Day -13: Houston, TX
I have this friend who has a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus. I honestly have a holy envy of it. She talks about Him like He's her best friend, and it's true, He is because they spend so much time together. She has shared some beautiful stories of Him being so present to her and actively working in her life. For Lent she always asks Him what He would like her to do, and I'm amazed by the ridiculousness of His reply and clear evidence that it was in fact Him who told her to do such seemingly silly things.
So inspired by her trust and with hours dwindling until Ash Wednesday, I hastily asked the Lord, "What do you want from me this Lent?" while attending Fat Tuesday mass. Immediately, "I want your heart" popped in my head.
Ok God, that's a little generic and kind of a lame response. It was probably just my sub-conscious responding. I'll try again. What do you want from me this Lent, Lord?
Really? Nothing more specific or unique? Just my heart? What does that even mean? How do I do this? I need something more tangible....
Hahaha, that's funny and really difficult. You know me...I am so not discipline and that's a big commitment. I can't do that....
...Fine...but I'm not making any promises. You know me and I'm probably gonna miss a bunch and stop going half way through Lent and feel like a failure. PLUS, I'm going to be traveling, Lord, and may not always be able to find a mass near by at a time that works.
The Lord is good and faithful. Turns out, he knew exactly what I needed, and it was exactly what he wanted to give me: a home. And what started out as an understanding that my home on the road was the Eucharist, turned into a deeper contemplation and revelation of my forever home in Christ. He is where I can depend fully on comfort and security. He is where I can lay my head and rest. He is where I belong.
My whole life I have taken great pride and joy in Houston, my neighborhood, and my ever-consistent home. "All roads lead to Houston" was my refrain to friends visiting town. Why would I ever leave? My people, my history, and my familiar is here. This is where I am from and where I belong. There isn't anything bad about this...until I begin to say "no" to dreaming because of it, until I put too much reliance on it to satisfy my needs. Comforts like home can easily turn from safety and freedom to limiting and imprisoning.
Everywhere I visited on my road trip had something enticing that made me wonder, "Could I live here?" I was only free enough to ask myself this because of the grace in re-orienting my understanding of home and unfortunately some difficult situations and wounding moments within my unhealthy reliance on what I claimed as home. Because of all this, I was able to spend 3 months discovering and dreaming and practicing openness to something new on the horizon.
Day 65: Nashville, TN
I was ready to move to Nashville within a couple days of being there. I had met beautiful people, worked out of the cutest coffee shops, and was inspired by the life, creativity, and presence of the city. So, I sat down to seriously look at my budget, potential income, and figure out a way to make it work financially. I felt defeated. Something had to happen. I couldn't move there or anywhere without finding a part-time job, taking on more management clients and being spread super thin, or just giving up on the whole thing and searching for a "real job." I resorted that day to getting some Shipt shops in to at least feel like I was putting a dent into the major income gap I was expecting over the remainder of the year. I also began intentionally praying for a way to make this work and if not that, a clear understanding of what I was supposed to do upon returning to Houston.
Day 72: Severna Park, MD
A text comes in asking "Have you made any decision for next year?....I got a lot of ideas for you to pray about...Can we chat this week?"
Day 94: Pensacola, FL
I repeat, the Lord is good and faithful. I could not have asked for a better answer to my prayer. At the end of August, I will be moving to Pensacola, FL where I will be empowered and enabled to continue Maps Management and Consulting through a stable opportunity to support an incredible family, community, and ministry. More details to come later!
Day 98: Houston, TX
I'm back in Houston ending one adventure to start another.
When you travel by yourself, you tend to do a lot of activities by yourself...or you don't do anything. To go or not to go is the most frequent decision I've been making lately...that and deciding between getting dressed and working from a coffee shop or staying in sweatpants and working from the porch. The struggle is real.
The going by myself option has almost become second nature, but often when I talk to friends I hear the classic, "Wow, I could never do that!" Actually, you can. Why are we so afraid to be by ourselves or to be seen doing things by ourselves? I could probably come up with a bunch of reasons, but I think you can figure it out for yourself and what keeps you from choosing to go. All I want to say to you is, "Just go!"
Day 76: Washington D.C
After a morning of lazy or rather rest, I felt myself getting antsy just lounging on a porch. I wanted to take advantage of being in such a cool part of this country. Someone had told me about Eastern Market so I decided I would go there, get a bite to eat and map out the rest of my day. After browsing some popup shops, I settled in at Le Pain Quotidien and pulled out my handy dandy google machine. I literally searched something like "things to do in D.C." ...so lame, but I had to start somewhere. I quickly got caught up in finding the perfect thing to do so after too much time on google, I went ahead and just reserved a spot on a walking tour of Embassy Row and Dupont Circle for that night. I had some time to kill before it started so I made my way via subway (I LOVE public transportation by the way. I mostly love mapping out my route on subways because...maps.) to the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts because there was a free National Symphony Orchestra concert and great views and #porqueno. I eventually made my way Dupont Circle with time for an overpriced glass of rosé on the patio at Doyle.
I met up with the tour in the middle of Dupont Circle only to find out that our tour guide is from Houston and sister to someone I worked a summer camp with. Also on the tour was a man that lives in my home neighborhood in Houston and knows my second grade teacher. Moments like that make me love saying yes to doing new things alone! And it gets better...
Day 80: Washington D.C.
I was having another restless afternoon after spending 8 hours working on my computer from home, and remembered that on the tour, we passed Woodrow Wilson's House and were informed about a monthly vintage game night they host and the next one was that night. I texted a D.C. friend to see if she wanted to go, but she had other plans, so I spent a few seconds contemplating...go by myself or don't go. I didn't really allow myself to think much about it before purchasing tickets. The whole drive there, though, I was giving myself a pep talk. This wasn't just doing something by myself where I could vaguely go unnoticed. It was an activity that required interacting with strangers and potentially being the loner with no one to play a game with. Childhood wounds and fears rushed in, but the alternative was spending the night staring at a screen. Vintage Game Night at Woodrow Wilson's House or Netflix? Is that even a question? What would Brené Brown say? So I walked in heading straight for the bar. With wine in hand, I turn and see a familiar face. Now, when I see a familiar face, my mouth usually speaks before my brain has time to tell it "Be cool, be cool, be cool! You don't know that person!"
"Hey! You look so familiar!"
Oh gosh, what did I do? Think, think...this is awkward...where is my self-control??
Thankfully, I was quickly able to place her. She was on the tour I took the other night! We immediately hit it off and turns out she came by herself too. And what a fascinating person! She works for the State Department doing tours working in U.S. Embassies around the world. She's currently in D.C. learning Spanish to spend a few years in Ecuador. One day she was bored at work and googled how to work internationally, stumbled upon the State Department, and the rest is history! When we left, we exchanged numbers, she invited me to hang out with her and her other State Department friends later this weekend, and she told me if I ever find myself in Ecuador, I'd have a place to stay.
People are awesome, but I think fear keeps us from discovering this way too often. Fear tells me people, especially strangers, are hurtful and going to reject me. Vulnerability opens the door for some pretty great experiences and free places to stay in foreign countries.
Day 69: Severna Park, MD
I drove 12 hours yesterday and loved every minute of it. I told myself I would keep driving until I couldn't no more. I kept waiting for myself to get tired and restless, but I never did. Maybe I was just excited to reach my next destination. Maybe I didn't want to pay for a hotel. Maybe the scenes of the Shenandoah Valley entranced me. Maybe grace. Probably all of the above. Regardless, I'm here on a porch swing overlooking the Severn River that connects to the Chesapeake Bay. How? Serendipity.
Day -14 years ago: Houston, TX
As your typical awkward middle schooler, all I wanted was to belong. That meant for me best friends, invitations, and social security. But I was scared with seemingly minor yet significant moments of rejection that many others likely face as a child and adolescent. These moments left deep wounds that have in many ways fooled me into believing a lot of lies about myself. I'd go as far as saying I've been imprisoned by these wounds using them as permanent limitations that I will just always deals with, my cross to bear. I would still cautiously seek out "homes" that would for however long satisfy my longing to belong. I waited for what felt like an eternity for summer of 2005 because that was when I got to officially "join" youth group as an incoming high school freshman. That summer, a college student from Auburn University showed up to "intern" with my church's youth ministry. She was really pretty, super nice, and invited me in: Pool Tuesdays, Girls Group discussing Marian virtues, Beth Moore bible studies, etc. I always felt welcomed in her presence and like I could be myself. She even flew back to Houston the following year to be my Confirmation sponsor. My junior year of high school she ended up as our full-time youth minister, but as life went on post high school, we eventually lost touch for the most part. I went to college and then got a job, she left Houston and got married. Thanks to social media, we were still able to vaguely stay connected.
Day -29: Houston, TX
"COME VISIT US!!!!!!!!" appears on my phone moments after I posted about planning a road trip. The last direct communication we had had was 6 years prior.
Day 68: Nashville, TN---Severna Park, MD
I pull up around 8:15pm and am greeted by the sweetest little front porch welcome committee anxiously waiting for me. We spent the night filling in the holes of the last 10 years that social media missed overwhelmed by how our God is present in every detail weaving our stories so intimately together with fishing line. He is the most creative and thoughtful author. We may have "lost touch," but God's penmanship transcends the visible stories of our lives.
I am beginning to realize all these "homes" I have sought out and found security in over the years have been more like renovated Mercedes Sprinters moving me closer and closer to my true home, security, and place of belonging in our Father. #vanlife is beautiful, fun, and life-giving, but it's also difficult, messy, and lacking some essentials like bathrooms. Sometimes your van breaks down and you need to do some repairs or find a new one. But that's ok because you know you are just on your way to eternity and #vanlife isn't forever. There is freedom in knowing this and freedom begets freedom. More on that later, but for now, this is my prayer (shared with me years ago by another former youth minister).
"O, Divine Spirit, I want to be before you like a light feather that your breath may carry me where it will and I may not offer the least resistance to it."
Day 61: Nashville, TN
It's 10:55am and I just arrived at Steadfast Coffee, another Nashville Roastery and Cafe with a well designed logo and filled with cool looking young people. It also has beer, so I ordered a beer because #porqueno. I find myself saying this multiple times a day. It's become my anthem. When I'm hesitate to do something, #porqueno. When I feel like I have to justify myself to someone or the masses on social media, #porqueno. Why the hashtag? Because we live in a hashtag world and #porqueno.
Everyday, I am faced with the decision of to do or don't by myself. I want to hear live music. That means figuring out parking by myself, walking down Broadway by myself, making a decision of which bar to walk into by myself, ordering a beer by myself, standing or sitting at a table by myself, wondering what everyone is thinking about this girl by herself. The alternative is sitting by myself at whatever place I am calling home scrolling through my phone watching other people live their lives...by myself. I'd rather live by myself rather than watch other people live by myself. Plus, you never know when God is going to wink at you.
Day -who knows: Johnson City, TX
A few years ago, I took a personal retreat day. I don't remember why, but I do remember feeling like I needed to get out of town so I drove to Austin, stayed with a friend for a night, woke up the next morning to spend my day driving through the hill country by myself. The rules were: stop when you saw something you wanted to check out and wrestle through the awkwardness of being alone. I remember hyping myself up to go into a restaurant in Johnson City, TX and ask for a table for 1, order, and eat by myself. It seemed like such a big deal, and I felt so insecure. But I did it and came out alive. It was a beautiful day and serendipitously looking back, was preparation for these days.
Day 59: Nashville, TN
I had very tentative, probably not going to happen plans with a girl I had met where I am staying. They didn't pan out so I had to make a decision: go anyway or don't go. The only reason to not go was the insecurity of being by myself because what would people think. I went, listen to live music, had a beer, and after an hour or so, went back to my car to head home. As I approached my car on 2nd, I turned my head and saw what looked like an Astros hat. I immediately stopped, turned back, and the musician playing sure enough had an Astros hat. Keep walking to my car or have one more beer and ask where this guy is from? Because #porqueno, I walked into Cerveza Jack's, ordered a Dos XX, sat at a table, and listened. Turns out he was from Louisiana. Because I can't help myself from believing I am max only 2 degrees of separation from everyone, when he finished playing, I walked up to leave a tip and asked him where he was from in Louisiana. Alexandria. It took maybe 15 seconds to figure out we did know many of the same people. I mean come on! I think God is constantly winking at us to let us know he's there and we are in his inner circle. If you know me, my love languages are: being cooked for/french fries, porch swings, and making connections.
*His name was Alex Smith, and he is pretty talented so you should maybe look him up.
I was told to write before I left, and while I love to write, I didn't write. I lived. Now on Day 60, I think I'm going to add writing to my living. How beautifully and annoyingly imperfect to start like this, but no time to wallow, wish, or waste. Only time to be and do.
Day 1: Houston, TX---Lafayette, LA
I left my beloved Houston on March 18, 2019 wide eyed, clueless, and free. I pulled out of the driveway and then parked in my street to attempt my first of many "on the road" instastories. I took probably 10 versions of the same photo resigning to imperfection. I shared my starting mileage of 97,631 with the Dixie Chicks' The Long Way Around. After 10 minutes of perfecting the first public view into my new life as, I'm sure, my dad stared from the house front window wondering what I was doing, I finally put my foot on the gas and started driving. The plan was to make my way to Washington, D.C. by June 12, 2019 for The Given Forum stopping and staying with friends and friends of friends along the way playing everything by ear open to the not so clear but faithful Holy Spirit.
Day -91: Houston, TX
Just after midnight on Monday, December 17, 2018, Claire Marie Nieschwietz Chesnutt drew her last breath alone in her hospice room. They told us to stop connecting with her so that she would stop fighting death. She was just 2 months shy of her 97th birthday. Gran was an imperfect badass woman I should have spent more time with. She didn't get to choose a lot in her story, but she lived her story. She owned her story. That's at least how this granddaughter saw it. About 10 hours later, I resigned from my dream job of almost 6 years seeking to better own my story. This decision was a year in the making, but it couldn't have been a better day to jump. The plan was self-employment/freelance work in ministry management and consulting or something like that. The plan was also to figure out the plan along the way.