The Collected Story
"Write the book."
"What? What book? What are you talking about?"
Tia McNelly, founder and Director of Collected, had this short and confusing conversation with God several times before things started to make even the slightest bit of sense.
In the fall of 2016, the third time she heard God instruct her to "write the book," she had had it.
"If you want me to write a book you're going to have to tell me what that means! You have to tell me what it's about and how to write it!"
She shouted all of this to air above her desk where she'd been working in non-profit management for eight years. As she shook her fists at the ceiling, her phone rang.
"Hi, sweetie. Listen I can't talk long, but I wanted to let you know that I got a free ticket to a writing conference and I know you like to write, so do you want the ticket? I have to let the guy know today."
"MOM. If you knew what was just happening! I was just pitching a temper tantrum at God about some book He wants me to write! I have no idea what He's talking about. Yes, I'll take the ticket!"
Tia attended the conference and began learning the business of being an author. During the conference she had an idea for a project and called her friend Jes, owner of Sprezza Foundry, to pitch a collaboration. With Jes' art and whole-hearted support, Tia launched her blog at tiamcnelly.com in February of 2017.
The week of Tia's launch, her family began attending a new church where she met Mikala, the church's worship pastor. It wasn't long before God downloaded a vision of a day for women to gather where Tia could teach what God was showing her about laying down distractions and frustrations to be fully present to God's plans. She imagined Jes leading the women in a creative risk-taking exercise as a way to show them that they are all created by a Creator and therefore creative by nature. She saw Mikala leading worship and women being set free from the lies that hold them back from pursuing their God-breathed dreams.
A few weeks later, Tia invited Jes and Mikala to dinner and pitched her idea. She shared that she'd been receiving the word "collected" over the past year and thought that maybe is was connected to these women's events. They discussed how they'd experienced the frustrations and distractions of day-to-day life keeping them from understanding who they really were in Christ and how God sees them. Excitement, passion, and creativity began to flow as the shared their thoughts and ideas. Their talking turned to praying and together with Holy Spirit, they crafted the full vision for Collected workshops.
In the beginning, the events were designed to serve only women, but as more men became familiar with the content and concepts, the team recognized that both men and women are hungry for practical tools and inspiration that will propel them into their purpose, reveal their passion, and define their calling. Each workshop is now tailored to suit the demographics of the community Collected is serving. Worship, creative risk-taking, and practical teaching are always at the core of every workshop. The framework is centered on Colossians 3:1-17 and speaks to identity, restoration, and courageously stepping into the fullness of how God uniquely designed each of us to express the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
After a year of hosting workshops with wildly positive feedback, the three leaders went on a retreat where they dreamed, brainstormed, prayed, and received direction for the next season: The Collected Podcast! While workshops are still at the heart of Collected's mission and vision, the podcast offers a way to share the message of Collected with a wider audience while Tia works on obeying God's instruction to "write the book".
This whole journey been like driving on a dark road in a remote place. Headlights illuminate what's immediately in front of the car and streetlights give a momentary glimpse of the landscape and what's further down the road. The Collected car just keep driving and taking the turns God reveals along the way. There's still so much see and even more to learn.
Here's what we've learned so far:
Sometimes obedience looks like taking the first step before we know where the second or third or last step will take us.
Sometimes we have to stop and get ourselves collected before we're ready to move on to the next step. Distractions and frustrations be damned.
Sometimes the outcome might look nothing like the vision, but the vision got you moving in the right direction.
Do you have a story of stepping into something you sensed God asking you to do before you fully knew what He was asking of you? What have you learned so far?
Share your story in the comments or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.