Saturday, February 11, 2012

Decisions, Part 2

This post is part 2 in a series on what lays ahead for us, as we seek the Lord's will in our lives and attempt to determine "what's next?". 
You can read part one, here

Option 2 and 3: Home is Where Your Mom is. 

We could move to where they are. It would be wonderful. We could be close to family. We could be there for them, celebrate with them when they succeed, weep with them when tragedy strikes, encourage them when they fail, advise them when they're lost and receive all of these things in return. 

The only trouble is, we couldn't be with both families at the same time. 

Ferial's family lives in California. 

Mine lives in Tennessee. 

Both places offer different advantages. Both places house family. Both places are real options. 

Home # 1 - California

I always believed people from California to be arrogant and condescending about the beauty of their state. Surely, they must be exaggerating, I thought. It couldn't be as nice as they lead on

I was wrong.

California is glorious. I've never been to New England, but other than that, I have travelled extensively in both the United States and Canada. While there are glories to behold all over our continent, no where I've found compares to the constant beauty, temperance and pleasantness that Northern California offers. 

Yes, there may be places more beautiful, or with more pleasant weather sometimes. But in NorCal, it's year round. I was talking on Skype with my mother-in-law this morning. Today is February 9 and it was 70 degrees, there. Absolutely perfect. One of the best parts about Northern California weather: There is almost NO humidity. Just enough so that your skin doesn't get too dry. After living in South Korea for a few years (which I understand is very much like Florida or Houston when it comes to humidity), I yearn for the mildness of a Bay Area summer. 

On top of the obvious splendor of the area, we have deep roots in Northern California.  Ferial grew up there. Her home church is there. We have friends there. Plus, we lived there for our first year of marriage, and the year and a half of dating before that. 

Another big pull is a possibility that we might be able to live there at a low cost (something that is truly miraculous in NorCal), with lots of potential places to get involved in ministry, perhaps even on a professional level. 

And so, what does NorCal have to offer? Family, friends, beauty, familiarity, ministry...sounds great.

Home # 2 - Tennessee

My family moved to West Tennessee when I was 18 years old. I had just graduated from high school and they made the move, while I was away that summer @ Maranatha Bible Camp and on a short term missions trip with my high school youth group. Until then, I had lived in and around Dallas, Texas my entire life. That next January, I went to college in Saskatchewan, Canada, and stayed there (including most summers) for the next 5 years. 

To put a fine point on it, Tennessee was never home for me. I had no friends there, no roots, no job. I didn't have a drivers' license, so I couldn't go anywhere and the town which they had moved to was out in the country and boasted a population of just over 300 people. It's the kind of southern town with no stop-lights, no stores and two churches - a black one and a white one. 

So, you can understand when I tell you that when I went there to visit, I felt trapped. I lived there for 4 months in the fall of 1999, saving money for my first semester of college. I worked construction with my father, building Sonic Drive-ins and I just knew that if I didn't get out, I'd be trapped there. It felt like a vortex, with very little opportunity for escape. I was so thankful that I had been accepted to school, and I only needed to save enough money for the first semester in order to get there. 

Whenever I went back to visit, it never felt like home. Yes, my family was there and they are incredible people who love me dearly, but I was just a outsider. I never felt I belonged...

That is, until this last Thanksgiving. I hadn't seen my family in over 4 years. Ferial and I were able to secure a rare two week block for vacation, we spent thousands of dollars on plane tickets, more than 20 hours in the air and flew to Tennessee. 

It was wonderful. We were welcomed. We were comfortable. What's more, we felt at home. It was almost instant. Something had changed. Perhaps it was us, perhaps them...likely both, but amazingly enough, after that fantastic trip, Tennessee became a real option for us, for the first time. 

My family is fabulous and we would love to live near them. They are such loving people. You can't walk in or out of their homes without feeling loved. I'm serious. You can't even go out for a walk without telling everyone in the house (we have a big family) good-bye, and that you love them. 

In addition, the cost of living in Tennessee is super low. Shockingly low, after living in California. There are jobs. There are churches, and I have a feeling it's the kind of place where I could probably partner with a couple of friends and with God's blessing, plant a church that would be well received by many.  

Truthfully, one of the most attractive things to me now, is one of the things that I found unattractive a decade ago: the simplicity. Life is slower there. It's more relaxed, less stressful. The people are less pretentious (or at least it looks different), and more humble. It's the kind of place that you don't get caught up in, as much as it affords you the time to catch more things that make life good. 

And so, Tennessee offers many of the same things Cali does, only in a different context: 
family, friends, beauty, ministry opportunities and a low cost of living. 

These are only two more of the many options we're prayerfully considering. I hope you'll keep reading these posts, as I think out loud in text, and advise me as you're led. 


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