Monday, September 19, 2016

True Confessions of a Reluctant Servant

This blog post is almost six months overdue. That’s because five months and 19 days ago is when God made clear to me what He wanted me to do with my life.

Where It All Began

Nine months ago, in January, I made a commitment to God that I would devote myself to writing. Two weeks later, I made the most money I ever made from my business from a single client. The month after that, I doubled the revenue without paying a dime for advertising. It seemed I was finally going to be a success in business. I thought I had everything figured out.

Then came April. I was continuing to serve people daily, and I was regularly meeting new people, but I was getting no new clients. Not one. I received $100 the entire month, and that went to feed the family. I was scared, I was confused, and I was lost.

The Spiritual Directors Discernment Retreat

That Saturday, April 30th, I went to a retreat on becoming a spiritual director. In that retreat, we examined the passage from Luke Chapter 5 in which Jesus first called Andrew, Peter, James, and John to be his disciples. The men have been out fishing all night. They are exhausted and have caught nothing.

Jesus instructs them first to put out from shore a little way so he can teach the people. Then when he’s done teaching, he tells them to put out deeper into water and lower their nets for fishing. Despite their objections, they do. The harvest they catch is so abundant they can hardly haul it to shore.

They reach shore and, instead of telling them to celebrate their catch and enjoy the money they’ll make at the markets, Jesus tells them to come and He will make them fishers of men.

My Call to Discipleship

I heard it loud and clear. Jesus was letting me know the “catches” I’d gained back in February and March were the fish. They weren’t meant to make me rich. They were meant to prove to me that I could trust in the Lord. That if he said to cast my nets over the side of the boat, even if I’d already done it before, I could trust there was a good reason for it and the rewards would be worth the effort.

What He wanted me to do was take what I’d learned about “catching” clients and the skills I’d developed in branding and marketing and use those skills to teach Catholics not only how to get themselves out of poverty by building successful businesses but to use those same skills to evangelize. The skill set is the same, even if the purpose is slightly different.

When you evangelize, the product you happen to be selling is a relationship with God. Faith is the vehicle you are using to deliver that product. Branding is learning to find and share the story of your experience with that product to the specific audience your story will appeal to and marketing is learning how, when, and where to deliver that story for its greatest impact.

The Death of My Dreams

You might think, given my desire to become a great saint, that when God chose me for His big project, I would have given him that same gloriously unqualified “Yes” that our blessed Mother did.

Instead, I gave him a wholehearted, “But what about my dreams?”

My first thought wasn’t “Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!”

It was, “What’s in it for me?” 

So much for my illusions of overcoming my selfishness.

I’d become attached to my dreams. I’d nurtured them for years and nursed them through every moment of struggle. Quite often, it was those little dreams of mine of one day living a life of ease and one day accumulating so much material wealth that I never again had to worry about food, shelter, or clothing that kept me going.

Here the Lord was confronting me on my attachments, asking me to give them up so I could follow Him, and I was in tears. Why, oh why, must I sacrifice these dreams of mine to serve him?

When I calmed down and prayed over it, the Lord showed me that it was my dreams that were getting in the way of the success I wanted. Every time I looked at other people, I wasn’t seeing them as human beings who needed my time and attention. I was seeing them as a means to an end. They were valuable to me in as much as they were going to get me closer to my dreams.

That was unhealthy. I was using people, and the people on the other end of my business transactions could sense it. I was driving people away because of it. If I wanted to succeed in business, I was going to have to let my dreams die and make the dreams of the people I served my own.

I Can’t Have Both

I would like to tell you that this changed everything and I magically became the exact obedient servant I ought to have been, but that is not how it happened. I tried to compromise. I wanted it both ways. I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I wanted to serve God and Mammon at the same time.
Part of it was my fear. How was I going to support my family and do this ministry, too? How was I going to make ends meet if I don't have a reliable income?

Another part of it was my insecurity. Would anybody listen to me? Could I really make this work? How would I even start such a thing?

I promised God that if he would help me with June’s rent, I would go ahead and commit to doing this program. He helped me with June’s rent. I didn’t follow through with the program. I let my fears talk me out of it.

I got stuck. I lost my way.

The money stopped coming in altogether. I couldn’t afford to pay July’s rent. When some money did come in, it wasn’t enough to stop the eviction. I kept holding out for hope that things would turn around, but they didn’t.

Desperate to keep food in the bellies, I took a job for far too little money  that I expected to be able to finish in a week’s time.

Free Fall

July 31st came and we were forced to move out. The lease was broken, the credit I worked so hard to rebuild was now in tatters again. I would have a very hard time leasing from any apartment complex going forward. I felt like crying. Things seemed impossible.

My son landed with friends of his, one of whom we’d fostered years earlier who wanted to give back to our family. It was an invaluable reminder that our service to others was not forgotten and was not going to go unrewarded. I didn’t get the hint.

We moved in with my stepfather. My husband and I share a 7’x10’ room that has no door, just a blanket on a clothesline to give us a measure of privacy in a house built for one person. The futon we are on isn’t long enough for either of us to stretch out on full length. We are grateful to have a bed at all.

The work I assume is going to be one week turns into six. 

Midway through the project, I get into a disagreement with my mother.

That disagreement, causes me to question myself and to look more closely at who I am becoming. I realize that I am changing in ways I do not like. I am not happy with the person I am allowing myself to become.

The possibility is there for me to make a lot of money. 

I recognize that I am being given a choice. I can continue pursuing Mammon, or I can choose to serve God. I will never be wealthy by the standards of the world if I choose to serve God, but what I will gain is worth more in the long run.

I choose God.

Project End

The end of the project comes, and I realize just how poorly I have allowed myself to be paid because I was operating out of fear and desperation. I determine that this will never again happen to me. I will never again do so much for so little pay.

However, working on the project has taught me something valuable. It has given me the confidence to believe in myself and what I bring to the table. I have seen what I can do, and I know what it is worth.

When the person whose project it was comes to me to seek my services, I explain that I can’t afford to work for so little going forward. Turning down the project and recognizing what I am worth brings an unexpected freedom.

Suddenly, opportunities begin to open up to me that I could not have taken advantage of while tied up with that project. I begin to see webinars and seminars to help move me in the direction I want to go.  One of them teaches me to plan out my blog calendar months in advance using a spreadsheet. I use it to plan out my content for my business site.

Then, I realize, I should do the same for Everyday Catholic. But what should I blog about? Good question.

A Prayer and an Answer

The idea comes to me. Why not use Everyday Catholic’s blog to launch my program to begin teaching Catholics the skills needed to build their businesses and learn to evangelize at the same time? Why not start with what I already have and begin building my ministry alongside my business?

It is a great idea. Where do I begin? I sit down to write a letter to God thanking him for the idea and asking Him what my theme should be for Sundays. Servant Leadership is the topic that comes to mind.

With that topic, comes the rest. The ideas pour out of me like water from a tap. I’m excited, happy, energized by the new direction.

My Commitment

I have, in the past, promised to rekindle Everyday Catholic and failed to deliver. Part of the reason I failed to deliver is that I failed to plan out my posts. I didn’t know what to post each day and so, as they tell you in business, because I failed to plan I planned to fail.

This time, I have my plan and I am not going to fail again. You will receive daily content to help you in your quest to explain the Catholic faith (or your business idea) to anyone at any time and any place. You will be prepared to give the reasons for your hope.

If you would like ongoing help and support in your business and evangelization efforts, I invite you to join my free Facebook Group called Everyday Catholic Ambassadors. We’ll discuss how things are going and give you direct feedback on your progress.

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