I'd known for a year--ever since Deidra Riggs had put out an open call for volunteers--that Jumping Tandem was for me. When I'd realized the cost of airfare, I'd almost backed out, but Deidra had agreed to take my photography in trade for the rest. The cheapest (but still expensive) ticket had me flying in a day early and out a day late. "Stay with us!" Deidra had said. "We'll pick you up!"
Who does that?!? Deidra and Harry Riggs, I guess. And the thing is: I needed that. I needed someone(s) to believe in me--to want me--that much. I held the promise of retreat close to my heart for an entire year: praying about it, blogging toward it on the retreat site.
I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, flying into Nebraska. My grandma was dying, but that was the least of it, really.
At the risk of oversharing, Jim and I are working with our third marriage counselor, and a couple weeks before the retreat, the three of us had decided to interrupt couple sessions so I could work with the counselor one-on-one. I'd been feeling as if I were at the edge of my seat all the time. Or at the edge of the world. I'd been sleeping plenty, but I hadn't been able to relax inwardly (constant fight-or-flight mode), and I'd been more emotionally disregulated than I'd ever been in my life. The counselor and I had been flirting with diagnoses. I'd been wrestling with big questions. The biggest may have been: who am I going to be on the other side of this? Am I even going to be able to recognize myself?
Poor Deidra and Harry.
No, but I never lost the sense that Jumping Tandem was for me. I felt a little overstimulated, meeting so many people face-to-face who were, in my mind, as good as (if not better than) famous. I felt a little strange, too, being seen without my babies and just as Brandee. But I realized a complete absence of both competition and pressure in terms of photography, and every interaction and word (spoken and sung) at the event seemed appointed. I cried (leaked tears) quite a bit. The retreat was amazing and ended with my feeling as loved and accepted as I'd ever felt in my life. Deidra sent me back to to Riggs home, still weepy, with Harry.
Harry Riggs is a pastor, and he was more than equipped to listen to and advise me in my fairly fragile state. I apologized at one point, and he said: "No, I'm good! If you're open and receiving this, I'm good!" And I was. Open, receiving.
Looking back, I know the Lord used Harry, in those moments, to confirm the words that other wise men had spoken into my life prior to my leaving Virginia. My mind swam as he referred to the same Bible verse (John 8:32) my counselor had spoken to me days before, also when Harry spoke the word "differentiate," which I'd chosen--following a meeting with another pastor-friend--as my word for the year. We ended the conversation with Harry's advising that I was going to have to enter a dark place to find healing. We both thought (in agreement with my counselor) we knew who was in that dark place. I just shook my head and cried. Harry said something like: "Don't barge in there until you're ready." We talked about how I might slip in more gently and through a back door. Then Harry left to do his pastor thing elsewhere.
Kim Hyland knocked on the door of the Riggs home. She'd led a session at the retreat, but I'd been elsewhere. We hadn't met, officially, and I didn't really know her from the blogosphere. She'd planned to stay with another family, but there had been an emergency, and Deidra, being Deidra, had said: "Stay with us!"
I opened the door for Kim. A storm was brewing behind her, and she has unruly (beautiful, but rowdy) hair...also, at once, the softest and most controlled voice and the kindest and boldest eyes. I couldn't determine if I were in the opening chapter of A Wrinkle in Time or Mary Poppins, but I knew something was about to happen. I did know. I felt it.
Kim settled in a living-room chair across from me and became, in an instant, the person for whom I'd been waiting. She was fearless and absolutely ready to go wherever I wanted to take her. I can't say how we got so quickly to where we went except for in the Lord, and it might have been unsettling if not for the aroma of the Holy Spirit.
Kim spoke three specific messages into my spirit, and one of them unlocked my breath. It wasn't until later that night that I realized I was breathing differently and with more depth, but I knew why; I knew absolutely which of Kim's words had brought healing. I wondered if the change would last through the night. It did, and I've been breathing fine ever since. When, at the airport, I told Deidra's sister Karen about my experience, she asked how long it had been since I'd breathed well. I hadn't considered until that moment, but I knew the answer immediately: almost 3.5 years.
I'd been panting for 3.5 years.
Karen got on her flight: the same one I'd been hoping to take, but there wasn't an empty seat for me. I was alone at the gate. I took out my phone, placed a call, and entered inadvertently (while still in Nebraska!) the dark place of Harry's and my conversation...except, the person in there wasn't the one I'd expected to find. Nor was the person my husband.
I'm just thankful I'd been prepared, that I could breathe through it. I just breathed. Right through it.
|Kim Hyland, alone before the cross on the morning of the day I met her.|
***You can view the rest of my photos from Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, here.