I want to tell you a little bit about my recent journey to the hills of eastern Tennessee and also to the hills of western North Carolina where I was born and raised. It is a story of broken made beautiful and a story of God's great grace and how if we are obedient to Him, if we can step out in faith and love like He wants us to, even when we are afraid that our love might be met with something less, He can and does work miracles. I was a bit afraid to go on this trip. I really didn't want the little bit that I had to be lost and a part of me feared that things might not go as I so hoped that they would.
There will be missing parts to my tale, for to tell it fully would require a book and to tell it partially might lead to misunderstanding some of the characters of my story and perhaps misjudging them. This story isn't about judgment, it is all about grace.
To begin I must tell a small part of our history, in order for you to perhaps be able to catch a glimpse of the miracles that I so clearly see occurring. I and my brother were raised by our father in the western foothills of North Carolina. Our mother left when I was very small and she married my father's brother. They had a daughter, my half sister.......and my first cousin....(no, that's not banjo's you hear). Needless to say you can probably imagine that the family was a bit torn regarding these things. My brother, my sister and me all paid a price in that tearing even though it was no fault of ours that these things occurred.
My sister and I have met perhaps three or four times over the course of 50 years, once when we were children and the rest at various funerals. We have probably had no more than a few minutes to talk each time. We have been friends on Facebook for about three years now and have spoken on the phone once or twice. As for my mother, I believe I have seen her four times since she left and only for very short periods.
I have always had a desire to know my sister, but circumstances and distance have always been an obstacle, along with my own feelings of inadequacy that kept me from stepping out there, lest it not work out and be a disappointment. I had truly believed that this was something I needed to set aside as chances are it just wasn't going to happen in this lifetime.
My sister's fiftieth birthday was approaching and her family wanted very much to surprise her with something special. As it turns out she is a lot like me so that wasn't an easy thing. She doesn't get much excited about jewelry and clothes and such so they had their task cut out for them. It had came up in conversation how much she would like to have some time to spend with me, her and I had mentioned on our Facebook how we would love to be able to sit on the porch and chat someday. So they decided to purchase tickets and present her with me as her fiftieth birthday present. It was a new experience for me. I had never been someone's birthday present before!
I was both excited and apprehensive about the trip. The excitement won out, for as I said earlier I had always wished for more time with my sister, time to sit and talk, time to get to know each other. Finally the day arrived and I boarded the plane to begin my journey. I won't bore you with the details of that journey from New Mexico to that beautiful Tennessee valley surrounded by rolling hills, needless to say I arrived safely.
Her daughter surprised her by having her read a birthday card aloud while she faced the wall, I slipped in during the middle of this and stood waiting for her to turn around. She was surprised. Totally surprised. We both cried.
And thus began a whirlwind of four days of hysterical laughter, some beautiful tears, many long talks, a lot of cigar smoking (probably too much cigar smoking) and a couple of fake tattoos (which in retrospect were probably a mistake on both our parts). We walked all over the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains and all over the city of Gatlinburg. I was able to spend time with her beautiful family and get to know them. We spent an entire day with my brother and we visited with his family, and I had the second hottest Prawns Diablo in my life, believe it or not they were served in a Mexican restaurant in North Carolina. Who would have thought!
And of course nothing is ever complete in my life without some animals in it, so here's to Scooter, Trixie, Socks and Bullseye who all shared their canine kindness with me, and here's to Bessie 1-47, the kindly cows who tolerated my early morning conversations in the fields near my sister's home.
But the real beauty of the entire trip was getting to know my sister, to find that she was very much like me, almost eerily so seeing how she was raised by our mother and I was not. During this four day period, God took all the brokenness between us, brokenness that was not of our doing and he forged a relationship. It is like I have known her always, and although I already loved her, she has now become quite precious to me. It was amazing how well everything went, how it was as if we had always known each other, and we marveled at how much alike we were. It was a bit like finding out you have a twin. I will forever treasure this time we had together. It was dear to me and in truth there simply are not the words to adequately capture what those four days meant to me.
And I experienced another miracle of broken made beautiful when I met and spent some time with my mother. I really did not want to, to be honest, it was just so much easier to keep these things at a distance less one be disappointed. I harbored no ill will towards her but I was accustomed to not having her in my life and content to continue it that way. But God kept pressing me that I needed to see her. In obedience to Him I did so, and I was greatly surprised when my eyes beheld this beautiful lady, with white hair, and her blouse all a sparkle, and I loved her. All that had transpired in the past was finished and my heart was filled with love for this woman who had given birth to me. We were able to talk and laugh and I greatly enjoyed the short time we spent together.
The trip was amazing, it was renewing, it was beautiful in so many ways, a lot of it cannot be explained here in a blog post, as it's deeply personal to the parties involved, but suffice to say that it was a miraculous gift from a gracious God and I am in awe of all that He accomplished in my life and the lives of others during this short trip back home.
I have a sister......I have always had her, but now I know her and we have a relationship and she is beautiful, and wonderful and I love her to death. She now knows that she has a sister and a brother and hopefully she knows that she is as much a part of us as if she had come up along side us in all the hard times we endured growing up. She is family. The only regrets, the only sorrow that I have from this trip is that we all waited so darn long to get together, yet even in this I believe God orchestrated it all and His timing is perfect.
Here are just a few of my photos from my trip that capture some of the physical beauty of all the places we went. From the view from my sister's front porch, to the North Carolina mountains I saw the majesty of God's creation, but the most beautiful thing will ever be the wonderful mosaic that God created from our brokenness. He does indeed make the broken beautiful.