I recently participated in a planning call with a mastermind group of fellow entrepreneurs. It is always fun to listen to each other’s ideas and encourage one another, especially when our businesses are all so different.
One of the first questions asked was, “What do you want to be known for in business and in life?”
This is a question I ponder often, and I think it’s part of how God graciously keeps me grounded in Him. In business, I want to be known for service, education, empowerment, transparency, and truth – regardless of the aspect of my business in which I’m functioning (the broader consulting, or the brand-specific consulting) at any given moment. But ultimately, all for which I long to be known or remembered is being someone who lived her life in such a way that every aspect of my being and doing somehow pointed people to the God of all the universe, always in ways full of Jesus’ grace, truth, mercy, and love, and that I helped people along their own journeys in any way I could.
On some levels, I don’t care at all about business success – or at least not the way it is often defined. I do care for the positive impact I can have on people’s lives and the world through business, the provision God can bring through it for the care of my family, and the surplus profit that can be invested into the lives of those in need around us both locally and globally.
Up until 2013, my business endeavors had always been ‘the side venture’ for our family, as my husband was a school teacher and we had committed long before even having children that I’d be home during the preschool years at least (and longer if we ever were to home school, which we just started this year with our eldest).
The fact that my business was ‘side income’ does not mean I saw it as a hobby. I’ve always taken my commitment to my clients, customers, and partners quite seriously. But time and money investment were always relatively small. Although God has provided in some amazing ways through our business over the years, we’ve never actually had to live off it (ie, buy groceries for our kids).
I recently read an interesting white paper about mission funding that cited the Lean Startup Movement in identifying the first two stages of any businesses growth centering on learning – not just learning mindsets and skill sets in terms of personal growth, but also the external research about problems and possible solutions, and then about market demands and how to best meet the needs. The third stage of growth they cited involves scaling, with optimization and efficiency. This certainly resonated with me.
In late 2012, as it was becoming more and more apparent to us that God was calling Fred out of the public school system and beginning to open the doors to our long-held vision of serving overseas, we also sensed a growing desire to develop the business into something off which our family of 7 could live. During 2013 and here into 2014, God has led me to a whole new level of commitment – investing in coaching and mastermind groups, learning more about online marketing, planning more educational events particularly around probiotics and gut health, upgrading my newsletter for my readers and customers, developing a powerful new newsletter tool for my Miessence business partners, hiring an assistant (Cathryn, who is awesome!), and coordinating large-scale projects such as the telesummit I’m launching this coming Monday for Wellness Professionals.
As I’m being stretched to new levels of knowledge, skills, and commitment, I find myself ever more needing to focus on WHY I’m doing this. It can be very easy to get distracted by all the “to-do” and forget my reasons “to be” in this time, place, and space of my life and in the world. I often find myself feeling as I imagine Peter might have felt when Jesus asked him to walk on the water toward Him. With all the swirling activity around him, Peter had to just keep his eyes on Jesus and keep moving forward, trusting Him to do the miracle. When I stop to look at all the swirling details as one big storm around me (albeit a good storm), I get overwhelmed. But when I focus on Him, He calms my heart and enables me to just take that one next step.
And it really is a series of little steps all adding up over time that takes you to your destination anyway. Over the years, I’ve often thought about Romans 5:3-5…
“… but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
While I don’t feel “suffering” is an appropriate word for my journey at this stage of my life, knowing how many in the world truly do suffer on so many levels, I do think “struggle” can fit. And as I’ve struggled and wrestled through all kinds of personal growth over the years of my entrepreneurial journey, I have sensed Him developing perseverance, character, hope, and love in me. This alone has been worth the journey and is in its own way miraculous.
At the same time, I have a growing sense of longing to see God do crazy, more “obviously miraculous” kinds of things – both to work in and through me in His restorative work in the world and to provide our family’s daily bread. The ‘small miracles’ can be mistakenly attributed to me. I know I have an active role to play in cooperating with God’s work in my life; I’m not just some predetermined robot. He invites us to experience real relationship with Him and to be more fully us than ever as we get to know Him better each day. If accomplishments from my daily perseverance bring praise to me, I can both gratefully accept them and redirect them to Him. But if someone doesn’t recognize Him, it can too easily just look like “my” accomplishments or “my” wisdom or character (even though I know He’s the source of anything good in me).
I long for people who may not see Him in the little things to see Him more obviously through my life – in crazy, undeniably-God-ways. I’m willing to step out in faith and follow Him in ridiculous ways (like encouraging my husband to quit his job while expecting our 5th child in order to pursue our vision of living and serving overseas), even if it looks completely foolish to the world, so that He can show up in big ways and reveal Himself through our lives if that’s what He wants to do.
As Fred and I have chosen to create space for those miracles to happen – or as my friend Caroline Gavin would say, “make room for miracles” – we have set some Goliath-sized goals. All we can do is step out in faith and action, like David did, and see what God will do. He may choose to conquer the giants in crazy obviously-God-accomplished ways, or He may choose not to and instead keep working through the smaller miracles every day. Actually, I have no doubt He’ll keep working through the every day miracles. I’m just curious to see if He pulls out the “big moves” in our humble story or not. But like Daniel’s three friends as they faced the furnace, I know that whether He does step into our story in “flashy” ways or not, He is still God, still sovereign, still worthy of all praise, honor, and glory, and still trustworthy to be followed wholeheartedly.
And even though I’ve been stretched to new levels of personal commitment, vision, and action over the past 18 months, ultimately it is still God who brings forth any kind of growth – the growth of a business, or a ministry, or of His Kingdom globally. All we can do is labor to plant the seeds in faith then work to bring in whatever harvest results with gratitude. He alone controls the rain, sun, and size of the yield, and I pray my life will continually point to the Source, encouraging and equipping people to follow Him toward their destinies and deepest purposes.