Three weeks in the country with no other kids, cable television or fun. At least, I kept imagining that I wouldn’t enjoy myself. I was informed of my exile almost a month before it happened. I can’t tell if this was a blessing or a curse. It provided my seven year-old mind sufficient time to conjure up images of death by angry cow, getting lost in the sticks, or willfully choosing death over boredom. It also gave me time to beg to not be sent away, but to no avail- I had great-grandparents who really wanted to spend some time with me.

The drive out there was quiet and uneventful. No introductions were necessary upon our arrival. I knew these people, I just never saw them. The great-grandparents, my mother and father talked while I slid the back door open and made my way outside. A giant oak tree caught my attention when we pulled up to the house and it had been calling my name ever since. It must have been one of the biggest trees I had ever seen and it was perfect for climbing. So many branches were nearly horizontal, that I hoped I’d be able to build a tree house while I was visiting. I returned to the house and though they didn’t seem like they were ready to leave, I told my parents “bye” and proceeded to push them out the door. The old people took this as a compliment and laughed as they waved at the people I wouldn’t see for three more weeks.

I didn’t beat around the bush. Immediately after the door closed, I asked, “Grandpa, can I build a fort in your tree out back?”

“Well, I don’t see why not. What’re you gonna use?”

“What do you have?”

“Go look in the garage.”

I disappeared again. The garage was poorly lit but had several things worth using. Old men are particular about their tools. He had hammers, saws and other useful items hanging on pegboard, outlined in black to ensure their return to the correct location. Most of them were just barely within my reach. I snatched these items off the wall and piled them up next to my grandma’s Cadillac. I carried an armful of tools out to the back patio, set them down then searched for wood. I found small pieces of two-by-fours and some questionable pieces of plywood. Even though I didn’t see much of a use for most of these items, I brought them back to the patio.

I needed nails. I returned to the garage and found a rusty old jar full of them. I brought it out into the daylight and immediately felt frustration. It seemed as though more than half of them were bent! “Who the crap keeps bent nails? It must be an old person thing…” I thought to myself while I dug through the brown and orange mess of metal.

I rummaged all around their house, garage and the rest of their several acres of property in hopes of finding something to build with. I kept at it until after dark when my great-grandmother leaned out the back door and started yelling about dinner. I’d managed to pull up a few useful things, but was largely unsuccessful in my hunt. At that age, I even questioned my ability to build anything that wouldn’t collapse beneath me and send me in a downward spiral  toward an excessively premature death. I had twenty more days of this ahead of me.

★                    ★                    ★

God has the perfect cornerstone and I had the perfect tree. One square block or foundation doesn’t do a whole lot when the rest of the building pieces are crooked. I was afraid that oak was going to die if I didn’t put a fort in it. I had to hunt for items to use and God has living stones to build His spiritual house. I’m convinced that neither one of us has much to work with. My materials were old, His are self-willed and rebellious. My nails were bent, His don’t listen. I can maybe almost relate to his frustration. But somehow, God can do it, and it’ll look a lot better than what I built nearly twenty years ago. But God’s talented like that.