I figured it would only take 15 minutes to file the stack of papers I’d accumulated since September, but the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet was already full. There was no way I could add to the file folders without first reviewing and throwing some of their contents away. The chore I hoped to accomplish while lunch was baking turned into a 90-minute project after the dishes had been cleared.

About a third of the files were filled with communications projects I spearheaded for organizations I once worked for or volunteered with. The rest were filled with activities I’d used with my kids at home or at church with their Sunday School classes: craft instructions for turning pipe cleaners and toilet tubes into angels; songs for memorizing The 10 Commandments and the books of the Bible; and devotions that encourage teenagers to apply what they’ve memorized to their lives.

I threw a lot of it away but decided to keep an article, published nearly 10 years ago by Children’s Ministry, which asked: 

Is your passion for connecting with kids healthy and growing? Check by examining your “heart rate” as you take the following quiz. 

__ I look forward to being with my kids.

__ I come prepared. (Reading the lesson in the car on the way to church does not count. Sorry!)

__ During the week, I occasionally think of specific kids and their families.
__ I look for ways to connect with kids by continually trying to understand their ages and stages.
__ I know my kids’ favorite toys, games, or TV programs.
__ I continually watch for ‘what’s hot and what’s not” so I can better understand kids.

My checkmarks are still visible, and I’m proud to say I passed, but I doubt my score would be as high today.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still the mom who will bake cookies, teach Sunday School or chaperone a school trip as needed but my kids don’t need me—nor do they want me—to shadow their every move. And my passion has evolved away from the activities I enjoyed as a stay-at-home mom who seldom had time to write and toward those that better define me as a freelance writer who works from her home.

The difference between the two titles is more than semantics. It determines what activities I organize my day around and whether my participation is out of duty or because I’m sincerely interested. It influences what I write at the top of my to-do list and defines my “Inbox,” my “Favorites,” and my “Feeds.”

Ken and I are having some of these same conversations with our oldest, the college freshman. He’s unsure what to declare as a major, what he should “do” for a career. We ask what classes and activities he enjoys, what lecture or discussion he can’t stop thinking about. 

Find that passion, we say, and the rest will fall into place as time unfolds.

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