Do you ever sense that your artistic ability is a calling? If “yes”, then there must be a caller. Who or what is calling you? Is it the encouragement you received from people in your life? Is it a sense of responsibility? Is it a feeling from a higher power?

A combination of thoughts or experiences might guide you, but are you following your true calling?

Consider the effect of relational encouragement in your life. It’s probably the single most influential force in decision-making. Unfortunately, the help you receive from people can have mixed motives. For instance, a father can point out something you’re good at, but mingled with his encouragement might be a desire to point you in the safest direction. Likewise, a spouse might hope to lead you in the way of greatest financial reward. Friends tend to be the most objective voice, yet they can have hidden motives also.

Truth is the only voice free of selfishness. Let me submit a few quotes that ring true to me:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
― Howard Thurman

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
— King Solomon (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Freedom, responsibility, trust…weighty words, resplendent with life. These quotes put the responsibility on YOU! That is the essence of their beauty. It’s also what makes them scary. Do you fear the idea that your calling involves YOU?

My calling received a pick-me-up two years ago, and it’s high time I passed on the secret.

The Calling

A mentor and friend, Rich, called me a couple years ago to come over for coffee. Sitting across the patio table from him on his front porch, he put a few questions to me: What are you working on right now? What things are you gifted at? What are you truly passionate about?

He brought out a cup and a handful of pebbles, set them on the table, and asked me to imagine each pebble as one of my abilities. The abilities I identified were graphic design, illustration, carpentry, and oil painting. I even split my oil painting into the genres I dabbled in: figurative, landscape, still life, studio, plein air. Next he had me take each pebble and put them in proximity to the cup in the order of my desire to do them. To my surprise, I had to fight through this exersize! There were voices inside telling me to put certain pebbles closer, but my heart said otherwise. “We create our own demons”, some have said, and I met them in that moment.

The final step was profound. My friend Rich urged me to drop a pebble in the cup, deciding what to follow, figuratively speaking. I did it. I followed my heart. Picking up one little pebble, the one closest to the cup, the one I feared to push forward only a moment ago, I dropped it in. Plunk.

Pause, and think how beautiful this is. It was a life-changing moment. I had direction. Everything seemed more simple and urgent somehow. I couldn’t wait to get home and begin.

Now, two years later, I’m seeing the reward, and continuing to follow that urgency.

What does hearing this do for you? Take time to think this through. You probably have several things you can master, but what does your heart tell you? If you had someone else paying your bills, what would you want to spend your time doing?

We’re in a world full of pretenders. Many people are living a life they were misguided into. Don’t forget, your calling involves YOU. Do the pebble exersize and surprise yourself with what you put in the cup.

The Responsibility

What are the next steps once a calling is realized?

Trust yourself.

Self-reliance is admittedly shaky ground. Our emotions can deceive us. We’ve let ourselves down before. But, if we don’t take the chance, we are at risk of missing our calling and never inspiring anyone else. Trust yourself! You can do it.

Trust in something higher than yourself.

Do you get the sense that there’s something higher watching over you? You may not think you believe in the supernatural, but how sure are you? I love these lyrics:

“No one laughs at God in a hospital, no one laughs at God in a war, no one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor.”
—Regina Spektor from her song “Laughing With”

We probably all have some level of faith, whether it be .9% or 99%…it just takes a bit of hardship to draw it out. How does that seed of faith affect our decisions? Trust in something higher. Don’t be afraid.

Make a plan.

Go to the drawing board. What are the steps to aligning with your calling? What investment is involved? How long are you willing to wait for the reward? What education or inspiration will feed your calling? Do you need to ask permission from your spouse or children? Schedule some stuff! Get that plan on paper!

Follow the calling.

YOU take it from here. You live in a free country, and as the quote above says, “with great freedom, comes great responsibility”.

Even if it takes a while before you can fully transition, it’s doubtful you’ll regret making the leap. Do it in your own way if you must. Abruptly or slow-and-steady, either way you’re on your way to destiny.

Pass it on.

Like my friend Rich, pay-it-forward…share the joy of this simple discovery with someone else. Remember, you’re surrounded by confused people. Find your calling and then pass it on.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering which pebble I dropped in the cup? It was plein air painting.

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