By: Laura Callarman
A few short months ago I sort of haphazardly stumbled upon what I might venture to call a sketch of my life’s mission and purpose statement. I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in the school cafeteria (five dollar all-you-can-eat lunches being the staple of a grad student, after all), weighed down by the multitude of assignments demanding my attention as my master’s degree drew to its long-awaited close, and I was vehemently bemoaning the severe case of writer’s block that seemed to have settled into my life for what I could only imagine would be at least through the end of my graduate career if not longer. Yet knowing that I had dozens of pages to write in the immediate future, even if I had no earthly idea of what the content of those pages would be, I settled into a solution: I would stop caring about the quality of my writing and I would simply write. Get it done. Be finished, once and for all. (This attempt at apathy was, as you can probably guess, essentially a delusion on my part. An impossibility. But that’s a subject better left for another time.)
So I began to write, or rather, I began to rant. This was a reflection on my ministerial identity that I was so frustratedly trying to compose. And in this meandering tirade of a reflection somehow one worthwhile sentence emerged. (The rant was seven pages long, mind you.) In venting my bewilderment about a path forward and whether or not that might include doctoral studies, I wrote that “choosing a program and an academic focus proves a bit difficult, for there’s not exactly a box to check on PhD applications for ‘garden-growing, bread-baking, sustainable-food-eating theologically trained thinker, writer, and conversation partner who believes her passionate, balanced, God-inspired life is her witness and therefore is her ministry.’”
And there it was—my ministerial identity in a nutshell. A little rough around the edges, perhaps, and far from exhaustive, to be sure, but the fundamentals were suddenly there right in front of me. “Garden-growing, bread-baking, sustainable-food-eating theologically trained thinker, writer, and conversation partner who believes her passionate, balanced, God-inspired life is her witness and therefore is her ministry.” No wonder I couldn’t easily name my own path forward. Granted, my brain badly needed rest from a four-year journey through grad school, but at the moment all the respectable options I could conceive of felt far too constrained. Too narrowly defined. They would allow part of me to flourish but not all of me, for, they implied, I was too scattered in my focus.
Yet as I lay here in my front porch swing, letting the cool breeze (okay, coolish breeze —I am in Texas in the summer, after all) and the sound of rustling leaves roll over me, as I breathe deeply of the tantalizing scent of chicken stock bubbling away in the crockpot inside, I can’t help but wonder… Perhaps there is a path forward for me that will allow me to be all of these things at once and in somewhat equal measure. If not a position to fill, then perhaps a life to lead. A thoroughly gospeled life. A life in which my chicken stock and my squash plants and my reflections on identity, vocation, and the good news of God are all inextricably intertwined. And if not a box to check, then perhaps blog posts to write.
And that is where you, my friends, come in. You here at Neo-Restorationists are some of my fellow journeyers. You have your own ways of pursuing a thoroughly gospeled life, just as I have mine. And what better way to experience the gospel than to share that? Over the course of our time together, then, you will hear me share from my own stumbling attempts to pursue a life that is permeated by the good news of God. I am not perfect, that is the one thing I can promise you. But I will share with you my successes and failures, my insights and intuitions, and, above all, the work that God is doing in and around me, at least as I can perceive it with imperfect vision. You are welcome to share the same with me. I pray that God blesses our journey together and that we are more thoroughly gospeled as a result of it.
[Husband’s note: Wife wrote this Thursday night. It is now Saturday night. After a couple of days of cooking down all of the chicken stock, wife just walked through our bedroom and said, “I’m tired of our house smelling like chicken.”] Like I said, I’m not perfect.