What IS My Calling? HOW Do I Find Out+Know For Sure?

(Thanks to Today's Christian Woman, running this article today. Here's the first page.  Please follow the link to finish! And spread the Good News, if you will!)   

 I’m standing on the beach, surrounded by fishing nets and rotting jellyfish. My hands are cramping after three days of morning-until-night mending net this week, which includes yanking the gloppy jellyfish from the web.

 I’m happy to be working with my husband and sons, but I’m ready for a rescue. I’m ready for Jesus to come strolling along our Alaskan beach like he did the shores of Galilee with this simple deliverance to those fishermen, “Come, follow me!”

And why not? Jesus called those fishermen away from their nets to a higher pursuit, “go and be catchers of men.” Of course they said yes! Who wouldn’t ditch the fish for souls instead? But while I’m on board to jump ship and drop the nets, especially this week, I am troubled as well. Christ’s words seem to imply a world divided into flesh and spirit, into sacred and secular. And we know that first call was amplified in Jesus’ final charge before his ascent to heaven, that we’re to “go out into all the world, baptizing and making disciples of every nation.”  I remember pondering this years earlier, when immersed in another kind of dirty work: changing diapers, hauling baskets of molding laundry, scraping dried food under the high chair. 

If Jesus called the fishermen-disciples away from their mundane labors toward a higher calling, what about the rest of us, armpits deep in daily sludge? Surely Jesus is calling us to more! Surely we are doing lesser work than those in ‘full-time Christian service” who are living extraordinary make-a-difference lives!

I hear this struggle from so many around me. A middle-aged friend who teaches health at a Christian high school confides in me one night that she’s not doing enough for God. She is thinking she’s being called to resign to begin a ministry for abused women in Mexico. A neighbor making dinner for her large family hears the evening news, sees the refugees and feels like she is wasting her life in floor polish and toilet bowl cleaner. Another friend who homeschools her four children questions this “calling,” wondering if God is asking her to serve abroad somewhere. 

 It’s little wonder we wrestle over this. For believers, “Calling” is serious business. The word itself comes from the Latin vocatio, from which we get our word “vocation,” and the Greek kaleo, both meaning literally, simply, “to call.” We use the term meaning more than a strong pull toward a particular line of work or activity, as it’s often used in a non-religious context. We believe the caller is God himself and that the one who is “called” is chosen particularly for nothing less than God-appointed work.   

We join a long history of angst and confusion over calling, fed in part by these very gospel passages, and, fed as well by the Church, both Catholic and Protestant. Through the centuries, both often created a social hierarchy with the clergy on top and the commoners who made bricks, milked cows, mucked stalls on the bottom. Evangelicals have played their part as well. Those who join the clergy or become missionaries or in some way enter “full-time Christian service” are clearly doing more for the kingdom than the rest of us going about our simple daily commerce.  

Or Not?? I think you'll find clarity and hope as the essay continues  here, at Today's Christian Woman.

Thank you for being here! Coming next: Scenes from our local production of "Tarzan" in which I play ever-so-apishly, a primate. In the jungle. In costume, yes, walking on my knuckles. I'm SURE there's something here of value to our spirits and lives. And there is. 

Hollywood and My Grand Life Plan

I am home sweet stormy home, flying through a blizzard and fog to land on this dear Island of Rock. I am waiting now for a sun break, for a beauty break (which surely will come??)

But let tell you about last week. I flew to L.A., put on a skinny grey dress and black hose and my favorite cowboy boots and joined with my new friends, my co-producers Guy and Amber, and quietly followed the studio execs into a conference room. 

What is a Kodiak girl doing at a conference table at a production company in Burbank California? I can’t tell you exactly (apologies for that!), but I can tell you this.  This wasn’t part of my plan, my life plan, at all. 

In fact, do I have a life plan? (Do you?) I seem to stumble along one year at a time, one month at a time. And when there were many babies in the house, it was one hour at a time, when I was desperately hoping to steal one of those hours for a nap (remember that? Remember how you just hoped everyone would stay alive?)

When I was in college and grad school, and later teaching, it was one semester at a time. And as I’m writing, it’s one book at a time. (Well, sometimes two . ..) And during the summer season when we are fishing, it is one fishing opening at a time, one net-mending day at a time . ..

And I wonder, have I done this all wrong?  This week while traveling, I’ve tried to chip away at watching the movies nominated for Academy Awards. When I watch those actors, just as when I watch the Olympics or a cellist or an opera singer, when I watch people with great talent acting and singing and painting and racing and being just jaw-droppingly excellent, I wonder: have I wasted my life? 
They have pointed their whole selves toward one thing, and through devotion and sacrifice, they have done it. They have become an Artist, Actor, Concert Pianist, Bible Scholar, Chef, Olympic Athlete.

Annie Dillard writes about this in "Living Like Weasels," about discovering your calling, “your one necessity” in life: 

"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. "

Don’t you want this single necessity?? To find that one calling? To live life so purely, instead of being pulled in 100 directions at once, as indeed I am, I always am? (Right now I am working at writing, speaking, singing, playwrighting, producing, cooking, acting . . .  )

And now, because of that meeting in Burbank, I am adding a TV project to the list. (I am joyfully adding a TV project to the list.)

Next week I will be talking to my (literary) agent, who will ask me this too. “Leslie, what is your plan for your writing?”  I know what he will tell me, again. The publishing world is changing so fast, and unless writers “brand” themselves with a single brand, a single subject area, and plan ahead, they wont’ make it. But I cannot do it.  The world is too big and varied for a single plan, a single topic.

And I wonder, at the end of my life, what will all my running and dabbling amount to? I'll never be a competitive athlete, a professional actress, a spectacular orator, a bestselling author . . . Am I doing it all wrong? Should I choose just One?

But I finish the essay. And Dillard says this, 

“The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse."

I believe I am doing this. To these voices then,that chide and defeat me for all I will not become or achieve, I remember this:

Our first Calling in life is not to a particular line of work or to a gift to be honed to perfection. Our Calling is first and most of all this: to follow Jesus. HE is that “tender live spot,” the very heart of Life itself. And if we are to live well, if we are to live at ALL, we must reach out and grasp and plug into that pulse with all of our might and never let go. 

And like this, Oh the places He will take us!! His love is so vast, his presence so everywhere present, we will find Him in all the realms he brings to us. There is no kitchen or stage or office or classroom or gym or conference room or ocean I have not found Him in and on. And He gives me delight in all of it, tinkerer and amateur though I am and always will be. 

My soul is stilled. I DO have a life plan after all. And you do too. This is our One Calling, our One Necessity: To be latched on to the very beating heart of Life itself and to go wherever He takes us---loving, dancing, cooking, writing, singing, quilting, running, resting with Him all the way to the end of our days.  

And what shall they say of us that day our friends gather to remember us? 

 I hope they will this about us, just this:

 "She followed Jesus---everywhere."

And I hope Jesus will say this, just this:

"Well done, dear and faithful daughter."