I am now officially a resident of Louisiana.
My last week in Tampa was very busy -- I tried to connect with a lot of my friends here for a final lunch / dinner before I left. Wednesday night, my small group had a little send-off for me. (It was a BEAUTIFUL evening, gorgeous sunset, great weather to be outside...) It wasn't easy -- and there were a few teary moments -- but there were no guilt trips, no harsh warnings, no power plays... in other words, it was nothing like leaving an unhealthy church. I know I'm going to miss my friends & pastors, but we'll keep in touch.
Thursday morning at 4am I was on my way. It was a 12+ hour drive, and I was nervous that perhaps my car was overloaded... but I had great driving weather, no traffic to speak of, no construction delays... it was about as pleasant as a 12+ hour drive could possibly be.
It's been a little unreal so far. I've been trying to get unpacked and organized. I still have quite a few boxes that I need to sort through. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that I'm here for good... and I don't think I've quite caught up on all my sleep yet! I have to keep reminding myself that I'm really here... and it isn't just a visit this time.
Yesterday morning there was a Servant Evangelism outreach at my new church. About 20 of us handed out 1000 water bottles in a little more than an hour. It was hot (and I got a bit of a sunburn, I didn't even think about putting on sunblock) but it was a GREAT time. I got a chance to meet some more of the folks from the church, and it just felt good to be out doing SE again. It was different -- I'm not sure whether its just the southern culture, or the fact that pretty much everyone in this town knows & recognizes Pastor Nathan... but folks sure seemed a lot more friendly and open here. In Tampa, when we did SE at an intersection like that, there was a pretty good percentage of folks who wouldn't even make eye contact with you, let alone roll down their windows and talk. Here, it seems like nearly everyone rolled down their windows and they were genuinely grateful for the water...
In a lot of ways, I feel like I've moved to Mayberry. The pace of life and the accents definitely remind me of the Andy Griffith show!
I'm excited to be here. I can't wait to see what happens next...