Grace here. The date is April 18, 2018, but for you, it’s August 18, 2017. You are sitting in the Denver International Airport, ready to board a flight to Nashville, to the place you’ll call home for the next nine months. You don’t know that it’ll only be nine months that you call Nashville home, or a whole host of other things that this time has revealed. Right now you are scared, optimistic, and laughably unprepared for what’s to come. You are also sweaty because you are Grace Leuenberger, a woman who unfortunately inherited her father’s sweat genes. But you already knew that.
What you don’t know is what I’m about to share — thoughts from the other side. Tomorrow you will unpack boxes, and nine months later, you will pack them back up again. You will do a whole lot of things in between that time. You’ll eat a lot of barbecue, use a lot of bug spray, walk a lot of miles, and tell a lot of stories. You’ll laugh and cry and apologize and swear at all the Southern drivers who don’t like to use their turn signals EVER. You’ll learn new things, but not the things you thought you’d learn. You’ll live in many paradoxes, and learn to be comfortable there.
August will come – the first month in your new city. You’ll drive to Radnor Lake and see your first sunrise. You’ll marvel at the view, and wonder if you’ll always be so awestruck at the beauty of that park. You will. You’ll take care of your dog and use Google Maps every day to get to work. Don’t worry – before you know it, you’ll be able to drive to Franklin with your eyes closed. You’ll use a whole bottle of bug spray and curse at the mosquitos. Your roommate will comment on your cursing. She’s from Georgia and you’re from Pittsburgh – your roots run deep.
September will arrive, and memories will begin to be made. You’ll get free tickets to the Ryman for a concert that you’ll always remember. Your afternoon office will be the woods at Percy Warner, your work will be climbing the stone steps all the way to top. You’ll discover how hard it is to live in the present – to not let future hopes snuff out the importance of the present. You’ll see Steven Curtis Chapman and you’ll giggle like a school girl. You’ll sing ‘Dive’ at the top of your lungs on the car ride home.
October will welcome herself in with tears. You’ll sit at work after the Las Vegas shooting and cry at the horror of 58 lives lost. You’ll find comfort in knowing that Jesus wept, too, that Jesus flipped tables, too, that Jesus will beat death one day because he already did once and promises to again. The loneliness of being in a new place will kick in. You’ll feel like an outsider, like you don’t belong, like you’ll never be known here. You’ll go to small group each Wednesday and feel like these aren’t your people. But wait. Just wait and see who they will become to you.
November will show you that you’re more than what you do. For months you will try to write and design and create things for others, and you will fail. You won’t read any new books, and you’ll admit that to co-workers like it’s some of fatal flaw in your character. But here’s the thing: it’s not. You’ll learn that creativity is not supposed to be a burden. You’ll learn that living life unhurried and unimpressively is what this month is for. You will have unfinished checklists, unwritten essays, and undeveloped talents. You will be fine. This season is a grace, a gift, a lesson you needed to learn.
December will be a new beginning in some ways, even though it is the end of the year. You will host friends for a party where you will eat cheese and cookies and laugh about your lives. You will feel something inside of you that feels mysterious; it is the Holy Spirit. You will feel a call to reach out and say something to someone who matters to you that you’ve been afraid to say, embarrassed to say, too prideful to say. But please say it. You matter to each other; forgiveness matters. You are changed people, able to learn and say sorry and be better for it. This is a grace, too. Your time in Nashville will be full of it – grace, that mysterious thing we’ll spend a lifetime uncovering.
January will arrive, and you’ll learn to laugh at the things that made you sad. A girl will deem you not cool enough to be her friend, and you will be not be offended. She doesn’t have to like you, nor you, her. Instead of resenting Nashville for its exclusive ways, you will come to feel more at home here. The winter will be just as you hoped – lacking in snow. The biggest grace of it all! You will still be quite lonely, but remember that it doesn’t mean you’re alone, unloved, friendless, or that your best days are behind you. In the quiet of this season of life, you will learn to hear Him better.
February will teach you that you are not alone. That we are not alone. Some really shitty stuff will happen this month. Your pastor will preach on friendship – how to find creative ways to be a good friend when seasons are extra shitty. Your small group leader will sit in silence and then share these words: “This is the season we have been given. I don’t think any of us really know what to do with it, but we’re going to keep walking through it together. That’s all we can do – walk through it together.” He is right. You will walk through it. You are not alone. We are not alone. Some seasons are for dancing and celebrating, others are for sitting and sharing the silence together. February will bring a profound realization that we do not have to carry these burdens by ourselves.
March will be a month of great paradoxes. Beginnings and endings. Joys and sorrows. You will be offered a job that you didn’t dare dream of while feeling sadness in the change. You will feel excitement for what’s next and shed tears for what’s ending. Your small group, the group you didn’t think you clicked with, will become some of your closest friends. That’s what happens when you walk with Jesus with others – you can’t help but come together. You will be challenged and tempted and protected through it all. You will begin to say goodbye to Nashville just as you started to feel comfortable here.
Which brings us to April – the month you say goodbye. It will be the wildest month of them all. Work will stretch you but you will not break. Yes, you will swear some more, and sweat some more. One night you’ll get one hour of sleep and that day will be one of your favorites in this whole series of days you’ve been living. You will draw close to the ones who you won’t be close to soon and your heart will break a little. Be encouraged by this breaking – it means you are not numb to this experience of life and all its mysteries.
As for May, that is a mystery that still remains. It will be a month of beginnings, and it looks like endings, too. It will contain celebrations and the unpacking of boxes and the making of a new home in a new place. Who knows what’s in store in the time ahead… What I do know, and what you know, too, is that grace will follow. It follows us wherever we go. It will follow us forever.
So with that, I wish you all the best. You’re going to be just fine.
Cheering you on,