To start in the middle of this story: My life is a process of undoing. God is reminding me to unclench my fists that are holding tightly the plans and identity I have created for myself, thinking that they are best. Surrender is scary, but it’s actually a place of freedom. And our Father knows that.
I've been a photographer for as long as I can remember. I started my business when I was fourteen and when I graduated high school, I jumped right into full-time wedding photography. I loved, and love, so much of owning my own business. But, as with anything, there comes a point where burnout is inevitable.
I hit a point in my business last year where I knew something needed to change. Photography wasn't my passion anymore, and I had no idea why. I was frustrated with my business and frustrated with myself. There were so many nights where I would cry out to God and say, "Where do I go from here? I don't even know if I want to be doing this another year, but I don't know what I would do instead. If you want me to change paths, give me something else to do." I could feel something was on the horizon, but it was like there was a thick cloud of fog obscuring my view.
Then, one day, I heard the thought, clear as day, "What about ministry?"
A little backstory: My family and I attended a church for almost ten years that ended up being extremely unhealthy. There was so much deception and manipulation that ultimately caused me to distrust churches and pastors in general. I even went through a season where I doubted God and who He was because of it. When I moved to Tulsa four years after leaving that church, I was still dealing with residual heartbreak. I was wary of everything the pastor at my new church said. I questioned everyone's motives. So you can imagine my surprise when ten months later, God was asking me to pursue ministry. To me, being in "ministry" was being a missionary or a pastor of a church and neither sounded like my kind of calling. (Spoiler alert: Never say never.)
My journal from that time is filled with prayers asking God for wisdom and faith. I needed Him to show up and tell me what He meant by ministry because my hardened heart surely wasn't going to be a pastor.
He first challenged me to be more open about my faith online. Occasionally, I had put a post on Instagram about Jesus but I had the thought, "If this is really the most important thing about me, then why don't I post about it more often?"
It began to feel more natural, more like an extension of myself, to share my faith online. Vulnerability and I have never really been the best of friends, but it was becoming easier to open up my heart and share the deeper parts of myself. The idea for a live event where people gathered in a coffee-shop to worship and talk about Jesus was planted in my mind. Again, the fear washed over me. "What if no one came?" "What if no one likes what I say?" "What if people think I'm being prideful because I'm the one talking?" Again, God asked me to step up to the plate in faith and do what He had made me to do. All the glory would go to Him.
It is so kind of Jesus to be so patient with us. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20, "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." He doesn't force us into His plan for our lives. He prepares us gently and enjoys the process with us. Everything He does is to bring us closer to His heart.
My journey continued as I became more involved with the youth ministry at my church. I began to lead a small group of middle-school girls and then transitioned into leading leaders. Wednesday night became my favorite night of the week. I wanted to figure out a way to do this forever, but not through a formal pastoral role. "God, if there's a way to do this but not be a pastor, show me. That sounds perfect."
Then, one Wednesday night, a youth pastor approached me and encouraged me that he could see me living out a God-given calling and that he could see me as a youth pastor. Something shifted in me that night. It was like God himself was saying, "See? Other people are calling out the gifts I've given you. Trust me. Trust that I've got you. Don't resist this any longer, you have nothing to be afraid of." I spent the next few weeks praying, talking to the people I trust, and researching what it would look like to step into full-time ministry. At the beginning of May, I announced that 2018 would be my last year as a wedding photographer and that I would be pursuing a career in full-time youth ministry in 2019. Putting it out there made it feel even more real. This wasn't just a faith-filled decision made with weak knees and shaky breath. This was set in stone. I was trusting that God would take me where He wanted me to go. I just needed to take that first step of faith.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 says, "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual."
This is ministry. It's speaking out about what God is doing in your life and allowing the Holy Spirit to encourage, comfort, and challenge the people around you. It isn't just for pastors or missionaries, but for every follower of Christ. We are called to ministry. You are called to ministry.
A transition can make you feel like you've got one foot in the past and the other in the future. It can make you feel unstable, unsure, and like you want to get the show on the road. I'm learning that transition is a beautiful opportunity to let go of my expectations and see what God will do. It isn't easy to wait, but there's always a reason. And I know my Father's timing is the best timing. He isn’t a God of confusion. He’s a God of overwhelming, all encompassing peace, even in the confusion.
Whatever season of life you are in, you have an incredible opportunity to stand on the platform God has given you and declare His victory. Even when you're confused, even when you're overwhelmed, God is holding your hand and guiding you to where He wants you to be. He loves the process, and He loves you. Taking the leap from photography to ministry feels so scary some days. What if it doesn't work? What if I heard wrong? But when those thoughts come, I don't need to think back too far to God's faithfulness in my life. Peace washes over me. He's always been good. That will never change. And whatever this next year looks like, we're in it together.