comprehension

Before we moved to Singapore, I was pretty good at laundry. I had my regular laundry routine of sorting all the clothes on Saturday morning and attempting to get at least half of the loads done before the workweek began again. The rest of the week, I’d transfer loads from the washer to the dryer whenever I happened to remember. It became a regular, albeit thoughtless, routine. The usual drill, week after week. And I was SO good at this boring task!

What I’m beginning to realize as a new resident of Singapore is that nothing is routine. Especially not laundry. And the thing about laundry is, it’s a job that never seems to end. Even as you are finishing the last of the laundry, there are clothes on your back, sheets on the bed, and a load of towels waiting to be washed. The “routine” (or lack thereof) is never-ending.

As I think I might have mentioned, I’m all about grace. Before we moved here, I vowed that, although this journey to the opposite side of the world would pose challenges and difficulties on a daily basis, I would attempt to find grace in these struggles.

I’m already questioning my intention, thanks to the laundry.

Allow me to explain.

In the little apartment that is our temporary home here, there’s this laundry machine that is a combination washer AND dryer. I had never seen, used, or fully experienced such a machine until I arrived in Singapore about a month ago.

“Ok,” I said to myself. “This is my ‘new normal’ washer and dryer. I can figure this out! How hard can it be?”

It turns out that it was much more difficult than I anticipated.

I’ve been trying, over the course of the last weeks, to understand and develop a healthy relationship with this mysterious machine. I’ve coaxed it gently, I’ve tried to understand it, and (as a last resort) I’ve read the instruction manual from cover to cover many times. All I’ve received in return are damp, steaming hot clothes that look as if they’ve been crumpled up in the corner for the past six months. Having my patience tested daily by this crazy machine has caused tremendous frustration.

And, much to my surprise (and completely against my will, I might add) doing the laundry here has caused me to look for the grace.

God seems to be telling me to take a step back. To open myself up to the possibility that there could be grace in these moments. To remember that grace can be found in this aggravation.

And so I attempt to become like a child. To become aware that my routine and my knowledge won’t work here; that I will need to re-learn so many things that I’ve taken for granted. I try to remember that joy and wonder can go a long way towards smoothing over the rough edges; that my ragged emotions and frustration will be soothed if only I just give myself a break. Most importantly, I strive to remember that I’m not in control.

In Singapore, one thing you’ll notice is that clothes are hanging out to dry everywhere. Any day of the week, any time of day, you’ll spot drying racks, clothes poles, and clothes lines hanging out of windows or draped over balconies. It’s an accepted practice and part of the culture here. When I first saw all of these clothes hanging everywhere, it struck me as strange. Now that we are a month in, though, I understand the wisdom.

I gave in and brought home a huge clothes drying rack that’s currently standing in the corner of the tiny living room here. The clothes sit there for a couple of days and, eventually, they dry. I learned something “new” and gave up the routine that I once knew. And it was grace.

Today, I give thanks for the awareness of God’s grace, and I pray for awareness and understanding during those moments when I am finding it difficult to see the divine in my everyday life.

I invite you to do the same.

“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time … Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present to you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, serves you, and offers you an understanding and light like nothing you’ve ever found.”

-Thomas Merton

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