figured it out, though, I limited my submissions to places that would accept the types of books I was willing to write and not expect me to add anything against my convictions.

Psalm 51 is one of my favorites.

CHickey said...

Thank you for the reminder of why we write!

Rachel Overton said...

Wow! This has been a good week for learning about ourselves as well as our convictions!

Probably my biggest God-honoring-our-decision-to-honor-Him story happened when Caitlin was going into 3rd grade. We had to decide whether we were going to keep her in the school she was in or move her to a different Christian school that we strongly felt was more God-honoring (not to mention stronger academically). It was a big decision--I was on staff at the school we would be leaving, and I was unhappy with the direction it was heading. But leaving would mean losing that job and our motives were being misrepresented to other parents and staff.

We typically paid for Caitlin's tuition with our tax refund, and the new school was more expensive, especially since I would be losing that job. So we prayed about it...again. What to do, how to do it. Should we do it? That was the week I prepared our taxes and sent it to the accountant to figure everything out.

Would you believe our federal tax refund that year was TO THE PENNY what tuition would be at the new school? And the state refund exactly paid for the required uniforms? I think God answered clearly what He wanted us to do!

And now, as Caitlin is older and in public school, I am watching God honor her as she represents Him in a dark place. He amazes me, how He shows His hand in her life. Actually, you could pray for her this afternoon--last year she started an after school Bible study that has continued to grow and kids from all different backgrounds are coming. She will be presenting the plan of salvation this afternoon (via the "roman road"), and one of the kids who has been coming loudly proclaims she is an atheist. Yet she continues to come...I believe God is talking to her! Pray that Caitlin will have the right words and clarity of thought when she presents this lesson this afternoon.

Okay, I got a little off track! Not to mention long-winded.

Let me just say again, it is an honor and a privilege to work with you ladies and for Barbour. I am so blessed!

Sarah said...

Thanks for the encouraging story, JoAnne.

It blesses my heart to hear a story of the Lord bringing someone full circle and eventually making dreams come true.

I'm not in a job where I'm asked to do anything against my convictions, but it is a very stressful job and certainly not what I thought I'd be doing in life (financial reviews for an English major, ugh!). I'm afraid I need frequent reminders that He can change that when the time is right.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Erica Vetsch said...

JoAnne, your story stuck with me all day yesterday, and I had to share it last night with my husband as we took our walk around the neighborhood.

What a horribly hard decision for you to have to make. But how wonderfully God honored your willingness to obey.

Anita Mae said...

Hey JoAnne, thank you for sharing. I read your post to my daughter who is in Grade 12 and scared about her future. But, she's scared in a good way b/c her worry is that she'll not recognize God's path for her. In fact, I read your post right after she said, 'What if I get my degree and then find out it isn't what God wanted me to do?'

Her future is the topic of 85% of our discussions since she started this final year. She's a worship leader at church and knows music will be somewhere in her career, but in our small Cdn churches, you can't make a living doing music in church.

When she was in Grade 5, she felt apathy for the hearing-impaired and after a trip to the library, took out a book on ASL and taught herself to sign. She's kept it up and knows it too will fit somewhere in her career but again, she doesn't want to make a living off it.

She found a Christian college in Calgary, AB that offers a degree in Applied Behavioural Sciences which will allow her to use music and ASL. But is it what God wants?

So, JoAnne, after reading your post, she smiled. She doesn't have to pick the right course straight out of high school...she just has to keep praying that she's on the right path and He'll let her know when she strays off of it.

Thank you.

JoAnne said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! If I could encourage even just one person by telling about this experience, then it was worth it.

Rachel and Anita Mae, I'll be praying for both of your girls. How thankful you must be for daughters who long to follow after God! I pray Jodi does too someday!

Vickie McDonough said...

JoAnne,

Thanks for sharing your story. I found it very encouraging, and it was wonderful to see how God has moved in your life.

When I first started writing, I knew there was a line I never wanted to cross. I never dreamed how God would bless my writing career, and I'm ever grateful to Barbour/Heartsong for making it possible for me to be published and share the stories God has laid on my heart.

Deidra said...

Jo Anne,
I completely relate to you...and I'm sure you can understand why;) I have also been studying the story of Abraham and Isaac...what does it really mean to lay it all on the altar? The most difficult part for me, beyond just the financial/security fears, has been my voracious desire to protect our daughters. I'm learning that if my faith can't survive this test...then it's not surviving at all.

Luke 14:25-33 has also been a great source of prayer and thought recently. Until we can die to ourselves and realize that all of our most precious possessions...even our relationships....can never replace our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will never really be able to understand what it means to follow Him.

I went to a mom's conference a couple of years ago called "Hearts at Home". I wasn't sure what to expect from it, and honestly, i was afraid it might end up being a little cheesy. It turned out to be a great time of refreshment and challenge. There was a speaker there from Proverbs 31 ministries. Her name is Lysa TerKeurst. She has an awesome testimony as a wife, mom and mother. I would HIGHLY recommend picking up her book called, "What happens when women walk in faith". I've been blessed by it, and I'm sure you could relate to her honesty.

Keep being bold Jo Ann! I believe that when God teaches us and brings us through the valley, we need to share it with others as a reminder and testament to others that GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY and WORTH THE COST!!! :-) Love- Deidra