Assets Versus Liabilities

photo by Shelley Hendrix
photo by Shelley Hendrix

After months of working my way through the maze of confusion regarding a giant leap of faith into the world of writing and public speaking, I confided this unexpected journey to a trusted friend and mentor. In addition to wise counsel and prayer, as well as encouragement to pursue this dream, Jim said that I needed to write a bio.

*Gulp*

I don’t know about you, but this project was the hardest writing project I think I had ever been given up to that point in my life. (Truth be told, I still don’t like to write my own bio.) For one thing, I hadn’t really done much of anything at that point. I was a shy, behind-the-scenes, let others decide, kind of gal until I went through what I call “God’s Merciful Unveiling” in my life: a season of deep pain, but tremendous spiritual renewal and personal growth. It was through that experience that I began to sense a call on my life to share truth with others that would set their hearts free, too.

I decided to research the bios of other authors and speakers to see what kind of information they included – kind of a template to help me start my own.

Big Mistake.  Or maybe not. It sure felt like one in 2004! The bios I found online were so impressive. These authors and speakers had done so much with their educations, lives, ministries, writing, and families that I began to question whether or not I had actually sensed God’s call on my own life correctly. Who am I to jump into this field when there are so many more qualified and capable people already doing this?

Who would want to hire a mostly-stay-at-home mother of three just because she believed God had called her to step out in faith to share grace and truth with others? I began to feel sick to my stomach as I spent several days wrestling with the seemingly small task of writing my bio. If I have trouble writing my own bio, how in the world am I going to write something people want to read?

I put a rough draft together and apprehensively showed it to a close friend for her honest feedback. I left a copy with her at her house and left before she had a chance to read it in front of me. I imagined her being too kind to tell me what she really thought, which would be, “Who in the world does she think she is?”

It wasn’t too long before she called me. In fact, she called me on my cell phone before I had gotten back home. She told me that soon after I left, her mom called. Her sweet mother was struggling with an unwanted divorce and the painful ripple effects of her former husband’s decision to move into a new relationship after 30+ years of marriage.

My friend said she told her mom that God wasn’t done with her just because a man was. And then she shared my bio with her! My unimpressive, rough draft of a bio. I was perplexed; it seemed like an odd thing to do in such a situation. And she said she told her mother, “Mom, if God can give Shelley new dreams to pursue after what she’s been through, I know God has new dreams for you as well.”

Jaw. Drop. 

I was nearly in tears. She told me this and we chatted briefly and then we hung up. I sat in my car completely overwhelmed with the idea that God could use even my feeble attempt at writing a bio to encourage and strengthen someone else. I thought about Paul’s words in Philippians when he wrote:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:7-8

And, then, in ways only the Holy Spirit can do, I realized:

If I give God and others my absolute best qualities and go after it with all my gusto and all my energy, those very assets can turn into my greatest liabilities. But, if I entrust God with everything–and especially what I see as liabilities (like a lack of experience, for example) — and allow Him to live His life through me, He will use them in such a way as to turn them into my greatest assets for Kingdom work. 

I can say now, after over a decade of writing and speaking that I have seen Him do just that – so many, many times!

Like Donald Miller says, “We impress with strength, but we connect at weakness.” It’s almost always those things we view as weaknesses, or liabilities, that God’s light beautifully shines through to brighten another person’s life.

What about you?

What has been the greatest obstacle you’ve faced in your career/calling as a writer?

What helps you overcome insecurities in your calling to be a writer?

How can you help others overcome their fears by sharing your story?

The Most Important Thing You Can Do As a Writer

way of trustI get asked all the time, “Shelley, how did you get published?” The real question, though, that these folks are asking is, “Shelley, what can I do to get published?” We all want to find success in our field of interest, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your field is the same as mine: communication, and in particular, writing.

While there are some GREAT steps of action you can take, and you’ll find a lot of those by following the Water Cooler, I personally have experienced the ONE that is the most important, so I want to pass that along to you as I make my debut here as a contributor. This ONE thing keeps me sane regardless of book sales. This ONE thing helps me know which project to work on and which one to table or forget altogether. The To-Do List of life, family and ministry often blur my vision and confuse my priorities, but this ONE thing really does make ALL the difference.

Ready?

It’s so simple and yet so overlooked by far too many (even Christian) writers.

Trust God.

I told you it was simple, but the truth is, the quality of our lives rises or falls on our level of trust in our Heavenly Creator–the One writing our lives. The One who knows the end from the beginning. The One who has GOOD plans for each and every one of us. Many times a creative soul like a writer gets all jumbled up in the mix of “the next new thing” and trying to have his/her voice rise above the noise of so many voices also trying to make themselves heard. But the motive behind it all is either going to be FEAR or LOVE. And that motivational force will come from the Source in whom I place my trust: myself; my agent; my abilities; my marketing team; my publisher; or my Heavenly Father.

It’s a simple principle, but that doesn’t mean it’s also an easy practice. Thankfully, there is grace for this, too! God cares more about your willingness than your perfection.

As we seek to discover where we’re placing our trust, we can ask ourselves these good questions:

  • Do I have to be a successful (however you define “successful”) writer to be of value?
  • Am I working on this current project because I sense God’s Spirit flowing through me in the process or because I feel pressure to write this?
  • Who is my audience…really? In other words, who am I most seeking to please? (Readers? Myself? God?)
  • If my writing isn’t as successful as someone else’s, is my writing still valuable?
  • What is my source for content? Am I solely relying upon my experiences, education, research, and skills, or am I inviting God’s Spirit to be my greatest influence in what I write?

According to the writer of Hebrews, one we can take some cues from as writers, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.*”

Asking ourselves where we are placing our trust, regardless of the size of that trust, will help us navigate through all the ups and downs and unknowns that writers experience. God sees and God cares more about your calling to write than even you do. Trusting Him in the midst of every day life and trusting Him to give you the words to put ‘out there’ will give you the strength and peace to accept His plans for the reach and impact of those words.

#OnlyTrustHim

*Hebrews 11:1 The Message

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