4 Things A Mountain Retreat Helped Me To Notice

{By Tammy Hendricksmeyer}

 

Exhaustion had set in when I came in late from a hard fourteen hour drive. After entering Mississippi, I filled the last half with  iTunes, prayer, and audio recordings. I had just left the Georgia mountains and Chattahoochee forest for the black asphalt of interstate highways and ever flattening landscapes, along with the occasional necessities of a Chevron or BP gas station stop.

 

Suspended on wooden legs where the land falls away like a green waterfall is where I stayed in a large cabin. Here,  among others, among conversations, among heart-shaped mountains and red-brick buildings and towering pines and tiny one-lane roads snaking up a vertical incline. It was the little-big things holding my attention since leaving. Like strange bedfellows of randomness bouncing around in my head, I try to make sense of them.

 

But if I were able to siphon my thoughts into a semi-coherent string, it be along these four:

 

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1. Generosity. Egg quiche, crisp linen sheets, “famous” cheesecake sharing, raspberry tea, serving hands and hearts, spoke volumes of the community in Christ. If only I could learn one tiny morsel of this gift from my gracious host and her family.

 

Generosity  tends to quietly operate in the preparation beforehand, in the pre-baked goodies, or the foil-wrapped salmon, or the cut-up fajita meat, the blackberries and juicy peaches without blemish, or the pre-chilled homemade salsa. Hints of the work and thought required for this culmination of sublime  efforts are so subtle that when you come and partake, you rarely notice. Laity Lodge reminds me of this too. In the foreground, a generous team of people humbly serve and I was so engaged in conversations, I almost did not notice. Almost.

 

There is a blessing in generosity, both for giver and receiver and I want to notice more of it.

 

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2. Beyond Myself. Coming from a farm, animals are both a chore and pleasure. But in this environment I was not the caretaker. As they weaved their presence in and out throughout the day, I could simply enjoy them. Sneaking out of the woods from across the street one evening on the balcony were a few deer. With their ears up and white tails twitching, they cautiously crossed the road. An orange-bellowing tabby seemed to yawl at nothing in particular and waltz into the room, looking straight at me as if saying something important.  But then I realize this is her personality and nothing more.  And then there is the dog who uses his nose for more than smelling as he pushes open a screen door with it and sits at the top of the porch stairs like a statue, waiting. And there was the eagle on the wind vane flying south. I also came across grazing lambs, horses,  guinea hens, and a lounging Anatolian Shepherd with his head laying on both front paws while his eyes stayed alert.

 

Getting beyond myself to see the world around me, these animals pulled me out of my own thoughts.

 

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3. Strangers. “Have you been to the Martyn House yet?” read the sign outside the first store I entered, in this mountain town. Funky eclectic things were hanging from nook to cranny. Bottles of deep blue and faded green reflected light as they dangled from large antlers over my head. As I marveled at the wares, the owner talked about how she began her business and how small those beginnings were before it grew to what it is today.

 

And then there was the waiter who delivered my delicious Canterbury salad of apple-smoked bacon, blue cheese, and grilled chicken, who mentioned his love of photography. He could be seen cheerfully bounding between tables. Or the couple who sat on the bench, after descending then ascending a 400+ stairway off a steep mountainside.After a literally breathtaking view, I too had stopped in their space for a “view.” They leaned back against the firm railing in comfortable silence from years, decades even, of a life spent together. Gray hair slightly revealed their age as they mentioned their own rigorous trek.

 

And then, near the European-style barn with cedar clappords, a lamb “bah-bahhhhed” for me to give him milk. But I came empty-handed, except for a camera. That’s when I noticed the man standing near a four-wheeler and the shade of the barn.  We talk of animals, of farming, and of traveling: like Istanbul, Eastern Europe, and South America. We talk of guinea hens and the Shepherd dog loyally staying nearby and how a person finds themselves farming in the hills of mountains and forests.

 

It was less in what they said and more about their presence, each with a story that’d be deeper than one stray conversation could capture. Their presence meant they became part of mine as well, at least in remembrance of this weekend.

 

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4. Fitting In. Too many times in the past, I’ve looked for where I “fit”. But I have it wrong.  Lately, I’ve been spending my energy on where God is, focusing on His work, His being, and less on flitting from place to place to find the “in” I thought I needed. Instead, I’m noticing that He is my “in” and when I have that in common with someone, then it’s Him we are fitting “in” with. Community is a precious commodity made stronger by the One who strengthens it.

 

The lesson of less of me and more of Him is one that never wears out. It is in times of communing, feasting, trekking, climbing, panting for air, praying, and observing the miracles of life all around me, that I am noticing. In my journey, I’m also noticing the Kingdom where I belong. And in this Kingdom is a principle where generosity sows a seed of redemption in ways I may never understand. But in noticing it, I too am learning from it.

 

“Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” Mark 4:24-25 The Message

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My PhotoTammy’s white-knuckled philosophy on a particular denominational doctrine fell apart shortly after her life did.  She’s learned inter-personal relationships can both wreck you and build you up. She is passionate about communities finding one another and is a renaissance woman who’s scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, scaled fortresses in Nuremburg, and viewed the Eiffel Tower safely from the ground. She is a poet at heart who writes, sings corny jingles, practices faith outside of institutions, homeschools for now, throws her head back when laughing, talks her family into hair-brained photographs, and occasionally drives an old John Deere tractor in tim-buck-two. She’s a writer whose the Visionary for this ever-evolving site, Blog Editor and Co-Conspirator with Amy and the team. {Her journey is found on her personal blog, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.}

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12 Comments on “4 Things A Mountain Retreat Helped Me To Notice

  1. Your words are so honoring here, Tams. Honoring to your host and her preparations. Honoring to the sacred time you all spent. Honoring to what is past AND to what may be yet coming in these relationships and collective voice.
    Thank you for sharing your stillness, your contemplation, with us. It comes through in every word and every photo. Beautiful.

  2. This is so exquisite, dear friend (one whom I’ve missed). Noticing is such a gift . . . such worship. You blessed me with these words in particular:

    “Lately, I’ve been spending my energy on where God is, focusing on His work, His being, and less on flitting from place to place to find the “in” I thought I needed. Instead, I’m noticing that He is my “in” and when I have that in common with someone, then it’s Him we are fitting “in” with. Community is a precious commodity made stronger by the One who strengthens it.

    The lesson of less of me and more of Him is one that never wears out. It is in times of communing, feasting, trekking, climbing, panting for air, praying, and observing the miracles of life all around me, that I am noticing. In my journey, I’m also noticing the Kingdom where I belong.”

    Yes. Yes. YES!

  3. Girl, you made me cry. We were in Scotland when I read this post on my phone. Even without pictures, I could trace your steps. It made me homesick for all these things I love. Thank you for being in this special place with my daughter. Truly, God is in this place! Thank you for sharing it.

  4. If Diane was “slow getting here,” what am I? Incredibly belated. 🙂 BUT. I was blessed in my depths by your words today, and am just *always* so touched by the hearts of the folks here. Kindred, y’all are. Thanks for this place, Tammy.

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