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A Morning, A Turkey, and A Cup of Coffee – Reflections

“Does the mother turkey think about the time she spent on the nest, preparing to hatch her brood?” This morning, the thought came to me as I watched a hen and her hatchlings move through the undergrowth of the nearby forest. Sitting on the porch of the Spiritual Retreat, the memory from three years ago popped up on my social media feed. As humans, we have the capacity to look back and reflect. Sometimes, we are made aware of how far we’ve come, both physically and spiritually. But, more often than not, we are painfully reminded of how far we have to go.

As the picture revealed, the first five or so rows of cinder blocks of the building that was to become the spiritual retreat were just starting. Yet, like that building, my development into how God was to use me in the next few years of my life was just beginning. Although it was just a few rows of blocks, it was a far cry from where my family and I had started our journey. You see, when you make that choice in life to finally quit beating around the bush and choose to finally surrender all to God, it becomes a lot more complicated when you have a family. As the leader, whatever your choices are in life will eventually, if not immediately, affect the ones you love. So, when you decide to give it all in and follow Him – go wherever do whatever He says; your family is right there with you every step of the way.

So, even before the first bag of concrete was poured, before the first tree was cut down to make a place for one to find themselves closer to God, I made a vow – that this project would be for God. It was a personal commitment that each step of the way, my actions, my thoughts, everything that went into creating this building would be of God and with God.

To understand such a vow, one must realize how far we had already come. The verse, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,”[1] had become part of the new me. Something else that I strove to maintain in the forethought as the real work began was this verse from Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Once God took the reins, it was as if the roller coaster ride had just begun. From moving an entire farm, moving our entire household belongings not just once, but twice, to starting an entirely new career, not once but three times in less than a year and a half – to say it was mind-boggling would be an understatement – it was numbing. Through each step, through every valley, there was always another mountain to climb. As Moses was tested through the desert, we were tempered like the steel he wanted us to become. Through it all, we found that alone we were nothing, but with God, all things were literally possible.

As first mentioned, sometimes we look back and see we are at the same place we were years ago. Although this is not always bad, it can also be disconcerting. Stuck in a proverbial rut, trying to change things on our own, we feel like we are on board the grand ship Titanic. To turn the massive vessel around before we crash headlong into the iceberg, we need more than the tiny rudder which corrects the enormous boat ever so slightly. We need more than a rudder. We need an entirely new vessel. Seeing how we can feel trapped, some give up and go on, living the life they think they have been dealt, not realizing that there is something more magnificent, if only we awaken to what God can do for us. For when we truly give it all to God, we find, not because we give it all to him to expect wealth, fame, or fortune – no, quite the opposite. For it is then, when we absolutely commit our lives to serve, it is then the real challenges begin.

It was a very difficult and painful decision to not only leave behind years of sweat and toil but also a lifetime of friends who had come to be part of our extended family. Some of my co-workers, folks that I had known from my beginning at the company to which I had devoted my life’s work, must have wondered if I had finally cracked under the stress of the job? Others must have thought that I had lost my mind. If only they knew. In a sense, it was true. I had been changed. My natural mind was replaced with one mindful of the Lord and how it was to fully give it all to Him – every-thing, yes all!

Some of those friends and neighbors who had known us for years had to wonder in amazement as they saw us leave behind the farm we had carved out of the forest. We literally began a dream from scratch. It was not easy. There were the multitude of memories created; watching my son catch his first fish, seeing my daughter ride her pony at full speed up the road, to those quiet evenings rocking together in the front porch swing. Yes, like that mother turkey with her brood following closely behind, when we are family, we don’t just do anything alone. To make a life change to serve God requires more than your own trust in the Lord, it requires the whole family to follow.

With eyes open, we can see anew. We are changed, and the focus in our lives shifts to not just of things of this world, but the preparation for life eternal through the gift of life given to us because of God’s only Son. When we realize that what time we have left here on this earth has a purpose, if only we awaken to that task. It is then, when we come to the realization we are God’s creation, here to honor and serve Him in everything we do – it is then that the perspective of life changes.

So as the trees were hauled to the sawmill to be cut up to be used in the building, as the dirt was moved to pour the footings, it was quite literally as if God was there watching and helping each step of the way. The tiny abode in the woods next to my home where one could go and commune with God was to become a place where anyone could come and be alone with the Lord. Being separate, in silence, and surrounded by God’s creation – makes a difference. Jesus often retreated into the wilderness, himself alone, to find solitude from the crowds where he could spend time alone with his Father.

So, here I sit this morning, a nice cup of coffee in hand, the stillness of the forest all around me as the mother turkey takes her brood deeper into the safety of the deep woods. She may not think of her past, but I’m thankful that God has allowed me to look back and give thanks for all that he has done and is doing in my life. Although there are miles to go, a never-ending attempt to find Sanctification, there is the comfort in knowing that He is with us each step of the way. It is up to us to ask, seek, and ye shall find, as the verse tells us.

Friend, take a moment and look back in your life and see if where you are, today is where you really want to be? Is this where God is leading you, or have you given up? It is never too late to seek Him. But, once you make that choice, be prepared for your world to change in ways you would never have imagined. It’s the most extraordinary journey of all.

Thanks be to God.


[1] 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

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A Gathering to Remember

by Timothy W. Tron, Nov. 2020

As the coming holidays approach, Thanksgiving and Christmas, there seems to be a sense of melancholy that has begun to permeate through the din of the incessant roar of this tumult our society has become. In my mind, there is a desire to reach back in my memories and dwell upon a time when life was simpler when the so-called advances in technology had yet to be developed. Because of the threat of lockdowns restricting these beloved reunions, those distant memories have become even more cherished. One such date that comes to mind coincides with a memory that our family holds dear to their heart.

It was the late 1960’s. Back then, we survived without non-stop news coverage, without updates from our social media accounts, and without the fear of dying from a virus, let alone anything else that existed at the time. It’s not to say there wasn’t death nor dying, for there had yet to be the advances we have today in the fields of heart disease and cancer. Both of these maladies took many lives before their time, and still do today, but not nearly as severely as in those days. No, we feared not because we had a faith that was the bedrock of our existence.

That faith was taught to us through our elders, passed down from one generation to the next – a thread of belief that was built upon an unending truth – Christ is indeed the Savior of the world. So, it is in this vein that once more my heart reaches for a well-worn story that is based on an actual event whose legacy has lasted for many years in our family. It is like the cup of an instant drink, void of the liquid to make it real – once the hot water is added, the story being recalled becomes the sustenance that warms our being. Like that beverage, the Spirit enters into our soul, and we are warmed from within to that which is without. Herein lies the beauty.

Looking back through the shadowy fog of time, those distant memories are like the passing clouds overhead. They are here but for a moment, and then cross over the mountaintops before we realize they are gone. As we near the season of holidays and family gatherings, it seems that those ancient days of yesteryear are ever more treasured. Like the value of a tattered cloth that once was held in the dying grasp of a loved one, its price to most would be nothing, but to those who knew its connection to the soul of the other – it becomes a priceless object.

That year when the snow fell around Christmas would become one such moment in time for me.

The classic event which unfolded is still known to this day, by all that attended, as the Sled Hill Christmas. Of all my childhood holiday experiences, it will forever be the most memorable in my mind. To read the entirety of the original story, you can find it online at https://timothywtron.dreamhosters.com/sled-hill-life-more-abundantly/ But this article looks at that event from a different perspective; one of how the warmth of a loving family and faith carried us through what may have been considered just another dark winter.

Like a revival, a truly epic event can only unfold when it is least expected. So it was that overcast December day so many decades ago. Several of us grandkids were staying at Grandpa and Grandma Tron’s house, there on the outskirts of New Harmony, Indiana. The town itself was in the season of slumber. Farming was still the driving industry, and the fields were now silent in their winter sleep. The hay had all been stored in the barns and the silos were filled to capacity with grains and silage to last until the next growing season began.  A feeling of hibernation overtook one’s soul, making those opportunities to warm by the woodstove or to huddle close around a cup of hot chocolate all the more permanent upon the creature within. Gathering with others was the only natural thing to do in a time such as this – it was who we were, it was what we were. In those precious slices of time, we fellowshipped without knowing that’s what it was called. Visiting with others when the work in the fields slowed was just as natural as splitting your firewood by hand – we all did it.

Tron House, New Harmony, Indiana.

When those first few snowflakes began falling the night before what would become the day to remember, we went to bed not expecting anything more than just a typical Midwest December dusting. When we awoke the next morning to the sounds of someone rattling around downstairs in the kitchen, it was as if Christmas had come early. Jumping from underneath the multiple layers of quilts, which weighed nearly as much as another cousin, we raced down the icy narrow stairs from the unheated upstairs bedrooms down to the kitchen where the pot-belly woodstove in Grandma’s kitchen was already red hot. We shivered and shook the remnants of chill from our bones, as our bare feet fought to find the warmth emanating from the scant linoleum floor by the stove. Excitedly, we peeked through the threadbare kitchen curtains that hung over the sink. The window faced grandma’s kitchen garden. Outside, the world was no longer the muddled gray of winter, but instead, was a brilliant whiteness, even in the pre-dawn, early morning hours.

About the time we had settled down around the table, after getting out of our bedclothes, Grandpa came in from the morning milking. We could hear the creaky old porch door slam behind him as he walked down the long back porch, from the barn end, up to the door of the kitchen, where he paused and took off his boots. The confines of that narrow passage clothed in clear plastic, a feeble attempt to thwart the cold winds of winter. The repurposed material was clouded with age, giving off a soft sheer grayness within the tomb of the veranda’s confines. The oft sound of rippling plastic slapping the screen made thoughts of warm summer nights, fresh tomatoes, and fireflies come to mind. Needless to say, those were but a distant rumor as the snow continued to fall.

With all eyes upon his entry, the vacuum of anticipation cut the air, like the cold wind that followed him inside. Snowflakes fell off his outer coat confirming what we already knew. Before he had time to take note of his unexpected audience, the questions began to roll off our lips.

“How deep is it grandpa?”

“Does it look like more’s coming?

“Where are the sleds?”

“Were the cows cold?”

He turned and smiled, looking toward grandma. Victor Tron never was a man of many words, So, when he replied with, “It looks like it’s gonna be good,” rest assured, that was all we needed to know. Grandma already had his breakfast ready, along with ours, and we sat down for an unusually early start of our day. We all instantly grew silent when grandpa bowed his head and reached his hand over to grandma. She grabbed his outstretched weathered hand with hers and we all joined hands and bowed our heads as grandpa said the blessing for the breakfast meal. In my mind, I can still hear that strained voice, barely above a whisper, thank God for what grandpa said was an abundance of blessings. Before us was a meager meal by worldly standards, but to us, it was Heaven sent. For we knew, even as children that every bit of it was from those two pair of withered hands that grasped one another in a love that never ended, even upon their death.

Victor Tron Sr.

 Grandpa’s first milking was at 3:00 AM and he usually finished up around 5:00 AM. His second milking was at 3:00 PM, every day of his life. He never took a vacation that I could remember. Usually exhausted from rising early, he would routinely drift off to sleep no matter where he sat, so finding time to talk with him was rare. He milked the cows until that night he died peacefully in his sleep, never to milk again. What we didn’t know as children, was how precious those few moments were with him when we were able to visit, especially that snowy morning on a cold December day so many years ago.

As soon as we were able to clear the table and bundle up, we were headed out the door. Eventually, someone asked if we could check out sled hill. An okay was given and like a herd of young calves heading for new pasture, we bolted out the back gate. Past the woodpile where grandpa’s ax and splitting log were shrouded in snow we raced. Heading for the opening to the lane, we quickly found ourselves wading through the knee-deep snow toward the iconic destination; Sled Hill. Past the milking barn, the bullpen, and Ms. Wolf’s house we trudged. Each one of these structures held a plethora of memories and stories that one could sit for hours and share. Like a life of living, their collections, like the holdings of stockpiled hay for the winter, waiting for one to return and use for the giving.

The bushes along the Labyrinth were blanketed in a sweet frosting of white. Our panted breaths billowed before us and were quickly whisked away in the falling snow.  In our rush to find out how well the sledding was going to be, we didn’t realize how hard the snow was continuing to fall. Nor did we realize how deep the snow had already gotten since sunrise. In the overcast grayness of the day, it all seemed like a dream, even when it was live.

Labyrinth, New Harmony, Indiana

As the story, “Sled Hill: Life More Abundantly,” conveys, the rest of the day was a multitude of adventures and excitement. With each passing moment, the tempo of the day’s delight reached a fevered pitch. The enthusiasm of the children soon bubbled over into those of the adults, igniting in them the feelings of youth. Gone were the aches and pains of age. The adrenaline of living purged those boundaries of limitations that had kept them hostage. Soon, parents, Aunts, and Uncles were joining in the merriment of sliding down the hill so aptly named.

As the sky began to darken as night approached, the thrill of the day and the feeling of being one with something greater than ourselves overwhelmed us. Fearing that it would end in darkness, the men created torches on the fly from used old tin cans (which we also used as drinking vessels), nailing them to poles and placing them along the sled run, all the way to the top of the hill. What started out as child’s play quickly turned into a major production. In essence, a cow pasture had turned into our own ski-slope far removed from any mountaintop.

When the last vestiges of daylight gave way to darkness, there along the sled run was a perfect row of home-made flaming lights shedding an ambient glow of warmth. Off to the side, a pile of wood was set afire and a massive bonfire became the gathering spot between runs down the hill. There we regained strength to carry on from food and drink the family had brought in at a moment’s notice. There, the entire family that was able to make it collected. The sentinel image that remains with me to this day was seeing both grandpa and grandma’s faces glowing in the reflection of the firelight. To know that grandpa had a milking coming at 03:00 AM, and yet, he was here foregoing precious sleep, standing alongside us kids around the bonfire said something more that than words could fathom. Even then, the whispers of the children could be heard, “Look, even grandpa and grandma are here.” The statement was a confirmation of the significance of that moment in time, one that made a profound statement on all that were present.

That night, once our bodies had been worn to a frazzle. There was barely enough strength to make it back to the house. As we pulled off our wet, nearly frozen clothing and briefly warmed by the fire, a numbness of exhaustion began to overtake us. The enormous featherbed never looked so welcoming. Shortly thereafter, after our bedtime prayers were said, there was little more than the sweet, “Goodnight children,” from grandma as she tucked us under the pile of quilts before we fell asleep.

For once in a lifetime, there was no sweeter sleep.

As the snow continued to fall outside that night, there was a warmth within that was more than physical – a love that transcends all understanding. There was something created that day that would last forever in the hearts of those who had been privileged to experience it. It became an inexplicable thread of life that would weave its way into our souls which would become part of who we were. The similarity of a feeling such as this can only compare to that of Christ’s disciples.

Like those followers of Jesus who had walked and talked with Christ after his resurrection, they too had a story to share. One that was so inexplicable, so earth-shattering that they would live the rest of their lives pursuing the mission to share it with all that would hear, even unto the point of death. It was who they were.

As we go forward in this holiday season, let us come together as a family, and may the hope of Christ, and Christmas be with you, until the end of time. May it someday become who you are as well.

Thanks be to God.

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Among the Branches…

“He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them, the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. 13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.” – Psalm 104:10-13

The morning light was still creeping through the foliage that lined the riverbank as we stepped foot into the chilly waters of the Johns River. It was our first family outing in a long, long time. Each of us found an extra spring in our step as we hurriedly unloaded the kayaks. The morning clouds had disappeared as blue skies welcomed us overhead. Off in the distant, before I could even finish changing from my hiking boots to my river shoes, the echoes of the Whippoorwill called. Instantly, my mind was transported back to the days of my childhood. Those evenings near the banks of the Wabash River, we would often hear that night bird’s cry as the shadows ebbed closer to the Sycamore just off Grandma Tron’s front porch. Yet, here he was calling in the morning hour, “Odd,” I thought to myself. The Wabash and the evening Whippoorwill were a lifetime away, yet the smell of the watercourse nearby reminded me of the present adventure, so I finished skayakinglipping on my shoes and quickly walked to the water’s edge.

Looking back, the night bird singing in the morning would only be fitting to what we would find as the day progressed, as the comfort He afforded us on our journey would appear almost surreal. We had only planned to just float the river and eat a picnic lunch. All that transpired beyond that was nothing we had never envisioned. As they always say, “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.”

We are still very much learning the ropes of kayaking, and today’s journey would be another first; a two-hour trek. Unlike that river of memory, the Wabash, the Johns River flows from its beginnings in the Pisgah National Forest high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There in the wilderness, each bend, each turn of the waterway revealed another picturesque scene that made you want to stop moving and soak it all in; yet the flow of the life-giving fluid continued. The cascading sounds of white water blended with the gurgle of the paddle as we dipped them serenely into the clear mountain water. All around us birds too numerous to count, called out their chirps, whistles and songs as the symphony of nature treated us to a special performance. Each new turn, each new vista exposed granite walls towering above as our craft silently slipped past, like the time beneath our course.

Rapids after rapids, we found excitement in our journey. Gone were the endless days of moving, countless hours of driving between homes. Gone were the frustrations of living in the tiny house with one bathroom. Gone were the thoughts of countless hours of preparation, before dawn fires in the oven, late night clean up following festivals, and all the tensions that arose between. It was as if God was satisfied with the fruit of our labors and was sharing this day with us. Yes, we were more than thankful.

If that was not enough, He had more plans in store.

We had not finished eating our picnic lunch when, in true Godly fashion, several of our former JAM Band members would unknowingly, and independently find their way to where we were spending the afternoon following our morning float. It was more than humbling to see friends that had become like an extended family find their way into the wilderness, each showing up in staggered arrivals. Once again, as it is with all true friends, we picked up where we had left off in what seemed like years since we had last seen one another. There was so much to tell, share and discuss. Six of the ten band members were present, simply out of the blue, all in one place. To believe it was possible even if we tried would have been nearly unthinkable; yet, here they were. The children have all grown and are all now young men and women. In my eyes, they were all children once again, laughing and enjoying just being together once more. It was a thing of beauty.

Like the river, you try to absorb as much as you can, but there is never enough time.

Before we knew it, our short time together required another goodbye; those painful farewells you try to avoid.

The flow of life continues unabated.

We so desperately want to sometimes stop the current and hold onto the moment, like the breath of life we take to dive below the waters, we must consider those precious moments and store them away somewhere in our memory to recall later, and pray they are never forgotten.

We had made our way to the streams that flowed amongst the hills. There they provided nourishment for all the wild beasts of the field. But the nourishment was more than physical. In all that we do, our souls sometimes need to be replenished with the happiness that keeps our spirits afloat. Sometimes, we must find the time to drift along with the current, if even for a few minutes and let the world pass us by as we listen to Him. He may not speak, he may not move, yet sometimes the message is to just sit back, relax and enjoy His presence and the presence of those we love.

Today we found peace and happiness once more as we basked in the presence of the Lord along with our loved ones.

It was surely a beautiful day.

The flow of life continues, and we cherish each bend in the river.

Thanks be to God.

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WWII: Painful Memories Everlasting…

Today I met an elderly lady that was another lost treasure of history and memories long forgotten by many; Gretchen was her name. Although approaching 80 years of age, she was as spry and energetic as anyone. Her mind was clear and sharp and her enthusiasm to share was overpowering.

Her family had survived the carpet bombings of the Allied Forces in the city of Dresden dresdenGermany in WWII. Like so many others on both sides of the war, they had lost everything they owned.

War is hell; any war.

When Gretchen and her family returned to the surface from their fallout shelter, there was nothing left of their home. Strewn before them was a maze of rubble and shattered memories. All they had left were the clothes on their backs and their lives. Neighbors and friends, all perished in a matter of minutes.

Knowing that the bombings would continue, they had to flee to safety. Their plan was to head north to a families farm near Juelich. They found a friend with a car and drove to the other side of the city where her Aunt, Uncle and their children lived. Her father told them to wait in the car, he would be right back as he dashed into a small grocery to find the rest of the family. The store stood in a row of buildings common to many older parts of German cities. As they sat patiently waiting in the car, the slow wail of the air-raid siren began to wail. As she retold the story, she imitated the sound. Her pitch and voice perfectly echoed the mournful sound of the alarms. She explained to us that the slow siren meant they had time to seek shelter. When the siren began to increase its cadence, the bombers would be nearly overhead.

“Wooooooooo-eeeeeeeeeew,” she moaned, her eyes glossing over as she spoke. There was an eerie echo in her voice and for a second, I could hear them too. Death was approaching once more.

Before they could unload from the car, the siren went into the fast pace wail of impending doom. They scurried for the store, but there was no time; the bombers were already overhead. They dove for the nearest shelter in the store where her father had disappeared moments earlier in search of his brother and the rest of their family.

Germans had wisely made the shelters beneath the buildings connected in case one was bombed, there would still be a way out. These connecting portals were blocked off with wood partitions in order to protect one from the other. She described how they had just reached the safety of the basement below the grocery and someone was already talking to her Uncle through the partition. Yes, they had found them. For a brief moment, she felt joy in knowing they were also safe. In the next moment, she described the excruciating sound of the impact of the bomb that literally threw them to the ground and extinguished the candles.

For what seemed an eternity, she could not hear. Only the smell of smoke and the vibration of other bombs exploding resonated through their bodies as they lay helpless to the death that fell from the sky. Slowly, the sound of cries of anguish began to melt back into her consciousness. Everyone in their part of the basement would be safe. Sadly, there were no more voices from the other side of the partition; only the distant drone of planes as they flew away.

Her father had never reached his brother nor their extended family. He would lead the rescue team as they dug out the destroyed building next to the grocery to try to save anyone that had still lived. They found her Uncle and the rest of the family all next to the partition, trickles of crimson drool leaked from the corners of each of their mouths as they sat in their deathly slumber; all had perished. Had the partition not been there, the force of the blast would have certainly killed Gretchen and the rest of her family. Gretchen and the rest of her family emerged from the rubble finding their escape car demolished. Their hope of safety was in Juelich, which was over 30 miles away.

With no other choice of survival, Ruth, her mother, and three sisters set off on foot. Her father remained behind to help in the rescue effort like so many other men who weren’t selected to serve in the army for one reason or other. They became the hope of survival for so many buried beneath their own homes and businesses.

She couldn’t recall the entire journey except for an accident that occurred, which caused her to fall and break her nose. She recalled the pain and being unable to breathe that night. Fear of dying surrounded them like the darkness that enveloped the destroyed landscape. She recalled her fear of dying being an everyday occurrence. They finally found a doctor who came and cleaned up her injury enough that she could once again breathe freely. They continued on foot for a couple more days and then got a ride from a kind farmer who was headed in the same direction. They eventually made it to safety and their grandparents home. Her father would join them later upon his return from the hell that Cologne had become.

She finished and looked up. Tear rimmed eyes still portrayed the pain from so long ago.

“There is so much more, but it was so long ago,” she swallowed before continuing on, “You see, God was our only hope.”

No matter when, how or why we find suffering in our lives, it is part of who we are. If we have faith, we know that God uses these to make us stronger. But when suffering becomes more than we can bear, we must call on the Lord. He is our hope, our salvation and our life eternal.

We only have to seek Him.

No matter the hell you are going through, there is hope. Like Gretchen, seek God and He will listen to your pleas.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:11-13

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Anglers Dream…

2014-08-01 01.51.23 This was written after we took an early morning fishing expedition out onto Jordan Lake a couple weeks ago. I can still hear the cries of the Bald Eagles as the fog enveloped our craft.

Enjoy..

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Sled Hill

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”-John 10:10

As a child, I never understood why standing on top of Sled Hill and overlooking the trees, rooftops, and steeples in the tiny town of New Harmony made me feel as if I were somewhere else; somewhere in another place and time. Life would eventually lead me on a journey, led by the Master’s hand, to mountain tops beyond my wildest dreams, back to a beginning that no one knew. In those places, the grandeur of God’s majesty would take my breath away as He would open my mind to the Truth. It was as if back then, He was preparing me for the future, but it was beyond my comprehension, as it so often is. But before those magnificent peaks and that walk of faith came a humble beginning. Yet, even now in my mind’s eye, I can still see that view on a sunny day as clouds whisked overhead, throwing shadows that raced across the lush green pastures below that were sewn into a patchwork of squares that bordered the edge of town on the farm we knew as home. It was here on this hill, which to us was a mountain in those days, that the event of a lifetime would occur on a snowy day; quite unlike that bright sunny day, yet so full of wonder and awe that it would take a multitude of memories to contain it all.

Christmas was just around the corner, so everyone was anxious for our first snowfall of the season. The weather on that winter morn was gray and dull with clouds hanging so low it felt like you could reach up and touch them. The forecast was for a few inches of snow, but by noon, there was already a blanket of white so deep it covered everything around that old farmhouse there on the edge of town that sat just below Sled Hill. As the snowflakes fell like giant goose-down feathers, more and more family began to gather until the house couldn’t contain us all and at the suggestion of grandma, we lit out for Sled Hill with anything we could find that might act as a sled, including one real working sled. At that point, it was just us kids, out on an exploratory expedition. Looking back, grandma’s suggestion for us to go explore the sledding conditions were a perfect way to quiet the house and make more room for the adult family who had come to visit. For us kids, it was the perfect excuse to play in the snow. Either way, it would become soon become the stuff of legends.

I don’t know which of us tried to go down first, but by the time we reached halfway up the famous hill, the snow was so deep you couldn’t slide down easily without first making a trough. The initial attempts all met with crashes. It wasn’t until someone made a run nearly to the bottom of the hill that our luck began to change. It wasn’t long before the runs were stretching out into unbelievable lengths. Soon it was apparent that a report back to home base was necessary; this was going to be the sledding event of the century; Christmas had come early!

We went up and down that hill so many times that afternoon that we eventually became wore out and had to return back to the house for warmth and recuperation. If you knew us kids, you knew that for us to have to stop doing something that much fun was a clear indication of our exhaustion. As we retold of the excitement while sipping hot chocolate and eating grandma’s hot fresh homemade cookies, some of the adults had to go check it out for themselves. A few of us escorted them back to the hill, which was a good hike that went past the tractor barn, up the long lane that passed the garden at Ms. Wolfe’s house, past the backside of the Labyrinth, past the bullpens and eventually to the pasture gate at the far end. All along the lane were huge Catalpa trees that would provide an unending supply of fishing bait in the summertime from the worms that would fall off their leaves but now stood barren and dark as ominous figures that loomed overhead which stood as bulwarks against the snowstorm; one side becoming white as they too became part of the ever-increasing snow-scape. Once you reached the pasture gate, you had a good quarter mile to reach the base of the hill, that now stood silent and foreboding as the snow-covered sled run loomed white disappearing into the snowfall from above, becoming one in their obscurity of eyesight.

The report from our adult led expedition told of some of the best sledding conditions that they had ever seen in their lifetime. Our eyes nearly popped out of our heads at this exclamation. The wheels were soon put into motion for preparations for a night sled, something we children had never heard of nor thought of before. Grown men began to brainstorm, and the idea of putting torches along the sled run was thrown out. “And why not,” came a reply which soon put some of the creative minds in the family to work to build the home-made torches that soon lined the sled path before darkness had set in putting off a warming glow to the gleaming white ice that had begun to form on the trail to the top of the hill. I don’t know what we ate, nor when we ate, all I can recall to this day was sledding and sliding down the hill that loomed like a monolithic icicle in the night sky. The hill became so slick that the only way to get back to the top was to find footsteps on the side of the run that had been made before; otherwise, you’d find yourself sledding without a sled. By the end of the night, only the brave or fool hearty would slide from the top of the hill, so fast and slick was the ice. Those who did try found themselves becoming human torpedoes flying down the hill as their sleds raced ahead.

While we kids were climbing up and down the hill, a giant bonfire began to grow, where we would find ourselves warming our frozen extremities and finding hot dogs or other fire baked goodies to satisfy our hunger that had grown without our knowledge. As the faces of family and friends gathered around the blaze, we realized that when grandpa and grandma were also there gathered around that giant fire, this was the event of a lifetime. Grandpa would rarely venture out this time of night especially when he had the 3:00 AM milking coming, but this was no ordinary day or night. We continued on that night until arms and legs would no longer move and slowly we all left the snowfall and ice-covered hill behind. As the embers of the fire began to glow in the darkness, the last snowflakes fell into its warmth with a hiss. A tiny puff of smoke escaped and drifted above into the night sky, like our memories that drifted off with our sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows that night.

In the event of a lifetime, a memory was made that affected so many its recollection brings forth memories from so many that if we were all gathered together, you might mistake our ages as children once again and hear the crunch of snow underfoot as our minds race down that hill once more.

There have been many Christmas seasons that have come and gone since that day. Many of those adults have gone on home to be with the Lord while others have grown and moved away. The old farmhouse was torn down and the farm drastically altered to adapt to changing times. The old milk barn is still there, but now it is the offices and warehouse for a flower farm. While one can stand at the road that once went by the house and look back to where the old front porch used to sit, it is only then, in the mind’s eye can we see from whence we came. Time is the thief that comes to steal and destroy, but we cannot allow it all to slip away.

Life is about living, our past and our mutual experiences and sometimes, those all combine into the unforgettable.

A life lived abundantly.

So it was and always shall be with our “Sled Hill.” Somewhere in your life, you too have had or will have a “Sled Hill.” When you do, or if you have, embrace those memories or that time with all you can, for it sometimes only comes around once in a lifetime.

Again, live life abundantly, and strive to make the most of every opportunity.

Thanks be to God.

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