Grace in Unexpected Places

For the last 1.5 weeks, I’ve been in Minnesota on a working vacation.  And I’m kind of having a love affair with Minnesota right now.

Here’s why: I can sit outside without risking immediate death from suffocation.  I’ve been eating delicious veggies nonstop (who knew swiss chard was so amazing?! The geniuses who put my CSA box together, that’s who!) Wild turkeys and their adorable babies.  Bunnies.  Deer.  Wildflowers.  People gardening in their own yards (someday, we’re going to visit and Zoe is going to incredulously say “people garden without getting paid for it?!” Heavy sigh…)  People biking everywhere.  Outdoor markets.  People who have known me for years (this morning, one of my mom’s friends called me just to say that I am a great mom and that she has had so much fun watching me grow over the years.  Seriously.)  Popcorn from our favorite popcorn spot, the one Google can’t find.  Coffee from Caribou.  Getting to see my best friend.   Newspaper headlines about rattlesnake bites and a grocery store remodeling instead of rape and murder.

And the casualness.  Oh, the casualness.

Usually, the lack of glamour in Minnesota makes me roll my eyes.  But after spending the last 11 months in my proudly pretentious area with no real break from its constant drum of “look cool” and “act cool” and my constant inner drum beat of “I will not give in to this, there are more important things, gahhh maybe my life WOULD be better if I had those Tory Burch flats…” let’s just say that I find the silence and lack of inner conflict refreshing.

People, I’ve been taking daily walks in ugly T-shirts and a freaking camouflage hat advertising an exterminator that I stole from my brother and no one even looks at me funny.

I’ll pause and let you re-read that sentence.  And then maybe look for return tickets for me because I’m clearly going a little too far with my newfound freedom.


In the past I haven’t always been as charitable towards Minnesota.  At times, I’ve referred to being here as “doing time” or “being trapped.”  And it’s true.  Minnesota has never been my choice.  My parents moved me here against my will three days before I started high school.  I never felt very attached to the state, even when I grew close to the people.  I got out of here as soon as I could and came back only for what I viewed as forced periods of time in between exciting adventures.  After my freshman year of college, I didn’t even bother changing my laptop clock back to central time.  All summer, I calculated two hours difference instead of having to admit that I was here.

But there came a time when I HAD to admit it.  I had to come home for a while to deal with some really ugly things in my life.  And even though I didn’t want to be here, I eventually had to face the truth: I was in the place I least wanted to be in, in a situation I didn’t want to be in…and maybe there was a reason for it.  Maybe there were things for me to learn that only this place, these people, could teach me.  And so I stopped running and stayed still.  Finally.

That year, I watched the frozen ground turn soft again.  I watched the dead come back to life. And I slowly felt my heart thaw.  As winter turned to spring and then the warmth of summer, I walked these hills on stronger legs and marveled at the salvation I had found here.  When it came time to leave, I actually cried.

A few days ago, I went through a box in the basement.  A box from that time.  It would have been triggering at one point, and at another point it would have made me cry in sadness, but this time, I just pulled out item after item from my life and smiled.  Here was the photo of my best friends from our junior year of high school and the shawl a friend gave me on my trip to Greece.  Here also were the letters my friends wrote me during that winter.  The books I wish I never had to buy.  The photos that show a girl so in need of grace.  The journal, full of punishing writings I no longer feel condemned by.  And a pair of jeans I had forgotten about.

I tried them on.  Perfect fit.

I’m not wrapping this post up in a bow because…life is not like that.  But those jeans made me smile.  This place has surprises for me still.

He has surprises for me still.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a middle school baseball game to attend.  I’ll be the one in a camo hat.

Want more? This song says it all.

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