It’s been one month since I moved to the Midwest. I chuckle just thinking about some of the quirky things I’ve discovered here. There’s thunderstorms in the summer, fireflies in the evening, and mosquitoes all around. Birkenstocks with socks are socially acceptable despite the blatant fashion faux pas. In general, there is little to no sense of urgency at any given time. Everything is approximately 10-15 minutes away, and the average person you meet on the sidewalk is kind, hospitable and down to earth.
As a new Madisonian, none of the grocery stores are recognizable names, and the tornado sirens put me in a moderate panic. Everything feels different. The transition has mirrored the flow of traffic here, painfully slow. After staying in a spare bedroom for a few weeks before my lease began, I am slowly getting settled into my new apartment. After returning from a work conference in Illinois, my roommate called to tell me that our apartment has small bugs coming in through the vent in one room. Long story short, our first visitors were exterminators, and the carpeting will be replaced in the coming weeks, one room at a time. Curtains cannot be hung, and decor will have to wait, but the biggest inconvenience is that we have to look presentable by 9:00 AM every day in case inspectors or workmen come by.
If you’re wondering how that makes me feel, the answer is yes, I did want to cry upon hearing the news. But I didn’t, and I am not sure why.
Maybe it’s because I was too tired to cry. Or maybe it’s because despite everything feeling foreign to me, there is an underlying sense of comfort that remains inexplicable to me. I expected to be more stressed out, overwhelmed and emotional over the stark contrast from my California roots. I expected to be restless. I expected to feel like an outsider.
The Lord’s anointing over this transition has remained vibrant. He has warmed my heart to the Midwestern quirks that I’ll never understand like “Take a plant, leave a plant” and “Take a book, leave a book” stands in people’s front yards, or the peculiar obsession with putting an assortment of fake animals in one’s garden.
The simplicity and innocence of the town I now call home restores peace in my soul where stress and concern once resided. Sure, part of me feels like I am living in Mayberry, but there’s something warm and charming about Aunt Bee’s pies, isn’t there?
Besides the small town feels, Jesus has met me where I am in the most unexpected of places – in my cup of coffee and doughnut. I already shared this bliss with the social media world, but it’s worth restating. I stumbled upon a cafe that serves great coffee, gluten free doughnuts, a full GF menu, and wine! It’s cozy and eclectic with wine tastings every other Friday. I felt like crying tears of joy, and Jesus was jumping up and down with me saying, “I got you, darling. I’m right here.”
We expect to meet Jesus on retreats and encounter him in the sacraments. We spend time with him in prayer, discover him in Scripture and see him through others. But sometimes, Jesus is in the most ordinary places, speaking my language, like in my coffee and doughnut, and that’s just marvelous.
I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop that looks like it’s having an identity crisis. Every wall is a different color, there are random wind chimes and wall charms hanging from the ceiling/walls. They sell jewelry, an assortment of paintings, African tribal inspired bags, loose leaf teas, dishes, pottery, baby toys, and other miscellaneous trinkets. It’s weird and endearing at the same time. Fair trade coffee served in thick earth toned mugs sings sweet melodies to the senses. The red owl kite hanging next to a colorful cat wind chime above my head reminds me that we’re all a little out of place no matter where we are. It reminds me that there’s something remarkably beautiful about embracing our oddities instead of being a wallflower.