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Sharing the Trail

 

Today I went for a walk on the River Trail which is sort of miraculous because last year, I was sure I would never walk that trail again.  Steve introduced me to it in the summer of 2009 and it was such a delicious discovery for us at the time.  We walked it several times a week while the weather was warm and mourned the end of our evening adventures when the frost set in here in the mountains.  Long, lovely hours of our marriage were spent on that trail, sharing dreams and fears and secret jokes.  Steve loves nature.  He loves it and he never fails to mention the beauty of a day or a tree or the sky.  In fact, there is one point on the trail where a bridge crosses over the mighty Deschutes River and every time we would get there he would tug me to a stop and we would lean against the rails, listening and loving the sound of the water beneath us.  “The day we walk over this bridge without stopping to let this river impress us,” he would say, “that’s the day we’ve grown too hard to see God in this.”  Gulp.  So every time, we would stop and really see the world together.

 

We continued walking it in 2010, but then Steve was traveling to Florida every other week and so we just didn’t have much time to put into it.  I refused to go without him because it didn’t seem right.

 

In February of 2011 came D-day (diagnosis) and by summer of that year, he didn’t feel up to much walking and I didn’t feel up to walking without him.  I tackled some other places we had walked together, but I left the River Trail alone for another time in life, or maybe for never.  I didn’t really know and I didn’t much care.

 

Today, I walked the River Trail alone.  I’ve gone a few times this summer, but it’s always been with one of my kids.  Today was a brave decision, but I knew it was time.

 

I plugged in my iPod because I didn’t want to talk to anyone and started out and it was lovely for awhile.   Then I saw a couple coming toward me on the trail; they were obviously in shape and in love.  Now, let me pause here and say: Steve and I used to have a wordless system – a married-couple intuition – that made one of us move behind the other on the narrow trail to let other walkers pass.  This couple had no such intuition.  As we got nearer and nearer one another, I realized that they were talking and walking and had no plans to let go of one another’s hands long enough to move into single file position so I could share the path with them, so I had no choice but to move off the trail to let them pass.

 

Such a tiny, silly thing.  (It maybe cost me three seconds on my walk.)

 

But it just about sunk my ship.

 

I kept walking, wishing I didn’t feel like crying, wishing I could catch my breath, wishing like everything that I could call Steve or go home or just sit down and let the tears come until life righted itself.  It was something about their togetherness and my aloneness.    I was one and they were two.  Two seems more powerful.  More worthy of space on a trail or space in our world or something that I honestly  have yet to define, I only know that that tiny moment of standing aside to let them pass made me feel very less and very sad.

 

Around the next corner the beautiful bridge appeared.  Steve’s bridge.  The bridge that calls us to worship.  “I’m saved!” I thought, because it felt to me that I was home.  But my heart sunk when I saw that another couple was standing together, right in the middle of our bridge, admiring our view.  They were lovely and friendly and nothing bad happened, but I just couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t stop and share the bridge with them.

 

I raced ahead to the other side of the trail as the first strains of “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…” came on in my ears. And on that stretch of my journey, I got really honest really fast with the God who knows the intricacies of grief in all its funky forms.  I cried irrational prayers to Him about how unfair it is that so many husbands are “on the couch right this minute and they could be walking the River Trail with their wives…”  I know.  Ridiculous.  But that’s how my mind reels in this season.  It reaches and grabs for anything that seems like it might be a missing piece of my puzzle.  God was good to quickly remind me that my issue is not with other people’s husbands or marriages or couples who don’t share the trail well.

 

My issue?  Is with Him.  It’s with how this sickness got through on His watch.  With what in the world is He doing?    And with how in the world does He think I can walk the road ahead if I cannot even manage a scenic trail on a summer day?   My issue is always and only with Him and He is forever reminding me that He can take it.  He can take the questions and confusion and frustration and failing faith.  He’s not afraid of me or my struggles.  He welcomes them like the perfect Dad that He is.  Sometimes the answer is only that He is the answer and sometimes the answer is more specific than that, but there is always some profound takeaway from these stormy conversations in our relationship.

 

This time He reminded me that I am fine.  Seriously, that’s as theologically complex as it got.  He reminded me that I am fine because He will share the trail with me.  He will hold my hand and He will admire the view and He will never ever see me as less or little.  He sees me as loved and…get a load of this word:  trying.  He knows that I’m trying.  I’m trying to be strong and brave and good for the people who are depending on me.  I’m trying to show His beauty to a watching world.  I really am trying and sometimes I really am failing, but He sees and knows and that makes me part of a team and not ever alone.  Not ever.

 

So, the River trail ended up giving me more than I bargained for.

 

And I guess I just wanted to share that with you.

August 20, 2012 - 7:45 am

Stacey - I started crying early on in the first paragraph. I wish I had a bunch of words to tell you how much I needed to read this, on this day, at this moment… Or how much the Lord used your honesty to comfort me on a hard day… Or how thankful I am that you continue to pour your heart out on a public forum… But I don’t have those words. All I have right now are tears. Thank you, Bo – you are a beacon of hope on the days I lack trust, cling to fear, or ask God “Why?!” I am going to take my eyes off of ME, and pray today for you, Steve, and your beautiful family.

August 20, 2012 - 7:53 am

Bre - Amazingly poignant and genuine, a reminder that it really is the team of us, as individuals with God, surrounded by others on their journey with God. Thanks for the words of authenticity. I too need to be reminded that He can take it because I certainly can’t without Him.

August 20, 2012 - 7:55 am

Lori Greenstone - You make “trying” look not so trying, doable even, though it cost you much. Thanks. “Keep close to nature’s heart, and break away once in awhile… Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir

August 20, 2012 - 7:58 am

Eleanor Stern - jUST READ YOUR BLOG –
I UNDERSTAND .
i know we are old, & people think we like just sitting around the house, but for me—
i’m 40 inside, so
i go to the store alone, to the P.O alone, to the bank alone, as Paul sits in his recliner, because his legs just refuse to do a lot of walking.
you are young – so much of life is still before you

7

i think you and Steve & God are doing an awesome walk together! Keep it up – you are bringing glory to God.

August 20, 2012 - 9:01 am

Lorelei - This blog, like so many of your others, is profound in it’s honest acknowledgement of: life, ridiculously hard situations, grief, the goodness and dependence found in marriage, and the limited perception we have of God’s unfailing love. Trey & I are young, about to celebrate 2 yrs together, but even now it is near impossible to imagine doing life’s big and little things without him. We love you guys and are continuing to pray for you and your family. Thank you for trying; it is really impacting us, even at a distance, Bo.

August 20, 2012 - 9:21 am

Janelle DeCelles - With nearly every blog of yours that I ponder, I am reminded thru them by a loving heavenly Father to breathe…..just breathe. Breathe Him in and let go of the “stuff”, if even for just a moment. I am reminded as well that if and when I stay intentionally in His presence that I am will be fine. Thank you.

August 20, 2012 - 9:23 am

kathy - When you walk through a storm hold your head up high. And don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky , and the sweet tender song of a lark. Walk on in the rain, walk on in the storm and you never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone. [ This song came to my heart for you. God bless dear Bo ]

August 20, 2012 - 10:03 am

Heather Sohn - Love you, Bo. *Hug*
Thats all. 🙂

August 20, 2012 - 10:15 am

Annie - Bo, your words are proof of a transparent and soft clay-like heart. I admire and love your heart. You and Steve are beautiful examples to me. I wept all the way thru this post, it touched me so deeply. Especially after seeing you guys the other night, and driving away feeling very introspective about the ways in which God works His mysterious love into us…and the gift of trust..it seems so simple, but once we’re going thru the very thing that requires trust..in God, in people, it becomes very complex at times, I find. Anyhoo..I am rambling…but I wanted to thank you for putting down the thoughts and voice of God thru your blog. It inspires me and so many, and anchors us down into the love of Jesus, His heart of good intentions thru hard circumstances even more. Sending love and prayers….xoxo

August 20, 2012 - 10:25 am

Julie - It takes a brave, courageous woman to even think of tackling “the walk” …then there is more courage that you are willing to share all this in the first place. I have experienced similiar things in my life, but I can tell you it took me YEARS to be able to talk about it. This just shows how deep your courage is…so when you are feeling weak think back on this time and remember the deep deposit God placed in you. Most importantly while reading this I felt God whispering to me “she will never walk alone”. Prays and hugs coming your way!

August 20, 2012 - 11:38 am

Shandra - Having read this several times already this morning each time with a reminder of when in my anger, hurt, confusion, doubt in His plan, He said “let me have it, I can take it”. And He has. He’s “taken “the anger , the berating, the doubt -the This is Not the way it’s supposed to be tears- stood there while little i let Him “have it” with all small i could sling.

Then calmly, lovingly saying the same each time , the real issue is with Him, His plan, His timing as He opens His arms for this at times weak kneed, at times wobbly woman-child to climb up on His lap to let Him have ‘it’ and to try, try again.

“There is no greater joiner in life than to learn we are not alone”

Blessings Friend.

August 20, 2012 - 12:12 pm

Sherry Simons - Bo…I, like others, reread this until my eyes were so full of tears that the screen appeared blurry. I was so convicted over how quick I am to complain and sit in the pool of self-pity when my spouse or kids don’t “come through” in my eyes. After reading your post I asked God to give me a glimpse of how I’d feel to wake up one morning without any of them around. I have surely failed to appreciate who He has brought alongside of me in life. Thank you for teaching me to savor every second and lesson of life the Lord grants us. If Christopher Reeve, who admitted that he didn’t really believe in the Lord could say ,”To be able to feel the lightest touch really is a gift” …how much more can I open my eyes and heart to so that I can feel all that God has blessed me with? Even in the minutes I read and responded, my daughter decided to glue her summer shells and barbie jewelry onto her wall. But today, thanks to you, this is her gift of creativity to me and I am grateful. Thanks Bo.

August 20, 2012 - 12:22 pm

Lisa Alexander - Bo, When I discovered that trail a few years ago, in the midst of a slump I was in, my eyes were opened anew to the wonder of who God is–His beauty, His majesty, His constancy and order–despite the turmoil in my heart, the river would flow, the flowers would bloom, the fall colors would shout, “I will give you a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness!” Joy, sorrow, laughter, tears, awe, triumph, and hope–all part of sharing that trail. Thank you for sharing your heart.

August 20, 2012 - 12:27 pm

Molly - No words. But big love and real tears. Let’s keep walking the trail. And when we can’t walk, just stand and hold on.

August 20, 2012 - 2:53 pm

Cheryl Reinertson - There should have been a note on this blog that said “do not read while at work”. I’m sitting here just about undone, but so proud of your for being so brave! I have to think and pray that the next time you do the River Trail it will be a little less lonely. I know the second time doing things alone seems easier. I nearly didn’t get on a flight for the first time after Dick died, but now I can get right on a plane and it hardly bothers me at all. I have to confess, though, that I still can’t go back to the Coast where he passed away!!

You’re doing so well and a perfect example of how God totally cares for you and us.

August 20, 2012 - 3:32 pm

tammy - Bo, my heart hurts with yours, all the while knowing God walks with you and Steve. In that there is comfort, even on our darkest days. Always Praying.

August 20, 2012 - 5:02 pm

Teresa Brown - Exactly what Kathy said! That song comes to my mind too in the darkest of situations and has been a comfort to many. Also remember the Footprints story. “The LORD replied, ‘My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.’ ”

Walk the River Trail again Bo and then look back and see that one set of footprints and know that they are not yours, but His. 🙂

August 20, 2012 - 7:13 pm

Jenna Javens - Bo Stern, Thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to walk this path in transparency. I love you for it in more ways then I can express in words. Your “trying” is beautiful. Love you.

August 20, 2012 - 8:49 pm

Susie Kay - Not too many words would I have to write – you have filled my heart with your words and your heart… I sit by “my” river, the Metolius, and dream of how it would be to share with Donald. (He, too, loved nature) and how God expresses Himself to me through the beauty He created. Thank you for painting yet another picture of how one woman ministers to another…

August 20, 2012 - 8:50 pm

Lora - Thank you for this post, Bo. I rarely post comments. But, had to share that I do understand this post in more ways than one. I can still remember going on a trip after my fiance died and seeing couples everywhere! This post made me think of that. Of course, I also relate because my boy’s disease is so very similar to Steve’s. I think about you guys often and keep you close in thought and prayer. I hope you will continue walking the river trail. It really is a beautiful walk! Thank you for this post!

August 20, 2012 - 9:04 pm

Angie Small - Dear Bo, Susan told me to read this today. Thank you and thank you and thank you. God speed ahead. The journey continues. Praying for you daily.

August 20, 2012 - 11:39 pm

Steve - I love you Bo Stern, so sorry it was tough for you today. As I read your post I remembered some of our walks and how beautiful the river trail is – but only a shadow of how beautiful you are. As I read some of the responses to your post I have to agree that you were very courageous today, and I’m so proud of you. Everyday I’m thankful for our lives and what God has done in and through us as we have walked with Him. Jesus made an interesting comment to John the Baptist before he was beheaded – he said, “Blessed is the man (gender neutral) who is not offended with me”. I know we have talked about this and the weight of those words to me. Today you walked that out in so many ways – you walked past the offense and into the resolve of Christ and are blessed.

Bet you I have another walk on the river trail left in me 🙂

Blessed by you,

Steve

August 21, 2012 - 8:24 am

Carol - Beautiful . . . on so many levels. Thanks for sharing the trail.

August 21, 2012 - 9:40 am

bo - Steve Stern – no fair leaving comments that are better than the post!

I love you, Steve, and am so thankful for your firm determination to stay free of offense with EVERYONE, especially Jesus (and also especially with ME because I do dumb stuff all the time – thanks for being unoffendable.)

I would cherish a walk on the River Trail with you any day.

August 22, 2012 - 11:35 am

Nita Belles - I cannot even begin to put in to words how much this blog blessed both Dan and I. Bo and Steve, you are a gift to the world. This whole thing makes me want to ask God why, and then I realize God’s so much bigger than my “why’s”.
Praying continually praying for Team Stern for all the bumps and twists and turns in this trail. Love you.

August 23, 2012 - 9:05 am

randa - You write perfectly, in a way that expresses the range of joys and pains the heart experiences. I wish I had the ability to express my heart the way you do. Having never experienced “walking the trail as two” I found this blog hit home anyways. Because whose heart doesn’t desire to have what you experienced with your husband? And whose heart isn’t touched and encouraged by the reminder that God will walk the trail with us? That he will walk with us and can handle every sprectrum of emotion we so strongly feel. Thank you for this blog dear one.

September 11, 2012 - 1:24 pm

Jane Lellman - Oh boy, this one really got me. I have a difficult time seeing couples anywhere. I tear up in the line at the grocery store when I see two people glance at each other! Or a couple in a restaurant holding hands. Especially older people. I was really looking forward to growing old with Jim. Odd, I guess, but true.

September 11, 2012 - 1:30 pm

Bo - Jane – not odd at all. I totally understand.