4 years, 2 months, and 12 days ago I arrived in New Orleans for the first time. I was fresh out of college, unsure if I was ever going to use my Early Childhood Education degree from JMU, uncertain about how long I'd be living in Louisiana, and both extraordinarily excited and anxious about the new chapter I was about to begin. One of the few things I was sure of was that God had called me to make this move. My senior year had been a crazy one where I had considered everything from staying in Harrisonburg to moving to China, but when I was offered the chance to be on a relief team with Campus Crusade for Christ, something in my heart immediately clicked. During a rough season that year, I'd clung to Jeremiah 31:3-4, that says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with lovingkindness. You will be built up again, and you will be rebuilt." Those promises had resonated deep within me, both for myself and for the hurting Gulf Coast that had been broken by Hurricane Katrina's detrimental hit on August 29th, 2005. Somehow, I felt a certain kinship with Katrina's victims and knew that my passion to share Jesus' redemptive story could easily combine with my desire to care for people in a tangible way.
So I made the move and quickly fell in love with my new home. That first year was difficult; budgets, potholes, the weight of being part of a city still recovering, my first Thanksgiving away from my family... it wasn't easy. But somehow, it was so good. I found joy in times with Jesus on the porch, over-looking the city from the overpass, my relief team that quickly became my family, learning to be a capable adult, the strength of a city determined to come back, gaining confidence in who God made me to be, Cajun food, and LOTS of laughter.
But after two years of relief work, it was time for something new, so I decided to revisit my life-long dream to be a teacher. That first year teaching was hard, and honestly, my second year was even harder. I had bruises from breaking up fights, the steady pressure of academically behind students, a lovingly made picture from one of my kids of me getting run over by a truck (although I have to be honest- that one made me laugh!)... it was enough to bring anyone down. I fell apart and I persevered and then I fell apart again. I drew on the strength of friends and family and learned the joy there is in allowing others to carry you when you are too weak to carry yourself. I learned that even in the hardest moments, Jesus is the same, absolutely the same, and even in the hardest seasons of life, He is the same loving God that He is during the seasons of laughter. Ecclesiastes 3says that there is a time for everything, a time to dance, a time to cry, a time to heal, and a time for peace.
Right now, I'm in a time of peace. My third year of teaching is a completely different picture from my first two. I come home, bubbling with cute stories about my kids, and while I wish my alarm didn't have to go off at 6am, I can genuinely say that I like my job. I am blessed with friends and family that I adore in Virginia, and am equally blessed with beautiful, rare friendships here in New Orleans. My boyfriend is the most wonderful man and I am excited about the path that lies ahead of me. But I'm reminded in this season of joy that God is good, He is the same, and I will praise Him in every season.