We awoke in a beautiful southern, 4-poster bed with the morning light of the sun beaming through our window… The enticing aroma of freshly brewed coffee, wafting from the kitchen evoked familiar feelings of being home . Suddenly, we heard the heartwarming sound of little feet running down the stairs,( surprisingly stopping at our door,) as Mikes youngest son, Julian, was trying ever- so quietly to take a sneak peak at his new house guests. Yes, the vote was unanimous. Mike had convinced his little boys Julian, Joshua and Tyler that Grantham was indeed a very loving, friendly “large breed ” puppy and not a wild, black bear from the deep woods adjacent to their home. This beautiful family of five, welcomed us into their home with such love and grace. Kit and I could not say thank you enough to them or the Lord.
Have you ever loved a place where you have lived or visited , that holds so many nostalgic memories that just thinking about it, fills your heart with such an excitement, enchantment, and utter contentment? That was South Carolina for me. My heart was overflowing with so many felicitous tokens of pure joy this special place had graced me with since a young girl. My first memories being when I was 12 years old and my younger brother Patrick and I, flew back from Southern California with my mom for a summer vacation. We were in awe with the canopy of antiquated oak trees, dreamily framing the streets and riverbanks, their long beards of Spanish moss, swaying softly, in the soothing breezes that graced the Carolina’s damp, salty air. Meeting all our many cousins was a hoot. (As they say in the south.) Each one, in their own unique way, reminded me of one of Dorthea Benton Frank’s (an exemplary Southern author,) beloved characters in her novellas, stepping off the page an coming to real life. As they introduced themselves, I was enamored with their charm, humor and warm hearts as they spoke with their endearing southern drawls. Immediately I realized why my mom loved the south and ‘her people’ so much. I didn’t know such a land existed. We fell head over heals in love with Charleston…a city embodied with a magnificently unique charm and rich history. As we walked it’s cobblestone streets, (eating our decadent praline ice cream cones,) each home was more breathtaking than the one before with their stoic antebellum architecture, chiseled wrought Iron gates, bold, majestic columns, and pristine landscaped yards. ( One could easily lose themselves in this intoxicating city’s hypnotic and spellbinding terrain itself.) We’d spend weeks at the beach with our cousins, our temporary abode nestled right on the water..spending many a day and night at the fun zone on the sandy dunes, walking the beach, body surfing , hunting for shells and telling ghost stories of the inlets, as we breathed in the unique and sublime fragrances of the briny water. An endless pan of freshly baked peach cobbler filled the beach house with a heavenly aroma.(My cousins love to cook.) Sun-burnt and tired from all of the days escapades, my younger cousins and I would turn in early. I remember listening intently to my mom and all her cousins gathered together, (the sisters she never had,) as they’d sit up all night long talking about their many adventures of growing up together as children, teenagers and young adults on Pawley’s Island and Murrels Inlet. I’d never heard so many mischievous tales about my mom, or beheld her so free and happy as I did those evenings. My mind was so entertained, I would fight to stay awake, until my eyelids could no longer stay open. My deep love for this state caused me to return in my early twenties where I spent 5 of the happiest years of my life.
Galvanized by sentimental memories of my many years spent in this hauntingly beautiful and magical land, (that always seemed to be untouched by time,) I had a strong faith that it could truly be a place for Kit, Graham and I to settle for awhile. My hope was that Kit would fall in love with my family , all the many places that captivated my heart and the scrumptious southern cuisine, causing him to feel a happiness and sense of belonging I knew we both needed. We knew that it would not be the land that God would settle and plant us upon… It was more of a resting place, along the way on our journey to the Kings Tavern. One thing we did know for sure was that we all felt like we could finally exhale. We were surrounded by people who loved us and had so graciously opened their hearts and home to us at this time in our lives. We felt accepted and the freedom, (for awhile) to take a breath and rest.
Our first month in the Carolinas was filled to overflowing with love, big welcoming hugs and appreciably active schedules. I liken our emotions to those of being on an extended vacation. Our days were so busy being wined and dined at my family’s favorite southern eateries, enjoying home cooked meals with our cousins, while they shared their humorous, dramatic and inspiring stories. I took Kit and Graham to all my landmarks of joy, (the quaint boutiques at Myrtle Beach, the historic, breathtaking plantations at Pawleys Island and Murrels Inlet’s enchanting marshes.) It felt good to begin making new memories together. We were all taken aback with the unassuming beauty and peacefulness of the Carolina coast, the summoning salt creeks, the grandiose architecture that resplendently reclaimed the past as well as an entire new cuisine we were so intensively enjoying. Kit fell in love with the Carolina’s version of homemade PEE-CAN pie, (a la mode of course,)
Our life was truly blessed staying in this grandiose southern home with Mike, Ellie and the boys. Each day held many inspiriting chats over never ending cups of coffee, taking the kids to the Y’ to go swimming, trips to the enlivening farmers market where Kit and I were introduced to boiled p-nuts and southern authentic Ginger-ale with REAL ginger. (The kind that makes your throat feel like its on fire.) We never got tired of playing the infamous Nintendo Video games with Tyler, watching movies, (over and over again,) with Julian and Joshua, and (our favorite) sitting down to scrumptious southern meals with all the family each evening. (Ellie’s cooking was heavenly,) and we truly felt a part of their family.
Living with little ones, was undoubtedly another gift from God. Their unbridled excitement, innocence and passion for life was contagious. Our time spent with them brought the ‘little kid’ alive inside of us, bringing new hope and a refreshing simplicity to our complex lives. (All three of them absolutely adored Graham and he certainly ate up all the extra attention.) In honor of America’s birthday, we celebrated the 4th of July sitting comfortably upon our on high back rockers on the raised verandah, (eating our boiled p-nuts with ice cold glasses of sweet tea,) watching the boys excitement and jovial spirits. (Their favorite event of the night was lighting as many sparklers as their precious hearts desired.) Mike was a night owl…he worked at his job long hours, so Kit Graham and I looked forward to spending the evenings with him after all the boys and Ellie went to bed. It was during this time that the three of us shared intimately about the Lord and what He was doing within our lives, watched a new movie together, ( one we’d not seen with the kids,) listen to a concert or just reminisced and laughed together. Mike’s love for the Lord, sense of humor and the ability to entertain and bring laughter made the three of us feel right at home. (I keep waiting to hear that he has his own late night show like Jimmy Fallon…yes, he is that good!)
As our weeks in South Carolina turned into a month, I could tell by Kits countenance and the things he was not saying, that even though he was eminently blessed to witness my excitement being in my beloved south and he adored my family, (and they him,) it was not where he wanted to live. He truly was making a sacrifice for me to see if in deed, the dream within my heart would be fulfilled. Yes, we had prayed and it seem to be the ideal place in our decision making of where to go as we left Milford, but I think Kit , if not for Graham and I, coupled with his faith that God had opened this door for us, would have pitched a tent in Milford and continued to look for a job so he could stay in Delaware. (Not something he’d ask Graham and I to do.)
As every vacation must come to an end, so did our feelings of being on a whirl wind ‘holiday.’ Everyone who had been ‘showing us the town,’ had busy lives to get back to… thus Kit and I began to realize that the life we so desired to have (until God brought about His promise and call), if it was going to be in the Carolinas, needed to begin through prayer, hearing God’s direction,focusing on getting jobs, and finding a home.We spent many a day alone as Ellie and the kids were enjoying their summer vacation to the fullest, going to the beach, swimming at the Y or off on day trips. Kit, Graham and I had the house to ourselves…So we’d make another pot of coffee, settle into their riveting, 14 foot high ceiling living room , put on our favorite worship CD’s and began to worship, praise and seek God. We longed to hear His heart, enter into His presence and join in His sweet peace. Perhaps it was our amalgam of diverse emotions that kept us from hearing direct instructions during this time, or maybe God was being quite on purpose, allowing us to be renewed in His peace and calm. We were still unsure exactly what He wanted us to do next, thus we ventured out in faith to look for a job.
LOOKING FOR A JOB! Who in this world enjoys job hunting and interviewing for employment, raise your hand. Still very unsure of ourselves, what we were doing and could commit to, Kit and I did not know what kind of job to apply for. Through my cousins and their friends, two jobs came up that seemed perfect. We were on hold to hear and in the mean time, a miracle happened. Our unemployment checks that we so desperately tried to obtain in Connecticut finally came through. The representative at the DOES office in DC told us that because of a mistake our place of employment had made in DC, there was a hold up, but not any longer…we were thrilled and thanked God for His graciousness.
Knowing we would still be “close neighbors” Mike offered Kit , Graham and I their 2 bedroom apartment on the back of their property free of charge. It was where he and Ellie stayed when Tyler was born.They’d bought their antebellum home and had it moved to his ample lot of land in the bucolic countryside .The 2 years they renovated their historic home, the apartment became their temporary dwelling place.
Upon seeing this little apartment for the first time, I tried my hardest to imagine what it could look like. With no residents for quite some time, It was damp, moldy, dark and only had one window,( that being if you left the front door open .) There was no heat or air conditioning…It just needed some TLC and occupants to bring it alive. Yes, it would be a lot of work, but it was such a wonderful, generous offer and a part of me jumped at the the challenge it embodied. We definitely took their gracious proposition before the Lord.
I bet you already know that my “excitement gauge” was a lot higher than Kits when we heard from the Lord that it was a “GO” and we accepted Mike and Ellie’s offer. The next six weeks were spent airing out our soon to be temporary haven, scrubbing, cleaning and painting as well as numerous trips to our storage to decide what we could fit into its newly brightened ‘Magnolia Ivory’ walls. It was like Christmas time, opening all of our sealed boxes, seeing things I’d forgotten we even had. My joy was overflowing as I beheld my great grandmothers Limoges china, the elfin wreaths that brought so much color to our last home and I can’t forget about Cornelius,my year 21 year old teddy bear. AH the comforts of home. Kit would have to remind me at the storage facility that we were on a time frame so no lolly gagging and looking through every box, oohing and awing. I have to admit, It was yet another great distraction and relief of the suppressed emotions within our hearts, where deep down, there was still a disquieting thought…one we could not make go away or deny, no matter how hard we tried. It was that question, “What in the world are we doing Lord?” It feels like we are moving farther away from our hearts desire in Connecticut.” We just kept giving those emotions and thoughts to Jesus, TRUSTING HIM to guide us and have it all make sense one day.
The other blessing of getting this little place was that it was autumn on the east coast. If you have never visited The Carolinas, Virginia, New England or Delaware in the fall, you definitely need to add that to your bucket list.Our home began to transpire into a magical little cottage. With only the one window , the Lord gave me such creative ideas to create windows , with paned mirrors, which added light and charm. Our southern Rice bed fit perfectly in our bedroom, Kit had his office all set up and we made the living room into both our family room and dining room. It was cozy, and seeing all of our things again after 10 months was more comfort than I could bare in one day. Kit was starting to smile and Graham was more than pleased with the brick flooring as he loved the coolness it brought to his body as the sultry summer of the Carolinas was still lingering.We celebrated our new place as well as the arrival of autumn and all its glory, .buying apple cinnamon scented candles and as many chubby pumpkins as our our home could hold. I delightfully set our table with a fall flare and all three of us took in every early morning chilly breeze as it welcomed our front door with its hopeful essence. Kit and I had more fun going to the Piggly Wiggly, (yes it truly does exist,) to buy groceries to stock up our little haven. We unpacked our cookbooks and felt the “inner chef” joy coming out again as we created some of our favorite , familiar meals. (I could not make those delicious southern meals like Ellie and her mom so you can be sure we took them up on every invitation for a family dinner or gala.)
Every day our cell phone rang and Kit and I would look at each other with a smile and say “I bet its Tina.” She called us continuously to pray for us, see if we needed anything and to ask us how we were doing. She was still being our “mom friend” from Delaware, (even though we were 600 miles apart.) Only God knew what a comfort she was to us. We were invited two separate times to come back to visit in Delaware. Once by Tina and the other by Vito, both making our eyes well up as they told us how very much they missed us… With each invitation came the same words; “Don’t worry about any expenses as it is our treat…just pack Graham up in the jeep and come!” We were so grateful to God for their love and friendship. Thus we made two trips in the fall to Milford and if I had to chose one word to best describe our days spent with our newly found family, it would be, REFRESHING! Tina would invite all of our Milford friends over to her home, where we would have times of worship, prayer, delicious meals and amazing fellowship.We would spend hours out on Mark and Tina’s screened in porch chatting away as we enjoyed the grandiose fall foliage, angelic baby deer eating the corn Tina had placed in the meadow , the playful, rambunctious squirrels, adorable bunnies and the gifts of a few thunder storms amongst our endless cups of Starbucks coffee. (Tina and Mark always served the best.) When we’d pack up to head back to South Carolina, we would all feel so sad, not wanting to say goodbye… What was wrong with this picture?
November arrived with a sigh of relief. We had survived not one, but two menacing events. First an unexpected flood! Neither Kit or I had ever experienced flooding in the states we had lived in so we followed Mikes protocol and helped him bail out water, build trenches and hastily moved all of our valuables to the far end of the apartment. Nothing was damaged, (Praise the Lord,) and I even think some great bonding occurred between Mike and Kit during our high waters adventures, (which was a blessing for sure.) Our second haphazard? An invasion of the Terrestrial Invertebrates. ***** (See footnote.) 45 days (yes I was counting,) of natures critters, of every shape and size, evading upon our peace, nerves and new abode. (I suppose I purposefully had forgotten about the bugs of the south.) Our visitors? Everything from gargantuan spiders to their itty-bitty cousins, the states name sake, Palmetto bug, (looked exactly like an Arizona sewer roach to me, except it could fly,) Herculean, black cluster flies in our shower, green reptile looking creatures with dark beady eyes, snakes outside our front door and a family of partying mice, rendezvousing in Kits study, midnight sharp every every evening. We knew that one day, all this unwelcomed angst would make us smile…and we appreciated more than words could express when our days were back to normal.
For Thanksgiving, we joined Mike, Ellie and the boys with her extended family out in the country for a fabulous Southern gathering, great music and a potpourri of savory southern cuisine that made everyone forget about their waistlines as we went for seconds and thirds,( and that was before dessert.) This gala’s grand finale was a hayride along the pastoral and rustic terrain. It was so cold that kit and I cheated and rode in the heated monster truck’s cabby with Mike as he hauled the straw filled wagon. (I have to admit I was a little temped to climb in back as everyone was having the time of their lives, laughing, cheering and I think I even heard a Christmas carol or two.) Kit and I felt tremendously welcomed, just as if we were a part of this immense, lovable family.
It was also the month that something happened within my heart that I totally did not expect nor did I know exactly how to handle. I will begin sharing with two quotes (by two talented writers) who can say it much better than I. Owens Lee Pomeroy summed it up as “Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect! ” And Bill Vaughn’s-version made me laugh, but also made me sad… “It’s never safe to be nostalgic about something until you’re absolutely certain there’s no chance of its coming back. “
I have never thought of this word and its meaning in the same way again.
No one could have ever told me that the dream I had carried within my heart since a child, was not real. In the Lords tender love and grace, He granted me this dream to know its validity and show me the depths of my soul.
Now that we had our own place to live, with all of our belongings returned to us and were living amongst people I adored, in a land I cherished, the fulfillment I believed would fill my heart, never came. In fact, there was an emptiness that I tried to avoid as well as deny… After packing up our jeep for the day, Graham, Kit and I would head to Murrels inlet…(One of my favorite places in all the world.) Suddenly, it was as if I had put a new pair of glasses on, and someone turned off the music in my heart that always played so resonantly when I had come for visits or spent the day with my mom there as she pointed out all of her old stomping grounds. We took a trip to my mom’s home town and drove by our old house. It’s new owners had changed everything. The gorgeous Ranch Style home my father had built for my mom, with its Southern California, galvanic flower garden amongst the sylvan charm of the rustic woods was no longer alive and flourishing. In its place was the same stylish brick and Nantucket blue wood, but it was void of any evidence that our family had ever lived there. It only made me try harder to recapture what I was looking so hard to find. Kit, (the wonderful husband that he is,) took me wherever I wanted to go, but it no longer mattered where we went as what I was really looking for, was the same JOY that filled my heart when my mom was alive or when Patrick and I would walk the deserted shores of Myrtle beach for hours in the winter , talking about any and everything. The YMCA, the place I had spent 3 wondrous years of my life working with children had also been revolutionized. When I toured it with Ellie, the rooms I had remembered sharing so many happy memories in with all the kids and my coworkers no longer existed. The magic of South Carolina (for me) was gone and no matter how hard I tried to make it reappear, it never did I began trying to build new memories with Kit and Grantham , but that as well, was to no avail, partly because Kit’s heart was not in the Carolina’s and I wanted him to be happy and fulfilled. (Graham absolutely hated the humidity and heat, but his home has always been and forever will be “US”.)
The truth was my dream was built upon my yesteryear’s in a place that would only stay that way in the memories within my heart. I did not have the ability to make it all fit together again, anew. I liken it to a bright kaleidoscopic photograph…our memories are always in vivid color…their attachments to our hearts are REAL and filled with genuine passion and sensations, but the emotions that brought them forth, sustained and kept them alive within our soul, were created at the time of the events, influenced by people, their presence and the precious moments accompanied by a unique place and time. When we revisit those places, and try to bring about the original photo, it has become black and white, shadow-like, void of the radiant color it once contained. Always within our hearts, it will be in vivid color…but not so in reality.
After sharing my new found revelation with Kit, I called our pastor, mentor and dear friend Vito in Delaware to ask him my big question.
” Vito, you don’t think that God would allow Kit and I to come to South Carolina, get all our things from Maryland, put them in storage here, take this little apartment and fix it all up, only to show us that living in South Carolina is not really the dream in my heart that I thought it was, and that our hearts desire is to go back to Milford, do you?” I could hear and see his smile over the phone lines as I heard him softly speak; “Yes, I do,”
Kit and I sat on the couch, in our newly painted apartment, trying to weigh out all of the positives and negatives of our new dilemma. My first quest was facing the burst bubble of my dream along with all the mixed emotions that accompanied it…disillusionment, sadness, guilt and weariness. Kit never had a bubble inside of him to burst, but he did feel the hurt in my heart and was very supportive. We had a million questions for God and even if He had begun to speak to our hearts at this moment in time, we couldn’t have heard Him clearly as we were flooded by an overload of feelings…surely blocking our spiritual ear-gates. The one thing we knew for certain was that God knew this was going to happen long before we did and He always comes to the rescue when our lives hit a crossroad that we are unable to fix, figure out or mend ourselves.
In the days that followed, after feeling a bit more free in our minds and spirits, we knew it was time to begin seeking God with all of our questions, fears and confusion.
Well, it didn’t take long, for He was ready to begin sharing His heart…perhaps He was waiting for the time I was no longer looking through my romantic colored glasses of the past, trying so hard to recreate what I longed for to comfort my heart in the midst of a vulnerable season in our lives.
This is what we believe the Lord said to our spirits;
“Yes, I did allow you to come back to South Carolina and do all that you have done to make the dream you felt was in your heart to come forth. My heart is for you to return to Milford as I have plans for you there, but you are not going just yet, as I have things to do here in South Carolina in your lives as well. You will come full circle in my time.”
He also revealed to us that we were not to be seeking employment in South Carolina and that He would provide for our every need. He told Kit to begin building from scratch a computer program for something He had for him in the future, and that I was to write.He did not tell us when we would be leaving or how. Both Kit and I felt a peace as well as a release as we now knew why this beautiful cherished place within my heart was not meeting the expectations I had hoped to be filled . We had not taken a wrong turn, we were in Gods will and He had everything under control. His mercy, grace and love amazed us beyond words.
The Lord began taking us into a time in the spirit that would absolutely blow us away. Our time of praise and worship on Sundays in our little haven turned into a daily adventure. We could hardly wait for breakfast to be over so we could begin our cherished time with Jesus. We weren’t even counting the hours. We just stayed in a wondrous place with the Lord, basking in His presence. Our feelings of being lost dissipated. We felt safe, grounded and knew we were right where He wanted us to be. I don’t have to tell you that there is nothing like the security of being a child again, knowing your dad is the God of everything and that you are centered in the very palm of his hand with no worries of tomorrow. He had to bring kit and I to that arduous place of truly being still. Not just still physically but emotionally and spiritually with a quieted mind. Every distraction, fear and anxiety quieted, as we waited upon His presence and the very thoughts of his heart. Without even asking Him, He reassured the questions He knew were lurking deep within our hearts. He reminded us about all that He had told us in Connecticut regarding our Journey and His promise. “My delay is not a denial and that we would see many a miracle.” He had become our daily manna, our provider in every way. He was assurance and our peace.
When we would start to feel angst, asking Him questions about Milford, the timing, and the hows, the peace seem to lessen within our souls…He wanted our focus to be upon Himself trusting Him alone, with all the details. (Hard to do sometimes if your a ‘planner’ at heart.)
So, Kit , Graham and I, (the three musketeers) peaceably stayed on in our 2 bedroom home, spending wonderful times with the Lord, enjoying South Carolina for what it was in reality and of course seeing my family as often as we could. We were so grateful to God for his grace, saving power and unchanging love for us.
Are you wondering if we ever bugged the Lord about the details and asked Him when we could tell our friends and family we were going? Yes, of course we did…Did he tell us…NO! It was a learning process…and we were just so thankful we had thick warm blankets, space heaters, food in our fridge, our belongings, each other and a God that was our dad…His unfailing love and His mercies new every morning…and nightly I would thank Him for His big heart of love to let me give my dream a try…real or not. (I thanked Kit and Graham as well .)
Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When you are in the awesome presence of God, filled with His amazing peace, not because you have all the answers, but just because He is present, it is a glorious place to be. We learned how to be emptied and be truly still before the Lord. It was then our souls were renewed in our knowing that He alone is God, in control of everything in our lives, big or small.
In closing, take a look and listen at a wonderful song.
Be Still and know that He is God is one of my favorite songs by the artist Steven Curtis Chapman…I was so thrilled to find a new version he came out with, introducing his son Caleb…the two of them together are fabulous and this song is not only a lifter of the spirit but a great inspiration and reminder that when we do become still within our spirits and reflect upon God and enter His presence… He changes everything. Enjoy!
***** If you would like to read more (in detail,) about our 45 day bug trial, be sure to go to Rabbit Trails and read “Our Carolina Bug Story.”
PHOTOGRAPHS: If you scroll over any of the photos or graphics, it will display where the picture originated from.