Back in February I wrote a post called “What’s Saving My Life Right Now.” This question comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Leaving Church. Taylor tells the story of a time when she was asked to speak on this topic. At first it seemed like an unusual thing for a priest-turned-professor to speak about, but as she composed her speech, she realized it was powerful to reflect on the graces of a particular season. She made a note to ask herself this question from time to time.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things in my life that are hard: missing Korea, experiencing constant rejection on the job front, continuing to struggle with a chronic ear infection I’ve had since July, having to pack up and move (again!) in a few weeks, the return of my panic attacks, and now this huge natural disaster in my new city.
I would be quick to extend compassion and grace to anyone else in this situation, but I find that It’s difficult for me to give myself that same measure of grace. I feel that it is not OK that I haven’t figured out a stable job situation, that I can’t get over this ear infection (which is costing a small fortune in doctor’s bills), that some days I am utterly overwhelmed by daily life when I am so very fortunate compared to many. Life is short and precious and I don’t want to spend mine feeling overwhelmed and hopeless when there is so much beauty I could be enjoying. There is a disconnect between the life I want to lead and the life I find myself living.
I wrote recently about my experience with the Lord’s Prayer — about asking for daily bread and receiving manna just for one day. Two days ago, manna came in the form of a letter from a reader named Steph who just moved to the middle-of-nowhere Texas after several years in South Africa. In so many ways, we are leading parallel lives. Like me, she moved to the US for her husband to go to graduate school. Like me, she is having trouble acclimating. Like me, she is unsuccessfully looking for a job that won’t kill her soul. Basically, we’re the same person. But in her letter she reminded me of the value of focusing on the things she loves about where she is and what she’s doing. She reminded me of some of the things that I love about being back in America. Her letter inspired me to do an update on what’s saving my life right now.
Here’s my list. Leave me a comment about what’s saving your life right now. I’m a collector of ordinary grace.
- The library. The public library system in Columbia rocks my socks. It’s similar to Raleigh’s library system in which there are many smaller branches scattered around the county, but the full collection is extensive. You can easily request any book you are interested in and have it delivered to your closest branch so you don’t have to drive all over town to get a particular book. There is also an extensive collection of audiobooks (which I love listening to when I’m spending time in the car running errands) and dvds (including full seasons of TV shows). And it is all free!!!!
- My bathtub. After two years of showering in a wet room where my shower head was connected to my sink, I am grateful for both a separate shower with a curtain and especially for a tub where I can sit with a book and relax.
- Fall candles. In the last year or so I’ve really gotten into scents, both in terms of perfumes and house scents. In my opinion, fall candles are the best of all the candles. My favorites right now are Leaves, Pumpkin Pie, and Marshmallow Fireside from Bath and Body Works and my Tobacco Vanilla one from Paddywax.
- My cats. I’d forgotten how much joy those little jerks bring to my life. Even when their demands for attention disrupt my day, I can’t help loving those warm little bodies curled up against me and t their ability to make a game out of anything, like systematically pushing things off the counter or stealing twist ties from the kitchen and later drowning them in their water bowl so they are good and dead.
- Friends. Being in Columbia has allowed us to see many of our friends more often than we did in Korea, but even more often than we did before in America. We’ve seen our good friends in Charlotte three times in the two months we’ve been here. I’ve seen all of my college roommates twice, my best friend from childhood once, and I’ll see another of my best friends from home this coming weekend. I’ve also started to make new friends in Columbia through my friend Lorien’s Bible study, through the church we’ve been attending, and through Jonathan’s program. These friendships are gifts and they make life brighter.
Il y a plein de choses qui aident au quotidien… Par exemple le café du matin, parce qu’on profite de la bonne énergie du matin et qu’on ne sait pas encore de quoi la journée sera faite…. 😀 C’est un moment encore paisible qui nous permet de réfléchir, de nous poser et de nous mettre préparer pour la journée qui arrive.
Les petits bonheurs de la vie 😀 et surtout être conscient de ces petits bonheurs.
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So my French is not that good, but I got the part about morning coffee (agreed!) and how one of the small pleasures in life is actually taking time to be aware of small pleasures. But whatever you say said sounded much more beautiful. I’m now inspired to study some French.
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Yes…the little pleasures ! oh learn French? what a great idea … then a little chat Skype from time to time ? 😀 Have a nice day 😀
Walking through the fallen leaves. Cups of tea (I can’t coffee ). The moment when my Little Person cuddles up against me so she can share her favourite TV programme. Seeing my car in the driveway (I dunno, I just appreciate the independence ). Writing. And crochet.
Excellent list. That’s cute about your car. That’s definitely a big difference for me being here as opposed to Korea and is something I really should be more thankful for. The independence and ability to go straight to anywhere I want whenever I want to is pretty amazing.
Aw, love this! 🙂 I also love how God can use the internet to bring people like us together at just the right time!! Just crazy! I loved reading your list… okay I’m going to add a couple more things to mine: I added a drop of peppermint essential oil and a teaspoon of cocoa to my morning coffee. WHAT?! Why haven’t I been doing this forever?? Peppermint mochas, yay!!! Also, squirrels. I forgot about those when we were in South Africa.
ME TOO! I’ve been really blessed in that while I do get some trolls, the vast majority of comments and interactions I have here are very positive and encouraging. 1) I didn’t know you could ingest any essential oils. But peppermint is very calming, so that sounds lovely. And there is nothing more festive than a peppermint mocha! Are there no squirrels in SA? I did not know that. Where did you live when you were there? Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but my husband’s brother lives in Capetown. He’s been there for a few years and just started a PhD program at Stellenbosch (sp?) and is kind of settled there for the foreseeable future. He’s never mentioned the squirrel thing either. 😉
2. So, they DO have squirrels in Cape Town, but nowhere else (as far as I know). I think they came over on a ship or something, but the mountains/desert means they can’t migrate anywhere else. The only place I’ve ever seen squirrels was in Capetown! And that was like this huge novelty! 🙂 And Stellenbosch is so beautiful, your bro-in-law is lucky to be there!That’s so cool!
1. Also, yes, not all essential oils are safe to ingest, so read your label! But if you have food-grade/therapeutic grade essential oils (I use YoungLiving) they are processed in a chemical free way and they’re safe to eat. There’s a couple that can get you sick (like wintergreen) but almost all are safe… the worst that can happen is if you do something dumb like drink the whole bottle you’d have a SERIOUS and sudden detox. Ha ha. But most are totally safe 🙂 Hmmm, I know what’s going in my next letter. 🙂
Ooh, you know what …I was just wanting to write another post like this, so I may resurrect it as well. Here’s to those life-saving elements!
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Amen and amen!
Your fortunes will change. I was in a similar situation after I finished my bachelors. I had many interviews but, I always seemed to fall at the final hurdle. I considered myself unwanted and doomed to unemployment forever (okay, maybe a LITTLE bit dramatic but, the point remains).
Anyway, a few days after my most recent rejection, I got a phone call from my supervisor that I had in my final year at University. She told me that my application to do a PhD had been granted by the faculty (it was initially rejected by the University). So, I am now currently waiting to begin at the start of November and I cannot wait.
During the summer, I would regularly think about whether going to University was worth it. Whether it was one big expensive mistake. They say it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know right?
Ermmmm… It seems I went on a bit too long (I felt the need to share that anecdote with you). Sorry, about that. The point I wanted to make, stay positive. An opportunity will arise. And I hope it happens soon! 🙂
I’m also just a TEENSY bit dramatic, so I also think I will be unemployed (or at least under-employed) forever after only 6 weeks of looking. Congratulations on starting your PhD work! That’s a great opportunity. And you’re right that sometimes opportunities arrive from unexpected places and you can’t really predict where they’ll be coming from. I appreciate your encouragement and wish you luck as you go back to school!
My best friends, my bookshelf, music, and God’s grace.
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Beautiful list. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
J’approuve completement avec Myo. Coffee in the morning gives energy and inspiration for the rest of the day. Besides that playing the piano, reading a good book, hanging with friends gives a lot of energy too!!
came across this nice poem by Jules Deelder, which reminded me at your post 😉
Coffee is the peoples comfort
but, what is coffee without pot
a brown wet patch, a stain
only the pot gives coffee form
and with that the source
of our delight
the pot is God
That’s fantastic. I love it! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
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Sounds like we have a lot in common. Hurray for morning coffee!
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Lily, my prayers for you. I think such times of uncertainty have been the hardest in my life. Even when I’ve had bad news but a plan of attack, it’s been better than living in limbo and job hunting can be soul destroying.
My recommendation on the job front is to try to network and meet people who could give you a job. Go to things like industry association events, Church might be good too.
When I’ve been too sick to work, I’ve unconsciously got into one of my other passions like photography and that’s really bridged the gap. I found when I was doing my photography, people were much more interested in chatting about that than their job. It gave me a sense of still being part of the action.
It must be quite a loss leaving Korea. I lived in Germany in my 20s and it took quite awhile to readjust. LIke you, I was living and breathing the culture, which is very different from just passing through. Keep your chin up and give yourself a bit of time and even though there are no guarantees, hope things get better xx Rowena
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Soul destroying. Yes, that is it exactly. I’ve certainly been using whatever connections I have here in my job search and some things have panned out, at least small-scale like with subbing and tutoring opportunities. Some days I feel encouraged by the number of little jobs I’ve been able to pull together, but so far, even my best weeks have still come up a bit short of what we really need income-wise. This is especially discouraging because I feel like I’m really trying hard and am pulling things together and pursuing every opportunity and even my very best isn’t quite enough. But at the same time, it really is amazing that I’m able to pull together a consistent 15 – 20 hrs of work per week at this point when I’ve only been here and looking seriously for about 6 weeks. I know that it can take some people 6 months or more to find a job and I don’t want to be ungrateful for the things I have been able to get, most of which I genuinely enjoy. But, like you said, not having a plan of attack and being unsure of what my next move should even be at this point is a big part of what’s making everything so stressful. That and the fact that I probably have unrealistic expectations for myself. Thanks for your encouragement and support!
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You’re welcome, Lily. I don’t know what the job market is like over there but it’s been a bit more difficult here althouogh nowhere near as bad as when I finished uni in 1992 and there was one page of job ads in the Sydney Morning Herald and I had the choice of delivering pizza or selling insurance. I chose the insurance option until I took off overseas. I sold one policy. Good luck with it all. You’re a great writer and surely that has to count for alot!!! xx Rowena
I love the positive energy in this post. You’re an inspirational person! My husband and I are in the opposite situation–he’s had trouble finding work and purpose while I’m in grad school. I feel like so much has changed for us; diet, exercise, work schedule, sleep schedule, and even our identities have shifted with our recent move. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate my program and not fail miserably (because we did, after all, move all the freakin’ way across the country for this), and figure out how to support Tim in his ever-changing roles. Your post really helped me shift my perspective. What’s saving my life right now is…
1. a great new church, with new friends
2. this fabulously creamy French Vietnamese au lait (chicory root coffee with sweetened condensed milk!) at Sweetwaters coffee shop
3. good music in my headphones on the bus ride home
4. cute new black booties I bought with birthday money
Blessings to you and your family as you find your way!!!!
Love your list! Those all sound like fantastic things! Even though we are sort of on opposite sides of things right now I can completely relate to what you’re saying about everything changing down to diet, exercise, work, and sleep. The changes in diet and exercise have left me feeling kind of gross and unhealthy, but it’s hard to make better choices in these areas when all the other parts of life feel challenging and stressful. The change in schedule has been especially tough for us since we’ve come from a situation where we were on almost the exact same schedule for two years. Sometimes we end up completely missing each other for a couple of days. Today, for example, we woke up together, but then I left for a subbing job and I have tutoring after that until about 7pm. He has a night class tonight that he won’t be home from til around 10. I might still be awake by then, but I’ll probably be in bed because I have to get up at 6:15 tomorrow to sub again. He’ll probably be sleeping when I leave. And so it goes. It is definitely a new challenge to love each other well and be supportive of each other when it feels like we’re leading separate lives a lot of the time. Grace to you both as you navigate all these changes! And hurray for black booties that make you feel great. 🙂
1. Family, because love wins 🙂 2. My bookshelf and the public library 3. Forever supportive friends whose faith in me is beyond precious 4. Upcoming Japan trip!!
What great things! And Japan trip sounds so exciting!