I’ve lived in Florida my entire life.
The Sunshine State.
In my born-and-bred-here opinion? It needs another name. Maybe something like the Frizzy Hair State? Or the Sweaty State? Possibly the Hotter than the Fiery Pits of Hell State?
It’s 82 degrees in February.
I mean. Come on!
I realize some of you disagree, but 82 is just too dang high for the month of hearts.
It’s not that I want to live in snow, but I would like a season or two. Some fall foliage? Maybe even a chance to wear my winter clothes for more than three weeks out of the entire year?
I’ve already asked God if He’s forgotten it’s still winter in Florida.
He assures me He knows. He said I could ask Job about trials and tribulations, but I have decided against the idea.
I know I’m being a bit whiney. But unless I am exercising on purpose, I hate to sweat. I just do.
Yet, there are aspects of Florida I adore.
Almost every pair of shoes I own is some version of a flip-flop or sandal. I’m an hour from one of God’s most majestic creations—the ocean. And you can just about spit any direction in my hometown and hit in a lake.
It’s a short list, but there are benefits.
On the flip side, the heat melts my very being. I feel like a pat of butter in the pan. I’m not normally given to exaggeration…still.
If you’ve read my words in the last year, you know I’ve had my challenges. The Florida sun has matched the scorching power of anxiety in my life, leaving me with the ashes of depression.
That’s the thing about mental illness—it takes what would be an ordinary, unsuspecting day and leaves you burned.
Over the summer, my family took a vacation to the beach. My skin is pasty, pale and an easy victim for the UV rays. It was our first day out. We lathered on the sunscreen and reapplied all day.
Despite my best efforts, I still fried up like bacon in a skillet. With flaming red flesh, I checked the sunscreen bottle.
It was expired.
I had tried to do the right thing. Instead, my good intentions resulted in spend $40 bucks—exorbitant money for our budget—on a special sun shirt I wore the rest of the week.
When I think about the anxiety and depression that has plagued me, I feel like the woman who did her best not to get burned but still ended up on fire. Sometimes I put all the right safety nets in place, but they’re expired. Frayed. Brittle. And I’m spiraling out of control.
By the end of our trip, and after layers of essential oil, my skin was healing.
Like my skin, I’m healing, friends.
The right combination of medication has been life giving. But there has been more to my healing than modern medicine.
Over the weekend I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. On Saturday morning the sun was already blazing. I dodged the heat by stepping into pockets of shade.
The conference center shares its space with majestic trees. As I followed the path to my different meetings, I lingered a bit in the shadows of the ancient Spanish Oaks.
I walked slower. Breathed deeper.
Their arms stretched toward the sky with roots planted in solid ground. Cool breezes fluttered their leaves. Resurrection ferns crept along the strong trunks and over the branches.
I was drawn to their shade. Their cool shelter from the sun.
Did you know resurrection ferns curl up into brown, dry fragments of themselves when they haven’t received enough water? Yet they don’t die. Their roots dig deep into the pulp and splinters of wood, hanging tight.
When the rains come. When they’re cooled by the shelter of the shade. They resurrect. Their leaves unfurl into green, tender shoots, and they stretch their beauty for all of nature to see.
Friends. My shade is, and has been for as long as I can remember, the sheltering arms of my Savior.
Over the last year I have been the dried and withered fern. Clinging tight, refusing to let go despite the scorching sun. Because in the Shade of Jesus I knew I would not die.
Hope found me clinging to the Canopy of Leaves.
When we plunge our roots into the Shade tree? When we grip the Hope of our Jesus and refuse to let go? When we do those things?
We find our cool breeze.
We discover the air in our lungs.
And healing begins.