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.

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King of the World

We sang the song “King of the World” in church today. It really hit me.

As life has been getting better, I’m going to be honest and admit that I sometimes forget God.

I mean that not in a “I forget You exist” way, but a “I’ll put You in a box” way.

As I get better, I find that I tend to forget all God has done and proceed to put Him in a box of what I want to see happen. I proceed to tell God what I want him to do.

“I want to go to that place, date that person, or do that life-changing thing.” I proceed to shrink Him down and put Him into a small box.

When I dare to do that, God proceeds to find ways to break out of that box I put Him in. He says, “You might want to go to that place, BUT I, the One who set it all in motion, have you right here, right now. MCS is your mission field right now”.

I pause.

As I heal, I need to remember, Jesus speaks and the storms quiet.

Jesus breathes life out of dust.

Jesus is the King of the World.

I need to remember to hold my plans, my aspirations, and my dreams losely. I’m not who I was a couple months ago, and I won’t be who I am now in a couple months. I am always changing at what seems like a breakneck pace and a turtle pace at the same time.

I’m learning to be patient with who I am and where I am right now. It’s not primarily about the destination, but it’s about the journey.

It’s about falling more in love with the King of the World.

It’s about the quiet mornings when He speaks through the sunrises.

It’s about the way He provides rest on the busy days.

It’s about dear friends who push you to seek refuge in Him.

It’s about the people who speak life into you on the days when your soul is empty.

It’s about sharing your story of the wilderness, and the sweetness of our Father.

You will eventually get where you are going, but the destination might not look like what you planned it looking like.

God is the King of the World, and He is present in the wilderness as you journey forward.

Dear Younger Me

I’ve been out of middle school for some time now. Not as long as some, but it’s been a decade.

A decade.

I don’t feel that old. Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, I still see myself as that awkward 12 year old, unsure about everything (even God), and trying to belong somewhere. In a couple of days, I’m going to be a small group leader for 6th grade girls.

Here’s some things I’ve learned since then that I wish someone told me in middle school.

  1. Middle School is tough but it’s not forever. It’s only 2 maybe 3 years of your life. When you’re 12 or 13, it feels like forever, but it’s not. It’s only a blimp your long life. I don’t dispute the fact that it’s hard, but it’s not going to be as long as it seems.
  2. It’s okay to like things regardless of what the “cool kids” like. It’s really okay to like other things. You don’t have to like something just because someone says it is cool or vice versa. You are allowed to like something that’s “uncool” or hasn’t been chosen by the “cool kids”. They are not in charge. Like what you like or don’t like what you choose to-the choice is yours.
  3. Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s something. Let me explain. On one hand, it’s not good to care too much about what you look like. On the other, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Balance is key.
  4. This is a time in your life where you start to figure out you like and who you are meant to be. This is a confusing time. You’re trying to figure out what you want to be involved in be it sports, music, plays, etc. This is a key time in figuring out yourself and who you want to be.Embrace the confusion. Eventually, the water will clear but you need to allow the water to remain murky for a while. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find your niche right away.
  5. There is time for boys later. Now is the time to figure out yourself. 6th grade. Oh that’s around the time when you figure out that boys don’t have cooties. They go from being disgusting to kind of fascinating. You start to care what they think. There’s time for that later, Oh how many days I spent preoccupied by this boy or that boy. The amount of energy I spent trying to get the boy to notice me when I could have spent that energy figuring out who I wanted to be and achieving that. It’s quite a story if you meet your person in JH, but that is not typical. Your time is better spent chasing after God and who He wants you to be than chasing after boys. In the end, you’ll be more well rounded later when you meet that special person. Even now, I’m 24, but I realize the value of figuring out yourself before adding another person to the mix.
  6. Make your faith your own. Investigate the Bible for yourself and figure out what you believe what you believe.
  7. Take ownership of your decisions and their potential consequences. Think ahead and base your decisions on information you have gained. You’re old enough that you can’t just blame every bad thing on others or the universe. Bad things just happen but sometimes there’s something you could have done to prevent it.

Embracing This Life of More

These past months have been quite something. All my energy has been spent on simply surviving-putting one foot in front of the other.

A year ago, all my energy was focused on myself and my healing. I resigned myself to this life of second best. Let me explain that. I had my life planned out before my accident and then all of that seemed to have been taken away. I was striving to accept my life as it was then but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was less. I still had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t grasp them. I didn’t know if it was even possible to grab them without having them slip through my fingers. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine. I was simply excited to travel not knowing that the country itself would stamp itself on my heart.

Ukraine.

This summer has been one of the most life-changing ones in my short life so far. This summer was hard, but oh so holy. First, I started to get back into hospital nursing, then I went to Ukraine. I was nervous and didn’t know how my brain would react. I was pushed beyond my limits but God was sweet in that. In it, God was showing me I could have a life that I had dreamt of-a life of more. Here are just a few things God is teaching me as I embrace this life of more-more love, more freedom, and simply more God.

  1. Contentment doesn’t equal complacency. This has been something I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want more out of life but it’s hard to explain because people assume I’m not content with my life. In my wrestling, I’ve come to the decision that it’s okay to have plans and dreams but to hold those dreams lightly. I’ve come to the mindset that I’ll be okay if cross cultural missions is in my future. And I’ll be okay if it’s not.
  2. God can still use me. I was terrified standing in front of people and sharing my story but it’s not about me. It’s about God. I think I knew He could use me, but I didn’t quite see how. Sharing my story and about the God I love made seeing that possible. I shared. My speech didn’t have to be perfect, but He used my story to bring Himself glory.
  3. It’s easier to embrace the new me when I attach pleasant emotions to the new me. I’m pretty sure I went through every emotion this summer from heartbreak to joy to terror to happiness to anger to surprise. I’m pretty sure I can encapsulate this whole summer using the word “surprise “. I didn’t know what to expect but God blew my expectations out of the water. I’m definitely not the same Sara who left the States. My soul is lighter and I’m learning the sweetness of trusting God. In the past year, I wrestled with accepting the new Sara because I didn’t know (believe really) that God could use me as broken as I was. God though put people in my life to show me that He could still use me, my thoughts are still needed, and He loves me-the new me-more than I could ever know. Because I’m bravely accepting the new me doesn’t mean the door is shut to everything that I used to love but I’m looking forward not behind now.

As I’m chasing after and embracing this life of more I realize this starts with an attitude of expectation. What’s done is done. Here I am, sitting at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting with expectation of this life of more that He desires to give me-more love, more freedom-simply more life.

Barely Brave

I finished 100 Days to Brave. I don’t feel any more Brave but I’m now armed with the tools and a road map to be brave.

Being brave is not an immediate change. You don’t flip a switch and now you’re brave. It doesn’t work like that (I wish it did), but rather it’s a process. If you continue to take the next brave, right step, you’ll be braver tomorrow than you were today.

As I finished reading the book, here are some of the tools in my toolbox to help me be brave.

  • Prepare for change. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Whatever change is coming-because inevitably it will-Jesus never changes. We can be brave in the fact that even if our circumstances change drastically, Jesus is constant. That said, you need to prepare for the inevitable change by spending time in God’s Word, talking to the unchanging One, and keeping your eyes on Him.
  • Be brave in the waiting season. Waiting is hard. Be brave enough to be patient-not just outwardly, but inwardly.
  • Be brave to know when it’s better to hold on or let go. Sometimes, it would be easier to let go. Don’t let go because it hurts or because it is hard. Hold on. It takes bravery to hold onto something when it’s definitely easier to let go. On the flip side, be brave enough to let go. You can’t grab on to next thing if you’re still holding on to the last thing. Let go of that dream. Let go of that relationship. Annie compares it to monkey bars. Let go even if you don’t see the next monkey bar. She writes, “I have seen, over and over again, that simply letting go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing”.
  • Life is hard. Mike Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, said, “Life is messy, hard, and weird. We don’t need to be surprised anymore”.
  • Brave people don’t let failure define them. Failure is inevitable. When you fall down, get up, brush the dirt off, learn what you did wrong, and move on.
  • Embrace divine detours. God sees the whole story while we only see a snapshot. Be brave in trusting that He is good, He loves you, and He has a good plan-even if it looks nothing like your plan.
  • Brave people persevere. “Brave people realize that we rejoice in our sufferings because it leads to perseverance and perseverance produces character and ultimately, it us to the hope we have in Jesus.” Brave people don’t give up on hope because they know it is worth fighting for.
  • Brave people take care of their bodies. Jesus has a purpose for your body-with all its imperfections and sickness. He wants to use you, as you are, to bring glory to Himself. He doesn’t make mistakes. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so respect it. Exercise. Eat well.
  • Play. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Have fun. Take pictures with the statues at the zoo. Dismiss the lie that your career will fall apart if you spend some time having fun. Blow bubbles. There is something therapeutic about carving out time in your schedule to be carefree for a moment. God made laughter. Enjoy it.
  • Brave people carve out time for a sabbath and rest. They realize that there are time that you need to stop and rest. It takes courage to unplug, and walk away from your calling for a bit, believing God will still provide.
  • Be generous-with your words, money, time, and wisdom. Nothing you were given is yours. You may think you have nothing to offer anyone, but that’s a lie. It might be a meager offering, but I guarantee that someone needs exactly what you have to offer.
  • Let’s all be brave. Bravery and courage affects people the same way being near a confetti popper will make your life different and better and more amazing. It’s kind of like a domino effect. Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the very least, it will change your world.

So let’s all grab our tool boxes and road maps. Let’s continue on this adventure of brave. Let’s all be brave.

The Summer God Pushed Me Out of My Comfort Zone and Taught Me More About Who He Wants Me To Be

This summer has been a great and challenging one. I feel about two years behind my peers. Most of the people I graduated with are getting married, moving on from their first “real” adult job, or having kids. I, on the other hand, don’t know what the dickens I’m going to next. This summer, God taught me again that that’s okay-it’s okay not to have everything planned to the letter.

Here is a list of things that I’ve learned about myself as I learn to take one day at a time with God.

  • There’s not one plan for my life. Just because I’m 24 with no full time job and still living at home, doesn’t mean I somehow missed the turn towards a successful life. I’m a success where I am. Hey, some days, I’m lucky just to be standing at the end of the day. I don’t feel like there’s just one plan, but rather it involves all the things I’m passionate about. It could be littles, missions, or both.
  • Sometimes, accomplishments are not about being the best, but simply completing the task. So what if you’re not the best at whatever it is, you finished. About a month ago, some of my family did a 3 mile run. My mom and I walked the 2 miles required. A year ago, I couldn’t walk 10 feet without getting winded. I finished the 2 mile walk. I finished. I finished towards the end of the walkers and got passed by a couple littles, but I finished. I definitely wasn’t the best, but finishing was a milestone for me.
  • Being ambidextrous is not all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely very cool to use both hands, but sometimes, I think my brain is even more confused than it is already. It’s funny to watch people shocked faces when I use my right hand for one thing, and then in the next breath, I use my left hand.
  • Sunsets can be really calming. This is not something new, but it was further reinforced this summer. On days when I was overwhelmed and exhausted, God paints the sky and just looking at it is calming.
  • Music is how my soul speaks. I don’t know how that works, but I latch onto a song and play it on repeat for days. My soul needs—desperately needs—to hear the message that that song has its lyrics. When my soul has no words, it finds some. Music defines every season of my life so far. My first job was “Ride” by Twenty-One Pilots. My accident and rehab was “You’re Going To Be OK” by Jenn Johnson. Montana was “Mountains” by Biffy Clyro. Those are only a few of the songs that defined the many seasons.
  • Jam sessions are required. It surprisingly therapeutic to turn up music and open the windows while you’re driving.
  • Naps are life. It is funny how when we were little, naps were torture as life was not to be missed. When we become adults though, naps are necessary for us to put our best foot forward.
  • Jesus loves in the sweetest ways-if you have eyes to see. In the midst of shoving me—not just pushing me—He showed me I’m loved by allowing the kid I was watching to be all cuddly and fall asleep on my shoulder. He knew that I just needed someone to love and allow me to love him.
  • I have to push the envelope in regards to my healing. I can’t base how I’m going to be based on how I am right if I keep working towards 100%. I may not get there, but I definitely won’t improve if I sit on my butt and watch TV 24/7.
  • These are a few things I’ve learned, but I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that the best place to be is at the center of God’s Will by making the next right, brave step.
  • When God Gives You Your Dreams

    I don’t know if I can put into words my experience in Ukraine. God has done a myriad of things in my heart these past 3 weeks.

    • Just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I don’t love sharing my story-standing up in front of people and reliving the hardest season of my life. I grew in that area as God pushed me to share my story and glorify Him. I was able to share because God gave me His strength every time I stood up there.
    • God gave me glimpses of my dream of living overseas. Several times during the past couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed by the love of God. The simple fact that I was able to leave the country was a bit overwhelming. A year ago, I thought all my plans of living overseas were out of the question. I couldn’t see how, in the state I was in, that it would ever be an option. Now, I realize I’m not ready right now as the past two weeks and the time change wiped me out, but God, in His goodness, gave me glimpses of what could be.
    • God loves me sweetly, even while He is shoving me out of my comfort zone. The first week of camp went well. It was exhausting, but I was pacing my energy well. Then came Sunday. The Pastor asked me to share with no warning, no notes, and no preparation. Inwardly, I panicked. I don’t like speaking in front of people and definitely not without notes-my safety blanket of sorts. When the words flee out of my brain, I can look at them and remember where I was. Trying to pull myself together and not panic took a lot more energy out of me then I dared admit. On Wednesday, when I was asked to watch a child, I said yes, but inwardly, I was questioning everything. I was tired. I couldn’t speak to him. I couldn’t run after him if he took off. The time came and he just simply cuddled in my arms and laid his head of my shoulder. God never ceases to amaze me. He knew I needed baby cuddles-someone to just let me hold and love him. The Sunday before and that day, God was shoving me out of my comfort zone. He was pushing me, but that evening, He was showing me that He was only doing it because He loved me-more than I could ever know.
    • Bravery isn’t made up of the grand moments. It’s made up of the small moments of brave decisions. When the pastor asked me to come up and share my testimony, I panicked. I couldn’t do it. What if all the words flee my brain and I’m left standing there dumbfounded. I made my way up front, but in reality, I wanted to disappear. Then I opened my mouth. Suddenly, all the words I had spoken that past week flooded into my brain. I had been brave every day in telling a piece of what God had done in my life that standing up and telling them that was not impossible.
    • A smile is the same in any language. One of my favorite things was to get the kids to smile. I couldn’t really speak to them. I didn’t know Ukrainian or Russian, but I could love them and get them to smile. I could understand their smile. It meant that they felt loved and safe.
    • Jam sessions with Jesus are needed. Corporate worship is great. Slower songs with good melodies are great to offer God reverence. Sometimes, though, you need to turn up the volume, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance to your hearts consent.
    • Sometimes taking a step back is good. Taking a step back is not a defeat. It’s allowing space for you to be the best you can be. Taking time for yourself is good. You can do a million things adequately, or with rest, you could do one thing exceptionally.
    • End well. People don’t remember the middle, they remember the end. Don’t let the end trail off, but give them all the energy and love you have left. Finish well.

    This is just a smidgen of all God has taught me these last weeks. I’m still processing everything and it will take awhile to wrap my head around everything God did in my heart.