86 days ago, after a cold and snowy day, and after an ice storm that stranded us in our home for a week, I departed for my new home in Tampa.
I say “I departed” because it was only me. We made the painstaking decision to let Josie finish school in Nashville instead of pulling her out with 3 months left. I’ll never forget it. I sat down on the steps in our home, and held Josie for what seemed like hours. It wasn’t enough. I’m not entirely sure she understood what was going on other than the fact that daddy was leaving.
It was hard. Very hard.
That morning, as I was getting my oil changed and tires rotated for the journey, I got a call from my wife saying the battery in her car was dead. The journey wasn’t starting well. I rushed home so she could get Josie to school, let her take my car while I took the battery out, and spent the first part of my morning trying to figure out if it was a sign.
I wept for about an hour after I left. I’m sure the people passing me on the interstate were confused.
I stopped in Huntsville to have dinner with one of my best and dearest friends in the world – Jason Bybee. I can’t tell you how much he was there for me over the past few months. Everyone in the world needs a friend like him.
I was going part of the way that night. I went through Alabama, stopping in Dothan. When I woke up in the morning, after I was on the road about 45 minutes, I had a blow out. Some good samaritans stopped to help me with it, but it took about 2 hours to get down the road and find a shop on a Saturday morning in a small town that would replace it.
I got stuck in two traffic jams that lasted about an hour each.
Again, wondering if this was a sign.
After a 10 hour trip turned into a 18 hour journey, I arrived in Tampa. The people I was going to be staying with were out of town, but Keith and Tonia Boyer met me at the Thompson home, and took me to dinner late that evening. I remember walking into that lonely home, bringing my few possessions in, and laying on the bed weeping. The trip had taken its toll, and the fact that I would be without my family for 3 months was sinking in slowly and surely.
I preached my first lesson here on March 1. I was exhausted, emotional shot, but eager to begin.
For 3 months now, I have been working alongside the great church family at the Northwest Tampa Church of Christ. They have taken me in, embraced me, loved me, encouraged me, and motivated me.
But I feel like I haven’t really started yet. Why? Because my family isn’t here.
Today, I had about 20 wonderful people from church help me unload a trailer with all our earthly possessions into an upstairs 3 bedroom apartment. While i’m getting that set up, I’ll be staying with the Thompsons for a few more days.
On Wednesday, I fly home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and to bring my family home to Tampa. No, we don’t have a “house” to live in yet, but we have a wonderful apartment. But more importantly we’ll be together.
There have been times over the past few months that I’ve questioned whether or not we did the right thing. Maybe we should have gone ahead and pulled her out of school, but Kristen also had a job she was committed to till the end of the school year. Only time will tell if we did the right thing. But we do know that moving to Northwest Tampa Church of Christ was the right thing.
I know, there are families who go through more. Mothers and fathers who serve in the military, who get deployed for months, years at a time. I’m not entirely sure how they do it, but it impresses me even more having gone through what we have gone through.
Its hard to believe that nearly 90 days ago, I made this long journey down here. Its hard to believe that 90 days ago, I said goodbye to my family. But, its coming to an end. A week from now, we’ll be prepping my wife’s car to make the long journey….home.
I’m so grateful for my Northwest Tampa church family as they have been there for me during this time. I can’t wait till my family gets here so I can be at full strength!
So were the setbacks a sign? You know what, I’m going to say yes. They were signs. They were signs that God is with me. They were signs that Satan is alive and well. They were signs that the Evil One is scared of what is ahead at Northwest Tampa, because of the exciting things we’ll be doing.
The sign is that God is with us, and that Satan doesn’t like it.
I know there will continue to be tough days ahead. But with God, and my family, my elders, co-workers, and co-laborers, we will succeed. May God be praised.