The Life of a Dabbler
There is an old saying, “A jack of all trades is a master of none,” oft quoted to describe someone who can do many things but none too well.
Welcome to my life.
I’ve always been a dabbler. I dabble in this, I dabble in that. Yet, no skill has ever gone very deep.
I sing, but not too well. I draw, but only moderately. My piano skills are passable, but don’t set any music in front of me. I write, but my actual understanding of the technical skills of writing is minimal at best. I was an excellent teacher, but I don’t have the degrees to teach anything over preschool. I worked in nursing, but I never got anything higher than a CNA and First Aid Certification. I worked in banking, but never went beyond being a teller. I loved mission work, but found that I am not very gifted in evangelism. I adore the farm, but I’m terrible at driving large equipment and not really an animal person.
When I think of the term “vocation” and then look at my life, part of me wants to hide. I don’t have anything to talk about, really. Nothing of note. Nothing of great achievement. Nothing of a particular skill.
In fact, the whole idea of vocation can bring out more than a few insecurities. I really don’t have anything to say that the world would recognize as successful.
I stay at home, on a non-working dairy farm, where I babysit other people’s children and try (very poorly some days) to homeschool my children and keep the house clean.
I’m not Suzy-homemaker and I don’t teach my kids Latin (we’re lucky to get through our times tables!). And I’m a terrible farmer’s wife because when my husband says, “Can you bring the Deutz over to the other side of the barn?” I cry and tell him to remind me how to start it again.
But as I contemplated writing this post, the Lord began doing something in my heart. Slowly, easing through my insecurities and crazy questions about the value of my life, He began pointing out how He had prepared me for today through years of “dabbling”.
See, I’m a mom today, even though for so very long I didn’t think I would get that chance. But God brought my children home. He gathered them up from across countries and states and carried these two babies right to my arms. But they didn’t make it here until they were each eight years old, which is a crazy place to start parenting.
And it turns out that they don’t need Suzy-homemaker, or a multi-degree teacher, or a banker, or a singer, or painter, or nurse. They just need their mama. Not just any mom—they need their mom. Their very own—always, for keeps—mom. And of all the women in the world, as wildly successful as many are, God chose the dabbler me to be mama to these precious little ones.
All that dabbling I did through the years? Oh, how useful it is! Because I can tell at a glance if the cut on my daughter’s foot is serious or not, and I can teach her the proper way to care for it. And all those years at the bank come in handy when I’m working on the farm books and my son’s fourth-grade math.
My writing skills come into play as I write little fairy tales for my children that remind them of the truths I teach them every day. My moderate drawing skills are used to delight my son who wants a puppy but has to learn to take care of himself a little better before we entrust an animal to his care; instead I draw him a little paper puppy that he can carry around in his pocket.
And even if I’m not the best farmer’s wife in the world, I’m the only wife my farmer-husband wants, so I’m the best person for the job. And even if I’m not gifted in evangelism, I still am allowed the privilege of sharing the gospel with my children and the children I babysit for…day after day after day. (And if that isn’t mission work, I don’t know what is!)
I’m still a dabbler. I still play around on the piano some days, write intently on the computer another day, teach lessons on fractions another, balance the checkbook another. It’s the way of this life of mine and it is good.
It’s easy to look at the many places I might have focused my energy and judge my own life harshly because I haven’t applied myself enough to any one thing. But sometimes God doesn’t call us to be an Olympian; sometimes He just calls us to be faithful in the dabbling.
And the truth about the old saying is that it is rarely quoted in its entirety:
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
It’s easy to look at things only one way, to judge ourselves based on a skewed reality. Yet, when we look hard at Christ and keep our hearts focused on doing His work, we may find that there is a whole other side to the story. Mastering a certain vocation may be what God calls you to–but being a jack of all trades is also a calling of value.
And what a beautiful vocation it is, when one is right in the place God has called them to, as unimpressive as it may be. Because even there, He is.
Just like the artist who paints for the glory of God, and the singer who sings for the glory of God, and the runner who runs for the glory of God—I, too, can do all this for His glory and it will be good.
I’m so glad I found this. I definitely would consider myself as somewhat of a dabbler. I seem to have too many interests and things I want to focus on.
When I look at my life, it’s hard to find any direction because it’s been all over the place.
It’s discouraging that dabblers have been painted in a such a negative light and it’s always made me feel like I will never amount to anything. At least by the world’s standards.
I like your perspective that God has prepared you. Perhaps He is doing the same for me. I can only hope I stay close enough to Him to be guided by Him, however unorthodox that path may be.
Thank you so much for sharing this! YES! It feels like you are taking a page out of my own life … except for the nurse/first aid part 🙂 And I LOVE the end of that quote .. how many times it has been quoted to me as a negative thing being a “jack of all trades”. I think I’m going to start finishing it when I hear it said…
Natasha, this is lovely. Thank you. 🙂