Guest Blog Post: Personal Compass Exercise

Today’s guest blog post is from my sister, Jess, who is visiting right now! Enjoy:

Sometimes finding our calling isn’t so much about not knowing what it is and searching for it, but about feeling pulled in too many directions at once. Sometimes everything sounds like a good idea, or your desires and your obligations are in conflict and discerning where to invest is the difficult part.

When you’re feeling pulled in various directions and having trouble knowing which direction to pursue, the Personal Compass exercise can be a great visual way to practice discernment. It’s from Wilkie and Noreen Cannon Au’s book The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path. You’ll need a piece of a paper and a pen, or if you’ve got time to spare and are feeling a bit more creative, several magazines, scissors and glue!

1. Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Divide the circle into four quadrants representing the four directions, North, South, East and West. Leave a space in the centre of the circle open.

2. In each of each of the quadrants write or draw or collage the words, events, choices, images, questions etc. that come to mind based on the prompts for each direction.

EAST: is the direction of the rising sun, the direction of new beginnings.
What new energy and/or movement is starting to emerge in you?
What is starting to happen and what are you taking hold of?
Where are you being called to embrace something new?
Are you aware of issues or areas in need of healing or change?

WEST: is the direction of the setting sun, the direction of endings and letting go.
What or who needs to be released, ended, shed?
What beliefs, attitudes, and so forth do you need to die to?
What maps no longer work for your life?
Where is deep healing needed?

NORTH: is the direction of your foundation. The North Star represents your guiding light, your deep personal and spiritual values, your mentors and stabilizing forces.
Who deeply loves and guides you?
What images of God nurture and sustain you?
Who are your spiritual guides and dearest friends?

SOUTH: is the direction of sunny exposure and warmth, representing your energy, imagination and spontaneity.
Where is your creative energy being called forth?
What do you really long to do or be?
How do you nurture yourself?
About which hobbies are you passionate?

In the CENTER draw or collage your image of an unconditional YES to your life, to living it fully, spiritually, mentally, physically.

3. When you’ve finished spend some time reflecting on what you’ve written or drawn. You might want to journal about the items and answers and questions your personal compass raised. Ask yourself:

Where am I saying yes?
Where am I struggling?

 

Guest Blog Post: Today Matters

Today’s guest blog post comes from my good friend and former co-worker, Charity! We met just over a year ago now when Charity came on board at the company I was working at. I’m so glad we had the year to work together and become friends, and I’m excited to have her share some of her thoughts on calling today.

My Confession.
Ok, I’m ready to confess to the world the truth about my past: I auditioned for American Idol. I know you’re already judging me for that, but before you switch over to Facebook, let me at least explain how I found myself in line at 5:00 a.m. with thousands of other “hopefuls.” It was right after I graduated from college and I was still reeling from the shock of having a degree, student loans in my name, and very little idea about what to do with myself. I had been performing vocally since I was a child and had done some professional background singing in L.A. during school, and I had a vague idea of God wanting me to “do something in music.”

Having grown up in a charismatic church, I had countless examples of God speaking to people in very specific ways, and I expected that He would be crystal clear about such an important question as one’s calling in life. Like so many young people, I had grandiose ideas of what my life could look like, and my dreams about the future sounded more like a Justine Bieber song than a page out of the Apostle Paul’s journal. I wonder now if part of my struggle in hearing His voice took place because I was more interested in what He could do for me than what I could do for Him. I was waiting for God to very clearly tell me specifics about what to do, but He didn’t. Here are a few things I’ve learned since then.

“Love God and do as you please.”
Whether through the Bible or personality tests, through experiences or prophetic words, God is creative in His means of communicating. And part of becoming better attuned to the texture of His voice, means knowing the kinds of things He talks about. We miss the big picture if we only seek direction regarding what job we should do, what ministry we should be involved in, or what talents we should use, when in the Bible it is evident that God’s will for human beings is so much more rich and varied and comprehensive than that. Calling is about vocation, talents, and specific tasks, but it’s also about character, love, self-sacrifice, holiness, and so on. My dad is a pastor and he has interacted with hundreds of people who have anxiously struggled to discover what God’s will is for them. I remember him telling me that he counsels people to start living like Jesus lived by reaching out to those around them with kindness and the power of the Holy Spirit, and stop worrying so much about whether they’ve discovered God’s will for their lives. As St. Augustine said, “Love God and do as you please.”

A Ministry of Birthday Parties.
What is my calling? What is God’s will for my life? What should my life look like? One of my favorite professors was addressing how to approach these kinds of questions, and he gave this extraordinarily practical advice: “think about what role you could play in advancing God’s Kingdom, and then do it.” My whole insides recoiled at that statement when I first heard it, probably because it’s so terribly mundane. But the mundane is where this whole thing has to start, or else it will never begin at all. Some people are called to be Billy Grahams but most people are called to be Kathy Greagers.

Let me explain. Billy Graham is well-known across the world as an evangelist who preached to hundreds of thousands of people in his massive crusades. Kathy Greager is a little-known mother of three in a small town in Oregon who decided to say yes to God in little ways. She lived in a poor neighborhood and saw that so many of the children in that neighborhood were neglected and unloved. Kathy loves kids so she started throwing birthday parties for those children as a way to show them that their important day does not go unnoticed, and pretty soon she had a full-blown ministry on her hands. She started collecting presents for them for Christmas and filled an entire room at the church, and she invited them to Sunday school and other outreaches regularly. Kathy doesn’t wait for grand opportunities to come her way; she observes the world around her, sees where there is need, and then does what she can about it.

Today Matters.
Like many people, my dreams were “larger than life” and future-oriented, and sometimes when dreams are so grand and so distant in the future we can become paralyzed in the present. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big—in fact, the Scriptures invite us to expect the impossible—but never to the neglect of the present. Today matters. And not merely instrumentally in that what I do today has a bearing on the rest of my life, but inherently what transpires today has value. God has a plan for my life today, I am called to serve and love Him today, and there are people around me who need His love today.

Just before my number was called for my American Idol audition, a stranger came up to me and said, “regardless of what happens out there today, God wants you to know that you have a musical calling on your life and He is going to use you.” That was very encouraging thirty seconds later when I was rejected along with so many other thousands! I have gotten to lead worship for years at a church that I love, and I find that ministry to be unbelievably rewarding. And I may have missed out on that if I had been unwilling serve God in the ordinary “daily-ness” of life. To summarize these few thoughts on calling: love God and the people around you, decide on a role you could play in advancing God’s Kingdom, and start in the mundane knowing that today is important.

Guest Blog Post: Time – Calling’s Rule of Thumb

Today’s guest blog post comes from a friend and fellow writer, Josh! John and I got to know Josh and his wife in our church’s group of young married couples. Here are some of his thoughts on calling. Thanks for sharing!

In a blog dedicated to finding your calling, a rule of thumb might seem like a shortcut. I believe that we’re called to do more than just one thing. We have one or more major callings in our life such as being a missionary, and various minor callings. These minor callings can range from learning to cook to reading scripture daily.

Where do you spend your time?

The biggest challenge in nailing down our (minor) callings are positive pastimes. How do you tell the difference between positive pastimes and true callings? The simple answer is time.

When you’re called to do something, you find time for it. It will occupy your free time, or you’ll free up your schedule for it. An example from my life was learning to play the guitar. It was definitely a minor calling (you’ll never see me on tour with Third Day!), but I made time for lessons and practice (and more practice!). I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve reached a point where I can strum through most praise and worship songs. This minor calling has literally helped me to give voice to my worship.

Positive pastimes are good options for our time, but if we never seem to get around to them, they may just be options. To use another personal example, learning Spanish has been high on my list of things to do yet I never seem to find time for it. Is learning Spanish a worthwhile pastime? Absolutely! Is it a calling? Probably not.

Write it down

A quick, helpful exercise is to take ten minutes and write out some short term goals. These goals are how you want to spend your free time or vacation over the next few years and may translate into your minor callings. Post the list in a conspicuous place so you can refer to it regularly (you want to be able to see the whole list). After six months, take time to revisit the list. What did you accomplish? What did you spend your time on? What did you ignore completely? If you passionately pursued something, it may very well be a calling. Reevaluate your list and update as necessary, revisiting again six months later.

Why does it matter?

There’s an immense sense of fulfillment that comes from revisiting your goals and seeing what you’ve accomplished. The exercise is also a good way to catch items that you may still feel called to do, but were unable to for reasons beyond your control (time, money, etc.). Also, it will help you remove things from the list that shouldn’t be there (and mentally let go of them). Finally, your minor callings may very well lead to the main callings in your life. How many photographers, musicians and chefs started out as hobbyists?

About the Author

Josh Baldwin lives in Burlington, Washington and works in business development for Quantum Construction. He has yet to nail down his major calling(s) and passionately pursues his minor callings of guitar, writing and being a Godly father and husband. And yes, Spanish is still on his list.

Guest Blog Post: Freedom to explore Calling

Christie and I met in 2004 when I had the privilege of being her Resident Assistant and friend at University. We’re also cool because we have birthdays one day apart. You can find her online home here. Thanks for sharing today Christie!

How would you define calling? What do you think of when you hear the word “calling”?

Once upon a time, I understood calling to refer to an end point or a destination; something that I could concretely arrive at. For example, I was quite convinced it was my “calling” to be a high school English teacher. In recent years, however (and along with a number of significant geographical moves and career changes), I’ve realized that calling is more so a long-term process of determining my gifts and abilities.

Do you think you have a calling? If so, what is it?

My calling, although it sounds fairly vague on paper, is to help others learn and grow within the context of a loving community. This may, for example, involve my being a teacher. It also may have absolutely nothing to do with the work that occupies my 9-to-5 schedule. It was initially a huge challenge for me to accept such a general purpose for my life because I am a lover of all things concrete and logical. Especially checking things off ‘to do’ lists. However, acknowledging my more general calling has really given me a lot of freedom and peace.

How did you discover/find/understand your calling? Did circumstances, specific events, people or skills contribute?

I think I started understanding calling sometime in late high school when I made somewhat of an extreme change to my career path (from something distinctly scientific to the more artsy side of the world). In that time, I was realizing the things I was good at (and the things I enjoyed), not just the things I was capable of. As an aside, in the Myers-Briggs test, I fall in the middle for three out of four categories, so I am certainly “capable” of a lot of things. How frustrating. At the end of my university experience, I also struggled a lot with being put in a box because of my degree (Education). That struggle allowed me to see that what I was good at and found joy in (my calling) did not have to be teaching. And that was 100% okay.

How does your career or job relate to your calling?

Despite the fact that I’m not currently teaching, I still work in the education ‘sector’, as it were. I’m the Administrative Assistant at the Laurentian Leadership Centre, and I love it. It caters to my innate love of organization, plus I get to interact with undergraduate students everyday. I’m not teaching classes or doing prep work (and thus continuing along the path as a recovering workaholic), but I have the privilege of having conversations with young adults in a wildly-transitional time of life. Helping people learn and grow is something I can do regardless of what job I happen to be doing.

If you’re unsure of what your calling could be, are you currently trying to find it? How are you looking for it? What do you hope finding your calling will mean for your life?

Finding my calling (which I am, of course, still working on to some extent) has given me so much freedom. It means that, as I’m planning to apply to grad school in the next few years, it is relevant and acceptable for me to consider Counselling Psych or Globalization and Development. Knowing my calling keeps me from limiting myself, and really allows me to thrive within my relationships.

How do you think your calling affects your future?

My tendency to be a bit of a control freak means I’m almost always thinking about future plans, and being somewhat concerned with them. Having a better grasp of what my calling is, however, makes coping with my lack of omniscience a lot more manageable. Recognizing that my calling can (and will) manifest itself in a variety of ways really frees me up to be adventurous. In the short term, it means that I can be excited about traveling overseas somewhere with my husband to do development work. Thank goodness for calling. 🙂

 

Guest Blog Post: Calling in Cancer Care

Hi everyone,

Sorry I missed Friday’s blog post! I’ve got some more guest blog posts for you and I’m excited to introduce my brother-in-law, Graham to you!

How would you define calling?

Calling is God’s plan for you life. A lot of times we associate it with employment or vocation but it goes deeper than that. Sometimes God calls you to a specific task at a specific time. I think callings can change. It can be seasons in your life such as being called to motherhood. I think it’s important to look for God’s direction and to wait on the Lord. On the other hand, Ecclesiastes says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might” so I think there is something to be said for doing the very best with what you’ve been given in the time you’ve been given it.

What do you think of when  you hear the word “calling”? Do you think you have a calling? If so, what is it?

I think it’s important to differentiate one’s calling and what God may be calling you to in that very moment. I think God’s call in our lives comes in different forms. In my line of work as a nurse, I often feel the call of God to stay and pray with a patient or even comfort a family member. I view these as often the prodding of the Holy Spirit. I feel like God has put me in a place to care for the sick and dying at this time for a reason. I think calling often brings to mind using one’s gifts. But God can use you even in areas you are not particularly gifted in. In fact, looking at the Bible, He often calls people who aren’t public speakers to lead nations (Moses) and shepherds to lead armies (David). I think His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

How did you discover/find/understand your calling? Did circumstances, specific events, people or skills contribute?

I think circumstances play a large role. The secular side of me would call it happenstance but in actuality, it is most likely providential. For example, when interviewing for a job, I was asked if I had any preference as far as what type of population I’d prefer to work with. I expressed an interest in cancer and working with cancer patients but they could have very easily not had any openings on that floor at that time or could have placed me in a residency in another area of the hospital. But now after working with cancer patients for 6 years, I can look back and see God’s hand and how He’s brought me to a place where I can be comfortable in challenging situations and hopefully bring a small ray of hope into some dark times in people’s lives.

How does your career or job relate to your calling?

I would say my “general calling” (if I can refer to it as that) would be to care and love for people during a time of acute vulnerability and my current job obviously serves as a vehicle for that. When you work in a “service profession” especially, you can get burned out quickly unless you approach it from a perspective of calling. Yes it’s good to have a solid paycheck but you also need to have an attitude that each day is also another opportunity to serve and love on people.

If you’re unsure of what your calling could be, are you currently trying to find it? How are you looking for it? What do you hope finding your calling will mean for your life?

Although I feel fairly comfortable in my own skin in terms of where I am at now, I am still wondering what God might be calling me to next. While I don’t see the “general calling” of caring for people changing, my specific vocation might change. But when the changes in vocation also involves more school (like a Master’s program), changes in family life or church involvement, all that turbulence can mask a clear direction of where God is leading you. By finding my calling, I hope for a greater sense of fulfillment and a greater sense of purpose that I’m being used to the fullest extent of my abilities. The main goal is to be used to further God’s kingdom no matter what vocation or what location I am serving, but I do hope for the sense of validation that comes from believing that you’ve found your niche.

Guest Blog Post: God’s Unique Call on Your Life

Today’s guest blog comes from someone I’ve never met in person! Heather lives in Manitoba and we ran across each other’s work on line. I love what she’s doing so you should check out her website here, and follow her on twitter here.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

God has a unique and incredible call on your life. In fact, He has something for you to do and accomplish that no one else on the face of the planet can do for you. If you don’t live it out, who will? Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. This verse tells us two things. First, when God created you it was purposeful – you are not an accident. Secondly, the purpose he prepared for you is to “do good works”. Well, that’s a little vague isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be nice if it said, he prepared you to “be a doctor” or to “be a singer and songwriter”? It’s hard to define God’s unique dream for you based on one verse alone, which is why you need to hear from God directly.

The day I realized God’s calling for my life was July 20th, 2002. I was traveling in Australia after completing 5 months of bible school in New Zealand. It was Sunday morning and my travel buddies and I were looking for a church in the small town of Byron Bay. We picked one out of the phone book and showed up, not knowing a soul. Right away the pastor greeted us and after hearing briefly about where we were coming from, asking if one of us would share about our time at bible school. My two friends quickly volunteered me and I accepted.

When I got up to share, I felt so calm and was able to speak clearly about what God was doing in my life. After the service was over, the pastor came and prayed for me and then it happened. He looked straight into my eyes and said, “Heather, you were born to be a preacher. Don’t stop until you’re speaking to thousands”. Those words were a new beginning for me, the birth of God’s unique dream for my life. But as I said earlier, sometimes what we think we want doesn’t always happen the way we think it should.

I didn’t speak again until 3 year after that day in Australia, and when I did I quickly became caught up in the idea of being successful and well-known. Instead of focusing on bringing glory to God, the one I was speaking about, I wanted the glory for myself. I wanted the success. My dream went off course and became something different than what God originally intended.

What about you? What are the things you want most in life? The world says the BIG DREAM is fame and fortune, money and comfort, power and popularity. Are your current dreams more in line with the world’s or is there still room for God’s way in your heart?

Defining God’s call is a process and it may not happen today. In fact, I’m sure it will take longer than that. But here are a few things you can do today to get a little closer to knowing what his dream for your life is:

1. Write down a list of all the things you want to do/accomplish in your life.

2. Look at the list again and see if any of your dreams seem to line up more with what the world calls success.

3. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to highlight a few things on your list that He wants for your life – things He’s really gifted you to do. Which ones stand out the most after taking this time to pray?

At the end of day, God truly wants what’s best for you. He has plans to prosper you , to give you hope and a future. He is good and has good things for you to do. But also know he sees the bigger picture, your beginning, present and eternity and his perspective on “the best”  may be different than yours.  Sometimes what is good is not fun or easy. “Good for you” like broccoli, not “good” like chocolate, know what I mean? “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways’, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). This is a good thing. Take comfort in knowing the one who holds the universe in his hands sees, knows and loves you incredibly. His calling for you is truly the best there is and its worth seeking above all else!

Guest Blog Post: Peace in Your Calling

Today’s guest post comes from a good friend Rose, another friend from college. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences!

How would you define calling? What do you think of when you hear the word “calling”?

Most simply, I suppose I think of “calling” as what you are meant to be. And, of course, out of what you are, flows what you do. My own belief is that it is God who calls us to be our true selves, and He is the only one who fully knows what that looks like.

I feel like I will spend my life extending to grasp and move within my truest “being” in Christ. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully reach it, but I trust that the effort itself has value, and brings us closer.

I also believe that while God has a crystal clear image of what He knows and expects us to be, what we are meant to do is not so fixed from the outset. I think our society has grown obsessed with doing, with accomplishment, so we transfer that obsession to our understanding of God’s will.

I think that, often, there are multiple paths someone could take in terms of “doing,” and not one would be more “correct” than others, if their focus is kept on being their truest-image-of-God self.

However, I do believe that there are certain moments in life, that God directs us to do something specifically . . . and sometimes that something specific turns into a life’s work. Clearly, there are many, many Biblical examples of this, and I’ve known many people whose life story rings true with this type of call.

Do you think you have a calling? If so, what is it? How do you think your calling affects your future?

Well, yes, I think I do . . . but it’s sometimes hard for me to articulate. I have a strong sense of the kind of work I am gifted in and meant to do, and when an opportunity is presented to me, I can usually recognize if it fits within my call or not.

I find myself trying to describe it using phrases like: “non-profit work,” “social work,” “working with vulnerable women and children” “educational development,” or a longer answer: “I love working with people . . .  especially people in times of need.” But this doesn’t really express it properly.

I have experienced times of specific calling . . . like the 5 years when I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be—teaching English with a non-profit organization, going in and out of a closed country. I was surprised at my constant sense of certainty, in the midst of circumstances that were often physically, spiritually, and emotionally taxing.  In fact, sometimes it was the only life choice in that time period that I was really sure of. I didn’t always know if I was on the right track in other areas of my life, but I knew I was supposed to be doing that work at that time.

Perhaps part of that certainty was the process leading up to my involvement with the organization. I had a personal connection with those directing the work, and they affirmed, early on, that they could see how my gifts and skills would be a good fit. Secondly, the work was something I was already passionate about, and my excitement for it grew as I continued. But the strongest contributor to that “being sure” was simply the peace of God in my gut. It’s kind of hard to define that, of course, but I just always felt the presence of God pushing me towards “yes,” whenever there was a “fork in the road”—a choice to continue or not. I felt like that road was made straight and simple . . . that the struggles, while really crazy challenging, were never roadblocks.

And, one day, I woke up and realized I had finally reached a roadblock. The decision to continue in that work no longer had peace attached to it . . . the gut feeling of certainty was pulling me in another direction. While stepping off in another direction (a direction where my passions had been latent, but were waking up) was incredibly sad, I’ve never lost that peace, or had any regret. It was an incredibly positive transition (way more positive than I could ever have imagined!) . . . both in saying goodbye and saying hello.

I definitely haven’t hit on one specific thing that I know I should / will do the rest of my life. I wonder sometimes if that will come, or if I’ll always be stepping into something new, into “the next” when “the last” closes up . . . Whatever happens, I know, beyond doubt, that it will be so GOOD.

Guest Blog Post: How Calling & Career Intertwine

 Today’s guest blog post comes from another college friend, Joel. Joel and I worked on a team that created and published the first literary journal at our university!

When I think of calling, I think of the old idea of vocation, of a job or a career that you are designed for. One of those dream jobs where people say they love what they do, and would be doing the same thing whether they were paid (or needed the money) or not.

In that sense, I have not yet found my calling. I love my job—I work at a startup that builds websites for charities—but I wouldn’t be doing it for free, and I won’t be doing it for the rest of my life.

Part of finding a calling is making a search. The other part is making a decision. Some people know their calling from the get go, but I am not one of those people.

I’ve always been good at making plans. Just ask my fiancée and she could probably tell you hour for hour what we’ll be up to this weekend. But making plans for the coming month is a whole lot different than making plans for my entire life. Finding a calling means making some very definitive decisions—what you will devote your life to, what career you will choose, and how you will define yourself—and I don’t have enough certainty to make those decisions yet.

I do have my loves though, and one of those is literature. I am constantly devouring books, and that love has led me to create an online journal with some friends called This Great Society. The zine is the brainchild of my friend Veronica, who has a knack for drawing her creative peers together into ambitious collaborations. Our little project has been going strong for two years now, and it’s been a great place for me to stretch my creative muscles, from writing to photography, by publishing in our monthly magazine. You can view it here.

A calling, in a sense, is an answer to the question: What do you do? It’s easy to answer this question with your current job, but I’m not always satisfied with saying “Communications Coordinator.” A calling is something more. It’s not just what you do, but what you want to do. I’ll know I’ve found my calling when I can answer that question without hesitation, without guilt of underachieving, when I can take pride in answering that question with who I am.

Guest Blog Post: Reflection on calling

Today’s guest post comes from Anna! I met Anna when we worked together in the dorms for one year and through that wonderful, challenging, stretching experience, we became good friends! I hope you enjoy these insights as much as I did.

What is a calling? Do you have one? And how do you know?

These are questions I have in turns pondered, fought against, flailed under, or attempted to ignore. The concept of calling, for lack of a better word, calls to me, yet I fear it.

What is calling? It is transient, changeable, sensitive to time, place, and situation. Calling is a burden and a trap; once you have one, you are accountable to stick with it or risk becoming a failure. Calling is assumed; “put on” like an outfit (“Does this make me look fat?”). Perhaps worst of all, Calling is a ticking time bomb that I am made excruciatingly aware of each time I ask or am asked, “What are your plans, your goals? What do you want to be when you grow up?” The implication, of course, is that once I’m married, or a mother, or thirty, or forty, or once I buy a home, or if it takes too long to get out of debt…then calling may as well be lost. When I attempt to define calling, lies and truth are so thickly intertwined and smothered with a gloomy fear of Failure that I’m tempted to avoid the whole mess altogether.

Do you have a calling? And how do you know?

My anchor for the longest time has been this story: when I was five years old, I told my dad I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. I wonder if I have allowed this childhood declaration to carry too much weight in my adult life because a) it seems like a noble calling, and b) I am too frightened (or overwhelmed or intimidated) to question it’s continued relevance.

My grown-up answer to the question of calling is often a confused mess along the lines of: “I don’t know what my calling is, but I used to want to be a missionary. Then I was a missionary for a year and my mentors sensed I was called to be a pastor, which I guess I was for a while. Right now I’m working in customer service, just to pay the bills, and I’m married, which is a big job (maybe a calling?) and we don’t really know what the future holds…”

I am afraid to explore the topic of calling. And I am afraid I’ll discover that my calling may not be all that notable or significant.

But even writing this I wonder if perhaps my view of calling has been too narrow. Maybe finding my calling will require a journey of examining the small pieces of what I know of myself and God and gradually building a bigger picture. This is in stark contrast to calling as I have usually imagined it, which is divine revelation of the big picture all at once. Perhaps calling is not a permanent kind of thing. Or maybe it is big-picture oriented and lifelong for some and not for others. As I practice releasing the burden of trying to discover the one and only calling, worthy of being carved into stone tablets, I breathe easier and I am able to gather bits of calling from what I already know in myself.

I know, for example, that I care deeply about people reaching their highest potential. I hate injustice with a violent passion. I think Jesus holds the elusive key to unlocking true freedom and hope. And I seem to operate under the belief that relationships with others are vastly more significant and important than any other aspect of life. Is it possible that in living within these values, I am also living in my “calling for now” without even realizing it?

What is a calling? Do I have one? And how do I know? I predict these questions represent a lifelong project for me, a quest for answers which will be sometimes elusive, sometimes self-evident, and always changing.

I think I am almost, finally, content with that prediction.

Guest Blog Post: Calling in Chapters

 Today’s Guest Blog Post comes from one of my dear friends, Sarah. We’ve known each other over four years and I’m excited for you to hear her story as well. Also, as you know, I am always interested in hearing more people’s stories about calling. Please contact me if you want to participate!

I used to believe a calling was a declaration on a life, a stamp on the forehead upon entering the world which would, once I discovered it, send me in a specific direction.  I also believed I had figured out that calling: to be a wife and mother. But as my story unfolded, life happened. My calling didn’t happen as I had planned. I stepped out of college with only a career, not a ring and a plan for a marriage and family. Was I not called to be a wife and mother? Why would I have the longing, but not the call?

So I started my career of nursing, and even though it was a fill-in for the job I really wanted, somewhere along the way it became something more.  The challenges I faced helped me excel and I felt such pride knowing that not only was I doing my job well and with integrity, but I was having an impact on lives as I was doing it.  It wasn’t just a job anymore.  My knowledge and competence equipped me to make a difference in people’s lives, and that was a heady thing.  Could it be that my call was first to nursing?

I thought I had my story figured out, but then I turned the page and a new character appeared: my husband. The next few chapters were filled with such joy and adventure. I was loved by a good and wonderful man and I was living under my calling, yet the nursing was beginning to take its toll.  As much as I loved what I did, the hours, the demands, the weight of what each day held as a nurse began to weigh on me.  I found the fatigue followed me into my days off and weekends.  I woke up one day realizing that my job had taken over my life and I was no longer present in it.  My husband and I agreed – it would be better for us, for our marriage, and for my sanity, for me to quit nursing for a time.  My heart was filled with relief to separate from the job that had burned me out, but my mind was filled with questions and doubt.  Can you burn out on your calling?  If this was what I was supposed to be doing, then why did it drain me?

I chose to take time to pursue other interests through jobs that fed my love of baking and cooking. I was resting, thoroughly enjoying work that was fun and lighthearted.  I was still a nurse, just taking a break, and in no rush to return quickly.

The time came to start a family and suddenly my confidence in myself and who I was wavered when things didn’t go according to plan.  Every month we tried and failed to have a baby I asked myself: who am I if I cannot live out my calling? Can God place a call in your heart and never fulfill it? I often forget that this life is really just the prologue and the real story is yet to come. Could my God be asking me to wait to know the fullness of what He had for me in heaven?

Through God’s extensive grace, the longing of my heart became a reality, a precious 8 lb. bundle given to us on July 27th, 2010. When I looked into his little face on that day, something profound came over my heart. I had arrived. This was it, the calling, the place, the center of all I have wanted to be and do. It isn’t always fireworks and epiphanies when you discover your calling, your place of right service, but for me it was.

As profound as that realization was, the questions that followed in the next months shook me in a way I never thought they would. I felt strongly that my time in nursing had come to an end when I took on the role of mom.  But can a calling change? Can a calling end? I had invested money, time, energy into nursing – all with the plan to push it to the side when I was able to become a mom. But somewhere along the way it had become an identity. A security. Something that it never should have been, and I was struggling with letting go.

For the past 5 years, in incremental pieces, God has been chipping away at my false identities and understandings of what calling is and has been opening my eyes to who He wants me to be. A marriage, a cross-country move, difficult job experiences, burnout, and a son have all entered my story by His hand and have changed me. I discovered that in His creative sovereignty, God can give us many callings – some for a lifetime, some for a few chapters. For me, for my story, nursing was a chapter. It has been a difficult chapter to close, but I know now that He is asking me to close it. I had taken what was to be temporary and worn it as an identity, and He had something more for me. I have, with tears I admit, let go and am beginning the next chapter.  I am a woman with a high calling, a call to be a mom.  That call includes so many things and also leaves me open to accept new things He may have for me to do.

My call may have additions over the next years – new chapters He wants me to begin. My call may also have subtractions – chapters He asks me to close. My job in all this is to hold my call with open hands, not cling to a declaration I made over my own life.  I need to allow the Holy Author of my story to write all the details the way He has intended. He only writes incredible stories, after all, and mine is one of them.