The Tuggles

Episode 15: The Ozarks

December 5, 2017
ozarks

They journeyed on through the heart of Missouri, traveling alongside highway 54 heading towards the state capitol. It was nearing the middle of the afternoon, overcast, and a bit chilly on this autumn day. Trotting along, something caught Lynn’s eye at the top of the tree line a few hundred yards ahead of them. A faded billboard peeked out through the branches.

“Oh, Lake of the Ozarks!” Lynn exclaimed. “Can we go down there?” she appealed to her husband.

Tim looked up at the billboard and shook his head. “No one is going to let us go down by the lake with five horses,” he stated without looking back at her. “There will be tourists everywhere. I hardly think they would welcome a procession like ours.”

Lynn cracked her mouth and stared up at the billboard as they ambled past it, knowing he was right but wanting to deny it.

They journeyed on in silence when after rounding a corner, she spotted another billboard with large, white block letters:

BRIDAL CAVE: Lake of the Ozarks – 6 miles

“You see that? It says only six miles away!” Lynn blurted.

“Sweetheart, but do you really think we are going to get to take the horses down there?” Tim asked, driving his point more emphatically. “I wish we could stop at every one of them, but our entourage doesn’t make that possible most of the time.”

She breathed a heavy sigh and relinquished the fantasy. Her fascination with nature was constantly bombarded having traveled over halfway across the country thus far. Being up close and personal with the outdoors was incredibly exhilarating, and yet traveling with a pack of horses seemed to ironically limit them sometimes from fully enjoying it.

An hour later they passed a large house on a hill to their left, set back a quarter mile from the road and tucked away in a cluster of woods next to an open clearing. Ten seconds after passing the driveway entrance, without a word Tim steered Cher to turn around. Lynn saw it coming.

“You’re going, aren’t you,” she said, turning Bobby around and leading the pack string to follow suit.

“Yep. Lord spoke to my heart,” he confirmed.

The convoy ambled up the incline of the gravel drive, entering the finely manicured estate and appreciating the beauty of the landscaping. Approaching the white-paneled house, the team halted a hundred feet away, evaluating this sudden decision no one had purpose for yet. Suddenly a screen door swung open, creaking loudly and quickly slammed shut. A tall, lanky man appeared around the corner of the front porch in dark blue jeans and a wrinkled, short-sleeved button-up.

“Howdy, folks,” the man hollered as he came out to meet them. “You need directions somewhere?” he asked.

“No, sir,” Tim responded. “We are missionaries traveling across America on horseback, and we were riding past your house when the Lord spoke to my heart to turn around.”

The man stood several yards in front of Tim, staring dumbly after hearing Tim’s response.

“Well, I’ll be darned,” he finally declared, breaking his stupor. “Come right on in. Supper will be ready here soon.” He waved his arm at them towards the house, turned and walked back.

Lynn looked at Tim and chuckled at the ease of it all. It never ceased to amaze her how obvious God’s presence was in divine appointments such as these.

An hour later, the couple sat down to dinner with their new friend George and his wife, Barbara. It had been at least a week since they had had a home-cooked meal and the smorgasbord of meatloaf and mashed potatoes made their mouths water. Part way into the meal, Lynn stood to retrieve a refill on drinks.

“Oh, I’ve got that, Lynn,” assured George, attempting to take the glasses from her.

“No, I’ve got it. Really. You eat,” she demanded, rounding the table towards the kitchen. George followed her in with more empty glasses. Lynn reached for the pitcher of iced tea and jabbed at George for forgetting what Barbara was drinking. She filled the second glass up, snickering at his memory lapse when she turned towards him to see tears in his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, taken off guard. He stared down at the two empty glasses in his hands, pregnant with pause.

“I have to tell you this,” he started, slowly lifting his eyes to meet hers. “I have been so discouraged about the word faith, lately. And everything that word is supposed to mean, especially with where our world is headed today. This morning I prayed, ‘God, please send me somebody that has faith like me.’” George held Lynn’s gaze, a tear escaping his eye. “Then I look out the window this afternoon, and here are these two people who took a huge leap of faith, crossing America on horses. And they are in my driveway.”

George stilled himself against the wave of emotion attempting to surge up his throat. Lynn smiled at him, knowingly. This sight was not new to her—the sight of God’s presence crashing in on an unsuspecting, average American, unassumingly living their daily life. She had seen it many times over the last couple of years. Sometimes daily.

She stepped towards him, eyes full of gratitude and celebration. “It is our privilege to be that answer to prayer, George. Thank you for inviting us into your home.”

At the end of dinner, George wiped his mouth with his napkin and muttered something to Barbara. Looking back up at them, he said, “How about you folks gather your stuff up and we are going to take you down to stay at the lake house for the night.” His wife grinned from ear to ear.

“Oh, we are more than happy to roll out our bed roll out by the barn with the horses,” Tim assured. “We’ll be gone first thing in the morning.”

“No, no. This is our treat,” George continued. “There is a perfectly good lake house awaiting your stay tonight.” Lynn could hardly hold back the thrill of such a luxury. It had been several weeks of the nonstop outdoors and she was ready for a night in a real bed.

After loading their things in the back of George’s truck, he drove them a few miles down the highway, winding through some back woods before arriving at a quaint, little lake house by the water. It was dusky and little scenery could be deciphered at the current hour, but the morning was sure to bring inevitable beauty.

The couple went to bed soon after arriving and slept soundly in the comfortable queen-sized bed. Tim rose a few minutes before dawn, per his usual morning routine, and took a cup of coffee out onto the back deck for a few moments of the early morning’s serenity. A faint glimmer of light cast a dark blue hue across the Eastern horizon, shrouded by clouds of smoky fog hovering above the water’s surface out in front of him. He sipped his steaming coffee and pondered the favor of God that brought them to such an unexpected stay.

The minutes trickled by and the light grew stronger, lifting the shadows around him when Tim noticed something peculiar across the embankment. It was a building that appeared to have large letters next to it that he couldn’t make out. He strained to focus through the patches of fog trailing by and waited for more light to assist him. Moments later, the text came into view.

“Dude,” Tim reacted, eyes widening. “That says Bridal Cave.” He let out a cackle and leapt to his feet, bolting inside the house.

“Lynnie! Lynn!” he yelled from the sunroom, scurrying into the bedroom. He hopped onto the bed next to his sleeping wife. “Lynn, you have to come see this,” he said in a frenzy. She stirred.

“What?” she murmured, eyes still closed.

“Get up. You have to come see this. Right now!” he repeated, excitedly. She cracked open her eyelids and frowned at him before turning back over.

“Take a picture, baby,” she replied. “Just take a picture.”

He hurried out of the room and came bounding back inside in under two minutes. Jumping onto the bed next to her, she jolted up and moaned. He shoved his phone screen inches from her face. “You have got to see this.”

Her eyes squinted from the bright light. Taking hold of the phone, a tired smile crept onto her face.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” she laughed.

“Honey, you get to see it after all,” Tim said to her. “Do you want to go?”

She handed him back the phone and settled back into her pillow, closing her eyes. “Sweetheart, I don’t need to go. It came to me.”

 

 

 

 

READ MORE:

Previous–Episode 14: The Power
Beginning–Episode 1: The Funeral

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