When doing the brave thing means going home

We’re often called to step outside of our comfort zones, which sometimes means physically moving to entirely new places without knowing how long we’ll be there.

And then sometimes we’re called back home.

When I moved out to California a little more than a year and a half ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. I simply knew that God was calling me out here, and I didn’t know what else to do but to trust that He had something planned that I didn’t know about yet but would soon find out. There were certainly moments of doubt and fears and uncertainties when I first got out here, but He constantly reminded me that He was in control, and I didn’t need to worry about anything. More than once, I heard His voice assure me of a truth that has always been true but became much more real in my life since leaving Dallas.

Trust Me—I’ve never once failed you, and I won’t start letting you down now.

I mean, how could I not love it here?

Truth be told, I’ve loved my time in Orange County. The beach is my place of peace, and there’s so much nature surrounding you and so many wonderful things to do outside (I LOVE hiking and walks on the boardwalk). Sure, the culture is much different than what I was always accustomed to in Dallas, but it’s good to be exposed to lifestyles that aren’t the same as ours. But even after making some lifelong friends and trying to make California feel more like an actual home, it’s never felt that way. Despite people welcoming me into their lives (and me sometimes inviting myself in), I’ve still always felt like an outsider. I tried to convince myself that I could live here forever, but I think somewhere in my heart was always the longing to be back in Dallas with my family and all of my people.

Back in November, I started feeling pretty homesick. I remembered that same feeling the year before, so I told myself that it was just the holiday season stirring up some emotions, and I simply needed to get through the next couple of months to feel normal again. But I think that I knew deep down that there was more to it than that. There was an ache for my family that I had never felt so strongly, and there was a tugging at my heart telling me to go back home.

Home—where we’ve always been told is where are hearts are.

I did the only thing that made sense to me: I prayed. And then I reached out to some of my trusted prayer warriors so that they could pray alongside me, as well. I still didn’t feel a complete peace about anything yet, though. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to let emotions cause me to make a decision that didn’t need to be made yet. Uprooting my life in California and moving back across the country wasn’t exactly a simple thing that I could undo if I thought it was the wrong choice, so I wanted to make sure that those feelings were valid and meant something more.

I’ll never forget the morning when everything became completely clear to me. I was at work and had too much on my mind at the time. I felt overly conflicted and stressed, and I silently cried out to the only One who could help me.

“God, I need You to tell me what to do. When You called me out to California, You made it completely clear that it’s what I was supposed to do. I need You to do that again. I need You to let me know if I’m supposed to go back to Dallas now or if I’m just feeling a bunch of emotions. Please just show me exactly what You want me to do.”

Less than two hours later, I was reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst (a book I highly recommend, by the way) at lunch, when everything became so entirely real and true, and all of the haze and confusion from the past few weeks disappeared. There’s a part in the book when Lysa is trying to talk herself into jumping from a pole in one of those obstacle things in which you’re harnessed in and attempting to grab a bar hanging in the air after your leap. Her feet weren’t moving, so her friend Bob Goff (also another amazing author) came alongside her and finally said the thing that gave her the courage she had been trying to find all along: “You’re absolutely loved. Whenever you’re ready, jump.”

As soon as I read that line, I once again heard that voice that has guided me and comforted me through so much already: There’s your answer, my sweet girl. It’s time.

There was suddenly a quietness that came over me, and I breathed out all of the anxieties that had been haunting me for those past few weeks. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, there was also a little bit of fear inside of me. It wasn’t fear about having to start over yet again or leaving behind some pretty incredible people and a beautiful place of sunshine and beach days. Rather, it was a fear of failure. Did moving home mean that I wasn’t capable of living in a world of the unknown all by myself? Had I let myself down? Was it childish and wimpy to move home just because I missed my people and my place?

But then I had to stop. And breathe. And thank God again. And trust Him. I hadn’t failed. I had done the hard thing, and I had lived through it. I had enjoyed it. I had grown and learned and gained community and healed and led others and become humbled and discovered truths I had never known.

Like LeAnn Rimes, I’m staring out into the great unknown.

So much has happened in my life since I moved out to California, and I started to reflect on how God had worked in my heart and changed it in tremendous ways. As I sat in church a few weekends after that moment of clarity, I began wondering why it is I had been out here for the time I was, and then I heard that calming voice again: I’ve been training and equipping you, and now you’re ready. I don’t know exactly what that means for what’s ahead of me, but I do know that I’m excited (or “stoked,” as some of my Cali people say). I know what it looks like to be brave, and I want to live that way every chance I get.

There are a great deal of unknowns right now, and that’s OK. I didn’t meet the man who will be my forever guy while I was out here (sorry for those of you who were hoping for that), and my career future is definitely still a mystery (especially since I’m walking away from a job I love and some truly incredible coworkers), but I know and trust that He knows what He’s doing. It’s going to be tough to leave my people here, and I have no clue what the future holds, but I know Who holds it, and I’m thankful that He’s taking me back to Texas to be closer to Mare and Skipper and Steffie Robyn and Broski and Teddy and Katie and Livs and Evie and so many others.

We all have different paths and journeys we take in life, and they won’t all look the same. They shouldn’t. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said the following: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I don’t completely agree with that, though. I think that sometimes you have to allow yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow and become the person you were always meant to be. It might lead you right back to your backyard, but at least you stepped out to somewhere new and allowed yourself to be braver than you thought you could be.

Dorothy was right about the “no place like home” thing, though.

I’m pullin’ a LeBron

Life has a way of being funny at times.

And not always in the “haha” kind of way.

When I was a teenager, I reached a point where all I wanted was to get away. I had lived in the same town my entire life, and I figured the best thing for me was to leave and go far, far away. You remember when you were a teenager, and anything was a HUGE deal, and there was drama with everything? My life was no exception.

When it was time to start applying to colleges, I started off only looking at out-of-state schools. I wanted nothing more than to leave Texas (I know—such a horrible idea). At one point, I was even only looking at schools in the Northeast. (Side note: I HATE cold weather.) My mom kept telling me that I should stay in Texas, and that just made me want to leave even more. I planned a sporadic trip to Virginia—spending nearly every penny I had earned working at the Smoothie Factory—to visit UVA. When my mom found out, she bought a ticket and tagged along. I hated admitting it at the time, but I was really glad she came with me.

table-natalie
Let your heart feel at home

I ended up applying to Texas A&M and UT, and it’s a good thing I did, because at some point I realized going to school far away wasn’t really what I want to do. I didn’t want to be that far away from my family and from the comforts of home. I flipped a coin between the two schools, and I ended up at A&M. I’ll save my extensive college story for another day, but I ended up going to four different schools (two of them two different times), and I finished off those stressful four years at SMU. For the last year or so of college, I lived at home with my parents—in that same hometown I had tried so hard to get away from. At the time, I wasn’t happy about that. I still didn’t want to be there.

After college, I moved away as soon as I got my first job. There were two brief stints during those eight years when I had to live with my parents again because of either a job transition or a moving transition. I felt weird being back. Some of my friends had started families and moved back to the town, but I couldn’t understand why. Why would anyone want to live in the same place she grew up? It made no sense to me.

My current lease ends in December, and I’ve been looking in a few areas trying to find a new place to live. It’s been a rather exhausting process. I want to feel safe, but I also want somewhere where I feel like I belong—somewhere that feels like home. Lately I had been feeling a longing to go back to where I grew up. I miss the sense of community there is there. When I told my sister, who is my voice of reason on so many things in life, her answer was so simple: do it.

Even though I tried for so long to get away from it, I really love my hometown. I love how much people come together to help and support one another. I love that I don’t feel like I have to run with pepper spray. I love that practically the entire city gathers in the stadium on Friday nights for football games. I love running into people I know when I go to Tom Thumb. I love being able to find parking spaces wherever I go. I love the parks system and how hard the city works to keep those parks nice. I love that my parents still live there. I love how friendly people are. I love that it simply makes me feel good to be there.

There’s no shame in going home. Sometimes people go out in life to new places and discover they were meant to be in those places. Others find they belong in the places that originally started their journeys. LeBron James left Cleveland to live it up in Miami—South Beach, bringin’ the heat—for a bit. But, ultimately, he realized the place he really wanted to be was back home. And he wasn’t ashamed or afraid to admit it. Aside from the whole NBA fame thing, LeBron and I have a lot in common: I just want to be home.

It’s important in life to do the things you do for the reasons you know to be right. Who cares what other people think? If you know you’re supposed to do something, you need to do it. If you know God is calling you toward something, someone or somewhere, the time to act is now. You don’t ever have to be afraid to do something with Him by your side.

And He will always welcome you home.