Saturday, February 25, 2012

Following Peace

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord…”  
Hebrews 12:14 (KJV)

I have two favorite stores.  Both of them are quite peaceful.  Will you visit them with me...follow me there, if only in your mind?  They are situated on the same country road; one is caddy-cornered from the other.  I usually visit them with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  We like to make it our “girl’s time out”, and we just kind of ease into our own little world.  Even cell phones don’t work there, so there are no distractions.  Just pure, uninterrupted shopping in two of the best and most comforting places I’ve ever found to shop.

The scenery on the drive there is beautiful.  We wind through the mountains on a very curvy, narrow road.  The road is a shortcut, so we choose to take it every time.  The view is worth it.  We drive past farms, farmhouses, cattle, and a quaint little country church.  It seems to fly by as we catch up on all the latest happenings in each of our lives.  After a time, we turn on to another country, but more-traveled road.  Soon, we wind around a bend in the road, and my favorite stores come into view.  There they stand, nestled in a valley, dependable and welcoming.  I’ve been here so many times; it feels like a piece of home.

We usually visit the one on the left first.  There are outside cabins situated next to the main store, and in two of them, we usually find an ongoing yard sale.  Some of the items that are for sale are used, and some are new discount items that have been brought out from the inside of the store.  We usually hit the yard sale cabins first, and we take our time looking at all of the goodies, usually picking up a few things to carry inside.

We walk across the graveled parking lot to the wooden porch on the side of the old building that houses one of my very favorite places to shop.  We walk in, and instantly, we are greeted with the most wonderful scents.  Candles are burning, and there are wax melts, potpourri, and other scented things tastefully placed and sitting around...permeating the air with their sweet & spicy fragrances.  Country textiles line a wooden shelf…all different shades of mustard, burgundy, navy blue, mingled with lots of black and tan. 

There are antiques all over…including an old Coca-Cola cooler that still works and keeps the drinks cold that are for sale.  As you pass the Coca-Cola cooler, you see more candles and wax burners.  Up ahead, there are primitive plaques, wooden blocks with sweet phrases on them like "stress less, pray more" & "family matters", beautiful quilts - both old & new, pictures of country scenes, baskets, lamps with primitive shades, braided rugs, and the most amazing hand-built furniture.  The craftsmanship is impeccable and precise.  I listen as the owner of the store rubs sandpaper across a jagged edge he just discovered. 

I hear music…beautiful, a cappella, Mennonite singing of old hymns that bring tears to my eyes more than once as I shop.  The notes are sincere, like they are sung from hearts who can witness first-hand to the saving, redemptive grace of which they sing.  I walk into an adjoining room on the other side of the store to find many other treasures…all primitive, all homey, all inviting; all bring comfort to me…just to stand in the midst of them.

At the back of the adjoining room, I find another room.  I hear the sweet noise of birds singing, and as I approach the source of the sounds, I realize it is a CD playing the pre-recorded hum of nature.  Old dressers display tastefully-arranged primitive vignettes, with little twinkling lights intermingled and intertwined.  I climb the stairs to return to the main room and find books, more textiles, and stands of cards for all occasions. 

At some point, Mom, Lori, and I meet up with each other…each has been lost in their own reverie consumed by interest in the all of the things we see, hear, and smell.  We always take our time, each allowing the others to feel a sense of completely covering the store.  Each time we go, things are differently arranged, but the feeling is always the same.  We take our final selections to the wooden table at the back of the main room…the one with the huge, colorful quilt hanging on the wall behind, and we pay the stately, distinguished looking man who builds and creates the flawless furniture…sometimes it is his wife or one of his daughters who greet us and ring up our purchases.  We feel a sense of family and wholesomeness and simplicity of life as they gently wrap our treasures and place them in a cute, primitive bag.

I always leave with reluctance…I love the world inside…the atmosphere of peace I feel.  I long to be around them longer and more….to get a bigger taste of the freedom from chaos that their non-modern life affords. 

We all three get into the car and drive the short distance to their other store located on the right side of the road.  We step inside to the smell of spices…all kinds of them, blended into one, compelling, welcoming aroma.  There are rows and rows of shelves….all kinds of spices, candies, nuts, coffees, teas, jellies, jams, relishes, dried fruit, flavorings, salsas, cookbooks, cute jar covers, cereals, cookies, fudges, and other goodies meet our eyes as we stroll across the store. 

We make our way to the back where we find a deli filled with all kinds of fresh, yummy-looking meats and cheeses.  We stop at the counter to order a lunch combo…a sandwich with our choice of meat, different types of fresh-baked rolls, and various cheeses.  They are quick and efficient, and soon we have our white bagged lunches and are ready to go back to the front of the store to pay the plainly modest-dressed Mennonite girl who waits for us.  She smiles as we talk about the sassafras tea I have decided to try.  She likes sassparilla, she tells me, but has never tried sassafras tea. 

The three of us finish paying for our purchases and go out to our car to eat our lunch together, talking and enjoying our moments.  It seems like we’ve stepped into another world…where electronics and modern “in”conveniences have no place.  I love the peace I find inside the walls of both stores.  I would visit them more often if I could.  But when I am near them, I always do my best to patronize and support them.  I hope the day never comes that I go there to find the doors closed. 

I notice people coming and going, and it seems I perceive they have the same longing in their eyes as I feel in my heart.  A longing for simpler times, a slower pace, a quieter mind.  A desire to follow the trail of peace.  These store-owners and employees have all of the above….right now in 2012.  They've managed to maintain a lifestyle I think we all crave.  They haven’t succumbed to the pressure of modern invasion.  They seem very much at peace. 

When we feel we must leave to go back home, we do so, hesitantly.  We’ve made some great memories, and we feel a sense of leaving a more serene, holy world.  A world where God is first, and where one of their favorite mottoes is “Hands to work; hearts to God”.  They haven’t lost the fine art of doing a hard, honest day’s work and coming home to a waiting, loving family at night.  Sometimes, I feel I could move there and live among them…work alongside them….after all, our mindsets and desire for a simple life are already quite the same. J

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