Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

In December 2004 I was wrapping up my first semester of college, and I had not been living my life in line with the Lord. Yes, I still went to church sometimes, thought I excused the Sunday's I didn't go with the "I haven't found a place I where I feel at home in my new city" cop-out. I "got involved" in a campus ministry, but that just meant showing up to a Bible study from time-to-time and popping into their Thursday night services when my whims allowed. This campus ministry had been promoting this mission trip to New York City, and I decided I had to go. I claimed I felt called to go help the people of the city, but even my grandma read right through that. I wanted a cheap way to visit a new adventurous place - and an excuse to be able to fundraise to do it. Sure I still loved service, but for my own selfish reasons.

So, on the night after my finals wrapped up, I attended an end-of-semester party with my friends from home in which I did a whole bunch of stuff I shouldn't do while in no way living up to the example of Christ I knew deep down I should be. I lived for me, and my desires, just as I had been doing for a copule of years - then drove to New Orleans at three am with another friend who'd been partying through the night too, and had my parents take me to the airport for my 7:30 am flight to LaGuardia.

Several hours and a slight hangover later I arrived at a church in Bay Ridge, where I and my friend were asked by the campus minister "how we got hooked up on this trip"? Because obviously, no one there knew us. We hopped the train into the city to see Times Square, met a few new people who also didn't seem to know anyone else there (and who I haven't seen since and couldn't tell you the names of), came back to the church, and I called my friend back home and cried over the phone about how I'd much rather be there hanging out with them than on this trip where I felt like an outsider. I'd see the New York skyline, I'd seen the bright lights on 42nd and Broadway, I was pretty set.

Little did I know...

Over the next week, God wrecked my world. Permanently.

I met people whose weddings I've stood in, people who became roommates, people who radically shaped who I am today by challenging me to grow and learn and fellowship like I never had before. I learned to love serving people for the sake of sharing the love of Christ, and all the while, I became enamored with the magic of this great city.
Charlee and I on my first NY trip ever, December 2004

I returned to Louisiana with a new outlook on life. That trip to New York was probably the single-most important turning point in my relationship with God. He brought me back after a few years astray, and I am forever grateful that I stumbled upon that opportunity.

Over the next few years, I grew to love this city like I never could have imagined. I took my first vacation with a friend the next summer to come back just for fun. I came on a few more mission trips, and most importantly, I dedicated the summer of 2007 as a summer missionary at the Metro New York Baptist Association - at which time I became involved with the church that has been my family for the last six years, and I started this blog.  In the two years that followed, I visited my friends here on every occasion I could, until finally, in Summer 2009, I moved here "for good" (which means until I feel God is ready to move me on to a new place).
Laura and Andrew on my first vacation with friends, July 2005 :) 

There's so much more to this story I could detail, but I've been talking about just ONE city, and as you can see this post is titled a tale of TWO cities...

because I'm also mildly obsessed with my home city - New Orleans.

In the same way I used to visit New York every chance I got, I visit New Orleans at least four times a year. I can't get enough.

Growing up I never thought I'd leave South Louisiana. I always talked about moving to Los Angeles to be an actress/singer/hairstylist/pilot/whatever else I thought I wanted to be, but deep down I kind of always knew I'd stay in South Louisiana  Thankfully, my parents moved out of the house where I spent most of my formative years and over to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and then Katrina hit, and then I figured out that there's a life outside of the glorious swamplands and riverbanks I had always called home before, and the rest is history.

When it came time to actually move though, the reality of just how much I loved home hit hard. I had graduated college and moved back in with my parents, who had moved back to the greater New Orleans area, and I'd grown to appreciate my hometown in ways I never knew possible. I was fascinated with the music like never before, and the food, and the unique traditions (this from a girl who tried to write a Louisiana history book in fifth grade).  When I booked that one-way flight to JFK for May 30, 2009 - with only six weeks notice, I felt at peace about it in a way I'd never felt at peace before. Despite not having a paying job lined up, or a permanent place to live, I knew I was headed where he had called, but I sure wasn't emotionally prepared for leaving my lovely home.

I still, four years into being a New Yorker, don't feel like I've fully left New Orleans - and honestly  having spent three months there last year plus having logged a bazillion miles back and forth - I kind of haven't. I love everything about home, and I constantly feel as though I'm missing so much family stuff - including being able to watch my sweet Godchild and other cousins grow up.  Over the next year I have big decisions to make - as I'll be finishing graduate school and applying for jobs - and the biggest task I face is deciding where I want that to happen.

After my most recent magical trip home, I was 100% certain that one year from June I'd be living in a apartment somewhere near Louisiana Avenue and Magazine Street, but as always, I arrived back in NY and remembered that I love my life here on so many levels and am going to have a hard time leaving it when I do. I say WHEN I do because I WILL. I most definitely will end up back in New Orleans one day - and who knows, maybe DC, Chicago, LA, Boston, or somewhere else inbetween - but I know that my heart lives in two places, and I wish we could just develop some sort of teleportation device so I can be in both.

The beautiful thing about being in tune with God is that he makes those decisions for you, or at least tells you how to make them. When I made the decision to move here it was totally against my own logic - but I never doubted it was what he planned for me.

I'm anxious to see what kind of wrench he throws in my plans over the next year and how he is going to direct me on my next steps.

1 comment:

ThistleAshD said...

i loved reading this- mainly because i never really knew that much of your story. more than anything in the world i love knowing how God formed people into who they are. so blessed by your life!