“I thought this was a two bedroom?” I asked. “It’s a flex apartment, and this one used to be an office. So, you know, like cubicles,” she said, as if I were completely dense, “and we are one of the few buildings in Manhattan that puts the wall divide from floor to ceiling.”
“I’m sorry, but is this a bragging point?” I asked my husband.
The other agent looked at our budget, looked at us, and said, “Look, if I were you, I’d try Queens, or Long Island, or maybe… maybe, you could find one of the century old brownstones with no amenities. That’s really all you can afford.”
Get thee behind me broker.
If you had told us a year ago that we would be living and working and pastoring in NYC, we would have assumed you had drank too much. We had a beautiful home, a community we absolutely love, and had spent more than a decade investing in the people and the city of Los Angeles. Starting over was the last thing we expected to do.
Los Angeles holds the newness of my faith; the tenderness of my twenties; my heartbreak and disappointment; moments of devastating loss and grief; my personal and perpetual healing and restoration; my church home, pastors and community of 14 years; my beginning as a pastor; my heart lit aflame for justice; the birth of our marriage and family; the purchase of our first home. Friendship. Dinners. Wine. Laughter. Tears.
Oh friend, it’s a special place. Los Angeles will remain in my heart forever.
A few years ago, Cody and I began to hone in on our personal values as individuals and as a family in an urban city, and recognized there were necessary changes ahead of us. I personally felt my heart changing, and although I felt afraid, I knew I had to continue the process toward wholeness. While outside circumstances certainly pushed us – nearly ejected us, really – our inner circumstances brought us to our knees. My soul was tired, thirsty, and in such a place of longing. I read a beautiful book last year, Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I highlighted nearly every word, but here’s a little snippet:
It can be disorienting to walk out into the wilderness on purpose. It can be lonely. It can be exhilarating. It can be terrifying… Fear should not drive your decisions: let love motivate you. Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness too. I have good news for you, brokenhearted one: God is here in the wandering. In fact, you might just find, as Jonathan Martin wrote, that the wilderness is the birthplace of true intimacy with God. Jesus isn’t only in your tradition. You get to love Jesus without being an evangelical or a Pentecostal or a Presbyterian or whatever new label you’ve acquired these days or old label that just doesn’t fit anymore.
I devoured this book. As she normalized my context, I found myself stepping out of the layers I wore to protect, to hide, to cover and into joy, freedom and the burning embers of hope. I allowed the Holy Spirit to shed light on the areas fear was motivating, and set my heart again toward love. I was gutted to the core. Transition is messy and personal and profoundly difficult, and it is full of grace, all at once. And Jesus is with us. All the way.
I am thankful to have persevered through the difficulty of ending a season and beginning anew.
With love motivating our choice, we stepped into NYC together in January of this year and felt an undeniable connection. This city is electric, I thought. Vibrant kept coming to my heart as we walked and prayed. Standing on Franklin Street in Tribeca, I had a physical reaction to the place, bursting into tears, and I had a sense that God was moving us. Cody had his own encounter the same day, and we both could picture Levi immersed in the culture, art and diversity.
We also fell in love with Pastors Paul and Andi (could have been all the BBQ and fried pickles we ate on that first trip) and wanted more of what they have. We found the Liberty Church pastoral team and downtown community genuine, loving – a brilliant collection of people – full of life, and at peace with their own brokenness, so at peace with ours as well. We laughed, cried, ate and boarded the plane back to Los Angeles.
Aside from our friendships, everything started to look a bit dull, and we found ourselves filled with excitement, even longing, for New York. We talked to our parents, and Mom decided she would make the move with us. (She is my hero.) Our friends, through tears, affirmed us and we started to move (what felt like to us) mountains. Our house sold the day we put it on the market; our bosses were supportive; our community helped us sell, pack, donate and move our stuff; our new church family came around us in a stunning way; we found an apartment for us, with a yard, and a place for mom as well; we did not have to strive. It felt so good not to strive, to just trust God, to receive His grace.
So here we are, living in Brooklyn, NY, pastoring and pursuing justice in New York City, with our baby boy and Mama, alongside wonderful people we already love. We miss our friends terribly, so thank God for technology, and we’ve had visitors weekly since we moved here, so that’s a kiss from heaven too.
We love you New York.
I’ve found God present, kind, and gentle in our transitions. He gently lifts us up. He lovingly calls us higher in our character, as we walk through difficult circumstances. With thoughtful intention, He redeems our dreams and orders (even re-orders) our steps. Friend, if you are hurting today, and weary of waiting, come into His presence with your pain, heartbreak and disappointment. It will not fall on deaf ears. He sees and He knows. You are not alone.
I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Psalm 116:1-2