If you’ve been around Mama T and me for any length of time, you know that we are always up for a good trip, good food, good shopping, and a good home remodel. Well, over the summer, all of those things came together in an overnight pilgrimage to Laurel, Mississippi, the “home” of the HGTV show Home Town.
We shopped at Laurel Mercantile and saw the Scotsman Woodshop. We stuffed ourselves at The Loft on “that good gulf shrimp” as Mama says, and we had the most amazing cake/cupcakes at Sweet Somethings.
We also drove up and down the streets of the historic district reliving our favorite memories from the show. Mom would try to recap the entire episode in the ten seconds it would take to drive in front of a house, barely leaving her enough time to catch her breath before starting all over again on the next house. Just imagine Mama T calling out things like “Spanish tile, fully restored hardwoods, Italianate brick home, MULLIONS!!!” Her sweet Southern drawl was working overtime to try to keep up with the sheer volume of words per minute.
However, of all the fun I KNEW was in store while spending time with Mom, it was an unexpected moment in an antique store that blew me away.
I love art…not in an “I’m an artist” sort of way (just ask my students about my sad little stick figures on the white board). I’m not a collector either – at my house you are just as likely to find a painting from Paris as a cute farmhouse wall hanging from Target. But when I stood in front of the painting in the upstairs room of that shop, I cried!
They say that art can move you, and, y’all, I had CHURCH standing there in front of an oil painting of a little white country church. The more I looked at it, the more tears slid down my face.
Mama walked up to me to see what was going on, and I could barely choke out the answer to her question about what I liked about it.
“It’s the perspective, Mom. Anyone else would have painted that church as the focal point of the painting, but here, it’s off to the side down a hill showing the back and side of the church. Instead of staring at the front doors of this quaint, little church, the painting focuses on the journey to get there.”
As I stared at that grassy hill and old barbed wire fence in the foreground, I explained to Mom how I knew just how that grass feels under my bare feet. I know what all those evergreens smell like on a hot summer day, and staring at the hole in the fence, I feel like I’ve climbed that hill a million times, knowing just where to find that opening and run down the hill toward the church.
I was transported!
Then, walking through the store, I started talking to God about why that painting was so powerful (other than my connection to growing up in the country). Then, I got it. It was all back to perspective again – the journey depicted in that painting wasn’t about putting on your finest dress to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday. It was about being so intimately familiar with God that you were just as welcome at His backdoor on a Tuesday afternoon as you would be at His front door on a Sunday morning.
That painting was my journey with Jesus.
It’s not just about the Instagram-worthy Bible journaling pages. It’s about those smudged pages with words scrawled across the page, emptying my heart and my brain as fast as my hand will allow.
It’s not just about those beautiful hymns in three-part harmony. It’s for times when the words and the notes can’t make it past the giant lump in my throat.
It’s not just about the feel of my back against an old wooden pew. It’s for the feel of the carpet in my bedroom against my knees when I pray the hardest of prayers.
So, of all of the memories we made in Laurel, one of my favorites will be falling in love with the Jesus whose arms are open just as wide at the front doors on Sunday morning as they are at the backdoor any other day of the week. And that little country church in that painting did this country girl’s heart a world of good…my very own art therapy.