Brian’s current work schedule is unconventional and often has him gone from home. This has resulted in us going to church together a grand total of 4 times in the last 5 months.
A couple of months ago, we were thrilled to finally go to church TOGETHER for the 2nd time since moving to Phoenix. We packed in as many churches as we could in order to work towards finding a “home” church. In one of the services, as we stood together for worship, I found my mind on a wandering path that was anything, but worshipful.
It began innocently enough; with my mind traveling back to when I had the privilege to worship with believers in Menya (one of my favorite moments in PNG). What a contrast the wooden planks and dirt floors from my memory offered against the perfectly timed light changes, fog machines and air conditioned room in which I found myself. My thoughts took an unfortunately judgmental turn as I began criticizing what seemed to me “over the top” attempts at creating ambience. Who needs fancy lights and fog machines, really? Or air conditioning for that matter? (Ok, to be fair, with Phoenix summer being what it is, I was thankful for the air conditioning.)
Some of these thoughts were rooted in my own preference for simplistic worship, but I recognized that what was truly fueling my comparison and criticism, was a cry in my heart for something familiar and a discontentment over where I found myself. I longed for something consistent, recognizeable, something… normal. These emotions were more than reverse culture shock, they were emotions rooted in my dislike of the turn our lives had taken.
We had a plan (translation: I had a very specific opinion and expectation of how things were supposed to go). We weren’t supposed to be back in the U.S. this soon. Nor were we supposed to be trying to settle and find normal for the next year while Brian acquires turbine experience. I thought we were past the constant moving and uprooting when we finished training and went to PNG. Instead, here we are – trying to figure out how to do life with a funky work schedule in this new city and home that we know is very temporary.
It’s in this awkward space of transition, that I know is leading us to more transitions and upheaval, that I find myself in a fight against discontentment and a striving to stay present. I want to hold on to what I knew and planned and I fight against exploring and embracing what is. I resist and criticize the new and different because to embrace it means I must release my expectations and plans. My expectation and plans for having a consistent normal, for finally settling into a home with Brian for longer than a year and being a part of ministry in PNG. It means surrendering plans and expectations of my life according to Kelly.
Surrendering takes an intentionality and energy that some days I just don’t want to expend. And yet, that is what God wants of me – a humble, trusting surrender to His sovereign care that will free me to lean in and live present where He has me. If I don’t surrender, I will miss out on what God is doing in me and in the lives of those around me. My life is not about being a missionary overseas or my carefully laid plans or even about attaining a “normal”. My life is ultimately about my Creator, a relationship with Him and being the image bearer He created me to be. I am called to know and image Him anywhere and however He lovingly chooses. The call to spread the Gospel is for every believer everywhere. It begins, though, in humble surrender and trust. And a willingness to lean and be present where He has me now.
One of the things Lamanae, my Papua New Guinea mom, often said to me was: “You hear. (aka: you listen up!) Our thoughts are of this ground. God, God is forever and His thoughts are greater and lasting. This ground and all things in it will go away, but God, God is forever. We can trust Him. He is good and He knows everything. We must put our thinking with Him; not in this ground and things of this ground.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 has something similar to say)
And so today, this is what I strive for: to lean in and be present – even in the uncomfortable and unknown spaces – for my good and His glory.