Listening for God Six Ways from Sunday
by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
I woke up this morning facing a host of deadlines. There was no way around it. I owed words six ways from Sunday. For those unfamiliar with southern speak, the phrasing refers to doing a wide variety of things at the same time. There’s a story here. Let’s ease into it.
This past week, family members descended from states near and far to celebrate my father-in-law’s 90th birthday. The depth of organization that went into the three-day affair known as GrandBuzzy’s 90th Birthday Bash will go down in family history right along with the party. Epic would be a fair description of both.
In the interest of full disclosure, the lion’s share of that advance planning should be credited to my husband’s three sisters and one big-hearted brother-in-law. Truly, I was doing my best to keep up with the flurry of emails flying here and there, but the timing of said partypalooza happened to coincide with the onset of my busiest speaking schedule and the release of my storytelling cookbook Hungry is a Mighty Fine Sauce. In other words, while I was super excited about everyone coming in, I was shooting the gator closest to the boat leading up to the weekend and checking off the tasks they assigned to me.
And then the travelers began to arrive. You know that old line that says you can’t go home again? It’s not true. We have pictures and video to prove it.
See, my husband and his sisters grew up in the same long brick home on the banks of Lake Providence, Louisiana that he and I live in today. Even after his sisters grew up, moved off and started families of their own, they would all return once a year to celebrate the Fourth of July. Make that the first week of July. Independence Day was my late mother-in-law’s favorite holiday and we Tomlinsons celebrated it with gusto. We played on the lake, feasted on the dock and hit repeat for days on end.
In recent years, when Lucy could no longer handle the house, the idea of seeing this place go to someone outside the family broke our collective hearts, and those very celebrations were one of the determining factors Phil and I used in deciding to buy it. At the time, our own children were grown and heading off to college. Scaling down our nest would’ve made more sense than moving into a house twice its size, unless you factored in family. We did.
Only life kept happening, and the extended family celebrations fell off the calendar. Over time, those get-togethers were becoming as faded as the photographs that captured them, until this past weekend. One of the goals of GrandBuzzy’s 90th Birthday Bash was to have our kids, who grew up playing on the lake together, bring their kids home to give them the same experience with their cousins. We were wildly successful. I loved seeing everyone spread inside and out all over the premises, enjoying each other and reconnecting. One of my favorite moments was watching a young parent taking her kids on a tour of our home, sharing story after story of what happened in this room and rules that were broken in “that hall” because no one was supposed to run on the hard terrazzo floors but everyone did. I smiled when she commented that the hall was much shorter than she remembered.
Like I said earlier, you really can go home again, but you do need to know that your perspective will have undoubtedly changed. I remember once when I experienced that firsthand.
I knocked on the door of the old white house that day with a hastily prepared speech. I hadn’t planned to bother the owner. When I set off down Pine Ridge Road in Natchez, Mississippi, looking for the small church my late grandfather used to pastor and the wood frame house next door, my only intention had been to see them from the road. I was in town with my teenage kids for a tennis tournament, and this idea to see the old homestead had begun forming that morning during their matches. Now, with the day almost over and the kids resting at the hotel with their friends, I was free to satisfy my curiosity. I had planned on a slow drive-by at the most, but as soon as I spotted the church and parsonage, my car had pulled in as if drawn by a magnet.
Suddenly I was face to face with the current owner, trying to explain who I was and why I wanted, make that needed, to see inside his house one last time. The old gentleman must have decided I was sane, or at least relatively harmless. With a gracious smile he welcomed me into my late grandparents’ parsonage. Past met present and I stared in shock. Where in the world was the big old living room I remembered? My host, who now seemed to be enjoying himself, insisted on treating his dazed guest to a full tour. The rambling old home from my childhood was gone, replaced with a smaller version of everything I remembered.
Of course, this isn’t the story of an incredible shrinking house. The house was the same. I was the one who had grown, meaning the way I looked at it had changed with me. Can I tell you that God wants to do the very same thing with whatever we’re facing today?
God is our eternal dwelling place, and we can always go home again. Only God wants to unite the measure of faith we were given when we first believed with His empowering Word until our perspective changes, until we know that today’s facts don’t have to be tomorrow’s fate, until we see that who we are today doesn’t have to be who we are tomorrow. God wants to stretch our understanding of who He is in us and who we are in Him until the challenge that looked like a mountain yesterday looks more like a stepping stone today.
If we will stay in His Word, He will change our perspective. Six ways from Sunday.
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is an author, speaker and radio host who loves sharing humor and hope with audiences across the country. She and her husband have two grown children and five grandchildren. They live and farm in northeast Louisiana.
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