“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
– Fredrik Buechner
Calling. Purpose. Dreams. Careers.
How do they collide?
How do we find our callings in life?
How do we avoid getting to 30 and realizing that we hate out jobs and are going no where in life?
Story time! …I’m warning you upfront, it’s a long one!
When I was younger I thought I had life figured out. I would graduate early from high school with a 4.0 GPA, I would get into John Hopkins University and graduate with honors with my PA (Physicians Assistant)degree and go into hospital nursing for two years, then go overseas and help with pre and post natal care in the middle east. I would be single, I had sworn off marriage and wanted nothing to do with it. I would devote my life to others. I would be needless and wantless and serve until the day I died.
Freshmen year of high school hit and I was on track for my plan! I lettered both semesters in academics, had a solid 4.0 GPA, was in all honors courses, and everything seemed to be going perfectly. Second semester I even signed up as a student aid in the special ed department for the extra curricular experience on my resume.
Then one day I met a boy named Angel.
Angel was one of the students in the classroom I aided for. He has a smile that could light up the world. A heart as pure as gold! I was “analysa” to him and nothing made my heart happier! I said goodbye to him at the end of the year and while I was sad to probably never see him again, goodbyes are something I am used to and so I moved on in life…or so I thought.
That summer my family and I moved to overseas to follow my parent’s NGO work there as they provided medical and educational assistance to refugees. Once again I joined a new school, got involved in all the right groups, and first semester I continued with my 4.0 pattern… and then life began to crumble.
My grandfather suddenly died, I left to our home country to attend funeral activities, then returned back but was never able to settle back in well. My heart was torn, I felt like I didn’t belong, I started to retreat. I was always the “happy, joyful sunshine” of the family, so this change caught my parents off guard. I became confused and very, very lost.
Suddenly my 12 year plan was ruined in my mind and I began to sink into a season of depression. My school was very controlling and if you didn’t fit the mold, you were very much questioned and they didn’t like my out of the box thinking at all, so I was always in the principles office for being different. I was never in trouble, he just wanted everyone to fit his mold. Talk about control issues! Anyway, all of those factors sunk me deeper into depression. I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I was stuck and hopelessly lost.
Summer finally came and with it crazy heat waves, which once again drove people indoors and away from community and socializing. In the midst of this, a special needs foster care home my parents were involved in was in need of preschool teachers, and so the “serve and help” side of me said yes! Thus began one of the hardest and rewarding summers of my life.
I would go up to the home every morning, teach until 4, then drive home every evening, and repeat! In that time I was brought face to face with many more “Angels” and once again was brought to the point of questioning, “What is the purpose of life?” If it was truly to get an incredible education and live the perfect 4.0 dream and serve like crazy, then these precious children had no purpose in life. No, that couldn’t be the purpose in life! Because these children had purpose. These children had value!
I was asked almost daily why I couldn’t be their mommy and why I couldn’t take them home. Their longing eyes shattered my hardened heart. This made my search continue, usually late at night when I knew I could talk out loud and question some of my most fundamental beliefs.
Fast forward to the middle of the summer and I was injured in a waterfall hike. That injury took me off the volunteer job and once again basically on bed rest for the next 6 weeks until school started. I had time to think. The spark that had begin to ignite again in my heart died off.
The next semester started a little better. I had a couple good friends, but in all of this I was still searching. I wasn’t content, I was majorly confused! Only a few of the people in my life were helping, most just had views on who they wanted me to be, and I didn’t know who I even was, much less who I wanted to be. However on the outside, nothing seemed wrong. People wanted me to be a happy person, so I would put on a smile all day and cry myself to sleep most nights. I became the person my school expected me to be. I finally fit their “box”: Good student, involved, serving, fit as fit could be(the one time I had a 6-pack), dressed modestly, and was always “fine”.
Fast forward to winter break when my parents asked what I would think about them adopting a little boy from the foster home I worked at. For those of you who read my adoption post, you know my answer was, “YES!” And thus we “watched it begin again (Taylor Swift)”.
Life suddenly had a ray of light in it again. At some point the smile every morning wasn’t fake. This little boy taught us what it looks like to unconditionally love. One night I was praying about him and what if we didn’t get to fully adopt him and I remember almost audible hearing God say, “I love him more than you do. Do you trust me?” That one conversation as a game changer! I loved this little boy more than I could even imagine possible and God loved him more? No way! … but it’s true. And what I also learned from that was that God loves me that way. I never understood that before. I could repeat the verses, I could explain it, but I never truly got it until then.
Suddenly those times at the foster home were not just visits to teach and encourage the kids, they were moments that made my heart skip a beat. They were things that made me come alive. That spark I noticed before became a full flame!
Before I knew it, it was time to graduate and move back to my home country to begin university. Leaving my family behind to finish the adoption was one of the hardest things ever! I cried until there were literally no tears left, then somehow I would find more! So I took off on an airplane, all my belongings fitting into two 50 pound bags, having no clue what to expect, feeling very lost, but ready for the challenge!… or so I thought.
I arrived here to my family’s home and by the next day at 6am my sister left and it was just me. I had a house that was a mess, a car I didn’t really remember how to drive(after driving a motorbike for three years), and a job that I was inheriting from my sister, starting at 8am. Thanks to jet-lag I had been up since the wee hours of the morning, but suddenly with the house to myself I felt lost all over again. The depressing began to come back. But! I didn’t have time to wallow in my feelings, I had a job to get to, animals to feed, and grandparents who all wanted to see me.
Fall came and with it a class load to add to the rest of life and I had yet to stop long enough to fully unpack my bags. Why? Because anytime I stopped the tears would come, and come, and come, until I would flop into a pile on the floor and fall asleep. Meanwhile I was not doing well in my classes, the house was a total mess, and my relationships were completely stagnant if not dead, because I had nothing left to give.
The 12 year plan was totally not just failing, but dead! My emotional health was terrible! I was sleeping on the couch in the living room most nights. Once again, truly depressed and once again, no one knew cause I would put that smile on so no one would ask.
I decided to take 7 weeks of the following summer and go see my parents and help with the little guy.
While on the plane ride there I was forced to be still with myself. I was forced to face God again. I was forced to face my family. I was forced to face silence.
It was terrifying. I felt like a complete failure. I felt like nothing would ever happen, that my life was too messed up for anything good to come out of it. I thought I had failed myself, my family, my teachers, all the little kids that looked up to me, and God. But I was proven wrong and once again I experienced what unconditional love was.
Thus began my journey of intentionally finding me.
The next year my schedule did not just “happen”, it was purposefully made. I didn’t just go with whatever friends were around, I purposefully invested into the ones that mattered. I learned to say “No”(especially to family) and stick to it. I switched churches to one that is tiny, but so genuine! I learned (and am still learning) to make time to sit in silence with myself and God.
So in that more refreshed state, I was brought back to my original question: What is the purpose of life?
What made my heart skip beats?
What made a spark ignite in me and turn into a passionate love for life?
What was my purpose in life?
I found children with special needs make my heart so, so happy! I just light up when I get to work with them! I found nursing and the mystery of the body makes me desire to learn more and search deeper! I found that deep, meaningful friendships are what strengthen me and refresh me, not the number of friends in the group. I found that writing brings me joy. I found that healing takes time and it brings such gladness to come to a place of healing myself as well as journey the path to healing with others. I found that nature adds a freshness to life, that healthy food can be yummy, and that night lights are okay.
Going back to the quote above, my, “Deep gladness” is more than one thing, as is, “The world’s deep hunger.”
I wasn’t willing to settle for just one of the “gladness” areas, because the world has need for many things and God has put it in my heart to love many things! Thus my double degree. Children/Adults with special needs are one of the most neglected group of people in the world, and all of the world could use more health care providers, so that’s what I’m sticking to for now.
Is my career the only purpose of my life? Absolutely not.
In Ephesians 2 it states, “we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’”
With that in mind, I am realizing that my purpose in life is to invest deeply into my friendships, to walk the path of healing, to learn who I am and whoes I am (more on this in the book Spoken For by Alyssa Bethke), to be the best nurse and special needs teacher that I can be, and to always keep God first and love him with all my heart.
Is this simple? Not in the least. Is it worth it? I think it is.
So there you go! That’s my story on finding what I believe to be my calling in life. I hope you all are encouraged by my story to search for your individual callings in life.
What makes your hearts skip beats? What makes you excited for the morning light?
29 days down, 336 to go!