Hijabs in Panera: A Journey of Learning to be Available to the Lord

I was leaning back in a booth at Panera the other day, waiting to have dinner with a friend at church. I had my Bible out on the table and was pouring over 1 Peter when I saw them: three girls chatting happily, indistinguishable from any other college-age girls besides their black and silver hijabs, draped gracefully around their faces. I watched out of the corner of my eye as they ordered their food, met up with another friend, and settled down at another booth around the corner.

I should go talk to them, I thought. Or was it the Spirit urging?

It was one of those moments when every obstacle real or imagined comes flooding into your mind. I’m too tired. I’m reading my Bible. My friend is about to come. Whatever am I supposed to say?

After a few moments of arguing with myself, I got up, put on my mask, and walked over. Of course, half of the challenge of meeting new people is overcome by simply smiling at them. But I couldn’t because I had a mask. But not wanting to offend them either, I pulled off my mask from one ear and left it dangling … I suppose to be able to smile at them while also showing them that I didn’t want to get them sick!

We chatted about life. They were native Coloradans, as am I. Two of them were going to school for biology. I never had a chance to mention the Lord, which I regret, although they did later come up to me and thank me for starting up a conversation. Though I’m still not sure why the Lord wanted me to talk to those Muslim girls that day, the experience reminded me how crucial it is that I remain constantly available to the Lord. While I’m thankful I listened to his prompting, how many times have I missed opportunities because either my busyness or fear kept me from being truly available?

You know God is trying to teach you a lesson when it shows up everywhere. My little devotional from MacArthur I read each morning asked me that very question: Are you available to the Lord? A sermon my sisters and I listened to while making breakfast challenged me: Am I willing to leave anything to serve Him, to be available whenever, wherever He sends? Then, a friend shared with me how ministry often means your job description is simply “Available to the Lord.”  

All when the world clamors for important-sounding titles and life ambitions. But often, the work to which God calls us does not fit into their neat little box. How can a stay-at-home mom describe the hundred ways she daily ministers to her husband and children simply by making herself available? Nor is that same kind of availability limited to moms. Local churches need servants willing to pick up and help a single mom move, meet with a troubled teenage girl, or bring a meal to a family with a new baby. As Rosaria Butterfield puts it in The Gospel Comes with a House Key, serving (particularly in the context of hospitality) requires the beautiful balance of both organization and availability, planning and flexibility:

“The list making and grocery shopping make me small, meager, messy. It ties me to home and hearth and budget keeping. This busy preparation for table fellowship that comes daily, and where Jesus lays his head, requires 50 percent prayer, 40 percent organization, and 10 percent hutzpah.”

In other words, being available to the Lord—whether it be through the ministry of hospitality or anything else—isn’t merely a mystical, spiritual heart-thing. Yes, the key to remaining available with the Lord is to nurture a sensitive heart for his leading–and then obey when he does lead! But more practically, availability requires me to both hold my schedule with an open hand and be willing to schedule in serving others. There are days I need to surrender my untouched to-do-lists when I simply need to be available to serve. And there are days when I need to make a  to-do-list to ensure that service actually happens. But in the end, the heart must be obedience flowing out of a gospel-saturated life ready to serve whoever God brings my way—my family, my church body, my neighbors, or even random girls wearing hijabs sitting in a Panera!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Carissa says:

    This is fire! 🔥🔥🔥 It’s such a great reminder to listen to and serve the Lord in any way (whether it seems big or small) that He calls you to!


  2. Gabby Thenhaus says:

    Julianna, I was so inspired by this post. Thank you so much for writing this blog. You do a remarkable job. As young ladies, we crave spiritual encouragement like this.
    Thank you again!


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