My husband Kyle and I have been married almost two years. Before the wedding, Kyle was working hard as a CPA at a big firm in LA and I was living with my parents working hard managing social media accounts for small businesses and leveraging my own work online to network with the huge community of young entrepreneurs in Southern California. They certainly weren’t dream jobs yet, but both of us were grateful for the challenges they gave us and felt we were doing everything we could to take one step each day to get a little closer to our goals. After we got married, we moved into a 500 square foot studio apartment in San Diego and Kyle was sent on lots of long extended work trips. We didn’t see each other much at all those first few months, so I decided to get a second job to fill my time and hustle harder towards our financial goals. We loved being close to family and the comfortable bubble that the city we both grew up in gave us, but something began to change each day as we continued to pray that God might show us His will for our lives. I remember one particular prayer when the hair on the back of my neck stood up as Kyle grabbed both my hands and begged God to show us the path to follow. I will never forget the sound of his voice when He said, “God, show us and we’ll go.” Because I knew that we would.
One thing’s for certain so far in my life; God’s not really in the business of disregarding prayers. Sometimes He answers them differently that we’d hoped, but he’s never a hands-off-dad. A couple days later Kyle had a ‘spontaneous’ phone interview with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
There are parts of this story being left out for sake of your sanity dear reader. Your time is more valuable than fifteen pages of backstory before I get to the bullet-point takeaways. But, I think I need to mention that we’re those people with handwritten goals on the bathroom mirror, that shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. At the top of Kyle’s list reads, “Make big money decisions for an MLB Team.” Another quick detail is that between work trips and long hours and Yogurtland dates with me, he’d been on three different interviews for MLB jobs all over the country that each ended fruitlessly. We were tired and neither of us wanted to get overly excited about another interview. But the feeling had gotten stronger.
Two days after the phone interview we were in the car headed for Phoenix. The whole way there, we laughed at how shockingly ugly the scenery was compared to all the beautiful road trips we’d ever been on throughout the west coast. I documented with my camera and we tried to make a romantic adventure of it. Unfortunately on first impression, it seemed more like scenes from Iraq than the United States. I remember actually thinking, “Man this will be tough to make pretty on Instagram”. I dropped Kyle off at his interview and sat there in the rental car just staring at the stadium for a while. I felt peace sitting there and I knew the baseball gods weren’t to thank. As reluctant as I was to admit it then, there was an unshakeable feeling that God was doing something in the desert that I
wanted needed to be part of. More than baseball or jobs or money.
I felt like He said, just to me, “Madi, I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19.
It’s been over a year since we left “home” and dropped the u-haul off in Scottsdale. People still ask how we like it and when we’ll move back and so today it’s time to share publicly the way God made for us in the desert and what I’ve learned from creating a new life and a new home in a new city.
1. Creating Community Takes Time.
I love this quote from Jen Hatmaker, “Anyone with a cell phone, a crock pot and a chili recipe can create a community.” The simplicity of it is refreshing, but I think it’s important to mention that true community; friends that become family and a network of people that actually do life together takes at least a year. It’s hard for do-ers like Kyle and I to give anything time but looking back, I wish I would have just admitted from the start that no one makes friends just because they work super hard at it. Relationships of all kinds require shared experience together, openness, trust, vulnerability and TIME. Desperation for friends at any cost isn’t wise either. That’s all I have on that.
2. You Can Have Lots of Houses But Only One Home.
There was a season at the beginning of our time in Arizona when we went home for everything. We didn’t want to miss a single important dinner or event with family and would promise to be there and come visit. It was fun for us and we loved how happy it made everybody. Plus, family is so important to both of us it just seemed like the right thing to do. We soon realized that until we decided to embrace Arizona as our new home, we’d always feel like outsiders in our actual life. Kyle pointed out, “Our families live in San Diego. They have homes there and we love them. We live in Arizona and have a home here. This is our home.” Even just changing that vocabulary was a huge mindset shift that truly set us free and encouraged us to enjoy our life and our new friends here.
3. Say YES!
I had to first admit that, “Hi, I’m new here and don’t know ANYONE.” I probably cried about it next to the moving boxes for a minute but after that minute was up, I knew it was time to get out. You have to reach out anyone that knows anyone in your city. “Hey I know you might not remember me, but I just moved here and would love any recommendations for fun things to do or places to see or restaurants to eat at!” Is a great thing to text basically anyone. I also learned that most people love to be tour guide. Kyle and I said yes to dinners with everyone. Friends of friends, coworkers, even random people we met at our apartment and we’re so grateful we did because lots of those people are now our best friends here. We still go to every coffee date, every girls/guys night, every double date night, hike, bible study, friendsgiving, open house, and dinner because we so deeply believe that life is meant to be done together. That takes saying yes and maybe being over-excited instead of being cool. You’ll only regret it once or twice. And later, you’ll be so glad you did.
4. Adopt a Dog.
Adopting June from our local shelter was (and still is) one of our favorite things about Phoenix. She made (makes) for cheap entertainment on those nights after work and weekends when we don’t have plans and forces us to reconsider going out of town. Adopting a dog makes you get outside and explore your neighborhood and forces you to stop traveling so much which means you’re around for fun things with your new friends more! Win-win.
5. Join a Church.
I’ll start by saying, moving to a new city grew my faith ten sizes. The physical act of leaving everything behind to follow Him has proven to be one of the most transformative exercises in faith I’ve ever experienced. The hope it fills me with to know that God will see me through and walk along side me even when it’s difficult is no longer just a quotable for the mirror, it’s a life experience. Neither of us deserve credit for the fact that God literally led us to our home church. Our family at church is something neither of us have ever experienced and sometimes it feels like maybe we just moved here for that. Kyle literally exclaims daily, “I love our church so much!” We didn’t do anything to deserve them or the Grace God’s given us through this move, He just gave it freely and I pray that if you’re moving soon or just moved to a new city you’ll let Him love you and show you life that is truly life through a home church too.
7. Moving Strengthens the Bond of Your Marriage.
One of the best things about moving a new city all our own, is that it’s all our own. Everywhere we go is a new adventure together, just us. We’ve bonded so closely because of this move and feel a deeper level of friendship, trust and passion in our marriage just because we’ve had to survive dependent only on God and each-other. Make no mistake, external hardships will come at your marriage hard and if you’re married you know what I mean. Attempts to steal away that blissful freedom of true intimacy that can only be found in marriage are everywhere, but in our experience, the move forced us to cling so tightly that no one can come between us. I’m so grateful for that. Moving to a new city forced us to embrace staycations and simple things and just heads up from experience, in certain cases can land certain people with babies. But as far as we’re concerned, we recommend highly that too.
8. You Get to Grow and Start Over.
One thing I never expected from moving for a new job for Kyle was a new job for me. Moving to Phoenix introduced me to a whole new community of creatives and has given me the opportunity to rediscover photography in a whole new way. In San Diego, I would have never considered photography as a job but now that I’ve had the incredible opportunity to shadow and work with such talented women in the wedding photography world, being behind the lens has captured my heart. I’m so grateful God brought me to the desert to make a stream in the wasteland that was my job. It truly feels like I’ve been washed clean and have a new set of eyes. What I wrote off as not worthy of Instagram, is truly His magnificent masterpiece. He makes beautiful things out of us that way too. I’m so grateful He chose this city for us. For now, we’re doing our very best to serve it well and love it hard.