Friday, June 25, 2010

The Friendship Cake

This is our last morning to be "in the clouds". As soon as the towels dry and the car is packed, we will head out for the second half of our vacation time. And that will be spent in Ocean Isle Beach where we pastored for six years.

Frank and I sat on the porch this morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and watched as the clouds literally swirled in to play around the mountains. For a long time they were simply wisps dancing in between the monstrous land; later the clouds came together to entirely blanket the northern side. Probably in the valley below those clouds it appeared rather dark and stormy. But above all this "cumulus cavorting" (where we were sitting,) the sun was still shining and the breezes were exquisite. Yes, another sermon illustration to be sure. It's truly all about perspective.

We also had a delightful moment of a different sort yesterday. As I mentioned yesterday, the cabin we've been blessed to enjoy is relatively close to the little community where we first pastored some twenty-eight years ago. We lived in a parsonage right by the church and had the privilege of becoming friends with a few of the neighbors.

One dear lady in particular made a real effort to reach out to us soon after we had moved in. Nell Cagle was a hard-working, mountain woman with calloused hands and an extremely tender heart. She was still working full-time at the local factory and doing alterations in the evenings but she made time to "see" us as we tried to set up house across from her.

She has told us many times that she kept watching me and could just tell that I was very lonely. (I was a Floridian through and through. We moved in the winter just as it started snowing; I didn't even own a pair of closed-toe shoes. The mountain culture is very distinct and I just kept making mistakes; it was a tough transition.) She said that one day the Lord spoke to her to take a cake over and introduce herself to that young couple.

For us, she was an angel wrapped up in a sixty year old body! (We were in our early twenties at that time; now I know she wasn't as old as I thought! Smile.) Mrs. Cagle became our home away from home. We ate at her table often: chicken and dumplings, canned green beans from her garden, fluffy biscuits slathered with golden honey. She made a beautiful blue maternity dress for me when we found out I was expecting Kristin. She came over in the snow to pray with us before we left for the hospital. And she cried when we moved away after two years.

Because of her generous love toward us, we've always wanted to stop by and visit if we get close to this area. Hugs are offered, we catch up on life, we laugh, we remember, we pray and slip away. It has been several years since we last saw Mrs. Cagle and we weren't even certain she still lived across the street from the church (which has grown and now has a lovely new sanctuary.)

But we took a chance yesterday and when we pulled up in her yard she cautiously peeked out her screen door. When she recognized Frank, her face lit up like a child's on Christmas. We only spent half an hour with her and at ninety, she does most of the talking now. We prayed for her before leaving, she now has a pretty serious heart condition that the doctors say is inoperable.

Sitting in her humble home, I was reminded of what true wealth means. Friendship extended always manages to come back around and usually in larger quantities. She followed us out to the car and her farewell hugs were a little longer this time. She patted our faces with those precious calloused hands and said, "I'm looking forward to going home just as soon as the Good Lord is ready. When you hear about it, just lift your hands and say, 'Thank you Lord for bringing Nell home.' You'll never know what your visit has meant to me today!"

Hmmmmmm! And to think, it all started because a lonely-looking girl needed a slice of homemade cake.

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