We’ve made the move. It’s been crazy, hectic, stressful, and lonely. It’s been exciting, mysterious, and thrilling as well. We have much to anticipate, not because of where we are or what we’re doing, but because of Whom we serve.
Looking back is always bittersweet. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last seven days reflecting on the last few years of our lives which we’ve joyfully spent in the “natural state.” I wanted to share with you (from our past and from our future) some of my favorite aspects of life in northwest Arkansas.
10. Calling the Hogs
photo credit: bsclark_1
I’ll never forget the first time we attending a Razorbacks sporting event in Fayetteville. It was a baseball game between U of A and UK (the flagship school of my actual home state). During the seventh inning stretch, the Razorback fans started standing on their feet calling out “Wooooooooo… Pig! Sooie!” In order to get this right, you have to raise your hands and wiggle your fingertips during the “woo” part, culminating in a kind of air-punch at the end. The UK fans looked around as if they were in the Twilight Zone. It’s an Arkansas thing for sure.
9. The Beauty of the Ozarks
The picture above is of our old back porch with a bit of the bridge that crossed the ravine between our house and the church. California has nice weather and plenty of picturesque scenery, but the Ozarks are beautiful in a way most people will never experience. And we lived in the middle of it. I’ll miss the trees. (I won’t miss the wasps, mosquitoes, or humidity, but I’ll miss the seasons of the Ozarks.)
We won’t have snow in southern California (unless we head to the mountains) but we had several good days of white in northwest Arkansas. The picture above was taken during last winter’s ice storm that covered everything in frozen precipitation. While I don’t mind mild sunshine a bit, I like a little variety. Winter, I’ll miss you.
No, I won’t miss the stores – they’re everywhere. But I’ll miss the culture of Bentonville which surrounded the Walmart home office. I’d guess at least one third of our church members either worked for Walmart or for a company in the vendor community. The daytime population of Bentonville was almost 50% more than the nighttime population because of the number of people who commuted in. Southern California has a lot of cars on big roads, but northwest Arkansas had a lot of cars… on not-so-big roads.
Oodles of chickens. Springdale hosted the home office of Tyson Foods. Gravette was home to Peterson farms and Simmons was based in Southwest City, Missouri. So chicken barns littered the landscape, and chickens littered the barns creating a wonderful aroma Thankfully, some of those chickens gave their lives to support the AQ Chicken House, where you could order “chicken over the coals,” a kind of fried chicken unmatched by any other.
photo credit: leppyone
We had deer that grazed in our yard daily, and nightly visitors as well. A raccoon wrecked our trash and armadillos dug up our yard. Squirrels and a host of birds made our property their home as well. We’ll miss living in the woods because of our furry friends.
4. Sweet Iced Tea
When we go to a restaurant here in SoCal, I always ask if they have sweet tea, and I always get the same answer, “Of course, we have raspberry tea, mango tea, etc. etc.” NO! I mean, have you made a gallon of strong tea and dumped an entire cup (plus a smidge) of pure sugar into it? Fruit doesn’t count. Thankfully, Chick-fil-A still gets it and serves the good stuff.
3. Family Memories
Angie and I attended Central Baptist College in Conway for two years and lived in Beebe, a small town north of Little Rock during that time. I served my first churches as Pastor in Arkansas. Ella was saved in October of 2008 at Bethel and I baptized her there later on. We brought Sam into the world there. We have a thousand great family memories to celebrate for a long time to come including Christmases, birthdays, picnics, movie nights, walks around the Pinnacle Hills Promenade, enjoying Andy’s custard on the tailgate of my Tundra, and plenty of great trips to Branson (it’s across the line in Missouri, but still a part of our Ozark memory box).
2. Bethel Baptist Church
We spent nearly five years at Bethel Baptist Church. During that time, we baptized a few dozen people, watched families join and grow spiritually, hired staff, and progressed in other ways as well. It was a time of growing for us personally, growing pains included.
I preached through about a dozen books of the Bible at Bethel. We ordained three young Deacons and one young Pastor. We faced plenty of challenges. Bethel, in some respects, was a tough church to Pastor with a history all its own. But we loved the people and the people loved us! We’ll miss Bethel.
1. Our Friends
This is a tough one for me to talk about. For the first time in our adult lives, we found real, deep, and abiding friendships. It isn’t that we never had friends before – we’ve certainly been blessed with our share of friends. But in the last four years, we found a few of those families that you just “do life” with. We played games, traveled, hung out, ate out, and laughed our heads off. We shared in the births of each others’ children, made fun of each other’s oddities, and mourned each other’s losses.
One of the hardest moments of my adult life came when we drove away from our friends’ house for the last time on our last night in Bentonville. We had enjoyed fireworks, then cruised away… in the church van… with rap music blaring. It seemed to be the end of an era. The great thing about friendships like that, however, is that they don’t end with a geographic separation. They just change forms.