I scurried into our cabin last night in the blackness (Tennessee gets ridic dark!) with a stomach aching from laughing. My favorite quote of the evening was from one of the girls, describing which of our wedding photos was her favorite. I love the one of you holding onto Mr. Walker's arm right after you're married, facing the church, and Miss Kelly is in the background looking sympathetic. (I burst out laughing) I mean sincere! It's been an amazing few days, and I have been sucking instants in like a vacuum. The two days at the Ranch, so far, have been dense with love, and goodness---I am loving instants of chatting with the girls, the ‘Mrs. Alie, remember when you . . .’s, lounging on the big red chenille couch that looks like a massive red velvet cake. Words to summarize this place only catch a fleeting corner of the image I wish I could give you. This place is special for many, many reasons. I am blessed to have been there, and blessed to be back.
The ranch is huddled in a valley with steep mountains dotted with log cabins vaulting up, and yesterday the snow had sifted onto the trees, and the texture of those mountains was as invigorating as ever. The mountains are astoundingly beautiful. The song that is constantly plays in my head here is the remake of the psalm: I lift my eyes up, unto the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from you, Maker of heaven, Creator of the earth.
I'd forgotten how natural it all is, this ranch with manure on the ground, and wet, clay roads. Yesterday, a trapper visited the ranch with a coyote in his truck. The smell of wood smoke at night, land so stunning that it abuts a national park. I could write on and on about this place, but the place has faded as I’ve seen, in the people, His heart. I will always love it here for that.
It's surreal to be in a place where people, with their welcoming and enveloping love, come year after year to give and give and give until they are sometimes empty, to hold onto hope for the hopeless, to give drinks of water to the thirsty and tired, to put bandaids and to tuck children in, knowing one day they must let go. I came to the Ranch to teach, but every day there, and every day now, I learn. (apologies to Christy) I learn that God is here walking along gravel roads with tired feet. He fills with the power to love in disappointment. I learn that children only want love. They want to be held, and told they are beautiful, and told they did well.
I want everyone reading this to know that my husband is a saint to take me on his vacation to a place that will always hold part of my heart, and to let me spend an entire day talking to my friends, listening to girls. My husband is a saint for being pushed into the corner of the couch as clinging girls pile next to us. My husband is a saint for taking seven girls out to Bubba Gump’s and not rolling his eyes at us. He took all these amazing photos.
We're on a brief siesta from the Ranch, visiting Walker's relatives here in Alabama, and man, is it ever bright and warm and, man, are we being spoiled. There is nothing like living in Europe to make you love a morning in a sunny Starbucks, a night in a huge hotel room with three sinks for two people, and plates and plates of Southern comfort food.
And, in all this bounty---of love, of friends, of family, of sweet potatoes and fried okra---I'm probably humming. Our help comes from You. I lift my eyes up.