I am a writer, a speaker, and a storyteller but I never planned for those to be part of my life. God had other ideas. His plans and mine didn’t match up. As I look back, I can see His leading even when I stubbornly insisted, I wasn’t a writer and there’s no way I could speak or teach anyone but young children. Teenagers terrified me and adults – well what did I know to teach them or so I thought. God nudged me out of that comfort zone a little bit at a time. Even when I felt inadequate as a young wife and mother to substitute in an adult Sunday School class, I found out begging God and tears didn’t get me out of the assignment. He just promised to be there with me and He was.
Writing had been put in the back of the closet and buried where no one else could read it or even know I had enjoyed it at one time. I convinced myself I couldn’t write, shouldn’t write, and so why bother even talking or thinking about it anymore. Yet the pen and paper beckoned me. I journaled for myself with no plans to allow anything I wrote to be read by others. But God had other plans with that aspect of my life as well.
Years after reluctantly teaching that adult Sunday School class, the pastor’s wife of the church we then attended asked me to lead a mid-week ladies Bible study group at the church. She felt confident I was the person for the job. I think she had enough confidence for both of us as I hesitantly said yes. I enjoyed the study times and became more comfortable with that small group of ladies. God put a love for women’s ministry into my heart. But I found out God wasn’t done moving me out of that box I had built for myself and gave another little nudge in the direction He wanted me to go.
I accepted an invitation to speak at a ladies ‘retreat. I knew no one. I had lots of time to study and God spoke to me through that preparation time. While I spoke at the second session, the Holy Spirit spoke so audibly to me, I felt like everyone in the room must have heard. He asked me to change my illustration and gave me the one to share. I didn’t want to change those carefully laid plans made during all the study time but I finally did. I felt vulnerable with the new illustration and yet several women approached me after to let me know if was where they were at too.
As I prepared for the evening session, the Holy Spirit spoke again. Another illustration change to my carefully crafted presentation which would leave me feeling even more vulnerable. Praying didn’t change the sense of urgency to obey. The next day a young woman came with tears streaming down her face. After I prayed with her trusting God knew her burdens, she found her voice. Through more sobs she thanked me for sharing the illustration from the night before about how God brought people into my life when I struggled with depression.
Then she said, "I didn't think any other Christian woman ever had to go through this. I felt alone and didn't know where to go, who to talk to, or what to do."
What if I hadn't listened to that nudge, that direction from the Holy Spirit. God used that to affirm I needed to trust Him even when the plans I had didn't line up with ones He urged me toward.
A few months later, another pastor’s wife asked me
about speaking at camp. Children’s ministry. How did this fit in with the love
God had awakened in my heart for women’s ministry? I didn’t know or understand
but I went and spoke to campers aged nine to twelve years. The cabin leaders
were teenagers. God placed a love for camp ministry into my heart right along with women's ministry.
Next came the writing. I began to write again, learning all the things I had forgotten and more. Yet I needed to take the next step and share it with others. I asked God how all these things could possibly fit together. Women’s ministry, camp ministry, and writing made me feel like I must be missing something in God’s plan. Such a variety and yet everything I had listened to or read suggested to find your niche and stick with it.
Then I heard God’s voice again. “If I open the door, don’t look at the venue, the ages, or the size of the audience. Just walk through it. I’ll give you what you need for the task.”
God keeps expanding my comfort zone, showed me things He has gifted me to do, and asks for my obedience. He has given His Spirit to help accomplish the tasks He sets before me. I just need to hold my own plans loosely, show up and trust even when I know I'm still a work in progress.
Carol Harrison loves to hang out with her family and friends when she isn't writing, editing, playing with paper crafting and waiting for God to reveal the next open door to share stories and the good news of the gospel.