Monday, July 04, 2011

What I leave behind

For about the fourth time in my life, I begin a new chapter, a new season. The first was going into the army after high school. The second was moving to Texas after college. I spent ten years in Texas, teaching, umpiring baseball, doing ministry, growing up, having fun.

The third was leaving my life in Texas and going back to Virginia, to a new job, some old friends, my parents, and a new role--husband and father.

Now, nine years after beginning this chapter, I start a new one. Moving as far as possible while still being in the continental US--2,837 miles to Burlington, WA. I've written, and will write more, about why we are going, what I will be doing there, etc.

But today, I write about what I leave behind. Why, even though I am excited about the new adventure, leaving Virginia is probably the hardest thing I've ever done.

Nine years ago, when I left Fort Worth, that was the most difficult change I'd ever made. This is bigger, harder, more challenging. Nine years ago I was single, and was going home. I loved Texas, and enjoyed my decade there, but while leaving many friends and my church, I was coming home--to my parents, my college friends, the place where I grew up.

Now I leave for a place that I have enjoyed visiting, but has never been home. I've spent 34 of my 46 years in Virginia. I left twice (for the Army, and grad school), but always come back. I probably won't come back to Virginia this time (except to visit). Of course nothing is certain, but it there's a good chance that this is my last big move.

We'll probably raise our boys in Washington. When Cash graduates high school, I'll be 60.

So this parting seems bigger. More permanent. The things I leave behind are things I will probably never come back to, except to visit.

I will miss Virginia, the place. The trees, parks, beaches, mountains.

I will miss the places I love to eat. I will miss Hard Times Cafe, and Carrabba's, Fat Tuesday's, Penny Lane, and ice cream at Gary's and Carl's.

I will miss DC--the stadiums, the museums, the history.

I will miss downtown Fredericksburg, a place I used to walk around with my dad.

I will miss driving through Dale City, where I grew up.

I will miss the campus at GMU, where I spent 4 years as a student, then another 4 as a campus pastor.

I will miss the churches in Virginia that have impacted me--Parkwood Baptist, FBC-Alexandria, New Hope Church, Convergence, Waterford Baptist Church, and Little River Baptist Church.

I will miss Leland, where I learned to think about God and theology in ways that finally made sense to me. Where I made great friends and had wonderful discussions.

I will miss Kings Dominion, where I laughed and played as a teenager, and where I experienced joys of fatherhood while riding and swimming and laughing with my children.

I will miss Northfork Camp in Front Royal--camping out, swimming and tubing on the river, relaxing by the fire with my parents, my wife, and my kids.

I will miss the house I grew up in. My mother and step-dad are still there, 38 years after we first moved in. I walked through the house the other day, looking at the room I grew up in. The walls that were covered with my posters, the window that looked out at my elementary school. Wherever I have gone, that house has always been home.

And I will miss this house where I now sit, writing in the dark. The first house that Jamie and I moved into together. Where our two boys first lived. I will miss the gravel roads, and the trees, and the lake where I first took our boys swimming. I will miss the backyard where we have had cookouts and picnics, played baseball and burned leaves.

I will miss this house which has become home over the last seven years.

But more than any of this, I will miss people. I will miss the people who have encouraged me and supported me; some over the past nine years, some for much longer.

I will miss my basketball buddies--Kenny, Andy, and Johnny (and more recently, Mark and Jerry). For ten years we have cheered the Patriots at almost every home game. We traveled to Richmond each spring to watch GMU in the CAA conference tournament. Those weekends were some of the best of my life.

I will miss my Leland friends--too many to name--but especially Josh, Tom, Seth and April.

Dozens of fantastic ministers I met and worked with through NorthStar and its churches...

Dear friends through New Hope and Convergence...

Teachers I enjoyed working with at North Stafford and Mountain View...

Great guys I got to know through umpiring in northern VA...

And some who have been there for much longer than this last season in Virginia--Dan, Elise, Mike, Rusty, Bryan--people I have been close to for half my life or more.

My brother Eric, with whom I've grown closer over the years; I'll miss our times talking, eating, and watching UFC together.

My step-brother and step-sister, and their families--people I love and enjoy seeing when we can.

And of course, most of all, Mom and Jerry, who have loved me unconditionally, who have supported and encouraged us, and always been there for us. It will be strange to live so far from them, and I will miss them terribly.

Next week I leave many of the people and places and things that have made me who I am. I am already grieving over that. I have shed a few tears and know I will shed more in the days to come. But I am also excited to take all of that with me, to a new town, a new job, new ministries, new relationships, and new opportunities.

And the sadness over leaving is made a little easier knowing that God, and the people closest to me, most important to me--my bride and my three amazing children--will be with me through this new adventure.

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