I lived my entire life in Virginia. That is, until I moved to Florida six years ago this month. There are many things I miss about life in Virginia but most of them are really more about the seasons of life that occurred there and less about the place itself. I think we sometimes glamorize certain places in our memories because of the experiences and growth that occurred there. Somehow the setting becomes some sort of memorial in our minds to a certain time in our lives. But there is one very real thing about life up there that I do miss – having four seasons in a year. If you’ve never lived in Florida than you probably don’t understand what I’m talking about. You’re probably thinking, ”Every state has four seasons….” And you would be wrong. What we have down here is something like two seasons, and that may be a little generous. We have, what I will affectionately call, Sprummerfall (a combo of Spring, Summer and Fall) and Winter. Sprummerfall is pretty much hot all the time. At the beginning of the season, starting about now (March) it is still cool in the mornings and evenings but then it gets crazy hot in the middle of the day causing you to curse the sun and resent the sweater that you were deceived into putting on that morning. In the middle of the season it is moves from very hot to insanely hot and then at the end it returns to just very hot again. And just when you can’t stand it any longer and are reaching your breaking point, comes the beauty of Winter. It only lasts for about 2 ½ months and mostly consists of days in the upper-50’s and 60’s and serves as a respite for those of us from the north. The trees never really change and the sun is always bright. Only a few plants die and some people’s yards still remain green all year around. At this point, many of you probably think this sounds amazing and I’m an ungrateful jerk for complaining about it. And, while that’s probably true, there is something about the changing of seasons that is irreplaceable. There is a rhythm and a beauty to it. There is something centering about it. It taps into rhythms that our lives often take and mirrors it in the ebb and flow of nature. The rhythms of sorrow and joy, of confusion and clarity, of death and rebirth. It’s all around you. You can see it. You can feel it. You can even taste it if you eat local produce (or lick a tree, but that’s kind of messed up).
Back in my college days in Lynchburg I used to go out on short hikes with friends to enjoy all of the beauty that Virgina had to offer. We would be surrounded by mountains, streams, trees, very large rocks (which aren’t all that beautiful on their own but were still quite impressive as apart of the landscape). It was absolutely stunning, especially when the seasons were changing. Later, living in Charlottesville, I used to go out on my own occasionally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about any sort of Bear Grylls kind of stuff here. This was pansy, suburban hiking. Walking down trails that run under overpasses and parallel to the highway that’s just a few yards to the left. But I loved it anyways. It was a good way to spend a few free hours and the perfect setting for deep thought and reflection.
In the Fall of 2004, I vividly remember walking those trails and taking in all of that scenery as I wrestled with doubts about the direction of my life. Whether or not I should be where I was or doing what I was doing. I remember feeling a strange sort of comradery with the trees around me, that were being stripped of their leaves and left naked and exposed. I didn’t realize it, but just like them, I was being prepared for the darkness that was ahead. This turbulent fall led me into the darkest winter I had ever known. It was a season of confusion and broken relationships. It was the death of a dream, without the consolation of a new one to replace it. I knew God was with me, but it seemed like He was a few steps further removed than He had been just a few weeks before.
That winter wasn’t all tragic; my faith was stretched and my marriage was strengthened. In many ways that season was the most defining point in my journey towards maturity in Christ. We ended up leaving Charlottesville and moving to Falls Church. It was there we experienced the love of God in a remarkably tangible way through the hospitality of dear friends. Friends who welcomed us into their apartment and their lives as the dust settled from the demolition of what we believed our future to hold. (Thanks Kevin and Jami! I don’t know if you could ever understand what your friendship meant to us during that time).
And then, just like the changing of the seasons around us. It was over. It was like little shoots of green pushing through the cold, dry ground making way for new beginnings and fresh inspiration. The awakening of dormant ambitions and inspired dreams. Revealing that the entire winter had all been part of the divinely orchestrated resurrection of my own soul. Spring was arriving. And by the time all the plants and wildlife of Virginia awoke from their deep slumber, they would find us gone….
We would be soaking in our first Sprummerfall in sunny Florida.
Erin and I have certainly grown to love Clermont, more so the people than the weather. This community, and in particular our church community at The Church At South Lake, has been used by God to heal, stretch, change and grow us in ways we never thought possible. We now have two kids who will forever be “from Florida” no matter where they may live in the future and we’re proud of that. I do miss Virginia and I would love to see some leaves change color every once and a while. But in a way, this place will forever be marked by springtime for me. Well, the metaphorical springtime since, as I described earlier, it doesn’t really have much of a Spring to speak of.