Valerie- Today we’re talking with Michelle Lazarek, the co-author of the award-winning book, Who God Wants Me to Be. Welcome to BookWorthy, Michelle.
Michelle- Valerie, I’m so glad to be here, thanks.
Valerie- So glad to see you today. Now with Valentine’s Day being next week, what is your favorite flower, or do you enjoy receiving flowers for Valentine's Day?
Michelle- I do like receiving flowers. I’m elementary. I’m a rose person. I love roses, they’re my favorite flowers, so Valentine’s Day or any other day is good for me. They don’t have to be red, just roses.
Valerie- So fun. I think, what is it, my favorite type of rose is the orange ochre rose. They’re kind of orange and pink. They’re very unique. My husband does a great job of finding those particular ones. There are so many kinds of roses, you can’t go wrong. I love the message of your book. You and Crystal Bowman wrote, Who God Wants Me to Be. I think it’s a message that doesn’t always get communicated well in our success-driven culture. What led you to write this book?
Michelle- This book started as a vision, which it does often for me. Sometimes God will give it to me through just a word picture or just a sense of something. I had written a book in 2014-2015 called Daddy, Am I Beautiful? It was a book actually about my daughter. For about a year from age four to five, she spent the majority of her time putting on these Disney princess
dresses and a pound's worth of gaudy jewelry, and she would run out to my husband, and she would spin around, and she’d say, Daddy, am I beautiful? And he would say, Oh yeah, you’re very beautiful. And so, she would laugh, and she’d run away, and she’d go back to her room. Then she’d do it again and entertain herself for hours like this. I remember watching from afar and thinking to myself, this is the cry of every young girl’s heart. To hear her father say that she’s beautiful. I think it’s at that moment that I kind of got the sense or the calling to want to empower young girls. And so, this book in turn is the same empowerment story of allowing girls to discover who they want to be when they grow up, but also allowing that to be in line with God’s plan for their lives.
So often kids think they choose what they’re going to wear that day. But there is a God element in every part of our lives including our careers. And so, I think that by allowing girls, especially girls, because Crystal agreed with me when we kind of came up with the idea for this, what that back, I don’t know 50 years ago, let’s say, when my mom was growing up, there was no choices for women. There was at best, a secretary or nurse. There was no doctor. There was no aspiration to be the best that she could be. So, I remember having a conversation with my mom one day, and she harped on me to go to college. When I asked her why she hadn’t gone, she said. It was not expected of me, because it wasn’t something that was expected of women. At best, they wanted them to be good caregivers and good wives to their husbands. You could choose a career, but you were very limited in what careers you could choose. So, she wanted me to go because she, in a sense, had lost an opportunity. Not to say she regretted having us or having her life, but rather she wished that she had that opportunity when she was growing up, that I was given at that stage in life. And so that was part of the aspiration for me to go to college. I was the first in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. So, it’s probably one of the top accomplishments of my life to be able to say that I graduated with a college degree, which was not offered to my mom or even my sister. It was at the time it was an option. You could graduate, but you didn’t have to, kind of thing. And now we live in a world where you do need a college degree to get any sort of career that you want in life. And so all that to say, I wanted girls to be able to imagine. I wanted them to use their wildest imaginations when it came to choosing their career, but at the same time, I wanted them to understand that God does have a say in that and He does have a plan for every one of our lives and He does order every one of our steps. So when we follow God, including our career choices, God will always lead us in the right path for us even if that career path may mean five or six different career choices. It could mean jobs within that career or it could be completely different careers too.
We’ve been in a world that is very transient now but my dad spent twenty-five years of his life at one company and believed he would retire there. That was the mentality back when I was growing up, that’s not the same mentality and so we have to understand that that is what kids are dealing with now. But at the same time, it’s okay if they don’t stay within that career choice they choose for the college degree. That’s okay and God will continue to order their steps.
Valerie- I love that because I think there is a hiccup sometimes when we are communicating to our kids, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s kind of like at four and five making them think they have to choose the rest of their life at this young age. And I love that your book does a great job of allowing these girls to explore their interests, as well as it’s okay if they change their minds because what they are interested in at one age might be different than what they’re interested in at another age. God can use both. Your book does a really good job of striking a balance between choosing a career and knowing God. What’s the difference for you between calling and career?
Michelle- Well, I think calling is something that God has planned for them. I think it’s you know; you see that through scriptures. Psalm 139, says it well,
You’ve searched me Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such wonderful, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
I love that because it just solidifies for me that God has numbered every hair on my head and knows where every hair goes in its perfect place. At the same time, if I am secure in that knowledge, then the career is just a drop in the bucket for the Lord. Like, why would I not
trust him in that area than I would anything else? So calling is the thing that gets you out of bed every morning. For you Valerie, you do these wonderful interviews with us authors. That’s something that has propelled you to have a purpose in life, ultimately. Whether you finish this one and this is the last one, or you do this for the next ten years, part of your life will be that you were able to put out great Christian content for people to get to know the author and to get to know good quality books for their kids. And that helps know your overall plan and purpose that you have for your life. But the career part is that niche within the calling. And so for example, if I’m being called into ministry, let’s say, well that can encompass a myriad of different things. That could be in a pastoral setting, but it may not be. There could be a lot of different ways. We’ve got it’s calling me into a ministry leadership type role that may not be one way for the entire time. And I have to be ready to know that God can, I don’t know if you’ve had these moments, but I certainly have had a tone of them in my Christian walk, where God takes the garbage can where everything is so neatly folded and just dumps it. Just shakes up and just dumps it and says, we’re gonna start again. We’re gonna do something completely different. And I have to be okay with that, to roll with those punches, because ultimately my like is the Lord’s and my career is also the Lord’s and I don’t get to be able to say, I mean, I guess do in the sense of free will and choice, but if I believe that my life is ultimately the Lord’s then I have to give over to Him my career and allow Him to be able to choose different direction to accomplish His will.
Valerie- I think that’s great. And a great message for your kids to know that God is working in them, that He has gifted them with talents and abilities, whether it’s compassion or, you know, I have kids that are amazing at math. It’s not like everyone gets that gift, but God can use it, no matter the choices he makes as long as he is choosing to work for the Lord, where he chooses to go, God is going to use him no matter the choices of career he’s makes. Whether it’s, like you said, the ministry is from the pulpit, or it can be in the office making sure everything is organized and administratively done as a ministry in itself. And I love that this book gives, kind of leans into the idea of listening to God more in the choices that we make and how we define, what we want to be when we grow up. Cause I think even at my age, I’m still like, what do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t think we ever stop asking that question. But I love that this diverse group of girls who come from so many different lifestyles are exploring how God made them, and I think if we lean into who God made us more than what we do, then no matter what we do, we are going to be living in God’s will. You have the line in the book that says, I keep trusting God and then I will see, exactly who he wants me to be. And I think that’s just the heart that we all desire to know who God wants us to be, but just to lean in and trust that God is moving and acting in that. What strategies do you suggest as a parent, as your kids start growing and being like, I want to be this or that? You say you want to be a doctor, but you faint at the sight of blood.
Michelle- You know, I think you’re making a really good point. In today’s world, it’s very different than what I grew up with, you know, even just 20 years ago, the world has changed so much. And there were not these jam-packed schedules of sports and clubs and activities that vie for kids’ time. And so, because we live in a world where we can turn on our television and pretty much get any time of program we want at any time, we have this abundant ability to choose. And so, when we choose, we continue to have that choice throughout our lives, we expect that we can choose in every area, including our careers. And so, like you’re saying, sometimes our kids will fall into that whim of ‘that looks exciting or that looks cook, or my friend’s parent does that. And so, they want to do it too. I think part of helping parents navigate a calling and understand the calling for their child is to know them well. And I think sometimes it takes that hard conversation like what you were just mentioning like yeah, you said you want to be a doctor, but you faint at the sight of blood. You know that’s that intimate knowing of your child to know that it’s not them. My kids never cease to amaze me. I have two children. I have a son who just went off to college and I have a daughter who’s a senior in high school. The two couldn’t be more completely different children from the same parents raised the same way, approach the world in two opposite directions. My daughter wanted to be into sports. She’s gifted incredibly in many ways, but sports are not necessarily one of them. So, we’ve had to steer her away from sports activities because it’s not her, but she’s phenomenal at art. She’s great at singing and acting and dancing and public speaking. She has a talent for those things. And so, we’ve wanted to very gently steer her away from sports ideas and more toward the arts and acting in those creative ways that nurture her creative spirit, which she’s always had ever since she was a kid.
part of it is just knowing your kid and being able to help them understand and have discernment. Because discernment really and wisdom is a spiritual give, we want every child to have because as they grow up and become adults, we’re not going to be there to help them make every decision and they have to be able to not only make good healthy decisions but also rely on God and trust that he will help them make a good healthy decision in our absence. So, I think knowing our kids, affirming their gifts, and honestly, not to sound simplistic, but I do think prayer. I think prayer is our ultimate tool. I think prayer is something we can use to not only allow us to help discern what God has for our children’s lives, but also help them discern what’s right for their lives too, and giving over every area of their life, including their career, because it’s so often we prayer for a spouse or ourself or their salvations, but how often do we prayer for an actual career that they can follow that’s good form the, and in alignment with their spiritual gifts. I mean, let’s not discredit spiritual gifts either, and understand that God does have each child uniquely wired with gifts that only they can do, and when they identify those and use those regularly is when they can discuss their career for their lives.
Valerie- That is very true, And I love what you’ve done for your daughter. Seeing her giftings steered her in the direction. Because I have a kiddo who’s very artsy and creative too. And he’s recently taken an interest in athletics. And I’m like, that’s weird. This is strange, but I can see how culture wants me to push him more in that direction, something wired in me and that I probably need to see God’s wisdom in myself, but is just that we have this, the world desires us to be successful, be the best, be the doctor, be the star athlete. And we kind of get lost in the success-driven mindset that our world decides to throw on us. And we forget that God has wired them with purpose and with a plan. Theatre, art, and singing, kind of get this bad rap, but amazing things are happening even with what Dallas Jenkins and The Chosen, and a lot of great Christians are stepping out with the Jesus Revolution that came out this last year, It’s been neat to see faith-filled people in that industry. It’s a challenge for me as a parent to be like, okay Lord, is this the standard of the world, or is this your standard that I’m trying to push him towards? So I think that’s good.
Michelle- Yet, to your point too, I don’t know if you know this, but the Kendrick brothers, who got started with Flywheel back in 2005, started with a sermon from their local pastor. That’s
how they got started in film this calling that they felt after the pastor spoke, and the Lord spoke to their hearts about making this movie. And they’ll be the first to admit they didn’t know anything about the industry at the time. They had a limited budget, so they used local talent and people from their church and things to make Flywheel. And if you watch Flywheel and their latest movie that’s come out of them, what a difference 20 years can make and how much they’ve done. That was the linchpin, that was the catalyst for
Jesus Revolution and I Can Only Imagine and for all these successful faith-based movies and Sound of Freedom to come out and talk about hard, hard topics no one else is talking about. All because of one calling. One calling from One God to a group of brothers who decided to say yes and had no idea what they were doing, but they were willing to learn. And they were willing to invest and willing to raise the money and the church came alongside them and wanted to help them in that endeavor. And look what it’s done. It’s changed the world so much because of one yes. And that’s a perfect example of calling too and career, I guess, for that matter. Cause I’m going to safely assume they probably didn’t think they’d go in that direction ever until the Lord one day decided to speak to their hearts.
Same thing with me. I got started as an author by a colleague. I was worshiping at a women’s retreat. We had quiet time, so I went out to my car and I was worshiping and I was listening to music and I just felt the Lord speak to my heart saying, I want you to write a book. Had never written anything before that point. For my masters, I avoided the program that wanted a thesis because I thought I wouldn’t have enough to say, and I didn’t think I wanted to write enough. I probably have written a hundred theses by now. And by then it was like, oh no, I won’t have enough to say, I’m not good, you know. So, because of that obedience to say yes, one random day in 2009, I’m sitting here today with you because I decided to say yes. And I could never have imagined where my life would have gone or has gone because of my obedience to that. So, I do think, that obedience is an integral part of helping kids discern a calling and career for their lives too. I think we as adults have to be an example and take radical steps toward obedience to God’s calling for us too. And even in the most mundane tasks so that we can be the examples to them so they can say, ‘Yeah I want to follow that because my parents did that and look at what God did.
Valerie- And I think that’s kind of one of those hard things as parents is we want to set them up on the road to success and be like ‘this is the way we do things.” But there is a lot of work God has to do in our hearts as parents, but God has so much work to do in our IDs too, and to allow them to see God working in us and see us learning into God’s word, studying God’s word regularly and seeking God in our everyday decisions. Cause there’s a lot of times with my kids, they’re like, Mom why aren’t we doing this? Then to say to them that your dad and I prayed over this and this wasn’t the direction God led us. So they’re seeing that as we model making our decision through reading God’s word and through prayer and not just deciding because, ooh this would be cool and flashy, but taking time to sit and think and consult the Lord on our decision is important for kids to see too. Now, quick question, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Michelle- Okay, so I wanted to be an actress. I was very into creative arts too. I did a play in junior high, and sixth grade. It was Sherlock Homes, I played Watson, and I loved it. I loved being a part of that, did the eighth-grade talent show, and loved that too. So I thought that’s where I was going to head. And then the Lord changed it in college, what I thought. I majored in communications and wanted to be a radio DJ. Then I met my husband, and I got married after I graduated college. We went to Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada. And I worked for the local radio station there, volunteered, and I hated it. And I decided that was not what God
was calling me to do. And so I was devastated. I was devastated because I thought I just went and spent all this money and four years of school to do this think that now God is saying no. So I thought, oh my gosh Lord, what are you doing? So I started praying and going over scripture, and I came across the scripture that talks about a mighty counselor. And I felt like that was kind of in my heart was a counseling degree. And so I went for a master’s in counseling and thought, okay, the Lord is a mighty counselor, therefore he must be in this degree. And so I spent all this money and I got a master’s in counseling and thought this is my path, my trajectory, that’s what I’m going to do. And I talked to a lady in my church who was working as a counselor, at a Christian Counseling Center, and I asked her for more information about it, and she said ‘Can I come over and talk to you one day?” And I said sure. So she comes over and looks at me and says if you could do any other career, do it. She said it’s so taxing and hard, and this was back in the early 2000s. I can’t even imagine what it’s like now. But she said in a secular counseling center you can’t even utter the name of Christ. You have to be within the secular modes of therapy modalities. And I was again devastated. I was like, I can’t believe you just said that. Like what am I going to do? I’m thinking, oh my gosh, I spent all this money. I thought I had this great direction. But I see Valerie, now as I read, as I’m writing books, and as I’m speaking to you right now on this podcast and other public speaking. That’s what God was preparing me for through all of that. And I may not be hanging a shingle on my front yard and having a counseling office necessarily, or I may not be on the radio, but I’m
writing, helping people, which is where my heart was anyway, through books and through the written and spoken word. So it may have taken a different turn than what I expected, but I don’t regret it and I certainly don’t think I was wrong in doing all of that. I think I just had the wrong course of action. But I think my heart was in the right place and I think God knew that and I think He does direct and order our steps if we let Him. And so again, to go back to calling and obedience that may take a very different direction for your children or even for you in this world that we live in, but God has been preparing you. He doesn’t waste a moment of our lives and every job and every activity that you’re doing is important. It is preparing you for the next thing that God is calling you to do. So to bear that in mind as they think about praying and trying to discern a calling and career for their children and maybe even for their own lives as they maybe approach it a second after, the next chapter for themselves it could take a very different turn than what you expect, but God in His sovereignty will know that and He’ll be able to guide us if our hearts are in the right place and if we’re willing to be obedient.
Valerie- God doesn’t waste any moments. He is always working in the waiting. His mercies renew every morning (VERSE). So even if we decide we’re going to go this direction, which is part of my own story, God’s like, all right, we’ll work it back to where He wants it to go. God’s going to accomplish his will, whether we’re willing or not. Well, Michelle, what can we expect next from you?
Michelle- I have two books coming out in 2024. The first is a book with B&H Kids Lifeway called Hall of Faith and it’s a retelling of the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith. It will help kids relate to those MVPs of the Hall of Faith, and how they can all be a part of the Hall of Faith by doing acts of obedience through faith. I’ll have another book come out around the same time with author friends named Donna Weiland with Elk Lake Publishing and it’s called Pockets Full of Shells. It’s about a little boy who with the help of a friend comes to understand that the shells from the seashore make the little boys and girls at the nearby hospital happy when they see them. The boy learns he can use those shells to bring happiness and hope to those children—both of those come out in 2024. I’m excited about that.
Valerie- Those sounds like books to look forward to. I know the importance for kids to expand and understand more about the Hall of Faith and those characters, but understanding the faith behind those characters is important. The Pocket Full of Shells sounds charming. I can’t wait to see it. Where can people find out more about you?
Michelle- Listeners can visit my website www.michellelazurek.com There you can find an About Me page, and you can learn a little more about me. There’s a little store with all the products and books that I’ve written so far. There are also articles and things that I’ve written, but the most important is the contact page. If you’ve seen or heard this today and you want more information or you just want prayer or connect and say Hi, please write me on the contact form. I respond to every one I receive. And I would love to connect with you and hear more about your story, and how we can connect in the future.
Valerie- So fun, I know that people who reach out will be blessed for sure. Thank you so much for joining us, Michelle.
Michelle- Thank you, Valerie.
Valerie- And thank you for joining Michelle and me on this episode of the BookWorthy Podcast. Check out some of the links we discussed and let us know over on social media what is your favorite Valentine’s flower. Tune in next week to discover more great books together.