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

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Unstuck

In my early teens, I went on a memorable trip to Cuxhaven, a small town on the north coast of Germany. Ironically, I don’t recall whether I traveled with classmates or my family, but the trip itself has stuck in my mind—stuck being the operative word.

Droves of tourists travel to Cuxhaven each year to visit the Wadden Sea National Park and enjoy the cathartic experience of wading through mud. When the tide rolls out along the coast, the seabed turns from sandy loam to viscous slime. The mud extends hundreds of yards out to the horizon, making it possible to slog one’s way on foot across the tidal flats to small dune islands offshore. Mudflat hiking is both exhilarating and exhausting, and feels not unlike walking through quicksand (although not as perilous). With each step, you sink into the wet earth, the muck rising above your ankles. Lunging forward, you wait for the ground to stabilize beneath your toes, then extricate your other foot and continue plodding along.  

The brisk sea air and swooping gulls provide pleasant distractions along the journey, but once in a while, the mudflat catches you in its grip. In those moments, you humbly extend a hand and ask a fellow traveler for added leverage to help you get unstuck. You shouldn’t walk alone.

For the past year, I have waded through the mire—trudging forward, day by day, in the wake of losing my husband. At times, each step required my full focus, as I wriggled free from the sticky grief to forge ahead. Other days, I chose to rest and listen to the sound of birds and distant waves while savoring the cool breeze on my face. Standing firm in unfamiliar surroundings, I experienced brief but not infrequent moments of beauty and peace. And daily, without fail, God was there to pull me out of the mud. To keep me from being trapped in my circumstance.

He did it through the prayers uttered by friends and strangers, through hugs in church pews and laughter in coffee shops. When I extended my hands to the heavens in the quiet morning hours or gripped my pillow in the dead of night, He was there. A gentle pull, a whisper of strength. Another step.

The ebb and flow of the North Sea tide is constant. Eventually, the waters move in again, nudging wanderers back toward the shore. Mud gives way to solid ground, and you can pick up the pace. Aching muscles and wobbly steps still bear witness to the challenge of the journey, but in time, you resume your stride. Each step comes without thinking, and you can walk freely again. Lighter. Stronger. Unstuck.

***

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.

PSALM 40:1-2

June 13, 2019   No Comments

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   3 Comments