“After all these years, this was supposed to be my time to pursue my dreams,” I said, plopping onto the couch, “but I can't even remember my dreams.”
Curt sat down next to me as I rattled on. ‘I mean, what am I supposed to do? Return to college? Go back to my old job? Pursue a new career?”
“You should do whatever you want,” he said, “but don’t settle for any job. Do something you really enjoy – something you feel passionate about.”
In my heart, I knew my passion … writing. It seemed like I was always writing something. Stories for my girls. Family Christmas letters. Articles for the church newsletter. But trying to get published? Now that scared me. After all, I wasn't a real writer. What if I wasn't good enough?
I tried to reassure myself. What’s the worst thing that could happen? An annoying voice inside my head spoke up.
Others will discover you have no idea what you're doing. You could fail.
So I ignored the dream. I tucked it away and tried to forget it. Until a few weeks later when my pastor shared a message I couldn't ignore.
“How many times do we limit ourselves because of fear?” My pastor’s eyes scanned our congregation. “How often do we miss what God has for us because we fear rejection and worry too much about what others might think?”
I fidgeted in my chair. How did he know I was struggling with fear?
“If you believe God put a desire in your heart, don't let feelings of fear stop you.”
I nodded to myself and scribbled notes in my bulletin.
“It’s okay to be afraid. In fact, it’s normal to feel fear. Just don't let fear control you. Trust God with that fear and He'll walk with you through your fear.”
I wrote down three simple words and underlined them.
Do it afraid.
Over the following months those words became my motto as I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the wonderful, yet overwhelming world of writing.
Meanwhile, the relentless voice in my head worked hard to discourage me. But I didn’t give up. “Do it afraid,” I said as I pushed myself to write another article. “Do it afraid,” I thought as I emailed a magazine editor. “Do it afraid,” I said as I signed up for a writer’s conference.
And afraid I was.
I remember sitting in the van that morning, wiping my sweaty palms against my khakis. I glanced at the dashboard clock: 7:58 AM. Across the parking lot, a young woman carried an armful of books and headed toward the front doors. Should I go in? Registration began at 8:00, but the first speaker didn’t start for a few more minutes. I’d wait. Right now conference attendees were probably mixing and mingling, sipping their lattes and discussing their latest novels.
I tapped my fingers against the steering wheel, trying to ignore the voice inside my head.
Writing for the church newsletter doesn't make you a writer. Anyone can write for a church newsletter.
I watched a couple more conference-goers weave their way through the parking lot and disappear through the front doors. My stomach flip-flopped. Maybe I should forget this silly notion and go home.
But I didn't forget it. I walked into the first workshop with my heart pounding hard inside my chest. Like the new kid in a junior high cafeteria, I searched for a seat among strangers. But by the end of the workshop, I felt at home.
In the months after the conference, I continued to follow my pastor’s simple yet powerful advice. I joined a critique group, entered a writing contest and started a blog. I surrounded myself with people that encouraged me – and ignored the ones that didn’t.
Each time I stepped out of my comfort zone, God opened another door of opportunity. Eventually as my skills and confidence grew, “doing it afraid” led me down the path to publication.
“Hello, am I speaking to Sheri?”
I exhaled a heavy sigh. “Yes, this is Sheri.” Telemarketers are so annoying.
“I’m calling from Guideposts Magazine and I wanted to let you know that your story was chosen as one of the winners of our writer’s contest.”
I couldn't believe it! And for about a week I couldn't stop smiling. If you'd like to read more about the day I got that phone call, click here.
It was an wonderful opportunity. Guideposts flew me and eleven other writers to Seattle for a five-day workshop. Their editors taught us how to write inspirational articles for the magazine, and as an added bonus, I made lots of new friendships with other writers across the country. (I also got to meet bestselling author, Debbie Macomber! You can read about that here.
I feel so blessed to be able to do what I find extremely fulfilling. As I continue on this journey, who knows how far I’ll go when I keep doing it afraid? I may have butterflies in my stomach and trembling knees along the way, but I'm excited to see my destination.