Tag Archives: lifetime

All in a Day’s Work

Vocation:  calling, life’s work, mission, purpose, craft, career.  Deeper than a job, what “occupies” us, what we clock in and out for, vocation is something welling up and spilling out.  Vocation is what you daydream about when you’re a kid or pursue in your free time with passion.  And sometimes it’s at odds with gainful employment.  Bummer.

I find myself in the precarious predicament of choosing what is expedient and financially viable or pursuing instead my vocation.  Summer is coming, and I have a choice:  accept a lucrative, short-term, even meaningful job (Door #1), or throw myself with gusto into writing, foregoing any immediate financial gain (Door #2).  Kind of a bird-in-the-hand versus imaginary-bush scenario.  Am I brave enough?

Heard a coach in college once say,

“Nothing great can ever be accomplished by those who are only casually involved.”

So true.  But he didn’t mention that the cost of that passionate involvement is usually real and deep and immediate while the pay-off is far off and uncertain.  That’s why they call it your life’s work, folks.  It takes a lifetime.  Ask my husband, the church planter.  It’s slow, this soul work.  It’s exhausting, and often disappointing.  But to settle for a day job — tedium, frustration, the sense that the boat has cast off from the pier and left you stranded — well, that carries its own cost.

What were you made for?  What makes you sing?  What would you give to come home tired and happy and satisfied day after day?  You can do any job with excellence and good humor and shine there.  But you are the only one who can do your particular life’s work.fontcandy-3

Maybe it will never pay you a dime.  Maybe you have to put food on the table through a 9-to-5 and it’s only in the pre-dawn hours that you paint the Mona Lisa in your garage.  Or maybe it’s risky, taking a leap when you’re not quite sure of that soft landing.

My book’s coming out in September.  There’s just the one summer before that happens.  This is it, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make the most of it.  Come to think of it, this is it — the one life we all get, thirty thousand days and then we’re out.  How will I spend my days?

I gotta say, this is one of the reasons I love Jesus so much.  Not the miserly, pinched God our culture expects to see, instead he offers abundance, joy, freedom, and purpose.  While there is always a cost — a steep cost, to be sure — there is also promise.  Give up monotony and futility in exchange for challenge, hope, beauty, long-lasting significance, rest and the occasional water-walking miracle.  Not bad for a day’s work.  Not bad for a lifetime of days.

These Are The Days

I read recently of a homeschool family that ran afoul of local authorities.  Someone looked at this little-bit-different, little-bit-strange family, raised their eyebrows, and made a phone call.  Evidently one of the kids had been brought to the hospital and Mom and Dad left the older kids in charge of the small ones.  Child Protective Services came to the rescue, snatched the kids away, farmed them out to foster families, made inquiries.  What kind of education were these kids receiving?  What kind of parenting?

It’s a heebie-jeebies kind of story, a night-terror.  It’s all of our worst fears come alive:  what if they came for my kids?  What if I lost control?  What if someone sat my son down under a bright light and grilled him with division facts, state capitols, parts of speech?  What if they found out how inadequate I am?

There’s not much we want to get right as much as we want to raise our kids brilliantly.  We remember our own childhoods — the homework, the bullies, the stresses, the disappointments.  We want to shield our children from the things that smarted, to give them the opportunities we never had, to launch them laughing and shining into the world.  We watch other families out of the corner of our eyes and we judge.  One family obviously pushes too hard, one clearly never disciplines.  That mom is too uptight, the other one oblivious.  But of all the parents we criticize, we reserve the harshest condemnation for ourselves.  After all, we know the bitter truth:  we are not enough.

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All the while we fret and analyze, the kids are growing.  Our experiments in educational psychology are not bouncing off bright colored blocks, they are soaking into living sponges that absorb it all and swell before our eyes.  My own kids are almost fully saturated now — at 15, 13, 11, they are almost fully who they will be.  Think, Kate, before you speak; we are down to the wire.  The days dwindle, the season draws to an end.  Only a fraction of what I still want to say will soak in, the sponges are starting to drip.

I can’t afford to waste time on the wrong lessons.  The authorities are coming to see if we’ve caught any fish, but I can’t let that distract me.  The lesson we need to work on is how to fish.  It takes longer to teach.  We might still be empty handed when the squad car pulls up.

But if I scoop up the fish and hand the kid a bucketful, how will he ever fish for a lifetime?

Does he know how to diagram a sentence?  Or does he have something beautiful to say?

Does she know her Presidents?  Or does she value history like a treasure store of wisdom?

Has he learned the Periodic Table?  Or is he endlessly fascinated by science?

And more than all of the reading, writing, arithmetic I can teach, there’s theology.  Do they know the 10 Commandments?  Or do they know the love of God?

Can they recite the books of the Bible, or do they long to know who set the world in motion?

The day is coming when they will fall in love, get a job, apply for college.  It will be a day for courage, integrity, determination, responsibility, self-discipline, and love.  Did I mention grace?  Joy?  And of course, the kids’ll need some of those things, too.  🙂

So we pour out.  For all those years, all the great moments and the battles, all the forgiveness and all of the laughter, we pour out.  As fast as God pours in, we pass it on — love upon love.  And then we have to trust.  We have to let go.

Hopefully they won’t come and snatch my children away.  Hopefully I’ll get my full measure of years before the empty nest.  And hopefully my kids will merrily launch into the wide world with aplomb.  But I know there will be regrets, wistful questions, woulda shoulda couldas.  Because (here’s a little secret for you) they are not perfect.  And neither am I.  (SO not perfect.)  Fortunately I have a Father who will keep on pouring into me.  And it turns out He’s not inadequate.  He’s enough.  And that’s enough for all of us.