I grew up in a small cabin built by none other than my parents themselves. They had help here and there, but Dad drew up the blueprint, we moved hundreds of miles away, and they got to work. The home has yet to match the blueprint, but that's no surprise considering that a work of art is never fully finished—just as our lives will never fully finish.

 

I can remember using kerosene lamps for light, washing and drying clothes outside, hand-pumping water, carrying loads of firewood in from the snow, and chinking between each hand-raised log.

 

Change was slow and beautiful and paced. And then, one day, it wasn't.

 

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About Shelby Hughes

2017 Shelby L. Hughes | Greensburg, PA | shelbyhugheswriter@gmail.com

What Remembering Reminded Me

 

{Note: You'll find my picture inspiration at the very bottom of this post.}

 

Exhilaration grips my explorer as she squeals from the shock of chilly water rushing between her fingers. Her Daddy lifts her near him, and then lowers her back down to touch the water again. He repeats this because he enjoys hearing her giggle every time he lifts her from the stream. This repetition reminds her that he’s still holding her even though the roar of the rapids drowns out his voice and the vastness of the riverbed makes her feel small and alone. It’s a sort of game between them, an understanding between them, a bond between them. He reminds her of his nearness, and it keeps her confident, secure, and delighted.

 

But as she lingers near the stream, she begins to feel held back each time Daddy pulls her away from the water. She tries to wriggle free, and he stops lifting her near him, but he refuses to let go because he can see danger that she’s oblivious to while enjoying what’s before her.

 

After several moments, the explorer takes in her surroundings, suddenly swept with concern that she’s alone. She turns around to find Daddy. Their eyes meet and he smiles at her, delighting in her, and she grabs his neck and hugs him, and points to the water. He whispers a quick “let’s go” to her. He picks her up, carries her to the riverbank, and places her on the ground to continue the hike. She walks ahead a little, but he’s always right behind her. She checks for his presence throughout the hike, and continues moving forward, taking in every detail of the world with fascination.

 

And she is not alone.

 

* * *

 

I reach for the hand of a fellow counselor, and we step into the river together. It’s the beginning of an hour-long journey. Holding hands with another keeps us balanced in the river, keeps me balanced in the river. My friend is a pro when it comes to all things adventurous. As I slip and stumble over smooth, slick, submerged rock, I am supported from falling face-first or worse into the river.

 

We traverse the nooks and crannies, and with every step, I improve. Just when I feel as though I could walk the river alone, my foot gets wedged between two rocks and my ankle twists. I reach down and wriggle my foot free, stand, and gain composure.

 

I’m frustrated by my inability to take careful steps, ready to turn around and head back to camp at the onset of pain.

 

My friend encourages me to persevere. This practice run is imperative to master before weeks-worth of campers arrive. I must learn to navigate the river before supporting others through the river.

 

We continue, and there’s comfort in knowing that, whether giving or receiving support, I will always walk this riverbed with someone.

 

And I am not alone.

 

* * *

 

Flames curl above me and dance in the wind. They lap like ocean waves against the hillside, spreading over the field. The heat tingles my face as I stand just close enough to swing a water-soaked towel down to the ground in attempts to smother the flame before me. It’s nearing our cabin, and if it reaches the dry logs, it’ll lick away our home before firefighters ever arrive.

 

What had started out a contained fire now overtakes us. My mom, sister, brother, and I lunge our livelihoods into snuffing out the flames, prayers silently and desperately pleaded under billows of smoke. Somehow, we’re seen. The wind shifts and moves the fire away from the cabin.

 

My sister and brother are instructed to stay together and head to the creek to throw water on the flame and keep it from jumping to the other side. I stay with Mom. Running in and out of the house, I fill buckets and containers with water and rush them to her. After what feels like hours, Dad’s truck comes flying up the dirt road drive. He stops the truck, jumps out, runs over to us with fear on his face, and sets out to rid of the fire once and for all. Firetrucks soon arrive, and I stop to intentionally fill my lungs and look upward for the first time since the nightmare began.

 

I find my sister and brother and help them until my parents emerge from the woods several hours later. We meet at the house and discover several folks from our church who came to help upon hearing the news. And it was in that moment that tears welled in my eyes and made trails down blackened ash on my face, and I realized that these church folks were family.  

 

And we are not alone.

 

* * *

 

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 42:3 KJV

 

In my last blog post, I wrote about how I sometimes feel alone, and I’ve heard from others that they do as well.

 

When life feels overwhelming, or when I start to feel alone, I go to this verse. I'm reminded that the God who walked with the Israelites in all his power is the same God who walks with me today. Sometimes I can’t hear him over the rushing river that is life. Sometimes I want to walk alone, but then I find myself slipping and stumbling over my own pride, my own stubbornness, my own self-will. Sometimes I try to snuff out the problems that tower above me when what I need is to let him step in and remind me that he’s got me, that he sees me, that he loves me.

 

When we feel alone, we just need to repeat “I am not alone” until we fully believe it ourselves.

 

We just need to settle our souls and go back to the source of our souls.

 

We just need to look back over the span of life and remember the times when we felt togetherness.

 

And then when we remember, and begin to believe, we can reach the loneliness of others in the world and show them community, friendship, and togetherness.

 

And you are not alone.

 

 

 

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