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For reasons that have to do with a battle, my sister in law and her husband have been in town. They are Midwesterners, living outside of St. Louis in a beautiful house that sits on a hill, in front of a lake, that about this time of the year would be blanketed with snow. They have traded that life for a different one. They’ve come to Houston to make a weekly visit down to MD Anderson, every Tuesday, where with chemo port open Jim sits in a chair. Kind, hopeful, knowledgeable nurses and doctors send poisin coursing through his body. The rest of the week, we hover around Jim, encouraging him to eat, watching as he sleeps, and praying that his malignant pancreatic cells, wherever they may be hiding, die.

They had visitors this weekend. Their girls and their families: two daughters, each with a husband, and three grandchildren, down from Missouri. Having read about the farm, they wished to go there and we took them.

You see, it’s been in my mind, four years ago almost to this day, that walking that farm property for the first time, I knew. I knew that if it was God’s will to have it in our safekeeping, it would not only be a place for us to heal from the loss of Jake, but also a place for others to heal.

It just felt like that.

There’s a little something lingering there that assures me the devil had his heyday for a season or two at that property, I have had a few clues. But now, this now, the now that even as short as it has been for our time on the farm has been, it’s God’s plan that it is a place of peace.

I can prove that: we had eleven people sharing two bedrooms, one living room floor, and a makeshift dining room, and two toilets this past weekend and it went well. (I give credit where it is due, we were aided by the virtue of God’s design to make male plumbing especially accommodating for outdoor relief).

The daughters and family are all going home today and we are staying here, ready for Jim’s Tuesday battle , with a feeling that God is at work in our lives no matter what we face.

But we took the time as we sat around the fireplace last night, reminiscing and it was the oldest daughter, my niece’s husband, who admitted that he had not wanted to go on the fossil hunt I had arranged for them this weekend at the farm.

“Nothing about what you described made me want to go,” he confessed.

“Really,” I thought to myself.

I had explained and thought I had captivated at least nine of them. Tens of thousands of years ago, the Gulf of Mexico, on it’s journey northward, moved shallowly, up through College Station and beyond. And then it would return southward. In this repeated cycle of wax and wane, trees would be buried and should they be buried in such a way, in the muck and sediment, so that no oxygen surrounded them to provide decay, water flowing and the chemicals therein turned them to stone.

Hunting for tree fossils in the creeks of Waller County sounded like a good plan to me.

Steve may have been voicing what several of the others thought.
Thinking about it I imagined that they thought we would look and not find.

Armed with buckets and boots, the creek bed covered in fallen leaves, I had already explained what they were to look for. It had been a while since I had mined this creek, I knew that the rain that had washed down the creek in the summer would have dislodged thousands of pieces. I knew we would fill our buckets with the heavy rocks. I hoped we would find something special.

We had taken little more than two curves of the creek and everyone, without exception, had spied and held a piece of Gulf Coast ancient history in their hand. Some enjoyed the hunt part more than others, there were a few toe dabblers in the creek water, but if contented smiles and laughter are any kind of signs, nature and being out in it was working her own kind of magic.

Spread out and working, each in his own way, there were small and big discoveries.

This copperhead, it’s own body full of poison, sat coiled on the steep bank, it’s body temperature making it sluggish, his triangle head and soft brown markings unmistakable. He was clearly dangerous if provoked.

Thirty minutes into the hunt and then the word came down. Youngest daughter’s husband, foraging down creek farther than the rest of us had gotten had found a petrified stump.

Heavy, his arms straining with its rocky weight, he carried it back.
It was beautiful.

And they all posed for me, memories of love shared in a sandy bottom creek bed dancing in their hearts.

For the next two days, the daughters washed the stash, admiring the colors and shapes, picking and choosing which fossil might remind them of this day, this trip to the farm and to the creeks around her.

I hope they remember this: the creek walk was much like life, snakes and beauty, fossil rocks and all. While we may never know what is coming next, God gives us direction: fight the battles that come your way, live for today, trust Him, and hope for Heaven.

He’s always there if you seek Him.

Safe travels Missouri family.

Happy Monday and 2011 all of you who read Pineknot Farm and Lab. I wish you God’s peace and a special place to find it, and if you should find your way to Waller Country…Ill be happy to help you find a piece of ancient Gulf Coast.