When I was young I remember going to the Air Force Thunderbirds air show in Anchorage, Alaska thinking, “That’s it. I’m going to be an F-16 Pilot when I grow up.” From that point on, I collected and built model F-16 planes, I begged my dad to take me to the flight line to watch the fighters on whichever base we were stationed take off and land, I even remember buying the Thunderbird Barbie. Yes, I had my life all planned out. During our job shadowing day as a senior in high school, I was lucky enough to spend the day with the commander of the 60th Fighter Squadron at Eglin AFB. I was stepping out of the cockpit of an F-15 and that’s when he broke the news. Unless I grew to be 5 feet 3 inches, I would be too short to meet the regulations to fly a fighter jet. I was 5’1 then. I am 5’1 now. I was heartbroken.
So fast forward almost 20 years and here I am changing lives, one gift at a time! So how did I go from dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot to spending my days sharing the excitement with my students and clients, being the most fulfilled I’ve ever been? Well, I’m glad you’re still reading because, after high school, it began to get interesting!
I studied music in college. I didn’t want to be a teacher and I didn’t want to perform for a living but I was good at music. After all, I was an All-County Clarinetist in Okaloosa County four years in a row. I even had the rare opportunity to represent our county at the All-State band! I lived and breathed music, but not enough to make a living doing it…….so I thought. In college, we were required to pick a minor and since school wasn’t my thing, I had to get creative. What else did I like besides music?? NOT MUCH! By some stroke of luck, I found myself in the Radio, Television, and Film curriculum. I L.O.V.E.D. it! So much so, I completed my internship at the campus radio station DJing the Sounds of Jazz spot in the evenings. Did I know anything about the genre of jazz? Barely. Did I have the smooth alto voice that would captivate listeners? You bet I did! From spinning records at the radio station, I moved on to television….live television. I grew up watching WDAM Nightly News in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I can’t believe I was ACTUALLY counting down Randy Swan on my broadcast camera!! Ah, yes! This was it. THIS. WAS. IT! I felt all my dreams had come true and I was on my way to ESPN, baby! Baby? Did someone say Baby? That’s when life happened………..
Just as a jet losing its engine power falling from the sky and come crashing down, my life seemed to come crashing down. I found myself back in my hometown, two young kids, no job, a piece of a car, and living at my mom’s house. #Yikes What to do? What to do. By this point, my life began to take the shape of one small, unassuming blessing intertwined with another. Like a needle in a haystack, I happened upon a three-line ad in the local newspaper (the one no one reads anymore) and saw a local college was looking for a person to answer the phones. I sent in my resume, got the interview and BAM! The interviewer liked my playing ability so much that he hired me! (Remember, music?) Wait….what does my playing ability have to do with helping people in college? Beats me. All I know is that our gifts will make room for us and God knows I needed a job! This was the start of my 10-year career in higher education. And we are just getting started.
For 10 years, beginning in 2006 I helped people of all ages reach their educational goals, fulfill their dreams. Through blood, sweat, and PLENTY of tears, I did whatever it took to make sure students felt confident in pursuing their educational goals. Encouraging them was the best part of my career. Believing in themselves was the only thing that could ever top that. At 32 years old, I found myself at the top of my career field. Director of Academic Advising. Most people wait their whole career for this opportunity. As a matter of fact, my two competitors both spent 30 years in the field of higher education. Here I was with my little 5 years of higher education experience and 5 years supervisory experience (the minimum requirement, I might add) and I’ve got a great shot in becoming the next director at the college. Well, since FAVOR AIN’T FAIR, guess who got the call? I prepared myself for a particular type of position. Let’s just say August 12, 2013, was the day I stepped into the wilderness.
One very important part of this journey that I have not let you in on yet is that I reconnected with God in 2012. Very long story, maybe even another blog post, but my relationship with Him was right in the nick of time and boy did He have some amazing things in store for me! Little did I know, the enemy was waiting in the wings to trip me up around every corner. What the enemy must have forgotten is that I have the power of God on the inside of me. With each and every attack, I overcame and helped others to overcome right along with me. I REALLY made a difference in the office when others started noticing I wasn’t eating on Wednesdays. It ALWAYS seemed to be that every birthday, going away, or otherwise was on Wednesdays so my sacrifice was consistently in the spotlight. Did I ever offer the fact that I fasted every Wednesday? Not so much. Were people in shock and in awe that I would go a whole day without eating…and all in The Name of The Lord?? #Whew That was a ministry all by itself. Time and time again, conversation after conversation with other employees, I often referred to my sacrifice each week as to “how I handle all of this”. I firmly believe that my sacrifice blessed each person in that office whether they wanted it to or not. Praise God. You may be asking how we got all the way over here when trying to learn how Grow Your Gift came about. Well, don’t fret. We’re almost there!
Getting into about year three and a half as the Director of Academic Advising, I began to get weary. I had utilized every opportunity to improve our programs, serve students, and guide employees of the college to a better position in their careers. God provided the grace and mercy for me to get everything I needed while at the college to prepare me for my greater. Legislation, leadership, and a feeling of hopelessness began to overwhelm me. I felt my hands were tied and feet bound when it came to providing service to students and the community. I felt like my purpose had been fulfilled in the short time I was at the college and it was time to move on to something bigger. But what?! Did I mention I spent a whole lot of time in my prayer closet, my war room? During prayer one day, I cried out to God and asked Him to allow me to do something I love. I would love to teach music again. I would love to make a living teaching music! This is something I’m good at, causes me no stress, and will help others be proud of themselves, a very much encouraging endeavor.
Oh, you want to know what I mean by teaching music ‘again’? Well, somewhere along my journey, I decided to teach clarinet and saxophone at the local music store. Hands down one of the best, yet short-lived experiences of my life. But of course, it didn’t pay the bills. I needed a “real” job. Ha!
So I’m crying out to God, but deep down inside I know there were two obstacles to overcome. 1. Fear of walking away from a career with a pretty incredible paycheck. 2. Getting my husband (Hi, Chris. Love you, MUAH!) to get on board with me walking away from a career with a pretty incredible paycheck. After all, our children have experienced what they believe to be a lap of luxury for many years now. #SPOILED
To begin dabbling in teaching, I started taking on students while still working full time. I wanted to see if I would enjoy it as much as I thought I would before I made the leap into this new adventure. My first student, Hallel Saine a high school clarinetist from my alma mater gets some credit for my falling in love with what I didn’t know I wanted to do. Her drive and passion to improve kept my excitement going week after week. The goals she set for herself and the way she knocked them out was confirmation that God was taking me in the direction to allow Him to get all the glory. The growth Hallel exhibited by the end of her senior year was incredible. I began to think to myself: If I could have just an inkling of a responsibility in getting people young and old the next great thing in their lives, my purpose is being fulfilled. I began to take on students and decided I was ready to build a company using the gift that was placed on the inside of me.
On August 23, 2016, Grow Your Gift Services, LLC was born. Why add ‘Services’ you ask? Well, remember when I was telling you that my gift was not just in music but with people, programs, and processes? I wanted to provide myself the opportunity to grow in the business world as well as the world of music. I knew because God showed me, that I have a gift of helping others reach their goals and achieve their dreams. I have been blessed with the gift of encouragement. The path God took me down through my higher education career is one that provided me with every tool I would need to begin to help others live out their dream of owning a small business. My love for research would further catapult me to success.
Fast forward to today and through several outlets, Grow Your Gift Service, LLC is responsible for the musical growth for approximately 35 students. To date, we have served eleven small businesses in a multitude of capacities.
So as you can tell, the journey to our company is a long one, yet we are just getting started. I invite you to stay tuned to our social media pages and website for exciting news, giveaways, and information you can use to grow the vision you’ve had but may have never acted on. It is our pleasure, our honor, to serve our community and welcome any questions, concerns, and feedback. We look forward to staying in touch with you!
Marlayna Goosby, Founder & Director
God, Bless the Process