I came here to England to be a student missionary. To serve. To fill the cups of others.
I came here to England feeling like I had a cup so empty it was dry, but determined to do my best.
August 20, 2010 - November 4, 2010 = my own cup is so full it's quietly & steadily overflowing.
God's miracles have a unique, artistry about them... life here wouldn't come across as glamorous, but I feel like a jar of clay that's been crushed for God's glory to shine through the cracks but not broken. I feel like I'm the one that has been deeply ministered to, even though I've been a busy bee since September began. Ministered to by the people here and by God in the times I've had alone with Him.
Every other Sunday, I help with the Pathfinder club from 10AM-12pm, doing whatever they decide to ask of me. One Sunday had a Pat's Sale and it was unbelievably busy. Another one had a waitressing gig for a dinner that filled up the Cedar/Sycamore room more than I thought possible. We used all the nice dishes and we almost emptied the china cabinet. Cleanup took 3 hours.
Every single Monday, I'm assigned a Bible study with a little girl who's supposedly too young to be baptized, but wanted to start getting ready. There's a special curriculum that we go through and through the few times we've met, I've been falling in love with God as my Abba all over again. I'm only 21, but this little girl made ME feel old when I asked her the assigned question, "What is your favorite thing from this lesson" and she answered, "that we can trust God." I felt old because I envied her innocence - how easily childlike trust comes to her. It made me realize that life has done things to me and yet how God has brought me through with my faith intact and still growing, by some miracle...
Every other Monday, I help with Senior Club, which meets from 2-4pm. Sara and I go down at 1pm to help them set up chairs and get all the teacups & cake ready. From 2-3, they have a speaker or some sort of live entertainment. At 3:00 we help pass out tea, coffee & cake on trays. From 3-4 they do interactive things. This Monday we had Senior Club and their interactive activity was a quiz - we only had time for 2 categories: Art & Literature (+) Entertainment. I've been falling in love with older people since Senior Club first started up again in September, but this week I saw a bunch of forever young and sparkly people who had simply lived long enough that their bodies couldn't keep up with their souls. I had a ball and my heart was uplifted. We were all laughing and chattering and it was such a fabulous afternoon! I felt an infusion of hope - no matter what life throws at me, by my free will and God's grace, it will not have the last say, and in heaven it will have NO say whatsoever. In heaven, there won't be any more pain or tears. Only joy. Only love. Forever.
Every single Tuesday night since a-date-I-can't-instantly-remember-in-September, we've had Tuesday Talks. Sara and I go downstairs at 5:30pm to help set the tables (6-7 tables with 8 people per table = approximately 48-56 people) and prepare the light meal. By 7PM we're helping serve it, we eat our own before desert and then put desert out. Right before 8:00 everyone who came, not just the people on staff, gets together to clean up and put the dinner chairs into rows where we sit and listen to the Tuesday Talk. At 8:00 there's the opening announcements & theme song (Above All), a special music and our speaker Pastor Boyle, who is Irish and quite the character. He gives the most wonderful talks, and then says things away from the pulpit that make your jaw drop (or eyebrows pop off) but he's a good egg. No one like him. :-) Since I was little, I've known-of and experienced actual pastors (or just preachy people) who live a double standard. Those people cause pain or they make you sick or do a combination of both in some sort of succession. It's one of the oldest categories in history that some people "may know all the right answers but have a heart that is no pilgrim at all." Pastor Boyle is unlike anyone I've ever met, which was refreshing to begin with, AND he's not a double standard.
Every Wednesday is my day off. Most of the time I spend the day "in" which doesn't signify boredom at all. I have chatterbox capacities, but I'm still an introvert with introverted needs who has all the appearance of being an extrovert. On Wednesdays I sleep a little extra, read in books, journal, listen to audiobooks (or sermons/seminars online) and watch movies or TV episodes on my laptop. I'm a student missionary but I'm a 21 year old female, and I do have a definite media intake - no smoke screen. Sometimes Wednesday evenings I spend time with Sara or with another one of my friends here and sometimes it's a day all in.
Yesterday was a Wednesday and it was unique: my friends Dennis & Diane (both recently retired) took me to Windsor Castle for the day - it was a complete treat, not to mention they're one of the most precious couples I've ever met. Dennis and I are both speak quite quickly in general and have a great deal of sanguine. Diane is more laid back but just as friendly and incredibly sweet with a good sense of humor. Dennis and I are both the sort to joyfully show affection for any loved ones nearby. I was taking pictures of them on a park bench when we'd finally finished our tour and I said, "I have something kind of inappropriate to ask you - will you give her a kiss for the picture?" Dennis piped up that there was nothing inappropriate about that and turned a fast 90º to kiss Diane soundly like it was one of his favorite things to do in life. :D Being around people for whom love & life is so simple has drained out so much of my unnecessary speculative thinking and has replaced it with a sweet calm (thank you Jesus) that doesn't need to think as much or as hard about life.
Thursdays I've already blogged about. Thursdays are Sara's day off and my day on my own. Last week was half-term break and for some reason that affected our bookings and my Thursday was as empty as a Wednesday! Today it's back to normal and I returned to it with renewed energy and zest to wrestle my responsibilities to the ground and show them who's boss with a smile on my face. I still (and always will) pray before Thursdays start. Depending on God when things were especially hard at first is just as constant (or more as I adopt it?) now, except it's less of a choice from need and more of a choice because I'm mellowing into seeing that life is better this way. I'm 21 years old and still single, so there was a time when my relationship with God had the theme of Him filling in the blanks for my nonexistent boyfriends, not to mention Him healing the wounds of the handful of guys I fell in love with who were each a painful "swing and a miss." Before that, I was just getting to know God personally which was different than in theology and routine. Now, I feel like my personal relationship with God has taken on the theme of embracing Him as the Heavenly Father He's always been - my Abba. Daddy. Most of the time I call Him Abba when I'm journaling these days. I think it's because He's stretching me to live a life bigger than the majority of women I see around me who date and get married while I'm not. It's as liberating as it is initially painful, and I'm experiencing more steadfast - not pendulum - gratitude than I ever have in my life. Thursdays it's the two of Us, taking everything on and doing it better and more efficiently than the week before. I love Us.
Fridays tend to be quiet for the most part (there are booked rooms to set up & take down nearly every day of the week - those are a given; what I've written about are the interpersonal jobs vs. the ever-present chairs, tables & hot drinks). In the evenings, we set up chairs for YU (Youth Unite), which is basically teen vespers. When YU is done, we set up the chairs (except for 1x a month) for Parallel Service the next day as well - that fills up the whole room. YU starts at 7:30 and is usually done before 8:30, but if it's a creative vs. guest speaker format, it can go past 8:30. There's an opening prayer, ice breaker & speaker. Short & sweet. Whether we have a big or small group, I think each Friday night is special.
Sabbaths are rarely restful. Sabbaths are the busiest, buzzing days of the whole week. Yet I feel like God's Holy Spirit comes extra close to those of us working behind the scenes to make the worship services happen so that there's a gracing of restfulness inside of us on this seventh day when we're doing so much. There's fellowship after the main service and it's sweeter and more mellow vs. fellowship during any other time of the week, because Friday happened, their own Sabbath has arrived and the next day isn't Monday or Thursday: it's Sunday - they can still breathe easy for a little longer. It's like their experience of Sabbath still hops onto us like a good germ, somehow. Sorry, 'can't think of another metaphor right now... Some Sabbaths have an afternoon event, some Sabbaths we go to someone's home for lunch and a quiet afternoon of just hanging out and other times we just stay in.
Saturday nights are usually full of socials. Most of the time it's a social for the teens, once a month is a social for the young adults and once a month there's a free Saturday night: no social. There are sometimes lots of people, sometimes a medium group and sometimes less than 5 who show up. Last Saturday night we had only a few kids show up, but we turned on music and had a fantastic time carving pumpkins, which I haven't done since I was VERY young. And you know what? We had a ball! Most socials consist of buying juice & pizza after the sun goes down (since social doesn't start 'til 7:30 but sunset is between 5-6pm) and picking an appropriate movie to watch as a group in the flat (when lots of kids show up, the flat feels so big when it's packed...). Other times, we play games whether it's video games or interactive games like Uno, poker or ping pong (yes, poker happens).
When I first arrived, like I said earlier, my cup felt so empty I thought it felt dry. I didn't feel a genuine smile from the inside out for the first 2 weeks. I've traveled all over the world: culture shock wasn't the issue, so much as the shock of being in a brand new place with NO familiar faces. Utter newness. On top of that, my heart was still very invested in several people who were already in my life and none of those situations were easy ones. I'd laugh when I watched sitcoms or when someone did something funny, but I didn't feel like I'd laughed out loud because there was joy actually inside of me until 2 weeks ago, and I remember it because right after I let out the laughter I felt shocked and heartwarmed all at once: I was laughing again. I was coming alive again. I was getting my heart back.
My first plan (as a future student missionary) was to be a student dean at a private academy somewhere. It wasn't a bad idea, but I'm so glad that Japhet de Oliveira though I'd be bored doing that and got me over here instead. I'm pretty sure that I was experiencing burnout at the end of my spring semester, 6 months ago. I turned in my last two big papers after graduation because I had one teacher who was more than kind and another one who offered to fill out an incomplete for me so that I wouldn't fail his class. The day those two professors were supposed to turn in grades, I was ready to just let myself be screwed to the wall for not finishing. I don't know how they did it, but both of them got ahold of my mother's cell number and got my cell number and called me. I cranked out the shorter paper just before the deadline for one teacher (I'll never understand what makes some teachers believe in me the way some of them have), and the other professor filled out an incomplete for me that gave me until May 13 - a Thursday - (yes I remember the date because I cried like a baby when I FINALLY FINISHED) to complete my first 10-11 page exegesis. Yikes. I never found out exactly what my grade on that specific paper was, but I passed the class and have never been more grateful for a "C" in my life.
God knew I needed to NOT be in a school environment, even if it was just as a student dean. I've been able to take stock of my life here with the different place, different pace and brand new faces (outside of Facebook). I've been able to not just look at what's happened in my life recently, but what's happened in my whole life.
God knew it would be good to work in a church. I have always gone to church. Some experiences shoved me through the ordeal that made me realize I love God more than I love the church and THEREFORE I stay in the church because it's His body and made up of all His children, lost and found alike.
God knew I needed the healing of being removed from my old environment, despite the MANY loved ones that ARE still in the place I'm going to return to in 2011. Here there is new air to breathe, new food to feed upon, a cleansed and adjusted perspective. Here, there is so much more rest than I've known for being in school STRAIGHT for the first two decades of my life. I joke to people who ask if I'm being overworked that being in school vs. being here is like having an electric cattle prod to my brain 24/7. I love it here. I don't feel overworked at all. I'm the student missionary, yet I feel so ministered to that it makes me want to cry when I allow it to sink in (since actually full-on crying as often as the inspiration comes to a crier is not efficient or appropriate).
God knew that I needed the rebuilding and strengthening of being in a mini-sized situation that resembles real life vs. being in school. No more tests or grading. It's about serving, helping and loving. Sometimes I have to go into a situation, grit my teeth against the stone in my chest and pray, "God I don't want to be here, so I really need Your grace to get me through it without depressing other people" whereas other times I feel like jitter-bugging through my day!
I don't have much of an ending for this blog. I didn't even plan to BE blogging; my fingers sort of blurted this out when what my plan had been to type 2 lines saying that I'd blog soon, LOL :-)
And maybe this is appropriate - reflective of how God's getting me out of my old cycles & pendulum swings; not everything has a perfect ending or taper - it just goes on.