A few weeks ago, Jon’s mom called and asked if they could have the kids for a couple weeks in Oklahoma. Little Rock, Arkansas, is the half-way point between our homes, so last weekend Jon and I made the trip over so that we could hand the kids off to the grandparents. While we were there, we stayed with some of our very special friends, which we always enjoy.
Even though Jon’s from Oklahoma and I’m from Michigan, Harding University and Highway Church of Christ are where “We” began. We became friends freshman year, started dating senior year and married after Jon graduated. The day after our first date we went to church together at Highway, and we spent our entire dating relationship there and our first year of marriage too.
So many of the churches in and around Searcy have a huge influx of college kids who are looking for somewhere to worship while attending Harding. While at Highway, Jon and I didn’t want to be ‘just one of the college kids’. We wanted to be active members who could build relationships and grow as a result of being a member there. Several other close friends of ours felt the same way, so we all enjoyed attending Highway as well as hanging out ‘in real life’ too. We joined a Heart Group, which was a small group that met in members’ homes for a meal, bible study and prayer. We attended baby showers and wedding showers. We brought food to the potlucks and helped with service projects. Over time, we really started to genuinely feel like the people at Highway were like family to us.
It’s interesting, in retrospect, to hear about how the ‘real church people’ at Highway felt about the college kids coming to Highway. They told us that at first they were a little upset because there were so many. They didn’t like that we were making it hard to find a seat. They didn’t like us coming into their groups and trying to belong. Over time, though, we all started to grow closer. They started to get to know us and we all became so attached.
One family in particular has been so very special to Jon and me since the beginning of our relationship. Kevin and Cindy Western became like our ‘college parents.’ Even with the craziness of having 3 boys of their own, they invested themselves in us. They went from strangers, to mentors, to friends, to family. They’re enough older than us to have very relevant advice to share, but they’re young enough that they don’t even seem older. Over time, we really became close friends. We’d keep their kids sometimes. Cindy and I shopped together. Kevin and Jon hunted together. Even after we moved to Huntsville, they came to visit us and we returned to visit them. We grew one of those special relationships that not everyone has and that doesn’t come along every day.
Even today, when we head back to Arkansas we stay with the Westerns and we stay up til the middle of the night catching up and reminiscing. We really, truly love them. We were their first group of college kids, and since we’ve been gone they’ve taken in several other college kids over the years.
Well, last week after dropping the kids off we stayed all weekend and worshipped at Highway in the morning. As soon as we walked in the door, it still felt like our home. We were received with smiles and hugs from so many old friends. We participated in a wonderfully heart-felt worship service and heard a very touching message. I did catch myself day-dreaming a little bit as I saw so many familiar faces. I felt such gratitude that as a college kids we felt such acceptance and received guidance there. As a young wife I felt so nurtured by the ladies there. As a young couple we were blessed by the generosity there.
Toward the end we sang a song that, to me, is very reminiscent of Highway and our time there because it was a favorite of ours while we were there—Mansion, Robe and a Crown. Cindy leaned over and said that one of their current college kids couldn’t sing that song without giggling because the bass part would get her so tickled. I love that song so much, but that day I couldn’t sing because my throat was choked up and my eyes were trying to hold back the tears. I leaned over and whispered, “I can’t sing this song without tearing up, because it reminds me of being here.”
Well, after church we went to a small Mexican restaurant with the Westerns and another family and ended up sitting there talking for a couple hours before it was time to hit the road back to Huntsville.
As Jon drove home, I stared out the window reflecting on the weekend. I love being in Huntsville and I love our current home church, Mayfair. I’m excited for the journey ahead and the relationships that will form as a result of our next move. But I am SO thankful for the blessing that our friends at Highway have been to our lives and for the meaning they still have for us. They really helped shape us as a young couple and helped us get started in the right direction and they will forever be special to us.
It’s always special to me to be back at Highway.