15. Parting Ways

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

Fisher and Sandy stood at the edge of the trees, looking back the way they had come. The Rendezvous team had packed up the camp and was beginning to move off down the trail. Friend had already disappeared, followed his wife. April and Lisa walked together, and even from a distance it was obvious that the five year old was in good hands. Ralph brought up the rear, sword in easy reach while he constantly scanned both sides of the trail. Just before he went out of sight, he stopped to look up toward them, raised a hand in farewell, then was gone.

“We’ve done the right thing, haven’t we, Sandy?” Fisher breathed.

“Yes. No doubts. But that doesn’t make me any less afraid.” She gripped his arm until it hurt, then released him to adjust her back pack straps. “Which way now?”

Fisher looked ahead, and recognized the stand of trees where he had found the remains of Lisa’s parents. “Let’s move up that direction,” he said, pointing slightly to the left. “If we can work our way to the top of this valley, maybe we can see where the village might be.”

They climbed for the rest of the day, detouring around rock outcroppings when necessary, but maintaining a steady pace upwards. The valley below faded into a carpet of green, until the trail was no longer distinguishable. As they gained altitude, different varieties of flowers and grasses began to appear. The lush pine trees, so common along the valley floor, were becoming smaller and more twisted, evidence of harsher conditions toward the top of the mountain they were climbing.

Finally they reached a flat space between two higher peaks to the left and right. For the first time, they could see over to the other side, but could make out nothing that seemed manmade. Fisher set his back pack on the ground and said, “We don’t want night to catch us on the side of a steep mountainside. Let’s make camp here, and get an early start in the morning, okay?”

“Sounds like a plan,” agreed Sandy, and took off her own back pack. “I’ll see what I can put together for supper if you’ll make a fire to cook it on.”

While Fisher gathered wood and stacked rocks into a rough fireplace, Sandy unpacked dishes, cook pots and utensils. Looking for a knife to use for chopping vegetables, her eyes fell on Lizzie’s wooden spoon. She lifted it out of the backpack with reverence and sat looking at it for a long time. “Oh Lizzie,” she thought to herself. “How I wish you were here. You always seemed to know just what to say, even when I didn’t ask the right questions.”

She lifted the spoon to her nose and caught the faint aroma of meals gone by. Every spice, every vegetable, every ingredient added by every traveler flooded her senses. Was she really smelling them, or just remembering them? But it really makes no difference, she thought. The memory is there, and that’s what’s important. She closed her eyes and let the memories come. Early mornings by the fire. Evenings as the stars came out. The sound of Lizzie’s humming as she worked around the camp, always ready to listen, always ready to share a story. Sandy began to hum along, a tune she remembered learning from Lizzie. When she had commented on it one evening, Lizzie just laughed and said, “Oh child, that’s a hymn that’s even older than I am!” Then she had begun to sing: “Immortal, invisible, God only wise; in light inaccessible hid from our eyes. Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days; Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.”

Suddenly one word from the hymn leapt out at Sandy: “Immortal’. Lizzie had talked about that late one night as they had watched the fire burn down into glowing coals. “We are, you know,” she had said. “Immortal, I mean.”

“But everyone dies,” Sandy had protested. “When my parents died, I learned that lesson.”

“Of course you did,” Lizzie smiled, laying a hand on Sandy’s arm. “But that’s not what I meant. Being mortal means that our lives could be taken from us, any time, any place. But for the people of the Way, that’s not going to happen. Oh, we’ll die, all right; you can be sure of that. But it will be at a time of God’s own choosing. How does that verse go? Psalms 139, verse 16. “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”

Lizzie had chuckled softly and said, “It’s almost sad, isn’t it, that the poor enemy of this world thinks he’s got the power of life and death over us. He bristles and growls and makes all kinds of threats, but at the end of the day, he can’t make a move toward us unless God permits it.”

The sound of Fisher dropping a load of firewood brought Sandy back to the present. He looked carefully into her face and said, “Looks like you’re off in a world of your own.”

“Not exactly,” she said, placing the wooden spoon carefully onto a nearby rock so she could reach it later. “I was just remembering something Lizzie told me one time. She quoted from a letter written by a young missionary lady by the name of Lottie Moon, who lived in China a long time ago. She wrote, ‘I consider myself immortal until my work on earth is done.’”

Fisher thought about that a moment, then said, “Sounds like a good way to live. But you know what that means, don’t you?”

“What?”

“It means, my dear, that we have to find us some more work to do!”

As the smell of vegetable stew drifted around the camp, Fisher and Sandy lay back and watched the stars, crying out in delight when a meteorite would streak across the sky. They lay in their tent a long time, talking about life, and love, and the joy of having a purpose. Then they slept peacefully, unaware and unconcerned over the surrounding darkness, nor of any threat which lurked nearby. Their dreams were filled with the peaceful assurance that they were in Hands bigger than their own, and that their days had been ordained since before they had even been conceived.

Life was good.

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