Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making a Case For Miami

I was right in the middle of a lovely weekend settling my sister into her new apartment in downtown Miami. It was a Sunday morning and I had just returned from a 5 mile jog that weaved its way through a mix of shimmering highrise hotels and paved palm tree lined paths around the little Biscayne Key Island with views of Biscayne Bay and the downtown Miami skyline in a sea of young fit runners, bicyclists, and hip parents pushing strollers. Did anyone else just try to visualize that in their head? Seriously it was like no other jogging path I've taken before. Beeeee-auuuu-tiful. My mom passed me the phone with my dad on the other end, "Carrie, what were you thinking? You do know that Miami is the murder capital of the world, right?" I proceeded to brush off his confusing response to my glorious morning run with some jokes about having to hop over crime scene tape and body bags along my path. But my confusion grew. You see, this wasn't the first time I had encountered a negative, fearful response to any mention of Miami. And the more I got aquainted with the city the more I wondered what everyone was so afraid of?

Even though I grew up in South Florida, just three hours away from the city we never came here. Ever. We barely even mentioned the place. Most people I knew in my home town had stars in their eyes for cities like New York. We planned elaborate trips and dreamed of when we could go back to the big city. But Miami was not given a second glance. It was taboo. Forbidden, beyond catching cheap international flights to South America. And I didn't think much about it I suppose. It wasn't until just a few years ago when my mom and I had to make a quick trip down that way which ended up turning into, God forbid, an overnight stay, that I actually experienced the city for the first time. A downtown hotel with a view of the bay, dinner and shopping on Lincoln Avenue in Miami Beach. Everything seemed rather spontaneous at the time but looking back I see the providence in it all. My eyes were opened to a delightful Miami. I am not sure I even had an opinion of the place before this trip, no need to, it was not a city to even blink at it seemed. But here I was, falling in love.

Fast forward two years and I am moving my sister into her downtown Miami, Brickell Avenue apartment that happens to be just down the street from the hotel my mom and I stayed at. And everyone from my small town home that I tell about this move seem to gasp with wide eyes, "why would she ever want to move there??" The offense dripping from them crinkled, upturned nose. I'd try to excuse it away with simple facts about my sister like, "well, she likes walkable neighborhoods and cities... she speaks Spanish fluently... she just got off a two year stint in Lima, the capital city of the third world country of Peru..." But why did it seem that I always had to defend her decision to move to Miami? And why did it seem like Miami was getting an unjust bad wrap. Come to find out more times than not the people that were most offended by the city had never even really experienced it for themselves.

So I started to do some research. It turns out Miami, though never the murder capital of the world, did hold the U.S. title... in 1984. I was four years old. No wonder my parents weren't bringing me down this way for the circus and beach trips and such. It was a scary place for a family that chose to bring up their children in the comfort and safety of a small town. And I hear that just 10 years ago you wouldn't be caught dead on the same street of my sister's beautiful little apartment past dark. Apparently Miami was a different city in its past. Maybe that is why it is so endearing to me. Miami and I are a bit like kindred spirits in a way. And aren't we all in need of a second chance in one area or another.

This same week while I was in Miami I happened to be reading through the story of Ruth. A young widow from the pagan nation of Moab leaves her family, her home and her gods to follow her mother-in-law (also a widow who just lost her two sons, talk about sadness) back to her homeland in Bethlehem and ultimately follow Naomi back to her God. In Bethlehem she was now a foreigner, an outcast and so far at the bottom of the food chain that she had to go glean to be able to survive (a.k.a. pick up the scraps left behind in stranger's fields during harvest). Much like Miami, Ruth, who was eventually providentially ushered into the blood line of Jesus Christ himself, had a past that it seemed many could not let go of. Nearly every time you see her name in the bible it is attached to her past as a Moabite (Ruth 1:22, 2:2,6,21). Could someone cut the girl a break already? That is funny you should ask... (*in steps Boaz, the kinsman redeemer.) Boaz saw beyond her past and through to the heart of the Ruth of that day. He saw her actions that reflected her heart in her devotion and commitment to Naomi and Naomi's God. In fact Boaz never referred to Ruth as a Moabite (as everyone else did) except for just once when he was trying to win her for himself from a closer relative. Ruth was redeemed, she was given another chance and through her and Boaz's bloodline eventually introduced us to The Redeemer of us all. That is right, Jesus was in the bloodline of Ruth... the Moabite.

As I look out the window at the palm trees swaying in the gentle coastal breeze, the sparkling clean sidewalks and the happy babies being pushed in strollers on their morning walks it makes me wonder, what is the real Miami? Is it its seedy past with drug lords and "most dangerous city" titles or is it this thing that I see right here, right now out the window? The answer seemed clear, when I thought of it through the eyes of Boaz and ultimately through the eyes of our God. If we all steered clear and were fearful of things that had a scary past then we would miss out on some pretty awesome and beautiful things right in front of you in the present. And maybe, just maybe it is only because of its past that Miami could be what it is today. If it hadn't been so dark it would not have had to fight so fiercely for the light again. Thank God for redemption. Thank God for reaching his hands down into the darkest of places and pulling us up to the light again. And thank God for giving people the eyes to see and the heart to believe in redemption for others.

And, come on Dad, although I do know to be aware of my surroundings when out for a jog in the city, let's give this here city another chance why don't we?

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

I didn't pick up my big girl camera on the trip, not once. And I had high hopes for some polaroid projects that just never happened. I suppose I was so busy in the moment of things that a camera just would have seemed to get in the way. But I did have my phone on me at all times and left a trail of bread crumbs a mile long on Instagram that had my friends and family thinking I had made a move to MIA for good. Here is a little glimpse into the palm tree rich Miami I was able to experience during my stay.

Miami_Instagrams_2 I spent the week and a half with my sis as she settled into her Brickell Avenue apartment and here are a few of the lovely places we explored and enjoyed in no particular order (mainly food experiences of course, don't judge, a girl has to eat)...

Calvary Chapel Downtown / Brickell / Last year I attended The One Conference in Miami that was coordinated and put on by Pedro Garcia, the pastor of Calvary Chapel Church in Miami. His church has just started a downtown Miami worship service on Sunday nights that just so happened to be hosted in the Presbyterian Church just down the road from my sister's place. Awesome and uplifting experience in the heart of Miami.

Monty's / South Beach / We had a lovely sunset dinner here with all the girls while my mom and my aunt were in town on the first weekend of my stay. It is right on the water with views of the bay, strolling families and lots and lots of giant yachts.

Oliver's / Miami Beach / I discovered this place through a DesignSponge city guide to Miami (which I consulted a lot on this trip, especially after the success we had at this place.) We sat outside and had a Sunday brunch at this off the beaten path South Beach spot just before my mom and aunt left town on my first weekend.

Eternity Coffee Roasters / Downtown / Believe it or not, I did have to work while in Miami for the week and work required internet service which wasn't quite set up at my sister's place. We found this downtown coffee shop on Yelp and parked it here for the day enjoying specialty drip coffee, free wifi, friendly service and a comfy seat.

Sugarcane / Wynwood / Tapas / I overheard a conversation at the coffee shop where a local raved about this place called Sugarcane, touting it as her favorite restaurant in all of Miami. When searching for a parking spot for a quick trip to the Target in Wynwood we drove right by the place and decided to stop in. Good decision. Eavesdropping paid off. Delish.

Sakaya Kitchen / Wynwood / Asian Fusion / Another DesignSponge suggestion. My sis and I got rice bowls at this casual food stop. I couldn't get enough of the gingered brussels sprouts mixed with the jasmine rice. Seriously, I dream about them.

Bonding / Brickell / Japanese and Thai / We pretty much just stumbled upon this place when plans for a mani/pedi went array, we had already paid $10 for parking and we had some time to spare before church on Sunday night. I don't know if it was the hip, pink interior or the owner sitting outside ushering us in that took us through the door. But we definitely weren't disappointed by the Pad Thai, sushi and complimentary glass of Pinot at this newly opened spot.

100 Montaditos / Brickell / Spanish Sandwich Shop / We happened to hit up this place in the middle of our 3 mile walk on a Wednesday where all their mini-sandwiches are only $1. Score. And it was yummy. Double score.

Rosa Mexicano / Mary Brickell Village / We only had appetizers here but none-the-less the food was good, the atmosphere was nice and the location was bustling on this Friday night.

Lido Restaurant at The Standard / Miami Beach / To cap off my trip to Miami my sis and I found our way (thanks to DesignSponge, again) to this little hidden gem on the Venetian Causeway just before you get to Miami Beach. Located overlooking the water on a boardwalk off the pool deck of the trendy Standard Hotel in Miami Beach this place was heavenly for a late Sunday afternoon lunch. Simply heavenly.


Lindsey @ Dishing Up Hope February 22, 2013 at 7:05 PM  

Hey Carrie! Your pictures are simply beautiful. I was interested if you do weddings in Highlands County? I was not able to link to contact you. What is the best way? Thank you!

Lindsey Murphy

About Caroline

I decided my destiny was to be an artist at age five when I won an honorable mention in a art competition in kindergarten. Ever since then I have been following a dream that has manifested itself in a variety of rewarding and delightful ways. I have practiced in the field of graphic design for over 8 years and recently acquired my Masters in Graphic Design at NC State University in Raleigh, NC (check out my design portfolio by clicking here if you like). But a passion that has stuck with me ever since I got my hands on my first Nikon camera in my undergraduate art education at Florida State University is photography. The instruction I received there was but a seed in what would develop over the next years of my life. Recently I have begun photographing people in their celebrations of life and could not feel any more blessed to be a part of capturing those memories.

About This Blog

A great american writer once wrote, "If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan my day." EB White penned the thoughts of my own heart. One part of me is a graphic designer working to challenge the world, seeking out problems and striving to create avenues for change. The other part is seeking out the beauties of the world and working to capture them in our memories forever through photography. This is what you will find here. Me enjoying the world. I have been truly fortunate to photograph such incredible people at truly beautiful moments in life. I can only hope that the images I've collected will forever keep alive those thoughts and emotions that swelled in their hearts and minds that day.

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