In my novel The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, Delores struggles with decisions she made that left her alone in her late forties, stuck in an unfulfilling job. A chance encounter with an Anglican priest helps her embrace sweeping life changes, but not before she unties the ropes that have tethered her.
“Give up something that does not serve you well,” Father Mike tells Dee. “Go after something you want. To get something you want, you have to let something go.”
There is Biblical precedent for giving up things that serve a present lifestyle but will not support a future call. The patriarchs gave up old comforts to pursue new challenges God put before them: Abraham gave up his homeland see God establish a people; Moses gave up his royal position to see God establish a promised land; Jesus gave up His life to establish us in God’s Kingdom. It seems that accomplishing change requires hard choices.
Pros and Cons
A traditional way to make a decision about a life change is to list the pros and cons of going after something you want and tally them up. There’s another way. When I decided to write a novel I had to face the huge time commitment writing takes. I made a list of all the things I spent time on—literal time as well as psychic energy.
For example, I hadn’t touched that hand pieced quilt in the frame for two years. I live in a community of quilters, I did some sewing as young mother, and I like hand work. I thought I might like quilting, but I’m not good at it. In a dream, God told me I would never be a quilter and to take the quilt out of the frame and get rid of the frame. He was that specific! I woke up refreshed and grateful. I donated the frame, paid to have my project machine quilted, and I’m happy with the result.
It was easy to identify and let go of time consuming activities I thought I might enjoy once I mastered them: gardening, cooking and baking, scrapbooking, and a long list home arts. Other things were not so easy to give up. I was a deacon and choir member in my church, an active community volunteer, and on invitation lists for every social function. I didn’t give up faith and friends, but I backed out of most of my activities. Keeping faith and friends do require time and service, less time than before, but more prayer and mindfulness.
Engage other people
Because a lifestyle change affects the people you love, it’s important to include them in your decisions. My husband and I negotiated the changes. He was comfortable reducing our social life and making his own sandwiches but drew a line at any regular practice of midnight to 3 AM writing binges. He is actually protective of my writing time as long as I don’t exhaust myself.
It is hard to say no to worthy causes. For every request you decline, two more will present themselves. Count on it. Some friends will resent the fact that you are not as available as you used to be and drop you. But for every friend you lose, two more will respond to your efforts to deepen relationships in the time you do have to spend with them.
Here are some prayerful questions to ask yourself:
1. What activities served me well in the past but no longer make sense for my future?
2. Where is the natural stopping point for a job I’ve been doing? Who might be waiting in the wings for the opportunity to build on what I’ve done?
3. Whose support for my new venture do I need to enlist?
When you untether, you may float awhile before you catch the current that will bring you to a new shore. There may be a point where you lose touch with things that used to loom large in your life. Bless them and keep an eye out for the beacon of light coming from that far shore.
Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life.
Find her new novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter on Amazon. ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 (ebook). Publication: December 3, 2013. ISBN 978-1-938708-30-5 (audiobook). Publication: November 8, 2013.
About The Sheep Walker’s Daughter
A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency? Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that he isn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with one woman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.