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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Fall Favorites

Fall is my favorite season.

Here are a few of my favorite things that make fall extra special in my mind.

  • Pumpkin Spice Chai

I didn’t want to get a pumpkin spice latte on precept. I didn’t want to fall into the stereotype of “that girl”- you know what i’m talking about. Sometimes, I do things that fall into that stereotype unashamedly but this one wasn’t a high priority. The barista ended up convincing me to try the chai.

OH MY GOODNESS.

My life changed at that moment by creating my new “fall” drink. It’s like a pumpkin pie in a cup.

  • All the Colors!

One of my favorite things about fall is all the colors. Brown. Green. Red. Burgundy. Yellow. Orange. As the leaves start to change it’s like the trees are on fire with colors. I mean, there are the typical colors and then there are every shape imaginable of those colors. It’s like God created the world to put on one last show before it goes into hibernation.

  • Coffee. Cider. Chai.

All the hot drinks. The weather is just getting cold enough that hot drinks are necessary but warm enough that you can still be outside in a light jacket. Or you can cuddle up with a book, a hot drink, and a blanket by a fire and the world feels right.

  • Bonfires.

There is no better feeling than curling up with a blanket and cup of coffee or cider by a fire. The fire can be inside or outside. You can curl up with a book or maybe some friends are by the fire with you and you talk-like really talk about the hard and holy things. There is nothing more comforting than knowing you are not alone. I think camaraderie over hot drinks and around fires is one of the best types.

  • Blanket Scarves and Sweaters.

Oh I wait all year to wear blanket scarves. I mean, I just love wearing scarves so I’ll wear them regardless of the season, but blanket scarves are thicker so they won’t work in most other seasons because it gets too warm. This year though I wore on hoping for cooler weather. It worked! The next day was perfect weather to wear one. Sweaters. Enough said. Fall means sweaters.

  • Josh Garrels.

Josh Garrels and other acoustic mellow artists are all I listen to in this season. For some reason, they speak to my soul and provide the perfect soundtrack to falling leaves and conversation.

There are many more things that I love about fall but here’s a few of my favorites.

Ukraine

Bear with me as I’m processing the greatest and probably the hardest two weeks of my life.

  1. Language barriers aren’t everything but they are important. There were several times during the two weeks I was in Ukraine that someone just started rattling off in Russian and there was no translator nearby. I would just kinda shrug my shoulders and they would wander off to find someone that could actually help them. Or the time when kids were jumping on the trampoline and they were making me nervous but I couldn’t tell them to stop, I couldn’t see anyone nearby, and I felt like I couldn’t leave. But there were also moments also moments with a kid that it wasn’t necessary to both speak the same language. I would just hold their hand or hold them in my arms and the world felt right. My favorite thing was worship though. Some of the songs had English counterparts so some people were singing in English, and others in Ukrainian/Russian. God could understand it all. There’s really no language barrier when it come to God.
  2. Smiles mean a lot. My favorite thing, hands down, was taking pictures of the kids smiling. If I got a good one, I would show it to the mom and watch their face just light up. Their child was happy, felt safe and was loved. I assume that life with a child with any kind of disability is hard-so hard-but for that week, their kid was loved more than he/she could ever know by God and by the volunteers at the camp. The smiles communicated a lot!
  3. God’s love language to us is “crazy”. This is one I have a hard time really wrapping my head around. Some of the situations we encountered, like pouring rain on a afternoon where we had planned on being outside and no power or wifi, were some of the craziest in how they ended up working out. God used what we thought was a ruined afternoon to bring about the sweetest moments. We just had to be flexible with the craziness of life with God in the driver’s seat.
  4. God speaks through songs-even annoying songs like “Baby Shark”. Songs have always held a significance in my life. Seasons of my life are defined by key songs. It was interesting to see how captivated the littles were with “Baby Shark”. There was person with an ipad who would play different songs that the littles loved but it always came back to “Baby Shark” or something in the Baby Shark Saga. She was always surrounded by kids. I think, and maybe I’m overthinking this, but God showed those kids that we love them and He loves them through us being willing to play “Baby Shark” 24/7 (to the point that several of us were hearing it in our dreams).
  5. Sometimes the dearest friends just appear in your life. I wasn’t planning on making a soul friend in Ukraine but I did. God knew I needed someone around my own age to vent to and talk to. We met the first day of camp, ate mulberries and were inseparable after that point. I think we both needed that friendship.

Here is just a few things I wanted to share as I’m processing everything God did in my heart. It was life-changing, and I’m processing it slowly so bear with me as I sporadically process.

The Very Worst Missionary

I just finished this book by Jamie Wright.

10/10 would recommend reading with a grain of salt.

She has some good points, but there is some shaky theology. She also uses some language so if Christians using language makes you mad just read the highlights and not the book.

Here are the things I pulled from the book( these are my opinion so if you disagree or agree take time and research it for yourself. I would recommend that you don’t just blindly follow me because I could be wrong.)

  1. Missionaries are normal people. Missionaries are not “more spiritual” because they decide to give up American (or their comfortable) culture for one that is different. They have similar struggles as the average American but we get shocked when we hear about their struggles.
  2. Our calling is not what we do as much as it is who we are while we do it. I used to be convinced that God would “call” me to suburban America because that was the environment I was least comfortable in. Now, I have realized it’s not where you are but who you are that matter. You can be a missionary anywhere and anytime. Some people are “called” to go overseas but Jesus simply said “Love your neighbor”. “I’m pretty sure he meant, like, my actual neighbor—the person or people nearest me at any given moment. At home. At work. On the subway. In the supermarket. Y’know, neighbors.”
  3. The only way to know how to truly love your neighbor is to truly know your neighbor. I’ve heard stories of short term missionaries going into a community and building a church or doing something and leaving and then the nationals tear down and rebuild it according to what’s common in that culture. If we go into missions with a savior mentality than we lose something crucial—relationships. Relationships are hard and time consuming. There is no physical measurement suggested for relationships. They don’t have the same measurements that say building a church does. You can say you built a church and built relationships, but you can only visually see one. You can’t see the hours spent talking over coffee and just simply being present. You can’t measure the depth of a relationship as a grande or venti. But the content of the time together matters.

Springtime.

As the weather is getting warmer and the flowers

are popping up, God is reminding me of seasons.

Our lives are built in seasons. We all go through seasons of pain, growth, and contentment as well as seasons of adventures, happiness, and joy. Sometimes, it changes with nature. Other times, it doesn’t. You can go through 3 personal seasons before nature runs the course of 1, or one season can last forever.

We are entering the season of rain and flowers. But without the rain, there would be no green grass or flowers.

This is Holy week in the Christian faith-the week where we acknowledge Jesus’ last days on earth before He was crucified. He had to die before He could be raise up.

Seeds have to be buried in order for them to grow.

There are many things in life where the not so pleasant comes hand in hand with the joy.

I’m learning this lesson firsthand. It’s frustrating when things don’t cooperate—my hand doesn’t listen when I tell it to roll a ball at a target or my legs don’t cooperate when I tell them to jump or hop. But, after a bit of work (sometimes crying and quitting for a time), they start to listen and the joy my soul feels at being able to do something again is insurmountable.

As this year has done on, I’ve been able to check things off my list and feel more like a normal 23 year old.

—flew by myself…check!

—drove myself to coffee…check!

—swam…check!

These are just a few of the many things that make me feel just a little bit like my old self.

As the rains come, remember without a little rain, there won’t be flowers.

Spring is coming, just be patient.

The Art of Being Still

I have a tendency to worry and let my mind wander to all the impossible scenarios. I want to have control over every area so I my mind does not appear to stop. I worry about what people think about me. I worry about what is going to happen next. I worry about whether any change is the right thing for me right now. I have struggled recently with worry because of my accident. I worry that, even though everything fell into place rather quickly, the other shoe would drop. I worry that I am not enough–that I’m less than because my brain injury. I simply worry.

Be still.

Be still and know that I am God.

In all my worries and fears, God spoke this truth over me.

Be still and know that I am God.

I am not the one that can change the world. God changes the world. God can change the world through me. I can only be a useful vessel if I am willing to let go of my worries, my fears and my plans, and sit still before the Lord.

God wants me to understand that who He created me to be so that I can fulfill the purpose that He has for my life. I cannot understand who I am in Christ if I spend my energy worrying about what people think about me, or fearing that I am not enough.

Fear and worry is a handicap that keeps me from embracing who I am and what I can do. Fear holds me back from taking those steps of faith that could lead to great adventures for the Creator of the universe.

I realized recently that I have been feeding my worries and fears. I had been subconsciously encouraging the lies that I am not enough. This hurt me.

I was believing the lies and letting Satan get a foothold into my dreams. He was halting my progress because I was more focused on myself and my insecurities that I could not focus on God. I was being selfish because my focus was on me. What would happen to me? Would people like me? Would I be good enough? Would I be likeable?

My mother confronted me about my attitude. At first, I was frustrated. Didn’t she see that I was just worried? I was not being selfish, rather I just wanted people to like me. After a while, mainly after I moved to Washington, D.C for 2 months, I began to see the wisdom in what she was saying.

If I wanted people to like me, I needed to put them first. I needed to find ways that I could bless the people that I am around. People like others who bless them. People who are positive and uplifting. People who think about the needs of others first. I was getting so wrapped up in myself, my worries and my fears. I began to notice during my first week in my internship that the more I focused on blessing others, the less I thought about my fears. The less I needed to be liked. I could be who God created me to be, without worrying what people would think.

Be still and know that I am God.

When I get wrapped up in myself, I forget to quiet my mind and look at God. God is the Creator of the universe, yet he values my time spent with Him. Just like any other relationship, if I am spending too much time focused on myself, I can’t give a lot of time to the other person. I have to step back and realize that being still and spending time with God was going to be very important in my battle against the worries and the fears. I need to fill my mind with the truths of who God is and who He created me to be if I wanted to be free. My prayer for the beginning of this journey is to keep this phrase in my head so that I can remember to be still and know that He is God.

Seasons 

Seasons.

Summer turns into autumn.

Fall is a season where the earth is preparing for slumber—for hibernation. It’s never been more beautiful to realize that sometimes we need to be buried in order to grow; we need to enter into a season of barrenness in order to be fruitful later.

We can’t always be in a season of summer-of harvest. That’s the way agriculture works-there is a purpose for every season. It’s the same with our spiritual life. When our soul is in autumn, it’s in a season of preparation. It’s preparing for winter where it looks barren and unfruitful. It prepares for a dry season just before it’s fruitful again. You may not like those seasons-the seasons where God seems far away, but hold fast to the promises given to you in the summer-the fruitful seasons. The promises of the spring to come. 

Sometimes, a season lasts a couple of weeks. Sometimes, it lasts a couple of years. Eventually, the season changes. You rotate through seasons like the earth. Each season lasts for awhile and then comes around again. 

In the seasons were your soul soars and God seems close, tuck the truths God teaches you into the back of your mind so you can pull them out and remember them during the tough times. I feel like I’m coming out of a season of trials. It’s still going to be a long road, but things are looking up. I’m feeling more like myself everyday. I don’t know exactly what season it was. It seemed like a winter season but I knew God was there even if it didn’t feel like it. 

That’s the thing about seasons of the soul. Sometimes, they are clear cut, and sometimes, they seem like one season, but act like another. 

So whatever season your soul is in, remember this: “You are loved. You are loved more than you will ever know by the God of the universe.”