8.30.2012

Call Me Abraham, or Captain Abraham Will Do

Ask yourself this: if you were to write a list of four and only four things you think you'd need as an individual to function before moving to a brand new place, what would make the cut? I get the feeling that your list would look a lot like mine:

1. A place to stay
2. A place to work
3. People I can tolerate
4. A church home

That pretty much covers it for me, in no particular order. And I don't mean to be vague. When I say a "place to stay" I don't mean that disease-ridden single mattress rotting away in the back of some dude's mobile home. I mean a place I can see as home, which is rough because home is such an abstract and overly-flaunted idea. Home switched places for me somewhere in my college years; I hated Texas at first but as the time went on I found myself missing it more whenever I left for breaks. In fact, I felt like I was withering away to nothingness in CA on breaks, wondering why the heck I'd left all of my friends and identity a thousand miles away.

Anyways, not to get overly introspective - I'm merely providing the framework for what my next several posts will consist of. I moved up here to Seattle without ever seeing the place or really having anything. I essentially got rid of everything I owned when I left Texas (fridge, microwave, dishes) and even more things when I was home for the summer (guitar amp, books, whatever I could sell). I came up here with an oversized TV, clothes, my musical instruments, several other odds-and-ends that I couldn't part with (mostly Bengals paraphernalia) and that's pretty much it. I didn't own a mattress, a can opener, or even a spoon.

So, how did I do it?

The striking thing is - I didn't do that much, at least not much more than what the average human with a desire to survive on this planet would do. I made a deal of sorts. I more or less said, "God, if you provide for me these 4 things, I'll do whatever it is you want me to do up here." Now to be fair, that is a short list but those are all huge things. You don't just uproot your life and thrust it into a corner of the world and hope everything fits together snugly.

But it did.

Don't get me wrong, there has been a fair share of speed bumps, slammed doors, and hiccups along the short way thus far - and that's putting it lightly - but bear in mind that I interrupted my own life while possessing a fair share of realism. As in, this whole excurscion/chapter could end up being a terrific failure, and I'd have to be alright with that.

Consider this: I went from one of the most religious and church-filled cities in America to what has consistently been rated in the top 5 most UNchurched cities in the nation in several surveys. As in, 73% of adults here do not identify with any form of Christianity (source).

From the first overly pro-homosexual bumper stickers I saw to the nudists I "ran" into at the lake, I knew this was going to be an honest-to-goodness upheaval of everything I was comfortable to. I was going to have to put down the rose-colored glasses I had been used to, take a bus across town, rent a bike, and book it to the next city over and get a new pair of spectacles with the wrong prescription.

And now that I've put them on, I don't want to take them off. This discomfort is comforting.

You see friends, here I am in Seattle after almost 3 months with a wonderful full time job, friends that I would die for, a church that I've been to every single week, and an apartment that I officially signed off on. I've never signed off on anything before, except documents agreeing to the sacrifice of small and irreplaceable parts of my soul (blame college). I left with no leads on any of these things, just an unrelenting sense of peace that I wouldn't have to go without them for long. Considering it took me years to complete this list in both TX and CA, I would say that this is a exceptionally good start.

Some of them came faster and smoother than others, that's for sure. I would like to tell you about how each of these things on the list were realized, so next time I'll start by talking about how I came to be at Calvary Chapel.

For now, it's time to take a dip in the indoor pool at the space station.

JDS

8.28.2012

Shock & Awe are My Best Friends

Put everything you own - that you managed to escape college with - into your automobile. Cram it in there in a manner that will be expedient to your cross-country entertainment needs, because it's a 23 hour drive and you can't even draw a map of where you're going in your head, because you've never been there.

Start somewhere on the west coast. Let's imagine it's nearly the southernmost point in California, merely for our purposes. You will be carving a line through the Golden State's neck until that coast leaves your sight and is replaced by wine country, deserts, and loveless hotels. That neck doesn't seem so bad - sure, it's coarse with unfamiliarity and an ever-receding shoreline, but your destination doesn't care.  Your destination wants you there now, or so you'd like to believe. Does the thought that your new environment won't bend itself to fit into a convenient shape for your daydreams ever cross your mind?

Of course not. Because this is your story from now on and you put shapes where you want to put them.

California doesn't try to hold on to you too tight as you flirt with the veins on her northward neck. It makes little difference, as Oregon has been pulling at your traveler's fancy for hundreds of miles now. Odd that someplace so familiar puts up such a little fight as you leave. Perhaps it's for the better, as many unplanned bouts are sure to come and the respite is something you won't always have in the future.

Foothills and glacial lakes. Strangely shaped city names and a sky that gathers it's worries to fling down on you in unforgiving streams. This new state is a dream. You've never been to Oregon; in  fact - you've never even been north of Bakersfield, CA. Or perhaps you have, but you were too young to formulate a conscious memory of the place. It appeals to you in an strange way, mainly for its consistent natural beauty, which is the complete opposite of where you've been making a name for yourself in West Texas these past four years.

Let's be honest, few people will remember your name in Texas.

You don't want to make your legend in Texas a focal point right now, because Texas is approximately 30 plus hours away and you are closing in on your destination. Oregon, for all its beauty and strangeness, fades into the distance and you start to notice something on those green rectangular signs that populate the side of interstates and freeways.

There is a name there - a name you've known all your life but you never had a reason to speak about it. A name that meant little to you until the closing weeks of your last semester in a educational institution of higher learning. A name you've since plastered onto your cortex, decorated with imagined sights and sounds and supplemented by everywhere you've seen it in media - movies, books, pictures. It's arranged rather untidily in your head but soon you'll do some heavy compartmentalizing - even though you've never been good at that. It's the name of a city, the name of a future, the name of a blank page. You've bored people to disdain by praising it to the heavens. You've saved results of google searches determining the best places to eat, shop, and see in that name's streets and valleys. You've based your criteria of it on the excited suggestions of the two - and yes, only two - people you know that live within a hundred miles of it. And you've never been there, let alone stepped foot in the boundaries of the state where it resides.

That name is Seattle. It appears on every roadside sign at intervals as Portland hurries by and your anticipation grows to volcanic highs. You can't help but smile. This is it, you think. This is what comes next.

You can't know it now, but you're clueless. You already know that your knowledge of Seattle obviously extends to a point because you have never been there, but nothing in this world can prepare you for how lost you really are and will continue to become.

And when you discover that, it won't bother you. It will just root you deeper into the soil of your new home.

Friends, this is the story of how I ended up in this corner of the Northwest and the subsequent stories I've stumbled upon while living here for a few short months. It is backwards of everything I've ever known and yet still so familiar that I wonder if I was supposed to be here all along.

Either way, your shock matches my awe.

JDS