Stay on the Path

Friends often ask me if I have an Etsy shop, and when I answer that I don’t, they tell me I should open one. God often uses the suggestions of others to lead us into new ventures He has for us, so I don’t mind when people say that. In fact, I began blogging because of the gentle proddings of others.

But I can’t have an Etsy shop. Not now. It wouldn’t fit my strengths or the kind of schedule I keep right now with three preschoolers. When I imagine an Etsy shop, I imagine a line of people on the steps outside my front door asking me to do something for them­–ship things to them quickly, answer their questions about orders, deal with their money–all that on top of trying to navigate another digital space. Right now, none of those tasks would find much room in my brain or my life in which to take up residence. The fact is, I already have a line of people inside my house asking me to do things for them, and my first commitment is to them.

Etsy is a very good thing. I have so many friends who love it and help provide for their families through their sales. It also gives them an enormous amount of satisfaction to be able to make their goods available to others. I love having what I’ve made in the hands of others as well, but prefer to let someone else take a commission for doing the actual sales at this time. This path is not for everyone, but it’s the one for me right now. This way I can focus on my art itself with the slices of time I am able to carve out for the studio.

I love the illustration Max Lucado uses in his book Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot to explain how we can lose our way in our vocations because of our desire to always have more:

“You’ve seen it happen. The popcorn peddler has one stand and one job and manages both with skill. But though his daily sales meet his needs, they don’t meet his tastes. To make more money, he buys more stands; to supervise the stands, he abandons his own.

 “The street vendor no longer sells; he manages. Which is fine, if he was made to manage. But suppose he was made to sell. Suppose he swaps the open street and river of people for four walls and a desk. Will he give up more than he gains?”

Later, Lucado goes on to say, “Promotions might promote a person right out of his or her sweet spot. For the love of more, we might lose our purpose.”

I'm all for Pinterest and other social media platforms, but I think these sometime confuse us about which vocations are actually ours and which ones belong to others. Just because things are beautiful and fun and garner attention or make money, doesn't mean that I have to do them all, unless that's what God's called me to do, and then I must. Right now I'm not called to consign my children’s clothes or classically home-educate or to live on a farm or in a big city. I don’t need to have a feature in a magazine, have children dressed in perfectly coordinated and pressed clothes, or have 8,000 followers on Instagram. Those are very, very good things for others to do, just not required for me. I have my own things I need to be doing, and doing other people's things isn't a priority; in fact, it would keep me from doing the things I know God specifically wants me to do.

I need Paul’s words as much as the Thessalonian believers did: "Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before."

As the year began and I started to think about whether I should form any New Year’s resolutions, one of the phrases that kept taking laps around my head was “Stay on the path.”

The desire to make more money isn’t the only thing that can draw me away from the specific work God has for me. It might be a desire for quick results, for a few hundred more likes, for the approval of a certain group of people. Sometimes I don’t know whether an opportunity is a good fit for me, whether it might just be the next step on God's path. In that case, I might need to just give it a try to find out. But sometimes I do know. In that case, I need to recommit to the humility of faithfulness in my individual calling. I can thank God for the way He is kindly leading me and making my way plain, even as He is making the paths of others clear to them, though they may differ from my own.

“Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” Proverbs 15:16

Michelle Radford