"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)

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A Story Stroll

Today is ten months since Craig died. I have pondered this milestone for the past week—what it might feel like, and whether I should do anything special to celebrate him. I considered recording a video, and I might still, but I had neither the time nor the mental bandwidth this morning to gather my thoughts. So, I opted for a walk.

A walk would provide a time of quiet reflection–the perfect way to honor the occasion. I could walk to the park and follow the winding trail through the woods where Craig and I walked together last spring. I would enjoy the sights and sounds of nature and think about those last precious days with my husband as I retraced our steps.

Of course, God had other plans.

I arrived at the park to discover the sidewalk was closed. The earth had been torn up and a team of workers were installing large pipes underground. Signs pointed to an alternate route, and I veered toward the new course, realizing that I didn’t have much choice. How appropriate that I would encounter an unexpected detour on the day I was commemorating Craig’s death—the most unexpected detour of all.  

The new path took me past the playground, which was surprisingly empty, and around a cluster of trees before connecting back to the familiar trail. I noticed that the city had installed new signs every few feet along the path, inviting children and visitors to take a “Story Stroll.” Each station invited kids to notice interesting things in their surroundings, explore new places, and imagine the possibilities.

God whispered: This is a new story.

I walked through the woods, doing only the inner loop and not the full power walk that Craig and I took together. That path was meant to work up a sweat and shake loose the darkness that had taken hold of his mind. This walk was meant for reminiscing. I did not need to hurry. Nothing needed fixing.

In the center of the trees, I caught the delicious scent of honeysuckle. My eyes scanned the branches and brambles for the source, and I spotted the wild vines a few feet further down the trail. The memories came swiftly and made me smile. Honeysuckle grew along the driveway of the house where I grew up, and I smelled it every day when I came home from school. I was a latchkey kid, and learned at an early age to fend for myself. The sweet aroma was a gentle reminder: I know how to be alone.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14

Making my way back toward the main road, I was happy to see a mother and her children had staked claim to the playground. I decided to leave the park through the main exit, rather than walk back to the path that Craig and I used to follow. God spoke to my heart again. You don’t have to retrace your steps. Both routes would lead me home.

Ten months in, I am learning to accept the unplanned, to walk boldly along the alternate route. God wants to take me someplace new, and there is beauty in the detour.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

May 6, 2019   2 Comments

An (Almost) Perfect Walk

I was prepared for battle this morning. Sunglasses. Handkerchief. Cell phone fully charged. I expected pain. I expected warfare. I expected to revisit a place of suffering and toil.

Instead, I took a walk.

I knew I was going for a walk, of course. But, this was a meaningful walk, and the decision to go had been weighty. This morning was my first time walking to the park a half mile from our house—the park that Craig and I walked to together at least a dozen times in the weeks before he died last summer. The park where he sat on a bench in the shade and recorded a four-minute video in which he poured out his heart, begging viewers to stand strong against the lies of the enemy. A spirit of suicide was sweeping the nation, taking out notable figures like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, along with thousands of teenagers and adults who had succumbed to depression. Craig was wrestling with it, as well, and our daily power walk was a weapon in his arsenal. Exercise releases endorphins, reducing the perception of pain. We had a plan. We could beat this.

Four weeks later, Craig lost the fight. And, I stopped going to the park.

I always loved to walk. I spent part of my youth in Germany and a decade in Manhattan; walking for me was a way of life. It felt as natural as breathing, and almost as necessary. The first year of our marriage, Craig and I took early morning walks around the golf course near our apartment complex, sharing thoughts and dreams as we became more closely knit as a couple. Walking was good exercise, but for me, it was about connection. Those walks fueled my love for my husband and refreshed my soul.

After we moved to our house, we rarely walked together. Occasionally, Craig would join me to take the dog around the block, or humor me by strolling through a street fair. I could trick him into walking when we went to Six Flags or traveled on vacation. But for the most part, walking was my thing, not his. So, I was pleasantly surprised last spring when he asked me for a suggested route to walk for 45 minutes. Two laps through the back alleys around our neighborhood and one time around the inner loop would do the trick, I replied, then realized just how mundane that path would be. Craig looked dismayed. “Or, you could walk to the park and do a loop around the trails. That’s probably 45 minutes there and back,” I said.

He set out the next morning on his own, returning home drenched in sweat. The following day, he was off again, strengthening muscles, building a routine. I was envious. After the first week, I asked whether I could join him. Sure, he said. What for him felt strenuous was for me pure bliss. Walking with my husband—my favorite person of all time. He stayed laser focused on keeping a brisk pace. I focused on speaking life over him, reminding him of his calling and God’s promises. We were in the fight together, us against the world.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

I thought about the park several times after Craig passed. How much I loved being out in nature, breathing the fresh air. I thought about keeping up the routine but always found an excuse. The late summer was too hot, I was traveling in the fall, and winter was cold and dreary.

But now, it’s spring. Birds are chirping. Everything is green. I had nothing on my calendar. Today was the perfect day for a walk in the park.

I wore my sunglasses as I left the house, and the tears came quickly. They trickled down my cheeks as I turned left onto the main road. The first two blocks slope downhill, and gravity propelled me along. Dogs barked behind fences. A crow swooped low overhead. I sang softly to myself as I walked, settling my mind, picking up details. The world was in Technicolor.

As I neared the park, I could see people gathered around a canopy tent by the tree line. Hundreds of plastic eggs were strewn across the grass nearby. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and families were there to celebrate. The children paced in anticipation, baskets at the ready, eyeing their bounty. They were waiting for permission to run. So was I.

I kept bracing for the pain, anticipating grief. But, it never came. Instead, I was captivated by the beautiful scenery and the bright sunshine and the cool breeze. The trails were empty, the atmosphere serene. I couldn’t help myself—I was happy. Halfway around the loop, I decided to embrace the joy. What a spectacular morning. Perfect weather, and the perfect day for a walk. I wished Craig was with me, but I knew my Husband was there. Jesus was right by my side. How else could I explain the peace in my soul?

You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your Husband–the Lord Almighty is His name

Isaiah 55:4b-5a

Whether I will make a walk to the park part of my daily routine remains to be seen. What I know for certain, however, is that I never walk alone. I am grateful for God’s unfailing love, and for the comforting arms of my Savior. Jesus spent three days in the tomb—Scripture tells us that He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is not afraid to walk with us through seasons of darkness. And, He walks us back out. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.

Today, I took a walk. Tomorrow is resurrection day.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

Ecclesiastes 3:1

April 20, 2019   3 Comments