Billings - My New Home - Part 1
Billings – My New Home – Part 1
I must confess to succumbing to being overwhelmed. My in-basket was screaming at me.
“Dear Cheryle – please find enclosed your galleys for Pocket Full of Christmas. I know you’re busy but if you can’t turn this around quickly, we won’t get it out by Christmas.”
Pocket Full of Christmas is my next book. It is a Christmas Advent Devotional book, so not making it by Christmas is a sufficient threat to make me take notice. Galleys are the typeset version of the entire book and strange mistakes seem to slip in during this process. This meant the entire book needed careful review.
“Dear Cheryle – You committed to writing a section for our brochure on how to create a budget. The deadline is next week. How is it coming?”
I am on the finance committee for an international organization and back when I had more energy and time, I volunteered to donate my expertise from my former career to help this organization out.
In addition to my screaming in-basket, my stories for this journey were starting to stack up. I talk to more people each day than I can possibly write about in the time between when I park at night and when I finally force myself into bed. The computer was calling my name and the stories were begging to be told.
“Bob, I can’t possibly get all of this done,” I whined over the phone. “I also need to do laundry and see a doctor about my heel. This heel is not getting better and it’s making hiking miserable.”
“Cheryle,” he said logically. “Find somewhere that has a doctor and a good internet connection and park until you’re caught up.”
Billings, Montana was the next city. I looked in my KOA camping book and found out that the Billings KOA was the original KOA and right on the Yellowstone River. The best news was that they had wireless internet. I had found home for what I thought was going to be two nights.
I cheerfully arrived at the KOA, pulled Happy into a slot right in front of the river, and limped up as Belle ran up the short hill to see the Yellowstone River. Belle was clearly annoyed when I didn’t run back with her.
When I got back to the camper, I made a big mistake. I looked in a mirror, something I try to avoid on a camping trip. Yuck, I thought. “I need a hair cut and color.” Sighing, I realized I had yet another errand to do in Billings. After all, didn’t God say hair was important?
1 Cor 11:13
A woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration. (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
OK, it’s possible I took that verse a little out of context.
When Belle cuddled up next to me, I said yuck again. “Belle,” I sniffed. “You actually smell. I didn’t think Shelties had a doggie odor.” Belle sniffed back indignantly and pranced off. I checked and found out Billings had a PetSmart. Belle was going to make a trip to the doggie spa.
The KOA map gave directions to a walk-in medical clinic. I felt centered as I sat down and began the tedious work for reviewing the galleys and making the corrections on an electronic form.
As I sat there, I did some quick calculations. I couldn’t do everything in 2 days. I walked over to the KOA desk and extended my stay until Sunday. That meant I’d be spending an unheard of three nights in one place.
“This is good,” I rationalized to Bob. “I’ll be able to find a good church. It might be hard to find a church in Yellowstone National Park.”
Bob reminded me that Yellowstone National Park had a worship service that I’d be missing if I stayed there until Sunday. “You’re not helping,” I groaned, knowing I was stuck in Billings until Sunday afternoon.
“Co-process” is a fancy word I’d used in the business world when I had too many things to do to be able to concentrate on any one of them. I was going to have to “co-process” if I intended to finish by Sunday.
I grabbed my laundry, limped over to the tiny laundry room, and put in my 3 loads. What can I say? It had been 2 weeks since I’d done laundry. I noticed that 2 other women were quietly baby sitting their laundry, while reading a book. They probably don’t have to “co-process,” I thought jealously. I set my watch alarm to 25 minutes and rushed back to Happy as quickly as the sore heel would allow.
I got on-line and started answering e-mail, which I’d been unable to read for a couple of days. I’m not making progress on my list, I whined. The watch alarm startled me. Did I set it wrong? I wondered as I got up and tried to rush back to the laundry room. Women waiting for the machines glared as I transferred my clothes to the drier. I put 4 quarters in each drier, which bought me exactly 40 minutes. I set my alarm again and rushed to Happy.
This time, I started on the galleys. When the alarm went off, I wasn’t at a good stopping place so a worked a few minutes longer. Guiltily, I remembered the small laundry room and got up from my computer.
I arrived at the laundry room to see a smiling woman with beautiful white hair peacefully and neatly folding my clothes. “Your drier ran out and I didn’t want them to get wrinkled,” she explained. “The other load wasn’t dry so I put another quarter in.”
I looked at this perfectly folded stack of cloths. “Thanks. You fold better than I do. Sorry I’m late.”
“No problem,” she said. “I don’t have anywhere to be.”
“If I could fold as well as you, I’d be able to fit more clothes in my camper,” I laughed. “You could have just stacked them up on the counter.”
“Why would I do that when I didn’t have anything else to do but wait,” she asked. I thanked her again and returned her quarter. My other load was finished and she helped me fold, as we began to talk.
She and her best friend were traveling the country with their husbands. They were church friends and quilting buddies. “I’m so blessed to have her for a friend. On last year’s trip, my husband got seriously ill. We had to return home immediately. We tried to get them to continue with their trip but they refused. They didn’t want us to go through my husband’s illness alone. That’s what Christian friends do for each other.”
I noticed two beautiful women, one older, and one younger, enjoying folding clothes together. “We didn’t mean to leave you out of the conversation,” I said. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Illinois,” the older woman said. “My granddaughter here is from Billings. The last time I saw her was at her wedding.”
“So you’re a newlywed. I’ll bet you were a beautiful bride,” I smiled. Grandma beamed and nodded. The bride beamed and blushed. “How long have you been married?”
“Two weeks,” she whispered.
“So you’re still on your honeymoon?” I teased. She nodded.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m one of those annoying people who always gives new brides unasked for advice. I can tell from your face that you’re in love. Love won’t keep you married. I’ve been married 34 years and am more in love with my husband than I’ve ever been. There have been those times when we stayed together just because we said we would and other times when we stayed together because of the romance. I think the secret to a long-term happy marriage is God, church, and commitment. Having God as a third partner is critical.”
“Thank you,” she said shyly. “That’s good advice.” All three women standing there quickly agreed and started giving their Christian testimonies to having a successful marriage. My clothes were folded and I thought longingly of the galleys but knew I was on assignment from God.
“And believe you me, the hard times will come,” one woman said. “You won’t always feel the way you do now. You just have to trust God that the hard times will be taken care of and ride them out together.”
Another woman said wryly, “Don’t try living together fulltime in a RV until you’re sure the marriage will last.” We all laughed and gave RV stories.
“So are you a Christian?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yes and so is he but we have problem. I’m Lutheran and my husband is Catholic. So far, we’ve been trying to swap back and forth but we need to make a decision. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
“Which kind of Lutheran are you?” I asked. “I don’t know much about the Lutheran faith but I know that one sect is more liberal than the other.”
“My church is the most conservative sect.”
“That’s good because that means your two churches are pretty close in doctrine. It’s been my experience that it’s hard for Catholics to change religions.”
She nodded. “I think it would be impossible for him.”
“Can you see yourself converting to Catholicism?”
“It’d be hard,” she said sadly. “I love my church.”
“Hard but not impossible. There is an alternative. I know a couple that spent years worshipping in a Baptist church one Sunday and a Catholic church the next. Their children were baptized Catholic at birth but attended all the children’s activities in the Baptist Church. I haven’t heard differently so I think they are still attending both churches. This certainly isn’t ideal but it seemed to work for their family. Unfortunately, what happens in many cases is that people can’t make up their mind so they give up and stop going anywhere. That’s a tragedy for your marriage and your future children.”
The other women offered encouragement about the importance of being in church together, praying together, and about how to make big decisions like picking a church. I quietly stood back and watched the hand of God work as these wise older women counseled this young woman. I left knowing we’d had a testimony service in the laundry room.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. NASU
I spent Friday working on the galleys and got them mostly finished. I wrote a story for Pocket Full of Quarters and put it and pictures on my website. I went to the grocery store in downtown Billings and was a little nervous when a man followed me around the grocery store, talking to himself, and putting things in his cart, only to take them out of his cart on the next aisle.
I passed a woman who resembled a hippy from the 60’s. Her long red braided hair and tie-dyed flowing dress were certainly striking. She began a conversation and I found out that she was recovering from multiple addictions. “I found recovery in a homeless shelter for the mentally ill,” she said. As we talked, she rocked in a manner that I recognized as a side effect for drugs that treat mental illness. We got to talking about churches and God.
“Why don’t you come to church with me on Sunday,” she invited. I don’t remember the long complicated name of her church but it included words like “universal” and “peace.”
“Is this a Christian church?” I asked hesitantly.
“Well,” she hesitated back. “We believe in Jesus but also accept the truth of many other prophets.”
“I’m sorry,” I said gently. “I’m a Christian. Jesus Christ is my savior and friend. When I select churches, I look for churches that believe in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and I look for churches that use the Bible as God’s Holy Word.”
“Oh,” she said cheerfully. “You don’t want to go to my church then. You need to go to Faith Chapel. The President of the United States asked their pastor to pray when he came through Billings. They’re big and pretty famous.” I thanked her and left.
The agenda for Saturday was to go to the doctor, take Belle to the doggie spa, get my hair done, empty holding tanks, finish the galleys, fill the fresh water tank, and to write my budget section.
There’s no way everything is going to get done, I prayed before I went to bed, giving in to being overwhelmed. I need a little help here. I went to sleep, trusting God would answer my prayer.