My favorite new restaurant is the Happy Cafe in downtown Blackstone in southside Virginia. Blackstone is a small town, about 3650 people, in Nottoway County which has fewer than 16,000 people. As soon as I entered the Happy Cafe and heard jazz playing, I knew I’d like it. The food is delicious and made on-site; their bread pudding with ice cream is incredible! I used to make bread pudding and theirs is better than mine…I’m happy to say because now I can have it whenever I want it…delish!
Some of you have heard me say or seen written on this blog, “I spent the best one-third of my life on Thistle Cove Farm in southwest Virginia.” It’s true; it was on that little piece of consecrated land I found my calling, Dave and I grew our friendship into love, Dave made his peace with God, God showed me His new plan for my life (although not quite as soon as I would have liked! –laughing–) and so much more.
There are new owners of the farm; I wish them well and hope they’ll be as happy and contented as we were. I said to them, “You can run the farm or you can run the roads but you can’t run both. For good or ill, this farm is your visual testimony as to your stewardship of what God has allowed you to have.” Dave and I found that farm in terrible shape and other than the fields needing mowing, I left it in fabulous shape…mostly restored house, restored barns and outbuildings, new fences, new garage…the list goes on and on. I counted it all joy to do the work required there and thank God for His allowing Dave and I stewardship.
Last week Beloved Sistah asked, “Do you miss the other place?” I smiled and said, “Not in the least bit! God brought me to a place where He knew I was ready, without hesitation, to close that season of life and move to the next. This has been a wonderful change and a wonderful new beginning.”
About five months after Dave died, I had a meltdown where I collapsed on the kitchen floor, tears flooding my face, sobbing uncontrollably while dogs huddled around giving what comfort they could. Actually, they were panicked as well…Sam had watched as Melvin performed CPR on Dave and Sam still has panic attacks when he thinks I’m leaving (it’s as if he’s afraid I won’t come back) and when I return, he can’t contain his joy. I do wonder what goes on in his little mind…? Anyway, that was the moment I considered taking my life. It wasn’t so much I wanted to be with Dave, it was more I was so totally overwhelmed, despondent and had no idea of what to do, how to do it, when, etc. With all my heart I believe God whispered to me, “Sandra, if you do take your own life, you’ll miss all the blessings I have for you.” I could not conceive of blessings, not in the midst of such horrible grief but I knew (know) God can be trusted. He has a plan…a plan for my good and His glory so I made the decision to “do the next thing” and that’s what I’ve done since. I’ve done the next thing and the next and the next… I come from sturdy stock and the family stories I’ve grown up with would curl your hair. I’ve watched as Aunts and Grandmothers were left widows, sometimes in horrific circumstances, yet they “did the next thing”. Never was a tainted word associated with them, they had little except their dignity and honor yet kept both unscathed.
Great Aunt Effie was left a widow with 13 children when, one September, Great Uncle James was, quite literally, blown up while working on the railroad. She did other people’s laundry for ten cents a day to keep food on the table, clothes on her children and a roof over their heads. James and Granddaddy were working together, when the dynamite cap went off, Great Uncle James was killed instantly with little to be found except bits and pieces. Granddaddy was blown out of his overalls, and found wandering in total shock, so the newspaper article said, half mile down the track. His eye was blown out so he had a glass eye made and used that in the socket; he delighted in taking it out, and showing it to me but I can’t remember if I screamed or laughed. I do remember extreme awe he was able to do such a thing. Daddy told me more of the story when he and I were recently at the WV family cabin: When Uncle Clarence, Daddy’s oldest brother was hunting a few months later, his dog scruffled around in the leaves and came up with Great Uncle James’ hand. Daddy said Uncle Clarence did the only thing he could do, he buried the hand and, remembering Uncle Clarence as a fine Christian man, he said a few words of prayer.
That story and so many more are part of my marrow, reminding me I come from sturdy stock, people who came to the New World almost two hundred years before the great famine in search of a better life. God has a plan that is, usually, totally beyond (my) comprehension. His ways are not our ways but I choose to trust Him and that brings me to this new season in life…less than thirty miles from parents, siblings and nephew with a good church even closer and a wonderful restaurant within walking distance of the church. Mercy me…can it get any better?!
I’m happiest in smaller, rural communities and this is still the case. Monday through Friday, Steve Winn hosts Coffee Chat at WSVS Radio where Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs got their start. Click here to see Steve (in his Hokies shirt!) and to hear him promoting vacuum cleaners. Think home town sweetness when you think Coffee Chat; folks call in and Steve knows so many of their voices, calls them by name, asks about them/their spouse and families and off they go! Some call to sell things, some call to update him on their latest hospital visit including aches, pains and operations, others call just to say hello, some call to say, “I just made some stew and will bring you some later on today.” Quite simply, it’s small town Americana at its absolute best!
I hadn’t moved in when Beloved Sistah said, “Dustin is bringing his family here the end of August.” I replied, “Oh, I hope I get a chance to see them.” She grinned and said, “You will; we’re all meeting here for lunch on Sunday.” How glorious! We had a grand time…Mom, Dad, my brother/wife, my sister/husband, two sons with wives/children…it was incredible and the first time we’ve all been together in quite a while. Cherish those time…simply cherish those times!
My views haven’t change enormously…it’s still farm country with round bales being put up and corn silage being cut. With the help of Daniel, Robbie, Jimmy, Tommy, Christopher, Chloe, GraceAnn, Mandy and Joe, as well as the Tazewell Mennonite community, I was moved lock, stock and barrel. Steve, my brother, and Walt, my brother-in-law, helped once I arrived in Southside VA. A couple of days, Mom and Dad came, bringing lunch and that was gratefully received and eaten. Some things were meant to be left behind in southwest VA but I’m finding they were packed and moved here. So be it. At the end it was crazy hectic and I’m grateful to those folks for doing the hard work of moving me. My Beloved Sistah has spent many days, helping unpack boxes, re-arrange basement and barn but there are still boxes to unpack. I’m in giveaway mode and have many goodies to bestow on someone or a thrift store. I love where I live and foresee many happy years right here, celebrating God’s plan for my life and His glory. If you’re ever in southside Virginia, send me an e-mail and come visit; I’m not proud…even in total disarray, God’s creation shines forth and there’s always time for sweet ice tea, shortbread and a chin wag while porch sitting.
If you’ve followed this saga, included me in prayer, sent a card or e-mail…my heart is grateful. The process has been long, at times arduous but hardly boring. No, never boring!
Thank you; God’s greatest blessings on you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.
Ponder this ~ “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” ~ Omar Khayyam ~