What If You Did It on Purpose?

pathIn our first Skype meeting, she asked me the question that has haunted me for years: What I want to know is, what would purposeful look like? 

We had met in an online writing course, Esther and I, and were “randomly assigned” critique partner status. If it was random, it was darn lucky for me. We took a look at each other’s blog and offered our honest feedback. Both of us coming from very artistic backgrounds, we didn’t hold back. 

We’ve been pacing each other ever since. But only a few weeks ago did I answer that first question. What would purposeful look like? 

I was writing, at the time, at Accidental Devotional. I was claiming a lot of things in my life were an accident. I didn’t know if I wanted to go to college, but I wanted to be on a speech team, and I “accidentally” majored in education and was good at it, so it stuck. Then I moved to Atlanta and accidentally started writing, accidentally about God.

I was doing all the things, but I wasn’t owning any of them. I was telling the story as though my life was a thing that happened to me, not something I was creating. 

I had learned to tell the story that way, because the women I admired told the story that way. Most female christian authors and speakers I looked up to at the time told very similar stories of happy accidents and lucky positioning. They skipped the parts about working hard and being intentional and highlighted the pieces where they got lucky or someone gave them an opportunity. “They were looking for a writer and they called me.” “They needed someone to speak and I got asked and I was shaking in my boots and didn’t want to, but the Lord used me anyway.” “I don’t know how I ended up on this stage/on this team/on this best seller list….” 

And I don’t mean to be critical, I know some of that is genuinely their story, but no one accidentally writes a whole book. No one accidentally sells out an arena full of women waiting with open notebooks and hungry hearts. There is an intentionality that is glossed over, mostly because it isn’t seemly for girls.

Somewhere along the lines I learned not to want things. Don’t want to be the leader, don’t volunteer too quickly, don’t speak up too much. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop wanting those things, so I learned to smooth it all into a happy accident. A false humility that I wore like a dress that almost fit. I didn’t choose this thing. It chose me! It is just where my gifts align. It is just that I was asked. It is just that there was a need. I didn’t mean to be a spiritual writer. I write at Accidental Devotional! These things just happen!

Y’all. The only one I was kidding was myself. I wrote five days a week for two years. I can’t even shower that many days if I don’t have a plan in place. I wrote an entire book and a few chapters of a few more. I queried agents. I applied for seminaries. None of these things just happen. Not even one time. All of these things were decisions I had to make and stick to if I wanted to make them happen. I had to be purposeful and intentional about my life. 

Y’all. That is a GOOD THING. Being intentional is important. God wants us to have a hand at creating our own life. God wants us to join in the shaping of our own paths. But we can’t do that if we aren’t willing to own any of our own choices. 

It wasn’t just writing that I was claiming was an accident and it wasn’t the only story I needed to learn to re-tell. I am learning now to claim my own intentions.

I went to college, on purpose, because I deeply loved the speech team. I majored in education because I took some classes and found that I loved being in the classroom. I took a job and loved teaching, and left it on purpose when I needed to separate myself from the testing culture. I chose seminary because I believe pastoring is what God is asking of me next and I want to partner with my creator in creating a life that will be fulfilling for me. I write blogs and books and Twitter rants because I want to. Because it fulfills me. Because I want to get better at crafting words that change hearts. You can’t do that on accident, and I no longer want to pretend that I did. 

I don’t write at Accidental Devotional anymore. Mostly because I outgrew it. I write at AbbyNorman.net. I chose it on purpose in hopes of better representing my whole self. I am choosing to show up. I am doing things on purpose. I am loving this intentional life. 

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10 thoughts on “What If You Did It on Purpose?

  1. Thank you thank you! I’ve been beating myself up lately, wondering why I work so hard for something while it seems others are just handed “the thing”, like it was meant to be, like destiny just passed me by. Now to keep working intentionally! 🙂

  2. I spent most of my life feeling like things were happening “to” me. It’s only been within the last year that I’ve learned the power of making choices and being intentional. It requires a completely different mindset, which is often a struggle because it’s easy to revert back to what I know; however, there’s a strength that comes with choosing. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Like a rebel yell for all the words inside me that don’t sound like all the ‘everyones.’ I have to write them but know my skin isn’t thick enough and my heart isn’t calloused enough, I don’t want them to be which leaves no choice (hahaha, that’s what my heart wrote)….. Which leaves me a hard-won and deliberate choice to push beyond the fear. This post was my last stop before the blank page….here I go.

  4. Thank you for writing this! It’s the attitude – not to try to white-knuckle “control” our lives, but to say that when and where we can, it’s OK to figure out what we want, and then ask for it. Work for it. Dream towards it. Live for it. Got one foot in the “take up your cross” and another foot in the “everything that your hand finds to do; do it it with all your might”, and another foot (wait: how many feet do I have?) in “the Lord will fight for you: you need only to be still”.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight, Abby!

  5. What an Ah-ha moment for me; a mini epiphany! Thank you! Growing up, you are so right on, there was this subtle messaging, that “God led me to it”, “I just was open and __(insert goal that you really for modesty sake can’t claim as your goal). Nothing fell into their laps nor ours! God blesses us and helps us whe we are walking in his light, but it is also clear we learn through the toiling. That messaging in part has made me hesitant to claim my passions or even my preferences. Lately I have been paying attention to how often I say I “have” to do something, vs I “get” to or “want”to, in my discussions with other people about my life. Sunday at church to a stay at home mom , “I have to be up early for my first appointment”. “Claim it!”, I think to myself now, “You went to school for a long time to have this job and you are making a difference in the lives of families everyday. Why are you downplaying it?” I loved your line: “A false humility I wore like a dress that almost fit”. I’m realizing I am a unique beloved child of God, created to shine for His glory: this is just not possible in ill-fitting people-pleasing, self-doubting,life-denying, hand-me-down sack cloth. Here’s to you and claiming with intention and gratitude this one crazy, colorful life we’ve been given!

  6. I’ve always been pretty driven (that 3-wing in the Enneagram) but I still see much of my personal, day-to-day interactions as circumstantial. My kids freak out and I’m the victim. Ugh. Thanks for this Abby. Planning to rethink the intentional part in the normal bits of life.

  7. Yes, ma’am! Life is a beautiful tapestry of ‘accident’ and hard work and it’s all woven together with . . . intention. Now that intention may begin as generously (and generically) as intending to follow after Jesus. But as we do that, we learn more and more about how we’ve been wired, and what our place is in this story we share. Thanks for this, Abby. And many, many blessings on the seminary journey!!!

  8. Yes! I hate when people just think life happens. Then they say “Well if God wants it to happen He will make it happen.” While yes, this is true, we don’t get a free ride as Christians. We still have to work hard and be our best. We have to be intentional. God gave us certain gifts and abilities and it is our job to use them intentionally and willingly for His glory. Love this, Abby!

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