can’t go back…lessons from the road

If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
Concentration slips away
Cause your baby is so far away.
Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
Don’t sit cryin’ over good things you’ve had
,
Lyrics, The Isley Brothers


(the main stairwell in the Biltmore House / Ashville, NC / Julie Cook / 2020)

About a week or so ago,
I wrote a post bemoaning the fact that I had cared for sick grandkids who in turn,
unintentionally, gave me their sickness.

It seems that germs just love to travel and share themselves.
Just like the song by the Isley Brothers, you gotta love the ones you’re with…
germs will love any and all… whoever they are with or even near.

But this is NOT another post chattering on about coronavirus or the flu or any other bug.

This post is rather about adventure…
Or better yet…this is a post about lessons.

In that previous post, I had made mention that we had had a little impromptu adventure
while trying to escape all this unrelenting rain…

About two weeks ago, we were sitting in the house… sick and tired of sitting in the house.
It had rained for almost the entire month of February.
It was our wettest February on record.

Let’s get away” I proclaimed
My husband agreed.

We threw some things in a bag and headed north.
About a 4-hour drive north.

It had been years since we’d visited the Biltmore House
and thus that would be our destination.

We opted to stay at the Inn on the property,
spending the following day visiting the house,
then we would drive around the mountains before heading home.
Short and sweet.

And most importantly, it was minus the rain.

But then there was the snow.

However, let’s back up 40 years.

Back in 1980, I was a college student who had no real feel for what I wanted to do with my life.
I thought I knew.
I thought I had known.
I wanted to work with kids.
I wanted to write.
I wanted to work in advertising.
I wanted to meet a nice boy.
I wanted to get married and I wanted to be a mom.

I bounced back and forth between each different course and college major that were
more or less, a flavor of the day regime.

I have written about this journey when I first started blogging.
It was about how I finally made my way into teaching.

It was the summer of 1980 when my angst and turmoil finally came into focus in the
middle of the mountains of North Carolina.
Specifically, Black Mt., NC.

I had taken a job at a Christian summer camp for girls as a camp counselor—
Riflery Director oddly enough.

I spent my summers working at the camp until I graduated and made my
way to my first teaching post.
It was a position that would last 31 years.

So before we set out on this little adventure,
I asked my husband if we could drive over to Black Mt,
find a little inn for a night and spend an afternoon
wandering the little town before going to see the camp.

Knowing how important this place once was to me,
he knew he was now simply along for the ride.

When we started out from home on this northward drive,
we took an off-the-beaten-path route.
Many two and four-lane roads avoiding much of the interstate.
Crossing over into NC from Georgia, just before entering the Nantahala forest,
I caught sight of a homemade sign perched along the side of the road…
sitting boldly in plain sight.

It was a conversation bubble sign.
One conversation bubble read: “God, why won’t you send us someone who will help us?
The response bubble read: “I did, but you aborted them”

A powerful thought to chew on and get lost in while driving.

Our visit to the Biltmore was brief but enjoyable.
It had been meant to be our diversion,
a brief respite from our temperate rainy winter.

But then…it snowed.

The snow was pretty as it gently covered the mountains.
It was a gift from the relentless rain we had left back home.
Soft and silent.
White and muting.
A fitting and tender offering.

The small town of Black Mt. is about a 15-minute drive east from Ashville on I-40 or about
20 minutes via Hwy 70.

It was my home for several summers…a place that had left
and indelible mark upon my heart, soul and on the person who I would grow to be.

My former boss and dear friend, the camp’s director, had passed away several years away,
leaving the camp to now be run by two of his sons.

I had been very close to the older of the two boys.

At the time, he was instrumental in the growth of my Christian faith.

He was one of those individuals who you knew had a relationship with
Christ that transcended both time and space.
There was a depth not normally seen in “normal” Christians.
There was a mysticism.
There was a sense that He was privy to something that was not experienced by many others.
It was so much greater than…

There was a diligence to his faith.
A detachment from the world, yet done so graciously and most willingly.
It was a relationship that had been tried in a furnace…
a furnace so hot that it had burned away all the dross.

It was a relationship that I marveled over from afar.
A relationship that I wanted yet always felt as if it was just beyond my reach.

During that time, I had also become close friends with another counselor.
She and I both were attending the same college,
however, we had not met until our summers working at camp.

She was a hungry and joyous Christian..strong and uncompromising in her faith.

The three of us became quite the trio.
I earned the name slugly…the questioning one who always seemed to be
lagging a step behind.
The one who still had the one foot in the world.

Despite my now almost manic positive spin on life,
I carried a heavy black cloud.

Most often my friend and I both felt like students sitting at
the feet of a master teacher as we learned so very much from our older and wiser friend.

His had once been a hard and rough life.
We were fortunate to have met him long after the darkness.
We were the grateful recipients of the light now shining through him.

Yet as life would have it, we remained as close as we could,
as our lives simply took us each on different journeys.
I married first, followed by our friend then finally my fellow counselor friend,
found her true love.

Three different states, jobs, children, and life, made the years race past with less and less contact.

What might I find after 40 years?

I felt a sense of heaviness and nervousness…a journey of trepidation.
The excitement of what might be was shadowed by both what was and what
had passed.

I knew that the camp had grown and even changed.
A boys camp and also a climbing adventure camp has become spin-offs of the
original girls camp. Things were much larger and not as intimate.

Billy Graham was the camp’s neighbor, living on the neighboring mountain top
and Montreat College was less than a mile up the road.

Graham was now gone but the college was still there having, like everything else,
grown and expanded.

We drove up from the what was once a sleepy mountain town that has since boomed
into a buzzing home to artists, breweries and eclectic eateries–
a top NC mountain must-see travel destination crowned by all things southern
and travel, Southern Living…crowned as one of America’s most charming small towns.

I pulled into the familiar hemlock lined gravel drive leading up to the main house…
and that’s when I stopped the car for the briefest of moments before quickly deciding to turn around…
simply driving back to town.

Just like that.

With all that growing anticipation and wonderment I felt during our drive from home…
in the end, I knew that the girl who had spent her summers in this small part of the world
had, in the end, moved on.

I decided to drive back leaving what was.. simply to be.

Later that evening, once back in town,
we started walking the couple of blocks from our Inn to the trendy new restaurant
that had been recommended to us.

While walking rather briskly, shielding ourselves against the bitter cold,
a group of college-age young folks fell in line behind us on the sidewalk.

All we could hear was ‘F’ this and ‘F’ that as they weren’t but
a few steps behind.
There were no filters, no restraints, no consideration for our obvious older ears,
that was for sure

They were loud and raucous, cursing as if uttering simple words in conversation.
I turned and smiled while giving that knowing look of
“hey, consider the other folks in your surroundings
as your language just might not be suitable let alone appreciated
by those in such close earshot.”

The loudest gal in the group just looked at me, not missing a beat
with her profanity-laced chatter.

Thankfully they veered off to head into one of the local watering holes
while we kept walking.

Aggravated by the thought that the one place I had always held somewhat sacred
and somewhat protected,
as it had been just that for me all these years ago, was now just like any other place invaded by
a youthful, progressive left-leaning, mindset as I saw many a Bernie, pro-choice, coexist, and all
things feminist stickers stuck on the cars parked along the sidewalks.

With the crisp mountain air now laced with cigarette smoke, the sweet scent of weed and stale beer,
I could feel my shoulders slump just a tad.

There was now a heavy dose of melancholy and irony found in being just the other side of
Ashville…the home to the great writer, Thomas Wolfe…

Wolfe was right you know…we can’t go home again.
Home is never the same.
The then is no longer as it is simply the now.

I was clearly reminded that our home is truly not of this earth.
Our peace will not ever be found here despite our constant searching.

For we are indeed strangers in a strange land…
We seek a home where we know our hearts will finally be at rest…
it is our life’s innate quest really.
Seeking a home that is beyond that which we have known…a home
that is eternal and somewhere just beyond those mountains I once
considered my haven of peace.

I think that’s what my friend had known all those years ago…it just took
me forty years to figure it out.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,
so that when they speak against you as evildoers,
they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

Can love come in a box…along with the wisdom gleaned from the road

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
St. Augustine of Hippo

DSCN2603
(Meet Namar Nich, the latest member of the family / Julie Cook / 2016)

To quickly answer the question posed in today’s title…
…in a nutshell…
“no”
Love cannot come in a box….

DSCN2598

Yet what exactly might come in a box you ask…??

Well…

Comfort can come in a box.
A little excitement can come in a box.
Sustenance can come in a box.
A brief moment of happiness or even a little joy can come in a box.
A small respite can come in a box.
A dose of fun can come in a box.
A bit of a diversion can come in a box.
Something new, old, borrowed or blue can come in a box….

And in our case, a little needed levity can come in a box…

Meet Gloria the Dammit doll’s new friends….they came, in a box, from China via LA
(yeah I was a little bummed discovering this crew is not a “Made in America” friendly clan)

DSCN2599

However, sad as it may be, only one friend out of this foreign lot is going to be staying…
The others have places to go and people to see…
As in anxiously expectant homes already in need and waiting desperately for some comfort, joy, new, excitement, diversion, happiness, fun and levity to arrive…

Meet Namar Nich

DSCN2600

Handsome little devil isn’t he?
Puffed out chest, beautiful mop of hair…
and those eyes….absolutely dreamy….

Gloria can hardly contain herself…you can see it in her face….

DSCN2602

Notice that coy little smile of hers and see how her eyes just dance at the first sight of Namar…

What kind of name is Namar you ask…
Well if you must know…
My dad graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in the early 50’s, where he was a member of the
SAE fraternity. Upon completion of his degree from Emory, he then moseyed on over to GA Tech and earned another degree…this coming from a man who really didn’t like school…
but do you want to know what Dad did like?
He liked beer.
As I suppose most college boys, as well as most fraternity boys, do…they indeed like beer…
And in Dad’s case, it was an obscure Philadelphia brew of the day, Namar Beer.
And if I could guess, it was an inexpensive beer as we must remember dad is cheap a most frugal individual.
His college stein, that now sits proudly on a table at my son’s home, has the lovely seal of Emory University on the front and the name “Namar” elegantly printed on the back.

Years back, when I was much younger, I had taken dad’s mug out of his curio cabinet for further inspection.
I was really impressed with the whole college seal but as I flipped it around, reading the name on the back, I was greatly intrigued.
Assuming “Namar” was some deep dark secret ritual name from his time spent at college, I can remember asking him with stately reverence what it stood for.
With eyes sparkling wide, I anxiously readied myself for some marvelous tale as to the meaning of “Namar” when he causally replied…
“oh that was the name of my favorite beer…guess I drank a good bit of it as my friends nicknamed me Namar Nich…”

REALLY?

namar-premium-bm-197-02-f
(a can of Philly’s best, Namar Beer…looks more like a can of motor oil…)

Needless to say one more tiny bubble burst in a long line of bursting bubbles as one more notch to Dad’s pedestal was knocked out from under the once loftier height….He’s now somewhere below sea level…but I digress…

And now you must remember that Gloria the Dammit doll had told me several weeks ago that she was tired. She has been working her fingers to the bones as life at Dad’s has been harrowing at best.
Gloria, my stepmother,….oh yeah, isn’t that the craziest thing, she and Gloria the Dammit doll both have the same name…anywhooo…Gloria, the stepmother, has been…well…not good….and when Gloria isn’t good and Dad isn’t good, which is how life has been as of late, Gloria the Dammit Doll is busy.

So I had promised to find Gloria a friend.
A helpmate who would help share in the load of balancing both the lives of my dad and stepmother….

DSCN2601

So off to Atlanta the three of us went…

The journey was the typical harrowing adventure when traversing the Atlanta interstate system.
Pot holes litter the highway which provide drivers with the same sense of riding a roller coaster just at a speed of 75 mph or greater depending on one’s foot and the need to keep up with the traffic flow.
Bouncing up and down, thankful to be buckled in and praying not to pop a tire…

Yet there was a bit of enlightenment during today’s journey.

The first happened along by way of a homemade roadside placard that was situated on a power line just to the right side of the interstate.
A large painted wooden board announced to one and all:
“Jesus is coming…Be Patient”

I couldn’t help but chuckle out loud.

I mused to myself…that yes, He is indeed coming back…
and with the way things are going in this broken down world of ours,
I know that I for one have been more than a bit anxious as to His ETA…or estimated time of arrival!

There’s a lot of wisdom in that sign…
He’s coming…it isn’t a question of yea or nay…He’s definitely coming…
Rather the concern is all in the timing…as to when exactly He’s coming…
and I can assure you that it won’t be in my preferred time frame that’s for certain—

Timing is God’s and God’s alone…and I am behooved to be mindful of such.
God’s got this…I don’t…which is often far too obvious…
I just have to trust knowing it’s all in His hands.
Not an easy task, especially with my current life in Atlanta,
but it’s not in my hands…it’s all in His….

And as I continued driving over to my life in Atlanta that is totally out of control and certainly out of my control, I am sweetly reminded that God’s got this….suddenly a wonderful sense of comfort washed over me… as I continued racing toward my destination with both Gloria and Namar in tow.

The second little life lesson gleaned happened one interstate over while I was driving past a tanker truck.
Glaring for all to behold, printed in bold black letters on the back of the tanker was the sign “if you’re getting passed on the right, you’re probably in the wrong lane”
Luckily for me I was to this guy’s left.

And here we have life in a nutshell…life by way of the world’s standards…
“hurry up or get over because the world is ready to pass you by…”

Both moments dealt with time…
One being God’s time,..or better yet, God’s timing…
while the other focused on the time of this world.
Both of which play into the craziness I call this life of mine…
with the single important factor being….
which of these two times will I abide by…??

I think I prefer the former of the two….

More to follow on life with the new couple, Namar and Gloria….
and of course the older couple…Mr Mole and Mrs. Loon

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:3