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Lessons Learned Living in D.C. #1

Moving to D.C. was a hard move for me. And that’s saying something, because I’ve had a lot of moves in my life. You see, I’m a planner, for the most part (other than when I decided to marry Leif). And usually I make sure to have all my ducks in a row before I take a trip, make a move, or invite a big life change into my life. D.C. wasn’t like that but not for lack of trying. I applied at numerous jobs, traveled to the city multiple times, and gave everyone in my life plenty of notice. But God had other plans.

Leif and I rolled into town with no apartment, no jobs, and barely a reason for being there. I felt on-edge and emotional any time I opened my mouth, like I would explode into waterworks if anyone looked at me the wrong (or right) way.

But it became easier, as things tend to do. Leif and I found jobs, family was generous and kind, and the apartment search process was under way. I finally felt ready to stand up, dust myself off, and embrace the world.

Just a couple weeks later, after having just accepted an awesome fellowship opportunity and feeling at the top of my game, I went out to a new area of D.C. to catch up with friends from my time studying abroad in Jordan. It was wonderful reliving the experiences, laughing with buddies, and catching each other up on our lives.By the end of the evening I was feeling immensely excited about my new life in D.C. and called Leif to tell him I was headed to the metro and should be home in an hour.

Then I walked towards the metro.

And I walked.

And I walked.

I hadn’t chosen to retrace my steps from the way I came; I had decided to trust my phone to guide me. I pulled up maps and typed in “metro”, but hadn’t realized it was directing me to an entirely different metro stop. By the time I realized, I sighed with frustration, knowing I was most likely closer to this metro stop than the last. I kept walking.

In the dark. Down unfamiliar streets. Past cars, lots, apartments, and schools. Crisscrossing streets, and turning corners. Finally I stopped, panting, as I had picked up my pace out of anxious fear. 

Where was I?

I had followed my phone towards the metro, until finally I had to stop, dead in my tracks, at an empty lot surrounded by barbed wire fence. I couldn’t see any metro station nearby. My phone had led me on a wild goose hunt and I had trusted it.

At this point it was very late, and I was a young woman wandering the roads of some region of D.C. that didn’t seem particularly safe. I felt a cold knot of fear clutch my stomach. I’ve been stuck in a blizzard in a desert, stranded in Israel during a Gaza flare-up, and yet this time, I felt cold, real fear. I felt the warm tears down my cheeks before I even saw them.

I called Leif, panicked. He tried to reason with me, but his level-headed, world-travelled wife was gone. In her place was a young, frightened girl who just wanted to be home. Desperately.

It’s important to know that I have always prided myself on having an amazing sense of direction. You can ask anyone, I practically gloat about it. My mom says you can put me in a new city I’ve never been and I can still know which way I need to go.

As you might imagine, this was not only terrifying, it was humiliating.

Leif managed to keep me focused though, and I started moving my weary feet down more streets, trying to find some way to get to the illusive metro. Eventually, I found it. I trudged up the long staircases to the entrance and carefully kept my tear-stricken face turned away from the attendant.

I sat down on a platform bench and checked the time for the next train. 20 minutes. It was a long 20 minutes followed by an even longer train ride home. A long time to sit with tears of embarrassment and confusion.

How had I gotten so lost? Why had I panicked? It was so out of character that I felt wholly unlike “Grace”. I reasoned with myself saying only Leif would really ever know the extent of it. It’d been a fluke after all, a night that wouldn’t ever happen again. I told myself it’d been an emotional few weeks and this was just that bubbling over.

But the further I get away from that moment, the more I need to share about it. Because this moment wasn’t a fluke, and it wasn’t just an over-tired and under-fed Grace.

I need to share about it because I need to own up that when I was so weak and so vulnerable – it was me.

It was a Grace who was boasting in her own strength and her own abilities, so sure she could handle it all on her own. And this is a Grace who realizes now, much later than she should have, that there’s only one thing worth boasting in. A God who loves me and takes care of me and knew the whole time I was safe in His hands and His plans.

All that to say, I’m learning a lot of lessons living here in D.C. and not all of them are from the grad school to which I’m paying an arm and a leg.

Instead, this one was literally picked up on the streets of the suburbs, but I’m grateful.

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