Part 2: Grace Period
I’m a project-oriented type of person. I appreciate definitive starts and stops. Marking the end of something is really important for me. Mainly because if I don’t, I have the tendency to go back (whether it be relationships, establishments, organizations or locations) when I should be going forward. In order to move to what’s next, I need to say goodbye/farewell to the thing that is ending.
Yesterday I finally said goodbye to something that lingered. It was for a very practical reason that it didn’t end sooner. Yet, by saying goodbye, I now have greater capacity to do what I need to do next. The thing I said goodbye to represented something I really love. But by saying that necessary goodbye I get to step fully into this new season.
4 years. 11 months. That makes me giggle just slightly. See I figured out a few years ago that when it comes to career and calling, God’s got me on 5-year sprints.
Don’t believe me? Here’s some proof.
Elementary school teacher – 5 years
HR professional within the family business – 5 years
Children’s Ministry Director- 5 years
Okay, maybe I rounded that last one just a little bit. It was 4 years and 11 months. But that’s close enough to 5 for me. After 4 years and 11 months of serving as the Children’s Director at Downtown Baptist Church, I transitioned the responsibilities to our new director.
Time to start that next 5-year sprint…
Each of those 5-year experiences I mentioned had an interesting way of setting me up perfectly for the next 5 years. It wasn’t always evident to me, but now I see it and can appreciate it. Honestly, that first leap from teaching to HR had me scratching my head initially. All I’d ever wanted to be was a teacher. Not a principal. Not an administrator. Maybe a curriculum designer – but only as a compliment to my classroom teaching experience. But, people far more discerning than I was at the time, saw capabilities that could support the growth of our family company. So with a little nudging from God (that’s a whole ‘nother story that I’ll have to tell you one day), I left teaching and started career #2. Then #3. Now on to #4.
Although I started my new 5-year sprint months ago (some might argue, YEARS), yesterday I officially said goodbye to my Children’s Ministry responsibilities at DBC. It’s bittersweet. My heart will forever be with investing in the holistic growth of children. I love the kids, families and volunteers that I’ve had the joy of doing ministry with. But the desire to do something else, which started getting strong almost a year and a half ago, and that God has been refining since, is clear. And without warning, the invitation to do something new came. And I took it.
I’m staying at DBC, just in a new role as the Director of Operations, while building my coaching and consulting business and plotting the Speed/Sellers next family enterprise (a God-sized innovation for ministry).
Even before any of this was fully on my radar HE knew. Through well-timed conversations, chance meetings and tons of prayers, this next 5-year sprint is off to an incredible start. I may not know where I’ll end up at the end. But I don’t really care. Don’t get me wrong, I have very specific goals, milestones and actions charted out. But if I’ve learned anything over the past 15+ years of my professional career, it is to remain flexible ‘cause God has a way of surprising me, I see. He tends to take me down paths that are dark and windy, where you can only see one step in front of you. The next step. And I’m cool with that.
There are actually 3 other things I’ve learned too:
1. Take a chance. In my first career transition from teaching to HR, I really struggled with feelings of inadequacy and felt very out of place in a corporate setting. I couldn’t understand why my dad and sister thought I was a going to be a great asset. See, I had just quit my teaching job in DC. The one I had dreamed about since undergrad. The dream was one of working in a really needy school, a place where I could make a difference. And although I can point to clear examples of where my presence made a difference in children’s lives, the fact that I left before the school year ended really eroded my confidence in my abilities and had me questioning everything I’d been sure of before that experience. But also at the same time, I was very clear on the fact that God had released me from that assignment. See, I’d just ended one of, if not the first, fast I’d ever done. I fasted because I wanted to be a better teacher. I wanted to be empowered to do a better job. The answer I got was “it’s time to leave”. It actually came through a conversation I was having at the end of a really hard week with a colleague I didn’t even know very well. But after our brief, yet life-changing, conversation I was clear. I went home that Friday evening, exhaled deeply and wrote my resignation letter.
So that’s the backstory and circumstances by which I went into career #2. Although I knew that it was time for me to leave, I couldn’t shake the disappointment and sting of failure. But a new opportunity came and I gave it a try. Man, has it made all the difference in the world! The professional growth I had in that next sprint was incredible and set me up for accomplishing even greater things in the future. It helped refine my process and strategic mind-sets, hone skills for navigating corporate America, and afforded me the chance to work with my family – a privilege I will always cherish.
The thing about each of my professional transitions has been really being in-tune with what God is doing in and around me and being willing to take a chance. Often, at least for me, it is an illogical chance, veering sharply into a new direction. Both career #3 and #4 came about because I knew the Lord was requiring something else of me, preparing me for something new. And not knowing fully what it was, I just said “okay, let’s do this”. And that’s not an easy thing to say. Yet, I have.
2. His plans are always better. It’s like He gets pleasure out of blowing my mind! Lol. What if I was still teaching. I’m sure I’d be happy. But would I be fulfilled? Would I know that at this very moment I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to do? Who knows? And frankly, I’m thinking “who cares!” I have no doubt that I’m aligned with His will. That’s the best place to be though.
I am so short-sighted, easily distracted, indecisive at times that if I tried doing it my way, I know it’d be a COMPLETE mess! I have too much prior experience and supporting evidence that points to the fact that His plans, His way, His will is so much better than anything I can cook up. Because of this confidence, I’m cool with doing what He’s asked of me and allowing Him to lead the way.
Of course maintaining that posture isn’t always easy. Nor have I always exercised it. Take for instance that man I was gonna marry in my 20s. Big mistake – but I was determined to make it work. You know, love conquers all. Even overtly trifling tendencies. Had God not stepped in (well really, he just revealed how unhealthy that relationship was and my ex’s true self) I’m sure it would’ve played out in a much uglier way than it did. But His plan for my life prevailed. My 38 year old self can appreciate the examples of how my plans failed miserably because they are all the proof I need to keep me in His will. I’m not trying to wallow in trifling-ness when I know how sweet it is to be in His hands and aligned with His will.
3. Move forward. I started by saying, I like to put a punctuation on the end of things. Honestly, I think it is healthy. It signals the end to something and the beginning or focusing in on something else. There have been numerous times when I’ve deeply loved the thing I was leaving. But it was time to move on. And now, it is that time again. I am secure and certain about what God has prepared me to do in this next 5-year sprint. Do I know how it will play out? Of course not. But that matters very little to me. I trust Him too much and have too much experiential, firsthand knowledge on how He keeps, provides for and equips me in the “next” that I’m excited to see what’s ahead!
And with that, I’m embarking on my “next”. The pattern we’ve had, at least thus far, is 5-year periods. So, as I was writing this I started wondering about what that number symbolizes in the Bible. Anyone know? Well, there are several instances of “5s” in the Bible. But the one thing that resonated with me the most was 5 being associated with grace.
Yes, I can get down with that!
I’ve seen His grace at work in my entire life but definitely in my professional endeavors. He’s opened numerous doors I hadn’t even known to knock on. He’s positioned me in places and spaces to work alongside some incredible people. He has strengthened me when life, shattered dreams or misplaced faith crushed me. His favor, so undeserved, continually overtakes me. And for that I am grateful.
I can’t wait to see what this next “grace period” will reveal!