Rick's Sabbatical 2017: Story 1

Posted by Rick Carpenter on

“In the Beginning . . .”  (June 1 – 15)

It was on a Thursday, June 1 in fact, that I began Sabbatical 2017.  And it was on Friday the next day that I sat in the dental chair for 3 hours while the doc re-treated a previous root canal, an experience not unlike the original.  Later that evening a cold that had been coming on for more than 3 weeks accompanied by a cough that made me sound like a 40 year-2-pack-a-day-smoker, reached full-blown status.  The cough and the fever that came with it would keep me in the recliner for five days—not the start of Sabbatical that I had envisioned.


But by Wednesday next, after going in for an annual physical that was scheduled last year, I hopped into Kay’s Highlander and we headed to Kentucky to visit her family and to attend her father’s annual family reunion, held each year on Decoration Day.  Not a Hallmark event that I’m aware of, Decoration Day, the 2nd Sunday of June, is a time to visit the gravesites of family members and to place flowers on the graves.


Of course, on our way to Kentucky, we “had to” stop in Little Rock where our younger son, Logan and wife Christy, reside with three of our grandchildren—Ellie, Annie, and Levi. It was the “perfect” place to break up the 14-hour drive to Louisville.


My main goal for this sabbatical was to find three or four times to “get away”, to find time to rest and restore energy, and to reflect on the last 25 years at UBC and the last 45 years of ministry in the local church, and to write, edit and organize some of the writings I’ve done for worship.  It was also my intention to visit with Kay’s parents and with my mom.  In the 45 years, I’ve been working in the church, I’ve lived 7 – 11 hours away from my family of origin, and now we are 14 hours away from Kay’s family.  We’ve been where God has called us, but never convenient to visit our families.  Working on weekends, with a wife who works during the week, makes it just a little harder.


So it had been a while since I had seen the Merediths, and it had been more than 10 years since I had been to the reunion.


The routine for decoration day, which I partially remembered, was to drive from Louisville to Bee Spring, about an hour and a half drive through beautiful central Kentucky farmlands.  We passed the “Nuthin Fancy Holiness Church,” which prompted a text to Robert Creech with news of another “interesting” sign.  The first time I made an appearance at the event—too long ago to remember exactly when—I was given directions by Kay’s dad that included “turn left at Glenn Duvall’s barn.”  Of course I asked, “How will I know which barn is Glenn Duvall’s?”, and was told simply, “You’ll know.”  And I did.  For on the roof of the barn in bright red letters painted 20’ high, were the simple words, “Glenn Duvall.”


After brief visits to a couple of cemeteries where Kay’s grandparents and great-grandparents were buried, we then made our way to the old home-site where Kay’s dad was born and raised, and where his brother’s widow now resides. There’s little evidence of the original house, but Kay’s dad always wants us to walk down and see where he grew up. The whole scene is a reminder of the humble background that marks Kay’s heritage, not unlike the homesites of my mother and father in Alabama. 


It was “fun?” to see Kay’s family members, some of which I had met before, but most I did not recall their names or recognize their faces.  One family member that I had looked forward to meeting was Kay’s cousin, Lizbeth Meredith.  Kay met Lizbeth 2 years ago, and came home telling me about her amazing story—how she was kidnapped as a child by her mother, and taken from her Meredith father to Alaska, how the family lost touch with her for many years, and how Lizbeth relived the horror of that separation when her daughters were kidnapped from her by their father, her ex-husband, who had taken them to Greece.  Lizbeth fought for two years to get them back, spent all the resources she had, moved her life to Greece, and eventually executed a dramatic rescue to “smuggle” her daughters out of Greece.  Kay asked me to order a book that Lizbeth had written, documenting the ordeal.  I did and immediately read it.  It was hard to put down.


While sitting on the front porch eating our lunch of samplings from most of the “covered dishes,” Kay and I had a few minutes of face-to-face time with Lizbeth.  I told her how much I admired her courage and determination, and how much I enjoyed the book.  I asked her how her girls are doing now (26 and 28, I think).  She said okay, but they still struggle with all they went through.  “Do they have contact with their dad’s family in Greece?”  Yes, with some of the aunts and uncles, and a couple of cousins.  It was fascinating to meet her and to talk with her.


Lizbeth is very involved in women’s rights groups, and in helping women who are victims of abuse and domestic violence.  She is an advocate for women and children who face these horrible life events.  Needless to say, meeting her was a highlight for me at the Meredith reunion.  I highly recommend the book.


We left the reunion a little early so that we could get to Smithville, Tennessee, where our friend Mike Young lives, before his bedtime.  It is always great to see Mike and to catch up with what’s going on with him.  He is an amazing friend who will not let the limitations of a stroke or the loss of a leg keep him “down.”  We love Mike, and only wish we could see him more often. 


It was good to “get away” for a few days.  I had planned to travel to visit my mother in Alabama the last part of June, but shortly after we got home, we found out that our older son, Landon (Angela), who lives in Little Elm (Dallas) with our other two grandchildren, Avery and Aiden, had found out that he needed to have surgery on his eye that was injured 10 years ago in a 4-wheeler accident.  So I postponed my trip to Alabama, and we traveled to Dallas to help Angela and the kids, and to be with Landon for the surgery.  At first, I saw this as a distraction to the sabbatical.  Later I saw God giving us an opportunity to be there and to help our son and his family.  I am so grateful for UBC for the privilege of Sabbatical.  More about Landon’s surgery in the next story.


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