It took me a long time to fall in love with Tampa.
In my defense, we had a rough start. Leaving a city where you spent 5 life-changing years + moving somewhere where EVERYTHING (marriage, job, house, friends, church, restaurants, culture, etc) is different does not exactly = love at first sight.
But somewhere in between those first few tear-stained "I just want to go home to New Orleans!" months and that early morning almost 2 months ago where we put our final belongings in our cars and waved good-bye to our little yellow house, I started really feeling like Tampa was home.
It was so many things...
It was our neighbors. It was the chats we had standing in our yards when we just happened to be outside or coming home at the same time- sometimes just a 2 minute "hey, how are you?," and sometimes 30 minute conversations that turned into going inside, talking for hours, drinking wine, and laughing at the antics of their little boys. It was the way they introduced us to the best local restaurants and the joys of Gasparilla. It was watching my sweet husband build cardboard-box houses in our front yard with Jaxon and Jude, and cracking up as Jude, then 3, carried Willow all around our house, saying, "I'm strong!"
It was our little yellow house that we loved so dearly. It was the way I would snuggle up with my new husband on our couch, thinking, this is marriage, this is my life, this is my home with my husband, the man I've been waiting my whole life for. It was the nights spent eating red velvet cake on Cori's birthday and the meals I made as I learned to love cooking dinner for my family. It was the starting our tradition of decorating our home for Christmas the weekend following Thanksgiving, putting up our Christmas tree and hanging lights. It was the way our street was packed every Thursday night in our final 6 months in Tampa when we hosted a community group, filling our home with people who wanted to know about Jesus. It was the way we would laugh at those community group dinners and then the way the girls would cry together later as we shared our hearts, challenging and praying for one another.
It was my job, my co-workers, my preK kids. It was the pride I felt as my 4 & 5 year olds sang "The Continents of the World," and I the laughter I couldn't help but give in to as I donned a purple wig while teaching my class about which primary colors make the different secondary colors. It was the way I got to know my co-workers in snippets of conversation throughout the day, squeezing in deep friendships in between tending to skinned knees on the playground and art activities. It was the bracelet my co-teacher gave me not long before we moved that said, 'Embrace the journey' and the reminder that this part of my journey will always have a piece of my heart.
It was the weather, oh, the weather! It was the way I loved 'Florida cold,' which meant that the lows in the winter were in the 40s, as opposed to the teens. It was the way I could throw on leggings, boots, and a cardigan with a sundress and be set to go, even in January. It was the way we were so close to so many beautiful Florida beaches. It was the vacations Florida made it so easy to have- weekend beach trips, snorkeling in the Keys, days in Disney World, a cruise.
It was Sunday mornings, worshiping with our church family, feeling so surrounded and encouraged in friendship. It was being challenged and stretched and grown while listening to our pastor preach and in debriefing with Cori afterwards. It was running around after the adorable little children after church, because I swear, aletheia produces the absolute cutest babies I've ever seen. It was lunches with Steph and Wes, some of our very favorite friends, and the ways we complemented each other so well as couple-friends.
It was all that, and a million more that I won't list, mainly because my alarm goes off in 7 hours and I should probably go to bed sometime between now and then. But, true to my blog name, I am thankful in every season (get it?!) and Cori and I are extraordinarily grateful for our time in Tampa.