Thursday, July 10, 2008


Before I met with my clearness committee yesterday, I was feeling pretty conflicted. Although I knew I needed some clarity, I was having trouble with the idea of a committee meeting with me as the focus. I was also struggling with the idea of having a "ministry." To me, that word connotes preaching, something I have absolutely no desire to do.

I told my Southern Alter Ego all of this and she talked me down a little. First, she reminded me that I am the one putting myself on the spot and I really don't need to feel that way if I don't want to. She also said that she thinks I have a ministry and that I need to think of having a ministry as service. That helped.

It became pretty clear to me a few months ago that I have a concern for community. Part of what makes that concern so acute is that I have uprooted my life and had to start all over every few years since I graduated from high school. I hate moving and I have difficulty adjusting to change, but I just keep doing it.

The reason I asked for a clearness committee was to get some sense of how the different things I am doing are connected. I could list the things I am doingblogging, planning the Quaker Women's Theology Conference, being on the steering committee for University Friends Meeting's year of discernmentbut I had no sense of how these things related to each other. The committee helped me see how I am crossing borders by doing all of these things as well as building community in different areas of my life.

In the clearness committee, I was completely taken by surprise by the amount of pain and sadness I was carrying with me. The committee also helped me realize how desperate I am for support. Apparently I give the impression that I know what I am doing and things come easily to me. This is not the case. Most of the things I do are not easy for me. I recognize that I have gifts and talents, but if I do things well it is by the grace of God and a lot of hard work. A member of the committee suggested that it might help for people to know how difficult things are for me, and I think she is right.

At the beginning of the meeting, we discussed how God should be present in our discernment. That seemed natural to me, but I was surprised by how many other people I ended up bringing into the room as well. By talking about friends and family members, they were there with me too, and I know that they are supporting me wherever they are.

I am so grateful to the women who agreed to be on the clearness committee. I completely lost track of time and only realized afterward that they had listened very patiently for over two hours. And they offered to meet with me again in the fall. I hope they know how much that means to me.

One of the things I was saddest about when I moved from my old apartment into my current house was that I would no longer be able to go to my regular yoga classes up the street. When I told my instructor that I was leaving, she responded, "That's good. Change things up."

One of the things I was happiest about when I moved was getting a yard. Since the weather has been so nice, I have been doing yoga outside (another reason I am pretty sure my roommate thinks I am an alien). Before balancing poses, my instructor always reminded us to focus on one spot, and I have found it really helps. The roses in my yard are in full bloom right now, and they make lovely focal points. While trying to maintain my balance this afternoon, I began to think that maybe my ministry could be like yoga: even though I am focusing in different directions, it is all part of the same practice.


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Ashley.

    I had a clearness committee a year ago during which I remembered a book I had read years ago: The Path by Laurie Beth Jones. The book is about writing a mission statement for your life, using some exercises and Biblical examples of people with clear missions. Frankly, it's not the kind of thing I would normally go for, but I found the book very helpful because it encouraged me to see the connections between different parts of my life. When this came up in the clearness committee, one member helped me see how all the disperate things I'm currently doing did relate to my "mission"--helping people to trust God, themselves, and others. I've found seeing the connections to be very helpful.

    Best wishes,

  2. Thanks for the recommendation, Eileen. I have added The Path to my hold list at the library. I feel like I have gone from actively trying to keep parts of my life separate to trying to see the connections between things. It is exciting, but a little scary, and I appreciate guidance from those who have been there before me.


  3. I'm so glad to hear how your clearness committee went!! It sounds like it is yielding fruit already, and I'm sure more and more insight will emerge as time goes on.

  4. ditto peterson, um, I mean
    That Friend speaks my mind!

  5. Ashley, I'm so glad you had a clearness committee. I did one about three years ago and it was so incredibly helpful.
    I love hearing about your activities in the house you live in now since Jeremy lived there for six months. We did some work on the yard, but I'm sure in year's time it has all grown away (except the flowering moss we planted). He did yoga in the living room every morning, but I think there are too many couches in there now for that. I think that purposeful activity and meditation helps bring peace and calm to your house. =)

  6. Oh, I have to add something. It seems like part of what clearness committees end up doing is helping us see the connections in our lives. My clearness group helped me realize that I didn't have to make an either/or decision about my future, but a both/and. It was so amazing and reassuring to come to that conclusion.


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