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Jah Works #3 - Los Angeles - 300th Blog Post!

I started a little blog series called Jah Works a couple years ago, where I wanted to recount all the times God has shown up in my little history of 30-something years. Though this blog in general is often about God and what he is saying/has said, I'm ashamed to admit I haven't done a "Jah Works" in 100 blogs! Crazy...well, no better way to mark 300 total blogs on YonderBreaks.com than do pick it up again. This one is about my complicated history with the City of Angels...Los Angeles, CA.

Los Angeles is a big part of our lives now, which is something I never expected. As a kid, and even through college, I always thought I'd end up in the mountains somewhere, North Carolina or Tennessee. I wanted a small town, just about as close to Mayberry as I could.

Still, being a skateboarder, California always had its lure. I remember watching G-Rock as a kid, which was a compilation show of skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and BMX videos with Christian punk, ska and hardcore behind it. They would do little sketches out of Orange County, however, which I always thought looked like heaven. When I was in high school, my family took a trip to LA and I made sure to skateboard somewhere. We even surfed Venice beach, though I think it was October and we didn't have any wetsuits for the cold Pacific ocean.

Me skating the old Venice Beach skatepark.
My sister waxing up a pretty terrible rental, given our skill level.

Still, I thought California was too far away from my family to move out, and even though filmmaking was on my mind as a profession (thanks to all the skate videos my friends and I made in high school), it didn't feel like an option.

I entered college fairly aimless, not getting into the college I really wanted (Clemson University) to study architecture, as I had planned. I ended up at Charleston Southern University, and through a public speaking class where I mentioned I liked making movies, became a Communication major with a minor in Religion (Youth Ministry was another interest of mine, and I had already taken a lot of religion classes). Though my university had no film program, a local community college had some film classes, and through a "chance" meeting, my parents ran into one of their professors. I called him, went to his office, and the next thing I knew, I was taking film classes at Trident Technical College.

Though a community college, TTC was amazing, and had an incredible film program where I learned to shoot on 35mm, 16mm and digital. One of their professors (still my favorite teacher) even helped me get a job at the local news station, where I wasn't interning, like many of my peers, but actually working in the field. It was an amazing time, working in news, and also shooting and directing movies; even a feature my junior year with my roommate at the time, Jake.

 

At this point, it really seemed God wanted me in filmmaking, though California still didn't feel like an option. I would love something like one semester out there, or maybe just a trip, I thought, though I'm not sure I ever admitted it to anyone. And then God showed up again, this time through an employee at Seacoast Church, where I was a regular volunteer. The thing that is remarkable about this is that every time it was my turn to show up on a Sunday, something always happened the night before to keep me up late, and I never felt like going in early the next morning. A commitment is a commitment though, and so I went. Well, through the aforementioned church worker, I learned about a semester-long film program called the Los Angeles Film Studies Center for colleges within the Council for Christian Colleges and University, which my university was a part of (and which Clemson was not). I applied, and before too long, was on my way to Los Angeles to study film.

I interned on the Warner Bros. lot, which was amazing.
LAFSC Spring 2008 class. I still regularly see so many of these people.

I loved that semester so much...but I didn't love Los Angeles, and quickly returned to South Carolina after the program was over. But over the next year, a desire to return to LA to live and pursue film was birthed in me. I don't really remember the process, but the only concrete thing I can recount is seeing a picture of some of my friends from LAFSC who had stayed singing karaoke with Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell. I want to do things like that, I thought to myself, and somehow saved up enough money to make the move. The good part about that year-and-a-half in South Carolina is that I met my wife during that time, who also had California dreams, so we moved out a month apart from each other.

Of course pursuing dreams in a big city is never quite what you expect, though fast forward ten years (including a move back to Charleston for two years and then returning to Los Angeles) and we have found such a strong community in this city, as well as a love for it, that I know we are where we belong right now. We are becoming integral parts of a life-giving, evangelistic church. My wife has stepped up in so many leadership roles both at the church, and her work. I'm playing more music than ever, and growing as a musician, which I know is part of God's plan. Our kids have great friends and are learning to live abundantly in a minimalist way while we navigate this weird city. Oh yeah, and there are at least ten skateparks within a ten mile radius of me, so the board abounds!

I've wrestled with what home really means the last ten years, but I think in this last move to Los Angeles I've found that home is wherever God wants you. You will feel the most settled anywhere in this world, if you are listening to God and following where he leads you. I think God wants us in LA right now, and so right now, the City of Angels feels like home.

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