“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
When we drove cross country one year ago, these were the words I used to encourage my children. Our daily devotion last summer was going through the book of Joshua. Can you think of any better book in the Bible to encourage someone who is taking a leap of faith and standing on ground they believe will be their God territory?
One year. It still amazes us.
Paul and I will be driving on a Tennessee road, windows down, smell of cut grass in the air, farms and horses marking our miles. I’ll tell him, “Can you believe it? We’re living in Tennessee.”
I look out my window—meandering roads, green covered hills, and billowy clouds that still make us look up when we’re outside. I love it. I really do.
After forty-five years in California, it was hard leaving family and close friends (who I consider my chosen family). It’s been tough missing my Grandma, so tough. I’ve only held my baby nephew once since he was born, and missed my little sister’s nursing school graduation. Those moments have been hard. But, I’m determined to focus on the positive and rejoice in all God is doing here.
I’ve taken polls. Anyone I meet who isn’t originally from Tennessee has to answer my question. Two years is what they say.” Two years until it feels like home.”
I’m not sure I agree. I don’t believe time is what makes it feel like home. I don’t believe a new house will make it feel like home, either. I believe it will become home once we love people here.
Our younger two children have begun to make friends. Youth group is wonderful here. That helps. Plus, school helps make them feel connected, too. Our older two are working and going to college which helps them to make friends, too.
But me? I’ve held back. Friendship is a lot of work. Call it lazy. I call it picky. Making friends is serious business. I don’t just throw my love around. I make a commitment for the long-haul. Instead, I’ve encouraged many friends from California to come out and stay with us for a couple days. It’s been a sweet time exposing a few westerners to southern hospitality.
One year ago we were loading boxes, sweeping floors, washing windows, filling our suburban and saying dozens of good-byes. So, what have we learned in twelve months? What has surprised us out here? Here’s the bad and the good of it:
- Tennesseans can make a biscuit that tastes like you’re eating a baby angel—but can’t make sour dough bread to save their life.
- Peet’s Coffee—nonexistent out here. If I’d known last year my nonfat vanilla latte with the frothy foam would be my last I would’ve enjoyed it more.
- Mexican food? Um, no. Apparently, good Mexican food can only be found in states that border Mexico. Who knew?
- See’s Candy, I miss you most. Scotchmallows and nuts and chews? It’s a travesty I tell you.
But, that’s about all I can say. (Sorry In N’ Out Burger, I was never a huge fan.) The blessings have been too numerous to count. We’ve discovered out here:
- Tennessee folks are the most welcoming people I’ve ever come across. When a gentleman asked me if I liked it here I said, “I love it.” and he said, “Well, then, welcome home.” Yeah, I cried.
- Men still open doors for ladies.
- Children say ma’am and sir.
- Young people stand up so older people can sit down.
- BBQ is beyond words. My favorite? Smoked turkey on a yeast roll with Alabama white sauce drizzled over the top. To. Die. For.
- American flags fly all year long. Pledge of allegiance is recited daily in school—like when I was a kid.
- Country music on a country drive—there’ s just nothing like it.
- Worship music in a church where you know not a soul—united in faith. Incredibly powerful.
Moving across country may not seem like that big of a deal to most, but for us it has been monumental. In California we loved our home and were surrounded by a community and people we loved. We still felt a tug to pick up and move to the south. It didn’t make sense and still doesn’t make sense to many. But, even more than Paul and I, we believe this move is for our children. They’ve witnessed divine appointments, miraculous opportunities and more than coincidental chance meetings. Their faith has grown alongside ours.
This path we’re cutting in Tennessee will be remembered by our children and their children. I pray they grow up to follow God and seek a place to raise their family that fits their dreams. If they become adults who have the courage to do something out of the ordinary and live with faith that trusts and believes God has their back, then this cross country leap of faith will have been a successful leap of faith . Then again, any leap of faith in our incredible God is successful, isn’t it?