The last of the first snow fall was still clinging to the ground when I boarded the plane south where the weather never dips below a light jacket and the air always smells slightly of exhaust. By south, I of course mean Los Angeles and not some third world country. Though sometimes you wonder if the two aren’t the same when you see the poverty and the brokenness that gets shoved to the corners.
Nine years in this city and these past 4 months is the longest I’ve been away but when the plane comes in over the city lights, I’m wondering how the time went so fast and whether I’ll land and realize I’ve missed it.
Because yeah, I grumbled about it and kept looking for ways to leave but one way or another, you start to define yourself by your place as much as your people. And the street names and the traffic, the coffee shops and parks, they’re familiar and familiar is comfortable and manageable and maybe not ideal but it works, you know?
The week is packed, packed as full as you can fill a minute with school talks, friend dates and radio spots, driving from one end to the other of this crazy town. All the while I’m looking, watching, waiting for that old familiar pull to the place that I called home for nearly a decade.
But it never comes.
Yeah, I miss my friends something fierce but a city is just a pile of concrete and people cocooned in their cars if it’s not where home is. When you move 17 times in one year, your definition of home is less about a place and more about a people. My people. The man and two little girls back up in the freezing cold, waiting for me to come back.
And those friends in the city? I’m realizing the friendships that are going to make it are less about location and more about connection and intention and both of us showing up. Because in a city of 9 million, it’s easy to meet a lot of people and never know someone. To wave to your neighbors and yet have people a thousand miles away be who get you. So I’m holding tight to the fistful of gems I found in my time there and taking them with me.
It isn’t until I’m driving to the airport on that Saturday evening to head home that the tears start to leak out. And I hate crying but once your body has carried a babe, the tears don’t seem to stay in quite like they used to. But they’re not tears of missing, of aching for a place that isn’t anymore.
They’re tears of gratefulness.
It’s not just that I had a week to work my passion and pursue the talents that extend beyond bedtime sing-alongs and breakfast clean-ups. It’s not just the week of connecting face to face with friendships that have survived these past months on text messages dashed off between the pulling daily needs. Or the number of unexpected moments where Abba showed off and made Himself known.
No, I’m crying because I’m realizing I got the chance to say good-bye. When you’re a person who thrives on routine, who needs loose ends tied up and the unknown is not what you relish, then leaving abruptly without a sense of finality is a hard thing. And this whole time I didn’t even realize that the nagging in me for a city left behind was a need to say good-bye. To realize that seasons end and the looking back only leaves you a salty pillar good for nothing.
The honest truth is that there’s so much happening ahead, so much to look forward to. And I don’t want to be stuck looking behind, to miss the promise of tomorrow because I’m too busy grasping for what no longer is.
What if God is waiting for us to let go, to say good-bye, to turn towards the unknown horizon before He’ll open the flood gates?
What if the thing we want is really keeping us from the thing we need?
What if we trusted that wherever God guides, in whatever season, He’s there and it’s all good?
Yeah, there’s hurting and there’s tears and there’s life crashing in but what if we pressed into it instead of away from it? What if we learned from Abraham who picked up his tent stakes, left his dad and never looked back, heading only God knew where? What if we followed Ruth from the places reeking of death to the land where we don’t belong because THAT is where God is waiting to pour abundantly, to bring new beginnings where we see only endings?
But hear me clear on this: abundance and goodness and promise don’t all have to do with money, and home and stuff. Because sometimes what you’re needing is less noise and more quiet to hear His voice, less busy and more being still to know that He is God. Less to-do lists and more being present. Less followers and likes and more authenticity in a few good friendships. Less looking at ourselves and more seeing what moves His heart. Less focus on what we think is lacking and more noticing the world with all its aching, heaving, and hurting.
Because those littles I’m flying back to don’t care how cool our city is or whether we have the latest toys or hand me downs. They’ll remember the morning tea parties with dolls and the countless books read, moments when I put my phone down and paid attention. And all the times we didn’t rush around crazy to hurry up and wait.
If stepping into the unknown means more of that, more being available to what matters, to His Kingdom instead of mine, then yeah, I’m ok with the leaving.