As the weekend approached, that old, familiar anxiousness returned. Like past years, I tried to bury it, ignore it, refute it. But there it was, like a small electrical current running clear through to my soul. My husband would be gone, again, and I would be alone. The night before he left, he tried to engage me in conversation, but I was curt and cranky. After he was gone, I felt remorse over my sour attitude and wanted to apologize. But it was too late. He would be out of cell range and unreachable all weekend.
My husband loves blackberry pie. So wanting to make up for my poor attitude, I decided to surprise him with a sweet, delicious pie upon his return. I knew of a place just 10 minutes outside of town on the way to the river that would surely be loaded with berries. I would zip down, pick to fill my berry buckets, and be back baking pies in an hour. I was so excited for the surprise that I woke easily before the alarm and was out the door by 6 am.
Singing in the car, buzzing along, enjoying the beauty of the morning and the golden wheat fields ready for harvest, I smiled to myself as I anticipated his joy at seeing a beautiful pie waiting on the counter when he walked in the door the next day. But it turned out that the place I knew of was not ten minutes out of town. It was further, almost all the way to the river, so it took me thirty minutes to arrive. And when I did, all I found were dried, shriveled black pellets. The excruciating heat had taken its toll and they were completely inedible.
I almost made the safe choice, turning back toward home, but then I remembered another place along the river road where we had picked years before. Surprising myself, I said out loud to my dog, who was glad to be along for the ride, “Well, we’ve already come this far, we may as well keep going and get what we came for!”
It was just five minutes more to the river’s edge, so I turned onto the road, slowing so I could search for black spots deep in the riverside bushes. I pulled over here and there, picking through, finding a few nice berries between the brambles. Fighting the myriad of wasps, spiders and their webs, beetles, and several other unknown creepy crawlies, for these measly few treats was becoming ridiculous. There was a huge, black, hornet-type creature, like a wasp but twice the size, clutching onto one berry that I almost grabbed. When I saw it, I pulled my hand back too quickly, skimming over a branch full of thorns, catching and slicing two of my already berry-stained fingers. A tremor of fear crept in as I looked down at my fingers expecting to see a huge gash. But it was just a scratch, the skin barely broken, so I took a deep breath and pressed on.
At another spot, as I stepped out onto a rocky ledge high above the river for one plump berry just out of my reach, the rock broke in two, crumbling beneath me. I held steady, twisted around, and maneuvered myself to a more solid rock, victoriously grabbing that berry!
I measured my more-empty-than-full bucket once more, which compelled me to continue. I drove on, searching left and right. I started to consider buying a bag or two of frozen blackberries to mix in with these few fresh picked, when suddenly a large bramble of bushes on the river side of the road caught my eye. I pulled up close to the water’s edge and saw bushes loaded with large, plump, ripe berries within easy reach.
I spent the next half hour selecting the best, ripest berries and reflecting on the morning’s events. Here I was, alone, fighting flying and crawling creatures and other challenging obstacles completely on my own. And I was fine. I wasn’t fearful but instead felt calm and strong, even brave. I was actually having a wonderful time, enjoying the quiet solitude, the gentle river breeze, the beauty of the wild flowers and birds, including a gracious blue heron that skimmed over the river’s edge so close I could almost reach out and touch it. I was just fine.
I pondered how the berries close to the water’s edge were the best and how that paralleled my life. When I am close to the nourishment that comes from the living water of God’s word, my life is His best. I pondered how life is really hard, and we have to take risks and get messy and scratched and stained before we can reach the full potential of what God wants to teach us. I pondered how this had now stretched into a three-hour adventure. I had set my plans for the day, but God had different plans for me, and His plans are always best. God gave me this moment on this river on this day, alone, so I could soak in His living water, His nourishment, beauty, and grace, at the very moment I needed it.
For many years, my husband has served faithfully in a ministry that takes kids and groups camping and fishing many weekends during the summer and fall months. At the thought of spending days alone, a feeling of anxiousness can creep into my soul. But this year was different because I had been working on identifying these fearful feelings and had been prayerfully asking myself this important question: “Why am I afraid to be alone?”
And here is what I discovered. When I anticipate being alone, I can become consumed with fear. But when I am alone, I can be brave, wise, and content. I’m learning to be calm and strong and to use the time that I have alone as an opportunity for God to speak to me, to grow and change me, to provide something special and unique, just for me.
When my husband and I are apart, I still miss him…and I am brave and strong and okay. In fact, I know that I need time for just God and me together, to reach the tough places deep within that don’t come to the surface when life is packed full with people, conversations, distractions, and to-do lists.
Just before leaving for my river adventure I had read this verse: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV)
God brought me to a road in the wilderness, to a river in the desert. I am at peace, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a piece of blackberry pie with my grateful husband when he returns home.
About the Author
Bio: Bonny Boyan is a life-long journaler and writer. She has a heart for her local church where she is involved in music, leadership, and small group ministries. Bonny has been married to her high school sweetheart and best friend for 37 years. They make their home in a cozy little home in a small college town in Washington State. They have two grown sons and three sweet grandchildren who live too far away. Connect with her online at bonny-with-a-y.blogspot.com