Many of you know that I proclaim to be a writer. And to many of you, when that statement is made, you probably envision me sitting at a desk, building imaginary worlds and creating imaginary characters to fill those imaginary worlds. But to be honest, when I say that I am a writer, the statement means so much more than a simple proclamation of interest or career.
Many years ago, I was faced with the choice to either settle down in Arizona to pursue writing or to move to Seattle, Washington to pursue Bible college. Seattle seemed like the ‘right’ choice. I mistakenly thought all Christians were called to ministry within the church, and so how could wanting to pursue ministry along those lines be wrong? I mean, I had my tuition paid for, friends and family knew, accepted, and supported that I was leaving, and everything was set for me to go.
At the last minute, after realizing that God was actually giving me the choice of what path I wanted to journey down, I decided to stay in Arizona. That lone choice triggered an incredible adventure that has left me with no regrets. I went through what felt like a dozen 9-5 jobs, met and married my wife, Michal, and eventually pursued writing ‘full-time’.
In my younger years, I thought being an author was about sitting in a desk for hours a day, sketching out the drafts to many award-winning manuscripts. I would be written about in Poets and Writers magazine, I would hobnob with other well-known writers, and I would wear a custom-tailored blazer and stand in front of the freshman class of my old high school and talk about the success becoming a writer has given me.
Reality couldn’t have been further from my own delusions.
Writing for me isn’t just something I woke up one morning and decided to pursue. The very act of writing, the very act of creating, has been calling to me since before I was a teenager. It isn’t just a choice to craft grand stories. It’s the very thing – the very purpose – God birthed within me.
It’s my calling.
And what I didn’t realize years ago was that every calling – every dream that you pursue – will eventually require sacrifice. Personal, financial, relational…sacrifice. The sacrifice comes when you are faced with the choice to either continue pursuing your calling or to settle for something less, something easy, something comfortable.
The true sacrifice of my calling came when I sensed God’s voice ushering me out of the comfort of a 9-5 job and into the profession of writing full-time. I gave up the comfort and security of a weekly paycheck to pursue imaginary characters and far off worlds. There were times – many times – I felt foolish and guilty for doing such a thing. Over the course of a few years, sacrifice came calling time and time again when my wife and I faced financial difficulty after financial difficulty. Where were we going to get the money for groceries? The phone bill? Gas? Time and time again we faced these dilemmas, yet time and time again God came through for us.
Sacrifice came again, but in a different form, when we were faced with the decision to move to San Francisco to help start a church. The Bay Area is by far the most expensive area to live in within the United States, and we were already living pretty close to the poverty line in Arizona. Moving to the Bay Area meant moving away from nearly our entire family, including my dad who was having a litany of health issues. But we moved out of obedience to God. Little did we know that we weren’t moving for the church plant. We were moving into isolation and exile so God could do His perfect work in us as individuals and as a family unit.
It’s been two years since we moved here. Much has changed in me, my family, and in my writing. We’ve cut many unhealthy ties to friends and family. I’ve grown quite close to my grandfather who lives out here, and I’ve grown quite fond of California’s beautiful geography. My skills as a writer seem to have progressed, and now I’m getting ready to launch an online publishing company.
Months ago we sensed God calling us back to Arizona. My heart broke over the decision, and I fell into confusion many times regarding the act of moving back. I felt lost in a spiritual fog. I wanted badly to stay in California, but the constantly rising cost-of-living and the sheer amount of people here were driving us out. I didn’t want to leave, but then again I did. I didn’t know if God wanted us to leave, but then again I knew He did. I couldn’t get over my own doubts and insecurities.
Through my struggles, I contacted a friend to help me navigate the choppy waters. We talked, and the most important thing I garnered from our conversation was that I should go where God’s calling on my life could thrive the most.
What is God’s calling on my life? Writing? Yes. And now publishing? Yes, that too. These are the things I do not just for a ‘living’, but because I can’t not do them. I am compelled to do them. I am wired to do them. They are the things I was always meant to do. And in wanting them to succeed – in wanting myself to succeed – I have come to realize that I must move for various reasons:
Cost of Living –
The wages that come from being a published author and running an online publishing company do not scale to cost-of-living. That means if I make a dollar from either one of these, that dollar has the same worth whether I am in Arizona or California. However, a dozen eggs can cost $1.29 in Arizona, whereas a dozen eggs can cost $3.84 in the Bay Area. That dollar I just made will go significantly further in Arizona. That means I can pour more of that dollar back into my writing and the publishing company.
Everyone’s time is valuable, and even moreso if you have children. I’m able to work from home each day because my wife works full time and I care for our three-year-old. It takes a lot to juggle watching my son, keeping our home clean, writing, marketing, and building an online business from the ground up. This doesn’t take into account family and down time.
Living here in the Bay Area, my wife’s commute to work is sometimes ridiculous, eating away 2 – 3 hours most days. Some of that time is taken out of my own schedule because we share one vehicle. That is valuable time that could be spent on a million other things. In Arizona, her commute is a half hour, maybe forty minutes for the day.
Spiritual Environment –
Yes, we originally moved to the Bay Area to participate in a church plant. That fell through before the doors of the church officially opened. I realized that my calling wasn’t to start a church, but to keep writing. As many Christians know, the Bay Area – and San Francisco in particular – is a spiritual battleground. That fact alone makes it difficult to find a happy, healthy church to plug into. It’s not to say there aren’t any, they’re just few and far between. And the ones I have found are either ill-equipped to handle large families, or they are a forty-five minute commute.
This also isn’t to say that just because there isn’t a church to plug into is reason enough to leave the Bay Area. If that was the case, none of the churches in the Bay Area would exist. I’m coming at this from the viewpoint of someone who has the calling to write, not church plant, and in that regard I need to focus on writing in terms of career and my family in terms of a good church to throw roots down into.
Arizona on the other hand – at least for me, personally – has a wealth of healthy churches that are all family friendly and within miles of one another. This makes it much easier to plug in and get the family integrated in a healthy, loving community of believers.
These three reasons alone have pushed me to realize that Arizona is the place that would benefit me, my family, and the calling God has placed upon me the most. The talents and resources I am given should not be wasted, and so it’s time to move to a place where their value can be stretched further.
But this move – as with all things connected to my calling – will require sacrifice. I have to leave my grandfather, which is the biggest drawback. I have to leave this beautiful weather and beautiful geography and return to the desert and to the heat. And, I have to return to the place where there are many relationships I just don’t want to be around.
But thanks to my time out here, I’m stronger now. I’m more outspoken. I’m less shy, and more confident in myself as a person and in my skills. Our family unit is stronger. Our faith is stronger. In fact, when I stop and take inventory of my time out here, I realize that my time out here – in exile, in isolation – has prepared me for my return to Arizona.
It’s funny how God works things out…