Earlier this week, my freelance work led me to a little church in Verona, Mississippi. The road I took to get to the assignment took me down a road I have not traveled in many years. I didn’t realize at the time, I was also about to take a trip down memory lane.
On the way, I passed a house where a family of friends used to live. Back then they had a beautiful garden that had contained huge sunflowers. Further down on the opposite side of the road, I was surprised to find someone had renovated the house we always knew must be haunted.
Soon I arrived in front of the school grounds I had known as home from first to ninth grade. Time certainly changes things. The P.E. playground no longer contained the merry go round where I had busted my chin and needed stiches.
Our beloved principal (whom we lost this year) used to live on campus. My understanding is that house was torn down years ago. We used to play kickball in his front yard, but there was no place for that now.
Memories came rushing into my mind as I passed the main building of the school. I noticed a fence had been added around most of the campus and in front of the playground we used to play on at recess during our elementary years. The sidewalk that ran in front of that playground into the neighborhood was now broken and worn.
My mother worked at the school and drove one of the school buses. This left me plenty of time every afternoon to walk friends home from school. Across the street from the school stood the house where I learned to smoke cigarettes in junior high. (I quit that habit 12 years ago. Woohoo!)
On that same side, the sidewalk led through the trees where I had tried to kiss my seventh-grade boyfriend. He had taken a huge step back and said, “Whoa! You don’t have to eat my face! What are you? A shark?” He had laughed, but I was completely embarrassed. He did kiss me that day, but I broke up with him not long after that. I’m not sure if it was due to my own shortcomings or because I liked someone else. (I was so fickle back then.) Whatever the reason, he wrote me a four-page letter, front and back, professing how I had broken his heart. I was sorry, but I didn’t make amends.
I passed another old friend’s house and then arrived at the church. I smiled as I realized this was where I had attended kindergarten.
I walked into the church’s fellowship hall and was greeted by the man who was my main point of contact. I shook his hand and told him this was where I had attended kindergarten. He pointed me towards a collection of pictures hanging on the wall and asked if I could find myself there. I couldn’t believe it! I leaned in and found the group picture from the year I’d attended and immediately spotted my five-year-old self, front and center. I teared up as I spotted many old friends from this innocent time together. I couldn’t help but take a picture of that picture.
In the fellowship hall, I was introduced to some of the people. I mentioned attending kindergarten there and someone asked if I was instructed by Ms. Hazel. I exclaimed “Yes! That was her name!” and they pointed to a lady across the room. I couldn’t believe it! There she was in the flesh.
I nearly ran to her and told her who I was. Her eyes widened, and she hugged my neck. She told me I hadn’t changed a bit. I laughed, and we talked a spell. After a few minutes, I excused myself to take some pictures for the story.
A little while later another woman came up to me asking if I was my mother’s daughter. I told her I was, and she let me know she knew my family very well. After we talked, and I took a few more pictures , I turned to go sit down at one of the tables. When I did, a lady sitting there said, “Do you know who I am?” I looked at her sideways and said, “I’m supposed to. Why do I know your face?” She told me her name, but I couldn’t hear over the noise, so I said, “Oh! Okay!” and sat down across from her at the same table.
As I sat there with Ms. Hazel on my left and this woman and her husband in front of me, it became clear. She was Ms. Beth, my nursery school teacher! We talked, reminisced, laughed, and enjoyed catching up.
The entire afternoon had been so surreal, my head was spinning. Soon it came time to depart, and as Ms. Beth got up, I ran around the table to hug her. She asked me to come see her. She told me she still lived in the same house but was no longer running the nursery. I promised her I would come see her and told her she had come to mind when I found out I was going to be in Verona. I’d never imagined I’d run into her though!
I said goodbye to everyone and walked out to my car. Diagonal from the church was the house my first husband had lived in with some friends before we got married. Back when I was a teenager, we would spend a good portion of our weekends at that house.
As I got into my car, my head was overloaded with this trip down memory lane, and I couldn’t help but think, Am I getting ready to die? Is this my life replaying before my eyes? I laughed at the ridiculousness of that notion.
I began to realize in that moment how far I had come, and how God had kept his hand on me through these many years. Even when I was lost and searching for something I’d never find anywhere else, he was there, waiting for me to figure out that he was everything I was looking for.
He has seen me from the innocence of childhood, through the struggles of adolescents, into my adult life and finally through my rebirth in him. Why on earth did I ever doubt him and his goodness? Why did I ever doubt his existence? Why did it take so many years to see how much he loves me and what all he has done for me?
Days like this make me sorry that I wasted so many years without him, yet they also make me thankful that now I do know him and get to spend the rest of my life and eternity with him. Hallelujah!
This trip down memory lane also reminded me that I can trust him. I can trust him to lead me, to provide for me, and to protect me. He is constant and unwavering. He can handle me at my worst and sees me as he created me to be. His love for me never diminishes, and he is faithful.
This is why I worship him. I have seen his goodness. I have witnessed his power and mercy in my life. I have felt his love and been a part of his faithfulness. When I was lost, he came to find me. Through every hardheaded thing I’ve done and every mistake I’ve made, he has loved me right through it all.
Sometimes you have to look back at where you’ve been to where you are now to realize where God was during those times.Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. And now I can see clearly, he was and is always with me.
I trust you God. You are faithful, and you are good. Always.