Clinging onto Grace

The Setting

Have you ever been tubing behind a boat? It’s an activity I’ve enjoyed since I was a little kid. Sometimes when I’m hanging on tight and being whipped and thrown in every direction, I wonder why I enjoy it. But every time I end it is like a sense of accomplishment and the next opportunity I have, I come back for me.  Lately life has felt a bit like that. It’s a funny thing when life heads in a different direction than you planned and you grab onto the rope just trying to hang on. It almost feels like I’ve been half on a tube hanging on one handed for the last nine months of my life just trying to keep my head from going below and swallowing a bunch of water. Can anyone else relate?

If the me from nine months ago was looking in on my current life I wouldn’t even have any idea it was my life. The only things that are stable are my furniture, my dog, my cell phone number, and the fact that I remain an oncology nurse. So, I guess, when I reflect on the fact I feel exhausted and a bit wandering, it feels a bit more understandable.

Nine months ago I was dating someone, but knew it was probably about to end. I had absolutely no idea though how the break up would be drug out and get worse and worse as time went on. I had no idea that the duplex I had called home for 3 years would  no longer be my home come July 13th. I had no idea that I was headed from outpatient oncology to inpatient oncology. I had no idea that the women’s group I had been leading and leaning on for 3 years would be going on, but without me there. I had no idea that everything about my day to day life was about to change.

It’s all about grace…

So, as I’ve continued on in this season of learning about and leaning into grace, I’m learning more than ever what it means to give myself grace. As I navigate the somewhat familiar, but not home like streets of Indianapolis. As I learn a whole new job. As I hit speed bump after speed bump in life, or I guess, if we’re still going with the tubing concept, huge wave after huge wave, I’m learning I can’t have it all together. I’m learning that establishing a whole new home, a whole new job, a whole new church, a whole new friend group, and a whole new routine — it is absolutely exhausting.

And as I look around, I realize, we are all exhausted from this thing called life. I wonder how is it that we can help each other by easing the big waves, or providing assistance to help grab the other handle, or how is it we can help slowdown the boat to help each other? How is it that we can help each other to travel along life easier? And I think the answer comes in grace. Letting go of expectations where they should not be, giving people grace when they mess up, and realizing that we need to lean into the grace provided from up above.

Grace — I’m clinging onto you with every weary bone in my body. Trusting that this crazy tubing ride like life will at some point slow to a comforting float, but until that season, I’ll cling to grace.

Labels and Diversifying Our Social Set

Starting Statements of a Socially Segregated Single Sister:

Have you noticed how clique like adults are? I thought we were supposed to grow out of it when we graduated. Maybe somebody should have told us that it wouldn’t be any easier to integrate our social circles as adults than it was as kids. We watched The Breakfast Club and thought, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to allow anybody to label me!’ But we continued to label others and often try to avoid those with undesirable labels.

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Try thinking about the characters in the 80’s classic The Breakfast Club and who they grew up to be. We have ‘The Criminal’ and  ‘The Athlete’ who likely went out and got blue and white-collar jobs respectively. ‘The Brain’ got a Master’s degree (if not a PHD) in something useful and now likely owns their own company, gives TED Talks, conducts all sorts of important research etc.

Each comes in the male and female varieties. But, the girls? Well, the girls seem to me to be primarily defined by their marital status. ‘The Princess’ got married before she turned 29, while those of us who identified with the ‘Basketcase’ are enjoying our 30s and 40s as single women. Maybe I’m thinking to deeply about a John Hughes film. The point is, we’re still labeling, and we’re still congregating around the labels we’ve chosen for ourselves.

The problem is the same as it was in high school. When we only spend time with persons who are similar to us, sure conversation is relatively easy.  These small social circles become breeding grounds for (at best) isolated ignorance and at worst severe prejudice.  Additionally, I find that when I mingle strictly with those individuals with whom I have much in common I begin to lose any sense of self. I begin to ask, “Who am I?” What a ridiculous question! The truly frightening conclusion is that my answer begins to come back tritely packaged as ‘The Basketcase’ ! I’m single, female and over 30. The general consensus is that there must be something wrong with me! At the least I’m too picky and at the worst I’m on the fast track to being the lady who claims several dozen felines. So, how do we address this rampant social segregation, these juvenile cliquish tendencies? We must diversify our social set.

Presently, my closest circle of friends includes:

  • My 13- and 17-year-old brothers: They keep me in-touch with what’s hip and cool while reminding me what my values are and why I hold them so close to my heart. Incidentally, I find that we behave better as adults when we know an impressionable youth might be watching.
  • A young married mother: she is my biggest cheerleader and challenger. We are so very different…but we value each other more because of those differences. BONUS: she comes with baby cuddles!
  • An atheist with a pair of bachelor’s degrees (I’m a Christian with a piece of paper that confirms I went to a conservatory for the study of physical theatre for precisely one year): she challenges and questions my beliefs. Plus, she thinks I’m smart, and since I think she’s smart. I tend to believe her.

May I offer you a challenge? Go make friends with someone with whom you have little to nothing in common. Try it! You might learn something and you might just find that your differences aren’t so great after all. There’s an education to be had; a point of view to see; a thought process to learn. And maybe you’ll effect change in the other or maybe they’ll effect change in you. If you’re really lucky, you’ll both be better for the exchange.

End-Note: I actually set out to talk specifically about the segregation and exclusion of singles in our culture. I was going to get up on my soapbox and whine about how we singles (especially us girls) feel like outsiders. Maybe someday I’ll share those thoughts in more detail. But here’s the thing: I can’t change you. I can only change me. So, I’ll continue to seek out the others. I won’t make my social comfort your responsibility; it’s mine, after all.

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Moving Made Me Realize Just How Blessed I Am

Moving. I hate it. But honestly, who doesn’t? Your life is stirred up for the minimum of a month and everything seems chaotic. And for Type A personalities like myself I start packing at least a month in advance and I want to be unpacked within 12 hours of moving in (and surprisingly often accomplish this) . This will be my 11th move since I was 18. I’m a pro at it. But I still hate it.

With each move there is a mourning. A letting go. Even if it is just 20 miles away I am closing a chapter. A long time ago I wrote in a journal of mine “live in NYC for a year”… it was a bucket list type goal. Well, I didn’t live in NYC for a year, but I have lived in Chicago for 1.5 years. And I’ve loved it. City living isn’t easy. It has challenged me and made me learn a lot about myself. There is a new meaning to “just running to the store”. And I never thought I’d be so good at parallel parking… even in 2 feet of snow.

One of my favorite streets in Ravenswood

I’ve been tucked away in my little Ravenswood/Lincoln Square neighborhood. I know these streets forwards and backwards from the hours I’ve spent walking them. I have a favorite ice cream shop, a favorite neighborhood pub, a favorite house, a favorite Thai restaurant, a favorite Indian restaurant, and a couple of my closest friends just a short walk away. And as I face this move to the suburbs I mourn the loss of what has been home. I know without a doubt I am making the right move, but I still mourn for the comfort of my sweet little apartment with the brick walls and character that only an old city building can have.

As I’ve sifted through my things… as I’ve mourned the loss of the city… as I’ve thought through all the reasons I know moving to the suburbs is the right option I’ve been faced with a strong reality. I am blessed.

Often because of growing up in the U.S. I can lose sight of just how blessed I am. Life gets stressful and it is easy to focus on the stress, but I am trying to focus more on the blessings. I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to move. Even more so, I am blessed to have a roof over my head and a lot of things in this roof. I am blessed to have a job I get to go to every day. I am blessed to have an incredible education. I am blessed to know that I CAN pay my bills.

So as I take this step that is hard, yet so right, I want to step into it know that by reducing costs, reducing commute times, reducing stress, and so many other things I am stepping into a place where I can bless many more others. And as my church steps into what they call the “Celebration of Hope” where we spend 3 weeks focusing on helping both worldwide and locally I am challenged. Challenged to look at the ways I’m using my time, my money, my education, and everything that has been entrusted to me. I want to use all of my blessings to bless others. So, as I take this step into a new season of my life, I’m asking myself “how can I best use my blessings, skills, time, and money to bless others?” I want to pack every box with a purpose. I want to live every second of my life with a purpose. I want to know that in my last breath, I made decisions that allowed me to love and bless others well.  Will you join me on this journey? Can we embrace just how blessed we are together?

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