Once, on the first day of class one quarter at Fuller (I don’t remember which class) the professor went around the room and asked us each to tell a little about ourselves – our names, programs, goals, and “where home is.” When it was my turn, I answered the last part by saying that “home” for me included three different places.

The first of the three places is Valley View, Texas, my hometown. Other than one year of my life when I was a year old my family has always lived in Valley View. It’s a small town of 700 or so people straddling I-35 ten miles south of the Texas border with Oklahoma. My father is a high school teacher and coach, and my mother is a secretary at the high school, though for almost the entirety of my formative years she didn’t work outside our home. Valley View is and always will be “home,” because it’s where my family lives, it’s where I started, and it’s a place I know I can always return.

The second place that is “home” to me is Glacier National Park. Between Valley View and Glacier there was Richardson, Texas, for a year and College Station, Texas, for two and a half years, and while there is something comfortable about each of those places, and while I made deep friendships in each of those places that I imagine will persist throughout my life, neither Richardson nor College Station really feel like home. They feel like well-known vacations spots or favored coffee shops, good places, restorative places, unforgettable places, but not home.

I spent four months in Glacier National Park hiking nearly 300 miles of trails. It was the first place I ever went where I was truly separated from my family and friends and had to make a way on my own. For the lightning fast summer I was there, I embedded myself in those too pretty mountains, and there is a small part of my heart which will always remain somewhere on the Highline Trail between Logan Pass and Granite Park Chalet.

Pasadena, California, is my third home. I regularly think about how amazing it is that I get to live there to go to seminary. Pasadena is a wonderful city. It is big enough that there is always something happening and I’m never bored, and it’s small enough that I never feel overwhelmed either. It’s probably one of the only places in Los Angeles where one can walk or bike to work, church, the grocery store, and to friends’ houses. Pasadena has welcoming, easily accessible commercial areas, pleasant residential areas, four highly respected educational institutions (Cal Tech, The Art Center College of Design, Pasadena City College, and Fuller Theological Seminary), more good, relatively affordable restaurants than my waistline can handle, and near perfect weather. Pasadena is a fantastic place to live.

This is true of all my homes, but Pasadena is also a place where I met God in new and transformative ways. God further honed my sense of calling in Pasadena. I’ve made so many good, Christ-centered friendships. The Church has thrown open its doors for me in Pasadena and filled the streets with God’s presence and grace.

In the weeks leading up to leaving for Paris, I was conflicted about leaving. I didn’t want to leave Pasadena for the summer. I especially love Pasadena between July and September when there are free concerts at the Levitt Pavilion, outdoor movies at One Colorado, and frequent trips to the beach or to the mountains with friends. I love the way Pasadena cools down in the evening, and I can take slow walks through Cal Tech’s campus or among the houses that surround the campus. Work is quiet, the city is relaxed, and life is especially good.

While I’ve been in Paris, as much as I’ve loved being here and getting to experience this city, I’ve missed home. I’m really, really looking forward to getting back to Pasadena. When the riots ignited in England last week, I practically jumped at the chance to alter my travel plans and get home a week and a half earlier. I also thought it was the safe and wise thing to do, but I wasn’t too upset to gain a week and a half of summer in Pasadena.

I know as well that my time in Pasadena isn’t forever. Almost since I arrived there, God has been constantly reminding me that I will eventually be leaving that place. I am not made to settle, at least not yet, and I suspect, not ever in the way people commonly plant themselves in a place. This is the primary calling I have always felt on my life – to be intentionally open to being displaced by Christ. Talking with Stephanie yesterday afternoon, I was reminded once again of the particularity of this sort of calling. I am jealous sometimes of people who are able to say, “I am going to be established here in this place or in this career.” That is another sort of calling by Christ, a good calling, a holy calling, but it’s not the calling I hear beckoning me onward.

The tricky part of being perpetually unsettled is still living as if this is forever. I cannot slight friendships just because I know that we will not live in the same place long term. Fuller has proven to be an especially good place for learning this lesson. The turnover rate at Fuller is fast. People come in for two or three years to study and then go out into all the world. The time we share together is brief, and it can be quite trying to develop close friendships only to have those friendships be fractured by space and time. One option is to not engage at all. I could hole up in my apartment and forgo making friends. I think that’s a sad way to live. Instead, I try to live as if every day is forever. I want it to be as hard as possible to leave, because I want to have good friendships that will continue in some way long after I’m gone. Jesus told us to love our neighbors, and if love is anything, it is presence.

I’m sure wherever God sends me next will be wonderful. He has only ever moved me from good to good. Rather, He has only ever moved me from Christ to Christ. I don’t know exactly where I will be presented with next in life, but I know I have at least a year left in Pasadena, and I ’m eager to get back there and be as present as possible.

Gene Kelly Was Here

These blog posts were all written in the summer of 2011. They chronicle my time in Paris completing an internship as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary. I worked at an art gallery run by missionary-artists ministering to other Parisian artists and got to know the missionary-artists working there.

I am including them here for you to read because I think they work well together as a series. I wrote them as a kind of narrative collage about what it means to be a practicing artist whose first commitment is to Christ and who seeks to share the love of Christ with other artists.