Once upon a time, we all started small. My story begins no differently.
I think children are initially wired to want to fill ‘bigger shoes’. Hence, my penchant for getting into my mother’s closet and tromping around in her high heels. Chubby little feet trying on for size a pair of shoes way too big to fit yet.
That picture reminds me of David in the Bible when he was determined to go out and put an end to Goliath. King Saul cheered on David’s resolve and even loaned him his own garments, gave him a bronze helmet, and clothed him with armor. David tried ‘tromping around’ in Saul’s battlement array, but quickly determined they would not work for him.
So David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." And David took them off. He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd's bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. (I Samuel 17:39-40 NASB)
Since childhood I have loved a good story. Imagine my delight – and deepened understanding – when I awakened to the fact that my life is indeed a story. The years passed, trailing ever longer behind me. And then, a major turn in my journey confronted me. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2006.
My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in the middle of that cancer season. By then, I had racked up eighteen years in my career as an executive assistant and was still enjoying what I was doing. All those years of learning, growing, and honing my skills now found me operating at what seemed to be my peak efficiency; like being able to do my job with one hand tied behind my back.
However, the diagnosis of breast cancer introduced a dim cloud, a reminder that ‘things change.’
A few more years passed. The organization I worked for was feeling the 2008 economic stress. In April of that year, a coworker friend and I had lunch together. In under an hour, what started as simple conversation and verbal dreaming, became a download of an entire outline for a women’s retreat known as If Shoes Could Talk. Or, as fondly referred to ever since, the “Shoes” retreat. (Apparently, there is just something about shoes in my story!).
The retreat (complete with shoeboxes of goodies) was held in October 2008, setting God-courses in women’s lives that continue today. Including mine. And thanks to our multi-tasking heavenly Father, I was also enrolled in a leadership development course that same autumn. It was a time of many threads of my life being knit together.
Six months later, in April 2009, I was given the opportunity through my workplace to attend a Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Talk about a small but mighty turn on the ship’s wheel of my life! That trip represented another incoming cloud of ‘change,’ this time with a cooling, covering shade for what would unfold the next few years on my life’s horizon.
The outcome of that trip was my engaging a life coach. For the sheer enjoyment of how God can orchestrate what He has in mind, read the short Story of how Anita Schamber and Nancy Bentz met.
It was through processing with my life coach that the incredible, continued working of God in the details of my life began to chart a new course for my feet. It was time for another pair of shoes !
My heart and the things that I held in my hand blended together in a desire to study to become a life coach. My life experience, skills and God-given gifts helped define the coaching niches I now feature in my life coaching practice. Maintaining the coaching relationship with my own life coach, I embarked on my coaching studies while still working fulltime. It proved to be a time of welcome and worthwhile discipline that kept filling my joy bucket even as the economic situation at my workplace became more concerning.
During this handful of years from 2008 to 2010 – in the midst of the job, my studies, my husband’s growing counseling practice, and life in general – our two daughters got married; our son and his wife added two grandchildren to our family; my mother-in-law died of pancreatic cancer; our son and two sons-in-law were serving in the U.S. Army, each one deployed at varying times to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Things (and my stress level) had reached crescendo proportions, and I found myself crying out for relief! Relief came. And it came out of left field, blindsiding me once again.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time, exactly four years later in July 2010. I had to dig down deep this second time which, in God’s perfect design, caused me to walk increasingly closer to Him.
Less than two weeks before that life-changing mammogram, I had mailed off my last exam for my life coaching certification with International Christian Coaching Association. Two weeks of feeling like I was standing on the threshold of a whole new life chapter, only to again be faced with this hard left turn.
July 2010 through May 2011 constituted a whole new life chapter, indeed. One that I would not have asked for but can genuinely say that I would not trade for all that I lived and learned and came to love of life and my Lord. I know that walking through cancer has helped fuel my passion for living life forward !
Before the end of 2011 clouds of change had descended on my workplace. I returned after nearly a year of cancer treatment to what proved to be a remaining 6-1/2 months of employment. In an amazing feat of timing, I was presented with time and opportunity to complete additional coaching certifications through Faith Theological Seminary in Tacoma, Washington in those final six months.
The transition I had been working toward and many elements beyond my control converged, and I left my 23-year career of executive assisting on December 1, 2011.
In January 2012 I joined my husband in the thriving ministry/counseling practice that was now eight years old. God had been faithfully establishing and growing Wayne’s client base and was (finally!) opening the door for me to step through that had felt slammed shut 18 months earlier.
More of our story is shared on our ministry website, shammahsfield.com. And for those of you who also love story, much of my journey through cancer and deeper into God’s heart is recorded in my blog Wellspring of Life on our ministry website. Just click on the Treasures of Darkness category where the posts read chronologically, relating a story only God could write and which He asked me to live and tell.
Like David, I came to learn that the things I would move forward with had to be tested and proven. God was speaking to me about what was in my hand and affirmed to me that He had steadily been equipping me all along.
Today, it is my privilege and joy to be used of Him to inspire, guide, and motivate others. I think David summed up quite well my heart for coaching clients with a desire to live life forward…
Is not this the God who armed me well, then aimed me in the right direction? II Samuel 22:33 MSG