Friday. The Raimundo’s last full day at the Illinois CP Gathering. I think we woke up to a semi-early ~ or regular, rather ~ start and broke our fast with a nice spread of make-your-own oatmeal with homemade muffins.
I could not believe the week had flown by so quickly! Master Jacob and Mrs. Harrison and all the gang just felt like family, like friends who were gathered around Christ. I suppose that is what we were, and I suppose that is how we were supposed to feel, but the thought that soon Josh and I would be packing up and leaving seemed...strange. So life goes, however, and it is always for the best.
Still, we had a full day left, and beautiful mornings with a house full of friends is neither the time nor place for strangeness ~ at least, not the dismal sort of strangeness. So, up I picked myself and cracked a few jokes (scratch that: listened to other people crack a few jokes) about our general perky slowness in the morningtime and Drew’s general non-brainness at that bright hour. Apparently espresso and coffee cover a multitude of sleepless nights. So the usual camaraderie and pleasant goofiness carried us through the first few hours of day: Eli’s astonishingly smirky smile, Master Jacob’s irresistibly charming way of forgetting names, a few short people witticisms (or lack thereof), and gorgeous piano playing thanks to the likes of a one Connor Rhoden and a two Kaitlyn Semones, amongst others. A few hugs from Emily and Essie, a number of knowing ironic glances from Megan, lovely sweet quiet chuckles with Cassie, and huge grins and laughs with Naomi. Yeah, this place felt like home....
|Don't you hear The Piano Guys' Phillip Phillips cover playing now?|
And, besides, there were sandwiches to pack, which is always interesting, especially if you had run out of bread the day before. Thankfully, the always-ready-with-a-magical-touch Mrs. Harrison had run off to the grocery store and purchased food for the hungry. Along with our needed bread, she also fulfilled what various college kid requests we had scrawled all over her shopping list. Mrs. Harrison purchased a box full of Life for Susanna, 100 Grand candy bars to put towards Naomi’s scholarship, a pack of pens to improve my penmanship, and, amongst other things, a box of Austin somthingorothers so that the graduate could find himself again. Yes. Have I mentioned that Mrs. Harrison is amazing? Sometimes broken records are worth it and right, and this is one of those times. Anyway. Once we had decided for the upteenth time that we were or were not wearing our Gathering shirts to the hike (we ended up not), and once said shirts were all duly and drolly signed in a swarm of colours (or just Christmas blushes if we are talking about Essie), then we grabbed our lunches and stormed the white van yet again to go to Alton and Pere Marquette.
If Alton is anything, it is most certainly not 45 minutes away from the quaint yellow Harrison homestead. About an hour and 45 minutes after setting out to our hiking destination, we finally arrived and settled in for a lovely picnic lunch in front of a breathtaking stone lodge complete with pond and associated wild life. The leaves were just beginning to don their seasonal colours, and, boy, was the Mississippi gorgeous. I was genuinely delighted to be there, especially after Essie fanned my excitement by blowing bubbles out of our moving vehicle to the stirring sounds of John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. CPers are brilliant, I know.
|Everyone's favourite awkward homeschooler picture.|
Let’s just say that Joshua, Emily’s, and my first two tries did not go over too smoothly. “Hi, Sir, my name is ____ and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer a question for our college research program?” “Sure!” “Is it alright if we record you as you answer?” “Sure, why not?” “What will happen to you when you die?” Laser stares from the guy and Medusa glares from the girl. “Oh. That question. Go away.”
Well, I guess God did not want us talking with that couple for the day! It all turned out well in the end, though. Between the six CP interviewing teams, we held a pretty impressive number of rather decent conversations with many people. But the numbers are not what matters. What matters is that we acted from the strength and grace God gives us to encourage others to think about truth. What matters is that we left fear behind and said hello. What matters is that a stricken soldier was slammed with the thought that living for the ultimate thrill might not be his salvation and an agnostic intellectual was confronted with the notion that Something steady might be out there after all ~ and that maybe perhaps somehow in ways we will never know, God was doing something in these souls. Maybe. That’s up to Him. The point for me was that, just like I surprised myself with how hyper and kiddie I could be at the City Museum the day before, I surprised myself with how confident a timid girl like me can be when she sincerely steps out in God’s strength. ‘Cause for me talking at all, and talking to a stranger at that, is like facing giants.
So, if I can pry a person’s heart by asking challenging albeit simple questions like Why? and How? and What?, then you can as well, and I encourage you as a Christian to give it a thoughtful whirl.
|For those who like scenery...|
|...and for those who like people.|
Again, anyway. The hike and half-hour long conversations done and over with, we all clambered back into the white van and burgundy Flex for the very last time. Of course, we solemnified the occasion with The Piano Guys and Peter Hollens and goofy Brad Paisley songs. Mhm. CPers are....brilliant. Upon our return to the Harrison Homestead, my eyes scanned the dog-speckled, corn-rimmed yard for a glimpse of Mumsie Pie, whom we were expecting in the late afternoon. There she was! ‘Tis always joyous to reunite with one’s mumsie, is it not? So once the hugs were exchanged, I went inside to hear Mrs. Harrison reassure me that, no, she did not need help in the kitchen but that, yes, creek-stomping was loads of fun and, oh, my stars, I ought to go join in the merriment. So that I did, along with Austin, Drew, Cassie, Naomi, Connor, Emily, Kaitlyn, Ben, Sara Beth, and lil Master Jacob (my apologies if I forgot someone ever so important). Wading through poison ivy and dried branches and swampy mud in a dress and child-sized bumble-bee boots is, by far, one of the best ways to spend an evening. And picking burrs off of said dress while piggy-backing Master Jacob tops it off like barbecue sauce on Essie’s ice cream. It was fantastic. The men proved very gentlemanly to the ladies and everyone laughed, snapped pictures, and climbed over logs and barbed wire right until they exactly wanted to. Then we crashed back to the house. So, maybe we don’t make the best Indians, but I am sure we do a mean Lewis and Clark.
|The Goated Yard|
|Before genius brother|
|After genius brother|
|Their debatably innocent minions|
Because bed came next. A delightful, peaceful, sweet, and earned sleep. And one rather blissfully unaware of leaving this place the following morning.
Don’t worry. The last post will be short. Really. Honest.
Photo credit Emily Kemp and Cassandra Rhoden