it should have been easy. it was not. after getting her momma reconnected with her stepsisters, she also re-engaged with them in the hopes of learning more about grandma.
she talked with the oldest of momma’s stepsisters, then with the youngest. it was great to visit and talk with them. yes, it was. but it did not provide any of the answers to her questions.
what was grandma like?
what was her personality? what were her hobbies? did she like music? horses? dogs or cats or both? did she bake or cook?
no one could really say. grandma had been ill and in hospital often. she was there more than she was home. her daughters didn’t really know her, either. there were a few photos of her left. she asked for copies to be sent to her but they never came.
was there any family resemblance?
did momma look like grandma? did she look like grandma? hmmm. another idea came to her. would it be possible to see grandma in the cloud of witnesses? could she, would she make herself known? could she share more about her life in a visitation? maybe. it was worth asking daddy god about.
he did have one answer for her. he told her one morning on her commute to work. in a brilliant movie reel playing in her mind, so many things became clear.
“your grandmother was a worshipper. she loved to sing.”
the mystery of this place began when she was small. once the beckoning began, it never really left. indeed, it grew over time as more clues were given to her. it was akin to following bread crumbs. when ‘birds’ got to them (aka distractions) before she did, the trail would grow cold.
the first trip to the enchanted land was to celebrate a wedding. their little family got in the car for a two week long vacation, nearly unheard of for farmers in the midwest. you simply did not leave your cows in someone else’s hands for that long. but here they were, taking a break from milking cows and slopping hogs. the adventure took them across the country to hillsboro, oregon.
the memories were foggy. she was in second grade at the time. momma’s momma had died, and the relatives on this side of the family were dwindling. it quickly became important for momma to meet her momma’s surviving relatives. there were two uncles. this visit would introduce them to uncle dwight, married to aunt joan who had three daughters from her first marriage. her oldest daughter was getting married. it was hard not to get it all confused.
the ride across the country was almost tortuous for her and her brother. neither of them fared so well in the back seat of the chevy malibu. there were a lot of stops to manage car sickness, especially over high mountain passes. daddy was angry and frustrated, often getting sick himself just because the kids were. momma had the baby in the front seat with her and daddy, too.
after endless miles, they got into a big city with bridges everywhere. she vividly remembered the double-decker bridge with police sirens and lights going all around them. it was a lot for farm kids to take in. they got to uncle dwight’s house, stayed a few days and went to a wedding. she didn’t remember much else. the place stayed with her, though.
oregon came back into focus via a long-distance relationship years later. the fascination grew like wild ivy. it seemed father god was using the relationship to draw her. it worked. she made plans to visit her friend and looked into a job transfer at the same time.
she went west for a short visit and was completely enthralled. this place was like narnia in every good way – flora, fauna, climate, mountains, ocean. it was all there. it was alive and it called her name.
as she dreamed of moving and transferring her job, a roadblock appeared in the form of an angry boss who wouldn’t approve the transfer. complications, delays, frustration came again. more time passed.
then that book came out, the one that made everyone crazy. it was called, “the shack.” a friend sent her a copy in the mail. when she got it, she opened it up and began to read. by 2 am, she’d read through it twice and within 24 hours, she’d been through it three times, laughing, crying, sobbing. it wrecked her through and through.
not only was papa god doing things in her heart, he was also calling her home, back to her roots. this time, there was no doubt. she had to go. the relationship had fallen apart almost two years earlier after his sister had died from breast cancer. it had devastated him.
she decided to check in on him, and they picked up right where they left off. they talked on the phone every day, sometimes for hours. it was good until she told him she was coming for a visit. he wasn’t ready, afraid of loving again, but he didn’t know how to say it. he stopped answering her calls. he was on the run.
she bought the one-way ticket anyway, she had marching orders. when he didn’t show up at the train station, it wasn’t a surprise. inconvenient, yes, but not impossible. it was a rocky beginning to a new life, but she kept moving forward even in the uncertainty.
after nine months of scraping by, she got a full-time job. her dialog with papa god shifted to asking more focused questions that began with ‘why’ and ‘what.’ “why am i here? what am i doing?” those were the big ones, the questions that burned in her.
one day, she asked the question again. keep asking, right? this time, she clearly heard the response from papa god. “you’re here in part to complete the assignment given to your grandmother.” what?? she wrinkled her brow. sometimes she wished he would just give the answer clearly, right up front. really.
he enjoyed the process of walking her through these opportunities for delight while she wanted to stomp her feet in frustration. his answer only led to another question. “what does that mean?” she asked herself. no one knew much about momma’s momma, her grandma. this woman’s life was like a mist. there wasn’t much to grab onto.
the digging began again, with more intensity. it meant more conversations with momma. and there was more reconnaissance to do. over the years, momma and her stepsisters got disconnected again. they didn’t know she’d been sick, had part of one leg amputated and was now living in a nursing home.
for the past few years, momma had talked about getting in touch with them but never pursued it. she and momma talked about it again over the phone on a lunch break. it was clear that momma wanted to talk to her stepsisters again, problem was she didn’t have contact information for them anymore. she didn’t, no, but the internet did.
she almost ran back to the office to get on her computer. in twenty minutes, she tracked down an address and phone number for the oldest stepsister in kansas city. she ran off to the conference room and made the call. she knew it was the right number when she recognized the voice on the other end. they talked for a little while to get caught up. she gave the stepsister momma’s number so they could reconnect.
there, that piece was done. now it would be easy to get the answers she needed about the grandma she’d never met met. what were her hobbies? her likes? her dislikes? had she hiked mount hood? did she like to go to the coast? what made her laugh and cry?
the most important question loomed larger than all the others. what was grandma assigned to do in the earth that she did not finish?
she recalled meeting them, visiting for the first time. she heard holy spirit say, ‘family,’ softly to her. it was how she knew she belonged with them. it was confirmation.
the woman became a sister and a daughter. the man became a son, a brother, a protector. she had missed growing up with her siblings. these relationships provided restoration and fulfillment of those longings and desires.
papa. he was good to her again. over and over. always. forever.
she had long talks with papa about him after the big move. in the first conversation, he asked her to wait for him one year. he gave her choices and options. they reasoned together. she agreed to wait one year.
two months later, papa spoke again on the same topic.
she was at her desk when she heard his voice.
“i am no longer asking you to wait for him.
you have waited long enough.
i want you to move forward.
i will restore.”
his words stunned her as she sat up straight.
she took a breath and a minute to process his words.
his voice was strong, tender, purposeful, fatherly.
his direction came as a surprise. but papa knew the end from the beginning.
the cord had been cut.
the processing began soon afterward. grief, anger, shock, betrayal, sorrow.
sometimes the deep longing to hold his hand again would unravel her.
she blessed him. she prayed for him when he came to mind.
papa had movies for her to watch. they helped her process emotions, to see beyond, to see glimpses of what he would do for her.
he encouraged her, sometimes saying, “great is your reward, child.”
she believed him. she had been faithful and obedient.
she began to sleep again. she learned to breathe again.
she soaked in worship music and healing frequencies at night as she slept.
sweet praise and rest brought healing.
jesus beckoned her to the beach. it was time to meet again. she went.
the touch of the sand under her feet brought more healing and balance to her body.
she worshipped as she walked, singing into the wind at the top of her lungs.
then he was there. suddenly. he’s like that. suddenly. it took her breath away.
the lion spoke.
“it was harder for you to let go because you didn’t really trust that i loved him, that i had him. but i want you to know this: i love my son more than you love your husband.
you can trust this. you can open your hands all the way and release him to me.”
she looked up in the sky. waves washed over her feet. the sand was cool.
She opened her hands and spoke the words out loud. she let him go.
then she drew an imaginary line in front of her.
with great joy and intentionality, she stepped over it.
there would be no more sorrow over what was, over what might have been.