To Alexandria, With Love: Live Local

I did it!  The first item to be checked off as COMPLETE on my 2018 vision board is “move to Alexandria”.  As of last Wednesday I am officially settled in my new home in Alexandria, VA.


As my middle sister (K2) reminds me, I simply moved across the river back to NOVA.  After 11 years as a Maryland resident, I’m returning to VA where I lived with my family, from high school through the early years of teaching.  Although I only moved 30 miles away, I feel like I’ve just entered into a completely new space and chapter of live.


See, I work in Alexandria and for the last 3.5 years I was perfectly happy commuting to work.  I love to drive (even in the rush-hour Beltway craziness) because I appreciate the windshield time and chance to listen to a full podcast, revisit my late 90’s R&B playlist or catch up on the news on WTOP.  That 45-60 minute drive helps me settle in to the work day ahead and “get my mind right” before interacting with other humans.  Additionally, I love the home I’ve owned for 11 years.  It’s just a 2-bedroom condo, but it is 100% mine, from the stained concrete overlay on the floors to the brightly painted walls (now muted for the new tenant).  I just assumed I would stay there for a while longer.


Yet, an unsettled feeling started creeping in around March 2017.  It was a slight discontent, an itch of sorts, that made me start thinking about my current living and working situation.  Also at that time I was doing program design and project management consulting with a church in Richmond (in addition to my job as part-time Children’s Director at Downtown Church in Alexandria and HR resource at Congressional Camp in Falls Church – yes, I’m busy, lol).  This project was the beginning of my official consultant life and I enjoyed every minute of it, knowing I wanted to do more, supporting organizations and individuals in implementing visionary projects.


In July it became real – I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next in life.  So, I began fasting and praying specifically about my “what’s next?” As a side note, that is what I do when I don’t have a clue but sense something’s up – I pray, and usually accompany it with fasting.  So many different times in my life I have received clarity, direction and renewed strength when I’ve sought God versus trying to figure it out on my own.


Anyway, I knew I loved program/ministry design, project management and shepherding volunteers and families.  Also, after 11 years of commuting to various jobs across the DC/MD/VA region I realized that I was horrible at building community, yet it was something I absolutely craved.  Working in VA, living in MD and having fun in DC, made building deep relationships in any one area difficult at best.  It is possible, but I wasn’t doing a good job at it and my soul was crying out, begging for me to live local (more to come on that topic in a few paragraphs). But I didn’t know “where” I needed to be for all this to work.


I told God I would go wherever he wanted to send me.  That’s a scary thing to declare.  But I was so confident in his will and desire to keep me and bless me I made that declaration with no hesitation (well, I did add the caveat of remaining in the continental US).  He’d need to show me how that was possible though, because to me, still owning my home in MD was a really big hurdle to maneuver (I was 100% against renting it out and becoming a landlord – funny how things work out).  A mentor suggested that I reflect upon and narrow down a bit where this next place could be.  The short list had some common characteristics – urban feel without the skyscrappers and bumper-to-bumper traffic, easy access to my family (whether by car or plane), vibrant cultural and artistic influences, decent food and entertainment options.


So, the Cliff Notes version is that in November I decided to move to Alexandria.  The #1 deciding factor is based upon wanting to live where I work.  In the last quarter of 2017, an exciting opportunity to expand our ministry, engage the community and leverage the volunteer expertise and energy of members presented itself at the church where I work.  Yes, a bit different from how I expected to put my design and management expertise to work but turns out it nicely aligns with my unique capabilities and passions.  Additionally, it offers enough margin to focus time on building out my coaching and consulting business.


Relocating was a longer, more costly process than I anticipated.  But, I was really intentional about 3 things:

-living no more than 3 miles from the church where I work

-living in a place that provides the potential for community and living missionally

-finding the right tenant for my condo in MD (after it became obvious that it was not time the right time for me to sell)


The search started in earnest in January and honestly could’ve been a lot worse but everything fell into place at the right time, even in spite of a few setbacks, nail-biting moments and near-tears of frustration.


But now I’m here in Alexandria, VA.  The state I am now a resident of has a motto, “Virginia is for lovers.” Catchy tourism slogan. But very much where I am right now.  I want to fall in love with my new home – the neighborhood, the city, the region, the state.  I 100% believe God has “called” me to where I am now to not only make him known in this city but also as an invitation to personally go deeper with him.  As I fall in love with the city that so many already love, I’ll be documenting some of my explorations in a monthly series, To Alexandria, With Love.  I’ll be feasting on the culture, food, lifestyle and many other aspects as I explore my new city, make new friends, connect with old ones in the area, grow my business The Feasting Soul and do ministry at Downtown Church.


After so many years of working in one place, playing in another and sleeping in yet another I am being very intentional about living local.  What do I mean when I say live local?  I mean investing in the place where I live.  Instead of arbitrarily identifying a specific mile radius I think of it as experiencing the spirit of the city and learning what makes Alexandria unique.  To live local includes getting out, meeting and hopefully doing life with the other residents in my new apartment building.  It includes experiencing the natural surroundings of my neighborhood, with its trails, parks and stores.  It also means, connecting with friends in Old Town, Del Ray, Alexandria West and down the Route 1 corridor.  It means joining a small group in Alexandria (I love my Bible Study group and 2nd church in MD but I feel very convicted to live local during this season of my life).  To live local is to invest in my home, neighborhood and city and be intentional about the relationships and experiences that support that.  To live local is to be intentional and present, doing life with others and experiencing God at work in my city.


This isn’t to say that I may not become transient for professional commitments down the road.  I absolutely love traveling to support clients, facilitate workshops and speak at conferences.  I always try to tack on some time before or after to explore and learn something new about the places I visit (even in Peoria, IL when I visited a few years back).  But for this season, and because I have the tendency to be interested in way too many divergent things, I’m focusing on living local, getting to know my new home and developing deeper relationships with the people I work, live and play with, right here in Alexandria, VA.


In what ways do you live local by investing in your community, loving your city or living on mission in your neighborhood? Share some of your favorite live local activities over on my favorite hangout spot, Instagram.  Use #livelocal.