It was an amazing invitation and it almost seemed “illegal!” Our third child was in first grade and I was invited to go fly-fishing in Cheeseman Canyon. Is this really what having all children in school full time allows? It was an extravagant way to spend a Tuesday in September and I said “yes.”
I crammed my gear in the back of the SUV and squeezed next to my husband in the backseat. I was the lone woman with four other men off to go fishing in one of the most beautiful canyons in Colorado. The drive was a bit too fast, and I was aware of being “the odd man out” and kept my mouth shut. We drove on steep mountain roads and found a skimpy place to park on a slanted opening on a red dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The canyon and river were a steep fifty-minute hike with all of our gear and lunch. Why had I thought this would be fun?
Once we got near the river, I took off my hiking boots and began the process of putting on my felted boots over my neoprene waders and my fly fishing vest on top of five other layers. The air was crisp; the river was fast. I put on my Polaroid sunglasses and felt like an imposter. The men took off to fish in various spots along the river and I knew for safety reasons I would stay close to my husband.
Dan and I began to make our way across the river and I was impressed that I didn’t slip on the mossy rocks as I tried to keep up with him. We were new at this and it was our first time on the river without a guide. I can’t recall if I even got to cast. What I do recall was the current was deep and swifter than I’d ever experienced and what Dan could wade in with his 220 pound frame was disastrous for me with a hundred pounds less. Before I knew it my chest was propelled beyond my feet and there I went, rushing forward down the freezing cold current with water filling my waders and a siren going off in my brain. How did I get here? I tried to stay calm as I looked ahead and assessed the danger. I was mercifully near a bend in the river and branches became my only hope to save myself. The rocks I crashed into were my friends for they were my hope of land. I grabbed hold and held on silently, too afraid to scream.
I eventually made it to the bank as my frantic husband caught up with me. He sat with me until I told him he needed to go back to the river and fish. I tried to be valiant and we both knew the other men were by that point miles away in different directions and it would be at least five hours before we would all trek back up the canyon to our car. I was not with girlfriends and I was not just with Dan. I was stinking stuck with men who had no intention of losing this magical fishing Tuesday experience. I knew I had to get all of my wet clothes off and try and get warm with what little sunlight was reaching the canyon floor. I could endure lots, but freezing and hypothermia is a vicious enemy. I found a skimpy bush and I framed some of my wet clothes around me and I sat with only underpants on and tried not to cry. I lived. I learned a lot about the freedom and cost of transitioning into a new stage of life.
Next week I will attend the bi-annual gathering of ICAP (International Christian Alliance on Prostitution) in Wisconsin. I am transitioning into a new phase of life. In the past I have gone as a fellow caregiver to the exploited and as an intercessor of prayer. But this time, I go as a co-leader of a “story group.” I will join 24 men and women and ask the questions asked of Hagar in Genesis 16: ‘Where are you from? Where are you going?’ I will bring my story to the mix and attempt to follow and enter stories of their past heartache and harm.
Sometimes it seems as scary as being taken down a strong current in a freezing river. I have now learned to cry out for help and ask my friends to pray for me. There are other moments when I feel like I know how I got to this phase and breathe deeply remembering the many steps carefully taken from one transition to the next.
How did I get here? It began with a question from my daughter, involves the training I gained from the Allender Center on Trauma and Abuse and now has landed me on a river bank where I get to take my shoes off, not due to frigid cold, but instead the holiness and honor of hearing the tragedy stories of others. I am often asked by deeply sincere men and women, “I am in, but what can I possibly do?’ The answer is simple: Step into the water and see where it takes you next. Wherever the Spirit of God throws you, you will know that you are cold, alive, and ready to take your shoes off.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 36 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!
The adventures continue for you Becky. I love that you will be leading a story group next week, those men and women will be blessed by your wise heart and knowing eyes. That question from your daughter has changed the course for you and many others, including me.
Thank you, Tracy, for your encouragement. You have been a skillful guide as I recall your interactions at The Journey with mercy and passion. Thank you for being part of the crowd cheering me on.
” “I am in, but what can I possibly do?’ The answer is simple: Step into the water and see where it takes you next. Wherever the Spirit of God throws you, you will know that you are cold, alive, and ready to take your shoes off.”
Oh man. This so sums up my life since finishing The Allender Center Lay Counseling Program. Shock and awe, to redeem that war phrase. And tears….lots of healing tears.
Thanks for taking us along with you on this one of many transitions. Always a pleasure.
You are the best…shock and awe. Yes. Onward and thank you for the war cry to freedom!
Bless you, my dear friend! I’ll be praying for you this next week!
Beautifully said, Becky! You write so articulately. I felt like I was on the fishing journey with you (and must say I’m glad I wasn’t, except to have helped you and cry together). 🙂 You have certainly waded with the fishes, and over time you have found a newfound freedom that has equipped you to bless these people well next week. Yeah, Becky! Embrace your kingdom well and our All-Knowing God will use you to lead people well into their own fishing experience. Much love and prayer to you and all others who will lead & attend.
Ah… I am hanging on to your words for our “All Knowing God” to use me and lead others. I have missed our gatherings in Chicago. Blessing to you as you wade in the waters with me.
Thank you so for sharing…thank you for allowing me to pray with and for you. I would love to be there with you and Jan in the workshop…2 of the most amazing women I know. I will be holding you up in prayer. Thanks for stepping out into the rushing waters.
You are so very kind to place me in the category of Jan. Wow. THANK YOU for your prayers!!!!
You are truly both amazing and inspiring to me….prayers, love and hugs to you…love you- joan
Wow, Becky! You are an awesome, seasoned warrior!! Go girl! I am so proud of you, and I know that the Lord will use you mightily in the stories that are headed your way this week. I will be praying! I love you,
Thank you for your prayers and for you belief in me. I pray that I am a seasoned warrior!!!! I love you too!
I love that you do that which is scary to you, and name it so. I have a new friend presenting at ICAP on embracing the offender. Chris and I are dreaming with her about the other end of the spectrum in restoring men. If you get the chance, her name is Samantha. May God use your story to call forth others’.
Oh, I am looking forward to meeting Samantha. Yes…we must meet. I am so glad to know more of what you do, because it spurs me on to stay in the race and to not grow weary.
I love your heart for the women you will encounter next week. Ahhh…you are stepping into the water alright…your guidance will be healing for those you meet there. You are a woman of prayer and I will pray for you. God will keep your head above the water and your steps sure and steadfast.
Thank you so, so much for your prayers, Mary Jane. I prayed for you at The Journey and I love your faithfulness to stay in the fight and to run the good race. You bring me peace with your dachie on your lap!
Wow, I could picture you shivering behind that bush both scared and determined. You will have much to bring the members of your story group because you have gone before them in answering for yourself “where have you come from and where are you going.” You have prayed for me…I will pray for you, that it will be a wild week full of goodness.
Thank you do much full your willingness to pray, Janet. And thank you for your confidence that I will listen and journey with the participants with care.
I wouldn’t have pictured your willowy, gentle frame outfitted in fly-fishing garb, wading into deep waters. And yet how true to the woman I imagine you to be… entering the swirling waters full of dangerous rocks and swallowing holes, as you walk strongly into the battle to reclaim those caught in sex-trafficking and hold stories and secrets of others. Those whose stories you hear next week will be blessed to be in your presence.
Valerie, what a lovely writer you are and a kind bestower of encouragement and care. Thank you. I am left pondering and quiet with your comment. Blessings to you and thank you for how you do this with The Journey.
What a brave woman you are Rebecca…willing to risk…..rapid river fishing – asking for prayer and help. You are willing to go into the “deep” – risking the unknown of lives and the racing river. Bless you in all your efforts to “wade” along side.