A Love Letter to the City We Will Never Return to

 

I’ve lived in many cities in my life, but there’s only one I’ll likely never return to and that’s Anderson, SC.

In fact, the only thing more shocking than us moving back to NYC, is that we ever left and moved to Anderson in the first place!

After all, it was only three years ago that my life fell apart while living in NYC. It’s only been since 2014, that the words, I just don’t want this to be my life anymore, was the only response I could find whenever someone asked how they could be praying for me.

And I meant it — it was the only plausible way out of the mess that had become my life and my marriage, that the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth would have enough pity on me to slip me a get out of jail free card under the table. Or better yet, allow me to exchange my life for a new one!

…And really, that’s what God ended up doing when He moved my family to South Carolina! It was as if God plucked us from our million mph life in NYC, and Hunger-Games-hovercraft-style dropped us off in the small, borderline pulseless, town of Anderson, South Carolina.

… a pulseless, but perfect place to rebuild a family.

And that’s exactly what God did while we lived here these last two years.

 

I’ll never forget the first time I walked through the house we’d end up buying, and how clearly God had spoken to me. The house was a mess. The door knobs were all jammed, there were 4 different types of flooring on the main level, and the fireplace was the loveliest of forest green hues. Not to mention, it smelled strange.

It would take a lot of work to get that house back into shape, and it wasn’t a task just anyone would want take on. And I’d be lying if I said there weren’t nights I stayed up questioning if it’d be worth the work, or if instead we should look at newer, less charming, but better smelling options.

But we kept coming back to it. It had unmistakable potential, so much untapped charm if only someone would come in, do the work, and dust off the cobwebs — And that’s exactly what God challenged us to believe, not just for the house on the corner of Savannah Drive, but for what He could do in our hearts and our marriage!

“I could have chosen a person with a less messy story, or a more steady marriage, but I keep coming back to you…” it was as if God said, “There’s untapped potential that’s waiting to be unveiled in your life; there’s unparalleled purpose I have planned for your marriage — And it’s not in spite of where you’ve been, but because of it! We just have some work to do.”

“Your love for each other is just hidden away and hard to get to,” our counselor would add early on in our marriage counseling, giving us the visual that our love was surrounded by what felt like an impenetrable wall of thorns.

“There’s beauty still there,” she challenged, “and just because you can’t get to it right now, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Like the house, we just had some work to do…

That’s what these last two years in South Carolina have been all about, peeling back the thorns in search of the love that on our darkest days we were certain couldn’t possibly still exist. Dusting off the cobwebs of our call to ministry and picking up the pieces of our broken vows, in order for God to unveil a beauty and a purpose we had almost given up believing could still be there.

The process has been costly and at times agonizing, both in updating the house and rebuilding our marriage. (True story: we found 30+ bats in the attic, and I’m pretty sure at one point I punched my husband after a heated sesh of marriage counseling.)

…But in the end, there our love & the most perfectly charming home was, hidden among the ruins and hues of forest green.

 

picture of house

 

It’s a miracle, what God did here in Anderson, SC of all places. A miracle even my five-year old can’t deny.

At times I’ll catch her staring at me, and she’ll ask me, “Are you happy, Mama?” She sees a difference in me.  Other times, she’ll scream out in disgust when she catches my husband and I exchanging a kiss in the kitchen, and we’ll smile at each other because we see the difference in us.

Looking back on our time in South Carolina, I stand amazed. Not because its been perfect (in fact, at times its been quite hurtful) but because God did what He promised.

The night before my husband left for NYC we got down on our knees beside the bed to pray.

And amid everything we needed God to do, we thanked Him through tears of gratitude for everything He’s already done.

We thanked God that in our daughter’s short life, she’s already sat front-row to a miracle watching the God she hears about in Sunday School, breathe life back into her mommy’s spirit and her parent’s marriage. So clearly noticing the astounding work He’s done, that she has to stop everything she’s doing and take note of His handiwork (even if it requires wailing in disgust!)

Gratitude washed over me, knowing all the times I pleaded with God for a new life that each of my tearful prayers reverberated to the heavens, and were heard by a loving Father who was already orchestrating a change of scenery, a revitalized marriage, and a bigger vision for my life than I ever dreamed possible.

Today I’m thankful God looks at the greatest messes we make of our lives as nothing more than a good ol’ home renovation project. And more than anything, I’m thankful my husband and I accepted the invitation to do the work, dust off the cobwebs, and fight like hell to rebuild our marriage, in spite of all the times we secretly questioned if a newer, less charming, but better smelling option of a spouse would be an easier fix.

And though there’s likely no reason to ever come back to Anderson, SC (other than to eat a ‘bird dog,’ or… well… nope, that’s about it.) We’ll certainly never be the same because of our time in Anderson, SC either.

And for that I’ll always be grateful.

// 52 weeks to write, 41 more to go. //

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9 thoughts on “A Love Letter to the City We Will Never Return to”

  1. Krista – I subscribe to several blog posts and I have to say yours is one of the only ones I read in it’s entirety. Part of it is your raw honesty, but a lot of the reason is I see common threads of your life that mirror mine. My husband did not honor God or family and my story has been God’s sweet provision through divorce and single parenting and of course the restoration of my heart. My daughter is now 22, has spent a year in Brooklyn at PRATT to earn a bachelors that will include both a degree in photography and graphic design. We both desire to do ministry to hurting people and even now I am blessed to be mentoring to several college aged young ladies who for whatever reason have had parents just check out of their lives – it is heart breaking to see how the enemy attacks through their wounded hearts. I write today to simply let you know I have fallen in love with your family and God’s journey for you. My daughter will be finishing her degree in 18 maths in Savannah GA at SCAD near our hometown of Charleston SC where I live and will be taking about 5 more months of treatments to complete my cancer journey. She is such a faithful daughter and friend and we both fell in love with New York during my many visits up there to see her. Prior to my cancer diagnosis we thought God had a plan that would include both of us living in NYC and ministering to the vast numbers of people we saw there who simply need to see the hands and feet of Jesus in action. Who knows maybe our journey through this season is in preparation to support a certain family called to start a church right there in NY. We have faithfully served in leadership over the past several years at NewSpring Charleston on the serve teams and connect team’s primarily and I worked on staff at a church called Seacoast for several years. I know the ropes and the “dirty” work of church operations. It “ain’t” easy, but it is oh so purposeful. Seacoast has a program to aid start up churches called the ARC I’m not sure if that ministry would be of help to you, but thought I would mention it. You continue to be in my prayers and if you are accepting monetary donations to fund the church please send me an address to forward that to. Blessings, Tracy Sparks 864-542-3846

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    1. Tracy,
      First off, I apologize that I’m just now getting to respond to your lovely message. I’m currently in the middle of all the moving stuff, and with my husband away for the last 30 days I’m barely taking showers, let alone being a good blogger that responds (timely) to comments 🙂

      Secondly, thank you so much for reaching out and sharing part of your story! You sound like such a fiercely strong woman who has been through quite a bit! Even more amazing, is that God is, so obviously, using the deepest wounds of your heart to minister to the deepest wounds of other’s hearts. I love that.

      I read this verse this morning and when I read your comment I instantly thought if it again. It’s exactly what I feel like God is calling me to do (and it sounds like you have been doing the same!) 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you — from nothing to something, from rejected the accepted.”

      If it weren’t for those painfully dark nights we experienced, we wouldn’t be able to point others to Jesus the way we can, right? God is writing a story in your life and mine that has tragic lows and triumphant highs, so that in the end everything gives glory to Him — Our miraculous healer and unfailing Father.

      I appreciate your prayers more than you know. God has lots of work ahead of Him and we need many miracles (but I’ve heard He’s quite skilled in that area 😉 But my question for you is how can I be praying for YOU? You said you’re amid a cancer journey — How is it that I can be praying? What can I be believing for? I figure if I need miracles and you need miracles, why not pray for yours while I’m praying for mine? 🙂 Please feel free to email me at kristaortiz87@gmail.com. I would be HONORED to pray for you!

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  2. Dear Krista,
    This is exactly what God means when he asks each of us to take our vows of marriage but so often people give up, put blinders on and walk away. I’m so happy for you, Ricky and Gia. It is worth the work, the hurt and the effort because in a the end love is still the greatest. After almost 35 years of marriage, I will always be grateful that He reigns at the center. Many prayers as you step ahead in this NY venture. We’ll pray for you at our Life Group. Love you lots. Diane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Diane. I can’t tell you how much your prayers – and the prayers of your lifegroup – mean to us! It’s what keeps us going! God has been so good to us these last few years, and He’s not stopping anytime soon 🙂 Love you guys a ton. And if you are ever in NYC I know a family that would love to give you guys a squeeze!

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  3. God promises to make all things new… He did it in your life and in mine. Like you said, we just have to be willing to do some work. Think about how ugly sterling silver gets when it has been uncared for. Dull and lifeless looking like it is ready for the trash. But if we are willing to work at it–it becomes all shiny and new. That’s what God does to us… Thank You, Jesus!
    Your writings are beautiful, Krista!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THAT’S A GOOD WORD!!!!! Yesssss!!!! Love it so much. Thanks for sharing your perspective with me! (And also for always being such an encouragement!)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you feel encouraged, Sylvia. The fact that God uses the things He speaks to me, to help encourage others is always shocking to me, but I’m so glad it does! Thanks for reaching out Sylvia!

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