My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
At around this time, two years ago, my husband agreed to give me a sabbatical from my work as a nurse and pursue a writing career.
I finished writing my novel in 3 months and had been editing, submitting, revising, resubmitting, and exploring other venues of publication.
Other writing endeavors spurted and went away. It was not until Lent of this year that my writing career gained clarity and direction.
Two years ago, my husband had some misgivings about the financial impact of our decision to live off on a single income. Yet, after going through our usual discernment process we did it and never regretted the decision.
Now, as I end my two-year sabbatical I've come to a decision.
It's time for another "conference" with my husband before making this final committed step.
In the biochemistry parlance, I've approached the rate-limiting step, the point of no return that would push the enzymatic reaction forward.
It had become clear. God was calling me to this writing ministry.
So I told my husband, "I cannot promise you a definite income, as I hoped a writing career would, but God had reassured us of His provision. I've decided not to go back to the nursing workforce."
He didn't protest at all. In fact, he just said, "Sure."
I knew his confidence stemmed from the fact that he had witnessed God's hand in his promotion. It was clear, when God calls, He provides the necessary grace for us to answer the call.
I've noted a certain pattern in God's ways.
First, there's the call. It comes in many ways, some more dramatic than the others. It may come as an inspiration, an idea, a command, or a desire to respond to a perceived need.
And then there's my response. I'd usually acknowledge the call, say yes, or doubt (which is not unusual, and probably the usual norm) and I offer it back to God to seek for affirmation and confirmation.
He'd affirm or confirm in different ways. And often, these ways would appear like coincidences. Sometimes, God had to confirm not once, or twice but three times.
One confirmation is a sign; two is a warning not to ignore the sign, and three is an omen. If still ignored, the omen becomes a bad omen.
Disquiet and restlessness follow with failure to heed God's call.
For simple calls, one affirmation is enough for a sensitive soul. In more serious calls, God is more generous and showers His affirmations even more than three times.
God speaks through a person, an event, a book, or any means handy to Him to reach out to His beloved.
Once the soul finds the grace and makes plans to execute God's will, events follow that would hasten the decision, smoothen out wrinkles and pave the way for God's will to occur, sometimes in miraculous ways.
On one long weekend holiday, He spoke to me through three movies.
My husband and I had a movie marathon with the kids. We watched The Founder, Hidden Figures and La La Land.
The Founder was initially inspiring but left a bitter taste in my mouth in the end. The Hidden Figures inspired all the way through. La La Land left me thinking. It appeared that success can be achieved without giving up a relationship.
I realized, to lead an inspired life was a choice. There are two endings to the pursuit of my dream as a writer, my work vocation. The one that would lead to real happiness is built on relationships and nurtured relationships. It's a success achieved not at the expense of others, leaving broken relationships behind.
It seemed God was carefully laying down my foundation as a writer.
How Would I Define A Successful Writer?
One thing my husband requested when he realized God's special call for me was this: "Just make sure you don't neglect our home."
What he said affirmed what God seemed to be telling me. And God used him again to spell out His desire. I reassured my husband that his request echoed God's will and I have every intention of obeying it.
Knowing My Priorities
I've come to learn that there are calls requiring more commitment and held greater consequences than the others. Mine were bound by the sacraments I received from my Catholic faith.
Topmost in my priority is the call to be a faithful child of God. I received this Sacred Call through the Sacrament of Baptism and reinforced with the Sacrament of Confirmation, nurtured by the other Sacraments: Reconciliation and Eucharist.
At the ripe age of 21, God called me again. This call required careful discernment and sacred commitment on my part.
I had to ask the crucial question for vocation discernment: Was God leading me to the religious life, the married life or the life of single-blessedness?
Two years into my vocation discernment, in 1994, He answered this question, while I was serving the Jesuit Volunteer Program.
One night, while thinking about this particular young man, a co-volunteer, God asked me this "life-changing" question: "Will you take care of my son?"
It was a very distinct voice and call, louder than His other calls. Until now, it remained vivid in my mind. I said yes and took this young man as my boyfriend.
Three years later, I made a sacred vow to God in the Sacrament of Marriage to unite us with Him for all eternity.
This made my husband second to God on my priority list.
A year and a half later, I, together with my husband would make another Sacred Vow in the Sacrament of Baptism of our first-born child, to raise this child and the children that shall come after her, as a child of God.
This vow sits third on my priority list. Keeping this third priority from creeping into second place was a continual challenge, but practice had made it easier to maintain this priority list.
Now, at 45, God was calling me again this time to a service ministry of writing. The call was not sacramentally binding, yet just as sacred because it supported the first.
Things can get quite tricky with this last call because I could mistake the service ministry as God and put it on top of my priority. If this happens, my work would become my god. I need to understand that God is more than just my work or service ministry.
A Call Within A Call
Recently, I've been reading the book, "Mother Teresa Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the `Saint of Calcutta'". This was how Mother Teresa described her unusual call after years of being a Loreto nun.
A call within a call.
She had made her vow as a religious yet, one day, while on a train ride from a retreat, she heard God call her to leave her religious order and embrace a new life. As a religious, she was married to Jesus. She did not break her vow from Jesus, but only to the congregation that she initially entered, to respond to the new call of her Spouse.
Had she known the huge design of God for the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she eventually founded, she would have faltered. But God revealed His plans slowly and gradually.
Mother Teresa started with one poor man, with one community, with one country and her life of union with God bore many fruits. She became a miracle worker.
God's Hands In My Work
God's call to me as a writer took long to unravel. Even His design for my website did not come all at once. I made do with what little ideas I had at the start. Since then, I had revised it a number of times according to God's inspiration. My landing page had changed three times and is still evolving.
I looked at my old and new designs and noted the difference. Practice had trained my eyes. Prayer had trained my spirit.
How His designs came about followed the same pattern I had outlined above.
Just like the call to write, things were not laid out in its entirety. God seems to know my capacity and does not want to overwhelm me with all the details.
"Had Peter known that the Church he was to lead would spread to all countries in the world, he would have balked. Had Paul known that the churches he was to inspire would be from all over the regions of the earth, his knees would have buckled," my angel spoke.
I smiled. Just like Mother Teresa, the first apostles did not see all of God's grand design. He showed them a little glimpse and shadow here and there, enough to keep them going.
"It shall be the same with you. Don't bite more than you can chew lest you choke. Continue to pray and allow the Spirit to lead and use you. Keep your priorities in order."
I know I had to constantly remind myself of this.
As I end my two-year sabbatical discernment and start my writer's life, I need to keep my priorities straight in accordance to God's will:
Full-time writer comes fourth and last of my other priorities.
I was first a full-time child of God; second, a full-time wife; and third, a full-time mom.
"Keep your priority in that order and your life will be in order," my angel said.
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