I was born and raised a good little Baptist girl who folded her hands when she wasn't holding a hymn book and always wore her Sunday best to church. Fair to say, I was not prepared for the Pentecostal-style Uniting Church our family would inevitably call home.
Even if my Sunday attire had laxed to jeans, I would have rather put my hands in those jean pockets than raise them above waist height.
That was until the Holy Spirit began to convince me otherwise.
It was as though my hands began to tingle and within the space of a few weeks, my arms were not only raised and my hands open, my fingers even came to the party and stretched right out. Reaching. There was nothing meditative about the way I began to worship. If I was raising my hands, I was going all out, as close to heaven as I could possibly reach!
As it turns out, once I released all that was holding me back, opening my hands to heaven felt as natural as breathing. In fact, I began to yearn to raise my hands as I held my 12kg not-so-little little man. So I'd hold him with one arm, balanced on my hip, and raise the other. Always reaching...
Around that same time, the Lord asked me to open my hands in another way. Yes, there was the worship, which was huge for me, but also that same stubbornness that kept my hands in those pockets was exactly what was keeping my hands clenched around things in my life the Lord wanted me to release. I knew it. I could feel it. It just took me a while to actually do it.
For the past three years, I have poured myself into an independent publishing business which inevitably became a source of anxiety and stress with events being cancelled and sales dwindling to nothing due to Covid-19. I resisted the urge to give up on it. After all, I'm far too stubborn for such things.
However, just as I had felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit a few months earlier to separate Daughters of Love & Light from this business - so it was an independent publisher in its own right and had its own financial accounts - I felt the Spirit move yet again, pulling me toward D.O.L.L. and away from this other business.
But I didn't want to do it. I couldn't help but think of all the people I would disappoint. I couldn't give up on them or the business or ... well, let's be honest, anything really. Stubborn, remember?
Just like that girl with her hands deep in her pockets, I clasped my hands around that business until God had to pry them open. It was a slow painful walk through a season of intense anxiety when I fully believed I had to persevere even though it was bringing me no joy. I had to mentally and spiritually prepare myself even to check my emails. Note to self: THIS. IS. NOT. NORMAL.
I considered every way around it. A partial closure? Keep titles available on Amazon? I tried to keep everyone happy. Until my husband suggested that doing such a thing would actually be massively unfair on the existing authors, as they wouldn't have the rights to their books and no one would be marketing them either. It was best for all involved if I let the business go.
It was the wisdom I needed in that moment. I felt so deep in it, I couldn't see clearly. But here, here was something that actually made sense - if I wasn't doing my job properly and to the best of my ability, not only was I already letting others down, I wasn't honouring God through my work.
When I finally opened my hands, I realised all I was holding onto were pieces of what was and that God so wanted to brush off my hands and fill them with new dreams.
And for the first time in a long time, I felt peace.
So, yesterday those doors officially closed and today marks the beginning of a new season. I am walking into it with open hands, ready to see what God is going to place in them.
Watch this space...
"... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - Jesus
Elizabeth Chapman is the founder of Daughters of Love & Light. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and young son and she is currently studying a Master of Divinity. She's an avid tea drinker, Jane Austen reader, and novice historian. Her upcoming novel The Watson Women will be released 20 August 2021. She also blogs about her historical adventures at www.reformationfascination.wordpress.com