So here I am, sitting in a bed in Carlsbad, California that overlooks the ocean. This place that I have called home for so many years. This place that has my heart. Where my community is, my church, my people, maybe even my place. And yet a year and a half ago, I abruptly moved to Maryland, and I know that so many people were asking why. Wondering what made me leave a place that I love and where I was flourishing to move across the country to a place I’d only visited before. And I thought I knew the answer at the time, sort of, but it is only in the last couple months that I’ve really been able to see it. The why behind my move. Why God brought me to Maryland.
And this post is to both mark this moment in my life, this season of life that has been hard and difficult but also full of so much growing, while also celebrating all that God has done with it as well. As ironic as it is that I am writing this from my hometown in California, right now I am feeling so utterly amazed at why God brought me to Maryland. Why He told me to get up and go. And I want to always faithfully serve Him that way. To be willing to uproot my life to follow after Him. To build His Kingdom. And that is what Maryland has been–it has been a building Kingdom kind of move.
It truly did come out of nowhere. I never in my life thought I would end up on the east coast after California stole my heart. California has always been my favorite place and it still very much is. But there I was in Maryland in May of 2016 just for one week, and when I flew back west I just knew that I would be moving there. It was something God put on my heart that would not go away. I thought it was a gift, and it has been in so many ways, to be closer to my family. All of my family is on the east coast, and while I have built an enormous community out west that still loves me dearly, it’s hard to be so far away. And so that is what I thought it was all about. That as much as I didn’t want to leave California and was sacrificing a lot to leave, that God was giving me the gift of my family. And He did. He has. In so many ways. It has been so good. For so many years it has just been my dad and I, and now I’ve gotten to experience what it’s like to have family dinners around a full table and holidays with everyone being loud and chaotic. I’ve been able to grow closer to my family members, and it has been such a gift. A gift of tasting what it is like to be part of a family that is whole. The reality of what I spent the majority of my life missing and wondering about. And I praise Him for it.
But my move to Maryland was so much more than that. God gave me a word before I left California in 2016. Something that He just rested on my heart that echoed with every heart beat. “Show them Jesus. Show them Jesus.” And that has been in the back of my mind this past year and a half. That just my being there, the way that I live my life, is meant to show my family the love of God. But of course, when we step out in faith into where God calls us, it often leads to places we never expected. He fulfills His will in ways we never truly could have expected. And in the last two months, I have seen this so much. This call that He gave me and the way that He has been at work within me to fulfill it. And truly my mind is just blown by it all.
Let me go back a little further. I became a Christian when I was fifteen years old. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family, but I always sensed that there was more to God than what I was told in church. Than the rote prayers and the sacraments. I didn’t want religion, I wanted relationship. And oh my word, how God pursued my heart! In His perfect knowing He led me to accept Him as my Lord and Savior through Christian fiction, which I didn’t even know was a thing, but He knew I never had my nose out of a book so He found me. He pursued me. But it was also tough at the same time as I was developing this new relationship with God that I had never experienced before and that was changing me in every way, and reconciling that with the traditions that I had been taught as a child. I mean, I was in an all girls Catholic high school at the time. And while yes, I do truly believe that there are true believers in the Catholic church, I never found Jesus there. Instead, He found me and showed me that a relationship with Him means so much more than religion. The two don’t even compare.
That was fifteen years ago, and my relationship with God has had so many ups and downs over the years. For a long time, I felt afraid to share this newfound faith and love of God with my family–afraid of what they would think. When I would fly back east for the holidays from California, I always felt like I was a different version of myself. Like there was an east coast version and a west coast version of me. That I had to turn a part of myself off. And they never made me feel that way–it was all my own insecurities. But God has been working on my heart long and hard these last years and maybe it is also something about getting older as well, but years ago I decided to stop living as if I was ashamed of the gospel around my family. I started to let them see who I really am. I think I had been afraid it would change things, but it hasn’t.
And then Maryland happened. Then this past December happened. Out of nowhere my grandmother had a brain seizure and we found out that her body was riddled with cancer. It was six weeks of my entire extended family banding together, being by her side. Never a waking moment when one of us wasn’t there with her. It was hard and my heart is still broken in a million pieces over losing her, but there was so much beauty to it as well.
Like when I was chatting with my Mimi when she was in a rehab facility and she asked me if I thought any of it really mattered–all the different ways people choose to worship God. Religion. And I said no. I said that what really mattered was having a relationship with Jesus, and she looked at me with a smile and said “I agree.” A moment so beautiful because this woman more than any other person in my life was the hardest on me for walking away from the Catholic church. But in the end we both got to the same place–it’s our hearts, our belief, our faith in Christ that matters. Not denominations. Not what type of music we choose to worship to. It’s about knowing God and Him knowing us and having a relationship with Him.
So many moments in that hospice room where we prayed together, often with tears flowing from one or both of our faces. Me reading the Bible to her about the hope of Heaven and all that she had to look forward to as her last days continued to dwindle. My family flowing in and out of the room and seeing all of this. And then she died, my sweet Mimi gone to be with Jesus. And while that gives me heart so much joy, the pain of missing her is still so raw.
But that is one of the reasons that God brought me to Maryland. Because I got to spend so much sweet time with her in the year and a half that I’ve lived there. I got to be there for her during the six weeks of hell when every time you walked out of the room you didn’t know if it would be the last time you saw her. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything like that or be as present if I were in California. This woman helped raise me for part of my life and has been one of my main mother figures my whole life. And the fact that I got to be with her and enjoy so many long weekends with her and then love on her and care for her until the end is a gift beyond measure. This woman who has been holding me since the moment that I was born. Holding me close on that awful night that my mom never came home. And I got to hold her at the end. God brought me east so that I would have that, always have that sweet time with her.
Yet there is so much more to it than that. So much grace and growth and God building a boldness in me that I didn’t even realize was there. Like how somehow I ended up being the one to put together her whole funeral mass–picking all the Scriptures to be read, each one proclaiming the gospel and the hope we have in Christ. And giving the eulogy at her funeral (one of the hardest things I have ever done), standing up in front of literally every single member of my family, the ones who I used to hide this part of myself from, and talking to them about having a personal relationship with Jesus–from a Catholic pulpit, no less.
And in that moment as I walked down after giving the eulogy with my cousin, sitting down in the pew, I realized that I had just accomplished what God had brought me here for. I just did it. He told me to “show them Jesus” and it looked way different than I ever could have expected, but I did. I stood up there and shared the gospel with my family. I lived every moment of those last weeks with my Mimi unashamed of my faith in Christ and sharing it with everyone. It was one of those moments when I could literally feel the eternal impact of it. And while I will never stop relentlessly praying for each and everyone of my family members–something my Mimi made promise to do–I also know that in that moment, God moved in that church and I may not see the fruit of it yet, but oh how I know it is coming! Because He doesn’t plant a seed just to leave it in the ground. No, He nourishes it and cares for it as it grows and begins to flourish in abundance.
“Show them Jesus,” He said. And so I have. And it has looked different than I ever thought and it has been combined with a loss that is still too great to truly put into words. But so I have. He brought me to Maryland for a reason, and that was it. Despite me at times. Despite my fears. God at work within me to share His love and His pursuit of our hearts with my family.
Truthfully, I don’t know where I go from here. There feels like there is some sort of finality to that call that He placed on my life. If I’m being completely honest, I always knew, even before I left California, that my time there would be temporary. Maybe I’ll still be there for years to come, maybe I won’t. But no matter what, I want to always go where He leads me. There is no where else that I would rather be than in the direct center of God’s will for me. And if He tells me to stay, I will stay. Or if He tells me to move, I will move. And if He leaves the choice up to me because He is a good God and He gives us free reign to make choices in our lives–choices that give Him glory–well, then I have a pretty good feeling of what will happen next. But no matter what, I’m leaving it up to God. He brought me to California in the first place, and then on to Maryland. Everywhere He has led me in my life has been the right way, and whatever comes next will be as well. Because I refuse to go anyway but the way of my God, in constant pursuit of Him who holds the whole world in His hands as well as my heart. And it will be good.