I met Stephanie at my childhood church in our young adult group….back in the day you could say. Believe me when I say that I was a big ball of drama at the time. But Stephanie didn’t seem to mind. (At least she didn’t mention it.) I remember hitting it off right away. She’s easy to talk to because she’s always listening. She really cares and she is always down for a good laugh and most importantly, good coffee. Though years and miles have kept us apart, we had a chance to catch up when I was back in our hometown last year. Stephanie shared her heart for a brand new web based ministry with me just before I was leaving for Mexico (literally at my going away party). Ironically it was just as we were getting ready to launch The Pearl Press. Ever since I have been intrigued. Steph will say she’s not a writer and that she doesn’t really have anything to share here. I beg to differ. That’s why I insisted she share her heart and her story. I know it’s going to inspire you today!

When Rachel first asked me to write a guest article for The Pearl Press, I was a little hesitant -- after all, I’m really not a writer. But once I sat on the idea for a few days, I decided to give it a shot.  I am a web and digital marketing consultant, so my job is to help brands tell their story, so why not tell my own. Who knows how God might decide to use it…so, here it goes.

Have you ever heard one of those stories about someone who from the time they could remember as a little kid would pretend they were an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor, a mom, a construction worker, etc.? And when they grew up they knew exactly what they wanted to be and went on to become just that?

I’ve heard those stories too. But that story is not mine. I had a lot of interests growing up, but I can’t say there was anything in particular I was especially passionate about. There were things I was good at, sure, but I’m certainly not a prodigy of any kind. I was just your average kid.

When it came time for making a decision in regards to college, and deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, my decision was short and sweet. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, I do okay on the computer and that’s the direction jobs seem to be going. I kind of like art, why not combine the two?” And that was that. I only applied to one school, and in the fall after I graduated high school, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA to attend Pittsburgh Technical Institute (PTI) for Graphic Design/Multimedia.

When I got there, I realized I was a little behind. Even though I “did okay on the computer” and “kind of liked art,” my exposure to both of those things throughout my life had been pretty limited. My family didn’t get our first computer until I was in the eighth grade, and even once we had it, my parents mainly wanted us to use it for homework. Needless to say, we were pretty limited with time spent on it. None of the churches I had attended growing up were very cutting edge, so there definitely hadn’t been anything tech savvy or creative going on there. I went to a small high school that really didn’t offer any computer classes, and certainly nothing interactive or related to design. On top of that, for whatever reason, I wasn’t even able to get a regular art class until my senior year.
I obviously wasn’t geeking out on the computer or being super artsy much as a kid.

At PTI, pretty much all of my classmates had taken design classes in high school and had been using at least Adobe Photoshop for a couple of years, if not even more programs beyond that. I had never touched an Adobe program and my experience with an Apple computer (which at the time were mainly only used by professionals in the creative industry) was limited to the fact that I was the new owner of a refurbished MacBook Pro I had purchased with my graduation money. Yeah, I was a little behind for sure.

Fast forward a bit -- I became a tutor/lab assistant selected by the department chair, graduated top of my class, got hired part time at an agency while I was still in school, and then hired full time as the Digital Media Manager for the same agency as soon as I graduated. Looking back now, I hadn’t even started my career yet, and against all odds, in a field I picked almost at random, you can already see how God was lining up and laying out my steps.

I worked at that agency for three and a half years, and towards the end, I was becoming very discontent with what I was doing. Sure, I loved what I did…but at the end of the day, who was I helping? What impact was I making? I wanted more.

But what did that mean? Did that mean a job at a different agency in a bigger city with bigger clients? I was trying to figure out what the next step was, but nothing seemed to ignite any passion or inspire that “ah-ha” moment in which I knew for certain the next move. So I stayed.

The longer I stayed at the agency, the more unhappy I became. I kept working, and kept trying to figure it out. After a few months of hashing out my life, I finally came to the point where the only thing I knew for certain was that my time at that agency was over. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew it was time to move on. At the end of October 2012, I resigned my position as the Digital Media Manager and walked away from a steady salary to a tiny bank account and no real plan.

Even though I didn’t have a plan, I knew there had to be some plan. After all, God says there is.

God clearly had a plan before, even when I hadn’t really seen it, so what was His plan now? The more I thought and prayed about what I should do, the more I knew I couldn’t go back to the corporate agency life. I had already taken the leap. I had already left the job. The only thing left for me to do was to take action with the passions and dreams God had put inside of me. I ended up using the last two months of that year to make all of the business preparations, and in January of 2013 I officially launched my company, Bobolink Creative.

The first few months I spent my time scrounging to learn everything I could. I scoured the web for articles, and videos, and books to help me learn how to make this thing actually work. I wasn’t a “business person.” I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing I knew was that God had given me talents, passions and dreams, and that He had called me to use my business to help other people and ministries, and to honor Him. 

One client at a time, one project at a time, I began using my abilities for something worthwhile.

At first I struggled with the idea that “using my talents for ministry” meant that I had to work with a church. Traditionally that is how it had always seemed to work. Now, going into my fourth year of running my own company, I’ve seen over and over just how small my mindset is, and just how big God’s can be. Not only have I had opportunities to work with churches and non-profits, but God has also enabled me to create the Bobolink Gives Back program, through which a portion of the cost for all client web projects is donated back to non-profit organizations who help individuals.

If that weren’t enough, God also opened the door for me to co-found a non-profit called Say A Little Prayer For Me along with my uncle and father. God gave us a simple mission — to link people who have a need with a community of people who are committed to pray with them for that need. Linking People to God through Prayer. By enabling people to anonymously express their hurt and share their need, we are able to be the hands of Jesus through technology; eliminating the barriers of time and distance.

Starting a business has been incredibly difficult; without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done and experienced in my life. I often read a prayer that I wrote for Bobolink, and a portion of it says, “God, give me strength, faith and guts enough to make big decisions that will take my business where you want it to go. Help me to not play it safe, but instead trust in the safety of your hands and your plan even when I don't see it or understand.”

My passion is to be the digital problem solver my clients need, and to bridge the gap of technology to help them tell their brand’s story online while remaining consistent with who they are offline. I am able to do that every day for my clients, and for Say A Little Prayer For Me because I took action with the plan God started to lay out for my life. I never could have seen all of God’s plan, and I still can’t, but Psalm 119:105 says, 

As His lamp lights a little bit of your path, take relentless action in pursuing the dreams and talents God has given you, knowing that He has a plan and He loves you enough to walk you through it all the way to the end.

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