On Friday my two new books are published. I am taking a moment to celebrate that fact – to thank the editor who asked if I would like to write them, and to acknowledge all the hard work it took to put them together.
But it also makes me long for the day when the book I have burning within me makes it out of my heart and mind and onto the bookshelves. You see, so far I have four books under my writerly belt. But each one I was asked to write. The ideas did not originally come from me. Yes, I ran with them, developed them, put my all into them – but they don't feel like they are quite 'mine'.
I also look around at the Christian non-fiction authors who have huge followings, bestsellers and sell-out tours. I look and wonder – will I ever get anywhere close to that? And does God even want me to? In the times when I get frustrated, I have to consciously take my eyes off of another's path and focus on my own. Because God has called me to walk out my own life, not someone else's.
God really challenged me recently. I was considering whether I could feasibly take on the leadership training that I had been offered. So often we are told to look at our priorities, to check where all our time goes (yes I've previously written about doing a time budget – we got partway there!). I know that working parents will probably relate to what I'm going to say next: most of the time I feel like my whole self is being simultaneously stretched in at least four different directions.
Writing and editing make up my 'job', but I also believe they are part of my calling. I also know that first and foremost I am to love my God above everything and everyone – and then my husband and my children. I also now have a deep passion for those who attend our church. I want to see them reach their full potential, walk free from those things that have bound them and be all they can be. I am also fired up by worship and long to see people engaging with God in new and creative ways.
And yet so often I feel like I'm only just scratching the surface with each of those areas. That I'm just treading water rather than taking ground. I wonder whether I'm selling people short by not giving more – but then I know that, realistically, I haven't got any more to give. So how can I take on anything else? But then that quiet small voice whispers to me, encouraging me and telling me it could be the one thing that equips me to serve others better, and gives me the time to actually stop and check my priorities.
It is funny how someone else's life can always seem more 'together' and more appealing, isn't it? I had an email 'chat' with someone I work with that got beyond the usual superficial surface 'stuff'. Somehow I got to the place of admitting that I looked at her and found myself feeling a little jealous.
Much younger than me, she seemed more confident, had a great degree, enviable job, was writing for a living and making brilliant contacts. And she had just landed her first book deal. But, quick as a flash, she wrote back saying that she would give it all up in a moment to have what I have – a husband and kids. Wow. It was in that moment that I stopped and thanked God for what He has given me.
We all have a tendency to look over our shoulder to see what others have been given. Why aren't we grateful for what we do have? We are so blessed that we can worship in freedom and each one of us has a future secure in Him. So however that works out, and whatever difficulties each one of us has to face, isn't it about time we stopped comparing what we have to everyone else and learn to be content with what we have? As the apostle Paul said:
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 3:11–13)
That's a challenging read, isn't it? Especially as we know about the hardships Paul faced in his lifetime. Our journeys may take us to some very difficult places, but our God is the same in the good times and the bad.
As I came towards the end of writing this piece, a knock on the door brought me a parcel of advance copies of my books. So today I'm going to celebrate the journey that has brought those about, and throw off unhelpful comparisons and longings. How about asking God to help you do the same, and to learn to be content today?