By Ann Richards


The road from the Trace Fork school to where I cut across a field is only a short distance, a half mile or less. The field belonged to W. F. Roberts and was part of 100 acres or more. In summer his farm was a favorite place for berry picking. Black berries and blue berries or as we called them "huckle berries". Cattle fed on the hillside and in the meadows on top the hill. The bottom land was for growing and harvesting hay for the cattle in winter.

That was years ago, more than I care to remember. The former owner, Mr. Roberts has passed on to a greater place. The owners there now still farm. The animals are sheep and goats. The grassy hillside has become a forest.

Getting home from school for me was somewhat of a journey since I was only six years old. And scared. I was scared of getting lost. It was not so bad until I got to the bottom of that long, steep hill. There were some trees and bushes and no road to speak of. Just cow paths around the hillside.

I felt so very alone as I began to climb that hill to get home on the Nobe Ridge where I lived with Dad and Mom. Mom was away at college and Dad had the job of looking out for me when she was gone. This arrangement was ahead of its time, since it was unheard of for Mom to be the breadwinner and Dad to be the house husband.

But, Dad was up to the task. And, he had decided that I could climb that hill by myself, even if I was only six years old, as long as he was calling to me to show me the way.

So, he would walk out to the top of the hill and wait for me to leave school. I knew he would be there and should I lose my way, he would come and help me.

"I can't see where I am!" I called to him.

It seemed as if the crest of the hill was miles above me.

"Over here". I heard him answer and I wondered how I got so far off course.

And so we continued with this dialogue until, at last I found myself safe at the top. The half mile left to walk home was "a piece of cake" once I had conquered the dreaded hill.

Today it occurred to me that the walk home from school was a composite picture of the life that lay ahead for me. From the frightful foot of the hill where all kinds of scary things threatened me, I could not believe I would ever arrive at the high places where Father waited for me. I didn't even know there were any high places. Back then, I didn't know much of anything.

Why even try? I have felt so many times. It's too hard! I would whine.

But, something within would not allow me to never climb, because without even realizing it, I was always headed in the right direction and was following the call from above.

The paths got hidden many times. I lost the way. I would despair and wonder why I was even trying to climb without knowing how to climb to begin with.

Oh! The pity parties I gave myself as I sat in a safe looking place and refused to believe Father loved me.

How could He love me? I couldn't even hear Him answer when I called to Him for help. He has forgotten me, I would tell myself. I'm not sure I have a Father anyway. If I do, He doesn't care about me or He wouldn't leave me all alone to find my way home. How did I get here to start with? What am I doing so far away from home, if I have a home where Father is?

That's right! a voice would tell me. Why do you do all this useless hill climbing?

Why don't you go back down there in the valley where things are easy and give up? There's nothing at the top anyway!

And so it has been. Even if I should try to give up and slide back downhill to the easy places, the small still voice from deep inside would whisper to me.

Come home. I'm waiting, looking, longing for you, my lost child.

So, from the dangerous cliff where I have many times stood, not knowing how to get off of the steep place to begin with, I would bleat, "Come get me. I'm lost!"

Then, from the shadows, My Shepherd would pick me up and continue this up-hill climb home to Father.

So, through the years I have learned, to some degree, to believe that He will always be there. All I have to do is remember that when I call, He will pick me up and carry me. I'm too weak to walk up there alone anyway. So, when I stop trying to do it by myself, He helps me.

Our life here on earth is a journey back home where we came from in the first place.

One day we arrive there.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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