It was almost three years ago. I think that's when it started to happen. I could feel my pursuit for the written word shift and morph into something different, something not necessarily of holy intention. I had been fifteen weeks pregnant with my second baby and with all the encouragement from my husband, I took off to a women's conference in Indianapolis. Not only was I going to be meeting my future best friend, but I was also getting three straight days to rub elbows with some of the most creative women in the blogging/writing/entrepreneur world. I walked into our first initial meeting together nervous and energetic. I loved writing. I loved sitting down with God and combining my experiences with His truth. I loved seeing my testimony woven into words and sentences - permanently residing on a brightly lit screen. Every time I wrote, I felt as if I was erecting an Ebenezer. I felt as if I was declaring His goodness from the mountaintops. If not for anyone else; at least for me. It didn't matter if anyone saw, or even if anyone cared. I wrote for the love of it. I wrote for the love of Him. 

I was thrilled that I would be meeting other women who did what they did for the love of it, too. For the love of Him, too. 

The shift in my heart and my words didn't begin immediately after that conference, but it was there that something definitely came undone in me. 

I started to care about how people perceived me. I crumbled at rejection. I fumed at what I thought was unfair promotion. When I saw the numbers increase on my Instagram, or on a blog post, or wherever - I celebrated. On the other hand, when algorithms and feeds began to change and when engagement began to decrease - I grieved. Sometimes, I deleted posts and videos because they weren't perfect; at least in my eyes. I started (not even realizing it) writing for promotion, popularity, validation, and the occasional ego boost. Sure, my intentions were good. I had dreams of writing a book, starting an online ministry, and connecting with women across the world. I saw platform as a necessity to make those things happen. As any author would tell you, the idea of influence is one that has permeated the publishing world. Nobodies don't write books. But, somebodies do. Somebodies that have more than 10k followers on Instagram and churn out content like it's going out of style. Reality is, that somebody is not me. No matter how hard I tried. 

To use a phrase my husband says often, "Even the road to hell is paved with good intentions." 

I think I've been on the wrong road. To honestly say that I haven't been swept away in the craziness of the online world would be a lie. The truth is, I've turned the good gift God has given me into cheap fodder. And I think we do that a lot don’t we? We take our gifts and turn them into commodities; something to be regularly consumed by others. If we're not careful, it doesn't take us long to get here - to a point of forgetting why we started and even what we're in it for. Any joy that we had in doing what God put within us is robbed by a variety of ulterior motives that creep in and fill the nooks and crannies of our souls. 

If you’re like me, perhaps your initial reaction is to run to the alter and lay down the passion or the gift and leave it there. Lord knows, I’m willing and probably you are too. In fact, in proverbially bringing this lamb to the slaughter — I’ve been ready to delete my blog, my Instagram account and my dreams. All for the sake of clearing out the clutter. But actually, I don't think that's the solution. God’s shown me that there’s something else here for me to do; a battle that needs winning. 

I don’t think it’s possible that I’m alone in this. I’ve seen too many articles, blog posts, comments and have been a part of too many conversations and discussions that indicate otherwise. God certainly had a purpose when He designed us with our gifts and callings. I just think we have the unfortunate tendency to take His design and automatically make a move towards monetizing it. We unintentially begin to use it as a means to make much of ourselves instead of making much of Him. 

Look, sometimes the easier thing to do is to give up and give in. Or maybe, it’s going on a break. We think separation will resolve the issue, but it only lengthens the time it takes us to deal with it. Life just doesn’t work like an old episode of Friends. As believers, it doesn’t make sense to operate from an on again/off again mentality. We are not thin and unstable trees shaken and stirred by the wind. We commit. 

If God’s original plan was that we’d make much of Him in all that we do, that we’d use our gifts and passions to glorify Him — then, it’s time to get back to basics. 

I don’t think any of us want to pursue our dreams if God isn’t in them. But that actually requires giving Him some room. Not just in our hearts, but in our pursuits and in how we actually pursue and think about them, too. 

Honestly, I think it starts there. Practically speaking, I have to say (sometimes out loud) that this is all for Him. I have to implement a laundry room routine of prayer, worship, and thanksgiving to wash and dry out the intentions that want to corrode the purity of my gifts. I have to ask myself daily if I’m doing something to serve Him, or to serve others. Mainly, I have to get back to doing the things I love for the love of it, and for the love of God. This is the MOST important thing. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter what else comes out of it, if nothing but a sacred give and take between me and the Lord. 

I have to also literally fix my eyes on Jesus. When I'm tempted to compare myself to others; to filter my gifts through what's trending and what's expected - I have to watch what the Lord says to do. If He says move, then that's what I do. If He says stay, be faithful, or even do nothing - then that's what I do. I have to regularly check my heart and ask whether I'm filtering my gifts through a desired to be used, or a desire to be known. I have to regularly ask who's sitting at the throne -  my gifts or my God. 

Even more practically, I'm unsubscribing to all the content driven emails out there asking me to produce and compete. I'm spending less time scrolling through Instagram and more time living my life. I'm checking with God before I check with others. And, I'm creating margin to create only for Him - in the secret place. Words that no one else will ever read; love letters to a God who delights in the word just like I do. 

We get so caught up in what we produce, that we forget to question the reason we're producing it. And that's what we have to come back round to, every single time. We can't get weary of this routine, because this is what holds us together. It's easy to try to encapsulate our purpose into a why, or a mission statement. But these things aren't actually what creates the basis of our gift's foundation. Rather, we have to regularly come back to the One who put what's in us in the first place. He is what matters. He is the cornerstone. And, He is what holds us and our gifts all together. When we do what we love because we love Him, we start to see ourselves doing what we love for the love of it. Let's get back to that. Let's get back to Him.