My husband and I just came back from Kentucky. My mother’s parents grew up there, and my extended family continues to hold a reunion near Pikeville every summer in mid-July. I, myself, lived in a small town named Eminence—about three hours from Pikeville—from age eight through age eleven, and of all the places where I’ve ever lived, this was the one place my husband hadn’t seen—until last Thursday.
I can remember those family reunions in Pikeville from as far back as 1993. I remember the bountiful plot of land my family owned on Marion’s Branch, nestled safely in the Appalachian Mountains. I remember being taught how to make crowns from the wildflowers growing outside the little log cabin that my great, great grandfather had built with his hands. I remember the secluded burial ground where generations of my family had been laid to rest, and I remember the way in which every time we went up those mountains, it seemed to me as though we’d been taken away to another world. It was magical, and I was so envious of my grandmother, just knowing she’d been allowed to grow up in such a place.
Of course, I wanted to show my husband. I wanted him to see what I’d seen—to know what I’d known. But I couldn’t show him. He couldn’t see it—because it isn’t there anymore. The land had been sold years ago, to a local coal company. The cabin had been demolished, and even the graves had been moved to a public cemetery. Even so, just last week, there we were—tromping through the woods, trying to find the place where it all used to be. In spite of all the memories that had been made there, the land was unrecognizable. Even in Eminence, I struggled to find the life I’d known. Had I been blindfolded and taken there without knowing my whereabouts, I never would’ve recognized it. The friends I’d known from childhood are all grown up, and though I was overjoyed to see them again, we struggled to find things to say to each other after eighteen years of separation. And my house—where I’d played and found my shelter every day—is decayed from years of neglect. Merely stepping onto the porch, I was afraid I might knock it down.
Needless to say, the overall experience of returning to my past was somewhat bittersweet. Yet, in my attitude of mourning, I was also reminded of the everlasting steadiness of my Creator, who says: “I am the Lord, and I do not change” (Malachi 3:6, NLT). … “I created you and have cared for you since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age” (Isaiah 46:3-4, NLT). Though we often yearn for constancy in this world, the only thing constant about it is change. So, we can’t get too comfortable here. We’re not supposed to. Our comfort has always been meant—and will always be meant—to come from God. And He is still here. This world still belongs to Him—it just might be a little more challenging to find Him in it than it used to be. But even though I’ll have to put flowers on my grandmother’s grave now amid the noise of the groundskeeper’s tractor, and within the bounds of established visiting hours, those flowers will be just as beautiful as flowers have always been. And even though Marion’s Branch will soon be the site of an up-and-coming industrial park, just one look at those mountains will be all that is needed to know the majesty of the One who placed them there.