The end of the year is always a time to reflect over what went on and what you’ve learned from the past year. For me, this is an opportunity to reflect over the last 15 months of being in New York. These are lessons we have learned personally and from watching and interacting with others in the city. I’ve broken them up into 3 posts because I have a tendency to write too much, so today will be 15-11, Wednesday 10-6, and Friday 5-1.
15. You can’t call another city home and love where you live.
Over the past 15 months, New York has become home for us. When we first moved here, we fell into the same trap of so many transplants, that “home” was where we came from and this is where we live. Vacations become “going home” and the city suffers because you become an extended-stay tourist instead of an invested resident.
Every transplant must make the transition to New York as home and until they do, their love for the city and their community will be lacking.
When New York became the place we called home, a place where we established roots, we took ownership for the condition of our city, for the betterment and enjoyment of our neighborhood. Some say home is where the heart is, but God establishes where we live, so we can make it a home for the benefit of others.
14. You don’t REALLY need 2000sf, all the furniture that fits in it or a dishwasher
We moved from a 3-bedroom house in “everything’s bigger here” Texas to a two-bedroom apartment. We sold, gave away, or threw away about 70% of our stuff and we don’t miss it. Extra space becomes a need for furniture too easily with a big house and one day you wake up to find you don’t even use that two car garage because it’s storing all of your excess.
We’ve learned to live more simply, it’s been challenging, but really refreshing. We left a piece of furniture on the moving truck when we first moved and it was a sign of things to come as we find ourselves looking to avoid clutter for the sake of sanity.
Our 3 kids share a room and they love it (for now). There’s always a tendency to long for more, but we’ve learned (are learning) contentment enables joy to flourish in a home, and to be thankful for things we used to take for granted, like a full-size fridge and oven.
13. Evangelism is more education & advocacy than apologetic debate
When most people think of evangelism, pictures of awkward interactions where you try to convince the uninterested through intellectual arguments are often the first thing to come to mind. There’s also the stereotype of the New Yorker uninterested and hostile to Christianity.
In 15 months, I’ve met just a few hostile to Christianity and most curious about Jesus. Any hostility is mostly due to being uninformed of Jesus and mostly angry at “church”. Most of evangelism has become educating and advocating for who Jesus is, what He has done for everyone, and what He calls a people who represent (the church) Him to live for. From my experience, people here have become interested in hearing more, wanting to have these “deeper conversations” instead of avoiding religious conversations.
Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and overall purpose are what convince people of and even desire that truth, not my carefully crafted words. I’ve learned to spend more time discussing these things and listening to actual questions about Jesus.
12. The city forces you to parent more
As a parent in the city, there can be many fears, from losing your kids in the crowds, to the dangers of walking along streets packed with more cars than they were designed to hold. One response to these fears is to shrink back, do less, and try to protect your child from all the dangers.
For us, it has forced us to parent more. To train, equip, instruct, and correct more than we did in the suburbs. It can seem non-stop because of the nature of the city, but I’ve had conversations with Eli & Calvin at their age that I wouldn’t normally have until much older. Things like why people are sleeping on the streets, collecting change on the corners, or performing for money in the subways (the last 2 Eli has thought would be good careers…).
The comforts of the suburbs have a way of hiding things that may need to be addressed while the close quarters of an NYC apartment tend to bring out the best and worst right in front of you, providing an opportunity to parent. For me, it’s made me a better, hopefully wiser, and engaged Dad.
11. God answers prayers big & small
We’ve seen God answer prayers to sell our house, get Eli into a great school, and provide a new apartment when it seemed hopeless. We’ve also seen God answer the “small” prayers of friends for Eli and Calvin, keeping our kids healthy, and providing community for our family.
God is interested in the mundane and the monumental and prayer has revealed that to be true because He hears and He answers. Not always exactly how we want it, but it’s always been good.
Moving to New York City has blessed our family life, our marriage, and has taught us more than we know. Prayer has taught us and shown us God’s provision in all these things. It’s been a great 15 months.
Lessons 10-6 coming Wednesday.