Of Time and Earlobes

WebsiteDo your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?”

When I was young, I thought this silly children’s song was about the Venables, my mom’s side of our family tree. You see, the Venables have a peculiar, if endearing, trait. As we age, our earlobes continue growing until they dangle to sometimes impressive lengths. And I say “we” because I genuinely hope to be counted among the long-eared Venables someday.

The legacy I have is rich and thick, like dark molasses. My great-grandparents, Matt and Verlie, raised six kids and buried one on a Kentucky hillside, somehow making ends meet and love multiply. I never met my great-grandfather, but I hear stories of his prayers. While he walked behind his mule, dragging logs to clear the land, he was standing in the presence of God as he prayed for his children, for his boys fighting the war in distant lands. All four of those boys came home. One became my grandfather, my Pappah.

I hear echoes of my great-grandfather’s prayers in my Pappah’s voice. Pappah is eighty-eight, but when we’re gathered around a table and he says, “Heavenly Father, we thank thee…,” there is power in those words, and God is there.

Each Labor Day weekend, the family gathers on that same hillside where Matt Venable prayed all those years ago, where generations of my loved ones have sung and eaten and hugged and cried, where some are buried. I watch the faces, more lined every year. These are my heroes: songwriters, artists, craftsmen, bluegrass musicians of Nashville caliber who perform for few except the hills and their Creator. Gritty saints who understand grace. Humble givers. Speakers of truth. I am rich.

Many of my roots go down deep in that Appalachian soil, the soil my ancestors tilled, the soil that cradles my mother’s ashes. But there is a part of me, the girl who grew up running barefoot in the Asian jungle, that is rootless, restless. Even with the heart ties that draw me to bring my own family, as sure as the sun rises, back to that mossy Kentucky hillside every year, I feel homeless at times, caught in the unsteady winds of change.

Things will not, cannot stay the same. The mission bases where Mike and I spent many of our childhood years have both permanently closed. We can never go “home”. And even if we returned to the places, we wouldn’t be home, because the people we loved there have moved on.

Children grow, seasons change, people move in and out of our lives. We have to learn to say goodbye, sometimes far earlier than seems fair. Unstoppably, mercilessly, time pushes forward, yanking the cords that tie us to the familiar until they stretch and pop, leaving us breathless and dangling.

    And we know at our core that we are not meant for this.

We fight against being bullied by the hands of the clock because we are eternal creatures, strangers in this temporal world. God himself has “put eternity in the hearts of men”, breathing into us a craving that won’t be satisfied while we walk these shifting sands.

As I write this, I sit in my Pappah’s living room. Time’s marks are everywhere. My grandmother is no longer here. My mom’s needlework hangs on the walls, but her hands will create no more, at least on this side of eternity. My cousin Curtis’s little boy face smiles on the mantle. He went home last year at the too-young age of twenty-three. Life barrels on like the nearby train rattling this house. Tears come, and that’s okay.

Website-001    But so does laughter. Pappah starts telling stories, and the years drop away. I see the young man that was. The young man that will be again.

Someday my face may be lined, my head crowned with silver glory, my earlobes long and perfect. I may feel the Kentucky moss beneath my feet and see the ripples of my great-grandfather’s prayers touch many generations to come. I may find music in those hills and fling it back with wild abandon. And my heart may still wander, restless, a nomad looking for home.

But when the tyrant time has had its hands bound, this I know: I will find that all along I have been held close by the One who “never changes or casts shifting shadows”.  And in that, I can rest.

Scripture quotes taken from Ecclesiates 3:11 and James 1:17 (NLT).

1 Comment

  1. Lorrie Lockhart
    Nov 29, 2017

    Wow!! She sure has a way with words – and thoughts and feelings. I hope this has been, or will be, published, so that a broader audience can read it.

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