I’m a first generation Southerner and have been since day one. A resident of Virginia for my first six months of life, I’ve spent the rest of my days in North Carolina, Georgia, or Tennessee—except for a four-year stint in Southern California just after Nancy and I married. My Wisconsin-native parents shared their many stories of late-April blizzards and of school cancelled because the buildings wouldn’t get warm enough for kids when the temperature hit 20 below, but I’ve never experienced either for myself.
As I write this on my Middle Tennessee farm, the temperature has dipped to 7 degrees outside, and by tomorrow morning the weather folks promise a low even closer to zero. And guess what: my kids and I can’t wait to see how cold it gets. Last night, in fact, while snow was still falling and wind chills still hovered up in the teens, we hiked to our pond, hoping it would freeze hard enough in the next few days to play on. That blessed event has happened only once before in our 15 years on the farm.
Southerners are supposed to feel apologetic about this strange enjoyment of cold. Maybe a bit embarrassed about welcoming snow and ice. Perhaps even shamed at the thought of considering single digit temperatures truly cold when this morning, it’s minus 27 in Duluth, Minnesota and wind chills screech to minus 54 (that certainly is cold). As my southern Facebook friends chatter (their teeth) about the arctic conditions outside, I notice that most of my northern friends have been politely silent. I guess they’re letting us enjoy our quixotic appreciation of this brief spate of what is “normal” for them. Still, there’s something to be said for this Southern delight in winter.
God in His wisdom has given the world winter for a purpose—or many purposes as His ways often allow. The land needs downtime to prepare for the next growing season, and perhaps He also wants to fascinate us with His creativity. Water you can walk on? The only faith it takes is the assurance you’ve correctly estimated the thickness of ice and its ability to support your weight. Naturally flocked pine trees? They’re an exquisitely mystical contrast with the stark, leafless vegetation around them. And besides all that, it’s simply a relief to savor the disparity between January and July—the 80 or 90 degree difference that in the heat and humidity of a Southern summer seems like it will never end. Finally, this weather also gives me reason to be deeply grateful for a fine wood stove and our heating fuel from the land.
My bedtime Bible reading last night brought me to Psalm 19 and, having relished a walk in the falling snow a few hours before, suggested a new application for verse 1: “the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” I know the psalmist meant stars and “the heavens,” but for one of the few winter nights when this Southerner will wander in a winter wonderland, I appreciate the white miracle that “pours forth” (verse 2) from the sky.
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