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One of the benefits that potentially came with my job at the University of North Texas was the opportunity to travel to Charlottesville. My boss had just written a big grant with my former advisor at UVa, and I knew there would eventually be some site visits to the various schools involved in the project. After a full year at UNT, I had begun to think that the possibility to visit Virginia was just talk and I sort of forgot about it. Then out of nowhere, my boss told me he was going to be visiting Virginia and wanted me to come. I ran this by Gina, and she was OK with it. So, the trip was on and I was getting to visit dear old UVa once again.
Most of my visit was filled with meetings and site visits to different schools in Crozet and Charlottesville, but I did manage to visit some old haunts and see some great friends. The list includes my former advisor and some other colleagues and students from UVa, our old neighbor and his wife, and several great friends from Christ Community Church and ISI. I have included some pictures so you can see for yourself. I was not in Las Vegas spending the family fortune on gummy bears and pixie sticks.
As I expected, I experienced a lot of emotions during my 2 days in Charlottesville. Not really teary emotions, but mainly gratitude and amazement. The gratitude came from knowing none of this would have ever happened if Gina hadn't encouraged me to apply to UVa, then visit after I'd been accepted, then accept the fellowship that was offered after that visit. Our time in Virginia required quite a sacrifice on our part, and there were more than several times when we questioned whether or not we should be, or stay, there. It wasn't cheap, it wasn't easy, it wasn't lucrative, and it wasn't always certain. But then again, life can be like that no matter where you are. I learned that having each other, a strong community of believers, and faith that God was more faithful than our ability to predict the future went a long way in sustaining us through our 4 years there. Oh, and there's that little detail called "Sam and Nate." We met them in Virginia. So, I was very grateful to have Gina, and I wished at every turn that she and the boys could have been there with me.
The sense of amazement came from walking around Grounds at UVa and driving from place to place in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It seemed like every time I looked up, I was hit with "Wow! This place is beautiful!" Not only was it beautiful, but because we took a leap of faith to go there, it is also inextricably woven into our story. I drove around town and walked all over Grounds like I was on autopilot, and it felt as if it were more than just knowing Charlottesville. I felt like Charlottesville knew me. I didn't hear any applause or feel any pats on the back, but it did my heart good to be somewhere familiar, a place that housed some of my most life-changing events.
I will end with that. My hope is that everyone has a place that is forever part of their heart and story. God created the Earth, then He placed us in it, and I think He knew that the places we occupy would help to shape us. Charlottesville and UVa definitely did that to me.