Your Life Is Your Story To Tell

The way people enter a new season or exit an old one is usually full of colorful twists and turns.  Transitions are rarely boring because they involve unknown factors outside of our control. Speaking of surprises, I’ve never been a fan of them. I love knowing how the story ends and sometimes read magazines back to front. That may seem strange to you, but with a risk-averse personality, I appreciate knowing all the details and variables so I can problem-solve even before the issue surfaces.  Seven years ago I went through a season full of unexpected events that changed my perspective on the good that can come on the other side of situations we did not choose.

Here’s a chapter of my story I haven’t shared before…

Preacher's Kid

I grew up a preacher’s kid in a growing area of Columbus, Ohio. At a young age, my dad took over a small organization that provided food and clothing to people trapped in the cycle of poverty. Although our family never went hungry, we also went through seasons when people dropped groceries off on our doorstep. My shoes never had holes in them, but my dad’s sure did. For almost forty years now, this small little food pantry has expanded into a multifaceted center that provides critically-needed services to thousands of families each year, but the best part is that it creates hope.

My upbringing shaped a strong desire in me to want to help people. After spending a year at Ohio State University and feeling a bit lost, I followed my heart and went to seminary school in Oklahoma with my now husband (Josh). For nearly two decades I threw myself into vocational pastoral ministry. Investing in people, especially students, was one of the greatest joys of my early years.

Fast forward to 2016, I accepted my dream job as Student Director of a growing church in my hometown of Columbus and spent over a year developing new programming and infrastructure for their middle school and high school age groups. The student evening experiences were growing and we were reaching nights with over 100 teenagers in attendance. The environment was full of anticipation and pushed me to take my organizational and leadership skills to the next level. Soon after, I transitioned to the role of Executive Director for the entire church while overseeing an 11-million-dollar capital-building campaign. It was a season full of high levels of professional growth and purpose.

Within no time,  I had thrown myself into everything and began working 60-70 hours a week. I was always on my laptop late at night trying to finish all the things and the more hours I put in, the more work needed to be done. Fulfilling the vision of the church became my personal calling and soon working endlessly on an equally endless to-do list was just how it was. The physical and emotional toll of vocational ministry had finally caught up with me and I was quickly on my way to burnout.  Anxiety and sleepless nights became my new normal. The hardest part was losing closeness with my reasons. My husband and I were becoming strangers and I struggled to be still long enough to play with my children. The work was robbing me of my true identity.

Getting Fired

In the meantime, while my head was down being busy, the environment at the church began to change. High levels of stress and job demand along with dysfunctional leadership began to take a toll on the team, and one day I was called into the lead pastor’s office where he fired me with no warning or reason. Soon after, I remember talking with a former colleague about the heartbreaking experience, and he wished he had warned me to get out sooner. For years, the writing was on the wall, but my commitment to following through and being loyal to the mission completely affected my outlook.

The time following this experience was incredibly painful but also involved a long season of self-discovery and revisiting my dreams. Clinical counseling, journaling, meditation, devouring books that helped me overcome shame, finding my Orange Theory Fitness community, and surrounding myself with people who showed grace instead of criticism all contributed to helping me move forward. At forty years old I went back to school and finished my undergrad degree in Organizational Management at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. It was damn hard, but in the end, it was all about proving to myself that the next chapter would be full of a new purpose.

Open Door, Different Profession

Soon after I had a profound conversation with my hubby who had just started a company called Studio EightyEight, dentistry’s story-driven marketing agency. We talked about the fact that I could go off in a different professional direction again or we could mix it up and grow the company together.  I know, I know we are talking about a husband and wife working together! Often this scenario goes terribly, but we decided to not let fear or statistics stand in our way. Almost eight years in and we’re having fun while learning more about each other along the way.

Current situation…I am now part of an agency that has a heart-driven mission and vision that I can get behind. At first, I was skeptical that working outside of the church or nonprofit sector would truly lead to professional fulfillment. The tipping point for me was the understanding that we’re not only elevating what dental marketing represents in the profession but also empowering doctors and teams to brand their unique stories to reach the communities they’re meant to serve.  Most days, I pinch myself as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to work in such an extraordinary profession alongside some of the greatest team members I’ve ever known.

Everyone has a unique story to tell and sharing it can make a difference in someone else’s life.

This article doesn’t have three takeaway points, rather it’s about being brave enough to highlight the personal experiences and struggles that can resonate with others who may be going through similar challenges. By sharing the difficult seasons we’ve walked through we can find healing, connect with others and inspire those who may be in need of encouragement.  I guarantee that someone out there desperately needs to hear what you’ve been through to get to where you are today.

Your story is yours to tell, so please let this be an encouragement to begin sharing!