A Nine Mile Ride Home
It was a nine mile drive from our little town to where my Grandmother and Grandfather lived out on their small ranch. Past wheat fields, farm houses, windmills, and grazing cattle until you came to "the creekbed". There was no bridge. It would be passable--sometimes; others, we would have to wait for the flood waters to recede before attempting to cross. But that creekbed was always a natural barrier which determined whether or not we made it home.
I had my first driving lesson along that road; my grandfather had purchased a used black Chevy towncar. The gear box was a simple "H" on the floor, and after almost stripping the gears a few times, I got the hang of it. I think Grandfather never did...I can still hear Nano saying to him, "Get your foot off the clutch, Pa!"
I wonder how many clutches he wore out.
But when we went past the creek we knew we were now only a mile from the ranch house and "home". How good it felt to swing open the gate and rush into that old kitchen with its linoleum floor and kerosene stove, perhaps grabbing the ice pick to get a chuck of ice out of the icebox when it was so hot outside and waiting for a glass of lemonade on the porch, sitting next to Nano on the swing. Such a place! The hours I spent there are among my fondest memories. There was not much in the way of entertainment, just a battery radio we played for an hour of "Amos and Andy" late at night and a set of dominos to shuffle by the light of a kerosene lantern. And stories to listen to--and tell.
Now as I sit here writing, I know why those particular memories mean so much to me.
It appears to me that each of us spends our lifetime trying to decorate our lives with the things that have comforted us the most. My father was raised in the hill country of central Texas, where sheep and peach orchards were a pastoral setting. And though he found himself later moving west where there were no peaches or sheep, he soon surrounded himself by them and worked hard to re-build his childhood into his adulthood. When I visited Cape Town in South Africa, I could not help but observe how the Dutch had built their same type houses as in Holland, even complete with the canals! I am certain they enjoyed their chocolates too, though far away from the Zider Zee.
One day it dawned on me that there was so little of my childhood I wished to drag along with me. Tragedy, death, loss of identity began early in my life. Unlike the Dutch who missed their windmills, and my dad's love of sheep and fresh peaches, I had no real roots in much of any kind of childhood treasures. It took a bit of time to relinquish my grip on self-pity and the false assumptions that I was the only person alive somehow destined to continual sorrow and misfortune.
It's an awesome thing that God would give us the ability to wander about in our past and remember certain events that shaped and transformed us. But I would have thought that the evil ones--the traumatic and sad times would so overpower the rest that I wouldn't care to go back--opening up the trunk containing my life experiences surely would not bring me joy. Yet, amazingly, when I begin to reflect on them, I find that each of them are now saturated with another dimension that now lets me see them so differently and with gratefulness for every storm I weathered, whether it came in the form of a torrential thunderstorm or in a cold, dreary mist.
I suddenly realized I didn't have to decorate my life with the painful images of the past. Orphaned, abused, searching desperately for love; little did I know how God could use a 9-mile ride through the flat, Texas prairie to let me find it--but not to an arrangement of luxury and comfort. Rather, to a farmhouse that was cold in winter, drafty, without electricity, telephone or indoor plumbing. There I would come to know that there is value to all of life's experiences--good or bad. Their worth is not measured by how little or how much pain they did or didn't cause me, but in how I looked around me to find the warmth of love without reservation; conversation without condemnation; hope and acceptance of simple blessings money could never buy.
A cornucopia of good was always there for me to relish if I were to choose to do so. For I know now that God who feeds the sparrows and takes note of every one that falls, was also letting me get a taste of His Goodness and mercy that would follow me "all the days of my life." And wherever I go, I now find it all around me in everything I see. Yes, even as scripture says:
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor
of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yeild no meat; the flock shall be cut off from
the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will
joy in the God of my salvation." (Hab 3:17-18)
How I pity those who've never crossed over the creekbed and continued on their 9-mile road home, but turned back when things looked impossible. For it is always just a matter of waiting for the waters to recede...
And they always will.
MARY ELIZABETH ADAMS