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The Future

I started 2014 with a heaviness inside. I couldn’t pinpoint anything wrong, yet I knew it was that heaviness that comes from not living fully within God’s best for my life. A friend at work shared that she went through a similar period of questioning during a sermon series on Jabez years before. She prayed that God would expand her territory and she began to seek out wise people to ask their opinion on what was missing. Shortly thereafter she left her life in academia and began her path as a pastor. I loved her story, but I was scared of it. I was not ready for that kind of prayer. What I needed was just margin to hear God more clearly, so my friends prayed that for me. Within an hour, I received a phone call from my two little boys’ babysitter saying that she was quitting. Rather than seeing this as innocuous event—a teen moving on to a different path— I was ravaged with emotion. The depth of my feelings convinced me, that very day, that the answer was that I should work less.

It made no sense. Why would I work less at a ministry job that I love, that I feel called to over and over again, that I’d been longing for even further professional growth at? Yet, I knew that this was the beginning of God answering my prayer. Shortly thereafter I reduced down to 30 hours of work, but I knew I wasn’t to stay there. The next thing on my heart was to begin teaching a class for adults. It was another thing that didn’t make sense on paper: why cut back work hours only to add them elsewhere? What about creating that margin? I said yes to this calling despite it not making human sense. With that yes, God laid four additional goals on my heart:

  • Strengthen my voice
  • Grow in humility
  • Ask better questions
  • Engage my fear of failure

I didn’t know what to do with those. Wouldn’t strengthening my voice mean growing in my ability to present myself highly to others? How could humility intersect with that? As I processed, I thought of my Jabez friend. She asked wise people around her what God might have in store for her. I began to seek out answers and ultimately engaged with a spiritual director. Through his questions, I was able to see that strengthening my voice and growing in humility absolutely intersect: the voice God wants me to strengthen is His in me. The humility and failure piece is about allowing Pamm to get smaller so that God can get bigger in my life and ministry.

Armed with a sense of direction, I began looking into seminary. It seemed like the perfect outlet for these goals. To add seminary to a busy life seemed crazy. Yet the thought of saying no to God was even crazier. Over the course of seminary application, I was finally ready to pray that Jabez prayer: that God would expand my territory, for only with Him would this be possible. Within a few days of the courage to pray that, I was asked to begin the ordination process in my congregation and Mothering.com published several of my writings, giving my voice a wider audience than ever before. Several months later, I was accepted into Fuller Theological Seminary to work  on a Masters of Arts in Theology and Ministry.

Fast-forward to now. In the past year, I have completed two semesters of seminary, am almost done with the ordination process, and have added baby three to the family. I have pursed the four goals of strengthening my voice, growing in humility, asking better questions, and engaging my fear of failure and feel like I am just now leaving the warm-up stage.

All through my maternity leave with baby three I fully intended to come back to my same wonderful position at the church. But in the short months after I returned, it became increasingly clear that it was again time to create more space in my life to discern what God is calling me to next. I felt called to a season of radical growth, of leaving safety behind, of venturing into the great unknown in my calling as a pastor. Dave wasn’t sure what to make of this until he heard a sermon that provided a strong image he connected with. John 15: 1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” It was time to prune even a fruitful ministry so that the next season can yield even more. We made the bold decision to go all in—to have me resign from my position to create space to pursue whatever is next. Although I have loved my job, my volunteers, and the kids I worked with, if I continued saying yes to spending 30 hours a week at the job I’d had for eight years, it meant that I was saying no to something else.

I don’t know what that something else is yet, but the things that come to mind are to grow my preaching skills and seek out preaching, teaching, and speaking opportunities; grow in my pastoral care skills, from resting deeply with people in the midst of suffering to celebrating mightily with them; and grow my theological knowledge through seminary and other means. As to what those opportunities actually look like, I don’t yet know. I say, “I don’t know,” so much right now that a querying extended relative at Thanksgiving said, “It sounds like the only thing you do know is that you don’t know.” Yes, pretty much. If all of that sounds amazing and overwhelming and scary and exciting all at the same time, I agree! Needless to say, prayers for clarity are welcome. Here are the specific things I ask for prayer on: 

  • The financial means for me to continue seminary (and finances overall)
  • Adjustment to taking care of the kids full-time–this is a huge change in marriage duties, identity, finances, etc. 
  • For God to speak clearly in my life about next steps and for me to have the margin and courage to hear and obey

As for what’s next: we’ll stay invested in the church we’ve loved for 15 years and counting. I’ll finish my ordination requirements and be ordained in January.  I’ll take seminary classes as finances afford (the goal is to take two classes in January). I’ll delight in my three precious boys. I’ll keep on pursuing my four goals. I’ll network, seek out opportunities, and see what happens. The word that God has given me to meditate on is open.

I often think of this riddle: how do you eat an elephant?* Pause and think about this outrageous idea. Elephants are huge. Eating one would be impossible, right? Well, the blissfully simple answer printed on the bracelet that I wear every day is this: one bite at a time. We conquer huge tasks in small parts. One bite at a time. One day, one minute, one breath at a time.

One bite at a time

*Here is a great sermon series with the same name

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About More Green for Less Green

Hi, I’m Pamm. Welcome to my little slice of the web! As a progressive Evangelical female pastor and crunchy homeschooling mom, I’m never quite what anyone expects of me. But, hey, that’s what makes blogging interesting, right? Join me as I try to wholeheartedly parent my three little boys, slowly fix up the trashed foreclosure we bought in 2009, and live simply.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Pamela November 30, 2015, 2:55 am

    One bite at a time indeed. Power to you, Pamm, as you continue on your journey. Your dedication, heart, and intention are incredible and I know that wherever you end up after January will be the right place for you and your family.

  • Hala Youssef November 30, 2015, 3:12 am

    :) God has blessed you, thanks for sharing with FB!

  • Kelly November 30, 2015, 1:55 pm

    So glad you are listening to God. Prayers for this journey!

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