God’s Funny Bone

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Has anyone else had a very unholy event that led them down a spiritual journey? Just me? Let me explain.

Years ago, I had the great joy of getting to live in Louisville, Kentucky during Derby which I figure is the second best thing to to living in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I had a Louisville native friend who brought home a car-full of his seminary buddies and I went to go meet up with them at one of the crowded bars that night. My friend introduced all of his seminary buddies and that is how I met him- tall, dark and handsome with piercing blue eyes like a Siberian husky, you know the type. For the purpose of this blog I’ll refer to as Jon Hamm. Not only does he look like the actor, but he reminds me of Jon Hamm’s recurring guest role on 30 Rock as Dr. Baird.

Now, to be fair, I was equally stunning that night. I had on a J.Crew halter dress with a low back and a makeshift Derby hat that I insisted on wearing out to the bars, even though nobody does that. We spent the night enjoying our alcohol induced flirtation and the warm night time that I love Kentucky summers for.

Now my friend Jon Hamm will be getting married this summer and (spoiler alert!) I won’t be the bride. Because this isn’t a story of how I met the love of my life- instead a story of how I got on this trajectory that I’m still riding (just like 99% of the episodes of How I Met Your Mother). Because that night, instead of just becoming interested in him, I became interested in this thing called the Young Adult Service Corps, which he talked about because he was just 2 months away from going to South Africa to serve as a missionary for a year.
And 6 months later, I was the one applying to be a part of the Young Adult Service Corps. The following summer as he was returning to the states after his year of mission work in South Africa, I left for mine. The rest, as they say, is history.
What started as a rush of pheromones ended with me giving a whole year of my life (I mean a solid 365 days) to God’s mission. And even that has now developed to more. Am I the only one that can almost hear God laughing when I retell this story? Not a vindictive “gotcha!” laugh, but a promising laugh, a delighted laugh. When Abraham’s wife Sarah gave birth to their only son years after her child-bearing years, they named him Isaac, which translates to “he laughs.”And like I suppose Abraham and Sarah did, some of my prayers consist of nothing more than me laughing with God.
Where has God laughed in your life?
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A Short Guide to Interacting with [former] Missionaries

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Missionaries call this the money shot.
First off, educate yourself on geography. I’m occasionally been floored by people who didn’t know about the country I went to: South Africa. I wish I were joking. For the more obscure countries, let me suggest this game: http://www.mentalfloss.com/geographyzone/ This way when someone talks about their time in Azerbaijan, you at least know which continent they went to. (Do you know where Azerbaijan is?) A sidenote on Africa: Africa is a continent- the second biggest in fact. Did you know that it makes more sense to ask your Mexican friends about what’s happening in Canada than it does to ask your South African friends about what’s happening in Egypt? Maybe the problem is that Africa is so diverse, it’s hard to wrap our brains around it, so we just lump all that we don’t know about in the same pile.

Second, don’t dismiss this person’s missionary experience. There’s a good chance you’re underestimating what it was like for this person to be a missionary. And even now that you know that, you’re probably still underestimating it. It was huge. While I’ve lived in America for 96% of my life, my time outside has colored it incredibly.

Don’t ask “How was your trip?” This one gets me because I was there for a whole effin’ year. Trip? I think if you spend more than one month somewhere, you need to find a better word than ‘trip.’ I also spent a year as an intern in Kansas, but no one refers to that as a trip. But maybe when someone goes somewhere so far away, it’s hard to imagine that it was really a home and not just a place they went to. It was a home. 
Try not to complain about the little things. “Ugh, I asked my barista for a non-fat, no-foam, double shot skinny vanilla latte but she made me a soy no-foam triple shot vanilla latte. My life sucks.” / “There was a guy with 12 items in the 10-items-or-less checkout line. How horrible!” You really need to adjust your barometer about what in life classifies as horrible/sucks.
Finally, just listen. While this missionary could talk about their experience for hours, know that you’re just hearing the tip of the iceberg. Let go of any preconceived notions of missionary life and let this missionary tell you their story. And if you’re lucky enough to hear about all sides of missionary life – the good, the bad and the ugly – you’ll get a special glimpse at God working in the world.