Thursday, June 7, 2012

finding our vocation

One of Eliana's 5th grade teachers asked her what she wants to be when she grows up. She gave the same answer that I did for most of my childhood: "a missionary in South America." If she'd had more time, she would have given the longer answer: "I want to be a lawyer working with the International Justice Mission in Ecuador, helping the poor fight for land rights and providing safety and freedom for women who have been raped."

That, my friends, is a great dream for an 11-year-old to have. If she aspired to be a professional basketball player, I might be concerned, because it would be so out of the blue. But this is a dream that fits her -- with a keen ability with languages, a love for travel, and a heightened need for justice -- she's got what it takes.

A clear sense of vocation fuels daily discipline. It gets Eliana up in the mornings to do Rosetta Stone Spanish before she heads off to school. It motivates her to work hard to earn good grades, and then keep working even when no one is watching, like when school's out. Yesterday she received a Presidential Academic award bearing President Obama's signature. Today we spent our first morning of summer vacation (by request) . . . homeschooling. Eliana (11) taught Easton (3) to write lower-case letters while Emma (6) and I worked on cursive. Next came math and vocabulary. What a blessing to have such motivated children!

Teaching is a vocation that took me a while to discover. It wasn't until an education class in college that things clicked for me and I realized what I was born to do (though Mom and Dad knew it all along). Now, more than 16 years later, I'm in the thick of preparation for a teaching ministry. Being a woman in academia brings unique challenges (childcare chief among them), and so I was delighted to discover a newsletter designed with women just like me in mind. The Well, published by InterVarsity, is "a virtual gathering place for graduate and professional women to receive wisdom, care, challenge, and inspiration as they seek to follow Christ in the academic or work world." If you check out their current featured articles, you might be surprised to see that you know at least one of the contributors. I was delighted when they asked if they could publish a recent blog post.

I'm reminded of Paul's words to Timothy: "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you . . . Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all" (1 Tim 4:14-15). It's one thing to decide to be a lawyer, or a college professor, but quite another thing to become one. Natural talents and spiritual gifts must be nurtured and shaped by daily discipline over a long stretch of time. Nobody wakes up in the morning and finds themselves in an academic career. It's the culmination of thousands of daily choices, the fruit of discipline nurtured by mentors who are a few steps ahead of us on the journey. That's why I'm so glad to have a resource like The Well, a companion for the long pilgrimage of finding and fulfilling my vocation.

How about you? Do you have a passion buried inside you just waiting for the right season to take action? You may not be able to throw yourself into it completely at this stage of your life, but perhaps there are tiny steps that you can start taking now . . . so that when the time comes you'll be ready to roll.


  1. Eliana continues to amaze me! You and Danny have done an amazing job fostering curiosity and compassion in your little ones. When we decide to have children I'm going to be calling you for advice ;)

  2. Aww, that's nice of you. If I ever homeschool my kids again, I'll be calling YOU for advice! :)

  3. Wow that is amazing Carmen. Surely the Lord is at work in her precious heart! What choices of yours and Danny's do you think the Lord has used to shape her desires and character? I'm so hungry for wisdom!!!

  4. Thanks, Emma! It's such a privilege to get to raise all three of our precious kids. Parenting is for sure the hardest thing either of us have ever done, and we're constantly wondering if we're handling things the best way. (Often I'm sure I'm not!) But by God's grace, our kids are growing in maturity and in their desire to make a difference in the world.

    Eliana was a born planner (she gets that from both of us, but especially from Danny), and she's very driven and competitive (that one comes from me). Two things that seem to have worked with her: (1) sponsoring a Compassion child her age from Ecuador. Eliana writes to Erika and prays for her. That's where her heart for Ecuador came from. (2) Talking openly about gnarly issues like human trafficking. I want our kids to know that this is a broken world, but that Jesus came to restore that brokenness. As his representatives, we have the privilege of being part of that restoration. We can grieve what has gone wrong, but hold on to the hope found in Christ and offer that hope to those around us.

    I am SO excited to watch all 3 of my kiddos become just who God designed them to be and reflect him to the world in their own unique ways. It's the BEST part of being a mom!

    You've already begun your own journey by naming Zeke and praying and preparing for his arrival. You're gonna be an awesome mom!

  5. Awesome Carmen! Thanks for sharing. And thanks for the encouragement and kind words! Since we are adopting my thoughts often wander to the nature vs. nurture arguments and I struggle with feeling like David and I will have little impact on who Zeke becomes. That can't be true though! And then when I think of the influence I might have I get overwhelmed by all of my failings and areas in which I desperately don't want him to be like me! I guess this is a concern shared by every parent. My dearest hope is that Zeke become like Jesus- not me or David. But I am such a poor and weak example of Christ- how could He use me for this?

    I love the sponsoring a child idea and being open and real with her about the world- although I have no idea how to do that in appropriate ways. Maybe the Lord would put on your heart to write a blog post about how you share the brokenness of this world and the restoration of Jesus with your kids at different ages and in different ways. I would imagine your time as missionaries afforded many opportunities.

    I have spent so much time and energy focusing on the first year or two of life. Most of the past 11 years of my nanny career have been with this age group. I am praying that God would equip me for the years beyond toddlerhood! What books/resources would you recommend? Second to the Bible of course :)

  6. Oh...and the passion that I am certain is brewing in me is writing- especially children's books. I am extremely passionate about children's literature...from board books to chapter books. I LOVE it!!

  7. Emma,
    sorry this reply took me sooo long. Thankfully, Zeke is still in his first year of life, so it's not too late, right? :)
    My favorite parenting books (such as they are) are listed in a link to the right of my blog under "Parenting Resources." I must admit that I haven't read a lot about parenting, because I'm so busy reading other things. But my favorite thus far is probably "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp. He talks about each of the stages our children go through. They all bring unique joys and challenges!