As Dakota and I crossed the brome field and headed toward the farm, I glanced over my shoulder. The picture of an upset donkey caused me to hesitate. Don Quixote (Donk) was stomping, throwing his head over the top of the fence, and getting ready for a loud, obnoxious bray. Dakota, the black lab, and Donk have forged an unusual friendship during her short stay with her “grandparents.” It is no secret that I am a soft-touch when it comes to animals. Doubling back, I grabbed Donk’s lead rope and opened the gate. Satisfied that he had been understood, he offered me his chin, and I fastened the rope to his halter. So, we were three that day walking the trails.
As we made it to the top of the pasture, we had settled into a routine. Donk had given up trying to graze his way along and was quite docile walking beside me, moving his ears strategically to hear the various sounds, occasionally stopping, his ears pointed forward and intently watching something that I could not see or hear in the distance. Dakota was running through the tall grass sniffing the ground, disappearing for a while, and then reappearing to check on Donk and me. We were all acting out our given natures. Dakota was being a dog, Donk was being a donkey, and I was doing the human thing: reminiscing. I recalled all the years that I have walked, prayed, led students, and pointed others to this trail.
The trail hadn’t always been here. In the early years, after forging my way through the blue stem prairie on my daily prayer walks, Judd had mowed a three-quarter mile path around the pasture for me. Once, when it grew over, and Judd was busy, I had dragged the push mower up the rocky drive and mowed the path myself. Once, that was. I have more vision than brawn, and I never did get the “vision” to do it again. But today that path has become a mainstay. With riding mowers and tractor mowers, there is always someone who has the vision to mow them when they begin to grow over. And today the trail serves many of us as a place to get away, to exercise, or to walk and pray.
We had made it around the three-quarter mile trail and were ready to head back down into the lower pasture. At the angel shelter, I stopped to pick up a golden tin foil angel halo that had been lost in the dark not so very long ago. The cedar-chipped outcrop where the angels stood was worn and compacted. Their short “Hallelujah Chorus” followed by “Joy to the World” seemed to echo softly across the valley. Leaving the upper pasture, we picked our way over the rocky path and headed toward the shepherd’s fire pit and sheep pen, to the lower pasture. Stopping a moment, I once again found myself in reverie. Memories. A month ago, over two thousand pairs of feet had tramped the path below me. I imagined I could hear the singers as they followed the groups caroling across the pasture. A few feet down the rocky path, we passed the stump behind the cedar blind where “Gabriel” sat to wait for his cue. Donk had carefully maneuvered the rocks and Dakota, once she determined the direction we were heading, ran past us, and once again led the way. Passing the rustic sheep enclosure and rock-built fire pit, we continued toward the camels and Wiseman iron silhouettes that stand partially hidden in the little cedar alcove. Ashes filled the narrator’s fire pit, and I remembered how strikingly poignant is the delivery he makes every year as he describes the stars, the excitement, and the miracle of the star the wise men followed.
Walking down the cedar chip trail toward the barn, I can see through the cedars the outline of the barn. No children are running up the trail and shouting, “He is here! He is here! Come and see!” But, I think I can hear a faint echo. Oh, the wonder of memories!
Awe accompanied my gratitude. All of this had been a dream, a cloudy, quite unspecific dream those many, many years ago, and look what God has wrought!
Did we have a master plan in those early years that we followed step-by-step? NO. We faced many disappointments, incredible amounts of “just wait” times. Strategic people came and went. What was permanent was the land, God, and faith that He could take “what we held in our hands” and use it for His glory. And this, in turn, has become our blessing!
Gratitude. My heart was filled! “It is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” His pleasure has been my blessing.
My companions have no recollections and reminiscences. They find pleasure in “being.” Donk is content being a donkey, and Dakota finds joy in being a dog. But I have the opportunity to feed my eternal soul on what was, and is, and is to come. And I am in awe.