When I was younger, I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. I imagined myself as powerful warrior who kicked butt for the greater good of mankind, saving innocent people from the clutches of evil.
Reading that, you'd think I was raised watching action flicks from infancy! My favorite show was actually Sesame Street....
It was only natural to want to take Karate. My sensei, Brian Toso, was one of the best. I remember spending hours practicing martial arts. I was really good at it, too. I won every sparring match.
I once did a sweeping roundhouse that landed right between my sensei's legs. It was not a good moment for him, but it was a solid victory for me!
When I hit the fifth grade, though, something weird happened: The boys I was crushing on suddenly liked me less and less as I beat the daylights out of them. I realized, after all the girls around me stopped attending class, and the guys didn't want to fight me (what boy wants to get beat by a girl???), that it was time to make a change.
I quit Karate.
I regretted that I would never be as good as Daniel LaRusso and become the next Karate Kid, but life went on.
In high school, I made a really dumb comment to my mom after she had hand surgery that ended up landing me in nursing school. I wasn't grossed out by the wound, so I told her I would help clean it, that it would be, "Training for the nurse I'll never be." I didn't want to be a nurse, I was trying to be funny. My parents thought nursing school was a phenomenal idea and immediately pursued it on my behalf.
The only problem was, while my parents were praying for that door to open, I was praying for it to stay closed!
I had no desire to be a nurse. My dad had wanted to become a physician and my mom had longed to be a nurse, but neither had pursued it to fruition. It looked like I was about to live their dreams for them. In their defense, they were great parents who sincerely thought this was a great option for me and that it would provide a wonderful life for me.
There was one minor problem: I hate germs and I'm not a fan of sick people. Oops.
I was placement-tested and then dually enrolled in college as I finished out my senior year of high school. I had such high test scores, I was accepted immediately into the nursing program, bypassing people who had been on an admissions waiting list for years.
I went through all of the prerequisites and realized in my first semester of nursing school clinicals that this was not going to end well. I hated it. 'Hated' is probably an understatement. I was miserable.
Apparently, my teacher and head of the department, Mary, noticed. She sat me down one day and asked me, "Why are you here? Are you doing this for yourself or for your parents?" After I bawled and soaked us both with tears, she told me it was time to make a decision I wanted to live with, one that would contribute to a life of happiness.
So, I quit nursing school.
My parents weren't exactly thrilled. The next few years were rocky at best.
Sesame Street had taught me how to count in French and Spanish and had incited a passion for languages in my soul. I had discovered a university near me offered a simultaneous interpretation program linked with the United Nations and I wanted in. It was my chance to see the world and speak as many languages as I could.
When the program was discontinued before I could apply for it, I decided to go another route and pursue my passion for the Bible and biblical languages. Off to Oral Roberts University I went. When I went, the Lord spoke to me and said, "Five months." I had no idea what He meant and I didn't think too much about it.
There, I became very sick within two months and I was in and out of hospitals, receiving out-patient intravenous therapy for some ailment doctors couldn't quite put their finger on, and getting tested for colon cancer. I was too sick to attend my classes at the university, so I was allowed to stay in the dorm while I tried to recover. I received an incomplete in all of my classes. I lost my academic scholarship, which is based on grades. I still had the journalism scholarship I had received, but it wasn't enough money to provide for the next semester.
After five months of attending school, I packed up my Jeep and drove home from Oklahoma to Michigan - 1,084 miles in a blizzard.
I quit ORU.
My now-former church in Michigan had lost three back-to-back worship directors who had found better opportunities for their families. The church had gone through a major church split and they were out of money. Scrambling to find someone to cover the worship for all the services, the senior pastor and his wife called me. I took over the position of worship director without a contract, a paycheck, or a time frame of how long I'd be filling in for free.
From May until December of 2009, I put in more hours at my "volunteer position" for the church than I did my full-time job. The three worship leaders who had left had taken all the musicians with them, save one pianist, Raymond, who was my saving grace. The church split had also taken assistant pastors and office staff to a different church nearby and when I wasn't helping with music, I was helping with administrative tasks.
My full-time job was stressful and my position at church was even more stressful. At work during the day, I was harassed by a woman who hated Christians and wanted me gone. My boss had put in for a much-desired position and this woman could jeopardize her chances for the promotion, so she did not get involved in my defense.
At night and on the weekends, I served at a church I felt did not appreciate me. I had learned they were paying the drummer and the bass guitarist to show up, but they had not given me the same courtesy, despite the long hours and the amount of work I was putting in.
A perfect storm of frustration and stress was brewing inside of me. I had contracted double walking pneumonia, but I didn't have time to slow down to rest.
One Sunday morning, I had completely lost my voice and I had the flu on top of pneumonia, but I still had to run the worship team and to sing as the lead vocalist. I had planned to "sing by faith." The senior pastor had heard the practice session and became upset that I wasn't singing. I tried to explain I was sick and trying to save any voice I had for the service, but it fell on deaf ears. I was humiliated in front of the group for not singing. I was horrified. The man I had looked to as a spiritual father had just embarrassed me and he didn't care how sick I was.
Later that week, I was called into the office where he and another man on the leadership team berated me. I left the meeting utterly heartbroken. My senior pastor had just majorly failed me as an example of godly leadership and as a compassionate human being.
I had decided enough was enough.
I went to the doctor, got on steroid meds, and I decided I needed to walk away from the stressors that were turning my hair gray and making me sick. After a phone call to the senior pastor to say, "I forgive you," and to explain why I was leaving the church, I did it.
I quit the church.
Then I went into work the next day and I told my boss the same thing.
I have quit many different endeavors in my life. I have started businesses and realized they weren't going to make it, so I have abandoned them before they sunk me with them. I have dated and even broken off engagements when God said this was not the person He had for me. I have quit friendships when I realized this person and I were incompatible in beliefs, values, and desires.
I have tried and tried and tried again. And that's when I realized something important.
The reason I can say, "I quit," is because I first said, "I'll try."
Too many people stay locked in dead-end careers because they're afraid to say, "I quit," to what sucks in their lives to step out in faith and say, "I'll try," to what their heart longs to do.
People stay in relationships they should've ended years ago because "I quit" is a scarier place than what has become predictable misery.
I believe 100% God is the God who both opens doors and closes doors. I also believe He gives us that same power and the right to choose.
If I had stayed in the first door of employment that opened up for me, I'd still be babysitting or working as a nanny. If I had stayed at the first school to accept me into post-high school education, I would've been stuck forever at a 2-year community college, exhausting every class they offered. I had to close the door on some 'good' opportunities in life to walk through a later door of 'better' opportunity.
Sometimes, God will close a door BEFORE He opens another door, but still He promises, "There is a door."
Elijah had to leave the closed door, the dried up brook, Cherith, to move forward and walk through the open door of provision God had waiting for him in Zarephath at the house of a little widow.
Did you know that was a journey of approximately 85 miles?
There was time and there was distance in between the doors God had for Elijah, but if he would not have walked away from the first source of provision, he would not have received the provision awaiting him at the second source.
What does God have waiting for you on the other side of your, "I quit"? Which promises are you still waiting to be fulfilled in your life that may be tied to closing one door and opening another?
After looking back at all the things I've tried in life and walked away from, I have only ever regretted one decision. In eighth grade, I was asked to join the cheerleading squad and the dance team. I absolutely loved dance and gymnastics and I so desperately had wanted to be a part of the teams. What I didn't want, however, was to be labeled as a ditz and to bear the stereotypes of those positions for the rest of eternity.
For all of the failures I have experienced, the only regret I have is that I never tried out for the teams: I had said, 'I quit,' before I had the courage to say, "I'll try."
At the end of life, people look back on the moments that made up their lives, and the number one regret people have is that they wish they would've tried. They wish they would've had the courage to live the life they had always imagined, to have pursued their dreams.