REFRESH Stories: Amanda Merritt
Amanda Merritt is a dear, dear friend of mine. Not only am I one of her "dream defenders," she is one of mine. We both have a passion for Jesus and justice. You can only imagine how lively our conversations get. Amanda is currently walking out her dream of connecting women to God (through communication) by working with the PTA and now volunteering with REFRESH as a regular contributor to the blog. Walking this dream out with Amanda has been a great blessing to me. We hope this interview is a great encouragement for you!
Give us a short testimony of how you came to know Jesus.
When I was a girl, neither of my parents were saved. My dad had grown up going to church but had gone his own way, and I’m not sure how much my mom had gone to church growing up. But for some reason (God’s grace, really), I vividly remember asking them to take me to church every Sunday, not just Easter and Christmas. It was always a place that felt like home to me, whether I was actually saved at that point or not, I’m not sure. As a teenager, I had all the basic youth group experiences and altar calls, and I just always knew I had my own faith.
Do you feel like God has given you a specific dream or purpose for you life?
Absolutely! At 33, I can’t say it’s the same purpose the 20 year old me thought I would have. It is SO much bigger than I could have imagined. He gave me three main words, all falling under the umbrella of communication - writer, prophet and teacher. This call to communication has taken years of growth, challenges and life experiences before I was able to fully hear the Lord speak it over me, and another year or more for me to embrace it!
What steps have you taken to pursue this dream?
My very first step was leaping right into speaking at our church’s women’s events in Virginia. After we moved to Texas though, I was left with a call and no real avenues to pursue it. The Lord has really taken this time to clarify my calling - adding depth and breadth to it, and deepening my understanding of what He really wants from me. After the Refresh Retreat in 2016, I knew that it was a lot bigger than I first thought, and I also knew that it wasn’t something I was supposed to be aggressive about. I became the president of our PTA, enabling me to encourage and build up the women God put in front of me. I also got more involved at the school district level, knowing that in order to advocate effectively for our school, I needed to know the inner workings. In January 2018, my first written piece to go public was posted on the REFRESH blog, and I agreed to be a regular contributor to it. I am constantly challenging myself with new books on all topics - relationships, human nature, writing - to make sure that I keep growing. I have made myself open to His timing and really I just step out whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Have you had moments in the journey that have set you back or made you want to quit?
More than one! Even beyond that, I have had moments where I didn’t even want to start! When I was working with my pastor’s wife, launching our women’s ministry in Virginia, it wasn’t my idea for me to be the speaker at our events. It wasn’t something I felt prepared for or like I deserved at all, but God really blessed that time as a place to learn and grow in my speaking - finding my voice and finding His heart for those women and those events. I ended up loving every chance I got to speak, and improving each time. Then when we moved to Texas, everything stopped. We were part of a large church that had a thriving women’s ministry, and while I served in it joyfully, it still wasn’t a place to fulfill that calling. I left the REFRESH Retreat a little confused, knowing what I had heard, but seeing my surroundings and situation as non-compatible with what He had told me. It would have been so easy to shrug it off.
What has kept you going?
I recently heard the term “dream defenders”- the people around you who are safe to tell your big God-dreams to. The ones who will believe them with you, even when they sound crazy, and who take the time to pray about them with you and for you, and hold you accountable to walking them out. My dream defenders are what has kept me going. I confided in them, and knowing that they know my calling and they are expecting me to walk it out has given me accountability and opportunities as well.
What areas, in walking out this purpose, do you wish you had more support?
Sometimes I wish I had a map! I read a quote recently that was exactly what I needed to hear, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path” (Joseph Campbell). Irrational hope for a map aside, I wish that I had more people around me who are further along in the same communication calling. Just people who openly talk about their gifts and their struggles and what has helped them in the journey. I definitely have a couple, but more is better!
Do you ever get discouraged by people not understanding what you are trying to do?
At this point, I am more likely to get discouraged by not being able to tell people what I feel like I’m called to. I have learned more than once to be careful who I tell my God-dreams to. They can seem so far fetched and so big, that I know some people will inevitably take it the wrong way. It takes a special friend and dream defender to realize that these dreams truly aren’t about me or about making me feel important, they are God’s calling, and His purpose.
How did you turn this discouragement around?
I really lean into my support systems. I know who they are and where they stand and that they will be there. I also just keep going. I have learned to tune out the nagging voices in my own head, and the worries about how I will be perceived by others and fully embrace where God has me now. The confidence from knowing I’m where God wants me allows me to stand my ground.
Where are you at in the journey and where do you hope to be?
I am just barely at the beginning, really. I have only recently grown brave enough to put my writing out there for people to read, and at the moment I have limited speaking prospects. I am dreaming for big things. I want to do God works, and I want to be a voice for justice, women and the voiceless. He has me in a big growing stage at the moment. I am soaking up as much information as possible and waiting for the time when He calls me to use it.
What kind of advice or encouragement do you have for other women trying to pursue their own purpose in God?
The best advice I have to give is to embrace your calling. When you walk with the Lord, you know His voice. When you hear Him call you and you know it’s Him, don’t shy away from it. He gives you purpose for Kingdom reasons, and if you refuse to walk out that purpose, you will miss so many things. Find the people you trust with your dreams, share with them and start walking. He may redirect your path, but you will not regret taking steps to pursue your calling.
Written by Kelli Sommers
Kelli Sommers comes from a long line of storytellers and comedians. Through her stories she hopes to inspire others to know how much God loves them. Kelli is married to a complete opposite who loves to watch her fly. She has 5 beautiful kids and serving her family is one of her greatest joys in life, but bedtime is one of her favorite times of day. Kelli loves to read the word and that’s the only book she has time for right now. If she is not at home picking up messes, you will find her out with a friend, having a long talk and some good food (probably tacos). She is passionate about unifying women. We are better together. You can find her on her blog and instagram.