coming home in a stranger’s clothes

Being a little less like Amelia just isn’t in the cards for me, I don’t think. Definitely not if I come home wearing a stranger’s clothes, which is what happened last night.

I left my apartment freshly dressed in (what I thought was) light rain attire and quickly learned that my 10 block walk to the church community group would be a very wet adventure.

After about block #2, I realized my shoes were squishing. After block #5, I ducked into an open apartment building doorway and had a one-way conversation with a nice man waiting for the rain to pass. I explained my options: forge on and arrive at a stranger’s house looking like a wet dog or return to my apartment looking like a wet dog without failing a first impression. He seemed to have no opinion either way, so of course I forged ahead, leaving him to laugh in the doorway.

Every bit of me was soaked, from my hooded head to my size six feet. My hair was matted down and my pants had turned a deeper green color. When I got to the house, I apologized instead of introduced myself because I knew I looked frightful. Before I knew it, I was changed into a nice woman’s clothes and munching on vegan chocolate blueberry biscotti on her sofa and listening to her tell their NYC relocation story.

My clothes never did dry, so I wore the nice woman’s clothes back home and made myself a saucepan of hot water (no teapot yet) and some ginseng green tea while I spread out the rain shower I had soaked up in my garments.

Oh, I am ever so grateful for Christian community – where no one is really a stranger and a dry change of clothes is only one knock away! It’s Christian community that keeps Amelia’s like myself clothed and safe. I suppose it takes many invisible miracles to keep my clumsy feet from slipping in this city and for that I am very grateful.

I’ll return the clothes soon and have another reason to knock on that door on Sterling Street. We won’t be strangers anymore (I mean, how can we after sharing closets?) and that has just added three more names to my very slim NYC rolodex.

Now, about getting that wisdom, maybe one can come by it on a round about path. Maybe “getting” wisdom can look like meeting strangers and rain walking and couch conversations, too.

this tree grows in Brooklyn

What happens when an overflowing cup is set outside in a downpour – can it get more overflowed?

I don’t know the logistics or the practicalities of that question, but I can tell you that, yes, a cup that “runneth over” can get caught in a mid-summer downpour and that, yes, the overflow can grow. I can tell you this because it happened yesterday.

It was a quiet day – too quiet. I interviewed for a job last Monday in Brooklyn and they said they would let me know “by the end of the week” and it was already 5 pm EST. Somewhere in the middle of the day I realized I wasn’t waiting for the call. I wasn’t out-of-my-mind anxious or afraid or weary.

I was full to brimming with joy. With or without this job, I was moving to NYC on August 25th. With or without this job, I was trusting God to provide. With or without this job, I was enjoying God’s presence.

I didn’t need this job to confirm my cross-country move because the Lord already confirmed His faithfulness in my heart.

I didn’t need anything to be figured out before I got on the plane. I didn’t need this job to feel peace about moving. I was already overwhelmed with peace in the middle of all the madness.

But, God granted such a special grace yesterday when he unleashed the heavens on my already overflowing cup. I had just finished writing a blog post about this excitement being like jumping on a hot air balloon ride without a destination. I still knew nothing about the next month, but I was giddy with anticipation.

That’s when the downpour happened – a call from NYC and the invitation to join the team in the Cypress Hills neighborhood. I felt like my heart said, “Really, Lord? I was already all in, job or no job… and then you provided way before I felt desperate. This is too much.”

Anything else I write today will just sound like mush because I’m swimming in abundance. Why would God grant more when my cup is already overflowing? I don’t know, He’s just that good I guess.

This tree is going to grow in Brooklyn and I can’t wait to spread my roots! I’m super pumped to share Brooklyn space with one of my favorite bands, The Lone Bellow, and this is one song I’m sure I’ll be singing on these same streets. I’ve posted it before, but it’s too good not to share again.

dream big / want less

There is no better place than New York City to see the biggest and brightest (literally Times Square can blind you) dreams come true. All the struggling artists and actresses are dreaming big to get more – working multiple jobs to make reality out of the stage in their dreams.

Big > BIGger > BIGGEST

The biggest dreams are always best, so they say. I won’t say it’s a bad idea – the big dreaming. I love dreams – love to share mine and love to hear others’. I love dreaming and people who do it well.

What I don’t love is that dreams seem to be synonymous with MORE. Why do our dreams have to point us in the direction of wealth and status and fame?

I sat next to a most charming man on the plane to Chicago. He manages money for a wealthy family in Dubai and has for the past six years. From the sound of it, his boss’s pockets are deep. My friend Tom’s job is to invest capital so there is more capital to invest. He deals almost exclusively with BIG, if you know what I mean, and apparently he is really good at it.

Last week Tom was at a conference where 850 of the best and brightest entrepreneurs (his sister also happens to be a genius who owns several non-profit start up companies in NYC) met to share ideas, strategies, and success stories. These are the type of people who sell their companies over the weekend for $150 million without blinking (that really happened to the guy sitting next to Tom).

Do you know what the most popular session was at this conference? Relationships.

Yep, a psychologist got up on stage and started talking about life outside of 100 hour work weeks and efficient business practices and emerging markets. This is the message that captivated the brilliant crowd and filled their lunch, coffee, and dinner conversations. Relationships. Apparently, people with extremely successful entrepreneurial lives struggle most with their relationships.

I tell you this because my friend Tom asked me what I was going to do in New York, like for work. I said something about my passion for people and communities and specifically the impact neighborhoods have on some of the worst societal problems. Since his sister has her hand in several non-profit companies and a background in education, we talked about the “education space” and how it expands beyond the classroom. We talked about the trouble with “the system” and how it is unfortunately misused and manipulated and how that prevents effectiveness in improving communities and schools. We talked about how there needs to be better accountability.

And then he said to me, “Have you ever thought of just starting something on your own?” I blinked and then said, “Well, yes, actually. I have… but a person needs capital for that or brilliant connections. Right now, I have neither.”

He suggested I could form a platform that would provide the service of accountability to government and charity programs. I chuckled a little bit because his brilliance has trained him to always expand to the biggest dreams for the biggest returns. I suppose that is probably how it works in managing capital – you do it best when you do it big because it’s always about making more.

But, you know what I said to him?

“It’s about relationships.”

Just like he heard at that conference in Salt Lake City and just like those millionaires couldn’t stop talking about. No matter how many brilliant, efficient systems develop to respond to the real problems of neighborhoods, the most important component of any program is the relationships that form as it is carried out.

I don’t buy the Big > BIGGER > BEST model when best is about adding more – more influence or status or wealth.

I believe the biggest dreams can also look like less.

I don’t know if my new friend Tom would agree, but it was an interesting conversation.

oh, hey fear. welcome to the party.

My friend Nicole wrote recently in an email,

“let’s chat soon! which party of nyc are you moving to?”

I don’t think it was intentional, the party part, but I loved it because I’ll be moving to the party in Brooklyn very soon. I spoke to my future roommate again on the phone a couple nights ago and God could not have orchestrated a more beautiful combination (we’re both planning to use hammocks as beds and our phone convo ended in prayer). But I’ll tell you something that might surprise you – fear is moving with me.

bat-crazy-mad-fear

Yes, bat-crazy-mad-fear is a real thing and when it comes, I either bury or break it because those are the only two options. I can bury it in the proverbial luggage I carry around and hope it stays hidden or I can break it with the sword of Truth. Bury or break the bat-crazy-mad-fear, those are my options.

And then there are times like now when it all gets so woven in I don’t know where to swing the sword. The joy and the bat-crazy-mad-fear and the contentment happen all at once. I know because it happened to me this week – like my affections were marbles and some sticky-fingered kid threw them out on the cement where they all ended scattered in asymmetrical, haphazard fashion.

I guess this is some strange sort of confession (more personal than my previous posts on fear here and here). It’s good to be honest about this sort of thing – not having “it together” and not being able to muster the bravery all my fear requires.

It’s good to be honest because bat-crazy-mad-fear is not something you can ignore or bury. Not for me, anyway.

It’s all the bold questions about saying goodbye to my cases and buying a plane ticket to the Big Apple and feeling so small under the starry Midwestern night sky. It’s the realization that I may never be as adult as the world requires and I may never be the kind of success that makes sense. It’s the rumbling in my belly that I’m not sure where I’m going, even though I’m moving in a very specific direction. It’s big questions about significance and little questions about insecurities. It’s the reason I spent hours agonizing over my packing list before visiting Patrick in NYC. It’s sometimes the conversation when I stand on a scale and the voice in my head that lectures me on finances.

My bat-crazy-mad-fear is a real thing and I’m sure it’ll get packed in my bags when I move to the party in Brooklyn. I won’t pretend that I can master it or banish it from my days. That just sets me up for unnecessary, epic battles in the future. Bat-crazy-mad-fear is a thing that will keep showing up in my life, but I’m learning.

I’m learning that the fight is not so much about coming out swinging – not so much about the grip I’ve got on the sword. Instead of trying to strategize fear out of my life with the knowledge I have of the Word, I am learning to just love the Word more.

That’s it.

Just love the Word more.

“Fear not, for I am with you. . . . I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

When I read this, I don’t want to fight fear. I just love that God promises to strengthen, help, and uphold me with His righteous hand. He’ll do the fighting, I’ll do the believing. Because fear is coming to the party in Brooklyn and I need to believe God’s presence is always going to be a bigger deal.

Perfect love (not perfect people) will cast out fear.

So, I will stand in my imperfection and I will admit that fear is always lurking somewhere. I will get honest and broken about the bad-crazy-mad-fear that threatens my hope and then I’ll surrender to the love that can cast it out. Oh, and then I’ll pray that God will help my unbelief when I start thinking my sword-wielding is more important than the sword.