What are you doing when your soul is deeply glad?

This is a post is part of a series based on questions from Steve Wiens' book Beginnings. To learn more, check out this post. I love for you to join me by linking up with your own post, or commenting below. 

Today's question comes from page 76, at the end of the chapter called "Seeds." It is a chapter that asks about what gifts within us are longing to be born.

Last year, my One Word 365 was TOV. That's what this chapter is all about.

what makes your soul glad

Questions about gifts and purpose and calling and "what is God's will for our lives" tend to loom large in Christian circles. Naming our gifts can feel like standing in the street naked... in the winter... with a crowd looking on. Is the vulnerability worth it? Meanwhile, the idea of God's will can feel like a frantic search for the x on a treasure map. If we don't get to just the right spot, will we miss it?

All this leads to a tension. On the one hand, we feel the pull to live a life of purpose and meaning. We long to use the gifts within us to bring good things to the world. On the other hand, we feel the pull to avoid the questions that feel too big and risky to answer.

Which is why I love turning questions of calling into questions of delight. We may not be able to articulate our best gifts, but we can often name what brings us joy. What if reflecting on the things that delight us is what opens the door to learn more about our truest selves? What if it shrinks the big questions into pieces we can move towards one step at a time? 

Here's my challenge for all of us today. Let's make a list- What are the big and small things we do that bring our souls gladness, joy, and fulfillment? Here are some of mine:

  • Engaging in deep, meandering conversations in which no one notices how much time has passed.
  • Eating delicious food.
  • Teaching the Scriptures and helping people see their relevance.
  • Helping people unlock their potential.
  • Listening to music I love.
  • Cooking.
  • Traveling.
  • Running through the woods on a beautiful day.
  • Watching people's eyes light up with the reality of learning something new at just the right moment.
  • Leading a meeting. (Seriously. I have so much fun leading engaging meetings, and I hate sitting through boring ones.)
  • Hosting people at my house.
  • Laughing with my children.
  • Snuggling with my husband.

Now, let's look through our lists- Are there any threads connecting pieces? How might those threads lead us? 

For me, the most noticeable thread is people. I am a people-person through and through. This tells me something important about how God has wired me and what kinds of seeds I may be designed to plant in this world.

Maybe with lists like these, the question of calling can feel a little less scary... and a lot more fun.

- Steph


Your turn: What are you doing when your soul is deeply glad?

If  you are a blogger, link up with your post below. If you are not a blogger, you can also link up to an Instagram post, how cool is that? Or, maybe now is the the time to step out of the shadows and respond with a comment. I promised I will reply to all comments left. 


Now it's time for next week's question, from page 109 of Beginnings, "How would you describe the season you find yourself in these days?"

Come back next week to link up and respond. 

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The Lifelong Journey of Discovering Who We Are

"I didn't ask my kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. I told them God had already created them to be something, and invited them to discover who that was." 

Those words of wisdom were spoken by Jim, one of the wonderful readers of this blog, who I met in real life this past Saturday when he came to my Socratic Scripture study session.* We were talking about Solomon and wisdom and the power of asking the right question.

So, let me ask you: What are you discovering about who God has created you to be? 

When have you done something or said something and noticed life coming forth? When has your soul has stirred in excitement and joy? When have you felt like you, the real and deepest you?

For some of us, it's been a long time since we've felt any of those things.

Life takes us in so many directions as we age. Other people's expectations aim us towards targets that would not have been our first choice. The pressures to provide for ourselves and those we love push us to go in the direction that can make us a decent wage, regardless of whether it's what we want to do. Our fears pull us back from risk and possible failure.

Yet no matter how old we get, no matter how far we stray from what we once dreamed, we never leave behind our best and true self.

I believe there are unique and beautiful gifts that has been planted within each one of us. We carry seeds that can spring forth into life around us. 

Those seeds may sit dormant for a time, but they do not die.  Sometimes it just takes a little digging to remember they are underground, and to nurture them back into their potential. 

Maybe you are stuck in a job you hate, but are there pieces of it, small corners and edges that feel right and good. How could you cultivate that ground, even if you cannot leave the garden?

Are you someone who is good at seeing and encouraging those around you? Are you someone who is good at seeing the path to a solution when everyone else seems stuck? Are you someone who is able to put into clear words what everyone is dancing around? What are you good at? What brings you life? What brings life to others?

What would it feel like and look like to notice those things, and do them more? How might tilling and cultivating that ground change your experiences now? How might the seeds that grow from it take you in new directions?

Parker Palmer says, "Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It's a calling that I hear." 

What are you hearing in your soul today? 

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* I would love to have you join me in one of the next Socratic Scripture study sessions! There two coming in the next month. One will be a study on Knowing God and the new covenant of Jeremiah 31. The other will be a study on Grace and the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. See more details and register on my Socratic Studies page.

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On choosing inspiration instead of comparison

The Internet saved me this weekend. It was my son’s 6th birthday party. I needed to keep six 6 year olds entertained for two hours. It is possible that after scanning through the recesses of my imagination for ages, I might have discovered one or two fun ideas. But I have no illusions of grandeur about my ability to be fun. Honestly, I’m kind of boring.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who are more entertaining than me. As a result, the kids had a blast. They leapt over “buildings” (cardboard boxes) in a single bound, navigated through “laser beams” (crepe paper) without getting hit, and captured a “villain” (my husband) with a hula hoop.

The party was a success thanks to many people I have never met. I stand here today, grateful for Pinterest.

The Internet fills our lives with possibilities. Yet, the wonder of that often gets lost beneath our own junk.

I could have looked at the perfect cardboard buildings created by another mom and felt pressure to do the same. Comparison could have trapped me into thinking I needed to make my son’s party look the same as the ones those other kids had. But I know that’s not me. There are many, many things I would rather do than cover boxes in brown paper and cut out perfectly square windows. So I didn’t. I let my son color the fronts on buildings until he didn’t want to do it anymore. And the rest? I left blank.

My son had fun. I did, too. And I do not regret leaving those boxes plain. Not in the slightest. I know that if I had, stress would have invaded my spirit.

I am thankful that this time, I got it right. This time, I did not get sucked into the comparison trap. Too often, I have. Too often, I have suffocated under the weight of my own expectations to do everything as good as everyone else. I have failed to recognize that I am not good at everything. I have failed to see comparison for what it is: a thief.

Comparison robs us of the potential we have to inspire each other.

It steals our joy as we notice all the ways we have fallen short. It strips our energy as we waste our efforts trying to be like someone else. Comparison deprives us from reaching our dreams as we hold onto our envy of someone else’s successes.

We can rediscover the wonder of the Internet when we stop. All. The. Comparison. When we see each other the way God sees us: as creatures made in His Image, each filled with a potential and beauty uniquely our own. We are made to bless each other with these gifts we’ve been given. And often, the biggest stumbling block to that happening is our own hearts.

In order to be blessed, we need to receive each other’s gifts as blessings. We must trade comparison for inspiration.

I am blessed … by those who demonstrate the beauty that can lie within a single sentence. … by those who raise difficult faith questions even at risk being hurt by the backlash. … by those who make their homes into works of art. … by those who create music that slows down my soul and stops my breath. … by those who boldly tell stories of their past in hopes of helping others. … by those who turn ideas into movements that make the world a better place. … by those who follow God, even when He leads them through uncomfortable territory. … by those who put together recipes that make my mouth water just by looking at them. … by those who love Jesus and proclaim the Gospel without apology. … by those who write and teach and lead and craft and cook and parent and paint and tell stories and question and risk and rescue and examine and adventure and love, love, love.

Many times, you are better at these things than I am. And that is absolutely okay. Because you are you, and I am me. I can choose to let go of the comparison and hold onto the inspiration. I choose to be blessed by you.

Thank you for being you. Keep being you. Don't hold back from sharing the fullest version of you with the world. And I will try to do the same.