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!