The Best Author I Know

One thing I love about how God shapes our lives is His uncanny way of creating unforeseen twists and turns in the setting, the plot, and the cast of characters. I’m not talking about major surprises coming out of left field (though He does do that); I’m talking about subtle nuances written into one’s life that weave a story of God’s goodness, His glory, and His perfect plan for us.

The specifics of our story are expertly crafted to work together for God’s greater purpose and our greater good. { <—- Tweet this! }

God - Creator and Pulitzer Prize Winner

When we moved to Idaho in September, I hadn’t planned to work, at least for awhile. Though Tim would have supported me either way, we decided it would benefit our family most if I didn’t work straight away.

Turns out, I really needed that time to process the way our story had been written thus far. So much transition – new marriage, new location, new church community, and Tim’s new job – had been jammed into a few months. It almost felt like God had ended my story and started writing a brand new one.

Maybe in a way He did, but I like to think of it as just another volume in the set on Emily Catherine Gardner – this one entitled, The 9.0 Transition Earthquake.

I’m still processing, however, I’m finally allowing God to pen some joy back into my heart. I may prefer living closer to family and friends, but God has demonstrated time and time again that He’s a better writer than me and I should let Him shape my story. { <– Tweet this! } He’s certainly writing an interesting chapter right now, full of those subtle nuances I was talking about.

I got a job a month ago. The job simultaneously combines one of my favorite things and one of my least favorite things: traveling and talking to strangers. {I’ll let you work out which one is which.} I work for a marketing research company that does impact studies for a few major restaurant chains when they want to open a new location near an existing location. I travel to the site and survey customers.

When I got married, I thanked God that during my 24 years of single-hood I had the opportunity to travel extensively abroad for school and missions. He allowed me to explore the world while I had the freedom to do so. Though Tim is an adventurer like myself, the life of a youth pastor is not conducive to a ton of travel. I had my time of mourning for the end of my major traveling season and left it to God to help me be content in one place.

Not only has God provided a job that helps us along in our goal to be debt free {so close!}, I get to travel a lot! {Boston and Chicago last month and Orlando currently.} The travel bug bites and I no longer have to dose it in Benadryl cream.

{God’s plan – 1, Emily’s plan – 0}

author and creator

My only reluctance towards this job was the necessity of approaching countless strangers. I don’t have much initiative when it comes to talking and I generally avoid eye contact with surveyors in a restaurant or on the street. I figured this would just be the price I had to pay for traveling.

After walking up to almost 1,000 strangers {rejections included}, I have developed more confidence in my social presence. The “go say hi to people” time at church is less intimidating. Giving announcements and demonstrating absurd poses for a game at youth group {that one’s for you, Lindsay} aren’t butterfly inducing anymore.

As a pastor’s wife in a new church, I am so thankful for my new found ability to talk with strangers and be socially assertive. I’m no Chatty Kathy, mind you, and I still feel awkward at times, but I’ve made marked improvement. I’m not sure how else I could have developed that so quickly if it weren’t for this job.

{God’s plan – 2, Emily’s plan – 0}

The things that seem to just happen in life don’t just happen. They are written into the plot for a reason. Often, those reasons aren’t apparent at first. Sometimes they even appear distasteful, like talking to a bunch of people you don’t know. But God is the author and creator of our lives. He is a life-smith with a supernatural ability to write the perfect story for each of His precious kids. { <– Tweet this! }

A Spiritual Third Place?

Cafe

My brother worked for the Big Green Machine (Star-biz-ucks or just The Bucks in our family’s vernacular) for years.  We would laugh at the lengths to which Starbucks would go to create the perfect coffee shop environment.  Tim (yes, brother and hubs have the same name) is by no means a corporate kind of guy so he found the “third place” concept a bit eye-rolling.

Starbucks’ goal was to be the place people went when they weren’t at home or at work, the place people chose to meet and hang out, the place you felt most comfortable. His vehemence at the third place protocol was definitely amusing and I, too, rolled my eyes at the effort Starbucks put in to being people’s home away from home.

Then I began to travel and realized just how comforting a little slice of familiarity can be when you’re in a different state or a different country. In a sea of quaint English tea shops or Italian cafes, sometimes you just need a green mermaid on your to-go cup.

I was working in Massachusetts this past week and after a few days alone in a new city, eating PB&J made in my hotel room, I yearned for a sense of home.  I let my iPhone lead me to the nearest Starbucks. The familiar scent of freshly ground coffee struck me the minute I pushed through the doors.  Computer open, Vanilla Spice Latte in hand, I was less aware of being 2,700 miles from home.

Starbucks isn’t my third place because I’m some sort of coffee snob, it’s mostly because I’ve built memories around being in a Starbucks.

Isn’t that what comfort derives from? Familiarity. Good memories. A sense of reassurance.

My Spiritual Third Place

As I was reflecting on my third place experience from the past week, I realized Starbucks wasn’t the only thing I turned to for comfort when I felt out of place.

God is a consistent presence in my life and has been a very real source of peace as I’ve traveled the globe.  On a train, in a plane, or in a lonely hotel room, I find deep comfort and reassurance from reading Scripture.

The Psalms are my spiritual third place. Within the Psalms, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me and generations before me. Those memories make my heart feel at home.

My emotions find companionship in the Psalmists who let their songs flow with honesty and intensity. Whether born out of fear, joy, strife, or praise, the Psalms are melodies made of very human feelings. They are feelings I can relate to and the very fact that the words are there, printed in my Bible, draw me closer into God’s arms.

So, when I am slipping between the sheets of a strange bed, wishing the vast space to my left wasn’t empty, I can read a Psalm and know that I’m not alone.

Where is your third place?

A spiritual third place has been more important in my life than a physical third place.

Do you have one a spiritual third place? What about our Lord makes you feel at home?