Is It Time to Give Up Your Ordinary?

Is It Time to Give Up Your Ordinary?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

She could not have been more ordinary.

Gladys was also a poor student and had quit school by age fourteen. She grew up to be a London parlor maid with few prospects. But then God got hold of her heart and after hearing about the needs in China, she was determined to serve Him there.         

Only no mission board would accept her.

gladys-aylward-with-one-of-her-many-adopted-orphans-pixIn 1929 China Inland Mission declared she was not qualified and her educational background was too limited. So Gladys Aylward decided to reserve a one-way train ticket to China and every month made a small payment to the travel agency. By age thirty, she was on her way, not knowing where, what or with whom she would minister, but determined to serve God.

Through a miraculous journey across Russia and many war zones, Gladys arrived in this very foreign country, ready to take on the world. Years later she said: “I had two childhood heartaches: 1. Everyone else had golden curls and I had short dark hair 2. Everyone else kept growing but I stopped at four foot ten inches. I always wished things were different. But when I got off the train in China I was shocked to discover that everyone else around me was short with dark hair. I was home.”

Gladys first mission was at “The Inn of the Eight Happinesses” where she watched over orphans and had a government job of inspecting feet to help educate women on the new law banning foot binding. This gave her an ‘in’ with the community and from then on she became one of them.

By the time war came, she had adopted several children and bravely escorted hundreds of orphans safely across the mountains and the Yellow River. Throughout the Shanxi Province there were churches and believers when she finally left China.

An ordinary woman living an ordinary life? Perhaps. But her story became a bestselling biography by Alan Burgess – “The Small Woman.” And none other than screen star Ingrid Bergman (who was definitely not short) played Gladys Aylward in the Hollywood movie “Inn of the Sixth Happiness.”

Gladys gave up her ordinary and left a legacy of faith and transformed lives.

Our God specializes in such things — taking an ordinary person and doing extraordinary things through them. Peter and John, for instance.

 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4.13) People were amazed by these men and marveled that “they were unschooled, ordinary men.” What was the deciding factor that catapulted them into the extraordinary?

“These men had been with Jesus.” And it showed. The very act of drawing close to the Lover of their souls had changed them and empowered them.

What could an ordinary person do if we spent more time with Jesus? Short, dark haired parlor maid Gladys gives us one answer. What will your story reveal?

Autumm is traditionally a time when most of us pull out our calendars, prayer journals and Bibles – asking God to show us where to invest our time and energies this fall. We pray that we will say ‘yes’ to those endeavors that enhance our season and our calling. And that we will have the courage to say ‘no’ to those often tempting opportunities that, while good, are not God’s best for our current limits and responsibilities.
            Is it harder for you to say ‘yes’ or harder to say ‘no?’ For those who hold back, may I encourage you to believe that though you may feel “ordinary,” God in you can accomplish extraordinary things – as you spend time with Him. And for those who jump ahead too quickly and tend to overload, my prayer is that you will learn to let go of a need for external affirmation and draw close to the One who knows you best and loves you most.

I truly believe He will use each of us in Kingdom work this fall – both within and without. May we be like Gladys Aylward and never stop offering hope to a broken world.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

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6 Responses to Is It Time to Give Up Your Ordinary?

  1. Ellen says:

    Thank you for reminding me of Gladys’ work. I remember seeing “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” as a child. My father told me that since China was still closed to the West when the movie was made, the scene depicting Gladys leading children through the mountains was filmed near his hometown in North Wales. The topography was considered to be the closest to China’s available at the time. I later found photographs of Ms. Bergman which were taken by my grandfather. All these things made the movie memorable for me, but Gladys’ life is the real story. How many of us, given this Call, would have the courage and faith to travel to the other side of the world to do this work? Now realize that this young woman made this choice in the 1930s. It’s nearly unimaginable, but “I can do ALL things, through Christ who strengthens me!”

  2. maggierowe says:

    I can see your website again – yay! It must have been my computer going wonky as now it’s happening with other sites as well, but at least I can read yours. I continue to learn from you, Cindy – thank you!

    • Whew. I’m so glad it’s back to normal because honestly I couldn’t figure out the problem. THanks for being a faithful reader/follower, dear BFF. I know you love missionary biographies too!

  3. donna bechtel says:

    hi lucinda……so enjoyed hearing you speak at COTW this summer…..thanks for being faithful to
    the truth of God’s Word……loved hearing your remind us of gladys aylward’s story…..that impacted my life when i was young…..seeing the movie first…..i think it planted a seed in my heart toward
    China……and being a missionary. then i met john at COTW…..and God drew us to HK to minister
    to the Chinese……what a life we’ve had! i wouldn’t trade it for anything!!

    • Donna! YOU (and John) are the heroes to me – your lifelong service to China and the amazing influence you both continue to have. So glad (and not surprised) to know that Gladys inspired you to pursue that dangerous and surprising path. LOVED being with yall at COTW and praying for the new stuff… under the mercy, Cindy

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