“God’s asking me to be the thing He’s already created me to be. And He’s asking you to be the thing He’s already created you to be.” — Shauna Niequist
The past few months have been very tough for me and my family. The past three years have been difficult, but recent months have been extraordinarily challenging.
As a result of this journey, my wife and I have decided to refocus ourselves regarding work and family. We’ve asked ourselves about… well… ourselves. Who are we? What are we like? What are our abilities, interests, strengths, weaknesses?
I can’t say we have all the answers, or even that the ones we have are correct. However, like many others–maybe even you–life events have forced us to re-evaluate ourselves.
Multiple Life Events Brought Us Here
In 2014 I resigned my pastorate in Florida and my family and I moved back to Texas. We didn’t have jobs waiting for us, we didn’t have a place of our own, and our future was uncertain. However, God made it 100% clear this was the right decision.
Since then there have been many developments that caused us to examine ourselves.I'm not sure what the future holds, but I believe it's author is still on the throne. #inspiration Click To Tweet
1. Seeking the Right Job
Thinking it was God’s calling, I tried entering multiple fields related to my experience and education: academic teaching, consulting, and another pastoral position. However, despite sending out hundreds of résumés across the country, nothing permanent came about.
I sought secular work. Although I found work at LifeWay, in large part because I worked for them while in seminary, I encountered obstacles elsewhere: I either lacked experience or was over-educated (I have a PhD). Regardless, it’s been tough and LifeWay doesn’t pay much.
On the upside, I did publish my first book, 1X Evangelism, in 2015. That, however, has not turned out the way I’d hoped.
2. My Time with Tate Publishing Comes to an End
The idea of being published was exciting. Nevertheless, I was highly disappointed with the marketing strategy (or lack thereof) offered by Tate.
To make matters worse, I recently discovered that Tate Publishing and its owners are facing both civil lawsuits and criminal charges. I won’t get into the details, but if you’re curious, Writers Beware has been following the demise of Tate, including news stories by local stations in Oklahoma (see also this article).
As a result, I terminated my contract with Tate. I’m now seeking other options for republishing 1X Evangelism.
3. A Journey of Self Discovery
Since moving back to Texas I’ve struggled with depression. During this time, God has used a very small handful of individuals to help me discover who I am and who God has made me to be.
Like everyone I have my strengths and weakness–some of which I hadn’t before recognized. For example, I tend to think critically (strength), but can move into cynicism (weakness). Also, I try to blend faith with reason and logic (strength), but sometimes lean toward the latter (weakness). I’m skilled at analyzing situations, asking tough questions, and teaching (strengths), but at times I’m blunt and offer unpopular advice (weaknesses).
I could list more traits but I think you get the point: we all have positive and negative attributes.
Not only am I learning about myself, I recently discovered things about my family that I didn’t previously know.
4. New Discoveries about our Family
The other day my wife, Olivia, told me she enjoys retail. While that may not seem like a big deal, it was to me. Olivia’s worked in retail and customer service for over 18 years (most of it with JC Penney), but I thought it was just a job for her. The other day, though, she told me that she actually enjoys retail.
Although I was I was surprised by that revelation, it pales compared to a recent discovery regarding our son.
We’ve known for a long time that David was somehow different. However, we dismissed his quirks and problems as issues related to his birth (he was a preemie).
After he started Kindergarten last September, other issues were discovered that prompted us to have David evaluated. In May he was diagnosed with ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. David is autistic.
Putting it All Together
So, where does this leave us? As I started writing this post I came across a devotional article, “Be Who God Created You to Be,” by Shauna Niequist. While devotionals don’t often impact me, this one hit close to home.
Shauna’s not advocating mediocrity or being unwilling to improve. Rather, she’s saying that God made each of us different. We have unique personalities, tastes, styles, likes, and abilities. Thus, we must embrace that and find ways to be our best within who we are. Think of it this way: if you’re a round peg, be the best round peg you can be rather than trying to fit into a square hole.
In light of this, what will Olivia and I do? We will realign our thinking and find a different road to travel. We’ll discover ways to work within who we are rather than against it and thus be able to meet the needs of our family with less stress. Right now, though, we have no timetables.
For me and this site, it means a rebranding. If you haven’t noticed, the website has a completely different look. Gone is the emphasis on consulting, replaced by a greater focus on writing and social media. While I’m still available to help churches and speak at events, at this time that isn’t my primary focus.
Additionally, we’re trying to find a way for me to begin using social media, especially YouTube. My goal is to use it and this site to offer thought-provoking advice, commentary, and insight into social and religious topics. I want to ask the tough questions that may not otherwise be asked. Eventually this might incorporate a podcast, but who knows.
I’m also going to continue seeking a new publisher for 1X Evangelism (talking to you, Zondervan, Moody, Thomas Nelson, Baker, Simon & Schuster, etc., etc.) I haven’t given up on that! Along with 1X, I’d love to write more books.
This direction will allow me to use my education, experience, and skills while working within my personality.
Olivia: Renewed Power to Grow
Remember when I said learning that Olivia loves retail surprised me and that it was a big deal? Well, here’s why.
Like I said, Olivia has been in retail and customer service for nearly two decades. She’s very good at it, and has received recognition for it. However, she’s always resisted growing in that field. Instead, she chose to hold back and allow me to grow in seminary, ministry, or whatever else. That’s now changed!
I’ve encouraged her to seek those opportunities to get into management or more. Whether it’s at JC Penney, another retailer, or working for an organization, she can try to move up.
So, she’s been polishing her résumé and will begin seeking career growth opportunities.
By the way, if you or someone you know is looking for an award winning, experienced individual to lead your business or organization, check out Olivia Rothra’s résumé.
It is the traditional approach? Not really. But then, tradition is no god. Rather, God is Lord, he made us who we are, and we are trying to embrace and build on that.
I hope this helps and encourages you. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ll still believe that it’s author is still on the throne (hey, I wrote a song about that, too… but that’s another story).