The Story of Learning to Let Go and Let God
It's already September of 2017 and I've been thinking a lot about my goals for next year. I know it probably seems crazy to some people that I'm thinking about next year during the last quarter of this year but I've noticed that if I don't get my mind ready for change a few months ahead of time January usually slides in and I'm not prepared.
A few years ago I quit jumping right into setting goals first and focused on a word or phrase for the year instead. The word or phrase usually represents something God has put on my heart to learn or experience. It then becomes the under current for my experiences during the year. This year my phrase has been "Let go, Let God." I was introduced to this phrase by my lovely mother in law years ago. It's a phrase that has helped her make it through some really tough times in her life. It became a mantra of sorts in order to release the stresses in her life as a single mother raising two boys.
Last September after listening to a facebook live video from the amazing Bonnie Gillespie about her next actor related challenge, I was really inspired to take action on implementing a phrase into my life for the coming year. The phrase my mother in law shared with me immediately popped into my head and as if almost on cue Bonnie suggested we write it on the mirror. I immediately got my bold red lipstick and scribbled "Let go, Let God" onto my mirror.
This entire year I've felt that God has been calling me to let go of the extraneous things that have taken my focus, my energy, and my joy. To be honest I think that I've accumulated projects out of legitimate necessity. For several years I was focused on trying to figure out how this blogging/social media thing worked so I spent a lot of my time creating content and teaching myself about online marketing. I used these opportunities of learning and creation to help me develop my skills and my voice. I wouldn't say it was completely intentional but over the past nine years while I was trying to stay creative as possible, things just kept growing and evolving...and so did I.
This year I've learned so much from implementing this idea of letting go and letting God. I strongly believe that because I was open to letting go of so much, it made space for me to welcome some new and wonderful things into my life.
It wasn't always easy. It was downright painful at times but I had to keep trusting that God was using this process to prepare me for something amazing.
I wanted to share with you a few things I learned about what it means to me to let go in hopes that you might consider letting go of some things in your life as well.
1. Letting go means letting go of the outcome not necessarily quitting something you're doing.
I actually thought this letting go thing would be a piece of cake when I first started on my journey at the beginning of the year. I thought it just meant to get rid of the extra stuff I was doing and to push things off of my project plate. Easy Peasy, right? I mean who doesn't love a good cleaning out of the closet and goodwill donation weekend? I thrive on getting rid of stuff and clutter. How would this be any different? The fact is when you are making changes in your life things aren't always cut and dry when it comes to matters of the mind and spirit. There were things that still had to be done like raising children, auditioning and working on my health.
All three of these things are priorities in my life and all three of these things require me to play a long game. Meaning just because I'm a "great mother" one day, doesn't automatically mean that I'm done with my job. Just because I'm auditioning doesn't guarantee a starring role in my own TV show next week! And we all know that exercising consistently for a few days will not get you the body that you want.
I had to learn that even though I couldn't stop certain activities in my life I had to stop holding onto the outcome whether it was something I was doing or something that was out of my control. Letting go of the outcomes allowed me to put more things into God's hands. Throughout this process I had to remember that all things work together for good and that God has a plan and purpose for my life and if He's asking me to let go then He's the one that has the perfect outcome planned for me.
2. Letting go means letting go of my limited view of how something is supposed to happen.
In college I was taught that the way that you become a professional actress is by getting an education, moving to L.A., landing an agent, getting auditions and getting a part...and then you do it over and over again until you eventually "make it." What a ridiculous business plan!!! In reality, there is so much more gray area than I could have ever imagined. And the truth is NOONE'S path to success is the same at all. Yes, there are basic things that we all need to have in place as professionals but we all have to craft a journey that is solely our own and that holds our own values at the core.
Right now I am a mother and a wife. Although I want to live in L.A. one day - I need to be patient for the right time because my family's well being is the priority.
But therein lies the internal conflict. I couldn't figure out how I could move forward as an actress without moving to LA. I really became discouraged and found myself focusing more on other things like writing and producing rather than acting. It's a fine line as a self-producing actress. Almost like an entrepreneur that is also working in her business as well as on her business.
In the end, it doesn't matter - I am here in the Midwest. It is what it is. But that doesn't mean that it cannot happen. It doesn't mean I should count out my dreams.
A few years ago I produced a short film with friends that ended up getting into a film festival in Los Angeles. We were nominated for several awards and decided at the last minute to raise money to fly the production team out to L.A.! So there we were - Midwest actors walking the red carpet in L.A. God made a way for us when I never even thought it was possible when we started producing the film.
But then I returned to the Midwest and figured that was a one-time event. I started finding myself back in the grind of writing/producing and acting here and there. But I had had a taste of my dream and it some ways it seemed even further away. How would I ever even have a chance for booking a role on a TV show if I couldn't get to the place they were making TV shows? I was so focused on creating the how out of my limited knowledge that I was getting stressed to the point I wasn't enjoying the thing I love so much anymore.
We live in a time where we are so focused on creating goals and breaking them down that the idea of letting God take care of "the how" is certainly a lost idea. I'm guilty of that mindset myself. But as I learned to release the grip on the how it felt like my creative mind was able to open up, the stress lifted off of me and new ideas began to form. I started to have the space I needed in my spiritual life to actually listen to God for more specific instructions.
The action steps that God put on my heart required me to re work my website, social media channels and creative endeavors to support my actual dream of being a full-time professional actress. I believe that as I position myself in this way the people that come to me will bring the energy needed to help me move forward in this direction.
3. Letting go means stop trying to create my own security.
Now I don't mean stop investing in your future or retirement fund. I don't mean go all Last Holiday on yourself and spend money like there's no tomorrow. What I mean is - I had to learn to let go of the things that God was asking me to let go of even if it "looked" like it would cause me to lose security.
Sometimes God asks us to do crazy things and trust in Him even when it doesn't make any sense.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with Mulitple Sclerosis and it really turned my world upside down in every way imaginable. I found out after my body started going haywire. One day I couldn't move from the neck down, another day the right side of my face didn't want to work another day it was tremendous tingling in my hands and feet. To make a long story shorter I ended up in the hospital for a week being treated with strong steroids night and day in order to heal the active lesion on my brain stem.
I don't like steroids and I don't like laying down a lot - however, this was one of those great exceptions in order for me to recover properly.
Because of that ordeal, it took me months to even get the energy up to drive myself to the grocery store. I also gained 30 lbs after everything was said and done. I was not feeling so great about my life. There were many days where I lay in bed crying and feeling sorry for myself but mostly because I didn't want to accept how my life had changed. I wanted so much for things to go back to how they were before. Back when I was working as a writer, working out and enjoying my new home we had just bought.
I forced myself to go back to work even though my husband repeatedly told me not to worry about it. It wasn't so much that I wanted to work as much as I wanted things to go back to normal.
But life wasn't normal anymore. I started to have symptoms show up again. It seemed like my body was reacting to the least amount of stress on my job. The small start up I was working at was starting to grow and it required more focus than ever before. After weeks of struggling physically and mentally at my job I really felt like it was time for me to let go and take time to figure out this new life of mine as someone with this diagnosis (although I'm not defined by it - I must manage it.).
I remember sitting on my couch and praying about the situation. I was so worried about our finances because my husband's business was in the middle of closing and we had just bought a new house. I was worried about bills, the kids, you name it! I was in the worriest worry spiral ever until all of a sudden I felt God say "Your boss isn't your provider. I AM."
It felt like the wind was knocked out of me because I realized that I had l been looking to my boss as my provider and that's why I was having so much trouble walking away from this position (which I actually enjoyed). I felt an immediate need to repent. I had pushed God aside and was looking for a human to provide for me. So I came up with two things that I needed from my boss to happen or I would have to quit. I ran everything by my husband and he was very supportive. That entire night I couldn't sleep. I kept asking myself "What if he says yes to my request? Do I really want to stay at this job?" or "What if he says no?". After wrestling with my thoughts the entire night I was met with comfort in that God's will would be done and I could trust that. I also realized that I really DID need the time to work on my health - and I couldn't do that at my current job.
The next morning I asked my boss if we could talk and he said sure (he was always willing to hear me out which I appreciated.) While unsuccessfully holding back tears I told him what I was feeling and what I needed. I think I held my breath the entire time I was telling him my terms of staying on. Because I'm accommodating and really liked the people I was working with, I was worried I wouldn't stay strong to what God was asking me to do - but I remembered that God would be my provider and right after that meeting we went to tell the team I was leaving the next day.
I spent the next year working diligently on improving my health. I threw myself into traveling to the Mellen Center at the Cleveland Clinic to meet with specialists, change my eating habits and incorporate exercise back into my life. I started cutting everything that caused me stress out of my life. I stopped creating so much online content, I reduced my time on social media and I gave myself permission to be selfish. I figured out my medicine and supplement regimen as well as worked with a natural doctor to compliment my traditional medicinal treatments.
After about a year and a half things started to pay off and I started having fewer days where I was stuck in bed recovering from too much activity.
I was beginning to feel like myself again!
And so naturally I felt like I needed to go back to work.
The next 6-7 months I would spend once again in an internal struggle between looking for a job and God telling me to let go and wait on Him to provide the right job.
So I kept looking to the point where it was looking like I might be a good fit for a new position at another marketing firm as a video producer. But when I heard that the job would require sometimes 60 hours of work a week my stomach dropped. I wouldn't have time to exercise, prepare food and give quality time to my family. I imagined my days full of work and my evenings full of sleep just to recover and get ready for work again. I knew I didn't want that for my life. So at the last minute, I pulled out of the running for this position and decided to wait on the Lord fully.
Little did I know that God had the perfect opportunity waiting for me.
God knew that I needed a position that would allow for:
- Community work
- Spiritual work
- Service work
- Working with diverse people
- Something that would help me grow as a person
- Beneficial for the Family financially
There was no job that I could find during online searches that had all of these things I was yearning for in a position.
But God had something amazing brewing for me that was finally revealed to me.
The opportunity actually started 13 years ago when my mother in law started the Felege Hiwyot Center which is a youth led urban farm. I volunteered my time with her in various capacities with connecting her to different agencies, working with the youth by teaching them theater, putting on social justice plays as well as anything else I could do to help over the years.
After several years of capacity growth, she was able to take on Americorps volunteers to assist with the farm. Over time I would hear more and more about the Americorps program and I would joke with my mother in law about joining...only I wasn't actually joking. I was really interested. After God moved on my mother in law's heart for her to move forward on my behalf she got the ball rolling with her connection to our local office. After following all of the channels of the application process I was finally an Americorps volunteer!
I am now working with the Interfaith Refugee and Immigrant Service Core at the Interfaith Center here in Indianapolis. I am placed at the Felege Hiywot Center which is an urban farm that serves the immigrant community as well as urban youth. My job will be to help the kids learn the skills to tell their own stories through media as well as produce a feature film dealing with health, spiritual and immigrant issues. I will work from home most days with a few mandatory meetings during the month. Each month I receive a stipend at the end of the year I will receive an educational scholarship that I can use to pay off my student loan debt.
I'm just going to let that sink in.
Where in the world would I have found a job like that? God had been crafting a position so perfect, so custom so wonderful that I could not have conceived of it myself.
I had to let go of my own security and allow for space in that area of my life so that God could bless me.
I'm telling you that every day I wake up knowing I'm doing the exact work that God wants me to do. And I'm doing it without stress or distraction from what I love doing. This job is meeting all the requirements and more!
God's word is so true. In Ephesians 3:21 the bible describes God as someone who can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
But we have to give Him space to do that. We have to learn to let go and let God do His thing with our lives.
I hope that my story will help you be brave in letting go and letting God.