Lessons from Two Months in the Peach/Peanut State

Sometimes I still can’t believe I live in the peach state (which should, technically, be called the peanut state, but that’s another whole post).

Anyway, I have lived here for almost two and a half months now, and I am settling into my new normal: Work, church, small group, sleep, eat, work… Serving in kids’ Sunday school every other week… Leftovers, date night, laundry… It’s a little repetitive and a whole lot of busyness, but I learning how to settle in well.

I dreamed about being here for several months. However, now that I’m here, I feel a bit disappointed that, somehow,  it isn’t exactly like I dreamed. I’m adjusting to a new living arrangement (with sweet but new roommates), a new work environment (enjoyable but challenging), and a fairly long commute in metro traffic. At the same time, I’m adjusting to a new extended “family,” new friends, a shifting relationship with members of my family, a longer distance to my family, and a much shorter distance to my boyfriend.

We went from living three and half hours from each other to working literally around the corner from the each other. As in, down the hall and around the corner. Imagine that. We see each other single day, at least three times a day, but usually around 87, since he pops in my classroom around five times each planning period, much to my combined delight and annoyance. 🙂

Here’s the kicker: I moved expecting everything to just work out. I moved expecting a seamless, simple transition where life would be ten thousand times better. I moved expecting, in a sense, all my problems to go away.

Here, I still have problems. Different problems for the most part, although I’m sure a few of the same problems crossed over the state line with me. The problems are a little more grown-up, but nonetheless real and emotional and concerning. I may even have fewer “problems,” per say, but there are still things I’m working through and dealing with and adapting to.

I realized today that I moved without giving grace to myself. Or, for that matter, the people who were with me during the process. In those few moments surrounding the move, I packed up a lot of emotions and concerns that I have harbored against others. I withheld grace from myself and from those closest to me because my heart was (and is still) processing those emotions. Instead of trusting God with my loneliness and brokenness and doubt, I wrestled in my heart, and I had nothing left to give myself or those around me.

At my core, I am fragile. And though I like to proclaim my stoic strength as a woman of stability, I am one of those crispy little leaves, withering in the autumn wind, letting go of the tree I called home.

The first chapter of the Gospel of John says that Jesus took on flesh and blood and “made his home among us” (Jn. 1:14, NLT). He came here to the filthy, messed-up earth and pitched his tent and lived with humans. Why? Because we need him.

We are fragile, broken, dirty, messed-up. Yet he comes into our lives. He intersects our paths where we are mostly desperately in need. He comes alongside us and ministers to us in our places of darkness and loneliness.

Picking up and moving for the seventh or eighth time in six years is challenging. No wonder the little girl inside me is lonely. But Jesus came. He came to the Jewish people, in need of a Messiah. And he comes to me, in need of a Messiah, a Savior, a King, a Father.

I realized my fragility because I saw my need. Yesterday, my boyfriend of one year and three months wrapped his arms around me and told me he had me. He told me he would hold me. He told me he was there. That’s the same thing that God does. And you know what? It makes me angry. Forgiveness makes me angry. My boyfriend is rarely mad at me because he has a heart of forgiveness, and it makes me so confused that I end up getting angry. I am used to anger. I am used to frustration. I understand it because I have received it and dished it out. But God doesn’t harbor anger against me. He doesn’t withhold grace because he is frustrated. 

His mercies are new every morning.

When I think I’m solid and stable, like I thought I was during the moving process and as I settled in, I expect everything to be peachy. I expect to do all the things I had planned and be prepared for all the things I had expected to be prepared for. I thought that by now, I would have homemade-from-scratch baked goods for every social event and birthday cards two days early for every birthday and a perfectly organized social calendar and good relationships with everyone possible.

But I’m not solid and stable. My God is, and I rest on his unchanging grace, but I’m not. By two months in, I’m supposed to have a place to live, a job, and a couple ways to get to work. I’m supposed to have met a couple people at church and had dinner with a couple friends. I’m supposed to have a shelf in the fridge and a section in the cabinet and a favorite grocery store. But I’m not supposed to have everything figured out.

I must give myself the grace to still be learning.

I think I approached this stage of my life adventure the same way I approached my summer as a camp counselor or my semester student teaching in Thailand. Both of those were high-energy, short-lived experiences. They required investing a lot upfront for a fast payoff. I also got by with learning less and speeding more.

However, this part of life is going to be one of slower growth and deeper progress. I am not going to survive this entire school year, or the next one, or the next five without pacing myself. Will Reagan sings about climbing the mountain in front of him with his hands wide open, leaning not on his own understanding. This is that kind of mountain. I am investing here. I am investing into relationships. I am investing into this school. I am investing into this curriculum.

I am preparing for a future with not one, but two. And later on down the road, three and four and more. I have to pace myself so that I have more to give then.

One of the best ways to pace yourself is to take Kaley Thompson‘s advice and “fill it to the brim.” Sleep well, eat well, pray well, and study the Word well. Get counseling, take a day of R&R, invest into relationships that pour into you, and depend on God. Running through life without so much as a coffee break will not fill your bucket to the brim.

So, what I have I learned from two months in the peach state? What have I learned from one year and three months of dating?

  • Give grace to yourself and others.
  • Be open to receiving grace. It is God’s love that gives this grace.
  • Pace yourself to avoid spiritual and emotional burnout.
  • And finally, I have so much more to learn.

Isn’t that always true, though? I have been learning grace since 2013, and I still have no idea what it actually means. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe in my weakness and fragility, I can be used by the God of the universe. Maybe God’s light can shine through my brokenness into the lives of others. What a humbling thought.

Allotted Grace

[The future] sometimes feels impossible. Impossible when we forget that we are kept, loved, walked with in our hard [times]. When we sit and imagine future hard without the grace that is provided to walk in it- then we are walking away from the very air that helps us breathe. We sin when we imagine our futures. We are lonely in that future place, because we are too finite to understand how Jesus will meet us in those impossible moments. But we do, we spend moments wondering over those future fears.

– Kara at Mundane Faithfulness

On a warm Sunday in September 2014, I made the decision to ask God for direction for my future. I had been putting it off much the same way I had been putting off asking God for a job or a mentor or money between paychecks. I know I will not live with my parents for the rest of my life, but I’m not sure what’s next.

When I was in my early years of college, I told God I would serve him and obey him… as long as he didn’t call me overseas. When my eyes were awakened to God’s work overseas, I told him I would follow him anywhere: from the mansion in the country club in the Carolinas to the shack in the middle of the poorest part of India… as long he didn’t send me to Africa. When God called me on short term trips, I told him I would go whenever he sent me… as long as he didn’t want me to be a career missionary.

God has broken down so many walls I built up around myself, that I think I it’s time I stop giving him ultimatums.

My Monday morning commute the next day found me pouring out fears and worries and unknowns about my finite future to a God who sees the entire spectrum of eternity in one glance.  I prayed hard that God would reveal my next step (not the whole plan, yet) and give me peace about whatever it would be. I prayed hard that God would align my future with that of my future husband. I prayed hard that even now, God would be preparing me for what he has for me.

When I imagine my future, I see a few different alternatives, each one with its own immense difficulties. I am guilty of imagining my future without also seeing the future grace allotted to me. I look ahead and imagine difficulties but don’t imagine God meeting those needs or providing that strength or opening those doors. How can I? I don’t write the future.

That’s why the words in the blog post I found this morning grabbed my attention. Kara writes: “We sin when we imagine our futures.” This upset me, because I think imagining one’s future is healthy and normal, but Kara wasn’t saying that thinking about the future is sinful. She was saying that worrying about expected difficulties without also hoping for God’s expected grace is sinful. God will not leave his children out in the rain. He will not do it. Therefore, worrying about what might or might not happen is just plain wrong.

The truth is that God gives us what we need right when we need it. He always has. I have never been without food or money when I needed it. I have never been without God’s grace or strength when I needed it. He always provides, and he provides in the most unlikely of ways. 

Whether God sends me to the middle of Africa or the middle of a suburban neighborhood or some nondescript place in between, he will give me the grace I need to make it through each day. I must stop worrying about future fears, but instead allow God to take the reigns and prepare me for what he has for me one step at a time. He knows what he’s doing. He holds tomorrow in his hands. He knows what he’s doing, and I can rest in that.

But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!

– 2 Chronicles 20:17

Last Updated Mar 7, 2017

Two and a half years later, I am developing as a blogger and as a person. I am now happily married to the “future husband” I wrote about in this original post. We are both working at an International school just north of Atlanta, Georgia, and we are {still} considering where our next steps might have us. At this time, however, we are happy and contented knowing that this is exactly where God wants us right now. We recently took our first big trip via airplane, and I wrote a fun post about that. Thanks for stopping by!

Deeper Than My View of Grace

Sunrise over the soccer field

I will never understand His grace.

God has this crazy plan to do things completely opposite of the way I think they should be done.

For example, today is the last day of my college’s Fall Break. There’s, like, 20 people on campus max. Even though I live close enough to go home, I chose to observe at the high school on Thursday and Friday to earn hours for my Teacher Ed classes. I thought for sure that no college students would be attending my church (or singing in the worship band) this weekend because they would all be traveling, so I almost dreaded going. All I could think of was 64 verses of Just As I Am.

Of course, God works differently from how I think He should.

I got to church this morning to see more people than we usually have on a Sunday morning, including a college student who, of all things, led worship. It was no “Just As I Am” worship set, but it included a variety of genres.

Blended with “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” was “Your Love is Deep”, a song I hadn’t heard before. The verses declare that God’s love is “deep, high, long, and wide” and the chorus elaborates. The verse first of the chorus reads: “[Your love is] Deeper than my view of grace.”  His love is even deeper than how big I thought it was. His grace runs much deeper than my impression of its depth. Wow, what an awesome concept.

When the very thing I desired, prayed about, asked for advice about, and felt peace regarding did not come to fruition, I felt like God had refused me my dream. I couldn’t think of any reason His will would not include my will. After I heard him say “No,” I stopped listening to him. I did not want to hear what He would say.

I am a proud INFJ on the Meyers-Briggs, and my F (for Feeling) and T (for Thinking) are both very strong. So strong, in fact, that I sometimes score as an INTJ on the test. Anyway, I came away from this situation in thinking mode: Well, that doesn’t make any sense, but I guess that is what’s best. It took several weeks to process it as a feeler: I’m very disappointed. 

And I came to God with my heart full of disappointment-to-the-point-of-anger and I demanded to know why and how and what was He planning instead and God was like “Woah. Wait.” It was Job 38:2 all over again: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” Questions His wisdom. With ignorant words. Why would I question the wisdom of my great God? I mean, He created the entire universe – why do I doubt his provision in my life?

His ways are much different than mine. And, dare I say, better?

His love is deeper than my view of grace. This implies that my view of grace is inadequate. I wonder if I will ever be able to understand His grace. I wonder if my view will always be inadequate. We do not worship that which we understand completely, so I wonder if I will always be wondering about God and his incomprehensible ways.

See, even in my moments of misunderstanding, of blaming God, of being furious like a teenager denied her wishes, God still loves me and he still lavishes me with an abundance of grace.  Even in God’s justice, he is kind. Even in his righteousness, he is forgiving. I can fight him and argue with him, and he takes it like a faithful father and welcomes me into his arms.

This is not a license to be angry with God. This is not an excuse to argue with him about the smallest of things. I don’t want to take advantage of his grace. But this is a realization that even in his refusals, he provides. This is a realization that he knows what he’s doing. This is a realization that his grace and his ways are pretty much incomprehensible to my finite mind.

And yet… His ways are good. His grace is new every morning. His ways are right. His heart is kind.

His grace is more than enough.