The Domain Name: An Origin Story (Part II)
(continued from previous post...)
I was driving home from my job on a weekday afternoon in March of 2019. I'd done everything I could've hoped to accomplish and more. I was surrounded by loved ones; I thought I was doing what I'd been put on earth to do. But there was still this gaping hole in my heart. “What do you want me to do next?” I finally asked God.
What followed was an intimate conversation with a compassionate and honest friend. God showed me that I’d done good work during my time spent pursuing a degree and fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a schoolteacher. Teaching and mentoring had allowed me to help others, as well as help provide, financially, for my own family-- both noble investments. Between training to become an educator and actually teaching, I'd been blessed with fifteen years spent doing something I was passionate about and really good at. Had I done as well as a wife and a mother? I wasn't so sure. As a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Christian? Again, I felt as if I could do so much better... if only teaching didn't take so much out of me. It was clear to me, in that moment, that my job had taken priority over my purpose. Although God had blessed my time as an educator and used it to grow me and his kingdom, I had learned a very hard lesson. My job and my calling were not the same thing.
The next day, I submitted my intent to resign at the end of the school year. I had total peace with the decision. I gave those kids my all, and I cried buckets of tears that June, when I said goodbye to the toughest (most challenging, resilient, and persistent) group of teenagers I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching. I don't regret a single class I took or teaching position I've ever had, and I wouldn't trade a single child's name from my roster. But I also, surprisingly, didn’t shed a single tear when I closed my classroom door for the last time. Because I knew that God had led me through this decision, I trusted him to provide wisdom, guidance, and strength for whatever came next. I only had one clear word for what that would entail: REST.
I first had to learn what rest even looked like for someone like me. I certainly didn’t slow down after my last day as an official teacher. I took a roadtrip to NY for my niece's Sweet 16, went on a missions trip to Costa Rica with my church's youth group, had a lumpectomy-turned-partial-mastectomy to remove a benign mass (an infection led to a longer-than-typical recovery period), helped my sister-in-law and my two nieces relocate to Hampton from NY, started volunteering for a prison ministry, attended a women's ministry conference, and tutored 8th graders for their upcoming Writing SOL… right up until Covid-19 hit and forced the whole world to slow down and reevaluate what was truly important. Amidst a global pandemic and all of the changes in my own life, civil unrest in this country reached a breaking point the likes of which I’d only read about in books.
Before the quarantine, I'd sat down with my pastor. I asked him what I should be DOING… you know, during my period of “rest.” He listened as I shared my frustrations, concerns, and experiences that had led to me taking a step back from teaching. He told me that he sensed a common theme in my life. I had a strong, innate sense of justice, he’d concluded, and I needed to figure out how God intended to use that, along with my particular gifts, talents, and personality traits, to serve the kingdom. I informed him that I'd recently become certified as a Justice Ambassador for the prison ministry... oh, the accuracy of that title. My pastor told me to study God’s version of justice… to pay attention to how it looks more like mercy than punishment (Hadn’t I learned that very lesson on the day I’d accepted my salvation?). In the end, he said, “Write. You need to write it all down, Lakesha.” I remember thinking how... practical that sounded. “That, I can do,” I'd said.
As I write, God continues to prepare me for eternity even as he uses me on this earth. He has met me in my most vulnerable and broken places, as well as my happiest and most grateful moments. He’s even given me a word in some of the most monotonous, mundane days of quarantine during this season. He’s searched my heart and shined light into the dark spaces, revealing areas where he is still working on me. He’s asked me to trust him during times when I can’t see how he could possibly use something for good. He’s healed broken relationships and is in the process of restoring faith and hope in the lives of people who had given up on both.
As I've learned to rest in God's presence, he's renewed my strength so that I may go out and do the good deeds that he's prepared for me to do. I’ve jotted down my thoughts, prayers, and insights as they come; I even carry a little notebook around, so I don't get distracted by the hundreds of apps on my phone. I completed book studies, daily devotionals, and bible studies, spent hours in prayer, praise, and worship, and I wrote out the bible verses, song lyrics, and quotes that spoke to me. I’ve filled the pages of five journals since February.
Don’t worry… I’m not going to include everything in this one post! I do want to share that I couldn’t officially start this blog until I could honestly say that I was living my life to the hilt. Admittedly, as I’m typing this, I’m still in my pajamas, unsure if I even brushed my teeth today. It sounds like all of the crickets in Virginia have decided to stage a live concert around the perimeter of my home. My husband is laughing and yelling into his headset, playing Call of Duty with his brother and their cousin... like it's 1999. Conversely, the dogs are a little too quiet-- meaning that they're probably (definitely) into something. My 21 year-old son keeps interrupting me to talk about all things Halloween. And my daughter, a senior in high school, just asked me where the NyQuil is and if I could send an email saying that she'll be absent from virtual classes tomorrow. Added to all that, there's the fact that I never went back to work, so I sometimes have to resist the urge to jump in and “fix” stuff that it’s not my job to fix.
To me, living life to the hilt doesn't mean that my life is perfect. It means that I’m all in when it comes to my relationship with God. He's involved in every area of my life, and I trust him to meet all of my needs. It means that I’m getting better attuned to the impressions the Holy Spirit puts on my heart. I go where he tells me to go, do what he tells me to do, and say what he tells me to say. It also means that I’ve finally learned to afford myself some grace-- I will sometimes make mistakes and wrong choices, and I will always fall short of the world’s expectations because I am a work in progress. The Good News, the freeing truth, is that God is doing the work... and he’s not finished with me just yet.
Living life to the hilt means that my time is devoted to studying God’s word (sharpening my sword) and then actually doing what it says, enjoying the many blessings God has provided for me on earth while fully understanding that everything has eternal implications. The teacher has become the student (yeah, I went there). I spend my days learning to be obedient to my Father out of faith and not obligation, to serve others out of an abundance of love and grace and not duty, and to be faithful in the good, bad, and boring times because I finally understand that this is how I show my gratitude to the God who has never given up on me. (Matthew 5:3-16, The Message)
I’ve been called to share with you the experiences that have brought me joy, as well as the ones that have broken my heart and brought me to my knees. I hope to be transparent and write about the times that the Holy Spirit revealed my sin and humbled and corrected me, as well as the times when God poured his love out and let me know how much joy I brought him just because I was being who he made me to be. I was designed and set apart for a unique purpose, and so were you. I hope that, as I share my story, you will be inspired to discover and walk in your purpose. And I hope that you can show me some grace along the way... I’m still figuring out what mine is!
I pray that you will find out what LIVING TO THE HILT means to you. Please use the comment feature below or the contact feature in the sidebar to share your own insights, comments, questions, prayer requests, and praise reports. We’re in this together! “An enemy might be able to defeat one person, but two people can stand back-to-back to defend each other. And three people are even stronger. They are like a rope that has three parts wrapped together –– it is very hard to break.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ERV)