From Being Useful to Just Being

Hi friends,

Part of why I wanted to revive this blog was as a chance to document the processes of getting to Rome, getting to be married, and getting to do ministry over the coming years. A place to record what it felt like before, and a place to hold our visions for the “after”.

The past few months have been a blur of preparation. Mostly, that has meant asking the hard questions about what items are necessary to feel “at home” here and whether they are worth their weight to carry. Each thing means not bringing a different thing. Some are available here, new; some are not. Some make sense to give to others; some are, inevitably, trash no matter how useful they once seemed.

the interior of my second checked "bag" from the spring moving trip
tuna in foil packets, reese’s peanut butter eggs, my yoga mat and a birthday surprise… and it all miraculously arrived intact!

But arriving here in Rome for the first long stretch of settling has been filled by one big struggle after another. A delayed bag, a sudden sickness, the throes of pubescent hormones. Now that the first round of bags are unpacked, I’m beginning to settle in and see what work there is to do to integrate into life here… And it’s going to be work!


You see, I have always thought of myself as a competent, capable, confident woman. I’ve run my own business well. I’ve accomplished complicated and meaningful tasks. I’ve done things. And all of these activities have left me with a somewhat brittle shell, I admit: I have been, for so long, what I do. My value to the world is in what I can get done and give.

So, when I lost our family’s grocery loyalty card (inside the the grocery store!) yesterday, it was a watershed moment. As in, I shed tons of water crying over losing something important to our daily life that I simply do not know how to recover.

But also it’s a moment of coming around to the other side of the hill. After so long of feeling like I could do things–and on my own!–I was reduced to tears because I could not simply ask my fellow shoppers or helpful clerks whether they had seen my card or what I might do to find it or replace it.

I circled the store. I retraced my steps. I breathed in and out, in and out. I was alone and helpless, and nothing could put things right again. And finally, I walked home with my heavy head, feeling sorrier for myself with every curb over which I yanked my overloaded carello.

Because I have wanted to be useful here. To contribute to our family life, not to make us waste precious time searching and asking and replacing and doing something that was already done. And honestly, since I don’t speak well enough, I know that all that “we” talk actually means asking someone else with his own work going on to do it for me. Adding on to someone else’s to do list. Not doing it all myself, stubbornly, like the cosmic kindergarten child I still am. I suffer because I am still clinging to what it was like then, not what it is to be where I am now.

I give up my claims to comfort. And one of these days, I promise I’ll give up my claim to only being happy when things go my way.

I’m passing through. The pilgrim gives. The pilgrim receives.

We’ll get a new card. It will come in the mail weeks from now, but I bet we can get a temporary one to hold us over. We will restart counting our points, and I will find a way to build a good habit of memory around its use and keeping so that we don’t have to repeat this effort again and again. I will even learn to ask for help in a new tongue.

But it’s a humbling grace to wake up today and know that it’s going to work out, even if I don’t know how yet.

Honestly, I am writing this silly story down because one day it will remind me to laugh with this memory that losing our DOC*Roma card felt like the most important thing that happened all day one day. Had it not been for that, I could have kept on believing that I had it all together. Ha!

This is what this part of life is: embracing that, while there are still things I can do, I am not here for the purpose of having it all together, alone. I’m supposed to trust that someone else giving me the gift of doing things for me is a blessing to them, no matter how frustrated it makes me. My time will come to give, too, especially as I learn this language and this culture.

I will transition from tourist to pilgrim to being at home, right here. I might have to lose a few more things in the process, though.

4 Replies to “From Being Useful to Just Being”

  1. You have already done a lot here….you put the smile back on a man’s face which hasn’t been smiling for quote a while…..forza e coraggio!

  2. Just being is a good thing., Giving and graciously receiving is one of life’ s greatest lessons. Hang in there. Love, LaLa

  3. You’ve given and are doing… think of the joy you bring your new family. Of the care you provide them. All things happen for good…. reviving the blog, sharing your story…. I could go on but you get the point. Be kind to yourself you’re a kind and considerate lady. I miss seeing you but know you’re where you should be. Sending you love….

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