A One-Way Ticket

I write this from a Southwest Airlines flight, somewhere over the southeast United States. For the first time in my life, I bought a one-way airplane ticket. One way to Nashville, Tennessee. One way means this move is really happening—there’s no turning back.

When I flew over the island of Manhattan at 7:30 this morning, it was for my final time as a New York City resident. My license, my voters ID card, my library card, my mailing address—all have got to go. A new chapter is upon me.

I’ve lived in this city for just about four years. I knew after interning here in college that this was the place for me, in all its busyness and hustle and coffee-soaked dreams. I would be a magazine editor. I’d work at a women’s glossy and climb my way to the top, racking up free beauty products, fashion closet giveaways, and exclusive event invites along the way.

I’d see my name in lights—or rather, inside the pages of my favorite monthly magazine as a member of the masthead, a valued editor and regular contributor. I would not only meet but exceed the potential I was told I had in journalism school. I’d go beyond everyone’s expectations of me. I’d put that journalism degree to work and demonstrate the definition of success. If I could make it in New York City, I could make it anywhere.

And make it, I did. Magazine job, check. Manhattan apartment, check. Nights on the town, check. In some ways, I felt like a young Carrie Bradshaw (minus the Manolos and walk-in closet). Life wasn’t perfect by any means. But I was living the life I’d envisioned, a life I wanted others to see and admire. I felt good.

Around year two, things shifted. I lost my magazine job as the publication folded. New relationships blossomed while others faded away. The biggest shift: Old destructive habits resurfaced and my restrictive eating tendencies came back into play. I was relapsing in my recovery. I knew my life had to change.

I became more intrigued by church and my Christian community. I started to really hear what living for Christ meant. God placed a few women in my life who came alongside me in all the messiness. They loved me and showed me how life could change with a relationship with Jesus at the center. The more I invested in the Lord, the more parts of life that didn’t really matter began to fall away. His hand was on me then—and I saw how it had always been. He was calling me to a life of serving Him, loving Him, and ordering all other loves after Him. Slowly but surely, work took on new meaning. I no longer defined success as climbing the top of the career ladder. Work was a way to use my gifts to further His kingdom. The allure of the Carrie Bradshaw life lost its luster. I craved a simpler, quieter, and more peaceful existence. And God amazingly provided that in the craziness that is NYC.

For every year I spent here, I felt Him asking me to root in. He wanted me here. That was clear. So then why the move away?

Because I believe He is calling me to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s that simple and that complex.

I’ve known for a while that New York City wasn’t the place I wanted to stay forever—but I was open to that possibility should God ask me to. I continued to invest in New York. I called this city my home. I made friends here who are like family. I became a Believer here. It’s a place close to my heart.

I knew I’d need a clear and bold call from God in order to leave it. And that’s exactly what God did.

A year ago, God brought a man into my life who selflessly loves me and encourages me in my walk with Him. This man has done so despite 888 miles between us. As we grew in our relationship, Nashville—his home—became more of a reality for me. Yet I wasn’t convinced. How would I know if this was the right choice? How would I leave behind the community and passions the Lord cultivated in me in New York? I prayed about it almost daily. We prayed about it as a couple and sought counsel from those far wiser than us.

My journal entries for the past few months reflect this longing to know what would be next:

"God, place me where you will use me most."

"Father, help me listen to your call. I pray you light my steps. Grant me wisdom and confidence in my decisions, always running toward you."

"Father, I pray for trust in your plan. Help me trust in you. You have me in New York City, in this particular job, in this long-distance relationship, for a reason. You’re growing me and showing me more of your goodness. I praise you for that. Give me courage and help me to listen to your call for me. I need clarity in it, but I trust you to direct me. Help me to surrender, to find true freedom in you."

"Lord, keep me humble, keep me small, keep me reliant on you. I pray you place me where you’re going to use me most. Grand me wisdom and clarity in my decision-making. Help me to trust you and surrender to you in all things. I pray for protection in this process and for peace. I praise you, Lord. Amen."

The prayers poured out of me.

In August, God pointed me to a job at a church in the Nashville area. I was on the church’s website, looking around and about to listen to a sermon. Somehow I found myself on their jobs page—with a communications position staring right back at me. As I read through the job description, I swear my heart skipped a beat. Communications, marketing, social media, storytelling, ministry. The job seemed to be describing me. I applied immediately, and I interviewed on the phone three days later. I’ve never felt quite so encouraged, believed in, and supported during an interview. (And I’ve had some wonderful jobs and bosses.) My potential employer had read through my blog, even my testimony. He told me how it was an encouragement to him and how I clearly have a gift.

My excitement for the position grew. I completed an edit test and more interviewing. I prayed, and I journaled. I talked to those closest to me. I also doubted. I doubted that this was the right job for me. I doubted that I would be able to make a decent living in this role. I doubted that I would like the city, the church, the culture. I doubted a lot of things—all things that ultimately don’t mean anything if this is where God wants me. If this was God’s will, He would provide.

I was offered the job in a phone call a mere two weeks later. Not only that, but God went above and beyond in providing a salary, a title, and all the other material benefits of a job that I had hoped for. As I listened to my future boss offer me the job and explain why he wanted me on the team, I burst into tears. I cried the sort of crocodile tears that run down your chin and neck and smear your mascara. The tears that make a passerby stop to give you an entire tissue box (yes, really). I sweat completely through my shirt, and I felt like I might throw up. My reaction was one of pure joy, excitement, and disbelief. I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness in providing for me in every single way. I couldn’t quite believe the offer was real.

I went to visit the church and meet my potential colleagues that weekend. As happy as I was, I’ll be honest: I was uncomfortable. This Southern church is the complete opposite of how I grew up and totally different from my home in New York City. I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. I wasn’t convinced this was the best move for me because it was such a stark contrast to what I was used to. Leaving a great life behind seemed crazy.

This all felt crazy.

But the more I prayed, the more I understood how God wanted me to take a step of obedience. He wanted me to boldly walk in faith and courage. He’d be there with me through it all. He orchestrated it to begin with. All summer, I’d been leading women through a book study of Wild and Free—and how we can only live that way through Christ. This job opportunity is about as wild and free as it gets. God opened a door for me in a major way. It was time for me to go through it.

So on September 5, I accepted that job. I made the decision to move across the country—for a job, for love, and ultimately, for Jesus.

God has provided for me abundantly since then. He brought my roommate and me a great girl to take over my room in our apartment. He helped me sell all my furniture. He opened up my best friend’s schedule, allowing her a whole Saturday to travel from Pennsylvania and spend with me in the city. He gave me brothers in Christ who used their muscle to help me pack up and ship 50-pound boxes with all my belongings. He opened up a one-bedroom apartment for me that’s 15 minutes away from work, 15 minutes away from my favorite coffee shop downtown, and 10 minutes away from the man I love. He connected me with trustworthy car dealers to help facilitate that next step in the moving process. He gave me time to leave my job well and bid farewell to friends in the city.

God has tied up all the seemingly loose ends in a matter of three weeks’ time. The crazy decision to move doesn’t seem so crazy any more.

I’ve cried only a little bit about the move, and I praise God for that. My excitement is pure and deep. I know there will be growing pains with moving here. I know there will be moments of “What am I doing?”, times when I feel out of place in the South, when I dislike living in an apartment by myself, when I wish I could just walk to a coffee shop without getting in my car. But I believe in my heart God wants me to press into those feelings of uncomfortableness. I am not here by accident. God has me placed me exactly where He wants me to be, where He will use me most. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.  

I can see the landscape of Tennessee as we fly closer. It’s beautiful. 

“Folks, we should be touching down in about 15 minutes. Weather in Nashville is a little bit of misty skies but nothing too terrible, temperature of about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ll be on the ground momentarily.”

Okay, Nashville, I’m ready for you.