I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can. –regarding Susan Pevensie, C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
This is the story of how I grew up. Because I used to be far more like the Susan than I would like to admit.
We were living in Spring, part of the massiveness that is actually Houston, Texas.
I was always surprised at how people there just think, “Hey, there’s some more land. Let’s just build stuff here. And then we’ll build a bunch of giant roads to get here ’cause–well–it’s land and it’s here and it will make Houston bigger. And everything’s bigger in Texas, right?”
And that’s what it was like.
I loved the people there. They were fun and friendly and down to earth and knew their barbecue and steaks and banana pudding. And okra.
Our large family, however, needed more than friendly faces. We needed space and breathable air that wasn’t so–humid and polluted and loud.
We were feeling the urge to get away from city life and find some land and maybe have some chickens.
Does everyone go through this when they get to five or six children?
Does something click inside parents at the number of six children that says you need to find some space for the children? I don’t know.
So, we went and looked at the edges of civilized Houston.
We even saw what might be considered a rolling hill or two. We saw pecan trees and bluebonnets. We saw some pretty land.
And we went further and nothing was coming to mind.
I told my husband that my deepest, most real impression was that we were to go north.
So, we looked in North Houston. And then we went crazy and looked a little north of that.
We went all the way out to Willis, Texas.
It was definitely “the country.” But, while it felt open and wide and the stars at night burned deep and bright, we went home feeling the opposite of a “good feeling.”
We happened at the time to have some wonderful, wonderful friends (who still, in spite of nearly a decade are still our friends!), who wanted to move to Utah or Idaho. We have lived near each other for most of these ten years, usually moving around the same time.
We call them our flip side–the good looking half of the coin.
She was a New York runway model (and looks like she still is), and he is ruggedly handsome. Sometimes we wonder how they can even be seen in public with us! 🙂
So, we were talking with them, and they planned a trip out west to find some land and a house. And, being a friend, I went online and looked for houses for them to visit.
One day, I was looking in East Idaho classifieds, because my very good looking friend had been to a little ski town on the other side of Jackson called “Victor” and loved it. She even told me about the town right next to it, called Driggs, and said it had the most wonderful, cute little organic grocery store called Barrels and Bins.
So, I was looking for her. I was looking for houses to buy, but somehow ended up in the for rent section, and I stumbled across a listing:
Five bedroom home on ten acres with three car garage. Plenty of room for horses and toys.
No pictures or anything. Just that. And I felt it. This was the place for us.
I didn’t even know where it was. The listing just said “Tetonia.” I had never heard of it.
But that was The Place.
I told John, and he also felt it.
He called, and within a few minutes, we were planning a move to Tetonia.
(I might add here that I had felt we were going to move, so I had already started packing. Just didn’t know where.)
I was fine until the day before the move. Everything seemed to go wrong and I was terrified. We still hadn’t even seen pictures of the place. I was vacillating between crying and being completely hysterical. Mostly, I kept that to myself, but some of it escaped, and John, who is a ninja, figured everything out and fixed everything and I have NEVER been so exhausted in my life as I was when we drove away from our very strange (but in the right location), Heavenly Father chosen home at Aldenham Place and started the trek to Tetonia, Idaho.
Texas felt like it would never end. John, who is a ninja and can go weeks without sleeping, was so exhausted from the move that he had to pull over. He asked me to drive. He never asks me to drive.
He heard about the incident where I drove under a moving semi truck and I hypothesize that it has colored his viewpoint of my driving skills. It was only one time. And I was sixteen.
He adamantly denies that and often asks if I would like to drive, but I prefer being a passenger.
So, I was driving and trying to keep my eyes open and then I had to pull over, too. And we kept going. We drove through the night and into the next day and we were still in Texas and it was windy and buggy and we stopped by a “rest stop” and ate sandwiches made with Aunt Camille’s amazing rolls and it made everything better.
But it was still flat and windy and buggy and desolate.
And I wondered if we would ever get out of Texas. What if we couldn’t?
But we did, and we drove down Teton Pass at night with a trailer and a car hitched to our van, white knuckled and I was never so glad that I couldn’t see the view down that pass as John maneuvered all of that tonnage up, up, up and down, down, down. It was hair raising.
It was about 12:45 am on Joy’s birthday when the GPS stopped working because we were literally in the middle of nowhere, and it was up to John to find our home.
John, being a ninja, has an uncanny ability to find things that are lost to us. He is really good at it. That night, he was in his element. With nothing but moonlight and instinct to guide him, he found our home. As we drove down the quarter mile long gravel driveway, we slowed down as we watched in the pale, shimmery light, a small herd of horses gallop across.
I thought I might have died and gone to heaven.
We parked in front of a log home. It was beautiful on the outside.
John said he would go in first, just in case.
Just in case it was trashed on the inside or awful or something.
As I waited I looked up at the night sky. I gasped. I had never seen so many stars. It took my breath away and I knew it was going to be alright.
John came out of the house and walked to the van.
He looked worried and serious.
Misty, why don’t you come in first?
His voice sounded tight. I started to sweat. Was it awful? How awful was it? I got out of the van and walked up the steps.
He opened the door into the most beautiful home I have ever seen. It was not too fancy, not too wilderness-y. It was bright and cheery and built with love.
It was Home.
I cried, and we brought the kids in.
Happy birthday, Joy.
It’s so funny. Now that I look back, I wonder if that birthday present was something she was giving to us.
She never really liked the cold. She liked wearing bare feet and running around naked in the sunshine.
She loved summer there, but her visit was cut short. And when it was, the beauty of the people there outshone the majesty of the mountains and valleys and trees and nature paled in comparison to the stunning vistas of human kindness that were poured out on us.
And, now that I am back here for awhile, I often wonder what might have happened if we had stopped going north at Willis, Texas.
What would my life be like now?
I marvel at the brilliant beauty and unimaginable joy I found by going “further up and further in” and by taking a leap in the dark–into the great unknown–because I allowed my mind to be opened to the possibilities that awaited going beyond what I could imagine–beyond what my sensibilities could fathom.
Tetonia is my home in ways that I cannot describe in words. It is my heart in ways I cannot deny. The mountains and valleys hold my soul in its grasp, and when I am here, I feel more like myself and I feel comfortable in my own skin. This valley shielded me from some of the pain at losing Joy. The wind whispered peace, the creeks testified of life forever going on, and the hills hugged me and the stars were my friends.
Thank Heaven that I was able to see beyond Willis, Texas.
(Not that Willis isn’t someone else’s heaven! Just not mine.)
Thank God I went further up and further in.
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” –The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis
And on days when my head is hurting and my limp is pronounced and every step hurts, I think of even further up and further in, and how even as beautiful and marvelous as Tetonia is for me, there is a far better country, a far better story, if only I will look up and open my mind to the possibilities of Heaven, and what it holds for me.
I have seen it once–through a door–the light of Heaven.
I have heard the laughter of angels and I cannot describe the beauty and I cannot tell you how much deeper and brighter it is. I cannot explain the depth of love that permeates that great and last Undiscovered Country–the other side of this veil of tears….
I never want to be so close minded that I miss the pathway to that fair place–to my Home that is more home to me than any on earth–where Joy dances in the sunlight and the silvery blue wildflowers dance with her. Where the breeze ever blows gently and the grass is springy and the earth smells clean and the trees sing along with her to a tune that is too exquisite to be sung here.
I never want to be so afraid or unsure that I don’t take the road less traveled, with thorns and briars and thistles and bugs and hot, dry wind and relentless pursuit of seen and unseen enemies that seek to persuade me to be happy with Willis, Texas when Heaven is just around the riverbend.
I want to remember that this is only the very small beginning of a much greater story, a story that I very much want to finish.
And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.