Starting Over

Starting Over

We are not designed to do life alone.

In the years since I first began attending Relevant Church in Tampa in 2009, this is one lesson I’ve learned in earnest. A large part of my growth as a Christ follower has been a result of sharing my journey with others. Volunteering, taking part in small groups, serving on mission trips; the fellowship I’ve shared with others and the time I’ve invested for others has brought me closer to Jesus in ways I didn’t know were possible.

Being a part of my church community gave me the desire to learn more about God. It was during a small group back in 2013 I came to the realization I was being called into ministry. Having the support of my faith family gave me the strength to press through the notification of being laid off after twenty-one years with my previous employer. Being surrounded by individuals with whom I’ve laughed, shared, cried, and prayed gave me the courage to step out in faith and move into the mission field.

The journey to the Dominican Republic was both exciting and eye-opening. My wife Lee and I learned a lot and grew a lot. Unfortunately, the experience came to end after only five months of being in the D.R. We came back home with heartache and longing, as well as a lot of uncertainty as to what the next chapter in our lives look like.

We had to start over. New city. New surroundings. New situation.

Same steadfast, faithful, loving God.

Upon prayerful reflection and a time of discernment, Lee and I decided to make Dothan home. God answered our prayers by directing us to Wiregrass Church and giving us the opportunity to plug into this new church home. Additionally, we are blessed to have the privilege of leading a small group. Fittingly, the topic of the group is Starting Over, and we will be diving into Andy Stanley’s four-part sermon series of the same name.

Lee and I have been attending Wiregrass since just before Christmas, and it’s safe to say we know all of five people at the church. Still, we’re confident this experience will introduce us to new individuals we hope to learn from and lean on as much as we also hope to direct and steer the conversations and discussions in our small group. By no means do Lee and I feel we have all the answers, and it’s our prayer that in community and fellowship with the other participants, God will bless us with some insight as to what our next steps look like.

If you’re in the Wiregrass area and you feel you’d like someone to stand by you as you go through your Starting Over moment, I invite you to prayerfully consider joining our small group. We will meet on Sunday’s at 11:00 AM at Wiregrass Church, and you can conveniently sign up online by clicking here.

We hope to meet you soon.

More Than A Meal

Random Writers: What was your most memorable meal?

I love food. I love eating food. As I look at the mirror and try to wrap my brain around the fact when I graduated from high school over twenty-one years ago, I weighed 100 pounds less than I do today, my love for food is that much more obvious.

It’s tough to try and nail down one meal I’ve eaten in my lifetime that is the most memorable. Seriously? Can you think of one meal out of the thousands of meals you’ve eaten in your life that you feel is the most memorable? I can’t.

I can, however, highlight some very special meals that stand out in my memory. They stand out not so much because of the food experience, but because of the situation or event that surrounded it. I present them to you in no particular order.

One meal that I remember is the dinner to celebrate the college graduation of my girlfriend at the time. It was at a restaurant in New Orleans named Antoine’s, and the experience was second to none. The food was amazing, the service was exceptional, and the overall dining experience set the bar in my mind at to what excellent dining should be. It was my first experience in a restaurant where we had a team of waiters, and the captain did not write anything down. When our meals arrived, our plates all touched the table at the same time. We were served from the left and upon completion of the meal our plates were collected from the right. It was top class all the way, and it ranks as my number one overall dining experience.

There are several other dining venues in New Orleans that provided amazing food experiences; Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s, The Rib Room. I think one of the best things about living there for six years was all the amazing food available in that city. I think one of the worst things about living in New Orleans was all the amazing food available in that city (see aforementioned weight gain).

I also fondly remember the dining experience of when I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my first marriage. We ate at Armani’s which is located at the top of the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.  The food and service were amazing, and it’s the only place in Tampa at which I’ve eaten that rivals those amazing dining experiences of New Orleans.

I can probably go on and selectively find a meal here or an event there that was very memorable. But if I had to narrow it down to just one; one meal that really stands out in my mind, I think I have to go with the one Lee and I shared November of 2005.

The restaurant was called Café Tsunami and it was located in Pinellas Park, Florida. I had introduced Lee to sushi earlier in the year, and she was immediately hooked. What made this particular meal memorable, in addition to the perfectly prepared and incredibly succulent tuna and salmon, was the meaning of that night. For Lee and me, it was our ‘starting over’ dinner.

Following eight months of an up and down, back and forth relationship, one in which Lee was surprised of what she wanted for our future and I wasn’t yet ready to let go of the past, Lee decided she could no longer stand to watch me self-destruct, and we split up.

As with all things, God intervened and Lee and I found ourselves at dinner after several weeks of not seeing each other. It was the first step in my growing up and me letting go of the baggage that had been weighing me down. I distinctively remember the feeling I had as the realization of it all swept over me. The best thing to have ever happened to me was sitting right in front of me, and she’d been there all along. I was just too blind and too stupid to have seen it before.

That dinner was a turning point for Lee and me, and I am not sure if I’d be here writing this blog post right now if not for that night. As far as meals go, I can’t think of anything more memorable than a moment like that.