Behind every creative venture is a story, and this book is no different. So before I tell you about how this project came to be, I’d like to set the stage by sharing with you a little of my own journey toward seeking “the art of being.”
In August 2000 I left my busy marketing job at a large Christian record label in Nashville, Tennessee. When making the rounds to say good-bye to my associates of six years, I realized I must have sounded a little silly when I explained my reason for leaving: “I’m going to stop doing and just ‘be’ for a while.”
My coworkers must have scratched their heads on hearing that one. All I had done during my short time there was chase my way up the ladder. I was so set on becoming VP (of anything) that I slaved away willingly, giving my job top priority in my life. It’s not as if I wasn’t doing a lot of good; I was helping promote positivethemed music and artists in whom I truly believed. But stripped down to pure motive, I had to admit that my passion for my job had less to do with the ministry aspect of what I was doing and more to do with proving my value through my achievements. In addition, my natural tendency to focus on my appearance as a measure of my worth had been pushed into overdrive as I assumed even more responsibility to “look the part” of a successful career woman in the entertainment industry. So while there were many things I truly loved about my job, my life as a whole was out of balance, and I was going so fast that I was missing the most thrilling part: the journey. It was time for a change.
I had first started thinking about slowing down several years earlier when my husband and I were in London visiting his mother. Holed up in the hotel room with a bad case of the flu, I flipped through the television channels and came upon a documentary about downshifting—that is, going from an intense, challenging work environment to one that leaves a little room for life at the end of each day and on weekends. At the time I wasn’t even close to attaining my career aspirations, and it was hard to imagine ever making such a bold move. Even so, this concept embedded itself in my brain and left me longing for the time when I, too, could downshift.
Five years later the time had arrived. For several months I had felt a stirring in my soul that continued to grow stronger with each passing day. God was doing some deep heart work on me at the time, leading me on a journey toward freedom from a lifelong obsession with performance, appearance, and achievement. During those months little signs kept popping up—small but significant indications that God was on the move in my life. I received phone calls from friends and family I hadn’t heard from in a while—each asking about passions and dreams I had put on the back burner while I climbed the corporate ladder. I had conversations with new friends that inspired me to take a deeper look at my life and purpose. And then there was the day I discovered a journal from my college years. Written in its pages was my vision for starting a ministry to help others break free from disordered eating—a vision I had forgotten about for nearly a decade even as I was fighting my own demons in that area.
Each little sign by itself would not have meant much, but added together, these signs were beginning to paint a picture. On a hot July day in New Orleans during a business trip, the message became clear. I was in my hotel room taking a breather between meetings, when all of a sudden I sensed that it was time for me to leave my job. At first I wrestled with this feeling, wondering what was so significant about that particular moment. Why hadn’t I felt “released” to leave sooner? I had been itching for change for quite some time and had even busied myself with interviews at other companies, trying to find my next rung on the ladder to the top. But at that moment in my hotel room, I realized that God had a different plan. The whole point was that I was supposed to leave this job and not jump to the security of another one. It was as if God was whispering to me, “Don’t do; just be.” For someone wired to produce, this message was tough to grasp, but God’s timing was perfect, and I found myself ready to accept the challenge.
The next day I flew back to Nashville. As I waited for my belongings at baggage claim, I realized that I had absolutely no desire to go to the office, so I went home instead. That night I told my husband that I felt it was time to resign. A little surprised at the timing, since some of our financial plans would be affected by my decision, he nevertheless gave me his full support and encouraged me to follow my heart. That weekend I sought the counsel of several friends I’ve trusted over the years. Our conversations only served to reinforce my decision.
On Monday I did it. My resolve strengthened by caffeine and adrenaline, I bravely walked into my boss’s office and informed him that I was leaving. It must have been the high of the moment that got me through the day. As I began to see some surprising ramifications of my decision, I have to admit I was a little scared. But a mysterious peace enveloped my soul. Never before had I felt such freedom. Three weeks later I left the building for the last time. With my cardboard box full of memories in the back of my Honda, I was off on my journey to just “be” for a while.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I found myself feeling guilty for not having “done” anything yet. To help make ends meet, I had picked up some part-time freelance work, but the dramatic downshift from an all-consuming career to a job that required so little of my mind, time, and energy was unnerving. God was also refreshing in me the vision to begin the ministry He’d laid on my heart years earlier, and it was hard not to plow straight ahead to make things happen on that front. But even as I stubbornly scheduled a few meetings in an effort to get things going, in my heart I was trying my best to welcome the lesson God wanted to teach me. It was time to stop focusing on what I could accomplish and instead give Him time to show me who I was.
At the time of this writing, it has been nearly four years since I embarked on this journey. In that time my vision of founding a ministry organization (FINDINGbalance.com) has become a reality, I have given birth to two sons, written a book about eating and weight issues, compiled and edited the book you hold in your hands, and toured the nation to speak about disordered eating and the importance of incorporating balance into our lives. To the casual observer it might seem that I haven’t really downshifted at all, but dramatic changes have indeed taken place.
For the first time in nearly ten years of marriage, I have started cooking dinner. This new development has not only given my husband something to smile about but has saved us time and money and added a little more order to our lives. And that’s just the beginning…
No longer a slave to someone else’s clock, I often pad down to my home office in pajamas and don’t even shower before the end of the day. While I used to spend an hour putting on makeup and doing my hair just to go to the gas station or the post office, I now feel comfortable going out and seeing people—even people I know—without spending time in front of the mirror. I’m not saying I feel pretty, but I can do it.
When it comes to business, gone is my obsession with pleasing corporate America. Instead, I’m learning how to balance the ministry I feel called to with the other parts of my calling—being a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I haven’t “arrived” yet, but these days I have much more time to recognize what I’m not good at, which helps me focus on changing those areas.
Finally, I am no longer willing to toe the company line—for anyone. Instead, I’m exercising my right to stand true to what I really believe.
I’m still busy, but my motives are different. Even though our household income is not what it once was, and I don’t have a flashy job title to impress others, I’m happier now than I was at the peak I experienced while slaving away to prove my importance.
That’s fine for you, you may be thinking, but there’s no way I can quit my job to learn how to just “be.” Which brings us to the point of this project.
In spite of the way my own personal journey is playing out, I am not suggesting that to truly be who God has called us to be, we must all quit our jobs—or even take sabbaticals from the responsibilities of life. Indeed, the very structure that enables us to experience freedom would crumble if we all made such a move.
The truth is, grasping the concept of “being” requires something different for each of us, as you’ll see in the following pages. For some, it’s about understanding for the first time that God loves us in spite of what we do or don’t do. For others, it’s about finding the courage to embrace a story that is greater than the one we’d write for ourselves. It’s about recognizing the purposeful beauty of our weaknesses and making peace with the fact that we don’t have all the answers. And sometimes it’s simply about learning to take time to breathe.
This concept has been explored by fifteen thoughtful and insightful writers, each of whom has embraced the importance of this journey toward being in his or her own life. Many of them have known seasons of great success, and just as many have spent time in the valleys of loss, disappointment, and disillusionment. Whatever their stories, they share a quest that is common to all of us: finding out who we are in the midst of the chaos of life.
It is an honor and a privilege to include in this book the perspectives of so many artists I’ve admired and worked with over the years. At the end of the book, I share more about how each one of them came to be in the project. I truly believe that the book you are holding in your hands contains what God wants to communicate. It is our collective desire that you be inspired, challenged, encouraged, and changed through the reading of this book.
In closing, I’d like to offer a brief definition of the so-called art of being. Quite simply, it’s learning that we are not defined by
what we do, or how we look, or what we have. It’s learning how to be comfortable in our own skin and accepting that life isn’t about the trophies on the wall or the Mercedes in the garage. It’s about discovering who we are, beyond the stuff, and learning how to be content with that person, for this is the key to living fuller, richer lives than we ever imagined.
Until we learn how to be, all of our doing will be just that. But God has a bigger plan, one He is gently nudging you to seek out. I hope you’ll take Him up on the challenge.
For I know the plans that I have for you…
Plans for welfare and not for calamity
To give you a future and a hope
—God (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB)