Finding Grace In Unexpected Places

Since moving to an area foreign to me I occasionally struggle with figuring out where I fit in.  It’s a completely new setting.  In the midst of laundry, going to events, working from home, and feeling like we are constantly busy, this feeling of being “lost” find its way of creeping in.  As time passes this decreases, however, I’m still in this new, big world of meeting people, making new friends, remembering names, to even figuring directions to the nearest store.  And then there are my friends, those so close to me who are now at a distance.  A huge part of my life who I am now physically disconnected from daily.  I’ve traded my previous life for an even better one, knowing I would go through this process of rediscovering who I am in little, old Middletown, Indiana.

How does one go about discovering who they are when they’ve already lived a third or so of their life?  There’s a great sermon that could follow up that question about being new in Christ, but that’s not quite where I’m heading (and I leave the sermons to my husband, he’s much better at that than I).  I wanted to know what God expected out of me here, who He wanted me to me, what He wanted me to do and how He was going to use me where I’m planted.  If you read my last few faith-based posts, such as Closing Time – Changes & Chapters, you’ll know that I’ve had a theme going to my posts.  Right now it’s all about changes, faith, and being satisfied where we are planted.

It wasn’t until a few months in that God started revealing to me that I needed to stop focusing on discovering myself, and why.  As a human and sinner its instinct to become self-centered and focused without even realizing it.  There is so much promotion on “finding your true self” and “knowing yourself” plastered everywhere that it gets easy to make this a priority.  I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking self-care and goals are not important – they are.  What I do want to emphasize is that the need to control who we are and what we do for ourselves is truly overrated and can cause blindness to what God has in store for us.

It took an unexpected Aldi’s parking lot encounter for me to realize this.  That’s where it all went down, while grocery shopping.  If nothing isn’t more ordinary or #momlife than that, I don’t know what is.  A woman’s cart was blocking the path to my car as I was getting ready to unload the groceries from my cart.  She noticed this and quickly apologized, she was kind but tired and her physical demeanor displayed what one could assume was from years of hardship.  She was just another stranger, the same as most people felt to me here: unfamiliar.  She appeared to be physically appearance so I offered to take her cart back and that is when she broke down crying and asked for a hug & prayer instead of help.  In this situation, if I’m completely honest, my natural instinct would have been to feel totally awkward and hesitant.  It was completely outside of my comfort zone.  I think loving on a stranger might be a comfort-zone breaker for most of us, but I felt led to embrace this exhausted, physically disheveled, and somber looking stranger.  To offer grace to a stranger, not because of anything she had done to me, but to honor and respect her.  The same things I myself seek from others, in many different ways.

This woman has her own story to tell of a life lived hard but a faith living strong within her.  I left grocery shopping blessed by her words, but heavy-hearted at the realization that I’ve spent months trying to “discover my new self.”  The time I spent wasted not realizing that God shows me who I am to be and what I am to do every day.  In the grocery store, a parking lot, in a cafe, or my own home.  Whether in small town Goshen or in the metropolis of Indianapolis.  This stranger’s humble request spoke volume and broke my selfish mentality.  It’s no secret my life is full of strange stories and happenings, the people I meet and the experiences are extraordinary.  And I realize this only when I stop trying so hard to make myself the priority.

A few weeks after the Aldi’s lady encounter, I found myself helping a mother get her kids out of a car on the side of the interstate before it went up in flames.  Stopping to help any stranger on the side of a road is completely unlike me but I’m learning there are a lot of things I will do when I don’t let myself get in the way.

My best friends came to me over a decade ago through one of the hardest times in my life.  I was a newly single mom of two toddlers, learning to balance motherhood, work, college, and doing the 24/7 parent thing alone.  I meet them through my new job and through the kids daycare.  We have always needed each other, it was all about three broken people all needing grace throughout our entire friendship.  Though they no longer may be physically close by, we all still need each other and they are still apart of who I am and have become.

So when I think about my question, how does one goes about discovering who they are when they’ve already lived a third or so of their life?  There’s not a whole lot of effort that goes into this, there is no need to stop life or start a new one. God doesn’t need us to show up and tell Him what we are going to do.  Nor draw up our own life blueprints and/or a revision every time there is an change.  He needs us to show up and be willing to do the things He has planned for us. Daily.  Even if that is outside of our comfort zone or means offering the same grace that we all so desperately seek.

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