Lately I’ve been preaching through some Genesis narratives, and as I’ve studied I keep coming across those verses that say things like, “…and he sojourned at [such and such place] for [x amount of time] and begat sons and daughters,” etc.
As my 9 years in Texas wind to a close, I feel like I’m at one of those narrative junctures in my life.
I came here a single young guy who thought he knew what he was doing and found out in a million ways he didn’t, but I hope I did some good along the way. In the meantime, I developed a deep love and admiration for this state, its culture, and its people.
And in my sojourn here God has blessed me with a wonderful wife (a Texan, though I had to rescue her from the land north of the Red River 🙂 ), two daughters, and two sons. My time here could not have been more blessed, and I leave having enjoyed even more great moments than I did baskets of chips and salsa (or hot sauce, to you East Texans).
Those special years at Pritchett, on my own for the first time and teaching the Word for countless hours – particularly the first two years with a loaded schedule. Almost dying from humidity upon arrival. Writing Failure deep into the nights in a lonely, lonely parsonage with Boog the Beagle.
Driving I-35 possibly 100+ times to visit (and marry) Allison and then subsequent visits with her family. The birth of all 4 of our children. Packing up and moving to Forney. Monday night fellowships. Buying our first house.
Writing Church Reset over lattes at Murray Street in Deep Ellum. Countless workdays and cookie trips with Gloria at Latham Bakery (shout out to both Melindas, Lisa, Avery, Alexa, Tyler, Gabe, Michael, and everybody else who won’t see this but served me on one of my hundreds of trips).
Finding all the great places to eat (ask me if you ever go to Dallas). Getting to take in football and basketball national championship games at AT&T Stadium, along with a Leo Messi appearance. Austin and San Antonio trips. Queuing up for 3 hours for Franklin BBQ (worth it). State Fair trips. Being there for Gilmer’s dominant run to a state title in HS FB. Picking up a mediocre city and night sky photography habit. (The stars at night are indeed big and bright down here.)
Sitting among 18,000 people at a Dallas Mavericks game and seeing the notification that the NBA was shutting down due to the coronavirus, knowing our world was about to change in a way no one alive could even begin to understand. Ministering through 2 years of Covid, preaching to a hot parking lot full of dedicated people and then an oddly spaced out auditorium half-full of those people. Weathering the great Texas freeze of 2021.
More than anything, though, the greatest memories of the last 9 years have been about the people. As many things as I can remember, in somewhat chronological order:
Andy’s Frozen Custard trips with Jack and Anna, and a year and a half of #DodgeballSelfies.
Visits from Joe and Rachel filled by eating junk food, watching movies, and checking out Dallas and Shreveport.
Fishing trips and subsequent fish fry dinners with James and Wanda Roberts.
Member visitation with Bruce Slaven, and church events with him and Pam.
Gilmer and Gladewater football games (including the absolutely legendary head to head game in 2014) with Bobby and Jennifer Sanders and Judy Latham.
Ministry brainstorming lunches with the Pace family.
Preacher chats with HL Shirey.
Visits with the Snows, including a wise, gentle, loving corrective that a young knuckleheaded minister badly needed and that I’ll never forget.
Monday nights around the table with Jeff, Betty, Bobby Rex, Shirley, Darrell, Kathy, Mickey, Doris, Clay and others.
A million and one questions from one of my favorite Bible students, Lois Brock.
Lunches and photography meetups, solving all the world’s problems with Michael Whitworth.
Elders meetings with James, Clarence, and Perry, and the way their different emphases on things like fellowship, evangelism, and study complement each other so well.
The overwhelming support from all the ladies who have come over and helped through Allison’s last pregnancy and our first few months of being a 4-kid household. I can count at least 11 who have spent time over here helping out, and though I won’t type all the names here we are blown away by your kindness.
Countless lunches with James and Janice Parsons, and their generosity toward us and our kids.
The incredible, repeated generosity of Mike and Jeanette Kirksey, and the friendship extended toward us that has wonderfully never had that weird line that often exists in minister-member relationships.
A very sickly Eddie Phillips insisting on mowing my lawn when I was swamped with family and work duties, along with all that Terry means to us.
Seeing Robert McMahan working away in the building as one of the only outside humans I interacted with for weeks through March and April 2020.
Mama’s Daughters Lunches with Mr. Larry.
Joe and Debbie White helping talk me through the toughest days of my life.
Will and Nakia Duncan having me over to watch sports on a couple of nights when I needed that more than I can explain.
Lisa Burton organizing a drive-by baby shower at the height of Covid quarantines, and Ernest driving me clear across DFW to pick up a car.
Marq Toombs taking time for a young minister despite being on a bit of a different path than his.
I know I’m forgetting a whole bunch of names here, and for that I apologize. Even if I tried, I could not count the number of people who have impacted my life here in Texas. I’m thankful for you all, and pray that even if I don’t have the chance to see you all again here, we’ll meet again in the home of the saved.
I’m thankful to God for making my sojourn in Texas so fruitful, and I’m thanking Him for the chance to know all of you.