Our One-Way Ticket to LA

[In the midst of pulling insanely long days at the new store, I’ve been recording our trip to LA over the past week, bit by bit.] 

I get a Starbucks cities mug every time I travel somewhere new that I love. I have stories and memories at the bottom of each mug from places where I’ve left a piece of my heart.

Nashville reminds me of one of the happiest, hopeful times; being with my best friends in a little studio for a week of creativity and promise.

New York City reminds me of the weekend I spent in a place I had only ever been able to imagine, singing Handel’s Messiah in Carnegie Hall on Thanksgiving weekend.

Hawaii reminds me of the dreamy week I spent in Kona; hidden away in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, imagining a life in a slow-paced beach town, surrounded by triathletes, incomparable backdrops, and coffee culture.

Tonight I’m drinking from my Los Angeles mug…I always thought I’d hate LA.

Last fall I was getting ready to go visit my newly engaged best friend in Redding, a little town in Northern California. I had been to Sacramento/Bay-Area a few years earlier and knew I loved the area (even though Redding ended up being nothing like I imagined) and somewhere on that trip had decided that Northern California exceeds Southern California.

Eric and I like to tell the story about how when I was first leaving for Redding, he found out that I was going to California and we got to talking about where he was from. I rolled my eyes and scoffed at the fact that he was from LA (because Northern California is SO superior, right?)…even though I had never been there.

It’s a funny story to tell now that I discovered how much I LOVE that city…

I like to say that I was tricked into going to LA. We laughed and shook our heads as we crossed the Minnesota border, coming home, recalling how God orchestrated everything, and with such timing!

In an unexpected and last minute series of events, Eric was looking at flying one-way out to LA on his spring break and driving his car back to Minneapolis. He asked if I wanted to go with him and help him drive back. Without question, of course, I said yes. The plane tickets were cheap, my store situation was in a place where I could leave, and I had already been considering visiting LA (without stereotypical assumptions) to see if I could picture myself there with this man I was “accidentally” falling in love with.

And so we went! It seemed crazy and unanticipated but there was something so wonderfully hopeful and intriguing about what was happening here that it was all I could to do but to trust and excitedly open up my heart to every possibility.

I got my new store one day, celebrated my birthday the next (well, the whole week actually!), and before I knew it, we were on a plane trying not to annoy the man in front of us with how much we were laughing! I stepped off the plane with no expectations, nothing but an open (and maybe too-cautious) mind and a thankful heart.

I was surprised from the moment I got there to the moment I left. There were real people, like me, with real cars, doing real things. It was then that I realized, I had been imagining LA as being full of movie stars and characters from The Hills and Private Practice, driving and wearing only shiny things.

I was so wrong.

The city is brimming with people from all cultures in all sorts of seasons. SO many people, so many different lives and world views, all living together in an expansive city, carrying so much potential and promise. I was thinking about how the revival that’s been talked about in Minnesota seems so small in comparison to the huge awakening that has been prepared for so many hearts in this city I was visiting.

I feel like I have such limited sight to see and imagine the vision that God has for this area and the crucial impact it will have on the rest of the country but, even here in Minnesota, I sense the growing hope and cry of the city that will burst forth with glory and JOY.

You can’t look at what’s been coming out of LA and not think that God, in his justice, GOODNESS, and MERCY is doing something that involves restoration & LIFE, consistently growing, at an exponential measure. I had the best time on my trip with Eric.

When I got in town we went with Eric’s brother’s family to the Griffith Park Observatory to see the city at night. It was amazing to see all of these cities within one widespread city. There were so many twinkling lights as we stood on this hill, overlooking such an incredible landscape. It was really unlike anything I had ever seen. Also, I learned that a chilly LA night is so different than MN-cold.

Eric’s best friend and best-friend-cousin came to pick us up in LA to bring us to his family’s house in the suburbs. In light of the jet lag and traveling all day, I was in and out of sleeping the whole way there, but I woke up to the most beautiful neighborhood (above).

The next morning we had coffee at a cute little coffee shop in his parent’s town. We picked up his best friend, Louie, and made our way towards Venice beach for a day in the sun.

On one of our other days, I spent the morning at Laguna Beach while Eric went off with the guys and had some good quality time with them. I sat on a rock, on the edge of the ocean, reading about God’s goodness and faithfulness to us in every affliction we face. My heart was overwhelmed in this moment where I finally had time to be still in the midst of such a busy city and week. I was SO happy to just rest and be in complete and absolute awe of the creative power and beauty of God; seeing all that he has made. And realizing, still, even though he holds the oceans in the palm of his hand, he KNOWS me.

(Photo courtesy of CakeFlix – Eric’s best friend, Louie, who is an amazing photographer and an even better videographer.)

Before I knew it, we were packing up the Pilot with an air bed, getting ready to make our way across the country, back to Minneapolis… We drove through Vegas, Utah, and met with one of our sweet friends in Colorado (we’re trying to forget any of the time we spent in Wyoming and South Dakota)… We drove all through the night in Colorado, listening to sermons, taking turns driving, trying to stay awake, and finally stopping in Vail to sleep at a rest stop where we found snow and little oxygen at high altitudes.

We were thankful to stop and shower (thank God!) before breakfast with our friend in Fort Collins. Ani’s brother had worked for me for the last year at Starbucks and her parents were regulars that I had grown to love during my time at Faridale Shoppes in Minnesota. Just a week earlier we had spent time at their house grilling out and having heart-to-hearts about our life and relationship before we left for LA.

(For whatever reason, the photos aren’t loading so you’ll have to click on them to see the rest of our journey…)

We ditched Eric so he could take a much needed nap before we drove through the forsaken state of Wyoming while Ani and I went to tour the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, something I’ve wanted to do for the last year. We continued on our journey home that afternoon. We were disappointed by the sight of Mt. Rushmore (um…I was thinking it’d be giant like in Richie Rich!) and stopped in the town (where Eric almost took a pastoral position at a church) in South Dakota to see the famous Corn Palace. The whole way back home, I missed the LA that we were leaving behind; the city I thought I hated…

We celebrated our journey with dinner on the riverside patio of Pyscho Suzi’s right by our house in Minneapolis…

Next thing I knew, I was starting my first day at my new store with LA on my mind, but seeing the road ahead of me (that I had been waiting years to start) in Minneapolis…

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