After our four enjoyable days with our friends Sherry and Greg in Minnesota, Rich and I loaded up the Harley and set off on the next leg of our adventure. We headed west from Brainerd toward North Dakota. The scenery started changing as we approached the border between the two states, becoming flatter and less green.
As was our norm, we stopped for a break and a tank up after about an hour and a half of riding. Then we continued for about the same amount of time until our tummies told us it was time to get some lunch. We had noticed that the exits had grown further apart and offered very few food options, so as soon as we saw an Arby’s we decided to pull off. We are not big “fast-food” eaters, but Arby’s passes muster for a quick lunch.
Once inside, I made my food choices and left Rich to pick up the order while I went to choose a table from which we could keep an eye on the bike. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and they were seated about three tables away from our window table. They were an older couple and the husband was in a wheelchair, and I could hear them talking quietly from time to time.
Rich bought our order to the table and we quickly got organized and ready to eat. Then, as always, we held hands and thanked God for a safe trip so far, asked him to continue to bless and protect us, to bless the food and continue to feed us spiritually. Then it was time to dig in and eat up.
I guess we were about half way through our meal when I became aware that the woman from the other couple was clearing away their things. Suddenly she was standing beside us and, leaning in toward us, she apologized for interrupting us. We said, no problem, and she carried on talking to let us know why she had come over.
She explained that she was “one of us” and that it had really warmed her heart to see us praying over our food before we began eating. She said that sometimes it was very hard to be a Christian because she felt we were in a minority. She also said that not many people were willing to be public about their belief in God and that as we prayed we had allowed her to feel as though she were “not alone”. It was a very warm moment of fellowship and my heart went out to her.
Rich agreed with her and told her that just a week or so ago we had done the same thing as she had. We had been having a meal at one of our favorite salad bars, “Sweet Tomatoes”, when a woman and her two daughters came and sat at the table across the aisle to us. Once they had settled into the booth, they all bowed their heads and said a prayer of blessing over their food. I remember how heart-warming it felt for us to see that, and as we left the restaurant Rich had paused briefly at their table to let them know how great it had been to witness that.
We exchanged farewells with the woman, and as she pushed her husband out of Arby’s I wondered what their story was. We feel very blessed to have met certain people, complete strangers, on our ride who have uplifted us and shared a God-moment with us. And I remembered that other couple in the rest stop parking lot in Tennessee who had cared enough about us to pray for our safety as we began our long trip.
In my previous posting Vignette- Paula in Minnesota, I mentioned the “travelling dinner”. I vaguely remember some years ago a friend talking about a “neighborhood dinner”, where everyone from the neighborhood (a fairly small one I believe) shared a meal. However, instead of all coming to one house to eat, the families went from house to house eating a course here and another there.
So on one of the evenings that we spent at Sherry and Greg’s place in Minnesota, we were invited to participate in a travelling dinner. Two of the couples did not live in the immediate vicinity of Sherry and Greg’s house, but were great friends of all the people who did. So they brought their contributions to the meal to Deb and Crystal’s home.
On the appointed evening at the appointed time Sherry, Greg, Rich and myself walked down the driveway. It was a very pleasant evening so the walk was very enjoyable. We made a right-hand turn onto the road at the bottom of the driveway, walked about fifty yards, passing the driveway that led to Connie and Joe’s house (Sherry and Greg’s immediate neighbors), before making another right-hand turn into Deb and Crystal’s driveway.
No house could be seen, so I wondered how long of a walk this was going to be. I needn’t have worried. The driveway sloped upward for about fifty yards and as we crested the top we saw that it then sloped downwards for about another fifty yards and there at the bottom, slightly to the right, stood the house. From this view point it appeared to be a one-story building with beautifully cultivated flower beds on the one side, and a wonderful large fire pit encircled by brightly colored Adirondack chairs which in turn were surrounded by more raised flower beds. All this was then surrounded by lush green grass and trees. Another piece of heaven!
But the view of the house was deceptive because it was built on a fairly steep slope. It wasn’t until another day that I saw the other side of the house and realized there was a lower level which contained a spacious apartment where Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s sister, Paula, lived. It took me a while to actually go into the house because, being the gardener that I am, I had to check out all the beautiful flowers in bloom and the various plants that I didn’t recognize, plus there were lots of interesting and whimsical garden decorations to look at.
Eventually I made it inside where there were some delightful appetizers laid out. Once we filled our plates, most of us migrated through the kitchen and dining area to a lovely screened-in room located at the back of the house. The view was as delicious as the food we ate. As I mentioned before, the house was built on a fairly steep slope, so this room was was quite elevated and gave the impression that we were seated among the tree tops. (For me it was a small God-moment.) It was here that we got to meet the non-neighbors, Char and Frank and Doug and Deb.
After about forty five minutes of eating and socializing, it was deemed time to move to the next course. This was to be eaten at Connie and Joe’s house and we were told that we were going via the “scenic route”. So we all trooped out in Indian file and followed a pathway that they had created through the woods connecting the two houses. It was rather magical and I half expected fairies and pixies to jump out from behind the trees. The crossing point between the two properties was marked by a lovely vine-covered trellis archway that stood over a couple of steps down. My heart actually started beating a little faster right here because in a “deja vue” moment it reminded me of my Dad’s garden. (See my posting Vignettes- My Kingdom.)
All of these neighbors are avid gardeners, so we found ourselves stepping into another beautifully appointed garden where flower beds were in full bloom with lots of lush greenery everywhere and more whimsical garden features. We spent quite a bit of time checking everything out. A special mention needs to be made here about Joe’s “work shed”. I’m talking about a GIGANTIC work shed the size of a small warehouse. There were big tools and small tools, and every kind of small (and some not so small) machinery all neatly laid out. As you can imagine, the men folks in our party were in hog heaven.
After admiring everything, flower beds and the work shed contents, we all drifted into Connie and Joe’s where a second round of appetizers was laid out. More eating and more socializing took place and by this time a few glasses of wine had been consumed so there was lots of merriment and laughter. In the meantime some rain clouds had gathered and so we got sprinkled on a little as we made our way over to Sherry and Greg’s. Earlier in the afternoon I had helped Sherry assemble a huge bowl of a very colorful mixed salad into which we had put everything bar the kitchen sink! As people came in, we tossed it in a home made dressing and in no time at all that huge bowl was empty.
We were all beginning to get full tummies but the walk back to Deb and Crystal’s house must have helped our digestive systems because we were ready for the main course by the time we got there. Actually some of us rode in the car because of the rain, but we were still ready. I think the laughter and the socializing shook the food down nicely because we even had room for dessert after eating yet another plateful of food. It was altogether a very fun experience and I’m already plotting and planning to see how I can replicate it, even though most of my friends live in rather spread out areas. But maybe that will make it even more interesting. I’ll let you know when and how I make it happen.
I have been getting my notes together to write up several posts as promised in my last article. However, before I write those posts I need to write a small vignette that I experienced a week ago. My husband and I are Christian music fans and we had tickets to attend a concert in Jacksonville.
There were three acts. The opener was Trevor Morgan, a new voice on the Christian music scene and very talented. He was followed by the band 10th Avenue North which has been playing the Christian scene for several years now and have become very popular. To round out the evening in top billing place was a great band called Third Day who we had previously seen at Disney’s Night of Joy. This band has been playing together for about twenty years and I really like them. Their lead singer has a most unusual voice.
As we settled into our seats, I was sitting to the right of Richard, we were joined on Richard’s left by a young mother and her son. I guess the boy was about ten years old and it became fairly obvious that he was very excited to be at the concert. After a short conversation, we discovered that he was a die-hard Third Day fan and he could barely wait for them to come on stage.
The concert began and we all thoroughly enjoyed Trevor Morgan. I think we will be hearing a lot more of him in the future. Tenth Avenue North gave us a great performance and took us up to the interval. Richard went off to grab us some water, and the mother and son also left the auditorium. When they came back the boy was happily munching on a giant pretzel. His mother said he needed “replenishing before Third Day appears”.
After a few moments, she opened a bag and pulled out a couple of CD’s. With a certain air of wishful expectation, the boy asked her what she had bought and I heard her tell him that she had really liked Trevor Morgan and wanted to support him so had decided to buy his CD. She then went on to say she had really enjoyed Tenth Avenue North and didn’t have any of their music at home and wanted to get their CD too. I saw the boy’s expression drop somewhat at that piece of news, but then his Mom said, “but then I changed my mind and got the Third Day CD.”
It had been a while since I saw someone’s face light up in such a way. The boy gasped, his eyes opened wide, and this great big grin spread all over his face. He put his pretzel down and held both hands out for the CD. Smiling happily the mom handed it over and ecstatically the boy took hold of it and drew it in towards his chest. He sat there for a few moments without saying a word. He clasped the CD to his heart, his eyes were closed and a beatific smile spread from ear to ear. He was totally “in love” in that moment.
After a while, he opened his eyes and slowly began to examine the CD. It was as though he was holding a precious jewel. He lovingly stroked the front cover and I fully expected him to start drooling any minute. He carefully turned the CD over and I assume he was reading the song titles. At this point the mom said that she would put it back in the bag until they got home and she put her hand out to take it. But the boy clutched it, kissed it, and put it back to his heart, closing his eyes once again in sheer sublime happiness.
I was so in awe of this whole little scene that played out right there beside us, and just very impressed that this young man was so passionate about a Christian band. I was also grateful that he had a very loving and supportive mother. She gently explained that if he wanted to finish his pretzel he would need to let go of the CD and that it would be safer back in the bag. I also heard her say that he could play it as soon as they got into the car for the ride home. He reluctantly let go after a couple more kisses!!
Well he then had his heart’s desire fulfilled when Third Day took the stage and played practically non-stop for almost two hours. It was truly a remarkable performance and the boy stood in his seat for the entire time, eyes sparkling and singing along with the songs that he recognized. What a great evening we all had and I know I will remember that boy’s face forever.