The Story of how I Meandered My Way to My Calling, the Epiphany that Changed My Life, and Encouragement for Your Journey

photo by denys nevoz on unsplash

photo by denys nevoz on unsplash

Formerly titled Finding Your Calling, Part 1 : The Story of how I Meandered My Way to My Calling, the Epiphany that Changed My Life, and Encouragement for Your Journey

Do you ever wish God would appear to you in a vision and explain with perfect clarity what your calling is?

I can relate. Over the years, there have been many times I wished that my direction was more clear cut. But my path to understanding my calling has been more like a meandering river than perfectly straight railroad tracks leading from point A to point B.

Yet, in spite of all the meandering, there have been moments of clarity and even epiphany.

Today, I’m sharing a bit of my story, in hopes that it will help you and your journey toward a better understanding of your own calling. In the weeks to come, I’ll be using my story as a launching point for sharing more practical principles for understanding your calling.

Now, for a brief history of how I arrived at a clear understanding of my callings. :)

The Journey

I began the process of seeking my purpose and callings at a pretty young age. Being naturally introspective, I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was and what God might want me to do. I loved science in high school and planned to major in chemistry in college, but after taking my first psychology class I knew I’d found something I loved even more.

After graduating with my bachelor’s in psychology, I decided I wanted to get my master’s degree. I seriously considered two options: a master’s in English or a master’s in counseling. I chose counseling. (More on why in a coming post).

I felt a bit uncomfortable with counseling from the beginning. At first, I rationalized my feelings by reminding myself that counseling is a pretty intense job, and I had A LOT to learn. Of course I’m going to feel uncomfortable. I even heard a statistic that most counselors don’t start to feel really comfortable in the role until after about seven years in the field. With this fact in hand, I reassured myself that time and experience would remedy my discomfort.

After I graduated, my first job was working with a counselor in private practice. I didn’t have many clients there, so, after about six months I applied for a job at a local nonprofit counseling agency. I was offered a full-time position, and, anticipating a bigger caseload and a wider range of experience, I accepted.

In my new job, I served children with attachment and trauma issues, teenagers grappling with their first romantic relationships, women with bipolar disorder, and just about everything in between. It was all a bit overwhelming. Many days I came home completely exhausted and in tears. I was getting the experience I wanted, but it was not as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. I felt confused and disappointed. I was doing what I’d worked so hard for years to do, and it was not fulfilling. But I wasn’t sure why.

Two years into my counseling career, I had the opportunity to become the client service manager at my local crisis pregnancy center. And I loved it!

I was working with a population I loved, helping women with issues I felt passionate about, and in an area in which I was skilled. Meanwhile, I was still working toward my licensure as a professional counselor (a multiyear process), which I earned in the fall of 2013.

I worked at the pregnancy center for about 15 months. But once I had my license, I decided to return to the counseling agency. One big reason for this was that, now that I was licensed, I could work part time and earn as much as I was working almost full time at the pregnancy center. As much as I enjoyed that job, the desire to write had been growing in me, and I felt that I needed to find a way to help support our household and also find time to write.

I returned to the nonprofit counseling agency with the agreement that I would serve women and teen girls. (My experience at the pregnancy center had solidified my call to serve women.)

After about a year back at the nonprofit agency, I decided I was ready to start my own private practice. I hoped that, as my own boss and with the ability to focus on the client population I most wanted to serve, I would find more contentment in my role as a counselor.

After a ton of research, preparation, and planning, I opened my very own counseling practice in the spring of 2015.

I was pretty proud (in a healthy way) of my achievement. I had contemplated having my own practice for years, and, in my mind, it was the pinnacle of a career in counseling.

Yet, several months in, things were worse. Almost every morning I woke up with anxiety swimming in my stomach like a school of eels. I was crying all the time, stressed out, and discouraged.

In my honest moments, I began to acknowledge that I didn’t really want to be running my own counseling practice. And when I was really honest, maybe I didn’t even want to be counseling at all. But, like a toboggan in a luge run, I felt trapped on the path I had chosen.

(Now, I want to note here that I really loved my clients. I loved all the women I’ve worked with over the years, and I have always felt so honored with how they trusted me enough to open their hearts and let me help. And my heart remains for women. It was just that what I was helping women with in my role as a counselor, I eventually realized, was not what I was best suited to help with.)

The Epiphany

Then, one September morning, everything changed.

It started with a conversation with my husband about the struggles he was having with his own career. Near the end of our conservation, just before Paul left for work, I made the observation that, though there were a lot of things about his job [at the time] that suited him, there were a few things that perhaps did not. “Maybe this job just isn’t quite the right fit for you,” I suggested.

A little later, I was curled up on the couch in my office, venting my counseling frustrations to God. Suddenly, my earlier words of advice came echoing back to me, “Maybe counseling just isn’t quite the right fit for me.”

In one of the biggest aha moments of my life, I saw it: I wasn’t made to be a mental health counselor. It was like God showed me a door that had always been there, but I couldn’t see. I realized in a moment of epiphany that I didn’t have to do this. I wasn’t a toboggan on a luge run with no escape—I could leave any time I wanted to.

And, I could finally admit to myself, I wanted to. And not just wanted to, but needed to. The path I was on, though it was important training and preparation for what was to come, was not my final destination, and it was draining my joy.

But if I wasn’t a counselor…what was I?

I started re-assessing who I was in my entirety. I asked myself: What have I always been good at? What have I always enjoyed? What do I long to do? I reviewed my passions, values, strengths, and skills. I tried to let go of what I thought I should be and just accept who I actually was.

Though this self-assessment raised almost as many questions as it provided answers, one thing for sure: I was called to write.  

This wasn’t a surprise. I had known for some time on some level that it was something God wanted me to do. I just assumed it meant in addition to a “real job.” That He was calling me to fully devote myself to something I longed to do—that was the revelation.

On that September morning, it was like I finally knew that I had God’s permission to do what I loved—to embrace who He actually created me to be and follow what He had actually put in my heart.

It was as if someone knelt over me and blew a breath of fresh air into my lungs. I felt revived and more alive than I had in a long time.

That day was a major turning point for me. But everything didn’t happen all at once. Though I closed my practice within a few months, I didn’t leave counseling completely for another year and a half (I returned to the nonprofit agency on a part-time basis). And there were, and still are pieces yet to be revealed. God didn’t show me the coaching piece of my calling until the following year.

For me, understanding my calling(s) has been both an epiphany and a process. It both was and wasn’t a one-time thing. It took years and it took moments.

I share this in hopes that, if you are wondering what your calling(s) is, if you are waiting for it to appear in big letters across the sky (as nice as that would be!), you will be encouraged to know that, in many ways, for most people, our callings are often more journeys than destinations, more excavation than proclamation. If you’re wondering what your calling is, don’t give up. Jesus promises us that if we seek, we will find. Hold tight to the truth that He has a special place for you.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I want to say thanks for hanging in there with me! I know this is a little different and also longer than most of my posts. I plan to pick back up with my story after Thanksgiving and continue this conversation as a series of posts where I’ll share a few more principles that I hope will help you on your journey of discovery. God bless and I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving this week!


With love,

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“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” Psalm 16:11 (NIV).

I want to hear from you!

Where are you in the process of finding your calling/callings? Can you relate to my story, or is yours completely different? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

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