Last summer I had the pleasure of introducing you to my lovely friend Aliza. She’s one of those people you meet (even via social media) and can’t help but smile and let out your breath. She’s the real deal and a welcoming space. I’m honored to have her here today sharing a little piece of her heart. Enjoy, friends, and a big welcome to Aliza!

I was going to be an actress.

Or a journalist. Maybe a novelist, or perhaps a Broadway singer. I had plans — you know? Sort of plans, anyway. Loose and flimsy plans, but plans nonetheless. Or maybe you’d categorize them as dreams, instead.

The key to success, they told me, was a degree. They advised this piece of paper, one with my name embossed fancy and large, signifying my worth, prophesying my certain success. At least four years and who knows how many dollars, but that paper would determine my future. Or so they said.

I wanted success, let me tell you. I wanted fulfillment. I wanted to be big.

I was eighteen and graduating high school and I knew nothing. I knew I knew nothing and I depended on the people who told me what success should look like. Teachers, guidance counselors, even my dentist. They all had an opinion on what my future should hold.

I was a simple girl who longed for independence, and all I really knew was that I really loved Jesus. And that I wanted to be someone. I wanted to be someone rather than do something.

Assuming university would be an integral part of my story, I applied. I got accepted, gained scholarships, and started to formulate The Plan For My Life.

I begged God to tell me His will for my life. Tears rolled from my eyes to my pillow, and I whispered rushed and quiet prayers in the middle of the night, the rain splattering against the window like the rhythm of a metronome.

Please tell me Your plan for my life! I cried to God. What do You want for me? Where do I go? What do I do? Give me a sign or at least a little bit of clarity.

All that answered me was the rain.

So I declined the offers and went to Rwanda for two months the summer of 2013. I didn’t want to go to university, not really. But I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do. God didn’t speak to me — at least not in the way I’d imagined. So I went to Africa and came home a writer. Armed with notebooks filled with stories and dreams seeping out from every pore in my flesh, I decided the degree that determined success was not for me.

I began to write.

Success? Maybe you have a different definition than I, but I believe the secret to success is not a university degree, nor a job with a jaw dropping pay cheque, nor a tiny gold statue handed to you at an award ceremony. Fulfillment isn’t what the world tells you: that bigger is better, and richer is wealthier, and success is when everyone on the Earth knows your name.

No, no, none of that. Instead, the secret to long lasting, real, true, forever success is this: Whatever you do, do it as service to [Jesus], and He will guarantee your success. {Proverbs 16:3}

Whatever you do — whether it’s a PhD or high school diploma, whether you make a million bucks or a single penny, whether you’re a writer or an astronaut or an actress or a stay at home mom. Success is not a formula. It’s the everyday, every breath, every moment sort of living, the kind that’s lived out to glorify and honour Jesus, whether it’s at Starbucks or the Academy Awards.

That’s real success. And that’s the kind I’m going for.

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