A Cup of Grace
This story is by guest writer, Jena Meyerpeter. Her story is featured here as a collection from The Holy Ordinary Collective: A podcast + blog community of beautiful stories the articulate God in our regular spaces of life. You can listen to their story and interview on the podcast, and read more about them at the bottom of this page.
My favorite coffee cup is milky white and turquoise with a whimsical design. The rim of the cup is a bit wavy with imperfection, which makes me like it all the added. It was a birthday gift from a neighbor who knew my affinity for a style that's best described as funky-lovely. Every morning after school drop off I'd sit with my steaming cup of coffee and warm up to the day at hand. When we locked up our home in Kansas in order to fly 2000 miles away for a six-week extended work trip, I left my mug sitting upside down beside the coffee maker in my kitchen. It definitely didn't make the packing list into our carry-on luggage. It never crossed my mind that I'd even have a reason to think about that little mug on my kitchen counter while our family stayed in a corporate furnished apartment up in Vancouver, British Columbia for a couple months.
At first, I didn't. My husband jumped into his new work assignment as I acclimated our three daughters and myself to a temporary way of life in a new city and new country. Canada and America are neighbors with many similarities, but they're also like cousins who have shared heritage and grandparents but grew up in different households. Not only that, but we moved from a suburban to an urban way of life. We went from a four-bedroom, three bath home on a sprawling cul-de-sac lot surrounded by grass and wheat fields to an 800 square foot apartment on the 25th floor of a high-rise tower surrounded by more towers. An Ikea futon and table dotted the living/dining room combo and the sparse kitchen ware consisted of white on white. Since we were returning home in a handful of weeks I knew we could make the best of our accommodations. Having three kids in an apartment would be a challenge, but not a hardship. Parking my 7 passenger SUV in the gated entry, compact parking garage would be something we'd get used to quickly if we ever wanted to drive to the beach or grocery store; again, a challenge, not a hardship. During the week it was the four of us, my 13, 7, and 6-year-old daughters and myself, finding our new normal between playing the roles of tourists and homebodies. Navigating a new city with no friends or acquaintances to rely on means we leaned on each other. I was my kids' primary example of how to do change well in our new surroundings.
Most people don't handle change well, myself included. I love summer break, but I don't like the end of school. I love Christmas, but I like the normalcy of an uncluttered, undecorated house too. I love vacationing but packing up our closets is daunting because it disrupts our usual routine (which I know is the entire point of a vacation). I tend to stiff-arm change like a running back shielding the football. Planning ahead for change might ease the physical burdens involved, but the emotional ones just have to play themselves out. My heart so desperately longs to cling to circumstances and well-defined roles and rhythms for its security.
I didn't realize how tightly I was clinging to my life back in Kansas until I began loosening my hold. The first finger released when my husband came home from work with news about his "short-term" assignment. They needed him to stay on his project for a few more months. For a minute I imagined myself packing up the kids' stuff and flying back home without my husband, but it's not how we'd agreed we wanted to raise our kids. In our family, two present and available parents trumped zip codes and familiar schools. Instead of returning home to our home, family, friends, and schools we knew and loved we'd be hunting for a new corporate apartment, as the one we were in was already leased for the fall.
My grip further loosened when we moved into the next furnished townhouse we ended up calling home for nine long months. I stood in our snug kitchen looking at its unfamiliar contents thinking about my favorite coffee cup perched upside down in our kitchen back in Kansas. The same kitchen where we made memories surrounded by layers of family and friends. My heart squeezed with an ache so old I barely recognized it. However, I'd felt it before, this sense of God prying my hands off of something I'd held so tightly.
I'd felt first felt the ache when I was ten years old. My dad drove up to our family home only to find the locks had been changed by a foreclosing bank. Up to that point, it was the only home I'd ever known and the one where my mom battled her last weeks of cancer before going home to be with Jesus. I was four years old when I lost her to cancer and unwanted change entered my world. I was ten when the bank foreclosed on our home, and change forced its way into my world once again. It was that exact familiar ache I'd known as a little girl that reared its head when I recalled my funky-lovely coffee mug perched upside down in the kitchen I was doubting we'd ever return to. Until that moment, I had no idea the pain of loss lay dormant in my spirit like a seed waiting to be watered by an unforeseen change.
By this time, it was January in Vancouver which means rain, grey skies, and more rain. Work circumstances had changed again for my husband and the odds of us ever returning to our prior life in Kansas grew slimmer by the week. The townhouse we'd called home through the Christmas season, during birthdays, and now into a new year felt like a new definition of home. Elevators were a way of life. Passing neighbors on the way to trash rooms was an everyday occurrence. We became the familiar locals at all the parks and green spaces. We knew passing dogs and kids by name. Our daughters learned to navigate scootering across busy seawalls and crosswalks. Menus from our favorite restaurants were stuck to the fridge, and homeschooling in the middle of the city from a small space was getting easier by the week.
Each day was filled with an ordinary kind of grace. It held me together in moments when I thought I'd break apart from grief. God was breaking down my self-will to control like only He can. I knew it was Him all along because it was a gentle, but firm assurance that going back to Kansas wasn't an option. I laced up my sneakers and went on long runs and walks along the city's seawall and asking God all the hard questions; if not for myself, then for my kids. Didn't we need normalcy? Didn't they deserve a home where they could run and play outside with their friends? Didn't we need to be closer to family so my girls would know their grandparents and cousins well? God, didn't you ask me to write and speak back in the Midwest? Doesn't my teenager need stability and friends during these trying years? Wouldn't we be better off with the comforts of home…I mean, I know it's just a coffee mug, but it's more than just a coffee mug, right? I questioned God's goodness when all I couldn't see the road ahead. I asked hard questions and sought real answers in the pages of my Bible.
Every question was answered with the same response: have faith in Me. We're never asked to trust in our circumstances, locations, or belonging when we sign on to follow a God who calls His people to trust his promises, not their perceptions. God draws us out of a false sense of permanency in this world by introducing us to change because He knows it's our only true path to the type of freedom He has in mind for us. Our idea of perceived control keeps us human. Our faith in a God who controls the unknown grows Jesus in us. It's a mathematical formula we cannot grasp outside of walking through it.
By May of that year, we knew career opportunities were calling us to a long-term move out to the Pacific Northwest. We wrapped our minds around going ‘home' to finally box up our belongings and sell the house we'd walked out of nearly a year before. I had walked through grieving, and alongside my kids in their grief in varying degrees. We cried, we laughed, we remembered. We prayed and believed God for His faithfulness to bring us to a new haven, a dwelling place where we'd feel a sense of home and belonging again.
This morning I opened the dishwasher and pulled out a rack of warm, clean bowls and cups. Perched upside on the top rack was my funky-lovely, white and turquoise mug. I filled it with steaming milk and fresh coffee as I glanced out my kitchen window into our new backyard. Our kids are settled in schools and finding belonging in their new surroundings. We grew closer as a family over these past two years and made memories our grandkids will no doubt hear. In December we purchased our home tucked among giant evergreens in a harbor town on the shores of the Puget Sound in Washington. I'd never dreamed of calling Washington state our home or think we'd arrive here by living in temporary housing in downtown Vancouver BC for over a year, but we're here and God has given us all a new story to tell. He's been faithful and purposeful to grow new life in me from those unseen broken places I'd lugged around since childhood. Our kids have experience us navigating trials and hard decision with prayerful confidence as a family. Change will never be easy for me, but I now have a story of just how personal, purposeful, and present God is when He calls us out of our comfort zones. He's still cultivating and nurturing the new growth in me He started in me back in Vancouver. It'll take time and energy, but I'm learning to wait on Him because His unwavering presence is the ultimate security my heart longs for this side of heaven.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet and he brought them to their desired haven.
More About Jena
I fell in love with words as a little girl tucked into the aisles of our local library where my dad worked. Words had a way of moving beyond pages, influencing us to live stories worth telling.
Today I am more enthralled with words than ever. My love of words carries over into everything I do from homeschooling, writing, speaking, and even into my 18-year marriage. My husband and I have logged 16+ moves (I lose count!), experienced enough loss and love to fill a bookshelf, and have earned a few tough life lesson badges along the way. Today I’m sharing my own words with you as a place to re-think your status quo in order to live your one precious life with gusto.
As a writer, it’s my hope that you walk away inspired to live with relationship-first purpose in your own life. Our ‘Why’ is only as strong as the “Who” it’s built on. You can read more at https://jenameyerpeter.com .