In between the pain, I glanced here and there around the active room quietly watching what was happening. A portly midwife was preparing warm oil in a small metal cup to use during and after the birth. Her two assistants were taking turns washing up at the steel sink in the corner of the kitchen. I lay on a makeshift bed in the small living room. Oh! Here comes another one! I worked through it-breathing as I had read how to do-and held the edge of the thin twin mattress until it passed. I noticed my husband anxiously speaking at the kitchen table with his father. His parents and my mother had driven the two hour trip in a snowstorm that threatened to welcome this child swaddled in a receiving blanket of deep white. I will spare you the specific details of this unconventional birth except to say that nine pounds and three ounces later my baby son was born into this world. The very fullness of joy abound. See what God has done!
I would never recommend this birth plan to anyone; considering that we lived in a cabin five miles from the nearest source of communication, that those traveling to deliver our child would need at least two hours to get there, that we had no running water or electricity, that the weather was very unpredictable in November and we could be snowed in, that any emergency could send us into a spiraling catastrophe. I would never tell anyone this was the wise thing to do. It defies logic and I was repeatedly warned against it, including strongly by the obstetrician I was seeing throughout the pregnancy. Please do not write me off as completely unhinged when I tell you that one of Gordon’s dreams was to have his son (back then we did not know what the gender of the child was, but he always seemed to know this child would be a boy) born at home in the cabin. I can only tell you that I prayed and prayed and was overcome with the “peace that passes understanding”. Me- the world’s worse worrier was enveloped in a peace that caused me to believe everything would be okay. Even as I write this, I think- Wow! This could have gone so wrong. I can only express that for me, at that time, concerning that birth, there was a peace that took away all worry and concern. All the “what ifs” were gone. Remembering the utter joy on Gordon’s face, my two children rushing down the stairs to greet their just born baby brother, his grandmothers’ holding that precious child (when I would relinquish) all night long, rocking him in our old rocking chair are all such golden treasures surrounding this sweet miracle. Perhaps, you have had a “peace that passes understanding” moment in your own life? To be honest, I have never had an utter peace like that since…about anything…but it helps to remember the time that I did and be so thankful that God honored it.
In the Old Testament, God’s people were often asked to create an altar. The purpose for the altars varied, but one reason was to help remember. These altars were built after God had done something miraculous or special. He instructed the Israelites to place stacked stones or other tangible symbols to help future generations know and understand what He had accomplished there.
While we no longer need to build altars as a means of sacrifice or remembrance, writing about living in the cabin has caused me to do a lot of thinking back and wondering about the importance of embracing memories. Of course, I have remembered difficult times, hard challenges, big mistakes. But it has also caused me to reminisce about those happy joy-filled times- snapshots of “good” – stones on an altar of God’s faithfulness and fun. It caused me to ponder about the “remarkable” in remembering blessings of the past or times when God’s faithfulness was so prevalent it was unarguable.
For example, I smile at the picture of loading up our entourage for Sunday trips down the mountain to go to church. Gordon, on his big old Skidoo, me with my baby in my arms sitting on a school bus bench seat welded to the back of a large man-made sled. I was covered with a worn sleeping bag to keep a majority of the flying snow off of the baby and off of my Sunday best. My older son and daughter tucked into a large cardboard box stationed in front of the bus seat. Later my toddler and daughter would ride in the box and my oldest would grip his gloved hands to a metal bar behind the seat and hold on for dear life. What I remember most about these rides was my daughter and I singing. Silent wooded life waking to the sounds of “Jesus, Name Above All Names” or “This is the Day that the Lord has made” and other praise ditties we belted all the way down the mountain- our voices bouncing off the quaking aspen and pines surrounding our path- gleeful.
One day shortly after our sweet boy was born, we headed down to our car (2 1/2 miles from home) and in mid-praise we hit a hard snow patch in the parking lot. The sled tipped and suddenly we were pitched from the bench onto the icy parking area. All I remember was sliding across the ice along my side fiercely protecting my baby from the road. When I stood and we inventoried injuries, it seemed the only thing damaged in any way were my panty hose torn on one leg to shreds. I thank the Lord that none of us were hurt and that this incident has been on our altar of laughter for many years..
Holidays on the mountain were also great events to set the stones of remembrance. Gordon- a strong man with strong beliefs-did not adhere to celebrating many of the traditions more common to western culture. Therefore, we did not observe Halloween and did not invite either Santa or the Easter Bunny to the cabin. I write this as a way of expressing the truth of our life at that time, not as an indictment or exhortation on how anyone else should choose to celebrate special holidays.
Christmas was an interesting time at our home. To decorate for the holiday, I pulled out a tried and true battery-operated plastic wreath we hung on the door. It was perhaps twelve inches in diameter and had around ten tiny bulbs that were only as bright as the AA batteries could power. These were our holiday lights. A week or so before Christmas, Gordon took the kids (as they grew old enough) into the woods surrounding the cabin to search out the deadest tree he could find. He did not believe in cutting down live ones, so the tree they brought home usually would have put Charlie Brown’s poor little tree to shame. In fact, we often called them our Charlie Brown trees. We had little money, so we bought what presents we could buy. Not much…ever, but mostly what was needed at the time. On Christmas morning, we read the story of the birth of Christ and talked about what it meant to us. We thanked Him and celebrated. We opened presents. We admired our haphazard dead little tree with its odd assortment of left over bulbs and then usually went out to ride sleds or just play in the gorgeous snow. An altar of awe-Thankful to be a part of Jesus’ birthday.
We loved Easter mornings. We woke up before dawn, I made a thermos of hot chocolate and and we loaded up our crew (often still on snowmobile as the snow had not melted enough to drive all the way home) and headed for a high spot where we had our own private unobstructed view of the sunrise. We would read the story of the resurrection while sipping hot cocoa and then head down the mountain for church. I can still feel the chill in the air, taste the sweet chocolate, smell the pines around me as they rustled and worshipped, and I can still see that multi-colored sun rise in the horizon slowly celebrating with silent beauty the new life of a new day. Peaceful memories on an altar of thanksgiving for a risen Savior.
Everyday days contained events worth remembering too. Times of using a plastic milk jug hung on a rope tied to a huge wooden beam running along the ceiling of our living room; hours of taking turns flying back and forth on that makeshift swing. And contests to see who could stay crunched up in a cardboard box the longest, My lanky oldest took the challenge for a whole night. I think he made it. We had “Kick the can” tournaments, Loaded up on motorcycles to drive the mountain roads and check cabins (another one of Gordon’s many jobs), did lots of reading, watched “Highway to Heaven” on a donated solar-battery operated television with a 6-inch screen that would only run half of one television show before the battery died, played board games, and talked to each other.
One night, Gordon and the two oldest decided it would be great entertainment to set traps for the family of mice that had set up residence in our kitchen. He and the kids pulled up chairs and positioned themselves anxiously to watch for the mice to come out and get caught. I was mortified so I took the baby upstairs to feed him and was lying in the water bed with on arm cuddling my baby and the other holding a book. I heard a noise behind my ear and turned around to find a huge rat staring at me from the ledge outside the window. I jumped up and bounced screaming across the water bed with my son tucked into my side like a kangaroo with her joey while trapped on a trampoline. My family has laughed about this memory and our silly ways to entertain ourselves for many years.
While taking a moment to share with you just a few of the sweet memories from our time living in the mountain cabin, I realize these are not the stone altars of old and they do not all speak of momentous occasions honoring the faithfulness and/or miracles of the Lord. But then again… maybe they do… maybe by taking time to remember the good, sharing sweet stories with loved ones, laughing together about funny things that happened, reminiscing about being delivered from illogical situations, and revisiting incredible times in our lives, maybe all of it is a way to set up an altar of praise and thankfulness for the joy, for the fun, for the safety, for the laughter, for the love. Thank you, Lord, for memories.
Dear readers, Thank you! Knowing you are there makes this a fun and less scary journey. Please join me next week for a blog tentatively called, “From Ninth Grade Dropout to Teacher- Against All Odds” (and not a road recommended- just saying) and have a fabulous fun-infused week yourself. In His Love, Kristy
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