Right Here, Right Now

I’m just going to be 100% honest. I just got okay-deep in my soul-with being back in Mansfield.

In the first months after my accident, I fought God on several things and being back in Mansfield was one of them. I didn’t have a choice in moving back. My family and friends literally packed up my apartment and moved my stuff into my parent’s house while I was in the hospital. Granted, it was a special case in that I really couldn’t have taken care of myself. I couldn’t even walk by myself.

Nevertheless, I was mad at God.

I struggled to be content right here, right now, wishing I was anywhere but here. Last fall, I started this journey of being content recognizing that this is my corner of the world. I read Shannan Martin’s The Ministry of Ordinary Places last fall. This caught my eye. She writes, “God got busy shrinking the world as I knew it down to a pinhole, one solitary shaft of light. ‘The souls exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness,’ wrote Mary Oliver. Rather than feeling stuck in a problem-sodden world, I would never be able to fix, God was caring for my soul by pointing me towards my corner of it and asking me to believe it was enough”. That’s when I started to realize that instead of being upset at God for bringing me back, I needed to accept that he brought me back for a reason. He was asking me if this right here, right now would be enough. That challenged me. Was it enough? Could it be enough? If I were to stay in America, in Mansfield, Ohio, for the rest of my life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing my small group girls toward God be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa. Would sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like be enough? I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

It’s been a journey in getting to this place, and God has used several people to instill that into my head. I think the biggest one is the student God bought to MCS and my life. God put me right here, right now to let that sweet little boy not feel alone in that he isn’t the only one who has a traumatic brain injury. I am still blown away by God and how He orchestrated my being at the school at the exact time he started coming to the school. This solidified this idea that I’m right here, right now for a reason. So I don’t know what your story is: whether you aren’t working in the field you went to college for, or you may be in a different place than you thought you’d be, financially or physically. What I have learned in the past two years, I want to pass on to you:

 

  • You may not like where you are in life, but there are no coincidences with God. The situation may not be caused by God, but God can use that situation in others lives.
  • He brings people into your life and even takes them out for a reason.

 

 

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Step Off The Ledge

So.

I’ve been challenged this week on taking risks. I tend to play it safe when it comes to certain things. I tend to stay inside my comfort zone-willing everything to stay the same.

God is not about letting everything stay the same.

Following God means taking risks. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never understand and experience  the presence, power, and peace of God.

Sure, if you take the risk, it very well could end badly, but it might end up being SO much more than you expected. You don’t know if you never tried.

I had a boy in swim lessons this week say, “I’m terrible.” He proceeded to pout and cross his arms. “I quit.”

I looked him square in the eyes and said, “The only true way to fail is to not try or quit.”

Oftentimes, we are like that boy. We pout and won’t take the risk because it’s scary stepping of that ledge into the unknown. We like our comfy lives, just the way it is.

Sometimes, God upends our comfy lives. When we get a semblance of order in our lives, we cling to it, like a little clings to a safety blanket. We fear chaos again.

I know I did.

Life has been pretty good lately.

Too good. Or so I think.

I keep waiting for the other foot to drop. At the same time, I find myself clinging to what I do have afraid that it will get ripped from me again.

I’ve fallen in love with the littles at school.

I’ve found my corner of the world-right now. I’m content.

I was challenged this week to keep taking risks strategically. Keep pushing my limits for God because He has shown me again and again that He does more.

He continually bursts-like fireworks-out of every box I try to put Him in. Even this year, He did more than I ever expected-allowing me to go to Ukraine and fall in love with the littles at school. I returned to driving. I crossed oceans by myself and added two new countries to my passport. I grew closer to Him as He sought my heart. I returned to swimming.

Like my Mom reminded me tonight, it’s like God’s provision and goodness is like a rope tied around our waist. The other end is tied around a tree, but the only way we feel the tension on the rope is if we step off the edge.

It’s the same with God. The only way we are going to see-like really see God’s goodness-is if we step out into the unknown and step off the ledge.

That’s my prayer for the last month and a half of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.

Let go of whatever is holding you back and step of the ledge with me.  

Ordinary Places

Ordinary.

That word just makes me flinch. I’ve tried my whole 24 years not to be ordinary, boring, and unexciting.

Don’t lie and tell me you haven’t kinda always combined ordinary with boring.

I just finished reading Shannan Martin’s new book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places. I started reading it because I simply love Shannon Martin and her heart, but I was also curious. In my mind, ministry and ordinary don’t go hand in hand.

Then I started it.

From the introduction, she had me hooked:

“I always thought being called by God was a rare and special thing that happened to only a slim percentage of unlucky people….”

She writes, “Whenever (“the call”) popped up, I kindly reminded God that I’m not that kind of woman. I’m indoorsy, with a sensitive gag

reflex and a mortal phobia of outhouses. I’m not the best choice for a day trip to a state park, much less a mission field”.

I sympathize with her, but I feel the opposite way. I feel the call to go, but circumstances have kept me from going to the mission field

long-term. I am much more comfortable on the mission field than I am in suburban America.

This idea of ordinary places mattering and staying vs going is not a new dilemma in my life. I feel like it’s a constant battle to be content.

Recently, I found peace in being right here (Mansfield), right now. Shannan Martin just drove the feeling home into my heart with these words:

“God got busy shrinking the world as I knew it down to a pinhole, one solitary shaft of light. ‘The souls exists and is built entirely out of

attentiveness,’ wrote Mary Oliver. Rather than feeling stuck in a problem-sodden world I would never be able to fix, God was caring for my soul

by pointing me towards my corner of it and asking me to believe it was enough”.

That challenged me. Was it enough? Could it be enough? If I were to stay in America, in Mansfield, Ohio, for the rest of my life, would that be enough?

I just got back from a JH retreat. I’m a small group leader for 6th grade girls.

It was exhausting and life-giving all rolled into one. They have SO much energy! It’s like most middle schoolers are the energizer bunny with no

off switch. I drank A LOT of coffee that weekend, but I had that in the back of my head.

If you were to stay, right here, in Mansfield, for the rest of your life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing these girls toward

Me be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa.

Would this-sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like-be enough?

Would simply giving a hug and smiling to a girl who may not have had a great day be enough?

Would complimenting a smile or anything she does well to a girl who never feels like she’s good enough be enough?

These thoughts were going through my head this weekend.

I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

I really struggled with that, but then I held a girl and she was holding back tears. I looked in her sweet face and I got a glimpse of the fact that

she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was hugging me like I was her lifeline.

That broke me.

I remember what it was like to be in middle school, everything is so confusing-so hard.

Hugging her tightly, wishing I could carry part of her burden, I realized I’m starting to believe this is enough.

This life of “ordinary” is enough.

“In a world that pushes us toward bigger, better, more costly and refined, seeing the humble as radiant is an act of holy resistance.

Jesus dealt in seeds and sails. He spoke through dust and sermonized in spit. Set against a backdrop of faithlessness, lawlessness,

and low-grade despair, he brought faith and healing through the overlooked, unspectacular elements of everyday life. He’s right here, in

every dull, dusty corner, and even more in every one of us bumbling, regular, milk-mustached kids trying to masquerade as big shots. This is

why we need him near, and why it matters that we stick together”.

When I read that the second time (yes I read the book twice in two days), it stuck with me.

This is my corner of the world.

MCS. These girls. My bible study. Mansfield.

This is my corner of the world.

These are my people.

My heart is still in Ukraine and scattered all over this world, but this is my corner of the world right now.

Holding that girl in my arms, and just sitting on the sidewalk with her, I started to believe that this is enough.

So if you need me, I’ll be circled around a bonfire loving people in my corner of the world.

Remember God.

I just finished Remember God by Annie F. Downs.

OH MY GOODNESS!

The way she is honest and vulnerable with her story makes me cry.

Her story speaks to my story in that I also wonder if He is truly good and truly kind. If He doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear without any plans of following through with what He says. If the things I hope are in His script for my life, aren’t simply just vapors of hope.

I had hoped to go back to hospital nursing a year ago, and it seems like every step forward meets two steps back. I’m still moving forward just a whole lot slower than I had hoped or envisioned.

I had hoped to be overseas at this point, but my car accident threw a wrench in those plans 21 months ago.

At times like these, I return to the question that’s been mulling in my brain for the last 21 months-is God good? Annie takes it a little further-is God kind?

If I’m being honest, I still struggle with this. At times, I see God’s goodness, but the longer I’m in this wilderness, I tend to forget.

Forget how honesty God has spoken to me my whole life.

Forget how graciously He saved me 21 months ago.

Forget how sweetly God has loved through the hard times.

She asked this question that rocked me: Am I fully persuaded that God is for me and He will answer my prayers and fulfill His promises?

Fully. Persuaded.

Am I fully persuaded that He even hears my cries?

Am I fully persuaded that He is good?

My word for this year is expectation.

We are 10 months into the year, and God is bringing me around the mountain again. Things I had thought I handed over to Him, I realized I hadn’t handed it over in totality.

I’m expecting God to move, but I’m still holding my breath.

I’m not quite believing that the wilderness could end sometime-that I’m not going to be wandering forever.

As I processed this week and listened to this book, God reminded me of the manna he sent to the Israelites in the wilderness. It didn’t look anything like they expected it to.

Maybe the manna doesn’t look like anything I expected it to. Maybe God’s bringing me around the same mountain to cement the idea that He is God.

I think one of the purposes of the wilderness is to desire God above anything else.

A wise friend once said, “if you aren’t willing to let that thing-whatever it is-go,?you desire that thing above God.”

Maybe the purpose of the wilderness is to rediscover the love of God and how sweetly He loves.

Maybe the purpose of the wilderness is to remember God and cling to Him.

This is my prayer during this season-that I remember God. I remember the things He has done. Remember that His plans aren’t my plans. Remember that He is good-in totality. He is kind-completely and effortlessly-no matter how it turns out.

Maybe I’ll go back to hospital nursing. Maybe I’ll go overseas. Maybe I’ll get married. Maybe I’ll move out on my own. Maybe I won’t do any or some of those things, but even in that I’ll remember the manna. I’ll remember that oftentimes, God’s provision doesn’t look like we think it should.

I’ll remember that God is good. He is kind.

He is God.

The Year Of Me

The Year of Me.

This is what I titled this year. It sounds selfish, but it’s really not. It’s only been a year and a half since I almost died. By God’s grace, and only God’s grace, I’m standing here before you. I wished the process would move a whole lot faster, but like a wise friend once told me, “You almost died. You can’t except to bounce back to your same bubbly self so quickly.” It has been a year and a half. I think I should be all better. I think other people think I should be all better. They have less patience with me when I still have trouble getting my thoughts out, or when I walk slower. I guess mostly that is me transferring my impatience with the slow healing onto others.

I had ambitions before my accident that 2 years after college, I would have paid off my student loans and be getting ready to move overseas. I had it figured out that if things went as they were going, in 25 months I would be debt free and be financially able to support myself overseas. I guess God had different plans. I was living in Akron and then I had to move home. It just seemed like everything that was moving me forward closed down. And I even took a few steps back. Last year, after my accident—in the deepest part of recovery—I would never have considered going to Ukraine. There was just still a lot going on with me that I didn’t think traveling overseas as possible. God, though, kept opening doors, closing others and pushing me forward. I have no idea why but God seems to want me to go and isn’t just opening doors he’s flinging opening the doors and removing any barrier that I place in the hopes of slowing things down.

The year of me.

This year, I decided to pick one or two things and excel, rather than commit to a lot of things and not be able to follow through. I chose being a Jr. High youth group leader and being the nurse at Mansfield Christian. I think I did those well. The extra energy I did have was put into my healing—driving, swimming and managing my fatigue. I’ve seen God do some remarkable things already, and we are only halfway through 2018.

Also, in this journey, I’m striving to know Jesus more personally. John Eldredge writes, “What is missing in our Gospel reading—in our attempts to “read” what Jesus is saying and doing in own lives right now, this week—is his personality, undraped by religion”.

If you read the Gospels with an eye out for his personality, you realize that he’s playful, sassy, cunning, and fierce. You can kinda make sense of some of the things he does, because you know his personality. A couple things I have already learned in this year I’ve titled, “The Year of Me and Jesus”.

  • Jesus is creative and playful. I mean think about it. He made the wind, music and flying squirrels. How creative do you have to be to think up flying squirrels? Laughter is from God also. Think about the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were in their 90’s, and God told them to expect a child. Sarah laughed, and I’m sure Abraham joined in because it seemed impossible. They were old enough to be great-grandparents but God had a different plan for them. In the same way, Jesus was playful and loved laughter. In John 21, after he was buried, his disciples were fishing for hours and they caught nothing. Jesus sauntered out of the tomb and eventually onto the beach. He called out to them and suggested that they try to other side. They did, and the nets were teeming with fish. Jesus rose from the dead. He could have shouted, “It is me. I’m alive”, but instead he stands on the shoreline, hands in his pockets and asks, “Catch anything?” The story is made richer when you see the playfulness of Jesus.
  • Jesus is necessary for existence. “We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of your existence. Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus….To have Jesus, really have him, is to have the greatest treasure in all worlds. To have His life, joy, love, and presence cannot be compared. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness.” John Eldredge. Some days, I can’t get through the day without Jesus’ help. I won’t say I’m glad for my accident because my life won’t ever be the same as much as I wish for it, but I am thankful for this season because it brought forth a dependence on Jesus that I never had and probably wouldn’t have had if not for my accident.

We are about half way through 2018, and I’m already blown away by the doors God has opened and the adventures he will take me on. In the next half of the year, I’m praying to become closer to God and understand more of his personality. I continue to pray that God uses my story and continues to change my heart as I’m impacted by the wonderful people of Ukraine.

Blessings and Birthdays

23.

23 was a great year-new places, re-acquaintances, new friends, spectacular adventures, and new passions.

There has been some good things and some not-so good things about 23, but we can’t have the good without the bad.

23 has been an adventure as I learned more about what it means to be a woman after God’s heart and continued to heal. We are 4 months into 2018, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things! I’ve discovered things that I used to be able to but now can’t, but I’ve also stumbled across new things that I’ve fallen in love with.

-I think my water skiing days are over as well as my riding roller coasters days.

-I knew I loved kids, but older humans were different. Now, I’m thinking about pursuing rehab nursing which will be majority people over 50. Older humans are precious and often overlooked. Their vast knowledge and stories captive me.

-Even the idea of pursuing rehab is a change. I never would have thought I possibly could love it before, but now, who knows.

-I’m seeing the need for authentic vulnerability and education in the world of traumatic brain injuries. I have always thought about the possibility of writing a book, but now I have a pretty incredible story to share.

These are just a few of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head the past couple of months. This year has taught me:

-I am strong because I survived something that could have killed me, and I have the scars to prove it.

-God is closer than my very thought. He hears my silent cries and the feelings that I don’t put into words.

-God can take the seemingly endless tragedy and turn it into a tool to bring him glory. He uses the whole of the story.

-The questions about God’s goodness and the doubt are not things that I should be ashamed of, rather I need to give myself permission to wrestle with those questions-and God himself. Doubt is not in and of itself a bad thing, we just can’t wallow in it.

-You can’t have the good things without the bad—they are a package deal. In being vulnerable with someone, you risk being rejected or it not working out, but sometimes that risk is worth it, even if that happens. You treasure the goodness—the sweet moments—regardless of what the outcome may be.

Tomorrow I turn 24. Here’s to another year and more adventures as I strive to discover the heart of God for the world and me. May this be the best year yet as I add more countries to my passport, and know God more intimately.