I was able to quit my career when I became a stay at home mom. Though I became good at my job, and I loved parts of it, I knew that it wasn’t something I wanted to do the rest of my life. Losing your career may seem like a bad thing but for me, this was an opportunity. I know this is so Millennial of me (even though I’m like, too mega-old to be a millennial), and I also know that it is a luxury I have as a North American, but I really wanted to ‘find my calling’ because I’m pretty sure it would help me kick butt at ‘following my dreams’.
The more I scoped the landscape for my life’s purpose, the more I realized I had the notion of ‘dreams’ and ‘callings’ skewed a bit. I used to think that having a dream was very specific, that it would look like a certain living situation, a certain career, a certain pair of shoes. I used to think that calling was this big ‘aha’ moment where I find the exact task I was put on this earth to accomplish. The truth about dreaming is that it doesn’t really matter what we are doing, what makes it a dream is that we get to ‘be’ a certain way when we do it.
If I could unpack it all in the simplest form, it would look like this. God made me for a purpose. He gifted me specifically to achieve this purpose. He has given me dreams to realize these gifts, and gifts to achieve these dreams. The dreams tell of the gifts, the gifts tell of the purpose.
I look back at the careers I have wished I pursued (psychologist, marketer, graphic designer, communal office space owner) and the one I had chosen (health inspector, yes I said that in a super boring tone) and I can see some similarities. Of course, I didn’t see the common thread in these different roles until I took the time to learn that one of my strengths is ‘connecting’. Then I reflected back on each job and project I have taken on and I see that in each situation I tried to emphasize the ‘people’ component of it. This would be the most enjoyable part of any job I did because this was what I enjoy the most. God made me to find this enjoyable and he has shaped my skills at it over time.
As I reflected back on how God has used each dream I had to hone my gifts, and how my dreams have shape shifted over time, I realize my calling is to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’. As Jen Hatmaker has pointed out in For The Love, “maybe we can exit the self-imposed pressure cooker of ‘calling’ and instead just consider our ‘gifts'”. Which I like the idea of, gifts can be used no matter what we are doing. Gifts are how we are wired. Gifts are unique to us. Best of all our gifts are just that; a gift from God that becomes a gift to others.
Once my focus was less about the calling and more about the gifts, I felt like I could find a dream in any situation I was in. Sure, this makes me an over-dreamer and I have to sift and select carefully. It also makes me flexible in how God uses me. It has also helped me to be more successful with my dreaming because I can build them around my strengths rather than to compensate a weakness. Without getting to know myself, I wouldn’t have seen how my dreams are directing me and how my gifts can be used.
How about you? What is your life telling you? What dreams do you hold on to and follow? What gifts is God honing in you with each situation you find yourself in? You could be bold enough to ask all those around you to point out your strengths and giftings . . . or you could do some online tests like the rest of us. Here are some options in getting to know your strengths a bit more . . .
The Enneagram – Sure the name is gonna make you wince a little, but this tool has been one of the most impactful insights into myself. So much so, that all my friends are sick of hearing about it. This tool looks more at your motives and your strengths and behaviours when you are at your emotional peak as well as your emotional low.
StrengthsFinder – this is a popular one down south and it has a lot of scientific backing. The test ranks your top 34 strengths in order, which is kinda cool because the odds of someone else having the exact same results as you is almost statistically improbable. I used the app to find my top five strengths and found it very insightful.
PLACE – this is another ministry-based strengths tool and some churches will use it for their members. I don’t think you need to be in a church to learn about the strengths you have in serving and loving others.
SHAPE – The name for Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experience – cute, right? This is a tool that is also used in churches for its members.
Make sure you have the evening of April 28th marked on your calendar so you can join A Little Light and Elsie Road Magazine for a webinar all about dreaming.