Mary Grace and I are in my Ford Escape driving on 700 E, I think heading home from dinner at Ben and Rachel’s on a Monday night, I can’t quite remember.
MG snags my phone and the aux cable like she always does when we’re in my car. She says she has a new song to show me. It’s by Jon Bellion, her favorite artist, who had come out with a new album a few days prior. I like that she likes Jon Bellion, too. Some people crap on Jon Bellion.
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And the love I fought to feel was always free?
What if all the things I've done
Were just attempts at earning love?
'Cause the hole inside my heart is stupid deep
The song mostly repeats these phrases for three minutes. It’s dark out, so neither of us notice the other has tears in her eyes until it ends. The rest of the drive, we talk about the ways we’ve been striving, the things we’ve been trying to fill our stupid deep, God-shaped hearts with lately.
I think the tears come because the lines are freeing “what if’s.” In this season in particular, they are words that embraced me with a hug I didn’t know I needed.
I’ve long waffled between extreme pride and extreme self-deprecation. Pride when I succeed. Self-deprecation when I fail. Either way, I’m my own worst enemy who will never be fully satisfied with my performance. I am imperfect and designed to stumble – so why would I stake my life on my own merit and ability? Why should I continue to strive, knowing that I will never realize my futile idea of perfection? What if who I am at this moment is all that is required of me?
What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And why measure my worth based on other people, whose approval will ultimately fail me, too? Their opinions – good or bad – are fleeting, fall short of my expectations, breed a reliance on the words and actions of others towards me. Be it praise from the attorneys I work for. My family’s approval of my decision-making. A test score. A double tap.
I think I’ve spent most of my life focused on these two things: what I think of myself and what others think of me. Which is weird, because if you had asked me four months ago if I consider myself a people pleaser I would come back with an “Absolutely not.” I’ve taken pride (there it is again) in being independent in thought, word, action. Those types of girls don’t need your opinion. They didn’t ask you.
But I care more than I let on. Most people care more than they let on.
The gross reality I’m learning is that trying to maintain appearances, trying to maintain perfectionism, is incredibly self-centered. Because it’s entirely focused on ways I can glorify myself, not glorify the God I claim to serve. The God who says His power is made perfect in weakness, not strength. The God who says his grace is sufficient for me.
What if the love I fought to feel was always free?
In his essay “The Weight of Glory,” which I read for this first time this month, C.S. Lewis speculates what the believer’s first moments in eternity might look like, when the only approval that truly matters is finally gained:
“...What may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him who she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that is her doing with no taint of what we should now call self-approval. She will most innocently rejoice in the thing God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferior complex forever will also drown her pride.”
Inferiority and pride, healed and drowned. Freedom from self-promotion, self-protection, self-involvement. Approval from the One who loves me simply because I am His daughter. Because I am created in the image of the Maker of the Universe, not because of any exceptionality of my own.
This is altogether different from the messages of the world that tell us, “You haven’t done enough. You are not enough.” Our God tells us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
There’s a lot about my decision to move to Utah – to join a program many don’t understand, to be a follower of Jesus in Salt Lake, to choose to work a part-time job rather than secure a full-time gig like many of my recently-graduated friends, to take a risk in submitting law school applications for next fall – where I have worried about what the world thinks of me, how I measure up.
There a few more lines in Bellion’s song that particularly struck me in the midst of this:
What if where I've tried to go was always here?
And the path I've tried to cut was always clear?
I think the “here” I’m arriving at is a fuller understanding of Who I should be seeking approval from and, by extension, what I devote my life to: seeking to know God more, following Him in joyful obedience, being a good steward of my time and gifts, loving others well, enjoying the things He has created with thanksgiving.
I’m thankful the “here” God is using to draw me closer to His heart is SLC. And I’m thankful His path is always clearer and freer than the one we pave ourselves.
10 Things About Me
Back in March, I was accepted into the Salt Lake Fellows program. I was ecstatic at the acceptance email in March. Per my entire senior year being full of curveballs, I really enjoyed getting an ol’ fastball. After accepting my Fellows program later in March, I finally knew what I was doing for the next year.
Over the next 4 months, I continued to search for a job in Salt Lake City, graduated, worked on my Beyond Malibu trip, spent lots of quality time with friends, graduated and worked events over the summer. To say the least, the 4 months before moving to Salt Lake City was packed full of life: not trusting God, being proven wrong by God and growing so much in my faith. I wish that I could show you what those 4 months were like. Take you, to my school’s library where I applied for jobs and planned Beyond Malibu. Or take you to the taco meals I had hosted at my house. Maybe, take you to finding out I graduated college while working in Colorado Springs. Most of all, I wish that I could show you what Beyond Malibu was like and how close I got to those friends. We will never be able to truly show our current friends, moments without them, but we can try to do so with some words and pictures.
Pictured above are the friends that flew and drove across and out of the country with me. The trip changed my life forever, which is why I had to show a picture of my mountaineering friends.
My Fellows experience hasn’t exactly been what I expected. Well what did I expect? Hmm, I dunno.
I have struggled a lot with wanting to be in this new place. A place away from all of my friends in Maryland. A place where I don’t yet have multiple schools to pour into. A place where, thus far, I only really know Christians. Don’t get me wrong, Salt Lake City is incredible. The mountains are 25 minutes from my house and world class skiing is my backyard. Salt Lake City is the ultimate playground without having to sacrifice people and a career. However, I still struggle to find myself at home in this new place.
The question, “should I stay?” comes to my mind bi-weekly. I wish that this wasn’t true, but I struggle to stay in this place. In my attempt to be honest, I understand that I can't quite pinpoint the reasoning for my “lack of comfort here.” If I desire to be challenged then learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable should be on my agenda. Learning to be comfortable in this new place despite my discomfort should be the agenda.
At worship tonight, we talked briefly talked about Paul looking past his sufferings as his eyes were fixed on Christ. In my situation of missing home, I need to fix my eyes on Christ past this discomfort, because he is my king. I love him so much and I am learning he is all I need.
I have everything I thought I wanted, yet I can still feel empty. Mountains are close by. Job is a great opportunity. I have friends. But I still find myself empty handed. God has taught me a simple lesson: all I need is him. No job, nor mountain, will fulfill me, yet only God can. As I attempt to live this great story of trial and failure, I cannot forget that He is near. God is good and no matter how empty I am, he will never leave me.
In the midst of all this, I desire to love the people that God puts in my life, even if I desire to be somewhere else. It is the ultimate struggle: to love when it is hard.
Before I came to Salt Lake, I read the majority of last year’s blog posts from previous Salt Lake Fellows. John Wilson Booth is a Fellow from last year, who, in his second semester blog post, wrote about being lonely in a new city and the difficulties of adjusting to post-grad life. In his blog post he says:
“All of these ingredients have been combined into a dish I’ve never been served before, loneliness, and I’m eating it alone at an Applebee’s at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night.”
Adjusting to not having a million plus friends within an hour of me is a task a lot of post-grads go through. Over the past three and a half months, I may not have been at an Applebee’s on a Saturday night, but I have eaten the loneliness dish. Served in the form of a late-night workout or a random feeling of sadness, which all pulls me to have a greater desire to answer the “Should I stay?” question with a ‘no.’ Like I said earlier, if I desire to be challenged then how can I act on a ‘no’ answer. My desire to love others with a passion cannot shy away, because I desire to be somewhere else. That is why I need to be here as I attempt to cook, to listen, to work, to serve, to run, to hike up a peak with a friend, to ski and to love with all that I know. I am working through my failures to care for others around me as I have been learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Maryland got the perception of this goofball, who slacked around with school. Salt Lake has gotten this perception of the businessman who has his career in order and is all business. The reality, I am just Peter. I am a strange person, who desires to love God and others with an intelligent, yet reckless pursuit. I desire to give back with the resources I have. I am a child of God, who seeks day by day to reconnect more and more with his Savior.
10 Things I Recommend
7:34am Wake up, stumble around the room in the dark trying to get ready for work without waking up roommate. Whip up some chocolate chip pancakes, start the coffee maker, and grab my lunch from the fridge while the Google home I got for free tells me about the weather, the traffic, and the news. If I am really on my game I’ve gotten ready fast enough to have ten minutes left over to read my Bible before I head out the door. If for once I am on time to leave for work, I of course then remember my car will be covered in frost which takes an extra few minutes. Oh well.. Utah Time.
8:33am Arrive at work jamming out to a playlist the Fellows made together on Spotify. Sit in my car for a second and take a deep breath preparing myself for a day of caring for six month old twins. I walk in the house and my boss greets me and kindly offers some coffee. I greet each of the babies with a quick snuggle.
8:52am The days cycle begins—Play with the little ones of the floor for a while until someone gets fussy. Warm up bottles and feed them then begin the juggle of trying to get two babies to sleep at once. Eventually they are both down and I have a few minutes to tidy up the house, do some dishes, and then maybe read a little. When they wake up we’ll get bottles then bundle up for a walk. I pop them in the stroller and head out for a walk. Even though I start walking in the opposite direction I somehow always end up at the coffee shop around the block buying myself a chai latte with a shot of espresso and a bear claw. I think it might be partially because the baristas are girls my age and it’s nice to talk to a grown up since my “co-workers” can’t form words yet. Anyway, when we get home we do it all again a couple more times. Bottles, naps, diapers, play…. Some days they are crying more than they are not—so much so that it makes me cry. But then other days they go to sleep in 3 minutes and wake up smiling ear to ear for hours. Sometimes I hate my job and go all day thinking about quitting. But then others the mom comes home and I am sad to leave them.
1:13pm On Mondays I get off early so I head up to Brighton to ski for a couple hours. It is pretty cool to live somewhere where I can leave work and be at the top of the slopes in 37 minutes.
6:01pm Arrive at the Loho’s house where we will all eat dinner together and catch up on our weeks. We play a couple games as a group, then Justin, another fellow, leads us in a time of worship, confession, sharing, and prayer. I honestly love Monday nights. Even though sometimes I hate walking in the door. If I have a hard day at work or am just tired the last thing I want to do is be around a big group of people. But then Lauren walks up and hugs me. Then Grayson and I do our secret handshake. Then Katie does something that makes me smile. Dana can see I am in a foul mood so she just lets me sit next to her and cuddle. Ben shares some deep metaphor. Anyway, somehow the night always make me feel happy inside. Sometimes at the end of Monday nights I just sit on the couch and think about how much I love these people and how much I appreciate being loved my them.
9:46ish pm Head home and reflect on the day, plan out tomorrow, maybe chat with a housemate for a while when we get home. Then I head to bed.
7:34am Wake up and repeat morning from Monday. Head to work. By some miracle both babies are already down for their nap when I get there so I study for a while before they wake up and we repeat our day.
6:03pm Head to community group. For me, and introvert, Sundays can be hard at church. There are so many people to talk to but you don’t really know many of them all that well. This is where community groups come in clutch. I enjoy getting to spend time with a few families at a time. We all eat dinner together and I chat with a couple ladies. They we send all the kiddos to another room and talk through a Bible passage. After a while of exegesis, we go around the room and share what’s on our hearts so we can be praying for each other. Another of my favorite nights of the week.
8:32pm Stop by Trader Joe’s on the way home, partially because I need groceries, but partially because I am craving some chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzels. Get home, cook lunches for the rest of the week, then head to bed around 10pm. I am in bed for two seconds when my roommate walks in. It feels like we haven’t talked to each other in days, so we chat for a while about life, jobs, which ski jacket to buy, and which coffee shops we’ve been frequenting. Actual bedtime: 11:32pm.
7:34am Alarm goes off. I ignore it.
8:03am I wake up in a panic, throw some clothes on, grab a granola bar and lunch, and head to work.
4:32pm After 5 poopy diapers, 6 naps, 8 bottles, tons of spit up, slipped coffee, and lots of tears later, I am off work and head to meet a friend for a walk around Liberty Park. Each week we have a one-on-one meeting with another fellow so we are able to build closer relationships with each member of the group. In a group of twelve fellows, there are going to be some people you are closer to than others, so sometimes one-on-ones are fun and light-hearted and chill and other times they are way deep and you share hard things and struggles. Either way, they are a valuable part of the fellows experience.
6:38pm Come home and crash for a while. I start to walk upstairs to my room but stop by my housemate’s room to say hey for a minute. Next thing you know, its several hours later and the whole house is sitting around her room asking each other questions from an article titled, “36 questions to ask on a date.” Eventually we tire out and trickle out to our rooms for bed.
7:21am Alarm goes off a little early this morning in a vain hope I might actually make it to work on time and in matching socks. Nope.
8:36am I roll up to work and walk into two hangry, crying kids. Mom in a panic running late for work apologizes and runs out the door. An hour later both kids have been soothed, changed, fed, and are asleep. I shut the door to their bedroom and tiptoe down the hall only to realize in my rush I left my lunch on the table instead of putting it in the fridge and the dog has helped herself. Oh well. I’ll load up my double stroller and head to the coffee shop for lunch later.
4:39pm I am off work and drive to my mentor’s house. As part of the program, each Fellow gets paired with a mentor from the church or community. Basically just someone a little older to build a relationship with and check in with. The Smiths are fun and quirky people. They feed me a lot which is also a plus. After their kids go to bed we sometimes do puzzles, or eat ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, or sometimes just sit on the couch and talk about life.
9:12pm I leave my mentor’s house and head to the other girls’ apartment where the girl fellows are having a wine night. We sit around drinking wine and chatting about anything and everything.
11:46pm Home and bed.
7:34am Alarm goes off and I lay in bed scrolling through Instagram for a while before rolling out of bed and getting ready. I grab my book I am suppose to have read and take it to work to hopefully skim before class the afternoon.
8:32am I arrive at work *almost* on time. By some miracle both twins take a two hour nap at the same time and I am able to get my reading for class almost finished.
1:02pm I leave work and drive to class at the library. As usual everyone is roughly 10-15 minutes late, but eventually class starts. Every week is slightly different, but in general we have a speaker from the community for two hours and Ben, our director, leads a book discussion for a couple hours.
6:00pm The library closes and we head to family dinner. Every other Friday a family from Church graciously welcomes us into their home and provides us dinner and company. Sometimes this is super fun and I love being around the Fellows. Some weeks I leave as soon as I deem it socially appropriate because I’ve had a crap week and I am ready to be in bed. Either way, it is a good time to be together as a group for a while.
9:57am My alarm goes off and I mosey down stairs to eat some cereal before heading to the grocery store and run a couple errands.
11:46am My housemates and I are sitting around the living room trying to decide what on earth to wear/bring on this adventure Ben has planned for us. We know we are snowshoeing but we don’t know where or how far plus none of us have any clue what to wear for snowshoeing. Eventually we make our bets and drive to meet at the trailhead.
1:44pm The group straps on our snowshoes and heads into the woods seeking whatever adventure might lay ahead. After tripping over my awkward feet about six times and falling face first into a snowdrift 3 feet high, I finally figure out the whole snowshoe thing and start catching up with the rest. We wander into the woods for about two miles we find a cool frozen over lake and stop to play for a while. We take some pictures, throw some snowballs, and laugh lots before turning around to head back.
4:48pm We make it back to cars and thaw out our fingers before heading in Park City to wander downtown and eat burgers at Squatters.
8:21am My alarm wakes me up for Sunday school then church. After church we have a potluck and I chat with a couple friends. Sunday afternoons and evenings are a nice resting time to chill or do whatever before the week starts all over. This particular week I went to a bookstore to Christmas shop for a couple hours.
7:08pm I am back home and get snuggled up in my pj’s to write a blog post. Meanwhile housemates wander in and out and we chat some about our weeks and such. A lot happens in a week. Good, hard, boring, busy. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative