Amy smirked as she turned into the curved driveway. The sign was still there. Of course, it was weathered after nearly 27 years. The robin’s-egg blue lettering had faded and the little roses in the corners were no longer discernable, but still the sentiment was clear.
Amy was turning 11 the first summer she spent at her Aunt Susan’s “hideaway.” That was the term Amy’s mother, Jane, used when she referred to the small ranch in the valley. Susan had chosen to “hide herself” away from the world when she purchased the property after her husband died. “She’s still a young woman. She could have stayed by us, but instead she wanted to commune with nature,” Jane would say, placing a haughty emphasis on the final word.
Amy was a city kid used to the sounds never stopping. Her parents told her Aunt Susan was lonely and needed the company, but Amy knew that wasn‘t the real reason she was going. The silence between her parents had become far worse than any late-night car horns or subway rumblings.
On her first night there, Susan and Amy took an after-dinner walk down to the stream that winded through the property. As the dwindling light twinkled on the water, Amy was introduced to the art of skipping stones. Under Susan’s compassionate tutelage, she was a quick learner, but couldn’t get the stones to skip very long before they plunked in the water. Susan’s seemed to effortlessly glide over to the top of the water.
“Skipping stones reminds me of how Jesus walked on water,” Susan said.
“He walked on water? Are you sure he wasn’t ice skating?”
“He did a lot of other cool things,“ Susan said. “I could tell you about them.”
“Sure.” Over the rest of the summer Susan shared the gospel with Amy.
It was really Amy’s doing that they made the sign in the first place. “I live in ‘The Armitage,’ what’s this place called?” she asked one morning during breakfast on the patio.
“That’s a good question. I do have something in mind.” With that, Susan went into the garage and came out with a piece of wood. “When I first bought this place, there was an old swing down between those two trees,” she pointed. “It was falling apart so I decided to take it down. This one piece of wood was in near-pristine condition. I knew I had to keep it and use it for something one day. This will be that something and today is that one day.”
They went to the general store and debated the varying shades of blue even though there were only six to choose from. Amy was the one who spotted the small rose stencil. They decided there would be four roses--two pink and two yellow. Just as the sun was setting they put the finishing touches on the sign.
“Let’s have a celebratory picnic supper by the stream,” Susan suggested. After a quick meal, they were once again skipping stones. Amy had improved over the summer, but it would still take years of practice before she could get one over to the other side.
“Wow,” Susan said.
“What’s so wow?”
“I look around here and see the trees, the birds, the sky and I am awestruck at all God has created. This valley is my place of worship.”
Susan then handed Amy a small package. “This is for you. It’s the Bible I had when I was your age.”
“Wow, there’s a lot here,” Amy said with some trepidation.
“Reading through it will be tough at times, but like skipping stones, just keep at it.”
Over the next few years, that Bible would be Amy’s solace as she survived her parents’ divorce. She would spend her summers at the ranch until her final year of college, but then she got a job and life took its natural multitasking course. Amy would see her aunt at family events and on occasional long weekends. The last time they saw each other during Susan’s last hospitalization before going home, she said it was about time Amy gave that well-worn Bible to her own 11-year-old daughter.
Now as Amy tossed Susan’s ashes into the stream with the same technique perfected through those years of skipping stones, she truly understood why her aunt had named her home “Bliss.”
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