Friday, June 12, 2009

I Love Bell's Dell

Ok, first off, the week was wonderful. Even with the Blackberry fiasco.

I don't know that I learned or did anything terribly profound. It's just really relaxing to be at the cabin and I did A LOT of that. Napping, reading ... wandering around. Napping, reading ... wandering around. But, then there were trips to Des Moines to try to deal with the telephone and those tended to take time and thought processes.

The one thing that I know happened to me on this trip was that it simply renewed the incredible desire within me to spend more time in this wonderful place.

Not only is it beautiful, but my family's memories are wrapped up in Bell's Dell.

Dad had only been married for 5 years and had been in the ministry for just under that and had his third child on the way when he knew without a doubt that he needed something a little more permanent for his family. A Methodist preacher lived in church provided parsonages at the time and until they retired never owned a home. Most pastors were fairly itinerant and never settled down into one location. Consequently, their families never had a 'family home' or a location that they could call that ... home.

We made our home wherever we landed. Mom would encourage the unpacking to happen as quickly as possible so that we could settle in immediately and begin feeling as if we were in a home, not a house. I think one year I had everything of mine unpacked within a few hours and the rest of the house was fully unpacked and ready to go within 3 days. We just couldn't afford to wait.

Bell's Dell allowed us to have a permanent family location. Every summer we spent several weeks there and as often as possible, Dad would take a few days off so that we could be at the cabin. We were up there in the fall, winter and spring to take advantage of the beauty and the solitude.

Because Dad's job as a pastor required such a huge investment of himself in the people of the church, he was emotionally exhausted much of the time. Getting out of town to head to the cabin was a miserable experience for all of us. He wanted to ensure that we forgot nothing and would spend weeks planning his trips. After barking at his family and terrorizing us, we would finally pile in the van and head out. His temperament relaxed as each mile melted away. Within 20-30 miles, he was laughing and enjoying the trip.

Each summer we tried to spend two full weeks at the cabin. The first Sunday, the family would have our own church service. We'd all walk to the top of the hill, at the top of our land. There was a small clearing there. Dad would bring stumps out for us to sit on and have a guitar and a bible. We'd sing a few songs, read a Bible passage or two and then do some sharing. The next Sunday we would head into Webster City to worship in the Methodist Church. I loved sitting in the balcony, except when Dad would sing. His great, big, bass voice would ring out over that congregation and invariable, everyone turned around to see who the new guy was.

The good news? Now, I'm the one with the big voice and just like he never cared whether his singing embarrassed me (and oh, it did) I don't care about anything except singing when I'm in worship.

The three of us kids roamed the entire 17 acres, making it a playground for our imaginations. There was a hill with gold clay. We called it the 'gold hill' (duh), but to us, it was real gold. We had a lot of adventures with that 'gold.' The ditch off the road was filled with pure, white sand and we were never sure what we would find under the wet leaves in the deep ravines. I loved walking among the trees picking up acorns.

At Christmastime, Mom always insisted that Dad dig up the Christmas trees we had in the house rather than chopping them down. Two of those were later planted at Bell's Dell, but were two of the most malformed pine trees you ever saw. I think they were both finally taken down. They'd died miserable deaths.

A neighbor kept his cattle on the land, but would pull them out while we spent long periods of time there. This ensured that the brush and grass was cleared out of the hillside wooded area and that there were cattle paths to follow through the hills. Dad poured a concrete cattle trough in the meadow and after scrubbing it out, it became a wonderful place for the three of us children to play in the water on hot days when mom or dad couldn't monitor us in the river.

We fished that river, swam in that river, found parts of an old mill race and worried when it overflowed its banks in the spring.

Bell's Dell is not only absolutely beautiful, but is filled with my family's memories and is filling up again with memories as our extended families find joy there as well.

Over the years we have had numerous youth, family and prayer retreats at the cabin. I doubt that anyone who has ever been there walks away without being inspired in some way. God filled that valley with beauty and I'm just so thankful to be a guardian for a time.

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