Today I want to introduce you to someone very special to me. Laurie arrived in Coshocton 5 months after I did with my family. The difference was though, that her husband was permanent staff and there for the long haul and not an apprentice who would only be there for three years. Between them they have 5 children and 11 grandchildren, who all live within about 4 hours drive of their home. We became good friends really quickly and she was one of the people I was really sad to say goodbye to when we left Ohio.
We will forever be linked though, as she is one of Naomi's (fairy) godmothers! Laurie has also got involved with MMS and has taken a leadership role with regards to the Apprentice Wives group as well as other things. She also writes a devotional blog called Providence Smiles which is based around the book of Acts (although not exclusively), a study we have been working through together as apprentice wives, looking at the first missionary experiences. But today she writes, very honestly, for me ...
I live what some might view as a small life.
The alarm goes off. It is 5:30am. My husband gets out of bed and starts going about his day. He needs to be at the Missionary Maintenance Services Aviation (MMS) hanger by 7:30.
I, on the other hand, snuggle down under the covers and doze back to sleep. Our children are grown and my husband can take care of himself therefore, I feel no hurry to get out of bed on this cold January morning. Around 7:00 I arouse myself. I then read through email, do my morning exercise routine and eat a breakfast of oatmeal, berries, walnuts and yogurt. I eat this every morning. My day continues with varying activities that range from shopping for meals, preparing meals, doing laundry, folding laundry, coffee with friends (on a good day) and working around the yard (on warmer days).
Between the chores and activities of every day life I get to spend time writing. I began writing an inspirational/devotional book three years ago geared toward the wives of the apprentice’s at MMS. Writing is something I have always imagined myself doing. I know this because when I discovered a box of journals I had kept in high school I talked about aspirations of becoming a writer. Then when I uncovered another journal I kept from just five years ago I read again about my dream of writing.
At around 4:45 my husband gets home, we chit chat, laugh at each other’s jokes, eat dinner and spend the evening, once again doing varying tasks.
This brings me to the question, how do I title this life I am leading? On some days I fathom myself a missionary. This comes from the fact that my husband and I serve with a missionary organization (MMS).
However, the reality of the situation is that we don’t have what many would picture as the “missionary life.” Three years ago we took early retirement, moved from the city of Cincinnati (population 300,000) to the small town of Coshocton (12,000) for the sole purpose of serving at MMS, an American based mission. We are not deprived of most of our life comforts, our culture shock is minimal and we have no language barrier. If we take an opportunity to evangelize we have no worries of being threatened or persecuted. The majority of our financial support comes from our pension benefit, not a church or other faith support. Once again, this is not how the population at large envisions the missionary life. Nor is it how most missionaries live.
Therefore, if I am living this life that appears small and not experiencing what many would visualize as a missionary’s large life what right do I have to give myself the title of missionary? If I live my life in the U.S instead of crossing an ocean to live can I qualify as a missionary? If I am not evangelizing am I a missionary? These are some of the questions I’ve asked God and myself. I haven’t yet settled into any answers. In my mind it seems complicated and unclear.
When other people ask me the question, “what do you do?” I often resort to answering with, “missionary”. Interestingly, very few people ask questions beyond that. However, I often feel the need to validate this with more of a description. I clear my throat and talk about all the wonderful things MMS does, my husband’s part and my part.
Having shared my ambivalence about how to title my life I also want to share some things I do know. I know my husband and I both felt a “calling” on our lives to be here in Coshocton at MMS. Therefore, three years ago we took the early retirement; we packed our bags and sold our home. We left a place we loved. We left our family, our friends and our church.
A “calling” is another one of those terms that seems gray and unclear. When I think of a calling it means I am able to look back and see a series of events that pointed me in one direction. In addition there were needs and desires placed inside of me that had to be fulfilled. These needs and desires are somewhat similar to times when I feel hungry. During those moments I know that only food is going to stop the hunger pain, to fill the void or to satisfy. I had needs and desires to live for something bigger then myself and for a purpose that would have eternal results. To accomplish this I knew I needed to depend on God. Only He provides the courage to live as I feel called instead of how others think I should.
To make the explanation of a “calling” even more specific is to say that I am living my life based on faith. This faith in God allows me to believe that He is at work in my life. It does not mean that I always enjoy the purpose or the process. Nor does it mean I don’t miss what I have given up. However, what it does mean is what appears to most as a small life is not small to the God of the universe. It is what He created me for at this God created moment. I also have the faith that He is continuing to create me for moments He is constructing for the future.
Lastly, I know that to not have taken the unique opportunity to live out the call for my life would have been wrong. My life would some how seemed cheapened, robbed and shallow.
Also, I would not have been given the opportunity at this moment to write about my perplexing yet oddly extraordinary life.
"For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well."