Finding Passion & Calling
Updated: Apr 19
Growing up passion and calling were not words in my vocabulary or likely my parents. For a little bit of context, I am first generation Chinese American, my parents immigrated to the states in the 70s and opened up a grocery store. My older siblings were their only employees, and at 7 years old, I became their third employee. My entire world was school and work. My parents were my first employer and also the ones who tucked me in at night.
In my rebellion, and in order to have a day off, I started going to church on Sundays around the time I began working at the store. It was at church I met God, and accepted god at around 12 years old. I quickly learned that God deeply loved me and that no matter where life went He was always with me. Thankfully, that knowledge has remained rooted in me since.
It would have been lofty to believe that once I accepted Christ, I fully understood what calling and passion were and that God revealed his grand plan and will for my life in one big revelation. The truth is that my understanding of passion and calling was more of a journey. A journey learning more about myself, who God is and just how much he loves me. This journey also included unlearning things and casting out things put on me.
After I accepted Christ, I was now a Christian and someone who needed to work.
As a teenager,
I waited tables,
sold Cutco knives,
vacuums from Kirby,
was an assistant at a call center,
and also worked at Baskin Robbins.
I took those jobs, because my identity was wrapped up in being a worker and being able to take care of myself.
The Baskin Robbins job I took also because I love ice cream. Seriously, it's 110 in Arizona in summer, who wouldn’t love ice cream.
Despite my focus on work...I ended up on a local mission trip to the White mountains where I served and shared the gospel with the Native Apache tribe.
They taught me what it looked like to approach God as a child would. While it was us sharing the gospel, they were sharing welcome, community, and openness without reservation. I learned to appreciate people for their unique God given qualities, that my reality and experience with the world may be incomplete, and perhaps I could approach the world with curiosity and wonder.
Looking back God was near, he loved me, and he was planting seeds for what I would call passion and calling.
With each beginning and ending came a period of seeking after God’s purpose in my life. I was reconciling my worth and identity held in work and wondering what my value as a child of God really was. On one hand I knew that God loved me and was always near, and on the other hand I thought my value was about how much I could work.
This experience allowed for me to push through job after job, looking at it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I continued to wrestle with meaning and purpose for my life, especially during college. My undergraduate was in Liberal Studies & International Business. In truth, at that time I enjoyed psychology and found myself drawn to literature on mental health. Unfortunately, I quickly squashed thoughts of pursuing psychology and a doctorate, because I feared the extra studies and money involved with a career path I wasn’t 100% sure of. I kept my options broad and unspecific as a way to give myself space to explore.
Calling and passion took a backseat to being employable and getting a job. I was still on my journey, God was a passenger who loved me and was always near.
Despite my focus on getting a job, I decided to go on a 5 week backpacking trip in college.
It was the first time in my life I learned how much I loved to travel, to learn other ways of living and being, to hear other languages, cultures, and people. I challenged myself with hopes to travel to a new place annually.
Europe opened my eyes to evaluate life as I knew it and to expand my perspective on values that Europeans stressed, such as learning new languages as a requirement, enjoying long meals together, and lengthy vacations. I grew curious and wondered about what more I can learn about people different from myself. Especially as it seemed indulgent.
Looking back God was planting seeds and helping me discover more about myself.
Despite the experience, I once again thought practically and pragmatically, and took a job selling kitchen and bathroom products for a major company in LA. Between 50+ hour work weeks, 2 weeks of vacation annually, and paying LA rent, there was little time, at least I thought, for passion and calling. That being said, part of me was still trying to understand the meaning and purpose for my life. I knew God loved me and was near. But I felt there was something more he had for me.
5 years in LA flew by and soon I was in New York City, with a new company where I have been for nearly 8 years.
It’s been great working with a worldwide company that aligns with my values to care for the living environment in respecting all God has blessed us with. I developed my career through making connections, providing educational courses, and reaching sales targets. God has been faithful by the ways I’ve felt rewarded in my work beyond what I could have imagined. God puts to use all of my work and it has fostered a desire to support the needs of others by weaving into what I consider as kingdom work.
I began to recognize my passion to be in community with others through serving as a volunteer as a tutor, mentor, and volleyball coach. I worked with immigrant youth in Chinatown every Saturday through the school year to promote higher education and share the gospel. During the 5 years, I learned the most about myself and my walk with Christ. I was enriched by watching the students grow, attend college, and to know Christ.
I coached volleyball to high school youth and shared about Christ's unconditional love and compassion. I was challenged to share my testimony with the students. I learned how my story can touch and reach others without feeling as though I had to preach. One might consider missions as exclusive to working abroad, I have seen it through the lens of it being kingdom work that can be accomplished day to day.
God gently used the volunteering, the backpacking trip, the mission trip, to call me to a different field. He planted the seeds to help me see my passion and calling. To give me the courage to know that I could pursue counseling.
On one hand I had work, great money, and security, on the other, I was able to express my faith through volunteering.
I leaned heavily on God as my source of strength when my mother passed away, followed by going through a divorce. I was forced to slow down, I felt alone, and I would have been a wreck had I not had the assurance God loves me and he was always with me. I clung to God being the one who knew me best, saw me, and still championed me as his daughter. I came to unlearn that my worth was tied in the money I made and career. I began by listening to the parts of myself I ignored, and channeled it into integrating my work and faith. I remembered my love for psychology and the fulfillment in volunteering and seeing God through making connections with others. Over time, God revealed to me more of my calling and passion as caring for the community through my love for mental health, and it finally inspired me to take the leap to join a master’s program in Mental Health Counseling through a Christian college. I chose to attend Nyack because my life and wellbeing had always been tethered to my walk with Christ. A major theme you’ll notice is my knack for multitasking. I worked full time with Toto, attended classes at night, and graduated May 2020, right in the middle of COVID.
This time last year I wondered what was next, I had no counseling work lined up, my original plans to go to Central America to counsel survivors of childhood sexual assault fell through.
Even with all of God’s signposts to integrate faith and work, I struggle to stay pragmatic, to hold onto the security of work in business. Even still, I sought to serve in the church through group work on grief, loss, and bereavement. I began working in substance use counseling. I'm passionate about healing work that is inclusive through working at Fresh Paths NY, to serve the LGBTQIA community, among underserved and under-represented populations.
This journey has implanted the ability to say yes to opportunities before me and believe God works all things out by establishing my steps and plans along the way. I don’t get consumed by the right choices and perfection. To me, kingdom work is defined as spreading God’s love and communicating that love to others, by helping one to feel seen, known, and understood.
As a way of living out my faith day to day.
I have ascribed to the idea of holding hands out loosely. It enables us to let go of control, while not holding too tightly to our own will and expectations.
It took a long time to give myself permission to integrate an identity of being Christian and have that in my work. Much of my life I believed I needed to make money by getting a job and didn’t always know what I was doing and what God was calling me to.
Proverbs 16 says, to “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plan...and In our hearts we plan our course, but the Lord establishes our steps.”
My journey will continue to evolve, as I aspire to make mental health accessible for the public in tangible ways. I wonder how I can incorporate a business background with mental health. I’d like to join and help give more exposure to ministries locally and abroad as a way to inspire others to connect even in small ways to bring hope and healing.
The work I do, is giving others the freedom to be themselves, to heal, to feel respected, and that they are deserving of unconditional love.