I was 27 years old in 2001 when I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to become the Associate Pastor for Student and Family Life of Rolling Hills Baptist Church. Now I'm 42 and many of the youth I worked with at the time are older than I was then. I'm now older than some of the parents were then.
Since 20o5 I had made no extended visit to Fayetteville, returning for a couple weddings and a few funerals or a quick stop going and coming between Oklahoma City and Eureka Springs when visiting the latter for a romantic weekend. So there were many people I had not seen in more than a decade.
I've always loved Fayetteville. I enjoyed visiting there before I even moved there, as it contains my favourite used bookstore. The area is rich with artists and farmer's and natural beauty. Michael and I have often talked of retiring there.
This trip we stayed in the home of Brad and Sherri Fry. Sherri was my realtor in 2001 and when my house wasn't ready for my start date at the church, she offered to let me live with them for six weeks, which I did, sealing a lasting bond. They came to Omaha last summer to meet Sebastian and this visit Sebastian and Brad in particular developed a close bond.
Rolling Hills is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of their church plant this coming Sunday. I wrote the pastor that I couldn't make that celebration but would be in town the week before and that my family would come to church that week. He wrote back welcoming me and invited me to share a reminiscence. Introducing my husband and son to this Baptist congregation I served was a remarkable moment for me.
After church we lunched at the best fried chicken in the world--AQ Chicken's "Chicken Over the Coals." Sebastian was so tired he slept on my shoulder throughout the meal, compelling me to eat fried chicken one-handed. I have decided that the key parenting skill is learning to do everything with one hand.
That evening dear old friends the Wardlows, the Fergusons, the Spicers, and Julianne Brown came over for a visit and to meet our son. The visit was filled with such encounters with former youth and youth parents and other Fayetteville friends, occupying our lunches and dinners. Tuesday night we met up with Julie, Aaron, and Jonah Weegens. Julie had been a high school student in 2001 and I performed her wedding sometime later. When Jonah was born six years ago he was the first child of one of my former youth, so Michael and I made a quick stop to hold the newborn baby. Now he and Sebastian played together. What a delight.
We stayed up late each night sharing stories and laughing.
And we visited some of my favourite places. The arts colony of Terra Studios where Sebastian frolicked among the quirky sculptures, we bought some new art, and even Sebastian picked out a pottery bowl that he liked. The Farmer's Market, encircling the town square with its well-maintained gardens (the Pride display in the visitor's center was a welcome site). Hugo's for the Blue Moon Burger. Wilson Park for the whimsical castle. And there were a handful of other places we didn't get to.
The trip was healing and restorative for me, strengthening and in some places retying bonds. But it was mostly fun, sharing people and places I enjoy with my family.