November 6, 2015

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

God is at work in all of us—wherever we are on our journey

Patti LambRecently, I found myself job searching. I updated my resumé, cast my line and prayed for the right fit.

After months—and months—of submitting online applications, interviewing, connecting for networking lunches and more prayer, I ended up in a wonderful place that I didn’t quite expect. I accepted a position at an art studio just a stone’s throw from my home. It’s owned by two lovely women and fellow parishioners.

When I shared my job news with a college girlfriend recently, she seemed startled.

“Your degree isn’t in art,” she plainly reminded me. She didn’t quite understand my choice.

I gently explained that I felt like this was a good fit for me. I reached into my purse and pulled out a tattered newspaper clipping from years ago that I saved from The Criterion.

In the clipping, theologian Father Michael Himes condensed vocational discernment to three simple questions:

“First, what gives me joy?” Father Himes noted that joy is not the same thing as happiness. He explained that happiness is fleeting, but joy “speaks more to a deeper reality, an abiding sense of consolation and peace.”

“[Joy] is not what ‘feels good,’ as our culture often defines it today,” Father Himes said. “It is what ‘feels right’ when I stand openly and honestly before God,” he said.

“Second, what am I good at?” The theologian encourages us to examine our strengths and our limitations. He also says we should ask friends and family what they see as our strengths.

“Finally, what is the need?” Father Himes asks. Author and theologian Frederick Buechner refers to vocation as the place where our “deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”

Then, I relayed a story to my college friend that I was privileged to witness recently at the studio. A young woman came in on an early September day and explained that she had spoken to the owners, who suddenly appeared from the back with an unpainted ceramic Christmas tree, along with paints and supplies to go.

Meanwhile, when the customer and I got to talking, tears began to cascade down her face. She told me that her grandmother paints a ceramic Christmas tree each year for a family member. This year, however, her grandmother was sick with cancer, and this would be the last tree she would paint. The recipient would be this woman’s 18-month-old son. I promised to add the woman’s grandmother to my prayer list.

Weeks later, the beautifully hand-painted treasure was carefully unloaded from the kiln and prepped for the granddaughter to pick up. She raced into the studio, examined the tree with a smile and added, “Please express my gratitude to the studio owners for expediting things.” She continued: “My grandmother is in her last 24 hours, and one of her final wishes is to give this tree to my son, her great-grandson.”

That day at work, I got to witness a little miracle: a Christmas tree painted months before Dec. 25, yet right on time.

Rest in peace, Sharon, and enjoy your eternal reward. Your tree will be cherished for generations to come.

Thanks for reminding me of the importance of keeping family traditions alive. Thanks for illustrating that little things done in great love make lifelong impacts. And thanks for calling my attention to the fact that God is at work in all of us wherever we are, even if it’s not where we had originally expected our vocations to take us.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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