Gratitude Friday: The Ministry of Ordinary Places…

Several years ago, I realized my life was full of voices repeating the same things. Over and over and over again. The people in my world looked like me, talked like me, spent their money like me, worshiped like me, dressed like me, voted like me.

My life was parched dry with the daily bread of complacency and comfort.

And I decided I didn’t much care for that.

I started searching for voices saying things could be different. Life could be abundant. Ministry could be right where you were. “People” weren’t scary or wrong or unworthy.

Thankfully, I found some amazing voices during that search including Shannan Martin. She’d done much of the same things I had done. Achieved, reached, checked the boxes, and then she began her own search. She chronicles that in her first book Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted. 

As I began following her, I realized she wasn’t asking me to move to a hut in Africa, where I’d always assumed real Jesus-followers went. Instead, she challenged me to rethink how I lived my very ordinary life right where I was.

How I spent my money, how I invested my resources, how I learned about those “people,” how I gave of my time.

Her voice became a change agent in my life.

In her latest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, Shannan continues her role as one of my favorite teachers.

Paying attention, living with doors quick to open, leaving our Pinterest warped visions of hospitality behind, loving every child walking down the street in front of our house.

We have a lot in common. Thrift stores, ALDI, neighbors we love, schools to serve, and a deep need to love the people and places God put smack in the middle of in our ordinary life.

And in that, I found Jesus all over again.

Before the search, before finding new voices, before God called me to a grateful life rooted in Him, our life looked pretty good to the outside world. Proud achievers of The American Dream.

But inside, I felt my sitting-in-meetings, creating-spreadsheets, event-planning, travel-booking, staff-managing life wasn’t important, wasn’t kingdom work. I was simply marking time. Thinking, once I have a baby, then I’ll have a passion, a mission, a purpose.

But what all mothers everywhere knew then and I know now, a baby solves nothing.

When I obediently left my career behind, I began my search for purpose brand new. Small group leader, crafter, budget-follower, bottle-washer, house-decorator, pre-baby-weight-achiever. None of that filled the void either.

I lived with this itching, nagging, low-hum of frustration with my ordinary life wondering why God hadn’t just scratched my itch already and sent me on a direct path to my kingdom purpose.

It took two more moves, a few more voices speaking, and lots of time in the red letters of scripture before Jesus began to slowly unwrap His revelation for my life.

My ordinary life is just ordinary on my own. But when I invite Jesus into my every day, walking-around, ordinary, my life becomes Kingdom extraordinary.

Searching for some far off purpose brought me right back to exactly where Jesus had already purposefully placed me.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” ~Romans 12:1 (MSG)

Gratitude Challenge…

In an email to our Nest Builders, I told them it was time to push us a little.

This season, as we begin to see the holidays come into focus and all that usually entails for our bank accounts, sleep schedules, and energy levels, I want us to question how we live our ordinary lives in the middle of that mess. I believe God wants more for us than just existing trying to keep up with some impossible standard of gorgeous tablescapes and fun fall porch displays.

Think less about our outward appearances and more about our inside conditions.

Maybe you feel a bit like I did. This low hum of frustration as if somehow you’re missing out on God’s purpose for your life.

What would happen if you leaned right into that tension? Listened closely to what Jesus can teach you through that? Decided marking time wasn’t enough for you anymore?

So my first Gratitude Season Challenge is this….find voices different from your own.

You can absolutely start by pre-ordering Shannan’s new book. She can be trusted with your unfulfilled itch and nagging buzz of longing. But more than that, she honestly walks with you through your concerns and allows the space for questions to go unanswered when a five-step program doesn’t fit.

But even if you’re not so sure about that, then start somewhere.

If you only follow, read, listen to, and cheer for people saying exactly what you already believe about your life, your ethnicity, your point of view, your economic standing, or your culture, change the station.

If the people talking around you are fearful, stingy, encouraging you to watch out for your own, cautioning you about impending doom, turn them off.

And if you’re not interested in listening to another human’s voice, which is a completely valid concern, you can listen to the bible on Audible or worship music or read a book by a classic (and widely accepted) Christian author.

Let’s change up the voices speaking into our lives.

And maybe change how we see Jesus and the Kingdom work He’s called us to do.

As part of the #MinistryofOrdinaryPlaces launch team, tasked with helping send this beauty out into the world, I received an advanced reader copy of the book. My opinions are my own and would legitimately recommend this book to everyone. Especially those looking to serve the people in their ordinary, walking-around life right where they are.  

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