As a child I used to announce to my mother that I was going to live on a farm when I grew up. Twenty some years later, I found myself in Kleinfeltersville, where I was destined to meet my soul mate. I met Dwain relatively quickly, and I have lived with him since, on a farmette in a lovely farm house. While my home means the world to me, visiting the finger lakes of New York has been transforming. My mother and father were from upstate NY, and mom was torn away from her family and all she ever knew, to move, with an infant and golden retriever puppy, to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Mary Lou suffered from depression. There were times when, after her father and mother passed, that my mother was inconsolable, and struggling for a way to help her, she would cry–
“You have no idea, none whatsoever, of what I left behind to move here. The people, small town living, my family……”
I may have struggled with our relationship, and I was the black sheep child, but my mother was one tough woman. Dad travelled for a living, and at times she was left with three children and no vehicle. Looking back, she was an amazing, if not deeply troubled, mother. I know for sure I could never have accomplished what she did in her 59 years here on earth, and I phoned her each and every day until she passed. But back then? She was right-I did not understand.
Living in my neck of the woods, down in Pennsylvania, has been both wonderful and brutal. For the first fifteen years, I was known as the harlot from Philly, who left her husband one week after her honeymoon, to live with Dwain, quite possibly the most popular man in Lebanon County. Everyone knows him, and for the most part, he has been content to remain in the area he was born in, and he knows every damn person in that town, just try grocery shopping with him-there is no such thing as a stranger to my husband, and for that I am thankful.
The folks in our area, which is quickly becoming “the place to be,” are, to put this kindly; well, stoic would be a nice word. We are surrounded by Amish (very kind, but shy) and Mennonite alike (not generalizing or judging, but they pretty much own the area.) Each and every time a house goes up for estate sale, a rich Mennonite will buy not only that property, but the surrounding fifty acres to boot. There is literally less than a 5% chance that a “worldly” person could ever afford to beat their price, and my husband’s street, which used to consist of his entire family, well, most of them are in nursing homes now. Which brings me to my point: from the minute we stepped into the Norman Rockwellesque town of Wells, I have been absolutely smitten. The area is beyond beautiful, but that isn’t the pull. As I’ve said before, we are blessed to live on seven acres of picture perfect land which includes a pond, gardens and deer plots. I am fortunate enough to live next to my best friend-but when they retire and move upstate, well-it will change things, to be sure.
I am in utter awe of the way Jesus leads us out of despair, tragic circumstances and disease-to a new place, a more secure and peaceful place. We stopped into the Wells Methodist Church this morning. There were approximately twelve people in that building. The pastor, band and congregation, tiny as it was-they surprised us with a joyful rendition of Happy Anniversary, after I had given praise for our strong marriage. No children, no teenagers, no one under the age of 55. It deeply saddened me to see this, to the point of tears, actually. The town is full of quaint and lovely chapels; the kind you see in the movies in states like Vermont, or Cape Cod. The homes along Lake Algonquin are charming, rustic, precious. Today we hiked the “swinging bridge” trail, and I stood before this lovely, but swaying 300 foot, wooden, open bridge. I am terrified of heights, and the notion of taking Jesse, my golden retriever, over that bridge, well, let me just say that I never thought, even for a millisecond, that I would cross that death trap. My husband stood there:
“Come on honey, you can do it,” he called. No pressure, I am certain he thought the hike was over, that we would turn around and head back to the cottage, but from absolutely nowhere, I surprised myself as well as him, and took my first steps.
No fear. None. I knew in my heart that I was divinely protected. I also knew that this was not a simple bridge crossing-but a declaration of independence from my anxiety, my deeply instilled hang ups, my depression. At the other side of the bridge walked a woman named Beth. We began a discussion and discovered that while we are 103 Park West, she and her family were 103 Park East, we made fast friends and exchanged information-and I don’t believe in coincidence……not any longer.
The pastor’s sermon was about Exodus and the “spoiled brat Israelites,” who complained because they were slaves in Egypt (I get it) and then, after God and Moses brought them to the land of milk and honey? Where they were fed and watched over, even shielded from harm. And then they complained because there was no meat. God provided quail, but yet they still grumbled. I saw myself in that scripture, the way I became unhinged at the idea of leaving my comfort zone, what an ungrateful little princess I was.
Jesus has delivered me from anorexia, bulimia, depression, cancer, alcoholism, and drug addiction. He has led me to the living waters, and there I find peace……day by day, moment by moment. We are planning on moving here when we retire, and Beth’s mother said it best when I stopped by the house this afternoon.
“Where are you staying dear?,” she asked.
103 Park West, I replied.
“Get the hell out of here!!!!!” she tooted. We began a conversation about the people from New York, versus the people back home.
“New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians don’t mix. Their children don’t mix. Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.”
I hugged her on the spot. And I thanked her profusely, for answering the question I have been asking for decades. Why don’t I fit in?
I have come home, and if I had that faith of a mustard seed, I would have expected this joy, peace, love…….and guidance from my Lord and Savior, who has never, ever let me down.