It finally arrived. The end of summer. Vivian dreaded the family meeting they’d scheduled after supper; she wasn’t at all excited about the idea of going back to Palm Beach. She’d talked to a realtor about putting the house on the market, this was one bit of news she had to tell the kids tonight. There was no way, even if they all worked and contributed, they could keep the house. Vivian wasn’t sure how they would respond to the news, but they deserved to know before the “For Sale” sign went up in the front yard. She’d gone for a longer than usual walk this morning, praying the Lord would give the family peace and direction. She knew the kids loved living on the farm, but did they love it enough to stay? Or would they want to go back to their lives in Palm Beach? So many thoughts were spinning around in her head; she was having a hard time making a complete sentence, much less pray a decent prayer. Vivian thought of the verse that says the Holy Spirit will speak through you when your own words fall short. She sure needed the Holy Spirit right now, because words weren’t coming easy. “Help me, Lord, you know my heart.” She saw a bunny scurry through the tall stalks and it made her smile. Life was still happening around her and it would go on no matter what decision they made. Relief washed over her as the sun came out from behind the clouds. God had never spoken to her audibly, but often she felt his voice through nature. “It’s going to be okay, isn’t it?” And, for reasons she couldn’t quite explain, she knew it was.
“Okay, everybody gather in.” The kids made their way into the small living room and lined up on the orange tweed sofa while Trace plopped down in the weathered recliner; Trevor found his spot on the floor, always the gentlemen. “I think you all know why we’re here.” The kids nodded their heads, several of them looking conflicted. The meeting reminded Vivian of the one they’d had in their fancy house at the beginning of the summer. Back when their lives were falling apart and she didn’t know how they were going to make it. “Remember we decided, as a family, to come to Iowa for the summer and I don’t think our expectations were very high. We needed to be out of Palm Beach and we knew it.” The kids nodded and looked to one another. “Well, I think we’d all agree it’s been a fabulous summer.” The mood in the room lightened as they all spoke at once reminiscing about events and incidents that had filled the hot summer days. Vivian noted even Timothy was happy and sharing with the group about Kids Corner. When the talking and laughing began to fade, Vivian spoke. “Well, a couple of things. First, I think you already know this, but we have to put the house on the market. We just can’t afford to keep it.” To Vivian’s relief no one seemed overly upset at this news; she paused giving time for comments, but no one spoke. “Okay, secondly, we have to decide whether to stay here in Iowa or move back to Palm Beach. I’m sure we can find jobs and a house we like down in Florida. I’ve actually talked to the realtor that’s selling our house about buying another one and he feels we could find something in our price range.” Vivian paused again and looked around the room, she had said her piece and now she waited for the discussion she was sure would come. But, again, no one spoke. Awkward silence filled the space of several minutes before Vivian tried again. “C’mom, guys, we have to talk about this, school will start soon and we have to enroll here or head back to Palm Beach.” The room remained silent. Vivian felt herself getting a little heated, how could they make a decision if no one was willing to talk about it? It was Thatcher who finally spoke. “Well, I really like the farm and I don’t wanna leave the chickens or Happy or my bunnies. I think I like it better here.” Vivian smiled at the mention of Happy, her horse from many years ago. He was eaten up with arthritis and on a couple of medications but he’d been a great listening companion for Thatcher this summer. Tatum spoke next. “It would be hard to start my junior year in a whole new school. I wasn’t especially happy with my friends when we left The Palm, but I’m just not sure I want to start over here.” The Palm was a name the kids in Palm Beach used to refer to their home town. Tatum shrugged as she explained her feelings and Vivian nodded to let her know she understood. Trace was next. “I love Palm Beach and I don’t even know if this school has a baseball team. Joe did ask me if I wanted to join the church softball team, so that could be fun, I guess,” he smirked as he introduced the idea of church softball. Vivian felt sure the school had a baseball team, but she understood what Trace was trying to say, so, she nodded to let him know he’d been heard. Next was Timothy. “I love the library here and Mrs. Deidra asked if I could stay on during the school year. Plus, Grandma Mae was going to teach me to bake bread.” Timothy pushed his glassed up on his nose once he’d finished and Vivian was sure she saw fresh tears in his eyes. Her shy Timothy, he’d found his confidence while in Iowa and she desperately hoped he wouldn’t lose it no matter where they lived. This left only Trevor. Vivian was sure he would want to go back to Palm Beach since it was his senior year. His football dreams were long gone with a decision he’d made months ago to come to Iowa, but he still had friends; and who would want to willingly start over in your last year of high school? She sat quietly and waited for him to speak; this was too big of a deal for any one of them to feel rushed or unheard. Thatcher spoke before Trevor could, “Trev, what do you think?” Vivian reached over and tapped Thatcher motioning for him to be quiet and not rush his brother. Trevor cleared his throat, “When we first came here, I was so angry. I know it didn’t act like it. I hid it because I knew it wasn’t anybody’s fault in this room that we ended up in this situation.” Vivian listened intently, barely blinking. “Since we’ve been here I’ve had plenty of talks with Grandpa Sonny and Joe about Dad and how it made me feel.” Vivian shifted in her seat, her Father hadn’t mentioned any discussions with Trevor. “Dad made a lot of bad choices and it effected all of us, our family will never be the same. But, if we want forgiveness from God for ourselves, then we have to forgive those who’ve wronged us.” Vivian put her hand to her throat, she felt stunned at the maturity of her son. “If you’d asked me at the beginning of the summer if I wanted to go back to Palm Beach, I wouldn’t have hesitated. I wanted to go home and I wanted our lives back. But, now, after all these weeks, I think, well, I think I want to stay. I love what it feels like to drive the tractor over the fields, to build a cage for pet bunnies, to help in youth group and have long talks with Grandpa. I’m not the same person I was when I got here and I don’t want to be that person anymore.” Trevor looked down at the green carpet and began to pull the fuzzy pieces sticking up. Vivian was sure he had tears streaming down his face and as she looked around the room she realized they were all wiping tears. Vivian had no idea what to say after that so she let the silence hang in the room, allowing Trevor’s words to sink in deep.
It was Timothy who spoke first, “are we going to vote?” Vivian looked at Timothy and nodded as she answered, “yes, we will vote. Do you want to vote tonight or would you like another day to think it over?” Vivian felt she might need a day after hearing Trevor’s words. But, the general consensus in the room was to go ahead and vote. “Okay, guys, “Vivian spoke softly, reverently, “this is for real. We are deciding whether or not to stay here for the school year and maybe the foreseeable future or go back to Palm Beach and start over.” The kids nodded, they fully understood. Vivian looked at Thatcher, “you understand, buddy?” “Yes, Momma,” he responded. “Well, then, all in favor of staying in Iowa and living right here on the farm, raise your hand.” Vivian prayed fervently in her heart they wouldn’t have a split vote, but after listening to each of her children speak she felt like it was a possibility. At first no one moved, not even Thatcher. But, then, Trevor raised his hand, and Thatcher, then Timothy. Oh Lord, please, Vivian prayed silently. Just as she was about to ask for those who wanted to go back to Palm Beach, Tatum raised her hand. “Wait, honey, you realize we’re talking about staying here, right?” Vivian questioned her daughter. “Yes, ma’am. Trevor’s words made me realize I don’t want to be the person I was before either. I think it’s time for a fresh start.” Then Trace raised his as well. “But, I thought…” Vivian started to speak but Trace interrupted, “I’m sure I’ll like church softball.” He tossed Thatcher’s hair, “and besides who will help take care of Happy and the other horses if I leave?” Always the comedian, her Trace. “Mom,” Trevor spoke, “what’s your vote?” Vivian laughed and cried at the same time, “Let’s stay!” A cheer went up in the room and the family gathered together in a group hug. “But, let’s earn some money so we can change this carpet!” Vivian laughed as she said it.
It was Trevor’s idea, and Vivian felt it was a perfect one. “Let’s pray.” He led the way by holding hands with those next to him and within a minute they were in a circle. “Lord, this has been a hard road. But, you’ve taught us all a lot and I know you’re not done. Help us to be happy here and to be a light in this community. Help our hearts to heal and teach us to love our neighbor. Thank you for Iowa and for this summer; we’ll never be the same. Help us to make friends as we start at a new school and help us to work hard on this beautiful land you’ve given to us. And, please God, bless Grandma Mae and Grandpa Sonny for their willingness to take us in.” It was the last part that sent Vivian into a fit of tears. “And, Lord, help Dad. He needs you and we need to learn to forgive. In Jesus Name, Amen.” More than one of the Lancaster’s was wiping tears at this point. “Group hug!” Tatum lightened the mood by grabbing her brothers and pulling them in. The tears and laughter echoed through the small house filling each and every room. Vivian was snug in the middle of the group, somewhere between Tatum’s cheek and Trevor’s chest when she had the thought, if these walls could talk, oh, the stories they would tell.
Vivian woke up early the next morning, as she had every day that summer. She dressed quietly in the bathroom and slipped on her rubber boots by the front door. But instead of her usual walk to the chicken coop, she decided to head out toward the fields first. The corn was tall, so different from when they’d arrived. The sun was just beginning to kiss the horizon and Russell Crow had begun his relentless wake up calls. Vivian’s mind was a flurry of thoughts after the family vote the night before; if you had told her when they got here that this might be her new home, she would’ve laughed. No way the big city Lancaster‘s were going to end up farmers. But, here they were. School would start soon and their life looked nothing like it did when they’d pulled into the driveway at the beginning of summer. So many questions filled her mind: would they regret their decision? Would they be able to make friends? Were they doing the right thing? Vivian had no answers to any of these questions and a deep feeling of dread began to build in her gut. Doubt felt like a cloud enveloping her, and just when she began to lament their decision, she heard the calm voice of the Lord. It was as though he was standing right beside her, looking over the fields. Don’t worry, Vivian, I am yours and you are mine. A great peace washed over her heart as she repeated the words; Jesus, you are mine. If the whole world came crashing down and landed as rubble at her feet, she decided then and there, while standing firm on the rich Iowa soil, HE would be enough. Hadn’t he already been enough? “Thank you, Lord” she spoke out loud toward the glorious morning sky. “You’ve done so much for us already, I trust you to take care of the rest.” She closed her eyes and let the warmth of the sun fill her being. It was all going to be okay. She could hear footsteps moving quickly behind her and looked to see Thatcher coming straight for her. She knelt in the dirt and opened her arms just in time for him to land in her embrace. “Look at the sky, Momma, it’s so pretty.” Isn’t it though?” she responded. “There’s no sky like an Iowa sky.” Vivian stood and Thatcher latched his arms around her waist, “I’m glad we’re staying, Momma.” It was everything she needed to hear and hot tears filled her eyes. She cleared her throat, “okay, buddy, let’s go fix you some breakfast. I’m sure the chickens are hungry and you need to check on Happy.” “Yes, ma’am.” Thatcher took off running and Vivian was right behind him. Grandma Mae looked out the kitchen window just in time to see her precious daughter running, leaping, across the lawn; her blonde hair blowing in the wind behind her. The smile on her face was brilliant and completely absent of the burden she was carrying when she arrived. Mae smiled and watched as the duo made their way past the window and around the house. She felt so grateful for all God had done for their family over this wonderful summer. “Ah, Lord, you are good and worthy of praise.” She turned on the water to fill the sink and began to wash the breakfast dishes when her favorite hymn came to mind, Blessed Assurance. She hummed as she washed and when she got to the chorus she sang loudly, unashamed, through fresh tears…
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long