Well, it’s Spring, and it is Lent, which can only mean one thing – more succulents! Every spring I buy a collection of new succulents, and every year about half of them live and half of them die. This means that slowly, little by little, I am gathering a healthy, year-round collection of these water-saving plants.
But these little gems are not the only new growth around Preservation Acres these days. Some big changes have been happening as well. In the fall Wylie went off to college and Sweet Man, Miles, and I begin to learn how to function as a household of three instead of four, while Wylie began his journey into adulthood. The baby chicks from last Spring are now full grown and laying eggs like crazy – we are trying to establish an egg subscription service, but until then we just keep shoving eggs in the direction of anyone who stops by. There are some significant remodeling projects on the horizon, but the really big change, the new growth that has impacts our daily life the most, is my new job.
On March 1 I began work as the Staff Officer for Evangelism, in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, for The Episcopal Church.
I know, crazy long title right? But so amazing.
So, how did I go from being a Family Minister, writing books about home, and crafting, to a Staff Officer for Evangelism? Well, God. But also through a process of discernment in which I learn to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, thanks to my Spiritual Director/Soul Coach Marna Franson.
As my second book, At Home in this Life, was releasing I began to experience a crisis of vocational identity. I began to really wrestle with who I was and what I was doing in terms of calling. The crisis began with my inability to make a decision about how to celebrate the release of At Home. While I had a very clear and exciting sense of the pre-order gifts and the At Home Collection idea, I couldn’t figure out what sort of launch party to have. I couldn’t decide when or where or how to accomplish such a celebration. When A Homemade Year released the vision was so clear, so obvious, so fun. But with At Home, I just couldn’t find the beat. There was this strange ambivalence, almost resignation, that sat right underneath my rib cage whenever I thought about the party. It was if there was a dense fog around every idea, every possibility and I just couldn’t quite make out the solution, but instead of fighting and cutting through the fog, I just sat down and waited for it to clear – for the way to be made visible.
In the end I had two very lovely launch events, but both much smaller than the Homemade Hootenanny from A Homemade Year, both of which were largely organized by friends, because I – the one who always has the plan – felt completely at a loss – and quite frankly – lost. The fog had never cleared.
Which to me signified something though I wasn’t sure just what it signified. But little alarms began to go off in my head – something was different, something was shifting.
When the book released it was as if a little bitty rock had been thrown into a pond, instead of a boulder into a lake. Without the blog-tours of the old days to help push and promote the book, I had to rely on word of mouth and the sharing on Social Media. And quite frankly that last bit was fairly lackluster. For whatever reasons – life, timing of the release, connection with the book itself – the online support that I had counted on from fellow authors and friends did not happen as robustly has I had hoped for. The sharing and tagging and chatter that generally follows a book release – even if for a week or two – was more like little wisp and whispers. At Home slipped into the world quietly, and then just floated for a bit – like a happy, sleepy child on a blow-up raft in the pool. Lovely, but not exactly making waves.
Within a month or so of the book releasing, I found myself speaking at small Episcopal Christian Formation conference in the mountains of North Carolina. This conference is a week-long endeavor with a fairly slow pace, and so I found myself often alone, in my room or walking the grounds, thinking about all the things – the book release, my work in a local parish, whether or not I was being called to the priesthood, if I wanted to write another book, was my place in the larger Christian Author landscape, and where I fit as an Evangelical-refugee turned Episcopalian…
It was during that week that two significant things happened. First I met Lisa Kimball and Tricia Lyons, women God used to change the trajectory of my life- both through the witness of seeing them use of their own gifts with abandon, and through their amazing friendship to me. Secondly, through a funny vision involving me as a little girl with a wagon chasing after older, “cooler” girls, I realized that I had to emotionally and spiritually remove myself from the pursuit of trying to be like or being liked by authors in my same genre. Instead, the time had come to grow up and grow into who I was created to be. I needed to stop chasing who I thought I wanted to be, dragging my little wagon behind me, and instead I needed to go sit on my own porch, and have a little chat with God.
This vision of the wagon and the porch became a catalyst to my discernment process – that process of figuring out where God was leading me and who God had created me to be. And it led to this defining question – a question I spoke out-loud, sitting on my front porch, not long after coming home from that conference, “Is God calling me to go wide or is God calling me to go deep?” Was I being called to use my gifts to speak to a wide audience across Christendom or am I being called to go deep into the Episcopal tradition I love so much?
Even as the words tumbled from my lips I knew my answer. I was called to do deep. Which was terrifying and scary and seemed counterintuitive to everything I had worked for up until that point. But I knew it in my gut, the way I knew I should marry Sweet Man, that this was right and good so to do.
But still I worried – did I hear right?
And then I got a call to help redesign and develop a curriculum for a large Episcopal organization. And then I was asked to join the team of Baptized for Life, an Episcopal Discipleship Initiative, and then another curriculum job, and then and then and then and then…
For a solid year the offers and opportunities poured in – opportunities to create, to write, to speak, to lead, to collaborate, to use my evangelical-liturgical translation skills, to really live into all my gifts. I have never in my life experienced such vocational abundance – it felt nothing short of miraculous. I no longer doubted that I had heard the Holy Spirit say “go deep” – it was as obvious as the nose on my face.
Also during this time- thanks in large part to my work with Baptized for Life -I was able to discern with complete clarity that my call in this season of my life is absolutely without a doubt to the wider Episcopal church and not to parish (congregation) ministry. Something that didn’t make much sense (and was slightly scary) at the time seeing how I was employed by a local parish.
And yet, again, I knew this was the call, irregardless of how the logistics would play out. And so I begin to pray, and to watch for where God was leading, where the intersection of my gifts and the Church’s needs might just kiss. And this is where God led – to the Staff Officer for Evangelism postion with The Episcopal Church. A job I could never have dreamed up all those months ago, as I sat on my porch and heard the words “go deep” in my heart, but a job I now hold and am over-the-moon grateful to have.
So what does this mean for my writing, crafting, speaking, traveling, preaching, family life?
Well, I will travel about a third of the year (maybe a little more) speaking and teaching on Episcopal Evangelism, the Way of Love, and Discipleship. I will also be helping to plan Episcopal Revivals (yep, that’s a thing!) work to help create a trained network of Episcopal Evangelist, help with the Evangelism Grant program, collaborate in creating digital content for Evangelism, and work with the team to expand the Way of Love initiative – and much more! And when I am home – I am home! Thankfully we still get to live here at Preservation Acres, and we can continue to work on making this place a place of hospitality and restoration for all who visit. I have been hard at work on turning our guest room into a crafty studio/guest room, and I am hoping to get back to stitching and creating now that I will be home more. We are still members at St. Peter’s in Conway and now we get to enjoy parish life there as “regular” people – serving where our gifts lead (though I still plan to spend most of Holy Week up there – some habits are hard to let go of!)
And I would love to come back to this space more often – using this online home to still talk about hobby farming, home projects, gardening, kid raising and of course – liturgical shenanigans. I have missed this part of me for the past year or two, and I hope that as I go deep into this new job, space will open up for creativity in other areas like blogging old school style!
As to books, there are none in works right now, but someday I would like to write a devotional book of some sort – I have found that that is my favorite way to write- so that idea is always hanging around the fringes. But first I need to spend time tending this new growth – figuring how to nurture and maintain a new rhythm of life, a new call, and a new season, – learning to be rooted once again.