As I shared last week, I am celebrating the two-year mark of the publishing of my first book by sharing snippets from the one I am working on. This is the second part to that. In this process, I would love for you to share comments and suggestions both for the writing as well as for the title and tag line. I would also love for you to share this page with others and follow me on facebook. As I work toward acquiring a publisher, it really helps to have people following and commenting. Thank you all so much for your support in this effort. It is truly something I have felt God call me to and I cannot wait to see where He takes it! So – here is the next part!
I love ropes courses. Whether they include traversing wires, climbing poles, sliding down zip lines, or jumping for a trapeze, I love the adrenaline rush that comes with it and the sense of accomplishment in the success. I might shake a little at times, but I have learned to trust the equipment as well as the person on the other end of the rope.
Other than a ride down the zip line, which is the most awesome, my favorite element on any ropes course is what we used to call a Pamper Pole. Have you been on one? The Pole is actually a telephone pole sticking straight into the ground, the top extending about twenty five feet in the air. Starting at the bottom, the participant climbs the rungs of a ladder leaning against the pole. Once he reaches the top of the ladder, he begins to climb fat metal staples stuck into the side of the pole. He eventually reaches the top of the pole and the real challenge begins.
Remember, the pole is only about a foot in diameter, barely large enough to hold my six-and-a-half-size feet. Grabbing onto the top of the pole with his hands, the participant attempts to put one foot on the flat surface twenty five feet in the air. Once the first foot is there, a second is needed. This move is actually more challenging. The best way is to let go with his hands and in one fluid motion stand up and put his other foot on top.
Easy right? Well, if he has made it this far, he then has to turn around taking very small steps to face the trapeze hanging about five feet out in front. Most of the time, the pole is moving by this point because most normal people are slightly nervous. At this moment, the real obstacle unfolds. Counting down, the participant will jump off the pole and attempt to grab the trapeze.
Are you wondering what happens if he misses? Well, many people do miss, but have no fear. Before the participant ever touched the ladder, he was fitted with two harnesses, one for his lower body and one for his upper, then tied to a rope that went up through a pulley at the top and back down to the individual who is “on-belay.” This individual is responsible for focusing solely on the participant and tightening up the rope should they fall.
This whole experience can be terrifying to some people, but is at a minimum unnerving to everyone. From the first step onto the ladder as it wobbles to the time when their feet are firmly planted back on solid soil, the pole presents a challenge that can only be conquered by leaving the ground. Some start the climb and never get past the ladder, others get to the top of the pole and can never get that second foot up there, and still others jump to grab the bar. None tougher than any other, all successful because they went as far as they could.
The Pamper Pole is a perfect picture of military life. Starting on the ground we are expected to climb as far as we can go, challenged beyond what we thought we could endure. Feeling the ladder shake beneath us, we wish many times that we had a practice round or even an instructional course before we started. Some of us have been privileged to watch someone go before we headed up the pole ourselves, but many of us just had to figure it out on our own.
The adventure is one that can test our resolve, scare the tar out of us, and leave us wishing at times for solid ground. The pole begins to shake. Our team on the ground can be a great support, but they can also be discouraging as they tell us to climb faster or question our courage.
Success on the Pamper Pole requires three things. First, keep climbing. The climb can cause dizziness and fatigue. Rest is okay for a time. But rest too long, and the climb is that much harder to start again. The best bet is to keep going even if you slow down a bit.
Second, always look up. Looking down can create fear as the ground gets farther away. It can also cause us to lose our balance when the pole begins to move, and of course, it slows us down. Focusing up keeps our eyes on the end prize, but also on the steps to our objective.
Last, we must learn to trust the rope. Tied into a harness and double checked prior to climbing, the harness and rope are our lifeline. Without the security of believing in our safety should we miss a step, we would surely never get past the ladder – unless of course we were crazy.
The connection between the Pamper Pole and our military life becomes obvious. The adventure lies ahead, with challenges along the way, but we have to keep looking up and learning to trust the rope – our Savior. This is the only way to be successful in our journey as well. Might I add, too, that sometimes my life feels much like that Pamper Pole. I can feel the pole move, my heart race, and fear start to seep in, but I refuse. I am determined to at least jump for the trapeze, and hit or miss, I plan to give it my best shot.
Do you ever feel like you are out here alone, though? Like you left all of your buddies back on the ground and the pole is yours to conquer alone? Me too.
Home was for me that little house on Cove Street in Wichita Falls, Texas. My parents bought that house when I was five months old. The house started as a three-bedroom, but when my dad built in the garage it became a four-bedroom. It changed colors over the years, and eventually the green, yellow, and brown shag carpet went away. Dad put a tractor tire and old oil derrick in the backyard and a basketball goal in the front. The one bathroom caused many a race between us three kids – and even my parents at times – but this was home. We knew all the kids within a four block radius, could walk to school blindfolded, and even had our handprints in the driveway.
Leaving for college was the first time I would ever live anywhere else. Even after marrying, the little house I grew up in was still home though I had lived away from it for almost six years. I had roots – good, strong, Texas roots.
Then I married into the military. Our first duty station was in a place called Hawaii. This was a far cry from Texas. I came to love Hawaii and the adventures there – I mean, who wouldn’t love scuba diving in the ocean, hiking through valleys to beautiful waterfalls, and being able to wear shorts and sundresses year-round? This was my kind of place.
Funny, but even after living there for two years, every time I would mention home I would still be talking about that little house back in Texas. Years would pass before I would begin to understand that as much as I loved that little house and the people in it, the address on Cove Street would never be my address again.
For some this is probably an easy concept, but home had always been a permanent address to which I always returned. Military life rarely allows for such. My concept of home had to change drastically. From that time to now, I have never lived anywhere for more than three years. If my concept of home was a permanent address, I would be in big trouble.
So, if home is not about a permanent address, what is it? My concept of home has changed from a building where I painted the walls any color I wanted or converted the garage to another bedroom. We have even learned in our travels that a home doesn’t necessarily even mean a permanent building. We have spent weeks in our travel trailer en route from one duty station to another – homeless as some would say.
I would beg to differ.
Home becomes more a matter of heart than anything to do with stuff or buildings. Are we together as a family? Are we doing the things God has called us to do? Our heart attitude becomes one of service rather than stability and contentment rather than longing. Seeing life as more of a journey than a destination. I have an ultimate destination, but it has nothing to do with geographical locations.
My eternal home is waiting, but God has a plan for me here for now. His desire for me is to serve Him by serving others and to find contentment in the places He plants me – to know He has a plan for me in this place for this time. Home is wherever we are planted – even if there is no couch to sit on and no address to send the mail.
The Psalmist understood our journey. Psalm 84:5-7 says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” As the Psalmist shares slight envy for those who are able to make a pilgrimage to Zion or to the Temple, he shares a little about their journey in getting there.
He reflects on the heart first and how they have determined to make this journey, which they can fully expect to be challenging. They know that the Lord is their deliverer and they are completely trusting in Him. The Valley of Baca is showing us the challenges these pilgrims will face as Baca can either mean “weeping” or “balsam trees” which are found in the valleys. They will surely experience the valleys, but he goes on to show the rain and pools that will come to the dessert as well. The refreshing they will experience on the journey.
We might look at “strength to strength” as a hilltop to hilltop experience and miss the valleys in between, but I don’t think their journey was all about one joyful experience to the next. It was more about their focus on the destination and their focus on their God. I don’t think they were always strong, but they knew where to find strength.
Isaiah did too. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Isaiah was prophesying to the nation of Israel during a very turbulent time, and knew that they would be taken over by Babylon at a later date. He also knew they would weary and feel very lost and forgotten during that time.
He wanted to challenge their faithfulness to a Holy God and also to wait patiently for God’s salvation. Although I would not necessarily equate military life with exile to a foreign land after your home got run over by an army, sometimes it may feel just like that. Lost and lonely in the valley, searching for the springs in a dry land, praying we have the strength to go a little further, we find we are exactly where God wants us.
Were we strong and capable of being entirely independent, our reliance and hope in the God of our strength would not be necessary and, therefore, probably forgotten. This journey can feel like we are wandering in a wilderness. But from where God sits, we are following the path He set for us.