I spent a lot of years believing the gospel was, “Follow your dreams!” God wants you to live out your full potential, they told me. So I quit college and moved to Los Angeles. It’s ironic, if you really think about it–that I didn’t need college to reach my full potential. Despite having no plan, no money, no life experience, and no expertise, I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams. (More like follow my boyfriend. And the sunshine. Dreams are loosely defined at 20. #IguessIamaMillennial)
Even when I encountered the true gospel, it was radical Christianity that beckoned me. Francis Chan, Shane Claiborne, David Platt–they invited me into a life that rejected the American dream and embraced complete surrender of my time and resources. I sold what I could and put my house on the market, certain that my next step of faith would catapult me into a life of radical obedience (and extraordinary experiences).
And really, it did. But not in the ways I imagined.
Marriage, parenting, life and ministry in a local church–I never would’ve applied “complete surrender of my time and resources,” “radical obedience,” and “extraordinary experiences” to these ordinary aspects of life, and yet here I am, poured out and, when I’m willing to step back and see it, blessed.
One Christmas, my sister Taryn gave me a simple gift: a picture frame containing the words to John 21:25. We share a love for words, and these are among our favorites:
“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Besides the personal encounters and miracles that happened during Jesus’ public ministry that weren’t recorded, there’s the reality that he lived 30 years in obscurity before emerging into the public eye.
“What in your life won’t be recorded?” Taryn asked me in the accompanying note, “Far more than for Jesus. We do not need to fill volumes with great words or great deeds. We are the great things–the plain things–Jesus did that I suppose even the whole world would not have room for. I promise that is all we need.”
The note hangs before me as I sit down to write, as I scroll Facebook and see the extraordinariness everyone else seems to have, as I hide in my office for some peace and deep breathing before I head back into the house full of life that has somehow become my own.
These are the plain things. The things that go unwritten and unseen. The things that make up a life.
Since reengaging my faith these past years, I’ve been drawn to the life of Moses. Particularly to that zealous activism that he thought would be the moment of deliverance for his people (Acts 7:25), but instead was the source of his banishment. Following a life of luxury in Pharaoh’s household, Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd–an occupation his Egyptian upbringing considered detestable (Gen 46:43).
I wonder how long it took for his resentment to subside. I wonder when he stopped beating himself up or analyzing where he took a wrong turn. I wonder when humility took root in his heart. I bet he didn’t notice. I’m guessing he didn’t realize he was ready to be used by God–it was just the process of time, the unnoticed work of God in his heart. And one day, he found himself standing on holy ground.
This is how God works: not with major benchmarks, but causing faithfulness to take root, day by day, as we learn to depend on his grace to persevere in ordinary life. Through diaper changes and dirty dishes. Through boring jobs and forgotten dreams. Through mistakes and failures and less-than-impressive passing moments. Through the plain things.
Most days, I resent the plain things. I long for adventure and meaning and I’m certain those things aren’t found here. I start to feel a little frantic, wondering what I’m doing with this life God has entrusted to me; I wonder how I ended up here, and is this really where I’m meant to be? Opportunities to write and speak and participate in the ministry of the church have helped at times, but there’s always this restlessness beneath the surface.
This fall, when plans for our next step began to take shape in my heart and mind, and when they began to pan out in real life, I could hardly catch my breath. This is it! Our time has finally come! Back to California! Off to adventure and uncertainty and big, beautiful dreams.
When Jordan and I sat through the information sessions and Q&As at Westminster Seminary California, God’s call became all the more clear in my heart and mind. This was undoubtedly the place God was calling my husband. This was his grand adventure. These were his people. But the reality of what that meant for me began to sink in as well. This wasn’t my grand adventure–at least not in the ways I imagined. I imagined that we’d pursue education together, preparing for a life of exciting ministry side by side. And while I still hope for such an outcome, the pathway isn’t what I expected. Spending my days homeschooling my children, doing what I can to support my husband–these feel far more ordinary than the California adventure I envisioned. It feels like another season of waiting.
But the truth of the plain things is this: the in-between times are really the times.
If I look at the plain things as something to endure to get to the “good stuff,” I’ll miss what the Lord has put before me right now–the little hearts he’s shaping right in front of my face, the adventure to be found as I live in gratitude and wonder, the ways he wants to work in my heart right now.
If I stop fighting against this ordinary life appointed for me, I start to realize: I’m not waiting, I’m living.
As I head to California and take up this blog, I’m laying down my arms in this fight against the plain things. I’m breathing deeply, ready to engage this life before me, filled with dirty dishes and sticky fingers. Wholly dependent on God’s grace, I’m leaning into the ordinary, believing that even in these mundane moments, I’m standing on holy ground.