Familiar Paths

September 9, 2019

Last night I took a "walk" somewhere I had not expected to go. I was actually not planning on going anywhere! My sofa was cozy, the house was quiet, and recorded movies were awaiting my viewing. So much for the best laid plans. First, social media lured me in like the wretched monster of time it is. While reading one tweet that led to another tweet, that led to an Instagram post that led to one on Facebook, I came across a post from someone that had been on my mind. The next thing I know, that "someone" called me. A "quick hello" took us on a two hour tromp through the "woods" exploring things that I had not thought of in months and months. That call led to another to someone else, then to a long chat with my best friend, and by the end of that chat, I found myself on a familiar path. This path was not one that I had any desire to travel and honestly thought I had no need to. Yet there I was on that worn path - again! 

 

Can you relate?  Have you ever taken time in your life to work through a difficult situation, emotions or even experiences, in order to move forward in your journey only to be faced with a detour that takes you back to where you came from earlier? I think we all have. Whether it is the "avenue of unfinished business," the "highway of discovery," the "detour of regret" or simply "memory lane," we find ourselves on familiar paths sometimes. My familiar path last night was the "road of reminders." There were some lessons I had learned many years ago, that I had forgotten. When we "forget" we tend to need to find our way again.

 

As I stumbled down my path last evening, I began to remember each landmark and each experience. I pulled out the manuscript to my "story" - the book I had written and published in 2014 called "Journey Within My Heart." The second chapter entitled "Searching High And Low" was an old worn road map that had been used on this path I found myself on again. I was experiencing that "trip" all over!

 

After I read my chapter and cried several tears, I felt that maybe some of you might be walking down this same road - perhaps a bit behind me or even yards or miles in front of me. Either way,  I want to share a portion of this chapter with you. If you're tired, this chapter is for you. If you are carrying heavy baggage, this is for you. If you feel lost, this is for you. If expectations are impossible, this is for you. If you are ready for peace of mind, heart, soul and spirit... this chapter is for you! It will make this blog rather long, but I am posting it below.  Please know how much you are loved. Mostly know that an incredible God loves you. Oh and I love you too! Finally, love yourself! This is where true peace comes from... no matter where you walk YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

 

Journey Within My Heart

Chapter 2: Searching High And Low

 

...So on a cold, foretelling December day, I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, slipped my hand out of my dad’s and into the hand of a fate more frightful than I could’ve ever imagined. Eight years later, my life was in more turmoil than I could remember. What  started out as a beautiful union of two hearts longing to experience love in its fullest and a desire to share that love through a life of helping others, slowly became a nightmare in the making. The reformed addict had stepped from the streets to a pulpit, and from a pulpit to a secret world I thought only existed in the movies. The desire to live out his second chance by offering that same chance to others, was being choked to death by hidden demons of addiction. What a web of secrecy he had woven around us both.  I was literally hanging on by a thread in a multitude of ways. I felt as if I had fallen asleep in “Pleasantville” and awakened in “The Twilight Zone.”

 

In a last ditch effort to salvage marriage, life and sanity, I attended what was called “family week” for my spouse at a recovery retreat. The week was an emotional roller-coaster. Towards the end of the week we were faced with an outdoor challenge. With wisdom and insight, our counselors planned the day’s challenges, increasing their level of difficulty as we went along. First was the familiar “trust me and fall into my arms” exercise; certainly more difficult than it appeared. Next, we were paired with another member of our group with a more challenging exercise in trust. One was blindfolded and the other was the designated mountain tour guide. Of course, I was chosen to be the trusting, faithful blind follower! Why not? I was already quite accustomed to that role with my husband. He and I had epitomized the concept of the “blind leading the blind.” That day at this mountain retreat, my team partner and guide led me up and down hills and around steep curves. My heart was beating wildly and the heat was smothering. I felt trees, brush, and who knows what reaching out in an effort to stop me from invading their sanctuary. I sensed if I moved my feet an inch or more left or right I would experience a free-fall down that mountainside. Finally, I was given the instruction to “stop!” I had quickly learned on this mountain trail that it was to my greatest advantage to yield to the instructions of my teammate. I put my feet in “park” and came to an abrupt halt. I removed my blindfold to find myself inches from a fast running river. How I wished there had been such a trusting “guide” in real life events. I had fallen off cliffs and stepped in over my head in the tide of life more times than I could count. Never really looking before I leaped, I had more zeal than courage, more willingness than wisdom, and had often found myself on a free-fall in the dark. I was hopeful that this river’s edge was the climax to our lesson in trust. Soon however, our guide and counselor announced that there was one final challenge. 

 

I had never heard of a “zip line,” but once we approached its course, I was certain I did not like it at all! One by one, we were strapped down like a wild horse with a harness. We stood facing that same river at its lower edge. It ebbed and flowed, daunting and daring us to crossover. There was only one way - straight up. Halfway up that ten foot tree with my feet grabbing metal spikes like a vice, I realized I must’ve been completely out of my mind. None too soon, I made my way to a rope bridge that dangled across that river. Suddenly, the tree seemed like a fitting retreat; yet in this exercise there appeared to be no retreat. After what seemed like an eternity, my feet hit solid ground at the bridge’s edge. Fear subsided, but only for a moment.  Soon another tree was presented to us; this time thirty or more feet straight up. I approached this monster looming over me with its massive green branches waiting to wrap me up and swallow me whole. I felt like Dorothy did when she and the scarecrow were walking through the forest. We were not in “Kansas” any longer. My mind was spinning and my knees were weak. Firmly I grasped the tree, actually clutching it and holding on for dear life. I brought new meaning to “hug a tree!” Spike by spike, I climbed higher and higher as my spike “ladder” twisted and turned around this massive tower. Much like climbing the proverbial beanstalk, there was great uncertainty waiting at the top. A voice shouted faintly in the distance. “If you don’t want to or can’t do this you can come down.” It was one of our counselors standing at the foot of the tree. Was he delirious from the heat? The thought of coming down was more paralyzing than the climb up. It had seemed like hours, but finally, FINALLY I was at the top! I grabbed the wood platform and pulled myself up with the help of the counselor waiting there. He clamped my harness to a large hook dangling from a heavy rope that swung high above us. I must’ve looked like a side of beef after the slaughter. The counselor took my hand and led me to the platform’s edge and asked me to sit down. My feeble knees buckled. Sitting was good.  “Now take your time. You can do this,”  the counselor said. I looked out over the river that had threatened me moments before. It was still making a feeble attempt to taunt me, but this time it was more of a welcome call. All I wanted to do was put my feet safely on its other bank. A shout came from yet another counselor standing at the foot of this tall stage. It truly did seem like the scene from some “B” rated horror flick with fellow team members making their way up the tree beside me and others smiling deliriously on the ground across the river. 

 

“How are you doing?”  What a most absurd question. How in the world did he think I was doing? I was terrified! “Okay now, tell me what you’re afraid of?” Again with the absurdities; he really had to ask what I was afraid of? I was thirty feet in the air dangling over the side of a platform, strapped to a rope that was tied across a swift flowing river with the rope being my only safe haven back to solid ground. Again he shouted, “Starla tell me what you are feeling.” Much to my surprise, every fear I had ever faced came bursting out in a sea of exasperation. “I am tired. I am tired of being afraid of everyone and everything. I am tired of feeling so alone and feeling as if I am just an afterthought. I am tired of the struggle. I am tired of trying to be perfect and feeling so afraid, alone and lost when I’m not. I AM NOT PERFECT and don’t want to be perfect! I AM TIRED!” The weights that I had felt as I sat down on the edge of that platform suddenly seemed more like wings. I truly felt chains breaking loose. I looked out through tear-stained eyes at that river. It was flowing now almost like a peaceful stream. It wasn’t so frightening after all.

 

“That’s good to hear you say” the voice below shouted back. “You know you don’t have to be perfect, don’t you?”  I had never known that before, but now it was a truth that illuminated my mind and heart like a candle in a dark room. I had never felt so empowered or so free. The little “church girl” didn’t have to be perfect with everything she said and did. The addict’s wife didn’t have to be perfect and pretend everything was okay. She didn’t have to hide behind the veil of ministry with her addict turned “preacher” husband who lived a double life. I didn’t have to say all the right things or have all the answers. I no longer had to run, hide, or cover up the ugly truths that were stashed away like skeletons in a closet. I didn’t have to feel that gnawing guilt of letting others down or disappointing those around me. I didn’t have to do everything just right to earn their time or attention. I DIDN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT!  “Okay now, when you are ready all you have to do is hold tight to the rope and slip off the edge.” There was no time for thinking. It was now or never. Like an airline pilot, I was committed. I was at that point of no return. Before I knew what happened, I was plummeting across this river at what seemed like lightening speed on a downward spiral towards the other bank. As I came to a stop, I felt hands reaching up for me pulling me gently towards the ground. It seemed that an invisible set of hands were reaching down gently pulling my heart and soul to safety. I looked at my teammates. Those who had gone before me had ridiculous smiles plastered across their faces. Those who had yet to go still had that hollow look of fear in their eyes. “How was it?” Words could not describe what I felt. “It was AWESOME!” I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. Was this the same girl who climbed that old tree in our backyard with her brother and neighborhood friends but was too afraid to swing down on the rope? I remember my brother Craig running to get help from Dad. “Daddy, Starla’s in the tree and we can’t get her to come down!”  Now, here I was the older version of that little girl actually wanting to do the “zip line” again! Who would’ve ever thought that I would have to climb thirty feet in the air just to find myself?

 

 

*NOTE: I am working on a revised edition of this book and hope to have it ready within a month.  I look forward to sharing the new edition with you!