Ten years ago, on July 19th, 2001, I moved to the Chicagoland area from Atlanta. Most of my friends and family in Atlanta thought the move was crazy and unnecessary, and they didn’t understand my reasons for the move. To be fair, I wasn’t sure either.
Most of my reasons for moving centered around my faith, so if me “speaking Christian” makes you uncomfortable, you can stop reading this blog right now and simply wish me a happy 10th Anniversary. If interested, though, read on.
As I said above, I moved here on July 19, 2001. I moved here almost sight unseen. I moved here knowing only 2 people. I moved here with no job, nor any prospects. And I moved here a mere 3 weeks after the end of a time period in my life that I refer to as “my 19 months of hell”. Crazy, no?
I did move here, though, with one good thing in my pocket: faith in my God, in whom I completely placed my life. My life in these last 10 years has been amazing. None of it has turned out even remotely close to what I had imagined, but I have nothing to complain about. I think of the move as the opportunity to be transformed into the person God has always wanted me to be. How can I illustrate this point? Imagine you are a seed. What would you need to grow? Good soil, nutrients and good weather (proper amounts of sun and rain). You also need space – you can’t grow if you are being crowded out, or if you are being boxed in – you need a proper amount of space as well. I knew that God would provide the soil and the nutrients, but I knew I would have to do something about the space – for some reason I simply knew that things and people in Atlanta would box me in somehow. Illinois, on the other hand, has been just the space that I needed.
Almost right off the bat I found a church home and a small group. John and Jo Vaughn opened up their home and their friendship to me and I am grateful to have been a part of their small group. They’ve since moved to Alabama, but their friendship will always be remembered dearly in my heart. Also part of that group were my friends Michael and Lori. I can think of no better friends to have been a part of my lift for the last 10 years than them. They have both been my rock. Michael is the pesky little brother I never had and Lori has been the best friend I could have asked for. (Anyone who would clean your belly button just prior to emergency surgery deserves the title of BFF, trust me on that one.) And their son, Keaton, is a wonderful little guy – he is an amazing 8-year old and I am so proud and honored to be his Godmother. He will forever and always be my little bug. Finding that church so soon after my move probably saved my life – literally. God knew what I needed in friends and He provided abundantly for me. These were my nutrients.
Looking for a job was a challenge. I was unfamiliar with the “lay of the land”, so to speak, but more importantly, fairly soon after I moved here, there was that little event known as 9/11 that happened. It was a frustrating 3-4 months looking for a job – but I know that God was in control of that as well. As it turned out, I ended up taking a job at Trinity International University, not doing exactly what I was doing before, but close enough. Having just left a very hostile work environment, Trinity was a breath of fresh air. I may not be able to convince you of this, but the job was a complete God thing. He prepared the job for me, and I believe He prepared me for the job. I was at Trinity for 5 years before making the move to Lake Forest College. November will be my 5-year anniversary here. How truly blessed I am to know what my God-given talents are and to be able to use them every single day. I love what I do for a living and I was created to do what I do.
The best provision of all, was that one of the benefits of working at Trinity was free tuition. Being able to study theology, church history, language and yes, the bible, with the top and most amazing thinkers in their fields today has been…well, speechless. I took a class with DA Carson. I’ve learned Hebrew with Dennis Magary and K. Lawson Younger. I’ve taken theology classes with Graham Cole, John Feinberg, and Kevin Vanhoozer. Church History with Scott Manetsch (who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona and also happens to be a staunch Wildcat Basketball fan!) All very Godly men who have an amazing understanding of God and the world and it’s culture. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it has been to sit in their classes. This has been the soil that I needed to grow.
The most amazing things about the last 10 years, though, has been the transformation that I’ve gone through. No longer am I the shy and unassured person that I was. No longer am I insecure with who I am and how God has gifted me. Every day I wake up in complete amazement as to how God works in this world. The people whom I’ve met and the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done have been amazing – all of them contributing to my personal transformation in one way or another. Christian and non-Christian friends have each made contributions, some large and some small, some of them painful and some of them funny, but all of them necessary. God is not simply my comforter – yes I am comforted by Him – but knowing what sin really and truly is, and knowing how much God really and truly loves each and every one of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, I have learned what love really is. The greatest commandment that God gives us (actually there are 4 here) are: to love the Lord with all your heart, strength and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself. By learning how to love those around me, I have learned to love myself. This is the greatest gift God has given me in these last 10 years. Yes, I know who I am now, and I am no longer afraid. What a wonderful gift I’ve been given. This has been the space that I needed.
What a wonderful 10 years this has been. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for my next 10 years – where ever they may be.