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E. Self-knowledge and the use of one's talents Login/Join 
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Every now and then, I look through the want ads to see what kinds of employment is available in our area. Even though I am happy with my current work situation, I nonetheless do find myself attracted to some of the options listed. I've been working in ministry in one way or another for almost 30 years now, and I wonder what it might be to do something totally different . . . like sell insurance, or do construction work, or even open my own diner and sell a few Cajun dishes that I learned to cook growing up in south Louisiana. The fantasy doesn't last too long, especially when compared to the thoughts that linger after reading the ads in the National Catholic Reporter. I am really drawn to some of the opportunities described there, especially if they are in what seems to be a different and interesting part of the country (or even world).

The difference between the ads in the NCR and the ones in the Wichita Eagle is that the former resonate more strongly with the person I have come to know myself to be through the years. In terms of discerning God's will, I understand this stronger attraction to the NCR ads to signify how God's call is generally congruent with who we are . . . with the gifts and talents that God has given us.

Parable of the Talents

You've all read this one before; you can find it in Mt. 25: 14-30 (also Lk 19: 12-27). The master gives several people various amounts of property (pounds in Luke) and sets out on a journey. After a long period of time, the master returns and asks them to give an accounting of what they've done with what was given them. Some had invested wisely and multiplied the master's assets, but one had just buried it, fearful that it might be lost. "Here it is, he said: it was yours, you can have it back."

Unimpressed, the master replied: "You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest." The lazy servant is then thrown "out into the dark" and his portion is given to others.

We all know that this means that we should make the most of the talents that God has given us, but I wonder if you've ever heard it in the context of discernment? Notice that at the beginning of the parable, the talents are portioned out according to ability; the master doesn't give everyone the same assets to work with. What is implied, here, is that God's judgment takes into account the differing abilities of human beings . . . "from those who have been given much, much will be expected." What is expected, then, is in reference to what has been given, and it is this that the master will hold us accountable for.

God has created each of us with a unique blend of temperament and natural talents, and it is God's desire is that we be who we are by using our talents. You might even say that it is God's will that we do so. If we are living within God's general will as described in our previous conference, then the honoring of this principle begins to move us toward God's particular will.

Letting Your Light Shine . . .

Most likely, you've heard of Abraham Maslow and his seminal thinking on human development. His idea was that we are all born with a range of needs that are arranged in somewhat hierarchical manner, so that when one set of needs is met, another emerges. Later researchers have modified this teaching somewhat, but, for our purposes, we need to recognize, here, one of Maslow's chief contributions: his contention that "self-actualization" is a vital human need.

What did Maslow mean by self-actualization? He indicates it as follows:

    "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write,
    if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.
    This is the need we may call self-actualization ... It refers to man's
    desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become
    actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one
    is capable of becoming ..."

This drive is innate, but it can be suppressed by a wide variety of factors. One common example is that of a man who works at a job he doesn't really like to make money for his family. He might have a hobby on the side that enables him to self-actualize to some degree, but the financial requirements of his family prevent him from further developing and expressing his true passions. Same might be the case for his wife; her role as spouse and mother takes too much time and energy for her to develop any talents or hobbies she has passion for. Sometimes, the obstacles might be mental or self-imposed, as one is just too fearful to take the necessary risks to break out of confining roles. Such cases are like that of the person with one talent, who buries it and hopes, thus, to avoid giving offense to God. As we've seen, however, God is not impressed. Furthermore, we pay consequences for neglecting this need -- low energy and depression, for example.

Self-actualizing people are generally happy. They also demonstrate many other positive qualities that you can find listed and described on As you read these over, consider your own life, and how many apply to you.

An example of a self-actualizing pursuit in my own life would be my experience as a writer. I've known since before I married in 1976 that I loved writing, and wanted to publish a book that would express my own spirituality and help others to grow as well. Even though I worked in campus ministry at the time, there was just no time to write -- especially with small children at home and all the responsibilities that come with maintaining a house, cars, yard, etc. Sometimes on nights when my wife and children went to bed early, there were a few minutes when I still had energy and creativity, and so I took this time to read and write. This eventually became a regular habit of mine, whether they went to bed early or not. How I treasured those one or two hours to myself, when I could freely pursue my passion. I read books, took notes, sketched out drafts of books, wrote chapters, changed my mind, re-did the drafts, revised manuscripts, etc. Writing is a process. Eventually, I had a couple of works I felt pretty good about, and I began to submit them to publishers. No one was really interested and they didn't even say why. I let friends and family read the works, noted their feedback, and kept revising the manuscripts. Even though I wasn't publishing anything, it felt "right" to be doing this work. Then finally, in 1982, after countless rejections from scores of publishers, Liguori Publications expressed interest in a work I'd written entitled Becoming Fully Human: Twelve Steps to Spiritual Growth. It was about using the Twelve Steps of recovery groups as the basis for Christian spiritual growth. The book was re-titled Becoming a New Person: Twelve Steps to Christian Growth, and it was published in 1984. Receiving my box of "author's copies" was one of the happiest days of my life. I had 20 copies to share, and within a half hour, I'd given them all away. I wanted everyone to share in my happiness. The book had a good run of 15 years or so, and was the first of 12 I published with Liguori. You can find it at Note the "Lite" option for pdf reading.

. . . And Shine and Shine

Self-actualization is an ongoing process of discovery. Like the commendable people in the parable of the talents, we find that the talents given us seem to grow and multiply, sometimes in directions we would have never imagined. This is especially true when they are combined with spiritual gifts of the sort that we shall consider in our next conference. In my case, for example, writing wasn't the end of the rainbow -- not by any means. In fact, after awhile, I became rather sick of it when I began contracting with Liguori to write articles for their magazine, "The Liguorian," and audio-tape manuscripts for a diocese. There were also other book projects I'd committed to, and contracts that had to be fulfilled. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and that happened to me. I almost burned out, and so I had to slow things down a bit and wait for the creativity to come back.

As a consequence of writing and appearing at book-seller conferences, I discovered a love for doing spiritual teaching. At first, introvert that I am, I stayed pretty close to a script and read most of my remarks. But later, after I gained a little confidence, I began to enjoy the groups and the process of teaching as a kind of dialogue with them. One thing led to another, and soon I was doing workshops and retreats around the country. This, in turn, helped to enhance book sales, but it also created tensions with family life. Again, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Balance is needed, even when one is riding the crest of self-actualizing waves. God does not will that my pursuit of self-actualizing expression take place at the expense of my family.

We do not really know who we are; only God knows. What is creative and energizing at one time in life can become boring and draining in another. God grows us through this unfolding of our needs, leading us, step by step, to become the person we were created to be. We do not know what that person really is; only God knows. And so we remain open to the "what's next" of life, attentive to the interests and passions awakened in us by the Spirit.

Follow Your Bliss

I know you've heard this saying before; Joseph Campbell championed it some years ago during his "Power of Myth" series with Bill Moyers. It certainly can be a slogan for selfish pursuits, but for one living in God's general will, it can also be a way of discerning the leadings of the Spirit. As Phil. 2: 13 notes, It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. God can and often does lead us through the self-actualizing interests we discover in ourselves.

Joseph Campbell notes the following:

    . . . if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.

Some of what he describes as a coming together of people and circumstances is called synchronicity. It's sometimes described in almost magical terms, but there is much about the process that is only common sense. When your interest moves in a certain direction, you discover people and resources you had not noticed before. These, in turn, lead to more resources and options, which carry you along. Growth is a dynamic process.

Read a few "follow your bliss" stories online at to learn how others have followed this principle for self-actualization. Even if you're already honoring this principle in your own life, I'm sure you'll find some of them inspiring?


Where we've been so far in our study of discernment has emphasized the following:

1. There is no script telling us what to do. We'll have to write it as we go.
2. God can and sometimes does give "marching orders," only don't expect this as the way things usually go.
3. Following God's will is not a miserable affair; it is the key to true happiness.
4. We are not doing God's will when we sin, so we are to avoid what we know to be sinful behaviors.
5. Growing in the love of God, self and neighbor enable us to live in God's general will, which is always the proper context for discerning God's particular will.
6. Because God made us to be a uniquely gifted person, it follows that doing God's will entails the development and use of our gifts and talents.
7. "Following your bliss" is one way God leads us to pursue growth and creative expression. This bliss is a gift from God to lead us in a certain direction.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. What questions/comments has this conference stirred in you?

2. What do you find to be self-actualizing at this time in your life? How many of the characteristics of self-actualizing people described on can you relate to?

3. What is your "bliss" these days? In what directions does it flow? What "next steps" are suggested? What sacrifices might need to be made to follow?
Posts: 3853 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Wow, Phil, there was so much here that I could relate to. I’ll see if I can tell my life’s story in 25 words or less?? Don’t think so. I have most definitely experienced the synchronicity and resulting people and resources who pull you along on the path. I simply HAVE to share my story.

As a child I wanted to be a teacher. I even had my own schoolroom set up in the basement, furnished with old school desks my dad had bought for me. They had been in an old one-room school house that had been demolished, and we had paid 50 cents each for them. They are still in my mom’s basement and she is still asking me if I want them. Smiler

There was another part of me that enjoyed the arts. I can play several instruments and enjoy singing in choirs. I also loved to draw as child. My favorite thing to do when I got my work done at school was to get out a piece of paper and draw.

I went off to college and majored in education. I had a minor in art, but never really considered a serious career in art. I didn’t see myself as that talented and my parents were conservative and practical people. They wanted me to be able to support myself if I ever needed to.

I’ve never felt that my decision to become a teacher was wrong. I really DO think that I was born to be a teacher. I’ve taught 27 years and have had only two bad years. TWO. (This past year was one of those two). It’s hard to be specific but trust me, a teacher brings many varied gifts of herself to the job. My job as a teacher is very fulfilling and I feel great at the end of a hard day’s work.

Now my story is going to get a little crazy, so bear with me. In 1997 I took up a hobby collecting paper dolls. I had loved paper dolls when I was a little girl, and with the onset of ebay, I could actually go back and buy some of the paper dolls I’d had as a child. I met a lot of wonderful people online. Most of them were collectors, but some of them actually DREW paper dolls. And soon, I, too, became involved in the art of paper dolls. This was twenty years AFTER my art classes in college. In 1998 I joined an organization called the “Original Paper Doll Artists Guild.” This organization supports people in their efforts to create paper dolls. They put out a publication called “Paper Doll Studio News,” which publishes its members’ original paper doll artwork. Here is their website if you’re curious:
There is much synchronicity in my story. From the very beginning I felt as if God was unfolding a path in front of me. I had no idea what was in store for me, but I continued on the path, one step at a time. I kept drawing and my artwork improved. I turned some of my dolls into magnets and donated them to our church auction. I sold some of the magnets at a local Christmas craft show. But I never moved any faster on the path than I felt inclined to do. People made suggestions and I would smile. I only took the next step when I felt I was ready.

I was also very careful to keep things in balance. The artwork was a creative outlet for ME. If I sold something, fine. But I was going to draw what I wanted, not what somebody else wanted or what I thought would sell.
After all, I already had a demanding job and didn’t need another one.

In August of 2003, the week that school was starting, I submitted some of my work to a national publication called DOLLS magazine. Within a week I got an email from the editor letting me know that my doll would be slated in for one of the summer issues in 2004. And it really did happen! My doll appeared in the July 2004 issue, in full color, a two page spread in the middle of a magazine that appeared on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. I’ve also been published three times in a hobbyist magazine called “Doll Castle News.” And I was published again in the May 2006 issue of DOLLS.

Last week I attended the International Paper Doll Convention in Indianapolis. I entered my artwork in a competition for original paper doll artwork. I had to compete right alongside professional artists, people who had done fashion illustration and worked as full time artists their whole lives.. I almost chickened out at the end, because I felt intimidated by the professional artists. But I went ahead and entered. The judges awarded two blue ribbons to two professional artists. And I was awarded a red ribbon, alongside another professional artist. I was so thrilled.

It’s hard to explain this but I’ll try. I KNOW that I am not as good as the other artist that won a red ribbon or as good as the two artists who won blue ribbons. But I also KNOW that the reason that I won that red ribbon was because I had stayed true to myself . The artwork was so clearly an expression of ME, being the very best at being ME. Isn't that what God calls me to do? To be the very best ME that I can be??

The other exciting thing that happened at this convention was that I met Tom Tierney. He works for Dover publications and is the most famous paper doll artist in the world. He is the one who did the paper dolls of Pope John Paul and of George and Barbara Bush, Princess Diana,and many other celebrities. He has done over 200 paper doll books. Did you know that Pope John Paul was the only celebrity that Tom Tierney did NOT draw in his underwear?

Anyway, it was thrilling to meet him. On the morning of the sales day, I was setting up my booth, and Tom came by and asked me some questions about the magnets I was selling. THEN…he told me that my work was “charming” and and that my drawings were “very good.”. WOW…..I was on cloud nine the rest of the convention!

So, that’s my story. I am still amazed at this path that God has laid out for me, and where it has taken me. I still love teaching (well, most years anyway) and plan to teach as long as God wants me to and as long as I have the stamina.

If you want to see some of my dolls you can see them here:
Thanks for letting me share my story.

Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Anne, thanks for sharing your story. I'm so happy for you and others like you who have "found their bliss" and are living joyful, contented lives.

What came to my mind as I read and re-read Phil's input is that being aware of my gifts, the self-actualization opportunities, "finding your bliss," could also be thought of in terms of following the vocation God has for me. I feel that I am approaching a point in my life that God might be either calling me to something else or to something deeper, but this is elusive.

There were very few of the characteristics of self-actualized people that I could say I have. I really don't know what my "bliss" might be, either. I can't think of any activity, hobby, passtime, etc. that really "excites" me or "thrills" me. I can say there is something that "energizes" me to some degree, but that is the most affective word I would use.

I have a lot of work and reflection ahead of me, I know. And it definitely is all tied up in discernment.
Posts: 23 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well, that was just delightful to read, Anne. Thanks for sharing your story. It's fascinating to think that there's this part of the culture so smitten with paper dolls! Smiler I've looked over your work and see what you mean about it being an art form. I'm sure that when our girls were small, they'd have gone straight to the refrigerator to change the clothing on those magnetic dolls several times a day. What a great way to help stimulate the imagination. Your story illustrates how "following one's bliss" is not a selfish pursuit, but leads us to contact with other people and resources that both support and encourage continuing development.

Sr. Janice, I think vocation is a combination of both natural talents and charisms (I'll cover that one in our next session, but I know you're already very familiar with this). I think many can identify with your sharing about how, sometimes, it's difficult to get a sense of where self-actualization might be leading. Maybe the best we can do is have a sense of the next step, or even half-step. But sometimes even this can be unclear.
Posts: 3853 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil wrote:

Your story illustrates how "following one's bliss" is not a selfish pursuit, but leads us to contact with other people and resources that both support and encourage continuing development.

Oh, c'mon Phil. Wouldn't my time be better spent helping in a soup kitchen instead of drawing dolls???

Anne Wink
Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you Anne for sharing you made me smile and I loved your dolls, I thought they didn't exist anymore - maybe the soup kitchen is not where you are meant to be.
Firstly, if you have not read Phil's book 'Becoming a New Person', I suggest you do. I went through the steps with a small group as part of our church Lenten study years ago in Frankfurt and it was a major stepping stone to the journey that I find myslef on now. I have thanked Phil before but will do so again - Thanks you so much -

At the risk of boring you all, here's my story: I left school at 16 with no qualifications. I married a man who became a diplomat and we travelled for many years. When we returned home our salary was greatly reduced, the children in school and I found myself with time to spare. Not speaking the local dialect,no formal qualifications and not even knowing what a computer was meant getting a job was not easy. I felt very useless and shared with a friend the fact that I had had to look at who I was and what I was good at. The only thing I found was the fact that I was very good with small children and said that if I ever found myself on the street then that would be the direction I would look in. A few weeks later the friend phoned to say she knew of a lady who was desperate for someone to care for her, then unborn, child. Day-care centres were few and heavily booked. She had visited day mothers but felt them all unsuitable. At 45 yrs old, I could not see myself taking on a new-born but could not get this unborn child out of my mind so I agreed to take her. When I took the decision to leave my husband (and children- long story) I ask the mother if she could guarantee me a years wages. She replied that, not only could she do that, she was newly pregnant and wanted me to take the second child. Since then I have cared for many children from many countries. Many have come as babies and moved on to school and the first two have become like grandchildren. Almost all of them have come because I have been recommended. I started off in a two roomed flat but have recently put my pension money into a small house with an enormous garden. I share my life with a wonderful person and my youngest daughter and life is bliss even if sometimes it is not easy. My partner has a child with Aspergers (another long story) who spends a lot of time with us. Many people my age ask me where I get my patience from but I think it has been given to me, it's my talent. At the moment I have a child leaving because of his parents divorce. Our home has been a haven through difficult times and he is not the first of my 'little ones' to whom this has happened. He takes with me over half of my wages but I will not panic as in previous years as time has taught me that God will send me others. I shall use my free time to sort out the garden and some yearly cleaning. I'm learning to trust.
On the 'artistic' side, I had the idea in my mind for two years to do banners for our church. It was a niggling 'you need to do this' kind of thing. So I did. At first I only put them up for a day and very few people knew it was me who made them. Then I bought two books for more ideas and more and more people said how they 'spoke 'to them so I did more.Having said that You can have a look if you like on
The bottom line is that I have come a long way to be able to share the above with people like you (the ones with 'proper' jobs and qualifications etc) and that feels good. Now I just have to work on having respect for myself enough not to be walked over which often happens,because I let it.
Posts: 26 | Location: Switzerland | Registered: 29 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you Anne for sharing you made me smile and I loved your dolls, I thought they didn't exist anymore - maybe the soup kitchen is not where you are meant to be.

Thank you, Sue, for sharing your story, too. The banners are wonderful!! You've been very busy.

In regards to the soup kitchen....well, all I ever hear from the pulpit is "serve, serve, serve....wash feet, wash feet, wash feet." Where in the Bible does it say, "create, create, create??"

Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you both for sharing your stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the paper dolls. I remember many hours of fun playing with paper dolls. Something about them fascinated me as a child.

I was touched by your story, Sue, deeply touched. Oh, the breadth and depth and height of God!

I'll do more sharing later, when my thoughts come together.
Posts: 35 | Registered: 28 September 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I visited Anne's site and the paper dolls are very artistic and beautiful. I also visited Sue's banners and was awed by the work and talent involved. The banners are just beautiful. Thank you both for sharing. I admire the gift of such focus for a passion.

I reviewed the characteristics of self-actualization. I could identify with many of them. The areas of weakness include lack of spontaneity and a mission in my life. I have always loved to learn and seeking knowledge and new information is the nearest thing I come to blissfulness. I find it interesting that looking back, my desire for knowledge has been interpreted as restlessness and dissatisfaction by a few people in my life. I have been told I am never satisfied, but the need to "know" has never left me. If I could not seek and learn, there would not be much zest in living.

I identify with Sr. Janice in that, at times, I feel I lack a focus or reason. I attended a weekend on charisms in our parish, with a few follow up meetings, not enough to really benefit my discernment of them. Knowledge and encouragment seemed to stand out. I use gardening as a "centering" activity and I know I have been told many times that I am a warm, genuine person who is easily trusted. My profession allows me to be a source of confidence. I would love to be "just thrilled" about something in my life. I enjoy lots of things and have many, many interests, but none that I would describe as a passion.

Most of the time I feel clear on those "half-steps" Phil talks about. I have never felt clear on what is "way out there." I do understand that to be the best person you can be, you must "know thyself" and follow your path. Working in a soup kitchen is not for everyone, Anne.
Posts: 10 | Registered: 14 February 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi I'm Cathy, I'm married 42 yrs w/ 4 adult children and 9 grandchildren. All my life discernment has been a difficult and ongoing trial for me. Aside from wife ad mother I was also a Nurse and involved in our Church community teaching CCD and was a Director of Religious Education for several years. Then my Husband went into the Diaconate and I felt I needed to pull back in my activity and balance what he was involved in as he was away in formation for several years on weekends and several nights a month as well as working a full time job. So sacrifices had to be made on my part if family was to remain whole as our kids were young. Our youngest was 3 at the time. I still worked every other w/e as a nurse for finances but I made the conscious choice to stay out of activities as I felt one of us needed to be here on the full time basis and since my husband couldn't due to formation I would. Some women thought I was totally wrong and off base but w/ prayer and thought and knowing the effects on our family I knew in my heart I was discerning God's will for us. It isn't always clear and when more then just yourself is involved it is more difficult to get a clear picture. I've have found that if it is not going to be effecacious for myself and family then it is not from God. It is just fooling myself and one has to be careful not to rationalize away any real discernment when God is leading us. That's when we cause our own problems. I also have found that since my strokes I asked a very good priest friend of mind that I have known for years to kind of be my rudder for dicernment as I fear w/ my brain damage how do I clearly know what is God and what is me. Then in prayer it camt to me. Trust that God will be there for you and let go and that's what I've had to do. So discernment to me is so deeply repected and needed and should be taught in all Religious programs to help folks in times of trials in order to help them through the tough times and strengthenen there faith. Hope I've made sense.
Posts: 49 | Location: Baldwinsville,New York | Registered: 25 January 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I have always loved to learn and seeking knowledge and new information is the nearest thing I come to blissfulness. I find it interesting that looking back, my desire for knowledge has been interpreted as restlessness and dissatisfaction by a few people in my life. I have been told I am never satisfied, but the need to "know" has never left me. If I could not seek and learn, there would not be much zest in living.


I'm curious. Do you seek knowledge and new information about all kinds of things? Or are you more of a spiritual seeker, ie trying to find the meaning of life, etc?
I used to call myself the "queen of the self-help books." Smiler Anyway, I was just wondering if you were a seeker in a more general way, or in more specific way.

Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dear Anne Hope you don't think I 'm juming in on your conversation but if you don't keep trying to learn and seek then you will dry up. But it depends upon what you are seeking. I have found myself that idf I stayed grounded in scripture and psychology I was safe. It is easy to lose site of God in just science I know I was a Nurse for 40 yrs and If you don't have a faith deminsion of some sort you can get lost. I found that reading some really sound people like Morton Kelsey and Victor Frankel and then Karl Jung .....then I also found Susan Muto and Adrain Van Kaam. They are so grounded in both spirituality and psychology that you can't get lost. It doesn't matter what faith you are. Fr Groeschel is the same. As is Phil here an Sr Hartman. They are all sound and balanced. I read and search and also look at things w/ a crictical eye and ear.. as I can get so lost due to my own insecurities. I value my spirituality and faith dearly and have struggled for years searching for a loving and deep relationship w/ God and most times I'm the culprit in the way and that I've learned through my discernment but let me tell you it hasn't been easy and I'm still learning and struggling. Hope this makes sense My mind is a little faster than my hands and I have written aphasia so I hope it's OK Cathy
Posts: 49 | Location: Baldwinsville,New York | Registered: 25 January 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sorry to be slow in acknowledging you. My computer is at work, therefore, not accessible to me unless I go to the library or back to my office over the summer.

To answer your question as best I can in light of who I am, you might read the post I just posted in conference 1 today. As I stated, there is a genetic tendency in my family for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I think my grandmother had it, I had it acutely in my teen years and early 30's, and now my 16 year old grandson is battling it. A few of the traits that seem to go along with it is self-doubt and self-punishing attitudes. When I was small, I remember loving God intensely and wanting to please him. I attended Catholic school through high school. I grew up in the 50's and 60's. Somewhere along the way, I felt I could not be perfect enough for God. I felt that to please him would be misery for me. My journey has been one of being reintroduced to a God of my understanding and my inability to ruin that love by being human.

Through all these years, I have developed a great trust that God will lead me where I can find him. In my 20's, I developed a great love of and trust at the altar of psychology and self-help. God works through everything, however, and I grew through that arena at that time. In my late 30's, I found a road to God through my spirituality and a path that seemed to work for me to find my understanding of a higher power, the 12 Steps of Al-Anon.

If you notice, I almost never get to the answer simply. It is so hard for me to keep things simple. When I attended a "Called and Gifted Workshop," at our local parish, in the weeks that followed I came across a description of the gift of knowledge as feeling "there will never be enough time in my life to learn of all I would like." I just like the process of learning something new. It gives fulfillment to my life. I go off on tangents. I love to garden and learn about plants, fertilizer, etc. I love to read and any interesting topic will do. I try to focus on spirituality more intensely every lent. I will never know the meaning of life. All those self-help books were my reaction to my great fear of life. If I knew, I could prevent pain for me and for anyone who listen, especially my 2 children. Well let me tell you, in my ignorance of thinking I could fix someone else with my knowledge, I learned a few very painful lessons. One being when my beloved son, who I thought I taught so well, began his "career" with drug addiction.

I know I am not specifically answering your question. It seems that this morning the "inner" me comes out more easily. I read everything I am interested in, which is a lot, and trust God and my common sense to guide me in my spirituality.
I try to keep an open mind and my intuition (discernment?) to guide me to what is right for me. God created me, warts and all, so he knows best how to reach me. I try real hard to keep fear out of my life today. I am not unique but I have, more or less, found a God I could relate to today that is right for me. I am very thankful and feel He led me there. Enough already! Sorry if I offended anyone but I guess this is my truth. Thanks!

Posts: 10 | Registered: 14 February 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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RazzerI have been in a career/vocation crisis for the past 12 years of my life. I worked for 16
years as a programmer/analyst for a utility company in Dallas. Was happy doing that for about
12 years , and then became very depressed and bored with the work and the way corporate America was becoming so inhuman. My husband got an opportuinty to transfer with his company to Denver and we decided to take it. I let go of 16 years with one company and a high paying job to have a change. At the time, I did not know what I wanted to do. After moving and taking time off from work, nothing different seemed to click for me. So I decided to reenter the IT field and learn some new technologies. Could only find a job in the old mainframe area where my expereice was, and ended up with 2 jobs that were a disaster. The technology was grossly out-dated and the people extremely control-oriented. Decided to quit and go back to school to update my computer skills(and hence find a job with newer tech and more forward thinking people). When I graduated(spring 2001), we were in the start of the tech-bust..Spent 2 years looking for a job in IT and never found one.

I then decided to do a major career change to become an esthetican(skin care therapist).I wanted to do something helping people. I liked working with the clients and
learning the science behind skin care. But after having 4 jobs in a year and half , decided that the skin care business was too unethetical and unprofessional for me. 3 of the 4 jobs were disasters. The last job, I was laid off after only 5 weeks of employment. The job before that, they let me go because I was not a nurse. Another job I lost because they did not like my technique. You get it! I was treated like trash and employers would let me go for any reason. I found that small clinics/spas get away with so much , not having any accountablility to an HR dept. I also found the business to be extremely competitive, especially since alot of doctors are jumping on the 'booming' skin care business. Unfortuneately, that just makes the competition that much more intense.

So now I have been unemployed for 9 months and have not looked for work. I have been 'burned' by so many bad jobs. I suppose I have needed the time for healing insead of jumping
into another bad job. I know I need to listen deep inside to find my calling. I am a member of
a very active church, which has been a life saver for me. I serve on a couple of ministires through my church and attend classes ,but it's not enough to fill my days.

Anyway, I have signed up to do a 2 yr Spiritual Formation program in the fall which trains you to be a Spriitual Director leading small groups/classes or individual direction. I know this will not lead to significant paid employment. It will be a form of ministry for me. . I love to study spirituality and the mystics. I am also exploring doing a Just Faith program. This is a 40-week program on justice, what it is and doing forms of justice minstry in various communtiy organizations. Not sure where this will lead me. I'm trying to follow my longings and passions, which are spirituality and possibly social/eco-justice.

I'm learning that Denver is a popular place to live and that good professional jobs are
very competitive here. Employers receive tons of resumes. So they say alot is 'who' you know..
I suppose I have just not known the right people. I like the climate here and living close to the mountains and to so much scenic country. So there is a price to pay when you live in a desireable location. It's been a bitter/sweet journey. Right now I feel lost and lonely. I definetly
need a mission or vocation in my life. Just finding it is the challenge.
Posts: 8 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Lots of wonderful sharing on this thread. I hope it will continue even after I post a new topic tomorrow.

As some of you are noting, it's not always easy to find employment that is satisfying and which makes use of your natural talents. Best wishes, Carolyn, in your ongoing search for employment; good that you can feed your soul during this time.

And Janice, I'm glad to hear you're familiar with "Called and Gifted." We'll be covering the topic of spiritual gifts in our next session.

Cathy, good points about the importance of ongoing learning and growing. Not everyone has the same kinds of questions and issues, as you noted. That's good to keep in mind as it helps us to avoid comparing ourselves with others and passing judgments one way or another.

Lovely banners, Sue. And good to hear that "Becoming a New Person" has been a helpful resource to you and your group in the past. Your story illustrates how we start off with the talents we're aware of and begin to use them, then as they grow, we discover more, and more . . . It sounds like in your case there are also spiritual gifts of hospitality and mercy. More on that in our next session.

Again, this thread remains open. Let's keep the sharing going.
Posts: 3853 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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" I just like the process of learning something new. It gives fulfillment to my life. I go off on tangents. I love to garden and learn about plants, fertilizer, etc. I love to read and any interesting topic will do.

Thanks, Janice. I think the above explains things for me. You enjoy learning about many different things. That makes for a full life, absolutely.

I went through the self-help phase after I turned forty. Then, at some point in those years between 40 and 50, the self-help books started to have a spiritual theme. I'm not sure just when I crossed over Wink

I once had a friend who was very much into the New Age stuff. I remember her asking me what it was that I wanted. Without blinking an eye I told her that I wanted inner peace. It was a simple as that. At that time, I certainly did not have a sense of inner peace. Most of my issues had to do with my insecurity as a mother. I was always anxious and always worried. And the anxious and worried thoughts would play in my head, over and over. It was a kind of compulsion, for sure. I was always beating myself up for not being a good enough mother. But, with the help of some counseling, a very good friend, more spiritual study, some medication, and a good spiritual director I have worked through the "not a good enough mother" issues. So, I don't have to beat myself up anymore. The years have passed and at 50, I'm not so restless. I'm still a seeker, but not such a desperate seeker as I once was.

It feels good to not be so restless. Smiler

Thanks for sharing.

Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi, all. I'm trying to catch up with everything after a ten-day vacation followed by a week trying to get used to being back at work. I could read the conferences, but didn't have an easy way to post. But I'm back, so let's see if I can pull some thoughts together. Smiler When I read this conference, I thought of my journey as a singer, mostly in music ministry, though also for volunteer organizations. I've been singing with various choirs and groups over the years, mostly as a soprano. After our daughter was born, I was so busy caring for her that I kind of drifted away from music ministry. I finally got to the point where I was tired of being a pew-warmer at Mass, and started seeking a community to belong to where I could exercise my ministry along with others. After much searching, I found the choir at my current parish. The director let me in, but put me in the alto section, probably because she knew I could hold the part. It felt kind of funny, but I sang with that choir for several years as an alto. Then our daughter got old enough to become interested in musical theatre and dance. My husband built the sets for the shows she was in, but I kind of felt left out, especially during the annual BEST OF BROADWAY productions that took place every summer, when I'd never see my family, but also during the year as Jenn and Dan got more and more involved in shows. Then in 1999 the theater decided to perform CHILDREN OF EDEN, my favorite musical. They were desperate for singers, so I got to help with the singing for that. Once I knew I was accepted by the theater group, I got up the courage to get involved in the BEST OF BROADWAY shows as a pit singer, where I could learn and sing the songs, but not have to worry about moving around onstage, which would be more difficult for a totally blind person like myself. The choral director for my first year in BEST OF BROADWAY was a lady named LuAnn. I absolutely loved the way she'd describe proper singing technique and work with us to sing well. After the shows were over, knowing that LuAnn gave private voice lessons, I began taking from her. She discovered that, although I'd been singing alto, I'm really a soprano, and I began to realize just how much I'd missed singing soprano for the past several years. So I switched to a different choir in the same church, where I can not only sing soprano, but also cantor. So these are the experiences I think about when I read about self-actualization and following my bliss. I truly believe I'm getting closer to where God wants me because I've followed the things that inspired and excited me, and took advantage of the opportunities that came my way as I did so.
Posts: 28 | Location: Sacramento, CA | Registered: 23 January 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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