It's been six long years since I set foot on Alabama sand. Six years since we said goodbye to the life that we built there. Those of you who have been with me for awhile may remember the turmoil that ensued when we packed our bags and moved down to Fairhope, Alabama – a small town just across the bay from Mobile – right on the gulf of Mexico.
Difficult circumstances lead us to Fairhope, Alabama all those years ago. Stuart, a fresh college graduate, was desperately looking for a job at a Classical Christian school. The only offer that we received was from a small school way down South. For my Georgia-born husband, it wasn't far from “home”. But for this Washington-native, Alabama was half a world away from the town, culture, and home I'd always known.
“Will you follow me? Will you trust me?“. I remember his words clearly. In faith, through burning tears and mournful goodbyes, I followed my husband to Alabama. We settled into our fishing shack (yes, literally), thinking this town and community would be our new forever home. Over time, I adjusted to the heat and the bugs (well, sort of). I became captivated by charm of the South, the Spanish moss dangling from the oak trees, and the way this part of the world has a way of seeping into your bones. Breath in that Southern air. You'll know what I mean. T'were I better author, I would surely be able to put it into words, but it hits the heart like nostalgia and fire.
I fell deeply in love with Alabama and with its people, who loved us well.
As with many situations in life, hindsight is 20/20. I can clearly see now the way that the Lord provided and cared for us over that time away. And I can see clearly how and why He lead us back to Washington much sooner than we expected. Truth be told, I think of Alabama in many ways as the ground-zero for what become this blog and ultimately, this life. Desperate for increased income and a way to express the surplus of emotions coursing in my bones, I began writing “From Scratch” on a third-hand, barely functioning Dell desktop computer. I started that book after a traumatic birth with my second child left me healing, and sitting, for months.
In my mind, Alabama is a place of fondness, yet also of pain. I had a child away from my family. I had to learn how to fall in love with a new town and it's people. I had to endure more financial hardship than I'd ever care to again. I had to wrestle with what my place was in the world and if I was cut out to be a stay at home Mom (that shiz is hard, y'all). I had to learn how to love my husband through trials, disappointments, deep hurt, and fatigue. In many ways, our year in Alabama was the hardest year we've ever endured.
Scratch that. Our year in Alabama was the hardest we've endured.
It wasn't until Stuart's class requested him to come and speak at their senior graduation that the emotions of that period in our lives rose up again. First, the honor of them asking him to come – truly, an honor. Here was Stuart, a teacher that had been at their school for one year, who had such an impact on these young adults they wanted him to give the send off at their graduation. My heart is giddy with pride for this man I love and the gifts he has. So first, excitement! Then second… oh man…
I don't know. Tell me. What is this emotion? Trauma? Nerves? Nostalgia?
In just a few days time, we'll travel down to Alabama to revisit our friends, our neighborhood, our school, our Alabama family.
I feel so many things, I don't even know what to feel.
Truth be told, I've never been very good at looking back. I like to charge forward with the ferocity of a raging bull. The past seems to full of awkward exchanges, difficult lessons, and incomplete dreams – not exactly a place I'd like to stay for a glass of wine.
I do know, regardless of what I'm feeling, that I am thankful for the storm of that year.
And I'm thankful that the Lord brought us back here to a place we've been able to grow our family, our farm, our business, and our dreams.
I've thought about writing out a stack of “thank you” cards to our Alabama family to deliver when we arrive. Thank you, Chip, for letting us buy your amazing produce for pennies on the dollar. Thank you, Penny, for gifting us eggs when we couldn't afford any. Thank you, Kate and Matt, for watching our babies, giving us a warm bed, filling our bellies, and showering us in your friendship. Thank you, Casie and Andrew, for loving us so well and keeping us laughing through the hardship. Thank you, Lisa, for the CSA baskets of food, the motherly support during my pregnancy and birth, and the sweet friendship that ensued. Thank you, Dr. Diggman, for being our VBAC champion and gifting us with your skills. Thank you, Sarah and Amanda, for being my sounding board, dear friends, and support system as a Southern transplant and new Mom. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Howard, for loving us like we were your own children. Thank you, sixth grade parents, for keeping Stuart's belly full of Chick-Fil-A, our tank full of gas, our bags full of groceries, and our hearts full of support and love.
I can't WAIT to see you all in just a few days.
Just don't mind if I'm weeping ugly tears while I'm doing it.
It's how I process things.