Way will open – pathfinding as expression and nurture of gifts

September is traditionally a time of change and evaluation for me.  Perhaps inspired from my years as a teacher, or the the patterns  of school for my family – I find myself looking ahead in my year with plans and musings about change.

Quakers are often on a different time table than “the world”.  This can involve more waiting, more discernment, and more patience.  It can often be frustrating for those that are clear to move on and take a particular action.

I’ve had a series of timely (??) reminders this week about a conflict that arises for me.  I tend to always be looking for the “next opportunity” in my work life.  I sometimes call it “pathfinding”. I’m by nature a creator, and I love creating new systems, putting them to use, and modifying them for further implementation by others. I often joke with friends that my ideal job lifespan is about 3-4 years! I do good and challenging work, create a better system than I first encountered, and feel complete.

This is of course not always practical.  Sometimes I need to stay in a particular place of employment or creative work even if it seems a little uncomfortable (for a paycheck, or to complete a series of tasks).  But I’m always looking for small, short opportunities in which I can grow and hone my skills.

This is often the perfect system for Quaker work.  As we in our meetings and churches seek to be faithful to what is before us, we also are often required to be adaptable, to invent new systems, and to change.  There is nothing better (for me!) than a discrete, time sensitive project that support ministry and faithful process forward.

I’ve noticed of late (just this month, in fact) that the external Quaker timeline often does not fit this motion for me.  But surprisingly, the nudges I feel towards learning and service often simply find other places to land if I am listening carefully.

S0me examples:

A few years ago I asked my meeting’s nominating committee about my desire to more involved in the meetings’ mentoring/support of a local organization,  I was asked to contact a member of our nominating committee for a conversation, and after two months of phone calls we never did connect.  Soon after I learned that the actual naming to that support system was simply informal, and there was a whole other system I never knew about that named Friends to that work.  In the meantime – another meeting asked me to walk with them in a mentoring/support capacity – essentially asking me to use the gifts that I’d hoped to use in my own meeting. The nudge was accepted in a different way – but I am so grateful that the skills I felt i wanted to grow were nurtured.

In a beloved teaching job a few years ago, I was part time and last to be hired.  Layoffs were imminent in that school system, and I found another position elsewhere. When the budget crisis eased, they wanted to promote me to another position – but I had already made plans to leave for another job.

In the past year I’ve been hoping to learn more about social media/communications work for Quakers. I’d jumper at the chance to volunteer for a number of organizations where I could use my skills.  Despite five organizations saying they needed volunteer help – only one responded within a 6 week timeframe from their ask.  I volunteered, learned a huge amount, and helped their organization.  Six months later I have heard from two other organizations, now ready to accept my previous offer of help.  I’m already on to another path of learning!

In this age of zoom, I longed to be a part of my meeting’s weekly planning group considering tech and zoom.  I was told they didn’t need my help, and had enough folks already (which I’m sure was true).  In the meantime, I ended up attending another meeting, more local, that asked for help.  I also learned from them how willing they were to be local, meet in person, and provide a landing place for my teen who had no Quaker home.  Again, I had a leading and a nudge to help, but it simply needed the right place to “land”.   Is it possible we all now are in the places we need to be?

I have many more examples.  And I don’t think anyone in these situations was doing the “wrong” thing – I just have been lucky to find places where the learning for me was deep, and timely, and what I needed in that moment.

Today is our first day of our new season of Meeting with my local meeting community (where I am now a member).  I live right down the street, were are involved in the local community, I have been given support for travel in Gospel Ministry as well as a structure that is supportive of my family and being at home in this place and meeting community.  Geography has become hugely important in this next phase of my learning.  There are Friends here who are able to teach me new things, and we will learn together.  We are just as flawed and confused as any other group of humans, but this is the place God wants me to be right now.

Some of those other ministries I felt called to are still working out for others – and it’s clear to me that those places are simply to be landing places for the work of others.  My prayer for us all has changed in this time – that we are given what we need, when we need it, so we can grow in a wider community.

What’s your experience of a timeline of ministry?  Do you need to wait and be patient, or move on and do the work in front of you, or another response?


I have learned a lot from Emily Provance’s writings on a culture of experimentation.

Seth Godin talks a lot about risk and motivation and timelines.  Here’s one example. – a podcast about pathfinding and failure.

Julia Cameron talks a lot about the risks of being an artist.




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