And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person.

Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor
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What are vocations?

As moms and homemakers, whether or not we have one child or ten, whether
we homeschool or work outside the house or are on a mission field, whether
we’re homebodies or social butterflies, we have a lot of plates to spin.
People seem to want to eat – three times a day! People need clothes – that are
clean, that fit, and that are seasonally appropriate!

Our job as a wife and mother can really be boiled down to serving needs. The
needs we’re given to meet might be different, but we share that primary role.

However, the needs are so great and so varied, and the opportunities to see and
meet more needs are never-ending. How do we know which needs we are
supposed to prioritize? Which is most important for us?

After all, we can’t meet all the needs we see. Somehow, we have to zero in on
the needs we’re called to serve and trust God will bring forth others to meet the
ones we cannot.

The way I do that is to know, name, and live my vocations.

The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin “vocare,” which means “to call.” 

Often, vocation is used as a synonym for one’s career, but within Christian thought over the centuries, it also carries connotations of duties that God has given. 

Thus, being a wife or husband is a vocation, because it is a set of duties given by God to married people. To be a parent is to be called to exercise a certain role with certain duties. One’s vocation can include the job by which one earns money, but money is not tied to the concept necessarily. 

We have been given giftings and skills of various types and degrees. During different seasons of our lives, how we use those gifts changes. Often, though, we will have some sort of role where we use the gifting God has given us to serve our family, serve the community, or serve the church body.

The key to the concept of vocation, or calling, is that it comes from outside of you. You don’t call yourself. You are not accountable to yourself. God calls you. You are accountable to God. 

There are calls that apply to everyone. We are all called to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As the Westminster catechism puts it, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. All the duties God gives people in general count as callings. 

In addition to that, God gives individuals roles in the family, in the church, and in society, and we are to fulfill the duties God has given us in those roles, whether it be wife or single, mother or not, paid or volunteer position or hobbyist.

God has given roles and gifts and tasks to different people in different ways and in different amounts. In these things, we are not all called to be the same, but called to fulfill our roles and invest the resources and abilities we’ve been given in God’s kingdom.

Step #1: Brain Dump

Figuring out your vocations starts with a brain dump. Remember that it is a discovery and awareness process, not a creative process.

Part of the naming process is narrowing down what our underlying responsibilities are, combining and clarifying. We have many surface-level commitments, but only a handful of deep-rooted reasons behind those commitments.

The reason you choose a task, not the task itself, is the key to identifying your vocation.

What kinds of tasks do you apply yourself to in a given week, a given year? What responsibilities and roles do you see yourself working in? It might be overwhelming, but trust me: write them all out, on paper.

Looking at your list, highlight the most important things. Connect what seems to go together, what tasks actually fall under the same role.  Circle things you might need to reconsider and minimize or remove. Cross out the jobs that are non-essential, even if you will continue to do them. 

What makes most sense to group your responsibilities into 5-6 headings. Some have as many as 8, some have as few as 3, but 5ish is the most common number. If you had to pare back to 3-5 basic relationships – Christian, wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, etc. – what would they be? Remove any “paying the bills” sort of obligation as you sort out what are your vocations. If you are working a job only because you need to supplement your family’s income, then perhaps that job fits into your family/home bucket instead of a separate vocation.

How many of these can you combine? Think about the fundamental reason you do them and group the ones that have the same reasoning behind them. You might come up with several options, you might have some stragglers, you might feel frustrated as you try to merge things into a manageable number. Spend a little time trying to work it out, then move onto the next step even if you don’t think you have it figured out yet.

The first step in working that out and having categories and filters to run opportunities through is finding and naming your vocations. Name these duties in a way that makes sense to you so you can filter the opportunities you have and make better choices because you’ve thought things through. 

Our goal is to combine and contract until we have 3-6 “boxes” that hold everything and anything we must do. 

Play around with the categories until you find an arrangement that makes sense to you with what you have going on.

Here are examples taken from real life women who have worked through this course and put vocation filters to work for them. Sometimes starting with someone else’s categories helps us move forward and customize better and more accurately than if we had to start from scratch.

Christian

Homemaker

Educator

Church Lady

Writer

Christian

Wife

Mother

Educator

Homemaker

Create order (self & home)
Nurture relationships (wife & mother)
Cultivate intelligence in others (homeschooler, member experience assistant)

Catholic

Wife

Mother

Person

Educator

Homemaker

Disciple

Helper

Shaper

Homemaker

Relationship-Builder

Our goal is to combine and contract until we have 3-6 “boxes” that hold everything and anything we must do.

Feel free to combine things in unconventional ways. These are for your own sense of clarity and they don’t have to make sense to anyone else. Think about how you want your life balanced.

Step #2: Write vocation statements

To help us keep our focus on growth and development, we’re going to write vocation statements to clarify our direction and focus on character and virtue rather than results. 

Your vocation statements will help you maintain mental and emotional clarity in the ups and downs of normal life. Make your statements positive and sure, not wishful.

List three to five adjectives per vocation, describing faithfulness in these roles over a lifetime. 

Take each vocation name and its adjectives and write a complete sentence that puts them together. One of mine is “I am a smiling, diligent, attentive homemaker.” Simple. Clear. Powerful.

Keep your vocation statements in a prominent place so that you read them at least weekly (daily is better, especially while you get comfortable with them).

Your vocation statements remind you of the direction you’re moving. They will become more and more true as you review and live them out.

Therefore, write them in present tense even if you don’t think they’re true right now. That discomfort in the discrepancy will help move you toward growth.

It’s easy to fixate on who we wish we were or who we want to become. Our vocation statements are not end goals we will arrive at and check off, but destinations we will always be either walking to or straying from.

Focus comes by writing things down.


At first, I was skeptical about writing out my vocations because it felt like they were intuitive and didn’t need to be expressed specifically. But I found that listing them out gave me verbiage for my purpose in each role and helped me to see that I was neglecting my most important roles and working most in my least important roles.
Cori Hanson,
Simply Convivial Member

Using vocations to organize

If there’s one thing that derails our attitudes, it’s feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about what we should actually be doing.

There are so many options, so many opportunities. We simply must say no at times, but how can we know when we should say no and when we need to be stretched by saying yes?

The answer lies in our vocations.

We don’t need to create a personal mission statement so much as we need to sit back and notice how God has gifted us, what God has given us, and where God has put us.

We each have ways of functioning that fit us, as persons. Our vocations are made up of the responsibilities we’re given. At the core, vocations are the callings we are given. We have very little choice about them. We have choices as to how we live them out, but often our vocations are involuntary.

God has called us to particular good works, and He has not called us to do every good work. Taking time to clarify our vocations is an exercise that helps us discern those things God is calling us to so we can release the guilt of not doing the good works He’s called others to do.

Once you’ve settled on your vocations, you can use them to set goals, to filter opportunities, to see where your life is out of balance. 

When I think through the goals I want to set, the habits I want to build, or the activities I am going to commit to, I look at my vocations. I try to keep my efforts split between them, so none are neglected, the most important ones are where the majority of my time are dedicated, and that extraneous commitments are cut.

Organization is not about having everything go your way. It’s about knowing what to do next and being confident you’re making the right choice in the moment. 

Your vocations are the key to being organized.

When we know our vocations, then we have a filter for making decisions about what we should and should not be putting on our to do lists this week. We can make better in-the-moment choices about which seemingly-urgent request should receive our first attention. 

Our vocations remind us of our responsibilities, which means they also determine what ends up on our calendar, what ends up on the to-do list, and what ends up taking our time and energies each day.

I arrange my own vocations in priority order so I have a quick litmus test for in the moment decisions. First, I have to make sure I am right with God and grounded in the Word and prayer so I am fit to serve others – so that comes first. I want to make sure my commitments to my family and church family are fulfilled before I blog or work on other pet projects.

So, if a need for a meal comes through, I don’t say, “Well, I can’t do that because I have a blog post to write.” I say, “My church family comes first and I can do that if I skip the blog post today.” And I am confident that is the right choice. But the service in the church body comes after my obligations to my own family – we don’t skip math and laundry unless it’s a true emergency. 

So, my vocations are written and arranged to help me juggle the incoming tasks and opportunities that arise.

And that’s where vocations become a functional piece of our home management and planning efforts. Our vocations, written out, remind us of what we ought to be choosing and prioritizing so we aren’t left to our current whims.

Filtering options –

Just a note that the concept of vocations helped immensely as I waged a lengthy inner debate over the question of whether or not to commit to a bi-weekly young mom’s group meeting with other ladies from church. I didn’t want to let some new friends down or not reciprocate their interest. However, I’m an introvert and in a season where recharge time is at a premium. Filtering it through the perspective of my vocations made it easy to decide it’s not the best choice for now – without any lingering self-imposed guilt.
Kirsten D.,
Simply Convivial Member

Step #3: Start with a baby step

On our way to that destination (which we won’t reach until Glory), we must keep growing. The process – faithfulness – is the focus here, not achievement. 

So instead of achievement goals for vocations, work on growth growth, embracing the process and learning to love the practices that make up faithfulness in your life right now.

Look at one of your vocation statements. Brainstorm different habits that would help make your chosen adjectives more evidenced in your life.

From your brain dump, choose 3 foundational, specific actions that you want to make habits. Write a sentence for each that begins with “To fulfill my vocation as a ____________”, then add the main clause with “I” as the subject and the habit as the verb; include a frequency adverb in the sentence (daily, weekly, etc.).

Add these expanded vocation statements to a place where you can review them at least weekly, preferably daily.

To fulfill my vocation as a caring wife, I will ask my husband what I can do for him in the coming week before I do my own weekly review.

To fulfill my vocation as a diligent educator, I will use an alarm and call everyone for Morning Time at 9am on school mornings.

To fulfill my vocation as a healthy and energetic person, I will run 6 days a week, even if it’s only for 5 minutes because choosing exercise will make me more fit and able to fulfill all my vocations.

Step #4: Iterate for progress

Our vocations do shift and change over time. They are not static and permanent.

As you work out what your vocations are, don’t feel like you must nail them down once and for all. Think only about what they are right now only. Ignore what they have been in the past or what they might be in the future.

If we can ground ourselves in what we’re called to do right where we are, we’ll experience more peace about choices we have to make about what to do and not do and the less guilt we’ll feel for not being able to do everything or be everywhere for everyone.

What actions (projects, tasks, habits) will take you toward your vocation statements? What does the process of reaching that end look like?

Write a sentence describing the process as if you enjoyed the process more than you desire the end. A focus on the process (faithfulness) will get you farther than a focus on the finish line. 

When you sit down to plan a week or a longer period of time, don’t make your goals up out of thin air. Look at your vocations, and choose a project and a habit for each, because those are the areas where you ought to be putting your efforts and attention.

Don’t get stuck in vocations – keep at it.

I had started on vocations from the last time I went through the course. When I went back to look at my notes, I noticed that I had struggled with the adjectives. Since I had a starting point with the vocations this time around, the adjectives seemed to come easier.

One of my vocations I believe has to do with me being a community member and how I support the community. It’s something that has been on my heart, but I haven’t figured out quite yet how I can do that since I already have a pretty full schedule. However, if I am stuck on a goal, I start with “Pray for wisdom in this area about the directions God wants me to take.”
Julia Eberhart,
Simply Convivial Member

Repent. Rejoice. Repeat.

To call our roles vocations is to remind ourselves that we do not determine our own mission or our own destiny. Both open-handed trust on the one hand and purposeful direction on the other are harmonized in the concept of vocation.

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