John asked me to write a personal retrospective post on these last five years, this phase of life we are in, out here in the Deep South. Thinking back to being fresh out of California, and sitting here now with half a decade of Mississippi in our story, how has that played into life perspective? I have decided to use some irony with my thoughts.
We literally came from our church on Hollywood Boulevard to a seminary in Jackson; our neighborhood being where “The Help” was set. Albert Tate, the guest pastor that Sunday before we left, was actually from Jackson, and his grandmother had been “help”! It was in the theaters when we moved here, and after we saw the movie, we realized that low and behold, we had a “help bathroom” outside our back door.
With that introduction, I will use the most stereotypical description – we came from the land of the free-thinking (liberal) to the home of the slave. Here is the irony: In just these past 5 years, I have been set free in Mississippi, from so much that I was in personal slavery to in California, for those 30+ years. I think that this freedom has been an absolute influence in changing my perspective on life.
If you are reading this and know me, you will understand more what I am talking about. I will give a summary of my personal journey to lead up to this release that has helped to focus and stabilize me more.
For almost two decades, I struggled with an eating disorder that bound my mind and soul. Living in Los Angeles, our busy lifestyle, and being a pressured person only fueled it. God absolutely was working in me all along the way, but I was going too fast. Life was flying. The culture shift alone in moving to Mississippi would eliminate the California pressure, but God clearly had this time set aside to go to the root of this issue for me. For three out of the first five years, He took my hand and went to battle. This is a most miraculous story for another time, but for this post, I can proclaim, in November of 2014, sitting on our bed one day, I was set free. Believe me, I tested it. After 20 years of slavery to this, I was released.
Of course this issue was just a symptom of deeper baggage in my life. Again, I could share for eons of how God has been my Keeper and freeing me in steps, all along the way, but life is a process, it takes time. There was not a lot of time in California.
Freedom of time has been the biggest gift to us in Mississippi. John got to finally focus on the one subject he truly cares about, God. Seminary, all of those quiet days of learning and studying, then right after graduation, teaching in the college classroom, writing his novel and blog, and frequently being asked to preach or teach in other settings, has released and shaped that man for only all things better. For me, everything busy that was social halted when we moved here. When I am not running the house, teaching and hanging out with the kids and John, there is literally nothing left on the schedule, for the most part. These years have given me time to sit, study, read, listen, learn, process, sit, listen, in the quiet, and watch the Lord gently and firmly get to the root of my soul. He has freed me from so many things that kept me in stress and fear. My purple velvet chair and candle have witnessed many tears, much joy, and sweet freedom that has hopefully and most importantly, equipped me to be a more useful person for others, for the Kingdom.
We have also had the luxury of developing more as a family and as a married couple. Relationship has deepened with the kids, and we have watched them grow into the most wonderful individuals. Watching Lucas go off on a seven-week mission trip adventure was evidence that this phase has not been wasted. He not only survived but thrived, and is taking great strides toward his own path that is well on its way as I write this. For John and I, Date Night was once a week in L.A., and that only started because after our third child John made sure it went down on the calendar for the sake of sanity amidst our crazy life! Here in Mississippi, we are together almost every day and night! So besides asking questions and talking with our native friends, processing what we’re learning, reading every book and watching every documentary we can about this new culture that we have found ourselves in, we have also grown deeper in our relationship with each other. We have time to work through anything and everything. This has freed us in so many ways, strengthened our love, and again, has been clearly equipping us, as a couple and as a family, for whatever the Lord has set these last five years aside for.
In general retrospect, this phase of life is for my whole family, which is of course, personal, because my family’s path is mine. We were taken out of the traffic jams of L.A. to our little island of Mississippi. It feels like a guilty pleasure in a way. We know it is not forever, but it has been nice to take a deep breath, and release it nice and slow.
So as far as perspective change, this is the most condensed way that I can describe this five-year phase in the Deep South. Who would’ve known that we needed to move to Mississippi to find, freedom? I do miss the West, my California culture, my creative people, my loved ones, all of you! But I am thankful for “all y’all” here in Mississippi that have shown us what “the Hospitality State” means, embracing the funky Barnts from California. Life is indeed, an adventure. I am thankful for every step.