It's when he lit the candles that I knew my soul could exhale.
I moved to Santa Barbara last Saturday and boarded the plane with tears in my eyes. I had been nothing but calm and excited until the night before my move, but the reality of leaving began to sink in when my 6-year-old niece cried outside of Uncle Julio's as I hugged her goodbye. The following morning my parents dropped me off at the Nashville airport and my Mom and I both cried despite our predictions that we would be just fine. So I made my way through security and fought the tears long enough to get my shoes back on.
Boarding alone with a one-way ticket was a bit harder than I thought it'd be.
On my flight, I slept and read and stressed over catching a train. I had booked a train ticket from Burbank to Santa Barbara because...well...I love trains. If you don't recall #TrainGames2016, I invite you to reminisce on the adventure with me.
But this time I was boarding a train alone. With 2 heavy suitcases. In an unknown city. And the reality of this grand adventure began to gnaw away at my nerves. WHAT WAS I DOING?
I found myself sitting alone on a bench beside a train track as if someone hired me for a 1960s romance. The only difference was that I wasn't waiting for a train to deliver my long lost love, I was waiting for a train that I HOPED would take me to Santa Barbara.
Was I waiting on the correct side of the tracks? If I can't check my bags here, will they let me on with 2 suitcases? Why is there no train station or employee here? What year am I in?
After I charmed the Amtrak employee who eye rolled at my 2 suitcases, I hauled them up the stairs of the Pacific Surfliner and plopped down in my seat. I was sweating. You see, packing light is not a thing in my world and carrying a 60lb (x2) suitcase up a narrow staircase on a moving train was just a whole site to see. And apparently a site that Amtrak wanted to charge me $20 for. Something about a heavy bag. Whatever. I wanted to charge them for my workout.
But I had made it. I was 2 hours from my new home and could settle in to stare out the window as we made our way up the California coast.
By the time I pulled into town, my tears and nerves had disappeared and been replaced with nothing but excitement. I stepped off the train to perfect weather and the only familiar face I knew in Santa Barbara: my friend, Alison.
And we hit the ground running.
We ran errands, met up with her family, ate dinner, and struggled to stay up past 9pm. My body was still on central time and the 4:30am wake up call was hitting hard. I crashed that night and woke up for my first official Sunday at the church. Needless to say it was full of introductions and "nice to meet yous" and some extremely welcoming faces. But it was after church that I headed to meet the couple I'd be staying with for 2 weeks and begin to get settled in.
I moved out to Santa Barbara without a place to live. Risky, I know. Searching for a place and a roommate from across the country is a challenge, however, and the month between accepting the job and arriving just didn't bring about the right living situation (happy to tell I now I have that settled!). But a kind couple from the church offered to put me up for 2 weeks when I arrived, so I made my way to their house with my 2 suitcases and high hopes for an afternoon nap.
And it was when he lit the candles that I knew my soul could exhale.
After unpacking some of my things, settling into my new (temporary) room, and taking a nap, I walked into the kitchen for dinner with Steve and Molly. The table was set and as they finished cooking together they carried the plates to the table and took their seats around me. And Steve lit the candles on the table.
I closed my eyes as he prayed over our meal and I knew that not having a place to live yet in Santa Barbara had nothing to do with lack of offers and everything to do with God's timing--everything to do with God giving me the opportunity to meet this precious couple. In all my job-losing and dreaming and praying and packing and preparing and moving and crying I embraced busy and tired as my normal.
But sitting around a table with Steve and Molly--who welcomed me into their home and cooked for me and lit candles--meant I was home; even in a place I didn't recognize. It meant sharing meals around a kitchen table; something I had lost when I started living alone in Nashville. It meant walking in the door to welcoming faces who were anxious to hear about my first day at work. And it meant slowing down my pace to realize that God still holds even the smallest details.
Like candles at the dinner table.