I wanted to share some musings and memories from our time thawing out in the Sunshine State. Enjoy these ramblings!
“Wanna get away?” That used to be the tag line for all Southwest Airlines advertisements. Usually, this phrase was uttered after some unfortunate incident exposed the mindlessness of some poor sap who just needed to get away for while. (Here’s a good compilation of some of the better ones.) Recently, Natalie, Lydia, Braxton, and I were able to do just that: scoot away from the frigid air of Central Pennsylvania to the sunny skies of South Florida — only in our case, it wasn’t mindlessness that inspired our getting away but memories with grandparents.
I count myself very fortunate to have such a close relationship with my in-laws. I know not everyone can say that — and I also know how clichéd those relations have become in pop culture. Nearly every sitcom includes that trope: the husband who is forced to play apologist for his parents as his wife deals with overbearing in-laws. That’s basically the entire premise for every episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (a sitcom which I love, but still). I am happy — quite so — to say that I do not have firsthand experience with such tropes. I genuinely love my in-laws.
I think that is because I grew very close to them during my time in Florida. After growing up and spending all my days in the same town in upstate South Carolina (where my dad pastors a Baptist church), my bride and I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida for a new start. In retrospect, that was, perhaps, one of the best decisions we made in our newly-married phase. We moved south with any prospects for a job or a home or anything, only knowing and trusting that God was leading us into a new chapter of life. My in-laws helped us find our footing during that season of life, providing more than an ample amount of stability. I will forever be grateful for that.
I am grateful, too, to have such a tight-knit network of friends with which I can catch up each time I’m visiting the Sunshine State. This is mostly owed to our time worshiping and ministering with the church family of Beacon Baptist Church (BBC) in Jupiter, Florida. That church and each of its members holds a special place in mine and Natalie’s hearts. We happened upon BBC after God had led us away from another church. This really puzzled Natalie and I, at first. We couldn’t figure out why God had closed that ministerial door. We visited BBC after Googling “Baptist churches near us.”
I still remember that first Sunday we worshiped there. It was right after Christmas, so the sanctuary was still all decked out with lights and tinsel. Natalie and I were surprised by the size of the church, at first, since most of the churches we had been affiliated with up to that point were much smaller than BBC. As it turns out, that didn’t matter much. I remember getting back into our car after the morning service and looking over at my wife and saying, “This is it. This is where we belong.” I’m pretty sure we said that in unison, too. The kindness and friendship we were shown is beyond words. I can’t begin to articulate the ways the BBC family, and especially its pastor, Dr. Jim Blalock, shaped and molded us throughout our years there — in ways they probably didn’t even consciously realize. That church formed us into faithful disciples and ministers of the Lord Jesus. I owe a great deal to BBC and the preaching of Pastor Blalock.
It was difficult saying goodbye to Florida, especially considering the welcoming committee in Philadelphia consisted of 30-degree weather (not to mention the wind-chill factor). We couldn’t be more grateful, though, for where we are, living and serving the Lord with the fine folks of Central Pennsylvania. If you would’ve told me five years ago that I would be serving as the senior pastor of church in the Keystone State, I would have thought you were delusional, or that you had certainly time-traveled to the wrong person. “You got the wrong guy!” But God has been so good to Natalie and I. He’s solidified our calling and settled our hearts in knowing that his plans for us are here, with the church family of Stonington Baptist Church.
God does that. He shapes and fashions people according to his plans and purposes. He changes his sons and daughters from the inside out with an omnipotent grace that takes for granted your intrinsic weakness. That’s of no consequence to him. His design is that irregardless your persistent frailty, you’d see that his faithful love is for you. So if you’d ask me now, “Do you wanna get away?” I respond with a definitive, “No.” This is where I belong.