A vacant blue house by the river prompted the stop. We’ve been looking well over two weeks for a suitable rental home for us to enjoy for several years to come. A place where we can have a dog, a large experimental garden, a fire pit, a place to watch the stars at night up to the 7th magnitude, and perhaps even try our hand at raising chickens. The idyllic “dream home” continues to escape our grasp, however, and my high hopes threaten to fall daily. She’s out there, we just have to continue to believe the Lords wants to give us His very best, and we (me especially) must exercise the patience that a well-seasoned believer like myself should surely possess by now ???
She looked about sixty-five as she swung open the porch door on the tasteful, rustic log home.
“Hello! Hello! How are you today.” She sang as she smiled.
I shouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. Every single person we have met in this small town has gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and to try to help us find our perfect spot, that we might become one of them. In fact, when inquiring of someone on the road or in their home, we have learned to become prepared for a very long visit. Gotta love the country.
“We’re inquiring about the house next door…” led to information about the abandoned property and an invitation to come inside to meet her husband, an offer of beer, and/or, apple juice. He was a diabetic laid up in a large easy chair.
“It’s my own fault though. All of those years in Seattle as a police officer and enjoying too many rich foods and hard liquor.” he offered ruefully.
She brought apple juice on ice and he told us that they had been in the Okanogan Valley twenty-three years now, but it didn’t matter, the locals still refer to them as “Coastees.” Certainly, they weren’t considered locals. I wonder how the folks in this town will settle into referring to us. Retired missionary travelers, one from Canada, one from the U.S., one black, the other white, and not really from anywhere the past several years, but having been everywhere. We’ll probably stump them for a while and keep them guessing for years to come.
One thing I know for sure: the whole town is already talking about us.
“Oh, yes, you introduced yourself to *Shelly who owns the flower shop. She really liked you,” the owner of our RV site spoke knowingly (Now how did she know that?).
“Oh my goodness you are the lady that I was supposed to call,” chimed the vibrant, healthful, rosy cheeked goddess from her Leaping Sheep Farms stand at the farmer’s market. “You want to intern with an organic farm right? (Huh? My! word does get around in a small town).
“Oh, you are the couple Aleah told me that I should meet,” smiled the gorgeous African American clerk at the Natural Foods Market. (within minutes numbers were being exchanged and plans being made).
Patricia and Bill Miner were their names and they bought the log house twenty three years prior, raised the last of their children there, and were now settled into a house too big for the two of them. A house full of clues to a much more active life in years gone by.
But what struck me the most was their trust. They didn’t know us from Adam. They were alone and virtually defenseless. They invited us into their home without any close neighbors. It turned out Patricia was actually eighty- something, and moved slowly down her basement stairs. I know this, because she asked us to follow her down there as she showed us her prize 1958 Cadillac. Candy apple red, with the original leather inside and in mint condition. I mean pristine.
“Sold it. He’s coming to pick it up tomorrow. You’re probably the last folks I’ll ever get to show it to.”
It was hers, not her husband’s. He had his own classic car parked in a building out back.
“Guess what I’m getting for it?”
More information offered. Too much to give out to strangers I reasoned. But that’s because I’ve spent way too much time in the city.
“Twenty-five thousand,” was her proud disclosure.
He couldn’t follow us down into the basement because of his condition so he stayed sitting in his chair a floor above. I wondered if he worried about her being down there alone with us. Alone with strangers. Especially when she extended our knowledge of his gun room, ammunition storage, and safe. She also showed us all of her canning from years gone by, and their stock pile of store bought non-perishables.
“We could feed an army if we had to.”
I could sense that she was ready and willing to do so at any time. Bless her heart. These were certainly not the stuffy, stingy, grumpy elderly I was used to encountering “on the block” so to speak. This was going to take some getting used to. This small town stuff. Something to wrap my head around.
Ascending the stairs, we were introduced to a newcomer- a former Canadian like myself. Only he had naturalized thirty years ago. A pilot and also a former police officer. We were soon joined by three others who had also popped by for an afternoon meal.
“Everyone is welcome in our home,” Bill said heartily. “You are both welcome anytime.”
We began to try to take our leave, and forty-five minutes later we succeeded in doing just that. But not before Patricia showed me her orchard and former garden area out back, her large deck that overlooked the river, her bath and bed rooms. I told her it was good to get to know some people in the area. And again her openness caught me off guard.
“Oh, well you have a friend here. Right here. We are your friends.”
And in case I somehow missed the whole point of what she was saying,
“I am your friend.”
A six year old would have received that with joy. I pray I learn to receive that like a six year old. It’s tucked away in my heart like a precious hidden gift that may actually be opened one day. I pray I learn to unwrap that gift with the same purity it was offered.
And as we were going out the door, she extended a heartfelt invitation that warmed our souls.
“Sunday mornings at eight thirty, we usually invite some people over for breakfast, but for you two, the invitation is a standing one anytime you want. Don’t ever bring any food, just bring yourselves.”
As we walked to our vehicle I wondered, “Could she just tell instinctively that we were harmless? Did she sense that I really needed a friend? Or was she like that with everybody?” Tim says she sensed the Holy Spirit in us, and perhaps that is true, But if that is the case, then I sensed it in her too. I suppose there is no more accurate description of the Holy Spirit than child likeness in all innocence, openness, and love. Sometimes we might just have to live eighty- something years to really get that.
*all names of individuals have been changed.