The highway.

The highway out of Redding is as straight as an arrow. Until you reach Palo Cedro, a rural suburb to the east. Like sliding into an oasis, the hills part and the road slowly descends towards the little town. You can see Mt. Shasta to the North, Mt. Lassen straight ahead, and all the browns and greens and blues in every direction. The sky seems endless.

I grew up in Palo Cedro. Farmland, pastures, neighborhoods and sparse groupings of houses, street names that conjure up so many good memories, my insides literally feel fuzzy.

If you exit the highway here, you can turn right and head to my grandma’s house. My aunt lives there too. So does the family of my childhood best friend.  There’s the house with the camels and zebras, and the creek where I spent the summers swimming with my grandpa. If you head left, you’ll drive past my elementary school, the church I spent my early years in, my high school, and eventually the turn-off to my childhood home.

To grandmother’s house we go.

But if I’m not going to my aunt’s or grandma’s house, I’m not exiting the highway at all. Instead, the highway takes me over the town of my youth and on into the Millville plains. It’s an invisible line, this overpass, reminding me that change is inevitable. That some things can never be the same.

The Millville plains are exactly that. Miles upon miles of wheat-colored hills. The wind blows so strong that it shakes my car. Every time. 3 miles past the invisible line is Old 44 drive. This is the place my parents bought their dream home several years ago. They described it as their retirement. My mom planted her biggest garden ever, three years in a row. And even though they had rid themselves of the myriad of animals from my younger years, a few remained. A horse and a pony whose combined names equaled “Mojo,” two goats that had outlived themselves years over,  and the chickens that provided our family with eggs. There was a huge pool in the backyard where my sisters’ had school parties. They were still children, growing into lovely little women. Their bedrooms still outrageous, exciting colors.

It’s strange how quickly things can change. That same road no longer leads to that house. Instead, it’s the path I take to visit my mother’s grave. The last time I visited was last year. My sister and grandma and I embraced, while my grandma recited the Lord’s prayer.

Across the invisible line is also how I get to the new home my dad shares with his new wife. But they wont be in that house for much longer. They’ll move across the country in two weeks. More change.

After this week, if I drive across that invisible line, it will be for one purpose only. To sit on a green hill next to my mom’s picture and remember. So much change represented on that little hill.

So much change.

All filtered through the hands of God. I wont try to spout some intelligent-sounding theology here. Because, though I believe and trust this unseen Savior, I still don’t understand all this change. Not for one second does it make a lick of sense.

We are not without hope. My sisters will be okay. They are going to a great place, and if they remember who they are, and where to find their value, they’ll do just fine.

sisters.

But for me, this little valley makes it hard to breathe, and it will always be so. That invisible line no longer leads me to my mother’s house and into her waiting arms.

And so, on this eve of the lil’ sister’s 8th grade graduation, I am grateful for something.

This unseen Savior. . . Who absolutely never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is who He says He is. His word never changes. He is faithful, relentlessly so. He is my home. My familiar. Those waiting arms . . .

This blink of change is just that. A blink, a vapor. Time is nothing, really. That’s not to say that it doesn’t hurt, but everything really will be made right. It will be.  He told me so. . . this unseen Savior . . .

. . . Who is incredible visible to me tonight.

Even now, I can hear her laugh and say, “Katie . . . think bigger. . .” And it eases that ache in my chest so that I can smile. Just a little.
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