Today I find myself walking the same path in Moab that I walked five years ago with my soon to be ex-husband — almost to the exact (if not exact) date in late April 2007.
Then, even though I had already started divorce proceedings, I had secretly harbored hopes of reconciliation – but by the end of my trip – after walks along Mill Creek and through Arches’ Fiery Furnace and drinking wine coolers up in the slick rock above Moab — it had become abundantly clear that a reunion was not possible.
With this final news I returned to Portland to migrate through the divorce process.
A different sort of reconciliation.
During this time I also began visiting my mother-in-law every week or so in Longview as she suffered through the final stages of breast cancer.
Our relationship had always seemed strained. In many ways we were complete opposites but I felt compelled to visit her – maybe as a proxy for her son who had begun a four-month long journey down the Green and Colorado rivers.
As I continued my visits I saw the strength and courage of Jill. Her humor was always intact even though she was often sick from medications or in pain. I saw her struggles but I also saw her courage and her peace about what lay ahead…that she would make heaven her home.
One of my most vivid memories of her — was watching her, seated at the piano, her hair just short curls and wisps, singing “I’ll fly away.” Her body was not strong but she was and her voice was beautiful, Spirit-filled with strength and beauty that could only come from God Himself.
I began to cherish my time with Jill. I no longer visited her because of a “sense of duty” but because I grew to love her. She helped me through my sorrowful time as much as I was trying to help her through hers.
Our relationship was no longer centered around her son but had grown into a loving friendship. Our relationship was healed — reconciled, restored and redefined by God Himself.
A miracle for Jill.
By August 2007 Jill had gotten so bad she entered hospice.
Even though she said she was okay with her son not present at her bedside I knew different. It was as if she were trying to be strong for everyone else but I knew her heart’s desire was to have him there. It was unexpressed verbally but I couldn’t miss the hope in her eyes when we talked about him.
I e-mailed the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area alerting them to be on the lookout for Rodney with a message that his mother was in hospice and for him to call home.
One late September day I got a strange call. It was from someone who had recently met Rodney on Lake Powell. When I mentioned Rodney’s mother and her imminent death there was silence on the other end of the line. Then, a response, “He told me park rangers had told him his mother was dead.” I said “No, she’s not dead but is very close to it.”
I asked him if he knew where Rodney was and if he could be contacted on the 186-mile body of water that was Lake Powell. He said, yes, he had just seen him the day before and and that he had a friend who was going down to the lake the very next day — he would have him find Rodney and help him to call home.
Rodney called September 27 and spoke with his mom. Two days later she died — at peace.
Reconciliation with God Himself.
The years 2007 and 2008 were very difficult. I had to redefine my life and come to terms with the failure of my marriage as well as other areas of my life.
Even though I had a deep relationship with God and had been on the receiving end of His love and many miracles I had pretty much stopped going to church. I believed in Him but I didn’t want to be a part of the institution.
Church seemed rigid and legalistic with all sorts of rules. I tried going but it was hard to fit in. I wanted it to work but nothing stuck.
One day I said to God, “I’m done with it. You’re going to have to bring it.”
In July 2009 a friend suggested we go to a Thursday night service at a new church which had just started up close to my house.
A man with a guitar and a simple message of Christ’s love changed the course of my life.
The church was simple, centered on Jesus. No church rituals or ministries – just the Word of God was preached with strong encouragement to read the bible for myself — to seek my own relationship with God.
One day after hearing a challenge to read one chapter of the bible a day and journal on one verse – I responded to the invitation and will, in just a few days, have completed my own journey through the Word.
Through the past two years I’ve learned of His great love for me.
He’s granted me forgiveness for all the things in my life I’ve never been able to forgive myself for – making it possible for me to finally be free of the weight of grief and condemnation some of my decisions have brought. He’s been merciful in restoring many of the things I let slip away. He’s brought understanding of many of my mistakes showing me that these choices and decisions were not His best for me. He’s also shown me how my mistakes have strengthened me. He’s shown me where He’s been present in my life and is continuously present and that makes me trust Him. God has brought me peace and freedom — an assurance that’s unexplainable but is very real to me.
Is it coincidence that I find myself in Moab today?
The last time I was here preceded grief, restoration, recovery and reconciliation.
Today as I walked the same path I walked five years ago — something felt new …