Today’s challenge was to write about the city you live in. I absolutely adore the city I live in, however, over the past four years I have lived in four different cities – all of which hold wonderfully special places in my heart. Just as my hometown grew me into the person I am today, my college city, study abroad home, and brief summers in Orlando have played an incredible role in my life. So here we go:
Home sweet home, the city I grew up in, home to one of the best universities in the world (though not the one I attended), and the best city in the best state in the world (yes I’m a proud Texan, fight me). The slogan “Keep Austin Weird” is the one that defines the city, and while I lived outside of the downtown area, I had enough “weird” influence on me to make me the person I am. I bleed burnt orange, and I am so glad this city grew me into the hipster(ish) person I am today, despite being raised by conservative parents.
Not only did Austin provide me with a weird, live music, hipster vibe, it also surrounded me with the people who made me who I am. I grew up attending a large church in Austin called Hill Country Bible Church. I know a lot of people have a thing against big churches because they’re harder to get involved in, but I was absolutely as involved in it as I could be. I had a best friend who always pointed me toward God, an adult mentor who wasn’t afraid to ask me hard questions about my faith, and a plethora of opportunities for mission trips. Hill Country, more than anything else in the great city of Austin, shaped me and set me on my adventurous journey to serve God all over the world, and for that I will always fondly remember Austin as my beautiful childhood home.
Yes, it’s a tiny city in the middle of West Texas that no one’s ever heart of, but it, like
Austin, is home to one of the greatest universities in the world: Abilene Christian University. At this point you’re probably thinking that going to a tiny Christian university in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas made me into a conservative Christian, and taught me how to not think, but blindly follow the tradition Church of Christ predecessors set before us.
I can assure you quite the opposite happened.
My time at ACU broadened my world perspective in ways I couldn’t have even imagined in high school. I never once had a professor tell me how to think. Each teacher gave me both sides of an argument and allowed me to decide what I believed.
Through all my education and interactions with students from around the country and world, I went from a fairly conservative person, to a much more open-minded human.
I became a feminist. I learned the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. I learned to think for myself, and to read the Bible in a different context. An educated context in which the Bible was still my spiritual guidance for everything, but a book I knew how to ask hard questions about, and find the answers to my questions.
Not only did I love the education I received in Abilene, I fell in love with the completely unexpected hipster vibe of the small town. I found many favorite hole-in-the-wall coffee shops, and so many local businesses that I miss so much. I miss the annual craft fair, Monks Coffee Shop, and my small but Jesus-loving church. So while Abilene might look like it doesn’t have much to offer at a glance, I promise you, it does.
3. Oxford, England
Yes, I got to live in Oxford, England. No, I did not attend Oxford University. But still. It was my sophomore year of college, and still the largest adventure I have been on to date. I traveled overseas with 20 other ACU students, and developed bonds that will last a lifetime as we explored Oxford, London, Scotland, and many other places throughout Europe.
I ADORED my time in Britain for many reasons. The first, obviously, because it was filled with British people. I loved the accents, the cultural differences, the free healthcare, the fact that it’s common for churches to pray for the government, and so much more.
It broadened my worldview even further, and I would give anything to go back.
The second reason Oxford has a huge place in my heart is because it’s where I learned how to “adult.” It was the first time I had to buy my own groceries and cook for myself (by the way, British food is so much better and fresher than American food), and it’s where I proved that I can take care of myself. It’s where I learned how to make travel plans, and safetly hop on a train with myself, in charge of my own directions and find my own way. And speaking of traveling….
I got more traveling done in the four months I lived in England than I have the whole rest of my life.
I went to France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Scotland… I touched so many cultures, and fell in love with each and every one of them! (You can read about all of those adventures here.) I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experience for anything in the world, despite the amount of money I spent. There are experiences that are worth so much more than what money can buy. Trust me. It’s why I’ve been away from Oxford for two years and still refer to it as one of my homes.
4. Orlando, Florida
If you’ve read my blog for more than a month you know very well I used to work at Disney World.
AND I LOVED IT.
I brag (sorry) about it all the time, and am constantly posting throw back pictures to my time in the parks. But it wasn’t just going to Disney everyday (for work, or for play) that made Orlando my home, it was the community I developed there. I met 40 Christ-loving individuals, several of whom I keep in touch with today, who I got the pleasure of doing life with everyday. They taught me how to love God better, and to better reach the people around me with the love of Christ. I got to disciple four beautiful women who I could see loved Jesus so much and had a desire to learn. And I was blessed with a beautiful work family at the Emporium.
So much has changed since then; my Christ-centered community has headed back to their home states, many of my co-workers have moved on, and very few of the original people I worked with are still at the Emporium.
But that just means I have a family spanning the country.
From Orlando, to Texas, to Missouri, to Kansas, New Mexico, and beyond, I have friends all around the world who have taught me, loved me, and helped me become the confident person I am today. I don’t know if I will ever see most of them again, or even if I will make it back to Orlando anytime soon. But I know that because I lived in Orlando, and call it home, I have been changed for good.
So if home is where the heart is, I must have left a piece of my heart in each place I’ve been. My heart is split into tiny sections, representing the amazing journey God has taken me on to end me up where I am today. I am so glad He has seen it fit to give me so many opportunities in order to shape me into the person I am today. I love for all four of my homes, and I hope their significance never leave my heart.