Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Created For

I've been talking a lot lately about what God created me for. And my prayer is that through my conversation, you are finding what God has created you for. It's something different than me.

I'm really glad for that.

Not because I don't think we could contribute in different ways in the same community with our similar gifts. But entirely because I know there are things He certainly did NOT create me for.

Yet, someone has to do them.

One such thing God did not create me for was sales. That may seem odd from someone who is a conversationalist, a quick friend, and just generally outgoing, but it's true. We had fundraisers when I was in school, and I was content not to go after the prizes if it meant I didn't have to knock on one more door, ring one more doorbell, stalk one more neighbor out spraying weedkiller in the cul-de-sac (yes, we had one of those), make one more phone call to a friend/relative/acquaintance in- or out- of state trying to hawk these wares. It's not in my personality to do sales and worse, it grates against what is in me.

I know, I know. We all so desperately need what the world is selling. We need a pint-size candy bar at a king-size price. We need baskets of sausage and cheese - that doesn't even have to be refrigerated! We need T-shirts and bulk frozen foods and knick-knacks and party favors and trash bags. (My niece's entire fundraiser was trash bags this year. Trash bags!)

Uhm, ok. Maybe not.

We don't really need those things, but we buy them because we know the seller. (We're getting a roll of black outdoor trash bags at a hefty markup.) And that's why I don't like selling.

Because I am not for sale. And anything else, I feel like I'm just bothering you.

For the large part of my life, I've steered clear of sales. There were a few mandatory fundraisers in school that I bought myself out of; it was a hefty price, but it spared me the drudgery of tackling something I abhor and have never been good at. But mostly, I leave sales to people who are wired for that kind of thing.

I've been working publicity for my book, though. And this is where it gets tricky.

Starting out, I figured I would have to sell it. If I wanted this book to do any business, I was going to have to sell it. (In the contract I finally settled on, I sacrificed a publicist for more creative control. I didn't want some company to ship my book through their production line, then tell me what it looked like when it was all over. For this first one, I wanted as much hands-on as I could get.)

Within a few weeks of hard selling, I was miserable. Quitting for good, giving up, questioning why God would even do this to me miserable. Because I'm really not wired for this.

So I switched tactics and started working publicity the best I knew how. Communications. Outreach. Just telling a story. That's what God created me for. It's a little different with my own work, but that's pretty much what He's got in me - the creative, the conversation, the community. That, I can kind of almost sort of work.

The truth about my book is this: I have never been more humbled by a project. Looking at the numbers, it could be doing better. As the author, I pray that one day, it will. It is my hope that as I continue to tell this story - this story about this story, even as I'm pressing forward with another story - that people will hear. That when one person picks up this book because I've "sold" them on it (they know me and pity me, so they buy a copy), they find something in those pages that speaks to them. And in turn, maybe they will tell someone else. And maybe somewhere down the line, someone God created with a sales personality will do a little larger work with it.

You know, while I was waiting on that proof copy to show up in the mail - waiting to hold MY book for the first time - I wondered when I would call that project a success. I contemplated what my threshhold was for coming out of "wannabe ramblings" (the equivalent of "refrigerator art") and into "authorship." Would it be at 100 copies? 200? A speaking engagement? That first sale I couldn't track to someone who actually knew me? That first e-mail from the "About the Author" page in the back?

I was putting onto this project something I wasn't created for - a sales agenda. Every attempt I had to define this project as a success or failure was numbers-oriented and would take a hard sale. I was going to work my hind end off and make it happen, no matter how miserable it made me or how much it grated against what's in me.

When sales started coming in, I was excited and watching for that magic number. Then watching and waiting. Then just waiting. Then questioning everything about my passion that went into the book, the painstaking agony of three years' work. Questioning just what God wanted to do with my gift if it wasn't set a sales record in the first month. Two months. Three months.

Then, a lady walked into my church a few Sundays later. She looked me up in the back of the auditorium and said, "Do you know why I'm here today?" I realized I hadn't seen her in several weeks. "Because I was up all night reading Chicken. and I knew I needed to be here."

That...changed my definition of success. And it set me free.

I am a writer. I am an artist. I am His created creative. That is what He has created in me; it is what He created me for. This sales stuff? Forget it. It stands in the way of too much.

Would I like to see my numbers go up? Absolutely. Do I want to see these words in the hands of both the faithful and the seeking? You bet. But it's not about sales. It's not about numbers. And it's not about me.

It's about God working through me, doing what He does in my willingness to join Him. Doing what He's doing through me. When I focus on the gift - on His actual gift in me, I have joy. I have peace. I am content. I am humbled and thrilled all at the same time that He dwells in me. Focused on what He's doing in and through me, I am free to create. That's my part. This is what He created me for.

What I'm saying is this: never let the world define for you what you have to add to what God has created in you. Never believe you have to do something outside your givenness. Do what God created you for. If there are details to work out, ask Him about it. He's got someone pegged for every step of this journey, every iota of His Kingdom work - you don't have to do it all. You will be more humbled, more joyous, more content, more productive, more centered, and more fulfilled by sticking to what He's got in mind for you.

(For those of you interested in the book, Recess with Jesus - an adult-targeted devotional based on our favorite recess games - is available at Amazon.com. (http://www.amazon.com/Recess-Jesus-Games-Play-God/dp/146641488X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333474254&sr=8-1) If you haven't read it, take a minute to check it out. If you have read it, take a minute to write a review. If you liked it, take a minute and tell one friend. Or two or three. If you didn't like it, I'm sorry. My next book - Prayse - may be more your style.)

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