Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me (Ps 51:10).
“You have many different natures. Light and dark. Kind and mean. Inconsistent and predictable. You’ll never be perfect. But you can be better than you are now. For your own sake, try.” – Nancy Wood
April 12, 2016, was the celebration of 46 years of marriage for my husband Michael and me. We were married on a quiet Sunday afternoon at a Friend’s meeting in Richland, Iowa. Naomi Lock was our pastor, a woman who served her congregation and community well.
Truth be told I think she was a little worried about us — after all we were just kids — but on that rainy afternoon surrounded by farmers, teachers, family and friends we were wed. I surprised Mike and sang, “The Twelfth of Never” during our ceremony. You could have heard a pin drop during that song, as it became a prayer from our hearts to respect and cherish one another.
So long ago, yet those faces, embraces and laughter continue to touch a part of my heart that is irreplaceable. This was our community, a place where we were deeply loved – yet a place we were preparing to leave. The following morning we loaded up our 1970 blue Chevy pickup truck and headed to Big Timber, Montana. Through correspondence with Norwegian friends of my Grandmother, we decided to give ranching a try.
I remember placing a collect call on a pay phone to my mother, I couldn’t wait to tell her about the sage brush tumbling about the prairie as the antelope played. We experienced snow, sleet, wind and rain but four days later we arrived at our destination, to a little place called Rapelje, 30 miles outside of Big Timber.
A little single-wide trailer became our home, a mile to the road and five miles to our closest neighbor. This would be our life for four months. A place we would hunker down and begin building community, a place we would both learn to become better people.
While in this community neighbors helped one another with roundups, bailing hay and digging out when the snow was too deep. There was always good hearty food and catching up on any news in the community at these events. Autumn like a prairie schooner arrived too soon and we were called back to Iowa to celebrate with classmates who were now going to marry. They too would repeat vows under Naomi’s tender care and be surrounded by a community who loved them.
The one thing we did not have in Montana was a faith community – a place where we would gather, pray, and sing and I missed that. Henry Nouwen states: “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.” I heard God’s voice that spring and summer in the vastness of those plains and I knew it was time to begin my spiritual journey. And like the echo that follows the crows call, my life was forever changed.
Pastor Nancy McCormick pastors along with her husband, Michael, at Chester and Springfield Friends Meeting.