view from the ridge

Is there one question casual acquaintances ask that makes you want to slap them silly? Metaphorically, of course.

If you’ve been married more than a year or two, it might be this: “So when are you guys going to have a baby?”

If allergies cause you to sneeze or cough into your face mask in public, it could be: “Do you think you have Covid?”

Or if the extra weight gain you’ve sustained is evident, the absolute worst is, “When is the baby due?”

But here’s the one I dread: “Do you know who you remind me of?”

I don’t know about you, but I brace myself when that one comes.

It doesn’t happen as much now that I’m older, but in my younger years when I had a public ministry, I got that question – and the unwelcome answer – a lot.

I ruefully recall an older woman who approached me looking smug after I delivered a keynote message at a regional conference in New England in the early 90’s.

“I’ve finally figured it out!” she said. “Who you remind me of.”

Uh-oh, I thought. Here it comes.

“Carol Channing!“ she exclaimed. “You know – the Broadway actress who does musicals.”

Yes, I knew. The older one with the wild blonde hair and the big mouth.

Carol Channing. And I suppose I did wear my hair like that at one time...

“That’s the one!” she said triumphantly. “You look just like her!”

Or the time some years later when a man on the opposite side of a church dispute sat across from me at a table in Boston. Loud enough for me to overhear, he remarked to the man next to him, “Do you know who she looks like?”

Uh-oh, I thought. Not Carol Channing again.

That would have been pleasant, actually.

“She looks just like Steven Tyler!”

The man’s companion sounded bewildered. “The lead singer with Aerosmith? The Demon of Screamin’? That’s a guy.”

“Yeah, but look at the mouth and the hair. Dead ringer.”

Boston-based Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler. We are not related.

Ah ha, well then. Let me just excuse myself and go join a rock group. Or maybe hide under a rock.

We all know that outward appearance is superficial. Beauty, or the lack of it, is skin deep. It doesn’t matter who we look like as much as who we are like.

I’ve been thinking lately of friends who strongly remind me of someone.

There’s Cindy, who has persevered through major challenges raising four kids while dedicating her life to ministry to women. Cindy encourages at all times.

There’s Beth, a longtime friend with a global teaching ministry who has taken tremendous heat in recent years but never treats her critics as they treat her. Beth loves at all times.

There’s Gail, my mentor of many years, whose quiet wisdom and empathetic heart has blessed countless women in ministry. Gail believes in others at all times.

And there’s Mike, my husband of forty-four years, who lifts others up while never seeking the spotlight for himself. Mike serves at all times.

Boy, they remind me of someone, and I bet you can guess exactly who.

“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2

Copyright 2020, Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, has just released from NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

If you are reading This Life We Share, please consider leaving a brief review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and/or Reviews and recommendations help get the message into more hands, hearts, and minds. Thank you!

Photo Credit: Daphne Woodall

  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Other than being pulled over a time or two for hurrying on the highway, my husband has never come close to being arrested.

Until now.

We are a family of hikers. You have to be, living in these parts.

It’s a downhill constitutional to the mailbox, and steep enough coming back up to pull out your inhaler. Depending on where you park at church, you might either be surveying the steeple as you descend or singing songs of ascent like pilgrims huffing their way to Jerusalem. To reach our favorite restaurant, Sweet Onion, it’s such a sharp pitch downhill after you park that patrons practically skid through the front door.

The first inhabitants of these hills, the eastern band of Cherokees, called the region Shaconage – Land of the Blue Mist. No wonder we have such an ambiguous way of seeing things. Your vision pardonably gets a little blurry when you’re surrounded on all sides by such shrouded beauty.

So maybe that explains why law-abiding is a slightly debatable matter when residing in the foothills of the Smokies.

A few weeks back, my husband and youngest son shrugged on their backpacks to explore a trail Jordan had discovered online that looked promising. It wound uphill through several thousand acres owned by the local water company, and was duly posted with a “No Trespassing: Call This Number” sign at the trailhead.

Mike checked his cell service, dialed, and waited. No answer.

Knocked on the door of the small office nearby. No response. What to do?

Oh, the siren call of the cerulean skies! The downshifting of light through the verdant forest! The itchiness in their feet to reach the views atop the Blue Ridge! They grabbed their trekking poles and set off.

Mike estimates they’d hiked near to four miles along an old logging road when they heard rumbling. My men stepped off the trail to let a big pickup pass but it pulled up alongside instead.

A pair of broad shoulders appeared topped by a glowering face that had seen more than a few miles of dirt road. His companion wore a matching scowl.

“Whatcha boys doin’?”

My husband, ever the friendly fellow, cheerfully explained the afternoon’s objective- to picnic at the top of the ridge where the advertised views were said to be spectacular.

The pickup driver was not impressed. “Didn’t ya see the NO TRESPASSING sign down thar?”

Well, yes they had, but seeing as they weren’t looking to hunt or fish, they had supposed it was ok to proceed.

“Waahl, y’all sposed wrong,” The driver spat a wad of brown juice at Mike’s feet. “Git in the truck. We’re takin’ ya back down.” He jerked his head towards the bed of the truck. “Ya ain’t ridin’ with us.”

Now this was a first. Most everyone we’ve met in our county has been kind to a fault, but this one had a burr in his saddle about something. The guys climbed in among a muddle of chainsaws, hatchets, and weedwackers. Later Jordan swore he’d heard dueling banjos off in the distance. They rattled back down the trail.

It got worse.

Two squad cars were waiting at the trailhead, one for each offender, with three boys in blue leaning against the doors, arms crossed over bellies, eyes shielded by reflective glasses.

Same question, this time with the force of The Law.

“Whatcha boys doin’? Don’t cha know the laws about trespassin’? They’s only two reasons people go up thar!”

Mike was dying to ask what those two reasons were, but the day was getting uncomfortably warm.

He repeated what he’d told their captors. Saw the sign, tried to call, no response, beautiful day, what harm was there… Maybe what we’ve got here is failure to communicate, ha ha!

Do not use lines from old movies when you are about to be handcuffed.

The sergeant was unsmiling. “Hand over them packs, and lessee what ya got in thar.”

The junior officers dumped the contents on the ground and poked through sandwiches, trail mix, and sunscreen. They glanced at hiking maps, rifled through pockets. They looked bored.

Eager to mend fences, Mike mentioned bear scat they’d spotted on the trail.

“Yeah, and yer lucky ya didn’t meet up with one,” an officer snorted. "One of them’ll knock ya into the middle a’ next week.”

Inspection complete, the guilty were released with a warning.

"You boys mind them signs, ya hear? Round here they shoot trespassers first and ask questions later."

My menfolk came home chastened but grinning at their brush with justice mountain-style.

Lord, forgive us our trespasses.

That prayer has never had more meaning than it does now.

Copyright 2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, has just released from NavPress.

[If you live within driving distance of Wheaton, Illinois, you are warmly invited to my Book Signing Celebration on Thursday evening. See end of this post for a video invite. All are welcome! And now a true tale from the Ridge...]

Two days after we moved into Peace Ridge, our new-to-us home in the Smokies, we had our first visitors – a husky fortyish man sporting a Patriots ballcap, and his helper, a much older man so thin he seemed to be struggling to keep his pants up and his Lions hat on.

“You fellas must be from up north like us!” Mike blurted out at the door, only to get fixed with scowls.

“Nossir, we’s from here,” the younger man said, “But I like that Boston team, and Charley is partial to Dee-troit. We’ll fight anyone who raises hell with us about it.” He touched the bill of his cap. “Sorry for mah French, ma’am.”

Eager to support local business, we had purchased a kitchen set from a furniture store in our little town that has been in the same family for four generations. Our visitors were their delivery team. We offered them cookies and sweet tea.

The spokesman split a smile.

“I’m Joe, and ol’ Charley here, he’s been working for that store practically since they opened,” Joe said. “He’s so skinny he looks like a zipper, but he’s stronger than a mule. We’ll fetch that table in here in just a lick. You might have to take your front door off first, though. We’re careful an’ all, but it looks tighter than a tick. You got any pets to be mindful of?”

Just cats, we assured him.

“Waall, if’n you let ‘em outside, don’t let the vet talk you into them miker-chips,” Joe advised. “You know what they say about those and all.”

No, we didn’t, actually.

Joe looked surprised. “Them miker-chips are just another way for the guv’ment to keep track of us,” he opined. “Put them things in yer cat’s necks, they’ll know all yer bizness.”

This was news to us. A southern conspiracy theory maybe?

“All this stuff starts up north,” Joe huffed, “and then we get stuck with it.”

The new kitchen table and chairs in place, Joe and Charley shuffled their feet a bit until I remembered my manners and ran for my wallet, pulling out a greenback for each of them.

We walked them outside, enjoying the conversation.

Before climbing back in their truck, Charley craned his skinny neck up at the woods on the ridge above our house.

“Yer retired, ya say?” He scratched his head. “Ever thought about what y’all can do with tree cover like that up thar?”

We hadn’t, actually.

“That’d be a great place for y’all to put yer still.”

Come again?

“My grandpappy, now he had woods like you’rn and he made him some good money making moonshine,” Charley reminisced.

Pardon our ignorance, they still make moonshine these days? We thought that stopped after Prohibition ended.

“No ma’am!” Joe tugged on his cap as he heaved himself into the driver’s seat. “Likker ain’t illegal or nuthen now, but you buy it the reg’lar way, you gotta pay taxes and all. Make it yerself, you got plenty for yer family and friends.”

We’ll keep that in mind, we said.

Mike and I walked back in the house aglow at having made our first friends here.

And then I noticed them.

The cats.

The way they were looking at me from the corner, all slant-eyed and wise. The fact that all I have to do is mention something, and an ad for that very item pops up on my computer. Come to think of it, our vet up north had been an advocate of microchips.

These days we have to be mighty careful about crazy conspiracy theories.

But I just might have the cats checked anyway.

Copyright 2020, Maggie Wallem Rowe

Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, has just released from NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

If you are reading This Life We Share, please consider leaving a brief review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or Reviews and recommendations help get the message into more hands, hearts, and minds. Thank you!

© 2019-2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe

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