Letting My Life Speak
A few days ago I mentioned that I’d snuck in one final book whilst sitting by the pool on August 13th….the day before my birthday. (And if you’re keeping score….I also promised an announcement when I gave you a book review…a promise I”ll make good on today….)Nothing like checking something off just under the wire. Sadly, this was only book number 7 on my goal to read 8 books before my birthday, so I didn’t effectively check off 3. Read 8 books (one a month) although I came pretty dang close.
Without getting super personal and divulging all my innermost thoughts and feelings, because lets face it, that would be awkward for all of us, I will say that the past eight years since I graduated college have been haunted by a giant vocational question mark. Since graduation day in May, 2004 I have worked:
*at a high-end children’s wear/Lilly Pulitzer/designer maternity boutique as a sales clerk
*at a major teaching hospital as an assistant in the office of the Department Chair of Medicine
*at Vanderbilt University as a floating administrative assistant
*as the assistant to the assistant of a well-known Christian singer
*as a freelance violinist playing for any number of weddings, concerts, videos, events and the like
*as the assistant/road-manager/merchandise girl for Ronnie Freeman
I also earned a Master’s degree in Health Education along the way. I’ve enjoyed all of it immensely. I’ve learned so much, forged meaningful relationships, and grown intellectually and emotionally. Some of those jobs were “place holders” for sure….ways to support myself for a short season. in so many ways I’ve envied friends who got “adult” jobs right out of college and immediately began climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. But, I also feel like I’ve gotten to experience so much that I wouldn’t have if I’d been in some focused, driven environment for the past eight years. The Lord has always provided financially, materially, and in every other way. For part of the time I’ve been thankful, and at other times, I’ve been a big weepy baby, wanting to have some sort of niche that I felt was mine…and exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
For my birthday, Keith gave me a book. Someone had passed it along to him a few years ago when he too was doing some self-evaluation. And once, on a plane, he passed it along to a man whose entire life would soon change based on the text by Parker J. Palmer.
It’s not a long book in length….but it’s not a quick read either. After about 2 pages, I decided it wasn’t the type of book that I could read without having a pen in hand to underline the important stuff. But then after a few pages of underlining about every other sentence, I realized that the whole book was just THAT GOOD….and that maybe I’d miss something if I kept underlining. So I stopped again. The author talks about finding your passion and putting it into practice vocationally, but I loved that he seemed to really dig to the root of the soul and look at passions from angles that might not have occurred to me. For instance, when he was a little boy, he loved airplanes. For a long time he thought maybe he should be a pilot, since he loved planes so much. But when he stood back and examined that passion, he remembered the hours he spent as a kid making books about the airplanes he loved so much. And he realized that maybe planes weren’t his passion (although decidedly an interest!), but teaching and writing were! It wasn’t all about the interest in planes….it was about writing about a topic to teach others. Palmer would go on to be a great author and teacher as an adult.
I started thinking about what I loved as a child. Topic wise….violin, books and nature come to mind, and I’ve certainly pursued those as an adult. I graduated college with a BS in Biology, read and blog in my spare time, and have been playing violin “full-time” in Nashville for six years now (plus, I played-for-pay a good bit starting in college and leading up to my move to Nashville.) But I’m not your typical musician who practices hours on end to the annoyance of anyone who lives with them. Nor am I serious enough about science to make a career in it, although I enjoyed my studies in college. But as I think further on my childhood….I think about what I did with those interests. As Palmer wrote books about planes….I organized. I made charts outlining my violin practice and board games to make practice time more fun. I made nature collections that later on turned into a full-fledged “museum” in our spare bedroom. A trip to Office Depot was far more exciting than a trip to Toys R Us. I used to frequently ask my mom if we could look at “office supplies.” Paper, pencils, folders, stickers and labels still get me excited. So, my analysis is that I’ve always loved to organize and get things done. Most college students wait tables or work retail to make pocket-money. I marched into the Biology department and asked for a job as an office worker and lab assistant. The head of the department at the time stuck his head out of his office door and said, “if you can organize these…you’re hired” and re-appeared with two large cardboard boxes of student papers, magazine articles, office supplies, microscope slides…you name it. I worked for the department until the day I graduated.
I’ve loved being a free-lance violinist, but there’s no guarantee of when the next gig will come (or that you’ll ever get paid, even if the gig does come, am I right fellow musician friends?) so for a few years now, I’ve been praying for something steady and in my skill/interest set. A few weeks ago I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time. The saga of the next week and a half is more than I can share here, but starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking over that friend’s job as the personal assistant to a girl in Nashville who is an author of books and Bible study curriculum, a speaker, and a singer/worship leader. I could not be more excited for this opportunity to use my organizational skills and passions for someone who writes books and makes music in the arena of Christian ministry. The Lord is allowing me to use how I’m naturally wired, in the fields I’m most interested in (books and music), as a vocation. You better believe a few paisleys on my Eucharisteo painting have to do with this new job.
What’s funny about the “Let Your Life Speak” book is that it came after the new job became a possibility….not before it. But reading it’s pages confirmed that I’m exactly where God wants me, and that this new season is completely from Him. Since this post started out as a book review, I’ll conclude that portion of the post by saying that this book is one you should go out and buy tomorrow. And since it turned into some soul-divulging, I’ll thank you for any prayers you wish to offer on my behalf as I take this next step on my journey by “starting work” tomorrow! And to anyone else who is questioning life-purpose, vocation, a job change, or any related question marks, my best encouragement would be to take an inventory, figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your interests are, what you can and can’t live without, and then press in in prayer and ask God to provide opportunity and direction. I promise you He loves His children, and will make the way clear at the perfect time.