I’ve been here for three and a half weeks now, and it still doesn’t seem real. I love this place more now than I did before, and I didn't even think that'd be possible. There’s so much I have to say right now, but I really don’t think I’ll even have all the words.
It seems almost every day, I somehow get the opportunity to tell someone how God helped me get to this city, and each time, after telling them exactly how all of this happened, they’re so shocked. And, each of these times is a continuous reminder that I didn’t just get here my chance or by accident. I didn’t just figure all of this out on my own. My wish to be in this city didn’t just so happen to be granted. But rather, my relentless prayers, my deepest desires, my hopeful dreams were heard by my God who already knew where my heart was and had already had this in His plans for my life. He so mercifully orchestrated this entire situation to occur at just the right time, so I could be as ready as ever to get here, put my heart out on the streets, and show each person that I come in contact with the love that Jesus has for them.
On the first night that I went into the city by myself, I got completely turned around. Considering it was the FIRST time I was out alone, I naturally began freaking out thinking that I’d never find my way out of this maze and I was lost in the subway tunnels forever… I got on the wrong train and I didn’t realize it until it had gone halfway in the wrong direction. I got off, walked up the stairs and then down to the platform on the other side to go back in the right direction. My heart was racing - still not knowing if I was at the right place or if this next train would get me where I was supposed to go - and I shot up a prayer asking God to show me if this was where I was supposed to be. Immediately, I heard music. A lady right down the platform was singing in a beautiful voice. I realized right away what the song was, and it took everything in me not to burst into tears. She was singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. My absolute favorite song - the song that inspired the name of my blog and the song that helped me find my true passion in life during my freshman year of college. An indescribable peace washed over me, and Jesus told me that I was right where I needed to be - He didn’t just mean at the right subway. He meant the right place, the right city, the right church, the right people, the right host-momma - it was all right. It was going to be alright. I made it home safely that night and I didn’t stop smiling the entire way there.
The Journey Church does a thing that they call “SE”, which stands for Servant Evangelism where they get a group together and stand on a street corner near the theatre where the church meets and pass out a chewy granola bar with a card of info about the church and whatever the message is going to be about for the upcoming Sunday. We just make eye contact, smile, and say “would you like a free granola bar?” over and over and over until we run out of chewy granola bars. We did this one day when Jamie was in town, and it ended up being such a rewarding experience. After the first few times of people actually accepting what we’re offering and then coming back to ask questions - and then actually seeing them again on SUNDAY AT CHURCH is such a beautiful thing! Serving them, giving them something to nourish their body, and offering a smile - which is something they honestly may not get anywhere else that day - is the most humbling feeling and fills me with real happiness.
We have a mission team here this week from Tennessee, and it’s been such a joy meeting them and getting to know them. I got a chance to share a devo with them on Wednesday about the Great Commission, and then we went out to a playground to clean it up. I got to lead them there and show them how to use the bus for their first time, which made me feel like I really knew what I was doing. Haha. Once we got there, we went straight over to the park area and started picking weeds. We picked SO many weeds. It’s actually comical how many weeds we picked. And if you know me, you know that wearing gardening gloves and picking weeds in 90 degree heat is the last thing I want to be doing at any given moment...
I bet you’re probably laughing right now at the thought of me picking weeds. And it’s fine that you laugh because I’m laughing as I’m writing this - as a matter of fact, I was laughing while I was picking those weeds because never in my life would I have thought I’d be picking weeds… at a park… in New York City… But, there I was… picking away… then I told God, “Hey, are you seeing this? Do you see me right now? Picking these weeds? You gotta be kidding.” I laughed out loud - and I promise you, I heard Him laugh, too. Then I said, “I didn’t think I came all the way to New York City to pick weeds…” and then He said, “But, would you? Maggie, would you pick weeds in New York City for me?” And somehow - right there, in that 90 degree heat - my body managed to get chills. Chills everywhere, as I realized that He DID see me, and picking those weeds was exactly what He wanted me to do. Then I found myself singing - actually out loud - “Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm. Oh no, You never let go, in every high and every low. Oh no, You never let go. Lord, You never let go of me” in between my laughs and weed-picks - because of course, I would. Of course, I would pick weeds in New York City for you, Lord. I would pick weeds every day for the rest of my life if it meant those children in that park would somehow see you through me and someday come to feel the love you have for them. The park manager came out and took a picture of the weed-pickin’ we had done, and said it was the best job he’d ever seen. I’ll admit - as someone who usually doesn’t even notice weeds - we did a pretty darn good job pickin’ those weeds.
Today I got to do more SE and to be completely honest, I was dreading it - only because of how hot it was outside, and I was wearing jeans… not such a good combination. But, I set out with three guys from the mission team to pass out the chewy granola bars and info cards. This time, I ran through my box of 120 granola bars in less than 30 minutes because of how receptive the people were. I realized as I was standing there on that street corner with the biggest smile on my face - a smile that I truly didn’t have to force - that I was made to love these people. Seeing their faces light up at the mere mention of the words “free granola bar” is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You’d think we just handed them a million dollars. But, I think it’s just because usually, they have to give up something to receive anything in this city, whether it be money, time, energy - everything costs them something - except for this granola bar that I got to place in their hands. We left when we ran out of granola bars. But, I came back a few hours later with two ladies and two teenage boys from the mission team. We passed out 600 more granola bars, each one complete with a smile and a “have a good day!” - I’m truly getting to love these people like Jesus would if He were still physically here in His human body - and this brings me so.much.joy. A man walked by and said, “You should get some water!” and the boy from the mission team pulled out his phone and told me that it was 92 degrees - but, I didn’t even feel hot. In fact, I had been feeling a wonderful breeze blowing right around me the entire two hours that I was standing there. I looked up and saw Jesus smiling down on me - sending that breeze right in my direction.
Now that I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, I feel completely whole inside. Occasionally I’m a little lonely, but that’s just part of it. I think God wants me to live solely dependent on Him - truly experiencing what it’s like to have nobody but Him. I think that is such a beautiful season of life to be in. I find myself talking to Him significantly more, and asking Him questions and truly waiting on an answer. I find myself searching for His comfort, and actually feeling Him wrap His arms around me or slide into the empty seat beside me on the train. I feel His presence because there’s nobody else around to fill His space. I’m developing such a true friendship with Him, as I’m really hearing Him speak words to me. And, I laugh when I catch myself singing an old favorite praise song as I realize that He put those lyrics in my mind to whisper to Him in worship while I’m waiting at the bus stop.
It’s just so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that God actually wants to share so many of these one-on-one moments with just me, that I’m special enough to ride a bus and a train to meet Him in this city for quality time every day, that He is confident to send me all alone because He trusts that I will be there each time He calls my name.
I couldn’t do this without Him because without Him, there would be no purpose for me to be here. He is the reason that this city speaks such volumes to my soul, and it’s all because of His stirring in my heart that I was able to meet this place two and a half years ago, fall in love with it, and now finally get to feel it love me back. I have so much love to give, but only because of the outpouring of His love that fills my heart each day.
I’m so incredibly excited to see what all else He has in store.