The stones were cool under my shoeless feet as I took my first step into the labyrinth, Oregon trees leaning in all around like giants protecting the silence of their clifftop sanctuary. I could see the center of the circle just feet away, but the path that ran inward turned quickly out to the very edge again. In and out and doubling back with no warning, the way into the center didn’t seem to make sense, and I wondered as I looped again along the outer edge how much further I had to go.

And then one more sudden turn, and I was there.

The green-filtered sunshine and warm fir breeze invited me to sit there in the middle for a while. So I did, and gratitude sang through me and got stuck in my throat like a sob. So I let the birds sing it for me.

Thank You for rhododendrons blooming and quiet water and west coast blue jays that look like they’ve been dipped upside down in India ink.

Thank You for the friend sitting in her own solitude nearby, for all my heart sisters like her around the world, for my man and our girls holding down the fort at home so I can have this time.

Thank You for the twists and turns that have led me to places I didn’t know I needed to go.

Later that afternoon as we drove through Portland, my friend and I talked about expectations and the way things change and leave us spinning dizzy circles for a time. It’s not the changes, she said, so much as the lost expectations that bruise our hearts.

Our families lived some life side by side in Papua New Guinea, and we’d expected there to be more time to make memories together on that side of the ocean. But my bag, mostly packed for my flight home to the Carolinas, laid open on the floor next to a suitcase she was beginning to fill for her family’s return to PNG. We’ve both done this dance many times before, with missionary life being so full of see-you-laters. It’s easy to get tired of the bruising and just go a little numb as we move on to the next thing.

I’ve lived too much of my life being tossed forward from one expectation to the next, my heart skipping like a stone across the surface of a lake, and I’m starting to think that maybe forward isn’t the best direction for me to move.

Maybe it’s inward.

Maybe it’s about moving step by step, winding in and out towards the center, towards the Hope that doesn’t change. Maybe it’s about pausing when the path suddenly doubles back, confident that each turn is a little closer to the place where faith will be sight. And maybe it’s about slowing down long enough to feel the right-now without being distracted by the what’s-next.

Our sensitive hearts are made to be anchored to the God of eternity, not stretched thin by tethers to the past and the future.

It’s only when my heart is settled on the winding path that I can see it, that I can trace the face of God in what is, what has been, and what is to come.

The day after I walked the labyrinth, I hugged my friend tight and then stepped into the winding chaos of airport security, twisting and turning towards a new season. The handle of my guitar case felt solid in my grasp, and I thought about the journey it had taken to Papua New Guinea and the songs it had accompanied in more than once language. If those strings had a voice of their own, they could tell stories about the darkest days I’ve seen and remind me of blended voices worshiping as my soul was restored a day at a time. As I laid my guitar on the x-ray belt, I thought about how my friend carried it back across the ocean to the U.S. because she knows how much it matters to me, and I wondered if the body scanner could somehow see the ache in my chest where gratitude and Homesickness pressed hard against my lungs. The lump in my throat felt natural and right.

A few more steps out past security, and then another turn down a corridor towards my gate, towards home. Towards the hard working man and the gap-toothed girl and the teenager with a birthday party to plan. Towards the beautiful Now that isn’t overshadowed by the past or minimized by the future.

Tears pricked, and that’s ok. We’re allowed to feel the cool stones bare-soled, and we’re allowed to feel the moments bare-souled, here where the weight of His glory presses us down into His right-now goodness. In this place, every step is worship. Inward and inward until we’re Home.

“You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am.” ~Psalm 139:3 (NLT)

1 Comment

  1. Tracy Alexander
    Jun 8, 2017

    Beth, this is beautifully written, thanks for sharing and posting a little about your journey. I appreciate your heart and your willingness to point us all to Him. He is Good, all the time. Love you Friend.


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