Becoming Who I Am

“Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess.” ~Parker Palmer

I was three months into my new stay-at-home-mom life. I had spent years holding onto a lawyer job that didn’t fit. I held onto it much longer than I probably should have, but I really wanted to know what was going to come next before I quit. I wanted to have a plan.

I had recently started asking God questions. My main question was: What have you made me for? I thought I needed an answer before I could take the next step. Instead, my time to quit came without the answers I wanted. This was hard—especially for my pride and addiction to accomplishments.

At that time, my daughter was still young enough to ride in the stroller. One day, we were walking her brothers home from school. They ran ahead of us up the path toward home. Sunlight danced, golden and warm, through my girl’s hair as her head swayed gently. Mesmerized, my heart swelled with the beauty of that simple moment.

The word “vocation” dropped—illuminated—straight into my heart. I collect words sometimes. Maybe they come from God, maybe they just come from somewhere deep inside of me. But they arrive like clues to the next step. I’m learning to trust them.

“What if this is it?” I wondered. In spite of the beauty in that moment, I wasn’t convinced. I thought God had bigger plans for me. At least, I had bigger plans for me—if only I could figure out what those plans were.

At first, I wondered if this moment meant that my vocation was my children. I wondered if I was supposed to pour myself into being the best mom I could be. In the few years since that “vocation moment,” I haven’t been spectacular at mothering. Ten years into this mom business, and I am sometimes stunned at how amateur I feel at it.

I think I’m still learning what that illuminated moment was about.

I used to think my vocation was to do something spectacular and big, something that would save the world, or at least my corner of it. I was looking for signs: test scores and scholarships. I was waiting for other people to tell me: “This is what you were meant to do.” “This is who you are.” The signs and scholarships led to a law career that seemed to shrivel my soul. No one spoke into my heart telling me what job I was actually made for. Worse, nothing quite met the expectations I had set up for myself. What I was doing was never enough, in my mind. I was never enough. I always felt like I belonged somewhere else.

Even when I made the choice to stay home with my kids, it was with the intention to figure out what was coming afterward. What will I be doing when they go to school?

I used to think vocation was something you are paid to do. A job or career that was made just for you.

That illuminated moment? I don’t think it was a call to motherhood. It was an invitation to sink into and embrace my life. Right here. This includes the holy work of snuggling little people, helping with homework, and making meals. I keep finding God in this ordinary life of mine. Here. Where I am.

I am invited to stop looking toward the horizon and start paying attention to what is in front of me.

I am invited to discover who I am. What makes me come alive, deep-down alive? Like rich soul-to-soul conversation, experiencing beauty in nature or music, creating, poetry, or sinking into silence. These are the things I was made to do.

I am invited to belong in my feet—embracing who I am and where I am.

I am invited to pay attention—to live with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart.

I am invited to put my pen to paper and keep it moving. To share words that want to be shared.

I am invited to move past the layers of expectations, disappointments, accomplishments, appearances, and relationships that defined me.

I am invited to come home to myself, into the core of who I am—a home God dwells in. Beloved, as is. This is my soul waking and growing to encompass all of me—connecting each facet of my life to my Source—the Presence of my Creator—connecting me to others and to our world.

This invitation is my vocation: to become who I am.

Jessica L. Sanborn

Jessica L. Sanborn

Writer at J. L. Sanborn
Jessica Sanborn is mom to three little-ish people and wife to a great guy. She grew up believing that she was supposed to be Anne of Green Gables' next-door-neighbor, but is now learning what it means to belong in her own feet, right where she is at. She writes about faith and becoming on her blog.
Jessica L. Sanborn

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  • Fiona Lloyd

    Thanks for this, Jessica. I love the idea that our vocation is to embrace the life we have, rather than striving after something external.

  • I struggle so hard being where I am and not wanting the next thing, a bigger thing. I have been learning for YEARS that I need to be fully where I am, still working on it. I love this take on our purpose becoming who we are!

    • Oh, me too. I’ve spent most of my adult life wondering what should be coming next. I need consistent reminders to be where I am. I’m guessing that I will need those reminders all of my life. And that is okay. 🙂

  • I can relate to almost every word. I have gone through the refiners fire this last year. I am just beginning to rise from the ashes, the gold it has produced in me is accepting myself like Jesus accepts me. Accepting His love, unconditionally. I am learning it isn’t about performance, it’s about presence. Thank you for sharing.

    • Beautiful, Renee. Thank you for your words. That is what it is like, isn’t it? The refiners fire. Presence is a true treasure. I need to remember that often. 🙂

  • I love how this one illuminated moment awoke you to the holy ground you were standing on, Jessica. The questions you’re asking here are so golden 🙂

  • “Beloved, as is.”
    Jessica, you’ve summarized the gospel in a nutshell.
    Whether we’re pushing a stroller or pushing a pen, God wants us to be all there — wherever we are.

    • Thank you, Michele. “Beloved, as is” is really good news, isn’t it? I love this: “God wants us to be all there–wherever we are.” Beautiful.

  • “I am invited to come home to myself, into the core of who I am—a home God dwells in. Beloved, as is. ” AMEN! Thank you for reminding us to look for God in our ordinary lives, right where we are, and to lean into the women we are becoming each step of the way. Blessings to you!

    • Oh thank you, Gayl. Many blessings to you too. 🙂

  • Johanna

    Thank you, Jess. This is gorgeous! I can really relate to all the chasing achievements and staying stuck in something that doesn’t fit because I don’t have a plan for what comes next…and all the waiting for someone to tell me who I am and what I’m meant to do. I’ve been learning a lot about who I really am and about being right where I am. I love the idea of becoming who I am as vocation. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Johanna. You remind me that I want to hear more of your story. I love that our stories seem to run parallel… 🙂

  • This really hit home for me. I have been a SAHM for 7 years. In the fall my youngest will start kindergarten. I too have this desire to do ‘something big’, although I can’t name what that ‘big’ is. I have struggled internally with the question, ‘is motherhood enough? Is that God’s calling on my life?” And being ok if it is. I continually pray for guidance on my path and yet I think I am in a season of refinement before it will be illuminated.