March 21, 2011

Finding your Calling

A regal lady in the Met

You know what it means when you see a photo of a statue up here.  It means I've come across something that's made me think and I want to share it with all of you.  I hope you will read through this post and then contribute to the conversation in the comments -  I really want to know what you think!

The Marriott School Alumni Magazine published an article recently that my dear Joe encouraged me to read.  Based on a campus devotional address given by Professor Jeffery Thompson, the article is called Finding Your Calling.  [click the link to read the full text].    Thompson discusses the anxiety we often feel when we think about what our calling may be in this life.  Did I miss it?  Am I up to the task?  Is there really only one way?  Are you serious - this is IT?  I ask myself that last one a lot.  Thompson presents the misinformation (what he calls heresies) to which we often fall victim when we consider our callings in life.  He then corrects them with real life examples and gospel principles. 

Here are the heresies along with a few of my favorite quotes from the article:
1. You might have a calling or you might not
2. You have to find your one true calling
3. When you find your calling, work will be bliss
4. The world will celebrate your calling

Thompson discusses the challenging work of zookeepers (which is pretty much the same as mothering); how they are often underpaid and overworked but still feel a great sense of satisfaction with their work.  He concludes:
The pain and sacrifice were not threats to their sense of calling - they were part of it.  The work was meaningful because of the burdens.

You may do the most important, exciting work in the world, but some days will be mundane.  You will be called upon to sacrifice.  We can't expect deep meaningfulness from our calling unless we are willing to assume its burdens as well.

Remember that it is a heresy to believe that work is meaningful only when it gives us status.

When you focus your work first and foremost on blessing others, you will become extraordinary at what you do.  You will find fulfillment and success much more reliably than if you work to get ahead.

There are not enough surfaces in my home for me to cross stitch all of these gems.  But I would like to remember these principles on days when my work feels like pure drudgery.  Friends, what about you?  What are some of the callings you've considered for your life?  What are the dreams you still hold on to?  What are you doing to achieve them?  What holds you back?  How do you bridge the gap between dreaming big and performing the day to day necessities?  I guess all these questions boil down to fulfillment.  Are you fulfilled?  If so, who is your therapist?

Just to get the juices flowing here's a fun list of things I'd love to be.  Some are just pipe dreams, others are really going to happen:
- lounge singer
- paramedic
- ASL interpreter
- awesome gardener
- neighborhood watch lady
- community theater star
- birth photographer
- expert quilter
- zookeeper (I wanna hold baby monkeys)
- volunteer for NILMDTS
- photography mentor
- author


  1. neighborhood watch lady. you kill me.

    i'm a momma. i take pride in that...usually. sometimes i don't. sometimes i scheme plans to move to the east village and start a band, but usually i really like what i do. like on days when i say, "i'm the worst mom in the world." and eli response is, "no, you are the best because you are really good at snuggling.

    my other calling. a snuggler.

    also, this post made me think of sis. beck's talk "and upon the handmaids..."

    "Good women always have a desire to know if they are succeeding. In a world where the measures of success are often distorted, it is important to seek appreciation and affirmation from proper sources. To paraphrase a list found in Preach My Gospel, we are doing well when we develop attributes of Christ and strive to obey His gospel with exactness. We are doing well when we seek to improve ourselves and do our best. We are doing well when we increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help others who are in need. We know we are successful if we live so that we qualify for, receive, and know how to follow the Spirit. When we have done our very best, we may still experience disappointments, but we will not be disappointed in ourselves. We can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when we feel the Spirit working through us. Peace, joy, and hope are available to those who measure success properly."

    peace, joy, and hope are available to those who measure success properly!!!!

    i heart you, whitney.

    p.s. i'm planning a park crawl for us to do! you can FINALLY teach me how to use my camera!

  2. Dang, I need to vinyl letter those quotes across my house. Especially the one about the status. I always find myself thinking that something is only worthwhile if it is recognized by others. Leave it to Whitney to put me in my place. Where are you going to end up settling so we can be neighborhood watch ladies together and you can stimulate my brain with conversation like this? I haven't been a mother long enough to feel unhappy with that calling, but I know that there will be days where I will feel like there should be more. For now I worry that for my short time as a teacher, did I really make a difference? I wasn't that good and certainly out of element at an inner city school, but did I do any good there? As for my children's reading specialist, autism functional behavioral analysist, I would love to teach a community class on parenting, marriage and families, play the huge organ for an empty conference center, jewelry designer, be a big sister for the big brother big sister program or similar, digital scrapbooking designer, graphic artist, work for an advertising or marketing company. What holds me back is not knowing where to start or not having the time to completely dedicate myself. Thanks for the though provoking post. Go for lounge singer. I'd come hear you.

  3. Thanks for the post! Prof. Thompson is a good friend of Andrew's and we loved his devo.
    Yesterday I was driving in the car and thinking about all the people I know who are so good at so many things. I asked myself, "What am I expert at?" And the fist thing that popped into my head was, "Abraham and Benjamin, of course. You spend all day studying them." I tried and tried to think about something else that I'm expert at, but I couldn't come up with anything. I guess I'm not too good at multi-tasking, but I found that I actually didn't care that much. I'm okay to be completely focused on my boys. That's all I can do right now, and it's actually very rewarding. I think when I don't have little kids at home during the day I'll work harder to pick up some other expertises, but for now, this is enough for me!
    Did I tell you? The other day I did some calculating (watch out), and I realized what a small part of my life having little children at home would be. I mean, really, depending on how many kids you have, you could just have kids at home full time for about 10 years or so. Supposing I live to be 100, that's just 10% of my life!! I had no idea! It made me want to just really focus right now because I'll have plenty of "me" time when I'm getting old.
    I'm not saying it's not good to have other talents and habits, but I'm not going to stress over it ;)

  4. Thanks for all the great comments. I love hearing your perspectives!

    Abbie, I do need to work on measuring success properly. My friend Ariel (who commented also) is really good at doing that.

    Rachel, hopefully you will never become unhappy with your calling as a mother. I sometimes worry I am way too selfish for this mothering gig. When I refocus on Ellie and really enjoy her, I find happiness in my daily doings again. It probably comes more naturally to you already. I loved your list, by the way - you would be a great scrapbook designer.

    Ariel, thanks for the reminder. I think it really comes down to focusing on what is important. When I'm focused in I feel fulfilled. When my gaze wanders and my mind say's "what if," I find myself drifting and feeling unsatisfied.

  5. And incidentally, Dr. Thompson has recently found one of his callings just recently. We sang together for the MPA Talent Show last year (you can see it here:, his first time on stage in decades, and it launched him into a community theater calling. We saw him perform in "The Importance of Being Earnest" last week and he did fantastically!
    Dream calling? Creating and then running the philanthropic arm of Pixar.

  6. Thanks for the post Whit; it got me thinking. Often when we tell people of our plans to move to NC for Keith's PhD they turn to me and ask, and what are you going to be doing there? I always am a bit surprised and want to say "see this little boy here? You think he is going to raise himself?" This is my calling (at least one of the biggest) in my life. I try to take it seriously and measure success properly (thanks for that comment). I think finding our callings and sticking to them is important. I also think that when we are found to be trustworthy with one calling, the Lord will trust us, and bless us, with more callings. I hope more are coming but here is the list for now:

    -mother to Charlie (it is my calling to teach him what he needs to know)
    -mother to other children that come into my life and family (how ever that may be)
    -teach others to see God in His creations and to use them wisely
    -volunteer at a zoo or conservation organization (maybe we can work at the same one)
    -musician (I have come to know that I need to put more effort into this than I have)
    -work with Keith to make a difference in our communities and world regarding food supply (I feel like his chosen career is more than a job, but a life mission for both of us)

    I know some of those sound grandiose but those are my thoughts.
    Love ya.

  7. P.S. I hope someday you photograph for NILMDTS. What a precious gift.