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Posted Friday, August 12, 2011, at 10:07 AM


Rayla Stewart Hogue

Special to the Daily Statesman

"Hey Sis, I have a problem . . . so she can't go on the trip with me after all . . . do you think your guys could get along without you for ten days?"

A week in the Caribbean, she thought--all expenses paid except for personal shopping. Ten days of just the girls playing--no family obligations . . . no work responsibilities . . . no working on homework . . . no worries, just being cared for and pampered.

"Yes! When do we leave? In two weeks? Do I need a passport? What do I need to pack? (girl scream) I guess I'd better go tell the boys. I'll call you back."

Two weeks later the two girls--uh, women--were packed and headed to the airport. As they boarded the plane, the guest of the two was seated in first class with her sister seated in passenger class. At their connection that was easily remedied--a simple upgrade and they both had warm, scented cloths to wash their hands, real food on real dishes.

Arriving at the ship they were shown to a beautiful cabin and the time flew by as they laughed, explored, ate, played, rested, and sunned by the pool. Daily emails flew between home and ship as they checked in on "the boys" and the stack of gifts grew as they went from port to port. Rested and relaxed, they returned to homes and lives.

She thought she would come home to a quiet welcome. Instead she found herself enveloped in the arms of husband and child. They had fixed the family meal and were waiting for her. After carrying her luggage--which seemed to have grown--inside the house, they sat to eat and talk.

Her son showed her his work from school. Her husband caught her up on the latest news in town and the plans for worship on Sunday. As they finished eating she teased them about her extra "bag" she had brought home--a huge box wrapped with cord.

They began opening it and each item revealed not only treasure found on the trip, but story after story. Finally they sorted through all the small packages and only the odd shaped core remained. As the paper was pulled from it and a black saddle covered in sterling silver was slowly revealed.

He gasped in disbelief as he realized what she done to bring him such a gift. He could just see his palomino stallion decked out in the black and silver saddle. Tears streamed down her face as she watched him examine it with wonder and love at her gift.

"By the way, Sis paid for half the saddle. When we found it, it was more than I could afford, but she insisted we go on and purchase it. This is part of her thank you for loaning me out for the trip."

The joy and love that they shared was something to behold. The family gathered in a huge hug. Their words tumbling out in a rush, over one another, in an ebb and flow which was music to ear and soul.

They guys had thought that she would be having so much fun on the trip that she would hardly think of them. Instead, they had been her focus--thinking of how to bring them a part of her trip. They had thought of her and the new places she was seeing and the joy of the sisters being together. Each one thinking of the other rather than being jealous of the other.

Sometimes, we think of God as being far away--not involved in our day to day lives. The reality is that we are constantly on God's mind. No matter where we travel, God is there. God is our champion who wants only our good.

We are the ones who think God is disinterested, when in reality God is always there. We go traveling, exploring our world . . . but God is always with us. We only need to open our eyes and minds to God's presence. Even if we think we have wondered about without God near, when we unpack the things we picked up along the way we will discover that God tucked in priceless trinkets revealing God's presence all along the way.

God, we love to travel throughout our lives knowing that you are always with us. Help us to remember that you never leave us. You fill our lives with priceless treasure. Help us to realize that these are from you. Even when we think you have traveled from us, you are always with us. So be it. Amen.

P.S. Could you carry the saddle next time? It really was a bit heavy. Uh, it was an opportunity to build my muscles? Uh, thanks--I think.

İRayla Stewart Hogue

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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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