Miami is an interesting place. From the outside it brings to mind glamorous images of night clubs, gorgeous sandy beaches and fancy houses. Once you get here though, if you give it time and you’re willing to do some exploring, Miami becomes like eight different cities, depending what part of town you find yourself in. It took me a long time to discover this and break out of my little bubble at the University of Miami. I’d say now I’m pretty adaptable and adventurous but when I first got here that wasn’t always the case. Actually, the fact that I ended up here at all had very little to do with me and the things I was looking for at the time.
My senior year of high school was the closing chapter of a four-year career as a Theater Nerd. It was a whirlwind of after-school rehearsals, voice lessons, and traveling for college auditions with my parents. I had applied to nine different schools, all for their theater programs, including the University of Miami. What’s funny about this is, after I sent in my application, I actually ended up cancelling my audition with them because I thought, I don’t really want to spend my college years in Florida. I needed seasons, not perpetual summer. I wanted to be near New York City, the mecca of all things theater. Besides, there’s no way I’d fit in at UM…I was just a Christian goody-two-shoes theater nerd from Colorado who never partied and loved the snow. None of it made sense.
Enter the Quiet Nudge.
There are some moments in my life I can point to that were not only formative in the direction my life was going, but could only be attributed to a force outside my own thoughts or desires, a quiet nudging that I couldn’t really articulate or explain. How I ended up in Miami is one of them, and it’s one decision that has affected almost everything about where my life is today.
I was in a hotel room in (ironically) New York City, where I had just finished a long day of auditions for the musical theater program at Marymount Manhattan College. I was checking my e-mail for any assignments I had missed at school, when I stumbled across an e-mail from the UM admissions office. I had been accepted (academically, to the BA theater program…I never ended up auditioning for the BFA program). Not only that, they were inviting me to come interview on campus for a full-tuition scholarship. Upon telling my mom all this she pretty much looked at me without a question and said “We’re going.”
I probably wouldn’t have pursued it if she hadn’t basically given me no choice in the matter so I think this is a good place to pause and say, thanks Mom!
So we went. We toured the campus with current students, learning about life at UM all the while in disbelief that a college campus could be in such a gorgeous setting. What immediately struck me were the trees…huge viney banyans, and large swooping royal poincianas with beautiful orange flowers blooming in large bushels all over. I felt like I was walking through a rain forest. I did my interview, which went pretty well, though I wasn’t sure yet if I had gotten the scholarship or not. What I was sure of was this strange feeling I’d had since the moment I set foot on the grounds…a feeling like I was already at home, like I had already found my turf. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but it was that quiet nudging I was talking about: I felt God saying to me “I have prepared a place for you here. This is where your future begins.”
I think what I told my mom was something along the lines of “I can’t explain why, but I already feel like this is my school.” She immediately told me that yes, she had gotten the same strange feeling, while she was waiting for me to finish interviewing. Let me say here that for my mom and I to be immediately on the same page in this way is a pretty special, rare thing. So it confirmed in me that I wasn’t crazy, and that there was something to this place that I thought would be completely the wrong place for me to spend the next four years of my life.
I didn’t get the full-tuition scholarship, but when the Lord sets a plan in motion, He provides the way, and He did provide the means for me to be able to enroll UM. And I had NO IDEA upon arriving in this incredible, eclectic city, that over the next seven years I would change my major from theater to Religious Studies, I would go on four missions trips with three different organizations, I would try sushi for the first time (and a second time, and a third), I would climb those trees and fall in love with their blooms every summer. I would pursue God’s calling to me as a worship leader, find the church that would eventually become my both spiritual community and my employer, and meet the man who would eventually become my husband. I would struggle with my faith and come out on the other side knowing Jesus on a much deeper level. And above all, I would look back on ALL of this and see that God was there at every step.
I love telling this story because there was a time in my life where I didn’t believe that. I was feeling so lost and unsure of my direction, and honestly pretty lonely. A Colorado girl trying to find herself at school in Miami wasn’t easy, especially as far as my faith was concerned. I remember one night in particular, my junior year, crying out to God thinking, if you really cared, if you were really good, if you really had a purpose for me, why can’t I see it? Where are you? Looking back at that moment now, almost five years later, I can hear Him saying quietly (though it was hard to hear at the time), “Kayla, I’m here. I see you and I love you in this. You can’t see it now but I have prepared amazing things for you. Just wait and see. It’s right around the corner.”
I hold onto this memory as a reminder to me today, and anytime in my future, when I start to again believe the lie that God doesn’t care about me, or has abandoned me. That’s not who God is.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, emphasis added)
We need to repeat stories of His faithfulness to ourselves over and over again to remind us of these truths: that He is good, we can trust Him, and He is always, always right here with us. Even if (especially if) it doesn’t at all look the way we thought it might. My prayer is that as you look back over your story you will see evidence of His faithfulness to you, even if you couldn’t see it at the time, and that you’d become more aware of his quiet nudging along your journey.
And as always, I’d love to hear about the moments you’ve gleaned from your story in which God was directing you in unexpected ways. Feel free to reach out here or leave a comment below!
For God’s glory,