While deadheading Cosmos beside a garden gift I named Granny’s Church, the blissful summer I spent a month vacationing alone in Kentucky came to mind.

Nine years old, my aunts passed me from house to house in the McCoy Bottom where I ran the farm all day and chased lightning bugs at sundown with cousins Kathy and Kenneth Ray. The first a McCoy on Mom’s side, the second an O’Brien on Dad’s.

When my aunts had had enough, my uncles dropped me off at Granny’s house where I ran her alleys with neighbor boys Paul Ray and Buddy Boy.

Meanwhile, Granny sewed me two blouse and skirt outfits- one yellow, the other blue. “School clothes,” she said.

When Sunday rolled around, Granny drove us to her church. I wore the flowery blue school clothes.

I knew the way to her church because Granny took my sisters and me to the Phelps Free Pentecostal Church during our summer vacations “back home,” as Mom said. My grandmother turned off the road and the steeple appeared. She parked in an alley.

I followed her wide behind through the back door to a rope she unwound from a wall. She pulled again and again to ring the bell, calling neighbors to worship.

Upstairs in the sanctuary, a wooden plaque on the wall with slots for “Attendance” and “Offering” implied a flock much smaller than that of Van Dyke Baptist Church in Warren where my family lived.

That morning, I didn’t ride Van Dyke Baptist’s yellow church bus to Sunday school and church with my two sisters. I sat in Granny’s congregation in Phelps, Kentucky, where she stood behind the pulpit, sang songs and preached.

Of course I don’t remember the Bible verse or her sermon. But it didn’t matter. I’m witness. Every single day of Granny’s life declared what God provides is enough. Always.

Years after her family dispersed Granny’s belongings, Uncle Tab, the youngest of her eight children, placed a little ceramic church in my car.

“I want you to have this. I bought it for Mommy one Christmas.”

“Thank you. I know the perfect place in my gardens,” I said.

“Law no, honey! I paid good money for that to go into a garden.”

“And I put good money into my gardens.”

Soon after, the State of Kentucky razed Granny’s church and the surrounding neighborhood for a football field. The rope and bell disappeared.

Dear Reader, I couldn’t know as a child what blessed gifts my grandparents had given-that Grandpa Floyd built Granny’s church from wormy chestnut timber he harvested from our mountains.

The rope and bell confirm my grandmother’s place and purpose on God’s Earth-a humble country church where she preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such glorious music and moments catch a child unawares. They come and go unexpected without knowing their power, and often vanish without persuading memory to hold them close.

Not so with my blissful summer when I was nine years old. Not so with Granny’s church.

Contact Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.