I turned all the lights off in the house and breathed in deeply the smell of an August evening in Southern California. I leaned down to light my favorite candle and looked up and saw the giant moon beginning to rise over the mountains behind my house. I walked outside on the patio and watched until the golden circle was high in the sky, and immediately began to weep. Because that will be the last giant full moon rising I am going to see over those hills from this place that I have been calling home, and in this moment, I truly don’t know what to do with that.
If you happened to miss my moving announcement and my long posts about change and transition on Instagram or rants about packing up my life on Snapchat, I will be moving to Maryland in less than a month. And in moments that are not this moment I know all the reasons that I am doing this and uprooting a beautiful life that I’ve build out west these past ten years. But right now I just can’t believe that this is happening. That this is an ending. Because California is my home.
Truly, there are moments when I am crying out to God baffled by this happening. Because California has been part of my story for so long–long before I ever moved here. I still remember so well the first trip that my dad and I took out west. I was a freshman in high school, and he asked me at one point where I wanted to go for my spring break, and I didn’t hesitate when I responded “California.” I’d never been out of my own time zone before, and at the time it felt like so far away. A whole other world to explore. My dad reminds me every once in awhile of the moment that I turned to him on day two of our trip, after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, when I told him that I was going to move here someday.
I don’t know what it was about that week driving down the coast of this beautiful state, but it was a beginning. The beginning of a life that I couldn’t have fathomed for myself at fifteen years old. It was the beginning of a life that I had no idea even existed. I fell in love with a state, and even then felt some sort of yearning of returning as soon as I could. Maybe it sounds silly but I am one who always feels things in the deepest ways, and that trip felt like a transition of some sort. Like a stepping stone in my life into a new chapter. That somehow just by being so far away I had grown up just a little bit while away. I could feel the change happening within me, leaving little pieces of a little girl behind and stepping just a teensy bit more closer to adulthood and independence. Travel has always brought out that fierce independence from within me. And here I was in California. This place was beauty and wonder and it felt so different from my life in upstate New York. But it goes even deeper than falling in love with the gorgeousness that is the west coast. It has to do with God as well.
Because on that trip, I brought a stack of books with me to read through because that is who I am. There is rarely a time when there is not a book in my purse just waiting to be read if I ever get a random moment. And as the trip came to an end and I read through that stack of books, I got to the last one right as we headed home. A book that was the beginning to a relationship that has since brought me to my knees and completely rocked my world over and over again. I’ve shared my testimony here before and won’t go into all the details, but that was the first book in a three book series that led me to the Lord. He had been pursuing me that whole freshman year of high school with Christian literature about girls my same age who gave their hearts to God. Who said yes to a deeper relationship with Jesus. And just days after getting home from California, I literally got down on my knees and told my God that I wanted Him in every single part of my life and my heart.
Even then I could see how that trip was in many ways a bridge to this new life in Christ. I could feel the current of change swirling around me as I contemplated big girl dreams in my fifteen-year-old heart. I could feel pieces of my old heart chipping away making way for the light God was soon to pour all over it.
I had no idea what it really meant to be a Christ-follower. The kind of relationship I was seeking with the God of the Universe was nothing like I had ever been taught. And so I kept reading those books and found out that there were more of them. I found friends and fellowship in book characters going through many of the same teenage struggles that I was, but who were also seeking to live a life for the ultimate glory of God. Books about this amazing group of God-lovers who were living in many of the places that I had just been on that trip to California. That yearning had already been there before I ever began reading the words of these sweet stories. But they only intensified the love I felt toward a place that was only meant to be a vacation spot for my spring break. It was really more than a yearning–it was a conviction. An absolute truth. I knew without doubt that I would move to California someday. I could feel it deep inside of me. Even then–as a young girl finishing her freshman year of high school. I knew I would move out west to go to college. It wasn’t wishful thinking–it was a fact just waiting to be.
You see, California had been calling me to itself long before I ever moved here. We came back for two more spring breaks after that first one, and each time I could feel the pull get stronger and stronger. Deep moments of reflection where I could almost feel the tangibleness of a life soon to be. Having no idea at the time that I was visiting some of the places that I would later call home. Driving through towns filled with people I would one day call dear friends. I never wavered. And eventually the moment came–ten years ago–when my dad and I began a cross country trek to bring me out to LA for college. And nothing has turned out at all how I ever imagined it to be and life has been so hard here but also so good. But that was the beginning of my life in California. And now ten years later we are about to make that same drive back to the east coast, and it is so hard for me to fathom that it is coming to an end so quickly. There were years and years of build up to my life out here, and now all of a sudden it is coming to an end in a matter of weeks–after deciding about a month and a half ago that I was ready to move back east. It was a slow climb up a mountain and now is a massive plummet back down into a new life.
But the biggest thing about it all is that California has been in my life for the same amount of time that God has been in my life. To me, they have always gone hand in hand. It was that trip out here that somehow shifted something within me and made me ready to finally receive all that He offered after months of relentlessly pursuing me. It’s so hard to put into words the ways that they have been connected all of these years. When I finally came out west for college and went to a Christian university, that was the beginning of me diving deep into a community of believers. For a long time, I felt like one person out west, and a different, lesser version of myself back east. I always felt like I had to hold apart of myself back around my friends and family. That they wouldn’t care or want to know the deepest parts of me–particularly my relationship with God. And so much of that were things that I needed to work through deeply inside of me, and so much of that has now changed. But for a long time, California was the place where my relationship with God blossomed the most. Where I felt the most free to be me.
And now I am going back. Back east but I am a completely different person because of what California has made me. Because of the ways that God has broken me and healed me. In many ways I feel like these past ten years have been a training ground to be the kind of person that He has always wanted me to be on the east coast–to fully show up and just be me without apology. I have worked through so many hard things out here. The independence and distance and figuring-it-out-on-my-own has been a gift. Lots of things from the past have needed to be untangled, and this place gave me the freedom to wrestle with all of that and give me space. California has made me a stronger person. A more fierce believer. Every moment of the last ten years has been preparing me for this new chapter that awaits, but first and above all that, it has been home.
Home. Yes home. A place filled with with so much beauty and some of the best people that I have ever known. And it has been fun and endearing and truly heartwarming to see my family members get excited to have me back east, yet there is a part of me that wants to beg for them to see that I am giving up so much as I leave. That more than anything I am pulling myself away from some of the best of friends that have been more like family to me than many members of my family have ever been. Who have seen the real me and have accepted me in every moment and every season and are never afraid of my ugly. Friends who have supported one another and walked through loss with one another and celebrated marriages and big life moments with one another and all the things that make up true community and togetherness. It is the people more than anything else that have made this place a home. Friends that I always envisioned doing life with and I don’t know what that is going to look like from 3000 miles away. My heart is completely and utterly broken that I have to leave them all behind. I’ve already done this move once before and I’ve seen how relationships are impacted by distance, and it scares me because I don’t want to lose the closeness of all that God has built for me here. I don’t want to have to start over and build a community from the ground up in a new place when I already have one so great. I’m almost mad at all the future friends I haven’t even met yet for not being the ones that I already have.
Each day as I get closer and closer to that moving date, this is getting harder and harder. And in many ways I have been so busy with getting stuff done that I haven’t had time to even be emotionally connected to how I feel about it all. But then there are moments when I just stop and am hit with the reality of what is happening and the tears don’t turn off for hours at a time.
I don’t know why God has built me to be a person that always seems to willingly choose the hardest things. It’s something fundamental that He has built within my very being, and sometimes I wish He would just take it away. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a person that always feels so ready to walk into grief and heartache for the sake of finding the beauty in the pain. Knowing that it is all somehow worth it. There have been so many moments of my life where I have felt like “that was the hardest thing that I have ever had to walk through” but the funny thing is life keeps going on and getting harder and right now this feels like one of the hardest of them all. I’m willingly stepping into a massive uprooting of my life and embracing the only constant that seems to be change. And to be completely honest, in this moment, it doesn’t feel worth it. I know that there are so many good things ahead, and I am trying so hard to trust in the conviction I felt about this all before the chaos entered in. But I’m willingly leaving behind something that has also been so good and doing so is nothing short of grief. A grief that feels overwhelming and deep but I’m glad for those moments because they point to how much this place and these people have meant to me. How much they are apart of me.These are the moments that I am filled with so much doubt. Where it feels so hard to trust. Where goodbye is one thousand shades of awful. But the one thing I do know to be true is that the same God that called me to California from the very beginning will be with me wherever I go. In so many ways I feel like I am walking into this next season blindly, but I’m holding deeply to the truth that He knows and sees all that is coming. And He will be with me in every moment.
This is hard, friends. This is so hard. And I hate it when the hard thing is also the right thing. But I truly believe that nothing worth it in life comes without the willingness of walking that difficult road. The best things happen when we choose the hardest paths. The ones that feel impossible. God doesn’t ever call us into the deep just to leave us hanging. The hardest part is just being in that place of being swarmed by the waves and not being able to see the shore up ahead in the distance just yet. When we step into new journeys we never know how they are going to end. But He does. And that’s enough.
I have cried one thousand tears writing this blog posts. I’ve stopped countless times just to curl up and let my body wrack with the pain of goodbye. And yet I welcome every tear because really it just means love. Because what an amazing, wonderful blessing it is to have something in my life that makes leaving so incredibly hard.
Also, I would truly appreciate any prayers you feel led to pray during this season. Prayers for this enormous transition. For the uprooting. For my relationships that I am leaving behind to find their groove and dynamic in the distance, but also for new community and a settledness for the life that awaits me up ahead.
Thanks for being willing to walk the hard road with me.