So my pal Jilly must have run out of Chris August videos to watch over on YouTube this week, because yesterday she sent me this link to the newest video in the Sidewalk Prophet’s devotional series for the ‘Live Like That’ album.
I have to admit, I’ve not been keeping up with much of anything lately, video series-es (is that even a word? I don’t think so…) by the Sidewalk Prophets included.
The thought briefly crossed my mind to just delete the message and move on with life, but then I saw what Jill had written below the link:
“This is gonna make you flip!!!”
Now, that’s a direct quote from Jill, including the three exclamation points. I’m not sure anyone has ever told me something’s ‘gonna make me flip’, nor can I ever recall flipping, so my interest was piqued. Curiosity is kind of my downfall, so I went ahead clicked on the link.
By 20 seconds into Dave describing his cornfield adventures with his buddy George, I think I had the biggest smile I’ve had in all of July so far on my face.
This may sound strange, but really it isn’t (I promise). You see, I grew up surrounded by Indiana cornfields from the time I was 4 months old until I moved out of my parent’s home as an adult, and there was not much I loved more than walking around in the rows of corn in the summer. My little brother and I would play hide and seek when the corn was tall enough, and sometimes, although I’m not proud to admit this now, we’d let our baby sister tag along with the sole intent of trying to lose her somewhere in rows upon rows of tall green and gold stalks. (At 6 and 4, it never occurred to us that our Mom would wonder where my sister was when we came home without her. Not one of our better plans, that’s for sure!)
One of my favorite things to do, however, was to go out to the secret forest my friend, Greg Green, and I had found one afternoon while roaming the fields. Greg lived down the road (or across the field, which was shorter) and he was in my class in school. Because he and his family came to Indiana from Tennessee, he had a rich Southern accent that sounded very mature and worldly. Also, because he was a boy, he was allowed to tote around a Red Rider BB gun on his back so as far as I was concerned, he might as well have been in his 20’s instead of 6 or 7.
The afternoon we found the secret forest, Greg and I had walked farther into the cornfield behind my house than we had ever walked before. It was early August, and the corn was high and thick, making it somewhat difficult to see very far in front of me. Greg walked behind me, I think so he could kick dirt at me and make me turn around and stick my tongue out at him.
Suddenly, I felt the dirt slip beneath my feet and I was sliding down, down, and all I could see was my pink barn boots out in front of me. When I stopped sliding, I stood up and brushed off my cut off jeans and looked around.
I’m pretty sure my eyes were open about as wide as my mouth.
I looked up, about 2 or 3 feet, to where Greg was still standing, his Red Rider BB gun in hand.
“Whoa,” was all he said.
We had found a place that looked like heaven itself had opened up, and God himself had dropped a perfectly round, lush green forest right in the middle of an Indiana cornfield just for me (okay, and maybe for Greg, too, but technically it was behind my house, so I called dibs.)
In the middle of the forest was a picturesque meadow that, now that I think about it, kind of reminds me of the one from the Twilight movies. There was also a fishing pond (at least, we thought it was a fishing pond, but I’m not sure we ever really caught any fish.)
It was truly a beautiful, magical, almost mystical place. In the winter, I would miss that place with all my heart, and sometimes I would worry that come spring it would disappear just as quickly as it appeared on that hot August afternoon.
Of course, it never did…but eventually I grew up, and Greg did too.
I hadn’t thought about that place in years, or even been then in years, when I had my stroke in 2012.
After my stroke, my brain was really confused about a lot of things. Some things, I couldn’t remember while other things I thought I remembered never really happened. It was a very stressful time, never knowing if I could rely on my mind and my memories.
When I would sleep, I would dream of that forest, of that place hidden in the cornfields that I had once loved so much, and that was the only time I really felt like I was at peace–when I was asleep, 6 years old again, running thru the cornfields to a secret forest that I believed God had made especially for me.
One day, I casually mentioned this dream to my Mom. Her head whipped around, and she looked me squarely in the eye. “Do you mean Terabithia?” she asked.
“Tera-what-ia?” I replied.
“When you were a little girl, you and Greg Green used to go back to the forest in cornfield. You called it Terabithia, and I would ask you to please call it something else, because the little girl in that book ends up dead when she goes to Terabithia by herself. It gave me nightmares about you for years,” Mom said.
“Terabithia,” I repeated, trying to feel if the word felt familiar as it crossed my lips. “You mean, that place is real?”
I was astonished. In my dreams, in my memories, the details of that place were so clear, so vivid. I couldn’t believe I was recalling a place from so long ago with such clarity when just the day before when I had woken up it took me a half hour to remember who I was and where I was at.
“Well, it you don’t believe me, go ask Greg. He’s the Fire Chief of the township now, I bet he’d take you back there if you asked him,” Mom suggested.
I mulled Mom’s idea over in my head for a few days, and then my curiosity got the better of me (once again). Word of my recent stroke and subsequent traffic accident on the interstate after being dismissed from the hospital had apparently preceded me, as Greg welcomed me to the fire station with, “Glad to see you’re still in one piece, Crash.” (Yes, that’s my childhood nickname. I’m epically uncoordinated and generally lacking in gracefulness.)
Since it was the end of February and the fields were still frozen, we didn’t have to walk all the way out to the forest. Greg commandeered one of the heavy-duty utility trucks from the FD and sure enough, there surrounded by the barren tundra of Indiana farmland in winter was the place I had been dreaming of, less the lush foliage and blue-green water lapping at the edge of the pond (it was frozen).
For hours, Greg and I reminisced about the good times we had at that place. I questioned Greg about some of my memories, trying to decide just how accurate my mind was (surprisingly. it was spot on when it came to the magical, mystical forest). We both remembered the day we saw the deer, a huge buck, standing by the pond in early fall, and how the deer had quietly watched us for a while before stalking off into the trees.
The deer must have sensed that Greg was not a threat to him with his Red Rider BB gun.
On the way back, I asked Greg why he had always insisted on walking behind me on our adventures in the corn instead of in front of me. “After all, you were the one with the BB gun,” I reminded him.
He laughed, and I noticed he still had that same old Southern boy accent he’s always had. “I liked watching the way your pigtails swished over your shoulders when you ran ahead of me,” he said with a smile. “That, and it was fun to try to get you to stick your tongue out at me.”
Later that night, I asked my mom why she thought I was able to remember the forest so clearly when other things seemed to have slipped away, and I didn’t know if they would ever come back.
“Maybe some things are just so special to us that they are written upon our hearts, Beth,” Mom said softly, putting an arm around me. “You remembered that place with all of your senses, not just your mind. A special place like that, in a special time in your life-like that, isn’t soon forgotten.”
So, as I sit here thinking about all the amazing places hidden in Indiana cornfields, and devotional videos, and old friends, and smart Moms and our heavenly Father who loves us so much, I can’t help but smile.
We all have our own stories to tell, and while sometimes they may be similar or have some uncanny parallels, I think what lies at the heart of every story that is worth telling is love. When you look closely at love, particularly at how our heavenly Father reveals His love for us, I think you’ll find it is frequently shown in the details that are easily overlooked.
Maybe as kids, we see this kind of thing more clearly. When I was six, I knew without a doubt who created that special place hidden away in the cornfield. I also knew who He made it for (ME!)
What I didn’t realize at the time was that He was going to use this very place to one day bring me peace and comfort during a troubled time in y life. Make no mistake, it wasn’t a coincidence that I dreamt of the forest after my stroke, or a fluke that I remembered all of the details with such vivid clarity that I could literally hear the rustling of the corn stalks as I saw myself as a little girl running between the perfectly aligned rows. I could feel the sunlight dancing warm and soft against my skin again, and smell the familiar scents of the earth beneath my feet.
He planned those moments for me, and had a purpose in mind for them far greater than I could have imagined as a brown-haired, green-eyed little girl with pigtails so long ago.
You know what else? If you are reading this, He loves you, too, every bit as much as He loves me. Even if you’re hurting, even if you’re angry, even if you’re feeling broken, and especially if you think there’s no possible way He could ever love you after what you have done, I’m here to tell you with 100% certainty that He does love you.
Not only that, but He wants to heal you when you’re hurting, soothe you when you’re angry, and restore all the pieces of your broken heart to something even better than it ever was before.
Oh, and you know that one thing? You know, that one thing that you did that you’re sure He will never, ever be able to forgive you for because it was that bad? That one thing that’s left you in a really bad place because you know you’ve messed up, and things have just gone too far this time?
I do know, because I’ve been there. I also know that there is no place that far that God can’t reach you, my friend.
He has plans and a purpose for moments in your life that you can’t even begin to imagine right now. I bet if you think back and reflect on the story of your life tonight, you’ll see His love for you in the details, too. He’s there, if only you will seek Him.
Like the Sidewalk Prophets song that started this lengthy blog so eloquently says, “There is a Hope with arms open wide… for you tonight.”
So, go running towards that Hope like you’re a 6-year-old Beth in an Indiana cornfield, headed for her favorite place.
That place, safe in His arms, is truly the best place ever.