In the last ten days since I’ve been away, much has changed.
Something happened that changed me forever last weekend. It was the Pivotal Life Moment to end all Pivotal Life Moments. Actually, it was more than that, it was a God moment, and it changed my heart.
Here’s the story:
Three Friday’s ago, I turned down a position that I envisioned would ultimately lead to my dream job and life in Washington D.C. It was my direct route to everything I wanted in life: recognition as a political writer, cocktail parties and pretty dresses, culture and sophistication. It was a guaranteed escape from the “ordinary” life that I’ve dreaded since my dad began telling me to “Dream Big Dreams” as a small child.
It was everything I’d ever wanted, but something wasn’t right. *Cue Twilight Zone music.* I wrestled with the decision of whether to take the job non-stop for seven days straight. Then, laying to rest any lingering questions about my cajones, I made the toughest decision of my life and turned it down.
Yeah, it didn’t make any sense to me either at the time. Then, four days later, when I lost my job as a magazine editor here in Birmingham, it made even less sense. The one thing I knew? “My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts,” says the Lord.
I’m not going to lie, that wasn’t a lot of comfort.
Then, it all came together. There was an Eddie James conference in my town the day after I lost my job. (Eddie James is a black gospel singer with a heart and soul the size of Texas. He travels around the country, telling young people that no matter their past they have a future in God. His proof? The 80 teenagers he’s rescued off the streets out of drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, etc. who are now Christians and travel with his ministry.)
The first night of the conference, God said something to me that drastically changed my heart and life direction. I should probably explain that God and I are pretty conversational. We keep a running dialogue throughout the day. Sometimes I talk and He listens, other times He talks and I listen. (And, why shouldn’t it be that way? Jesus says in John 15:15 that He no longer calls us “servants” but “friends,” and talking is what friends do, right?)
Anyway, as the music played, I poured myself out to God. I surrendered my pride, agendas, motives, and attitudes and told Him I wanted to die to my desires so that I could live for His purpose. As I sat there, the realities of what I was giving up—my dreams of fame as a political writer, fun as a (cocktail) party girl, and a sure escape from a "common" existence—bore down on me like a ton of bricks.
Then, He said to me, “Don’t you see? All of that IS the ordinary life.”
When I heard that, the ton of bricks lifted. I realized that the “ordinary life” I had been so afraid of was the very thing I was pursuing. In that moment of absolute surrender and Divine clarity, my heart and mind were transformed.
Suddenly, everything that I had been living for (Ben and Jerry's ice cream, this blog, Big Sexy, etc.) faded, and what replaced it was what I can only describe as a burning desire in the deepest part of me to share love with the inner city kids, to tell them about Jesus, and to let them know they have a hope and a future because of Him.
Ever since, I've prayed fervently for direction. I've waited to see if this was a true commitment for life, not just an emotional, in-the-moment experience. Ten days later, I have that same burning sense of urgency for the inner city kids as I did then. I pray that will never change. [Update: two months later: the same urgency remains.]
I have my guesses as to why God placed a burden for children on my heart. Maybe it was to prove He really does have a sense of humor since I often claimed I saw no reason to interact with kids unless I was being paid for it. Whatever the reason, I know the result.
This summer, I am putting my writing career on stop to begin serving in a full-time unpaid volunteer position to the inner city kids of Atlanta. Once I move and at least until December, I’ll be working six days a week with Metro Kidz, an extension of the Atlanta Dream Center. I'll be helping with weekly neighborhood outreach events, visiting kids and their parents in their homes to build relationships, and tutoring kids in the after-school program.
I’ll be living in housing that’s located on the “Million Dollar Mile,” which earned it’s name for the millions of dollars of crack cocaine sold there each week. My rent will be $100 per month, and I’ll need that much more to cover laundry, gas, food expenses and daily long distance phone calls home, as my family has already let me know they'll require at least one call per day to let them know I'm still alive.
Because I won’t be paid and can’t have a side job due to time constraints, and because I’m losing my job here and still have an apartment lease to fulfill (*insert sad violin music*), I’m not entirely sure how my finances are going to work themselves out. But, I know that they will because I know He is faithful.
If you feel moved to contribute now and/or (preferably "and" :-)) in the coming months, know that by helping me, you’re helping the kids of inner-city Atlanta. (I've placed a "Donate" button at the top right-hand side of my blog. You know what to do.) If you can't help financially, please send your prayers my way as often as you think to.In closing, I’d like to remind you of the words of the great St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless ‘til they find their rest in Thee.” My heart has never been more settled or more at peace. At the same time, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been for not just my future but for the futures of all the kids I’ll have an opportunity to touch in the coming months and years.
Here’s to an extraordinary life!
Oh, and here’s a short video you should watch about my newfound loves, the inner city kids of Atlanta: