And somehow, the year is already over.
What's set apart this year from any other year of life so far was that it was the first year away from home in pursuit of what God has so clearly called me to. I was called to move to Portland, Oregon to follow the Family that revealed God to me in a real and intimate way, and to reveal Him to the broken world around me in that way, too.
In January, I moved in with the Fero family who housed many others generously. I roomed with my friend Keren, who'd moved up to Portland for the exact same reason to follow God in The Common Place. At one point, we shared a room with Anton and Courtney's oldest daughter, Eden, and this was definitely a season, haha. Nate, who the Fero's took under their roof just a couple weeks after knowing him, also lived in the house, as well as the Thomas family of 4. It was a unique experience living with 10 other people. But it wasn't just ten random strangers... These were family. The Thomas family home in San Diego was another safe space for me, and Melissa was essentially my spiritual mentor. Keren was one of my closest friends who had walked with me out of the most broken times of my life. The Fero's were the ones who showed me what it meant to walk the lifestyle of Jesus. What a season it was to live with these people and see them every single day. For half a year, we woke up every Mon-Fri to pray together in the living room, and we had dinner with each other every night. On Friday nights, we had church gatherings in our home, the very home we lived in. We ate together, sang praises together, and prayed together.
Soon after, a handful of other people in our community and I began getting discipled by Anton every Friday morning. This was special. This wasn't a hardcore Bible study that was all academics, that we'd all be forced to come to for the sake of being around people (which a lot of small groups end up being like, let's be honest). This was something we all dedicated ourselves to doing because we wanted to learn hands on the best ways to live like Jesus, and HOW to. As Christians, we're called to live like Jesus -- we constantly read and discuss what Jesus did. What were his patterns? What was his lifestyle? What happened in between all the miracles and all? He did things like rest before and in between his most fruitful moments in ministry. He did things like sit with sinners and people who never set foot in a church before. And so we learned to rest/abide to fuel us to reach people, and we learned to sit down with sinners and invite them into our lives to reach them in a real way. We've done our best to learn how to mirror the lifestyle of Jesus and to read the Word in a way that becomes real to us to actually live out rather than keep puffed up in our heads. What a powerful thing to walk in.
In April, I got a job at a coffeeshop in the neighborhood. I had the choice of working at one popular coffeeshop, Catheral Coffee, that a lot of my friends worked at, or to work at The Great North which none of my community even knew. I was tempted to work at both, but God told me that Cathedral Coffee (where we had been graced to have our worship nights at every month after hours) was taken care of and that the Spirit was already present there, and so I was called to The Great North to be a light. This was my ministry, and has been. This was my outreach, my outlet of being amongst the broken world and showing them a clearer picture of who Jesus is. I've been able to show love to people who would typically be shunned or pushed away, unfortunately. I've been able to build relationships with people in an intimate way and talk to them about Jesus with love. I think a lot of people who have been hurt by religious people have been healing, and it brings me joy to know that God has been using our Family to be part of that process. In my time at the coffeeshop as my transition into my future career as a Photographer, I'm excited to see how Photography ends up being yet another outlet for me to reach the world.
In June, I got engaged to Austin, my best friend who has been walking with me in every single area of my move to Portland and my life in Portland. We had been getting discipled together, we'd been reaching out to people and trying our best to use our relationship as a story of God's power of redemption and restoration. Our relationship was the surest thing I'd ever experienced in my life, and, long story short, we got married 3 weeks ago on December 9th. Our wedding day was filled with immense love and joy, people got to see a joyful picture of a love founded on Christ.
In August, our Family opened up an official Crossfit Gym building. Since before I moved to Portland, they'd started a Crossfit gym in the Fero's garage. People from all over the neighborhood were coming to the gym, and then afterwards, they were invited into the home for food and fellowship (on Fridays, there was house church right after a session). A lot of gym members became friends, then became family, then became saved and then became wheels to reaching the world around us. Since having a building, we've utilized this space for our worship nights and this coming January, it will be for our church services. We'll never have to worry about a city like Portland kicking us out for worshiping, because God has provided the opportunity to actually own the building itself.
As the year ends, I look back on the entire year and see God. I see His goodness and provision and proof that He was with us. I see assurance that moving to Portland truly was what God wanted for me. I've been blessed in numerous ways in Portland and I can feel in my bones that 2018 will be a beautiful year in other ways. 2017 was a year of pioneering; spreading out and reaching people and meeting people and starting new things. 2018 will be about settling; taking root where we are, taking care of the people God has brought to us, and following through and thriving in the things we've started.
All I can say is that I'm thankful that our Father is so, so good. And I'm thankful for all that is to come.