A few months ago (more like 8) I told myself that I had a great God excuse in my desire to go back to school. I thought I found the perfect school too because it was the only school with the program that I was interested in, within the United States. That program was in Washington DC. I told my boss about it and I told him that I applied and that I got in and needed to go take a look at it to see if it was something I’d be interested in pursuing. You should have seen his face. He was so confused. Wasn’t I happy here? Why not school here? Why the leap? Are you in a mid life crisis? These weren’t necessarily questions he asked me but I could read them all over his face. I knew I had a longing of some sort, but saying I wanted to go back to school was the perfect package considering the fact that I couldn’t really articulate what it was that was going on inside me. You see, Woody’s opinion counts. In my life at least. He’s my boss, yea sure, but he’s also one of my closest friends, mentor and pastor. With his hesitations and wonderings and prayer, I was off across the country to go check this place out.
So I went. And I hated it.
It was one of those places that was better online and on vimeo than in person. No way was I going to spend my money there. But when I came back to California, that longing persisted. But for what? I couldn’t articulate it. All I knew was that I felt tired, drained and burnt out. I kept using the word “depleted” to describe how I was feeling. It was such a confusing feeing considering that Azusa Pacific- the place where I have poured, grown and soared these past four years- has been such a place of great joy and wonder. The tension going on inside of me just didn’t make sense.
More conversations ensued.
I felt selfish saying that I felt that way. Mainly because I feel like APU has given me as much if not more than I have given it. So to say I felt something missing or unbalanced felt like betrayal. But I was tired. Since I moved here, I have gone without seeing my beautiful family for months and months at a time. Even now as I write, in November it’s been since late July that I’ve seen any of their faces. My friends? Perfect strangers. Nothing a little quality time won’t heal but I can’t say the distance coupled with the change in time zone, coupled with my lack of time hasn’t worn and torn us a bit. But I mean, what did I think would happen if I moved 3,000 miles away from home? I was willing to take that risk and gladly took that risk and have no regrets. But I have to admit, it has weighed on me pretty heavy.
Then there’s me. The other me.
The other me that only breathes when I’m feeding the areas of me and my passion that I cling to for purpose in this world. My creativity. My wanting to take my love for speaking outside of these walls. The part of me that needs to feed my intellect in complicated spaces. The part of me that loves to write freely. She has sat back quietly and at times channeled herself through my love for APU and all that it entails but the tension between defining her here and freeing her continued to eat away at me. I work a lot. I work enthusiastically and willingly and happily. But at the end of the day when work was over and I needed to feed those other parts of me, I just simply didn’t have the energy.
So I sat with Woody and I told him that I had to make a decision.
A painful decision.
A crucial decision.
…and that decision was to rediscover me through the things that I value so much; my passions, my family, my community, my calling.
I would be returning to the East Coast.
Ugh! I hate that I had to choose at all. I was angry with God for a second. Mad that I had to make a choice and that my choice had to- without alternative- be on opposite sides of the country. But I know I needed to make it and I couldn’t use going back to school as an excuse or the fact that some event occurred to force me to move back in that direction other than the simple fact that the voice inside of me is telling me that it’s time.
We made that decision in May.
For the greater good of the school and the students and my office, we decided as a family unit that the extra semester here would be the best. We decided that we would tell a few people but not make any grand announcements until later in the semester to give the students time to process but not too early where it would be a distraction. And so the transition process began. With a near nervous breakdown on my end in LAX airport going to visit home for the summer knowing that when I returned it would be my last stretch as a full time staff member. The transition process began with tears down the face of my boss and co-workers who’s tears showed me just how much I am loved.
You all have no idea how much I am going to miss this place. The people. The students. As much as I poured out into APU, APU has poured into me. I have been in spaces and communities of people who loved me, but they expressed it sometimes in unhealthy ways. I have never had an issue with leaving a job. “Goodbye, good riddance, I wish you well, don’t miss me.” But this is one is different. APU is such a special place. Truly, truly GOD IS HERE. People may look at this school on the outside and say “Oh Christian evangelical?” and automatically come up with what they want to discredit and criticize. They have never ever been within these walls the way that I have. And I say to them I feel sorry for you, that you will never in your lifetime get an opportunity to know just how amazing this place truly is. I feel bad for the students who come here and can’t help but perpetuate misery and complaint because they will never truly know how good they have it and will never reap the fruit of goodness that the presence of the almighty God can do through them in this great space. My boss Woody is literally, hands down, one of the greatest human beings to ever walk the face of the earth. My coworkers even in their exhaustion are the best friends anyone could ever ask for. They pray for the students. They think of the students. They look out for the students. It’s a shame so many people that cross their paths will miss that.
It’s not perfect by any means. Nobody’s experience will be. Nobody is. But even in its imperfection, God is at work and fully present at Azusa Pacific University.
When I came here I was a gifted person, but I was a broken person. And through this community God has put every single piece back together and for that I will be grateful for every single minute and every single second that I spent here. I’ll never ever forget it. I’ll never be able to repay it. The only way I can make some goodness out of the gift I have been given is to share it.
And that’s exactly what I intend to do.