Greensboro Beginnings

It’s my fourth day in Greensboro, North Carolina, and it has been delightful so far. I’m starting to see the first steps of where God is taking me — not in a oh goody I can see into the future, but a oh dear here comes a lot of hard work and soul-rearranging again. (Why does this continue to surprise me, when it is the way of growth?)

I live in a nice big house across the street from a church. I share a room with my cousin Deb and the house with four other UNCG students. I have already been assumed to be a college student so many times. Do you know what’s so strange? Feeling so distant from their lifestyles. All the talk about grades (which I keep telling them do not matter, but they’re not listening) and boys and late nights and sweatpants and it seems so enviably simple. I mean, a lot has happened in the year and a half (HOOBOY HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG) since I graduated. I just didn’t know it was enough to feel very separated from college life. Regardless, the people I live with are completely fantastic and I’m looking forward to getting to know them all better.

I start my new job at the O. Henry Hotel tomorrow. It’s the first job I’ve had to wear a suit for (ah, nonprofit!) and the irony does not escape me. However, Red Roof Inn this ain’t: it’s a luxury hotel named after the writer. The gorgeous lobby I’ll be working in has the text of the Gift of the Magi written in gold. It’s very beautiful. Suits aside, I’m excited to gather inspiration from all the characters I’m sure to meet. And of course, I am thankful just to have a job in the first place. God provides.

The scariest part of moving here is the writing bit. If I’m being honest, I think it’ll be a flop. Of course I think this about everything I set out to do, but just today, sitting down and trying to up the word count on my story (and getting lost in a rabbit trail of researching Korean American names for a character), I realized that deep inside, I don’t really think I can do this, do the writer thing. But now I’m committed: no going back now. The word is out. Joanna is trying to write. Everyone knows now. And it’s also scary to realize that it’s different to try to make the words come now that I have the time to set them down, instead of exploding every once in a while after midnight on my blog. I have to relearn how to do the words thing.

Which is WHY I am so excited to be doing a class/book study/accountability group with some strangers at my cousins’ church. We’ll be doing The Artist’s Way. You’ll be hearing about it a lot over the next few months. I’m only in the first chapter and my paradigms about what it means to worship God and create art are already being pulled from beneath me. The main premise so far is that everyone CAN be an artist, but most people who want to be decide to be shadow artists. The author, Julia Cameron, says something like, “they know who their rightful tribe is but just hang around as an observer.” I can so identify with this…a huge longing when I go into a bookstore and leaf through “New and Notable” selections, or keeping a blog to distract myself from writing stories for five years, oops…so this fall is a lot about claiming my place among the artists.

But also: the work itself. It’s gotta be done a different way. No more word curation, as if I run a museum of self and every original idea I think of is a priceless artifact. More spew-journaling, more quick-and-dirty posts like this one without a lot of shaping and plucking. Just words.

And the biggest piece of it all is what’s happening in my heart with Jesus: being challenged to pray and read the Bible more diligently, and writing is woven into both disciplines. Being challenged to open up, not with personal information, but with love and receiving love fearlessly. This will be a time of letting go of my million of little coping mechanisms that isolate me from needing others and Jesus. It’s not going to be fun sometimes. 

But I know it needs to happen. After stopping by the hotel to talk with my new boss yesterday, I got into Vanessa and just drove..and drove…and drove…to the point of meditation. I had the SCA album on, which I used to do when I drove like this in Grove City, driving down winding farm roads until I had figured out why I needed to drive in the first place. This is what I figured out yesterday: I’ll never find any answers anywhere else but God. Not in a new nice house, or a good or bad job, or a long or short commute, or having a lot of friends or being lonely. This will never change. So even though my circumstances change externally, inside my heart, they never will. This brought me a lot of peace.

So that’s what happening. I am going to be CRAZY and publish this without tweaking it first. So here’s to new boldness, new bareness, and new beginnings here in this funny little town that I already love. Talk soon.

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