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“Wow, you sure do get out!” one of my local friends commented on a Facebook status. “In seven years, we haven’t done as much as you have in seven months.”
Sure, I’d pretty much scoured at least half of the metro Atlanta area. We’d been to the Georgia Aquarium, the Center for Puppetry Arts, the CNN Center, Centennial Park, the Atlanta Zoo, the Atlanta History Center, and The Varsity, to name just a few of our stops.
While my out-and-aboutness may seem adventurous to some, for me, the exploration feels normal. But then, maybe I’m a glutton for punishment; sometimes I drag a double stroller places it was never intended to go.
The things is, after living in four states in two years – and yes, having four different driver’s license pictures – I’ve learned to carpe urbem. You know, “seize the city.” I’ve figured out ways to make the most of the places, as Dr. Seuss would say, I’ll go.
You see, by the second move, I’d determined that from making friends to taking in the sights, I never wanted to look back and think, “I really wish I would have …” I wanted to live with no regrets in the event I had to face another Penske moving van.
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What about you? Do you simply live somewhere or do you carpe urbem?
In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Maybe seizing one’s city (or town, or rural neighborhood) is one key to living life abundantly. Even though our locations may seem random sometimes, God has you and me where we are for a reason. I think that what 20th-century newspaper man G.K. Chesterton spoke of when he addressed contentment fits well here. He wrote:
Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it; it ought to mean appreciating all there is in such a position.
So whether you’ve lived where you are for a few weeks or several years, like me, you can probably do better at “appreciating all there is in such a position.” Here are some ways I’ve put this into practice.
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First, I simply get out. Get out of my house. Get out of my comfort zone. While it’s good to exercise wisdom – there are parts of Atlanta I know better than to venture to on my own – I don’t let fear keep me from exploring a new part of the city. I discovered the church we now call home when I passed it one day. I also noticed a state park near us, which we went on to discover had lakes, free summer bluegrass concerts, and lots of scenic walking paths ... on a drive.
And once I am out, I don’t keep to myself. I strike up conversations. I’m not afraid to engage, in a wise manner, those with whom I come in contact. We first met a family I now consider dear friends while in line at a puppet show. Nine months later, we regularly get together for play dates, go out to lunch, and lift one another up in prayer.
Experience the Local Culture
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Second, I use word of mouth, Facebook, and coupon sites such as Groupon, Living Social, and Entertainment.com to find out what’s unique to our area.
Word of mouth. If I want to know a good playground or a tasty off-the-beaten path restaurant, I ask someone whose opinion – and, when it comes to food, palate – I trust. If I’m in a new-to-me part of town and don’t have friends that frequent that neighborhood, I stop in a local shop and ask for options. While living in Colorado Springs, we found one of our favorite Mexican joints this way. Even in our age of iPhone apps teeming with reviews, word of mouth is an invaluable resource!
Facebook. If you’re new to town and don’t have any mouths to ask, there’s always Facebook. Once I move to an area, I “like” the Facebook pages of area attractions, whether it’s the area home school group, the local history museum, or the performing arts center. This way, things to do – and free activities – are fed to me on my Facebook home page. For example, when we moved to Atlanta, I discovered a Facebook page for “Atlanta Moms on the Move.” It’s been wonderful in pointing me to family friendly things to do.
Coupon sites. Sites such as Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, and Entertainment.com are more ways to bring ideas and deals to your “door,” so to speak. Not only did I discover the Center for Puppetry Arts, one of our favorite places in Atlanta, through the Entertainment Coupon Book, but I saved money in the process.
Find a Church
With each move, we’ve been purposeful in finding a church home. Once we do, we aren’t content to just show up on Sundays. We take the membership class and embrace the mantra, “We have friends here, we just haven’t met them yet.” And even though we’ve had to say goodbye to a few churches in the last two years, we’ve made relationships in them that we still maintain today.
No matter where you find yourself today – whether it’s a location you love or loathe – take Chesterton’s advice to heart and make the most of it. Get out, experience your local culture, find a church. I'm doing it; you can do it. Wake up each morning ready to carpe urbem!
What’s your favorite way to connect to your city or town? Share in the comments section!
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Ashleigh Slater (www.ashleighslater.com) is the founder and editor of Ungrind, an online magazine churning out encouragement for Christian Women. As a freelance writer, her articles have appeared in print and online in publications including Marriage Partnership, Thriving Family, MOMSense, Crosswalk, Guideposts' Angels on Earth, Clubhouse, Jr., and David C. Cook's Family Currents Newsletter. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Twitter @ashslater.