Purpose in the Waiting (aka, That Time God Told Me to be Quiet)

From day one of my writing career, I’ve called myself an accidental author. By circumstance, my family’s life was thrust into the public eye via “Immigration Adoption Crisis of 2014.” A blog that began for a handful became a story for thousands. It led to one book, then another, and then another. It led to me writing on a weekly basis—vulnerable things, hilarious things, parenting things, faith crisis things, all for the world to see. And I felt alive doing it. I felt I had truly stepped into my calling.

Writing gave me life. Sure, it was tough at times. It was hard work, and an increase in readership meant an increase in the risk of rejection. But it was okay, because for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had found my lane. My purpose. I was experiencing my own Chariots of Fire, Writing Edition. “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.” Call me dramatic, but it was true.


And then, our family went through a huge transition. After doing ministry in Australia for seven years, we moved back to America. I can’t tell you how hard this was for us—especially our kids, who felt very Australian, but were expected to be American. Our world was turned upside down.


I didn’t really anticipate our move affecting my writing, because pain creates more material, right? I’d written through pain before—the pain of adoption, missing home, parenting struggles and disappointments. But this time, I just couldn’t. I tried—a blog post here and there—but I was just so tired. The issues within my four walls were all encompassing, leaving little energy for anything else.


While it was the most strategic time for me to take my writing career to the next level, with a successful book just released at the beginning of 2018 and a viral blog post that somehow blew up the Internet, I found myself writing less, not more. What once gave me life became a burden, a chore.


And so I stopped.


Taylor Swift fans will recall the year she disappeared. After an unfortunate recorded phone call/online bullying situation (if you are Team Kim, don’t even talk to me), she vanished from the public eye. No appearances, no social media, no performances. Nothing. When she finally re-surfaced, she said, “I decided it was really important to me to figure out who I would be and what my life would be like if I didn’t have a spotlight on me all the time.”


Now, listen. I’m no Taylor Swift. I’m not actually famous, and I have no idea what it would feel like to have a spotlight on me at all times. But a penlight, maybe? There was attention on me for moving overseas. Attention for adopting. Attention for an adoption immigration crisis. Attention for my blog. Attention for one book, then two, then three. Attention for how popular that one article got. Attention for announcing our move back to America. Attention for being back in America.


And while it did not make sense professionally to do so, I took a break from writing publicly, because I just needed space to be, apart from the penlight. To breathe. To heal. To help my family heal. After a few months of radio silence, I pulled a Michael Jordan and prematurely announced a return to writing, but it didn’t last long. There was more healing to be done.


So, here I am: fifteen months post-move, my blog dormant for months. Breathing again. Healing. Stripped of the yuckiness that can come with platform and performance and applause and saying, “Now what, Lord?” Because here’s the thing: In stepping away for a season, I remembered why I fell in love with writing in the first place. Even as I write this article, I feel it—that connection with the Lord in the unique way that He’s gifted me, and the anticipation of connecting with others at a deep, soul level, as only words can.


I don’t know what’s ahead. I could fire up the blog tomorrow, or not ever again. Write five more books, or none at all. I’m still trying to figure it out. Here are a few things I do know:


1. God is not limited to timelines and marketing schemes. While the publishing world would have said, “Keep writing. Fake it ‘til you make it. If you don’t keep going, you’ll miss the boat and it’ll be curtains for your career,” God said, “Come away with me. Let me show you how to take a real rest,” and “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Matthew 11: 28-30; Mark 8:36)


2. My identity does not rest in what I write, how often I write, how many people read what I write, and what they think of what I write. My identity is in Christ alone.


3. In a noisy world, it’s becoming increasingly unpopular to be quiet. But a season of quietness is such a gift.


4. When God leads you in a different direction, He does not negate the gifts He’s given you; He’s just calling you to use them in a different way. While I haven’t written about my family in a while, I have had opportunities to tell other people’s stories, and that has been such a blessing to me.


Maybe you’re also in a season of transition, trying to hold on to your gifts while your purpose is evolving. Maybe you’re being called to be quiet, to listen, to be. If so, slow down. Breathe deep. In God’s economy, there is time. Also? Sometimes using your gifts means getting paid to use them, with critical acclaim. And sometimes it means simply pouring your heart out for an audience of One. Maybe what it really means to live out your purpose is to be content with both.

- Jennifer Phillips

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Jennifer Phillips

“I'm an accidental author. God gave me a story I didn't want, and then used that story to reach more people than I could have ever imagined with the truths of the gospel. I'm grateful for the privilege of writing two books - Bringing Lucy Home and 30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents - and then co-authoring Unhitching From the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can't Control, with Julie Sparkman.

I have blogged at jenniferphillipsblog.com for the last five years, and am now in a place of listening, asking the Lord how He wants to use my gifts in this season of my life. No matter where He takes me, I'll always be passionate about helping others rest in the gospel in the midst of the mess. And also, karaoke. “