7 Things I Miss About the South

I moved to Portland with my family a few months ago.  We know that God is calling us to plant a church downtown, and we could't be more excited. There is a ton that I can be grateful for - but that’s a different blog. My wife and I agree that the following list properly compiles the things we didn’t know we were taking for granted during our time below the Mason Dixon line.



When your tank drops near the E while you’re living in the South, you know things are about to get awesome. Gas stations are a place where you can get a 129 oz. beverage for $0.89. They are places that serve REAL FOOD, made to order from a touch screen computer. I have even free-sampled frozen yogurt at a Georgia gas station. Do you know how drastically that improved my vehicular experience? In Oregon, it’s illegal to pump your own gas. That’s kind of cool as long as you’re not in a hurry. Also, the sticky-floored convenience stores are pretty slim-pickings when it comes to snacks. Lottery tickets and jelly beans. That’s about all you’re going to find inside. Where is a QT, Sheetz, or RaceTrac when you need it???



My father-in-law came up recently. He got off the plane with Mexican food on his mind. “No problem,” thought my wife. (Who wouldn’t want to fill your belly with something refried after a 5 hour flight?) She pulled up Yelp, and within moments, she had 14 different options. However, my father-in-law didn’t want a hand-crafted, artisanal, farm-raised, gluten-free taco experience. He wanted a big, sloppy plate of Mexican food. Beans, rice, and cheeeeeese. I’m with him. Somebody pack a care package with a burrito a La Parilla, stat!



You don’t miss them until they’re gone. Sometimes, we drive 25 minutes to the suburban Target just to pull in and out of parking spaces. The sensation of power you get from free parking is unreal.  The next time you find yourself NOT circling a block or parallel parking, say a little prayer for your favorite church planter.



Portlanders love the Earth, just like Captain Planet. That’s cool and all, except on trash day. In order to legislate eco-consciousness, the city only provides me with a small rolling trash can that gets emptied twice a month. I have to keep this overstuffed garbage bomb inside my garage. I wonder if I could start a letter writing campaign to obtain some kind of “diaper waiver." My recycling is kept in a luxuriously large can with weekly pick-up. I find myself asking questions like, “Is this styrofoam carton secretly glass based?” and “How soiled is this paper towel?” The city also graciously provides me with a compost bin. You know, just in case I want rotting food in my garage to cover the diaper smell. If we accidentally throw away too many used tissues, I have to load up the extra bags and take them to the city dump, for a $28 minimum fee. When I lived in Gainesville, our wonderful HERO trash men came twice a week, and they would pick up anything sitting by the curb. Seriously. You know that huge mess after Christmas? Drag it to the curb. What about an un-bagged pile of rusty metal? Curb. Once, I saw a toilet sitting beside my neighbor’s mailbox. (Classy neighborhood, right?) Two days later, it was GONE. Gone like the last piece of watermelon at a 4th of July picnic.



Southerners have a secret. We know that no matter how bad things get, or how small the budget is, we can always swing a getaway to the great Smokey Mountains. What’s waiting for us on the other side of that mountain pass? Sweet, sweet Beulah Land. The Applebarn, air-brushed t-shirts, Gospel music, and Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home. Ride an eagle-themed roller-coaster, eat a funnel cake, check out the eagle sanctuary, or play a carnival game to win — a stuffed eagle. You really can’t go wrong. Especially if you’re a fan of our nation’s most majestic balding bird. 



We have been to some of the most amazing places of worship over the past few months. Our hearts have been inspired and encouraged. Church has to look different in downtown Portland. Many churches we attend have smaller staffs and smaller facilities out of necessity. They have kids ministries that meet on Sundays, and student ministries that meet in homes. But what can I say? I’m a former youth pastor, and I’m having withdrawals. Where’s my free pizza, my Spirit Night, and my silly game time??



The world is just not as cool when you’re 3 hours behind. People call at 7am and wonder why you sound groggy. Online sales end while you’re still loading up your cart. “Live with Kelly” is not-so-live. The term, “spoiler-alert” was invented for the West Coast. I never realized how stressful it would be to do math every time I want to contact my family. It has led me to invest in more postcards.



So, you’re driving down the road. Your toddler is in the back seat. You realize your blood sugar is dropping, and a small fry and bubbly soda would make everything better. So, you look up, and take your pick of primary-colored signs. Each one is inviting you to a brief, but satisfying, gluttonous experience. BUT ONLY IN THE SOUTH. Oh sure. We have our delicious food carts. We have incredible, chef-curated menus. We have legendary brunch. But for all of these options, you have to get OUT of the car. Boring.

We believe God has us in our new city for the long-haul, and we love it. However, every now and then, Georgia is still on our mind.

Aaron is the pastor of Spring of Life, a new church in Portland, Oregon. He's the owner of Amplify Creative.