The story of my life began on the plains of South Dakota in 1960, a location from which I had always desired to be windswept. It didn’t matter where, just somewhere where there was “more.”
I was born to a handsome father and a beautiful mother. They met when my Army dad was stationed in the South. After 12 years, their fairytale romance went that direction as well, leaving a huge hole in my heart and life. I escaped for hours at a time in the world of Beezus, Ramona, and tales of others’ lives in my makeshift clothesline tent; books were my best friends.
Missouri Synod denominational beliefs were instilled by my elders, and I attended Sunday school and church weekly. I was confirmed in the faith as an eighth-grader, but as a result of the absence of my father, I retained questions about who God was and how I fit into His plan, unaware that I was adopting the belief that God was much like my parents – distant but loving, stern but caring, and always beyond my reach.
” … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
I welcomed the nearness of my paternal grandparents, just a few hours away, with whom I was very close. My immediate family, along with my grandparents, eagerly awaited holidays when those who had blossomed and grown beyond the state lines returned. There was a bond forged among us that to this day remains.
The distance from my mother’s family did not afford me the same opportunity, leaving me with a curiosity about my “far-away” family and life in the South. During occasional visits, I learned that some of the stereotypical characteristics of the publicly-viewed South were well-earned, but most were not. People everywhere have the same wants, needs, hurts, and dreams.
Traversing the state highways through Minnesota on a Greyhound bus each summer for visitation with my dad in Wisconsin, I became enchanted with the beckoning city of Minneapolis. It was a place I could explore while I allowed the busy environment to envelop me. With diploma in hand two years after arriving there, I began my gradual journey south to Nebraska. Though I didn’t earn a degree — just a diploma — my court reporting career afforded me the opportunity to become a student of life, introducing me to a roster of characters whose stories were more raw and real than anything I had ever read about.
Despite nearly losing fingers — and my life — in what was known in South Dakota as the Blizzard of ’75, I traversed the byways of Iowa and Nebraska, using the God-given gift of stenographically writing faster than most people could talk. Eventually, my husband was able to talk faster than I could process, and a wedding ring ended up on my finger.
The entirety of our marriage was spent in America’s heartland. My name changed and my identity became camouflaged. For years I exhibited the persona of the in-charge, invincible woman who could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, as the child nestled deep within my marrow yearned to be extricated.
Time stood still when dread showed up on the doorstep. I repeatedly hit my head against the wall of enablement and codependence … until, one day, I discovered a support group at church which loosened the grip of unwanted beliefs and behaviors. Realizing that God possessed a far greater love for me than anyone ever could, I was released from the clutches of long-held debilitating and damaging lies, which brought freedom to my Truth-seeking soul.
After 25 years and a brief six weeks into the one-year-prognosticated journey of lung cancer, my husband succumbed to the disease. Again left floundering and wondering where I fit in, I continued the exploration at God’s leading.
A handful of years later, my heart became restless with “staying put.” I still wanted more. God began to open doors and I continued my journey southward.
Now hundreds of miles away — and just about as south as one can go — I am far from the life and routine that I had known for decades. My older sister and younger brother — both still in the upper Midwest — and I remain in close contact as they each own parcels of my heart. Unlike a lot of families who become disjointed, my mother never allowed us to fight with one another.
My days are currently spent exploring the Southern life … I have learned I love grits, one-syllable words drawn out to two or three, and the closely guarded values of the South. I am charmed by the names of obscure roads and places, like Bee Line Highway and Backbone Creek. The sunsets are colorful, and I see my horizon expanding each day. My heart is more peaceful and my spirit more content. And I am grateful for every experience God has brought me through to bring me to more. ~ Pam
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