3 spheres of influence and calling

3 spheres of influence and calling Sometimes it's hard to try to summarize and recap a powerful experience. I want to try to give you a succinct summary of my trip to Portland last weekend, but I'm struggling to put my finger on the right words. Which is ironic, considering the main purpose for our trip was a writing conference.

It was a weekend of beauty and friendship and encouragement and kick-in-the-pants inspiration. Of good coffee and the best donut I've ever had. Of virtual friends made real and reconnecting with dear old friends as if no time had gone by at all, that is to say, of oh-so-kindred spirits.

Jumping back into regular life has honestly made it hard to try to process all that I learned, both in conference sessions, and also in heart-to-heart conversations.

I have twenty pages of notes in my Moleskine journal and a million thoughts swirling in my head, but this is what I'm most concretely able to pin down right now. As I process this, it feels a little like a manifesto, and maybe it is.

As a believer, my main goal in life is to glorify God and live out the gospel. But as an individual, I believe I have a few specific spheres of influence, areas of calling and responsibility.  I can't deny any of these or I will not be living fully as the person God created me to be. The more I invest in these areas, the more fully I will become myself (which, it turns out, is a pretty darn good definition of success, according to Emily).

1. My family. I have been gifted with the wonderful responsibility of being a wife, and a mom of three. It is my job to, in the grace of God, put forth my best effort in these relationships. A weekend away with my husband was a darn good way to invest in my marriage (but so is making his favorite dinner and sacrificing a Saturday so he can play golf).

Discipling my kids and training them in education and gospel living is my primary quotidian job. Parenting is really the hardest job I've ever had, and it refines me more than I ever wanted to be refined. It also teaches me more about my relationship with God than any other experience has.

2. My community. I believe that the sovereign hand of the Lord has put me exactly where I am for a reason, and that my family is right where he wants us to minister at this time. I love opening my heart and my home to others and I take the hard with the good because I wasn't created for isolation but for community.

My church family (and our community group and the music ministry), our extended family, friends, neighbors, school, sports teams, my local Community Bible Study group, even my long-distance friends and our farther- away extended family-- God has me right where I am to live out the gospel and connected to the very people to whom I am meant to be connected. I'm thankful for these people and for the privilege of doing life with them.

3. My words.

Two weeks after I graduated college I married David. This stage of life of marriage and raising a family and being a veritable grown-up seemed to start that day in June. Since then, those first two spheres have become such an integral part of my daily life and who I am.

The third one I have wavered in. I always felt called to words. A voracious reader, one who loved to write stories and poems and essays, a student of language and languages. I have bounced around in figuring what I felt like I was supposed to do in addition to those first two areas, but I've always known it had to do with words.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to not have a third sphere of life-- no calling beyond family and community-- but then I feel that I would not be living out true to who God made me to be. And I don't want to miss out on any of His plan for me.

I don't have this one nailed down yet--I don't know when it will fully emerge or what it looks like-- but I'm getting more and more inklings and feeling more of that heart-thumping pull to releasing the art I was meant to create.

In the pre-conference retreat day, we were asked in one of workshops, "How will this realization/lesson/experience change what you do on Monday after the conference?"

And so that's where I've started. I've started with words, with continuing to read, and with just plain ol' writing. I'm craving more consistentency in exercising this craft that I feel called and pulled towards. Because I've been waiting for inspiration and time, but time is just an excuse and "inspiration follows work" (Madeleine L'Engle).

There is beauty and glory in the world that needs to be translated into words, and our goal as writers is to show that the beauty of the kingdom is breaking through here on earth, and to show that to others. (Thank you, Seth and Nish, for articulating that for me).

So that's my calling, my third responsibility in life. I don't want to shy away from it even though there are a million fears that want to drag me down and away from it.

I have so many more thoughts from my experience at the conference that I'm sure will come out in one way or another as I process them. But for now, I leave you with this little manifesto, and I guess, I'd love to know if you've nailed down your own spheres of influence and calling. I know this life isn't the be all end all by any means. But I still want to make it count, and I want to be all who I was created to be.

The day I let my kids in on my dream

ready to fly Today I sat down with my kids to have a little chat with them over a cherry smoothie and those veggie snacks that taste like greasy air (oh, is it just me? my kids love them, but ew.)

I don't always sit down with them to eat during the day because I'm usually doing like five other things while eating or drinking. But today, I sat. I think they all knew we were going to talk about something because they looked at me expectantly.

"What do you think I wanted to be when I grew up when I was a little girl?" I asked them. They were a bit dumbfounded by this question actually and I had to help them out a bit.

"Do you think I wanted to be a mommy?" They nodded enthusiastically. "Yep, I did. Do you think I wanted to be anything else along with that?"

They  mumbled a few answers (I think Gigi mentioned teacher, which was a pretty good guess, and I think Brody mentioned cowgirl. Okay then.) and then Hallee, 3.5, said, "Work? Like on your computer?"

I smiled. "Do you know what I do on my computer?"

Gigi knew this answer. "Blogging?"

"And what is blogging?" I asked her.

"Talking to people? And writing stuff?" I think she gets the basic gist. ;) But I tried explaining it a bit more, and then I went on to tell them that, guess what! Mommy actually always had a dream of writing something else... books! So when I blog, I do it both to encourage people (hopefully) and also to practice writing so that I can someday (hopefully) achieve that dream of writing books.

letting the kids in on my dreaming

And then I went on to share a little more of my heart with them. It went something like this.

I'm trying to work on being more present with you during our days together. To really focus on you guys and be there when you need me or when you want to show me something or talk about something. I want to do my best to really be with you when I'm with you, ya know? {Nods around the table.}

We do lots of fun things together, right? The beach, the park, school, playing outside, reading books, having playdates etc, etc, etc. But sometimes I need you to occupy yourselves, right? Be creative, read a book, play with toy, stuff like that.

And since I'm trying to be more intentional about this, I'm also going to ask that you give me some time to work on my writing dreams too. When do you think I do this? Yep, early in the morning, during quiet play time, and sometimes (when I'm not too tired) after you're in bed. So when I ask you to occupy yourselves for some afternoon play time after we've done lots of fun things together all morning, does that seem fair?

They nodded again and answered affirmatively. It was a good conversation.

I'm hoping that laying this foundation will help them see that as a mom it's okay to have dreams still and to work towards those. I'm also hoping that during this season of Lent I can die to myself a little more in my parenting.

I didn't give something up for Lent, but instead I'm digging in here, trying to be more intentional and more available in my mothering. Be all there, and then not feel guilty when I take some time for myself as well.

During the season of Lent, we try to give things up to train our raw fingers to let go of old ways. But to reconcile with God and to breathe in the springtime, we have to do more than just let go. We have to replace our icy vices with the good, warm things of God...

This lenten season, let’s do more than suspend our vices—let’s run to Christ. Let’s be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him. ~SheReadsTruth's Lent study, Day 3

The day I let my kids in on my dream

I scratched out this post on February 19th and since then I've gotten into a good groove of intentionally leaning in with my kids while also carving out time to work on my own writing. I don't feel like I've "arrived," but I do feel like the days go smoother when I intentionally decide whether I'm focusing on the kids or my own work (whether that's writing, housework, communication with other adults, or whatever) for the time being, rather than always trying to multitask.

Last week I submitted my first short story for a writing contest, and it was really cool to be able to share with my kids this little milestone and know that they are along for the ride on this dream journey of mine.