Time for a New Shell

October 1, 2017

By Phil Ransom

Years ago one of my sisters had a hermit crab for a pet. We enjoyed watching the little thing move around at certain times of the day, fed it per instructions and watched it grow. We were very careful to have the right size next shell in the mini aquarium for him too.  Because as hermit crabs outgrow their current shell, they need a new empty shell to move into. In the wild, it’s not a problem, really, but in captivity, the owner assumes responsibility to have the next larger shell ready.

Sure enough, one day we looked into the aquarium and found he’d moved!  Curious, I was, what did the new place feel like?  Did he like that it was roomier?  Grumble a bit that it was heavier? Grin when he looked at his reflection in the glass, because this new shell was pretty cool-looking?

He never said, so I guess I’ll never know.  I do know this.  Something triggered the “this shell is too small and that one will work better” in him and he detached from the familiar to move into larger.

We people move too.  While not from shell to shell, we migrate into new, hopefully more advantageous houses, cars, relationships, jobs, careers, industries,  … the list of possibilities is long.

I don’t know about how uncomfortable the little hermit crab became before he relocated but I do know that as a person, I’ve had both ends of the time-to-move spectrum.  I’ve left old, cramped, former things, eager to get on with the new.  Sometimes I was right about how exciting it would be, a few times I’ve been wrong about what was coming.

I’ve had new positions, homes, life and ministry emphases that were easy to slip into and others that were hugely challenging.  Even when the change is growth-related, it can take a while to feel at home.  It always takes a while for a new home owner to make the new place feel as comfortable as where they used to live.  Depending on the work, decorating and updating needed, it can take months!

I’ve been reflecting lately on that concept as it applies to my current life work. I didn’t like how I was thrust into it.  OK, that’s being too kind.  I hated how it happened.  I stifled my scowl when people said “You’ll come to appreciate what this pain eventually opens up for you.”

“Easy for you to say,” I’d think to myself, “you’re not the one who was displaced.”

Then, on February 9, 2016, a speaker’s comment at an event I attended triggered the  “I need a new shell” within me as it related to my vocation.  I remembered moments in my life when words on the page were very important to me

  • 1973 – as a high schooler, the first to ACE the creative writing section of the SAT exam.
  • In college, when good papers helped balance out poor test scores, helping me pass a class.
  • Writing scripts for seasonal plays and cantatas or musicals in my first church, including “Seasons,” in 1980, honoring my grandfather Ransom’s life and ministry.
  • Freelancing in the mid-90’s between ministry positions, learning a ton and exploring this new thing called the internet.
  • Patriotic scripts. Thanksgiving Eve scripts. Copy for a church’s capital gain campaign.
  • Never Forget, for the 10th anniversary commemoration of 9*11 in Western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming.

“I want this to be what I DO … all of it,” I said to Brenda.  She listened. We prayed together, and she consented.

This latest push has felt more like a few weeks than a year and 9 months, but I’ve learned. Grown. Acquired new skills. A few weeks ago I realized, “I’m really quite comfortable with this!”

Pressed by deadlines, of course. Challenged by new requests or market needs?  Naturally.  But this is me, now. My life work.  When people ask what I do, I smile and ask, “Do you know business owners, CEO-types, Executive Directors who know they need to write well, but don’t have the time — or hate the process?”

They nearly always nod yes.  “That would be us,” said one man.

“I’m the one the smart ones call, to do that writing for them,” I smile.

He and his wife are now clients, I’m ghostwriting/editing her book.
This writing for top-tier executives took some growing into, but it’s like living in a new house, walls painted colors WE chose. Art and family pictures on the wall. Bushes and perennials where they belong outside so the curb appeal makes me smile.  Or if I was a hermit crab, this fits.

I have plans –if you know me, you know that’s an understatement– but because I’ve listened as God has whispered His instructions, I’ve not had to back-track. He’s introduced me to new people and new industries.

Integrity and excellence are always front and center.

Produce what you promise.
Deliver a day early if you can,
wrapping the product in customer service that surprises and delights.



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