Building the Bridge

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (English Standard Version)

 

I haven’t written in a while. January is one of my favorite months of the year. For me, it’s normally a quiet month, a month to glance backwards and forwards—an examination of where you’ve been and where you’re going. A month to refuel the creative fires. Can you relate?

This year my January has been a nightmarish forest fire. I’ve had my water hose out attempting to put out the flames created by three teenage sons. Whew! I’m still smelling the smoke. In the midst of the disciplining, redirecting, and problem solving my husband went on a week-long hunting trip to Spain.

I about knocked him over when he walked jet-lagged through the door. “Don’t leave me with Them again.” I said. Although, I know he will next year because I married a man who needs his “man thing” on occasion. I’m looking forward to handing off the water hose when I leave him for a week in May, for a writing conference. Tit for tat.

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Bella excited for the tree to come down, so she has a place for her new dollhouse.

 

January hasn’t been all lost, I’ve been steadily working on my memoir, which includes a lot of glancing back at my rural childhood. This week, I’ve been remembering our house on Mockingbird Lane and the woods and creek behind it.

There was a clear trail that ran through them– a straighter path–but for some reason we preferred to trample through the briars and thicket, collecting our share of scratches and scars along the way.

Down the hill, where the forest became flat, there was a rushing creek. If we were to cross it, we’d risk stepping in dark waters, an encounter with a water moccasin, or a slip into the rushing waters. But the other side seemed to call to us. Over there, the tall trees flanked each side of a small clearing where the sun settled.

My brother Brandon decided he’d build a bridge. My sister, Tricia, and I carried 2×4’s and odd scraps through the cleared trail and laid the pieces one by one at Brandon’s feet. Within a week, a beautiful bridge was built complete with railings.

That bridge made our forest so much larger than it had been before. With the bridge in place, we had bountiful acres to explore and our adventures never ended.

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With my boys I’ve wondered why in life are we tempted to take the treacherous path that leads to wounds and scars instead of staying on the already cleared one that God has provided for us? He clears the way for us to carry our burdens and sins and lay them at the Master Craftsman’s feet. Here, Jesus Christ becomes the bridge over darkness, poisonous sins, and the slippery rush a of culture, to a more abundant life.

I can relate to my boys. I had and have rebellious tendencies. I had a friend in my twenties who called me a “rebel without a clue.” I had a strong desire to explore against the worn trail of convention. I may have acquired my share of scratches and scars during that time, but I also gained wisdom, a growth in faith, and stories to tell of a God who shined a light in the thicket to show me the way out.

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A wise friend told me, “Look at it this way, if we put our kids in a bubble protecting them from making mistakes, then we will kill what God is trying to teach them and their potential testimonies in the process.” (Thank you Yvonne Zavada) Unfortunately, some of us are built to learn the hard ways.

 

 

This verse God has placed in front of me multiple times in January. Maybe you’re having a January like mine, and you could use it too.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV

Bracing myself for that one’s teenage years. sigh!

 

See you when the smoke clears…

 

Finding Your Place

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A road in Suffolk, Va.

I grew up on a street my mother named. When my parents purchased a three- bedroom, two- bath ranch in Suffolk Virginia, Momma loved everything but the name of the street. Ford Lane didn’t evoke enough whimsy or excitement for my mother, Priscilla. She wrote up a petition, loaded her small brood into the car and went door to door encouraging signatures from the residents. The houses were tucked past farming fields and wooded acres. Once the 10 residents (or so) signed her petition, the “Ford Lane” sign came down and “Mockingbird Lane” sign went up. We staked our claim. We found our place.

When autumn rolls in I long for my home on Mockingbird Lane in Suffolk, Virginia. I love the quote “home is where our story begins,” because the story I remember started there. By this time of year, I’m sure trees behind our home are turning bright red and orange. The forest floor will soon be covered in a red damp carpet. Momma would always start a fire in the fireplace by late afternoon, and from deep in the woods, where my siblings and I played after school, we could smell the aroma of burning oak in the air.

There were hills, ponds, creeks, and caves. We’d get into all sorts of trouble and find a way out. Momma didn’t mind us disappearing for hours at a time, as long as we took our dogs with us. By dark, Momma hollered from the back porch.

“Kids! Supper’s ready!”

Her voice echoed off the hills and down by the creek. We’d practically kill ourselves sprinting through the briars and branches in an attempt to get home fast, so she’d never know how deep in the woods we were.

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Colin trying out a rope swing in the Smokey Mountains of Tenn.

 

I waited for my three boys to become big enough before I took them exploring through the forest behind Momma’s house. They seemed timid following me through the overgrown trail, climbing down the hill, and crossing the creek. It was unknown territory to my Orlando native theme park babes. I glanced back at them. “Come on!” I said. “Don’t be scared. I know where we’re going. This was myplayground.” We reached the creek with the huge hills on each side. The water rushed down creek, making that gushing sound people buy fountains for. Their eyes lit up with boy wonder. “There’s a cave in the side of that hill.” I pointed. “I got stuck in it once. I don’t recommend it. And in the creek, you can catch crawdaddies. We caught some, kept them as pets for a while, but when we got bored with them we boiled them on the stove and ate them. You pinch the tail and suck the head.”

“What did they taste like?” Christian said.

“Mud.” I pointed further down the creek. “Your Uncle Brandon built a bridge there, so we could cross over without wading. We had a fort with a large black rat snake. Longest and fattest snake ever, but he was nice. He just lounged around on the branch above our heads.”
As you can imagine, they looked at their mother differently after that tour. My history lesson bridged the gap between boys and Momma.

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Our last Christmas at Mockingbird Lane.

One day, after that tour, I saw the three of them sneaking off into the woods. I ran out onto the porch.  “Take the dog! You can go, but you must take the dog with you,” I said knowing the dog will lead them home. I sounded just like my Momma years ago.

My parents sold our home on Mockingbird lane a year before my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Their new lakefront home is better suited to handling our large family when we visit, but the move felt like losing my place, and perhaps a foreshadow to a much bigger loss that was to come a few years later, when my sister lost her battle.

Yesterday, my son Colin told me how much he missed his Granddaddy and Nanna’s house on Mockingbird Lane. “Do you know how lucky you were to be able to play in the woods all the time Momma?” He said.

“Now I do, but when I was your age I couldn’t wait to leave Suffolk.”

“I wish I could live there,” Colin said. “The woods seem to go on for miles. How did you not get lost in them?”

I smiled. “We did on occasion but getting lost was how we learned our way.”

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Our conversation made me realize how much place develops a person into who they become, and how often we look out the windows of our place and long to be somewhere else. There was a farming field out my bedroom window on Mockingbird that rotated between, cattle, corn, cotton, and peanuts—yawn– but the most amazing sunsets settled over that field at night. Meanwhile, as a teenager I longed for houses and neighbors.

God knows the value of place. He puts us in places where He can build us. Where our character, knowledge, or influence can be strengthened. He placed the Israelites into the sandy wilderness for forty long years, to teach them obedience and discipline. While we all know they were yearning for the tall grasses of the promised land.

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The lake my parents now live on.

Where has God placed you? Are you stuck in an apartment with loud neighbors? Still single? Still longing to become a mother? Stuck in a dead-end job? Battling an illness? Caretaker of the ill?  If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, there’s a reason for it.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 English Standard Version.

Don’t fret if your place doesn’t have the name you want or it’s not as exciting as somebody else’s neighborhood, for God knows the place you need.  Find contentment and stake your claim right where you are, for if you allow it God can take your external and design your internal.

 

See you at your place next week…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Splendor in Time

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I dug up the rocks and plopped them in a bucket, leaving digits in our front yard. Churned up over and over by the farmers in the hopes our soil would eventually swallow them, but the stubborn rocks still prevented the football games I’d imagined here. I stretched the kink out of my back, as my husband, the builder, wants to take my picture. I pose with my shovel.

“My country girl.” He laughed and shook his head, not understanding why I like to play in the dirt. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, while he’s a “we’ll just hire someone to do it” kind of guy, but somehow in our zooming twenty years of marriage, we fit like the soil hardened around those large rocks jutting my yard.

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Bella joined me. I told her to search for dinosaur bones, and she’s delighted.

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The next day, Colin and I drove the ATV to the river to look for fossils. I’d read shark teeth were found there. We dug in spots at the edge of the dark water only finding the treasure of each other again.

“Momma, we need to get a metal detector. Imagine the pirate treasure that could’ve washed up here from the ocean,” he said. Several times metal detector comes up as Colin often does when his pubescent mind wants something.

“Colin, you need to learn to live in the moment God puts in front of you, instead of yearning for something better.” I found a piece of driftwood. “Here, look for driftwood if you’re tired of digging in the sand.”

“But it’s just wood,” Colin said.

“It’s a piece of art, wood that is shaped and preserved by the salty waters.”

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We hiked along the beach and woods searching for nature’s art, spotting large cat tracks, coyote, raccoon, deer, wild hog along the way. A wildland recorded as scary to the white settlers. A place the Native American’s hid. A land we love. He made me laugh. A twig snaps. We spun around. My middle son Christian snuck up on us in full camouflage.

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“You guys need to clear out by 6:30pm,” he said walking toward us. “I’m hunting wild hog tonight.”

I stepped back knowing he’ll scold me for wearing perfume and leaving a trail along the beach. He walked on without noticing.

“How much time do we have?” I said.

Colin glanced at his phone. “Twenty minutes.”

I sighed.

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Our twentieth wedding anniversary snuck up on me this week. Earlier, Jay suggested dinner out. It seemed casual. We glanced at our sick Bella on the sofa snuggled with Nick, my eldest son. The builder wanted time… my time. I agreed to go.

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He pulled into the Ritz at Amelia Island. “Can’t we go to some small seafood place on the beach?  Someplace dark and intimate.”

“Nope, it’s a special night tonight,” he said.

We sat in the lounge. My black pants were a little short as my ankles peeked out. It was too cold for the dress I bought. I tugged my pants down to touch my ankle boots. He handed me a glass and we toasted our twenty years. The guitar player played our song, Someone to Watch Over Me. Gershwin’s words bring my late twenties with them. I didn’t think I needed him then. I just wanted him.

Today, I know I need him to watch over. He shoves the gun and radio in my hand before I head to the woods, while I roll my eyes. He yells at me as I dive off the ATV when it starts to tip over. While I never worry about dangers, he keeps a lookout. While I like to do the work, he tries to make life easier by hiring the help.

At the Ritz, he kneeled on one knee. His lip quivered. He opened a box. I stared at the contents afraid to touch the too much. “Will you have me another twenty years?” he said. Tears filled his eyes. He was more nervous than he was asking me the first time. He’s tried to build a perfect moment.

I lifted my weathered hand… artist and mother…hands that are washed too much. He slipped the ring on my finger, and I saw the remnants of our dig still under my nails after all the brushing. I’m embarrassed.

“That’s your original diamond, just a new setting. I built it myself.” He’s proud. I told him I’m relieved he didn’t trade up my diamond. “I wanted to build on our foundation,” he said.

I glanced at the ring and see my ankles sticking out again. I remembered the scolding I gave Colin to enjoy the moment in front of him. I forget my fingernails. Stopped tugging at my pants. Gratefulness pinks my cheeks. I lowered my hand and looked at my treasure. A treasure I found drifting by when I was picking in the dirt of my career. In him, I’ve found splendor in the grasses of time, in the plucking out the rocks so the roots of love grow deep, and in the simple moments that drift by.  

He lowered his glass. “I reserved a room on the ocean, but since Bella’s sick I didn’t think you’d want to stay the night, but we can get room service. Spend some time alone before going back.”

I smiled. “That sounds perfect.”

 

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