After a period of frustrating circumstances at my first church, I met with a Spiritual Director (a “friend by accident” which I’m sure I’ll write about another time). I had been feeling God calling me to leave my position at the church, but didn’t want to listen, because I loved (really, truly, madly deeply, as in still do) loved my youth there. But after hearing “I don’t belong here” on the radio several times in the church parking lot and another UM clergyperson telling me I was running on a rat wheel and sticking my head in the sand…and those pesky little frustrating circumstances *twitch*, I met with Sara Beth.
She puts things in such a holy perspective that makes your insides wiggle. “What would it look like if you left a year from now? six months from now? a month from now?”
Me: “*WHAT!* I could NEVER leave a month from now!” (Guess what, I did.)
To my father’s grand disappointment, I left my first real job (and my second, but that’s another
bottle post) without another one lined up. But I felt so strongly that God was leading me to leave, and I trusted so fully that something else would come. So I started selling Avon.
I had kind of put my candidacy process for ordination on hold while I was
running on trapped by the rat wheel and so when I jumped off and landed hard, I met with my candidacy mentor (who thought I had disappeared off the face of the planet).
To finish the candidacy process, I needed either an MDiv or BGTS (graduate level classes like theology, Bible, etc.), so I started looking into things. I thought I’d go to Hood Theological Seminary since it was close by and I didn’t want to move or to go to Pfeiffer again (even though it was awesome the first time), but Hood’s schedule didn’t work out, so I ended up talking with Kathleen Kilbourne, who directs the Masters of Practical Theology program (a Pfeiffer/Wesley partnership).
I didn’t expect to go back to Pfeiffer, and truth be told I wasn’t thrilled, but Kathleen made the experience. Like, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. Between the financial arrangements that had to be made, the counseling and encouragement before/after class, the registration nightmare because of the newness of the partnership…she was (and is) the driving force that keeps it going and that keeps it together. Plus she’s an awesome person who opened her home to us poor students that could barely afford the program, let alone a hotel room for the weekend classes.
Part of our YMCP includes Spiritual Direction and, well, let’s just say, things happened to where I’m not meeting with the assigned Spiritual Director but reconnecting with Sara Beth. Thing are coming full circle in a lot of ways as I prepare for Annual Conference next week. Kathleen is one of my two fully connected clergy who will be by my side during the ordination ceremony (more on that later). and I’m meeting with Sara Beth in a few weeks to continue Spiritual Direction.
In her last email Sara Beth wrote that in Spiritual Direction we listen for God’s voice. I understand it to be a process for exploring how God is working in your life, how the Spirit is leading you. And sometimes that feels right and sometimes that’s incredibly unsettling and leads you to things you wouldn’t expect or desire. And sometimes it’s both.
So we practice being open to the Spirit, letting go of our plans and trusting that God will lead us. Note to God (and Sara Beth): I’m happy where I am and don’t want to move (geographically). But I am more open, more honest about who I am and excited to see how God is calling me to be. And because of these experiences, I’m more equipped and excited to help youth explore who God is calling them to be and how God is calling them to serve.
When I first got to my current church, I found out that the middle school ministry was called “Search and Discovery: Searching for God’s will in our lives and Discovering ways to use it.”
I never expected or planned to be doing middle school ministry (does anyone?). I didn’t plan on being passionate about working with teen girls on body image and self-esteem (teen girls, really, God?). Yet what I did (and still do) was try to be open…open to God’s guidance and direction…and to follow, even when it was hard…or weird, or uncomfortable, or ridiculously awesome – because, let’s face it – knowing that you’re doing exactly what God has called you to is an amazingly humble and scary exciting feeling.
So thanks to Sara Beth, for a life-changing decision that I didn’t want to make but that was made easier by our Spirit-led conversation. Thanks to Fran for not officially dropping me out of the candidacy process and for welcoming me back with open arms. Thanks to Kathleen for being beyond awesome in helping me and other students work through Pfeiffer’s MAPT program (and, like, life…). Thanks to Dana McKim who challenged me to get off the rat wheel. Thanks to those who have encouraged me to be more open and who have shown grace and understanding when God’s calling was not exactly the same as our plans. And thanks be to God who keeps me out of complacency and stirs me toward the way of Love which leads me to places I’d never thought I’d be.