Tacoma: My Nineveh
"Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed. "
- Alice Walker, Living By The Word
Ask 18 year old me where I wanted to spend my life once I graduated from high school and I would have said, “Seattle”. Ask me what I would have been doing there I would have said, “I’d be an orthodontist. I would be married to a beautiful woman of God and we’d probably have a kid on the way.”
Jokes on me because none of that happened. I never made it Seattle. I never became an orthodontist. I sure as hell never married a girl (nor am I) and there’s no kid on the way. I just happen to have a bunch of kids I chase around because aside from being full time with photography I also work in a school.
I write all of this because instead, before coming back to Portland after college, I somehow ended up in Tacoma. A place that I had always considered trash. And while I love the place (it’s home to me), sometimes it smells like trash, but that’s besides the point of today’s blog. Actually, today’s blog isn’t even about the fact that I’ve now lived in Portland for a whole year (WOOT! WOOT! CELEBRATION).
It’s about my Nineveh.
It’s about the fish that swallowed me whole for four years.
It’s about the life that I was saved from.
It’s about my Jonah experience.
1. The swallowing was my salvation.
I’ve always wanted a big life. I’ve always wanted the glitz and glamor of what post undergrad was supposed to bring me. I wanted big results with little effort. So needless to say, moving to Tacoma felt like death would come upon me and that God didn’t want me to have the things of my hearts desire. I saw Tacoma as a punishment for maybe not working hard enough, for not trying as many new things, or even getting out of my comfort zone in college.
But man am I thankful for the fact that out of my 22 year old mind and heart that God didn’t answer those prayers or provide my desires.
Instead, he brought me into a life of simplicity.
Instead of glitz and glamor, God brought me into a season of life where I was instead seen and understood. Out of pain and brokenness, that’s what I wanted, but it’s also what I wanted to run from. Clearly God wasn’t about it. Out of my need for little effort but big results, I spent those four years in Tacoma learning how to work, dream, and run hard for things. God wasn’t about letting me run with entitlement. God wasn’t about that.
Out of this season, I saw life, I did life, and I experienced life from such a different perspective.
My life was made bigger and richer from Tacoma.
2. It was a restriction. It was my restoration.
Tacoma, as a city, is about 63 square miles. Seattle and Portland are both roughy about 145 square miles. Tacoma is about smaller than half the size of both cities. Where am I going with this, you might ask? I’m going with the simple fact that Tacoma … is … small
Wanna learn something new about me? I am small, but that doesn’t mean I like small spaces. In fact, I’m pretty claustrophobic. Small places don’t provide me enough space to be, but even more so, they don’t provide space for me to have control, which I think is the bigger issue of not liking small spaces, haha. That’s a different blog for a different day.
Anyway, all of this small (haha) talk aside, I grew to love Tacoma because the more that I spent time in the city, the more I saw God healing the little bits and pieces of my fragmented life. While I’ve never broken a bone, I think about the purpose of a cast: to be restored and heal properly. To bring back the function and purpose of what was broken.
Like I said, I went into living in Tacoma with a lot of brokenness and need for healing. Living in a city that was half the size of the one I just graduated from, definitely felt like restriction and punishment, but I look back and see that during that restriction I was being restored in the areas that I believed to be broken beyond repair, I was being restored to see God’s heart through this darkness, and most of all I was being restored back to my original function and purpose.
3. The purge was my provision.
From 22 and living in Tacoma to 27 living in Portland, I’m not the same person and for that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the changes, the growth, and the stripping of my ruins. Through it all, there was beauty to be revealed. There was a provision in the purging of my old self.
The provision was a life that was bigger and better than I could have imagined.
The provision was a spirit that was restored.
The provision was not standing in the junk and mess of being 22.
At 27, I stand whole.
At 27, I stand new.
At 27, I stand where I couldn’t stand before.
This is my provision.
Today, I type away a little teary eyed at the fact that I celebrate one year of living in Portland. I promise that they're good tears. They're tears of joy and thankfulness.
Tacoma was my Nineveh. Tacoma was a season that needed to happen and so today I celebrate that too.
Here's to year two in Portland!