Over at Suscipio I have joined in with other women to read the book, Called To Life by Jacques Philippe. We began with the Introduction and I got a bit of a late start but am already enjoying this book. The format is to read a section and then respond on that web site. I can already see that this is a good community of women and edifying for me!
My copy of this book is the Kindle edition. I have to say that I am finding the basic kindle to be a good thing. I can carry an entire library in my purse in that little electronic device and the e-ink does not bother my eyes. Very light weight, no bulk, fits in my purse, it has become my favorite item in my purse because my current devotional reading can be with me at all times. This does not mean I replaced books. Nope, for reading at home I still prefer to have the real thing.
Over at Suscipio we shared our responses to three questions that were raised by the introduction to the book, Called To Life. I responded over there and decided there was room to ramble on a LOT more on this topic so I am now going to do blog posts inspired by what we do over there in discussing the book.
1. Where does your ideal of happiness come from?
GREAT question! My ideal of happiness used to come from lots of externals and I finally woke up one day and looked at all the stuff I was supposed to want and keep up with and realized that the stuff was running my life and I HATED it. So I started a long process of discerning what I needed and what was worth my time and space.
For example, I got rid of most of my big heavy furniture because it was a burden. I kept my books because they are tools that I use. I kept the book cases for the books. I replaced a heavy desk with a lighter table that breaks down flat for moving. I have been bit by bit removing from my life the many things that I was supposed to want but which were enslaving me.
I have blogged before about clothing. I used to be ruled by what I was supposed to want to wear. I agonized over being totally without any aptitude for selecting stylish clothing. Finally, I decided to wear what I preferred wearing. To create my wardrobe around my very own personal likes, dislikes and needs. Got rid of anything that didn’t fit my new ideal. Talk about easier! To read more on this topic, just go to my category: Sewing and Clothing.
Ultimately my ideal of happiness came from recognizing through prayer and discernment what belongs in MY particular life and what does not. Out of all the many many activities I could be doing, which ones are God’s will for me to be doing? What items can I own that will enhance my vocation and what should be given away or sold? Tools for those activities I am doing are kept, items that do not serve those activities are stored (until I know I do not need them) or removed from my life immediately.
I’m still in the process of paring down. It doesn’t happen over-night. I move slowly and pray a good bit. No more running around doing, doing, doing, without a clear idea of why. It is another aspect of discernment. I may have a skill but it may not be God’s will for me to be busy using that skill at this time. I focus. Life is so much easier when the list of meetings is shorter!
Even my use of space inside my home has changed. Oh, the place is still a mess in many ways, but what is important is that I have found what I NEED is quite different from what I used to think I needed.
Happiness comes from doing what God wills for me to be doing and having only those things that have purpose and meaning for the doing that is God’s will for me. Less can really be more when what is kept is purposeful and focused and right.
2. Is there a difference between chasing happiness and choosing joy?
Yes! I used to have a very very full schedule of activities. I was doing something several nights a week and hardly had an evening to be quiet with my family. I felt useful but not happy. I was chasing happiness by filling up my time with good activities. I was pursuing happiness by keeping so busy I was barely able to breath. I was so busy I hardly had time to think or discern.
Most of my activities were worthy. They were good things to do. Many of them were up at Church and were a valuable contribution to my parish. I loved doing them but I wasn’t happy and kept feeling like somehow I was off track. Discerning what activities were right for me, what belonged as part of my vocation and what did not belong, was a difficult process.
Choosing joy is for me the same as choosing my vocation. Discerning carefully what belongs in my life and what does not belong in my life is both a rejection of the modern culture and an embrace of real happiness that only comes from doing the will of God in my life.
Choosing joy is a decision to be in control and take responsibility for my life. I decide what stays and what goes. I make that decision based on discernment and prayer. Every time I discern with prayer I learn more about the content of my personal vocation and joy becomes just a bit easier to choose.
There is a joy and peace in being in the center of one’s vocation and knowing that one is there, where God desires me to be. Knowing what makes up my vocation gives me a wonderful means for evaluating things and activities and deciding if they belong. The biggest enemy of joy is the myriad good things one could choose but should reject because those goods do not fit in my vocation.
3. How can I maintain a routine or schedule yet still be open to the call of God?
Know your vocation! God’s call can be summed up in your vocation and as you discern God’s call on your life, you are filling up the vocation with what your discernment has taught you belongs there.
It all begins with the call of God. I have based my schedule on that call. God calling no longer interrupts the schedule because the schedule is based on the call itself. This is why knowing my vocation became so important to me. By knowing my vocation, what it contained and what it did not contain, I build a schedule around the call of God inherent in my vocation.
My children are central to my vocation. My writing is also central to my vocation. My ability to do both was impaired greatly when I did not know what I needed.
For example, my office is pretty much exactly as it ought to be–NOW. It did not used to be right at all. I could not work in a quiet office away from my children. In fact, I was unable to work at all when I had an office away from all distractions. My sewing corner was nice and big and didn’t work at all either! I knew that sewing is part of my vocation, it allows me clothing and other items that I take pride in making myself. It was a good corner and not useful. Then there is my music which feeds my creativity and brings me relaxation but which had no proper space in my life. It was all stuff that belonged in my vocation but nothing worked!
I finally asked my husband for his input and the result is the bedroom across the loft from our children’s bedroom/playroom went from guest bedroom to my space. I am happy in this space. It is a place for feeling joy. I am productive in this space.
In this one small bedroom I have my office, sewing area, music corner, and am right in the middle of the life and energy and activities of this family. From my desk I can look left and see out a window to the driveway and front gate. To my right I look out the office door into the loft and across the loft I see the baby gate and into my children’s bedroom/playroom. On the wall to the right of my desk are the books currently applied to my studies. My desk with computers is angled to give me that long view to the front gate and into the playroom. I turn to the left again and on that wall I have my sewing set-up. A shift of my chair and I can be at the sewing machine and there is plenty of room to work. Behind me in a corner is my music space with a shelf for instruments and music books, a music stand with my current practice pieces, and a chair that allows me to move freely as I play. Everything has enough room, everything is here, easy to access, and pleasing to me. There is even a recliner in here so that family members can come here and read or nap and keep me company as I write. I am not isolated from the family here yet I am in a space that works for me. This space is the result of a year of discernment and a couple of false starts. If I have not blogged a whole post on this room I will do so soon!!
The result of this office/sewing/music room is that I am more productive, happier, better able to fulfill my vocation and never feel cut off from the family and their needs.
4. What do you think about this quote from the Introduction to Called To Life?
“I shall insist that any call from God is a call to life. Our first vocation is to live, and a call cannot be from God unless it leads us to live in a more intense and beautiful way, engaging human life as it is with more confidence, in all its aspects: physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.” (pg 4)
This quote is from the book and it took some thinking about to relate it to my vocational perspective. I think the author did a good job of describing vocation. Vocation is about life, our individual life, and what the call of God looks like in that life. The layperson’s vocation is going to be as unique as the individual and so while many of our vocations will, in parts, look very much alike, each one will have aspects that are particular to that individual.
Oh and I HIGHLY recommend this book! Watch for more posts based on my reading of it.