Clear the Clutter: A Focus on Vocation

Inspired by my blog, Leaving Room, where I explored the idea of clearing the clutter in our lives to make room for God to do new and innovative things, I gave an hour-long talk at Union Theological Seminary about clearing the clutter to focus on vocation. How do we begin to clear the voices, the opinions, the social pressure to be (insert occupation here) when we hear God calling us in a different direction?

The good people at Union Theological Seminary recorded the audio from the talk and you can find it by clicking here. Attendees’ questions and answers are also featured! A note: the audio is a little distorted so turn down your speakers a bit before clicking play!

We had such a great time talking and thinking through the possibilities of vocation. I share my story of how my dream to move to New York was ten years in the making, why saying “no” to opportunities that crowded my vocational aspirations set me up for the perfect “yes,” and why taking a leap of faith requires more of God than it does of us!

Much thanks to Union Seminary and the  Vo/Career Initiative for inviting me to speak! If you’re interested in having me do a talk around vocation at your college, church, or small group click here!

On the Vocational Chase,

Alisha L.

Leaving Room

Today is my 34th birthday and I’ll be spending most of the day participating in a seminar hosted by the United Methodist Women on mass incarceration. Lead by three of my dynamic colleagues at the CCUN (Church Center for the United Nations), I’m running over with gratitude that my birthday will be spent learning about this work.

Lissen, my birthday’s used to be spent with hangovers. Which ain’t totally out the picture, but today we learn! >.<

Anyway, I wanted to write a quick word on leaving room.

People who garden know what it means to leave room for vegetables to grow properly so they may expand and reach their peak without being crushed by the presence of a wall or other veggies.

Whenever I bake cookies (like, the refrigerated, pre-made kind), the package always says to “leave room” between the cookies so they too can expand and reach their full potential of chocolate, gooey goodness.

After graduating seminary last year, I was left scrambling trying to figure out what to do with my career. None of the dozens of jobs I had applied for my last semester had panned out and, with my 33rd birthday around the corner, I had no idea what I was doing with my life.

Eventually, I stopped looking for jobs and said, “I’m going to leave room for what God wants to do.” Now, this meant that I would be a full time freelancer, using my gifts of writing and editing to make ends meet, piecemealing my life one contract job at a time, but I felt like that was the way to go.

By September, I  received two offers to go back to the classroom, one in my old stomping grounds of Douglasville, Georgia, the other for a KIPP School in Arkansas. Both offers were good (and the principals/leaders were relentless about bringing me on :)) — but I turned both down.

This was an act of leaving room for what God wanted to do (even though I didn’t know what that was at the time.) I knew that if I took those jobs, I wouldn’t be able to lean into anything that came my way that was more in line with my call to write, teach, and travel for Jesus. I’d be stuck behind a desk teaching kids, needing lots of time off to honor commitments I hadn’t even made yet.

Wouldn’t you know that by October, I would have a paid speaking gig for every month through January 2016? I’d speak at Allume in Greenville, travel to Palestine, and host of other opportunities. In November, I’d get the call to give the convocation address at Florida A&M University and Iowa State University. By January, I had booked to speak/travel somewhere every month through April 2016.

But what does all of this say about leaving room in your life?

We often fill our lives up with stuff because we are afraid. We are afraid we won’t have enough to live and take care of our families. We are afraid because we’ve been told for so long that the path we’re on is the path we’re supposed to take. It’s safe. It’s familiar. We take on jobs and situations simply because we feel like if we leave too much room for God to do something else that we might just have to rely on God more than we’ve ever done before.

We crowd our lives with so much stuff that we can’t make sense of what’s necessary to stay and what isn’t. You ever been in someone’s home that has way too much furniture in it? Every square inch has some piece of decor, furniture, personal belonging: it consumes the place, sucking the potential for life and light to be present.

But more often than not, we are afraid to leave room because there are people in our ear telling us to do so is a “bad idea.” Especially people who are close to us.

Some folks tried to tell me turning down those two teaching jobs were a bad idea. But I recognize now that they too, were afraid. Afraid of what it may mean for them to leave room in their lives for God to do something brand new if I did.

Here’s the word for today: leave room for what God is about to do in your life. Leave room for growth, for new opportunities, for your life to expand and take new shape today. Resist the temptation to fill your life with sub-par people just to say you got somebody. Resist the need to say yes to things simply because you’re afraid that what you currently have in your hands isn’t enough. It is.

When we leave room for God we leave room for us to GROW and EXPAND. Like a healthy garden or store-bought refrigerated cookie dough, when given a little room, can reach its highest potential if we just leave a little room.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.