As I write this, I see the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the softball diamonds at the Botetourt Sports Complex in Roanoke, Va.
I come here every Labor Day weekend for the Interstate Church of God Softball Tournament. I don’t come to play softball. I come to write. I come to gather stories. I come to Roanoke to believe.
I look out at the mountains, and I’m reminded of the storm a year ago that fell over the Blue Ridge like an avalanche, how I stood in the rain for a bit, not wanting to move, soaked, watching the lightning, mesmerized as if it were a fireworks show. I look at them now, over at the spot where the storm conquered them a year before; now the sun is beaming over them, the sky so clear it’s boring.
I’m a different person this year, I say to myself, as I replay the last year in my mind, a year that can only be described as a storm, one of heartbreak and loss, rejection and emptiness, where two of my grandparents passed and my aunt took her own life.
But the mountains have not changed, I say again to myself, and neither has my God. A storm may blow in this afternoon, but the mountains will not change. They will still be there, their silhouettes stenciled into this open Virginia sky.
This annual weekend in Virginia, this tournament, has become a sort of pilgrimage for me, a hope that waters my belief and helps it grow.
The tournament has been around for more than 30 years, and for one weekend out of the year, this little mountainous town becomes the financial lifeline for a world 4,500 miles away in Paraguay.
A family in the States by the name of the Briscoes started the tournament to raise mo