Pain is a Signal

Pain is a signal. But it can signal different things. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was thrilled to get to spend some time skyping into the Comm 180 class at my alma mater, Trinity Western University. It’s always exciting to get to share some of my experience and hope that it helps people with their own callings.

The students asked some great questions, and as I gave answers I noticed myself going back and forth a lot. The paradoxes, the tensions, the juxtapositions. So much is situational when it comes to calling. One person asked about how you know it’s time to move on and I started my answer with pain.

Pain is a signal

When I burned out at my first job, I was in pain and it goes worse and worse the longer I stuck it out. I had physical stress symptoms, mental exhaustion, emotional upheaval etc. My pain was a signal that intensified until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. When I quit, I was flooded with peace and relief.

When I wrote my book, it was hard. I didn’t like it. I had back and neck and arm pain from the lengthy computer time. I was mentally exhausted from trying to write well. I was emotionally fragile as all kinds of classic writer’s doubts assailed me. In this instance I felt like the pain was signalling that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. When I was done writing the book, I had a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Both experiences involved pain but signaled something different. In the first instance, the pain was signalling that I needed to remove myself from a situation that was toxic for me. In the second instance, the pain signalled that I was on the right track – we never create without resistance, without overcoming hurdles.

To be honest, it can be easy to assume the wrong thing about pain. I picked two instances where I feel like I made the right call about it, but I know I’ve made plenty of wrong ones too. Sometimes we assume it’s necessary pain and hurt ourselves by staying. We assume we should never quit, that the pain is something we can fix, ignore or overcome with enough time. Other times we give up too easily. We experience some unexpected resistance and assume it’s a signal that we’re going the wrong direction. We stop when we should push through.

So how do you know what your pain is signalling? How do you know whether it’s a situation where the pain “is gain” or it’s a warning to stop?

I think it takes time. Time to check your reactions and underlying motivations for continuing or stopping. Time to ask your trusted advisors. Time to check your sense of well-being and identity. It’s never an easy call. It’s unlikely to be straightforward. That’s why we need so much discernment and wisdom in our lives. Because so much is situational and unique for each person and there usually aren’t quick, easy answers. It reminds me of a favourite quote my dad sent me awhile back:

Never make a principle out of your own experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you -Oswald Chambers

What do you think? How do you normally respond to the pain signals in your life?

How many people view work this way?

A great quote from Dorothy Sayers to chew on this weekend:

“Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

What would it take for you to view work this way? It might mean redefining “work” by separating it out from having a “job” and it could also require taking a closer look at what you call your “hobbies.” If you do feel like this about your work, why do you think that is? I would love to hear your opinions in the comments!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Calling in Transforming Conversion

This book was so rich. I wanted to dig in more deeply here on the blog but these days, it’s hard to get the time required to do that. So here’s just another quick passage I wanted to share with you that makes an interesting connection between our conversion experience and our callings:

Thinking about Conversion“Each conversion narrative has a distinct energy to it: a focus, a movement, an emotional longing that is fulfilled, or a sense of purpose or destiny that moves the experience and thrusts the narrative forward. An honest and authentic spiritual autobiography has the potential to provide the subject with a sense of his or her own vocation and destiny. It helps one answer the question who am I? but it also gives clarity to the question what is my calling? Just as the conversion experience of the first disciples (see Luke 5) and for Paul was, essentially, both a conversion and a calling, in similar fashion many will find that their conversion experience has within it the seeds of their vocation. Reflection on their experience can give them clarity about how they are being called to engage the world.”

Smith highlights the importance of “spiritual autobiography” as a practice in noticing or seeing. He asks, what is the history of your experience with the Spirit of God? As someone who has been a Christian my whole life, I don’t feel like I have much of a story as far as my journey to Christ, but reflecting on my journey in Christ has definitely been an essential aspect of recovering a sense of my calling. Patterns and themes emerge when I look through my past experiences that clearly connect with what I’m doing with my life currently and it’s exciting to put those pieces together.

What do you think? Have you taken the time to write down or tell someone your spiritual autobiography? Have you seen themes in your own life that indicate your calling? 

A Different Kind of Courage

courageThere are so many quotable quotes from Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I was surfing through my bookmarks and highlights this morning and was having trouble even knowing where to start – there’s just so much good stuff to talk about! This book talks about what it means to live wholeheartedly and how we have to talk about the things that get in the way (shame & fear) before we can even think about living wholeheartedly. The problem is that none of us want to talk about shame and fear – these emotions are often intensely painful and we prefer to keep them shrouded in secrecy.

I know I have a really hard time being vulnerable about these things – even with myself. I prefer to view myself as competent and wise, more used to helping other people than needing any help myself. Case in point: I’m still not sure I really “needed” this book, but I think the material is fabulous for other people. Ha! Needless to say, I read the book through twice and now I should probably chew on these concepts for longer than I think necessary.

For example, let’s look at a few things Brown says about courage. Courage is a major part of the book – obviously, it takes courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and work toward more authenticity. Brown writes that,

“the root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today [She’s comparing that to our common definition of courage as fearless action]. Courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.'”

I love this definition. It sounds like something I like to think I already do on a regular basis. However, Brown turns the tables a bit with this illustration:

“Do you know how incredibly brave it is to say ‘I don’t know’ when you’re pretty sure everyone around you gets it? Of course, in my twelve-plus years of teaching, I know that if one person can find the courage to say, ‘You’ve lost me,’ there are probably at least ten more students who feel the exact same way. They may not take the risk, but they certainly benefits from that one person’s courage.”

I know I’ve been the one relieved that someone else asked the question but wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been the person to ask a teacher to re-explain themselves. I’m pretty sure I’ve always done my best to act like I know exactly what’s going on and look down on those poor slow people who don’t get it yet. Ouch!

This is a terrible attitude not only because it’s dishonest and judgmental but because it closes you off from actually learning. Have you ever had that experience? Where you get in over your head and instead of just admitting, “I really don’t know much about this – please explain it to me,” you get defensive and wreck the conversation? Yeah . . . I’m working on asking for clarification and telling people I don’t understand what they’re talking about. I know it’s better for me to ask questions and really learn but sometimes the pull to be viewed as “the smart one” still makes me do pretty stupid things. Go figure.

Do you relate to this?

Happy New Year!

I didn’t mean to be gone from the blog for this long but I have to admit, it was great to end the year, taking a break from the online world. Admittedly, I was still checking Facebook and email, but I didn’t log into Twitter once! Instead, I played sudoku, hung out with family, played lots of games and ate way too much food without feeling guilty (ahhhh the perks of “needing” those extra calories for breastfeeding). Surprisingly, I think I only read one book.

I am excited for 2013. This time last year, I felt like the whole world was going to end in April as we entered the great unknown of parenthood. This year, I don’t feel like I have a deadline looming – I have a fun 8 month old to play with and lots of projects I can pursue. I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions but I do have a running list of things I’d like to do in 2013. As one of my favourite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau has said before,

“People tend to overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a year.”

So here are some of the things I hope to see happen this year (in no particular order of importance):

  • I will learn to sew (got a beautiful machine for Christmas for the in-laws!!)
  • I will blog 2-3x per week about whatever I want
  • I will throw a birthday party for Canon for the first time
  • I will run some workshops on Finding Your Calling
  • I will write some articles for magazines (this is something I always think about and never actually do)
  • I will organize my house (I am actually super stoked about this because I read a fabulous book at my mom’s and have already started with some of the smaller spaces in our house and tomorrow, John and I are going to do a kitchen overhaul!)

This year, I get to figure out if I can bring in some income while staying at home with Canon and I get to continue to figure out what role I play in John’s photography business. I’m excited to see where these adventures lead us. And who knows, maybe at some point another book will start percolating.

What are some of the things you want to do this year?



Inspirational Quote Friday

Welcome to October everyone! It’s officially my favourite season and we are enjoying beautiful crisp sunny days. Here is a quote that encourages me when I start to get bogged down and view life as a big “should be doing” list:

God intends the holy life to be an odyssey of wonder. The religious impulse tends to make it into a journey both dreary and heavy, perilous and plodding. But God designed holiness to be invigorating, the discovery of life so abundant that if He didn’t unveil it for us, we would forever lack the imagination to even ask for it. – Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

A Prayer for the Week

Out of The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. The prayer of the church at midday today was beautiful so I thought I would share it:

O Lord my God, to you and your service I devote myself, body, soul and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and make all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and let me by my life and speaking set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my vocation; in praises heighten my love and gratitude; in speaking of You give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn to your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son my Savior Jesus Christ. Amen


Inspirational Quote Monday

“Our task, in order to stay in the flow of God’s presence, is to pay attention. To refuse the blindness that comes with self-preoccupation. To allow the God who is in us to point to and rejoice in his presence all around us. To ask him to keep us from sleepwalking through his world; to refuse to give in to a pace of life that reduces his handiwork to a blur.”

– John Ortberg, God is Closer than You Think

Learning through Practicing

Happy Friday everyone! It’s so gorgeous outside today that you’re only getting a short post with an inspiring thought to chew on over the weekend.

Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act. They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know. If you are not sure what to think about washing feet, for instance, then the best way to find out is to practice washing a pair or two. – Barbara Brown Taylor

Can you think of something in your life that you should test out in practice rather than just thinking through the theory?

Inspirational Quote Monday

Here’s a great quote for a new month, especially one like April, where we get to see so much of the transition from winter to spring.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

What a reminder for me to avoid a “grass is greener somewhere else” perspective and instead, cultivate contentment and curiosity in the place where I am right now (although this picture my dad took in Cambridge is making me want to go to England!).