When I first moved to Belton, Texas I was a bonafide city girl used to the familiarity and convenience of all of my favorite stores and restaurants within five minutes of home. I loved UMHB, and I knew it was where I belonged, but the thought of living in Belton really scared me.
At first I didn’t even think of it as “living in Belton.” I lived “on campus.” It was a magical place that had all of the comforts of home in a controlled environment. I could stretch my wings, but I didn’t really have to fly. But then came the day when I had to venture from my bubble and buy groceries. I was terrified. And I have to admit that for the first several months I lived on campus I would buy groceries at home and cart them 200 plus miles from Arlington and haul them all the way back in a cooler. Crazy!
But as I became more comfortable with myself and my surroundings, I began to feel more at ease with small-town life. I was no longer afraid to drive at night. Back in Arlington, I would sometimes forget to turn my headlights on at night because street lamps and glowing neon signs were there to light my way. But in Belton, it was dark. It was darkness that could swallow you up. Yes, the stars shone brighter in Belton, but I was too distracted by my apprehension to notice.
And then, in my junior year of college I met the man of my dreams. He whisked me off my feet with his southern charm and chivalry. He opened doors for me, took my hand when I exited his beat-up (sorry, honey), red pick-up truck and didn’t sit down at the dinner table until I was already seated. I have to say some of this must have been to win me over (although he still opens doors for me when I’m not buckling in a squirming toddler), but for the most part his gentlemanly behavior was a large part of what attracted me to him.
So, there I am, swept off my feet by this country boy, never wanting to leave his side. But, what’s that? He’s from a small-town, and wants to raise his kids in a small town? I have to admit, I was terrified at the notion of living anywhere but a big city (or suburb). I wasn’t used to being 45 minutes from Old Navy or 20 minutes from a decent big-chain restaurant. I wanted comfort, familiarity.
While my mind was swirling with what life would be like in a small town (I pictured livestock and lots of outdoor activities), I found myself in a small country church called The Well where I was introduced to Jared’s family. I was completely intimidated by these strong women (I wasn’t so intimidated by you Chad, sorry), and their protective nature. I was sure they would hate me. I was a city girl who was trying to steal away and brainwash their little (well, he’s not really little) country boy. But, instead of prejudices and hands pushing me away, I found love, acceptance and hands around my shoulders.
Suddenly, this life that was different than my own was starting to make a lot of sense. And as we settled into Belton, it started to become my home. It hasn’t hurt that other UMHB “family” members have settled here to raise their families as well—some city transplants like me—but I found a comfort in this new way of living. Yes, I’m still terrified of wasps and you won’t catch me hunting or fishing anytime soon, but I have learned to appreciate the treasures of my new “hometown.” From the deer who are more like pets to the way people smile at each other in the grocery store, every aspect of this small-town life has become a part of me and will someday become a part of my children’s histories.
While I sometimes still ache for the city where I grew up where I learned to ride a bike, learned to drive a car and learned how to be a part of a family, I know that a hometown is really much more than an address. It’s the place where you love and live out the moments that are more precious than anything this world can give. I hope someday my kids will look back on Belton, when they are living in cities far away (not more than 30 minutes away) and remember their childhood and their hometown with as much fondness as I do my own.