Accepting Hometown

Church St: Burlington, Vermont

I have a bit of a confession to make. I think that for the past 4 months since we left Cape Town, I've been viewing Burlington, VT as "God's dumping ground." In all honesty. I think I've been guilty of having a mindset that this is just where He dropped us. It couldn't be anything more... I've felt as though since we are nothing more than failed missionaries, God just decided to stash us here where we can sit in a waiting room of sorts until we either find something better to do, or we die. Sounds pretty horrible, doesn't it?! But yeah, that's been my mindset. 

Here's the thing. Burlington is great, okay? But honestly, it's my hometown. It's where I grew up, so I'm entitled to think of it as loser-ville. That's my right. It was the place I couldn't wait to leave... the place from which I dreamed of adventures in the great unknown...adventures away from here. It was part of the reason I chose to go to Minneapolis for college. I wanted a taste of something bigger than population 40,000 being the definition of a big city. I wanted to be able to say "downtown" without referring to merely a stretch of concrete 5 blocks long. And of course, its low lying status was only exaggerated when I told people at college that I was from Vermont and they proceeded to ask me what state that was in.

So when this was the place we came back to after our adventuring (Minneapolis... Phoenix.... Cape Town, South Africa...) of course, I felt like I had wasted my chances on the best and was now being served a piled high plate of second best. 

I realize that I'm probably offending some of my local Vermont readers, and for that, I'm very sorry. I just want to provide the back story so you can understand the change that is beginning to take place in me. Please keep reading as I now will attempt to "un-offend" you...

I trudged into church this morning (literally, trudged. yes, I do miss the sunny beaches of Cape Town right now more than you know...) with this attitude still festering in the deep places of my heart. This deep down, depressed feeling that we gave our best life a shot and missed, so now we're left with this.... As I stepped into the sanctuary, my heart began to be challenged even in worship. (side note: we literally started going to this church last week, and I'm already so blessed. the people are SO friendly and the community feel there is so what we've been needing & wanting) God spoke to me this morning that I am to pursue contentment. To ACTIVELY, PASSIONATELY, LONGINGLY pursue the secret of the kind of contentment that Paul talks about...

Well, then the pastor introduced a guest speaker. A young couple who have recently moved here to plant. a. church. in. Burlington. My neck tweaked. Look, I've been to missions college. I took the church planting course. I've been a missionary in Africa. I know what church planting is. But Burlington? Why? Why Burlington? You're signing up for a congregation of 5. (yes, I know I am a skeptic. Go ahead, judge me. I won't deny it even if you do). Well, the guy started talking. He began to share the vision that he and his wife have for this area... specifically the University of Vermont college students. As he began to talk it was literally as if he took a pick axe to my cold, hard, skeptical heart. He shared some startling statistics about my home state. I can't honestly remember them, and I was holding Britany so I couldn't write them down, but lets just say they were troubling. Basically, this guy was quoting the same kind of statistics I used to look up on the the kind of statistics that would make me want to buy a plane ticket and head overseas to some tiny, least reached nation. But he wasn't talking about some tiny nation somewhere. He was talking about right here. Right where I am. Right where perhaps God has not dumped me... but perhaps where God has placed me.

Jesus said that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. Do you also think that perhaps a hometown can not be accepted by a prophet? Does that make sense? I think that because this is my hometown, I am being blind to its needs. I am so focused on what I left behind and the things I COULD have done, that I am closing my eyes to what I CAN DO.

"Don't close your eyes, this is your life, are you who you want to be?" (-Switchfoot) I constantly ask myself that question. Am I today, who I want to be? Am I living to my full potential? Am I useful? Am I being used? Am I opening my eyes, my heart, my hands, to all that God has for me?

Hearing that guy talk this morning caused me to re-think my attitude. To re-check my spirit. To give myself a swift kick in the butt and think about what I'm living for. My days are not complete, and neither is my mission.

I'm not going to close this post with a fire-breathed mission statement for myself to Burlington. Because I don't have one. But what I am going to close with is a promise to myself to keep my eyes open. To look around for the opportunity that lies just outside my doorstep. I didn't leave my usefulness in South Africa when I boarded that plane. I am not dejected, thrown out, or used up. I still have the same two hands I used in Africa. The same two feet that took me there. I still have the same dreams and desires to change the world that I did when I boarded a plane... and I still have the same God through whom all things are possible.

I may not be called to build a church here, but I called to bloom where I am planted... and I now intend to learn the full meaning of that for me. 


Sara Pugsley said...

That's so motivating, Claire. I think we all struggle with blooming where we are planted. I know God is going to do amazing things through your willingness to serve wherever you are.

Krystle said...

Ah...your vulnerability is so refreshing!
Wonderful post Claire!
And a GREAT reminder for those of us who haven't been in a 3rd world country missionary position...thank you!

Casey said...

For years I begged the Lord to move us (Jonathan and I) from this place. Begged. Pleaded. Cried out. Then one day, in the midst of my groveling, the Lord clearly spoke to me and told me to stop praying to move and start praying for roots.

I was floored. ROOTS?!? Grrr. But I did. Faithful asking him to show me where to invest and plant. All of the sudden things began to change. We started making friends that became family, we got plugged into the House of Prayer downtown, ministry opportunities started opening up, etc.

What was really happening is that the Lord was removing the scales from my eyes and softening my heart to see what a battle ground Burlington is. What a treasure trove of lost souls and he gave me the foresight to see that HE IS MOVING HERE in Burlington. His Spirit is here and active and things are stirring.

Sorry I am writing a novel, I just wanted to say that I've been where you are and the Lord is so faithful. The big picture He sees is so much more detailed than our small viewing window. :)

And let me tell you- Good things are coming here. Good things are happening here. I have seen them with my own eyes and I am so excited that I get to be here in the midst of this "darkness" as the Light moves in.

Beka said...

AMAZING! This is so beautiful!!!!!! looooove IT! I am back at my hometown and it is ALWAYS refreshing to get a SELF EVALUATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :)

Thanks for sharing and BEING REAL!!!!

Melissa Reiner said...

You are SO right, Claire! Thank you for sharing your heart.

I struggled like crazy back when Jamie and I were first married that we weren't going into foreign missions. I knew I had that calling into missions as a teenager, but I always assumed God was going to take me back to Jamaica or Ghana full-time. He really had to open my eyes that I had a ministry in my own back yard .. and now in my own home, upstairs sleeping in their little beds :)

We have such high callings, and I certainly know from experience that a lot more growth comes about in my own life when I'm told to stay put and impact the people right around me!

I always seem to remember you quoting "The best is yet to come." Certainly seems like a good fit to where God has you!

Ria @ Life as a Wife! said...

Claire - I am thankful for this insight in you and the vulnerability/honesty you share. Seriously! It is refreshing and also inspiring!! Thanks for sharing your heart... and your beautiful family!! :0)

Stephanie M. Page said...

Oh Claire! God never dumps, he always places. =) AND you are a missionary everywhere you go--don't you forget it!!!! =) =) love to you and it is so fun to see God working in your life, i just know he has great plans for you, even and especially in Vermont. He has children who need to know him there too.

Lindsey V said...

I SO feel you in this! Since we left South Africa, also 4 months ago, to take an indefinite sabbatical, I have felt those same feelings of failure. I have travelled back and forth from US to overseas all my life and been in ministry the whole time...and now...I am sitting and waiting....for what I don't know?? However, I like you, am finding my hope and joy in God's plan....even if it is different than I "dreamed" of.

Callie Nicole said...

What a wonderful post, Claire - I can't wait to hear how the Lord uses you in Vermont!