This is where I do my work everyday.  I love my desk.  I love my computer, my journal, my favorite pens.  I love my books.  I am in my element when I sit down here to write.  But it took me most of my life to settle in to what I was made to do.  I hope this post will encourage you to wrestle with your calling and finally, to answer yes.

I was in my first year of residency on surgical rotation.  Think vintage Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Izzy.  I loved my  surgical rotation and convinced myself during those two months that I should be a surgeon.  Never mind that I had already decided that year that I wanted to be a family doctor, but had changed my mind on every rotation, because I loved them all so much.  In other words, I’ve never met a vocation I didn’t like.

I was scrubbed and gowned and ready to assist in a pancreatic resection.  The chief resident was doing the case and my favorite third year resident was first assist.  I was probably somewhere down by the foot of the bed, after the all the scrub nurses and other residents took their place. I knew this patient better than anyone in the room.  He was my first *real* patient.  He was a veteran of the Korean war and he felt like one of my relatives.   I had spent long hours with him and his family, during his month long stay at the VA to figure out what was causing his pain and weight loss.  The day I told him about his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I promptly left his room and began sobbing.  Maybe that was my first clue I wasn’t surgeon material.

“You’ve got potential as a surgeon, but you  get too attached to the patients,” my attending told me.  “We’re here to cut out the bad stuff, that’s all.  They’ve got family doctors and psychiatrists to deal with all the other problems. Here, we just do our job and don’t worry about the rest.”

I went home that night and wrote in my journal something like this.

“I don’t think I’m cut out to be a surgeon.  I don’t think I can ever just do my job.  And I’m hopelessly attached to people.  This is true.”

Early on in my life, there were two important clues to my calling.  The first clue I should have picked up on is that I need to write to process things.  Writing and a love for words has been a constant theme in life, but I only see that now that I have enough distance and perspective.   The second is, I get too attached to people.  So, I should have known that my calling would have something to do with writing and people.  Many years later, here I am, sitting in my sweet spot, using my love and gift of writing in hopes of  encouraging and inspiring others.  I didn’t see the clues then, but I see them clearly now.

We’ve talked about Finding God’s Will for Your Life, and we’ve even defined  Who The Neighbor Is and How Vocation Frees Us to serve our neighbor.  It’s easy to see that I’m a mom and need to serve my family, or that I’m a accountant and need to figure my client’s taxes.  But, what about those things that you’re passionate about, that you do when you finally have free time?   Could those actually be  part of our calling as well?  If so, what are the clues that will help you to discern what you were created to do?

Here are 5 practical clues that might help you find your calling.

1.  You’ve actually been called to do it.

A calling implies a caller.  Ultimately, God has called us to Himself as believers in Christ and He is our first and most important Caller.  But, there are secondary callings.  True callings choose us, more than we choose them.  What I mean by that is that someone has actually called on you to do something.  The word call comes from the latin word vocatio, which means a verbal call or a summons. When I started practicing my hobby of writing, people asked me to do more of it.  They don’t ask me for help with their taxes or legal problems or web design.  Do people ask or call on you to photograph their family or help them decorate their house or teach them to cook or bake them a cake?  Those are clues to what your calling is—people actually call on you do to it.  They see your gifts and talents and they summons you to do more of that thing that you’re good at doing.

What do people ask you to do for them on a fairly consistent basis?  I love to sing karaoke, but no one is beating my door down to have me come entertain at their parties.  As much as I love singing Coal Miner’s Daughter at full throttle and think I’m good at it, it’s probably not my calling in life. (And that’s a hard pill to swallow for a girl who loves karaoke night!)  But,writing has been different.   The more I write and practice my craft, the more opportunities I get to write.  I work hard at improving my craft, and people take notice and ask me to keep doing what I’m doing.  That’s when you know you are close to your calling.

2. You are passionate about it to the point that time stands still when you do it.

When I was actually calculating the hours that I spend writing and blogging, for the post I wrote on The Nitty Gritty of Running a Blog, it astounded me.  I would have guessed that I spent about 15 hours a week doing it—which is about half the time I actually spend.   But, when you’re doing what you love,  you lose track of time. What is the thing you do, that when you do it, time stands still?

3.  You’d do it for free.

Your calling in life often begins as a hobby.  You do it  because you love it.  How else do we find out what we love, other than trying things that interest us? So, we pursue our passions and often for a long time, and often without ever making any money from them, before we finally realize that this is what we were made to do.  And maybe be never get the chance to do that thing for a living, maybe it’s always our hobby.  That’s okay too.  But the difference in hobby and calling is that your calling is done in service to your neighbor.  Your hobby is usually done for you.

4. You are in your element when you do it.

I first heard this from a talk Tsh gave at Allume when she quoted Eric Liddell.

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

What is it, that when you do it, you feel God’s pleasure? What is that one thing that, when you’re doing it, you know you’re in your element?  Now, is there a way to do that and also to serve your neighbor? You may have found your calling.

5.  You have been gifted in this area.

You probably know what you’re gifted at.  People have been telling you for years about how talented you are at suchandsuch.  But, here’s where calling is different from giftedness.  In our modern world, giftedness is a kind of buzz word, and when we follow our giftedness alone, it can lead us down a path of selfishness.  Calling is different.  Calling asks you to lay your giftedness down on the altar in service of your neighbor.  And when you use your gifts in service of others, you’ve found your calling.  I love this quote from Os Guiness’ book The Call.  He says,

“God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.”

Having a plethora of gifts and talents is great, but they are not something you dreamed up yourself, and they are not even really yours.  They are given to you by God so that you can use them to bless others. Yes, you have been gifted, but more importantly, you have been called.  And your calling is the means by which God works in the world to strengthen and bless His flock in every imaginable way.

 A job is a vocation only if someone else calls you to do it for them rather than for yourself. 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

Helpful Resources on Vocation

  • God at Work, Gene Edward Veith—by far, my favorite book on vocation, very practical and easy to read
  • The Call, Os Guiness—looks at the historical aspect of vocation and is a little more philosophical
  • The War of Art, Steven Pressfield—not a christian and not even really about vocation, but more about overcoming the barriers to doing what you’re called to do, offensive language at times, but short and brilliant
  • Listen! God is Calling—a book of Luther’s writing on vocation
  • A host of wonderful podcasts on the topic.  Just keep listening and scrolling!

70 comments on “On Giftedness and Calling {5 Clues to Your Calling}”

  1. Oh my, I don’t think I’ve actually heard that first point–ever. Calling to me has always been solely defined by God calling you through His spirit. I’ve never thought about him giving you clues through people literally calling you to it. Will be thinking on this.

  2. Thanks Edie for this thought provoking post. I need to go get my journal so i can write this good stuff down and noodle it around for a while:)

  3. What another lovely post…thank you! As a new reader, I can tell you your writing makes me think. It allows me to “feel” after reading your authentic words a sense of inspiration & hope….if that makes any sense! I look forward to more wonderful posts! Hope you have a wonderful day.

  4. I love this. My hearts cry right now as I move through parenting teen girls and preparing for what God has in store my Second Season. My prayer for every woman is an opportunity to experience her call as her vocation as well.

  5. Ahh, I have had someone tell me what God wants me to do, people ask me frequently to use this gift, yet I end up ‘busy’ trying to keep up with my chores and such. I find road blocks all the time. Such lame excuses. My career is even teaching others to use this gift. Ugh. You have called me to the carpet today. Thank you Jesus.

    Love that you always speak to my heart!

  6. Edie,
    So much of what you do and say inspires me, but your post today is so eerily close to what I needed to hear at this moment, it’s hard to believe you’re not in my head. Thank you for your eloquence and example. Can I please be your protege?


  7. Great post Edie! What a fabulous room to write and be inspired in. 🙂 Love your example of others calling us to do it. I’m guessing that your primary spiritual gift is exhortation (encouragement.) 🙂 I know you’re not a fan 😉 but “The Purpose Driven Life” has some very clear and concise chapters about this too that were very helpful to me. I love the Eric Liddell quote too!! Read it in the book also. 🙂 Anxious to read more from you!! 🙂

  8. Eddie – thank you for speaking this truth directly to me today. I am in the midst of deciding wether or not to accept the opportunity to turn what I know is my calling, into a paid position. I have been worried that if I take the leap, it might FEEL like a JOB. Thank you for reminding me that “our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests”. This attitude can be maintained wether I’m paid for my efforts or not. Just the clairity I was searching for. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Amen and amen–I also am a convert to Lutheranism (Mo.Syn.), and love this teaching on vocation–if we are listening we can usually figure out what we were made for! I learned it along with my eldest daughter as she went through confirmation.

    • The teaching on vocation is one of my favorite reasons for being Lutheran.
      Unfortunately, this ancient teaching, lost in the Church for a long time, then recovered by Martin Luther, is so biblical and so freeing!
      Also? I learn a lot at my girl’s confirmation classes, too!!

  10. Our Priests talks often about giving of your time, talents, and treasure. God knows what my talents are yet and this beautifully written post really spoke to me. Thank you!

  11. Edie, this is probably a “duh!” thing – but did you mean (in the quote from The Call) that God calls us along the LINE of our giftedness? That made more sense to me than “lie.” Just making sure, since I am a terribly literal person. Thanks so much for the encouraging and truthful posts. They have helped this believer more than you can know. Hope you are feeling better!

  12. Thanks for these posts on vocation. I am struggling with the question of what I should do as I am looking for full-time work (and at 51, I don’t want to waste time on something that isn’t a calling). Your blog is always so helpful!

  13. Oh pure goodness Edie!!!! You are certainly in your element here and have stated these words so beautifully for so many! Thank you for encouraging others here in this space to listen to what God is calling them to not only through his word but also through the mouths of others. So often we forget that he does live in and through us and that he calls to us through the words of others. Your words are what he wants every one to know. Thank you for allowing your own vocation to be used in this way to shine his light to so many!

  14. I’ve been soul searching this whole year..well 4 months since the kids all went to school. What you’ve said here is everything I know to be true….but my life’s mission has been being Andy’s wife and my kids’ mom.

    I have put so much of myself and my heart into parenting and homeschooling that I feel a little tossed to and fro now that the kids aren’t with me all day every day.
    This year is about listening and watching to see what unfolds for me next.
    Seriously thinking about that counseling degree I’ve always wanted. not sure.

    You’ve got me thinking…just since August, I’ve had several people ask me to help them make their homes more them. My favorite part is sitting with them and hearing their stories…I want to know who they are and what makes them come alive….it’s been really rewarding to see their homes become the safe havens that they’ve longed them to be.

    Interior Design was one of the 4 majors I went for in college. 🙂
    That pretty much sums it up…I could have majored in about 38 degrees. :))

    Thanks for the reminders about our callings….I’m definitely going to continue to pray that God makes it crystal clear. 🙂

  15. I loved this! (Im’ a new reader but will be back!)
    I’m a Teacher, it’s not my job, or even what I do, it’s what I am – and have been since I was about 6!
    It started when my Teacher asked me to help a classmate who was struggling with something I could already do while she finished helping someone else. …..She never did come over, but she did send several more classmates my way! 😀

    Even though I’m only just getting back into the classroom after 5 years at home with my youngest, I haven’t ever stopped….people would stop me at the school gate and ask me to help their child!
    It is definitely my vocation…..but I never thought about how I was called before! Thank You!

  16. Wow Edie, you really hit this one out of the park. I feel like I just got permission to really focus on my calling and to let go of the guilt that keeps me from spending more time letting it consume me. What a gift!

  17. Thank you for a wonderful post! I really enjoy reading your blog, it encourages growth, that you do not see in a lot of other places on the web. Thank you for that! You have truly found your calling!

  18. Hi, Edie.
    I am ALWAYS thinking about what my calling is or could be. I love so many different things but haven’t been able to setting on ‘my sweet spot.’ Thank you so much for this post… my head is spinning!

  19. Where to begin with this…..I know my calling, I just need to find ways to use it for others. I absolutely love to make a home pretty and comfortable and I could do it for free. It does bring me joy and great pleasure to talk with someone about their space and encourage them that what they already have is beautiful and useful. But here lately I’ve thought that in the grand scheme of things, is it really all that important? I mean there are people who are suffering in this world so does it really matter if a room is pretty? And it matters if it blesses someone and helps them feel loved. Thanks for reminding me and for the encouragement.

  20. As always, God’s timing is so perfect. I was also going to school for medicine and discovered after working in the ER that I am WAY too compassionate to care for other’s on a day to day basis. I ended up doing my neighbors houses for free because other’s had started to recognize my “decorating gift.” Twelve years later, I feel like I am stuck in a rut. I feel overcome with so much talent around me on both the internet and social media. I all the sudden have no idea what my calling is, but whenever I want to give up, I tend to have more business than what I know to do with! What an encouraging post. Thank you!

    • Stephanie, I too can relate to your confusion over the value of a gift that becomes something that feels plundered by the amazing variety of visual stimulus out there! Can we remain unique in the midst of it all?? as I encourage myself, let me encourage you, that each job you do is for a unique person… and if you pull from them their own uniqueness… you will create for them, something that reflects their heart.. and their family blueprint! As i see the photos of the tiniest details in nature… it shows me how vastly and unfindable God’s creativity is…and You and I are made in His image… so forge ahead, Sister! Into the great unknown we go… enjoying the journey and managing to make it new every day with the constant source of God’s beauty for inspiration!

  21. Love this! Just began reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller and it certainly provides some good food for thought! Thanks! 🙂

  22. A wise woman once told me that where your heart’s passion intersects with your God-given talents, you have found your true calling!

  23. Edie…thank you once again ;0). For years I have struggled with what The Lord has ‘called ‘ me to do, then one morning not too long ago He showed me this one little verse in his word as I was snuggled down in my little quiet place with Him…”So tend to your knitting, You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.” Romans 14:12 MSG. In 2000 we adopted our precious special needs daughter from Bulgaria to add to our family of three sons. She is now 19! With all of those years spent ‘wandering-in-the -wondering’ He reminded me what my ‘knitting’ was and is! His word is awesome! And when we find little verses that speak volumes to us we know He loves us! I am truly encouraged by His word even if it’s one small verse or one small word…I have been trying to express through my Face Book, and just recently with my teeny tiny small of a blog, how God encourages me through His word. Edie, you encourage me and bless me with your expressions through your blog! Beth

  24. Dear Edie, I was so convicted after I read you blog yesterday on the nitty-gritty of blogging. I have read your blog for over a year and have been challenged, encouraged, and blest by it. I was so convicted that I had never taken the time to comment on anything.

    Unlike you, I’m not very fond of writing. My husband makes his living writing and I’ve always been a bit envious of how the words flow from his fingers. All the things you love and cherish I love and cherish.( Family, good books, cooking, homemaking)

    I am a registered nurse, who like you had a propensity to get way to attached to my patients. I settled into lower paying jobs parttime jobs in doctor’s offices and school nursing in which I had long term relationship with my patients

    I am so blest, because of the example of my godly mother, to know what my true calling was. I am a mother of 6 and a grandmother of 28. My 4 daughters and one of my sons homeschool their children.( That son teaches in an online classical education school.) My other two grandchildren go to a fine Christian school. Obviously my children and their families are out of my home but my desire to encourage and support all 40 of them continues.

    You are such a wonderful example how fufilling and influential a homemaker can be.I pray you have many more successful years of blogging.

  25. My wife shared your blog with me this morning because of your post here. I’m finishing up my research and dissertation on the topic of vocational calling. Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your post.

    As part of my research I’m interviewing people who are “searching” for their calling. I’m working to shed light on the process and the lived experience of that search. If anyone is interested let me know.

  26. How do you discover your calling if it has changed? Of course, I have been called to be a wife and mother, and for 18 years He has called me to homeschool my 7 cherubs. But recently He let me know that I am no longer called to that. I just put 2 more children in school after Christmas so I only have my 3rd grader at home. She will be going to school in a year and a half after she is caught up in reading. But I feel so lost. I don’t know what I am good at (no one asks me to do anything for them except maybe wash their clothes!), and I have put so much into homeschooling that I don’t have any hobbies other than blogging.

  27. I enjoyed this post. I Love to write and I love to tweek/redo my home, those are my hobbies…but I struggle with doing them for the sake of others. I do love to inspire others because I too love being inspired by others such as yourself…which Is why I read blogs, for inspiration. Is doing what you do to inspire the same as serving? just a thought….

  28. Excellent post – I would like to add something… One day I was visiting with someone for hours and when our conversation shifted into a particular subject, I got really excited and started talking faster and a little louder. My friend noticed and pointed out that my entire face lit up when I was sharing ~ It’s passion. So, what makes your face light up, your heart race, your mouth speak quicker and faster? What are you passionate about? Valid questions, I think 🙂

  29. As a recent college grad and a 20-something year old trying to figure out the “real world,” I sincerely appreciate this post. I needed to hear this and I’m going to share this with my friends who are also trying to find their place and serve the Lord.

    Thank you for letting God use your writing to speak to people like me!

  30. God’s been speaking to me on this subject alot lately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic……they came at just the right time for me 🙂

  31. Edie, great read! This comes at a time when I am “really” trying to listen to God and see what my path should look like. I know my calling was to be a foster Mom and from that we have adopted 2 boys and still fostering a 6 year old girl who might also be freed for adoption. I know if it comes to that we will and it is what God wants if things go that way. After that I am really trying to figure out my way. Thanks again for sharing with us, have a blessed day.

  32. My 22 year old daughter had no clue what to do with her life. She was working a job in fast food just to have a paycheck. There were some ugly things going on in that job and she finally after 3 years, quit. No job, not much savings and a car payment! However, she began volunteering at a local Vet clinic. To see if she might be interested in going back to school to be a vet tech. She started by cleaning up the kennels and bathing dogs. Then she was asked to help out in the office a bit. She volunteered from 8am until 6 and 7pm. She went in on weekends to ‘help out’. She came home tired but HAPPY! She ecstatically shared her day. After a few weeks, the vet offered her a full time job. She wants to learn, she LOVES the animals and calls them by name. She is in her element. I think she has found her place. It makes this momma’s heart happy. Because few of us can realize ‘our calling’ at 22. Your words spoke to me and I just had to share. Love reading your blog. Thank YOU for sharing with me/us all.

  33. Wow, Edie!
    Blessings to you for speaking such truth and encouragement to us! I don’t know why I have tears running down my cheeks right now…? Well, yes, I do. It’s because your words really spoke to me and I’m thankful that God uses people like you to encourage others. See, I’ve been struggling with this exact thought…what is my calling? Lord, what do you want me to do? And, hearing you share about these 5 clues has helped. Yes, I love to write little snippets (well, actually they can be quite lengthy 🙂 ) on my Facebook status. It’s something I love to do when I feel God has ‘given me a good life story to share’. Or when I’m reflecting on a wonderful thing. Anyway, I love doing it and so many people have shared how they are encouraged by the words I’ve shared. I’ve pondered the idea of starting to blog or write a book. I don’t know even how to begin to set up a blog, but I’m trusting in Him that He will continue to narrow it down to show me exactly what I should do and how.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and I’m so glad Melanie (Big Mama) posted a link to your site!

  34. Edie, thanks for speaking to my heart once again. This is SUCH a struggle for me right now. Speech Therapist by trade, stay-at-home mom for 7 years, and floundering trying to figure out “the next thing”.
    I just love that you mentioned that about “being in your element”. I said those exact words to my husband on Wednesday after throwing a party. So now I’m on to figuring out where to go from those words!!!
    At least now, I have an inkling.

  35. One of the hardest things I ever had to learn was “In God’s time, not mine.” I think this is probably the second hardest. I do what I truly enjoy for work, and I am often complimented and asked to do other things and more of the same also. I would love to believe it is my calling, but I wonder sometimes. Especially when the hours get long and my family and home become neglected (not really, but it’s how I feel).
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and kindness. I am new to this blog, but will be back to read more….

  36. My sister sent me the link to this particular post, after the Blog site was given to us by my mother (who was referred by a church friend)… So, I’m distantly reading this blog for the first time and found this post to not only stand, by undoubtedly GLARE, out at me.
    I am currently working a job I love. Or think I do. I am working the career path in which I majored in college and feel I’ve spent all of my hard earned money, energy and time on for years (not to include my parents). I definitely enjoy this profession. But I am realizing there may be things out there I enjoy MORE….other things that could be my true calling?! My sister’s incredible timing of finding and sending this post to me is not a coincidence (in my eyes). This post could be our ultimate, and final, message to do what we have recently been (literally) called upon to do. As a short clue-in, my sister and I share a common passion and talent that we have been “called upon” by others to do, for years. But, my and sister I live across the country from each other, know nothing about starting a business, have other jobs/responsibilities, are terrible with finances and have a hard-to-ignore gut feeling that something MAY not go according to our Type-A Personality plans. This makes going after your (our) calling, even when you’ve been called to do it, difficult. Life seems to get in the way. In any route….as my sister and I continue to pray, dream, plan and discuss if our Calling (or what we think is our calling) is reality, we would be coming back to this blog to say Thanks…for pointing us in the right direction once and for all! 🙂

  37. Thank you, Edie.
    I really enjoyed listening to your podcast. I have been soul searching for the past several months, and you have been very helpful.

  38. So, what do you do if you can’t think of anything that people ask you to do? What if there’s not really anything I feel in my element doing? Clearly more prayer and study is needed, because I have not the first clue what my calling might be. Thank you for this post – it’s very thought-provoking.

  39. God bless you. Thank you so much for writing this. I was praying to God about whether I should take my bar exam or not because I was confused as to whether God wanted me to go on the path to being an attorney. And I accidentally got on your blog, and he answered my prayer with your writing. Thank you.

  40. Wow. One sentence you wrote is almost exactly what I have written on my blog:
    ” Writing seems to be a way that God brings me to a place of understanding.” I have stopped writing consistently because I have let fear & insecurity get in the way. Also the question of “who really reads this anyway?” (probably more people would if I tried to seek an audience!). I know God has called me to write, and I keep going back and forth but the quote you said in this post: ““God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.” WHOAH. That hit home. Can’t insecurity and fear be a form of selfishness? My focus should not be on me… but on listening to HIS heart and sharing it with others. Thank you for your words. They hit home for me today!

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