The Grove – Status

 It should be enough. But it isn’t.

Our faith and our womanhood should be enough to bond us to one another, enough to join our lives to journey together.

But all too often walls are built between us.  Status stands in the way.

She’s married.  She’s not.

She’s got kids.  She doesn’t.

She’s older.  She’s young.

She’s like me.  She’s … not.

When my family and I left China to go back to the States for a two year study leave, we moved to a place we’d never lived before.  We had to build our friendships and social life from scratch.  After five years on the field, five years of having our social life determined by the teammates that were chosen for us, I was rather looking forward to a wide range of friendship options to choose from myself.

So we found a church, a Sunday school class, a small group, a MOPs group.  After a few months, I looked around and something struck me.  Every single friendship I’d built, every single one, was with women in my exact same stage of life.  We all shared the same status: married with young kids.

I realized why I’d done this.  It was easy.  This is where I naturally, comfortably fit in.

But it just didn’t feel right.

I loved my same status friends, but if they were all I had, well then, I knew I was missing out.  Perhaps before I would have been content with this social set-up.  But life overseas had changed me.

The field has a way of lumping together all of life’s stages into a sometimes-too-close-for-comfort kind of community.  Suddenly complete strangers of all statuses become your surrogate families.  And it gets messy.

I’ve seen fresh newbies pumped with passion accuse the veterans of not doing enough.

I’ve seen young singles criticize parents for how they discipline their kids.

I’ve seen older moms blow off a young mom venting about her overwhelming parenting woes with an unsympathetic, “Just wait until they’re older. Little people, little problems.”

I’ve seen married folks tell singles to “go back to America and find a mate.”

It’s all too easy to see life only through the eyes of our own status.  Too often careless words slip from our lips and fall straight as a dagger into another’s heart.

Hurtful words can come from anyone, but we often want to stay hidden in our segregated status corners,  because, let’s be honest, our shared status buddies are less likely to unknowingly shoot these daggers.  It’s easier, and just straight up less awkward this way.

But, here’s the thing.  When we stay in our little corners, when we surround ourselves with only those that are like us, it’s like eating the same meal every single day.  Sure it may be a great meal, but is that really all you want all the time?  There is so much more flavor and goodness to be had!

The beauty of too-close-for-comfort communities is that it’s really, really hard to ignore and hide from those that are different.  Hiding and ignoring makes for extremely uncomfortable team dinners.  Right?

So instead we’ve got to dig in and do life together.  We’ve got to serve side by side, pray hand in hand.

And as we do so, something happens.  Slowly I begin to see life through your eyes.  I start to feel your joys and taste your sorrows.

Then one day, there’s no more status standing between us.  You’re just you.  And I’m just me.  And together we’re doing life.  We’re there for each other and needing each other.

Yes, we’re surely going to say dumb things. We’re going to get rubbed the wrong way.  But there’s grace and forgiveness enough for us all.  And in this process, our souls will be sculpted, our lives deepened and blessed.

You’re different than me, and I need you for that.

Different than me

But also, we’re the same.  At the end of the day, we are all searching, hurting, hoping.  We’re all cherished, forgiven, redeemed.

Something special is going on here at Velvet Ashes.   I think we all sense the life-giving breath about this place. This week we had stories of singlenessmarriage, and parenting.  And you, dear Velvet Ashes, you all showed up.  You poured blessing and hope and courage on one another.

Here in this space, we’re all women changed and shaped by this great big world of ours.  We are the beauty and flavor of all colors, stages and statuses.  We are here mentoring and being mentored.  We’re here rallying within our statuses, and we’re here standing side by side, no walls dividing.

——–

Now it’s time for everyone to join in and share your thoughts, words and art on our prompt “Status.”  It’s what we do each week here at The Grove.  I am every time amazed at what you all come up with.

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41 Comments

  1. Anna Craig January 23, 2014

    You make such a good point Danielle! Most of my friends are single and college students, haha! I need to try and branch out a little more I suppose 😉 I think getting involved in church with a group that has a variety of ladies would be a good start.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 23, 2014

      Anna, I love that you’ve branched out and joined the mix of us here!  And yes to church groups with a variety of ladies.  I was once the only young non-mom in a ladies Bible study.  Learned a lot from them!  Someone once told me to always be on the lookout for mentors and mentees.  We need both.  We need to BE both.  Definitely changes your perspective about relationships.

  2. Kristi January 23, 2014

    In States most of my friends were older women with families – the nature of being a 4th grade teacher in a small PA community.   There were/are very few single people of any age.  When I first came to China I missed hanging out with families.  I was on a 3 person team – all single.  Because I now teach ex-pat kids I get to hang out with families quite often which I truly enjoy.  But I also get to spend significant time with other single women.  This is sometimes more challenging than I expected.  Mostly because I’m “the older woman” and sometimes don’t know what to do with that.  I’m learning that it’s best to just relax and be  yourself (often challenging as well.) 🙂 But like you said, “You’re different than me, and I need you for that.  But also, we’re the same.  At the end of the day, we are all searching, hurting, hoping.  We’re all cherished, forgiven, redeemed.”

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 23, 2014

      So glad that those families get the gift of you, and the young single ladies too!  You’re right, the best and sometimes hardest thing is to relax and be yourself.

  3. Kristi January 23, 2014

    After initially reading and responding to the post and in the middle of getting ready to leave for Thailand tomorrow this acrostic popped into my head, so I thought I’d share it too.

    Status

    Simply stating the

    Temporary stage of life on this earth

    At which I am currently working out my salvation with fear and

    Trembling knowing that

    Ultimately my

    Status is Beloved Daughter of the King

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 23, 2014

      Kristi!!!  How do you do that?!  The way things “pop” into your head, makes me shake my head in amazement.  It’s perfect.

    2. Cecily January 24, 2014

      Wow, Kristi!  I see the Lord inspiring you.  The poem is beautiful!

    3. laura January 25, 2014

      Wow.  That really resonates with me.

      Thank you.

  4. Jen January 23, 2014

    This was beautiful, I often find myself thinking that those without kids would be tortured by my kids and those who are older must be to busy (particularly as they live life overseas). I long for their relationships but do little to make it happen.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 24, 2014

      I think those same things about my kids and about other’s busyness.  Often those practical issues get in the way, don’t they?  You’re right, it takes intentionality to get beyond those obstacles.

  5. Cecily January 24, 2014

    Danielle, thanks for introducing this topic.  Last week in conversations about singleness, I was so helped through the conversation, especially when someone explained that singleness (or any other status) is not what defines us.  I knew that, but I needed someone to frame what I knew in the right words.

    So the discussion on status is a natural follow up to all these things we have been discussing:  singleness, marriage and parenting.  I can see that the you are so open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the work that you are doing here with Velvet Ashes.  You are doing an excellent job, and I see His fingerprints all over it!

    Just wanted to say, I am taking a nutrition course, and tracking the food that I eat.  And I see how easy it is to consume certain nutrients every day, but how difficult it is to get other ones in my regular diet.  And this concept seems to fit with what you are saying about relationships.  It is really easy to make friends with people who are like me, but my life lacks many nutrients when I just settle for the easy relationships, and this weakens me and inhibits me from living the full life that God created me for.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 24, 2014

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Cecily.  They mean a lot.  It’s such a joy to see what the Holy Spirit is doing here.  It is truly a team effort.  Amy Young  came up with the idea for the status prompt.  And yes, it fit so naturally.

      I love that you took the food analogy and went deeper with it!  Exactly, we need all the nutrients of each other.

  6. Jennifer January 24, 2014

    It is now more years since I finished High School, than most people I know have been alive. 

    Friends like me, of similar life stage, is honestly actually only something I have known a couple of times in my life. I have worked through much of it, over the course of my life, but reality is that rejection and bullying was such a significant part of my early life that sometimes the impact does remain. I actually received an email last week that amounts to an apology from someone I went to school with 33 1/2 years after I left that school. What she said was: “I am so pleased to finally have tracked you down. I’ve been trying to find you for quite a while, I have always wondered how you were. I often think of you and (2 other people) and I got together recently and all asked after you. I think back on our school days with so much remorse and wish I had done more to stop the bullying you endured. I know at times I got caught up in the peer pressure and I have always wanted to apologize for any hurt I caused you”.
    Why does “status” make me write of that? Perhaps because the rejection and bullying at that time came primarily because I was simply who I was. Exceptionally academically gifted student and simply different. It took me a long time to really accept myself…. In some ways a significant part of my adult life… But I have been blessed by different people who have been my friend  at parts of that journey. Usually they were older than me at the time… which is why I realised last year, with the death of one of my oldest and longest friends, that all bar one of the people who had been most significant friends to me on that journey had died… and that was why I was finding it so challenging to find someone to talk to as I walked through a challenging time and felt like I really needed it. I did not have the luxury of a team. 

    What I have come to recognize is that the truth is that my starting point expectation is to think that you really are not interested in talking to me… And even at times like now, when I have a friend who lives just a few hours by train away from me, who has said that she would like to see me if I came to her city, and despite the fact that I would really like to see her whole family, and especially her new baby, something simply holds me back from actually doing anything concrete to actually arrange anything. Hopefully I will not come to the end of this vacation still wishing I managed be brave enough to actually do something about it. 

    The challenge for me in the present, is not in recognizing and accepting who I am, but it is in really accepting that other people, that you, might accept me too… and want to spend time with me… whether I am the same as you or different.  That is part of my journey.
     

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 24, 2014

      Oh, Jennifer!  My heart breaks to hear of the rejection and bullying you endured.  And it rejoices to see an apology come, even all these years later.

      I hope and pray that you know without one doubt that you are wanted and accepted here at Velvet Ashes.  The more you share yourself here, piece by piece, the more I see Him at work in and through you.  You’ve been such a blessing around here!

      It sounds like some face to face time with a friend is just what you need right now.  So, let me cheer you into boldness, and say, “Pick up the phone, write the email, tell her you’re coming!”  You can do it!!

      1. Jennifer January 26, 2014

        Thank you for your reply. Train tickets successfully purchased. So for the first time I will travel on a train in China… during Spring Festival to add a little to the experience.

        1. Danielle Wheeler January 27, 2014

          Hooray!!!  So excited for you, Jennifer!!  Applauding your bravery.  Train travel during Spring Festival, an adventure to be sure!  Praying sweet blessings on your time.

        2. Shelly Page January 29, 2014

          Jennifer, I am with Danielle. So glad to hear that you are stepping out and reaching out. I, too, have experienced my own share of teasing in grade school. I, too, struggle against the message that others are not interested in spending time with me.  So…NOT…TRUE!! I thank other women in my life who were instruments in the Father’s hands to show me this lie, and to work with me to think differently…to believe more deeply what is true about me. May the time with this friend a train ride away be a mutually encouraging get together.

    2. Meagan Stolk January 24, 2014

      Acceptance can be so challenging, especially as we gaze out around us and don’t seem to fit in. It is too easy to compare and quickly judge what another person’s reaction might be of you rather than making yourself venerable and set up for rejection. I can relate to your time endured to accept yourself and the challenge to be accepted by others. So often it feels like I have very little to offer and I hang in the background with the voices of comparison and doubt hiding me from view. My status is often dependent on how others view me and my confidence to step forward hindered by the fear that I will not meet their standard. As I reflect this week my thoughts have turned to thinking that each of us are so much more than *insert status here*. We are worth of inclusion, acceptance and love because He first loved us. We need each other with all our quirks, bumps and differences. Our diversity is what makes our lives richer and teaches us amazing lessons.

      1. Cecily January 25, 2014

        Meagan, as I read your comment I was reminded about something I thought about yesterday.  You know, on Facebook we are always writing our “status”.  And sometimes people change this “status” several times a day.  But isn’t that how “status” is, if we view it from the big picture?   Our STATUS changes, sometimes in the blink of an eye, but who we are as God’s beloved creation never, ever changes.  And that is something that is true of all of us and can be the one thing that bonds us together.

        PS  I’m like you.  I struggle with the whole comparison thing, and feel like it often leaves me standing on the outside.  But let’s work on overcoming this 🙂

        1. Danielle Wheeler January 25, 2014

          So true!  Did you check out the blogs in the link-up?  “Moments with Michelle” and “Chatting about Life” have beautiful posts that relate exactly to what you’re saying.  Great minds, you know, think alike. 🙂

  7. M'Lynn January 24, 2014

    This whole status thing sums up everything I’ve been brewing in my head since reading Amy’s post on Monday.  I’ve been meaning to get over there and comment on it, but this just says it better than I could’ve in a comment!  I’ve been so thankful for the singles on our teams in the past (men & women) who have loved on my kids and also served others in a way I couldn’t.  I’ve been thankful to be friends with older couples who had already raised their kids and sent them off into the world.  They were able to see us in the trenches of parenting little ones and say “It’s okay!  You’ll get through this!  And, by the way, enjoy the ride!”  I’m also so thankful to have friends who share the same life-stage as me and don’t mind talking about teething or infant poop patterns!  ha.  

  8. Heather January 24, 2014

    I love reading I other comments and seeing how others clock and resonate with the post and the question. We are all so different!  It’s beautiful. As I got to the end, the word that popped into my head was free. I am free to do anything, go anywhere, be with anyone I want to spend time with. There I times I need to be alone. There are times I need to be with others who are further down the road that I am traveling. There are times I need to be with those who are following the same path I am walking. Those people that I seek out are in all stages and all seasons of life. I just spent the evening with the husband of a slightly older  couple who are following my path. He is here in Thailand for a few days in a professional capacity as they both prepare to relocate here.  Dinner tonight was a mutual cheering section. A few weeks ago, I spent the day with a young mother and she poured light into my soul with her openness and transparency.  These are people I sought to be with and I am glad to have the freedom to do this.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 24, 2014

      Yes, we are all so different, and that’s what brings such depth to The Grove!  I love the freedom you describe.

      And…you’re in Thailand??  In or near Chiang Mai?  Because on Feb 8 (Saturday afternoon) there’s going to be a Velvet Ashes Get-Together/Workshop in downtown Chiang Mai.  Details coming soon, but pass the word to other ladies in Thailand!

  9. Jessica Hoover January 24, 2014

    What a week we have had around here! SO AMAZING. Could I also just say that when we moved back from Africa we ended up in the one place in our state we did not want to live. We’ve moved since then and now live in the mountains, which really is home. God showed such grace in that first move though because He gave us the community that we needed and it brought healing and hope and kept us moving forward during a time that we could have felt like we were treading water. Such great thoughts on this prompt this week! It was a tough one!

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 25, 2014

      Yes, such a great week!  And I always have sense of home in the mountains.  Yet another kindred link we share. 🙂

  10. Debbie January 24, 2014

    Another overseas friend of mine had a group of  4 friends one was in their 20s, one in their 30s, the next in their 40s then 50s. I thought that was so neat. I’m sure there was much wisdom shared between the different age stages.

  11. Laura January 25, 2014

    “The field has a way of lumping together all of life’s stages into a sometimes-too-close-for-comfort kind of community.” I love this about serving overseas, even when it’s messy and difficult. I have learned so much from those who are older than I am, who have taken the time to invest in my life. And I love having little ones to love on since my nieces and nephew are so far away. The team I am a part of now does not have the same sense of family and community as others ones I’ve been a part of have had. But I’m learning to put more effort into building those relationships and thinking less about status and more about others.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 25, 2014

      Yes, we’ve been on different teams, and each have a varying degree of closeness.  And you’re right, the only thing to do is to put effort into those relationships regardless.

    1. Kristi January 26, 2014

      Loved this! Thank you.

  12. Caitriana January 26, 2014

    I’ve had this picture in my mind the last couple of days, thinking about status and identity… so I tried to draw it out this afternoon, just a rough sketch but hey…

    My problem is that I spend too little time living our heavenly status and letting that both illumine my present earthly status(es) and vanquish the vestiges of my past status!

    1. Caitriana January 26, 2014

      Oops, didn’t realise the jpg would come out full-size… sorry, would look better a bit smaller!

    2. Danielle Wheeler January 27, 2014

      Caitriana!  I love that you can take your thoughts and turn them into visual beauty.  So powerful.  Thank you for sharing!

    3. Shelly Page January 29, 2014

      Thanks for sharing your art Caitriana. Nice to see you here at VA.

      This has be thinking about the way we appreciate the gifts of others–Kristi’s impromptu poetic musings, a photo or a piece of artwork to reflect the word for the week.  When we share what He gives us, rather than hold to ourselves out of fear of how it will be received, we enrich the community here. So again, thank you ALL for sharing in whatever form you do. (I have been on retreat so have not been reading or commenting, and it seems like a lot has been going on…trying to catch up a wee bit.)

  13. Meagan Stolk January 26, 2014

    It’s beautiful Caitriana. What a gift. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Cecily January 26, 2014

    What a great visual, Caitriana!  The wonderful news is, the status that we have in Him, which we share with all other believers, never changes!  Even though we may lose focus of it, it is still all there, never to be lost.  Let us live fully in all that Jesus died to give us!

  15. Colleen January 27, 2014

    You. All. This discussion is so beautiful. I did not get to blog much this week because God was busting a move big time for us. We found a new house to rent. With landlords from the U.S.! Who have FOUR sons! Do you know how hard it has been to rent from retirees here the last two years with five boys? And the landlords living next door? Y’all, I am so relieved. Plus, it is a perfect home for our family and our outreach to pregnant indigeneous women to have access to prenatal and postnatal care and education. AND…the transition time between this house and that one gives us a month in between, confirming our hunch that our kids needed some time with family this year. AND…..things have fallen into place for family members to care for the kids while my husband and I head to Tanzania to do an assessment visit to launch our new outreach there later this year. SO, status was kind of stumping me as a word, but I guess a lot has seemingly changed about our status over the last 72 hours, and I was excited to share it with you all.

  16. Danielle Wheeler January 28, 2014

    Wow, Colleen, that’s incredible!!  What wonderful news and changes for you!  Thrilled for you.  How did I not know that you have five boys??  And the work you do sounds amazing.  Rejoicing with you!  Thanks for sharing with us!

  17. Sarah Moulding February 5, 2014

    Have been challenged and inspired by all that people have been sharing here. Am not able to link up often so my own responses will be a little delayed but am appreciating the prompts to have something to focus my own thoughts and to begin to carve out time to reflect on life amidst its busyness with 3 small children. Status was a good starting point thinking about how my own status in life has been formed through the various relationships back home in the UK and now in life here in Bolivia.

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